Victor Davis Hanson

That silly offensive got worse when, at almost the same time, news leaked that women working at the Obama White House, on average, made 18 percent less than their male counterparts there. Meanwhile, 11 Secret Service agents assigned to the president's trip to Colombia were sent home for soliciting prostitutes -- and then haggling over the cost. Not long before, the General Services Administration was caught wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars on a junket in Las Vegas -- leading to the resignation of the GSA administrator, a political appointee.

Then there was the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin shooting. After Obama's disastrous 2009 commentary about the detention of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates -- when the president alleged that police acted "stupidly" -- he might have been wise to keep quiet about another explosive racial controversy. Instead, he foolishly plunged in with a puzzling comment that if he had a son, he would have looked like the deceased Trayvon Martin. That editorializing served no purpose except to remind the nation of the racial tensions simmering around the shooting.

The president also went after the rich with the "Buffett Rule," which would ensure that millionaires like his friend Warren Buffett paid at least 30 percent in income taxes. But Obama and his wife Michelle paid just over 20 percent in federal taxes on the $790,000 they earned in 2011. And even if the bill passed, the Obama Treasury would only get new revenue amounting to less than half of 1 percent of what it borrows every year.

The effect of all these unnecessary missteps was to make the Obama administration appear inept -- at precisely the time Republicans were unifying around Romney and ending their long, suicidal primary fights. Some polls even showed Romney suddenly ahead in the presidential race.

So why is the president rashly picking these stupid fights?

Apparently his team wishes to divert attention from generally bleak economic news. The economy still suffers from a dramatic spike in gas prices, chronically high 8 percent plus unemployment, sluggish growth, and serial $1 trillion annual deficits that have sent the debt soaring to $16 trillion.

These perfect storms often either destroy presidents or turn them into unpopular lame ducks. Obama should learn from the fates of his predecessors: There are enough forces in the world to destroy a presidency without needlessly creating more on his own.


Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.