Obama’s Biggest Mistake

This week the conservative media is noticing that even the president’s cheering section at the New York Times is wising up to Obama’s mistakes in Syria, Libya, Iran, and more.

But I think that the disaster of the president’s foreign policy is the least of his problems.

I think the real mistake is the president’s ruthless attempt to push the liberal agenda to the max during the last eight years. I see why the president returned the bust of Churchill to the Brits. He just doesn’t believe: In victory or magnanimity.

And now I have the founder of the Democratic Party, Thomas Jefferson, to back me up. It was in a 2013 article about JFK, how liberals have remembered him all wrong, that I read this quote attributed to Jefferson.

Great innovations should not be forced on slender majorities.

I take that to mean that a president should not push his agenda by parliamentary shenanigans or by phones and pens or by the regulatory actions of movement people in the federal regulatory agencies but by assembling bipartisan coalitions.

The reason, of course, is obvious, at least to me. It’s because, as I keep saying, government is force, and government is experienced as injustice by the supporters of the opposition party. That is why Daniel Patrick Moynihan said that you should always pass a program like Medicare by 70-30 in the U.S. Senate. He meant that when you do something big you should get buy-in from the minority party, you should have leaders of both parties at the presidential signing ceremony, and you should sell it to the nation as the national consensus and a bipartisan compromise.

This is not the way that things have gone in the Obama administration. Clearly, President Obama and his team have taken a strategic decision to push their liberal agenda to the utmost, to throw as much stuff as possible on the wall on the theory that most of it will stick, whatever comes next.

Was this because Obama faced Republican obstruction from the very start of his administration, as liberals maintain, or that Obama and his team decided, from Day One that “We Won” and Republicans should just shut up and take their medicine, as conservatives insist?

It doesn’t matter who was right, whether Republicans are to blame for obstruction or Democrats to blame for steamrolling. You shouldn’t do big stuff unless you find a way to cajole or bribe the opposition party into some kind of bipartisan consensus.

We know that the Obama administration understands this, because that’s how they got a deal with Iran. They did what they had to do to get a deal, including sending a plane full of cash to Iran.

So a U.S. government treats a government of Iranian mullahs better than its domestic opponents. This cannot end well.

As usual, Peggy Noonan has written about this at the opportune moment. She writes about seeing

the top detaching itself from the bottom, feeling little loyalty to it or affiliation with it… At its heart it is not only a detachment from, but a lack of interest in, the lives of your countrymen, of those who are not at the table, and who understand that they’ve been abandoned by their leaders’ selfishness and mad virtue-signalling.

Our liberal friends, under the influence of the activist left, have learned to stigmatize all non-liberal Americans as racists, sexists, and homophobes. And haters, and xenophobes, and so on. Anyone opposing liberal issues is stigmatized with pejoratives.

Living in a bubble: in their faculty lounges, their newsrooms, their activist groups, their government bureaucracies, their entertainment, their Comedy Central “news” programs; liberals do not understand the rage they are creating with their culture war.

When Bill Clinton was president he knew enough to pretend to be centrist and bipartisan. He understood that the 1994 election meant that the American people did not want full-on liberalism.

But President Obama seems to have interpreted Republican gains in Congress as a challenge to his progressive manhood, his ability to keep the liberal agenda going, bending the arc of history towards justice, whatever the opposition.

But what happens if the opposition rises up in rebellion? Do liberals just amp up the volume on the racist, sexist, homophobe shaming? Or do they sic the IRS and Lois Lerner Jr. on the rebels again?

Those are the questions that liberals will be facing in the years after Obama, either as the opposition to a Trump regime, or as a triumphant majority in a Clinton regime.

President Obama has done a ton of stuff without asking the American people what they think, without trying to create a consensus, without treating the opposition with a modicum of decency.

Everyone on the receiving end of the Obama years has experienced the president as an unjust ruler. We will be dealing with their rage for many years to come.

Christopher Chantrill @chrischantrill runs the go-to site on US government finances, usgovernmentspending.com. Also see his American Manifesto and get his Road to the Middle Class.

