The Obama Watch

A Damp Hand in a Velvet Glove

Obama’s feeble (and enfeebling) brand of authoritarianism.

By 8.2.13

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Asked to name his worst failing, Barack Obama surprised the adoring Barbara Walters with a one-word answer -- “Laziness.” “You lazy?” she gasped. “You know, it’s interesting,” the president mused in an interview that aired Dec. 23, 2011. “There’s a deep-down -- underneath all the work I do -- I think there’s laziness in me. It’s probably from, you know, growing up in Hawaii and it’s sunny outside, and sitting on a beach.”

Notwithstanding the confidence he let slip to one of his admirers, in owning up to a deep-down laziness, Obama has always had a considerable talent for getting his own way -- without having to try very hard … through the simple mechanism (known to every spoiled child) of making outrageous demands and in acting in the most sullen and petulant way.

In his last year or two of high school -- at Punahou, the fanciest private school in Hawaii -- what the young Obama seems to have wanted more than anything else (going by the account that he gives in his memoir Dreams from My Father) was to engage in a booze-filled, drug-addled journey of self-discovery without having to submit any adult supervision. With his mother having departed for Indonesia, he lived with his grandparents, and he had, he said, “an unspoken pact” with “Gramps” and “Toot”: “I could live with them and they’d leave me alone so long as I kept my troubles out of sight.”

That does seem to be something like the same unspoken pact that our 44th president believes he has forged with the American people -- a mutual agreement in which both sides pretend that nothing is wrong, leaving him free to do whatever he damn well pleases, regardless of how stupid or destructive it may be. Under his watch, the economy has taken a real turn for the worse (entering a new phase of negligible growth in which almost all of the increases in “employment” are part-time as opposed to full-time jobs). But to hell with that! We will speak instead of a continuing “recovery.”

The only thing that has really changed between Obama’s first term and his second is where he is pointing the finger of blame -- waggling it now not so much at George W. as at anyone who dares to oppose what he and his left-wing supporters long ago decided was received wisdom and settled science.

It is received wisdom that we should shift even more money from the private to the public sector. So now he wants more taxes from business in order to spend more money on public infrastructure projects, as if repairing bridges and roads at high-cost Davis-Bacon union wages were the only way back to more robust economic growth.

It is settled science that man-made global warming demands less coal and less fracking and more Solyndras and more subsidies for wind and solar.

It is tedious to recite these and other liberal nostrums -- knowing that Obama and his crowd have little or no interest in whether the nostrums work or not. They care only about being in a position to impose their will upon others.

To promote stale and discredited economic policies, Obama must up the ante (or “double down,” as he likes to say) in demonizing his opponents. This is his rationale for disregarding Constitutional restraints and all of the normal checks and balances on governmental and especially executive power. Now he boasts in recent speeches, “So where I can act on my own, I will act on my own. I won’t wait for Congress.”

No president in living memory has gone as far as Obama in flouting the authority of the two other branches of federal government -- legislative and the judiciary -- as well as the “un-enumerated” powers left to the states under the Constitution. Hence the concern voiced by the WSJ’s Daniel Henninger in his recent column “Obama’s Creeping Authoritarianism.”

However, with all of his overreaching, Obama is a disastrously weak leader and a worse president. His is not the proverbial iron fist; it is a damp hand in velvet glove.

What is amazing -- and frightening to contemplate -- is that so many people (52% of voters in the last election and a good number today even of Republican lawmakers) are still willing to cut him so much slack. 

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About the Author
Andrew B. Wilson, a frequent contributor to The American Spectator and a former foreign correspondent, writes from St. Louis.