by Victor Davis Hanson
The China Presidency
I have an heirloom china pitcher on my mantle that has dozens of glued cracks — so much so that it is now purely ornamental and will not hold water. When I was a boy I’d ask my mother when, and under what circumstances, did the china crack apart.
She would provide stories about each fissure and mend, many of the break narratives handed down to her from her own grandparents in the house. There wasn’t one single accident, but instead dozens that rendered a once useful pitcher into a non-functional art object.
Something of the same is happening with our President. He is experiencing the sharpest popularity decline in the history of first-year administrations. The problem is not just that he inherited a bad economy; Reagan did too. Or that the war in Afghanistan heats up, since it is not nearly as bad as the mess Nixon inherited in Vietnam.
Instead, after 11 months there has emerged a series of bothersome incidents that the public has come to associate with Obama, both the man and his philosophies. Some are major policy issues; others trivial acts of no cosmic importance. None in themselves matter all that much. Each gaffe or mistake was contextualized and mended, or attended to by Robert Gibbs. Some are Obama’s fault; others the work of associates. Sometimes mere chance is the culprit.
I know Bush had his own list of catastrophes; other Presidents did as well. Again, my point is not trying to adjudicate relative culpability, but rather just to remind us all how and why Obama dived over 20 points in the polls in just 11 months—and his speeches transformed from inspirational to caricatures.
In short, taken together, after nearly a year, these fissures have nearly ruined the once pretty texture of the Obama administration, and almost rendered it incapable of effective governance.
Here is a random selection. I provide no chronology or theme. Nor do I judge the relative importance of any one incident. The point, again, is only that each was a fissure, some small, some major—all were glued over. The result is that now the public understands that its china presidency is fragile and held together by mere glue.
Here it goes:
Constant apologies abroad for everything from slavery to Hiroshima
Bows to Saudi royalty, the Japanese emperor, and Chinese autocrats
The on-again/off-again Guantanamo shut-down mess
The fight with the former CIA directors
The public show trial of Khalid Sheik Mohammed
The reach out to Ahmadinejad Castro, Chavez, and assorted thugs
The Honduras fiasco
The serial “Bush did it”/reset whine abroad
The Queen of England/I-pod fiasco
Gordon Brown gets snookered in his gift-giving
Unceremoniously shipping back the Churchill bust
The end of the special relationship with the UK
The New York on-the-town presidential splurge
Anita Dunn and her Mao worship
Timothy Geithner/Tom Daschle/Hilda Solis and their taxes
What ever happened to Gov. Richardson?
“No lobbyists” = gads of them
The Podestas’ insider influence-peddling empire
Sotomayor’s “wise Latina” chauvinism
The Special Olympics silly quip
Trashing Nancy Reagan
The Skip Gates/police acting “stupidly” mess
The get-Chicago-the-Olympics jaunt to Copenhagen
“Millions of green jobs”
Ignore gas, oil, coal, and nuclear power production
The Joe Biden gaffe machine
Jobs “saved” or “created” rather than references to the actual unemployment rates
Van Jones, the racist and truther
Desiree Rogers won’t testify
The blowback from, and silence about, the Rangel/Dodd corruption
The White House party crashers plan to take the 5th Amendment
The ‘bipartisanship’ con
The pork-barrel stimulus spoils
The demonization of the Town-Hallers
The Acorn Mess
The Kevin Jennings/Safe School Czar embarrassment
The SEIU direct access to the White House
The Asian Tour comedown
The politicization of the take-over of GM and Chrysler
The Obama readjustment in the order of paying back car creditors
Car dealerships closed on shaky criteria
Obama as “Caesar”
The Emanuel “never let a serious crisis go to waste” boast
The Black Caucus/Rangel/Waters bid to bail out the inner-city radio stations
Yosi Sergant and the NEA
$1.7 trillion deficit
The planned $9 trillion added to the national debt
New income tax rates; health care surcharge talk; and payroll tax caps to be lifted
Rahm Emanuel’s promised payback to those states that trash the stimulus
The supposed C-span aired health care debate
The promised website posts of pending legislation
Czechs and Poles sold out on missile defense
Sermons to and finger pointing at the Israelis
The failed ‘Putin helps to stop a nuclear Iran’ gambit
Voting present on the Iranian reformers in the street
Serial but empty deadlines to Ahmadinejad
The good war/bad war twisting and turning on Iraq/Afghanistan
The months-long dithering over Afghanistan
Renditions, tribunals, Patriot Act, etc. once trashed, now OK
The 2,000 page proposed new health code
The embarrassing Nobel Peace Prize nomination
The attacks on surgeons, Chamber of Commerce, Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, etc.
The Islam mythologies in the Cairo Speech
The al Arabiya “Bush did it” interview
Obama’s TV “my Muslim faith” gaffe
The Nobel Speech
I listened to it this morning quite early and posted at NRO. Bottom line: an academic sermon on peace/war with the now accustomed Obama characteristics:
1) long again (4,000 words); 2) “I” or “me” 34 times: same old self referencing; 3) the inadvertent cosmic arrogance [“I do not bring with me today a definitive solution to the problems of war.” = you think?]; 4) straw men trope: some say this; others say that; but I uniquely say…; 5) reference to my own personal inspirational story; 6) trash my predecessor or his policies; 7) end with hopey/changey cadences.
That was pretty much it — a pulpit exegesis that could have been cut to 500 words. I would have done the speech in 10 minutes and used the extra time to have lunch with poor neglected King Harald. (Second recommendation: Obama should try to hire some speech-writers over 40. There are a lot of old pro Democrat wordsmiths around that might come in and offer something new other than the now tired boilerplate.)
As I mentioned a few posts ago, I’m rereading two great books on Belisarius—the 1828 classic by the then 24-year-old Lord Mahon (with a new intro by Jon Coulston), and a new biography by Ian Hughes. They read like Greek tragedies: Belisaurius is Justinian’s fireman, sent to stop Persians, Goths, Vandals, etc. always with too few troops, a plotting wife, court intrigue at his back, and a never satisfied emperor at home — apparently in some hope that Romanism could hold back the tide in the crumbling 6th century.
I am halfway through David Horowitz’s moving tribute to his late daughter Sarah (A Cracking of the Heart) that recounts their four-plus-decades relationship through turbulent politics, ill heath, and the often baffling past three decades in America. A sad, but fine reflection on life and the inevitably of change and death.
©2009 Victor Davis Hanson