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OPINION

Bread and Circuses

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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"People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions -- everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses"
--Juvenal

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Isn't it grand that we have such a cool couple in the White House? Hollywood would never have deigned to invite any other First Lady to present the award for best picture at its annual self-worshipping soporific. Mrs. Obama knew just how to flatter the nearly inexhaustible vanity of people who sell tickets to shows.

"I am so honored to ... help celebrate the movies that lift our spirits, broaden our minds and transport us to places that we have never imagined. ... They made us laugh; they made us weep, and they made us grip our armrests just a little tighter. They taught us that love can endure against all odds and transform our lives in the most surprising ways and reminded us that we overcome any obstacle if we dig deep enough and fight hard enough and find the courage to believe in ourselves. These lessons apply to all of us no matter who we are or what we look like or where we come from or who we love, but they are especially important for our young people. ... I want to thank you here tonight for being part of that vitally important work." Oh, sorry, did I doze off?

The top grossing films of 2012 were The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, The Hunger Games and Skyfall. Also among the top 10 were Ted and The Twilight Saga, Part 2. But the grandees at the ceremony are an unreflective lot and no doubt relished every last syllable of Mrs. Obama's oleaginous salute.

Mrs. Obama has been all over pop culture. Her Oscar outing followed hard on the heels of a mean "mom dance" on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. Her husband, meanwhile, has been golfing with Tiger Woods. Some members of what used to be (long ago, boys and girls, when non-cool presidents were in office) the adversarial press corps joined forces to chant a question at the returning President Obama after his golf outing. They had lodged complaints with the press secretary about lack of access, apparently crestfallen that the White House refused to permit pictures of Obama and Woods on the course. Their shouted question wasn't about the sequester or Benghazi or Syria or Hagel. No, the pressies chanted in unison (Occupy-style) "Did you beat Tiger?" Their crush on the Dear Leader is undiminished.

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The president makes himself available to friendly questions from the press -- see the latest "60 Minutes" interview -- and is always available to chat about his basketball Final Four picks or what's on his iPod. In short, both he and his wife have mastered the art of being Celebrities-in-Chief. The man who wrote two autobiographies before he was 45 (earning a tidy fortune in the process) is a genius at marketing himself. Together the Obamas provide "circuses" aplenty for the masses. As for bread, that's another matter.

The last quarter of 2012 showed not the anemic growth rates we've been accustomed to in the Obama years but negative growth. The federal behemoth's weight tramples the private sector. Gas prices are heading toward $4 per gallon. Still, Mr. Obama's priority is clear: Above all, we must raise taxes (he calls it closing loopholes) on the rich ... again. To its credit, The New York Times was honest about it. "To reduce the deficit in a weak economy," the liberal godfather editorialized, "new taxes on high-income Americans are a matter of necessity and fairness; they are also a necessary precondition to what in time will have to be tax increases on the middle class."

The Times was also honest enough to report that the Obama administration represents a "bread" threat in another way as well: "Health insurance companies across the country are seeking and winning double-digit increases in premiums for some customers, even though one of the biggest objectives of the Obama administration's health care law was to stem the rapid rise in insurance costs for consumers."

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When Americans were under fire in Benghazi and pleading for help, we've finally learned, the president did not make a single phone call. After learning of the attack, he failed to follow up with his defense secretary, secretary of sate, or chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The following day, he left for a fundraiser in Las Vegas.

But it sure is great that he's so cool. And didn't Mrs. Obama look lovely in her shimmering, silver designer gown?

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