Is the Country Unraveling?
Can there be good news in this era of Obama’s managed decline?
by Victor Davis Hanson
June 25, 2012 – 1:20 am
The Thrill Is Gone
The last thirty days have made it clear that Barack Obama is not going to win the 2012 election by a substantial margin. The polls still show the race near dead even with over five months, and all sorts of unforeseen events, to come. But after the Obama meltdown of April and May, I don’t think he in any way resembles the mysterious Pied Piper figure of 2008, who mesmerized and then marched the American people over the cliff. Polls change daily; gaffes and wars may come aplenty. But Barack Obama has lost the American center and now he is reduced to the argument that Mitt Romney would be even worse than he has been, as he tries to cobble together an us-versus-them 51% majority from identity groups through cancelling the Keystone Pipeline, granting blanket amnesty, ginning up the “war on women,” and flipping on gay marriage.
Mythographer in Chief
The Obama memoir is revealed not really to be a memoir at all. Most of his intimate friends and past dalliances that we read about in Dreams From My Father were, we learn, just made up (“composites”); the problem, we also discover, with the president’s autobiography is not what is actually false, but whether anything much at all is really true in it. If a writer will fabricate the details about his own mother’s terminal illness and quest for insurance, then he will probably fudge on anything. For months the president fought the Birthers who insist that he was born in Kenya, only to have it revealed that he himself for over a decade wrote just that fact in his own literary biography. Is Barack Obama then a birther?
Has any major public figure (57 states, Austrian language, corpse-men, Maldives for Falklands, private sector “doing fine,” etc.) been a more underwhelming advertisement for the quality of a Harvard education or a Chicago Law School part-time billet? Has any presidential candidate or president set a partisan crowd to laughing by rubbing his chin with his middle finger as he derides an opponent, or made a joke about killing potential suitors of his daughters with deadly Predator drones, or recited a double entendre “go-down” joke about a sex act?
From Recession to Recovery to Stasis
As we see in New Jersey, Ohio, Texas, and Wisconsin, the cure for the present economic malaise is not rocket science — a curbing of the size of government, a revision of the tax code, a modest rollback of regulation, reform of public employment, and holding the line on new taxes. Do that and public confidence returns, businesses start hiring, and finances settle down. Do the opposite — as we see in Mediterranean Europe, California, or Illinois over the last decade — and chaos ensues.
Obama took a budding recovery in June 2009, and through massive borrowing, the federal takeover of health care, new expansions of food stamps and unemployment insurance, the curtailing of oil and gas leasing on public lands, new regulations, and non-stop demagoguery of the private sector slowed the economy to a crawl. His goal seems not to restore economic growth per se but to seek an equality of result, even if that means higher unemployment and less net wealth for the poor and middle classes. Obama hinted at that in 2008 when he said he would raise capital gains taxes even if it meant less revenue, given the need for “fairness.” Indeed, equality is best achieved by bringing the top down rather than the bottom up. Nowhere is the Obama model of massive borrowing, vast increases in the size of the state, more regulations, and class warfare successful — not in California or Illinois, not in Greece, Spain, or Italy, not anywhere.
To Be or Not to Be a Fat Cat?
Culturally, Obama might at least have played the Jimmy Carter populist and eschewed the elite world that had so mesmerized Bill Clinton. Instead, Obama proved a counterfeit populist and became enthralled with the high life of rich friends, celebrities, high-priced fundraisers, and family getaways to Martha’s Vineyard or Costa del Sol. He somehow has set records both in the number of meet-and-greet campaign fundraisers and the number of golf rounds played. As Obama damned the fat cats and corporate jet owners, he courted them in preparation to joining them post-officium. It simply is unsustainable for a Hawaii prep-schooled president to talk down to black audiences in a fake black patois in warning about “them,” only to put on his polo shirt, shades and golf garb to court “them” on the links.
The Great Divide
Race? We live in a world where either the president or the attorney general will too often weigh in, and clumsily and in polarizing fashion, on any high-profile white/black legal matter. By now we got the message that we are all cowards, are not nice to Mr. Holder’s “people,” are racists in wanting audits of his performance, and are the sort of enemies the president wants punished.
We live in an age of a daily dose of the provocateur Al Sharpton and the nearly daily shrill accusations of the Black Caucus. No president ever entered office with more racial goodwill and no president has so racially polarized the country. Anyone who read the racially obsessed Dreams From My Father or reviewed the race-baiting sermons of the demented Rev. Wright could have predicted the ongoing deterioration in racial relations. We live in an age in which criticism of the president is alleged racism, creating an impossible situation: the country is redeemed only if it elects Obama, and stays redeemed only if he is reelected. How strange to read columnists one week alleging racism, and on the next warning us about the Mormon Church.
