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National Review / Digital
Those Who Can’t, Govern


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For much of last year, a standard trope of President Obama’s speechwriters was that there were certain things only government could do. “That’s how we built this country — together,” he declared. “We constructed railroads and highways, the Hoover Dam and the Golden Gate Bridge. We did those things together.” As some of us pointed out, for the cost of Obama’s 2009 stimulus bill alone, you could have built 1,567 Golden Gate Bridges — or one mega–Golden Gate Bridge stretching from Boston to just off the coast of Ireland. Yet there isn’t a single bridge, or a single dam (“You will never see another federal dam,” his assistant secretary of the interior assured an audience of environmentalists). Across the land, there was not a thing for doting network correspondents in hard hats to stand in front of and say, “Obama built this.”

Until now, that is. Obamacare is as close to a Hoover Dam as latter-day Big Government gets. Which is why its catastrophic launch is sobering even for those of us who’ve been saying for five years it would be a disaster. It’s as if at the ribbon-cutting the Hoover Dam cracked open and washed away the dignitaries; as if the Golden Gate Bridge was opened to traffic with its central span missing; as if Apollo 11 had taken off for the moon but landed on Newfoundland. Obama didn’t have to build a dam or a bridge or a spaceship, just a database and a website. This is his world, the guys he hangs with, the zeitgeist he surfs so dazzlingly, Apple and Google, apps and downloads. But his website’s a sclerotic dump, and the database is a hacker’s heaven, and all that’s left is the remorseless snail mail of millions and millions of cancellation letters.


Contents
November 25, 2013    |     Volume LXV, No. 22

Articles
  • Our drift toward an imperial presidency.
  • Can he make it on the national level?
  • The scandal of Americans’ Third World net worth.
  • Thoughts on the use and abuse of ‘establishment.’
  • A report from Professor Hobsbawm’s memorial service.
Features
Books, Arts & Manners
  • James Rosen reviews The Kennedy Half-Century: The Presidency, Assassination, and Lasting Legacy of John F. Kennedy, by Larry J. Sabato, End of Days: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy, by James L. Swanson, and The Interloper: Lee Harvey Oswald Inside the Soviet Union, by Peter Savodnik.
  • James Piereson reviews JFK, Conservative, by Ira Stoll.
  • Ramesh Ponnuru reviews Abuse of Discretion: The Inside Story of Roe v. Wade, by Clarke D. Forsythe.
  • Thomas S. Hibbs reviews Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington, by Terry Teachout.
  • Ross Douthat reviews 12 Years a Slave.
Sections
The Long View  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Athwart  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Poetry  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Happy Warrior  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .