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When Failure Is Success

For Obama’s supporters, what matters is not what he does, but what he says and represents.

by Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online 

Losing a job is freedom from job lock. A budget deficit larger than in any previous administration is austerity. A mean right-wing video caused the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi. Al-Qaeda was long ago washed up. The Muslim Brotherhood is secular. Jihad is a personal journey. Shooting people while

Preston Kemp via Flickr

Preston Kemp via Flickr

screaming Allahu akbar! is workplace violence. Unaffordable higher premiums and deductibles are the result of an Affordable Care Act. Losing your doctor and your health-insurance plan prove you will never lose your doctor and your health-insurance plan — period! Being a constitutional lawyer means you know how to turn the IRS and the FCC on your enemies. Failure is success; lies are truth.

President Obama’s polls are creeping back up again. They do that every time the latest in the series of scandals — the IRS, AP, NSA, Benghazi, and Obamacare messes — recedes into the media memory hole. The once-outrageous IRS scandal was rebranded as psychodramatic journalists being outraged. The monitoring of AP reporters and of James Rosen is mostly “Stuff happens.” The NSA octopus was Bush’s creation. You can keep your doctor and your health plan — period — begat liberation from “job lock” and the ability to write poetry because you don’t have to work.

There will be more momentary outrages on the horizon, as a president who would fundamentally transform America continues to circumvent the Constitution to do it. The latest are the failed efforts of acting FCC director Mignon Clyburn — daughter of a Democratic stalwart, Representative James Clyburn. She dreamed about monitoring news outlets to ensure that they prove themselves correct in matters of race/class/gender thinking.

Yet after all the 24-hour outrages, and all the op-eds pointing out that a self-described constitutional-law professor has been the worst adversary of the Constitution since Richard Nixon, and after perhaps even a slide in the polls of a point or two, we will soon forget Ms. Clyburn and her idiotic attempts to diversify the news by seeking uniform expression in the media.

After all, we have forgotten EPA Director Lisa Jackson — former right-hand woman to former New Jersey governor Jon Corzine — who mysteriously disappeared from the EPA after creating a fake e-mail persona, “Richard Windsor.” The latter nonexistent crusader won an award from none other than Lisa Jackson’s EPA.

And we have forgotten Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, who suddenly disappeared from the Cabinet after the FBI inquired into her Obama fundraising activities as secretary, and who is currently being sued over her mysterious freebie use of a union-owned luxury jet to hop between the coasts.

And we have forgotten Lois Lerner, who focused the IRS on tea-party groups, took the Fifth Amendment, retired, and is no longer “outrageous.”

And we have forgotten former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner — of failing-to-pay-his-taxes fame — who went back through the revolving door after threatening Standard & Poor’s for downgrading the U.S. credit rating.

All these activists spoke a little too candidly about their ideology, crossed the line a bit too much in the defense of progressivism, and then receded as if they had never existed — until the next anonymous progressive hoplite in the phalanx of the hard Left steps up over the corpse into the fray and for a moment or two appears on our television screens. In response, President Obama always seems to take the attitude, What does it matter, and who cares? And so he goes along blaming either President Bush or Fox News, when not citing the conspiracy of ATM machines, earthquakes, and tsunamis that combined to thwart his populist efforts.

Who cares that fiscal discipline is now defined as raising taxes so as to borrow only $600 billion rather than borrowing $1 trillion a year for six straight years? And who cares that millions will lose their doctor, their health-care coverage, and most likely their jobs because of Obamacare?

Ditto foreign policy. Who cares that Obama issued five deadlines to Iran to cease enrichment and, when rebuffed, unilaterally dropped sanctions in favor of negotiation? Who cares that he declared a red line in Syria, and when the regime crossed it and gassed its own people, he announced that he had never issued a red line in the first place? Who cares that he issued a step-over line to President Yanukovych of Ukraine, as if anyone would not step over anything because Obama warned him not to?

Ditto also leading from behind in Libya, the flip-flopping from the radical Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood to the junta in Egypt, the reset with Putin, the friendly initiatives to the late Hugo Chávez that ignored the near collapse of Venezuela, as Latin America goes back to the late 1970s in another failed round of coerced statism.

In short, Obama will always poll around 45 percent. That core support is his lasting legacy. In a mere five years, by the vast expansion of federal spending, by the demonizing rhetoric of his partisan bully pulpit, and by executive orders and bizarre appointments, Obama has so divided the nation that he has created a permanent constituency that will never care as much about what he does as it cares about what he says and represents.

For elite rich liberals, whose money and privilege exempt them from the consequences of Obama’s policies, and their own ideology, he will always be their totem. He is iconic of their own progressivism and proof of their racial liberalism, and thus allows them to go on enjoying their privilege, without guilt and without worrying too much about how they got it or whether they might lose it.

