President No Comes Into His Own - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
President No Comes Into His Own

Call him President No. He doesn’t want to cut taxes. He will veto any attempt to overturn the mess of Obamacare. He is adamant about opposing anyone who wants to undoing his executive order on amnesty, or his sudden turnabout of U.S. policy on Cuba. He won’t say yes to the Keystone XL pipeline. And hell will freeze over before he utters the words “radical Islamic terrorism.”

Now the White House is furious that Speaker John Boehner has issued a February 11th invitation for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress, this just hours after the president made it clear that he would say no to any new sanctions on Iran. “But new sanctions passed by this Congress, at this moment in time, will all but guarantee that diplomacy fails  —  alienating America from its allies; and ensuring that Iran starts up its nuclear program again,” Obama said. “It doesn’t make sense. That is why I will veto any new sanctions bill that threatens to undo this progress.”

Boehner disagreed, and in an action that had more than a whiff of Congress saying that two can play the game of unilateral actions, Netanyahu was invited to give his views. The president’s men, stung, angrily snapped that Boehner had “breached protocol.” Boehner calmly replied that he wasn’t “poking anyone in the eye.”

There could be no clearer picture of what the next two years — the last two years — of the Obama presidency will look like. The roles suddenly reversed, Republicans in Congress will be proposing, and a veto pen-wielding Mr. Obama will say no. No, no, and no again.

One hopes Republicans will be able to stick to their beliefs. The Boehner invitation to Netanyahu startles — and the speaker should be congratulated for his boldness. But for all the issues of import facing the country, the prospect of Iran obtaining nuclear capability is without doubt at the top of the list. Yet there remain those possessed of the idea that, as Hillary Clinton expressed it in her quickly infamous recent talk at Georgetown University, the world will yield to empathy and foreign policy re-sets. No matter that this attitude has only brought contempt from every American adversary or enemy from Russia’s Putin to the Iranian mullahs to China and ISIS. As the Weekly Standard quoted Clinton:

“This is what we call smart power,” Clinton said to a small audience at Georgetown. “Using every possible tool and partner to advance peace and security. Leaving no one on the sidelines. Showing respect even for one’s enemies. Trying to understand, in so far as psychologically possible, empathize with their perspective and point of view. Helping to define the problems, determine the solutions. That is what we believe in the 21st century will change — change the prospects for peace.” 

This is an article of faith in the progressive world. And no matter the endlessly bad results it actually produces, if there is a progressive anywhere near the levers of presidential and diplomatic power this is where U.S. policy is headed — unless in some fashion Congress can force a change.

Thus, the Boehner initiative which will indeed induce a serious talk in Washington policy circles about Iran has been met with a stiff if helpless rebuff from President No. 

It is often remarked that one of the keys to President Reagan’s success was his sunny disposition. In fact, Reagan was indeed the ultimate optimist, with an unforced ability to be the most positive person in the room — any room. It had the curious effect on his opponents, from Jimmy Carter to Tip O’Neill to Walter Mondale to Mikhail Gorbachev, of making them all seem like a bunch of dour naysayers. 

In fact, this perpetual sourness is what the world of progressivism has ultimately and inevitably become. When your only domestic idea is to expand the government and spend more money, when anyone comes along with even the slightest deviation from the progressive norm, the reaction is an instant and loud harrumphing “NO!” When you are obsessed with a near (near?) messianic idea that you and you alone can save the world, being interfered with by a bunch of Republican congressmen is, to say the least, annoying.

Thus the opportunity to change what in fact has been a longtime media and liberal meme: that the GOP is the real Party of No. This caricature is nothing new. Way back there in 1964, the newly nominated vice-presidential nominee of the Democrats, Minnesota Senator Hubert Humphrey, repeatedly brought delegates at the Democratic Convention to their feet with this bit of happy warrior-style rhetoric about the alleged negativity of GOP Barry Goldwater:

In the last three and a half years, most Democrats and Republicans have agreed on the great decisions our nation has made — but not the Republican spokesman, not Senator Goldwater. He’s been facing backward against the mainstream of American history.

Most Democrats and most Republicans in the United States senate, for example, voted for the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty — but not the temporary Republican spokesman.

Most — Most Democrats and Republicans in the Senate voted for an eleven and one half billion dollar tax cut for American citizens and American business — but not Senator Goldwater.

Most Democrats and Republicans in the Senate, in fact four-fifths of the members of his own Party, voted for the Civil Rights Act — but not Senator Goldwater.

Most Democrats and Republicans in the Senate voted for the establishment of the United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency that seeks to slow down the nuclear arms race among the nations — but not the temporary Republican spokesman.

Most Democrats and most Republicans in the Senate voted last year for an expanded medical education program — but not Senator Goldwater.

Most — Most Democrats and most Republicans in the Senate voted for education legislation — but not Senator Goldwater.

Got it? Republicans are into saying “no!”

In the last six years, even the slightest resistance to Obama — not to mention the gale force winds of the Tea Party — have been painted as nothing more than outright negativity of the deepest, darkest, and most cynical kind. Nativist, mean-spirited, racist. Only yesterday Mrs. Clinton was in Canada and said that President Obama had laid down some policy “markers” and that America would see whether the GOP was capable of a “positive” response.

So ingrained has this idea become that there are prominent gullible Republicans who have swallowed this analysis whole. As here with South Carolina’s Senator Lindsey Graham, who said back there in a 2012 analysis of the GOP: “We’re not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term.”

For the first time in a long time, Republicans in Congress have the opportunity to start changing this “Party of No” dynamic. The opportunity to relentlessly send Mr. Obama one piece of legislation after another that he will have no recourse but to either say “yes” and accept — or reject. And the rejections — the saying “no” — are every bit as important as the acceptances in governing.

The world is slowly moving on from the Obama era. The fight over its legacy is beginning.

Jeffrey Lord
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Jeffrey Lord, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is a former aide to Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp. An author and former CNN commentator, he writes from Pennsylvania at His new book, Swamp Wars: Donald Trump and The New American Populism vs. The Old Order, is now out from Bombardier Books.
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