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America’s Wilderness Years

The Obama cabinet is the weakest in modern memory. Eric Holder was held in contempt of Congress. By his polarizing rhetoric (“my people,” “cowards,” etc.), he has helped to set back racial relations a generation. Kathleen Sebelius oversaw the most disastrous rollout of a federal program of the modern era. Chuck Hagel is becoming irrelevant at Defense.

John Kerry at State will be known for his promise of an “unbelievably small” bombing campaign to come against Syria -- that in itself was explained by Obama as a non-pinprick. Hillary Clinton had declared Assad a “reformer,” scoffed off Benghazi as “what difference does it make?” and tried to parlay “Bush did it” into a foreign policy.

Steven Chu proved a sort of idiot-savant at Energy, reminding us that Nobel Prize winners can lack even an iota of common sense. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s chief task was finding ways to grant election-time amnesties without being caught at it, while inventing adolescent euphemisms for terrorism.

The less said about the quotes about a peaceful and secular Islamism from James Clapper and John Brennan the better. Citigroup’s Peter Orszag and Jack Lew were refutations of the Obama promises to end the revolving door between big money and big government.

Lisa Jackson at EPA quietly left, after fabricating a fake email identity of “Richard Windsor.” Press Secretary Jay Carney has made Ron Ziegler’s tenure appear veracious in comparison. Thomas Perez and Hilda Solis at Labor saw their job as the promotion of unionism at all costs.

Obama, the self-described constitutional lawyer, has done more to endanger personal liberty and the rule of law than any president since FDR put Japanese-American citizens into camps. Associated Press reporters were monitored. The NSA tapped personal communications. The IRS went after Obama’s opponents. An innocent video maker was jailed on trumped-up charges of parole violations after being falsely accused by the president and the secretary of State of inciting the Benghazi attacks. When a law was deemed inconvenient, Obama simply either overrode or ignored it, whether Obamacare’s employer mandate or federal border enforcement statutes.

The president’s “signature” legislation was supposed to be Obamacare, a federal takeover of health care only dreamed of by past liberal presidents, but pushed through on a strictly partisan vote by the charisma of Barack Obama. The problem with the more than 2,000 pages of Obamacare -- frontloaded two years ago with freebies -- was not just that its web-based delivery system was inoperative, but that its entire concept of supposedly supplying superior insurance to more people at less cost was fiscally impossible, while its central assumption that young healthy people would be willing to pay more for health care that they would rarely use to subsidize older people who would pay less for more coverage was ridiculous.

Is there an Obama legacy?

In a way, yes. He has mesmerized the media in a manner entirely unknown in past presidencies. No matter the scandal or policy failure, it will be almost impossible for Obama’s popularity to dip much below 40%. Yet even more importantly than hypnotizing a once-free press into a Ministry of Truth, Obama has redefined the scope and purpose of federal redistributive entitlements, turning them into the political means of creating a permanent dependent constituency.

For the Democratic Party, Obama has been a disaster, discrediting the professed liberal commitment to socialized medicine, civil liberties, lead-from-behind foreign policy, Keynesian economics, and an open transparent government skeptical of Wall Street big money and federal overreach. He also managed to pass almost no new initiatives with large Democratic majorities in the House and Senate in his first two years of governance, before losing the former in 2010 and perhaps the latter in 2014.

Obama has been compared to almost every out-of-his-league figure in mythology (Phaethon at the reins of his father’s out-of-control sun chariot, Icarus flying too high on frail waxen wings, Narcissus transfixed at a reflecting pool of his own image), cinema (Chauncey Gardiner of Being There, or Bill McKay of The Candidate), or literature (Shakespeare’s Hamlet or Orwell’s pigs prancing on two legs). In that regard, the Obama presidency, to paraphrase Hillary Clinton, requires a suspension of disbelief, and a “what difference does it make?” at each new unfolding scandal.

His tenure will be known as the Wilderness Years -- nothing gained, much lost.

(Artwork created using a modified Shutterstock.com image.)