America Through the Looking Glass
President Obama yesterday praised Brazil for its new offshore oil industry and said he wants to buy as much oil as possible in this new win-win partnership — although we have piled up $5 trillion in new debt, curtailed new petroleum exploration off shore and in the West, as well as kept Alaska off-limits. Our near-term energy future apparently lies in borrowing money to buy oil from those we praise for drilling where we never would ourselves.
In the face of $4 a gallon gas, President Obama claimed that domestic oil and gas production was at a record level — failing to note that such expansion was due entirely to prior leases granted during the Clinton and Bush administrations of the sort that he has so far mostly denied. During the 2008 campaign, the president promised that under his leadership electricity prices would skyrocket and those who produced power through coal plants would be “bankrupted.” His secretary of energy, Steven Chu, in 2008 advocated ratcheting American gasoline prices up to European levels and, a year earlier, had complained that we had too much fossil fuels in America, enough, in fact, to “cook us.” So are we supposed to strive for astronomical gas prices to ensure fewer carbon emissions, the success of the government subsidized Chevy Volt, and actualization of the green dreams of a Van Jones as outlined by Chu and Obama in 2007-8 — or will they imperil recovery and must be postponed until after the reelection of Barack Obama?
For two weeks, the administration was largely quiet about the unrest in Libya until the insurgents began taking entire cities and seemed on the verge of closing in on Gaddafi’s Tripoli. Then President Obama called on Gaddafi to step down and stop the "unacceptable" level of violence. But things then got worse, not better, once Gaddafi began to employ a level of violence that his ilk counts on to stay in power (cf. Assad in Syria or Ahmadinejad in Iran). So at last we announced a funny sort of no-fly-zone, inasmuch as Gaddafi can put down the rebellion without use of his planes and gunships. We vowed to have an international commander soon; we promised to restrict our activity to patrolling the air only (after sending missiles into quite a lot of initial targets on the ground). We are not going after Gaddafi himself (although the tyrant has nowhere to go, must be taken out for the rebels to succeed, and seems to be already targeted by the Europeans, without our “knowledge”). In the new Middle East multilateralism, America supplies the firepower, Europeans the policy and high profile, Arabs the public cover, and the international community the legitimacy — as long as the campaigning is brief, the losses small, and the rebels supposedly somewhat Western in outlook. But no one yet has told us why we must not “meddle” in Iran, must ignore the Saudis going into Bahrain, should continue “outreach” with Assad, must support the ouster of Mubarak and Ben Ali, but are so far mum about further challenges to pro-American authoritarians in the Gulf and Jordan.
Obama has scheduled $5 trillion in new debt since he took office, in part as Keynesian stimulus to snap us out of a slowdown that seemed instead to get worse. The massive debt was incurred in service to new redistributive entitlements that, we are told, will level the playing field. And to implement a new government absorption of health care, the administration has so far granted over 1,000 exemptions from its own landmark legislation. Many of the labor unions that were the most vocal supporters of the president’s agenda are the most eager to be freed from the consequences of his health care mandates.
There is no longer a “war on terror,” and we are to understand that its former components — tribunals, renditions, preventative detention, Guantanamo, Predator assassinations, Iraq, the Patriot Act, wiretapping, and intercepts — were as subversive to the Constitution under Bush as they are essential to our security under Obama. Whatever happened to the impending civilian trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed?
Debt is now the father of us all. In some sense, every cruise missile fired, every Social Security check cashed, ever NPR show aired is done so in part with borrowed money. In response, the president saw the impending doom of insolvency, appointed a bipartisan commission to draft a solution, and then ignored his own appointees' recommendations. So far the excuse is largely that George Bush ran up debt as well, although last month Obama’s red-ink exceeded the entire 2007 budget deficit under Bush — 30 days of Obama trumping 365 of Bush.
President Obama ran on promises of a new respect for the law. But the law is now malleable and predicated on its social utility. The government, along with the nation of Mexico, sues the state of Arizona for trying to craft legislation that enforces federal immigration statutes. The government takes over Chrysler and then violates the contractual obligations to its debtors. We announce that the careless BP simply put up $20 billion to ensure proper cleanup of the Gulf. The Defense of Marriage Act is the law, but deemed unconstitutional by the administration and thus by fiat not enforced, in the manner of the abandoned prosecution of the Black Panthers whose violations of election laws were considered not violations.
If we think the country is topsy-turvy, the president offered an explanation the other day to a group of donors and supporters:
The first time around it’s like lightning in a bottle. There’s something special about it, because you’re defying the odds. And as time passes, you start taking it for granted that a guy named Barack Hussein Obama is president of the United States. But we should never take it for granted.
In short, all of the above was “special” because it “defied the odds” and was brought to us by “a guy named Barack Hussein Obama.”
And that is all ye need to know.