The Un-Midas Touch

by Victor Davis Hanson // PJMedia

Photo via PJMedia
Photo via PJMedia

Everything that Barack Obama touches seems to turn to dross. Think of it for a minute. He inherited a quiet Iraq [1] (no American combat deaths at all in December 2009 [2]). Joe Biden bragged of the calm that it would be the administration’s“greatest achievement.” [3] But by pulling out all U.S. peacekeepers — mostly for a 2012 reelection talking point [4] — Obama ensured an ISIS wasteland [5]. He put his promised eye on Afghanistan at last, and we have lost more soldiers there than during the Bush administration and a Taliban victory seems likely after more than a decade of lost American blood and treasure. The message seems to be that it is better for Obama to have his eye off something than on it.

Remember those threats to Syria? After the U.S. threatened and backed off, the violence only escalated and spilled into Iraq.

Libya was no paradise under Gadhafi, but it is now Mogadishu on the Mediterranean [6]. Not even the president’s supporters believe that he told the truth about Benghazi. Reset with Russia green-lighted Putin, as he sized up Barack Obama as a lamb waiting to be eaten. The Bowe Bergdahl-for-five-terrorists swap (likely illegal) is not headline news only because dozens of scandals since [7] have eclipsed it, and the likely deserter is apparently still kept incommunicado, lest he speak in the fashion of his father at the earlier White House press conference. I don’t think Bergdahl is a model for future negotiations with the Taliban.

Israel? We never have been more estranged from the Jewish state. Open mic outbursts against Netanyahu define our true policies. The terrorist state run by Hamas is now a partner for peace – tunnels, missiles, syringes, handcuffs [8] and all. Did outreach to Hamas lessen or spike violence?

Did the “special relationship” with the Islamist Recep Erdogan lead to regional calm, and does it still exist?

The war on terror? Obama has derided most anti-terrorism protocols, even as he kept some Bush-Cheney policies — to the incoherent point that no one has any idea what the U.S. is doing. Jihad a personal odyssey? Muslim Brotherhood largely secular? Major Hasan’s murdering mere workplace violence? Outreach to Islam NASA’s primary mission? Remember overseas contingency operations and man-caused disasters? In the Obama war on terror, waterboarding three architects of 9/11 is our “folks” torturing their “folks” [9]; but judge/jury/executioner drone strikes that blow up 2,000-plus suspected (not confessed) terrorists — and anyone in the general vicinity when the missile hits — are far more moral. Out of sight, out of mind.

When CIA Director John Brennan speaks, we all assume he is not telling the truth [10], as in the past. Whatever the DC dictate is at the present, Brennan makes the necessary immoral adjustments.

Past cabinet heads? No one knows exactly the circumstances under which Lisa Jackson, Hilda Solis — and even David Petraeus — left their offices.

Iran and the bomb? Look to red lines in Syria for an example of how our Iranian threats will work out. One cannot distinguish parody from Obama’s Iranian policy. We worried more about sanctions hurting Iranians than forcing them to comply with non-proliferation promises.

The world sort of likes the new reduced profile of the U.S. This is especially true of Russia, China, and Iran, as they fill the regional voids. The weaker we become, the more likely Obama is popular overseas, and the more likely the Left applauds his new global likability.

In the Obama view, millions do not like Israel, Britain, or any pro-American Western democracy, and so applaud his new corrections.

At home? Obama has wrecked our healthcare system. Every promise about the Affordable Care Act proved an outright lie. No one can define Obamacare or explain how it is supposed to work. In fact, no one really even tries any more.

The budget? Obama’s legacy is $8 trillion more in debt, chronic 6% to 7%-plus unemployment as the new norm, and the idea that trillion is the new billion, as a $600 billion annual deficit is proof of fiscal responsibility and sermons on “growing inequality” reflect Obama’s record of creating record inequality. Zero percent interest rates ensure Wall Street zillionaires, the impoverishment of the once thrifty middle class — and the idea that saving money is stupid, owing it and not paying it back smart.

