Ed Driscoll

Present-Tense Barry

There is no past:

In nine days, this town will commemorate the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s speech with a ceremony at the same Soldiers’ National Cemetery featuring the U.S. Marine Band, Governor Tom Corbett, and a reading of the Gettysburg Address.

One person who will not be among those honoring Lincoln is President Barack Obama.

The White House gave no reason why the president would not attend.

According to the National Park Service, Obama has never visited the battlefield as president.

In 2008, Barack Obama rolled out his presidential campaign in Springfield, Ill., where Lincoln announced his own presidential candidacy. Throughout that year’s campaign, Obama’s staff embraced similarities between the two men as part of his persona; he allowed them to encourage lofty comparisons – and, after he won the election, he recreated Lincoln’s 1861 train trip to Washington as part of his own inaugural spectacle.

He even took the oath of office on Lincoln’s Bible – twice.

Lincoln brought the country to a revival at an unlikely time with his address. He gave new meaning to the definition of sacrifice in service to the country, for the purpose of the preserving the country.

Lincoln was asked to speak here only as an afterthought. The request for Obama to speak has been sought for more than a year.

It would be an occasion for him to honor a crucial time in our past, to create a historical bridge to today.

His dismissal of the request shows a man so detached from the duty of history, from the men who served in the White House before him, that it is unspeakable in its audacity.

There is no future:

And so…after four, long years as president, Mr. Obama has accelerated the national debt and dangerously increased the burden being passed on to our children and grandchildren.  His eloquent words from 2006 are much more pertinent today:

Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that “the buck stops here.” Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren.  America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership.  Americans deserve better.

In 2006, Obama was  correct.  Debt is a terrible burden to place upon our children and grandchildren.  Why has his mind changed?

There is only the present day, and the next news cycle:

Political theorists will study Obama’s “one news cycle at a time” survival tactic for generations to come.  It got him re-elected despite four years of grinding unemployment and fabulous Solyndra-style corruption.  He was able to slink past scandals that would have ended anyone else – probably even Bill Clinton – because he could rely on the media’s reluctance to create damaging “narratives” around him.  He got past one scandal avalanche after the next, because everything instantly became “old news” once the Administration “won” a few games of Sunday-show parcheesi.  The board was always completely reset for Barack Obama.  He got away with portraying himself, every month for four long and onerous years, as a total outsider who just showed up in Washington yesterday, and couldn’t believe what he found.  Why, he’s just as surprised, frustrated, disappointed, and angry about [fill in the scandal] as you are!

But then, this is the academic mindset that Obama has marinated in all of his life. Discussing pop culture specifically in 2007, Mark Steyn wrote:

“Popular culture” is more accurately a “present-tense culture”: You’re celebrating the millennium but you can barely conceive of anything before the mid-1960s. We’re at school longer than any society in human history, entering kindergarten at four or five and leaving college the best part of a quarter-century later—or thirty years later in Germany. Yet in all those decades we exist in the din of the present. A classical education considers society as a kind of iceberg, and teaches you the seven-eighths below the surface. Today, we live on the top eighth bobbing around in the flotsam and jetsam of the here and now. And, without the seven-eighths under the water, what’s left on the surface gets thinner and thinner.

As does the worldview of our elected officials. Government is magic, particularly when you don’t understand — or worse, don’t care — how the nation got to this point, and where it’s headed in the future.

Update: At Forbes, Steve Hayward posits that “Obamacare Will Be Repealed Well In Advance Of The 2014 Elections.” Or will it? Steve hedges his bet in the last paragraph of his article:

This wouldn’t be the first time that a health care entitlement was repealed.  The same thing happened in the late 1980s with catastrophic coverage for seniors.  Because seniors were made to pay for their benefits under that scheme, the uproar forced Congress to repeal the measure barely a year after it went into effect.  Obamacare looks to be on the same political trajectory, and for the same reason.  Obamacare represents the crisis of big government; the limits of administrative government have finally been breached.  For the first time ever, some polls are showing a majority of Americans doubting the goal of universal health coverage.

The hazard of the moment is that a compromise “reform” that drops the mandate and attempts to restore the insurance status quo ante could leave us with an unfunded expansion of Medicaid and a badly disrupted private insurance market.  Republicans should avoid both the political traps and a new fiscal time bomb by being ready with a serious replacement policy, based on the premium support tax credit ideas that John McCain advocated (poorly) in 2008.  While anxious liberals are in dismay, they should recognize that Obamacare may well have achieved its chief purpose of making universal or at least greatly expanded health coverage a fixture of American social policy.  The cost to liberalism may prove fatal, however.

But if Hayward’s second to last sentence is correct, what difference does it make, as Obamacare’s namesake predecessor is wont to say? As a post by co-blogger Paul Mirengoff at Hayward’s home turf at Power Line from back in May notes, “With so many scandals in the picture or looming, it’s easy to miss the fact that President Obama may soon become one of the most successful presidents in American history. I’m defining success as fulfilling Obama’s mission of substantially transforming America.”

While Mr. Obama may be a present-tense culture kind of guy, that should be a sufficient level of immortality for him. At least until the taxpayers’ money runs out.