Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

From an Angry Reader:

Re: Obama’s initiatives

What a horrible president and yet, 57% approval rating! Wow! How is that possible! I think he did quite well considering that Republicans vowed on the first day not to work with him and never did!

 Connie Knapp

Victor Davis Hanson’s Reply:

Dear Angry Reader Connie Knapp,

Irony noted.

Obama, I think as of this weekend had a 53% approval according to the realclearpolitics.com average. But in just a year, yes, he has jumped 10 points. Why?

No one quite knows, but I will suggest 5 reasons:

1) Obama understood that he was unpopular in the flesh and popular in the abstract. So when the primaries started in early 2016 he simply disengaged and we rarely saw or heard him much, as two unpopular candidates, Trump and Clinton, by mid-summer were sliming each other and driving their approval ratings down and in contrast and by default the absent Obama’s up. Seeing Obama wave from the links is one thing, having him lecture that “you didn’t build that” or “punish our enemies” is another.

2) He is now a lame duck, and again the reality of a soon to be gone Obama made him popular in a way that an eight-year long tenure of Obama left him unpopular. The popularity of houseguests rises in the hours of their departure.

3) He has bailed on offering the hard medicine to treat the $10 trillion in additional debt he ran up, or to deal with the implosion of Syria, Iraq, and Libya on his watch, or his failed Russian reset, or the looming disaster of Obamacare. Instead his attitude is more or less “stuff happens” as he exits the door to a lucrative post-presidency, and welcomes others to deal with de facto zero interest rates, sluggish growth, record labor non-particiaption, crises in racial relations, etc. It is easy to lose deterrence, but dangerous and hard to regain it—as we shall soon see.

4) The media has sanctified Obama in the manner it has demonized Trump.

5) We do not yet know what the ultimate approval rating of Obama will be; it may stay strong or gyrate. Truman left with 25% approval and yet his administration is now considered a success.

As for your assertion, “I think he did quite well considering that Republicans vowed on the first day not to work with him and never did!”, it was irrelevant what the Republicans said or thought, because Obama entered office with both the House and a super-majority in the Senate.

He rammed budgets and Obamacare through without a single Republican vote. When Obama lost the House and his supermajority in the Senate, Harry Reid simply adopted the nuclear option and ended most filibusters (to the regret now of Democrats).

When he lost the Senate as well, Obama turned to “pen and phone” executive orders and simply ignored Constitutional give and take and bypassed the Congress (amnesties, non-immigration enforcement, EPA fiats, picking and choosing which part of Obamacare he enforced, etc.)—again to the chagrin of Democrats who now fear that Trump might do what Obama did with executive orders.

We forget the alphabet scandals of the last eight years: Lois Lerner and IRS, the NSA mess, the GSA boondoggles, the horrific record at the VA, the crazy EPA director and her fake email persona and the EPA’s unconstitutional fiats, the Wikileaks/Hillary emails/Clinton Foundation pay for play at the State Department, the abrupt departure of Hilda Solis at Labor, the strange career and departure of Petraeus at the CIA, the Sibelius firing at HHS after the surreal startup of Obamacare, and on and on and on.

Obama entered with record good will, both houses of Congress, an upswing in the states, and a likely chance to alter the Supreme Court; he leaves with the strongest Republican position in 100 years, from governorships and state legislatures to the Congress and presidency. The Supreme Court could soon tilt 6-3 or 7-2.

Such was the epitaph to “hope and change”—the greatest gift to the Republican Party in a century.

Sincerely, VDH

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