Good News — What Good News?
I have a confession to make: I don’t quite understand the jubilation among the conservative-Republican forces during the last two months of the Obama crack-up, and here, unfortunately, is why:
1. The so-called Obama crash. I believe that Obamism -- 41 months over 8% plus unemployment, anemic GDP growth, serial $1 trillion deficits, unsustainable rates of new aggregate debt, the takeover of health care, record numbers on unemployment insurance and food stamps -- is not only strangling the country, but in the long run will be seen as such by most Americans. Obama is incoherent -- castigating the Supreme Court’s right to overturn a law, then himself suing to overturn state laws, while simply ignoring federal laws. Abroad, even his supporters cannot claim the Russian reset was a success. What was so hard about supporting the Iranian dissidents in the spring 2009 demonstrations, or expressing support for secular democratic movements in the Middle East rather than praising the Muslim Brotherhood? Why treat Israel or Canada worse than Turkey? And was it worth the administration chest thump to risk the security of the United States by leaking classified information about Predators, the cyber war against Iran, the Yemeni agent, and the bin Laden raid?
But all that mess is not to say that in the here and now Obama cannot cobble together a 51% majority to win the election. He figures that he can by appeals to gays (gay marriage), those on entitlements (nearly fifty million are now on food stamps; 50% are paying no income tax or are on some sort of entitlement -- or both), the greens (Keystone), the Latinos (de facto amnesty), feminists ("war on women"), the (fill in the blanks), etc.
Review Obama’s bad news of the last 90 days: the Scott Walker victory, the Obama gaffes (the private sector is doing “fine”), the Democratic defections (whether senators and representatives bailing from the convention or smackdowns on Bain Capital from Cory Booker, Bill Clinton, etc.), the Holder mess, the circumvention of Congress by de facto amnesty, the non-ending scandals (Solyndra, Fast and Furious, GSA, Secret Service, etc.), the Putin/Merkel put-down, our new Muslim Brotherhood friend and ally running Egypt, the supposed shortfall in campaign donations, etc. Yet this weekend Obama remains up in the polls and ahead in key swing states. If these “bad” weeks have led to his rise in the polls, what might good weeks do?
Sometimes when I watch Fox News, listen to talk radio, or read the blogs, I fear too many are in a strange bubble: the Obama embarrassments are tallied, his crashing defeat predicted -- but no one seems to say, “But hey, he is still after all that ahead in the polls!” And to the extent someone might point to polling, he is met with “But the polls are biased!” Perhaps they are by 3-4 points. But right now, given the power of incumbency, the changing nature of the U.S., and the no-holds-barred methods of Barack Obama, the advantage is still all Obama’s -- and almost all the polls show that. And we should remember that fact rather than be told simply how bad Obama is.
2. The Supreme Court. I have read all the exegeses of why Justice Roberts voted to tip the court in favor of upholding Obamacare. I do not here care to comment on the case other than to note that the most radical piece of social legislation since the Great Society is now the law of the land. It may prove a boomerang in November; there may be some clever means to detect in Roberts’ decision a path for upholding judicial conservatism. In fact, there may be all sorts of hidden good news. But for now, the decision is a huge victory for Barack Obama -- how can it be any other?
Other depressing notes: the Court is now 4 liberals, 2 swings, and 3 conservatives. Is this really the age of a conservative Supreme Court? But more importantly, the elite culture in the New York-Washington corridor is a force multiplier. It defines liberal blinkered orthodoxy on the Court as “open-minded” and “moderately liberal” in contrast to conservative orthodoxy that is “reactionary” and “closed-minded.” In other words, there is always more pressure on a conservative than a liberal to be thought sober and judicious by joining the other side. A liberal justice joining the conservative side almost never happens. Because of the great decision of our age, Justice Roberts will be revered by the media-academia-arts-government nexus as the new Earl Warren, even as conservatives rightly respect his right of independent judicial review. And, as Roberts knew, had he voted otherwise to reject Obamacare, he would now be reviled by the Left in the manner of Robert Bork, while, without fanfare, being simply acknowledged as a fair and circumspect judge by conservatives.
