Posted with author's kind permission
Although it’s only been 99 days since the Obamapalooza began, I suppose it’s OK to jump the gun and take stock of how things have gone.
First, apparently things do not unfold as perfectly in reality as they do in campaign promises. Banishing lobbyists to the outer darkness has a nice ring on the stump in Dayton, but when one’s Deputy Secretary of Defense is named from the ranks of Raytheon’s influence peddlers, folks tend to get … confused.
When the fellow who oversaw the majority of the Bush Bank Bailout — roundly criticized as a handout to reward corporate malfeasance and government social engineering — gets named Treasury Secretary — even though he couldn’t seem to pay his own taxes — some might suspect a double standard.
When one has trouble filling second-tier cabinet posts, and when a slew of lower-level nominees also seem to have problems with taxes, their associations or their grasp of the issues, one is reminded of the chaotic first year of the Clinton administration. The cronyism and inertia symbolized by the Secretary of State and the White House Chief of Staff only accentuate this impression.
Then there is the backpedaling. We are not leaving Iraq willy-nilly, as the leftist loons in the party of Jimmy Carter were allowed to believe. We are building up a military presence in Afghanistan, where the confrontation with radical Islamists is liable to be a much bloodier and more protracted affair, especially given the ambivalence of our erstwhile ally Pakistan. These moves have apparently caused excitement on the further shores of pacifism among the Democrats.
The president’s European trip was an interesting study in style versus substance. Although there was much adulation — due in no small part to Mr. Obama’s willingness to tell the Europeans what they wanted to hear, i.e., that the Americans are responsible for much of the world’s misery — there were few practical results. European leaders did not respond enthusiastically to requests for aid on either military or economic fronts, and coverage focused mostly on Michelle Obama’s couture did not obscure that fact.
In contrast, the imagery of recent meeting with Latin American leaders was an unmitigated catastrophe for us. That the president should be outmaneuvered and upstaged by the political thug Hugo Chavez was bad indeed — unless one happens to espouse the idea that our country is becoming more like Venezuela, as the latter noted after the encounter. Our stock in Latin America did not rise as a result; Mr. Chavez’ did.
Still and all, these are running-in problems one might expect with a relative neophyte. Perhaps there will be a learning curve, as with John Kennedy after his first 18 months of foreign policy disasters. One can hope.
More troubling is the domestic policy scene.
Evidently the administration will abandon its “middle class tax cut” after the first year. That seems the price demanded by the Democrat majority in Congress for limiting debate over the president’s proposal to expand subsidized health care. His willingness to accept the deal not only indicates that he will betray campaign promises to advance his agenda, it is a measure of his willingness to advance that agenda on a purely partisan basis. His damn-the-torpedoes effort to bring us government-provided health care, with all the issues of rationing and political influence that implies, explains the billion dollars allocated for medical-treatment “efficiency studies” in his current budget. If you’re over 60, better get that hip replacement while you still can.
On March 24, in response to a question about the ballooning federal deficit, Mr. Obama noted that “additional adjustments” would be necessary. So if you think this administration will cut your taxes further, there’s a bridge in Manhattan I’d like to sell you. Cheap.
The president has shown an unhealthy willingness to inject his administration into the operation of major American businesses, replacing the relative predictability of the market with the caprice of government succor and sanction. The last time that happened, Sen. Chris Dodd and Congressman Barney Frank forced lending institutions to lower their standards. How’d that end, again?
He also continues to extend the reach of government further into the lives of individual Americans than any administration since the second term of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
What the outcome of all this will be — the callow approach to America’s position in a dangerous world, the insistence on a federal role in an expanding sphere of everyday life, the reliance on style to mask substance and the demand for haste at all costs — remains to be seen. But eventually, the credulity and the adulation may weaken. And if people start to calculate the results of what is being undertaken, well …As Will Smith said to the alien he shot down in Independence Day: “Welcome to Earth.”
Morgan Liddick pens a Tuesday column. _E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.