Students and college? One trillion dollars in collective debt buys a politicized college education to put twenty-somethings in a job market where 60% of newly minted BAs find jobs. Student debt is the new housing bubble [11], but at least a roof is more valuable for a time than a sociology degree.

The Border Patrol? It no longer exists. No one believes crossing illegally into the U.S. is a crime, and so there is no need for a law enforcement agency. Everyone is a DREAM-er [12]; doubt that and you are a racist [13]. To the extent the Border Patrol is not a parody of itself, it is a social services agency designed to facilitate illegal entry into the U.S. La Raza and the Chamber of Commerce, not Congress, set immigration policies.

The IRS? It too is ruined. It has become a Third-World extension of a partisan regime that hounds out political enemies. Ditto EPA, which mostly finds ways to circumvent Congress to punish successful companies and to pursue green statutes that Congress has no desire to pass.

NASA? We beg our enemy Putin to ferry us into space, as the director brags that the chief mission of the agency is now Muslim “feel good” outreach. Eric Holder has so politicized the Justice Department that we nonchalantly assume that racial matters determine to what extent Holder decides to enforce or ignore a law. Holder’s legacy is that John Mitchell now looks moral in comparison.

And the law? In some sense, we are in French revolutionary times. The ACA, immigration statutes, environmental laws — they all simply no longer exist. The law is what the president deems the public wants or what he believes is socially useful.

Race? We have become so inured to Trayvon Martin as Obama’s might-have been son, the stereotyping police, the “typical white person,” “my people,” “a nation of cowards,” “punish our enemies,” etc., that such polarization from on high is normal. Divide and conquer is the new old politics. After Obama won a decisive victory in 2008 that transcended race, we were suddenly told the world of the old white guy was over — ad nauseam — and race became essential, not incidental, to those who had proclaimed a need to go beyond race. In truth, the race fixation was not about justice, but raw power, the pathway to obtaining it and the mechanism for keeping it.

The presidential style? We assume that every Obama speech is an exercise in the use of the first-person pronoun. Every tired emphatic (“let me be perfectly clear,” “make no mistake about it,” “in point of fact,” “I’m not kidding”…) is proof of just the opposite. Equivocation, not clarity, is the goal of an Obama speech. In lieu of candor, there is always a macho brag that proves empty; always a straw-man, Emmanuel Goldstein-style [14] enemy whom we are supposed to hate collectively; always some clueless clinger, devious capitalist, old Tea Party guy, or carbon polluter who is the source of all our problems. We assume that when the president gets off the teleprompter his speech will be incoherent and laced with “uh uh uh” — as the press gushes that it is Lincolnesque.

Obama is a community organizer in endless search of a war to distract from the reality that he is Icarus falling [15] with melting waxen wings. Without drumming up an old white guy war against women, against Latinos, against children at the border, against the environment, against gays, against blacks, against mom and apple pie, our Obama is what he always was — a smooth version of Rev. Wright, a community organizer whose bullhorn could not deliver a crowd.

The press? But there is no press [16]. Long ago it became a ministry of information [17] and decided that Obama was the rare gift to enact a so-called progressive agenda. If or when there is a non-liberal president, we will be told golf is aristocratic time-wasting, that mention of race is hatred, that tampering with the IRS, NSA,  or any other agency is an impeachable offense, that ignoring enforcement of the law is treasonous, that $300 billion deficits are ruinous, that junketing to resorts is frivolous, that bombing without the approval of Congress is amoral, and that the teleprompter is proof of vapidity.

Our culture? Cool is all that matters [18]. Outsource, offshore, speculate, crony capitalism — just do it with Birkenstocks and shades. If you are hip, rules melt. Nerds like Al Gore are cool and so seek to dodge new capital gains taxes, profit from oil-rich dictatorships [19], and offer snake-oil nostrums to the crises they hype as they lecture us about our selfish carbon-spewing sins. The key to understanding a John Kerry, Al Gore, Warren Buffett, or Bill Gates is that they are cool, and thus seek to avoid the property, capital gains, or inheritance taxes that they urge be hiked on everyone else. The Obama cultural legacy is that it does not matter what you do, only how coolly you do or describe it. Appear hip, and greed is forgiven. Buy a ticket to a $35,000 Obama fundraiser, wear something hip, and sound cool, and you are a progressive egalitarian. Silicon Valley, Hollywood, and Wall Street [20] learned that con long ago.

