April 8, 2012

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John Steele Gordon says the anger is showing through. 

Is this the week the Obama administration’s remarkable incompetence begins to be the narrative? If so, he’s toast.

The president’s astonishing, not to mention indefensible, lecture to the Supreme Court this week, in which he turned 200 years of American constitutional history on its head, has been the talk of the blogosphere. But it’s not just the fact that he pretends to have not heard of Marbury v. Madison, it’s the anger behind his remarks that he is having trouble concealing. Even his old professor at Harvard felt he had to weigh in.

It is not hard to see why he might be angry. His single major domestic accomplishment, Obamacare, is in mortal peril in the Supreme Court. InTrade has the chances of its being overturned at 63.8 percent this morning. And it remains deeply unpopular with the public at large. His other domestic efforts have been largely a bust. The stimulus did not produce the promised economic boost and recovery from the recession remains stubbornly slow and unemployment stubbornly high. Green energy is failing and failing and failing. The price of gas has nearly doubled since he became president, despite the recession, while domestic production of oil and natural gas has been rising despite his policies, not because of them. …


Charles Krauthammer reacts to the president’s attack on the Court.

“Unprecedented”? Judicial review has been the centerpiece of the American constitutional system since Marbury v. Madison in 1803. “Strong majority”? The House has 435 members. In March 2010, Democrats held a 75-seat majority. Obamacare passed by seven votes.

In his next-day walk back, the president implied that he was merely talking about the normal “restraint and deference” the courts owe the legislative branch. This concern would be touching if it weren’t coming from the leader of a party so deeply devoted to the ultimate judicial usurpation — Roe v. Wade, which struck down the abortion laws of 46 states — that fealty to it is the party’s litmus test for service on the Supreme Court.

With Obamacare remaking one-sixth of the economy, it would be unusual for the Supreme Court to overturn legislation so broad and sweeping. On the other hand, it is far more unusual to pass such a fundamentally transformative law on such a narrow, partisan basis.

Obamacare passed the Congress without a single vote from the opposition party — in contradistinction to Social Security, the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, Medicare and Medicaid, similarly grand legislation, all of which enjoyed substantial bipartisan support. In the Senate, moreover, Obamacare squeaked by through a parliamentary maneuver called reconciliation that was never intended for anything so sweeping. The fundamental deviation from custom and practice is not the legal challenge to Obamacare but the very manner of its enactment.

The president’s preemptive attack on the court was in direct reaction to Obamacare’s three days of oral argument. It was a shock. After years of contemptuously dismissing the very idea of a legal challenge, Democrats suddenly realized there actually is a serious constitutional argument to be made against Obamacare — and they are losing it. …


John Podhoretz spots something he liked a lot in a Romney speech last week.

Something changed on Tuesday night with Mitt Romney’s three primary state victories, and it wasn’t just the all-but-universal acknowledgment that he’ll be the Republican nominee.

In his speech in Wisconsin, Romney finally found the right argument to use against Barack Obama — indeed, located the very specific dividing line between the president and his opposition that Republicans and conservatives have been trying to draw for four years now.

The president, Romney said, has “spent the last four years laying the foundation for a new government-centered society.”

“Government-centered society” isn’t the most felicitous phrase, nor the most memorable sound-bite. But that may be for the best. What it lacks in mellifluousness, it makes up for in deadly accuracy.

Every major initiative of the Obama presidency has placed the government at the center of the policy the president wishes to effect and the change he wishes to see. Its policies have not necessarily put government in charge, or given government total control; but they have made government a dominating presence.

First came the stimulus package in 2009 — a direct $860 billion infusion into the economy. The lion’s share of those dollars did not go toward lubricating the machinery of job growth but rather directly into the coffers to state and local governments to balance their books.

The $100 billion bailout of two US auto companies led to the president and his team literally choosing which kinds of cars those companies should be making — determining the level of union compensation and unilaterally changing the rules of the private contracts into which the companies had entered with their debtors.

And finally and most directly, ObamaCare uses government power to direct every American to purchase a health-insurance policy. …


The problem with the president, says Peter Schiff, is he does not know how wealth is created.

