In law school we learned about the great legal minds and their fields of unique genius: Corbin on Contracts, Prosser on Torts, Collier on Bankruptcy, and (in California) Witkin on Everything Else. In recent days, we are being treated to the ruminations of a new scholar: Obama on Incompetence.
Obama lately has been commenting publicly on the Trump administration. He mostly had stayed out of sight for months, as would any villain who had wreaked havoc on swaths of society, hoping the Democrats would nominate a strong candidate whom he could endorse. In the end, it was his boyfriend Biden, who had tweeted a year earlier on Valentine’s Day a wrist bracelet like the ones the boys gave girls in high school when they wanted to “go steady.”
Obama avoided speaking out on other issues because, once in front of a camera or reporter, he inevitably would be asked about Biden, why he was not yet endorsing his former vice president, and whether or not Biden ever had been coherent. But now that Biden is the last man sitting, Obama felt he needed to endorse, and that quickly moved him beyond Biden into attacking the Trump administration. Because, honestly, in endorsing Biden, there really is nothing else to say other than “Yeah, vote for him.” Honestly, what else? He has a nice smile? The hair on his legs is soft? His touch on a woman’s body, whether stroking, smelling, and kissing her hair or rubbing her shoulders, is gentle? He offers proof of the abiding national dream that, only in America, even a mediocrity who does not know what state he is in, what office he is running for — or whatever else — one day, too, can have a shot at being president?
So now Obama is pontificating on the competence of the Trump administration.
Obama created the Trump presidency. Perhaps it was the only shovel-ready job that Obama ever created, and he wielded the shovel.
Note that he is not pontificating on the Cuomo mass killings in New York, where a truly incompetent governor ordered unprepared seniors’ facilities to admit coronavirus-infected people into their nursing homes, resulting in at least 5,000 documented and confessed deaths within weeks. The numbers of the Cuomo mass-killings are almost certainly closer to 10,000 dead. Lucky for 77-year-old Biden that he was not in one of those skilled nursing facilities. Obama has not commented on that. Instead, he is knocking President Trump.
It may be difficult for Obama to look into a mirror, because he always raises his nose several inches above the normal horizon line that the less stuck-up populate. But if someone can set one up at an angle that he can view, he will see in that mirror the man who, by sheer virtue of his incompetence and utterly failed eight years in Washington, opened the door to the Trump presidency.
Obama created the Trump presidency. Perhaps it was the only shovel-ready job that Obama ever created, and he wielded the shovel. Trump was a huge risk. He had performed no formal political service. He talked a good game and sounded conservative, but his record was sketchy. He had donated heavily to Democrats, had buddy-buddied and palsy-walsied with the Clintons, made soundings about naming his none-too-conservative sister to the United States Supreme Court. Trump initially posed an enormous risk for the Republican rank-and-file.
But it was Obama who made Trump possible. Obama had destroyed, in only eight years, so much about America that was good and precious — our economy, our culture, our values, our civil harmony — that the conservative rank and file could not afford the “luxury” of yet another RINO debacle. Too much damage had been done to the very foundational fabric of the Republic to go along with another Eisenhower-Nixon-Ford-Bush-Dole-Bush-McCain-Romney-type joker in the White House. Obama had messed things up so badly that it came down to all or nothing. Pick your metaphor in this coronavirus era of no sports: we had to pull the goalie, full court press, go for it on fourth down, and bring the infield in. That is how Obama created Trump–Pence 2016.
It always has been thus. We are too cautious and masochistic a nation, too imbued with guilt over the grace that G-d has shed on “we,” to allow ourselves the best in times of solitude. The only way we get a president who may prove to be of historic greatness is if we first choose to impose on ourselves a period of such abysmal failure and catastrophe that we walk into a voting booth or with our ballot up to a mailbox four years later, look prayerfully up to the Heavens and ask G-d for His providence and please to give America another chance, and then, while casting our vote or mailing our ballot, we simply say, “Oh, what the heck — may as well! Can’t be worse than this dreck.”
That’s how we got Andrew Jackson. What the heck. Then, four decades later, after Mildred Fillmore (or was it Millard?), Franklin Pierce, and James Buchanan — oh, what the heck, let’s see whether this next character has any brains under his stovepipe. May as well — can’t be worse. Indeed, that’s how the socialists got FDR to alter the American way of life. After the debacles of World War I, the Spanish Flu, the League of Nations, the 1929 collapse and Great Depression and all — “May as well. Can’t be worse. Who knows? Yeah, maybe he will force on us 15 Supreme Court judges and crazy federal rules that, if you touch a chicken at a butcher store, that’s the one you have to buy. Or maybe the courts will manage to stop his crazier things, and we may even come out with, I dunno, like Social Security or whatever?”
And then came Carter. Iran Hostage Takeover for 444 days. Inflation at 19 percent. Death of the bond market. A smiling peanut magnate who preached a new era of malaise. With the Soviets busy taking over half the Risk! board — the world map — he responded by telling our Olympic athletes that, after their prior four years of having devoted their all to training for their dreams of a lifetime, they would have to stay home because our way to stop Brezhnev and Kosygin would be to let the Russians win all the medals at the Moscow Olympics. Yep, that’ll show them.
