A surprising number of generally reasonable and intelligent conservatives are under the impression that former President Barack Obama is really the one running the country, from behind the scenes.
The theory generally goes like this: Biden campaigned as a moderate but veered radically leftward since taking office, and because his cognitive skills are severely compromised, he can’t think for himself; obviously, someone’s whispering all these leftist commands in his ear, and it certainly makes sense that it could be an America-hating socialist like Obama.
Picking that argument apart is important not for the mere sport of it, but rather to enlighten these conservatives that if they want the Republicans to win in 2022 and 2024, they need to focus on reality, not on unsubstantiated whimsical speculation.
Throughout Obama’s two terms, many claimed that he was secretly a radical leftist dressed in moderate clothing because that’s the only way he could’ve won.
In a nation so set in its ways that no major-party presidential nominee has even dared to sport facial hair since the mustachioed Thomas Dewey in 1948, if your name is Barack Hussein Obama and your father was a high-ranking government official in Kenya and you’re running for president, you won’t convince voters to overcome their skittishness and elect you unless you appease them with a centrist platform.
While all that sounds plausible, it ignores that once Obama won re-election, thereby entering lame-duck status, he had no need to hoodwink anyone. If he secretly harbored Marxist tendencies, he simply could have implemented them from the bully pulpit.
Those who argue that Obama did in fact impose socialism on us with Obamacare fail to realize that American politics isn’t limited to two speeds: conservatism and socialism. There’s a whole lot in between, including policies similar to Obamacare endorsed by the likes of Bob Dole and Mitt Romney (hint: they’re not socialists either).
Importantly, while Obama laughed off — as he should have — accusations of being a radical leftist, far too many of today’s Democrats openly wear that label with pride.
That’s the distinction many conservatives are missing: Next to the “squad,” Nancy Pelosi, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Maxine Waters and the 2021 version of Joe Biden, Obama is Barry Goldwater by comparison.
Don’t forget, Obama cut taxes, whereas Biden will have to raise them to pay for trillions in new spending unless he just prints more money to further spur inflation, a problem nonexistent in the Obama years.
Obama also beefed up deportation of persons here illegally whereas Biden is presiding over the worst border crisis in our nation’s history.
Obama doubled down on Afghanistan and used military drones to hunt down terrorists. In stark contrast, Biden withdrew from Afghanistan so ineptly, with people desperately clinging to moving airplanes on the runway, and left billions of dollars’ worth of military equipment in the Taliban’s hands.
Several of the 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls excoriated Biden in the July 31, 2019, primary debate because Obamacare didn’t altogether eliminate private insurance. That’s right: They blasted Biden for his association with Obamacare, which they considered too conservative a policy.
They also criticized Obama for vigorously deporting so many PHIs. From the intensity of their attacks, you’d think the president whose policies they described as so abominable was Donald Trump, not Barack Obama.
Moreover, because the American presidency is arguably the most stressful job on the planet, those who finally leave the White House for good really do take time to smell the roses. They write their memoirs. They make uplifting speeches for a million bucks or two per gig. They plan their presidential libraries. They engage in philanthropy. They spend much more time with their children and grandchildren.
Sure, they campaign for their party’s candidates from time to time, but that’s nothing new. The only reason Obama seems like an “activist” in that regard is that his predecessor, George W. Bush, is one of the most apolitical former presidents in decades.
In other words, Obama’s done enough country-running to last a lifetime. Even if politicians become drunk with power, after two full presidential terms, they’ve drunk enough and are ready to call it a night.
Like most modern presidents, Obama is not a passionate ideologue. One big reason he isn’t running the country behind the scenes is that he’s got better things to do.
Next, like it or not, Joe Biden isn’t senile. Sure, he’s deteriorated more rapidly than other septuagenarian politicians. He’s slowed down; he tires more easily. But he’s lucid enough to know that he’s the president and the buck stops with him. When he routinely loses his train of thought, don’t be fooled: He’s still the one driving the train. No one else is running things.
But even if the strings really were being pulled by someone else, considering Biden’s sharp left turn, it’s more likely the puppetmaster would be one of Biden’s Democratic primary rivals than Obama, because Obama is simply not that far left.
None of this is to suggest that Obama is actually a conservative, or even much of a moderate. Nor was he a particularly good president.
For many reasons, Trump was considerably better. I’m as disappointed as anyone that Trump isn’t president any longer, and I hope that he or someone like him wins in 2024.
But if my only choice was between Obama and the horror show currently going on, I’d take Obama in a heartbeat.
Republicans, if you want to win in 2022 and 2024, leave Obama alone. Most Americans still like him. Obsessing over him will backfire, yet again.
In a nutshell: Obama can’t be running this country because if he was, things wouldn’t be this bad.
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