by Bruce S. Thornton // FrontPage Magazine
Tuesday night President Obama will deliver another campaign speech, this one marketed as the State of the Union address. As such, we can expect to hear, through the usual white noise of “I,” “me,” and “my,” vacuous bromides like “moving America forward,” and empty promises “to grow the economy, strengthen the middle class, and empower all who hope to join it,” as White House flack Dan Pfeiffer said. So after token references to economic growth, we can expect to be served heaping helpings of “income inequality” and “economic mobility,” the redistributionist chum for his hungry progressive base.
Is anybody surprised at once again experiencing the mendacity of hope? Is there anything we don’t know about the incompetence, arrogance, and political thuggery of this administration? Obama and the Democrats represent the toxic stew of old-style Progressive government by technocratic elites, Sixties grievance politics, stealth pacifism, guilt over America’s sins, class warfare, redistribution of wealth to buy votes, crony socialism for the progressive 1% to secure campaign-contribution kickbacks, and pork for public employee unions to garner votes as well as bucks. The wages of this faux populist elitism are a sluggish recovery, anemic economic growth, a real unemployment rate of 13%, a 3% decline over the last decade in the workforce participation rate, the monstrosity of Obamacare, the failure to exploit this country’s petroleum and natural gas riches, the looming bankruptcy of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, and the explosion of debt and deficits to finance the whole disaster. In other words, precisely the policies guaranteed to stop economic growth and to weaken the middle class.
As for foreign policy, it would be surprising to hear a whole lot about that on Tuesday night. Five years of Obama have seen American prestige and influence damaged across the globe. Enemies and rivals have been appeased and strengthened, friends and allies scorned and compromised. Russia and China are rushing to fill the vacuum left by American retreat. The Middle East in particular is one spark away from explosion. American lives and dollars have been squandered by Obama’s abandonment of Iraq and Afghanistan. Reliable if thuggish allies in countries like Libya and Egypt have been surrendered to jihadists or civil war. Our stalwart friend Israel has been bullied and endangered. Al Qaeda and its affiliates are rampaging across the region. And Iran––our enemy for 35 years, the most vicious and lethal state sponsor of terrorism, the murderer of thousands of Americans––currently is being not just appeased into becoming a nuclear power, but bribed with sanctions relief to do so. Given the brazen shamelessness of Obama, I fully expect him to ignore all those disasters on his watch, and in full Neville “peace in our time” Chamberlain mode, tout as a “breakthrough” his agreement with Iran that does nothing to stop the mullahs from acquiring the bomb.
Equally predictable will be the reaction to the speech. The Congressional Democrat shills and touts will pop up on the carefully crafted applause lines, while Joe Biden grins maniacally. The courtiers in the media will declare Obama’s reading of the words of others to be the greatest oratory since Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, and carefully parse the banalities, clichés, tired jargon, preposterous claims, and outright lies for more signs of their messiah’s rhetorical, political, and intellectual brilliance. The far-left of the base, who differ from other Democrats only in their honesty about their statist intentions, will whine that Obama didn’t promise to raise taxes on the “1%” even more, dismantle the NSA, shut down Guantanamo, shutter every coal-fired electricity plant, go on a Keynesian spending binge, destroy our drones, and slash defense spending to the bone, as they cast longing gazes on Cherokee princess Elizabeth Warren.
But we know all that. For five years we conservatives have been like Cassandra, wandering desperately around Troy accurately predicting its destruction and being dismissed as insane. Or in our case, as racist, heartless, greedy, and downright evil. No amount of empirical evidence debunking the claims of income inequality and the lack of mobility, or explaining the adverse effects of raising the minimum wage, or detailing the ongoing collapse of Obamacare, or adding up the fiscal failures of stimulus spending, or exposing the sweetheart deals to “green energy” hustlers, or documenting Obama’s serial lies, has made much of a difference. His celebrity besotted, vulgar-rich 1% lifestyle on the taxpayer’s dime, his abuse of executive power to make or unmake laws for political advantage, his demonization of his political enemies and rivals even as he simpers piously about “civility,” his attempt to kill the Fox News messenger, his siccing of government agencies like the IRS and Department of Justice on conservatives, all have been amply publicized. And despite all that, his job approval numbers average 43%, up over 3 points since December 2, when they should be at least 10 points lower, and heading south.
Forget the speech. Forget yet once again cataloguing Obama’s crimes and misdemeanors. When we’re not preaching to the choir, we come off like the Ancient Mariner, a gray-beard loon grabbing voters’ sleeves to make them hear yet again the tale of the political albatross hanging around the country’s neck. We need to seize the opportunity created by the dissatisfaction with Obamacare, which has penetrated the fog of self-interest, ignorance, and indifference that helped reelect Obama. The strong likelihood that Obamacare will continue to hit more and more people in the wallet means that there will be a larger, more receptive audience come November’s midterm elections.
But Republicans have to be ready for that opportunity, with savvy, competent candidates and spokesmen who can explain the issues and link voter angst to the specific policies that created them, and who have workable alternatives to offer. They have to break the usual Republican circular firing squad, whether in Congress or the primaries, and concentrate their fire on the political enemy. They have to cleverly mock those who would whine about the metaphor in the previous sentence, and abandon the “preemptive cringe,” as Margaret Thatcher called it, they sometimes indulge when the other side squeals about “racism,” “war on women,” “polarization,” “incivility,” and “extremists.” Instead, they should model their responses on Ronald Reagan’s brilliant riposte to Jimmy Carter in the 1980 debate, “There you go again,” using the same tone of mild amusement at a sulky child’s tantrum.
And Republicans have to start dismantling the carefully crafted persona of Hillary Clinton––or “Planet Hillary,” as The New York Times Magazine absurdly put it in a worshipful profile––who currently is riding out Obama’s political storm in the safe haven of accolades, awards, Time magazine puff pieces, and $200,000 speeches from companies investing in the future. Republicans can’t let voters forget every gaffe, corrupt deal, and scandal from 1992 until today, or stop reminding them that she has no achievements other than buying her mediocre political career with the coin of humiliation at the hands of her philandering husband. Voters have to be reminded of her politicized opposition to the 2007 successful surge of troops in Iraq, and her public accusation that General Petraeus was lying about the evidence of that success. Most important, all Americans must never let anyone forget that on her watch 4 Americans died in Benghazi, while all she had to say was “What difference does it make!” after lying to a grieving father that an obscure moviemaker was to blame.
Whatever damage Obama can do in the next 3 years, 8 years of Hilary Clinton will make it worse. Every dysfunction inflicted on the country by 100 years of the progressive assault on limited government, self-reliance, and self-government will continue to worsen, while the debt clock ticks ever closer to the midnight of bankruptcy. Conservatives need to fight the next war, not refight the last one.