Hold the champagne!
The recent mid-term election in America is not a sweep, a wave, or a revolution. The same president is still in the Oval Office and the usual suspects still reign in the House and Senate. Sure, Harry Reid might get a smaller office, but his successor as House Majority Leader is not necessarily an improvement. In Congress, the most important values are stasis and tenure. Leadership on the Hill is usually an inherited position not a virtue like character. Pragmatically, you probably couldn’t slip a two dollar bill between the Republicans and Democrats on any major domestic or foreign policy issue.
Yes, that now includes health care too. Once a large government program is underway none dare assault the leviathan. No matter how bad the program, the civil service jobs are always good. Both political parties agree the least that you can do for any social problem is to throw money at it.
The foreign policy planks of both major parties might be captured in two neologisms, Russophobia and Islamophilia. Republicans and Democrats are in a foot race to the right when the subject is Vladimir Putin and a mad dash to the left, can’t genuflect fast enough, if the subject is Mohamed or Muslims. Never mind that America has everything in common with Moscow and near nothing in common with Mecca.
There were two clear messages from election night, ennui and apathy. Americans are fed up with both parties. If there had been a “none of the above” box to check, nihilism might have won in a landslide. Again, as in almost any American election, apathy is the loudest voice in the public square.
Overall, about 35 percent of eligibles voted. Turnout was down in all states but twelve. If you think of an election as an opinion poll, we don’t know what most folks think. Those unwilling to say or play are a cipher, a true silent majority.
The mid-term elections might not be a champagne moment, but looking towards 2016, we can see the specters of three political futures: the Boehner/McConnell tag team, the Christie/Clinton tarantella, and the Obama legacy quest.
Boehner and McConnell on the bridge
Let’s not kid ourselves about the leadership in Congress.
If John Boehner wasn’t a congressman, he would probably be tending bar in Ohio. He has been a professional politician for nearly thirty years. He might be most notable for tearing up whenever he hears the words, “Mister Speaker.” Boehner is third in line of succession to the presidency.
Mitch McConnell is another professional politician who has served in the Senate for longer than Boehner has been in the House. Like Boehner, he is another invisible man with tenure. McConnell might best be known as “let’s make a deal” Mitch, the go-to-guy for collaboration on deficit spending.
Neither of these two would be thought of as leaders or visionaries in any forum where tenure was not the dominant value. And neither of them has shown the courage to think outside the box. Like most sinecures, a Boehner/McConnell stewardship represents more of the same, business as usual; profligate spending at home and Moscow bashing abroad – complimented by half-measures or appeasement with the Islamist menace.
The mid-term election in any case was not about Republicans, it was about failed leadership, the lack of tactical and strategic vision in Washington. Most Americans obviously would rather not vote than pick from the lesser evil. Such elections might change things at the margins, but that kind of change is never progress.
The Christie/Clinton Dance
Unlike Hillary Clinton for the Left, Governor Chris Christie on the Right is by no means a shoo-in as the next Republican nominee for President. However, as Chair of the Republican Governor’s Conference, Christie picked up some markers in the recent mid-term election. His guys won. The New Jersey governor may be an early front runner also because he is the most visible, and eager, aspirant in what appears to be an attempt to stake out the ‘moderate’ middle of the road. Hopefully the road will not be the New Jersey Turnpike again.
Surely there will be a host of other Republican candidates, but for the moment, among party stewards, Christie seems to be the guy to beat in the next national primary.
Unfortunately, if Mrs. Clinton runs, the optics for Christie are all wrong. The governor is large, loud, and conspicuously rude. He looks and acts like a bully, a macho stenotype that plays into the ‘war on women’ meme. If Hillary runs, she campaigns on her genitals. ‘First woman’ is going to be a lot more persuasive than ‘first black.’ People vote for images not issues anyway. A Jersey Shore heavy gives a liberal Press too much ammunition. Rude will not play well in flyover country.
The only way for Republicans to neutralize the genitals factor is to put a woman, a brown male, or both, on the ticket. Alas, the pale southern specter of the Bush clan is again in the mix. Any Clinton/Bush remix is sure to look like a rerun of Dynasty.
Still, Mrs. Clinton is the formidable politician for the moment. American voters are pregnant with the sentiment that the time has come for a woman – and that time is now.
