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Victor Davis Hanson

Republican Populism—or Republican Destruction

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Nothing much the Republicans have done explains why they are on the verge of taking back the Senate and making gains in the House.

Not since the summer of 1974 or October 1980 have we see a presidency in a total meltdown. Abroad, ISIS, Putin, and the bullying Chinese have revealed that the Obama administration is either clueless or has subordinated foreign policy decisions to rank politics — or both. At home we have Ebola. Meanwhile, the list of corrupt, incompetent or politically rogue federal agencies keeps growing — the VA, ICE, the NSA, the IRS, the Secret Service … even the Patent and Trademark Office. Each day we learn yet another story about how corrupt Eric Holder’s Justice Department is — the latest a vendetta against a California timber company.

Allowing flights to Monrovia, Liberia, follows the same sort of script that told us Benghazi was a spontaneous demonstration caused by a right-wing video maker. Susan Rice still goes on Sunday television shows and tells whoppers. Another partisan czar, Ron Klain, knows little about what he is supposed to salvage other than to finesse the politics of disaster — reminding us of Rahm Emanuel’s “never let a serious crisis go to waste.” When Obama’s starts out with “make no mistake about it,” we know something along the lines of the Obamacare falsehoods inevitably follows.

Those not working are at all-time highs. Zero-percent interest rates have impoverished the middle class and enriched the Wall Street elite. Our youth, saddled with $1 trillion in student debt, will have to pay back much of the $18 trillion national debt, more than a third of it piled up by this administration. Unsustainable entitlements will strangle the futures of anyone under thirty.

In reaction, Democratic congressional and Senate candidates choose to orphan themselves from Obama.  Even Jimmy Carter finds Obama wanting. Two former Obama secretaries of defense describe him as vacillating, predicating foreign policy decisions on politics.

Given such a disastrous Democratic landscape, it may be penny-wise for Republicans to eek out a midterm victory to win back the Senate by being against anything Obama is for. But it is a pound-foolish strategy that won’t do anything to stop Hillary Clinton or a Democratic resurgence in 2016.

In a word, the Republicans have several issues that resonate with the middle class, and yet they either cannot or will not cast them in a populist vein.

Take so-called “immigration reform.” Reasonable people can disagree on the specifics of ending illegal immigration, but they cannot claim that illegal immigration has not undercut the working classes’ wages, nearly bankrupted social services in the American Southwest, made a mockery out of federal law, and largely served the elite interests of the Chamber of Commerce and La Raza insiders. The issue cuts across class lines, with the poorer and the middle class opposed to blanket amnesties, while wealthy ethnic elites and corporate interests demagogue for them. Enforcing the border, making legal immigration ethnically blind, predicating immigration eligibility on skills and education, deporting all illegal aliens who have criminal records, no record of employment, and have only recently arrived — while offering a pathway for residence to the law-abiding, working, and those of long residence are all populist positions. And yet elitists like Mark Zuckerberg and ethnic demagogues, who cynically tie immigration with tribal affinities and future political constituencies, somehow have pegged the Republican Party as nativist, xenophobic, and racist for wanting existing laws enforced and immigration to be adjudicated by character and skills not race and ethnicity.

Posted at 8:12 pm on October 19th, 2014 by Victor Davis Hanson

From Comedy to Farce

It was tragically comical that the commander in chief in just a few weeks could go from referring to ISIS as “jayvee” and a manageable problem to declaring it an existential threat, in the same manner he upgraded the Free Syrian Army from amateurs and a fantasy to our ground linchpin in the new air war. All that tragic comedy was a continuance of his previous untruths, such as the assurance that existing health plans and doctors would not change under the Affordable Care Act or that there was not a smidgeon of corruption at the IRS.

But lately the Obama confusion has descended into the territory not of tragedy or even tragic comedy, but rather of outright farce.