As this fall’s presidential election takes shape as a contest between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, the rhetoric out of both camps is becoming sharper and more ideological. Looking to exploit Governor Romney’s increasingly close association with Wisconsin representative Paul Ryan (who has been mentioned as a potential vice presidential nominee), the President dedicated a lengthy address earlier this week to specifically heap scorn on Ryan’s budget plan (Ryan is the chairman of the House Budget Committee). The attack lines used by the President not only reveal a preview of the fall campaign but also offer a glimpse of Obama’s skewed views of the social and economic history of the United States.

The President laid bare his beliefs that America’s source of economic strength has been her historical embrace of collective action, wealth redistribution, and government policies that have protected workers from the ravages of the wealthy. To reiterate, he was talking about the United States, not Soviet Russia. He asserted that prosperity “grows outward from the middle class” and that it “never trickles down from the success of the wealthy.” Accordingly, he concludes that our recent struggles stem from the Republican-led abandonment of these successful policies. … 

… Obama believes that prosperity came only in the 20th century after the government began redistributing wealth from rich people like Henry Ford to the middle and lower classes. He ignores the fact that America’s greatest growth streak occurred in the 19th rather than the 20th century, and that America had become by far the world’s richest nation before any serious wealth redistribution even began.

The unfortunate part for the President is that wealth must first be produced before it can be redistributed. But redistribution always creates disincentives that result in less wealth being created. All societies that have attempted to create wealth through redistribution have failed miserably. This should be obvious to anyone who spends more than a few minutes studying world economic history. But the President is on a mission to get reelected and his ace in the hole is to fan the flames of class warfare. It’s a tried and true political strategy, and he looks ready to ride that hobby horse until it breaks.


Jennifer Rubin explains how Obama defames his opponents.

David Brooks insists President Obama “is an intelligent, judicious man who can see all sides of an issue” who acted out of character when he excoriated Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget. (“[H]e unleashed every 1980s liberal cliché in the book, calling the Republicans a bunch of trickle-down, Trojan horse-bearing social Darwinists. Social Darwinism, by the way, was a 19th-century philosophy that held, in part, that Aryans and Northern Europeans are racially superior to brown and Mediterranean peoples.”)

Let’s be clear about two things. The supposedly erudite Obama labeled Ryan a race supremacist. That’s what his staunchest moderate defender, Brooks, points out. And he’s right. Either the president is ignorant of the term he used or he’s getting an early jump on playing the race card. In either event, it’s uncalled for and repulsive. The liberal crowd that shrieks when some Republicans call Obama a “socialist” should clean up their own house.

David Boaz of the Cato Institute remarked:

“Is “social Darwinist” within some bound of propriety that “socialist” violates? I don’t think so. After all, plenty of people call themselves socialists — not President Obama, to be sure, but estimable figures such as Tony Blair and Sen. Bernie Sanders. Members of the British Labour Party have been known to sing the socialist anthem “The Red Flag” on the floor of Parliament.

But no one calls himself a social Darwinist. Not now, not ever. Not Herbert Spencer. The term is always used to label one’s opponents. In that sense it’s clearly a more abusive term than “socialist,” a term that millions of people have proudly claimed.”

How was the president’s use of the term not a controversy unto itself? Charitably we can say the media don’t have a clue what the term implies; more cynically we can say the media are once again playing interference for Obama. …


Here’s David Brooks trying to insist this is all an aberration.

President Obama is an intelligent, judicious man who can see all sides of an issue. But every once in a while he tries to get politically cute, and he puts on his Keith Olbermann mask.

I suppose it’s to his credit that he’s most inept when he tries to take the low road. He resorts to hoary, brain-dead clichés. He wanders so far from his true nature that he makes Mitt Romney look like Mr. Authenticity.

That’s pretty much what happened this week in Obama’s speech before a group of newspaper editors. Obama’s target in this speech was Representative Paul Ryan’s budget.

It should be said at the outset that the Ryan budget has some disturbing weaknesses, which Democrats are right to identify. The Ryan budget would cut too deeply into discretionary spending. This could lead to self-destructive cuts in scientific research, health care for poor kids and programs that boost social mobility. Moreover, the Ryan tax ideas are too regressive. They make tax cuts for the rich explicit while they hide any painful loophole closings that might hurt Republican donors.

But these legitimate criticisms and Obama’s modest but real deficit-reducing accomplishments got buried under an avalanche of distortion. The Republicans have been embarrassing themselves all primary season. It’s as if Obama wanted to sink to their level in a single hour.

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