The Radio City Christmas Spectacular of Failure

Mark Steyn on “the man who won’t duck the tough decisions”:

…President Obama, in that rhetorical tic that’s already become a bit of a bore, likes to position himself as a man who won’t duck the tough decisions. So, faced with a U.S. automobile industry that so overcompensates its workers it can’t make a car for a price anybody’s willing to pay for it, the president handed over control to the very unions whose demands are principally responsible for that irreconcilable arithmetic. Presented with a similar situation 30 years ago, Mrs. Thatcher took on the unions and, eventually, destroyed their power. That was a tough decision. Telling your political allies they can now go on overpaying themselves in perpetuity is a piece of cake.

When the going gets tough, the tough get bailed out. Your car business operates on a failed business model? Don’t worry, the taxpayers will prop that failed business model up forever. You went bananas on your credit card and can’t pay it back? Don’t worry, we’ll pass a law to make it the bank’s fault. Your once golden state has decayed into such a corrupt racket of government cronyism that the remaining revenue generators are fleeing your borders faster than you can raise taxes on them? Relax, we’re lining up a federal bailout for you, too. Your unreadable newspaper has just woken up from its 96-page Obama Full Color Inaugural Souvenir bender to discover that its advertising revenue has collapsed with the real-estate market and GM dealerships? Hey, lighten up, Senator Kerry’s already been pleading your case in the Senate. Is it really so hard to picture President Obama calling the mayor next spring to assure him he has no plans to move the New York Times out of New York?

This is now a land that rewards failure — at the personal, corporate, and state level. And, as conservatives well know, if you reward bad behavior, you get more of it. If you reward it as lavishly as the Obama administration’s doing it, you’ll get the Radio City Christmas Spectacular of Failure, on ice and with full supporting orchestra.

There is a phrase you hear a lot in Canada, Britain, and Europe to describe the collection of positive “rights” (to “free” health care, unemployment benefits, subsidized public transit) to which the citizens of Western democracies have become addicted: the “social safety net.” It always struck me as an odd term: Obviously, it derives from the circus. But life isn’t really a high-wire act, is it? Or at least it didn’t use to be. If you put the average chap — or even Barack Obama or Barney Frank — in spangled leotard and tights and on a unicycle and shove him out across the wire, he’s likely to fall off. But put the average chap in spangled leotard and tights out into the world and tell him to get a job, find accommodation, raise a family, take responsibility, and he can do it. Or he used to be able to, until the government decided he needed a “safety net.”

When did human life become impossible without a “safety net”? My neighbor’s family came to my corner of New Hampshire in the winter of 1767–68 when her great-great-great-whatever dragged his huge millstones up the frozen river from Connecticut to build the first gristmill on a swift-running brook in the middle of uncleared forest in a four-year-old township comprising a dozen families. And he did it without first applying for a federal business development grant. No big deal. Her family’s nothing special, my town’s nothing special: That’s the point. It was routine — in a pre–“safety net” society.

In his new book, Soft Despotism, Democracy’s Drift, Paul Rahe writes, “Human dignity is bound up with taking responsibility for conducting one’s own affairs.” But today the state cocoons “one’s own affairs” so thoroughly as to remove almost all responsibility from modern life, and much of human dignity with it. And, if personal consequences have been all but abolished, societal consequences are harder to dodge. Sometimes great powers decline slowly, almost imperceptibly, as Britain did for much of the 20th century. Sometimes it’s more sudden and convulsive. Obama is attempting Euro-statism, but, unlike Europe, without the counterweight of America to preserve some approximate relationship to reality. Which is to say I do not think this decline will be genteel, for America or the world.

Caroline Glick on the New York Times’ reporting on Iran which support’s Orwell’s observation that there are some ideas so stupid only an intellectual could believe them:

“Could there be something to all the talk of an Obama effect, after all? A stealth effect, perhaps?”

So asked Helene Cooper, the New York Times’ diplomatic correspondent in a news analysis of the massive anti-regime protests in Iran published in Sunday’s Times.

It took US President Barack Obama eight days to issue a clear statement of support for the millions of pro-freedom demonstrators throughout Iran risking their lives to oppose the tyranny of the mullahs. And after eight days of vacillating and hedging his bets and so effectively supporting Iranian dictator Ali Khamenei against the multitudes rallying in the streets, Obama’s much awaited statement was not particularly forceful.

He offered no American support of any kind for the protesters. Indeed, it is hard to say that in making his statement, the American president was speaking primarily as an American.

He warned the likes of Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose goons are currently under orders to beat, arrest and murder protesters, that “the world is watching… If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect the dignity of its own people and govern through consent, not coercion.”

According to several prominent Western bloggers with direct ties to the protesters, Obama’s statement left the Iranians underwhelmed and angry.

But as Cooper sees it, the protesters owe their ability to oppose the regime that just stole their votes and has trampled their basic human rights for 30 years to Obama and the so-called “Obama effect.” Offering no evidence for her thesis, and ignoring a public record filled with evidence to the contrary, Cooper claims that it is due to Obama’s willingness to accept the legitimacy of Iran’s clerical tyranny that the protesters feel emboldened to oppose their regime. If it hadn’t been for Obama, and his embrace of appeasement as his central guiding principle for contending with the likes of Khamenei and Ahmadinejad, as far as Cooper is concerned, the people on the streets would never have come out to protest.

By this thinking, America is so despised by the Iranians that the only way they will make a move against their regime is if they believe that America is allied with their regime. So by this line of reasoning, the only way the US can lead is by negative example – which the world in its wisdom will reject.

While Cooper’s analysis gives no evidence that Obama’s policies toward the ayatollahs had any impact on the tumultuous events now sweeping through Iran, it does make clear that the so-called Obama effect is a real phenomenon. It just isn’t the phenomenon she claims it is.

THE REAL OBAMA effect on world affairs relates to the US media’s unprecedented willingness to abandon the basic responsibilities of a free press in favor of acting as propagandists for the president. From Cooper – who pretends that Obama’s unreciprocated open hand to the mullahs is what empowered the protesters – to Newsweek editor Evan Thomas who referred to Obama earlier this month as a “sort of God,” without a hint of irony, the US media have mobilized to serve the needs of the president.

It is hard to think of an example in US history in which the media organs of the world’s most important democracy so openly sacrificed the most basic responsibilities of news gatherers to act as shills for the chief executive. Franklin Delano Roosevelt enjoyed adoring media attention, but he also faced media pressures that compelled him to take actions he did not favor. The same was the case with John F. Kennedy.

Today the mainstream US media exert no such pressures on Obama. Earlier this month NBC’s nightly news anchorman Brian Williams bowed to Obama when he bade him good night at the White House.

On Wednesday ABC News will devote an entire day of programming to advancing Obama’s controversial plan to nationalize health care. Its two prime time news shows will be broadcast from White House. Good Morning America will feature an interview with Obama, and ABC’s other three flagship shows will dedicate special programming to his health care reform program.

On the other hand, ABC has refused Republican requests for a right of reply to Obama’s positions. The network has also refused to sell commercial advertising time to Republicans and other Obama opponents to offer their dissenting opinions to his plans.

This media behavior has been noted by the likes of Fox News and the handful of other US news outlets that are not in the tank for Obama. But the repercussions of the Obama effect on US politics and world affairs have been largely ignored…

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