by Victor Davis Hanson
The Harder They Fall?
Who appointed over 40 ambassadors on the sole basis of campaign contributions, or has as many lobbyists in government as did any President in memory? And who releases touchy news — whether increased unemployment or trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in civil courts — on Friday nights, or wants his Democratically-controlled Congress to debate unpopular legislation on Saturday nights?
You see where this is going. Prophets fall harder than normal politicians. When you claim that seas recede and planets cool before your presence, and that Latin mottos, new presidential candidate seals, neo-classical victory trophies, and faux-Greek temple sets are the appropriate backdrops for Your speeches, then you raise the bar a bit high. Obama is not necessarily any more partisan than a Nixon or Reagan or Bush, only just as partisan — but then he claimed something quite different.
Add in the hope/change mantra, and a cadre of lackeys talking about tingling legs, his majesty Caesar, and apotheosis into a “god”, and our young Icarus was simply soaring too near the sun for his own fragile wax-feather wings. The problem is not just that Obama is proving Clinton-like in his Chicago hardball partisanship (cf. the trash-talk of Rahm Emanuel, Mao-admirer Anita Dunn, or the Truther Van Jones), but that his entire persona was fabricated on a touchy-feely “there is no red state, no blue state America.”
Despite Obama’s vows to restore science to its rightful place in government (I think that was his dig at George Bush’s opposition to human embryo, stem-cell research), we get superstition. Instead of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ non-partisan, depressing unemployment figures, we are instead to rely on a new unproven notion of jobs “saved” and “created”, and in nonexistent, made-up congressional districts, listed, no less, on a government official website, www.recovery.gov.
War against Reason?
Remember the “reset” button promises abroad? Do we have a safer, saner relationship with Putin? Is Iran closer to disarmament? North Korea quieter? Did George Mitchell transform the Middle East? Is the “good” war still good, the “bad” one still bad? Do the Brits feel the special relationship is stronger? Maybe Sarkozy is more impressed now with America, or are the Poles and Czechs?
And do Chavez, Castro, Ortega, Morales, Zelaya, and others in Latin America feel more pressure to be democratic or less? Is one third of the planet in India and China more comfortable with the messiah Obama or with the hated Bush?
And the future? Will the country look eagerly forward to cap-and-trade taxes? The new income tax rates? Will small businesses like the caps off FICA taxable income, and healthcare surcharges? Perhaps the people can get behind impending “comprehensive immigration reform” (in the way we are now for “comprehensive healthcare”), which will de-emphasize enforcement and emphasize amnesty?
As Obama’s popularity falls, expect his own partisanship to increase, and the Chicago brass knuckles to be more evident. Obama knows that he can hope and change only until he hits 35-40% approval ratings, and is rendered shouting to half-empty audience halls and a triangulating congress.
Full Steam Ahead
A final prognosis — or why Obama is in deep, deep trouble, since he won’t quit in his dream to transmogrify American into something like Belgium at best and Brazil at worse.
Millions of independents and swing voters went for Obama for five reasons: (1) they believed the media hype that Bush was the “worst” (fill in the blanks); (2) the sudden financial panic of September 2008 and the anger at Wall Street banditry and bailouts; (3) Obama’s youth, charm, and oratory; (4) the feel-good novelty of voting in our first African-American president; (5) Obama’s centrist campaign message of paying down debt, working with allies, drilling, being tough against al Qaeda, and being bipartisan.
It’s taken almost 11 months, but voters now know that propositions 1-5 are now refuted or irrelevant:
1) Bush is history. Like Truman, in time he will begin to look better not worse. More importantly, Bush’s sins that bothered voters — too much big government and big deficits — were simply trumped by Obama’s gargantuan deficits and federalization of healthcare, banking, and the auto industry. “Bush did it” doesn’t work any more. “Obama did it even more” is the new worry.
2) The panic that we would lose all our 401(k’s) and home equity has passed. What we are left with in its wake is a sinking feeling that badgering small business and the Chamber of Commerce, as if they are Goldman Sachs grandees, isn’t working. Raising income, payroll, and surcharge taxes at a time state, local, and sales taxes are surging, is, well, a good way to turn a recession into a depression — or at least a stagflating, weak recovery. Sometime around next March, “Bush’s did it” will transmogrify into Obama’s recession. Obama can’t run against the economy, but must fix it — or take the blame. His best hope is that the Republicans don’t run a demagogic figure such as he himself acted in 2007-8.
3) Obama’s smoothness is getting old. All of us can almost write the next Obama speech: a) “some” say/do, but “I” say/do… The bad straw man is set up, followed by the contrast of the annointed “I” and “me” ad nauseum. b) then comes the apology for the sins of the rest of us — mitigated somewhat by the election of, yes, Barack Obama, the first black President; c) third is the impossible: spending more on healthcare saves more; cap and trade massive taxes will result in economies; no more lobbyists means gads of them, Bush shredded the Constitution equates into I’m copying his anti-terror protocols; d) an end with hope and change ruffles and flourishes. Bottom line: the oratory is old and trite, given the lack of commensurate accomplishments.
4) On the matter of racial landmarks, some of the voters think, rightly or wrongly, that they did their thing, proving America is not racist by the fact of Obama’s election. Now? A lot of independents, however, won’t seem obligated to vote in 2010 or 2012, motivated by the same sense of liberal assuagement of guilt. This been there/done that feeling will be accentuated should Obama’s supporters continue to play the race card as his popularity dips as a result of a statist and neo-socialist agenda.
5) We know now that the campaign was a centrist deception. Bill Ayers and Rev. Wright make logical the presence of the Truther Van Jones and Anita Dunn (cf. her encomium to Mao). His most partisan Senate record presages his near suicidal effort to ram through statist healthcare, tax hikes, and partisan appointments, in addition to polarizing rhetoric. His campaign promises to meet with Ahmadinejad were not only met, but again trumped by serial apologies, selling out the Poles and Czechs and outreach to Chavez and Castro. In other words, the so-called right-wing nuts who tried to scare the hell out of voters are proving to be Nostradamuses of sorts.
All sorts of things can happen. Printing and borrowing can give us a brief, though unsustainable recovery around 2010. A war could break out. We could get hit big-time again as in 9/11.
That said, I think not merely the thrill is gone, but a righteous anger about an Obama trifecta — of serial apologies and bows abroad, massive borrowing and deficit spending, and government-take overs of private spheres of life — is swelling up in the electorate. I haven’t seen in my lifetime anything quite like it. And this furor of being had has the potential not just to take Obama down, but also his ideology and supporters along with him for a generation.
©2009 Victor Davis Hanson