The Corner

Obama vs. Obama

The president gave the sort of scare speech he not long ago warned against, and blasted the income-tax rates he not long ago agreed were necessary — in a context in which he has just presented a budget with a $1.6 trillion deficit of the sort he now says is unsustainable, and has warned about recklessly voting against raising the debt ceiling in a fashion that he himself had once done, in a larger landscape in which he had once damned attacking Middle East countries in optional wars, Guantanamo, renditions, tribunals, preventative detention, intercepts, wiretaps, Predators, and leaving troops in Iraq, and then embraced or expanded all that and more (this list is infinite and includes everything from drilling to campaign financing to earmarks).

These weird about-faces raise interesting questions that transcend the current politics of the deficit:

a) Has Obama in his past careers never been called to account and so reached a point where simply being Obama means that we are not supposed to apply standards of accuracy, memory, and consistency to him in the way we do to all others?

b) Or does an absent-minded Obama carelessly make up things up ad hoc as he goes along, forgetting what he said earlier, but secure that his hope-and-change delivery of the moment will so mesmerize the audience that no one will remember or care if at times he ends up saying exactly the opposite of what he had said earlier?

c) Or is he so blatantly partisan a politician that he has no principles at all and knowingly says things that are aimed at appealing to 51 percent of the public at any given moment, and therefore will always change with public opinion?

d) Or is he so cynical that he understands campaign rhetoric has nothing to do with actual governance, and so he is allowed to say something that he knows in advance that he is not bound to follow?

e) Or is he so bored with the trying job that he feels no responsibility to offer reliable, consistent governance, and so rashly throws things out and then hastens back to the more enjoyable PR aspects of the office?

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.

Most Popular



For your amusement, I hope, I’ve done a Jaywalking episode. It begins with a bit of the overture to Semiramide -- a Rossini opera I reviewed from the Met last week. Then I get into Russia and, after a while, China. The Marriott company fired an employee for “liking” a tweet by a Tibetan independence group. ... Read More

Campaigns for World Down Syndrome Day Go Viral

As World Down Syndrome Day approaches on Wednesday, several campaigns supporting those with the condition have taken over the Internet. Fifty mothers of children with the condition put together a viral video of them and their children singing along in the car. The video helped the children and their mothers ... Read More

Viva l’Italia?

Italy has just had elections, with very interesting results. I wanted to talk with Alberto Mingardi, which I have. He is one of the leading classical liberals in Italy -- the director general of the Bruno Leoni Institute, in Milan. (Mingardi himself is Milanese.) He is also an authority in arts and letters. In ... Read More

Putin and the Cult of Leadership

On Sunday, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin won an unsurprising reelection-campaign victory against Communist Party candidate Pavel Grudinin, by a margin of 76.7 percent to 11.8 percent. The results were unsurprising because Putin is a tyrant who murders or imprisons political rivals, and who isn’t afraid to use ... Read More

Trump and Brexit Derangement Syndrome

I am not one of those Brexiteers who believe that Brexit and Trumpism are essentially the same phenomenon in two different countries. To be sure, they both draw on some of the same political trends, notably a distrust of elites and an upsurge of popular anger over evident failures of public policy such as illegal ... Read More