The Teflon President

From Roger Kimball:

The best line of the day comes from “Obama’s Belated Defense of the NSA,” Andrew McCarthy’s reflection on Obama’s speech about spooks, spying, and national security yesterday. No, it’s not his characterization, toward the end of his essay, of Obama’s behavior as a “toxic mix of passive unseriousness and active harm.” That’s the second-best line of the day, a grimly accurate summary of what this Potemkin President is all about. But the best line comes at the top, at the very beginning of McCarthy’s column: “It is very hard to take President Obama seriously.”

Bingo. The architect of “the most transparent administration in history”; a man who repeatedly promised the public that “if you like your health care plan, you can keep it, period”; the fellow who put it about that the slaughter of four Americans in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, was caused by an internet video; the guy who has twice raised his right hand and sworn to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” to the best of his ability while also (just last week, for example) announcing out of the other side of the orifice his intention to proceed with his agenda “with or without Congress” — how can you take this man seriously, where by “seriously” I mean, how can you trust him?

The brief answer is, “You can’t.” You can’t trust him. He has willfully and repeatedly lied to the American people about all manner of things touching their vital interests. It’s almost comical, or at least it would be if Obama’s behavior didn’t intrude so blatantly upon issues of individual liberty, economic dynamism, and national security. Think about it. One the one hand, Obama has spent the last five years governing as if he were a dictator. Any time he doesn’t like a law, he flouts it, “waiving” it without authority for groups he likes (Obamacare, for example, is the law of the land, except if you are a member of Congress or belong to a favored union). His Justice Department is dedicated to an agenda of racialist activism.

But, on the other hand, he never seems to be held to account. I’m not saying there isn’t plenty of criticism. There is. I’ve tried to contribute my fair share in this column and elsewhere. But here’s the thing: the criticism never seems to get traction. It bounces around in the echo chamber of conservative angst but never seems to penetrate into the broader consciousness. To me, it is astounding that Obama has (so far) weathered the scandal of Benghazi with only minimal damage. I cannot understand how his deployment of the IRS as a political weapon can proceed without instigating widespread demonstrations, if not worse. How is it, I’ve wondered, that Obama can have blatantly lied about so many aspects of Obamacare without there being a serious backlash? I am really at something of a loss. Perhaps it has something to do with his mastery of the art that Gertrude Stein described as “knowing how far to go in going too far.” He salts his mendacity with dollops of, not truth, exactly, but with dollops of earnest equivocation that might be mistaken as truths by the credulous and unwary. He is aided, moreover, by the inertia of affluence and stupefying national power. The United States commands extraordinary resources, economically and militarily. It takes time to degrade them. And although the middle class is much worse off now than when Obama came in to office, and although the country’s military might has been seriously diminished these last several years, there is still a long way to go before the public at large will sit up and take notice.

By then, alas, the damage will likely be irrecoverable and Obama will be long gone. Much as you might like to believe otherwise, the world is not standing still. It is an increasingly dangerous place, and the United States is increasingly poorly equipped to respond with authority. Whose tocsin is sufficiently clear, and bright, and persuasive to rouse an indifferent public, a complicit media, and a self-serving political elite into action? What we are witnessing is not only a concerted attack on the Constitution (how abstract that sounds) but also an assault on our way of life: our habits of individual liberty and free enterprise, our assumption of national security and global prerogative. The hour is late. Who will recall us from our dogmatic slumbers?

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Government by Mere Mortals

From Mark Steyn:

Not everyone at the Mandela jamboree was doing selfies with the Danish pastry. One reader passed along this photograph: No sign of Barack buddy David Cameron, but here are three of the Queen’s other prime ministers – Australia’s Tony Abbott, Canada’s Stephen Harper, New Zealand’s John Key – having a working lunch ahead of the memorial service. All three are conservatives, and, while there are many who’d like a bit more red meat with respect to this or that, every single one of them is well to the right of President Obama. Come to think of it, their respective leftie (Liberal/Labour) predecessors (Julia Gillard, Paul Martin, Helen Clark) were also to the right of President Obama. For a supposed “right of center” nation, it is striking how at odds with its allies America is.

