[VIDEO] Dinesh D’Souza Unveils Hillary Clinton Video Ahead of DNC SpeechPosted: July 28, 2016 Filed under: Art & Culture, Entertainment, History, Mediasphere, Politics, Think Tank | Tags: Abraham Lincoln, And the Money Kept Rolling In, Andrew Jackson, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Anti-fascism, Broadway theatre, Democratic Party, DNC, Evita, Guinevere, Helen of Troy, Helena (Empress), Hillary Clinton, Hollywood Reporter, Jim Crow, Ku Klux Klan, Lyndon B. Johnson, Slavery, The Pantsuit Report, Woodrow Wilson 1 Comment
The clip coincides with the launch of a new website where D’Souza answers critics who claim his movie distorts facts. ‘Detractors and several film reviewers have been challenging many of its claims’. Example claim: ‘Democrats had backed slavery and the Ku Klux Klan decades ago’. This is in dispute, really?
5 percent of critics gave ‘Hillary’s America’ a positive review, compared to a favorable review from 82 percent of the audience.
“‘Evita’s foundation funneled money given to the poor into her own bank accounts,’ D’Souza says in the clip. ‘Certainly, the Clintons wouldn’t steal from the poorest of the poor?’”
Hollywood Reporter: Hours before Hillary Clinton is set to accept the Democratic nomination for president, Dinesh D’Souza has releasedscene from his documentary film Hillary’s America that compares the former secretary of state to Eva Peron, the Argentine politician famously accused of money laundering in the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Evita.
The release of the scene coincides with D’Souza launching a website that he says debunks criticisms of Hillary’s America by offering evidence that what he says about her and her party in his movie is historically accurate.
His “evidence” page cites various historical sources and quotes notable figures, like Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Jackson, Woodrow Wilson and Lyndon B. Johnson, to make the case that Democrats had backed slavery and the Ku Klux Klan decades ago.
The Hollywood Reporter puts Scare Quotes Around the word “evidence”, for unknown reason @THR #ScareQuotes #Journalism #DemsInPhilly #panic
— Pundit Planet (@punditfap) July 29, 2016
Since D’Souza’s movie opened two weeks ago, detractors and several film reviewers have been challenging many of its claims. The Hollywood Reporter’s reviewer likened the movie to a “highly subjective history lesson” while the Los Angeles Times said it “doesn’t even qualify as effectively executed propaganda.” On Rotten Tomatoes, only 5 percent of critics gave Hillary’s America a positive review, compared to a favorable review from 82 percent of the audience.
[Read the full story here, at the Hollywood Reporter]
Republican nominee for president Donald Trump, meanwhile, has endorsed the film. Read the rest of this entry »
June 14th: Flag DayPosted: June 14, 2016 Filed under: History, U.S. News | Tags: Flag Day, United States, Woodrow Wilson 3 Comments
TAKE DOWN THIS STATUE: Expunging Woodrow Wilson #TakeItDownPosted: June 25, 2015 Filed under: Censorship, History, Law & Justice, Think Tank, White House | Tags: African American, African American Studies, Black people, Charleston SC, Democrat Party, Flags of the Confederate States of America, KKK, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Race (human classification), Race and ethnicity in the United States Census, Racist, Washington, Woodrow Wilson Leave a comment
Randy Barnett writes:
…Now that we are expunging the legacy of past racism from official places of honor, we should next remove the name Woodrow Wilson from public buildings and bridges. Wilson’s racist legacy — in his official capacity as President — is undisputed. In The long-forgotten racial attitudes and policies of Woodrow Wilson, Boston University historian William R. Keylor provides a useful summary:
[On March 4th, 1913] Democrat Thomas Woodrow Wilson became the first Southerner elected president since Zachary Taylor in 1848. Washington was flooded with revelers from the Old Confederacy, whose people had long dreamed of a return to the glory days of Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe, when southern gentlemen ran the country. Rebel yells and the strains of “Dixie” reverberated throughout the city. The new administration brought to power a generation of political leaders from the old South who would play influential roles in Washington for generations to come.
