The Lone Ranger he isn’t.
Barack Obama has ridden half a dozen horses in hopes of glory. Never mind that they were all made of wood. It began with “hope and change” — his most famous steed. In full gallop on this hobby-horse, he secured his presidency.
But there was one moment during the primaries when he faltered — and Hillary Clinton seemed to be catching up. For a time, he left “hope and change” in the attic and rode out to battle on a hobby-horse of a different color — declaring himself to be a “post-partisan politician.” As he explained it, the crown by all rights should be his because he had had the good sense (or good luck) to grow up after the ‘60s. Hillary, by contrast, had come of age during the ‘60s. Said Barack: Hillary “has been fighting some of the same fights since the ‘60s,” and she would have “a very difficult time in trying to bring the country together and to get things done.”
Tactically, that was a brilliant stroke in unhorsing his opponent. But was there any truth to what he said?
If you had to choose which of the two candidates (Hillary or Barack) had drunk more deeply from the poisoned well of Nineteen Sixties thinking, with its faux intellectualism and all the cant about rebelling against authority and rejecting bourgeois (i.e. traditional) values, surely it would be Barack. In recounting his college years at Occidental in the late ‘70s, he boasts of his lefty leanings and his deep sense of “alienation.” What could be more quintessentially Sixtyish than this passage in his memoir Dreams from my Father?
To avoid being mistaken for a sellout, I chose my friends carefully. The more politically active black students. The foreign students. The Chicanos. The Marxist professors and structural feminists and punk-rock performance poets. At night, in the dorms, we discussed neocolonialism, Franz Fanon, Eurocentrism and patriarchy. When we ground out our cigarettes on the hallway carpet or set our stereos so loud that the walls began to shake, we were resisting bourgeois society’s stifling constraints. We weren’t indifferent or careless or insecure. We were alienated.
Needless to say, Mr. Obama abandoned the “post-partisan politician” hobby-horse as soon as it had served its purpose. Upon assuming office, he moved quickly and sharply to the left. His first big piece of business was the passage of the $787 billion stimulus bill, which had the opposite effect of the one intended, as it jump-started the wrong things — not jobs and economic activity, but huge increases in federal spending and U.S. indebtedness.
The president sold the stimulus bill on the prediction that it would keep the jobless rate below 8 percent. How then to explain why it rose to 8, 9 and then 10 percent in the months that followed? No problem. The president hopped on the “jobs created or saved” hobby-horse — claiming credit for keeping the unemployment rate from going even higher… to “12, 13 or 15” percent.
At first, the administration based the numbers game on a computer model that applied a Keynesian multiplier to government spending (or “investment,” in Obama-speak). If the administration had spent enough money to support two jobs, then it figured that it had “created or saved” three jobs. The Cartesian logic here was: It is assumed, therefore it is. But soon the calculation of how many jobs had been “saved” became even more airy-fairy.
In this space in December 2009, I wrote an article entitled “Lies, Damned Lies, and Job Creation,” in which I predicted that the president would ultimately claim full credit for stopping the unemployment rate from hitting 25 percent — just because that was where it was when Franklin D. Roosevelt took office during the Great Depression.
Though I said this in jest, Mr. Obama proved me right nine months later. Conjuring up phantom economists to validate phantom jobs, he said in a speech in Racine, Wisconsin: “Now, every economist who has looked at it has said that the Recovery (Act) did its job. It put the brake on the collapse of the economy. We avoided a Great Depression.”
By this time — the fall of 2010 — the president’s own advisers were begging him to get off the “jobs created or saved” hobby-horse. The whole thing had become joke (reminding one of the Groucho Marx quip when caught with his pants down — “Who are you going to believe — me or your own eyes?”).
So the president got down from that sorry-looking pony and mounted a new one: the “car-in-the-ditch” hobby-horse. In every speech he gave in the run-up to the mid-term elections in November of 2010, he regaled audiences with the same story about how he and his hard-working friends had sweated and strained to pull the automotive equivalent of the ship-of-state out a ditch, while his Republican opponents stood there sipping their Slurpees and doing nothing to help.
The president seemed to get a kick out riding this hobby-horse, and he rode it to death. The overuse of this unfunny and un-charming metaphor surely contributed to the complete “shellacking” that he and Democrats took in the mid-term elections.
If a hobby-horse is taken to mean 1) a child’s plaything consisting of an imitation horse mounted on rockers, or 2) a favorite topic or obsessive fixed idea, it is clear that the president has ridden several other hobby-horses as well.
Throughout the long debate over Obamacare, the president returned again and again to a pair of fixed (and false) ideas. One of these is the idea that it would be possible to launch a massive new entitlement — extending health insurance to 30 million people not currently covered and passing a slew of new mandates — and “not add a dime to the deficit, not one dime.”
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?