Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

Obama: Nihilist or Just Incompetent?

Who knows; the only mystery left is how much damage will the last gasp of 2016 bring? 

by Victor David Hanson // PJ Media

Photo via PJ Media

Photo via PJ Media

Three things so far have saved Obama’s otherwise unfortunate tenure; all came over his own objections.

One, after the 2010 midterm tsunami, the newly elected House Republicans put a lid on spending — ratified by the wins of 2014. Sequestration is a crude blunderbuss and slashed defense, but it at least slowed down Obama’s disastrous serial $1 trillion-plus budget deficits. In spending terms, it certainly has vastly reduced the government’s share of GDP. We know that because Obama occasionally brags of falling deficits, as if to say, “Thank you for not letting me be entirely myself.” When he leaves office, we will have $20 trillion in debt and nearly 100 million permanently out of the work force, as well as uncontrolled and unaddressed entitlement spending on life support through zero-interest rates. But we will still be alive for now, thanks to sequestration. Shutting down the government may have been politically unwise (or not — given the 2014 midterm elections [1]), but it kept the debt financeable.

Then there is energy. Obama once bragged of sky-high electricity costs to come — echoed by Steven Chu’s dream [2] of European-level gas prices. Obama mocked “drill, baby, drill” and claimed it was no solution to the energy crisis, as he tabled Keystone and put millions of acres of federal lands de facto off the market for energy exploration. He tried to “bankrupt” the coal industry [3]. The EPAbecame a rogue agency [4]. Almost all his crony-capitalist Solyndra-like projects failed.

And? Gasoline and natural gas prices have plunged, thanks to fracking and horizontal drilling.

Private-sector entrepreneurs were apparently energized by new technologies and the specter of profits in an uncertain oil market — and a combative new sense of self-reliance that they were on their own without much government approval. Grimy, forgotten men on rigs have saved Americans trillions in lower energy prices and import costs — and all despite, not because of, Obama.

Third, Obamism is proving finite. Yes, this is the Obama era of intolerant imposition of gay marriage by court fiat, the selling of fetal limbs by Planned Parenthood, Climate Change McCarthyism, Black Lives Matter / Hands Up, Don’t Shoot mythologies, “Punish Our Enemies” ethnic smearing, state-ministry journalism, and Sanctuary City neo-Confederate nullification [5]. But in the process, Obama has nearly destroyed the Democratic Party — and all but turned it over either to a veritable crook and has-been or a 73-year-old self-described socialist. He lost both houses of Congress. The legislatures and governorships are overwhelmingly Republican. He turned off millions of working-class old-time Reagan Democrats. His new paradigm — demagogue minorities to vote en bloc in record numbers by any means necessary and screw those turned off by his separatist rhetoric — is probably not transferrable to other Democratic candidates.

The present field — Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley, Jim Webb, and possibly John Kerry, Al Gore, and Jerry Brown — are the sort of old white folks that Obama has insisted were ancient history. Apparently, after Obama the idea of a mellifluous but inexperienced and untried identity-politics candidate turned off the sclerotic Democratic Party bosses or its apparent race-obsessed king-makers, given there are no Obama 2.0 candidates in the field. The subtext of the Democratic field — at least until Joe Biden enters — appears to be that Obama will be as much praised as he is forgotten. Liberals are strangely quiet about the race/class/gender make-up of their field, but apparently not eager to see the old racialist warhorses Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson return to the campaign trail, or a new face like Cory Booker or maybe Michelle Obama in Hillary Clinton-fashion.

Otherwise, the Obama record is mostly disasters. He promised over 20 times not to act unconstitutionally and issue blanket amnesties. Then he destroyed the idea of a border, both physically and ideologically — and taught the Democratic Party that the salvation for its otherwise unpopular agenda was demographic, as in welcoming in millions of illegal aliens who would form a new constituency for statism [6]. To restore a shred of border security will incur institutionalized charges of racist, nativist, and xenophobe. The only brake on immigration will be bewildered Latino activists who fear that vast increases in illegal Asian immigration will trump their own paradigm, and thus they will call for some sort of immigration enforcement. Obama has left us with an existential question: if there are no borders and no immigration laws, at what point does illegal immigration cease? 100 million foreign-born residents? 150 million? 20 million illegal aliens? 40? 60? When the southern U.S. becomes Mexico or Guatemala, will Guatemalans or Mexicans still wish to come? When Sidwell Friends become bilingual or the Menlo School has translators on campus? Once the law is null and void, the question becomes again philosophical: who is to say that anyone cannot come, once you have said that almost everyone can come?  Apparently, the only person we don’t want in this country is someone applying legally for citizenship from a Germany or Denmark, with an MBA, $250,000 in the bank, and perfect English.

