Is Obamism Correctable?

Here and abroad, the Obama administration damages whatever it touches.

by Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online

rfrThe next president and Congress will inherit what President Obama left behind. Whether Democrat or Republican, the president will have no choice other than to try to undo much of what Obama has wrought. But can he or she?

The policy of “leading from behind” and the crudity of “We came, we saw, he [Qaddafi] died” have left a human tragedy in Libya. Backing the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt was an inexplicable choice, and it almost ruined the country. The United States did not need to hound and jail an innocent video maker in order to concoct a myth to cover up the culpable lax security in Benghazi. Yemen was strangely declared a model of our anti-terrorism efforts — just weeks before it ignited into another Somalia or Congo. ISIS was airily written off as a jayvee bunch as it spread beyond Syria and Iraq. There is little need to do a detailed comparison of Iraq now and Iraq in February 2009 (when it was soon to be the administration’s “greatest achievement,” a “stable” and “self-reliant” nation); the mess in between is attributable to Obama’s use of the aftermath of the Iraq War for pre-election positioning. Ordering Assad to flee while ignoring the violence in Syria and proclaiming a faux red line has now tragically led to a million refugees in Europe (and another 4 million in the neighborhood) and more than 200,000 dead. Israel is now considered not an ally, not even a neutral, but apparently a hostile state worthy of more presidential invective than is Iran. We have few if any reliable friends any more in the Gulf. Iran will become a nuclear power. The only mystery over how that will happen is whether Obama was inept or whether he deliberately sought to make the theocracy some sort of a strategic power and U.S. ally. The Middle East over the next decade may see three or four additional new nuclear powers. The Russia of kleptocrat Vladimir Putin is seen in the region as a better friend than is the U.S. — and certainly a far more dangerous enemy to provoke.

There is no easy cure for all this; it will take years just to sort out the mess.

There will be a temptation for a reform president to use the lawless means that Obama has bequeathed — executive orders to unconstitutionally bypass Congress; arbitrary suspension or simple non-enforcement of laws, depending on where we are in the national election cycle; exemption of party loyalists from legal accountability — to achieve the noble aim of restoring legality. But such short-cuts to reform would be a terrible mistake.

It would be quite illegal to ignore emissions standards the way Obama has ignored the Defense of Marriage Act; or to reduce, by fiat, the EPA to the present toothless status of ICE; or to allow a new sort of “sanctuary city” to refuse to marry gays, in the manner of San Francisco’s refusing to hand over illegal immigrants; or to arbitrarily remove particular owls and newts from the protection of the Endangered Species Act as Obama has picked and chosen which elements of the Affordable Care Act at any particular time he considered legally non-binding. Payback is very tempting, but eight more years of it would ensure that we would become another Zimbabwe or Venezuela. Instead, the next president must, as never before, obey both the spirit and the very letter of the law to restore to us what Obama has almost destroyed.

Polls and pundits agree that racial relations are now at their worst since the riots of the 1970s. Barack Obama in the 2008 campaign blew long and hard the dog whistle of racial polarization: clingers, the not-to-be-disowned Rev. Jeremiah Wright, typical white person, bring a gun to a knife fight, get in their faces. He has never stopped since. The president kept at it when he intervened in the Skip Gates farce, or editorialized about skin color in the ongoing and volatile Trayvon Martin case, or institutionalized the lies of Ferguson that begat the “Hands up; don’t shoot” mythology — and the tragedies that followed. The message was always that race is still a barrier to success in America and that, logically, only fealty to the Obama administration could improve things for people of color.

Obama did not phone the family of Kate Steinle — murdered as a direct result of sanctuary-city practices approved by his administration — or the families of police officers slain as a result of the hate speech generated by the Black Lives Matter movement. But he has also largely ignored nearly 7,000 blacks whose lives have been taken by other blacks. In some sense, Obama proved a captive of his own political matrix. The Obama election strategy — successful in 2008 and 2012, a failure in 2010 and 2014 — was predicated on upping the polarizing rhetoric, extending social services, and embracing hip popular culture to achieve historic minority voter turnout and unprecedented block-voting patterns.

