Our Petty, Country-Be-Damned President
Sometimes, the smallest things can be the most revealing.
On Tuesday, the nation -- or at least the part that's still paying attention -- learned that President Barack Obama's administration, in what can only be seen as an incredibly petty and virulently vindictive response to spending "cuts" imposed by sequestration (properly described in most cases as "reductions in projected spending increases"), decided to cancel all tours of the White House beginning March 9.
As a result, to name just one of what are surely many examples, sixth graders at an Iowa elementary school which had received approval to take a March 16 tour learned, barring what would seem to be a quixotic effort to change White House minds via Facebook, that it's not going to happen. They're reportedly going to make their trip to Washington anyway, because, according to the school's principal, it's an important opportunity for them to “find out more about how the government works.” They've clearly already learned quite a bit.
So have we.
The tours are run by volunteers. According to an estimate worked up by ABC News on Wednesday, the White House will save $18,000 per week by not utilizing 30 Secret Service agents during the tours. Even that savings figure is suspect, as original reports about the tours' cancellation claimed that "Uniformed Division Officers assigned to the public tours will be reassigned to other security posts," which "will reduce overtime costs as well as potential furloughs that could have been required."
Even if the estimated $936,000 in annual savings ($18,000 times 52 weeks) really occurs, the cancelled tours of what Michelle Obama still calls the People's House, but which should now be renamed Barack's Barracks, could have been completely avoided if her husband, knowing that sequestration loomed, hadn't spent over $1 million on a golf weekend with Tiger Woods in mid-February. A 10 percent less expensive outing would have enabled the tours to continue for another five or six weeks, which would have minimized the last-minute disappointment thousands of children and adults are now experiencing. But why would we expect Mrs. Obama to think of such things, when the tab for just three of her vacations also tops $1 million?
The only conceivable conclusion to draw from all of this is that Barack Obama and his administration don't give a damn about any suffering their deliberately destructive and disruptive decisions will cause if they believe that they can exploit the related pain for political gain.
- First, in their belief that the American people won't come to understand and deeply resent their strategy.
- Second and unfortunately less likely, in their trust that those who have served as their lapdogs in the press during the past five years going all the way back to the 2008 presidential campaign will continue to consistently cover for them in such egregious circumstances.
On March 1, as he conceded that sequestration was going to take effect with a signature he was under no compulsion to provide, Obama cried wolf over the supposedly imminent sacrifices Capitol janitors and security guards were about to endure:
Starting tomorrow, everybody here, all the folks who are cleaning the floors at the Capitol … they’re going to have less pay. The janitors, the security guards, they just got a pay cut, and they’ve got to figure out how to manage that. That’s real.
That was more than Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler could stand. The next day, he gave Obama's claim "four Pinocchios" (i.e., a "whopper"). His easily obtained evidence was that Capitol officials were so alarmed about the untruthfulness of what Obama said that they rushed out "not true" statements.
Not satisfied that their boss had been caught red-handed, White House officials, including lead Bob Woodward threat deliveryman Gene Sperling and Press Secretary Jay Carney, already in an inescapable hole, kept digging. Each claimed without any apparent attempt to verify the truth of what they were saying that janitors would really be getting a "pay cut" because their overtime would be reduced. Kessler jumped in again on March 6 with another quartet of Pinocchios after finding that "overtime amounts to only pittance of the overall pay — about $6.50 a week on top of wages of $1,000 a week."
Obviously, very real and major inflictions of pain are afoot. The administration appears to have abandoned the idea of actually governing in favor of spending the next 20 months intimidating voters into changing the party which controls the House of Representatives in next year's congressional elections. Their crude philosophy appears to be: "The fiscal beatings will continue and morale won't improve unless and until you elect a Democratic Party majority to the House next year."
Homeland Security has released and apparently plans on continuing to release thousands of illegal immigrants from detention centers, including many with violent criminal records, and even began doing so before sequestration took effect. Unless these moves cause a meaningful reduction in the number of ICE prison guards, I don't even see how this move will significantly reduce costs. The Navy has delayed deploying the USS Harry S. Truman to the Persian Gulf, even though "military officials freely admit they could have found ways to save money." The Navy is also withdrawing its participation in illegal drug interdiction. All three moves make us less safe. Yet in the midst of all of this, John Kerry had no problem releasing $250 million to the Muslim Brotherhood enclave formerly known as Egypt.
In 2008, Obama's Republican opponent John McCain used "Country First" as his campaign slogan. Both in that year and during 2012, a truth-in-packaging Obama campaign would have gone with "The Country Be Damned." That's what we're seeing now. It's unprecedented. It can't be allowed to work.
(Thumbnail on PJM homepage assembled from multiple Shutterstock.com images.)