Advertisements

A President Popular by Default

President Barack Obama is unaccountably popular at the moment, with a bare majority of Americans expressing approval of him. That’s hardly Mount Rushmore stuff, and far short of the falling oceans and fundamental transformations he promised during the peak of his popularity during that first crazy presidential campaign of his, but for now it’s enough to make him the most popular politician in America. The only way we can account for it is the year’s even crazier election.
It’s not just that both of his major party would-be successors are wildly unpopular, with landslide majorities of Americans quite reasonably finding both dishonest and altogether unfit for the office, but also the way that their daily groan-inducing scandals keep the president contentedly out of the news altogether. Those obsessive sorts of news readers who dive beyond the front page headlines and delve deep into the rest of it are vaguely aware that the president recently paid a huge ransom to the Iranian theo-thug-ocracy for some hostages and then offered a preposterous explanation about why he didn’t, that Milwaukee has lately been burning from flames fanned by the “Black Lives Moment” the president has encouraged, that much of south Louisiana is underwater and the main form of federal assistance has been a memo sternly warning that rescue efforts not be racially discriminatory, and that the president has been playing golf and living it up with a bunch of rich white people on a lavishly-funded vacation to Martha’s Vineyard the whole time, but the rest of the country has been pleasantly preoccupied with America’s rout at the the Olympics and the latest gaffes from the president’s would-be successors.
We can recall past times when shady hostage deals went down with the Iranian theo-thug-ocracy and American inner cities burned and south Louisiana was underwater, and how it used to be a much bigger deal, but then again all that happened during slower news cycles and Republican administrations. During a slow news cycle in a Republican administration a president golfing and living it up with a bunch of rich white people while the rest of the nation churns along uneasily would be a major scandal, but with a Democratic administration and the happy distraction of a can’t-look-away-train-wreck of a presidential election such scandals suddenly become quibbles. The desultory state of the economy and that awful labor force participation rate that obscures the more happy-face unemployment numbers, the mounting debt that sustains the slow pace, the politicization of the Justice Department that allows the Democratic nominee to be running in the first place, the generally unsettled state of world, as well as the general cultural decline made apparent by the current sorry choices of presidential nominees, are all as easily relegated to the inner pages of your increasingly scant newspaper.
Any old well-funded Republican should be able to make something of it, but this year the nominee isn’t any old well-funded Republican but rather the not-quite-self-funding-self-described billionaire Donald J. Trump, and he hasn’t seized the opportunities. The self-described deal-making-artisan made a strong case against the ransom for hostages arrangement, but the press was able to focus on what he had later had to admit was a bogus claim that he’d seen secret video footage of the payment. He made a persuasive argument that the past many decades of Democratic machine politics have caused the plight of the recently burning inner cities, but his attempts to bolster his current 1 or 2 percent favorables among black Americans were rather clumsily phrased in the pitch that they’re all poor and uneducated and therefore have nothing to lose by voting for him, along with the rather fanciful even-by-Trump-standards boast that after four years in office he’d win 95 percent black vote. Trump showed up in Louisiana for a meaningless photo-op several days before the vacationing Obama plans to do the same, but unless starts spending some serious ad buy money we doubt it will do him the same good that it once did Obama when a Republican administration was in charge while south Louisiana was underwater.
Thus far the supposedly boundlessly wealthy Trump has been quite parsimonious about ad buys, and instead continues to rely on all the “free media” that has suddenly turned so hostile ever since he wrapped up the Republican nomination, not to mention all those gaffes, and yet he’s still within shouting distance in the national polls if not so much the states that add up to an electoral majority. That’s because a clear majority of Americans understand that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton is dishonest and unfit for office, and we also take heart that a near-majority of them also think little of the current president. That so few of us have any regard for our next president, no matter how it turns out, is also heartening in an unaccountable way.

