Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

Explaining Away Obama

by Victor Davis Hanson // PJMedia

Photo via PJMedia

Photo via PJMedia

The only mystery about the last six years is how much lasting damage has been done to the American experiment, at home and abroad. Our federal agencies are now an alphabet soup of incompetence and corruption [1]. How does the IRSever quite recover [2]? Will the Secret Service always be seen as veritable Keystone Cops? Is the GSA now a reckless party-time organization [3]? Is the EPA institutionalized as a rogue appendage of the radical green movement with a director who dabbles in online pseudonyms [4]? Do we accept that the Justice Department dispenses injustice or that the VA can be a lethal institution for our patriots? Is NASA now a Muslim outreach megaphone [5] as we hire Russia, the loser of the space race, to rocket us into orbit?

Will anyone again ever believe a U.S. red line, step-over line, or deadline? Will Iran ever accept that it should not have a bomb or fear the consequences of trying to get one? Is Iraq (omnis effusus labor) a sort of rescued Eurydice that was abruptly lost on the trek up from the Underworld? Will Afghanistan become Saigon, 1975? How could Putin ever again be worried about offending a U.S. president, or could China or North Korea? Are we now always to be allies of Islamist Turkey and indifferent to its enemies like our once-allied Kurds, Cypriots, Greeks, and Israelis?

Will the economy ever again grow as it should? Will disability, food stamp, and welfare recipients jump back into the workforce should we frack on federal lands, build the Keystone pipeline or quit berating private enterprise?

Every statistic that Obama has produced on Obamacare enrollment [6], deportation, unemployment and GDP growth is in some ways a lie. Almost everything he has said about granting amnesty was untrue, from his own contradictions [7] to the congressionally sanctioned small amnesties of prior presidents. Almost every time Obama steps to the lectern we expect two things: he will lecture us on our moral failings and what he will say will be abjectly untrue.

I hope we can all recover, but it would require an honest autopsy of a failed presidency. So far, progressives assume that the media and Obama’s whining, blame-gaming and finger pointing can somehow return him back to a 50% approval rate and perhaps even a face-saving legacy. The result is that progressives, the media, and the Obama cohort have promulgated an entire series of excuses for what is a failed tenure like few any in the last century.

Bush Everywhere

George W. Bush is blamed by the administration for all its woes and not mentioned for any of its inheritances that proved salutary. The economy is said to be Bush’s fault, without recognition that Bush assumed the presidency during the Clinton recession. Also, Obama did not enter office during the meltdown of September 2008 but over four months later, when the economy was stabilizing; the recession was officially declared over [8] before Obama’s first six months in office.

Nor do we remember that what caused the Wall Street/Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac implosion was not Bush’s policies per se, but rather all sorts of larger forces. Clintontites (was there a Clintonite who did not cash in with a rich brief tenure at federal mortgage agencies?) milked the system [9] under the guise of liberal caring to expand housing; the Congressional Black Caucus damned the auditors of Franklin Raines and equated worries over unqualified subprime mortgages with racism. The deregulation of the mortgage industry was brought on by both parties in the 1990s.

Bush was blamed for Iraq, and he was certainly responsible for invading and, at great cost in blood and treasure, securing Iraq. But Iraq by 2009 was quiet and by 2011, in the words of Vice President Joe Biden and President Obama, stable, secure and likely to be a great achievement. Relations with Russia were already reset by Bush for Putin’s going into Georgia. Obama reset that reset [10], and so followed Crimea, Ukraine, and what next?  Obama took Bush’s green-lighted gas and oil revolution, stopped new fracking on federal lands, iced the Keystone pipeline and then bragged about greater carbon fuel production that came despite not because of his efforts. Same with the war on terror: trash the “Bush-Cheney” protocols, and then either expand or embrace all of them. What works against terrorists Bush had already established, what did not  – civil trials for terrorists, swaps like the Bergdahl deal, euphemisms like workplace violence and man-caused disasters — were Obama’s.

But even Obama found that scapegoating Bush grew stale after six years. Now the media’s new phraseology is the “Bush-Obama years,” to suggest that Obama was overwhelmed by the economy, Iraq and Afghanistan, and the partisan culture wars, and thus inevitably would become as unpopular as Bush. This variant is more subtle than Bush Derangement Syndrome in that it both blames Bush for the bad 14 years, and yet suggests there are large cosmic forces that now explain Obama’s own growing unpopularity.

