Biggest White House ego, ever. Updated!

May 15, 2012

Okay, it’s a given that anyone who runs for president of the United States has to have a healthy ego; you’re in essence saying you’re the best person to do the most difficult job on the planet. But never, ever, do I think it would occur to any of the presidents from Washington to George W. Bush (1) to insert himself into the official biographies of his predecessors.

That is, not until Barack Obama:

Many of President Obama’s fervent devotees are young enough not to have much memory of the political world before the arrival of The One. Coincidentally, Obama himself feels the same way—and the White House’s official website reflects that.

The Heritage Foundation’s Rory Cooper tweeted that Obama had casually dropped his own name into Ronald Reagan’s official biography on www.whitehouse.gov, claiming credit for taking up the mantle of Reagan’s tax reform advocacy with his “Buffett Rule” gimmick. My first thought was, he must be joking. But he wasn’t—it turns out Obama has added bullet points bragging about his own accomplishments to the biographical sketches of every single U.S. president since Calvin Coolidge (except, for some reason, Gerald Ford) (2).

Here’s one example from the article:

President Lyndon Johnson signed Medicare signed (sic) into law in 1965—providing millions of elderly healthcare stability. President Obama’s historic health care reform law, the Affordable Care Act, strengthens Medicare, offers eligible seniors a range of preventive services with no cost-sharing, and provides discounts on drugs when in the coverage gap known as the “donut hole.”

Given that Medicare costs are one of the problems that threaten to eat our economy alive, I’m not sure a sensible person would want to take credit for it.

But most people don’t apparently have narcissistic personality disorder, either. Unlike a certain president.

Conservatives have been having a field mocking this nonsense on Twitter; you can check out the best on the Twitter aggregation site, Twitchy.

And yet, as worthy of mockery as this is, there’s a serious side. The Examiner’s Philip A. Klein calls this vandalism:

Obviously, as president, Obama can use the tools of the White House to advance his goals. But at the same time, all presidents are to some extent guardians of the institution. Sure, a lot of the White House website is naturally going to be used to promote Obama, but there are some areas that should be considered neutral ground — one of them being the history sections. White House presidential biographies are the type of thing that school kids read and they should be able to do so without being bombarded by propaganda for whoever is in power.

(…)

Obama should get beyond his own narcisism and realize that, win or lose in November, he’s just a temporary part of something that’s bigger than himself.

The best presidents –in fact, I’d say most, to a greater or lesser degree– have a sense of history, that they are only the custodians of an office and a tradition. They have healthy egos, but even those with the (heretofore) biggest, such as LBJ, know they stand in the shadows of the men who came before.

But not Barack Obama. He can’t get beyond his narcissism, as Klein says, because, trapped within it, he can’t see it for the self-absorption it is. Instead, it is a simple fact: All His 43 predecessors are merely His heralds, lighting the way to Him.

November can’t come fast enough.

LINKS: More from Hot Air, Sister Toldjah, Moe Lane, and Breitbart. Hilarity from National Review.

UPDATE: The RNC has set up a very funny satirical site of Obama’s great moments in history.

Footnotes:
(1) As a friend pointed out, Bush had trouble even defending his own policies, let alone taking credit for those of anyone else.
(2) I’m not sure if Ford’s shade should feel insulted or grateful.


Diminishing the office: Obama and credit for killing Bin Laden — Updated

May 1, 2012

This week marks the one-year anniversary since Seal Team Six sent Osama bin Laden to Hell. It also marks the time when a president who has little else to run on (and plenty to run from) touts his role in terminating the al Qaeda chief, promoting that as a reason to reelect him.

Now, I’m not one to say Obama cannot cite the Abbottabad raid; it was ultimately his responsibility as president, whether it succeeded or failed, so he has every right to list it as an accomplishment. But the way he has gone about it has been unseemly, crass, and beneath the president’s role as Chief of State and Commander in Chief, going so far as to smear his presumptive opponent, Mitt Romney, with the accusation that he would not have had the nerve to order the raid. An accusation like that is beneath contempt (1).

