by Victor Davis Hanson
NRO’s The Corner
What a Difference a Year Makes
A year ago the media resonated with the celebration of democracy, grassroots pushback against the existing order, the renewal of Congress, and the novel harmony between government and the people.
Now? Suddenly all this seems to be inoperative: Our institutions are supposedly broken and fossilized, rendered so by partisanship or inherent structural problems such as filibusters. The people themselves have almost magically gone from enlightened to dense, gullible, and undeserving of their one chance at progressive salvation.
So what changed? The Obama administration offered a statist agenda of massive deficits, and it blamed Bush for America’s current problems. The people revolted, and even the combined power of large Democratic congressional majorities, a ministry-of-truth media, and an Ivy League technocracy could not push through hope and change — largely due to Democratic legislators’ worries that they were walking out on a plank that would soon be sawed off by the next election.
The implosion of the Obama administration is newsworthy, but not as astonishing as this petulant liberal reappraisal of both popular political participation and the structure of American government.
Given that the people apparently don’t want bigger deficits, more stimulus, statist healthcare, cap-and-trade, or “comprehensive” immigration reform, and given that the most influential members of the Obama administration think the people either do or should want those things, we are apparently left with blaming George Bush, or self-righteously blaming the people for their stupidity, selfishness, brainwashing, or racism. Yet all of those assumptions only exacerbate the problem, and if continually voiced will turn a mid-term correction into an abject disaster for Democrats.
The Truth Is a Precious Commodity
The problem with Obama’s new hedging on taxing those who make below $250,000, or his administration’s taking credit for victory in the Iraq War that they so once fervently tried to abort, or the flip-flop on renditions and tribunals, or the embarrassments over closing Guantanamo and trying KSM in New York or Mirandizing the Christmas Day bomber, or trashing/praising Wall Street grandees, is not that presidents cannot change their minds as circumstances warrant, or even that all politicians are at times hypocritical. No, the rub is that Obama is not merely flipping and triangulating on issues in a desperate attempt to shadow the polls, but he is doing so on matters that he once swore were absolutely central to his entire candidacy and his signature hope-and-change agenda, critical to the future of the U.S., and proof of his opponents’ either ignorance or disingenuousness.
Serially he once screamed about taxing only the wealthy and airing healthcare on C-SPAN. He advocated taking out all combat troops from Iraq by March 2008 and asserted the surge was failing — at a critical time when our soldiers were in a life-and-death struggle to make it work. Obama built an entire narrative about Bush the Constitution Shredder who presided over Guantanamo and renditions. There was no place in his promised new politics for lobbyists and Chicago tactics. After a single year of governance, there is now scarcely a single issue that Obama & Co. have not backtracked on, flip-flopped, redefined, or quietly dropped — mostly matters that were once demagogued to score political points. At some point — I think it was around mid-January — the public collectively shrugged and concluded of Obama, “I don’t trust anything that this guy says.” And when that happens in American politics, it is almost impossible to restore any modicum of credibility. All we are left with now is three more years of the president’s “Bush did it” mantra and a buffoonish Robert Gibbs, like some strutting carnival barker, showing off ink on his palm to a bored press corps.
©2010 Victor Davis Hanson