Opinion: Obama initiatives are dead in the water

May 4, 2013


— Fate is fickle, power cyclical, and nothing is new under the sun. Especially in Washington, where after every election the losing party is sagely instructed to confess sin, rend garments and rethink its principles lest it go the way of the Whigs. And where the victor is hailed as the new Caesar, facing an open road to domination.

And where Barack Obama, already naturally inclined to believe his own loftiness, graciously accepted the kingly crown and proceeded to ride his re-election success to a crushing victory over the GOP at the fiscal cliff, leaving a humiliated John Boehner & Co. with nothing but naked tax hikes.

Thus emboldened, Obama turned his inaugural and State of the Union addresses into a left-wing dream factory, from his declaration of war on global warming (on a planet where temperatures are the same as 16 years ago and in a country whose CO2 emissions are at a 20-year low) to the invention of new entitlements -- e.g., universal preschool for 5-year-olds -- for a country already drowning in debt.

To realize his dreams, Obama sought to fracture and neutralize the congressional GOP as a prelude to reclaiming the House in 2014. This would enable him to fully enact his agenda in the final two years of his presidency, usually a time of lame-duck paralysis. Hail the Obama juggernaut.

Well, that story — excuse me, narrative — lasted exactly six months. The Big Mo is gone.

It began with the sequester. Obama never believed the Republicans would call his bluff and let it go into effect. They did.

Taken by surprise, Obama cried wolf, predicting the end of everything we hold dear if the sequester was not stopped. It wasn’t. Nothing happened.

Highly embarrassed, and determined to indeed make (bad) things happen, the White House refused Republican offers to give it more discretion in making cuts. Bureaucrats were instructed to inflict maximum pain from minimal cuts, as revealed by one memo from the Agriculture Department demanding agency cuts that the public would feel.

Things began with the near-comical cancellation of White House tours and ended with not-so-comical airline delays. Obama thought furious passengers would blame the GOP. But isn’t the executive branch in charge of these agencies? Who thinks that a government spending $3.6 trillion a year can’t cut 2 percent without furloughing air traffic controllers?

Looking not just incompetent at managing budgets but cynical for deliberately injuring the public welfare, the administration relented. Congress quickly passed a bill giving Obama reallocation authority to restore air traffic control. Having previously threatened to veto any such bill, Obama caved. He signed. 

Not exactly Appomattox, but coming immediately after Obama’s spectacular defeat on gun control, it marked an administration that had lost its “juice,” to paraphrase a charming question at the president’s news conference.

For Obama, gun control was a political disaster. He invested capital. He went on a multicity tour. He paraded grieving relatives. And got nothing. An assault-weapons ban — a similar measure had passed the Congress 20 years ago — lost 60-40 in a Senate where Democrats control 55 seats. Obama failed even to get mere background checks.

All this while appearing passive, if not helpless, on the world stage. On Syria, Obama was nervously trying to erase the WMD red line he had so publicly established. On Benghazi, he stonewalled accusations that State Department officials wishing to testify are being blocked.

He is even taking heat for the Boston bombings. Every day brings another revelation of signals missed beforehand. And his post-bombing pledge to hunt down those responsible was mocked by the scandalous Mirandizing of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, gratuitously shutting down information from the one person who knows more than anyone about possible still-existent explosives, associates, trainers, future plans, etc.

Now, the screw will undoubtedly turn again. If immigration reform passes, Obama will be hailed as the comeback kid, and a new “Obama rising” narrative proclaimed.

This will overlook the fact that immigration reform has little to do with Obama and everything to do with GOP panic about the Hispanic vote. In fact, Obama has been asked by congressional negotiators to stay away, so polarizing a figure has he become.

Nonetheless, whatever happens, the screw will surely turn again, if only because of media boredom. But that’s the one constant of Washington political life: There are no straight-line graphs. We live from inflection point to inflection point.

And we’ve just experienced one. From king of the world to dead in the water in six months. Quite a ride.

— Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.


Thomas Bryce Jr. 4 years, 7 months ago

Oh Charles. More wishful thinking and Spin. Of course it is an opinion piece, so it is what I have come to expect from you. Everyone IS entitled to their OWN opinion, but opinions with very little, if any, basis on fact are opinions with out credibility. Facts are not needed to stir up you base. Keep the articles coming, though. Very entertaining" King of the world to dead in the water in six months". Hysterical! Opinion writer, comedian, Satirist for sure. Journalist? Nah.

Kate Rogge 4 years, 7 months ago

Maybe Krauthammer would make more sense if he kept both hands on the keyboard.

jayhawklawrence 4 years, 7 months ago

Krauthammer does make some good points, however, because it is Krauthammer, he has zero credibility. Too many people have forgotten that objectivity in reviewing of facts and events is fundamental to good decision making.

In my view, Krauthammer and his brotherhood of right wing propagandists are one of the major reasons our country has lost its political wisdom and cannot find talented leadership in government.

