“The people may not yet be sufficiently mislead to retract from error. Evils must be sorely felt before they can be removed.” —George Washington
As of March 29th, the Washington Post is gleefully reporting that President Obama’s approval ratings are at 47.2%, a two year high with the exception of a few days after the killing of bin Laden. The new numbers are a statistical dead-heat with those who disapprove of his performance. People who study the news daily are dumbfounded.
To a great extent, Americans approve of the president’s performance because they have no idea what he’s doing. He may be the most publicized man in the world, but his actions are purposely a mystery. Americans blissfully go about their daily lives picking up snippets of news from headlines, iProducts, Tweets, and comedians. The Obama administration knows this and their control of word and sound-bites is the key to their marketing success.
President Obama often does the exact opposite of what he says. In fact, the more strenuous he espouses a position; the more likely he’s disguising his true movements. When he ramps up spending, he rails against the deficit. When he preaches bipartisanship, he’s setting a trap for Republicans. When he says he has Israel’s back, he is inserting a knife. When he demands civility, he has his minions spew hateful rhetoric. When he loudly claims to have the most transparent administration in history, he’s censoring 194 pages of internal e-mails about its Open Government Directive. He tells Catholic bishops that he will “respect the rights of conscience,” knowing full well that he intends to blindside them with a contraceptive dictate that will make them look foolish. He gives speeches favoring domestic oil exploration as his regulatory arms strangle the industry. When he says you can keep your healthcare insurance if you like it, he knows ObamaCare will cause employers to shrug-off coverage to the government and the law destroys Medicare Advantage and Health Savings Accounts.
In the past, presidents have lied, but usually to conceal or cover up, never as a matter of policy. Like Eddie Haskell on Leave it to Beaver, President Obama lies to hide what he’s doing because he knows adults would disapprove.
If Americans have time only for sound bites, they accept what he says as indicative of what he’s doing—especially when the media acts as an echo chamber for administration press releases. The mainstream media and popular culture are co-conspirators in setting the population at ease while the government is fundamentally transformed. It may be severe bias, naiveté, or abject laziness, but the main stream media can be trusted no more than the president.
So, will Americans ever see that President Obama has no clothes? Only if the Republican candidate is clever enough and sturdy enough to expose his misrepresentations every day between now and the election. So far, President Obama has had a free ride. The Republican candidates have wasted precious ammunition on each other, been distracted by administration chaff, and campaigned to the choir. The overwhelming characteristic of the Republican establishment is their distrust of Americans. They believe they must be as duplicitous as Democrats. If they continue along this line, Obama will be a two-term president. Republicans that stand up and tell the unvarnished truth are enormously popular. Unfortunately, you can count forthright politicians on a single hand, and party hacks refuse to see how their message is resonating.
Republicans need to screw up their courage. They believe they can win playing a defensive game. Wrong. Obama is gaining in the polls and he will continue to gain if the economy is perceived to be improving. The American people are desperate for a leader. Only some are willing to vote for a custodian that won’t break things. Vast multitudes would vote for an outspoken constitutional conservative with courage and principles.
James D. Best is the author of the Steve Dancy Tales and Tempest at Dawn, a novel about the 1787 Constitutional Convention. Look for his new book, Principled Action, Lessons from the Origins of the American Republic.