But in the blowback, the liberal Congress and many of the Democratic state legislatures were wiped out, and the country has been split apart. Obama’s legacy to the Democratic party is the loss of the white working classes, and the permanent need to achieve massive minority turnout and absolute liberal fealty at the polls. To do that will probably require institutionalized open borders, habitual racial haranguing, and the courting of the Al Sharptons of the race industry. Whether Obama knew that such racial voting would not be completely transferrable to his Democratic successors, while the hostility it engendered most certainly would be, remains a mystery. But that paradox raises what is perhaps the central issue of his presidency: whether he was a short-sighted incompetent naïf or a mean-spirited and narcissistic nihilist. Or both?

The next president should take a hiatus from our racial obsessions, and simply try treating Americans as if their race or ethnic background were irrelevant.

We will reach $20 trillion in debt on Obama’s watch. He ran on the issue of national debt, blasting George W. Bush for using a “Bank of China” credit card “by his lonesome” to bankrupt the country. Indeed, a penny-pinching Senator Obama had voted to shut down the government rather than raise the debt ceiling. But as president, Obama may well accrue more debt than all previous presidents combined. His legacy will be that he made George W. Bush’s budgetary indulgence look sober and judicious compared with his own. Only the Federal Reserve’s near-zero interest rates for seven years — along with the low energy prices that came despite, not because of, his efforts — have saved Obama, and staved off the stagnation of having well over 90 million able-bodied Americans permanently out of the work force. When interest rates climb to 4 or 5 percent, the next president will face a budgetary crisis, augmented by Obama’s failure to address entitlement spending. We are in for rough times; whether Obama will get out ahead of the reckoning is unknown.

In other areas, the Obama agenda is falling of its own weight. Obamacare is becoming irrelevant, because of both noncompliance and soaring costs. As the poor discover that even with subsidies they have to pony up considerable deductibles and copays, and must actually pay some premiums, they increasingly head for the free clinics or back to the emergency rooms. Even Democrats will not rue too much the spontaneous unwinding of Obamacare, given that much of the public is doing its best to ignore it.

The restoration of defense spending will follow the Carter-to-Reagan pattern, albeit more slowly given the specter of unsustainable national debt. The next president will address the tax code, and the solution won’t be Bernie Sanders’s dream of a 90 percent income-tax rate. Even Joe Biden cannot run on Obama’s stellar economic record — pretending that the middle class has been in ascendance since 2009, extolling the advantages of more debt, or proclaiming the necessity of even stricter environmental regulations or more subsidies to Solyndra-like green companies.

There is not much of an idea any longer of investigative journalism. The press for the last seven years has largely chosen to become a Ministry of Truth. One reason why Donald Trump soars is that, after the press’s canonization of Obama, the public relishes Trump’s contempt for the media — and the latter have now lost the moral credibility to critique any candidate on the grounds of dishonesty, hypocrisy, narcissism, mendacity, or polarization of the electorate.

The tragic mess of 2009–2016 is ending, and soon the cleanup will begin — accompanied by stupefaction as to just how much will have to be thrown away.

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37 thoughts on “Is Obamism Correctable?”

  1. Hi Victor,
    As an Australian and supporter of our Liberal Party, (our conservatives, sort of like Republicans) I like to look at your system and cheer myself up. Our politicians may be disastrous, but at least the other pollies can toss them out. Sometimes they toss out the wrong ones, but the wonderful thing is…. They can!!

  2. On the outside chance that the only Republican candidate (Trump) that has a chance of beating Hillary actually wins, his chances of being able to repair any of the damage is limited. He will have to spend as much or more time fighting the Republican establishment than the Democrats. Expect a majority of both parties in the House and Senate to unite against him on almost every issue.

    Socialism is the natural end result of a leisure – oriented society with a burgeoning underclass, as we are seeking more and more each day.

    1. I don’t know that Trump isn’t part of the establishment class. Why does anyone think he isn’t friends with the same corporate cronies that hold Boehner and McConnel’s leash? He’s a rich man who’s proven he’s willing to use government to get ahead. He is not a small government conservative.

