For Obama, Nothing Succeeds Like Failure

Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, a Research Fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution, and a Professor of Classics and Humanities at the California State University. He is the author of nine books and numerous essays on classical culture and its influence on Western Civilization. His most recent book, Democracy's Dangers and Discontents (Hoover Institution Press), is now available for purchase.


Barack Obama, Kathleen SebeliusRasmussen reported last Friday that 52% of likely voters approve of Obama’s job performance. This number is both astonishing and depressing. The avalanche of Obama’s failures both domestic and foreign should have buried this presidency months ago. Yet despite the slow-motion implosion of Obamacare now catching the attention of even the court-journalists of the mainstream media, millions of American voters still think one of the worst presidents in modern history is doing a good job.

In any other administration, even without Obamacare, the litany of scandal and bungling would have politically crippled not just Obama but the Democrats as well. The murderous gunrunning of the Fast and Furious debacle, Attorney General Eric Holder turning the Justice Department into the Democrats’ Luca Brasi, the out-of-control EPA waging its economy-killing war on carbon, the National Labor Relations Board unleashed to browbeat business and revive a moribund labor movement, the SEC shaking down banks for billions, the IRS targeting political opponents, the trillion-dollar “stimulus” spent to achieve the worst economic recovery in history, the trillions more borrowed and created out of thin air to finance entitlement spending and payoffs to political cronies––and that’s just domestic policy.

Add the outrageous incompetence and indifference that got 4 Americans murdered in Benghazi, the subsequent lies and cover-up for political advantage, the waste of American money, toil, and blood in Iraq by the precipitate withdrawal of our forces, the likely reprise of that malfeasance in Afghanistan, the alienation of allies like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Israel, the cozying up to the genocidal Muslim Brotherhood, the appeasement of the equally genocidal mullahs in Iran, the groveling to a rampaging Russia, the whole Syria “red line” humiliation over chemical weapons––any one of these foreign and domestic fiascos would have inflicted serious political damage if we weren’t living in the alternative political universe in which we suddenly found ourselves on January 20, 2009.

It’s easy to blame an obviously biased and politicized media determined to ignore or downplay Obama’s incompetence. Skeletons in the closet like Jeremiah Wright and terrorist Bill Ayres have been ignored, gaps in Obama’s personal biography left unfilled, and evidence for his alleged brilliance like college test scores and transcripts left in the dark. By fiat he has been declared the most intelligent president ever, the media reflexively agreeing with his estimation of himself as the smartest guy in every room despite ample evidence to the contrary. More mysterious are the assertions of his rhetorical prowess, which are average at best when he reads a teleprompter, but non-existent whenever he speaks ex tempore, when every third word is followed by “uh-uh-uh.” Barefaced lies, obviously duplicitous spinning of mistakes and scandals, blatant double standards, passing the buck to George Bush, and shameful self-contradictions have all been rationalized, ignored, or explained away by the media. The self-proclaimed watchdogs of the public weal have become lapdogs, fawning over their master while snarling and snapping at his political enemies.

So yes, a corrupt media have contributed to Obama’s continuing popularity. Just compare the media’s treatment of the Watergate scandal with their indifference to the IRS’s use of its power to give the Democrats a political advantage during a presidential election. Watergate was a minor political scandal of the sort that can be found on every page of American history. It didn’t make a difference politically, as Nixon was on his way to a landslide victory in any case. The same Europeans who would later snicker at America’s high dudgeon over Bill Clinton’s sordid sexual hijinks with an intern felt the same way about our hysterical reaction to Watergate––another sign of America’s provincial moralism and naiveté. Yet self-righteous liberals and their media hacks elevated this two-bit scandal into the greatest threat to the republic since the Civil War. Watergate became a mythic narrative illustrating the fascist instincts of Republicans and the nobility and bravery of the media, even though all the Washington Post did for the most part was give the public information fed to reporters from a disgruntled FBI functionary.