But what I like about the photo is its ordinariness, right down to the restaurant decor, the wall print of wine bottles, and the spare chair. The Obama cult doesn’t seem to allow for anything so low-key – see, for example, this absurd scene from the US Embassy in London. After five years under the klieg lights of Obama glamor, there’s something to be said for being governed by non-messiahs.

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Obama Finally Discovers That Big Government Is Too Big

From Mediaite:

On Fox News Sunday, Fox News contributor George Will had a chuckle over President Barack Obama’s comment in a recent interview that seemed to place some blame for the woeful rollout of the Affordable Care Act on cumbersome government agencies.

“Not to put too fine a point on it,” host Chris Wallace said, “but it’s those outdated agencies the president talks about that he, under Obamacare, is going to have oversee about a sixth of the economy. ”

“The education of this president is a protracted and often amusing process — as it was this week — as he continues to alight upon the obvious with a sense of profound and original discovery,” Will replied. “He’s alighting on what is obvious to governors. This is really why we should have governors more often than senators as president.”

“The president is saying the trouble with big government is it’s so darned big,” he continued. “And like a lot of other big organisms — dinosaurs spring to mind — it has a simple nervous system, it’s sclerotic, it’s governed by inertia, and it’s hard to move. This from a man who’s devoted his life to increasing the power of government as an instrument of the redistribution of income, because government is wiser than markets at that. It’s, as I say, highly amusing.”

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Bias by Omission

On November 23, USA Today published an article listing the top five best- and worst-run states. In the article, the authors say that, “While each state is different, the best-run states share certain characteristics, as do the worst run.” But they completely omit probably the most important characteristic in how well a state is run: that is, who is running the state. A revealing pattern arises when you look at the party affiliation of the governor and legislatures running the best- and worst-run states.

The Five Best-Run States

1. North Dakota:

  • Governor – Republican
  • Senate – Large Republican majority
  • House or Representatives – Large Republican majority

2. Wyoming:

  • Governor – Republican
  • Senate – Large Republican majority
  • House or Representatives – Large Republican majority

3. Iowa:

  • Governor – Republican
  • Senate – Slight Democrat majority
  • House or Representatives – Slight Republican majority

4. Nebraska:

  • Governor – Republican
  • Legislature (unicameral and nonpartisan) – the vast majority of its members are Republicans

5. Utah:

  • Governor – Republican
  • Senate – Large Republican majority
  • House or Representatives – Large Republican majority

The Five Worst-Run States

46. Nevada:

  • Governor – Republican
  • Senate – Slight Democrat majority
  • Assembly – Large Democrat majority

47. Rhode Island:

  • Governor – Democrat
  • Senate – Large Democrat majority
  • House or Representatives – Large Democrat majority

48. Illinois:

  • Governor – Democrat
  • Senate – Large Democrat majority
  • House or Representatives – Large Democrat majority

49. New Mexico:

  • Governor – Democrat
  • Senate – Large Democrat majority
  • House or Representatives – Democrat majority

50. California:

  • Governor – Democrat
  • Senate – Large Democrat majority
  • Assembly – Large Democrat majority

Something Obama Didn’t Lie About

From Mark Steyn:

In Ian Fleming’s Goldfinger, the eponymous Auric Goldfinger observes:

Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times, it’s enemy action.

That may be overly generous.

A couple of weeks back, cancer patient Bill Elliot, in a defiant appearance on Fox News, discussed the cancelation of his insurance and what he intended to do about it. He’s now being audited.

Insurance agent C Steven Tucker, who quaintly insists that the whimsies of the hyper-regulatory bureaucracy do not trump your legal rights, saw the interview and reached out to Mr Elliot to help him. And he’s now being audited.

As the Instapundit likes to remind us, Barack Obama has “joked” publicly about siccing the IRS on his enemies. With all this coincidence about, we should be grateful the president is not (yet) doing prison-rape gags.

