Victor Davis Hanson is comparing Obama with Harding — Says Obama is worse

Historians in the News
tags: Obama, Harding



Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of "The Savior Generals."

Many have described the Obama departure from the 70-year-old bipartisan postwar foreign policy of the United States as reminiscent of Jimmy Carter’s failed 1977–81 tenure. There is certainly the same messianic sense of self, the same naïveté, and the same boasts of changing the nature of America, as each of these presidents was defining himself as against supposedly unpopular predecessors. But the proper Obama comparison is not Carter, but rather Warren G. Harding. By that I mean not that Obama’s scandals have matched Harding’s, but rather that by any fair standard they have now far exceeded them and done far more lasting damage — and without Obama’s offering achievements commensurate with those that occasionally characterized Harding’s brief, failed presidency.

The lasting legacy of Obama will be that he has largely discredited the idea of big government, of which he was so passionate an advocate. Almost every major agency of the federal government, many of them with a hallowed tradition of bipartisan competence, have now been rendered either dysfunctional or politicized — or both — largely because of politically driven appointments of unqualified people, or ideological agendas that were incompatible with the agency’s mission.

The list of scandals is quite staggering. In aggregate, it makes Harding’s Teapot Dome mess seem minor in comparison.

There is now no Border Patrol, at least as Americans have understood the agency whose job was enforcing federal immigration statutes. It died as an enforcement bureau sometime in 2013, not long after the reelection of Barack Obama, in a way that it could not have before the election. Instead, in Orwellian fashion, at a time of plague and terrorism abroad, it is now the Border-Crossing Enabling Service, whose chief task is facilitating the illegal entry of thousands from Latin America and Mexico, largely to further the political agenda of the Obama administration, contrary to the law, the will of Congress, and the wishes of the majority of the American people. Mention the phrase “immigration law” or “Border Patrol,” and Americans sigh that neither any longer exists. Yet such a perversion of the mission of a federal agency for political purposes has become thematic of this administration. Perhaps the end of border enforcement is emblemized best by Obama’s own uncle and late aunt, who in open defiance broke federal immigration law and did so with impunity, resided illegally in the United States, broke various state laws, and ended up either on public assistance or mired in the U.S. judicial system.

No one quite knows how to deal with the deadly threat of the Ebola virus. We can assume, however, that the Obama administration’s policy will be predicated foremost on some sort of predetermined ideological concern. Unlike many European countries, the United States still allows foreign nationals from countries with pandemics of Ebola to enter the country freely. What the administration has so far told us about Ebola — that a case here was unlikely, and then, after it happened, that probably only a handful of people had been exposed — was almost immediately proven false...




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