  3. All of the joy and progress of America electing the first minority as President has been negated by the utter incompetence, arrogance, racism, and lawless of a petulant man-child in an office that should be reserved for those able to do the job. Our first black President will long be remembered as complete failure, perhaps as the point when America was irreversibly lost as a great nation.

      1. Actually, I would say he has famously succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest dreams in the systematic dismantling of traditional American culture and kneecapping our military.

  4. The Middle East: History of Conquest: Genghis Kahn was happy to push villagers from off their lands into the fortified walled cities he planned to capture: guarantee too many mouths to feed & the increased potential for epidemics…chaos ensued…we can thank Obama for the present mess

    How about his bizarre comments at a talk with the troops about the Russians being in Syria…the opening line from “Nanook of the North” submitted to the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest years ago comes to mind. The elderly grandmother (Putin) is set on an ice floe to die, by her grandson (Obama), who sees her float by years later with bones and carcasses strewn behind her and a malevolent glint in her eye as she silently drifts by and he sadly shakes his head and chides her for not accepting her fate… (Obama’s new world order)

  5. “Progressive-Retardnation” worldview education maintains a no-correction attitude. Therefore, defund “Progressive-Retardation” worldview education K-12, university and Journalism Schools. Then we will make no rubes to elect rube-masters.

    Instead, fund “Tragic-Liberty” worldview wherein citizens are not harvested as rubes, by rubes.

    This is the fix.

  6. What a brilliant sketch of the collapse of this great republic. Wondering, however, if Dr Hanson will tackle the upcoming speech before Congress by Pope Francis given the content on the economy and environment. My study of history leads to the conclusion that Madison, Jefferson and especially Adams would be waving red flags. Especially when one reads the latter’s “A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law.”

  7. What happened to your vaunted “Checks ad Balances”? How did he get away with it? And is your only solution to hope that the next President is more competent or will behave better of his own volition?

    1. All systems created and implemented by humans can fail. Checks and balances experienced a spectacular cascading failure.

      Checks and balances failed in because the activist-minded Obama Administration doesn’t recognize inconvenient limits on its power that it is not forced to. Obeying the law is for everybody else. They have a higher calling.

      Checks and balances failed because other branches of the US government did not do their part. John Boehner was more willing to collaborate with fellow Washington insiders than willing to run any “opposition” worth the name. John Roberts strained the limits of the US Supreme Court’s powers to uphold Obama’s signature healthcare reform instead of interpreting the law.

      Though Obama’s normal legislative channels were and are blocked by a large minority of Tea Party conservatives, there is little higher-order opposition to Obama’s agenda, allowing him to push his executive powers to and past their limits to do what he considers to be the important work of his administration.

    2. “Payback is very tempting, but eight more years of it would ensure that we would become another Zimbabwe or Venezuela.”

      What if the next President follows the original intent of the Constitution and it’s separation of powers and all that wonderful stuff but we continue to slide into a growing sinkhole of Government control? Playing by the rules while the other side beats us to a bloody pulp doesn’t seem right to me. There’s got to be a way we can reassert law and order in an increasingly uncivil society, right? I mean is now the time to show everyone how civil and decent we are, or is it time to get a POTUS elected who will do whatever it takes to repair the damage done by Obama. Whatever it takes, build “the wall”, rebuild the military at hyper-speed, pull a Grenada somewhere so Putin and other wannabe’s see we’re once again a serious Nation, get our prisoners out of Iran and Cuba, setup a commission that has 1 year to provide the POTUS with the best and quickest way to roll back regulations and abolish harmful departments such as Education and the EPA. Whatever it takes! Let’s save our kids future now and worry about becoming a Zimbabwe or Venezuela later. We should take that risk.

      1. “Playing by the rules while the other side beats us to a bloody pulp doesn’t seem right to me. ”


        I think I’ve said it here before, but one way Rule of Law, where you follow the rules and take your lumps, while they do whatever they damn well please, is simply *submission*.

