Obama's vaunted lame duck session successes will, like most of the administration's agenda items, come back to bite him at a later date.
Anyone doubting that the area inside the Washington, D.C. Beltway combines the more surreal elements of the Emerald City of Oz and Wonderland's rabbit hole need only to listen to the pundits -- including some conservatives -- discussing the lame-duck Congress's successes and Obama's move to the center. For those of us outside the Charmed Circle, the situation appears quite different.
In reality, there is nothing new here. The lame-duck Congress was the same body that advanced the agenda responsible for the most significant political defeat in modern times. Like petulant adolescents, angered at the public's rejection of their superior wisdom, they proceeded to vote against the voters.
The fact that the Reid/Pelosi nexus chose to steamroll an uncommonly large number of liberal agenda items within a short time should come as no surprise. Rather than a measure of accomplishment, the quantity was clearly a sign of desperation, as were the compromises reached on the extension of the Bush tax cuts and the fund for 9/11 responders. What seems to have been lost in all the excitement is an appreciation of the likely long-term effects of the initiatives in question.
If one thing has remained constant throughout the Obama administration, it is the ascendancy of emotionalism over reason and the concomitant failure to anticipate the end results of actions. Examples of this began virtually on the first day with the executive order to close the facility at Guantánamo Bay. Without any plan, it was not long before reality set in. Two years later, it has been realized that it will not be possible to close Guantánamo or to offload the terrorists to other countries.
Closely related to this was the decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and others in New York. Once the consequences were realized, the situation devolved into an embarrassing stalemate.
The stimulus package, with its complement of shovel-ready jobs, failed to create new opportunities, and what's more, a large proportion of it remains unused. With little planning as to how or where to spend the money to create the most jobs, the public saw billions in funding go to earmarks and frivolous projects.
Of all the singular negative accomplishments of the first two years, none surpasses ObamaCare. Written and assembled by disparate special interest groups within the Democratic Party, the program has proven to be everything its detractors said -- overly expensive, unworkable, and destructive to the health care system. The fact that leading Democrat supporters, including select corporations and unions, have petitioned for and received exemptions indicates the lack of thought that went into this badly cobbled mess.
Other initiatives including Cash for Clunkers and the seizure of the automotive industry likewise contributed to the Republican victories of 2010.
A closer examination of the items enacted in the lame duck session and their likely long-term results show a far different picture from the ones visualized by the pundits and Obama himself. Some examples:
- The preservation of the Bush tax cuts for two years, and the extension of unemployment insurance for thirteen months. Even if recovery results in a better employment picture, it is probable that there will still be a significant percentage of unemployed thirteen months from now. At that time, with a Republican-dominated House, it is very unlikely that there will be yet another extension of unemployment insurance. Hopefully, the Republicans will be able to link any benefits to retraining. Also, given this package, the Bush tax cuts will be set to expire shortly after the 2012 election. Obama has promised his liberal base that he will not countenance any further extension of "tax cuts for the wealthy." In that circumstance, he will be faced with the possibility of championing a massive tax increase on the public as he attempts to be reelected.
- The repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Justification for the repeal of DADT was supposedly a Pentagon study, despite the finding that military people on the front lines were not in favor of it. What was likewise ignored was the results of another joint U.S. and British study regarding sexual practices among Afghan natives. This study indicates that in Afghan society, where women are largely out of bounds except through marriage, homosexuality and pedophilia have become rampant among Afghan security forces. This has resulted in a great deal of discomfort on the part of American and British troops.
Again, with no plan, we are left without a definition of what openly gay means. Will gay service members be identified in some way, and will their names be made public? How will this impact their situation in those Muslim countries where homosexuality can be punished by death? Once again, an emotional cause has resulted in an unplanned situation that could prove most dangerous to gay service personnel.
- The 9/11 responders bill. Hailed as a great victory, this bill was enacted with a dollar figure roughly fifty percent less than the originally requested amount. While few would question that those who suffered injury as a result of rescue or cleanup efforts should be compensated, other inquiries have gone unanswered -- especially by Chuck Schumer and Kirstin Gillibrand, the senators largely responsible for pushing the measure. What about those who have already received aid from other sources? Further, how was the dollar number arrived at? Would it not have made more sense to establish a lesser figure that could be replenished as needed? Are the individuals affected with health problems going to be placed in a special program, or will they be served by ObamaCare?
- The New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty). The administration's actions have done more than Vladimir Putin to strengthen the hand of the old Soviet Union. Virtually nothing was done when Georgia was invaded. Then, the administration was cowed into abandoning our plans for a missile defense system that would cover our allies in Poland and the Czech Republic. Now we have a treaty that severely limits our capability to provide a missile defense shield for ourselves and our allies. We are assured that despite the wording in the preamble, the administration still reserves the right to construct missile defense systems. The Russians disagree. Where is the plan? There has been no adequate explanation.
Clearly, the desperation of the Obama administration does not signal any real move "to the center." What was done for political expediency and to acquire attractive press coverage will likely be undermined with subsequent subterfuge, much as the ObamaCare death panels and Cap and Trade have resurfaced through cabinet-level regulations. As time passes and the reality of unprogrammed implementation sets in, the emotional overdrive that propelled so many of the lame-duck initiatives will devolve into anger, disappointment, lawsuits, and further declines in popularity.
To those of us in the American hinterland, the recent journalistic enthusiasm over the accomplishments of Obama and the lame duck session is rather analogous to saying that the captain of the Titanic would have been much better off if only he had been able to ram a second iceberg.