Oh, there is no case for Obama, rational or otherwise. That is not to say that he doesn’t have a formula that will attract many votes – he does – but one is hard pressed to formulate cogent arguments why his failed presidency should be carried forward for another four years. He himself seems to realize this, and focuses his speeches on vitriolic distortions of his opponent’s personality and record and scant references to his own achievements in office. It is a strategy dependent on casting so much mud that Mitt Romney looks entirely soiled, and as filthy as the incumbent, in which case the incumbent wins by default.
There is an irony in the agonizing and hypocritical lament about “negative campaigning.” A clear distinction should be made between an accusation that “Romney killed a woman!” who got cancer after her husband lost his job when his business closed (long after Romney left Bain, but what does it matter, and what real relevance does that have anyway) and the contention that unemployment has been over 8% for 42 straight months, that almost 50,000,000 Americans receive food stamps (an increase of more than 20,000,000 since Obama took office), or that the poverty rate in America is the highest since the Depression. Those facts are “negative,” but they go to the heart of the Obama incompetence that is the reason for his failures. Obama’s attack ads are personal; Romney’s attack ads are about business – the business of government.
The failures are evident, and many Obama assertions are markedly laughable. The persistent claim that “we have created 4.2 million private sector jobs” does not withstand scrutiny, and not only because more private sector jobs have still been lost under Obama than found. It is risible primarily because the federal government – i.e., Obama – has not created even one private sector job. If a law firm hires another lawyer, if our shul hires a secretary, did Obama create that job ? If a person opens a store and hires workers, did the federal government create that job? Of course not. The federal government creates public sector jobs by hiring more employees at taxpayer expense, whether or not they are productive, and facilitates the creation of private sector jobs by offering tax incentives to businesses to expand and hire more people. Has that been done? Not to any great extent, and even those tax incentives have been offset by the concern among private businesses of the long term economic impact of Obamacare.
That is why the ludicrous category of “jobs saved” was invented. All that meant is that the federal government borrowed or printed money to supply to municipalities to pay public employees that those communities could no longer afford or did not need, just in order to keep them on the payroll. Thus, “jobs saved.” Of course, those same jobs were then lost a year or so later when the federal money dried up, but nonetheless, the statistic remains on the books: a “job saved”.
Indeed, almost any assertion of success by this administration should be analyzed carefully and skeptically. Take the claim that oil and gas production has increased under Obama. All true, even notwithstanding the denial of permits in the Gulf of Mexico or Alaska and the reluctance to approve the Keystone pipeline that would create jobs and lower the price of gasoline (which has doubled under Obama’s watch). It is true but misleading. Production has increased despite Obama, not because of Obama. The increase is entirely due to the increased capacity and investment of private business, and drilling where federal permits are not required. Wherever federal permits have been required, Obama has mostly rejected them. Yet, he claims credit for the success of private enterprise that he has failed to smother. Shameless.
This brazen boastfulness is a consistent pattern. Liberal Jews who would rather eat on Yom Kippur than vote for a Republican (actually, they probably eat on Yom Kippur too) are contorting themselves like Olympic gymnasts to find reasons to support Obama and to prettify his record on Israel. One note constantly sounded is Obama’s record financial support for Iron Dome, the missile shield that offers partial protection against Arab rockets. Again, all true, in a sense. The full truth is that Obama administration has for the last two years suggested cuts in Iron Dome funding – drastic cuts that would have gutted the program. The money was restored by Congress – on a bi-partisan basis, with large credit due to our outgoing Congressman Steve Rothman (D). Yes, Obama eventually signed that bill – but to claim credit for record funding of a program that you tried to cut and were coerced into supporting? It is shameless.
