Hubris has a way of ruining grand designs

Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass explains why President Barack Obama is now a lame duck president

Somewhere deep in the mind of President Barack Obama, way back where it's safe and warm, the man must be seeking refuge in memories of happier days.

Days when he could easily wield magical powers like the political messiah he once was, feeding the multitudes with his rhetoric, bringing Hopium-smoking journalists to tingles and tears.

All the man had to do was hold out his hands to stop the oceans. He said so.

"I am absolutely certain that generations from now," he said the night he won the Democratic Party's presidential nomination in 2008, "we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal."

He who could heal the planet and stop the oceans must be a man who could control one-sixth of the American economy and impose Obamacare on us whether we wanted it or not.

But it didn't turn out that way, did it?

Hubris has a way of ruining grand designs. And like reality, it bites.

So last week the Obama presidency began crumbling. Some may be disappointed, and may see him in heroic terms, withering like a character in an ancient tragedy.

A few of us saw a backbencher from the Illinois state legislature, a guy who took orders, then rode to the White House on a personality cult, finally exposed.

Obamacare, his health care plan rammed down America's throat without a bipartisan consensus, not only became a political embarrassment, it became a political disaster.

The Obamacare website continued to implode, Americans lost their health insurance even though he repeatedly promised them they wouldn't. Period.

The word "liar" was suddenly attached to his name, because of the cynical, untruthful promise he repeatedly made, and once Obamacare began collapsing, his fellow Democrats began to run in panic.

Politicians can stomach lies in their colleagues. They live in that world. They stretch truths, they tell stories, they exaggerate. The more infantile and tribal among us see politicians like Sens. Dick Durbin, Democrat from Illinois, and Mitch McConnell, Republican from Kentucky, as distinct creatures.

But others of us see them as they are: political Corsican brothers, once conjoined and still connected, speaking with the same kind of tongue.

These are the creatures who survive. And we help them, welcoming politicians' lies rather than truth. It's easier that way. Our national habit of spending ourselves further and further into debt is a lie, a big one. We know this, and still many of us accept it, or at least we close our eyes to it.

We are emotionally complicit. We're human. We knowingly deceive ourselves even as we pretend we've been betrayed.

But political disasters are different from lies. Political disasters have one father, usually, and this one sprang directly from the president's own forehead.

Disasters are contagious, and politicians are terrified of infection. So his guys began to run. And journalists asked him pointed questions at his news conference last week, and his performance was beyond awkward.

It was embarrassing.

"OK," Obama conceded. "On the website, I was not informed directly that the website would not be working as — the way it was supposed to. Had I been informed, I wouldn't be going out saying, 'Boy, this is going to be great.' You know, I'm accused of a lot of things, but I don't think I'm stupid enough to go around saying, 'This is going to be like shopping on Amazon or Travelocity' a week before the website opens, if I thought that it wasn't going to work."