Obama's worst enemy is Obama, and his downfall will commence when voters awaken to the fact that many of his current "crises" -- and all the most critical ones -- are self-inflicted. They don't simply come out of nowhere, in the form of "events," unforeseen and random, but are generated through acts of omission or commission by none other than Obama himself. This creates an opening that must not be overlooked by the GOP candidate, whoever that may be.
The gas crisis is something that, in its impact on the daily life of voters, should have a serious effect on Obama's chances in 2012. So you'd expect some effort at a solution on his part. But look as long and hard as you like -- that is something you will not find.
What you will find is an insistence from Obama and all concerned that there's nothing to be done, that oil prices are a product of forces beyond the control of even the messiah, that "we can't drill our way out of the problem." This is nonsense. Faced with the same predicament in 2008, George W. Bush brought oil prices down simply by announcing that new drilling areas would be opened up. Prices dropped, an outcome that Obama would have us believe is impossible.
The problem lies in Obama's lack of understanding of how markets work. Obama -- and the economics wizards with whom he surrounds himself -- advocates a kind of knucklehead positivism, contending that commodities cannot have any effect on the market unless they're right there on the spot, that the price won't change a nickel unless a few million barrels are dropped off where you can look at them, touch them, and pop one open to see that yes, there's really oil inside. Then and only then will the markets respond.
This is precisely the opposite of how futures markets actually work. A futures transaction is simply a bet that prices will be maintained or rise within a given period. If anything occurs to push the price down, then you'd better have the cash to cover your bet, or flocks of big bad pinstriped lawyers will come get you. No oil is actually on hand at any time during the process.
George W's announcement was a strong hint that the price would not hold. Last week's drop was similar, but due to basic economic principles: the price of gas went up, people stopped driving so much, and by gosh by golly, the price went down. Isn't it something the way that works?
In truth, the administration has been doing as much as it can to bolster prices, through the actions of Ken Salazar at Interior. Recent discoveries have demonstrated that the U.S. possesses more in the way of hydrocarbons than Saudi Arabia. Yet Salazar, presumably with Obama's blessing, has been working overtime to prevent access to these new finds, first in the Gulf, then in Alaska, and lately in the Midwest. So here we have both sins of omission -- refusal to take action to lower prices -- and commission -- deliberately embargoing new sources of supply. How does that sound as a campaign issue?
The food crisis -- and when people are actually going hungry, it is a crisis -- is of similar nature. Once again we're told that price leaps are beyond human control. But the same factors are at work here. Oil is crucial in agriculture both to fuel farm machinery and as a source of fertilizer. Then throw in the ethanol fiasco, one of the craziest policies ever embarked on by a modern state. We all know this story: in hopes of cutting oil imports and protecting Gaia from global warming, the federal government has mandated a percentage of ethanol as transportation fuel, at the same time subsidizing its production. This has had no effect on oil (as the recent price spike clearly shows) or Gaia either, while boosting food prices to the point where riots, disturbances, and actual starvation have occurred worldwide.
Obama's response? His administration mandates even higher ethanol fuel levels, that is, acts to directly increase human misery. (We'll simply allude to the fact that all these price rises are occurring while the nation is trying to claw its way out of a major recession. Obama doesn't seem to grasp the connection there either.)
On to Libya. I see no point in attempting to trace every last policy convolution since February. What it amounts to is that Gaddafi could have been taken out a week after the uprising and was not. What we have now is a stalemate which the Jihadis are utilizing to take control of the revolt, while NATO, led by three of the onetime most determined warrior states in history, minces about dropping a bomb here and a missile there.
What happened is that Obama viewed Gaddafi as roadkill, an easy mark who could be scared into surrendering by blowing up a few tanks. When that didn't happen, he panicked and ran. Libya may still be smoldering come election time.
That's three for three. We could go on indefinitely: the military tribunals, the government shutdown showdown, events that did not have to happen that did happen only because of Obama's unwillingness to get off the dime. But why should he? It's always worked for him so far. All those "present" votes in Illinois did nothing to hurt him. Nor did his actions during the financial crash of 2008. Readers will recall that John McCain shut down his campaign and headed for Washington to see what he could do. Obama just kept on campaigning. Now, whatever one thinks of McCain, that was the act of a man who cares what happens to his country. Obama's actions speak for themselves.
And now, as if to serve as a capstone for the entire thesis, we have the OBL fiasco. The raid's success was a development that any president would give his right arm to see on his watch, one that you would think could not possibly be fumbled. And yet Obama, with the avidity of a man promised a massive bonus, has turned a once-in-a-lifetime triumph into a crisis of confidence.
Every forced error made since the raid was made at the behest of Barack Obama. Consider the varying contradictory narratives, ranging from "Rambo in Abbottabad" to "confused twilight struggle." (All of them serving to undermine the professionalism of the SEALS. Of course there was no "40-minute firefight" -- the SEALS would have dealt with anybody capable of shooting back in the first 40 seconds.) These could have been stifled by a simple presidential order to hold off until the full story was in, an order that was never given. The PC treatment of the body, senseless in its own terms (the presumption here is that the same Jihadis who would be incensed if Islamic ritual were violated really don't mind the two bullets in Osama's skull.) The weird refusal to release the photos. (Simple squeamishness, I think.)
Obama has personally taken one of the potentially grandest moments of this new century and done his best to turn it into an SNL skit. We are now in for interminable conspiracy theorizing, attacks on the legality of the mission, and moral posturing by the likes of Rowan Williams, all of which we can do without.
We can also do without another term filled with the same kind of thing. Obama has compiled a record not only of pure incompetence, but willful incompetence. The candidate who hammers him on this, relentlessly, endlessly, and purposefully, will win the upcoming campaign. Obama may be able to beat any given Republican; what he can't do is beat his own record.