Foreign policy will take a decade of recovery. We are seeing a historic Russian, Iranian, Syrian, radical Shiite/Hezbollah, and Hamas arc sweeping across the Middle East.

It has little to do with destroying ISIS, which will be allowed by Putin and Iran to continue a bit to provide blood-sport in its killing of Westerners and their supporters. The new Axis instead will be anchored by a nuclear Iran, and an expeditionary army of Iranian-backed shock troops and terrorists, energized by Russian weapons and air and naval support. Add up the daily oil-export potential of Russia, Iran, and Iraq, and then factor in the clout that the new coalition will wield against the Sunni Gulf states. Consider also China’s interests.  The result is that we are witnessing the birth of a new paradigm in the oil-rich Middle East that will make OPEC’s cartel appear amateurish.

Afghanistan is going the way of Iraq. To appreciate those twin disasters, imagine getting out of Korea for a 1956 reelection talking point and allowing the North to reabsorb what thousands of American lives had saved. Or perhaps imagine Truman as Obama leaving Japan about 1950 to allow the postwar Japanese to work things out with the Communist Chinese next door.

The only mystery about the disasters in Afghanistan, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen, and our new hostility to Israel and the Gulf states, was whether Obama was incompetent and timid, or a conniving nihilist eager to reduce the Middle East to an anti-American wasteland.

Again, Obama leaves us with a philosophical question: what will the world look like without any U.S. leadership? Bellum omnium contra omnes [7]? Putin’s new Russian Union? A Chinese Pacific? A Mediterranean of dinghies and rowboats? At what point does the present chaos become apocalyptic? When flights are cancelled to Dubai? When Iranian rockets and terrorists battle Israeli F-16s? When Munich looks like Mogadishu? When Putin takes Tallinn?

Take Obamacare. Only the incompetence and impracticality of the Affordable Care Act will render it irrelevant.  After visiting a number of doctors’ waiting rooms in the impoverished San Joaquin Valley, I can attest that most of Obamacare patients have little idea of what a deductible, copayment or premium is, have less desire to find out, and prefer going back to the ER or free federal and state health clinics whenever possible. Does signing up once for Obamacare ensure that the user continues to pay premiums on time and has cash for deductibles? And if not, then what?

Otherwise, most who had their own insurance just shrug that it is now far more expensive for less care, and move on. They are apparently relieved that higher costs for their plans are worth them not devolving entirely into Obamacare coverage.

Government has now adopted a Third-World ethos. Review the Secret Service. It has gone rogue, leaking old files on congressional watchdogs [8]. The IRS is an extension of the White House; in brilliant fashion Lois Lerner left a legacy of deterrence: something like, “I am still not in jail [9], and you all are still worried that there are thousands like me burrowed in the IRS watching you.”

What exactly were cabinet heads Lisa Jackson and Hilda Solis doing when they so hastily left? Is NASA still doing Islamic outreach [10] or finally trying to get us our own rocket [11]?

Where did all the rogues and incompetents at the GSA, ICE, NSA, TSA, and VA come from? Did they simply come out of the woodwork once Obama set the tone that bureaucrats are to be ACORN and SEIU-like community organizers? When did the goal of a 24-year-old college graduate become a sinecure as a government bureaucrat, replete with de facto lifelong tenure, guaranteed pay raises, and a retirement system that pays out annually more than does a private $4-million 401K without the worry?

Was all this due to incompetence or nihilism?

Who knows or cares? The only mystery left is how much damage the last gasp of 2016 will bring? Abroad, our enemies will rightly conclude that 2016 is about the time to cash in the last of their winnings and leave the table. And at home, we will have a year to go of petulance, spite, and snark because we have finally rejected the messiah sent into the world to save us.