Meanwhile, IRS chief counsel William Wilkins, in his testimony to the House Oversight Committee over the agency’s systemic corruption, answers “I don’t recall” no fewer than 80 times. Try giving that answer to Wilkins’s colleagues and see where it gets you. Few persons are fond of their tax collectors, but, from my experience, America is the only developed nation in which the mass of the population is fearful of its revenue agency. This is unbecoming to a supposedly free people.

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A Remarkably Superficial Mind

From Bret Stephens:

Seven score and 10 years ago, Abraham Lincoln delivered his sacred speech on the meaning of free government. Edward Everett, a former secretary of state and the principal speaker for the consecration of the Gettysburg cemetery, instantly recognized the power of the president’s 272 words.

“I should be glad, if I could flatter myself,” Everett wrote to Lincoln the next day, “that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.”

Barack Obama is not scheduled to be present at Gettysburg on Tuesday to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the address. Maybe he figured that the world would little note, nor long remember, what he said there. Maybe he thought the comparisons with the original were bound to be invidious, and rightly so.

If that’s the case, it would be the beginning of wisdom for this presidency. Better late than never.

Mr. Obama’s political career has always and naturally inspired thoughts about the 16th president: the lawyer from Illinois, blazing a sudden trail from obscurity to eminence; the first black president, redeeming the deep promise of the new birth of freedom. The associations create a reservoir of pride in the 44th president even among his political opponents.

But, then, has there ever been a president who so completely over-salted his own brand as Barack Obama? “I never compare myself to Lincoln,” the president told NBC’s David Gregory last year. Except that he announced his presidential candidacy from the Old State Capitol building in Springfield, Ill. And that he traveled by train to Washington from Philadelphia for his first inauguration along the same route Lincoln took in the spring of 1861. And that he twice swore his oaths of office on the Lincoln Bible. “Lincoln—they used to talk about him almost as bad as they talk about me,” he said in Iowa in 2011.

No, this has not been a president who has ever shied away from grandiose historical comparisons. If George W. Bush reveled in being misunderestimated, Mr. Obama aims to be selfhyperadulated. “I would put our legislative and foreign policy accomplishments in our first two years against any president—with the possible exceptions of Johnson, FDR, and Lincoln,” the president told “60 Minutes” in 2011. Note the word possible.

But now that has started to change. The president has been humbled; he’s pleading incompetence against charges of dishonesty; the media, mainstream as well as alternative, smell blood in the water.

And his problems on that score are just beginning: ObamaCare is really a political self-punching machine, slugging itself with every botched rollout, missed deadline, postponed mandate, higher deductible, canceled insurance policy and jury-rigged administrative fix. John Roberts, we hardly knew you: Your ObamaCare swing vote last year may yet turn out to be best gift Republicans have had in a decade.

All this will force even liberals to reappraise the Obama presidency. Lincoln’s political reputation went from being “the original gorilla” (as Edwin Stanton, his future secretary of war, once called him) to being celebrated, in the words of Ulysses Grant, as “incontestably the greatest man I have ever known.” Obama’s political trajectory, and reputation, are headed in the opposite direction: from Candidate Cool to President Callow.

That reappraisal is going to take many forms, not least in the international goodwill Mr. Obama’s presidency was supposed to have brought us. But since the occasion of this column is the Gettysburg sesquicentennial, it’s worth turning to the question of the president’s once-celebrated prose.

Abraham Lincoln spoke greatly because he read wisely and thought deeply. He turned to Shakespeare, he once said, “perhaps as frequently as any unprofessional reader.” “It matters not to me whether Shakespeare be well or ill acted,” he added. “With him the thought suffices.”

Maybe Mr. Obama has similar literary tastes. It doesn’t show. “An economy built to last,” the refrain from his 2012 State of the Union, borrows from an ad slogan once used to sell the Ford Edsel. “Nation-building at home,” another favorite presidential trope, was born in a Tom Friedman column. “We are the ones we have been waiting for” is the title of a volume of essays by Alice Walker. “The audacity of hope” is adapted from a Jeremiah Wright sermon. “Yes We Can!” is the anthem from “Bob the Builder,” a TV cartoon aimed at 3-year-olds.