So the Republic survived four years of Carter — and that resulted in: (i) Ted Koppel, ABC’s Nightline, and “Day Several Hundred and What-Not,” and (ii) Ronald Reagan. As great as history has proven Reagan’s presidency to have been, the former California governor probably would have been deemed too risky ever to have been given a chance at the Oval Office if Carter had not already destroyed everything he had touched.
Enter Obama. It took another 30 years for so incompetent and catastrophic a president once again to sink into the White House that we the people decided, “Well, Christie and Kasich and Jeb! all are very experienced and rather successful governors. Rubio and Paul and Cruz all are building credentials as pretty good senators. Carson is an awfully nice guy, and he even can separate Siamese twins, though you can’t call them that anymore. Santorum belongs on Fox. Fiorina belongs on the Home Shopping Channel. Perry had his chance … but ooooops! Huckabee actually would be great, but we are just coming out of eight years of Obama. So … Oh, what the heck — may as well! Can’t be worse than the dreck that Obama is leaving behind and that the Clintons will multiply.”
And Trump won.
Had there been no chaotic disaster like Obama, Trump today still would be the Toast of New York, host of two more game shows — one on CBS, one on ABC, along with the one on NBC — and Jim Acosta would be a Bar Mitzvah Planner. But Obama was that bad. Just the thought practically evokes the voice of Ed McMahon leading an audience to ask loudly in unison: How bad was he?
1. He micturated $500 million down the Solyndra toilet.
2. He leveraged the power and prestige of the American presidency to fly to Europe to get Olympic games for Chicago. And they essentially told him where he could deposit his curling broom. The International Olympic Committee eliminated Chicago on the first ballot.
3. He took ownership of a collapsed economy — the singular trademark of a Bush presidency’s legacy — that had absolutely nowhere to go but up … and he somehow managed to wave a magic wand and drive it sideways for nearly a decade.
4. With more fanfare than brass and percussion, he launched Obamacare with a website that engaged at least eight companies that were given at least 20 contracts that totaled at least $600 million — with other estimates ranging as high as $840 million to $2 billion — and the thing simply did not work. It was so bad that pundits started publishing abstract theories that, since no American government conceivably could be that incompetent, there must have been an underlying motive for the flop. Then he paid $90 million to another company to fix it, a company with a history of so many botches that their computer program for food stamp distribution resulted in months of delays in getting out food stamps. That company even had paid out $63 million previously in penalties for kickbacks and bid-rigging. Indeed, the left-wing Huffington Post featured an op-ed that began this way:
As I watch the slapstick, slapdash path of the Obamacare rollout, those same thoughts returned: A web site? These folks can’t figure out how to build and launch a website? Apparently not.
Everything he touched, he botched. He gave away economic rights in the Pacific. He negotiated a “climate accord” that put the onus on America immediately, while leaving India and China free to pollute with vague goals for them to attain in the future. The entire southern border broke down, and he ended up locking up unaccompanied children in what the media later would call “cages.” Through his attorney general, he passed along deadly weapons to the Mexican Drug Cartel. It was like a plot straight out of The Three Stooges. He gained a huge congressional dole, an $831 billion “stimulus,” to set up shovel-ready jobs, then he announced that they were ready. And then he admitted they were not ready. Instead of staring down the Ayatollahs, he secretly sent them $1.7 billion in cash between January 22 and February 5, 2016. Of that, $400 million was flown in pallets of Euros, Swiss francs, and other currency to Iran on January 17 of that year. Just as Christopher Steele made the word “dossier” a household term, most Americans never knew the word “pallet” until Obama sent them as blackmail to Iran.
The rise of ISIS from a junior varsity of thugs to a caliphate. The collapse of American influence in the Mideast. Veterans Administration hospitals. The Bowe Bergdahl fiasco. Benghazi. The sudden eruption of racial tensions in a country that had reached such racial equanimity that he, Obama, could be elected president of the United States without any palpable credentials, no record of achievement, just the good fortune to be presented to voters as the only alternative to John McCain and Mitt Romney.
Obama played the game well for himself. Walked out worth many, many millions — among the bare handful of African Americans to get rich and benefit during the Wasted Obama Decade. Like Carter and Clinton, with the passage of some time for historians to look back dispassionately, he will take his proper place on the lowest rung of American presidents. This is the bumbler and bungler who now would comment and pontificate on the competency of the Trump administration that propelled three years of extraordinary economic growth, near full employment, an expanded footprint of authority overseas, both in trade and commerce as well as in military strength and influence, with domestic tranquility at home — all with one hand tied behind their backs by corrupt investigations, impeachments, and other roadside bombs.
As for Trump and coronavirus, the chapter still is being written. It is as tough a challenge as any American president has had to face, and Trump’s legacy will be rewritten to his glory or his detriment by the outcome. One thing is for sure for now. Whatever advice he seeks, Trump knows that he need not consult the volumes of Obama on Incompetence.