by Victor Davis Hanson
Little Hope, Less Change
Consider: The 120,000 troops in “the surge is not working” Iraq are now complaining of ennui — while the White House is paralyzed over whether to send more troops to the new escalating front in Afghanistan. How odd the present perceptions: Bush’s bad optional war became good in the public mind, and Obama’s necessary good war became bad. (Careful study of the history of both countries, the existing challenges, and the topography might have suggested to candidate Obama to be careful about demonizing the surge while chest-thumping a war he never wished to finish. Did Obama really think he would be elected, hailed as the anti-war laureate, simply summon home the troops from the “quagmire” in Iraq, and then fly over to Kabul to do a Victory Column speech?).
The Russian gambit failed; Putin humiliated the Eastern Europeans and then rubbed it in by lecturing us about “hands off Iran.” The July threat to Iran of comply — or “face consequences” by September — morphed into September’s comply — or “face consequences by the October head-to-head meetings — which, in turn, morphed into October’s comply — or some day soon face consequences.
Sorta, Kinda, Maybe Diplomacy
Soon we will get everything on the official transcripts and websites scrubbed down to read: Guantanamo really will close on March 1, 2010; Iran must comply this time by June 1, 2010; all combat brigades will be out by March 2008, 2009, 2010; healthcare must pass by August, September, October, November.
Oil is climbing back over $80 a barrel; the dollar is falling against the Euro to 1.50. The annual deficit is already over $1.6 trillion and may go well over that. The tab for healthcare will hit right under $1 trillion. Unemployment may be headed over 10%. The people who voted for Obama were mad over Bush’s bailouts, unemployment, deficits, and supposed divisiveness. And?
They got greater bailouts, higher unemployment, larger deficits, and Chicago politics.
Right now to save America we need some steady leadership that reassures businesses of lower taxes, less government spending, no new regulations, educational reform to improve the work force, and confident expansionary energy exploration and development. Instead, we get a prescription to terrify private enterprise: Mr. President, every time you besmirch someone as greedy, lying, and unduly rich, some business, somewhere, pulls in its horns.
Full recovery is uncertain, given (1) oil prices have been low and are now climbing, boosting the import tab higher and higher (what happened to candidate Obama’s promises of more drilling?); (2) interest rates are historically low, meaning the price of servicing the mega-deficits hasn’t hit yet; but they too will climb, further taxing the hocus-pocus borrowing; (3) so far higher taxes are just talk; but soon the income rates will climb at a time when many of the states have already increased their sales and income rates. Remember the promised end to the FICA caps on higher incomes; note the promised healthcare surcharge taxes. And keep in mind that 55% of those in the cross-hairs who make over $200,000 voted for Obama.
And You Get in Return?
I believe that even the soon-to-be murderously taxed upper brackets would patriotically hand over their money to a grasping government — IF it went to debt reduction.
But it won’t. Far worse. Millions will work from January to September to pay for Acorn-like subsidies, more NEA politicized grants, nationalized healthcare, canceling mortgage, credit card, and student loan debt of those who may well have been less than careful with their expenditures. In short, consider: the more you will be taxed, the more you will be demonized as deserving it, the more your money will be wasted, the more your country will borrow, the greater you country will become the world’s laughing stock debtor.
And that depressing fact is beginning to infuriate millions. If Obama needs a mop to clean up after Bush, someone will need a fleet of street sweepers for his financial detritus.
So I expect Obama’s ratings to dip well below 50%, and that will be something to fear, given his unfamiliarity with the notion that over 1 out 2 Americans thinks he is failing.
But imagine that you are a small business owner, and just consider — why expand now or rehire? since (a) I have no idea what the new taxes will be; (b) I have no idea about what all these new regulations, cap and trade, card check; etc. will cost me; (c) I am beginning to think all this trash talk about bad doctors, insurance companies, the Chamber of Commerce, CEOs, the wealthy, etc. suggests this administration does not like me or what I do; (d) the government is everywhere: Ford now must compete against Government Motors; Banks against government-affiliated Citibank; Blue Cross against the public option; and so on. If I have a business, somewhere down the line there is going to be a government-run rival, sort of like your local can’t go broke PBS station in every avenue of commerce. Why insist on ensuring hustling employees when the rival, overpaid DMV-like work force can’t go broke whatever they do?
YouTube videos play 24/7 of White House Communications Director Anita Dunn — now that Van Jones yielded center stage — either idolizing the greatest mass murderer in civilization’s history or boasting about how Team Obama took the obsequious media to the cleaners. Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod — apparently worried that the public thinks this two-headed Cerebus is too nice and meek — swarm the talk shows to blame Fox News. That’s the equivalent of a Bush around 2007 whining about MSNBC not being a news organization and the meanness of a Chris Matthews is hurting the war in Iraq. Sending creepy people out to say creepy things does not make sense, when a hit network loves showing Americans how these creepy people say creepy things.
And the Problem?
Obama’s agenda polls less than 50% on almost every element. What keeps him viable is that the public still likes him and his family personally, and takes him at his unity/no blue state-no red state/can’t we all get along? 2008 rhetoric.
Don’t they get the obvious: In reaction to that Olympian, above-the-fray brand, what does Obama do? He sends out two of the most unlikable, mean-spirited attack hounds to go after a news organization in Nixonian fashion, which only erodes the precious image of a kinder, gentler Obama — right now the administration’s only asset.
One almost gets the feeling that Time, Newsweek, the NY Times, the LA Times,Washington Post, NBC, ABC, CBS, PBS, NPR, MSNBC, CNN, the Huffington Post, etc. are all not quite enough to balance right-wing talk radio and Fox News.
The problem is that (1) it is always harder to defend a president than criticize him (as the liberals can attest from their 8 years of demonizing Bush); (2) those in the right-wing media are more populist and grass-roots than those in the staid left-wing elite media establishment. So Rush Limbaugh or Glen Beck can caricature Obama far more effectively than can a Rachel Madow or Brian Williams bow to him; (3) the traditional left’s homage to dissent, protest, free-wheeling media outbursts, demonstrations, and over-the-top commentary is now, to use a Nixon term, “inoperative.”
Somehow we went from revolutionary fervor to the boring Ministry of Truth in nine months.
Personally I found the left far more interesting when they were suffering from Bush Derangement Syndrome than Obamophilia.
Bottom Line: Code Pink and Moveon.org have been Gergenized.
©2009 Victor Davis Hanson