Wilson is widely and correctly remembered — and represented in our history books — as a progressive Democrat who introduced many liberal reforms at home and fought for the extension of democratic liberties and human rights abroad. But on the issue of race his legacy was, in fact, regressive and has been largely forgotten.
[Read the full text here, at The Washington Post]
Born in Virginia and raised in Georgia and South Carolina, Wilson was a loyal son of the old South who regretted the outcome of the Civil War. He used his high office to reverse some of its consequences. When he entered the White House a hundred years ago today, Washington was a rigidly segregated town — except for federal government agencies. They had been integrated during the post-war Reconstruction period, enabling African-Americans to obtain federal jobs and work side by side with whites in government agencies. Wilson promptly authorized members of his cabinet to reverse this long-standing policy of racial integration in the federal civil service.
Cabinet heads — such as his son-in-law, Secretary of the Treasury William McAdoo of Tennessee – re-segregated facilities such as restrooms and cafeterias in their buildings. In some federal offices, screens were set up to separate white and black workers. African-Americans found it difficult to secure high-level civil service positions, which some had held under previous Republican administrations.….(read more)
No doubt there are others whose names should also be expunged. But because of his record of official racism and betrayal, Wilson’s name should be first on any such list. Read the rest of this entry »
Progressive DemocratsPosted: March 19, 2015 Filed under: History, Politics | Tags: African Americans, Center for Progressive Leadership, Congressional Progressive Caucus, Democratic Party, LBJ, Lyndon Johnson, race, Racists, Woodrow Wilson 1 Comment
WoodrowPosted: December 9, 2014 Filed under: History, Humor, White House | Tags: Woodrow Wilson 2 Comments
November 11th 1918: WW1 ArmisticePosted: November 11, 2014 Filed under: History, Mediasphere, War Room | Tags: Commonwealth of Nations, Remembrance Day, Remembrance Sunday, The Royal British Legion, Treaty of Versailles, United States, Veterans Day, Woodrow Wilson, World War I, World War II 1 Comment
November 11th 1918: WW1 armistice
On this day in 1918, Germany signed an armistice agreement with the Allied powers, thus officially ending combat in the First World War. The agreement was signed in a train carriage in France. Fighting ended at 11am, as it was the eleventh hour in the eleventh month on the eleventh day. This marked Allied victory in the war that had raged since 1914 but negotiations continued at the Paris Peace Conference and the war officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in June 1919. The Treaty set up a ‘League of Nations’ which was to be a group of countries dedicated to the preservation of global peace. Every year the Commonwealth nations commemorate the fallen soldiers in Remembrance Day, and hold a two minute silence in their honour. Other nations around the world have similar days of remembrance for the around 10 million soldiers who died in the conflict. This year marks the one hundredth anniversary of the beginning of this terrible conflict, so this Remembrance Day is a particularly poignant moment to remember the fallen of the First World War.
This Day in History, Oct. 14th 1912: Theodore Roosevelt Survives Assassination AttemptPosted: October 14, 2014 Filed under: History, Mediasphere, White House | Tags: 1912, Assassination attempt, Bull Moose, John Flammang Schrank, Milwaukee, Progressive, Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, William McKinley, Woodrow Wilson 2 Comments
“I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot; but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose.”
On this day in 1912, Theodore Roosevelt was shot while making a campaign speech in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Roosevelt, who served as President from 1901 to 1909 was attempting to run for a third term for his Bull Moose Party. He lost the election to Democrat Woodrow Wilson. He was shot by John Schrank, a mentally disturbed saloon keeper, who claimed he was told to kill Roosevelt by the ghost of former President William McKinley. Read the rest of this entry »
Michael Barone: How the GOP Got This WayPosted: September 8, 2014 Filed under: Politics, Think Tank, White House | Tags: Barack Obama, Calvin Coolidge, Democrat, Democratic Party, Democratic Sen, John McCain, Michael Barone, Mitt Romney, Republicans, White House, Woodrow Wilson 4 Comments
This article is an example of why Michael Barone is considered indispensable among political reporters and media wonks. Even for the blog surfers and unreformed political news junkies like the rest of us, he’s the guy to read this election year. It’s a long one, worth investing time in. In a sweeping but brisk history of a half-century of party evolution, Barone summarizes both Republican and Democratic party transformations over the years. Read a sample below, for more, read it all here.
