The next president and Congress will inherit what President Obama left behind. Whether Democrat or Republican, the president will have no choice other than to try to undo much of what Obama has wrought. But can he or she?
Human nature is unchanging, predictable — and can be dangerous if ignored.
Five-time deportee and seven-time felon Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, an unauthorized immigrant, recently was arrested in San Francisco for the murder of an innocent passerby, Kate Steinle.
The alleged killer told a local TV station that he came to San Francisco because it was a sanctuary city. San Francisco has long boasted that it would not turn over unauthorized immigrants to federal immigration authorities.
Employment rates for college graduates are dismal. Aggregate student debt is staggering. But university administrative salaries are soaring. The campus climate of tolerance has utterly disappeared. Only the hard sciences and graduate schools have salvaged American universities’ international reputations.
For over two centuries, our superb system of American public and private higher education kept pace with radically changing times and so ensured our prosperity and reinforced democratic pluralism.
But a funny thing has happened on the way to the 21st century. Colleges that were once our most enlightened and tolerant institutions became America’s dinosaurs.
Losing a job is freedom from job lock. A budget deficit larger than in any previous administration is austerity. A mean right-wing video caused the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi. Al-Qaeda was long ago washed up. The Muslim Brotherhood is secular. Jihad is a personal journey. Shooting people while
screaming Allahu akbar! is workplace violence. Unaffordable higher premiums and deductibles are the result of an Affordable Care Act. Losing your doctor and your health-insurance plan prove you will never lose your doctor and your health-insurance plan — period! Being a constitutional lawyer means you know how to turn the IRS and the FCC on your enemies. Failure is success; lies are truth.
President Obama’s polls are creeping back up again. They do that every time the latest in the series of scandals — the IRS, AP, NSA, Benghazi, and Obamacare messes — recedes into the media memory hole. The once-outrageous IRS scandal was rebranded as psychodramatic journalists being outraged. The monitoring of AP reporters and of James Rosen is mostly “Stuff happens.” The NSA octopus was Bush’s creation. You can keep your doctor and your health plan — period — begat liberation from “job lock” and the ability to write poetry because you don’t have to work.
There will be more momentary outrages on the horizon, as a president who would fundamentally transform America continues to circumvent the Constitution to do it. The latest are the failed efforts of acting FCC director Mignon Clyburn — daughter of a Democratic stalwart, Representative James Clyburn. She dreamed about monitoring news outlets to ensure that they prove themselves correct in matters of race/class/gender thinking. Continue reading “When Failure Is Success”→
Lately a weakened President Obama has fashioned a new attitude about consensual government: “We’re not just going to be waiting for legislation in order to make sure that
we’re providing Americans the kind of help they need. I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone,” Obama boasted Tuesday as he convened his first cabinet meeting of the year. At least he did not say he intended to govern by “pen and sword.” If Obama used to sigh to supporters that he was not a dictator who could just implement progressive agendas by fiat, he now seems to have done away with the pretense of regret.
Obama has all but given up on the third branch of government since he lost control of it in 2010: “And I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions and administrative actions that move the ball forward in helping to make sure our kids are getting the best education possible, making sure that our businesses are getting the kind of support and help they need to grow and advance, to make sure that people are getting the skills that they need to get those jobs that our businesses are creating.”
There are lots of creepy things about such dictatorial statements of moving morally backward in order to go politically “forward.” Concerning issues dear to the president’s heart — climate change, more gun control, de facto amnesty, more massive borrowing supposedly to jump-start the anemic, jobless recovery — Obama not long ago had a Continue reading “Governing by Pen and Phone”→
There are all sorts of time bombs embedded within Obamacare.
Will we force doctors to treat the millions of new Medicaid patients who are signing up for services that can be only partially reimbursed? How exactly will the IRS collect penalties from millions of off-the-books youth who choose not to buy coverage? Continue reading “The Obamacare Generation”→
The Republicans are feeling confident these days. The slow-motion debacle of Obamacare promises to keep that albatross around the necks of the Democrats at least through next year’s midterm elections. The IRS, NSA, and Benghazi scandals are still simmering, and any day new information may emerge that puts them back on the front page. Obama’s disapproval rating is at 53.4%, according to the RealClearPoliticsaverage of 11 polls. The Republican Party’s approval numbers are still lower than Democrats’, but they are trending up while the Dems are moving down. Continue reading “The Progressive Reality Is Here”→
Most two-term presidents leave some sort of legacy. Ronald Reagan won the Cold War. George W. Bush prevented another 9/11, and constructed an anti-terrorism protocol that even his critical successor embraced and often expanded.
Even our one-term presidents have achieved something. JFK got Soviet missiles out of Cuba. LBJ oversaw passage of civil rights legislation. Jerry Ford restored integrity to the White House. Jimmy Carter finally issued the Carter Doctrine to stop Soviet expansionism at the Persian Gulf. George H.W. Bush won the first Persian Gulf War and got Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait.
And even our impeached or abdicated presidents at least left some positive legacies. Richard Nixon went to China and enacted détente. Bill Clinton through compromise balanced the budget and incurred budget surpluses.
The media and pundits treat politics like a sport. The significance of the recent agreement to postpone the debt crisis until January, for instance, is really about which party won and which lost, which party’s tactics are liable to be more successful in the next election, and which politician is a winner and which a loser. But politics rightly understood is not about the contest of policies or politicians. It’s about the philosophical principles and ideas that create one policy rather than another—that’s what it should be about, at least.
From that point of view, the conflict between Democrats and Republicans concerns the size and role of the federal government, which is no surprise to anyone who even casually follows politics. But more important are the ideas that ground arguments for or against limited government. These ideas include our notions of human nature, and what motivates citizens when they make political decisions. Our political conflicts today reflect the two major ways Americans have answered these questions.
The framing of the Constitution itself was predicated on one answer, best expressed by Italian philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli: “It is necessary to whoever arranges to found a Republic and establish laws in it, to presuppose that all men are bad and that they will use their malignity of mind every time they have the opportunity.” Throughout the debates during the Constitutional convention, the state ratifying conventions, and the essays in the Federalist, the basis of the Constitution was the view that human nature is flawed.
As Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist 6,men are “ambitious, vindictive and rapacious,” and are motivated by what James Madison called “passions and interests.” These destructive passions and selfish interests were particularly predominant among the masses, whose ignorance of political theory and history left them vulnerable to demagogues. Continue reading “The Political Debate We Need to Have”→