WASHINGTON – Fate is fickle, power cyclical, and nothing is new under the sun.
Especially in Washington, where after every election the losing party is sagely
instructed to confess sin, rend garments and rethink its principles lest it go
the way of the Whigs.
And where the victor is hailed as the new Caesar,
facing an open road to domination.
And where Barack Obama, already
naturally inclined to believe his own loftiness, graciously accepted the kingly
crown and proceeded to ride his reelection success to a crushing victory over
the GOP at the fiscal cliff, leaving a humiliated John Boehner & Co. with
nothing but naked tax hikes.
Thus emboldened, Obama turned his inaugural
and State of the Union addresses into a left-wing dream factory, from his
declaration of war on global warming (on a planet where temperatures are the
same as 16 years ago and in a country whose CO2 emissions are at a 20-year low)
to the invention of new entitlements – e.g., universal preschool for
five-year-olds – for a country already drowning in debt.
To realize his
dreams, Obama sought to fracture and neutralize the congressional GOP as a
prelude to reclaiming the House in 2014. This would enable him to fully enact
his agenda in the final two years of his presidency, usually a time of lame-duck
Hail the Obama juggernaut.
Well, that story – excuse
me, narrative – lasted exactly six months. The Big Mo is gone.
with the sequester. Obama never believed the Republicans would call his bluff
and let it go into effect. They did.
Taken by surprise, Obama cried wolf,
predicting the end of everything we hold dear if the sequester was not stopped.
It wasn’t. Nothing happened.
Highly embarrassed, and determined to indeed
make (bad) things happen, the White House refused Republican offers to give it
more discretion in making cuts. Bureaucrats were instructed to inflict maximum
pain from minimal cuts, as revealed by one memo from the Agriculture Department
demanding agency cuts that the public would feel.
Things began with the
near-comical cancellation of White House tours and ended with not-so-comical
airline delays. Obama thought furious passengers would blame the GOP. But isn’t
the executive branch in charge of these agencies? Who thinks that a government
spending $3.6 trillion a year can’t cut 2 percent without furloughing air
traffic controllers? Looking not just incompetent at managing budgets but
cynical for deliberately injuring the public welfare, the administration
relented. Congress quickly passed a bill giving Obama reallocation authority to
restore air traffic control. Having previously threatened to veto any such bill,
Obama caved. He signed.
Not exactly Appomattox, but coming immediately
after Obama’s spectacular defeat on gun control, it marked an administration
that had lost its “juice,” to paraphrase a charming question at the president’s
For Obama, gun control was a political
He invested capital. He went on a multicity tour.
paraded grieving relatives. And got nothing. An assault-weapons ban – a similar
measure had passed the Congress 20 years ago – lost 60-40 in a Senate where
Democrats control 55 seats. Obama failed even to get mere background
All this while appearing passive, if not helpless, on the world
stage. On Syria, Obama was nervously trying to erase the WMD red line he had so
publicly established. On Benghazi, he stonewalled accusations that State
Department officials wishing to testify are being blocked.
He is even
taking heat for the Boston bombings.
Every day brings another revelation
of signals missed beforehand. And his post-bombing pledge to hunt down those
responsible was mocked by the scandalous Mirandizing of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev,
gratuitously shutting down information from the one person who knows more than
anyone about possible still-existent explosives, associates, trainers, future
Now, the screw will undoubtedly turn again. If immigration
reform passes, Obama will be hailed as the comeback kid, and a new “Obama
rising” narrative proclaimed.
This will overlook the fact that
immigration reform has little to do with Obama and everything to do with GOP
panic about the Hispanic vote. In fact, Obama has been asked by congressional
negotiators to stay away, so polarizing a figure has he
Nonetheless, whatever happens, the screw will surely turn again,
if only because of media boredom.
But that’s the one constant of
Washington political life: There are no straight-line graphs. We live from
inflection point to inflection point.
And we’ve just experienced one.
From king of the world to dead in the water in six months. Quite a
Charles Krauthammer’s email address is
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