The most recent de facto amnesty is not just politically cynical, but unworkable. Consider that Obama himself warned on two earlier occasions that it would be legally impossible to do what he just did, and so he did not do it — even when he had Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress — until he was at 50/50 in the polls in a reelection fight. If we are to extend to roughly one million illegal aliens blanket amnesty on the premise that they are in or have graduated from high school and have not been convicted of a crime, then are we to deport now those who dropped out of high school (the Hispanic drop out rate in general in California is over 50%) or who have been arrested and convicted? Will this loud and public effort by the Hispanic elite to achieve amnesty for over 11 million illegal aliens moderate the MEChA/La Raza university writ that the United States is a culpable place — for how can they desire so what they so criticize? Given that Asians are now the largest immigrant group (almost all arriving legally, with either education, skills, or capital), will yet another group adopt lobbying efforts as well to increase the numbers of kindred arrivals, given that immigration policy is now predicated on ethnic and identity politics?
The Age of Transparency?
Solyndra, the reversals of the Chrysler creditors, the GSA mess, the Secret Service embarrassments, and Fast and Furious were not the new transparency. But Securitygate proved a scandal like none other in recent memory, trumping both Watergate and Iran-Contra — albeit ignored by the press. Usually administrations fight leaks from self-proclaimed whistleblowers, but do not themselves aid and abet violators of government confidentiality to promote a pathetic (reading Thomas Aquinas while selecting drone targets?) narrative of heroic wartime leadership.
Usually liberal reporters convince themselves into thinking they publish leaks as a way of speaking “truth to power,” not as near accomplices in promoting a partisan agenda. Usually leaks happen after events, not in the middle of an ongoing war against terrorists. How odd that the Obama administration has done more harm to the country than did Wikileaks. Why would the president not release subpoenaed documents to the U.S. Congress while he leaked national security secrets to the world?
Appointments? Where does one find the like of an Anita Dunn (her hero was Mao), the truther Van Jones, or Al “Crucify” Armendariz? Do we remember guests to the Bush White House being photographed flipping off portraits of Bill Clinton? Usually Treasury secretaries are models of tax probity, not tax violators themselves. Why is the secretary of Labor issuing videos inviting illegal aliens to contact her office when lodging complaints against employers? Even John Mitchell did not violate so many ethical standards as has Eric Holder, who sees nothing wrong in appointing an Obama appointee and Obama campaign donor to investigate possible Obama administration legal violations. Why was grilling Alberto Gonzalez not racism, but doing the same to Eric Holder supposedly is? From where did “Shut the f— up” National Security Advisor Thomas Donilon appear? Fannie Mae and K Street? Do Commerce secretaries usually drive Lexuses as they promote U.S. industry?
A Patch of Blue
Can there be good news in this era of Obama’s managed decline? In fact, we have two good reasons to rejoice. One, never has the hard Left had such an ideal megaphone as Barack Hussein Obama: his identity was constructed as multicultural to the core. He put liberals at ease through his comportment and chameleon voice (ask either Harry Reid or Joe Biden). He ran hard left of Hillary Clinton and promised everything from shutting down Guantanamo to ending renditions, bringing aboard the likes of a Harold Koh from Yale and Cass Sunstein from Chicago. He was young, hip, self-described as cool, and was hailed as the best emissary of the radical liberal vision of any in decades. Historians hailed Obama as the smartest president who ever held office, disagreeing only whether he was JFK or FDR reincarnate.
And what happened? In less than 40 months, Obama destroyed the greatest bipartisan good will that any recent president has enjoyed, and has done more to discredit Keynesian neo-socialist politics than have all of talk radio, Fox News, and the internet combined. In just two years, he took a Democratic Congress and lost the House in the largest midterm setback since 1938. In other words, the people — fifty percent of whom either do not pay federal income taxes or receive some sort of state or federal entitlement or both — saw the best face of modern neo-socialism imaginable, and they were not quite sold on it.
Second, it is hard to screw up America in just four years. Look at it this way: gas and oil production has soared despite, not because of, the federal government. The rest of the world — the unraveling European Union, the Arab Spring, Putin’s Russia, aging Japan, authoritarian China, the recrudescent Marxism in Latin America — reminds us of American exceptionalism. The verdict from Wisconsin is that the statist model is over. The public union, big pension, non-fireable employee model is left only with an “après nous, le déluge“ sigh. The private sector is not doing fine, but shortly will be when it is assured taxes won’t soar, energy will be cheaper, and Obamacare will cease. The irony is that the last four years have reminded us of what we still can be, and how we differ from most other places in the world.