Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Obama's Long Goodbye

Rarely has America elected a man as unqualified as Barack Obama to the office of the presidency. Last night, Obama offered his last State of the Union address. Therein he declared that America had never had it better and that everything was great.

Surely, there is evidence that demonstrates the point. You can always cherry-pick data to prove a point. And yet, one suspects that a president who governs by executive fiat believes that if he says his presidency was a success it was a success.

While it is true that the economy has been creating jobs at a steady clip for six years now, it is also true that we are living through the most anemic recovery since the Great Depression. Moreover, it was widely reported yesterday that 93% of America’s counties have not fully recovered from the recession.

This, from yesterday’s Wall Street Journal:

More than six years after the economic expansion began, 93% of counties in the U.S. have failed to fully recover from the blow they suffered during the recession.

Nationwide, 214 counties, or 7% of 3,069, had recovered last year to prerecession levels on four indicators: total employment, the unemployment rate, size of the economy and home values, a study from the National Association of Counties released Tuesday found.

People who believe that the economy has not fully recovered are not delusional. As for the other supposed achievements of the Obama presidency, recent polls have shown that a significant majority of Americans believe that the Obama presidency has been a failure on all major issues.

Obama is having none of it. Last night he told us that ISIS is more an irritation than a problem. He neglected to mention the serial humiliations that Iran has been visiting on us, up to and including yesterday’s seizure of two American naval vessels. He declared that Gitmo was a recruitment “brochure,” that Joe Biden was going to cure cancer and that our most serious problems are climate change and Islamophobia.

Obama does not know what is going on in the world and does not know that he doesn’t know. He does not know what to do, so he just pronounces his presidency to be a great success and assumes that if he says it it’s true. When it comes to world affairs, his has been a do-nothing presidency.

As for the risible claim that America has more standing in the world under his presidency, the truth is that, as is commonly stated, our friends no longer trust us and our enemies no longer fear us. Alliances throughout the world are shifting in the direction of Russia and China because Obama has abrogated American leadership.

ISIS might not be an immediate existential threat to America, though thanks to Obama, Iran and ISIS together now pose a far greater existential threat to Israel. About that, Obama does not care.

Surely, Europe is facing an existential threat from ISIS and other Islamist terrorists. European women are now confronting the reality that they can no longer go out alone at night. Islamic refugees have brought rape culture to Europe. Obama has nothing to say about the victims of such sexual assaults. He wants more Syrian and other Muslim refugees to enter America. Why should American women miss out on the fun?

How bad was it in Cologne on New Year’s Eve. For the record, and for those who like to have objective information, the Daily Mail has printed the police reports from the recent gang assaults on women in Cologne. As Lizzie Crocker once said: God bless the Daily Mail.

The reports themselves are too extensive for a blog post, but here is the opening:

Police notes taken by officers at the New Year's Eve Cologne sex attacks reveal the full, horrific detail of how women were groped, sexually assaulted, robbed and raped at the hands of a vicious sex mob.

Over 500 women were attacked by baying groups of immigrant men in a free-for-all of humiliation and degradation which overwhelmed officers and at a stroke undermined Germany's vaunted role as protector of refugees from war and terror.

Disturbing reports are recorded in the terse argot of police officers - but leave no room for misinterpretation.

Obviously, it takes some foresight to see that it could happen here. But, that would require a vision that extends beyond the next year. Obama is convinced that ISIS will not mount a serious security threat during his presidency. About the rest, he simply does not care.

About recruitment brochures, Obama ought to know that same-sex marriage, transgender restrooms and Bill Clinton’s decadence also show up in ISIS recruitment brochures. Of course, the current leading recruitment brochure is the weak and feckless Obama presidency.

Lest you imagine that I am being overly negative, I will cite two excellent paragraphs from the president’s speech. In them, Obama notes the fact under his leadership American politics has become more divisive and rancorous, thus that it has become impossible to accomplish anything except by an extra-constitutional executive fiat. Obama notes correctly that the problem lies in his inability to bridge the partisan gap. Let’s call it rank incompetence.

