Are Conservatives Being Fair to Barack Obama?
Every day conservative media outlets devote incredible amounts of column inches, pixels, and air time to criticize President Obama and his administration. Conservatives comprehensively hammer Obama for his fiscal policies, spending policies, military policies, social policies, regulatory policies, labor policies, education policies, and foreign policies, plus any other policy which failed to make this list. Is such chronic disparagement reasonable? After all, everyone is human. Obama deserves to get cut a bit of slack every now and then, right?
Reflect for a moment on Grey's Law: "Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice" and the law's variously attributed corollary, "Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence."
Finished reflecting? Ditto. Those are lousy choices. Malicious or incompetent, either way, America can -- must -- do better.
President Obama and national Democrats have much to answer for. America's barely discernible economic growth is insufficient to accommodate job-seekers. Unimaginably, the national debt has skyrocketed more than $5 trillion in only three years. Food and fuel prices continue to climb -- and the housing market is as bad as it was three years ago.
To support $5 trillion in deficit spending in three years, the Federal Reserve has tried two rounds of "quantitative easing," a euphemism for printing astonishing amounts of money, to buy back, or monetize, our own debt. All that new un-backed liquidity cheapens our currency, inflates prices for commodities, food and fuel among them, and threatens hyper-inflation.
Unemployment is still above 9% -- above 15% if those who have abandoned hope of finding work are counted. Unemployed Americans are falling off the tax rolls. Those still employed are made to do more with less at work and at home. Welfare is expanding and record numbers of Americans receive food stamps. Entitlement commitments for federally mandated Medicare and Social Security are unsustainable, yet the administration resists reforms. And the administration and fellow Democrats in Congress haven't submitted the annual budget their rules require in more than 700 days.
Now that the White House and House Republicans have reached an impasse over raising the debt ceiling, the president says that congressional Republicans must grow up, "eat our peas," and do something the Democrats could have done but would not do in the two years they held the White House and both Houses of Congress: pass a tax hike in the middle of a recession. Cut spending? Tax or entitlement reform? Those are not factors in the Democrats' calculus. Who could be naïve enough to think that reversing the policies that got America into this mess might get us out? According to the Democrats, what we need is more spending -- that, and no accountability for Democrats, of course.
In 2009, the Democrats' massive, unsuccessful $787-billion "stimulus" bill was peddled as a way to keep unemployment under 8% of the workforce. When the number of unemployed exceeded 10%, the administration moved the goalposts, telling America that the effects of the stimulus would improve the job picture by 2010 to mid-2011. But the rate of unemployment increased again in May and June 2011, at the same time earlier, rosier Labor Department job growth estimates were being discounted.
Things in America are far worse than the government will admit -- worse than the Obama Administration can admit going into a presidential election year. But, top administration advisor, David Plouffe, has acknowledged that the economy belongs to Obama and the Democrats.
Not only has Obama taken difficult economic times and made them worse, he and the Democrats propose to enact a tax increase and double down on the spending policies that prolonged and deepened the recession. But Obama needs a pigeon. Thinking he can count on enough Senate Republicans to roll over, Obama wants House Republicans to be complicit, too.
If they wish to extend their majority and win the Senate and the White House, House Republicans must resist tax increases, hold firm on genuine spending reductions, effectively present their case to the people, and allow the election of 2012 to sort out the dispute.
Obama wishes to be seen as above politics, the adult in a room of squabbling pre-schoolers or the principled agent among malefactors. He steps into policy disputes late when he steps in at all, placing himself between anonymous straw men at both extremes.
Victor Davis Hansen writes of the "first person" fatigue caused by Obama's rhetoric:
The demagogue, in messianic fashion, sees himself as a lone crusader taking on special interests, again always on behalf of "the people." Almost everything is personalized in these cosmic struggles. So, ad nauseam, we hear of the narcissistic "I," "my," "mine," etc., as if the executive branch is but one man of genius and compassion, set against existential challenges and demonic enemies everywhere.
To many, perhaps by now most, Americans, Obama is no longer a sympathetic figure. It's not just the arrogant condescension in Obama's voice to which people object. It's his policies. Viewed through the lens of Grey's Law, if Obama possesses the intellect with which his supporters credit him, and if there is a True North from which he takes his political bearings, a reasonable case can be made for willful malice in Obama's policy pursuits. On the other hand, other than campaigning, Obama has little real-world experience and no record of accomplishment.
Considering Grey's choices in characterizing Obama -- malice or incompetence -- the most persuasive case includes a combination of those attributes, both of which are unacceptable in the Oval Office.
Jerry Shenk is co-editor of the Rebuilding America, Federalist Papers 2 website©: www.federalistpapers2.org.