The Corner

A Record to Run On?

So far the Obama record is found in three areas: 

1) Economic. We were promised a post-September 2008 recovery. We got an economic plan of massive federal borrowing and spending (“stimulus”), massive new federal hiring, a federalized absorption of health care, and radically new regulation and intrusion into the private sector (from the GM bailout to attempting to stop Boeing from opening an additional factory in a right-to-work state). The result is largely hundreds of exemptions from Obamacare granted to corporations, businesses, and unions, 9+ percent unemployment, record numbers on food stamps and unemployment insurance, sky-high gasoline prices, record annual budget deficits, $5 trillion added in aggregate debt, low economic growth, a dismal housing market, and soaring food prices.

2) Reset Foreign Policy. We were promised a multilateral reset diplomacy. We got a national-security policy that has either rejected everything that legislator, senator, and presidential candidate Obama once professed to believe in or ran on (the closing of Guantanamo, curbing the Patriot Act, ending renditions, tribunals, preventative detention, and wiretaps, intercepts, accelerating the Petraeus-Bush plan of withdrawal from Iraq) or hit a dead end with new reset initiatives: the reach-out to Iran, the initial olive branch to the Assad thugocracy, the isolation of Israel, “lead from behind” strategy in the Middle East, trying KSM in New York, and the frostiness to old European allies. Our national approval ratings abroad are little higher than during the Bush administration, and the attitude of a China, India, or Russia to the U.S. is unchanged or worse.

3) The New Civility and Morality. We were promised a new ethos of civility and no-more-red/blue-state divisiveness. In fact, U.S. society has never been more polarized. The beer summit, “punish your enemies,” sit in the backseat, limb-lopping and tonsil-ripping-out doctors, “my people,” cowards, wise Latina, the Van Jones silliness, arresting kids on the way to ice cream, suing Arizona, tea-”baggers” — all that demagoguery and more is trivial in isolation, but in the 28-month aggregate has created an image of a petulant Obama administration as us/them, highlighted by press restrictions on and punishments of any journalists found less than obsequious. And when we factor in the tax problems of Obama cabinet officials and nominees — Geithner, Solis, Holder, Daschle — the record number of golf outings, the revolving-door careers of those like a Peter Orszag, and the quietly dropped ban on lobbyists, there is at best mostly the same old, same old D.C. insider game, or at worst a new petulance and intolerance for dissent.

What is left then of the Obama legacy so far? Killing bin Laden, planned ending of “don’t ask, don’t tell” (whose consequences we have not yet experienced), abandonment of enforcement of the Defense of Marriage Act, quintupling Bush’s Predator-drone targeted assassination program, and not much else.

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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