“It would be good if Obama could be a dictator for a few years,” said the director Woody Allen in 2010, as he dismissed Tea Party Republicans as obstructionists. The left holds this view even more fervently today. Speaking to the National Council of La Raza earlier this week, President Obama allowed himself a musing on dictatorship’s appeal that met with great approval from the audience.
“Now, I know some people want me to bypass Congress and change the laws on my own. And believe me, right now, dealing with Congress… the idea of doing things on my own is very tempting. I promise you. Not just on immigration reform. But that’s not how — that’s not how our system works,” he said, to which members of the La Raza audience responded with a chant of “Yes, you can!” and a cry of “Change it.”
So, liberals dream about dictatorial powers for Obama. Yet this week they profess a deep regard for the virtues of “bipartisanship” and see themselves as unimpeachable arbiters of a “balanced” approach to the debt crisis. Nothing bothers them more than the “intransigence” of Tea Party Republicans, who perversely refuse to step aside and let Obama act like a debt-oblivious Third World dictator.
For his part, Obama laments the lack of civility and concord between members of the legislative and executive branch. He has even ordered Congressional leaders to appear before him at the White House in order to hear his thoughts on this subject.
It tears him up that “compromise” has become a “dirty word” in Washington, as he put it in his Prime Time speech on Monday. Apparently, what would make this decaying city great again is if its politicians abandoned principle more frequently than they already do.
Presidents usually extol America for its commitment to principle, but Obama this week has taken to touting its lack of any.
“America, after all, has always been a grand experiment in compromise. As a democracy made up of every race and religion, where every belief and point view is welcomed, we have put to the test time and again the proposition at the heart of our founding: that out of many, we are one,” he said in Monday’s speech. “We’ve engaged in fierce and passionate debates about the issues of the day, but from slavery to war, from civil liberties to questions of economic justice, we have tried to live by the words that Jefferson once wrote: ‘Every man cannot have his way in all things — without this mutual disposition, we are disjointed individuals, but not a society.'”
Obama declared that compromisers are the great Americans “we remember” but the doggedly “ideological” we forget. At a different time and before a different audience, he would say the opposite (one can’t imagine the above paragraph appearing in a speech before the NAACP), but in his final demagogic push to lift the debt ceiling he feels the need to fake up some admiration for philosophical flexibility. And so thoughts on compromise from a slave owner are suddenly worthy of his citation, as are the words of Ronald Reagan, who has gone from a “rigid ideologue” in the left’s estimation to a venerable source of wit and wisdom.
Conveniently forgotten for the moment is Reagan’s calls for whole departments of the federal government to be abolished. Or that Jimmy Carter, anticipating the politics of today, accused Reagan of insufficient enthusiasm for Medicare, prompting Reagan’s “there you go again” line.
What does Obama mean by compromise? He means that Tea Party Republicans take equal responsibility for a crisis they didn’t create and swallow a non-solution they didn’t negotiate. It is telling that he considers spending cuts a wrenching “compromise” on his part, as if accepting a tiny dent in debt accumulation entitles him to special accolades. By in effect saying that balanced budgets go against his principles, he exposes the essential emptiness of those principles from which he claims to be so heroically departing for the good of a deal.
Why, some of his supporters say, do we even have a debt ceiling? Elizabeth Drew of the New York Review of Books faults Obama for merely considering spending cuts. Now is the time for more government spending, she insists. The left longs for the day when an enlightened liberal president can run up debt and issue new taxes by fiat. In the meantime, Obama betrays the put-upon air of a deposed dictator reduced to haggling with Tea Partiers he views as stubborn and expendable peasants.