by Victor Davis Hanson
Pillars of Sand
The faux-Greek columns of 2008 have turned into pillars of sand, as the president’s Gallup ratings hit 43-2%, and his congressional majorities are on the verge of melting away — just two years after grand talk of a 50-year liberal regnum.*
Obama has turned manic in his efforts to save his sinking presidency. Every divisive tactic has been tried — and yet so far found wanting. We have gone through, in creepy Alinskyite fashion, all the bogeymen, JournoList enemies — Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, Justice Roberts, the Tea Party, John Boehner, Karl Rove, and Ed Gillespie. We have witnessed the furor over the voters’ purported stupidity — the dopey clingers who do not understand science or logic, but are driven by their “fears” to reject the hope and change salvation. Obama hammers that condescension home; everyone from Jimmy Carter to John Kerry in similar exasperation joins that chorus that we know not what we do.
Pots and Kettles
We have also witnessed the blatant hypocrisy of damning opponents for raising money from Wall Street and undisclosed donors. Has the president no shame? He introduced to American political life a number of fundraising firsts — the first presidential candidate in modern history to refuse public financing of presidential general elections; the first to raise more than $1 billion; and the first Democrat to capture roughly 70% of Wall Street money, making him inter alia the biggest recipient of BP and Goldman Sachs money.
Obama introduced into recent campaign history the technique of using credit cards to hide the identity of the donors. He is so animated at Republican fundraising simply because “they” have out-Obamaed Obama, mastering the tricks and spins that proved so successful in his own ends-justify-the-means 2008 campaign. This was not supposed to happen — this unfair turnabout is fair play. Remember when a liberal Democrat perverts the process of campaign financing then the entire “reform” effort collapses, inasmuch for Republicans electioneering is simply a free speech matter, a free-for-all in the arena issue. Sermonizing progressives alone can destroy the notion that there should be public checks on the financing of candidates (sort of like a conservative Congress and administration running up mega-deficits between 2002-6, and thus discrediting balanced-budgeting).
Now we are left with cheap racial polarization, and this from the great healer. Rudy Giuliani at the 2008 Republican convention posed the rhetorical question of what exactly is “community organizing.” I think Obama is now answering that clearly enough.
So the president of all these United States now appeals to Mexican-American voters to get back at the polls at their “enemies.” He lists groups that supposedly the Republicans do not want to vote at all, emphasizing in particular African-Americans and Hispanics. Yesterday, in a thinly disguised racial simile, he said that the Republicans would have to sit in the back seat of the car. When all that is collated with the Skip Gates mess, the Arizona lawsuit and cheap demagoguery of Arizonans supposedly going after children on their way to get ice cream, and Van Jones, the picture is clear enough.
We have come full circle. The carefully applied veneer of the 2008 campaign is slowly being stripped away under the surprise and pique that the American people are rejecting his effort to turn the U.S. into a European-like, 40-50% government-controlled economy. Before this is over, I think we will come to see that we are back to Obama 1.0, the confidant of Bill Ayers who lamented the failure of the Supreme Court to enact “redistributive change,” the ACORN contingency lawyer, and the intimate of Rev. Wright, Father Pfleger, and Rashid Khalidi. Those are old and perhaps tired tropes, but they become touchstones to explain the increasingly erratic Barack Obama lashing out that he came so close and yet is still so far.
Independents resent this, and a good number of Democrats will stay home in embarrassment as well. (Note Obama’s petulance and his anger at liberals who supposedly want to take their ball home when they don’t get their way, or the warning to “Latinos” that they will get what they deserve if they don’t realize Obama is not a king, and don’t punish their enemies by staying home.)
Think for a minute about the new them/us divides that our president has sought so hard to establish in his twenty-one months: the undeserving with $250,000 in annual income/the noble with less than that; people of color in need of social justice/not people of color who won’t dispense it; Republican conservatives who are greedy and selfish/Democratic liberals who are generous and caring; noble unions like the SEIU/ cutthroat employers who are stymieing the recovery; the advocacy of card check; exploited patients/limb-lopping doctors; duped homeowners/conniving banks who forced loans down their throat. And on and on. The only mystery remains how Obama was able to turn a polarizing career in Chicago, and the most partisan and ideological record in the US Senate, for over a year of campaigning into a unity, across-the-aisle, reach out candidacy. I know, I know — a media that proclaimed him a “god” and experienced Catullan-like physical sensations at the sound of his voice.
