Obama seeking scapegoats to hide failures

October 15, 2011


What do you do if you can’t run on your record — on 9 percent unemployment, stagnant growth and ruinous deficits as far as the eye can see? How to run when you are asked whether Americans are better off than they were four years ago and you are compelled to answer no?

Play the outsider. Declare yourself the underdog. Denounce Washington as if the electorate hasn’t noticed that you’ve been in charge of it for nearly three years.

But above all: Find villains.

President Obama first tried finding excuses, blaming America’s dismal condition on Japanese supply-chain interruptions, the Arab Spring, European debt and various acts of God.

Didn’t work. Sounds plaintive, defensive. Lacks fight, which is what Obama’s base lusts for above all.

Hence Obama’s new strategy: Don’t whine, blame. Attack. Indict. Accuse. Who? The rich — and their Republican protectors — for wrecking America.

In Obama’s telling, it’s the refusal of the rich to “pay their fair share” that jeopardizes Medicare. If millionaires don’t pony up, schools will crumble. Oil-drilling tax breaks are costing teachers their jobs. Corporate loopholes will gut medical research.

It’s crude. It’s Manichaean. And the left loves it. As a matter of math and logic, however, it’s ridiculous. Obama’s most coveted tax hike — an extra 3 to 4.6 percent for millionaires and billionaires (weirdly defined as individuals making over $200,000) — would have reduced last year’s deficit from $1.29 trillion to $1.21 trillion. Nearly a rounding error. The oil-drilling breaks cover less than half a day’s federal spending. You could collect Obama’s favorite tax loophole — depreciation for corporate jets — for 100 years and it wouldn’t cover one month of Medicare, whose insolvency is a function of increased longevity, expensive new technology and wasteful defensive medicine caused by an insane malpractice system.

After three years, Obama’s self-proclaimed transformative social policies have yielded a desperately weak economy. What to do? Take the low road: Plutocrats are bleeding the country and I shall rescue you from them.

Problem is, this kind of populist demagoguery is more than intellectually dishonest. It’s dangerous. Obama is opening a Pandora’s box. Popular resentment, easily stoked, is less easily controlled, especially when the basest of instincts are granted legitimacy by the nation’s leader.

Exhibit A. On Tuesday, the Democratic-controlled Senate passed punitive legislation over China’s currency. If not stopped by House Speaker John Boehner, it might have led to a trade war — a 21st-century Smoot-Hawley. Obama knows this. He has shown no appetite for a reckless tariff war. But he set the tone. Once you start hunting for villains, they can be found anywhere, particularly if they are conveniently foreign.

Exhibit B. Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin rails against Bank of America for announcing a $5 a month debit card fee. Obama echoes the opprobrium with fine denunciations of banks and their hidden fees — except that this $5 fee is not hidden. It’s perfectly transparent.

Yet here is a leading Democratic senator advocating a run on a major (and troubled) bank — after two presidents and two Congresses sunk billions of taxpayer dollars to save failing banks — not because they were deserving or virtuous but because they are necessary. Without banks, there is no lending. Without lending, there is no business. Without business, there are no jobs.

Exhibit C. To the villainy-of-the-rich theme emanating from Washington, a child is born: Occupy Wall Street. Starbucks-sipping, Levi’s-clad, iPhone-clutching protesters denounce corporate America even as they weep for Steve Jobs, corporate titan, billionaire eight times over.

These indignant indolents saddled with their $50,000 student loans and English degrees have decided that their lack of gainful employment is rooted in the malice of the millionaires on whose homes they are now marching — to the applause of Democrats suffering acute tea party envy and now salivating at the energy these big-government anarchists will presumably give their cause.

Except that the real tea party actually had a program — less government, less regulation, less taxation, less debt. What’s the Occupy Wall Street program? Eat the rich.  

And then what? Haven’t gotten that far.

No postprandial plans. But no matter. After all, this is not about programs or policies. This is about scapegoating, a failed administration trying to save itself by blaming our troubles — and its failures — on class enemies, turning general discontent into rage against a malign few.

From the Senate to the streets, it’s working. Obama is too intelligent not to know what he started. But so long as it gives him a shot at re-election, he shows no sign of caring.

— Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group. His email is letters@charleskrauthammer.com.