3. Obamacare. Obamacare is a disaster. Imagine DMV supervisors, TSA employees, someone like an Eric Holder running the show, and taking a number at the emergency room, and you have the formula of dealing with your rendezvous with a tumor or heart attack. Most Americans don’t want it. But be prepared: we will hear that if it were not for courageous Barack Obama and Justice Roberts, then conservatives would have taken 25-year-old Johnny off his parents’ plan and thrown him in the street, or denied all treatment to Linda with breast cancer -- as if neither could find health care without a massive government bureaucracy. Remember again: this was a plan that was sold as a mandate, not a tax; then argued by the administration before the Supreme Court as a tax; then found constitutional on the basis that it was a tax; and now defended on the basis that it is suddenly once again not a tax. Adolescents, not the president of the United States, make it up as they go along -- mandate, tax, penalty, fee, etc.
4. The Arizona decision. How is the court rejection of the Arizona law good news? Yes, I know they upheld the right to ask for proper ID when there is good suspicion of a possible crime, but that is merely a reflection that what thirty years ago was a common-sense given is now considered a landmark breakthrough.
Factor in the president’s circumvention of Congress to grant de facto election-year amnesty to about a million illegal aliens, and examine where we are: it is illegal for a state to try to enhance federal immigration law enforcement, but it is still apparently legal for a municipality to declare itself immune from federal immigration law by granting sanctuary to illegal aliens. Arizona “broke” the law by trying to enforce it; the president did not break the law by trying to circumvent it. The former passed a law through a majority vote, the latter shredded it by fiat. In some sense, there is no federal immigration law anymore -- only what Barack Obama on any given day determines is politically expedient to enforce or not enforce. If one million can be exempted today by presidential decree, why not five million next year and another six the year after? The Arizona border or Parlier is a long way from Martha’s Vineyard and Sidwell Friends.
5. Fast and Furious. The Republicans may find themselves pursuing the moral and ethical high ground right into a political quagmire, reminiscent of once trying to convince the American people that a sitting president cannot lie under oath with impunity, even as the country sided with Bill Clinton without worry that he had been serviced in the Oval Office by his own in-house intern.
From the little that we know, Eric Holder at best knowingly presented false information to a congressional committee, and at worst also oversaw a harebrained scheme that led to several deaths (among them one and maybe two Americans) and whose ultimate objective is still unclear -- and did so as the chief law enforcement officer of the nation. If that stands, in some sense we are then reduced to a banana republic. That said, the Holder mess, in the campaign sense, may divert attention from the economy, will likely not proceed to any further action against Holder or new releases of documents until after the election, and allows Holder once again to play the race card. Unless something dramatic happens, the contempt vote will either not help the Republicans or likely distract them from the economy. That is not a reason to stop now, but only a warning once more of the long road ahead.
6. The Obama crises. We hear of defections in the black community. Does that mean from a 97% majority down to a 95.5% margin? The Latino community is unhappy? Does that translate into a lost 3% from 2008? Is he short of cash? Does that mean Obama will not quite reach $1 billion until late October? Given that Obama has polarized the country, the fact that purple-state Democrats up for reelection don’t want to be seen with Obama is understandable, but not necessarily a barometer of what Ohio, Florida, Colorado, and Virginia will do on Election Day.
What Does It All Mean?
None of us know what November brings. We all imagine the race will be far closer than 2008. We worry that eight years of this administration will institutionalize what we saw during the first four years. That said, every person worried about the direction of the country will have to vote, donate time or money, or offer public or private commentary. We are going to see things in September and October that we have not quite seen before in an election, as our modern Borgia pulls out all the stops to do whatever is necessary to win.
We have a president who was not truthful about his prior associates and pastor, raising taxes, the Bush-Cheney protocols he once demonized, and promises to follow the law. The law now is followed largely to the degree that it is judged most progressive for most people. On a mundane level, a president is up for reelection who, by common assent, made up almost all the key details in his own memoir, claimed on his own bio that he was born in Kenya, jokes with his middle finger on his chin, laughs about Predator assassination drones protecting his daughters, offers a double-entendre about a sex act with his wife, and links “BFD” T-shirts to his website. From the fundamental to the ridiculous, Obama is sui generis. After all, we have a man of the people in the White House who has set presidential records for golf outings and fat-cat fundraisers, while running on them/us class warfare -- to the delight of 50% of the country.
Against all that, rationalizing recent conservative defeats is surely no way to learn from them -- and learn from them we must.