There is a common view that good policy and good rhetoric have little intrinsic connection. Not so. President Obama’s stupendously shallow rhetoric betrays a remarkably superficial mind. Superficial minds designed ObamaCare. Superficial minds are now astounded by its elementary failures, and will continue to be astounded by the failures to come.

Is there a remedy? Probably not. Then again, the president’s no-show at Gettysburg suggests he might be trying to follow Old Abe’s counsel in a fruitful way: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool,” the Great Emancipator is reported to have said, “than to speak and to remove all doubt.”

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Ten Characteristics of Obama and his Policies

From VDH:

As all the still underappreciated contours of Obamacare become known, and as those who hold employer-provided plans will soon discover their existing “scams” also do not pass ACA muster, the public will begin to understand that Obamacare is another redistributive zero-sum plan to transfer wealth from one segment of the less-deserving population to another more deserving.

Like most other Obama policies, there are the usual footprints and assumptions that accompany the too-clever-by-half redistribution.

One is the idea of fairness, or rather everyone’s indebtedness to the state: those who budgeted for health care, either through individual plans, or obtained at work, got some sort of silent automatic benefit from the state, an advantage usually without much credit due to themselves. In contrast, those without insurance are all assumed to be victims of the system, who either were long ago dropped, or could not afford formal coverage, and were both without recourse to health care (such as walk-in clinics, emergency rooms, federal and state clinics), and were in that position due to someone else or nefarious forces beyond their control. Whiners who complain that their premiums go up are really the selfish who do not wish to pay “a little more” for their less fortunate brethren.

Two, all wise and moral Washington technocrats must rightly step in, divide up the victims from the victors, make the necessary adjustments, and even everything out with a standard plan that fits all on the back end. Government minds know what is best for private employers and the self-employed, despite never working for anyone other than government and never being self-employed.

Three, exemptions from Obamacare are assumed for the noble architects who drew up the plan; given their exalted labors, they deserve to be excused from the ramifications of their own ideology. In some cases, the progressive and sympathetic, in the otherwise dubious private sector, may also have to be given a few exemptions as well.

Four, the now-accustomed tawdry, postmodern presidential lying is the usual necessary means that is always justified by the assumed noble ends. So lies become somewhat untrue or unfortunately not quite completely true in all cases, or true in spirit if not quite 100 percent true in mundane expression.

Five, the opposition is demonized as callous and cruel; skeptics really wanted Obamacare to fail rather than being worried about its effects on fellow Americans. Skepticism of Obamacare is always driven by “racism,” “anger,” “privilege,” “tea-party frustration”—anything other than principled opposition to an incompetent program that will absorb one-sixth of the U.S. economy and retard economic recovery.

Six, note the now-normal Orwellian use of language. This time around it goes well beyond the aptly named “affordable” health-care act. Thus existing but to be cancelled plans are linguistically reduced to “scams” and “substandard” and “rip-offs” and therefore deserve to be ended by a federal government far wiser than the rubes who were taken in. Before the ACA there were not really insurance plans at all, only simulacra. So how can virtual plans be cancelled?

Seven, legislative deception is again omnipresent. Before the election, the goodies that were “free” were front-loaded into the system (e.g., stay on your parents plan until 26, no one gets turned down from preexisting conditions, etc.), either deemed “free,” or properly to be paid by “them” (e.g., the usual suspects: the 1 percent, the greedy, and the didn’t-build-it crowd). Only after the election, and after the acrimony of the bill’s passage, Americans learn that offering more products to more people is usually more expensive. The American public, like the proverbial fish, was seen by Obama as hungry, skeptical, and a bit unaware, and thus had to be first hooked with trinkets and power bait, before being reeled in.

Eight, as usual with Obama, the middle class takes the hit. The noble poor get subsidized care, the rich have the money or clout to navigate around Obamacare, while the non-romantic young and middle class, especially the grasping self-employed, will end up with higher deductibles and premiums for things they rarely use and may not, albeit in their ignorance, want.

Nine, we see the usual Obama techie cool. Kayak, Amazon, etc. are the accustomed hip referents, as if the wired postmodern Obama assures us pre–Silicon Valley dinosaurs that there is always an online solution to pesky old problems like human nature. Thus the cool one-step website . . .

