If Barack Obama disappoints his supporters, they will have only themselves to blame
如果巴拉克·奥巴马(Barack Obama)让其支持者失望了,那也只能怨他们自己!

IN JANUARY 2007 Mike Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas, said he was running for president to revive “our national soul”. He was not alone in taking an expansive view of presidential responsibilities. With the exception of Ron Paul, all the serious candidates waxed grandiloquent about their aims. John McCain said he modelled himself on Teddy Roosevelt, a man who “nourished the soul of a great nation”. Hillary Clinton lamented that America had no goals, and offered to supply some. And let us not forget the man they all sought to replace, George Bush, who promised, among other things, to “rid the world of evil”. Appalled by such hubris, a libertarian scholar called Gene Healy wrote “The Cult of the Presidency”, a book decrying the unrealistic expectations Americans have of their presidents. The book was written while Barack Obama’s career was still on the launch pad, yet it describes with uncanny prescience the atmosphere that allowed him to soar.
2007年一月,阿肯色州的前任州长麦克·哈克比(Mike Huckabee)宣称自己竞选总统是为了重塑“民族之魂”。他并不是唯一一个以如此自大的眼光看待总统职责的人。除了罗恩·保罗(Ron Paul),其余所有主要候选人都在往自己脸上贴金,大言不惭的鼓出自己的执政目标。约翰·麦凯恩(John Macain)表示,自己将以泰迪·罗斯福(Teddy Roosevelt)为榜样,因为后者“塑造了一个伟大国家的民族魂”。希拉里·克林顿(Hillary Clinton)因为觉得美国缺乏目标而痛惜不已,并且表示愿意为美国找寻前进的方向。还有,别忘了这些人力图要接替的那个家伙——乔治·布什(George Bush),他曾经在一堆承诺中表示要“让世界摆脱邪恶”。面对如此惊人的狂妄言论,一位叫做基恩·希利(Gene Healy)的自由论学者撰写了一部题为《总统崇拜》的书,公开反对美国民众对总统不切实际的期望。这本书是在巴拉克·奥巴马的事业还在起步阶段的时候写的,但是作者却不可思议的预见到了日后让他如日中天的大环境。

Mr Obama has inspired more passionate devotion than any modern American politician. People scream and faint at his rallies. Some wear T-shirts proclaiming him “The One” and noting that “Jesus was a community organiser”. An editor at Newsweek described him as “above the country, above the world; he’s sort of God.” He sets foreign hearts fluttering, too. A Pew poll published this week finds that 93% of Germans expect him to do the right thing in world affairs. Only 14% thought that about Mr Bush.
奥巴马先生对事业倾注了比任何一位美国当代政治家都更富有激情的奉献精神。人们在他的集会上为他尖叫甚至激动得昏倒。不少人身穿把奥巴马比作“救世主”的T恤,并且特别提到“耶稣曾经就是个社区组织者”。《新闻周刊》的一位编辑这样描述奥巴马:“他超越国界,超越世界;和上帝有几分相像”。奥巴马让外国粉丝们的心同样为之激动。本周发布的佩尤民调显示:有93%的德国人预期他能够在国际事务中发挥正确的作用,而只有14%的人曾对布什有这种预期。

Perhaps Mr Obama inwardly cringes at the personality cult that surrounds him. But he has hardly discouraged it. As a campaigner, he promised to “change the world”, to “transform this country” and even (in front of a church full of evangelicals) to “create a Kingdom right here on earth”. As president, he keeps adding details to this ambitious wish-list. He vows to create millions of jobs, to cure cancer and to seek a world without nuclear weapons. On July 20th he promised something big (a complete overhaul of the health-care system), something improbable (to make America’s college-graduation rate the highest in the world by 2020) and something no politician could plausibly accomplish (to make maths and science “cool again”).
或许奥巴马在内心深处并不喜欢包围着他的个人崇拜,但是他也几乎没有对此加以劝阻。作为一名竞选者,他曾承诺要“改变这个世界”,“改变这个国家”,甚至在教堂里当着许多福音派信徒的面承诺:“就在这片土地上建立一个新的天国”。如今作为总统,他还在继续充实他雄心勃勃的愿望清单。他发誓要提供上百万个就业岗位,要治愈癌症,要寻求一个没有核武器的世界。就在7月20号,他又作出了一系列承诺:有些很重大(要对现行的医疗保障制度进行一次彻底的大修);有些似乎不大可能(要在2020年前让美国拥有世界最高的大学毕业率);还有些则没有任何政治家可能完成(要让数学和科学“重新酷起来”)。

The Founding Fathers intended a more modest role for the president: to defend the country when attacked, to enforce the law, to uphold the constitution—and that was about it. But over time, the office has grown. In 1956 Clinton Rossiter, a political scientist, wrote that Americans wanted their president to make the country rich, to take the lead on domestic policy, to respond to floods, tornadoes and rail strikes, to act as the nation’s moral spokesman and to lead the free world. The occupant of the Oval Office had to be “a combination of scoutmaster, Delphic oracle, hero of the silver screen and father of the multitudes,” he said.
开国元勋们的本意是赋予总统一个更加朴实的职责:在遭受侵犯的时候保卫国家,以及执行法律和维护宪法——仅此而已。然而随着时间的推移,总统的职责也在不断增多。1956年,一位政治学者克林顿·罗希特(Clinton Rossiter)写道:美国人希望他们的总统能够让国家变得富足;能够领导制定国内政策;能够对付洪水、龙卷风或者是铁路罢工;能够担当国家道德品行的代言人;以及能够领导自由世界。他说:总统办公室的主人不得不“同时扮演童子军团长,德尔菲般的传神谕者,银幕英雄和民众的父亲等多个角色”。

