The Obama administration’s real problem is existential: What if it gets what it wants, but then finds that either it or the country really is uncomfortable with what it got?
Take energy. We were long ago lectured by hot-house administration plants, including the president himself, about the desirability of high-cost energy in curbing fossil-fuel use and making subsidized wind and solar power and electric transportation competitive. By midsummer, the technocrats may get their wish with $5 or even $6-a-gallon gas (not quite as high as Secretary Chu may once have wanted). Will they say, “But $7 or $8 would have been more truly European”?
And if we were to go back to the “Clinton tax rates” as the president repeats as a daily mantra, then what? The deficit would not drastically be cut, given the huge rates of borrowing, and the budget would not even come close to being balanced. Would the president then come back with, “We need to raise taxes a lot more than just those pay-your-fair-share Clinton-era rates”?
And Obamacare? Once it passed, there were new taxes leveled to pay for it; health-care premiums are rising; the latest squabble with the Catholic Church reminds us that few Americans had any idea about what was in the 2,000-plus-page bill; and soon Medicare will be trimmed to pay for it. In reaction, will the administration say, “We need a truly comprehensive Obamacare II bill?” or “Next round we will offer you a single-payer plan”? or “We had too little government control the first time around”?
Abroad, what comes after “reset” and “outreach”? Outreach 2.0 in which we issue another four to five deadlines to Iran? Reset 1A in which we reapproach Putin from a different direction, or reopen again the reopened and reclosed embassy in Damascus? Leading from way, way behind?
What comes after “the most transparent” administration in history? No more super PACs or a return to public financing of campaigns — in 2016? The revolving door for only ten departing officials, but not 15? Will there be post-class-warfare with fatter cats, corporate-jet fleet owners, “the 10 percenters,” and lots of points at which you need to stop making money? Alligators, moats — and piranhas? Punish all of our enemies?