We just spent more time than we needed to listening to President Obama’s response to last night’s midterm election results. He said “The Republicans had a good night.”
Wrong. They didn’t have a good night, Mr. President. You had a very bad one.
Politicians sometimes make the mistake of believing their own rhetoric. The president makes a habit of it.
“More people are working than ever before.” Wrong. More Americans are out of work than ever before. You can jiggle the math all you want, consigning millions of workers to a weird kind of limbo so that they no longer “count” in unemployment figures, but after a while, people stop nodding and start looking around.
“Health care is more affordable, and more people are insured.” Wrong. Health care costs have skyrocketed for millions of Americans, in the form of dramatic premium increases and insufferable deductibles. Recent data shows that there has actually been a net decline in the number of insured when cancellations, including corporate plans, are fully considered.
ISIS? “The junior varsity.” Ebola? “We have it completely with foolproof protocols.” Illegal immigration? “They will all be swiftly deported.” And so half-truths, deliberate deceptions and outright falsehoods followed inept and outright coverups and evasions spew like a stream of toxic waste from a Balkan foundry — because he doesn’t get it, and never will.
Why not? Because it’s all about optics. Obama has lost any hope of real solutions, if he ever had any. Now he’s engaged in a desperate struggle to make it all look good. But that’s not all his fault — because, for a long time, we bought that. We accepted the optics because we wanted to believe that there actually was substance behind the shadows; we inhaled the ether, and slept through the pain.
But the problem with ether is that it wears off. Sooner or later, voters begin to get restless. They start to notice that people really don’t seem to be any better off, or are doing worse. They respond to fumbled foreign policy with emotional, personal reactions: “Putin is laughing at us.”
The result is a wonderful kind of cyclicality in American politics. We elect the visionaries, who need to find money for implementing their agenda. They slowly siphon spending from boring but necessary sectors, which fall into disrepair, into bold new programs that are wonderful in ambition but not often practical in design. When the bridges start to decay, and someone says “Maybe we need to buy some paint,” they respond with “let the next guy deal with that. We have nobler prospects to pursue.”
But sooner or later the voters notice that the schools are dirty, the roads are bad, and the crime rate is going up. People that arrived here uninvited yesterday are demanding benefits that people who have paid taxes for decades don’t have themselves. Programs that are sold as “protection” either invade their privacy, take away their constitutional rights or increase their costs. They start to say “Hmmmmmm….”
And what then does the President tell the voters? That’s when he gets to talk about what he has actually accomplished. So he takes credit for the economy, which fails on two levels:
1. There is no one in America so naive as to believe that Obama has had any positive effect on GDP or stock market performance, any more than they believed that Jimmy Carter was the driving force behind the 1980 US Olympic hockey team’s gold medal.
2. More people are out of work than when he took office.
Occasionally, he makes reference to American energy independence, but in a somewhat bashful, Bambi-like tone, because he knows how hilarious it is for most of us to hear this, from him, of all people. “In my administration, energy costs will necessarily skyrocket.”
Health care? Again, a perfect example of the “sounds great, doesn’t work” leitmotif running through all of Obama’s grand ideas.
Education? Don’t make us laugh.
What can you actually point to, Mr. President, and say “Here I have done something well?”
Voters don’t study. They don’t call friends and say “Hey, let’s all get together for dinner on Tuesday, read what Paul Krugman says about deficit spending and decide whether or not we need more stimulus.” They don’t bone up on the latest U.N. or IPCC statistical climate goulash. They look at the guy on TV and say, “You know, I think you may be full of shit.” Not that the other guy isn’t — but maybe it’s time to give the other guy a shot. Six years of this hasn’t done much, and worse still, the guy currently in charge seems to be saying “it’s all good — no need to change the way we think.”
He’s still saying it today. He’s saying that he looks forward to hearing the Republican agenda. Why? He knows what it is, and has for years. For all we hear about Republican obstructionism, it’s been Obama that won’t negotiate. Today he said “If they propose legislation I can sign, I’ll sign it.” Translation: “I’m not budging an inch.”
Nothing has changed. Except that it has. Now both the House and the Senate are firmly in the hands of the Republicans. What now? Obama clearly stated today that he would move to implement immigration “reform” and other programs through executive orders.
But without funding, these orders are just unicorn farts in the wind. And this Congress is not about to fund anything Obama attempts to accomplish through executive fiat.
We can look forward to a lot more “optics.” And the soundtrack should be highly entertaining as well.