by Richard Fernandez
A Toe in the Waters of Defiance
September 25th, 2013 - 12:33 pm
The status quo falls apart when people discover, first to their surprise, then to their glee, that it’s lost its teeth. The presidency of Barack Obama appears to be unraveling — whether the yarn will be pulled out to the last inch remains to be seen, but a lot of it is already coiled on the floor. First the UK parliament, then both parties of Congress balked at his Syrian policy. Then Putin humiliated him so badly internationally that he retreated to the safety of domestic policy.
But while resting between rounds he was immediately beset by his own cornerpeople. Taking cynical advantage of his weakness, a cabal of Democratic Party activists rejected his candidate for the Federal Reserve, Larry Summers, and foisted on him a candidate of their own.
The liberal activists may have thought they had the exclusive franchise on defying Obama, but success breeds imitation. Once the hyenas see the lion is unable to resist, then more, and not fewer, pile in. Thus it was not long before Obama’s hatchet person in the IRS, Lois Lerner, announced she was retiring, probably hoping she would be forgotten in the confusion. There are even reports she is negotiating with investigators for immunity against prosecution.
But worse was to yet come. Obama, having sent Sultan Qaboos with a “penpal” letter for Rouhani, saw the Iranian leader responding by pointedly snubbing Obama, declining to meet him at the UN ”for lunch,” or have even a handshake “encounter.” Rouhani boarded a plane home having refused to meet the President of a country he had just visited and demonstrating to all and sundry you could beard the president of the US on his own home turf without apparent consequences.
That was the context in which Ted Cruz started his long, filibuster-like speech in the Senate against Obamacare. Cruz has trod on center stage and shouted the politically unsayable, probably having made the calculation that if there were a moment to defy Obama, that time was now.
As Mark Tapscott in the Washington Examiner writes Cruz’s speech was also a play for the leadership of the Republican Party. If not for the GOP as an organization, then at least for the party as an idea. For years it has been led by what Tapscott calls Arthur Larson’s policy of accomodation. Cruz, by going very publicly out on a limb, by embarking on what in days past would be considered a ‘career ending’ move, is betting that policy of accommodation is ripe for the challenge.
the aim of Larson’s brand of Republicanism was to make peace with FDR, “to rationalize and reform the New Deal rather than repeal it.” Republicans would not repeal the New Deal, they would simply deliver it more efficiently than Democrats.
For better or worse, Larson distilled the essential inspiration for the moderate wing of the GOP epitomized by Nelson Rockefeller and Gerald Ford against the grass-roots populism of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan …
Senate GOPers who follow their lead will appear to be opposing Obamacare, but in reality will effectively be protecting President Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement.
Since the policy of accomodation is the dogma of the current Republican leadership, in toppling it Cruz will also have toppled them. Can he do it? There is in Cruz’s flagrant transgression against the ‘norms’ an element of risk. He is counting on “something in the air”.
That something was typified by the flat refusal of a University of Wisconsin-Madison teaching assistant and PhD student to attend a “diversity training session” and transgender awareness session on the grounds that it was insulting and promoted perversion. He wrote:
I regret that this leaves us in an awkward situation. After having been accused of virulent racism and, now, assured that I will next learn how to parse the taxonomy of “Genderqueers”, I am afraid that I will disappoint those who expect me to attend any further diversity sessions. When a Virginia-based research firm came to campus a couple of years ago to present findings from their study of campus diversity, then-Diversity Officer Damon Williams sent a gaggle of shouting, sign-waving undergraduates to the meeting, disrupting the proceedings so badly that the meeting was cancelled. In a final break with such so-called “diversity”, I will not be storming your office or shouting into a megaphone outside your window. Instead, I respectfully inform you hereby that I am disinclined to join in any more mandatory radicalism. I have, thank God, many more important things to do. I also request that diversity training be made optional for all TAs, effective immediately. In my humble opinion, neither the Department nor the university has any right to subject anyone to such intellectual tyranny.
In days gone by that student’s academic career would have been terminally over, his PhD dreams finished. Now one is not so sure. From the highest councils of government to the humble classroom, is there something in the air? That remains to be seen.
One thing is probably true. The presidency’s authority has been severely reduced and whoever inherits the office from Obama — Republican or Democrat — will be stepping into shoes shrunken the fit the current occupant. The NYT, in a burst of intellectual candor wrote of Obama’s inability to meet the Iranian leader that he “was a somewhat diminished American leader”.
Mr. Rouhani, who had mounted an aggressive charm offensive in the weeks before arriving in New York, also declined a chance to shake hands with Mr. Obama — avoiding a much-anticipated encounter that would have bridged more than three decades of estrangement between the leaders of Iran and the United States.
In their speeches, both leaders balanced their ideals as statesmen with their imperatives as politicians. But for Mr. Rouhani, a handshake may have proved too provocative for hard-line constituencies back home. At the end of a day of drama and dashed expectations at the United Nations, the spotlight swung back to the grinding work of diplomacy that awaits both nations.
In the morning, it was a somewhat diminished American leader who faced a skeptical audience of world leaders here. After first threatening, then backing off, a military strike against Syria, and now suddenly confronting a diplomatic opening with Iran, Mr. Obama has employed a foreign policy that has at times seemed improvisational and, in the view of many critics, irresolute.
That is putting it mildly. The Daily Mail put it far more brutally. The world has suddenly discovered that Barack Obama has 19.5 million fake Twitter followers.
Just 20 per cent of Obama’s Twitter buddies are real people who are active users.
Overall, the five most influential accounts linked to the Obama administration – the first lady has two – account for 23.4 million fake followers.
Biden’s nonexistent fans make up 46 per cent of his Twitter total, with 20 per cent being ‘real’ followers. The White House’s followers are 37 per cent fake and 25 per cent active; the first lady’s primary account is 36 per cent fake and 29 per cent active.
The Daily Caller reported on Tuesday that Michelle Obama’s Twitter followers included nearly 2 million nonexistent people, a number that lines up with MailOnline’s findings.
Cruz is betting that even the man on the street is beginning to notice. It’s one thing to cut no ice with leaders around the world. One might even forgive making a mess of the economy and using the IRS to spy on people. But fake Twitter accounts? A line’s got to be drawn somewhere.
Obama, if he intends to survive, must make an example of those who show him contempt. He has to snarl, like the lion and destroy an intruding hyena. But he couldn’t do this to the UK, nor to Syria, Putin or Rouhani. He couldn’t even show the Democratic feminists who hated Summers who wore the pants in the party. Now in his moment of peril, the president is calling the old champ out of retirment, hoping that Bill Clinton will ride to his rescue, according to NBC. He is saying, Bill Clinton still wears the pants.
But if he can’t beat up Kid Cruz, even with Clinton’s help, then the problem won’t be Cruz. Cruz knows his limits because Cruz wants to preserve — in order to inherit — the system. The worry will be the succession of challengers after Cruz, both domestic and international, ready to adventure against him, and with no such restraints.