        Whatever else conservatives may be, they aren’t *pacifists*. Fight back. The only hope to *ever* have the Rule of Law again is to make Progressives *pay a price* they’re not willing to pay for their lawlessness. Then maybe the Rule of Law will start looking appealing to them.

        If they’re never made to *pay a price* for their aggression, why would they ever stop?

      2. Sounds tempting. As I’m sure it did when the new Chancellor of Germany promised that exact course of action to fix the damage done in the Weimar Republic.

    3. When you have an inept Speaker of the House who hasn’t been able in 5.5 years to mumble a coherent counter agenda to Obama; when you have a newly elected Senate majority leader that was ushered in to office by an angry electorate demanding repeal of Obamacare, restoration of fiscal sanity, and an end to Executive fiat, but who instead just waves the white flag and applies all of his passion in blocking Ted Cruz; and when you have a Supreme court that rubberstamps such patently unconstitutional laws as Obamacare and the “right” of Gay marriage, what your left with is the evisceration of our Montesquieuian republic and a petty tyrant who is exactly what our founding fathers were trying to guard against.

    4. I did not see it in the other responses, but didn’t Harry Reid do a great deal of mischief by only allowing 14 bills to come before congress during the last session in which he ran the senate? This as opposed to the usual 100 to 150 bills the senate normally would have looked at? If I have this right, it was the opening for Obama to claim that the Senate (republicans fault) had not done anything and he was therefore justified to move on illegal immigration and other issues.

  8. Great article, and the byline “the Obama administration damages whatever it touches” is very poignant. It appears that the imbecility of the Obama administration has even infected the Iranian government, after decades of wicked cleverness and ingenious terrorism.

    Irresponsible and unverifiable rumors have it that when the Islamic government of Iran receives Obama’s $100 billion subsidy, with no deduction for the judgments held by the widows of Colonel William Buckley and Colonel William Higgins, they will use it to recruit one million non-Iranians to form their own “foreign legion” to help out Assad and possibly conquer some of the territory once ruled by Cyrus the Great, over 2,000 years ago.

    This means that 20 years later, the Iranians will have to deal with several million immigrants (the recruits and their families) with little education but considerable military training and little patience for traditional Persian manners and customs.

    In other words, the Iranian government will create its own immigration problem, comparable to those now descending on Germany, Sweden, and points west.

  9. I shouldn’t blame him without being sure, but I believe it was Richard Epstein in his Law Talk podcast who suggested that Obama’s international damage would linger, but his domestic destruction would be reversible by the next president. I’m very much in the VDH camp of pessimists. Sure, the military can be reinvigorated, with years of effort, although that’s little consolation to the officers let go as a result of the sequester. But issues like the debt, composition of the SCOTUS and race relations will not easily be repaired, possibly for decades. Consider the hundreds of regulations expected to cost >$100M to implement – those won’t be easily reversed, if only because of their great number.
    Final irony: I find myself uninsured for the first time in my life, now that Obama’s made it mandatory (and unaffordable in a stagnant economy); I guess that’s easily reversible, although I’m not holding my breath for health insurance costs to come down quickly.

  10. Obama’s strange and rapid appearance on the national political stage and his successful bid for the presidency were bizarre enough. What is more disconcerting is the fact that few national spokespersons even dare hint that perhaps his weakening of our country and violations of the law are DELIBERATE. He too often is given the benefit of the doubt by assuming his motives are good when in reality, if his actions are judged on their face, some might suggest they are treasonous. Our fear of accurately attacking the first black president provides him a shield and, as in so many other situations involving African Americans allows bad conduct to continue without so much as a whisper. Equality is not another term for a pass on bad conduct.

  11. Democrat mindset—some rational, some bonkers. The President strutted, danced and sang a symphony of historically shitty ideas. Women swooned, men pledged allegiance to the myth of the big-O. The worst dung-heap policy was cunningly saved for last—–predestined for National abhorrence. No wonder old Biden sprang to life in the presence of women—– poor guy was locked away like Frankenstein’s Igor, delegated to cattle-prodding and carrying the luggage.