— Bud Norman

Advertisements

Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous

A few columns ago our theological musings about humankind’s enduring desire for royalty provoked a comment from disgruntled reader, who rather snippily disputed our observation “That to say President Barack Obama lives like a king understates the matter by many millions of dollars.” He didn’t dispute the point so much as the “link,” which led to a report that the United States spends 20 times more money on the Obamas than the British do on their royal family, and to back up his dudgeon he provided a “link” of his own to a Washington Post “fact check” that reported the disparity is somewhat less than that. The Washington Post’s fact checkers are apparently the indisputable arbiters of truth on these matters, so we’ll concede the orders of magnitude, but we will not relent from our contention that the Prez is living awfully large.
This statement is a subjective opinion rather than objective fact, and therefore beyond the purview of the almighty Post’s almighty fact-checkers, but there is an abundance of anecdotal evidence to support it. The latest example, and the one that prompted this rant, is the president’s decision to have his dog flown into the family’s Martha Vineyard vacation on an especially expensive military aircraft. That’s royal treatment by any nation’s standards, and there is nothing on the internet that will convince us otherwise.
The news about the presidential dog comes courtesy of London’s Telegraph, because reporting embarrassing revelations about Obama is work that the American media won’t do, and the article includes several other intriguing tidbits about the cost of the latest presidential vacation. Among other amenities, the $7.5 million mansion where the Obamas are staying include a nine-acre grounds, basketball court, and such well-heeled neighbors as Ted “Cheers” Danson and Carly “You’re So Vain” Simon. Even as loyal subjects of the queen, the Telegraph’s scribes seem struck by the extravagance of it all.
Such conspicuous consumption goes largely unremarked here in the United States, however, at least in recent years. There used to be ample criticism of George W. Bush’s August retreats to his family ranch in Crawford, Texas, especially from the reporters who were forced to follow him to that sun-baked outpost of the hardscrabble prairie, but in the age of Obama a certain degree of presidential opulence is now regarded as appropriate by the chattering classes. In the early days of Obama’s presidency the press even reported his taxpayer-funded frolics with an undisguised awe, as if the glamorous days of John Kennedy’s “Camelot” had at long last returned, but lately they just look for something else to fill the summer lull in the news.
Perhaps that’s because they realize how bad it looks to people struggling to get by in a low-growth, high-unemployment economy. The president will eventually return from vacation to resume his constant castigation of the rich folks he blames for the nation’s woes, and offer the old reassurances about his feelings of solidarity with the common man, and continue to argue that the miniscule budget cuts imposed by the “sequester” are making life unbearable for such humble public servants as himself, so widespread news reports about the presidential pooch flying first-class a millionaires-only enclave in an MV-22 Osprey won’t help the effort.
He’ll still have plenty of defenders who will talk of how hard he works and quibble over the cost estimates and recall the old tale of the dog on the top of Mitt Romney’s car roof, but the hypocrisy will be hard for more objective observers to miss.

— Bud Norman

Give it a Rest

President Barack Obama will soon be on vacation in ritzy Martha’s Vineyard, staying in an elegant mansion courtesy of a wealthy supporter whose red-in-tooth-and-claw version of venture capitalism makes Mitt Romney look like a hippie entrepreneur along the lines of Ben and Jerry, yet the poor fellow still won’t be getting any rest. We know this because Obama has once again “pivoted” back to the economy, thus completing more pivot moves than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar ever attempted in his long career, and as always he has vowed that he will not rest until all is well.
Judging by the anemic economic growth rate announced on Wednesday, it will likely be a while before Obama can fully kick back. It seems an awful waste of the taxpayers’ money to shell out for another vacation that won’t be restful, so we’d like to helpfully suggest a few things that the president stop doing in order to foster a healthier economy. Whatever energy is spared can then be applied to golf, skeet-shooting, celebrity hobnobbing, or any other recreations the president might enjoy.
If the president were to simply stop enforcing an Obamacare law that provides overwhelming incentives for employers to hire part-time rather than full-time workers, for instance, the effect on full-time hiring would be salutary and would free up plenty of spare time. The president has already announced his intention to put off enforcement until after the mid-term congressional election, lest it have negative consequences for his party, but putting it off forever would also put off those negative consequences forever and thus spare his party a good deal of tiresome explaining in the 2016 election.
There are people out there eager to build a pipeline to carry oil from the Canadian shale fields to American refineries, which would require thousands of jobs to build and provide literal fuel for many thousands more, so the president should spare himself the enormous effort he has been expending to stop them. While he’s at it, he could also end his time-consuming and thus-far futile attempts to create “green energy” to replace the oil that he’s working to keep out of the country. The oil is otherwise going to wind up being burned by the Chinese, who aren’t vacationing type, so it’s not going make any difference even if all that man-made global warming stuff isn’t nonsense.
Much of the president’s time is spent on a quest to impose higher tax on rich folks such as his summer home landlord, and it could be better spent working on his golfing technique. The tax hikes would have a deleterious effect on economic growth, while a smooth golf swing never hurt anybody. Obama could continue to foster the public’s resentment of the rich folks he chooses to vacation among, as that seems to be a hobby rather than a job requirement, and so long as people stop paying attention it would do little harm. Also, the president so loves the unemployed that he is working for immigration reform measures that would bring millions more of them into the country, but he could stop doing that.
There are a number of other things the president could stop doing in order to improve the economy, especially in regard to the enormous number of new regulations that he’s busily been enforcing, and it would also allow him to pursue a more carefree style of life. Some might argue that there are many jobs involved in blocking pipelines and imposing regulations and so forth, but we expect those people would eventually find some more productive line of employment. Perhaps those unemployed regulators could spend some much-needed time with their families, although probably not at Martha’s Vineyard, and they would also find that sometimes doing less means doing less damage.

— Bud Norman