The public mood has grown more cynical since then; Watergate showed that presidents can be villains. But Americans still want their commander-in-chief to take command. It is pointless for a modern president to plead that some things, such as the business cycle, are beyond his control. So several have sought dubious powers to meet the public’s unreasonable expectations. Sometimes people notice, as when Mr Bush claimed limitless leeway to tap phones and detain suspected terrorists. But sometimes they don’t. For example, Mr Bush was blamed for the debacle of Hurricane Katrina, although responding to natural disasters is largely a local responsibility. So he pushed Congress to pass a law allowing the president to use the army to restore order after a future natural disaster, an epidemic, or under “other condition[s]”, a startling expansion of federal power.
水门事件让人们认识到总统也可能成为坏人,从那以后,公众情绪也因为这样的打击从原先的愤世嫉俗变得玩世不恭起来。然而美国民众依然希望他们的统帅能够指挥全局。让一位当代的总统向公众辩解某些事情(比如经济周期)是自己无法控制的,这对他而言毫无意义。所以,一些总统开始寻求本不该属于自己的权利来满足公众不理智的期望。有时候人们会注意到布什为监听和拘留疑似恐怖分子而无止境的索取特权,但有些时候,人们也会注意不到。例如,布什曾因为卡特里娜飓风带来的巨大灾难而饱受责难,尽管抗击自然灾害主要应该是地方政府的责任。布什借此向国会施压,要求通过一项法案使总统在将来发生自然灾害、传染病或者是其他情况后有权动用军队重建灾区秩序。这是联邦政府权利的一次惊人的膨胀。

Mr Obama promised to roll back Mr Bush’s imperial presidency. But has he? Having slammed his predecessor for issuing “signing statements” dismissing parts of laws he had just signed, he is now doing the same thing. He vowed to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, but this week put off for another six months any decision as to what to do with the inmates. Meanwhile, he has embraced Mrs Clinton’s curious notion that the president should be “commander-in-chief of our economy”, by propping up banks, firing executives, backing car warranties and so forth. Mr Healy reckons that Mr Obama is “as dedicated to enhancing federal power as any president in 50 years.”
奥巴马曾承诺不做布什那样的“帝王总统”,但是他真的做到了吗?在猛烈抨击其前任在签署法令时出尔反尔的同时,他自己却正在做同样的事情。奥巴马曾发誓要关闭在关塔那摩的美军监狱,但是本周他却又将关于如何处置囚犯的决议推迟了六个月。同时,他还以资助银行、解雇高管、支持汽车担保等行动来表示欣然接受希拉里女士的奇怪念头——那就是总统也应该是“经济活动中的总指挥官”。希利先生认为奥巴马是“50年内最专注于增强联邦政府权利的总统了”。

The perils of over-promising
过度承诺的危险

Nonsense, say his supporters. Taking over banks and car companies was a temporary measure to tackle a crisis. When the danger recedes, Mr Obama will pull back. The restructuring of General Motors, for example, is comfortably ahead of schedule. And far from lording it over Congress, the president has if anything abdicated too much responsibility to it.
奥巴马的粉丝们觉得这都是胡说八道。政府接管银行和汽车企业不过是为应对金融危机而采取的临时措施。危机过后,奥巴马总统会撤销政府行为的。以通用汽车的重组为例,这不过是充裕地把日程安排提前了而已。总之,总统非但没有对国会发号施令,反而已经放弃了太多本该有的权利。

These are all fair points. But Mr Healy’s warnings are still worth heeding. Mr Obama is clearly not the socialist of Republican demonology, but he is trying to extend federal control over two huge chunks of the economy—energy and health care—so fast that lawmakers do not have time to read the bills before voting on them. Perhaps he is hurrying to get the job done before his polls weaken any further. In six months, his approval rating has fallen from 63% to 56% while his disapproval rating has nearly doubled, from 20% to 39%. Independent voters are having second thoughts. And his policies are less popular than he is. Support for his health-care reforms has slipped from 57% to 49% since April.
这些都是一般的观点,然而希利先生的警告还是值得注意的。奥巴马显然不是共和党人眼中妖魔化的社会主义这,但是他却设法要扩大联邦政府对经济中的两大块(能源和医疗保障)的控制,这种意图进展的如此迅速以至于立法者在表决前都没有时间去阅读议案。也许他是急着要在民意支持率变得更低前通过这项议案吧。过去的六个月内,奥巴马的支持率从63%跌至56%,而反对他的比率却几乎翻番,从20%涨到39%。独立选民正在改变主意,而他的政策也没有他本人那么受欢迎,自从四月以来,其医改计划的支持率已经从57%下滑到了49%。

All presidential candidates promise more than they can possibly deliver. This sets them up for failure. But because the Obama cult has stoked expectations among its devotees to such unprecedented heights, he is especially likely to disappoint. Mr Healy predicts that he will end up as a failed president, and “possibly the least popular of the modern era”. It is up to Mr Obama to prove him wrong.
所有的总统候选人都是说的比唱的好听。这必将导致他们的失败。但是奥巴马的粉丝们把他在支持者中的期望值推上了如此一个前所未有的高度,这将导致他特别容易让人失望。希利先生预言奥巴马最终将以失败收场,甚至有可能成为“新时期最不受欢迎的总统”。能否打破这个预言,就取决于奥巴马自己了。