Politics & Policy

The Obama Administration’s Chicago Politics

(Alex Wong/Getty)
“If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun.”

Barack Obama is the first American president from Chicago. That fact will be the trailblazing Obama’s most lasting legacy.

Chicago has long been stereotyped as a city where any-means-necessary politics have ruled, and where excess is preferable to moderation. Convicted felon Tony Rezko, leftist extremists Reverend Jeremiah Wright and Father Michael Pfleger, radical Bill Ayers, Saul Alinsky’s take-no-prisoners Rules for Radicals, felon and former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich — all these were part of Barack Obama’s Chicago tutelage. Chicagoan Rahm Emanuel’s infamous adage — “You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that, it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before” — was the unofficial motto of the Obama administration’s efforts to grow government, up-regulate, and borrow immense sums — measures impossible without a climate of induced panic and fear.

Director Brian De Palma’s 1987 film The Untouchables rejuvenated Chicago’s reputation for muscle over niceties. The film dramatized Chicago’s institutionalized bribery and corruption during the effort to bring down Roaring Twenties mobster Al Capone. Screenwriter David Mamet famously had characters brag of “the Chicago way.” On more than one occasion, a cop advised: “They pull a knife, you pull a gun.” Gun-control advocate and Chicagoan Barack Obama made waves in his 2008 presidential run when he echoed the film’s advice to a Philadelphia audience. He joked of what his campaign might do to his rival, John McCain: “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun.” Obama exemplified the Chicago stereotype of how to get business done when, that same campaign year, he advised his followers to confront their political opponents: “I want you to argue with them and get in their face.”

“Chicago politics” seems a common denominator in serial scandals involving political bias, cronyism, and incompetence at the VA, IRS, DHS, ICE, NSA, Secret Service, and, most recently, Office of Personnel Management. The NSA’s monitoring of the Associated Press journalists fit perfectly the Chicago stereotype, which often involves two prime characteristics: sending a message to political opponents that the power of government can be unleashed against unwise criticism, and using off-the record understandings and under-the-table sweeteners to close a deal.

RELATED: Obama’s Chicago Presidency

Obama has been not just voicing Chicago clichés, but apparently living them. Was it just a coincidence that, right before the 2012 election, amateur video-maker Nakoula Basseley Nakoula found himself put in prison for a minor parole violation? The administration had falsely blamed Nakoula’s little-watched video — rather than an al-Qaeda affiliate and the administration’s own lax security — as the cause of the lethal attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya. The public shrugged at the jailing of the distasteful Nakoula, as if the hounding of an American resident on a trumped-up charge to mask the culpability of the White House were a minor affair.

Was it just a coincidence that Senator Bob Menendez (D., N.J.) in April suddenly found himself indicted by a federal attorney on three-year-old, and previously aired, charges — right after he voiced sharp criticism of the administration’s ongoing Iran deal? Was the not-so-subtle message to congressional Democrats, “Don’t buck the administration if you know what’s good for you”?

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Speaking of Iran, why is the administration suddenly talking of releasing master spy and traitor Jonathan Pollard ahead of his parole date? Pollard has served 27 years of a life sentence for spying for Israel. Previously, the Obama administration would not even let Pollard visit his dying father. Is administration talk of Pollard’s early release designed as a sop to Israel over the Iran deal — a supposed way to cool Israel’s loud opposition, which might threaten congressional ratification of the deal? In Chicago fashion, when a deal is stuck, you add extraneous sweeteners or punishments to move it along.

What are the recently exposed “side deals” with Iran? Why does the administration brag about the transparent provisions of the treaty, while hiding two concessions to the Iranian theocracy concerning its ongoing uranium enrichment and areas off-limits to inspections?

During Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, the Tea Party likewise learned about the Chicago way. At the high-water mark of that populist conservative movement, suddenly many Tea Party affiliates ran into trouble with the IRS. It was later found out — well after Obama’s reelection — that IRS bureaucrat Lois Lerner had deliberately targeted conservative nonprofits on the basis of their politics. At the time, Obama feigned outrage. But more recently, he dropped that pretense and scoffed that Lerner’s politicization of the IRS was due only to a “crummy” law — and Republican cuts in the IRS budget. In other words, the Republicans were to blame for Lerner’s hounding of themselves.

RELATED: The Many Lies Paving the Way to Obama’s Legacy

We forget that politicizing the IRS worked, in the sense that on the eve of Obama’s reelection lots of conservative groups were deflated. More important, Obama subsequently established the deterrent idea that opposition to him might earn audits for his critics. Or, as Obama joked in Chicago fashion when denied an honorary degree from Arizona State, “President [Michael] Crowe and the Board of Regents will soon learn all about being audited by the IRS.”

The Obama administration is now fishing for some way to shut down the Guantanamo detention center, after six years of failing to persuade or browbeat Congress to do so. It suddenly complains of the excessive cost of running the facility — this worry over budgeting from an administration that will leave office having doubled the federal debt, and having borrowed more than all previous presidencies combined.

Hillary should beware: Obama has a long Chicago memory, and as an unfettered lame duck he no longer worries about polls or national elections.

There has been bad blood between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama ever since their acrimonious 2008 nomination fight. Hillary should beware: Obama has a long Chicago memory, and as an unfettered lame duck he no longer worries about polls or national elections. Coincidentally, Hillary just learned that federal officials are once again looking into her private e-mail mess and her possible release of classified information to friends and associates. She should remember what happened to General David Petraeus, whose use of private e-mails and sharing of classified documents were apparently known to the Obama administration well before the 2012 election — but mattered more opportunely after the Obama victory, when it led to Petraeus’s resignation and eventual guilty plea to a federal charge of unauthorized removal and retention of classified information. In Chicago style, the sword of Damocles falls when the boss chooses.

#related#Even more curious, as Stanley Kurtz has pointed out, the Obama administration is apparently going ahead with its bizarre plan to force elite suburbs to diversify and become more racially proportionate under federal guidance (certain tony enclaves like Oprah’s Montecito or Silicon Valley’s Woodside will no doubt be exempt). Disbursements of federal money will apparently be used to alter zoning laws in wealthier areas, with the purpose of granting access to the underprivileged. Guess which exclusive enclave the Obama administration tried targeting first?

Westchester, N.Y. – home to Hillary Clinton. Pettiness too is a Chicago presidential trait.

Victor Davis Hanson — NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won.

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