Meet the Obama whiners. “They did it” is the new administration’s credo when things go wrong. Most often, the culprit for disappointment in Obama’s hope-and-change agenda remains George W. Bush — a sort of modern-day fallen angel Azael, whose wickedness is persistent and omnipresent.
Nine months after his departure, the former president insidiously still has his hand in almost everything that seems to plague Barack Obama’s utopian plans. At other times “the Republicans,” “the far Right,” “conservatives,” or even the “mob” have kept America from getting the future it deserves. One would never guess that the Democrats have held the Senate and the House since 2006, own the executive branch, and enjoy the support of the ever-obsequious media.
Instead, demons everywhere are busy at work to stall Obamism.
Civil-rights problems? “Cowards!” Attorney General Eric Holder yells at his countrymen. Energy stasis? “Teenagers!” we Americans are, Energy Secretary Steven Chu sermonizes about the ill-informed electorate. More problems with terrorists? The old bogeyman Bush created a “global war” mindset that served only to “validate al-Qaeda’s twisted worldview” — or so insists the new terrorism czar, John Brennan.
Persistent joblessness? It can only be the aftereffect of the Bush-induced financial panic of over a year ago — not past bipartisan criminality at Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, or present failed stimuli, or massive deficits, or the current climate of chronic uncertainty, given that business has no idea of the cost of promised high taxes to come, health-care reform to come, cap-and-trade to come, or anything else to come. We have forgotten that John Kerry ran in 2004 on the notion of a Bush-induced “jobless recovery” — when unemployment was at 5.4 percent, just a little more than half of what it is currently.
Obama’s signature health-care reform is being stalled by mob-like right-wing tea parties and town-hall racists who have mysteriously nullified Democratic majorities in Congress. Few fault Obama’s insane idea of outsourcing the reform bill to the Democratic House and Senate, which cobbled together an unreadable 1,000-page free-for-all spending mess at a time of a $2 trillion deficit.
The failure to charm Russia, denuclearize Iran, or commit to Afghanistan? All these problems likewise persist because of George W. Bush, who antagonized the misunderstood Putin, wanted to “wage war” against a troubled Ahmadinejad, and “took his eye off the ball” in regard to the “necessary war” against the Taliban. Even when we push the reset button, Bush still manages somehow to confound the new diplomacy and prevents the Russians from helping with a mysteriously stubborn Iran.
Supposedly outspoken generals like Stanley McChrystal are fouling up administration policies in Afghanistan, getting dangerously close to tipping the balance between civilian and military authority — not at all like the noble “revolt of the generals” during the Bush-era controversy over the surge, when dozens of high-ranking officers, present and past, took turns, candidly or stealthily, trashing the chief executive.
Obama jetted in to Copenhagen to lobby for a Chicago Olympics. He spent a little over an hour there. Both he and Michelle wowed Europeans with inspirational stories from their Chicago neighborhoods. Most of the anecdotes proved implausible or inane: Michelle sitting on her father’s knee (at 20?) watching Carl Lewis, or learning from her dad to throw a right hook (at a time when the world was watching YouTube snippets of a wild Chicago street slugfest). Obama found himself playing the role of a 19th-century Irish pol finagling for the home tribe — at a time when the natural consequence of his serial apologies and postmodern transnational rhetoric would be the selection of Rio as host to the 2016 games.
No matter. It was Bush who lost Chicago its sure-thing bid — literally, according to Illinois senator Roland Burris. He claimed that the judges were still angry at Bush’s America, rather than peeved that Europeans were being treated by Barack and Michelle almost like teeny-boppers at a Beatles concert who were supposed to weep in adulation and seek autographs.
State Rep. Susana Mendoza (D., Chicago) added, “I feel in my gut that this vote today was political and mean-spirited. I travel a lot. . . . I thought we had really turned a corner with the election of President Obama. People are so much more welcoming of Americans now. But this isn’t the people of those countries. This is the leaders still living with outdated impressions of Americans.”
The president unwisely boasted upon coming into office that he would close Guantanamo within a year. He apparently forgot that Bush had wanted to phase out the detention center since 2006, but faced a bad/worse choice of having to put unrepentant out-of-uniform terrorists somewhere else.
So when Obama soon discovered the same existential challenges that had plagued his predecessor, his administration immediately came up with a “Bush did it” excuse. Here is Obama’s Guantanamo czar, Greg Craig: “I thought there was, in fact, and I may have been wrong, a broad consensus about the importance to our national security objectives to close Guantanamo and how keeping Guantanamo open actually did damage to our national-security objectives.” Craig still has not fathomed that it was a Congress controlled by the Democrats that balked at the administration’s promise.
Throughout the campaign Barack Obama called for an end to the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays in the military. That won him ample support from the homosexual community. And now? The two Bush wars apparently prevent him from following through on that promise as well. The national-security adviser, Gen. James Jones, complains that there is “an awful lot on his desk. I know this is an issue that he intends to take on at the appropriate time.” Apparently we were not fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan when Obama made his grandiose campaign pledge.
There is a growing credibility problem with this young administration. When Barack Obama promises a public option in health-care reform, or the passage of such legislation before the August break, or a renewed commitment to the necessary war in Afghanistan, or an end to lobbyists in government, or a new transparency, no one believes any of it anymore. Even worse, we know that the broken promises and policy mishaps will always be someone else’s fault.
The problem with all this is that while Americans may tire of duplicity, they hate whining with a passion. Harry Truman became a folk hero for not blaming others for the myriad of crises that he inherited. In contrast, Barack Obama’s legacy is shaping up as “The Buck Passes Here.”
– NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.