For the Washington Examiner, Michael Barone writes: America’s two great political parties are constantly transforming themselves, sometimes in small increments, sometimes in sudden lurches. They respond to cues sent to them by voters — which can range from attaboy! to fuhggedaboutit — and to the initiatives of party leaders, especially presidents.
“When you have a rush of hundreds of thousands of previously uninvolved people into electoral politics, you get a certain number of wackos, weirdos and witches. But you also get many new people who turn out to be serious citizens with exceptional political skills.”
But when the other party has held the White House for an extended period, the transformation process can be stormy and chaotic. Which is a pretty apt description of the Republican Party over the past few years. Its two living ex-presidents, the George Bushes, withdrew from active politics immediately after leaving the White House, and its two most recent nominees, John McCain and Mitt Romney, say they are not running for president again, although they do weigh in on issues. There is no obvious heir apparent and there are many politicians who may seek the 2016 presidential nomination. More than usual, the opposition party is up for grabs.
“Mainstream media will inevitably emphasize the discontentment in the Republican Party that originated in the second Bush term and flashed into prominence soon after Obama took office. It will tend to ignore the discontentment in the Democratic Party that are raging with increasing intensity.”
As the cartoon images of elephant and donkey suggest, our two parties are different kinds of animals. Republicans have generally been more cohesive, with a core made up of politicians and voters who see themselves, and are seen by others,
as typical Americans — white Northern Protestants in the 19th century, married white Christians today. But those groups, by themselves, have never been a majority of the nation. The Democratic Party has been made up of disparate groups of people regarded, by themselves and others, as outsiders in some way — Southern whites and Catholic immigrants in the 19th century, blacks and gentry liberals today. Our electoral system motivates both to amass coalitions larger than 50 percent of voters. Democrats tend to do so by adding additional disparate groups. Republicans tend to do so by coming up with appeals that unite their base and erode Democrats’ support from others. Read the rest of this entry »
There Are No Wars to End All Wars: Why Barbarism EnduresPosted: August 23, 2014 Filed under: History, Politics, Think Tank, War Room | Tags: Barack Obama, David Lloyd George, G. Wells, H. G. Wells, J. Rufus Fears, National Review, ROMAN EMPIRE, Syria, Woodrow Wilson, World War I 2 Comments
Progressives can’t wish away human nature.
Charles C. W. Cooke writes: H. G. Wells’s famous prediction that the First World War would be the “war to end all wars” was met with skepticism by the British prime minister. “This war, like the next war,” David Lloyd George quipped in the summer of 1916, “is a war to end war.” History, he sighed, is not shaped by wishful thinking.
“The lessons of history endure, because human nature never changed.”
— J. Rufus Fears
Two decades later, Lloyd George would be proven right. And yet, in the intervening period, it was Wells’s sentiment that prevailed. The horrors of the trenches having made rationalization imperative, a popular and holistic narrative was developed. The Great War, Woodrow Wilson quixotically argued, had finally managed to “make the world safe for democracy” and, in doing so, had served an invaluable purpose. Henceforth, human beings would remember the valuable lesson that had been written in so much blood, coming together in mutual understanding to, as Wells rather dramatically put it,“exorcise a world-madness and end an age.” And that, it was thought, would be that. Read the rest of this entry »
Kevin D. Williamson: The Eternal DictatorPosted: June 28, 2014 Filed under: History, Mediasphere, Politics, Think Tank, War Room | Tags: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Iron Curtain, Kevin D. Williamson, Oliver Cromwell, Rexford Tugwell, Roosevelt, SPAIN, Woodrow Wilson 2 Comments
The ruthless exercise of power by strongmen and generalissimos is the natural state of human affairs.