He said:

But democracy does require basic bonds of trust between its citizens. It doesn’t work if we think the people who disagree with us are all motivated by malice, or that our political opponents are unpatriotic. Democracy grinds to a halt without a willingness to compromise; or when even basic facts are contested, and we listen only to those who agree with us. Our public life withers when only the most extreme voices get attention. Most of all, democracy breaks down when the average person feels their voice doesn’t matter; that the system is rigged in favor of the rich or the powerful or some narrow interest.

Too many Americans feel that way right now. It’s one of the few regrets of my presidencythat the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better. There’s no doubt a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide, and I guarantee I’ll keep trying to be better so long as I hold this office.

One finds it peculiar that Obama cites Lincoln and Roosevelt, neither of whom was notably conciliatory. And, they both presided over and won major wars. For his part, Obama brags constantly about his being, as another president said, too proud to fight.

If American morale has been declining during the Obama years, the reason is that Obama has projected weakness around the world. He seems most proud of his willingness to surrender, to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Last night he denounced Republican politicians for wanting to bomb civilians—as though you can fight ISIS without hurting any civilians.

When you lose a war your people will become sullen and discontented. It is not the most difficult thing to understand.

Obama is quite correct to note that he has been unwilling to compromise with Republicans. He is correct to note that he has demonized the opposition and has been willing to ignore the will of the people as expressed by the people’s representatives in Congress.

After having spent seven years blaming Republicans for everything that went wrong in his presidency, it is nice to see him even pay lip service to the fact that he bore the responsibility for the bitterness and recrimination that defined the mood of the national conversation.

He might also have mentioned his propensity to lie to the American people, to lie about whatever he felt like lying about and for never apologizing for the lies.

The truth is, the presidency is an extremely difficult job. It requires considerable knowledge and experience. You do not gain the relevant experience by spending two decades soaking up the vitriol and the ideological swill of Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Barack Obama was never up to the job. When America elected Barack Obama it was blinding itself to the obvious, to the obviously unqualified candidate. America decided to roll the dice with Barack Obama. It was a bad bet. We will be paying for it for quite some time.

6 comments:

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

93% of counties show where President Obama has dedicated his energy.

He has directed his policies to serve urban populations, especially metropolitan Washington, D.C. This comes at the expense of the vast geography of our country, and specifically the areas between the two coastal states, save Chicago. The urban poor get entitlements, urban employers get subsidies, urban hipsters get to congratulate themselves (and President Obama), and the urban elites -- the rich Obama and the Democrats constantly decry -- get richer. Not that getting rich is a problem, but it is a problem when it's brought to you by Democrats who wail and lament, while advancing crony policies for the financial sector. If the Clinton Foundation donation scheme shows nothing else, it shows that major financial interests know where to dedicate their lobbying dollars. Indeed, the FEC Democrat donation trail is telling. This need not be illegal or bad, just instructive.

Obama's core constituency is urban. As much as the big map of the country looks red, the close-ups on the urban centers are navy blue. This is not necessarily surprising, nor is it wrong. Mostly political figures reward those who support them, and ignore those who don't. Yet POTUS is supposed to represent all the people, not act with the narrow interests of a legislator. Perhaps this is the consequence of the "big data" voter profiling. Whatever the case, Obama has promised hope and change to the urban dweller, not the person in flyover country. And the results are not pretty, as St. Louis, Baltimore and Chicago have proven.

I suspect things will improve when we confiscate the firearms owned by those in 93% of the counties that have not recovered. And sadly, I would not be surprised if Josh Earnest said that from the White House podium. The demagoguery and cynicism of this Administration is unmatched.

Ares Olympus said...

Stuart: He might also have mentioned his propensity to lie to the American people, to lie about whatever he felt like lying about and for never apologizing for the lies.