The Great Make-over
Note again, nowhere is there the courage to admit the simple truth: the American people did not wish or vote for European socialism. Under the duress of the financial meltdown, angry at Bush/Iraq, underwhelmed by McCain, captivated by the notion of electing the first African-American president, swarmed by a singularly partisan media, and assured of a centrist Bill Clinton-like Democrat, Obama won the election and with it a golden opportunity to refurbish the Democratic brand and unite the country. That idea proved not merely impossible but simply distasteful. Somehow he assumed that his own godhead could lead us, kicking and screaming, to a socialist nirvana. When that did not happen, he serially blamed the bogeymen, then our ingratitude, then our stupidity, then tried to scare and divide us into accepting his agenda.
Not Take It Anymore?
So why are people angry? I’ll end with a brief list of twenty-one months of examples in no particular order. Each incident in itself was perhaps explicable by Obama supporters given the exigencies of the time or perhaps could be contextualized by the liberal media and political establishment. But in the aggregate they confirm an overwhelmingly damning pattern of ideological extremism, polarization, and basic incompetence — to such a degree that dozens of politicians are not running on the very Obama agenda that they once voted for.
Here We Go…
A vast new healthcare monstrosity that will send private insurance rates through the ceiling. The Machiavellian way in which it was slammed through. Failed stimulus. Wasteful pork-barrel spending of hundreds of billions in borrowed money. Persistent near 10% unemployment. Three trillion dollars in new debt in just two years. Record levels of federal spending. The vast increase in the size of government and its share of GDP. Eight years of projected $1 trillion annual budget deficits. Record high foreclosures. Record high usage of food stamps. The Keynesian zeal of Romer/Summers/Orzag followed by their sudden resignations in the wake of failure. Constant talk of higher taxes on “them” — the promised new healthcare surcharge taxes, the promised return to the Clinton income tax rates, talk of a VAT, talk of lifting the caps on income subject to FICA taxes, new capital gains taxes, new inheritance taxes on the horizon.
The use of extra-cabinet czars to avoid confirmation and audit. The neglect of the law, from reversing the order of Chrysler creditors to announcing a BP $20 billion shakedown and punishments for health insurers who don’t toe the line. The ascendance of ACORN and SEIU. The months-long shutdown of Gulf drilling. The failure to encourage coal, nuclear, and oil and gas new production. The Black Panther voting intimidation mess. The bowing abroad. The apologies. The outreach to enemies, and the snubbing of allies. The unnecessary humiliation of Great Britain and Israel. The Iran serial “deadline” charade. The unnecessary announcement of Afghan troop withdrawal deadlines. “Overseas contingency operations” and “man-made disasters.” The proposed civilian trial of KSM. The Ground Zero mosque mess. The beer summit mess. NASA’s new main mission of Muslim outreach. Stopping the border fence. Suing Arizona and demonizing the state. The apologies to the Chinese over the Arizona law, which was trashed from the White House lawn by the president of Mexico, and sued by foreign governments to the apparent approval of the administration.
The constant “Bush did it” refrain. The gratuitous slurs against limb-lopping doctors. The thrashing of the “rich” going to the Super Bowl and Las Vegas. The artificial divide of them/us based on $250,000 of annual income. The racial divisiveness from a sad cast of characters that gave us “cowards,” “stupidly,” “wise Latina,” and whites polluting the ghetto. Unhinged appointees like Van Jones and Anita Dunn. The occasional unguarded admissions like “never waste a crisis” and “at some point I do think you’ve made enough money.” The wacky behavior from the whining of “like a dog” to the sudden junketing to Copenhagen to lobby for the Chicago Olympics. The Orwellian cheap damning of the Bush anti-terrorism protocols only to accept or expand tribunals, renditions, Guantanamo, Predators, Iraq, and intercepts and wiretaps. The golf obsession and Costa del Sol while trashing the indulgent rich.
I’ll stop there since we have another 27 months to go.
Again, to invoke any one or two of these can be written off as partisan nit-picking; in toto they paint a picture of ideological zealotry determined to remake the US abroad into a UN neutral and at home into something like Belgium or Sweden.
I would urge everyone to vote next week…
* I note, for example, that Newsweek’s weird 54-40 pro-Obama poll seems distorted and affects aggregate samplings of the sort that appear on realclearpolitics.com averages. Readers will no doubt explain to me what I am missing here.
©2010 Victor Davis Hanson