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When Failure Is Success
For Obama’s supporters, what matters is not what he does, but what he says and represents.


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Victor Davis Hanson

Losing a job is freedom from job lock. A budget deficit larger than in any previous administration is austerity. A mean right-wing video caused the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi. Al-Qaeda was long ago washed up. The Muslim Brotherhood is secular. Jihad is a personal journey. Shooting people while screaming Allahu akbar! is workplace violence. Unaffordable higher premiums and deductibles are the result of an Affordable Care Act. Losing your doctor and your health-insurance plan prove you will never lose your doctor and your health-insurance plan — period! Being a constitutional lawyer means you know how to turn the IRS and the FCC on your enemies. Failure is success; lies are truth.

President Obama’s polls are creeping back up again. They do that every time the latest in the series of scandals — the IRS, AP, NSA, Benghazi, and Obamacare messes — recedes into the media memory hole. The once-outrageous IRS scandal was rebranded as psychodramatic journalists being outraged. The monitoring of AP reporters and of James Rosen is mostly “Stuff happens.” The NSA octopus was Bush’s creation. You can keep your doctor and your health plan — period — begat liberation from “job lock” and the ability to write poetry because you don’t have to work.

There will be more momentary outrages on the horizon, as a president who would fundamentally transform America continues to circumvent the Constitution to do it. The latest are the failed efforts of acting FCC director Mignon Clyburn — daughter of a Democratic stalwart, Representative James Clyburn. She dreamed about monitoring news outlets to ensure that they prove themselves correct in matters of race/class/gender thinking.

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Yet after all the 24-hour outrages, and all the op-eds pointing out that a self-described constitutional-law professor has been the worst adversary of the Constitution since Richard Nixon, and after perhaps even a slide in the polls of a point or two, we will soon forget Ms. Clyburn and her idiotic attempts to diversify the news by seeking uniform expression in the media.

After all, we have forgotten EPA Director Lisa Jackson — former right-hand woman to former New Jersey governor Jon Corzine — who mysteriously disappeared from the EPA after creating a fake e-mail persona, “Richard Windsor.” The latter nonexistent crusader won an award from none other than Lisa Jackson’s EPA.

And we have forgotten Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, who suddenly disappeared from the Cabinet after the FBI inquired into her Obama fundraising activities as secretary, and who is currently being sued over her mysterious freebie use of a union-owned luxury jet to hop between the coasts.

And we have forgotten Lois Lerner, who focused the IRS on tea-party groups, took the Fifth Amendment, retired, and is no longer “outrageous.”

And we have forgotten former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner — of failing-to-pay-his-taxes fame — who went back through the revolving door after threatening Standard & Poor’s for downgrading the U.S. credit rating.

All these activists spoke a little too candidly about their ideology, crossed the line a bit too much in the defense of progressivism, and then receded as if they had never existed — until the next anonymous progressive hoplite in the phalanx of the hard Left steps up over the corpse into the fray and for a moment or two appears on our television screens. In response, President Obama always seems to take the attitude, What does it matter, and who cares? And so he goes along blaming either President Bush or Fox News, when not citing the conspiracy of ATM machines, earthquakes, and tsunamis that combined to thwart his populist efforts.

Who cares that fiscal discipline is now defined as raising taxes so as to borrow only $600 billion rather than borrowing $1 trillion a year for six straight years? And who cares that millions will lose their doctor, their health-care coverage, and most likely their jobs because of Obamacare?

Ditto foreign policy. Who cares that Obama issued five deadlines to Iran to cease enrichment and, when rebuffed, unilaterally dropped sanctions in favor of negotiation? Who cares that he declared a red line in Syria, and when the regime crossed it and gassed its own people, he announced that he had never issued a red line in the first place? Who cares that he issued a step-over line to President Yanukovych of Ukraine, as if anyone would not step over anything because Obama warned him not to?

Ditto also leading from behind in Libya, the flip-flopping from the radical Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood to the junta in Egypt, the reset with Putin, the friendly initiatives to the late Hugo Chávez that ignored the near collapse of Venezuela, as Latin America goes back to the late 1970s in another failed round of coerced statism.

In short, Obama will always poll around 45 percent. That core support is his lasting legacy. In a mere five years, by the vast expansion of federal spending, by the demonizing rhetoric of his partisan bully pulpit, and by executive orders and bizarre appointments, Obama has so divided the nation that he has created a permanent constituency that will never care as much about what he does as it cares about what he says and represents.

For elite rich liberals, whose money and privilege exempt them from the consequences of Obama’s policies, and their own ideology, he will always be their totem. He is iconic of their own progressivism and proof of their racial liberalism, and thus allows them to go on enjoying their privilege, without guilt and without worrying too much about how they got it or whether they might lose it.

For the vast new millions on federal disability insurance, food stamps, and other entitlements, Obama is their lifeline to government support. Who would risk losing that by worrying that the world is becoming a very dangerous place? If the IRS has to become politicized, better that it become politicized by going after right-wing tea-party types who would cut government. And if the media are to be investigated, at least the target might be Fox News, which — as the president just complained again to Bill O’Reilly on Super Bowl Sunday — is a thorn in the side of the president’s progressive agenda. And if the country is going broke, at least those who will raise taxes are preferable to those who might cut government.

In short, there can be no scandals, or even good or bad news, just what Obama represents — an exemption from normal protocols of public and media scrutiny of his actual record. And so he has established two legacies. He will probably never win back a majority of inductive Americans again, and he will rarely lose his deductive base.

NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Savior Generals.



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