August 6, 2013

VICTOR DAVIS HANSON: Obama Who?

Critics of the president are convinced that Barack Obama will do lasting damage to the U.S. I doubt it.

Obama came to power in the third year of large Democratic congressional majorities. In his first referendum, he lost the House and may soon lose the Senate; in other words, there followed a somewhat normal reaction against a majority party. Obama’s popularity rating is well below 50%, despite an obsequious media, and a brilliantly negative billion-dollar campaign that long ago turned Mitt Romney into a veritable elevator-using, equestrian-marrying, canine-hating monster.

In the second term, there is little of the Obama bully pulpit left. “Make no mistake about it” and “let me be perfectly clear” can incur caricature, not fainting. “Really,” “I’m not kidding,” “I’m serious,” “in point of fact,” and “I’m not making this up” often prove rhetoric hints that the opposite is true. When Obama warns about gridlock in Washington, the “same old tired politics,” the dangers of a tyrant or king in the White House, the need for an honest IRS, or the perils of government surveillance, these admonitions have tragically become a psychological tic to warn us about himself. Former jokes about siccing the IRS on his enemies, or using Predator drones to go after suitors of his daughters are as eerie as comedic. . . .

Americans are always up for a good class war. Obama gave them one, with all the talk of the “one percent”, “millionaires and billionaires”, and the “pay your fair share” boilerplate. But to be a good class warrior also requires the pretense of populism. Ralph Nader and Dennis Kucinich were at least not habitués of Martha’s Vineyard, did not make second homes out of tony golf courses, did not have the family jetting to Aspen and Costa del Sol to take time off with those who forgot when to quit their profiting. How can a president so rail at the 1% and yet so wish to play, vacation, and be among those who didn’t build their wealth?

The president’s signature achievement? He has established a precedent that the president can play all the golf he wishes without being caricatured as a distracted would-be aristocrat.

Jimmy Carter’s four years had short-term consequences — almost all negative — but little long-term damage. Obama’s eight years in theory should have far more lasting ramifications, given the huge debt, radical appointees, job-killing regulations, and dismal economy of the last five years. Yet we are learning that he is proving even a more inconsequential figure than was Carter. And so likewise in years to come, even his true believers will talk more of an iconic Barack Obama before and after he was president — but rarely during.

Let’s hope.

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