Wednesday, April 04, 2012

The President Comes Out Swinging

On Monday during a joint press conference with the presidents of Canada and Mexico, President Obama was asked to comment on the Supreme Court and the ACA (Affordable Care Act aka Obamacare). He seemed incredulous that the Court could even question a law passed by a "substantial majority in Congress". He went further, commenting on "unelected judges".

The President's comments were incendiary enough to provoke a reaction for all sides. Even liberals thought that he went too far in denouncing "judicial activism". This is understandable. After all, Roe v. Wade is a stellar example of judicial activism.

Obviously the President's handlers let him know that he had gone too far. In a press conference on Tuesday he backed away from the most inflammatory statements. At the same time he made some comments about constitutional law that left observers wondering about his familiarity with the subject. This is not a good thing for a former instructor of constitutional law.

I think that his off-the-cuff remarks on Monday were closer to the President's true feelings. He has already shown that he has little respect for the Court, even lecturing them during the State of the Union address.

After softening his stance on the Supreme Court, Obama launched into his other target - Mitt Romney and the Republican budget. Among other things, Obama outright made fun of Romney:

He said that he's very supportive of this new budget. And he even called it 'marvelous,' which is a word you don't often hear when it comes to describing the budget. It's a word you don't often hear generally.

That was a cheap shot, especially since Politico found three instances where Obama himself has used the word since becoming president.

Obama spent a lot of energy complaining about the Ryan budget, saying that it would lead to "social Darwinism". This is interesting for a few reasons. First, Obama's speech reminds me of Jimmy Carter warning that electing Ronald Reagan would lead to pitting white againt black, rich against poor, old against young. Following Jimmy Carter's playbook is not a good way to win reelection.

"Social Darwinism" is not a term that is used often, much less often than "marvelous". It also has an interesting pedigree.

"Social Darwinism" was first described by Oscar Schmidt of the University of Strasbourg, reporting at a scientific and medical conference held in Munich in 1877. He noted how socialists, although opponents of Darwin's theory, nonetheless used it to add force to their political arguments.

On the other hand, some major Progressives like H. G. Wells and Jack London were believers in social Darwinism.

The President's attack on the Ryan budget was to be expected. He decided some time ago to pretend that there are no problems with entitlements or the deficit. Instead he lets the Republicans advance proposals for dealing with these problems, mis-characterizes them, and attacks them on that basis. This was a winning formula for him in 2008 when he told seniors that they would have lost their Social Security under a proposal from President Bush, even though Bush excluded people over 50. The Democrats won a special election in Florida by showing a Ryan-look-alike literally throwing a senior over a cliff.

Obama's speech set what will probably be the tone for the campaign. With few achievements to run on, Team Obama will be nagative and play fast and loose with the truth.

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