Kristine Bailey 6 years, 5 months ago

I wonder if the cry babies had enough guts to read this story. Don't ya just love the postprandial joke? Get it?

cato_the_elder 6 years, 5 months ago

"From the Senate to the streets, it’s working. Obama is too intelligent not to know what he started. But so long as it gives him a shot at re-election, he shows no sign of caring."

I disagree. The whole country has seen the filth that these vagrant "protestors" have inflicted on New York City, whose mayor is too spineless to put a stop to it. (Rudy Giuliani never would have put up with it.) The whole country has also witnessed the rank hypocrisy of many of these spoiled children who are nothing but zombie-like automatons repeatedly making fools of themselves based on daily doses of drivel dished out by left-wing websites such as the Daily Kos.

Based on what happened in 1968 and 1972, Obama encourages these cretins at his peril. He's already tanked in terms of any semblance of leadership, and independent voters who witness the idiotic, nonsensical rantings of these modern-day hippies, which have been covered incessantly by a fawning media, will react just as they did in 1968 and 1972. A few smart Dems (e.g., highly respected former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell) are trying to warn of this, but Obama and his cronies are desperate and aren't listening.

I say bring it on. It will only help to consign the least capable American president in living memory to one term in office, and thereafter allow adults who understand how business works to take over and get unemployed American citizens back to work.

Corey Williams 6 years, 5 months ago

Herman ( or Herb to Palin) Cain, or anyone from Texas. At least put the comedians back to work.

esteshawk 6 years, 5 months ago

Manufactured crisis? like Iraq? Good grief.

Fossick 6 years, 5 months ago

If the US could hold a presidential election in 1864, with hostile armies parked less than 100 miles from Washington, no manufactured 'crisis' further away is going to stop it this time.

I second esteshawk: good grief. You gotta wear it with the shiny side out, ok?

mloburgio 6 years, 5 months ago

How Bush Broke the Government To gain a true sense of Bush’s legacy, we survey the systematic and politically motivated ways he undermined the federal government. http://prospect.org/cs/articles?article=how_bush_broke_the_government

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 5 months ago

Ane what solutions do Republicans have to the problems they created that Obama has been unable to solve? Only one-- whine about Obama.

Liberty275 6 years, 5 months ago

I can't wait to see the debates. Cain is going to rip Obama to shreds.

Windemere 6 years, 5 months ago

I'd vote for Cain over Obama, but have to disagree, Obama is one of the most skilled debaters on the national scene in many years. Afraid Cain would look way out of his league.

Liberty275 6 years, 5 months ago

To borrow a phrase form our current vice president, Obama is "well-spoken". When he is put on the spot he loses that quality because he doesn't have time to figure out which version of his various positions will sway the swing voters without alienating even more of his base.

I think Cain will keep him "on the spot" and then you will see what Obama is really made of. It will not be pretty.

Corey Williams 6 years, 5 months ago

But it would have to be short. People would have to be able to watch it while they were having dinner. Preferably, his pizza.

verity 6 years, 5 months ago

"it's been theorized . . ."

I thought exactly the same thing about Bush/Cheney.

Obviously I was wrong.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 5 months ago

" How to run when you are asked whether Americans are better off than they were four years ago and you are compelled to answer no?"

Yes, we are better off-- George W. Bush and BushCo are no longer in office. That's faint praise, indeed, but it's true, nonetheless.

And when voters go to the polls next November, they'll be asking themselves if the Republican candidate would be better than Obama. And what is the answer that most will come up with-- "No."

Again, faint praise, but it's all Obama needs to get a second term.

jafs 6 years, 5 months ago

Only if everybody turns out to vote, instead of staying at home, and not too many people vote for Nader, or other third party candidates instead of one of the two major party ones.

You, in fact, claimed to have not voted for Obama last time - I assume you voted third party. Will you be voting for Obama this time?

Liberty275 6 years, 5 months ago

I voted libertarian where possible and for "Mr No New Taxes" everywhere else.

I'll likely vote the same again unless by some bizarre circumstance the race in Kansas gets close, then I'll vote for Cain.

I wouldn't vote for Obama in any circumstance because he little more than a used car salesman that was groomed by the Chicago political machine and then the DNC. He was elected via slogan by people incapable of spotting habitual liars.

As you know, I'll give props to Mr Obama when I agree with his actions (deleting bin Laden is an example), but you should not take that as any indication I find Mr Obama acceptable as president.

