Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Gary Wills And Disappointment

Garry Wills, writing in the New York Review blog, is incensed by progressive commentators, putative independents, "whining about betrayal," who are now attacking President Obama without paying heed to what he inherited, or to the complexity of politics--or the consequences of a Republican victory, which they are assuredly contributing to:

The etherialists who are too good to stoop toward the "lesser evil" of politics—as if there were ever anything better than the lesser evil there—naively assume that if they just bring down the current system, or one part of it that has disappointed them, they can build a new and better thing of beauty out of the ruins. Of course they never get the tabula rasa on which to draw their ideal schemes. What they normally do is damage the party closest to their professed ideals.

I have learned from Wills as much as from anyone over the years. But his sanctimonious tone would seem less curious if he did not himself accuse Obama of betrayal, in the same tone as the people he now attacks--indeed, in the same tone as he now attacks those attackers--back in the fall of 2009, when the coalition that elected Obama began to come apart and, thanks to Wills among others, it became universally hip on the left to speak of Obama as a "disappointment," as if others weren't listening.

The subject for Wills' outrage was was Afghanistan:

If we had wanted Bush’s wars, and contractors, and corruption, we could have voted for John McCain. At least we would have seen our foe facing us, not felt him at our back, as now we do. The Republicans are given a great boon by this new war. They can use its cost to say that domestic needs are too expensive to be met—health care, education, infrastructure. They can say that military recruitments from the poor make job creation unnecessary... I cannot vote for any Republican. But Obama will not get another penny from me, or another word of praise, after this betrayal. And in all this I know that my disappointment does not matter.

Actually, it did matter. It is Wills' belated disappointment with disappointment that now may not.