  12. Pingback: Is Obamism Correctable? | Newport Mesa Tea Party Patriots

  13. The next president — assuming that president is elected to fix the damage Obama has wrought — in addition to fighting domestic violence on racial and illegal “immigration” fronts, will be fighting an ever-escalating war against jihadists, not only in lands abroad, but here in the home front as well.

    On the other hand, if the new president is elected to carry on after Obama’s example, all hell will break loosen on a grand scale anyway, both right here in the United States, and abroad also.

    We’re in for big trouble either way. There’s no way to get around it now.

  14. Rome gained Emperors because the Senators gave them more and more power in trade for wealth and some semblance of security in their privileged lives. Quite quickly the senators lost all real power and turned into house lackeys of the imperial families and entourages. If our congressmen do not exercise their constitutional power and prerogatives with confidence and purpose, the imperial presidency will become ingrained in our polity.

  15. Obama is an easy target, not to mention deserving. But we are fooling ourselves if we fail to acknowledge that his presidency is the logical outcome of trends that have been in place a long time.

    In the Mideast, from his precipitate withdrawal from Iraq to his backing of almost nonexistent moderates during the so-called Arab Spring, Obama’s actions — which have backfired so spectacularly — are based on the long-standing misperception of Islam as articulated by his predecessor, Bush I. Who on September 17, 2001 said, “The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That’s not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don’t represent peace. They represent evil and war.” As if the fact that the vast majority of armed conflagrations around the world, then and now, involve Muslims were just a fluke. As if every Muslim country ruled with an iron fist by a strongman were actually, under its skin, a Jefferson democracy waiting to break free.

    Regarding the rule of law, but for the 17th Amendment, the spectacle of Obamcare passing by a majority vote in the Senate followed by a majority of states refusing to set up exchanges, would have been impossible. The law would never have passed.

    As far as unilateral executive action, Obama has certainly taken the next step by selectively carrying out the laws on the books. But neither he nor any president before him has usurped power without the acquiescence of Congress. The Iran “deal” and the Corker bill are a case in point. The practice of calling, what are actually treaties, “executive agreements” goes back to FDR.

    So the Corker bill comes along, advertising itself as Congress standing up to the president, when it actually turns the Constitution’s treaty clause on its head. The clause was meant to give the Senate input and veto power over any treaty the executive was contemplating. All the Corker bill accomplished was to give the president veto power over any congressional objections.

    What Corker actually represents is a transparent attempt by the Republicans, along with certain Democrats in competitive districts and states, to provide political cover for themselves. That is, to pose as if they were standing up to the president, when in reality they were caving in to him. A practice that Congress has honed to a fine art.

    As far as race relations go, Obama did not formulate critical race theory nor did he make it the reigning fraud perpetrated by the academy. Nor did he originate the society-wide denial of the real roots that feed the culture of crime that rules every underclass black community in the nation, which trace back to LBJ’s War on Poverty. That Obama has taken advantage of the fraud and denial, given his politics, is hardly surprising.

    As far as debt goes, the Federal Reserve has been enabling the levering up of public and private debt since Greenspan was appointed by Reagan. The fact that debt has reached levels that cannot be sustained — should the free market be allowed ever again to set interest rates — cannot be laid at the feet of Obama. Except insofar as he has been unwilling to expend the political capital against the economic reset that is going to be required to change the trend. Which, given his politics, that kind of expectation would qualify as laughable at best.

    It would be nice if, after this president leaves office, all that were needed was a good housecleaning. Unfortunately, what is actually needed is a complete gutting and remodeling of the edifice.

    I would argue that the centralization of power in Washington D.C., that began with the Civil War, turned out to be propitious, given that the nation would soon be facing down Fascist and Communist totalitarians around the world. But it has become an anachronism, and an overreaching anachronism as well.

    The thought that a vast army of bureaucrats at Babylon on the Potomac are qualified to micro manage every aspect of a continent-wide nation’s economic and social life is bound to fail. A failure that may cause a slump of the commonweal into decrepitude, ushering in the way empires normally expire. But I wouldn’t rule out its passing away accompanied by another bang heard ‘round the world. One, that hopefully, will be as successful as the last time such a sound was heard emanating from the shores of America.