The House Republicans

A second whine focuses on the House Republicans, who came to power only in January 2011. This gripe is an especially odd excuse for Obama’s failures for a variety of reasons. He pushed though Obamacare in 2009 without needing any of them; no one was bothered on the left by the fact Obama did not worry much that he lacked a single Republican vote for the Affordable Care Act. His large majorities in a Democratic Congress until January 2011, coupled with media obsequiousness and high polls, granted Obama power not seen since the reelection of LBJ in 1964. The failure to pass cap-and-trade and amnesty was an in-house Democratic problem, given fears that to do either would mean doom at the polls. How  odd that the anti-terrorism protocols, the drilling on private lands, and the mandatory cuts — issues Republican exerted pressure on – are precisely those few areas where Obama now brags of success.

There is a variant of the House Republican scapegoating called the “Tea Party did it,” as if all those tired of new and often disingenuous taxes and Obamacare represented some elemental racist hatred [11] that was unleashed against the president, stymieing his otherwise successful trajectory. This, too, is nonsense. Take the charge of so-called Tea Party extremism: shutting down the government to stop insane borrowing? Obama should have approved because he did just that — as a senator voting to shut down the government rather than expand the debt ceiling. Loud demonstrations? The Tea Party assemblies were somnolent compared to the viciousness of the anti-war protestors between 2005-8 or what we have seen in Ferguson. Criticize a sitting president? Again the Tea Party seems docile compared to what Democrats said of Bush. Obama himself, remember, trashed Bush serially, alleging that he was an unconsititouanl president and reckless spendthrift, while assuring the country that the surge would not only fail, but also make things worse. Just as Bush did not cause Obama’s failure, neither did the House and the Tea Party.

“They” and “It”

All sorts of existential enemies conspire against Barack Obama. Sometimes it is a tsunami or the advent of the ATM machine that slows the economy. Sometimes mysterious people freelance without Obama’s knowledge. Obama assures us that he had no clue about Lois Lerner, and when he did there was not even a smidgeon of corruption. He was just briefed about the apparently total stranger Jonathan Gruber, who accidently found his way into the Oval Office. Kathleen Sebelius apparently on her own sabotaged Obamacare, not the president who inspired it. Steven Chu one day just disappeared. So did Lisa Jackson and Hilda Solis, these latter two on the way out of the administration a bit ahead of a posse of auditors. Fast and Furious also spontaneously occurred. Lying about Benghazi was due to the fog of war. The moment one of Obama’s disastrous scandals begins to destroy things, some obscure assistant, some unknown natural force must be blamed for such undermining of hope and change without His knowledge.

Racism

Racism, as Eric Holder and Obama have winked and nodded at, is supposed to have caused Obama’s failure. Everyone from Morgan Freeman to the Jimmy Carter has lectured us that Obama is a victim of white racism, in a way I suppose could not possibly explain the venom once shown to Condoleezza Rice or Clarence Thomas. How was Sen. Tim Scott  reelected by a wider margin than was Lindsey Graham, and in South Carolina — the birthplace of the old secession? Was it racism, reverse racism, reverse-reverse racism?

If Barack Obama counted up all the times virulent racists blocked his ambitions, and stymied his efforts due to his race, and then collated them against how many times — at Occidental, Columbia, and Harvard; and in Chicago, Springfield and Washington — his performance was not strictly evaluated on its merits or lack of, I think the verdict would not be so favorable. Obama was nominated, elected, and reelected not despite the work of racists, but in part because he and his associates so brilliantly played the race card.

Existential Stasis

Finally we are told Obama is failing because the presidency has now become unworkable in the 21st century. The economy is supposedly inherently and permanently stuck at 1-2% GDP growth. Congress is dysfunctional in a structural sense. The people are forever polarized. The Internet and social media have all made it impossible for anyone to govern.

Obama is a new victim of existential forces that require us to rethink the presidency itself. In lieu of chronicling Obama’s disasters, we are instead lectured to radically change the system: why not one six-year presidential term? Or the end of the Electoral College? Or let us ensure that IDs are never required to vote — anything to free Obama from institutional chains that make it impossible for a president to be free to govern anymore.

That whine, too, is a fraud. Compared to what Lincoln faced in 1861, or Roosevelt in late 1941, or Truman in 1950, or, yes, Bush in 2001, Obama’s challenges are relatively modest. Government is not working because Obama subverted entire cabinet agencies and federal bureaucracies — from Homeland Security to NASA to Justice — to make them tools of larger efforts to advance the Obama multicultural therapeutic message rather than to honor and keep faith with their traditional agendas.

