The administration that was elected on the promise of change has been neutered by the trial lawyers, who donated $47 million to the Democrats last year and have prevented the measures necessary to cut health-care costs. It has been suborned by the dead hand of organized labor, which has been rewarded for decades of overpayment and shoddy work habits in automobile-making with entrenchment of the UAW’s unfeasible health-care benefits, continued protectionism, and outright ownership of most of what is left of the U.S. auto industry.
Nothing is being done to defuse the Social Security or other benefit time bombs, or to reform a corrupt political system in which most of the legislators are bound hand and foot to different special interests, and are locked almost permanently into gerrymandered districts. Nothing is forecast to turn America back from a consumption to a production economy, apart from the president’s own fable about huge numbers of people building windmills: a new, enhanced version of quixotry.
Nothing is being done to fix a failed education system in which teachers’ unions fight tooth and nail against any connection between pay and performance and the dropout rate is 42 percent, or to reform a prosecution service that wins over 90 percent of its cases, enjoys a procedural stacked deck, terrorizes everyone it looks at, and has gutted the individual-liberties and due-process sections of the Bill of Rights with the plea-bargain system’s wholesale exchange of perjury for immunity or reduced charges. Nothing has been suggested for improving the conduct of the failed drug war, which has reduced parts of Mexico to civil war without reducing access to unprescribed drugs in the U.S.; nor has the administration moved to reduce sentences for the more than 40 percent of Americans who at some point experiment with marijuana (the greatest cash crop in the Golden, bankrupt State of California).The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to President Obama unfortunately confirms the world’s love for weak or at least misguidedly diffident American leaders, in the mould of previous Nobel laureates Jimmy Carter and Al Gore. Presidents Franklin Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Nixon, Reagan, and Bush Sr. all made immense contributions to peace and probably earned that prize but did not receive it. This president has engaged in wholesale, equal-opportunity apologies for much past U.S. foreign- and military-policy success. He has appeased almost all of the world’s most odious and hostile regimes, including those of Putin, Ahmadinejad, Chávez, and the Myanmar colonels. It’s possible that the emoting about nuclear disarmament will assist the efforts to discourage Iran and North Korea from developing a nuclear-arms capability, and that preemptive concessions to Russia will promote sanctions that, when they don’t succeed (as they never do), will help create a consensus for decisive action against Iran — but it is unlikely.
The “War of Necessity” in Afghanistan has become a waffle. Joe Biden, who wanted to divide Iraq into three countries and should be constitutionally barred from publicly discussing foreign policy, wants to fight the cave-dwelling terrorists of Waziristan from off-shore. The president has mercilessly bullied Honduras to violate its own constitution and subvert its own fragile democracy, and has reneged on European missile defense and on the Bush-Sharon agreement on West Bank settlements (the implementation of which caused Sharon to buck fierce opposition and found a new political party). His foreign policy is a high-risk pursuit of appeasement that has few successful precedents, at a time when the U.S. is not strong in the world and has its economic and strategic credibility to rebuild. The first U.S. president to win a Nobel Peace Prize in office, Theodore Roosevelt, knew to carry a big stick while speaking softly.
The Obama Kool-Aid drinkers — led, by right and tradition, by the political scientists of Hollywood — have, like Demi Moore, pledged to “fight for the president” to the bitter end (which is nigh). The less energetic, such as the inevitable Jimmy Carter, have charged the president’s critics with racism, a tawdry and almost always false claim. Worthy commentators like Tom Friedman have decried the coarsening of the American public debate, doubtless sincerely. More to the point, Peggy Noonan, whose kindly, sentimental Irish nature was briefly pixilated by Obamamania, now sees the president as “cool” (i.e., cold), “faux eloquent,” and even a Narcissus.
Barack Obama is obviously a very intelligent man, and should be a popular and successful president. But his mandate for profound reform and a steam-cleaning of the Augean Stable of Washington is being squandered. So far the change is more of the same, only worse. This president has achieved less in his first nine months than any incoming president since Warren Harding. It is not too late, but it looks now like the people will vote again for change, with increasing desperation, next year and in 2012. If the country does not get leadership equal to the scale of its problems, as it did in 1860 and 1932, the decline of America will move from a slope to a fall. This emperor still has no clothes, and it is not racism to notice it.
– Conrad Black is the author of Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom and Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full. He can be reached at [email protected].