The year 2012 saw the triumph of cold reality over pie-in-the-sky dreams.
Barack Obama in 2008 won an election on an upbeat message of change in the hope that the first black president would mark a redemptive moment in American history. Four years later, the fantasies are gone. In continuing dismal economic times, Obama ran for re-election neither on his first-term achievements -- Obamacare, bailouts, financial stimuli and Keynesian mega-deficits -- nor on more utopian promises.
Instead, Obama's campaign systematically reduced his rival, Wall Street financier Mitt Romney, to a conniving, felonious financial pirate who did dastardly things, from letting the uninsured die to putting his pet dog Seamus in a cage on top of the family car.
Obama once had mused that he wished to be the mirror image of Ronald Reagan -- successfully coaxing America to the left as the folksy Reagan had to the right. Instead, 2012 taught us that a calculating Obama is more a canny Richard Nixon, who likewise used any means necessary to be re-elected on the premise that his rival would be even worse. But we know what eventually happened to the triumphant, pre-Watergate Nixon after November 1972; what will be the second-term wages of Obama's winning ugly?
The so-called fiscal cliff offers more examples of 2012 dreams giving way to reality. Obama will probably get his long-promised taxes on the rich. But so what? There are not enough caricatured "millionaires and billionaires" even to make a dent in his administration's fifth consecutive $1 trillion-plus deficit.
Instead, all that is left for Obama is to go over the cliff or wait for Republicans to counter-propose the necessary cuts in entitlements so that he can both reluctantly accept these budget-saving measures and demonize those who so threaten "the most vulnerable." What will stop the massive borrowing is not the myth of bipartisan cooperation, but the reality of returning high interest rates that will make the current splurging simply unsustainable.
What did we learn from the killings of Americans in Benghazi? So far, the fantasy of jailing a single Coptic filmmaker for posting an anti-Islamic video has trumped the reality of holding the administration accountable for allowing lax security and offering only feeble responses to a massacre prompted by a pre-planned, al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist attack on a U.S. diplomatic post.
As the year ended, a deranged 20-year-old killer in Newtown, Conn., shot down 26 children and adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. The nation decried the killer's access to his murdered mother's semi-automatic arsenal to achieve his gruesome toll.