THESE ARE WORDS that will live on famously: “The administration has now lost all credibility.” Most of us could have written that on January 20, 2009. The New York Times finally saw things our way on June 6, 2013, at least for several unbelievable hours. Then cooler heads prevailed and the paper offered a slight emendation, adding “on this issue” to the end of its famous sentence. So let the record stand corrected: While the Times no longer can support the Obama administration’s ravenous surveillance policies, it continues to find its credibility unimpeachable on everything from Benghazi and the IRS to the harassment of journalists and the corrupt enforcement of what it fondly calls the Affordable Care Act.
Of course it might be a little too late for that. Having let the cat out of the bag, the Times failed to declaw it. It allowed the sentence that immediately followed the revised one to remain untouched, and in the larger scheme of things its content is infinitely more damning. It said: “Mr. Obama is proving the truism that the executive branch will use any power it is given and very likely abuse it.”
What now? Politically we remain very much a nation in flux. The liberal camp knows its scrawny emperor wears no clothes, but it also knows its own credibility is intimately tied to his. On the right, meanwhile, there are enough national-security hawks who aren’t troubled at all by the privacy aspect of what’s coming to be seen as a furtively expanding Obama police state. And to think we’re only at the beginning of learning about its actual outlines (not to mention those of the growing number of other scandals—or “scandals,” if you’re a postmodernist). Our president has certainly done himself proud in the six months since his triumphalist reinauguration. He now says we can trust him, though good luck with the verification part.
Delightful as it may be to see him exposed, it’s also extremely depressing that things have come to this. Two years ago we asked in a short symposium, “Is America in Decline?” The verdict was mixed. Midge Decter didn’t think it was, but added, “we are certainly citizens of a country currently subject to the dumbest—and almost certainly—most ignorant—administration in living memory.” Without pointing fingers, Jeremy Rabkin was characteristically direct: “Whoever is not worried about America’s future is not paying attention,” he began. “Or is willfully shutting his eyes, stopping his ears, and holding his nose.” Again, that was two years ago. Have you ever tried to hold your nose longer than that?
One problem is that the stench is cultural. Our movie-watcher James Bowman understands that as well it can be understood (see p. 54). Our radio-listener Daniel Flynn captures an even bigger, sadder picture (p. 24) that all the Obama bashing in the world won’t improve. What kind of America do we still have? Are we about to add 30 million new citizens to our ranks overnight (p. 4)? Wealth creation is now tolerated only if Big Government approved (p. 20). Internet commerce must be taxed and taxed (p. 34). And if you’re fortunate enough to earn an Ivy League degree, Joe Biden is your penance (p. 44).
History offers an escape. The first days of July mark the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. Like John Derbyshire, you will want to be there (p. 60). There are American inventors to cherish (p. 40). Or the wronged Mitt Romney’s co-religionists (p. 39).
And last, there is the one and only Florence King. Join her for a night at the theater (p. 32).