The left’s massively dishonest criticism of Obama

(Comments begin here.)

The refrain now being heard from almost every liberal columnist is that Obama’s presidency is failing because he is weak, a waffler, a compromiser with the hated Republicans, a traitor to the left. It’s all a huge lie. As Victor Davis Hanson shows in a very sharp column, Obama is the strongest and most effective president—and the most partisan and brutal to his Republican opponents—that the Democrats have had since Lyndon Johnson pushed through the Great Society program. Why, then, the Democratic complaint that Obama is too “conservative”? Because the real reason the economy is in trouble, the real reason Obama is in trouble, the real reason the public has rejected Obama, is precisely his all-out devotion to the left-liberal cause. And the Democrats must at all costs conceal this truth, because it would discredit left-liberalism itself. So they turn reality on its head, and portray the most left-wing and partisan Democratic president in history as a sellout to the Republicans!

Here’s the column, at RCP:

September 19, 2011
The Public Has Rejected the Democratic Agenda
By Victor Davis Hanson

Suddenly, liberal op-ed writers are trashing—even lampooning—Barack Obama as a one-term president (“one and done”). Centrist Democrats up for reelection in 2012 openly worry about inviting a kindred president into their districts, lest the new pariah lose them votes.

Left-wing think tanks, environmentalists, and academics vent their anger against Obama for supposedly being too soft on Republicans and too ready to compromise with right-wingers. But what really has caused the left-wing falling-out, less than three years after the hope-and-change crush on Barack Obama?

For now, it’s the polls.

Obama’s popularity has plummeted to little more than 40 percent approval. Suddenly, Democrats worry that the public anger could be contagious. It might infect them as well—in the way a sinking George W. Bush hurt congressional Republicans up for reelection in 2006.

Yet the Left cannot fairly blame Obama. After all, he rammed through on a strictly partisan vote the century-old liberal dream of a federal takeover of health care—something that Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, and Bill Clinton never could do. Keynesians never dreamed that a president could actually borrow $5 trillion for domestic spending in less than three years.

The Obama administration even tried to shut down a brand-new Boeing aircraft plant on the shaky argument that the company might thereby be hiring fewer union workers somewhere else. For environmentalists, Obama kept oil producers out of new fields in Alaska, the American West, the Gulf, and other offshore sites. Hundreds of billions in borrowed federal money went to failed “wind and solar” plants in an effort to jump-start “millions of green jobs.”

The Obama revolution that occurred under the radar was even more insidious. Open-borders activists were promised that the government would not bother illegal aliens unless they were wanted for felonies. Never before has the United States joined a foreign government in suing one of its own states—in the way that the Justice Department and Mexico have either filed or joined suits seeking to overturn Arizona’s immigration law.

From January 2009 through 2010, Obama advanced the liberal dream with a passion not seen since the New Deal days of Franklin Roosevelt. He bulldozed all opposition and rammed through most of what he wanted with the help of a Democratic Congress: Obamacare, record borrowing, record spending, and hundreds of hard-left presidential appointees and judges.

Far from being namby-pamby, Obama has gone after opponents like no president since Richard Nixon. He urged Hispanics to “punish our enemies.” He called his political opponents “hostage takers.” The affluent were lumped together with the super-rich and derided as “millionaires and billionaires,” “corporate-jet owners,” and “fat cat” bankers. His supporters in unions and the Congressional Black Caucus freely blasted the Tea Party with slurs—with the unspoken assurance that the president’s constant calls for civility certainly did not apply to them.

Critics may lampoon Obama’s use of a teleprompter, but he still uses it to good effect in his near-daily speeches. Obama is a far better megaphone for left-wing policies than was the lackluster Jimmy Carter, the pompous Al Gore, or the condescending John Kerry. He easily outshines the wooden Harry Reid and the polarizing Nancy Pelosi. Compared with Obama and his smoothness, an often gaffe-prone Vice President Joe Biden can seem a liability. Obama is as charismatic as “I feel your pain” Bill Clinton—as we saw in 2008, when Obama destroyed the primary challenge of Hillary Clinton.

So the Left cannot really complain that Obama either betrayed the cause or proved particularly inept in advancing it. Instead, what Obama’s supporters are mad about is that the public is boiling over chronic 9 percent unemployment, a comatose housing market, escalating food and fuel prices, near-nonexistent economic growth, a gyrating stock market, record deficits, $16 trillion in aggregate debt, and a historic credit downgrading. And voters are not just mad, but are blaming these hard times on the liberal Obama agenda of more regulations, more federal spending, more borrowing, more talk of taxes, and more “stimulus” programs.

A mostly moderate-to-conservative public has concluded that it does not like the new liberal agenda. After three years, it believes that the big government/big borrowing medicine made the inherited illness far worse. Voters may or may not like Obama, but they surely do not like what he is still trying to do.

In response, the Left needs a sacrificial lamb. So it has nonsensically turned with a fury on Obama as if he were culpable for pushing through the Left’s own agenda. If Democrats do not blame the public’s anger on their once-beloved messenger, then they are left only with their message itself. And that is something they simply cannot accept.

- end of initial entry -

Scott B. writes:


I suppose this was the next logical step from how they treated George W Bush, despite his pathetically puppy-like attempts at bipartisan outreach (no matter how many liberals such as Ted Kennedy’s disdainful whipped him once he’d served his purpose); despite his being a “compassionate conservative,” i.e. “extreme wet” in Maggie Thatcher’s terminology; and despite his outright liberal internationalist nation-building follies.