That democratic self-governance is a historical anomaly is easy to forget for those of us in the Anglosphere — we haven’t really endured a dictator since Oliver Cromwell. The United States came close, first under Woodrow Wilson and then during the very long presidency of Franklin Roosevelt. Both men were surrounded by advisers who admired various aspects of authoritarian models then fashionable in Europe. Read the rest of this entry »
America’s New Security StatePosted: May 15, 2014 Filed under: Think Tank, U.S. News | Tags: American Civil War, George Orwell, George Washington, Homeland Security, Iran, Muslim, Ruling class, Saudi Arabia, Woodrow Wilson 4 Comments
Salus populi suprema lex: In the name of the people’s safety, the dictator’s will is law.
This essay is an excerpt from Angelo Codevillo’s new book (Hoover Press).
Angelo M. Codevilla writes: The loss of peace abroad has upset the balance between the various elements of life in America, fed domestic strife, and resulted in the loss of peace at home. The need for protection against foreign jihadists and their American imitators occasioned the empowerment of a vast apparatus of “homeland security” that treats all Americans as potential enemies—with only a pretense of even-handedness. In fact, the sense that enemies among us must be dealt with reinforced our bipartisan ruling class’s tendency to regard its own domestic political opponents as another set of persons whose backward ways must be guarded against and reformed. A spiral of strife among Americans resulted. In the light of history and of reason, any other outcome would have been surprising.
[Angelo M. Codevilla‘s book: To Make and Keep Peace Among Ourselves and with All Nations is available at Amazon.com]
After 9/11 our ruling class came together on the proposition that, at home as well as abroad, America is at war against enemies so evil that there must be no limit to fighting them, whose identity we must always seek but can never know; that to focus on, to “profile,” the kinds of persons who have committed terrorist acts, is racist and provocative; that any American is as likely as any other to be a terrorist, and hence that all must submit to being sifted, screened, restricted—forever. Childhood in the “land of the free, the home of the brave” must now include learning to spread-eagle and be still as government employees run their hands over you. Patriotism is now supposed to mean obeisance to the security establishment, accepting that the authorities may impose martial law on whole cities, keep track of all phone calls, or take whatever action they choose against any person for the sake of “homeland security,” and that theirs alone is the choice whether to disclose the basis for whatever they do. Read the rest of this entry »
The Gentrification of the American LeftPosted: February 3, 2014 Filed under: Politics, Think Tank, U.S. News | Tags: American Civil Liberties Union, Fred Siegel, H.L Mencken, Herbert Croly, Jonah Goldberg, Liberal Fascism, Progressivism, Woodrow Wilson 2 Comments
Opiate of the Elites
VINCENT J. CANNATO writes: After the 2012 election, Mitt Romney’s loss prompted questions about the future of conservatism. A year later, the ongoing drama of Obamacare’s failures has seen similar concerns voiced regarding the future of liberalism. So what, exactly, do we mean when we talk about “liberalism”? Conservatives used to equate it with the New Deal and Great Society, with the social and cultural liberalism of the late 1960s mixed in. Recently, conservatives have dug deeper and found a different foundation for modern liberalism: the Progressive movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
[Order Jonah Goldberg‘s Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning from Amazon]
The assault on progressivism started with the writings of people associated with the Claremont Institute, like political scientist Ronald Pestritto, and reached a wider audience with Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism (2007). These writers explain how “progressives” turned away from older notions of individualism and believed that the Constitution was an increasingly archaic document in a modern industrial world. Progressives looked admiringly at Germany and other strong European states and built up an increasingly unaccountable administrative state to run the federal government. According to the Claremont school, liberalism does not consist of the stereotypically touchy-feely brand of politics we usually associate with it. Rather, it is more a corporatist alliance of big government and big business than a movement for reform and social justice.