In order for the two party system to function well, it needs to have synergy which can produce solutions in a changing world. It is not functioning well today and I blame people like Krauthammer, Limbaugh, Beck, Norquist and all the rest of them who have become wealthy while doing nothing positive to help this country.

Yes, Obama is falling short in a lot of areas. But I still believe he was the best available candidate. Until the Republican Party takes a long look in the mirror and realizes how very very bad they are, even rediculously stupid, this is not going to get any better.

sasquatch 4 years, 7 months ago

Krauthammer couldn't be more correct. The Obama machine is done. The "glory" of his envisioned socialist utopian experiment has all but crumbled and it began with the failed stimulus package (ARRA) at the beginning of his first term. Now, it will just be fun to watch the continued unraveling of his second term. Talk about your lame ducks.

Thomas Bryce Jr. 4 years, 7 months ago

The GOP obviously Has not learned a thing from the last Two Presidential elections. Thinking like the writer of this opinion piece is rampant in the Republican Party and contributed to their recent losses. If they Double Down on their current Ideology and Political Philosophy, they WILL loose the next Election as well. You can't Alienate and Blame two thirds the population for all the problems this country faces and then expect to win an Election. Period.

jafs 4 years, 7 months ago

A good point.

I wish those who liked to blame Obama for everything took it into account.

Thomas Bryce Jr. 4 years, 7 months ago

I have not forgot that at all. I predict we will see some changes this next election. Republicans have shown their true colors and will see defeats in very important races. They failed at the presidential Level but had some progress elsewhere. I thinks that is over. All but the most devout and stalwart Republicans still cling to the Old Ways of Republicanism. The Country is Changing. Heck, The World is changing. If the GOP does not change to reflect the direction WE(The People) are going,They Will Be Left Behind.

Armstrong 4 years, 7 months ago

Barry has become the Chiefs back up quarterback of Presidents. Kind of a President in name only, we use him in absence of something better. My hope is as with all back ups you're in there because we need you, just don't screw it up. The four previous (years) quarters you've played have been sub par at best. Unfortunately you are the back up to a lousy team as well. America is in dire need of a Marty Schottenheimer, Tom Landry, John Madden....

Larry Sturm 4 years, 7 months ago

I would hate to think where we would be if the GOP was in power think about how many times the american people have bailed out the policies of the GOP also a war against a country that didn't attack us. If the GOP were in power there would be no taxes on the upper income and the middle class would be paying it all. we would probably be 20 trillion in debt.

Thomas Bryce Jr. 4 years, 7 months ago

Seems to me that no matter what the Affiliation is of the sitting President, Something bad happens and I am sure you can give plenty of accounts. Sorry for the Automobile analogy But I am of the mind that if all these "Drivers" keep putting the same "car" in the ditch, we maybe should be looking at the Car(i.e. The system of Government). Just an observation.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 7 months ago

Jul 8, 1959

"Maj. Dale R. Ruis and Master Sgt. Chester M. Ovnand become the first Americans killed in the American phase of the Vietnam War when guerrillas strike a Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) compound in Bien Hoa, 20 miles northeast of Saigon. The group had arrived in South Vietnam on November 1, 1955, to provide military assistance. The organization consisted of U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps personnel who provided advice and assistance to the Ministry of Defense, Joint General Staff, corps and division commanders, training centers, and province and district headquarters."


deec 4 years, 7 months ago

I'm sure the families of the couple of hundred U.S. personnel killed before 1965 will be relieved to know their kin don't count.

Thomas Bryce Jr. 4 years, 7 months ago

Kansas IS a Great example of what Republican Dominated Government will Look Like. Take A GOOD, LONG Look. Do You Like What You See? No? Be Afraid! Be Very Afraid! But VOTE! Most of all, VOTE!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 7 months ago

I don't know which is more disgusting-- Obama's tendency to throw his natural constituencies under the bus in order to find some Grand Bargain, or the Republicans' single-minded agenda of obstructionism, with the single goal of making things as bad as they can, hoping that Obama will get blamed for it.

Orwell 4 years, 7 months ago

"Bureaucrats were instructed to inflict maximum pain from minimal cuts, as revealed by one memo from the Agriculture Department demanding agency cuts that the public would feel."

This is a lie by Krauthammer, pure and simple. The cited memo does nothing more than assure that the previously planned cuts to a particular USDA aquaculture program would be exactly as the department told Congress they would be. There's nothing about inflicting pain, maximum or – that's just Krauthammer's twisted, partisan interpretation of a memo that's actually about assuring the agency lives up to its word to Congress. See for yourself at: http://griffin.house.gov/sites/griffin.house.gov/files/email.pdf

And, incidentally, if Krauthammer thinks cutting a $263,000 federal subsidy to aquaculture is "inflicting maximum pain from minimal cuts," he's taken leave of whatever senses he had left after five years of spewing vituperation in the destructive service of his right wing friends.

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