  16. A good enumeration of the consequences of the Obama era.

    As to the domestic sphere, largely your “Law” section… the Obama era will not be undone. The lessons have been given, the examples held up for all to see, and only a fool will refuse to use the Obama precedents as tools, because the next guy in office will not be a fool, and will use those tools against you. Existing laws will be selectively enforced or unenforced to create the equivalent of new law, allies implicitly exempted from consequences or given explicit waivers on the enforcement of laws.

    Humpty Dumpty is broken, and will not be glued back together.

    The legislature is unnecessary and will be bypassed, It hasn’t functioned at all in five years anyway, so the legislature’s very existence is well on the way to becoming dead-letter law.

    Judges have shown easy ability to be intimidated by the executive. They will continue to be. The era of the Imperial Judiciary ends in its willing gelding.

    Treaties… the death of the concept of the treaty is before us now. All future “treaties” will be Caesarist agreements cutting the legislature out of the process.

    Budgets… eventually a President, and maybe this one, will defy a Congressional government shutdown and just order the Treasury to print money and pay the bills. And it will. And the Judges will put on their happy faces and say its wonderful.

    Welcome to the future. Same as the past. But with iphones.

  17. Obama and his fellow philosophical travelers seem to be a form of political and social cancer that may already have infected such a critical mass of the country’s citizens that the cure may be either extremely painful or, worse, too late to stave off the eventual fatality of the society we have known in the past.

  18. In one respect, Barak Obama has been good for America. His inept presidency that has failed spectacularly to live up to the election cycle hype has given the American public a much needed object lesson in political discourse. From his faux Greek columns to his promise of lowering the tides and your healthcare premiums, to his empty affirmations of unity, to his bold claims of a new “reset” foreign policy. Never before has an America politician promised the world and delivered dirt.

    However, it’s his transformation from the incompetent phony at the beginning of his term – “Shovel-ready was not as…uh…shovel-ready as we expected” – to the frighteningly corrupt petty caesar he has become today that should concern us the most. Obama’s assault on the rule of law not only reveals how pitifully unqualified he is to be president, but will be his legacy if we give in to what Dr. Hanson rightly warns is the temptation for payback. Our constitutional republic with its Western values of indvidual liberty, property rights, and due process of law has evolved considerably since our founding. We’ve seen the Dred Scott ruling eventually lead to the Emancipation Proclamation and later, the 13th Amendment. We’ve seen women’s limited roles in society lead to the 19th Amendment and Carly Fiorina’s success story. And we’ve seen Plessy/Ferguson lead to Brown/Board of Education, and sadly back to Ferguson under this reckless president.

    If we are to save our republic from the evil excesses of Obama and the hard left’s neo-Marxism then we must get rid of the current “Vichy” Republican leadership and such dangerous pretenders as Donald Trump. The next few years will require a bright mind with an even temprament and steady hand if we are ever to dig ourselves out of the morass of, let’s be honest, the last 15 years.

    Will the next Winston Churchill please step forward?

  19. The short answer is NO. There are very many things which had e gradually been corrupted, and these allowed rat Obama to flourish. No, the Republic will not be restored.

    What will come in its place?
    “And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
    Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”

  20. Great article, Mr. Hanson. I agree that we, as a nation, need to return to a law-and-order country, one where the law of the Land (the Constitution) is once again adhered to and race baiting is stopped.
    However, I believe that the next President needs to be able to review & rescind any, and perhaps all, “Executive Orders” made by Obama, as well as demand a rapid review of recent regulations imposed by the various Agencies under BHO’s, or even W’s presidency.
    Some streamlining has to occur for rapid, positive, progress toward prosperity to once begin.

  21. Pingback: Héritage Obama: En ouvrant à l’Iran la voie vers l’arme nucléaire, Obama a transformé les conflits lents du terrorisme classique en crise de civilisations catastrophique (Obama’s genocidal treason: What the Rosenbergs did for Stalin, Obama d

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