American Elephants

This Was More Than a Bad Week for Obama, It Was a Tipping Point. by The Elephant's Child

I think we reached a sort of tipping point this week.  Politically, this was an unbelievably bad week for the President and his administration. And the defining event was not even the constitutional lessons being exposed in Supreme Court consideration of the Patient Protection and Affordable Car Act. The defining event was a whispered exchange with the Soviet president Dmitry Medvedev captured by a microphone still on.

President Obama: “On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved but it’s important for him to give me space.”

President Medvedev: “Yeah, I understand. I understand your message about space. Space for you…”

President Obama: “This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.”

President Medvedev: “I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir, and I stand with you.”

The next day the president tried to explain away his comment, and made it worse. He insisted his comments to Medvedev were “not a matter of hiding the ball—I’m on record” about wanting to reduce nuclear weapons stockpiles. His private comments to Medvedev were not about nuclear stockpiles, but about missile defense, and he was promising more accommodation to Vladimir Putin’s Russia next year.

Most presidents have come to office hoping to do good and serious things for the country and for the American people. They often bring with them ideas about just what those good and serious things will be. In most cases, they have discussed them thoroughly with the American people during the campaign, and made promises to the people. Yet as they settle in to the White House and learn about the office, they will inevitably find that the problems on the presidential plate may order different priorities than exactly what they originally had in mind. The world and events inexorably move on.

Barack Obama came to office and was shocked! shocked! as were his economic advisers at the awful mess left to him by George W. Bush — at least as described in his new campaign video “The Road We Traveled.” Why were they shocked? Were they not paying attention? Did they think that the ascension of “the One” to the highest office wiped the slate of events clean so that he could start reinventing America?

He was offered all sorts of help in the transition, because Bush did not want to leave the kind of mess, even for the opposing party, that was left to him by the Clinton administration. Yet Barack Obama was so reluctant to accept the burden of the presidency that he could not stop whining and complaining for three whole years. All those things he was forced to deal with —those were Bush’s fault — the good and popular things like clean green energy— those were Obama’s doing.

From the very first, Obama has been singularly uninterested in what the American people wanted. He wants to install his own personal agenda for his own selfish reasons. We’ve never had a president like this. All presidents make mistakes, do things they probably should not, at least in retrospect, have done. The president of the United States doesn’t occupy office to do as he pleases. He is president of all the people, including Republicans, and it is his job to do what is right for the country to the best of his ability. In the Washington Times, Charles Hurt said:

The past seven brutal days will go down as one of the worst weeks in history for a sitting president. … Somehow, Mr. Obama managed to embarrass himself abroad, humiliate himself here at home, see his credentials for being elected so severely undermined that it raises startling questions about whether he should have been elected in the first place — let alone be re-elected later this year.

Over at Contentions, Abe Greenwald adds:

It’s true this has been Obama’s worst week ever. But it’s also more than that. There are all sorts of ways to have a bad political week, and most don’t involve secretly colluding with the Kremlin and watching your signature policy initiative deliquesce at the Supreme Court.

For Obama detractors, this week was the mother of all “told-ya-so’s”: the disaster predictions of his presidency made manifest; all the contents of 2008’s dire prophecies conjured into the real world. The brazen courting of international bad actors, the constitutionally unfeasible leftism, and the political illiteracy have been summoned at last in the space of a few days.

Worst of all is the clear, bright line connecting the health-care showdown and the Putin pander: Barack Obama’s casual indifference to democratic principle. That the healthcare overhaul was a federally enforced protection racket is no more relevant to him than Vladimir Putin’s aggressive anti-freedom agenda. Expedience means the state compels the people to do what’s in their best interest. No one said change is easy.

In the Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan writes about a president who “increasingly comes across as devious and dishonest.”

In terms of the broad electorate, I’m not sure he really has a relationship. A president only gets a year or two to forge real bonds with the American people. In that time a crucial thing he must establish is that what is on his mind is what is on their mind. This is especially true during a crisis.

From the day Mr. Obama was sworn in, what was on the mind of the American people was financial calamity—unemployment, declining home values, foreclosures. These issues came within a context of some overarching questions: Can America survive its spending, its taxing, its regulating, is America over, can we turn it around?

That’s what the American people were thinking about.

But the new president wasn’t thinking about that. All the books written about the creation of economic policy within his administration make clear the president and his aides didn’t know it was so bad, didn’t understand the depth of the crisis, didn’t have a sense of how long it would last. They didn’t have their mind on what the American people had their mind on.

And again in the Wall Street Journal, Martin Peretz editor in chief of the New Republic from 1974 to 2011:

But really the message, the important one, concerns us, here in America. It is that the American people can’t be trusted if the president is honest with them about what he proposes. More bluntly, that the American people are not trusted by their own president. Otherwise the president would tell us the truth about his intentions. And here he is, admitting his distrust of his own people to a leader of a nasty foreign government that seeks to thwart our purposes in the Middle East and elsewhere. President Obama is in cahoots with the Russian regime against America’s very body politic.

Mr. Obama’s revealing comment, and the question of missile defense, and the question of Mr. Obama’s bizarre desire for coziness with Vladimir Putin, is a matter about which our European allies have great concerns.

It is all very disturbing.

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