Thus, on the economy, Obama is left with two basic assertions: one, he “inherited a mess, the worst… blah, blah, blah.” As I recall, Ronald Reagan inherited a misery index of more than 20% (inflation plus interest rates) and unemployment near 10%. President Bush (Jr.) inherited a recession as well. They ran for office successfully to overcome their predecessors’ shortcomings, or at least to solve leftover problems. Every president is in a similar position. There are always problems to solve. But none of them embraced “blame the prior president” as a permanent mode of governance. In some respects – unemployment, real personal income and poverty – things are worse now than under Bush, and due entirely to Obama’s policies. Which leads to the second assertion: “we averted a catastrophe…things would have been worse but for Obama’s leadership.” Really? How do we know that? What is the metric used to determine what would have happened – if some auto companies were allowed to enter bankruptcy, if some banks were allowed to fail? Maybe the economy would be better today – if not for Obamacare, or the five trillion (!) dollars of federal debt accumulated in just under four years, if not for regulations that are stifling business and creativity.
Neither assertion holds any substance, but not that it matters. The Obama re-election strategy is focused on class warfare – the appeals to different and disparate groups. This is classic Democrat strategy going back to FDR’s time. The hope is that a coalition of blacks, Jews, public employees, liberal women, environmentalists, and now Hispanics will be sufficient to give an electoral majority, even if – especially since – there is no coherent policy that united those groups. Every small group gets what it wants, in the hope that provides a majority that wins – even if the winners cannot then govern or lead in any meaningful or successful way. Add to that group the tens of millions of people now nourished by government money – sadly embracing a life of permanent dependence – and that might be enough, although I sense that it will fall short.
The most critical component in such a plan is to keep each group angry – blacks (against the rich white man who exploits and doesn’t pay his “fair share;” expect the racist card to be played in October and liberal white guilt to be stoked accordingly); federal employees (jobs lost); liberal women (birth control will be taken away and abortion banned); environmentalists (the evil conservatives want to ruin nature and are atheists in the religion of “global warming);” and Hispanics (Republicans want to send you all back to Mexico, even if you’re from Puerto Rico). And Jews? There is no logical reason for Jews to vote for Obama, nor for Democrats even to overtly make an appeal to the Jewish vote. Sadly, it is what Jews do, unthinkingly, since FDR’s time, because, I suppose, Roosevelt was such a god friend of the Jews and made the rescue of Jews during the Holocaust his priority. Sure. Since there is no rational reason for Jews to vote for Obama, there is no necessity to reason with them to vote against Obama. Voting Democrat is a passion, and not subject to reasoned discourse.
It is the appeal to anger that is the most disheartening aspect of the Obama campaign and the primary reason for the negative tone in the campaign. People who are angry go out to vote, but their anger is not assuaged after the election. Was there an angry word even uttered at the Republican Convention ? Not that I heard. Mitt Romney’s essential cheerfulness must grate on the Obamanikim.
In foreign affairs, Obama’s primary failing is that America’s role as leader of the free world has been diminished. This has grave ramifications across the globe. US troops left Iraq, still the locus of weekly massacres, but a Republican president would have done the same in a matter of months. The war in Afghanistan (Obama’s good war) does not appear to be headed for a happy ending. The Taliban is re-asserting control (even murdering 17 people last week for attending a musical concert) and the date of US departure is fast approaching. (Certainly credit is due President Obama for personally executing bin Laden, dumping his body at sea, and returning to DC in time to pose for pictures and reveal classified information about it.) Russia and China are ascendant, and more powerful and influential than in decades.
The deference to the UN has marked America’s retreat from global leadership, the Arab world is rapidly radicalizing with no US response noticeable, Iran laughs at talk of sanctions and merrily nears its nuclear bomb – and Romney’s reference to Israel being thrown “under the bus” chides Obama for forcing Israel to deal with Iran on its own. America’s foes are derisive of Obama, and America’s traditional allies feel abandoned. Foreign policy has been a parade of failures because Obama sees success in the accomplishment of certain definable acts (e.g., withdrawal) but not in the projection of US power, interests, or values. Short term goals have replaced long term interests.
Obama entered office less prepared for the presidency than any president in history – less accomplished, less skilled, and less able. It shows. A presidency that has failed domestically and abroad is a failure; its continuation will be a calamity. It might happen because the electoral strategy is logical, if repugnant – the cultivation of anger, the shifting of blame, the resort to innuendo, diversions, race, guilt and class warfare.
Of course, there is another side – the virtues of Mitt Romney. That is for another time.