I wonder if Obama lies frequently, although there are many sorts of lies, and its never clear how you apologize and to whom, or whether "I'm sorry I got caught" counts as proper remorse.

What does Politifact say of his 7 years as president?
http://www.politifact.com/personalities/barack-obama/
-------- 75% at least half true
True 120 (21%)
Mostly True 155 (27%)
Half True 153 (27%)
---
Mostly False 67 (12%)
False 70 (12%)
Pants on Fire 9 (2%)
--------

And how does that compare to the GOP's Darling emperor in training?
http://www.politifact.com/personalities/donald-trump/
------------ 23% at least half true
True 1 (1%)
Mostly True 5 (6%)
Half True 13 (16%)
---
Mostly False 13 (16%)
False 32 (40%)
Pants on Fire 17 (21%)
------------

Or Ted Cruz, the guy who might just win the Iowa Caucus next month?
http://www.politifact.com/personalities/ted-cruz/
---------- 32% at least half true
True 3 (4%)
Mostly True 12 (17%)
Half True 8 (11%)
--
Mostly False 21 (29%)
False 24 (33%)
Pants on Fire 4 (6%)
----------

And Rubio looks more honest, indeed!
http://www.politifact.com/personalities/marco-rubio/
--------- 59% at least half true
True 17 (14%)
Mostly True 28 (23%)
Half True 28 (23%)
---
Mostly False 29 (24%)
False 18 (15%)
Pants on Fire 2 (2%)
---------

And while we're here, what about the Democrat's candidates?

http://www.politifact.com/personalities/hillary-clinton/
------------ 71% at least half true
True 39 (27%)
Mostly True 34 (24%)
Half True 29 (20%)
---
Mostly False 23 (16%)
False 16 (11%)
Pants on Fire 2 (1%)
------------

And Bernie:
http://www.politifact.com/personalities/bernie-s/
-------- 71% at least half true, although not as many checks as Hillary
True 9 (20%)
Mostly True 15 (33%)
Half True 8 (18%)
---
Mostly False 7 (16%)
False 6 (13%)
Pants on Fire 0
--------

Of course statistics like this can be deceptive. If you fact-checked whether Trump pronounced Obama's name correctly every time, you could raise his stats up significantly. And actually, since repetition of lies is a propaganda technique, I'd be interested in a tally how many times a politician repeats a false statement, and how many times after its been judged as mostly-false or lower.

Maybe someday we'll not only have a truth-o-meter, but a list of apologies given by politicians in each case they admitted they were wrong.

Until then, let's just assume Obama was a terrible president, a bad bet, and that we're sure to pick a better president next time to dig us out of our next Great Recession.

Secretly I'm very happy Obama didn't start any unnecessary $4 trillion dollar wars, while I still wish he'd stop selling all those weapons into the Middle East.

For God's sake? What are you doing!? Why are we selling high tech weapons to ANYONE?! Who knows who President Trump might declare war against? It is REALLY annoying to be killed by your own weapons!!! Really annoying!

Sam L. said...

Politifact is not a source in which I have any trust. As in zero, zip, zilch, and nada.

Ares Olympus said...

Sam L, which political fact-checker is honest in your accounting?

Let's see, looks like we have 3 candidates:
http://www.politifact.com/ PolitiFact, a division of the Tampa Bay Times
http://www.factcheck.org/ Project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/ Fact Checker The Truth Behind The Rhetoric | By Glenn Kessler

http://www.npr.org/2012/01/10/144974110/political-fact-checking-under-fire
-------
CONAN: Mark Hemingway, in a piece titled "Lies, Damned Lies and Fact Checking," you concluded that the fact-checker is less often a referee than a fan with a rooting interest. How did you arrive at that?

HEMINGWAY: Well, there's a number of reasons why I arrived at that conclusion. One of the facts I pointed out in the piece was that the University of Minnesota School of Public Affairs had actually done a survey of PolitiFact, and they evaluated all 500 statements that PolitiFact had rated from January of 2010 to January of 2011.

