Peggy Noonan calls it government by “freakout.” You might consider it brinksmanship. It’s classic Obama; leadership by demagoguery.
By now, we all know the script only too well.
Threaten the populace with a calamity to end all calamities.
Insist that the only way to avert it is to give him what he wants.
Gin up public sentiment against those who would, by denying him what he wants, precipitate Armageddon.
Watch his opponents submit to his will.
Pat himself on the back for a job well done.
What does Obama want? Jonah Goldberg says that Obama wants more tax increases:
Obama wants more tax hikes and thinks he can convince the country to accept them if the choice is between what he calls reasonable revenue increases and catastrophic cuts that will let people die in the streets, leave children to go hungry and illiterate, and allow poisoned food to sit rancid on supermarket shelves.
I agree, but only up to a point. It is more likely that Obama wants, above all else, to get his way. He wants to assert his authority over the opposition. He does not care to compromise or negotiate, because he does not know how. He wants to impose his will on his opponents because that is the only way he can feel like he is really in charge.
It is a portrait of the modern demagogue. By now, however, Obama’s sounding like the boy who cried wolf… once too often. Even if the looming sequester is a calamity, Obama is no longer a credible Paul Revere.
White House threats about sequestration sound more and more hollow. Peggy Noonan offers some mild ridicule:
Seven hundred thousand children will be dropped from Head Start. Six hundred thousand women and children will be dropped from aid programs. Meat won't be inspected. Seven thousand TSA workers will be laid off, customs workers too, and air traffic controllers. Lines at airports will be impossible. The Navy will slow down the building of an aircraft carrier. Troop readiness will be disrupted, weapons programs slowed or stalled, civilian contractors stiffed, uniformed first responders cut back. Our nuclear deterrent will be indefinitely suspended. Ha, made that one up, but give them time.
Jonah Goldberg offers a more biting satire:
We are just days away from a cataclysm of biblical proportions. The cuts foretold in the Budget Control Act of 2011 are young as far as prophecies go, but apparently they are every bit as terrifying as rivers of blood and plagues of locusts. Any day now we can expect White House spokesman Jay Carney to take to the podium and read a prepared statement: “And when he opened the seventh seal, there was a small decrease in the rate of increase in federal spending.”
Obviously, there comes a time in everyone’s life when he has to take a stand. Is now the time for Republicans to stand up to Obama?
Bullies and demagogues have this in common. They can never be placated by a single victory. Submit once and they will never let up until you submit again and again.
Obviously, the administration has important cards to play on sequestration. It will cut the services that are most visible and most vital. When something bad happens, as it will be hoping and expecting, it will blame Republicans. Its flunkies in the mainstream media will tar and feather the Republicans for whatever goes wrong, regardless of whether it has anything to do with sequester.
Goldberg summarizes the situation:
If an agency has a billion-dollar budget and someone proposes cutting a dollar from its scheduled increase in funding, that dollar will be the one earmarked for the screw needed to keep a bridge from collapsing on a grade school’s Thanksgiving parade.
The GOP will probably lose the public-relations battle over the sequester, because that’s the Republicans’ job in the age of Obama. A U.S. ambassador is murdered in a terrorist attack the administration ineptly responded to — and blamed on a video — but the only real story is that Republicans are so crazy, they want to know what happened. The president nominates a middle-brow pol to run the Defense Department, one who must recant all of his well-known views in order to get the job, and the story is how irrational the GOP is for caring. If the White House dispatched a drone to circle Boehner’s home, the front-page story in the New York Times would be on the speaker’s troubling paranoia.
On the other side, Republicans are not providing a plausible counterforce to the Obama juggernaut. The most recent election was a Republican debacle and what remains of the party does not inspire confidence.
Noonan describes the showdown in terms that are none too flattering to the Republicans:
… Mr. Obama thrives in chaos. He flourishes in unsettled circumstances and grooves on his own calm. He spins an air of calamity, points fingers and garners support. His only opponent is a hapless, hydra-headed House. America has a weakness for winners, and Republicans just now do not look like winners. They have many voices but no real voice, and no one saying anything that makes you stop and think. Mr. Obama, on the other hand, is a singular character who tells you in measured tones that we must have measured answers. Half the country finds his politics to be too much to one side, but his temperament is not extreme and he often looks reasonable. With this gift he ties his foes in knots to get what he wants, which is higher taxes. He wants the rich to pay more and those he judges to be in need to receive more. End of story. Debt and deficits don't interest him, except to the extent he must give them lip service.
You cannot fight something with nothing. The last Republican standard-bearer turned out to be a consultant-driven empty suit. Now, with the Republican party in tatters, largely because he performed so poorly, Mitt Romney is going to step back on the political stage by giving a speech at CPAC. Hasn’t he tarnished the Republican brand enough already?
Ever the optimist, Noonan explains wistfully that Obama is overplaying his hand and is doomed to fail. If she is right, the Republican Party can only profit if it speaks with one voice and defines itself as a plausible alternative.
But, how can the party speak with one voice when it could not perform the most elementary of political tasks: offering a single reply to the president’s State of the Union address.
Rand Paul may believe that he is standing up for principle, but he has shown a lot more vainglory than principle. He seems not to understand Benjamin Franklin’s basic principle: “We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”