Published on TheHill.com on June 18, 2013
President Obama is as thoroughly fenced in by his scandals as Richard Nixon ever was. The scandals that are engulfing him hurt him badly with both the younger voters who have been his political base and the older voters he has sought to woo. And, the media scandals are destroying his image with his political mainstay: his popularity with the press.
The latest CNN poll affords ample evidence that Obama is hurting himself with young people. The survey reflects a 17-point drop in job approval among “under 30” voters in just one month, to 48 percent. More than half feel that the National Security Agency scandal threatens our freedom. The very anti-war, pro-civil liberties attitudes that he ran on as he opposed the war in Iraq and demanded amendments to the Patriot Act are now coming back to bite him.
But the use of the Internal Revenue Service to punish political foes also strikes deeply into the heart and soul of any taxpayer. The Nixonian effort to intimidate conservatives hits everyone who has to deal with the IRS and suffer its arbitrariness.
Obama’s assertion that he had nothing to do with the IRS audits is a claim that is doomed to fail. Already, the CNN poll establishes that 47 percent of voters believe that the IRS audits were based on instructions from above, as opposed to agents acting alone. One month ago, only 37 percent believed that. Worded differently, Rasmussen’s polling shows that 70 percent believe the decision to audit was made at a higher level.
But behind these scandals lie two fundamental facts about which Obama can do nothing: The media has come to dislike him for his attacks on their privacy and his attempts to stop leaking; and Obama has no major initiative around which to rally his forces and seize control of the agenda.
Historically, the Obama administration’s decision to seize The Associated Press’s computers and the Justice Department’s harassing tactics against Fox News’s James Rosen and, perhaps, CBS News’s Sharyl Attkisson, constitute the same kind of blunder that arrogant presidents often make. Just as Nixon ordered a cover-up, FDR demanded court-packing and a purge of Southern Democrats, Woodrow Wilson wanted the League of Nations approved without amendment, and Bill Clinton grew arrogant and reckless, so Obama’s arrogance has proven his fatal flaw. Sensitive to criticism, crazed about leaks, he has turned the media decisively against him. The drip-drip-drip of scandal is not only the reality, it is a perception nurtured and fed by the media. It is payback.
But as difficult is the lack of a second-term agenda of any significance. Immigration reform, if it passes, will help him with Hispanic voters for a while, until their basic instincts drive them toward Republicans. But the rest of the nation will remain largely unaffected and unimpressed. Meanwhile, ObamaCare implementation will get more and more irritating and threatening to the average American. Obama cannot distract attention from ObamaCare or from his scandals with the tools at hand. Using the presidency as theater in foreign travels is no solution.
History will ponder why Obama threw it all away on the vengeful pursuit of his enemies through the IRS and on a Nixonian desire to wiretap, pry and surveil. Why was he so eager to get in his enemies’ face that he resorted to tactics sure to blow up in his own face? Was it class envy? Or anger against the rich and powerful? Or taking the media for granted? Or an obsession with his prerogatives as president?
What is the flaw in this Greek tragedy of a second term that is leading to his downfall? How have power and perks blinded him? Why and when did he lose that political sense that guided him so surely to the presidency in the most unlikely succession in our history? Obama’s coming downfall will keep historians guessing for decades … or centuries.
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