Sometimes when listening to President Barack Obama, you hear the "compassionate conservatism" of George W. Bush. On nearly every subject from Nigeria to the Ukraine, Obama sounds like Bush on Iraq and Afghanistan. He delivers, like his predecessor, a highly personal narrative. Sometimes, in the case of the missing girls, close to the truth, but on Ukraine, slightly choleric and not a little sweeping.
To his credit, he does not come close to Secretary of State John Kerry in sounding shill. Kerry often has come close to suggesting Armageddon, as he did in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that he was "fully aware" that conflict with Russia might mean a nuclear showdown. But Obama's praise of Ukranian security forces for "showing admirable restraint" before a bloodletting in Odessa certainly wins the prize for ill-timed irony.
And Obama and Kerry do it on the assumption that Republicans in Congress will not be able to resist the bait of intervention, given their military. Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican from California, however, signals that this might not be so. During a committee hearing, Rohrabacher nevertheless forced an assistant secretary of state to admit that far right "neo-Nazis" were on the Maidan in Kiev in February 2014. This makes Rohrabacher at least the first in Congress to question NATO and the Obama administrations' narrative of events.
Moreover, both Sen. Rand Paul and father, Ron Paul, delivered intelligent critiques of Obama's presidency. No foolish asides relating to birth certificates or reckless calls for impeachment, the Paul's focused on relevant departures from the president.
Particularly Rand Paul, who also scolded fellow Republicans for not being more inclusive in domestic affairs and less interventionist in foreign matters. If anything, Paul's message sounded more like Obama in 2008 than Mitt Romney in 2012. No carte-blanche on Russia and a program that is geared to liberalization or immigration, drugs and personal lifestyle. Gradually, the GOP is getting the message that Democrats might be vulnerable on the left wing.
But the Paul's need more support. The old establishment, as the North Carolina primary proved, with Thom Tillis' victory over two tea party favorites. Yet despite some Republicans thinking, he is a slam dunk. They should notice that Tillis is considered a religious right-winger by Democrats and independents. He is moderate only by the low standards of some of those erstwhile sports reporters, skillfully camouflaged as political analyst. But in the longer view, the libertarians may be onto something.
Obama has become an establishment Democrat, saying predictable things. Suddenly he has followed the footsteps of Hubert Humphrey, whom Robert Caro called "the orator of the dawn" and ended up the master of the laundry list. Humphrey, the prime advocate of Civil Rights in the U.S. Senate in the 1950s to the 1970s sounded stale and tedious. Obama has come a long way since the Fleet Center speech in 2004, only to end up with flat lines and Johnny Carson-style jokes.
The President never seemed to grasp that he was a representative of change. But from the first, he was a hit with investment bankers and State Department hacks. Outside beautifully delivered platitudes, Obama has delivered an unremarkable message and a very predictable program. He hardly reached the New Frontier, for he barely touched the Gilded Age.