When the president uses emphatics like “really” or “actually” or “make no mistake about it, “let me be clear,” “in point of fact” or “this is unacceptable,” we know that what follows will be untrue and others will be blamed for the president’s own self-induced blunders.  Like Jonathan Gruber, and his surreal statements on amnesty, Obama believes that Americans are too stupid to retrieve videos and transcripts that prove that Obama makes things up and contradicts himself serially. Or the fact that Obama believes that Americans know that he does not tell the truth and yet also sighs that there are no consequences to such presidential distortions somehow makes him think that he is all the more powerful. Blame-gaming, “scape-gloating,” and lying is one thing, but quite another is doing all that with the full knowledge that voters accept that Obama lies — and that there can be absolutely no consequences. We have reached a point in the presidency where with each news conference Obama is saying to the American people something like “I just lied to you. No one cares that I did. And because no one cares, I am going to lie to you all the more as I feel like it given your own gullibility.”

We have had storytellers and fabulists in the White House before, but rarely a president who is energized to distort the truth by the very contempt that he holds the people in.

(Artwork created using a modified Shutterstock.com [12] image.)

Article printed from Works and Days: http://pjmedia.com/victordavishanson

URL to article: http://pjmedia.com/victordavishanson/explaining-away-obama/

URLs in this post:

[1] incompetence and corruption: http://freebeacon.com/politics/ron-fournier-obama-destroyed-the-credibility-of-his-administration-and-government-itself/

[2] ever quite recover: http://pjmedia.com/eddriscoll/2014/11/21/the-ultimate-friday-afternoon-document-dump/

[3] party-time organization: http://nypost.com/2012/04/17/tub-of-trouble-for-gsa-honcho-over-vegas-bah/

[4] online pseudonyms: http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/336995/e-mail-scandal-epa-john-fund

[5] a Muslim outreach megaphone: http://michellemalkin.com/2010/07/06/the-left-stuff-nasas-muslim-outreach/

[6] Obamacare enrollment: http://dailysignal.com/2014/11/20/obamacare-officials-exaggerate-enrollment-total-counting-dental-plans/

[7] his own contradictions: http://hotair.com/archives/2014/11/21/despite-highest-poverty-numbers-in-50-years-obama-okays-illegals-to-compete-for-jobs-in-us/

[8] officially declared over: http://money.cnn.com/2010/09/20/news/economy/recession_over/

[9] milked the system: http://pjmedia.com/eddriscoll/2010/03/04/and-speaking-of-new-york-gone-wild/

[10] Obama reset that reset: http://pjmedia.com/eddriscoll/2014/05/01/no-white-house-guidance/

[11] some elemental racist hatred: http://reason.com/archives/2009/09/15/the-paranoid-center

[12] Shutterstock.com: http://www.shutterstock.com

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About Victor Davis Hanson

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.

19 Thoughts on “Explaining Away Obama

  1. Joan Sands on November 24, 2014 at 8:17 am said:

    In short, Obama is a crook.

  2. John Lewis on November 24, 2014 at 9:56 am said:

    When all of his actions and misdeeds are put together, it emerges that Obama is a passive-aggressive despot. Now that is something unusual!

  3. Almost every time Obama steps to the lectern we expect two things: he will lecture us on our moral failings and what he will say will be abjectly untrue.
    ——————————————————————————————————————
    exactly this. and never any dealing with the basis for that moral code—–whence it came, agreed upon by how many americans, how that numberis known.
    our national and local civil codes all speak to the rightness or wrongness of telling untruths.
    this was a wonderful essay, and thanks for it.
    peggy

    • Peggy, we have an even more disturbing inevitability when he steps to the lecturn : as evidenced by his ceaseless left/right headturning towards the flanking teleprompters, his lies are pre-scripted. He’s not just making this stuff up as he goes. He has an entire “corpse” of scripters jotting down his lies in advance for him to mouth.

      I have no doubt he can lie on the fly. But he seems to be more comfortable having them set out in advance so his delivery is slightly smoother when it’s lying time again.

  4. Wow. Do what I did. Resolve to be positive by using the same bizarre logic O uses.

  5. IMHO, I believe you have nailed down the reason we have lost America. Obama has been able to lie straight to Americans faces without blinking and we have been unable to call him out on it. It truly is surreal. I’m sure the Roman Senate at some point took on this aura of unreality. Not sure if it’s just because of our lack of leadership or because those people who cared in the past about the trajectory (direction) of our Country are through caring or both. I suspect both.

  6. Rick Bonsteel on November 24, 2014 at 11:29 am said:

    Obama’s the Sow’s-ear president. Every liberal saw Obama as the chance to prove his or her antiracist — or post-racial — bona fides, and many are still having trouble admitting that they picked a a woefully poor banner, a self-admittedly lazy affirmative-action admit with no accomplishments but a strong sense of his own superiority.

