Obama’s Wheel of Fortune
The president's luck has changed -- and he doesn't seem to have noticed.


Victor Davis Hanson

No one in the Obama throng has ever believed much in the Roman concept of a “wheel of fortune” — rota fortunae — so often alluded to by the likes of Cicero and Boethius.

But that metaphor for changeable fortune reminds us that at times we all enjoy inexplicable good luck — and therefore must brace for the moment when the wheel turns, and inevitable adversity follows.

Of course, the downturn is always worse for those who were flippant on the upturn — or so medieval moralists reminded haughty royalty. All cultures are aware of the fickleness of fortune — whether exemplified through the morality tale of Job, the polarities of hubris/nemesis, or the notion of karma.

Any student of the 2008 campaign could have seen that Obama’s messianic persona would not last — given the human propensity to tire of flashy neon signs that advertise empty trifles. Candidate Obama said nothing of real substance — even as he advised the wowed crowds that there were first-aid provisions for those who would soon faint in ecstasy at his very words.

That his platform was vague and disingenuous, contradicted much of what he had said in the past, and remained inconsistent mattered little. Any suspicions of the inexperienced community organizer from Chicago were trumped by popular fury at the Wall Street meltdown, weariness with eight years of the Bush administration, and the promise that the ascension of Obama would, on the cheap, wash away the guilt of the American suburbanite.

Remember his energy policy, such as it was?

When candidate Obama was pressed, he reluctantly mentioned nuclear energy, coal, oil, and natural gas. But these were castoff concessions. They were offered as sops until the popular anger over gas-price hikes subsided — and they were to become no more than mere bookends to soaring rhetoric about “millions of new green jobs.”

Infatuated voters apparently bought this fantasy. Our deserts and mountain passes would be scarred with ugly panels, turbines, and access roads, as millions of newly hired government construction workers rushed out to ensure that we could obtain 5 percent of our current power needs from such green salvations.

A charlatan like Van Jones (cf. the remarks of Valerie Jarrett, “Oooh. Van Jones, all right! So, Van Jones. We were so delighted to be able to recruit him into the White House. We were watching him . . . ”) surely knew more about America’s energy needs than did the CEO of Exxon.

But now, on the wheel’s downturn, President Obama must brace for spiraling energy costs when the world economy rebounds. Soon the sobering electorate will turn and ask why Obama did not push for nuclear power and encourage more exploitation of newly discovered natural-gas fields.

Ditto the war. For much of 2007–2009, “hope and change” masked the absurdity of Obama’s “I’m for the good war/Bush did the bad war” dichotomy. So now the wheel turns again, and hokey rhetoric cannot mask reality.

The bad war is relatively quiet. The good war has heated up — more Americans were killed in Afghanistan in Obama’s first ten months than in any of the Bush years. And the good-war president now addresses the nation with the look of “This is really not supposed to happen to Nobel Peace Prize winners!” and “Remember, Bush did it!” and “Where are the American people who used to support the Afghan war?” Had candidate Obama empathized with bad/worse choices in every war, rather than simplistically demonizing his predecessor, the public might be more sympathetic to his present plight.