Compare that to the IRS’s using its regulatory power to intimidate and silence political rivals of the president, betraying the public trust and tarnishing their duty as public servants. And unlike Watergate, the IRS did have an impact on the election by taking many Republican-friendly organizations out of the game. Yet here we are months later, and all that’s happened is Lois Lerner is now enjoying a cushy retirement after pleading the Fifth before a House committee and lying serially to the country. No one has been held accountable, and the media have spent more time on Miley Cyrus’s twerking prowess and Kim Kardashian’s impending nuptials than on getting to the bottom of this blatant misuse of taxpayer-financed government power.

Having said all that, however, we still can’t let those 52% of likely voters off the hook. These days too many alternatives to the mainstream media, from Fox News and NRO to Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, exist for anyone truly interested in learning the truth ignored or distorted by the legacy media. Those who want to know will know. Yet many Republican Party operatives, refusing to hold the people accountable, have been more eager to blame some in their own party rather than admit that millions of Americans simply don’t want to listen to the Republicans’ message. Old Senate dinosaurs like John McCain validate the media caricatures of the Tea Party as extremist “wacko-birds” and slack-jawed racists, and then settle down to try and cut deals with the Democrats over big-government monstrosities like comprehensive immigration reform. Or Republican consultants, presumed masters of political tactics and strategies, call for better “messaging,” as though millions of Americans just don’t know about Benghazi, the IRS, the cancerous national debt, or the myriad other scandals.

They know all right. They just don’t care. And if they don’t know, explaining it to them won’t make much difference. Either they’re on the government dole and happy to stay there, or they have drunk the Progressive kool-aid and are intent on committing intellectual and political suicide.

Saying this angers many Republicans, who think these folks just need some explaining to see the light. But too many alleged conservatives have forgotten the profound distrust of the people underlying the Constitution. The Founders endorsed the maxim of Machiavelli: “It is necessary to whoever arranges to found a Republic and establish laws in it, to presuppose that all men are bad and that they will use their malignity of mind every time they have the opportunity.” That’s why the Founders gave the people freedom, but limited it with numerous checks and balances, many of which have been weakened, not the least being the limited government that makes it difficult for ambitious elites to corrupt the people with government handouts and redistributed property.

That Constitutional horse obviously left the barn a long time ago. We have become what Churchill once called “Government of the/by the/for the dole-drawers.” So as long as the government checks fill the mailboxes, the EBT cards work, satellite television delivers the shows, the Cineplex offers the latest special-effects extravaganza, and the shelves of Walmart and Whole Foods stay stocked, the people will shrug off Obama’s lies and failures and keep on amusing themselves to political death.

Republicans need to drop their mantra that this is a “center-right” country of natural conservatives who just need some tutoring to recognize their own best interests. And they need to accept that Obama’s failures won’t damage his success until the grievous costs of those failures start concentrating enough people’s minds by hitting their wallets. The rolling disasters of Obamacare look more and more like they may do the trick. Then people might be more receptive to our founding ideas of limited government and fiscal prudence.

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  • bluffcreek1967

    Americans are still much too comfortable. The sunken economy and high rates of unemployment haven’t been severe enough to jar many of these people out of their Leftist slumber. Things will probably have to get much worse.

    Perhaps the Obamacare fiasco may do the trick? But even then there’s too many low-information voters who will be duped into believing it’s all Republicans’ fault. We shall see. A saner nation would have impeached this ‘Nothing-man’ a long time ago. But we are not a sane nation.

    http://www.ambrosekane.com

    • nomoretraitors

      how true

    • laura

      dont you think the black card will get boring? or i it just part of our culture?

      • delm31_nabla@yahoo.com

        The race card is old hat.

        • laura

          the hat may be old, but it is worn 24/7. i blame the govt controlled media.

    • delm31_nabla@yahoo.com

      I don’t think anything will pry Americans of the Leftist bandwagon. It’s Linus’ security blanket.

  • nomoretraitors

    What explains Obama’s resilient approval ratings is blatant stupidity

    • Liberalmann

      No, it’s the willingness of the lunatic on the right who buy the crap their being fed from Fox, Rush and Glenn.