The president enjoys a 40% popularity rate and thus has institutionalized a new facet of American political life: redistributionist policies such as Obama’s guarantee that 4 out of 10 Americans will always stay supportive and that abroad most will like what the U.S. is becoming. That is the real Obama legacy: there are no politics any more, just an endless class war between patriotic progressives and counter-revolutionary clingers.

Everything our un-Midas touched turned to stone.

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URLs in this post:

[1] He inherited a quiet Iraq:

[2] in December 2009:

[3] “greatest achievement.”:

[4] a 2012 reelection talking point:

[5] an ISIS wasteland:

[6] Mogadishu on the Mediterranean:

[7] dozens of scandals since:

[8] tunnels, missiles, syringes, handcuffs:

[9] our “folks” torturing their “folks”:

[10] assume he is not telling the truth:

[11] is the new housing bubble:

[12] a DREAM-er:

[13] you are a racist:

[14] Emmanuel Goldstein-style:

[15] he is Icarus falling:

[16] there is no press:

[17] it became a ministry of information:

[18] Cool is all that matters:

[19] profit from oil-rich dictatorships:

[20] and Wall Street:


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13 thoughts on “The Un-Midas Touch”

  1. With the likelihood of the Republicans standing united in November – and the Democrats in tatters? – it is anybody’s guess how big the former’s victory will be!!
    Your web page here – and your oeuvre in specific analysis on things Obama – must be considerable when the body count is made around November 10th – symbolically Winston Churchill’s birthday!!

  2. You said: “Obama is a community organizer in endless search of a war . . . .” You meant to say “Obama is a community agitator in endless search of a war . . . .”

  3. This article touches on some of the major affronts to sense and to international order that the Obama administration has given. There are others: the Obamites have done their level best to drive Canada into the arms of China, which really would not please most Americans. The erratic and cowardly policy re Afghanistan and Iraq has thrown out and nullified the labours and sacrifices of America’s allies in these countries. The common American does not think of these allies, though the American leadership has (before Obama) been appreciative of their contributions. Well, next time, the US will likely be going it alone.

    I don’t think Obama is all that popular outside of the US, any more. He has certainly enhanced Vladimir Putin’s popularity within Russia. Russians used to line up for hours to purchase staples. Now Muscovites line up to purchase Putin T-shirts:

    Obama was on top of the world in 2008. But the dirty little fellow threw it all away.

  4. Is this the week we’ll hear about all the diplomatic breakthroughs with African countries?
    I’m guessing its been the real focus of Obama over the past months.
    I suspect he’s miffed that ISIS has gotten in the way.
    The middle east, russia, our Anglosphere friends…all so last century.

  5. Proudly Unaffiliated

    Memo to VDH: spectacular summary of the Obama presidency to date! You have outdone yourself, you so nailed it.

    If I may, a prediction of the future (always dangerous): Obama, as you have described, is holding back– for now. He does not want a full-blown electoral disaster to occur in November to his supporting Dems. Sure, he knows losses are likely but a rout makes his life far more difficult. The prediction: after the election, no matter the result, he goes full totalitarian. He does not throttle it back, it is pedal to the metal.

    I hope I am wrong but, if not, prepare to be writing far worse summaries in the New Year.

  6. Stephen Johansen

    An empty suit with no accomplishments prior or during his presidency. He was artificially lifted to uncomfortable heights. And as all things eventually do, he has rattled back down to where he belongs.

    And yet we voted for him twice. Are Americans that stupid and dependent, or are Republicans that bad at explaining their message?

  7. Very nice summation of the community organizer who has completely failed to understand that human nature does not change, that power fills voids of weakness, and that history is ever ready to repeat itself for those who decide to ignore it.

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