Last week we learned from the Washington Post that an investigator looking into the Secret Service prostitution scandal was ordered by the inspector general “to withhold and alter certain information in the report of investigation because it was potentially embarrassing to the administration.” The “embarrassing” information was the allegation that a member of the White House staff advance team had solicited a prostitute while prepping Obama’s Colombia visit — a fact denied by then-White House Press Secretary Jay Carney in April 2012, when he assured the press that no one from the White House was involved in the scandal that brought down lots of Secret Service and military personnel.

But here is where the farcical kicks in. The squelched investigation was focused on White House staffer Jonathan Dach. And who is Dach? He was at the time a young Yale law student and White House staffer, and is now a State Department activist working on — what else? — “Global Women’s Issues.”

And how did young Jonathan Dach at the ripe age of 25 years land such a prestigious job as a presidential advance man? His father, Leslie Dach, was a lobbyist who gave the Obama campaign $23,900 and was later hired on to work with Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign. And, of course, Leslie Dach now has left his job lobbying for Wal-Mart. And where does he work now? For the Obama administration. Promoting what? Obamacare.

Here is the essence of the Obama administration’s abyss between word and deed: in the age of the war on women and the end to lobbyists in government, the feminist young aide is alleged to have solicited a prostitute; the most transparent administration in memory covered that fact up during the reelection campaign; the president who promised to end the revolving door and ban lobbyists from government hired not just a one-percenter lobbyist and donor, but his randy son as well.

Can it get much richer than that? Unfortunately, it can — literally, as we’ll explore on the next page.

Posted at 2:51 pm on October 12th, 2014 by Victor Davis Hanson

Welcome to Fantasy Island

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Listen to the president and one would think that he was in office during the financial crisis that began on September 15, 2008. For the nth time, Obama reminded the nation on 60 Minutes of the financial meltdown he inherited. That is his usual way of suggesting to the American people that they could hardly hope for normal times after six years of his own governance. In truth, Obama entered office on January 20, 2009 — over four months after the collapse of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that precipitated a general financial meltdown.

One would not expect Obama to fault past liberal congressional intervention in the financial sector that in large part forced the issuance of subprime risky mortgages, much less the earlier deregulation of the financial industry under Bill Clinton that helped fueled the rampant speculation. The videos of the sad congressional banter about supposedly insensitive questioning of the duplicitous and corrupt Fannie head Franklin Raines, or the self-important bluster of former Rep. Barney Frank, make a good 10-minute tutorial on the meltdown — namely how Wall Street sharks, hand-in-glove with liberal congressional operatives and Clinton appointees, offered federally “guaranteed” mortgages to those who had no ability to pay them back, fueling a phony real estate boom and overvalued stock market.

Obama might at least admit that when he entered office the panic had largely passed. The tools needed to deal with it that he embraced had months earlier been implemented by someone else. Indeed, Obama was president for just a few months before the recession that began in December 2007 ended in June 2009 — well before the effect of any of the policies, good or bad, could have taken effect.

Our current economic mess — the worst post-recession recovery since World War II, more people out of work than when Obama took office, a steady decline in real family income, massive new debt — is largely a result of his own policies of five consecutive $1 trillion deficits, the Obamacare catastrophe, new burdensome and capricious regulations, near-zero interest rates, and the anti-business psychological climate brought on by constant hectoring of the “you did not build that” and “at a certain point you’ve made enough money” sort.

Obama has a bad habit of claiming credit for good things that he opposed, and for blaming others for the bad things for which he was responsible. By his appointments (do we remember Steven Chu?), by his rhetoric, and by his policies on new federal energy leases, Obama is on record against horizontal drilling and the fracking of natural gas and oil. Yet now he brags that energy prices are dipping, which is the case precisely because the private sector ignored him and went ahead to take risks to develop more gas and oil on largely private lands.