      • nomoretraitors

        Your reply is nonsensical (as is much of what liberals say).
        Time to put down the MSNBC koolaid and wake up to reality

      • delm31_nabla@yahoo.com

        American journalism from top to bottom is one massive propaganda machine. I would trust foreign media first.

      • BobT

        And you just confirmed the validity of this piece…

  • poptoy1949

    The difference is the main Stream Media. They prop up this man. It isn’t news anymore……it’s PROPAGANDA

    • delm31_nabla@yahoo.com

      It’s been that way the entire 20th Century to the present. American Pravda.

      • poptoy1949

        A M E N !

  • ronald54321

    The public is a degenerate product of the hippie movement. They hate the Constitution, Judeo Christian morality, and the family. They love Marxism, hedonism, and pornography.

  • DontMessWithAmerica

    You have summarized the tragedy accurately and completely and a tragedy it certainly is. Not only has he and will he further damage America but Democracy itself.

  • Gee

    You left off the 20 million illegals that occupy America and that the government wants to become undocumented Democrat voters

    • carpe diem 36

      they are on our flight, they cannot escape the crash.

    • nomoretraitors

      they already are

  • RAS

    It’s almost over. We are all seated in a disabled jumbo jet that is plummeting toward earth. The passengers haven’t been told or have a clue that there is a problem.
    The affirmative-action pilot has just called our attention to the beautiful sunset on the left side of the aircraft. Free drinks are being served with extra snacks. A popular survivor show is playing on the drop down TVs. What a wonderful flight. Only ten thousand feet to go and no one seems to know, care, or give a damn. Good bye American Flight 1776; it’s been fun.

    • carpe diem 36

      bravo!! you said it so well, i hope everyone reads it.

    • delm31_nabla@yahoo.com

      It’s a shame. The American experiment was fun while it lasted.

  • Spencer Warren

    Even Front Page shies away from the fundamental reason explaining this despicable man’s popularity: he is black. He is the affirmative action president, using white guilt to ruin the country he and the liberal neo-Marxists detest.

    • carpe diem 36

      he knows what everyone knows: that the minute there is even a suggestion of impeachment the blacks will riot. that is his insurance policy, same as Biden is.

      • ziggy zoggy

        I wish they would riot. None of them can shoot straight and most of them give up when they realize they can’t win a fight.

    • delm31_nabla@yahoo.com

      White guilt is pure malarkey. Whites have nothing to apologize or atone for.

      • nomoretraitors

        No, but the left has been very adept in indoctrinating recent generations with their propaganda

  • Agnot3000

    Something is just wrong with those numbers. Even the liberals I know regret putting him in office and not Clinton, not that she would be any better. Hell even my black friends hate Obama these days. Must be all the retards on the coasts. WTF is wrong with you people?

  • http://www.shugartmedia.com/ Chris Shugart

    As long as there are voters who believe they’ll continue to get their goodies, they’ll vote for Charlie Manson, Marilyn Manson, Marilyn Monroe–anyone who will promise them a free flow of govt entitlements. Cynical but true.

  • JacksonPearson

    “Rasmussen
    reported last Friday that 52% of likely voters approve of Obama’s job
    performance. This number is both astonishing and depressing. The
    avalanche of Obama’s failures both domestic and foreign should have
    buried this presidency months ago.”

    Bullsh*t, I don’t believe a word of it.

    • Bert

      This number does seem too high especially when he had been running near 40%, which is also too high considering all his crimes. I sensed something was wrong with the American public when they ignored Clinton’s crimes. We have been in moral decline for a long time and Obama is benefiting as this decline is now sufficient to help keep him in office.

    • ziggy zoggy

      Exactly. Rasmussen is about as reliable as astrology. 52%, my @$$. Not even diehard left-wing liars could push the figure that high.

    • Independent

      I wish I could share your optimism. But Rasmussen, who personally trends conservative and polls “likely voters,” has generally been correct in his polls in the past.

  • Saflak

    Obama’s strategy is brilliant, it is the same strategy that has assured job security for Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez and others. It is to create enormous government dependency. With 50% of the country receiving food stamps and other government benefits, of course they will support Obama. On top of that, create a dumbed down people who drink Mountain Dew Big Gulps, who are 150 lbs overweight, who watch reality shows and who have to have Obamacare because of their bad health, and you can see how brilliant Obama’s strategy is to keep him in power.

