Hubris begot nemesis.
By Victor Davis Hanson
Shortly before the second-term inauguration of Barack Obama this January, I wrote the following of my worries over the Obama way of doing business:
But the untruths and hypocrisy hover in the partisan atmosphere and incrementally and insidiously undermine each new assertion that we hear from the president — some of them perhaps necessary and logical. Indeed, the more emphatically he adds “make no mistake about it,” “let me be perfectly clear,” “I’m not kidding,” or the ubiquitous “me,” “my,” and “I” to each new assertion, the more a growing number of people will come to know from the past that what follows simply is not true. Does this matter? Yes, because when the reckoning comes, it will be seen as logical rather than aberrant — and long overdue.
I ended my prognostications with the warning, “And so a reckoning is on the near horizon. Let us pray it does not take us all down with his administration.”
Four months later, it almost has.
In January, of course, we all knew that Obama had misled the country on the nature of the disaster that is called Obamacare—a bill forced through on an entirely partisan basis through extraordinary legislative pay-offs and exemptions. The author of the bill, Sen. Max Baucus, dubbed it a “train wreck”; the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi (who helped ram through the bill), claimed that we needed to pass the bill to find out what is in it.
Obama’s first-term methodology was in line with his history of dissimulation—promising to accept public campaign financing before becoming the first presidential candidate in the general election to refuse it; demagoguing the Bush-Cheney anti-terrorism protocols as a senator as useless or unlawful (e.g., Guantanamo as “al-Qaeda’s chief recruiting tool”), only to embrace or expand them all once he became president; and stoking racial animosity by weighing in during the Professor Henry Louis Gates psychodrama and the Trayvon Martin murder case, and asking La Raza activists “to punish our enemies.” The president had a strange habit, like a moth to a flame, of demagoguing the wealthy as toxic (spread the wealth, pay your fair share, fat cat, you didn’t build that, etc.), while being attracted to the very lifestyle that he damns, a sort of Martha’s Vineyard community organizer. Sometime in 2009, $250,000 in annual income became the dividing line between “us” and “them.” When we hear the president remind us that he is not a tyrant or monarch, then we assume he laments that fact; “make no mistake about it” ensures that you should believe that the president is not being “perfectly clear.”
Of course, in January I did not know yet that the IRS had targeted conservatives, in partisan fashion, to deflate their activism by denying their organizations pre-election tax-exempt status. (Do we now suspect why Harry Reid claimed that he knew the tax records of Mitt Romney, or why Austan Goolsbee popped off about the tax records of the Koch brothers, or how ProPublica had access to confidential tax information about Crossroads GPS [compare the ProPublica boast on their website: “Now, for the first time, ProPublica has obtained the group's application for recognition of tax-exempt status, filed in September 2010. The IRS has not yet recognized Crossroads GPS as exempt, causing some tax experts to speculate that the agency is giving the application extra scrutiny”]?)
I did not think that the administration would be so haughty to go after the Associated Press and monitor their official and private communications, especially given that the source of most national security leaks par excellence was the Obama White House itself. Recall the sordid details of the AP scandal: the AP sat on a story until they were given a quiet administration go-ahead to publish the account—even as the administration desperately wanted to scoop them and high-five over the story of the Yemeni double agent 24 hours earlier than the AP.
The AP was not first advised of the administration investigations, nor were the phone checks focused and narrow. Instead, the administration went whole hog after two months of phone records to send a message to its pets in the press—secure that Eric Holder, in Fast and Furious fashion, could always go to Congress with “I don’t now,” followed by executive privilege and stonewalling.
Meanwhile, in Machiavellian fashion the Obama administration had divulged classified information about the Stuxnet virus, the bin Laden raid, and the drone targeting—in order that sympathetic Washington Post and New York Times reporters might have pre-election fuel for the hagiographic accounts of Obama, the underappreciated commander-in-chief.
While we all knew that a filmmaker did not prompt a riot that just happened to kill four Americans, we did not, until the testimony of State Department officials and the published communications of White House, CIA, and State Department staffers, appreciate just how far the administration would go to further a false narrative. And quite a myth it was: lead-from-behind Libya was still a success; al-Qaeda was still scattered; Obama was still on the global front lines condemning anti-Islamic bigots like Mr. Nakoula, whose religious hatred supposedly had spawned violence that even the Nobel laureate Barack Obama could not deter.
Yet in some sense, Obama won. The IRS, AP, and Benghazi scandals were all adroitly kept under wraps for months before the 2012 election, as Goolsbee and Reid thundered about right-wing wealthy people not paying their fair taxes, and the press echoed a “how dare you” when anyone questioned the frightening state of events.