Fossick 6 years, 5 months ago

I voted for 2 Republicans (of whom McCain was not one), 2 Democrats (of whom Obama was not one), and the remainder third party last time. I don't predict a whole lot of difference this time around.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 5 months ago

The Republican candidate will win in Kansas no matter who I vote for. So what difference could it possibly make if I vote for Obama or not? (there's that electoral college again, making sure that votes in Kansas are largely meaningless.)

Liberty275 6 years, 5 months ago

Vote libertarian and help us out! Once the door opens to a third party it will be open to others.

jafs 6 years, 5 months ago

You are technically correct, but if everybody who feels as you do votes for Obama, then his share of the popular vote will be much larger.

It seems to me that politicians do care a little bit about that - if Obama wins with a larger popular vote margin, it may mean something to them.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 5 months ago

It wasn't an endorsement of Obama. I was merely noting that things could be worse. And if BushCo were still in power, they would be.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 5 months ago

For lots of people, including myself and apparently you, things could likely be about the same.

But for a very large percentage of folks at the very bottom, things would almost certainly be worse. Obama has been mixed on environmental issues, but BushCo would definitely be worse. And civil liberties would have been eroded considerably more under a continued reign of the neocons-- even though Obama's record has been pretty horrible with only real exception that I can think, the repeal of don't ask don't tell. BushCo would not have done that. And as loathsome as Obamacare is in any number of ways, it almost certainly will result in a considerable increase in the number of folks who have insurance (but still tens of millions who don't, and an equal number who have insurance, but whose premiums are well beyond what they can really afford.) If the repub wins in 2012, the number of uninsured will go up significantly, and health care costs will continue to rise much faster than the rate of inflation.

So, yes, things could be worse. And if the Republican candidate wins in 2012, for the great majority of humans on this planet, things will get worse, as the redistribution of wealth from the bottom 99% to the top 1% quickens.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 5 months ago

Sigh-- All I've said is that things are marginally better for most people under Obama than they would be under Bush-- and they are.

But you don't want to argue against that. You insist on insisting that this constitutes praise of Obama; that it is somehow an endorsement of his policies and his performance.

And you call me lazy. What a joke.

Liberty275 6 years, 5 months ago

"Play the outsider. Declare yourself the underdog. Denounce Washington as if the electorate hasn’t noticed that you’ve been in charge of it for nearly three years. "

That reminds me of a scene in O Brother, Where Art Thou, where one of the governor's lackeys suggest they run on reform, and the wiley old governors whacks the lacky on the head and asks "how are we going to run on reform when we are the incumbent".

Life imitating art... LOL.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 5 months ago

"...Obama is a despicable man. Dishonest and heartless to the core... "I would say this, Obama likes the show and idea of being President, but I don’t think he likes the job of being President.... "Classless, cluless, cruel and corrupt...." http://news.firedoglake.com/2011/10/14/obama-administration-nixes-the-class-act/ Read some of the other comments for big yucks! (from a source)

verity 6 years, 5 months ago

I sometimes play a little game called Guess Who Wrote the Article from the Title. Spot on today.

beatrice 6 years, 5 months ago

I play the game of "Who is bashing Obama, and what name did they used to logon with"?

It is like a zombie fest around here with so many people returning to life.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 5 months ago

American troops in Uganda? That's a long way to go for a diversion.

Fossick 6 years, 5 months ago

"...not because they were deserving or virtuous but because they are necessary. Without banks, there is no lending. Without lending, there is no business. Without business, there are no jobs. "

Except there would have been no "without banks." So long as there is money to be made lending, someone will lend it. It might have been a restructured Bank of America, it might have been the mom and pop bank on the corner of Dirt Road and Cattle Crossing, but bankruptcy does not mean "out of business." Just ask GM and Chrysler. That Krauthammer does not understand this is - or won't admit it - just goes to show that he's a mere partisan rather than someone who fundamentally disagrees with Obama.

The problem with Obama is not that he is too little like Bush but that he is too much like him. The problems Bush created were not solved by Obama because his solutions are Bush solutions*. Bush's cabinet wars are now Obama's, except that Obama has added a few even less important. Bush's solution to credit investor losses to the taxpayers' account is now Obama's. His solution to punish savers via low interest rates is now Obama's - Obama even re-appointed Bush's Fed chairman. But the problem is not the choice of Fed chairman so much as the need to choose one. Bush's problems he inherited - and improved on - from Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson.

