Brian Birdnow

Last week President Obama, in his usual stentorian tones, announced a new and improved effort at combating global warming, which has now been recycled and relabeled by the mainstream media as “climate change” in a nod to the cold winters of recent years. The President stated that he hoped Congress would join him in this venture, but he reminded all that he would keep his executive order pen handy, just in case. Threatening to go over the head of the Congress used to be considered dictatorial but rarely rates a word of criticism where Obama, the anointed one, is concerned. While some observers expressed surprise at this new Obama effort, especially in its timing, the reality of the situation is that there is less here than meets the eye.

The President announced last winter in the State of the Union address that he had planned a new global warming initiative, but most people saw this as the guaranteed throwaway applause line that it certainly was. A President who had staked his second term agenda on gun control, his historical legacy on a smooth implementation of Obamacare, and his credibility on a gay marriage flip-flop did not need to take on another ambitious project. Since the early spring and the continuing cascade of scandals engulfing the administration it would seem plainly foolhardy to begin another Don Quixote-like adventure.

The truth, however, is quite another thing. Obama’s decision to attack the global warming windmill is a subterfuge on two fronts. First of all, it is an admission that his second term agenda is dead in the water. Secondly, this is a standard Obama strategic maneuver. When he gets into a political bind, he always moves quickly to the Left. Obama “out-liberaled” Hillary Clinton to win the Democratic nomination in 2008, he moved sharply leftward after his inauguration, and again after the Republican victories in the 2010 congressional elections. He is feeling the heat yet again and is once more moving to the port side.

Let us pause for a moment to recap the recent past. Obama has been buffeted by continuing scandals since April. The Benghazi stonewall continues, even though we now know that the President, Secretary of State Clinton, and other top Administration people flatly lied to Congress and to the American people on this matter. Next came revelations that the Justice Department was conducting a campaign of harassment against FOX News reporter James Rosen, with Attorney General Eric Holder personally authorizing the decision to seek a search warrant of Rosen’s personal e-mails. Shortly afterward we heard that Holder’s Justice Department had subpoenaed the phone logs of twenty AP reporters as part of a national security investigation. Meanwhile, the IRS practice of targeting Tea Party groups continues apace, while the highly touted news that the Internal Revenue Service also targeted Progressive groups fizzled, because it didn’t really happen. Finally, we have been given the news that the NSA data mining and intercept program, condemned by candidate Obama, has actually accelerated in scope.

Obama’s initial reaction to the criticism his administration has received was to treat it with the lordly disdain that has marked his tenure in office. It is very easy to dismiss criticism when a complicit media fronts for you and your agenda. (It is interesting to note that no mainstream media figures are taunting Obama to “admit mistakes” the way they were daring Bush to do in the 2003-06 period.) Obama expected conservative criticism and shrugged it off, expecting that this tempest in the teapot would pass like all other crises due to an uninterested media and the limited attention span of the public. The big change here came when, to Obama’s shock, the Left joined in the growing chorus of criticism and his numbers started to slide. His carefree demeanor turned to concern when the favorable ratings slipped below 45%, and morphed into real fear when a liberal crowd jeered House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a public appearance last week. Obama, realizing that he was losing his liberal base, moved quickly to the Left to shore up his support. His act of appeasement to the Left Wing was similar to giving a lollipop to a crying baby. He chose global warming as an issue because it has always been a winner in the past, allows him to align himself with the supposed “scientific consensus”, and will go over well with the chardonnay sipping limousine-liberal sophisticates of Georgetown, Hollywood, and the Hamptons.

When one reads between the lines here, the upshot of all this is very clear. Obama no longer thinks he can accomplish anything substantial in his second term. He has concluded that gun control is going nowhere, although he will trot out the grieving Newtown parents a few more times for dramatic effect. He will ignore the massive deficits he has created, the anemic non-recovery, and the stubbornly high unemployment rate. He will also deny culpability when the looming disaster of his health care bill is fully implemented.

What we will have for the next three years will be a sad spectacle of an overwhelmed community organizer-turned President who, in completely over his head, has no idea of what to do or how to go about doing it. He will flail and fumble but, in a pinch, will always move to the left, tossing out bouquets to an increasingly irrelevant liberal base, but a base whose approval he desperately needs and craves. There will be very hot times in the years just ahead.


Brian Birdnow

Brian E. Birdnow is a historian and teaches at a university in the St. Louis area.


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