URLs in this post:

[1] given the 2014 midterm elections: http://pjmedia.com/instapundit/215063/

[2] Steven Chu’s dream: http://pjmedia.com/eddriscoll/2011/04/27/are-high-gas-prices-a-good-thing/

[3] “bankrupt” the coal industry: http://newsbusters.org/blogs/p-j-gladnick/2008/11/02/hidden-audio-obama-tells-sf-chronicle-he-will-bankrupt-coal-industry

[4] became a rogue agency: http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2015/09/21/impeach-epa-administrator-gina-mccarthy-column/72518326/

[5] Sanctuary City neo-Confederate nullification: http://www.rushlimbaugh.com/daily/2015/09/02/victor_davis_hanson_on_the_illegal_immigration_tipping_point

[6] a new constituency for statism: http://hotair.com/archives/2015/10/04/thought-experiment-how-illegal-immigrants-could-elect-hillary/

[7] Bellum omnium contra omnes: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bellum_omnium_contra_omnes

[8] leaking old files on congressional watchdogs: http://www.kmov.com/story/30157345/watchdog-report-secret-service-sought-to-embarrass-utah-congressman

[9] “I am still not in jail: http://pjmedia.com/instapundit/215764/

[10] still doing Islamic outreach: http://pjmedia.com/eddriscoll/2011/06/15/space-the-multicultural-frontier/

[11] trying to get us our own rocket: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5yYc8-Me0GQ

Copyright © 2015 Works and Days. All rights reserved.

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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.

21 Thoughts on “Obama: Nihilist or Just Incompetent?

  1. While at this point it may be irrelevant whether Obama is a fool or just plain incompetent, but if you think of him as being on a mission from the start when he declared, “My plan is to ‘transform’ America,” then in that respect he has done “a brilliant job!” He’s taken US right into the cesspool of despair and hopelessness and with his Islamic buddies at CAIR, he will soon bring them all here from Syria for a GIANT HOMECOMING CELEBRATION (at our expense, naturally)!!!

  2. Bill Korstad on October 5, 2015 at 10:39 am said:

    The potential oil-export alliance of Russia, Iran, and Iraq could be a formidable challenge particularly if a fragile Saudi state experiences terrorism, disrupted oil supplies or is distracted by internal political unrest. Further, disrupt free-flow of oil from the Gulf states – without fear of retribution from Obama – and they can name their price. Yes, things could get worse in the next 16 months.

  3. He’s an incompetent ideologue and naif with a narcissistic streak a mile wide. He surrounds himself with yes women and sycophants who are no better and even more radical. They and he exist in a rhetorically abstract non-reality that serves their political purposes first and last, just as all western leftist revolutionaries do.

    He never managed anyone in his entire life before becoming POTUS. Can you imagine that? He never even supervised a crew in Burger King. Yet his first move was to double the White House staff to over 1600. He’s a disaster that will take years for the next POTUS to unravel.

  4. Roy Digliani on October 5, 2015 at 10:56 am said:

    We like to think that people aren’t as bad or evil as they seem.
    We like to have faith in humanity and believe that some are not completely corrupt etc.
    So with a guy like Obama we wonder if maybe we read him wrong or maybe he wasn’t really what he seemed all along.
    Anyone remember that old Temptations song “Smiling Faces Sometimes” ?
    It pretty much sums up Obama.
    Clinically Obama is an Aboulic Narcisist
    (which in a lot of ways translates into “Hawaiian Stoner”)
    Initially I thought Obama being elected might show the American people just how bad Liberal ideology was a la Jimmy Carter and we could quickly get back to something or someone more Reganesque.
    Boy was I wrong.

  5. It would be wonderful if it was only Obama but he has saturated the Government agencies with like minded incompetents that will take decades to purge if it is at all possible. The illegal immigration policies of this administration has accomplished its goals to perfection. the Alinsky and The Frankfort school of Marxist thought pervades the government and will continue for years to come. My time has come and gone the fight belongs to the likes of Victor Davis Hanson and many others and I pray they stay the course and fight the ******** to the end.

  6. Proudly Unaffiliated on October 5, 2015 at 11:47 am said:

    Another great article from VDH, thank you sir! It summarizes the gist of the Obama disaster very nicely. For fun, I’ll try to predict the answer to the question, “The only mystery left is how much damage the last gasp of 2016 will bring?”