It's a cute little fight for the Presidency, but it's akin to a fight of Northern Baptists and Southern ones over the Baptist Distinctives. Putting former Fed executive Herman Cain in charge of fixing problems caused by the Fed is more of the same. Putting Rick Perry - who created Texas's Emerging Technology Fund - in charge of cleaning up Solyndra problems is more of the same. Putting Mitt Romney in charge of fixing ObamaCare? You get the idea.

And before Gandalf asks, I'll take Gary Johnson**. Not that he's much better, just that he's the best of a bad lot. Since he's not going to be available, I'll take whomever the Libertarians offer, most likely.

  • Except Chrysler and GM, which Obama correctly pushed through bankruptcy where Bush would not. All accusations that Obama was a socialist should have died that day. ** I like Ron Paul as well, but I suspect he's past his elect-by date.

jayhawklawrence 6 years, 5 months ago

While reading another Krauthammer column I am reminded once again why our government is not functioning as it should. It is because there are too many people like Krauthammer influencing our political decisions. Krauthammer and his right wing base of zealots are not the kind of people you want making important decisions.

During the last Presidential election, it came down to McCain and Palin vs. Obama and Biden. Not much of an intellectual contest. McCain always looked mad at somebody and said he was going to stand up to the Russians over Georgia. Kind of scary.

Obama stood out as the most qualified man based on his natural leadership abilities, his intellect and his ability to articulate his message. He simply won all the debates. Fair and square.

The right wing has been struggling to bring him down ever since but they have also struggled to articulate their message. That is why their strategy is simply to try to hang the man anyway they can.

I don't think 9-9-9 is much of a strategy and I agree that it sounds like a pizza commercial.

What we need in government is the same thing that every company needs to be successful. Good decision making and a plan for constant improvement based on incremental changes where the results can be measured.

We need good managers in government, not politicians and sales people. Politicians cannot manage anything. They are impractical and prone to grandiose ideas and radical decision making that only ends up creating huge problems and gigantic expenses that no one can pay for.

We need to elect intelligent people who can manage materials and people, can make good decisions and at the end of the day just might be the most boring people on the planet.

Not people like Krauthammer and his right wing band of looney toons.

I would like to see Obama out of politics for selfish reasons. I believe he could do a lot of good in the world after he is able to leave the hell hole called Washington politics behind him.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 5 months ago

We're finding out that wonderful teleprompter skills will only carry a politician so far.

Mike Ford 6 years, 5 months ago

the GOP spends five terms since 1980 with supply side disasters, manufactured nonsense in Grenada (do conservatives remember anything their people do?), more supply side economics, manufactured nonsense in Kuwait, and two terms of manufactured nonsense in Afghanistan and iraq leaving the capture and killing of Osama Bin laden to the person that the dimwits can't stand on these postings. Beyond that they asked China to pay for the wars and told americans to take out multiple mortgages on their homes and go shopping... great leadership advice. Bill cleaned up reagan's and bush's messes and left a surplus for dumya to waste. You want more just ask....

Flap Doodle 6 years, 5 months ago

tushy, you're in first place in the run-on incoherent sentence derby for today.

Mike Ford 6 years, 5 months ago

stupid questions don't deserve answers since I've never voted for a republican in 23 years of voting. Secondly...firewater isn't racist and doesn't violate any kind of tos and unlike americans I can speak a number of languages and know that there were dialects that existed before the "Y'ALL" and "YOU BETCHA" dialects of English.

tbaker 6 years, 5 months ago

Here is a preview of the sort of political commercials we will be seeing soon. The President's greatest strength will be his biggest weakness in the coming campaign. If all you are known for is being able to read a teleprompter and deliver speeches, then that will be used against you.


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 5 months ago

Breitbart, really? Why would anybody believe anything that pathologically lying hack produces?

tbaker 6 years, 5 months ago

Brieitbart didn't come up with the statistics, or did you watch the video?

jafs 6 years, 5 months ago

I tried, but found the constant music playing behind the video too distracting.

It would be better without that.

Mike Ford 6 years, 5 months ago

nice game playing liberty...I talked to your people yesterday at Maple Leaf....thanks to you libertarians and the tea dimwits love for Romney Obama will get a second term... remember what Perot to Bush....sweet dreams...

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