  7. Stephen Gohmann on November 24, 2014 at 12:45 pm said:

    And now comes the ultimate test for America. When the Iran nuclear talks are finally and officially declared dead, Israel will strike Iran to destroy its nuclear arsenal before being destroyed itself. Iran and Israel will declare war, the rest of the Middle East (including ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Syria, Lybia, et al) will form a coalition and likewise attack Israel. THEN what will our so called CIC do? Little doubt why he just lost his SecDef, when the only rational response would be to join Israel and perhaps a handful of the Allies we have left to once and for all destroy the threats from the Middle East. Does anyone think for a minute Obama would have the guts to do what will then have to be done? Good luck with that, God bless America and God #$#! Obama.

  8. Kit Ingoldby on November 24, 2014 at 2:35 pm said:

    The problem isn’t that Obama is a blatant liar. The problem is that the general mass of society doesn’t care. That is what is dangerous.

  9. Theodore W. Branin on November 24, 2014 at 3:16 pm said:

    I agree completely. Obama has set us up to back into WWIII(nuclear?).

  10. I used to think that William Jefferson Clinton was the person of the lowest integrity to inhabit the White House in my lifetime, boy was I wrong. President Obama makes Clinton look like a piker. Thank you Dr. Hanson for keeping up the good fight.

  11. Charles Gonzalez on November 24, 2014 at 7:31 pm said:

    The good professor needs to take a valium…..I feel bad for him; as intelligent and insightful as he is about his one true calling, he is a poor excuse for a scold and a its not becoming of him….I did not vote for the president in 08 or 12. I voted for McCain in spite of his desperate choice of VP which had to be one of the truly boneheaded moves of his illustrious career….but I digress…the number of falsehoods, misconceptions and outright lies in Professor Hanson’s remarks is breathtaking, more so for a gentleman of his obvious intelligence…..he is really pissed off, I get it….but Professor, get a grip will you, open up your nearest copy of Tacitus , grab a cigar, scotch and chill out. We survived Nixon, Carter and Bush; we’ll get through this….keep the faith…peace…

    • Chas G
      ““let me suggest that you are suffering from severe intellectual hernia. That is not ordinary stupidity. That is practiced stupidity. It takes work to become that confused.”

    • Charles: Falsehoods, misconceptions, outright lies by VDH? Calling opinions lies is unbecoming of any gentleman who claims to not have voted for the current president. I’ve found VDH’s essays to be very well thought out and articulated so I’m wondering if you and I are reading the same essayist?

      I agree that on some days VDH seems a tad glum, but probably those are just days when he didn’t eat bacon. 😉

    • Jeff Stanley on November 26, 2014 at 10:45 am said:

      You accuse Hansen of lying without citing one example. Are you upset? Things not going so well at home? With the Little Lady? Is ranting in Internet comments not helping? Here, have another hit off the bong….

  12. This perfectly sums up the Democrat’s Spinal-Tap like journey in the Obama years—” A trek into the Underworld. “

  13. “” iran: americans have clearly surrendered “” , from washington free beacon. Not so sure about that. Talks with Iran since 2006…. September— A chinese destroyer docks in Iran. November— the fourth secret Obama letter sent to Iran. Once a deal is reached with Iran and sanctions are lifted, Iran can join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which in 2008 it applied for membership in. Even if a supposed deal is reached, it would have to be one beyond all doubt has to the Iranian’s honoring the aggreement. The Obama visit to Saudi Arabia —– the Saudi price cut on oil, further weakening Iran and Russia. The same belligerent Russia that has been propping up Iran and their quest for a nuclear bomb. Cannot see the Saudi’s continuing to remain a close petro-dollar ally of the United States if this Iranian bomb issue is flubbed. Obama as the wayward president, acting alone, beyond the law, which he makes up… MAYBE NOT POST THIS ON YOUR WEBSITE

  14. Theophilus on November 26, 2014 at 9:00 am said:

    Thank you Mr. Hanson for your wonderful and careful insights into how the ICIC (Idiot Commander in Chief) has operated over the years!

    America made a BIG ??? MISTAKE in electing President Obama, what we need is to hang on for another two years and correct this mistake by electing a real leader who knows how to take on responsibilities and not blame others for his/her decisions!

    The best leaders I’ve ever seen or read about are people who know how to serve the people (as the bible has stated – the greatest leader is almost always the greatest servant) by doing the right thing constitutionally and ethically.

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