Several years ago, in an article on these pages I compared Barack Obama to Chauncey Gardiner, the Peter Sellers character in the 1979 film, Being There. In that film, Peter Sellers’ character is a half-wit gardener who gets propelled by events beyond his control into the Washington power circle. His empty-headed thoughts are interpreted by the movers and shakers as enigmatic Buddha-like fonts of wisdom. No one who speaks to Chauncey Gardiner even considers the possibility that there is no there there.
Recently, distinguished commentator Michael Barone draws the same analogy:
“As you may remember, Gardiner is a clueless gardener who is mistaken for a Washington eminence and becomes a presidential adviser. Asked if you can stimulate growth through temporary incentives, Gardiner says, ‘As long as the roots are not severed, all is well and all will be well in the garden.’ ‘First comes the spring and summer,’ he explains, ‘but then we have fall and winter. And then we get spring and summer again.’ The president is awed as Gardiner sums up, ‘There will be growth in the spring.’
Kind of reminds you of Obama's approach to the federal budget, doesn't it?”
Many of the President’s critics have called him the second coming of Jimmy Carter. In a way, this is an unfair comparison – to Jimmy Carter. This because, for all his faults, Carter was never disengaged. As well, when things didn’t turn out as planned, he was willing to do some free market things: airline deregulation and trucking deregulation were Carter not Reagan initiatives. And Carter also appointed the great Paul Volcker to be head of the Federal Reserve. As you may recall, it was Volcker’s courageous and controversial interest rate policy that finally broke the back of stagflation.
I just can’t imagine Obama reversing course like that. He’s living too much in the faculty lounge alternate reality to ever change his tune.