Biggest Political Lie Contest Contender: The Left’s ‘Trickle-Down’ LiePosted: January 7, 2014 Filed under: Mediasphere, Politics, Think Tank | Tags: Barack Obama, Bill de Blasio, John F. Kennedy, New York, New York Times, Thomas Sowell, Trickle-down economics, Woodrow Wilson 2 Comments
Thomas Sowell writes: New York’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio, in his inaugural speech, denounced people “on the far right” who “continue to preach the virtue of trickle-down economics.” According to Mayor de Blasio, “They believe that the way to move forward is to give more to the most fortunate, and that somehow the benefits will work their way down to everyone else.”
If there is ever a contest for the biggest lie in politics, this one should be a top contender.
While there have been all too many lies told in politics, most have some little tiny fraction of truth in them, to make them seem plausible. But the “trickle-down” lie is 100 percent lie.
It should win the contest both because of its purity — no contaminating speck of truth — and because of how many people have repeated it over the years, without any evidence being asked for or given.
The Front ManPosted: November 25, 2013 Filed under: Politics, Think Tank, White House | Tags: Barack Obama, Independent Payment Advisory Board, Kevin D. Williamson, Obama, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Woodrow Wilson 4 Comments
“President Nixon’s lawlessness was sneaky, and he had the decency to be ashamed of it. President Obama’s lawlessness is as bland and bloodless as the man himself, and practiced openly, as though it were a virtue.”
Kevin D. Williamson writes: Conservatives have for years attempted to put our finger upon precisely why Barack Obama strikes us as queer in precisely the way he does. There is an alienness about him, which in the fever swamps is expressed in all that ridiculous Kenyan-Muslim hokum, but his citizen-of-the-world shtick is strictly sophomore year — the great globalist does not even speak a foreign language. Obama has been called many things — radical, socialist — labels that may have him dead to rights at the phylum level but not down at his genus or species. His social circle includes an alarming number of authentic radicals, but the president’s politics are utterly conventional managerial liberalism. His manner is aloof, but he is too plainly a child of the middle class to succumb to the regal pretensions that the Kennedys suffered from, even if his household entourage does resemble the Ringling Bros. Circus as reimagined by Imelda Marcos when it moves about from Kailua Beach to Blue Heron Farm. Not a dictator under the red flag, not a would-be king, President Obama is nonetheless something new to the American experience, and troubling.
It is not simply the content of his political agenda, which, though wretched, is a good deal less ambitious than was Woodrow Wilson’s or Richard Nixon’s. Barack Obama did not invent managerial liberalism, nor has he contributed any new ideas to it. He is, in fact, a strangely incurious man. Unlike Ronald Reagan, to whom he likes to be compared, President Obama shows no signs of having expended any effort on big thinkers or big ideas. President Reagan’s guiding lights were theorists such as F. A. Hayek and Thomas Paine; Obama’s most important influences have been tacticians such as Abner Mikva, bush-league propagandists like the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, and his beloved community organizers. Far from being the intellectual hostage of far-left ideologues, President Obama does not appear to have the intellectual energy even to digest their ideas, much less to implement them. This is not to say that he is an unintelligent man. He is a man with a first-class education and a business-class mind, a sort of inverse autodidact whose intellectual pedigree is an order of magnitude more impressive than his intellect.
The result of this is his utterly predictable approach to domestic politics: appoint a panel of credentialed experts. His faith in the powers of pedigreed professionals is apparently absolute. Consider his hallmark achievement, the Affordable Care Act, the centerpiece of which is the appointment of a committee, the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), the mission of which is to achieve targeted savings in Medicare without reducing the scope or quality of care. How that is to be achieved was contemplated in detail neither by the lawmakers who wrote the health-care bill nor by the president himself. But they did pay a great deal of attention to the processes touching IPAB: For example, if that committee of experts fails to achieve the demanded savings, then the ball is passed to . . . a new committee of experts, this one under the guidance of the secretary of health and human services. IPAB’s powers are nearly plenipotentiary: Its proposals, like a presidential veto, require a supermajority of Congress to be overridden. The president likes supermajorities, except when he doesn’t — the filibuster was not a sacred institution, but it did give the Senate an important lever for offsetting executive overreach. The House is designed to be an engine, the Senate a brake. Harry Reid has just helped take the brakes off of President Obama’s lawless agenda, for the purpose of installing friendly judges who will look the other way when his agenda is put to the legal test.
