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Yet there are lessons we can all learn from Obama's lost year. Chief among them is the insight that when you project all your hopes, desires, and even fears onto a Rorschach test of a politician—whether Barack Obama, Sarah Palin, or otherwise—not only are you bound to be disappointed, you might just deserve it, too. Government officials use force and the threat thereof to impact our lives, not always (or even most of the time) for the better, so it behooves all citizens to get over their schoolyard crushes and figure out just what their objects of political desire plan to do with all that power.
Besides, the sooner the whole country learns the rhetorical tricks of this president—the false "false choices," the phony economic consensuses, the brazen refusal to acknowledge broken promises—the better we'll all be at assessing the wisdom of his policies. Surely the aesthetics of Tom Hayden's car is a small price to pay for some long-overdue skepticism.
Matt Welch is editor in chief of Reason magazine. A version of this article originally appeared in the New York Post.