President Obama has come under attack from critics lately for the pandemic chaos evident at home and abroad. The President has been called “aloof,” “bored,” “disinterested,” and “incompetent.” Pundits universally decry his inaction. Inaction seems to be the criticism leveled by all with their own preferred adjective attached.
Amidst all of the criticisms of the President’s inaction, has it even been considered by mainstream commentators or by the average citizen that his inaction is, in fact, action? When he’s accused of only being concerned with political appearances instead of solving problems, is it possible that to him creating the right political appearance is the problem?
When then candidate Obama said back in 2008 “We are five days away from fundamentally transforming America” many people scoffed. Others expressed contempt for someone with the audacity to suggest that the greatest nation in the history of mankind needed to be transformed from anything to anything. Scattered among the reactions were people who felt neither dismissive nor angered over the statement. These prescient few felt the hairs rise on the back of their necks as if Halloween’s Michael Myers had just appeared behind them in the bathroom mirror.
The terror they felt came from hearing themselves ask the question: If he’s going to fundamentally change America, exactly how is he going to go about it?
While America as an idea marks it birth with its Declaration of Independence in 1776, as a nation its true beginning dates to March 4, 1789 when the first Congress met and Washington became President. We are 225 years into this bold experiment of applying Natural Law, the “invisible hand”, and Madison’s corralling of factions. We’ve built inertia which still rewards individual initiative, protects private property, and projects an image around the globe of a mighty superpower, who, like John Wayne’s character in The Shootist, won’t be wronged, won’t be lied to and won’t be laid a hand on. All of this, well, it took a bit of time.
And so should a fundamental transformation away from these ideals of individual freedom to collective decision-making; from private ownership to state seizure; from mightiest nation on earth to bit player in Game of Thrones. President Obama is playing a long game. He doesn’t view his Presidency as an eight-year run. He sees his Presidency as the very beginning of a Utopian, shovel-ready, construction project.
Consider some of the “scandals” over which he has presided and which have generated such great derision from his critics. First, under his watch the IRS has blatantly used its power to punish his political adversaries, alter the trajectory of the Tea party missile from 2010 through 2012, and cover up the entire misadventure with deliberate destruction of email evidence and deceitful testimony blaming everything except Gremlins for the data loss. The President first feigned outrage over the incident but then closed the matter on Super-Sunday by saying there wasn’t a “smidgen” of corruption.
To the Texas border and the Central American migration that flocks of geese now envy. When the President issued his fiat version of The Dream Act in 2012, many people protested. Many didn’t. Public outrage quickly died and the President’s action sent an unmistakable message to countless families south of our border who concluded “if we can just get there, he ain’t sending us back. Now as they arrive they are being shipped around the country, without notice to local officials who must feel as though Ed McMahon has just shown up at their door to tell them that they’ve won the Immigrant Clearinghouse Sweepstakes. Protests were swift, severe, and ephemeral.
Off to Syria where the President drew a line in the sand only to have a bear-like Russian kick the sand in his face. The President picked up his shovel and pail and went home, looking weak and leaving the world to ask “Did General Patton have any grandchildren?”
Despite these and numerous other abuses and embarrassments, the American people seem to be turning their attention elsewhere. The President has counted on that. According to Joseph McCormack, author of “Brief”, since 2000 the average American’s attention span has declined from 12 seconds to 8 seconds. How can a nation that can’t hold its attention accuse a President of not paying attention?
With every scandalous action he undertakes, the President increases our nation’s collective tolerance. We have become comfortably numb to the ever increasing dose of pervasive government control. Hello, America, hello. Is there anybody in there? Nod if you can hear me.