Posted at 8:17 pm on October 5th, 2014 by Victor Davis Hanson

The Moral Failures of Eric Holder

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Eric Holder’s left many baleful legacies: being censured by the House of Representatives; withholding subpoenaed documents, proving untruthful about a failed gun-walking caper in Mexico; failing to enforce laws on the books, from immigration to the elements of the Affordable Care Act; illegally billing the government for his own private use of a government Gulfstream jet; snooping on Associated Press reporters; giving de facto exemptions to renegade IRS politicos; and trying to create civilian trials for terrorist killers like KSM, one of the architects of the 9/11 attacks. But he will be known mostly for re-teaching Americans to think of race as essential, not incidental, to our characters.

He accomplished that unfortunate legacy in a number of ways. Holder waded into the Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown fatal shootings before all the facts were known in a manner no local public prosecutor would dare do so. He claimed that the unpopularity of Barack Obama was due to racial animosity, apparently forgetful that not long ago, in the era of Bush Derangement Syndrome, novels and movies were published and produced fantasizing about the assassination of George W. Bush, who was compared to Nazis and fascists, by everyone from Al Gore to John Glenn. I assume Holder was then quiet about such alarming disparagement of his president; and also I assume that when Obama in 2009 had near 70% approval ratings, for Holder the nation was anything but cowardly.

Of course, Holder infamously called Americans “cowards” for not being as obsessed in the same way with race as he was. He referred to African-Americans as “my people,” a sloppy aside that might have gotten any other attorney general fired for such cheap ethnic chauvinism — except that his own boss had once called for Latinos to punish “our enemies” and on the campaign trail had talked of “typical white person.” Holder chose to drop the New Black Panther case in a way that highlighted racial matters — apparently coming armed with clubs to a voting precinct is hardly unusual — in the same way that he suggested that those states that might require an ID to vote (in the manner we produce IDs to write a check or use a credit card) were racist, in the same way that he suggested that states like Arizona that wanted federal immigration law enforced were acting out of racialist motives.

In other words, in the reprehensible vision of Eric Holder, how we look governs who we are. He either believes in the desirability of such racialist exceptionalism out of cultural and historic ignorance — given the contemporary evidence of where bumper-sticker racial, ethnic and religious jingoism inevitably leads (cf. e.g., Iraq, Rwanda, the Congo, Serbia, Bosnia, etc.) — or he cynically assumes that the more the country is polarized racially, the more elites like himself are called on to adjudicate differences, and thus advance to positions that they might otherwise not have earned either by their prior record or their present display of minimal competence.

I do not say that lightly. Holder, remember, prior to his ascension as attorney general, was largely known for two things, both bad: one, he navigated Bill Clinton’s disgraceful 11th hour pardon of the late felon Mark Rich (Rich was in theory facing a possible 300 years in prison for dozens of felonies [including trading with arch-enemy Iran, then holding U.S. hostages] when he bolted, escaped arrest and fled to Switzerland). Then-Deputy Attorney General Holder sidestepped a number of normal Justice Department procedures and failed to disclose that Rich’s wife (later divorced) had already given or would be likely to give $1 million to the Democratic Party, $100,000 to Hillary Clinton’s Senate campaign, and nearly a half-million dollars to the Clinton presidential library. So much for social justice and the deplorable privilege of the elite.

Posted at 4:06 pm on September 28th, 2014 by Victor Davis Hanson

Versailles in California

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Versailles or San Francisco, it’s good to be the king.

California is run from a sort of Pacific Versailles, an isolated coastal compound of elite rulers physically cut off from its interior peasantry.

To understand how California works — or rather does not work — drive over the I-5 Grapevine and gaze down at the brilliantly engineered artificial Pyramid Lake. Thanks to California water project deliveries, even in a third year of drought its level still fluctuates between 90 to 100% full — ensuring, along with its companion reservoirs, plentiful water for the Los Angeles-area municipalities for the next two years. The far distant watersheds and reservoirs that feed Pyramid Lake are about bone dry.

