January 11, 2017 5 Comments
It’s been quite a while since we featured Victor Davis Hanson, no good reason for it, it simply hasn’t happened. But he wrote one of the best articles on why Obama’s legacy is so tainted with most of us. Here’s some
In its remaining days in power, the Obama administration suddenly punished Vladimir Putin’s Russia for allegedly interfering in the U.S. presidential election. It claimed that Russian or Russian-hired hackers tapped into the records of the Democratic National Committee as well as the correspondence of John Podesta, a Clinton advisor.
But what the Obama administration did not say was that such cyber-crimes are by now old hat. Both the Russian and Chinese governments have been hacking into far more important U.S. records and government archives for years without earning retaliation
The administration also did not mention that the election hacking occurred largely because of Podesta’s own carelessness in using his security password. Moreover, it failed to acknowledge that the Republican National Committee was likewise targeted, but apparently had enough safeguards to prevent successful entry into its records. Finally, the administration refused to mention that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange went on the record saying that he did not receive the email trove from the Russians.
The truth is that Obama, throughout his presidency, has appeased Putin. As president, Obama ended the previously agreed-on Eastern European missile defense; he made open-mic promises to be more flexible with Putin after his reelection; he barely responded to Russia’s aggression toward Crimea and Ukraine; and he constantly criticized both George W. Bush and Mitt Romney for being inordinately tough on Russia.
Until now, he saw no reason to stop enabling Russia. Had Hillary Clinton won the election, Putin’s alleged hacking would not have earned any administration attention. But this time around, an emboldened Putin allegedly went too far and crossed the only red line that Obama might have enforced by supposedly enabling the release of information that might have turned off some voters on Clinton. Blaming Putin for Clinton’s loss was a more convenient narrative than admitting that Obama’s own policies have turned off even traditional Democratic constituencies and for now reduced the Democratic Party to a minority coastal party.
All administrations play fast and loose with the truth. It is the nature of high politics to fib, cover up, and fudge in order to ensure the success of a so-called noble agenda for the greater good. But not since the Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon administrations have we seen a president so institutionalize misrepresentation.
There are ample examples. It was clear from Clinton’s own leaked emails and from real-time memos from intelligence agencies that the September 11, 2012 attack on the American consulate in Benghazi was nota spontaneous riot over an insensitive video produced by a reactionary Coptic zealot residing in the United States, as the administration claimed. But such a concoction fit Obama’s 2012 reelection narrative: the recklessness of right-wing Islamophobes endangers national security abroad. In contrast, the reality—a preplanned al-Qaeda-affiliated attack on an unprepared and semi-covert American consulate—challenged Obama’s reelection myth that Al Qaeda was “on the run” and that the administration was vigilant in ensuring security for our diplomatic personnel in the Middle East.
The U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. at the time, Susan Rice, went on five Sunday morning talk shows to insist, quite wrongly, that the deaths of four Americans in the attack were the tragic result of ad hoc furor over intolerance. The video-maker Nakoula Basseley Nakoula was abruptly jailed on probation violation charges, in a display of swift American justice never matched by a commensurately prompt arrest and prosecution of real terrorists.
One question that I have had for months is this. Why exactly would Putin favor Trump, a man who believes in, if not perhaps, the American Dream, some version of it, and not Hillary Clinton, an experienced and proven appeaser? Huh? Why? Just doesn’t make sense, does it? Continuing.
More recently we learned that Iran got the sanctions lifted before it met all its obligations outlined in the deal. Ben Rhodes, an architect of the swap and deputy national security advisor, boasted about the administration’s affinity for deceit. Rhodes, described by a New York Times interviewer as “a storyteller who uses a writer’s tools to advance an agenda that is packaged as politics but is often quite personal,” explained the methods of concocting an Iran narrative to a guidable media: “All these newspapers used to have foreign bureaus,” Rhodes intoned. “Now they don’t. They call us to explain to them what’s happening in Moscow and Cairo. . . The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.”
Rhodes’s cynicism was reminiscent of the boasts of another administration advisor, the MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, who bragged of the administration’s ability to get passed the Patient Protection and affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), largely through deliberate deceit about the inevitable consequences of higher premiums and deductibles, the dropping of existing coverage and doctors, and increases in federal outlays. Some of the bill’s more obvious and unpopular elements—such as the employer mandate—were not enforced until after Obama’s 2012 reelection bid. Gruber admitted that the law was composed “in a tortured way” to delude people into accepting that “healthy people pay in and sick people get money”—a subterfuge that was both necessary and worked because of “the stupidity of the American voter,” a fact confirming that the “lack of transparency is a huge political advantage”
You know I live out here with average Americans, and yes, I’m one myself. What’s our common characteristic? We’re uh, average. Neither rich nor desperately poor, brilliantly smart nor imbecilic, completely informed nor apathetic. Something else, which doesn’t apply as much to me anymore, we’re quite busy trying to make a living, and so don’t spend all that much time watching the swamp circus in Washington. We care, we always have, but we have mortgages, families, and all that stuff to do, so… But we can easily tell when the bullshit meter pegs, and it’s been going off almost constantly lately.
In many ways, the last administration reminded us of a stroppy teenager, who won’t shut up, and won’t go away. These are the kids that a sensible policeman arrests for disturbing the peace or some such. That this was our government became an embarrassment to us. And so we’ll try Trump. Sure he’s a noisy self-promoter, but we all saw The Music Man long ago, and kind of like town bands, in any case.
Is this the cure? We really ain’t got a clue but are convinced that it’s an improvement, and we’ll think about it for next time. Kicking the can down the road? Sure. But that’s better than scoring an own goal, after all.