Delivering a speech at the National Prayer Breakfast on February 4, 2010, President Obama twice referred to a Navy corpsman as a “corpse-man,” a solecism he had made before. Those familiar with the president’s penchant for getting things wrong would not have been surprised. After all, the man who famously believed there are 58 states in the union, that Austrians speak “Austrian,” that America and Islam “share common principles of justice and progress, tolerance and the dignity of all human beings,” and other screamers too numerous to mention, might plausibly be expected to misspeak whenever given the opportunity to embarrass himself.
His malapropisms, however, are not only a sign of a deeply ignorant man but also a symptom of the policy miscarriages he has implemented since taking office — again, too numerous to mention in toto. The most recent, of course, is his thorough mishandling of the Egyptian imbroglio, especially his opening the door to the ascendancy of the notorious Muslim Brotherhood into the corridors of power. But given his bungling in both Iraq and Afghanistan, his unwillingness to take steps to prevent Iranian weapons and insurgents from crossing into the battle zone, and his placing American civil security into the palsied hands of Janet Napolitano, his corpse-man gaffe has distinct and ironic implications for American servicemen as well as civilians.
For those who follow American politics closely, but from a privileged distance — as does this Canadian — it is hard to resist the conclusion that Barack Obama is nothing short of a national catastrophe, surely the worst presidential blight to fall on the U.S. since the woeful Jimmy Carter and probably as far back as Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce or John Tyler — take your pick. Many if not most American presidents, it must be admitted, with only a minim of illustrious exceptions, were flat-out second-raters. True, this is par for the course for the majority of political leaders around the world, but Obama is a special case. His evident failings of character and insight might be bearable in a comparatively less hazardous epoch, but in a time of looming insolvency and market collapse, the demographic incursion of extremist elements into the social fabric, aka “stealth jihad,” the advancing might of rejuvenated autocracies, an exploding Middle East and the nuclearization of rogue nations, Obama is quite simply the worst possible president at the worst possible time.
It is necessary, however, to see Obama not only as a cause of the American malaise but also as an effect of a process of ongoing decay and a reflection of the majority who elected him. He is the offspring of the god of civil unrest which has been gathering momentum at least since the radical 1960s. As David Horowitz laments, “we now live in a country so divided there are two Americas and two cultures which speak a different language.” The tensions tearing America apart today are so massive as to seem almost unbridgeable. If, to take a fanciful example, America should one day fracture into two nations, call them the United States of America and the Republic of the United States, one could conceive an enmity between them no less intense, say, than that between Venezuela and Colombia. (The Panarin hypothesis posits not two but six discrete fragments.) Barring a domestic “reset” and a genuine conservative resurgence, the “culture wars” may well become terminally divisive.
The viciousness of rhetorical combat, the rage of slander and vituperation erupting in the national discourse — largely, though not exclusively, emanating from the emotional inferno of the left — transcend the connotation of that increasingly common epithet, “incivility.” It is far more than that. The clash of two sundered cultures, variously denominated as red and blue, conservative and socialist, right and left, Republican and Democrat, is a dire portent of things to come. Democrats and Republicans may for a time be able to work together in the House as Obama attempts to rejigger himself for 2012, but they are perpetually at loggerheads in the media, the blogosphere, and the body politic itself. It is a virtual war of words, hearts, and minds, occasionally breaking out in sporadic acts of violence, which is now reaching a crescendo.
Obama may not be a sole cause but he is undoubtedly a major exacerbation of the split in the civil constituencies that make up the nation. He wafted into electoral politics like a modern Lohengrin, a “knight of the swan” sailing into a contemporary Brabant to rescue a hapless princess. But it didn’t quite work out that way and the hapless princess, bearing the torch of liberty, may soon expire of inanition if she is not rescued a second time.
For Obama is driving his country into the ground, espousing a social and economic agenda that can only lead to bankruptcy and increasing discord. At the same time, his foreign policy has reduced the United States to an international laughing stock, empowered its enemies, and abandoned its friends and allies. “It is going to be a long two years,” writes Victor Davis Hanson, now that “the world has figured Obama out, and the wages of our version of 1979-80 are coming due.” Hanson is alluding, of course, to the Iran/Egypt analogy and Obama’s repetition of Carter’s monumental error in empowering an Islamic fundamentalist regime masking as a democratic alternative. It is as if the faculty of memory has been removed and time has stopped, as if, let’s say, a chronosectomy has been performed. But Hanson’s warning has far more sweeping significance for a nation that is rapidly “losing it.” For one thing, America’s territorial waters, so to speak, are shrinking. America is not the colossus it used to be. For another, as we have seen, its cohesion is crumbling. The United States is no longer united.