Commentary Magazine


Never the Policy

It’s never the policy. That is the Democrats’ watchword when it comes to explaining failure, whether it is substantive or political.

On domestic policy, Obama is now complaining we’ve all gotten the wrong idea that he is a tax-and-spend liberal. On Fox News Sunday, Bill Kristol explained:

Now, it’s a little farcical since he was a tax-and-spend liberal Democrat. He had chances not to be. He could have cut a deal on taxes six weeks ago, accepted the Republican proposal to extend the Bush tax rates and say, “You know what? I’m not your traditional tax- hiking Democrat.”

He insisted on tax hikes. He’s a huge spender. But I think that’s very revealing. When a liberal says, “I can’t look like a tax- and-spend liberal Democrat,” he is conceding you can’t govern this country as a liberal Democrat.

If I were a liberal, I’d be upset about that. It would be as if a conservative president said, “Well, I’ve learned I can’t just look like some conservative.” I mean, the whole point of Barack Obama’s presidency was to be the next wave of liberalism. Isn’t that why they were so excited two years ago?

The foreign policy version of this was set forth by David Ignatius by way of Zbig Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft. You get this gobbledygook:

What perplexed both men was the disconnect between Obama’s strategic vision and what he has been able to achieve. “He makes dramatic presidential speeches,” said Brzezinski, “but it’s never translated into a process in which good ideas become strategies.”

They are perplexed because they do not find fault with the underlying assumptions of Obama’s foreign policy. So it’s distraction by the economy or failure to “implement” his foreign policy vision that is the problem. And they’re very miffed, of course, that Obama didn’t cram a peace deal down the Israelis’ throats.

The domestic and foreign policy excuses abound — the Republicans undermined Obama, Bibi wrecked the peace process, the 24/7 news cycle makes governing impossible, and the country is ungovernable or irrational. The degree to which the president and his team lack virtually any ability to reflect on and evaluate the substance of their agenda is remarkable. There is, of course, no one in the White House who does not embrace a leftist ideology. They therefore must ignore populist unrest, ample polling, and any evidence that suggests that their economic policy and foreign policy vision is fundamentally flawed, not to mention politically untenable.

Republicans should keep their fingers crossed that this obtuseness is heartfelt and long-lasting. Should the White House internalize the lessons of the past two years (e.g., Keynesian economics is a bust, the Palestinians aren’t ready for a peace deal, the public resists the vast expansion of the public sector), they might be able to adjust course and rescue the Obama presidency. But so far, I see no danger of that occurring.

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