    Prediction: Obama will make it so much worse that out heads will spin and we will harken back to the “good ole days” of Obama circa 2014. While some may view such an outlook as fear-mongering or hysteria, I do not see this as anything other than a natural extrapolation of what we have already seen but with an extra heavy push (or many smaller pushes) as Obama sprints to the finish line on his quest to “fundamentally transform” (aka destroy) America. I pray that a forgiving God may show me how wrong I was.

  7. The power make-up in the middle east has changed for the next 5-10 years. Our toehold their has been reduced to one place; Israel. We will rely on Israel to keep the region from turning into a nuclear ok corral. They are already hedging their survival on establishing more “open” dialogue with Putin. Netanyahu knows reliance on the U.S. is a fools play. Better to engage the enemy and at least create the illusion of diplomatic relations while buying as much time as possible to learn how to disrupt Iran and other enemies from a successful catastrophic nuclear attack against Israel. Technology is on the march and the best way to prevent nuclear conflagration is to infect the command and control of those delivery systems and that’s what Israel is banking on. That’s why the real danger continues to be a dirty bomb planted in a major metropolitan city. Real intelligence on the ground is imperative to prevent this or other dirty weapons such as biological. Eternal vigilance is the price for liberty. Israel understands this better than any other free country on earth.

  8. David N on October 5, 2015 at 1:19 pm said:

    I lived with Cory Booker in college for a bit, ok fellow. However, I follow his facebook feed and he regularly posts articles about income disparity in ‘minority’ communities which leads me to think he supposes we should care, which leads to my conclusion that he is another redistributionist and a black nationalist like Obama. Why liberal whites would vote for someone like that is to me proof of the historical ignorance of many of our educated citizens. With fifty some years of civil rights behind us and a black president we can simply conclude that those who have not pulled themselves out of poverty simply never. It is no one’s duty to stem the destruction of the family in the inner city (which leads to high crime and poverty) other than those who make the lame decisions themselves.

  9. Rufus T Firefly on October 5, 2015 at 3:20 pm said:

    As far as “slashed military spending under Obama” as Hanson claims, we are spending $663 billion constant dollars under Obama, compared to $634.9 billion under Dubya. Every other President the last 70 years has spent less.
    http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-record-u-s-military-budget-spiralling-growth-of-americas-war-economy/5479264

  10. Empress Trudy on October 5, 2015 at 3:45 pm said:

    Obama is neither a nihilist nor incompetent. He is no less apocalyptic than the Iranian ayatollahs and fully believes that he has to destroy the world to start over and remake it in his own image.

  11. Jim Stead on October 5, 2015 at 5:55 pm said:

    When the outcome of an action is well-known and predictable, either the actor fully intends or is indifferent to that result.

  12. Joe Dagostino on October 5, 2015 at 6:22 pm said:

    Threat or Menace? Bwahaha. I love those rhetorical false dichotomies. I’m still so disappointed in the neoconservative movement.

  13. Dan Roll on October 6, 2015 at 7:35 am said:

    Clearly, Mr. Obama is obsessed with leaving a ‘legacy’, but I am now convinced he does not see his legacy as being relevent to Americans. The victors write the history books and it looks to me like Mr. Obama does not see America among the victors.

  14. Pingback: Wednesday October 7, 2015 | THE DAILY DRIFT

  15. Jeff Stanley on October 7, 2015 at 4:46 pm said:

    When Putin and Netanyahu met, sometime before Russia put boots on the ground in Syria, so did the countries’ intelligence opposites. Having the best intelligence network in the region means Israel has cards to play. As far as the lost US credibility and influence in the region, all I can say is thank goodness for the frackers. Somebody up there must like us.

    This was a chuckle: “The only brake on immigration will be bewildered Latino activists who fear that vast increases in illegal Asian immigration will trump their own paradigm.”

    Ha. Trump may well trump it too.

  16. Louis Emery on October 8, 2015 at 3:44 pm said:

    Extending a bit what another commenter (Roy) wrote.
    If he is either a nihilist or an incompetent, then statism (liberalism) is not necessarily
    discredited in the eyes of liberals because statism wasn’t done “right”, just like the old
    US Communists said of Stalin.

    I remember G.H.W. Bush campainging in 1988 calling for a kinder gentler nation
    (which was of course silly given that everybody benefitted in some way by Reagan).
    I wonder if Democrat candidates will take up a similar line to differentiate themselves from Obama?