My blog-buddy ST has already written about how the tawdry manner in which Obama is exploiting the Abbottabad operation is raising the ire of former and serving Special Forces soldiers. Meanwhile, in an article for the WSJ, former federal judge and former US Attorney General (2) Michael Mukasey analyses how Obama claimed credit while dodging responsibility for the operation and then compares his self-aggrandizement to the manner in which prior wartime leaders have handled similar matters.

Mukasey begins with the almost giddy rush of the administration to gloat over the operation, showing almost no regard for the vast intelligence captured by telling the world we had it and thus alerting the enemy, and also naming SEAL Team 6, possibly leaving them exposed to a fatal revenge attack weeks later. All that is worth reading, but what I want to focus on is his comparison of the words of Obama at the time of the operation’s announcement with those of Presidents Lincoln and George W. Bush, and General Eisenhower at similarly dramatic moments. First, President Obama:

“I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority . . . even as I continued our broader effort. . . . Then, after years of painstaking work by my intelligence community I was briefed . . . I met repeatedly with my national security team . . . And finally last week I determined that I had enough intelligence to take action. . . . Today, at my direction . . .”

President “I won” in his full glory.

Obama once said he’d like to be compared to Lincoln. Mukasey takes him up on that, compares Obama’s statement to the speech Lincoln gave upon announcing Lee’s surrender, thus effectively ending the Civil War, and finds him wanting. Compare the quote above to what Lincoln said to the assembled crowd:

We meet this evening, not in sorrow, but in gladness of heart. The evacuation of Petersburg and Richmond, and the surrender of the principal insurgent army, give hope of a righteous and speedy peace whose joyous expression can not be restrained. In the midst of this, however, He from whom all blessings flow, must not be forgotten. A call for a national thanksgiving is being prepared, and will be duly promulgated. Nor must those whose harder part gives us the cause of rejoicing, be overlooked. Their honors must not be parcelled out with others. I myself was near the front, and had the high pleasure of transmitting much of the good news to you; but no part of the honor, for plan or execution, is mine. To Gen. Grant, his skilful officers, and brave men, all belongs. The gallant Navy stood ready, but was not in reach to take active part.

The 16th president of the United States, rendering full glory to others.

On D-Day, General (and future president) Eisenhower prepared a message for the landing’s success that exhibited a similar nobility of spirit:

“One week ago this morning there was established through your coordinated efforts our first foothold in northwestern Europe. High as was my preinvasion confidence in your courage, skill and effectiveness . . . your accomplishments . . . have exceeded my brightest hopes.

And Mukasey cites excerpts from George W. Bush’s statement upon the capture of Saddam Hussein:

He called that success “a tribute to our men and women now serving in Iraq.” He attributed it to “the superb work of intelligence analysts who found the dictator’s footprints in a vast country. The operation was carried out with skill and precision by a brave fighting force. Our servicemen and women and our coalition allies have faced many dangers. . . . Their work continues, and so do the risks.”

When Ike and W did mention themselves, it was only to speak of their pride in those who did the real work.

On the flip side, taking responsibility for failure, Mukasey contrasts the carefully crafted orders for the Abbottabad raid that would have left blame with the admiral in charge to the statements of Lincoln and Eisenhower, accepting responsibility for the failures of those below them. To this, we can add George W. Bush’s forthrightness in 2006, when he made himself accountable for the difficulties and failures to that point in Iraq, refusing to blame others.

Contrast these three leaders with Barack Obama’s careful shielding of himself from any responsibility, followed by his brassy “me and only me” spiking of the ball, and you’ll see just how the current incumbent not only diminishes the office he holds, but is also himself diminished by comparison to Lincoln, Eisenhower, and Bush.

Those three were Chiefs of State and Commanders in Chief.

Obama is just a cheap Chicago pol.

Footnote:
(1) Romney’s right. Even Jimmy Carter would have ordered the hit.
(2) And a real AG, not the cheap, corrupt knockoff we have in the office, now.

UPDATE: And right on cue, he proves my point — “Obama to address nation on the anniversary of Bin Laden’s death from Afghanistan.”

