WALL STREET JOURNAL
Noonan: How Far Obama Has Fallen
by Peggy Noonan
November 1, 2012
So where are we? A softly catastrophic storm left us, in the Northeast, shocked at the depth and breadth of its power to destroy. Everyone who could be was hunkered down Monday waiting it out, and at first we hoped it might not be as bad as we'd been warned, because we'd all seen higher wind and harder rain. But the waters rose and wouldn't stop, breaching dunes, overwhelming barriers, filling the tunnels and subways like a bathtub, as somebody said on TV. It was—is—a true crisis. So far, our political leaders have done pretty well. But the hard part will be from here on in—getting things up and operating again without the original adrenaline rush.
New York's mayor, Mike Bloomberg, was sterling—a solid, unruffled giver of information whose news conferences were blessedly free of theatrics save for his gifted sign-language interpreter, who wowed a city and left the young evacuees in my apartment furiously signing "Where's the coffee?" and "I think the baby needs to be changed." Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey was his usual compelling self, similarly informative. This is a man who knows a levy from a berm. He is one tough red-state player on a blue-state field. If Mitt Romney loses, will Mr. Christie garner Republican criticism for his hearty embrace of president Obama just days before the election? Yes, he will. Will it hurt him in Jersey? Not a bit. Will it help Jersey? Yes. They are cold and wet and running out of food in the house. Keep your friends close and your president closer.
The "I" of the storm was New York's Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo. He was equally competent and effortful but took the mildly hectoring tone of a kind of leftism that is now old. It involves phrases like "As I've long said." I think this is the worst and I was appalled and when I was at HUD I handled storms and I learned a great deal and I saw we were prepared and I am relieved and I will work hard and I need you to know global warming is what I told you it was.
The winning politicians of the future will not be all about I. People don't like it. They don't want to have to wade past the ego to the info.
Which gets us to Tuesday. No one knows what will happen. Maybe that means it will be close, and maybe it doesn't. Maybe a surprise is in store. But the fact that Barack Obama is fighting for his political life is still one of the great political stories of the modern era.
Look at where he started, placing his hand on the Bible Abe Lincoln was sworn in on in 1861. It was Jan. 20, 2009. The new president was 47 and in the kind of position politicians can only dream of—a historic figure walking in, the first African-American president, broadly backed by the American people. He won by 9.5 million votes. Two days after his inauguration, Gallup had him at 68% approval, only 12% disapproval. He had a Democratic Senate, and for a time a cloture-proof 60 members. He had a Democratic House (256-178) with a colorful, energetic speaker. The mainstream media were excited about him, supportive of him.
His political foes were demoralized, their party fractured.
And then it all changed. At a certain point he lost the room.
Books will be written about what happened, but early on the president made two terrible legislative decisions. The stimulus bill was a political disaster, and it wasn't the cost, it was the content. We were in crisis, losing jobs. People would have accepted high spending if it looked promising. But the stimulus was the same old same old, pure pork aimed at reliable constituencies. It would course through the economy with little effect. And it would not receive a single Republican vote in the House (three in the Senate), which was bad for Washington, bad for our politics. It was a catastrophic victory. It did say there was a new boss in town. But it also said the new boss was out of his league.
Then health care, a mistake beginning to end. The president's 14-month-long preoccupation with ObamaCare signaled that he did not share the urgency of people's most immediate concerns—jobs, the economy, all the coming fiscal cliffs. The famous 2,000-page bill added to their misery by adding to their fear.
Voters would have had to trust the president a lot to believe his program wouldn't raise their premiums, wouldn't limit their autonomy, wouldn't make a shaky system worse.
But they didn't trust him that much, because they'd just met him. They didn't really know him.
You have to build the kind of trust it takes to do something so all-encompassing.
And so began the resistance, the Tea Party movement and the town-hall protests, full of alarmed independents and older Democrats. Both revived Republicans and, temporarily at least, reunited conservatives.
Why did the president make such mistakes? Why did he make decisions that seemed so unknowing, and not only in retrospect?