[Read the full story here, at National Review Online]
IPAB is the most dramatic example of President Obama’s approach to government by expert decree, but much of the rest of his domestic program, from the Dodd-Frank financial-reform law to his economic agenda, is substantially similar. In total, it amounts to that fundamental transformation of American society that President Obama promised as a candidate: but instead of the new birth of hope and change, it is the transformation of a constitutional republic operating under laws passed by democratically accountable legislators into a servile nation under the management of an unaccountable administrative state. Read the rest of this entry »
Analysis: Federalists vs. TechnocratsPosted: November 7, 2013 Filed under: History, Politics, Reading Room, Think Tank | Tags: Alexander Hamilton, Barbara Kelley, Constitution, Elbridge Gerry, Electoral College, Federalist, James Madison, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson 1 Comment
Today, we treat politics as a sport, but it’s really a conflict of ideologies between federalists and technocrats…
Bruce S. Thornton writes: The media and pundits treat politics like a sport. The significance of the recent agreement to postpone the debt crisis until January, for instance, is really about which party won and which lost, which party’s tactics are liable to be more successful in the next election, and which politician is a winner and which a loser. But politics rightly understood is not about the contest of policies or politicians. It’s about the philosophical principles and ideas that create one policy rather than another—that’s what it should be about, at least.
From that point of view, the conflict between Democrats and Republicans concerns the size and role of the federal government, which is no surprise to anyone who even casually follows politics. But more important are the ideas that ground arguments for or against limited government. These ideas include our notions of human nature, and what motivates citizens when they make political decisions. Our political conflicts today reflect the two major ways Americans have answered these questions.
The Front ManPosted: August 5, 2013 Filed under: Mediasphere, Reading Room | Tags: BarackObama, Independent Payment Advisory Board, Kevin D. Williamson, Obama, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Woodrow Wilson Leave a comment
Face of the lawless bureaucracy
Government Isn’t UsPosted: July 16, 2013 Filed under: Reading Room | Tags: American, Barack Obama, Democracy, James Madison, Obama, United States, University of Michigan, Woodrow Wilson Leave a comment
[In] this democracy, we the people recognize that this government belongs to us, and it’s up to each of us and every one of us to make it work better. We can’t just stand on the sidelines. We can’t take comfort in just being cynical. We all have a stake in government success—because the government is us.
That last sentence might sound familiar to seasoned observers of the president. Back in 2010, at the University of Michigan’s commencement (and as Tea Party opposition to the president and his health care bill reached its peak), Obama said, “When our government is spoken of as some menacing, threatening foreign entity, it ignores the fact that in our democracy, government is us.”
In early May, at Ohio State’s commencement, he did not use the phrase “government is us,” but he made essentially the same point:
Unfortunately, you’ve grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s at the root of all our problems; some of these same voices also doing their best to gum up the works. They’ll warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices. Because what they suggest is that our brave and creative and unique experiment in self-rule is somehow just a sham with which we can’t be trusted.
With trust in government near an all-time low, the president’s agenda stalled in the House because of skeptical Republicans, and a host of scandals that raise questions about governmental integrity and competence, we should expect to hear a lot more of this from President Obama over the next few weeks and months. Cynicism about government is bad because, in the end, it is just “us.” Why worry?
This is pernicious nonsense. It is, of course, typical for presidents of both parties to trot out poll-tested phrases that lack internal logic or external validity. Even so, for somebody who fancies himself a scholar-president in the mold of Woodrow Wilson, it is not asking too much for him to evince a little more understanding of the constitutional foundations of the republic.