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


How De Tocqueville foresaw Obama and the progressives, part two

April 7, 2012

Early nineteenth century prose isn’t easy reading (meandering to the point, it seems, was an art form, then), but I’m going to have to knuckle under and read De Tocqueville’s works; the man was obviously  a political Nostradamus. Here he is describing one of progressivism’s defining characteristics to a “T:”

“A man’s admiration of absolute government is proportionate to the contempt he feels for those around him.”

Wilson. Obama. This condescending attitude toward the ordinary man and faith in government experts reeks from the two men who bookend the last century of the transformed presidency.

via Steven Hayward

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Sunday Book Review: The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Presidents from Wilson to Obama

March 25, 2012

How do we evaluate our presidents? What criteria do we use to say which are great and which are bad? If you’ve grown up in the postwar American school system, that question has been answered for you. The great presidents (1) are those who were “leaders,” who saw the Constitution as a living document that could be reinterpreted to meet “the needs of the times, and who chafed at the built-in constitutional limitations on government’s power, which kept the president from enacting “needed” reforms. Bad or weak presidents were those who respected the constitutional limits and didn’t follow an interventionist domestic policy. Thus, FDR was “great,” while Calvin Coolidge was “bad.”

But to stop there is to stay within the paradigm of the liberal-progressive historiography that’s dominated in our classrooms for the last half-century or so. Historian Steven Hayward, in his “The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Presidents from Wilson to Obama,” uses another standard: how well the president in question met the requirements of his oath of office:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

With that as his starting point, Hayward looks at the conception of the presidency held by the Founders and the 19th-century presidents through McKinley (2): that the president is the Chief magistrate of the nation, there to execute the laws, defend the Constitution, and lead the military in time of war. He was not intended to be a leader or interpreter of the national will; that job was given to Congress as the elected center of our national life. Largely, they met that goal, though I would argue that Andrew Jackson, a charismatic man who often claimed to speak for the nation as a whole, previewed his 20th-century successors.

The key chapter is the next, wherein Hayward examines how Woodrow Wilson, who thought the Constitution was obsolete and held separation of powers in contempt, changed the role of the presidency to that of a “Leader” who interpreted the national will and took the nation where the currents of History were leading it — the “progress” in “progressivism.” Wilson was heavily influenced by the German philosopher Hegel, who was also heavily influential in European authoritarian movements, such as Socialism and Fascism. (This is one of the themes discussed more fully in Goldberg’s “Liberal Fascism,” which I highly recommend.) In order to get where he wanted America to go, Wilson had to somehow circumvent the limitations placed on the presidency and government overall by the Constitution, hence, as Hayward notes, Wilson’s development of the doctrine of the “living Constitution,’ something near and dear to liberals today.

With that base –the original role of the presidency and how Wilson changed it– Hayward then briefly examines the administrations of each man from Wilson to Obama. He reviews each for how they saw their role, how they dealt with challenges that arose, how they thought (if they thought) about the Constitution and the meaning of the Founding, and the significance of their Supreme Court appointments (for the “living Constitution” doctrine has turned the Supreme Court into an unending constitutional convention). At the end of each chapter, he assigns the president in question a letter grade reflecting how well he met his oath. I don’t think it’s spoiling anything to summarize the list here:

Wilson F
Harding B+
Coolidge A+
Hoover C-
FDR F
Truman C+
Eisenhower C+
Kennedy C-
LBJ F
Nixon C+
Ford C+
Carter F
Reagan A-
G. H. W. Bush B
Clinton F
G. W. Bush B+
Obama F (in progress)

I’m sure readers can spot the pattern there: presidents who exceeded their constitutional authority, who failed to meet their duties, and/or who disgrace their office fare poorly. Those who show a high regard for our founding principles score well. Most fall in-between.

Like other books in the “Politically Incorrect Guide” (PIG) series, Hayward’s book is a brief overview, not a deep, detailed work. Its intent is to introduce to the reader to another way of looking at a question, a way that sharply and often controversially (3) varies from current orthodoxy — indeed, “politically incorrect.” While reading, sidebars inform the reader of interesting facts about each president, such as Harding being the coiner of the phrase “Founding Fathers,” and point one to “Books you shouldn’t read,” because they too are politically incorrect. So, even though the PIGs give just a brief survey of a topic, the reader comes away with a good reading list for further exploration.