Hillary has already outflanked clueless conservatives on foreign policy. She is running to the right of all comers in the race back to the Cold War in Europe. When Republicans trot out Russian stereotypes, it’s old hat. In contrast, Putin bashing by the Left reinforces the ‘tough broad’ persona that Hillary seeks to cultivate.
Mrs. Clinton may have blown Benghazi, but that’s of a piece with similar Bush era Republican pandering to Arabs and Muslims after 9/11. Russia and China on the other hand will be a free fire zone for both American political parties in the next two years. Hillary is knocking over straw men early.
Neither party is willing to recognize, nor confront in any meaningful way, the real security challenge of the 21st Century which is a 3rd World War which has already begun, the blitzkrieg of imperial religious fascism. All that Salifi cash doled out to former American officials, academia, and think tanks is insulating the Arabian sanctuary – and making Islamic swords like ISIS possible.
Qatar is hosting the next World Cup, the kind of validation that makes Islamism possible. Sanction Russia! Contain China! Where are the sanctions and restraints for irredentist if not barbaric Islam?
Expect Hillary to run against the Obama record in any case. If the Clintons can hold most women, most minorities, academics, and folks collecting a government check, her bandwagon starts to look more like a freight train – and conservatives start to look more like 2016 road kill.
Surveying the political landscape realistically, Hillary Clinton is already playing man-to-man with a full court press. Conservative leadership, if we can torture a noun, is still in the locker room backslapping – or just snapping towels.
Playing the clock for legacy is all that remains for President Obama, a self-defined victim just a half step from ignominy.
Alas, the eggs of a lame duck are fertilized with ego, dangerous hubris indeed. The peril lies in any 11th hour foreign policy Hail Mary that might come at the expense of the American economy or allies like Israel. Surely there are few legislative miracles to be had with Congress now in Republican hands.
To date, Obama foreign policy is a tale of serial incompetence. Yet the White House still blows in Sunni and now Shia ears as we speak. Cutting Shia Iran some slack on nuclear programs might serve two purposes, Obama legacy and another eye poke for Benjamin Netanyahu. It’s the Chicago way.
With Obama, foreign affairs, as with most of his politics, are personal. National apologists have blithely ignored the Islam bomb in Sunni hands; why not rationalize a level Ummah playing field by appeasing the Shia at the expense of Israel? Desperate deeds and smaller men are constant companions. Or as another Kris used to sing, “Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.”
In the beginning, Barack Hussein Obama was thought to be the post-racial, millennial man. Indeed, Obama was the first world leader to get a Nobel Prize for wishful thinking about peace and arms control. The president has delivered neither. Indeed, he has been so much worse than his two predecessors that the Obama era beggars comparison.
Even a wounded politician is dangerous. Two years is a policy eternity. Weakness, compounded by ego, makes for a perilous mix. Misuse of executive orders puts the rule of law and separation of powers at risk at home. In the national security arena; the next 9/11, ISIS, or Ukraine fiasco could be a tipping point. A damaged president, an inert legislature, and a passive nation are as likely to be undone by ego, apathy, or enemies.
Both parties now elevate the Russian to ogre yet haven’t a clue about what to do with Islamic wolves. And the irony about economic sanctions against Moscow is that American Russophobia is damaging European allies too. The EU is not just on the brink of another Cold War; it’s more like the threat of another ice age in Game of Thrones. Winter in Europe comes early this year.
Irredentism seems to be a war of necessity for Islam. Going backwards with Europe and Asia is still an option for the West too. Myopic politics have no term limits.
Team Obama squanders energy on Russian and Chinese misdemeanors instead of cultivating a grand coalition of secular, dare we say rational, nations to focus on the war against imperial Islam – a war that civilization now seems to be losing in slow motion. If Islam were only a religion, it might be odious, but not necessarily dangerous. Unfortunately, Islam is largely a political construct where religion is not just inseparable from the state, but the mosque is too often a toxic well of imperial inspiration compounded by the regression of reason.
For the next two years Barack Hussein Obama, as the world’s most visible apologist for Islamism, will still be the most dangerous politician on the planet.
This essay appeared in the 11/16/14 edition of American Thinker