For starters, this is not a “democracy” in the sense that Obama suggests. Government is not “us” inasmuch as we elect representatives whose job it is to represent our interests as they formulate policy. This should immediately induce some measure of skepticism about the government, for it points directly at the principal-agent problem. That is, how can principals (i.e., the voters) make sure that their agents (i.e., their elected representatives) are actually working on behalf of the public, rather than for their own personal gain? As questions of public policy become more complex, and the agents become more entrenched, it becomes harder and harder for citizens to ensure that the people they elect are doing the job they were sent to do.
Moreover, there is an inherent difficulty in aggregating the interests of individual citizens into something that rightly can be called “the public good.” Many times, for instance, the policy demands of one faction will result in harm to another. What to do then? At the very least, one cannot merely assume that a “democracy” will ensure that the public good is promoted after all the votes are counted, as Obama seems to suggest. If an aggressive faction holds a numerical majority, should the minority then expect to be plundered? How does that serve the public good?
Forecasting Obama’s Second Term: A Downward Spiral of Scandal, Upheaval, and Despair, Interrupted by Brief Moments of False HopePosted: November 12, 2012 Filed under: Mediasphere | Tags: Barack Obama, David Petraeus, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Iran, League of Nations, Oval Office, United States, Woodrow Wilson Leave a comment
Now that the last election of his political career is behind him,President Barack Obama can concentrate on braking to avoid the fiscal cliff, re-staffing much of his administration and pausing to reflect on his long-term governing agenda. Then, of course, there is the still-sputtering economy, Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the aftermath of the stunning resignatioin of David Petraeus and enough other crises to justify a sign over the Oval Office reading, “Stress for Success.”
But the re-elected president should be worrying about something else as well: the Second-Term Curse.
Dating back to Woodrow Wilson’s 1919 failure to bring the United States into the League of Nations, second presidential terms have almost always been disappointing and sad. There have been successes: Ronald Reagan passing tax reform in 1986 and Bill Clinton balancing the budget. But far more common are thwarted ambitions, scandal and a slow slide towards political irrelevance.
“This time it’s different” would be the likely response from Obama’s true believers. And these acolytes could be correct since historical patterns are merely suggestive rather than Marxist Iron Laws. But still it is likely that sometime before Moving Van Day in 2017, Obama will be embarrassed by at least one of these four factors:
Hubris: For decades, the dictionary definition was Franklin Roosevelt’s ill-fated 1937 effort to pack the Supreme Court to eliminate an anti-New Deal majority. Having just carried 46 states in an electoral landslide, FDR blithely assumed that anything he proposed would be rubber-stamped by a Congress so Democratic that all 16 Senate Republicans could probably have crammed into a Capitol Hill phone booth.
Wrong. With scant warning two weeks after his second inauguration, Roosevelt announced his plan to expand the Supreme Court. The reaction even among many partisan Democrats was that this was an unwarranted power grab. After failing to win a majority of the overwhelmingly Democratic Senate Judiciary Committee, the court-packing plan died on the Senate floor.
There is a potent contemporary example of a president misreading his re-election mandate. George W. Bush told Republican leaders in early 2005 that the partial privatization of Social Security was at the top of his legislative agenda, even though the president had only flicked at the issue during the 2004 campaign.
With the conspicuous exception of Paul Ryan and a few others, congressional Republicans recoiled at the electoral consequences. Democrats were apoplectic on policy grounds. The Social Security plan was never even voted on in Congress. In his mostly unrevealing autobiography, “Decision Points,” Bush himself concedes, “If I had it to do over again, I would have pushed for immigration reform rather than Social Security as the first major initiative of my second term.”
While Obama’s vague re-election pronouncements worked tactically, they provided him with a limited policy mandate beyond educational programs and resisting extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. As a result, an ambitious response to global warming (an issue too hot for Obama the candidate) could prove to be this president’s version of Social Security privatization.