Ten, of course, is the usual Obama disingenuous doubling down. It was not enough to swear that plans were not going to be dropped or prices to rise or doctors to be changed, Obama had to add the emphatic “Period!” after each false promise given ad nauseam at campaign stops. To originally sell the plan there were the frauds to buy votes through legislative purchases, kickbacks, and exemptions, with no desire for bipartisan compromise. Now comes the usual Benghazi-video-like campaigning assuring us, in Lois Lerner fashion, that nothing much is wrong other than a “glitch” or two. Perhaps we will soon here that the six Americans who obtained first-day plans just love what they purchased.

About five years ago, it became too much to ask of Obama that he just outline his particular plan, explain its advantages and shortcomings, invite input from skeptics, pass the bill with some bipartisan support, enact both the costs and benefits at the same time, warn in advance those who might suffer, and then confess mistakes and quit demonizing critics. Instead Obamacare follows the method of Fast and Furious, Benghazi, the AP and IRS scandals, Syria, and the NSA: fibs and full lies, counter-accusations, the non-stop campaigning, and Nixonian charges of some terrible -ism or -ology that drives the criticism of the day.

What was once bothersome is now just boring . . .

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A Deeply Defective Public Character

From Peter Wehner:

We have as president a man who routinely slanders his political opponents, distorting what they believe, even as he bemoans the lack of civility in public discourse. He constantly makes assertions that are obviously untrue. And it doesn’t matter to him. He keeps doing it because, at least until now, the media has given him something approaching a free pass.

I have no idea if Mr. Obama was born mendacious or whether he learned the habit somewhere along the way. What I do know is that Barack Obama is thoroughly post-modern. Words and facts have no objective standing with him; they are socially constructed, unmoored, infinitely malleable, a way to create his own reality and advance his own self-interest.

Mr. Obama clearly believes that because his agenda is right and noble and his opponents are benighted and evil, he has license to say pretty much whatever he wants pretty much whenever he wants. After all, anything that advances his agenda while rebuffing the (choose your descriptor) nihilistic, anarchistic, heartless, ruthless, Taliban-like Republicans is allowable. Even encouraged. It’s the Chicago Way.

Mr. Obama, then, has a deeply defective public character. He simply makes things up as he goes along. He invents his own reality. And the fact that he is inflicting significant and durable harm to our political culture, and to America itself, seems to bother him not one bit.

There is something quite disturbing about this president’s capacity to mislead people with such ease and with such relish. He’s not a man who can be trusted with power.

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Fraud

We now see why Obama and the Democrats, who passed ObamaCare in 2010, did not implement it until after the 2012 election.

From NBC News:

President Obama repeatedly assured Americans that after the Affordable Care Act became law, people who liked their health insurance would be able to keep it. But millions of Americans are getting or are about to get cancellation letters for their health insurance under Obamacare, say experts, and the Obama administration has known that for at least three years.

Four sources deeply involved in the Affordable Care Act tell NBC NEWS that 50 to 75 percent of the 14 million consumers who buy their insurance individually can expect to receive a “cancellation” letter or the equivalent over the next year because their existing policies don’t meet the standards mandated by the new health care law. One expert predicts that number could reach as high as 80 percent. And all say that many of those forced to buy pricier new policies will experience “sticker shock.”

None of this should come as a shock to the Obama administration. The law states that policies in effect as of March 23, 2010 will be “grandfathered,” meaning consumers can keep those policies even though they don’t meet requirements of the new health care law. But the Department of Health and Human Services then wrote regulations that narrowed that provision, by saying that if any part of a policy was significantly changed since that date — the deductible, co-pay, or benefits, for example — the policy would not be grandfathered.

Buried in Obamacare regulations from July 2010 is an estimate that because of normal turnover in the individual insurance market, “40 to 67 percent” of customers will not be able to keep their policy. And because many policies will have been changed since the key date, “the percentage of individual market policies losing grandfather status in a given year exceeds the 40 to 67 percent range.”

That means the administration knew that more than 40 to 67 percent of those in the individual market would not be able to keep their plans, even if they liked them.

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