The same disconnect is true of Crystal Springs Reservoir along the I-280 near San Francisco. The Sierra watershed that supplies the now 90%+full lake is drying up. But San Francisco will have an assured water supply from its manmade reservoirs for some time, even if the drought persists.

Yet most of the policies of the state that have led to cancellations of additional water projects over the last thirty years — or those that have resulted in vast diversions of diminished reservoir water from contracted agricultural use to fish replenishment — are made by Los Angeles and San Francisco area legislators, judges, and public officials.

It would be as simplistic as it is true to say that water policy in California has been set by those who have plentiful water supplies in manmade reservoirs with the highest priorities in claims on far distant snow melts. Water elites pontificate about environmental restrictions on water use to others who do not enjoy a rank so high in the water-allotment queue.

By that I mean at no time did any Los Angeles or San Francisco legislator offer to divert their Pyramid Lake or Crystal Springs allotments to replenish the San Joaquin River for salmon runs or to improve the delta landscape of the 3-inch delta smelt.  Instead I think the mentality could best be summed up as something like, “Unnatural dams and reservoirs are necessary to supply water for elite coastal grandees like us so that we can live in arid, picturesque Pacific communities without aquifers and thereby have the leisure to cut off water for others not so worthy.”

The same paradox is true of public utility policy. There are rarely frosts or scorching 100-degree temperatures from San Diego to Berkeley, the coastal strip where there is little need for air conditioners or for daylong use of central heating. For hoi aristoi, California’s public utilities can be regulated and taxed for all sorts of utopian alternative energy investments in lieu of drawing on massive newly discovered fields of California natural gas to lower generation rates.

Posted at 12:11 am on September 22nd, 2014 by Victor Davis Hanson

What Exactly Is Comprehensive Immigration Reform?

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Comprehensive immigration reform — rarely has a catchphrase been so widely invoked and yet so little defined. Why?

If proponents of so-called reform detailed exactly what they wanted, American voters would never support their self-interested agendas.

Most Americans insist that existing federal immigration laws be enforced. They are adamant that the border be shut tight to all unlawful entry. And they prefer legal immigration to reflect merit, diversity and ethnically blind criteria.

If those protocols were first established, half the public might also consider a pathway for legal residence for millions of foreign nationals already living in the United States without legal authority — but only if they could prove that they were without criminal records, not on public support, and have resided here for some duration.

Unfortunately those classically liberal ideals are not driving Barack Obama’s promise to grant blanket amnesties through executive order after the midterm elections. His planned gambit is an admission that he has neither public support nor congressional sanction nor the force of settled law nor a logical or ethic argument. The effort is instead fueled by an agenda of perpetual big government and a concern to expand future constituencies, allay the anger of Latino activists, and accommodate wealthy business donors.

Obama has all but suspended enforcement of immigration law as a way to force lawmakers to his point of view. He apparently assumes that no immigration law is closer to what he envisions as comprehensive immigration law than is enforcement of current settled law. If the traffic at the border builds, if chaos ensues, then Obama believes that his opponents will eventually concede. I think the message is something like “either amnesty your way through law or my way through no law.” So far such assumptions have backfired, but we must wait until after the midterm elections for the ultimate verdict on his ploy.

Current illegal immigration, of course, is largely synonymous with unchecked entry from Mexico and Latin America. An unspoken amnesty is extended en masse to those from south of the border. Such laxity does not necessarily extend to the Nigerian doctor who overstays his visa or the South Korean architect whose green card has expired. The great unspoken fact of illegal immigration is that it is utterly anti-diversity and ethnically chauvinistic, outsourcing immigration policy to the Latino-Democratic-employer lobby, and dubbing any who object to such racialist criteria as racist.

Posted at 7:56 pm on September 14th, 2014 by Victor Davis Hanson

Are the Orcs Winning?