    • delm31_nabla@yahoo.com

      A Democratic slave plantation.

  • NAHALKIDES

    Thornton makes some valid points, but I still think that outside the corrupt media, who now function as the propaganda arm of the Democratic Party, the biggest problem for Republicans is their leadership. Obama should be getting hammered every day for his failures by Boehner, Cantor, and McConnell – yet they keep their mouths shut and just hope that they somehow manage to win in 2014. The Romney campaign was the same way – not once did it call Obama a liar or a radical Marxist, although both charges are demonstrably true.

    Obama was never going to be an easy knock out – you have to get him on the ropes and just keep pummeling him until he goes down for the count. The Republican leadership punches like they were a bunch of Camp Fire Girls.

    • Erudite Mavin

      It doesn’t make any difference what Republican – Conservative runs for President, the MSM, Internet, Public Schools, Universities All Democrats to Radical Left.
      When the lies drip, drip all day, all night regardless the countering, the general public are sucked in, thus Obama and the Democrats.
      Then you have the sit at homes and third party voters who are equally at fault for the Democrats

      • ziggy zoggy

        Yep. The disinformation assault by the left in academia and the media is relentless, and the emotional midgets who boycott elections out of juvenile contumacy gave us eight years of Obama Bin Laden. At least eight years. His handlers are working on a lifetime regime.

        • Erudite Mavin

          Exactly, good to see someone gets it.

      • delm31_nabla@yahoo.com

        We might as well have a one-party state like the Soviet Union.

    • royw

      You are right. When Romney had Obama on the ropes, he stopped punching and started clutching. I’ll never understand why.

      • nomoretraitors

        Because the mainstream Republicans don’t understand the nature of their opposition (much the same way the left doesn’t understand the threat of Muslim supremacy). They believe the left are good people with whom they have an honest disagreement. They aren’t. They are on a messaniac mission to create “heaven” on earth and will destroy anyone they believe stands in their way.

        • delm31_nabla@yahoo.com

          Romney got what he deserved for not going for the jugular. So did McCain.

          • nomoretraitors

            Right, and the reason they didn’t is because they misunderstand the nature of their opposition

  • Independent

    I agree with the commentator who said that some of Obama’s approval is due to his being “black” and to American guilt over slavery. That guilt also underlies much of the media’s covering up of racist black mobs attaching whites in various parts of the U.S.

    If Obama were considered to be “white,” then he would have less approval.

    Of course we would still have the problems that Bruce Thornton so ably lays out.

    I think that our only hope at this point lies in the possibility that the leftists are over-reaching with Obamacare. But I’m afraid that the Republicans will find some way to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory.

  • tagalog

    A steady and unending stream of foul-ups and scandals have done very little to deter Americans from their self-congratulations over electing a black President. We truly are a racist nation; it’s so obvious. We’re so racist that we’re creating a monarchy and dismantling the republic rather than risk being called racists.

    And there is unlikely to be any problem or scandal in the future, no matter how debilitating it might be, that will lead people to turn against Obama any more than they already have.

    • royw

      That is truly the issue. People just can’t admit Obama is a disaster, because 1. He’s black, so they are afraid of being called a racist, and 2. Nobody likes to admit they bought a lemon, even if it’s constantly in the garage.

      • delm31_nabla@yahoo.com

        Let the left scream racist all they want.

  • quesnay

    There are some other dynamics at play here. Up until the early to mid 1990′s, my father’s generation, the WWII generation was still a potent force in American Politics. That generation never let the fulcrum veer to far from the center. That’s why Reagan was elected twice by landslides. That generation had a visceral dislike for radicalism, were proud patriots and knew when someone was trying to pull the wool over their eyes.

    Now, that generation is no longer any force in American politics and we are paying for it dearly.

    • Erudite Mavin

      Now it is at least two Generations + of Left Wing Public School and University brainwashed especially over the last 60 years of voters who
      are the majority voters giving us the Democrat rulers.