Hayward’s style is very easy to read: straightforward, flowing, witty, but never superficial. While I don’t agree with him wholly in some cases, or at least have some reservations (4), he makes his case well and provides ammunition to conservatives looking for intellectual and constitutional grounds on which to challenge the left-liberal paradigm.

Summary: An entertaining survey of the presidency over the last 100 years that is at the same time thought-provoking and informative. Highly recommended.

Footnotes:
(1) Some grudgingly include Reagan, even though they hate his politics, because his accomplishments just can’t be ignored.
(2) TR, one of my favorite presidents, is a transitional figure. And, I have to admit, he did go off a bit of a cliff at the end of his life with his “New Nationalism.”
(3) Don’t believe me? Try telling a committed liberal that the New Deal was an objective failure.
(4) His argument about what really caused Nixon’s fall is new to me, and I’m not wholly sold.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Quote of the Day, Jefferson/Madison edition

March 16, 2012

Today is James Madison‘s birthday, and what better way to note it than to cite his quotation of Thomas Jefferson in The Federalist #48, something I think you’ll find apropos of our situation today:

“One hundred and seventy-three despots would surely be as oppressive as one. Let those who doubt it, turn their eyes on the republic of Venice. As little will it avail us, that they are chosen by ourselves. An elective despotism was not the government we fought for…

I think I know how Presidents Jefferson and Madison would react to the way ObamaCare was shoved through Congress in the middle of the night by the Democrats, don’t you?

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Obama calls out his real rival — UPDATED: Obama whiffs US History

March 15, 2012

Yo! Why you pickin on me, O-dog?

The one, the only, Rutherford B. Hayes!

Speaking about the need to develop new sources of American energy in Largo, Md., Obama used our 19th president as a failure of forward-thinking leadership.

“One of my predecessors, President Rutherford B. Hayes, reportedly said about the telephone: ‘It’s a great invention but who would ever want to use one?'” Obama said. “That’s why he’s not on Mt. Rushmore.”

“He’s looking backwards, he’s not looking forward. He’s explaining why we can’t do something instead of why we can do something,” Obama said. “The point is there will always be cynics and naysayers.”

Okay, I can see the point he was trying to make –“Reactionary Republicans, far-sighted Democrats”– but I think the message will be somewhat lost amongst all the people scratching their heads and saying “Who?” Hayes is a bit obscure… (1)

But hearing this president call anyone “backward-looking” and implying they’re reactionary is a bit rich. I mean, who’s the guy who revived the failed Keynesian policies of the New Deal and the Great Society? Which president said technological advances caused unemployment? And, remind me here, I’m a bit stuck. Just which among our 44 presidents was obsessed with the national security problems of 30 years before his time, from nations that no longer exist?

President Hayes may not have seen the worth of the telephone, Mr. President, but at least he did no great harm to his country.

Can you say as much?

Footnote:
(1) Hayes is most known for the Compromise of 1877, the deal that allowed him to assume the presidency after a very close, hotly disputed election. (And, previewing 2000, Florida’s electoral votes were at the center of it.) He’s also the president who ended the last vestiges of Reconstruction, mostly because the Democrat-controlled House refused to fund the needed expenditures.

UPDATE: Just beautiful. The lefty Talking Points Memo corrects Obama about his “backward-looking” predecessor:

But Nan Card, curator of manuscripts at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center in Ohio, told TPM that the nation’s 19th president was being unfairly tagged as a Luddite.

“He really was the opposite,” she said. “He had the first telephone in the White House. He also had the first typewriter in the White House. Thomas Edison came to the White House as well and displayed the phonograph. Photographing people who came to the White House and visited at dinners and receptions was also very important to him.”

While often cited, Card said Obama’s cited quote had never been confirmed by contemporary sources and is likely apocryphal. A contemporary newspaper account of his first experience with telephone in 1877 from the Providence Journal records a smiling Hayes repeatedly responding to the voice on the other line with the phrase, “That is wonderful.” You can read the full story here.