Because he had so much confidence, he thought whatever he did would work. He thought he had "a gift," as he is said to have told Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. He thought he had a special ability to sway the American people, or so he suggested to House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
But whenever he went over the the heads of the media and Congress and went to the people, in prime-time addresses, it didn't really work. He did not have a magical ability to sway. And—oddly—he didn't seem to notice.
It is one thing to think you're Lebron. Its another thing to keep missing the basket and losing games and still think you're Lebron.
And that really was the problem: He had the confidence without the full capability. And he gathered around him friends and associates who adored him, who were themselves talented but maybe not quite big enough for the game they were in. They understood the Democratic Party, its facts and assumptions. But they weren't America-sized. They didn't get the country so well.
It is a mystery why the president didn't second-guess himself more, doubt himself. Instead he kept going forward as if it were working.
He doesn't do chastened. He didn't do what Bill Clinton learned to do, after he took a drubbing in 1994: change course and prosper.
Mr. Obama may yet emerge victorious. There are, obviously, many factors in every race. Maybe, as one for instance, the seriousness of the storm has sharpened people's anxieties—there are no local crises anymore, a local disaster is a national disaster—so that anxiety will leave some people leaning toward the status quo, toward the known.
Or maybe, conversely, they'll think he failed to slow the oceans' rise.
We'll know soon.
Whatever happens, Mr. Obama will not own the room again as once he did. If he wins, we will see a different presidency—even more stasis, and political struggle—but not a different president.
Read more: http://goo.gl/BcMKk
Why Obama Chose to Let Them Die in Benghazi
by Karin McQuillan
November 2, 2012
The burning question is why Obama didn't give orders to defend our consulate and American lives in Benghazi. The answer is becoming clearer each time President Obama and Secretary of Defense Panetta issue a denial or explanation of their inaction.
To the president's surprise, he chanced on an honest reporter during a local interview on the campaign trail in Denver. On October 26, for the first time, Obama was asked directly about the explosive reports on CBS and Fox News, a week earlier, that the CIA and our military denied direct requests for help by the Americans fighting for their lives during the seven-hour battle in Benghazi.
Denver TV's Kyle Clark twice tried to pin Obama down by asking the key question: "Were they denied requests for help during the attack?"
Obama's answer is the proof of his guilt, and it gives us a clue as to the doctrine informing his decision to do nothing. The most damaging part of Obama's evasive answer is this:
... the minute I found out what was happening, I gave three very clear directives. Number one, make sure that we are securing our personnel and doing whatever we need to. ... I guarantee you that everyone in the state department, our military, the CIA, you name it, had number-one priority making sure that people were safe.
This is the blatant lie that condemns the liar. The president says here that immediately, "the minute I found out what was happening," he gave the order to the military, the CIA, to everyone, to secure our personnel in Benghazi and do "whatever we need to."
Yet the undeniable fact is that nothing was done. We know that the CIA security agent in Benghazi, Tyrone Woods, asked for permission to rescue Ambassador Stevens when Stevens was still alive and in the safe room. Woods was told twice by the CIA to stand down. He then disobeyed direct orders and rescued the survivors at the consulate, but it was too late for Stevens and Sean Smith.
Secretary of Defense Panetta tells us the military had gunships and Special Forces less than two hours away in Sicily but felt it was too "risky" to send in reinforcements or air cover. It would have been normal military procedure to pre-position air cover and assets from Sicily to Benghazi, but Panetta says this was not done. The air support and FAST platoons, we are told, were left in Sicily. All the U.S. military did was send two unarmed drones to observe the battle.
So if President Obama is not lying about his directives, he is saying that the CIA and the Defense Department and our military chain of command disobeyed the direct order of our commander in chief to do everything in their power to rescue our people under attack in Benghazi. And that as commander in chief, Obama did nothing in response to their dereliction of duty.
That doesn't happen. No one believes that; the president is lying. He did not issue directives to the CIA, our military, and State to "secure our personnel" and "do whatever we need to do."