And they found that of the 98 statements that PolitiFact had rated false, 74 of them were by Republicans. Now, I can think of a number of reasons why you might cite one party over the other more, in terms of, you know, who was telling the truth and who wasn't. But doing that at a rate of three to one strikes me as awfully suspicious, particularly when, if you delve into the specifics of the statements that they cited, there's all kinds of problematic things contained there, whereas they are, you know, like you're mentioned, they're often fact-checking opinions and providing counter-arguments to, you know, stated opinions.
---------

Let's see who else are critics of these. Definitely one sided complaints for PolitiFact.
http://www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/peter-roff/2013/05/28/study-finds-fact-checkers-biased-against-republicans
http://www.newsmax.com/Reagan/PolitiFact-Fact-Checkers-Bias/2015/03/20/id/631565/
http://www.politifactbias.com/
http://humanevents.com/2012/08/30/politifact-bias-does-the-gop-tell-nine-times-more-lies-than-left-really/
http://winteryknight.com/2015/01/16/new-study-tampa-bay-times-politifact-fact-checker-is-biased-against-republicans/
http://spectator.org/articles/56400/who-will-fact-check-fact-checkers
http://www.startribune.com/who-fact-checks-the-fact-checkers/169840236/

How can the Right trust Politifact if they believe it is bias against them? Should they try the "balanced" approach and play easy on the republicans so they'll feel better?

what about factcheck.org? Not as many complaints.
http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/bloggers/2923825/posts
https://www.quora.com/Is-Factcheck-org-unbiased
http://www.topix.com/forum/city/caruthersville-mo/TM1BF6EGCQ0H0THE8

OH, I found one blog for Conservatives:
http://conservativefactcheck.com/

I suppose my general view is a good fact check source shouldn't worry as much about labeling as educating, thus giving multiple points of view, and when dealing with things that are more opinion-oriented, express who agrees with a given opinion.

And last I don't really like attributing motive to false statements. It doesn't seem constructive.

Clearly trying to shame people by calling them liars isn't an effective way to get them to listen to contrary evidence. If you give someone a chance to consider they are mistaken with their facts, their ego sometimes might avoid a "trigger alert" situation and a need for a time out back to their echo chamber for a self-righteousness recharge.

Ares Olympus said...

Stuart: Obama is quite correct to note that he has been unwilling to compromise with Republicans. He is correct to note that he has demonized the opposition and has been willing to ignore the will of the people as expressed by the people’s representatives in Congress.

That is a funny joke. When Obama negotiates with "The Enemy"(TM), like the Iranians, they're sure he compromises way too far, but somehow they're equally sure when he negotiates with the loyal opposition they're the ones standing at the 50 yard line stepping forward every time he says no while he takes two more steps backwards.

And apparently Democratic voters are more amiable to politicians who "start negotiations with what seems reasonable" while Republicans are more content to say no before they even hear what is offered out of principle of slippery slope of resentment - that the other side has already gotten more than it deserves and now wants even more.
http://www.vox.com/2016/1/13/10759874/republicans-democrats-different
-----------
Democrats prefer politicians who compromise, and Republicans prefer politicians who stick to their principles. This is true even when a Republican holds the presidency.
...
There's a tendency to imagine the parties as mirror images of each other, and thus to believe they can easily follow the other's strategies. But they can't. The parties are good at different things because they really are different.

That difference, however, can lead to deep misunderstandings. Democrats tend to project their preference for policymaking onto the Republican Party — and then respond with anger and confusion when Republicans don't seem interested in making a deal.

Republicans tend to assume the Democratic Party is more ideological than it is, and so see various policy initiatives as part of an ideological effort to remake America along more socialistic lines.
-----------

Anonymous said...

Ares: Please get your own blog. Spare us. Please.