  17. Damian on October 8, 2015 at 9:26 pm said:

    An incompetent nihilist.

  18. zygote314 on October 11, 2015 at 12:23 pm said:

    Obama’s corruption and open disdain for constitutional separation of powers would have made both Andrew Jackson and Richard Nixon blush.

    Jackson essentially thumbed his nose at the SCOTUS’s Worcester vs. Georgia decision, derisively telling Chief Justice John Marshall to go enforce his own ruling. Jackson wanted the Cherookee nation evicted from their tribal lands, via the state of Georgia, and couldn’t care less about the rule of law.

    In Nixon’s case, the SCOTUS unanimously rejected his claim of executive privilege regarding taped conversations with his aides that Special Prosecutor Leon Jaworski thought germane to his investigation. Nixon resigned the presidency shortly afterwards, and many of his closest aides such as AG John Mitchell went to prison for their roles in the Watergate affair.

    Barak Obama has also pushed the legal envelope and shown what little respect he has for the rule of law if it inhibits implementation of his ideology or restrains his ambition. There is strong circumstantial evidence from the IG’s report and congressional testimony (e.g Lois Lerner taking the 5th, before popping over to Obama’s AG for a private chat) that his IRS lackeys targeted political opponents leading up to 2012 general election. At the state of the union address in January of 2010 Obama used the occasion to openly chide the SCOTUS for its Citizen United decision as he feared corporate money could impact his reelection chances. His petulant display was not only tacky and disrespectful but clearly showed that, like Jackson and Nixon, he believed the SCOTUS had refused to bend to his will. Now that Blackberry phones and many of Lerner’s emails have been destroyed we may never know the full truth of the IRS scandal nor the extent of Obama’s involvement. Having a loyal hack like Eric Holder involved early in the investigation has shielded his boss from a “smidgen of corruption” and the appointment of a Special Prosecutor. Obama has also benefitted from a compliant press that has contained any widespread public outrage that would have demanded further investigation. Unlike the the Watergate scandal where the three networks and major newspapers kept the nation’s interest alive by reporting John Dean’s testimony like installments of an Agatha Christie who-dunnit, the IRS scandal has been largely reduced to backpage news.

    As Dr. Hanson points out, there is no BO 2.0 lurking in the wings to further destroy what’s left of our constitutional republic. At least “por ahora.” But whoever gets elected in 2016 should seriously look at reforms that would remove the AG from the executive branch’s cabinet so it cannot be stacked with loyal apparatchiks willing to do their bosses bidding. If the press will not do its job, then at least the American people can be protected from their willful indifference. The AG needs to be a wholly independent agency free to investigate and prosecute government corruption without any political prejudice. I would suggest modeling reforms to our current AG on Britain’s Director of Public Prosecutions which is completely independent and politically neutral.

  19. Carl Sesar on October 16, 2015 at 9:40 am said:

    What was, is, and always will be a mystery is the content of Obama’s sealed documents.

    But there was never any “mystery” about Obama’s character and intentions right from the get-go. Those who knew all along he was a menace, an enemy of the United States, and who said so, plain and clear, were reviled, and tarred-and-feathered for it.

    Another mystery is why some well-versed pundits still don’t see it, or won’t say it, or say “who cares?”

  20. schm0e on October 20, 2015 at 5:29 pm said:

    What a refreshing read.

    Grateful to read that somebody gets what’s going on in oil. Russia’s exports have *tripled* since it crashed its currency and made itself the low-cost provider. Meanwhile everyone and his mother reported that OPEC was controlling the market.

  21. Gary Clemente on October 21, 2015 at 11:43 pm said:

    I have long said as people continuously ask what is really going on inside of Mr. Obama’s head, whether he is purposely corrupt or just incompetent, that It is the typical liberal progressive prototype that fits him, as well as others. He is clearly deviously incompetent. Always, he is sinister in his ulterior motives, but when the “ingenious” plan falls apart, he reverts to incompetence and managed chaos.

    A simple analogy for Mr. Obama and his cohorts: Come up with a hair-brained scheme, throw some spaghetti on the wall and if it doesn’t stick, find a way to have someone else clean up the mess. See Fast and Furious, Solyndra, IRS and the Tea Party, VA disaster, Black Lives Matter insurgency, Iran nuke deal, etc., etc., etc.

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