Work and Days

Welcome to Fantasy Island


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.

Energy-intensive industries are more efficient, and their foreign counterparts less competitive, because Obama was not able to reify his wind and solar dreams of the diminution of gas and oil.  A better 60 Minutes sound bite might have been, “Thank God the energy sector did not listen to me and went ahead despite my efforts.” How odd that he appointed as secretary of energy someone who wished openly for European gas prices (e.g., $9 a gallon), and himself promised to send electricity rates soaring by going after coal production, and then bragged that carbon fuels are now cheaper because his policies were insufficient to stop the private sector.

When Obama entered office (again in January 2009 — not the summer of 2008) Iraq was largely quiet. Troops there were analogous to peace-keepers in the Balkans. There was a good chance that the country might have followed the trajectory of South Korea after the far deadlier Korean War. Yet don’t believe his critics about the status of 2009-2011 Iraq. Listen instead to both Obama and Vice President Joe Biden who at variously times bragged about Iraq’s “security” and “stability” that made it potentially one of the administration’s “greatest achievements.” In other words, one might have thought that Obama ordered the successful surge that brought such stability, rather than opposed it vehemently, and declared it a failure when it had succeeded. When the country imploded, largely thanks to Obama’s reelection obsessions with the withdrawal of U.S. peacekeepers, he ceased with the serial campaign boasts of “I ended the Iraq war” (he had derided Mitt Romney for wanting to leave troops in Iraq) — only to suddenly complain that either others were responsible for the mess, or the mess itself was inevitable.

The same paradox applies to his anti-terrorism protocols. To the degree that Obama abided by and took credit for the Bush-Cheney measures that he had once derided — Guantanamo Bay, renditions, drones, preventive detention, the Patriot Act — the U.S. remained free from a terrorist attack. And to the degree Obama sought to set his own policies — seeking to try terrorists in civilian courtrooms, transferring terrorists to U.S. prisons from Guantanamo, leaving the southern U.S. border wide open, setting red lines in Syria, bombing and leaving Libya, Benghazi, endorsing the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt — increased risk has followed.

Finally, Obama is blaming his intelligence team for not apprising him of the growing danger of ISIS all through 2013 and early 2014 — although such warnings were expressed to the Congress in open session and have been the stuff of the evening news broadcasts for nearly two years. But one wonders why  James Clapper or John Brennan, or, for that matter, former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano would either miss the existential threat of ISIS or downplay the dangers that they privately knew to be true.

In a word, they were parroting positions outlined by candidate and then president Obama himself. His views about radical Islam were expressed clearly in his first interview as president  — to Al Arabiya — in which he made two claims: his predecessor George Bush’s administration had been largely responsible for the problems with the Middle East, and his own father’s Muslim heritage and indeed his own name were powerful symbols of his new outreach to the misunderstood Islamic world.

Toady bureaucrats and careerists made the necessary adjustments almost immediately. It was not long after that the euphemism offensive began, in which man-caused disasters, overseas contingency operations and workplace violence excused the catalyst of radical Islam. John Brennan not only trashed his former boss George W. Bush, but also in a series of astounding statements over the next few years assured us that jihad was a normal, peaceful tenet of Islam and the idea of an Islamic effort to recreate the caliphate absurd. James Clapper outdid that by declaring the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt largely secular, insisting that Muammar Gaddafi would not lose power in Egypt, and flat-out lying to the U.S. Congress. Napolitano, remember, issued a white paper, focusing on returning veterans and conservative groups as those most likely to commit terrorism. That outreach did not deter terrorist killers like the Tsarnaev brothers or Major Nidal Hasan or the beheaders of ISIS. It is quite absurd now for Obama to blame Clapper and our intelligence agencies for downplaying the dangers of radical Islamist terrorists  when they were only dutifully following his politically correct lead.

In the make-believe world of Barack Obama, the American financial system melted down hours before he took office due to the crimes of others. He then quickly saved it, and devised an economic plan that has made Americans far better off than when he entered office. Obama next went on to revolutionize the energy sector to lower gas and electricity prices, brought stability to Iraq only to see it destroyed by others, and crafted a unique outreach to the Islamic world that has lessened the threat of violence and cooled passions in the Middle East. The net result, as the president reminds us, is a more secure, quieter world than anytime in history and unprecedented good economic times at home.

Whether such constructions are proof of delusions or mendacity — or both — the reader can decide.