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Fantasy versus reality.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings was sometimes faulted by literary critics for caricaturing the evil orcs as uniformly bad.  All of them were as unpleasant to look as they were deadly to encounter. There is not a single good orc or even a reformed orc in the trilogy. The apparent one-dimensional assumption of men, hobbits, dwarves, and elves is that the only good orc is a dead orc. So the absolutist Tolkien tried to teach us about the enduring nature of absolute good and evil. Apparently he did not think that anything from his contemporary experience might allow him to imagine reforming or rehabilitating such fictive folk.

Tolkien’s literary purpose with orcs was not to explore the many shades of evil or the struggle within oneself to avoid the dark side; he did that well enough in dozens of once good but weak characters who went bad such as the turncoat Saruman the wizard, his sidekick Wormtongue, a few of the hobbits who had ruined the Shire, and, best of all, the multifaceted Gollum. Orcs, on the other hand, are unredeemable. Orcs, goblins, and trolls exist as the tools of the even more sinister in proud towers to destroy civilization, and know nothing other than killing and destruction. Their reward is to feed on the crumbs of what they have ruined.

In the 21st century we are often lectured that such simplistic, one-dimensional evil is long gone. A ubiquitous civilization has so permeated the globe that even the worst sorts must absorb some mitigating popular culture from the Internet, Twitter, and Facebook, as if the sheer speed of transmitting thoughts ensures their moral improvement.

Even where democracy is absent, the “world community” and a “global consciousness” are such that billions supposedly won’t let Attila, Tamerlane, and Genghis Khan reappear in our postmodern lives. To deal with a Major Hasan, Americans cannot cite his environment as the cause, at least not poverty, racism, religious bigotry, nativism, xenophobia, or any of the more popular –isms and-ologies in our politically correct tool box that we customarily use to excuse and contextualize evil behavior. So exasperated, we shrug and call his murdering “workplace violence” — an apparent understandable psychological condition attributable to the boredom and monotony of the bleak, postmodern office.

But then suddenly along comes the limb-lopping, child-snatching, and mutilating Nigerian-based Boko Haram. What conceivable Dark Age atrocity have they omitted? Not suicide bombing, mass murder, or random torture. They are absolutely unapologetic for their barbarity. They are ready to convert or kill preteens as their mood determines for the crime of being Christian. In response, the Nigerian government is powerless, while the United States is reduced to our first lady holding up Twitter hashtags, begging for the release of the latest batch of girls.

Is the Somalia-based Al-Shabaab worse? It likes the idea that it is premodern. In addition to the usual radical Islamic horrors of beheadings, rape, and mutilation, Al-Shabaab even kills protected elephants, perhaps thousands of them, to saw off tusks and fund their killing spree. They seem to make the medieval Taliban look tame in comparison.

Posted at 6:43 pm on September 7th, 2014 by Victor Davis Hanson

Mythologies and Pathologies of the California Drought

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The 4th Annual Silicon Valley Rubber Duck Race in Vasona Lake Park on June 12, 2011, in Los Gatos, California.

The third year of California drought has exposed all sorts of water fantasies. If in wet years they were implicit, now without rain or snow for nearly three years, they are all too explicit. Add them up.

Take the Bay Area, Ground Zero of water environmentalism. From Mill Valley to San Jose is where most of the green activists are based who have demanded, even as the snowfalls and rains ceased, that reservoir storage waters be diverted to the sea to encourage the resurgence of the delta smelt and river salmon. The Bay Area’s various earlier lobbying groups long ago helped to cancel the final phases of the California State Water Project and the Central Valley Project, and now talk about reducing world carbon emissions rather than building more storage capacity to solve California’s water crisis.

How odd that is — given that the San Francisco greater community has almost no aquifer to supply its millions. Environmentalists count instead solely on vast water transfers from the far distant Hetch Hetchy reservoir to supply the nearly three million water users of the Bay Area with their daily showers and lawn irrigations.

