What they [the Obama administration] forget is that facts largely decide what history thinks — outcomes, what happened, what it means. What they also forget, or perhaps never knew, is that the great [presidencies] are always constructive. They don’t divide and tear down. They build, gather in, create, bend, meld, and in so doing move things forward. That’s not this crowd.And if all that happens, if ten years hence nothing of the last eight remains, will we look back at the Obama years as a promise broken and an opportunity squandered? What lessons will we have learned?
This White House seems driven — does it understand this? — by a kind of political nihilism. They agitate, aggravate, fray and separate. Look at three great domestic issues just the past few weeks.
ObamaCare, whose very legitimacy was half killed by the lie that “If you like your plan, you can keep it,” and later by the incompetence of its implementation, has been done in now by the mindless, highhanded bragging of a technocrat who helped build it, and who amused himself the past few years explaining that the law’s passage was secured only by lies, and the lies were effective because the American people are stupid.
I don’t know how ObamaCare will go, but it won’t last as it is. If the White House had wisdom, they’d declare that they’d won on the essential argument — health coverage is a right for all — and go back to the drawing board with Congress. The only part of the ObamaCare law that is popular is its intention, not its reality. The White House should declare victory and redraw the bill. But the White House is a wisdom-free zone.
The president’s executive action on immigration is an act of willful nihilism that he himself had argued against in the past. It is a sharp stick in the eye of the new congressional majority. It is at odds with — it defies — the meaning and message of the last election, and therefore is destructive to the reputation of democracy itself. It is huge in its impact but has only a sole cause, the president’s lone will. It damages the standing of our tottery political institutions rather than strengthening them, which is what they desperately need, and sets a template for future executive abuse. It will surely encourage increased illegal immigration and thus further erode the position of the American working class.
And there is the Keystone XL pipeline and the administration’s apparent intent to veto a bill that allows it. There the issue is not only the jobs the pipeline would create, and not only the infrastructure element. It is something more. If it is done right, the people who build the pipeline could be pressed to take on young men — skill-less, aimless — and get them learning, as part of a crew, how things are built and what it is to be a man who builds them.
On top of that, the building of the pipeline would show the world that America is capable of coming back, that we’re not only aware of our good fortune and engineering genius, we are pushing it hard into the future. America’s got her hard-hat on again. America is dynamic. “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” Not just this endless talk of limits, restrictions, fears and “Oh, we’re all going to melt in the warm global future!”
Which is sort of the spirit of this White House.
Great presidencies have a different one. They expand, move on, reach out....
“But history will be written by liberals.” Fair enough, and they will judge the president the more harshly because he failed to do anything that lasts. ObamaCare will be corrected and torn down piece by piece. The immigration order will be changed, slowed or undone by the courts, Congress or through executive actions down the road. Keystone will pass and a veto overridden.
And the president has failed liberals through unpopularity, which is another word for incompetence.
Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Peggy Noonan at the Wall Street Journal is certainly no bomb-thrower, but even she has come to the conclusion that the current administration is sui generis, i.e. completely unique in American history, and not in a good way. In a column at the Wall Street Journal (subscription required)she writes:
at 4:59 PM