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.


Orwell 11 months, 2 weeks 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:

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.


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 months, 2 weeks 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.


lily_livered 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Obama is merely but a celebrity. He is transformational and is developing every day as a cause celeb.


Larry Sturm 11 months, 3 weeks 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.


Armstrong 11 months, 3 weeks 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....


Thomas Bryce 11 months, 3 weeks 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.


Milton Bland 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Wow, it looks like the Douglas County/Lawrence Liberals are finally beginning to recognize the fact that Obama is a total failure!


sasquatch 11 months, 3 weeks 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.


jayhawklawrence 11 months, 3 weeks 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.


tissue 11 months, 3 weeks ago

I don't think Obama's vision or implementation of the vision for America is dead in the water. Wrist Twister laid that out fairly well, and as he said the list goes on.


WristTwister 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Past performance is always a good predictor of future behavior. I know you are only focusing on the past 6 months Charles, but this President has demonstrated a track record of failures and actions which have weakened our nation and may take decades to correct. Mr. Hope and Change wants to create a nation that casts aside capitalism for one that is government controlled and punishes those who strive to succeed. Gasoline prices were $1.79/gal on the day Obama was inaugurated and currently average around $3.50/gal nationwide. Food stamp recipients have risen over 40% since Obama took office and even with the recent decreases in unemployment numbers, the current UE rate is 7.5% which is the lowest it's been during Obama's Presidency and due largely to the work force participation rate being at the lowest level since the 70s. The number of Americans living in poverty has dramatically increased and our national debt is up from approx $10T to approx $17T in only a little over 4 years under Obama. Staggering "hope and change" isn't it. How did we get here? Might be due to the following Obama "accomplishments".

First President to preside over a cut to the credit rating of the United States. Violated the War Powers Act. Required all Americans to purchase a product from a third party (Obamacare). Spent a trillion dollars on "shovel ready" jobs and later admitted that they were not so "shovel ready". Abrogated bankruptcy law to turn over control of companies to his union supporters. By-passed Congress to implement the Dream Act through executive fiat. Terminated America's ability to put a man in space. Turned a blind eye to intimidation at polling places. Arbitrarily declared an existing law unconstitutional and refused to enforce it. First President to tell a manufacturing company (Boeing) in which state they are allowed to locate a factory. Filed lawsuits against states he swore an oath to protect (AZ, WI, OH, IN). Withdrew an existing coal permit properly issued years ago. Appointed 45 Czars to replace elected officals in his office. First President to hide his medical, educational and travel records. Coddles American enemies while alienating allies. First President to go on multiple "apology tours". White House security leaks, Benghzi-gate, Fast and Furious...the list goes on and I do not intend to spend all day here listing them.


Milton Bland 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Good article. Krauthammer is spot on as usual. And it is ironic how the libs like to criticize him for a lack of credibility, considering their leaders are named Pelosi, Reid, Holder, and Obama. Now that's a group with absolutely NO credibility. Bengazi, Obamacare, Fast and Furious come to mind .


Kate Rogge 11 months, 3 weeks ago

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


Thomas Bryce 11 months, 3 weeks 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.


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