For the vast new millions on federal disability insurance, food stamps, and other entitlements, Obama is their lifeline to government support. Who would risk losing that by worrying that the world is becoming a very dangerous place? If the IRS has to become politicized, better that it become politicized by going after right-wing tea-party types who would cut government. And if the media are to be investigated, at least the target might be Fox News, which — as the president just complained again to Bill O’Reilly on Super Bowl Sunday — is a thorn in the side of the president’s progressive agenda. And if the country is going broke, at least those who will raise taxes are preferable to those who might cut government.

In short, there can be no scandals, or even good or bad news, just what Obama represents — an exemption from normal protocols of public and media scrutiny of his actual record. And so he has established two legacies. He will probably never win back a majority of inductive Americans again, and he will rarely lose his deductive base.

NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Savior Generals.

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About victorhanson

Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College, where he teaches each fall semester courses in military history and classical culture. He recently published an historical novel The End of Sparta (2012), a realistic retelling of Epaminondas invasion and liberation of Spartan-control Messenia. In The Father of Us All (2011), he collected earlier essays on warfare ancient and modern. His upcoming history The Savior Generals(2013) analyzes how five generals in the history of the West changed the course of battles against all odds. He was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 and the Bradley Prize in 2008. Hanson, who was the fifth successive generation to live in the same house on his family’s farm, was a full-time orchard and vineyard grower from 1980-1984, before joining the nearby CSU Fresno campus in 1984 to initiate a classical languages program. In 1991, he was awarded an American Philological Association Excellence in Teaching Award, which is given yearly to the country’s top undergraduate teachers of Greek and Latin. Hanson has been a National Endowment for the Humanities fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford, California (1992-93), a visiting professor of classics at Stanford University (1991-92), a recipient of the Eric Breindel Award for opinion journalism (2002), an Alexander Onassis Fellow (2001), and was named alumnus of the year of the University of California, Santa Cruz (2002). He was also the visiting Shifrin Professor of Military History at the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland (2002-3). He received the Manhattan Institute’s Wriston Lectureship in 2004, and the 2006 Nimitz Lectureship in Military History at UC Berkeley in 2006. Hanson is the author of hundreds of articles, book reviews, scholarly papers, and newspaper editorials on matters ranging from ancient Greek, agrarian and military history to foreign affairs, domestic politics, and contemporary culture. He has written or edited 17 books, including Warfare and Agriculture in Classical Greece (1983; paperback ed. University of California Press, 1998); The Western Way of War (Alfred Knopf, 1989; 2d paperback ed. University of California Press, 2000); Hoplites: The Ancient Greek Battle Experience (Routledge, 1991; paperback., 1992); The Other Greeks: The Family Farm and the Agrarian Roots of Western Civilization(Free Press, 1995; 2nd paperback ed., University of California Press, 2000);Fields without Dreams: Defending the Agrarian Idea (Free Press, 1996; paperback, Touchstone, 1997; The Bay Area Book reviewers Non-fiction winner for 1996); The Land Was Everything: Letters from an American Farmer (Free Press, 2000; a Los Angeles Times Notable book of the year); The Wars of the Ancient Greeks (Cassell, 1999; paperback, 2001); The Soul of Battle (Free Press, 1999, paperback, Anchor/Vintage, 2000); Carnage and Culture (Doubleday, 2001; Anchor/Vintage, 2002; a New York Times bestseller); An Autumn of War (Anchor/Vintage, 2002); Mexifornia: A State of Becoming (Encounter, 2003),Ripples of Battle (Doubleday, 2003), and Between War and Peace (Random House, 2004). A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War, was published by Random House in October 2005. It was named one of the New York Times Notable 100 Books of 2006. Hanson coauthored, with John Heath, Who Killed Homer? The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom (Free Press, 1998; paperback, Encounter Press, 2000); with Bruce Thornton and John Heath, Bonfire of the Humanities (ISI Books, 2001); and with Heather MacDonald, and Steven Malanga, The Immigration Solution: A Better Plan Than Today’s (Ivan Dee 2007). He edited a collection of essays on ancient warfare, Makers of Ancient Strategy (Princeton University Press, 2010). Hanson has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, International Herald Tribune, New York Post, National Review, Washington Times, Commentary, The Washington Post, Claremont Review of Books, American Heritage, New Criterion, Policy Review, Wilson Quarterly, Weekly Standard, Daily Telegraph, and has been interviewed often on National Public Radio, PBS Newshour, Fox News, CNN, and C-Span’s Book TV and In-Depth. He serves on the editorial board of the Military History Quarterly, and City Journal. Since 2001, Hanson has written a weekly column for National Review Online, and in 2004, began his weekly syndicated column for Tribune Media Services. In 2006, he also began thrice-weekly blog for Pajamas Media, Works and Days. Hanson was educated at the University of California, Santa Cruz (BA, Classics, 1975, ‘highest honors’ Classics, ‘college honors’, Cowell College), the American School of Classical Studies, Athens (regular member, 1978-79) and received his Ph.D. in Classics from Stanford University in 1980. He divides his time between his forty-acre tree and vine farm near Selma, California, where he was born in 1953, and the Stanford campus.

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