The Folly of Obama's Politics
Who cares if President Obama and his acolytes want to spend $100 million in TV ads to paint Mitt Romney as the scowling Moloch of Wall Street, chewing up the jobs of helpless American workers for sport? It's politics, and politics ain't beanbag.
But is it wise?
Is it wise to paint the Mark of Cain on private equity? Think about what private equity does. It takes troubled corporations and tries to turn them around. It's a messy business, and, the Obamis are determined to tell us, people's lives get ruined when things go wrong. But somebody has to do it, and it's probably not the management that sat around in a funk while the corporation's markets and profits went south.
Also, how would the president propose to deal with failing businesses? Does he think it is a good idea to follow what Attorney General Janet Reno used to call "the law of the land" -- i.e., bankruptcy court, with judges and all -- or replace it with a political bankruptcies, like the GM-Chrylser bankruptcies, that stiff the bondholders in favor of unions?
Take the news this week that the Obama administration is proposing to gut the work requirement for TANF, the welfare reform act. Maybe it's legal, but is it wise?
Is it wise politically to get every last conservative riled up right before an election? The welfare reform of 1996 is something of a sacred talisman for conservatives. It's the one thing we have managed to legislate to tame the welfare state. It is just not good politics to go around breaking up other people's icons -- not if you want to get elected.
Also, is it really a good idea to resort so much to executive orders? I'm not thinking of today; I'm thinking of tomorrow, when Republicans are back in office. Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Issues that Obamis have crudely decided by executive fiat can be crudely undone by executive fiat on January 20, 2013. Is that what we want in America -- government by dueling executive orders?
Let's get back to basics. Politics, to paraphrase Clausewitz, is civil war by other means. It is a technique that humans have developed to resolve their societal conflicts without the actual conflict of civil war. The whole apparatus of elections, campaigns, constitutions, legislatures, and bureaucratic due process is an immensely sophisticated attempt to comfort the Outs with the hope that the power of the Ins will be used with restraint. The idea is to persuade the Outs that, right now, they don't need to arm themselves and raise a head of rebellion. You only have to recall the horror among Democrats on the day Reagan was shot when Gen. Haig, then secretary of state, got up in the White House and announced that he was in control, or remember the widespread suspicion among Democrats during the 2000s that President Bush was about to tear up the Constitution, to realize how touchy people are when the other guys are in power.
So when an administration starts taking shortcuts, by refusing to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act, by implementing a policy of non-deportation for a certain class of illegal immigrants after it couldn't pass a law through the legislature, by reversing a landmark welfare reform act by budgetary shenanigans and executive orders, by implementing through a regulatory agency, the National Labor Relations Board, a policy of favoring unions that it couldn't get through Congress -- when it does all that, it might as well be pouring gasoline on a smoldering fire.
The whole point of popular government is that you do things by the rules -- not because the rules are any good, but so that the people on the other side don't jump to conclusions. After all, if you break a rule, then you raise the obvious question in the minds of your opponents: where does this end?
Breaking rules is what tin-pot demagogues like Hugo Chávez do. But what is President Obama's campaign for re-election but straight-out demagoguery? With his tax plan he is doing the full Alinsky on the American rich. With his Bain rhetoric he is making a scapegoat out of American business. With the contraception rules for Catholic hospitals he is declaring war on pro-life America. Way to go, Mr. Community Organizer.
Last weekend, the Washington Post lowered the boom on the Obama administration's Mideast policy and its "tactical misjudgments ... outdated view" and its advisers clashing "over tactics and turf." Given that the gray-beards are starting to shake their heads, is it really wise for the Obamis to run a campaign that channels the frenetic stage antics of Cab Calloway in Cotton Club?
Perhaps it's time to start building the bleachers to view the biggest train-wreck of all time in U.S. politics.
Christopher Chantrill is a frequent contributor to American Thinker. See his usgovernmentspending.com and also usgovernmentdebt.us. At americanmanifesto.org he is blogging and writing An American Manifesto: Life After Liberalism.