The brilliantly engineered project supposedly had ruined a Yosemite Park valley greater than its more famous counterpart below Half Dome and El Capitan. Odder still, the Hetch Hetchy conduits run right across the San Joaquin River that environmentalists are intent on supplying with reservoir water long ago designed for irrigated agriculture. When most Bay Area drivers cruise along the I-280 by the full-to-the-brim Crystal Springs Reservoir they have not a clue that the lake would be little more than a muddy slough of scant local runoff, without the importation of thousands of acre-feet of clean water from the Hetch Hetchy project. Nor do they grasp the greater irony that they have reservoir water to divert to fish only because someone else built the reservoirs that they near automatically oppose. Consider the logic: don’t dare build an unnatural reservoir to irrigate food lands; but if you dare build it over my opposition, I want the ensuing banked water to ensure the rivers run year-round for my fish projects — given that before your artificial reservoirs the rivers sometimes had a bad natural habit of running dry and suffocating my fish.

Could not Bay Area professors, journalists and politicians shower once a week or let their garden foliage die on the greater sacrificial altar of diverting Hetch Hetchy water into the San Joaquin River to save the smelt or facilitate salmon runs? After all, at least farmers can claim they are producing food for the masses with reservoir water. But what do Facebook and Apple techies claim — that without a verdant garden they cannot design social networking? In 1990 there was no Facebook or Google and people continued to live; without food they cannot at any time.

A larger point is that 70% of Californians prefer to live in places like the naturally arid seaside resorts of San Diego, Santa Monica, Malibu, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Monterey, Carmel, Santa Cruz, and the Bay Area, coastal communities whose growth long ago both outpaced the local aquifers and Coast Range small reservoirs, and thus required water transfers from wetter environs.

If greens were going to match their advocacy with concrete action, they would move from Santa Cruz or Mill Valley to Eureka or Yuba City where the rain falls — or at least inward to Fresno and Visalia where for eons runoff from the nearby Sierra has created a vast aquifer of easily accessible and clean ground water. Barring that, Menlo Park could shower on “smelt-free Mondays,” while Palo Alto could restore the salmon by paving over its lawns. In an honest world, we would admit that the Madera resident is far more ecologically attuned to his environment than is the Presidio Heights grandee or UC professor ensconced in the dry Berkeley Hills. The former at least chooses to live atop an aquifer, the latter assumes someone else had long ago found a way to import him his nightly shower from far across the state and at far greater cost.

Posted at 12:13 am on September 1st, 2014 by Victor Davis Hanson

Ferguson Postmortem

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The backstory of Ferguson was that out of the millions of arrests each year only about 100 African-American suspects are shot fatally by white police. And yet we were falsely and ad nauseam told that Michael Brown was proof of an epidemic. There may well be an epidemic of blacks killing blacks, of African-Americans engaging in the knock-out game against non-blacks or flash-mobbing stores. But as far as rare interracial gun violence goes, in 2014 it is more commonly black on white. Ferguson is an anomaly that did not warrant hundreds of reporters who gladly skipped the real dramas of a world on the verge of blowing apart as it had in 1939.

In short, the only reason Ferguson erupted was because the police officer in question was white; had he been black and shot either a white or black suspect, there would have been no civil unrest, no visit by Eric Holder, but instead, liberal calls to ensure due process and not to rush to judgment.

Almost no one believes the myths concocted at the beginning of the Ferguson controversy. That is not to say that we know what happened, only that we most certainly know that what we were told did not happen.

Michael Brown, the “young boy” and “gentle giant” and shy college-bound student, tragically was not simply minding his own business on his way to granny’s as we were told. As in the case of Tawana Brawley, as in the case of the Duke stripper, as in the case of Trayvon Martin, the mythographies finally were unsustainable: Brown had just committed a strong-armed robbery and was lucky that he was not shot by an armed guard or clerk. He appears on the video as a brutal thug, who uses his size to intimidate and, in cowardly fashion, to bully a much smaller clerk. The world of Michael Brown in that store is the world of barbarism, where there is no law and the strong dictate without mercy to the weak as they see fit. And for that matter, the star eyewitness of the street Mr. Johnson, with a criminal past, should have been arrested as an accomplice in strong-arm robbery when he accompanied Mr. Brown into the store — as well as arrested for deliberately filing (another) false witness report.