This week the conservative media is noticing that even the president’s cheering section at the New York Times is wising up to Obama’s mistakes in Syria, Libya, Iran, and more.

But I think that the disaster of the president’s foreign policy is the least of his problems.

I think the real mistake is the president’s ruthless attempt to push the liberal agenda to the max during the last eight years. I see why the president returned the bust of Churchill to the Brits. He just doesn’t believe: In victory or magnanimity.

And now I have the founder of the Democratic Party, Thomas Jefferson, to back me up. It was in a 2013 article about JFK, how liberals have remembered him all wrong, that I read this quote attributed to Jefferson.

Great innovations should not be forced on slender majorities.

I take that to mean that a president should not push his agenda by parliamentary shenanigans or by phones and pens or by the regulatory actions of movement people in the federal regulatory agencies but by assembling bipartisan coalitions.

The reason, of course, is obvious, at least to me. It’s because, as I keep saying, government is force, and government is experienced as injustice by the supporters of the opposition party. That is why Daniel Patrick Moynihan said that you should always pass a program like Medicare by 70-30 in the U.S. Senate. He meant that when you do something big you should get buy-in from the minority party, you should have leaders of both parties at the presidential signing ceremony, and you should sell it to the nation as the national consensus and a bipartisan compromise.

This is not the way that things have gone in the Obama administration. Clearly, President Obama and his team have taken a strategic decision to push their liberal agenda to the utmost, to throw as much stuff as possible on the wall on the theory that most of it will stick, whatever comes next.

Was this because Obama faced Republican obstruction from the very start of his administration, as liberals maintain, or that Obama and his team decided, from Day One that “We Won” and Republicans should just shut up and take their medicine, as conservatives insist?

It doesn’t matter who was right, whether Republicans are to blame for obstruction or Democrats to blame for steamrolling. You shouldn’t do big stuff unless you find a way to cajole or bribe the opposition party into some kind of bipartisan consensus.

We know that the Obama administration understands this, because that’s how they got a deal with Iran. They did what they had to do to get a deal, including sending a plane full of cash to Iran.

So a U.S. government treats a government of Iranian mullahs better than its domestic opponents. This cannot end well.

As usual, Peggy Noonan has written about this at the opportune moment. She writes about seeing

the top detaching itself from the bottom, feeling little loyalty to it or affiliation with it… At its heart it is not only a detachment from, but a lack of interest in, the lives of your countrymen, of those who are not at the table, and who understand that they’ve been abandoned by their leaders’ selfishness and mad virtue-signalling.

Our liberal friends, under the influence of the activist left, have learned to stigmatize all non-liberal Americans as racists, sexists, and homophobes. And haters, and xenophobes, and so on. Anyone opposing liberal issues is stigmatized with pejoratives.

Living in a bubble: in their faculty lounges, their newsrooms, their activist groups, their government bureaucracies, their entertainment, their Comedy Central “news” programs; liberals do not understand the rage they are creating with their culture war.

When Bill Clinton was president he knew enough to pretend to be centrist and bipartisan. He understood that the 1994 election meant that the American people did not want full-on liberalism.

But President Obama seems to have interpreted Republican gains in Congress as a challenge to his progressive manhood, his ability to keep the liberal agenda going, bending the arc of history towards justice, whatever the opposition.

But what happens if the opposition rises up in rebellion? Do liberals just amp up the volume on the racist, sexist, homophobe shaming? Or do they sic the IRS and Lois Lerner Jr. on the rebels again?

Those are the questions that liberals will be facing in the years after Obama, either as the opposition to a Trump regime, or as a triumphant majority in a Clinton regime.

President Obama has done a ton of stuff without asking the American people what they think, without trying to create a consensus, without treating the opposition with a modicum of decency.

Everyone on the receiving end of the Obama years has experienced the president as an unjust ruler. We will be dealing with their rage for many years to come.

Christopher Chantrill @chrischantrill runs the go-to site on US government finances, usgovernmentspending.com. Also see his American Manifesto and get his Road to the Middle Class.