Benjamin Netanyahu apparently bothered President Obama. What could that possibly entail, given the historic alliance between Israel and the United States? From the petty malice of Obama-administration aides leaking slurs that Netanyahu was a coward and chickens–t to the fundamental malevolence of community-organizing Netanyahu’s opponents in an effort to defeat him at the polls to leaking previously classified information about Israel’s nuclear deterrent, the message is again Chicagoan. Obama in adolescent fashion put it best in the 2008 campaign when he urged his flock, “I want you to argue with them and get in their face,” and when he later lifted a Chicago line from screenwriter David Mamet’s dialogue in The Untouchables to say to his base, “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun.” No wonder Obama — despite having once been on the receiving end of a racial slur from Senator Harry Reid — recently praised the outgoing Senate majority leader, whose style and modus operandi were akin to Obama’s own.
During the seven years when Obama faced election, reelection, and two midterm elections, he warned on over 20 occasions that it would be neither legal nor ethical to grant executive amnesties to illegal aliens. What was stunning about his refrain was the high-minded manner in which he disarmed his base by warning them that he could not act unconstitutionally. But once he faced no more referenda on his power, he cared little about polls that showed widespread disapproval of amnesty, and simply began issuing the sort of presidential fiats that he had correctly said he didn’t have the power to issue.
The Right was shocked by the brazen hypocrisy of Obama, who once warned the country of just the sort of renegade president that he proved to be. But that again misses the point. Obama was not embarrassed, but emboldened, by the disconnect, as if to say, “I not only bypassed Congress to issue amnesties, but also refuted my own warnings that to do so would be illegal. And so what are you going about it?” If the speeder goes through a red light with impunity right in front of a parked patrolman, what then do we think of the patrolman, the speeder — and the sanctity of traffic lights?
We see the Chicago way with Iran as well. In the midst of negotiations, Iran’s supreme leader chants the tired mantra “Death to America.” The Iranian military builds a mockup of a U.S. carrier to practice attacks on it. The Obama position proves more lenient than that of either the U.N. or our European partners, which is not an easy thing to do. Yet Obama doubles down and continues full bore to squeeze out any kind of agreement he can — even if that means it might be merely oral, not written, and a bastardized treaty somehow designed to avoid Senate scrutiny. The point is not that all this is outrageous, but rather that it is deliberately outrageous, again begging the question, “So what are you going to do about it?” Obama’s Chicago sense appeals to the lowest common denominator: The more brazenly he is making a point, the more he thinks he will earn a certain admiration from his base, a sense of some sort that he is capable of anything and that progressive morality trumps antiquated laws. The full Obama reminds me of a high-school incident when a teacher corralled an aggressor accused of serially bullying another student; when he asked the perpetrator to apologize to his target, the aggressor instead slugged his victim in front of the teacher, and shouted, “What are you going to do about it?”
Some thought Obama’s serial untruths about Obamacare would doom the ill-fated program: Millions really did lose their plans; they lost their doctors as well; Obamacare proved not to lower but to raise costs; it did not shrink the deficit but caused more federal expense. When Obama picked and chose which parts of the federal law he would enforce, others objected that it was patently illegal for an executive not to faithfully execute laws on the books. But again, that is exactly the point: If a president can lie about a program to secure its passage and, when it proves flawed, select elements to discard or delay, then he can do almost anything — and we should appreciate that he can do almost anything.
If the president believes that, after all the shenanigans of Lois Lerner, there is still not even a “smidgen” of corruption in the IRS, then the shot across the bow is not that the IRS is now politicized, but that it is hopelessly politicized. Again,what are we going to do about it?
What then is the full Obama presidency? It is the quest for extralegal power not just by ignoring the law, tradition, or custom, but by doing so flagrantly and without concern, to the point of rendering critics impotent — and thereby accruing even more power to enrage and embarrass them. In similar circumstances, the Roman biographer Suetonius noted of the Twelve Caesars that the offense itself was not so much the point, but rather the demonstration of committing the offense with impunity and disdain.
For the rest of this great article and other great articles, see: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/416199/obamas-chicago-presidency-victor-davis-hanson