      • delm31_nabla@yahoo.com

        Media, education, Washington, and entertainment are responsible.

  • Macjamm

    Excellent article i think the author hit everything right on the nose.

  • Mladen_Andrijasevic

    How is it that Americans are completely unaware that THEIR lives are at stake? Here is what reality looks like:

    Peter Robinson:

    Quote, quoting you ..

    If Iran gets the bomb it is hard , if not impossible, to see how a nuclear exchange between Iran and Israel could be avoided” Close quote

    Now you know the answer to that. The Soviet Union had the bomb and we had the bomb and we sat facing each other for four and a half decades and did not engage in a nuclear exchange.

    Norman Podhoretz:

    I will give you Bernard Lewis’s answer to that question and than I will give you my own. Bernard Lewis points out that deterrence worked with the Soviets and the Chinese because the Soviets were not suicidal and they knew that if they launched a first strike there would be a second strike tha which would annihilate them — mutual assured destruction

    Peter Robinson:

    And it worked

    Norman Podhoretz

    Mutual Assured

    Destruction can’t work in relation to Iran because these are people who are in love with death

    Bernard Lewis:

    For them it is not a deterrent, it is an inducement

    Peter Robinson:

    Truly? Truly?

    Norman Podhoretz:

    Now I will give you my answer to this. That’s’ Bernard’s answer to the question My answer to the question is to imagine a scenario which most people are horrified . I’ve tried this all the time , people shy away from it. Imagine that Iran gets the bomb. OK and the Israelis are siting there and asking themselves, do we wait for them to hit us and then retaliate out of the rubble or do we preempt it first? The Iranians are asking themselves the same question. Do we wait for the Israelis to hit us or do we hit them first . We’ve never had a hair trigger situation like that since the invention of nuclear
    weapons . If you just imagine the rulers of Iran asking themselves that question . Somebody is gonna beat the other to the punch . And I can’t see that unstable situation lasting for very long, maybe even as along as a few weeks or months

    Peter Robinson:

    And you would agree,here is what I find so striking

    You will hear it said among people who are not deep students of this situation that the notion that glorious death is an inducement to the the radicals in the Muslim world, not a deterrent, and here I sit across the man who has devoted his life to the study of Islam, who is universally regarded as the greatest living historian in the world of Islam, and he says, yes as a matter of fact , that’s exactly right, it is an inducement, deterrence would not work. You confirm that

    Bernard Lewis

    Yes I would do, yes, with those who are committed believers in the old sense

    Bernard Lewis and Norman Podhoretz on Iran and MAD
    http://www.madisdead.blogspot.co.il/2013/10/bernard-lewis-and-norman-podhortz-on.html

  • Independent

    Those who control the mainstream media control the national dialogue. And the Obama Administration very cleverly built their networks of reporters, editors, print media owners, etc. They did this very early on. It helped them to sabotage Hillary and they have been running rings around the Republicans ever since. And they have been known to threaten those in the media who criticize them. And all media people knew that good access to the White House depended upon positive coverage.

    For example, during the 2008 campaign, Obama activitists literally conspired with a large network of so-called journalists to downplay and bury the Jerimyah Wright story.

    Of course all this would not have been possible were it not for generations of left-wing brainwashing that took place in the journalism departments at most of our colleges and universities.

  • Goower59

    Unfortunately I know many people who don’t care who they get their money or benefits from. It could be Satan himself…just as long as they get it. Nothing else matters to them. It will have to get a lot worse before anything will change.

  • delm31_nabla@yahoo.com

    Tune in, turn on, and drop out. The 60s killed the society. 1968 was the turning point.

  • delm31_nabla@yahoo.com

    Americans will continue to be blindly loyal to the Third World dictator and the Democratic machine no matter what. So many of my own family are blind loyalists and I can’t se why-it defies all logic and reason.

  • nomoretraitors

    It goes back way before that. Stalin said if he could undermine American morality he could destroy this country. Check out the DVD “The Agenda.”

  • RoomForOneMoreHoney

    deception, delusion – everywhere