“The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.”
Omar Khayyam (1048-1131)
The Republic will apparently survive Barack Obama. We can thank the Founding Fathers for devising a system of checks and balances between the executive, the legislature, and the courts, and between the federal government and the states. We can thank past Republican presidents for appointing judges who respect the Constitution. We can thank the people who have reacted to Obama's excesses by electing a solidly Republican House, a Republican Senate, and strong Republican majorities in the governorships and state legislatures.
Nine months before he leaves office, there is ample evidence that Obama will not leave much of a stamp on the country:
- The Affordable Care Act, his signature legislative achievement, is dissolving despite Herculean efforts to impose it and ongoing propaganda from the Department of Health and Human Services. Of the net 16 million who have gained insurance, about half come from employers with decreasing unemployment, and a quarter come from expansion of Medicaid. Many of the co-ops set up under the Act have gone out of business. United Healthcare, the largest national healthcare insurer, is pulling out of most of the state exchanges amid indications that the high cost of those enrolling will continue to lead to substantially escalating losses and rate increases. The majority of the public now understands that "you can keep your doctor" was a lie, and favor significant changes to the legislation.
- Reality is forcing Obama to reverse what he considered his signature foreign policy objective - ending American involvement in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Troop levels are back up to 5000 in Iraq and 10,000 in Afghanistan, and the role of the "boots on the ground" is looking more and more like combat with Apache helicopters flying close air support for Iraqi troops fighting ISIS. Neither war is going well (not to mention the war in Syria); both have deteriorated during the seven years of Obama's presidency.
- The death of Antonin Scalia has saved the Democrats from a set of likely 5 to 4 conservative votes, but the result of a likely 4 to 4 tie will be to let stand a lower court invalidation of Obama's executive order suspending deportation of 4 million illegal immigrants.
- President Obama's traditional exiting world tour demonstrates how little influence he has internationally. He is received coldly in Saudi Arabia where he thinks that he can help mediate the Sunni-Shia divide despite his overtures to Iran; he is will be received coldly in Britain where he tries to engage in the upcoming election on membership in the European Union; there will be no reprise of his triumphant 2008 speech in Berlin or his 2009 Cairo speech where he promised a kinder and gentler American role in the Middle East.
- He has called Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen to the White House to discuss the benefit of keeping interest rates near zero through the election. Once this opiate is taken away, a more accurate picture of the Obama economy will emerge.
- The country had looked to the first African American president as a healer of ethnic rifts, but the Democratic Party strategy has been the opposite - using the divisions to drive voter registration and turnout - with the result that the relation between police and inner city residents has hit a multi-decade low.
Obama's role in electing his successor has been muted while there is a contest within the Democratic Party, but that will change once the conventions are over. While the "wrong track" reading has reached about 69 %, the president's approval rating has been hovering around 50 % - he is, after-all, a likable enough fellow in contrast to Hillary, Donald, and Ted. The president will play a role in unifying the Democratic party while the Republicans have no senior statesman who can appeal to both sides after a divisive convention. Advantage Democrats.
For those that are optimists, the institutions created by Jefferson, Madison, et al have been strong enough to withstand the perfect storm of an economic collapse and the ascendancy of Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and the legion of those who would look to an increasingly powerful federal government to take care of the needs of a submissive people. The first step of recovery is recognition - Bernie Sanders' followers on the left recognize the corruption of the establishment led by Hillary Clinton; Donald Trump's supporters recognize that the system has been increasingly structured to the detriment of the traditional middle class. Unfortunately, those sounding the alarm have no experience in governing and lack the realistic policy solutions to the problems that they rail against. At least it is a start.
Barack Obama will leave a more dangerous world than he inherited: Iran and North Korea on the path to nuclear missile capabilities; the Sunni-Shia divide leaching out into civil wars, an immigration crisis, and an expanded terrorist threat against the West; a national debt of $19 trillion which is manageable with interest rates near zero, but a huge problem when they return to normal levels; an American public which is divided and restive. The country needs to nominate and the country needs to elect the person most qualified to lead the nation and the western world back to security and growth. I am in the John Kasich camp.
This week's bonus is a detailed analysis of the remaining Republican primaries by Kyle Kondik and Geoffrey Skelley at Rasmussen Reports. Essentially, New York stopped the bleeding for Trump; he will likely need a share of the 200 or so uncommitted delegates to reach 1237, and the remaining states to focus on are Pennsylvania (April 26), Indiana (May 3), and California (June 7.)
bill bowen - 4/22/16