Regardless of all the above he was portrayed as the most hateful, fascistic, fanatically right-wing lunatic on the planet. Why? Well, if liberals conceded that establishment “conservatives” had all but co-opted their own policy positions, abandoning conservatism in the process, then what could the eternal failure of those policies possibly be blamed upon? Modern liberalism was at its outset predicated on being a compassionate response to selfish exploiters, and suchlike, who in turn were self-servingly supported by the right.

Therefore the closer the right actually moves toward the left, the more of a threat it ironically becomes to their overriding vision! What, are they supposed to start examining the consequences of their policies empirically? Where would be the self-righteous satisfaction in that?

I must admit though, I would not have predicted that Obama would be turned upon for the same expedient reasons.

LA replies:

You have just added a new dimension to an analysis I made repeatedly during the Bush years. I said that because Republicans/conservatives define themselves solely in relation to the left, as the opponents of the left who stand just to the right of the left, rather than in terms of their own, fixed principles, the further left the left moves, the right keeps following them to fight the battle on the newest left-most ground, and thus becomes more left itself. Let’s say, just as a hypothetical example of this logic, that the left began demanding the legalization of polygamy (the signs of this are already appearing). The right would oppose this, defining itself as the anti-polygamy party. In defining the battle line between right and left as anti-polygamy versus pro-polygamy, the right would have insensibly moved to the left of the previous battle line between right and left, which was homosexual “marriage.” Being against homosexual marriage would now be seen as an “extreme” right wing position, which all “responsible” conservatives would eschew. Thus, because of the right’s tendency to define itself as just to the right of the left, the left actually controls the right and can make it keep moving further left.

So, to use a real world example, when the left began to demand the legalization of all illegal aliens, the right defined itself as opposing the legalization of all illegal aliens. Any position to the right of that, such as opposing the current legal immigration of a million plus immigrants per year, was now seen as an extreme right-wing position which all responsible conservatives eschew. What is the universally repeated, “responsible,” “conservative” position nowadays? “I have no problem with legal immigration I only oppose illegal immigration.” Meaning, “I have no problem with legal immigration no matter how numerous, diverse, and unassimilable it may be.” Today, that’s the “conservative” position on immigration. We could adduce many further examples of how the left controls the right and makes it keep moving further to the left.

But what you’re suggesting is that the left does not see the continual leftward moves of the right as a victory for itself, but as a threat, because if the new, leftist policies of the right (e.g. spreading democracy, No Child Left Behind) go down in failure, the left will be blamed for them. So the more the right keeps adopting leftist positions, left must attack these leftist positions as instances of horrible right-wing racist fascism.

Tex Atlanta writes:

I recall the time Obama announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination. I was curious why someone would do that, since Hillary Clinton at that time was presumed to be the heir to the throne without competition. Subsequently in the debates between the two, I didn’t see that much difference between the two. The differences were subtle, not substantial.

If it was hubris that propelled Obama to run against Hillary, it now appears that it may have backfired against him, since he will become known as a one-term president characterized mostly by failure. The hubris to run will be offset historically by the failure.

I still ask myself what made him run against Hillary when no one was considering competing against her. Do you have any thoughts on what made Obama decide to run against someone who appeared the unanimous choice of the Democratic party?

A second question for you. Why do average, middle-of-the-road Americans seem to think that Hillary would have been a better choice and that things would be better with her in office? What ideologically is different between Obama and Hillary? Hillary is no centrist—her first attempt at healthcare was much larger than Obama’s. In fact Obama in one of the debates asserted that her healthcare program attempted to do too much! Hillary’s college thesis was on Alinsky for heaven’s sakes. Is this a false longing that Hillary would be different and better? I’m not sure that Hillary would not attempt the same Keynesian “stimulus” measures herself given the state of the economy.

LA replies:

“Do you have any thoughts on what made Obama decide to run against someone who appeared the unanimous choice of the Democratic party?”

(a) He wanted to be president, and (b1), he thought he could win, or (b2), if he didn’t win, he’d be setting himself up to be the nominee in a subsequent election cycle.

As for Hillary, I myself argued throughout the 2008 Democratic primary fight that there was a pragmatic streak in her and in the Clintonite circle that would make her less damaging to the country than Obama. This entry from October 27, 2008 references my position:

Those who celebrated Obama’s victories then, fear his victory now

Last Spring, the commenters at, showing all the dignity and self-restraint of the crowd in Mogadishu in 1993 whooping it up over the corpse of an American soldier, were viciously and spitefully cheering the extinction of Hillary Clinton’s presidential hopes at the hands of Barack Obama. Today those same L-dotters are trembling in anguish at the looming election of Obama, which they see as the worse disaster in the history of the country.

Am I alone in noticing a certain lack of perspective among these people, indeed, an all-out embrace of emotion and refusal to think? If Obama represents the ruin of America, wouldn’t Hillary have been the better choice? That’s what I consistently argued, from Obama’s victory in the Iowa caucuses until Hillary’s concession six months later.

[End of initial entry.]

However, this doesn’t address your question: how was Hillary substantively different from Obama? One example: I do not believe that President Hillary would have gone along with the insane stimulus package in early 2009.

This doesn’t mean, of course, that I supported Hillary; I saw her as less bad than Obama, whom I saw as less bad than McCain.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at September 19, 2011 08:55 PM | Send

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