Brown was walking down the middle of the street under the influence of marijuana and so he was lucky that he was not hit by a car. He struck an officer — no one denies that — which in itself is another felony. He was not shot in the back as the community insisted and still dreams. All that suggests many of the eyewitnesses fabricated stories, the media misled the public, and the race industry likewise serially lied. We are back to the doctored videos, altered transcripts, and fabricated vocabulary of the treatment accorded George Zimmerman or the mythologies at Duke or of the O.J. trial.

It was a hard call whether Missouri Gov. Nixon or Attorney General Eric Holder proved the greater disgrace in their efforts to prejudge the case. The latter of “cowards” and “my people” infamy almost immediately talked up his racial fides among African-Americans while all but damning the police, while the former proved our version of a hapless Ray Nagin, in his jabbering about prosecuting Officer Wilson without an indictment.

Posted at 3:54 pm on August 24th, 2014 by Victor Davis Hanson

Our ‘Face in the Crowd’

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Elia Kazan’s classic A Face in the Crowd is a good primer on Barack Obama’s rise and fall. Lonesome Rhodes arises out of nowhere in the 1957 film, romancing the nation as a phony populist who serially spins yarns in the most folksy ways — confident that he should never be held to account. Kazan’s point (in the film Rhodes is a patsy for conservative business interests) is that the “folks” are fickle and prefer to be charmed rather than informed and told the truth. Rhodes’s new first name, Lonesome, resonates in the film in a way that Barack does now. Finally, an open mic captures Rhodes’s true disdain for the people he champions, and his career crashes.

So what is collapsing the presidency of the once mellifluous Obama? It is not the IRS, AP, VA, or NSA scandals. Nor did the nation especially fault him for Benghazi or the complete collapse of U.S. foreign policy, from failed reset to a Middle East afire. In each case, he either blamed Bush or denied there was a smidgeon of wrongdoing on his part.

Certainly, the stampede at the border, as disastrous as it was, did not ipso facto sink Obama’s ratings. Ditto the embarrassing Bergdahl deal, in which we traded a likely deserter for five Islamist kingpins. Was it the ISIS ascendance that is leading to genocide and a nascent caliphate? Not in and of itself.

We could go on, but you get the picture that it was all of the above that finally became too much, as Americans turned Obama off because they were all lied out. In all of these scandals a charismatic Barack wheeled out the teleprompter, smiled, dropped his g’s, soared with “make no mistake about it” and “let me perfectly clear,” and then, like Lonesome Rhodes, told the “folks” things that could not be true or at least were the exact opposite of what he himself had earlier asserted.

The result is that should Obama claim again that he is going to lower the seas, cool the planet, or that he is the man whom we are waiting for, Americans would laugh. They would chuckle about more promised recoveries, millions of new green jobs, an expanding economy, or a safer world abroad. Again, we are just too lied out to believe anything our slick version of Lonesome Rhodes says anymore. And that fact may best explain his 39-41% approval rating.

Barack Obama is once again lamenting the charge that he is responsible for pulling all U.S. peacekeepers out of Iraq, claiming that the prior administration is culpable. But Obama negotiated the withdrawal himself. We know that not because of right-wing talking points, but because of the proud serial claims of reelection candidate Obama in 2011 and 2012 that he deserved credit for leaving Iraq. That complete pullout prompted Joe Biden to claim the Iraq policy was the administration’s likely “greatest achievement” and buoyed Obama to brag that he was leaving a stable and secure Iraq. Think of the logic: pulling all soldiers out of Iraq was such a great thing that I now can brag that I am not responsible for it.

Posted at 7:36 pm on August 17th, 2014 by Victor Davis Hanson