The Corner

‘We Have a Right to Debate and Disagree with Any Administration’

The president yesterday complained that his opponents are licking their chops over bad news, and putting their partisanship over the collective good. This is normal politics, but still a little strange, given that Americans, well before the tight summer driving season, are right to be worried that gas might hit $5-a-gallon in a few months — in a climate in which pipelines are perceived to have been cancelled; oil leases frozen in Alaska, offshore, in the Gulf, and in the west; and members of the administration, including the president himself, in the past, are on record advocating such high energy prices as a means to diminish supposed man-made climate change and help promote alternate energies.

But such pique is even odder, given that such partisan politics are an Obama forte. He voted against raising the debt ceiling as a senator when the deficits were far less than his own have been. He filibustered the Alito and Bolton nominations, when there were not enough votes to stop their appointments — only to later criticize just that tactic as president. Ditto his recess-appointment turnabout. Short-term political advantage led him to subvert the public financing of presidential campaigns, the first candidate to ignore that liberal-inspired law in a general election.

Obama surely was seeking partisan advantage when he once declared that the critical surge in Iraq was not working, even as it was, and at a time when the surge needed critical support. He started his campaign in 2007 by grandly announcing plans for a withdrawal of all troops from Iraq by March 2008, and went on to damn Guantanamo, renditions, tribunals, etc. at a time when they all were providing critical advantages in stopping terrorists — as he later agreed after his election by adopting all the protocols that he once deemed injurious or unconstitutional. Was it for political advantage that he called a sitting president “unpatriotic” for borrowing at a rate of about a fourth of what Obama himself would later embrace? As I recall the political discourse just a few years ago, a “jobless recovery” in 2004 was defined as one of around 5.5 percent unemployment; Herbert Hoover was invoked to cite the “unprecedented” supposed loss of net jobs; spikes to $3-a-gallon gas were due to rapacious Halliburton oil men in the White House; and questioning the commander-in-chief was patriotic dissent (Hillary Clinton: “I am sick and tired of people who say that if you debate and you disagree with this administration, somehow you’re not patriotic, and we should stand up and say, ‘We are Americans and we have a right to debate and disagree with any administration.’”)

In an election year, it is traditional politics for incumbents to claim that things are better than what statistics indicate, and, in turn, for rivals to argue that they are worse. Obama knows all that — because he did both better than anyone between 2006–12. So spare us the whining and pontification, and maybe try spending less, and drilling more.

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