Living in Oceania
Suddenly in 2013, what was once sure has become suspect. All the old referents are not as they once were. The world is turned upside down, and whether the government taps, politicizes, or lies is not so important if it subsidizes the 47%. Does anyone care that five departments of government are either breaking the law or lying or both (State [Benghazi], Defense [the harassment issues], Justice [monitoring of phone lines], Treasury [corruption at the IRS], Health and Human Services [shaking down companies to pay for PR for Obamacare])?
The National Rifle Association is now supposed to be a suspect paramilitary group, in the way the Boy Scouts are homophobes. One day we woke up and learned that by fiat women were suddenly eligible to serve in front-line combat units—no discussion, no hearings, no public debate. We had a “war on women” over whether upscale Sandra Fluke could get free birth control from the government, but snoozed through the Dr. Gosnell trial. The latter may have been the most lethal serial killer in U.S. history, if his last few years of snipping spinal cords were indicative of the his first three unmonitored decades of late-term aborting.
The Obama administration had decided to shut down as many coal plants as it can, stop most new gas and oil drilling on federal lands, and go after private companies ranging from huge aircraft manufacturers to the small guitar concerns—based not on law, but on certain theories of climate change and labor equity. As in the case with the IRS, the EPA is now synonymous with politically motivated activism designed to circumvent the law. The president in his State of the Union address assured us that cap-and-trade will be back, given, he says, the atypical violent weather that hit the U.S. in his term—even as global temperatures have not risen in 15 years, and hurricanes are now occurring more rarely than during the last administration.
The government, we were also told, would not enforce the Defense of Marriage Act, and would grant de facto amnesty for large numbers of illegal aliens as the election approached. Enforcement of existing law now is a fluid idea, always up for discussion For the first time in my life, I can not even find rifle shells on the store shelves—amid rumors that the Department of Homeland Security, at a time of national acrimony over the Second Amendments, believes it is an opportune moment to stockpile gargantuan amounts of ammunition—again, a sort of force multiplier in ensuring panic buying.
Are You a Correct Citizen?
So we are in unchartered territory. The IRS has lost our trust, both for its rank partisanship and its inability to come forward and explain its crimes. Eric Holder wants us to believe that he has no idea why his office was monitoring the communications of journalists, and yet now warrants the renewed trust of the president. Susan Rice serially misled on national television about Benghazi and so will probably be promoted to national security advisor. Even the Washington Post has decided that the president was lying in his defense about Benghazi (albeit with the funny sort of childhood rating of “four Pinocchios”) after the president’s team serially blamed the violence on an internet video, while the president simultaneously claimed that he also identified the crime immediately as a terrorist hit.
On campuses, the Departments of Justice and Education have issued new race/class/gender guidelines that would effectively deny constitutionally protected free speech in universities, a sort of politically correct idea that proper thinking is preferable to free thinking.
If you oppose “comprehensive immigration reform” you become a nativist or worse—and apparently are one of the “enemies” the president wants to “punish.” The president just condemned American guns that wind up in Mexico–implying right-wingers opposed his own remedies of new gun control and neglecting to mention that his own Fast and Furious operation sold thousands of lethal weapons to Mexican drug cartels.
The end of the revolving doors, lobbyists, and non-transparency resulted in Jack Lew—recipient of a $1 million bonus from Citibank as it both lost money and gulped down federal bailout money—taking over from the tax-dodger Timothy Geithner as our new Treasury secretary to oversee the new IRS. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is now pumping corporations for money to help spread the gospel about how eager we are for the implementation of Obamacare, as the government now sort of freelances on its own—the federal equivalent of California Highway Patrol officers suddenly ubiquitous along our roadsides ticketing in a frenzy, in fear of their bankrupt state pension funds.
What happens to a corporation that says “nope” to Sebelius? An IRS audit? Phone monitoring? Presidential denunciation as a “fat cat”? Talking points? Harry Reid taking to the floor to claim it had not paid its fair share in taxes?
Government has become a sort of malignant metasisizing tumor, growing on its own, parasitical on healthy cells, always searching for new sources of nourishment, its purpose nothing other than growing bigger and faster and more powerful—until the exhausted host collapses. We have a sunshine king and our government has become a sort of virtual Versailles palace.
I suppose that when a presidential candidate urges his supporters to get in someone’s face, and to take a gun to a knife fight, from now on you better believe him. And, finally, the strangest thing about nearing the threshold of 1984? It comes with a whimper, not a bang, with a charismatic smile and mellifluous nonsense—with politically correct, egalitarian-minded bureaucrats with glasses and iPhones instead of fist-shaking jack-booted thugs.