“He was pretty technology-oriented for the time,” Card said. “Between the telephone, the telegraph, the phonograph and photography, I think he was pretty much on the cutting edge.”

Be sure to read the rest, including the comments section where the Obamabots start whining like babies. And enjoy. (h/t Moe Lane)

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


JFK the worst president of the 20th century? Maybe…

July 19, 2011

So argues Thomas Ricks, a lifelong Massachusetts Democrat, in a short article at Foreign Policy:

“As I studied the Vietnam war over the last 14 months, I began to think that John F. Kennedy probably was the worst American president of the previous century.

In retrospect, he spent his 35 months in the White House stumbling from crisis to fiasco. He came into office and okayed the Bay of Pigs invasion. Then he went to a Vienna summit conference and got his clock cleaned by Khrushchev. That led to, among other things, the Cuban missile crisis and a whiff of nuclear apocalypse.

Looming over it all is the American descent into Vietnam. The assassination of Vietnam’s President Diem on Kennedy’s watch may have been one of the two biggest mistakes of the war there. (The other was the decision to wage a war of attrition on the unexamined assumption that Hanoi would buckle under the pain.) I don’t buy the theory promulgated by Robert McNamara and others that Kennedy would have kept U.S. troops out. Sure, Kennedy wanted out of Vietnam — just like Lyndon Johnson wanted out a few years later: “We’ll scale down our presence after victory is secure.” And much more than Johnson, Kennedy was influenced by General Maxwell Taylor, who I suspect had been looking for a “small war” mission for the Army for several years. Indochina looked like a peachy place for that — warmer than Korea, and farther from Russia.”

It’s an interesting argument. Clearly Kennedy has been overrated to the point of canonization by Democrats who see a Golden Age in his administration that was lost to assassination. Along with the foreign policy problems Ricks mentions, many of Kennedy’s major domestic initiatives were stalled in Congress, only to be pushed through because of LBJ’s skillful politics in the wake of Kennedy’s murder.

On the other hand, JFK’s reputation has had a bit of a revival on the Right, at least by comparison with those Democrats who came after him: he did set us on the course to the Moon; he was a Cold Warrior vis-a-vis the Soviet Union (albeit an inept one); and he pushed through major tax cuts that lead to the early 60s boom.

But the worst of the 20th century? It think Ricks is using a bit of hyperbole to to force a reconsideration of Kennedy, for I can posit a few candidates for “worst:”

  • Woodrow Wilson, for his imposition of segregation in the federal government, his needless violations of civil rights during and after World War 1, and his general disdain for the Constitution.
  • Herbert Hoover/FDR. Peas in a pod, controversial only because Hoover is a demon and FDR a demigod in the liberal theology. Yet, far from being a laissez-faire do-nothing whose evil had to be undone by the New Deal, Hoover was a big-government interventionist whose work laid the foundations for FDR’s programs, and those programs lengthened the Great Depression by seven years. Considering the misery of the Depression, that should put both men up there on the “worst” scale. There’s also the matter of the Japanese internment of World War II, a candidate for the greatest civil rights crime of the 20th century, rivaling slavery and the ethnic cleansing of the Indian tribes in the 19th. Let’s give FDR the lion’s share of this.
  • LBJ: His “Great Society” and “War on Poverty” massively and unconstitutionally expanded the federal government, harmed African-Americans, and put us well on the road to the entitlement crisis we face today. And let’s not forget badly, horribly mishandling the war in Vietnam.
  • Nixon: Criminality in Watergate, wage and price controls, and weakness with the Soviets via detente. The latter made the Soviets feel they could make a final push to gain superiority over us, which for a time they may have achieved.
  • Carter: Need I say more?

So, while Ricks has a point about Kennedy’s weaknesses, there are others arguably as bad or worse. If forced to make a choice, for now I’d choose LBJ; Carter was weaker, but Johnson’s entitlement binge is doing us much greater long-term damage. And while FDR expanded the government and mishandled the Depression badly, he at least won his war.

Whom would you choose?

LINK: Doug Mataconis votes for Woodrow Wilson.

via Big Peace

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)