Ronald Reagan famously quipped that the trouble with liberals “is not that they’re ignorant. It’s just that they know so much that isn’t so.” Reagan’s words aptly describe former President Barack Obama. Obama was an intelligent, well-educated, articulate man. He could woo crowds with soaring rhetoric and pacify True Conservative™ “intellectuals,” like David Brooks (who voted for Obama partly on the basis of the perfect crease in his trousers).
Obama was not only a scion of the American political class, he was also a new kind of leader: the first black president in history and one of the youngest.
With Obama, though, we were getting an incredibly manipulative individual who bought into the most dangerous and destructive left-wing academic theories. Obama was the ultimate “intellectual-yet-idiot.” Examples of his folly are plentiful, but there are perhaps no better illustrations of the disconnect between Obama’s intellectual prowess and his practical political judgment than the disastrous Affordable Care Act and the terrible nuclear agreement with Iran. Both were highly controversial, very unpopular, deeply secretive, and painfully naïve. They were also, it turns out, extremely harmful to the American people who voted for Obama.
Obama believes in socialized medicine, more or less. Most Americans, even many Democrats, never would have supported a scheme that was honest about aiming toward that end. So just as Obama’s healthcare policy adviser (and former architect of the failed “Romneycare” plan in Massachusetts), Jonathan Gruber argued, Obama had to lie to the American voters about what his plan actually entailed.
During the tense debate over the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Obama repeatedly told voters, “If you like your doctor, you can keep him.” That was a lie. Obama further claimed that insurance premiums wouldn’t increase. That, too, proved false. Obama and his staff then insisted that his healthcare “reform” wasn’t a tax hike. Yet when the ACA faced a challenge before the Supreme Court, administration lawyers effectively argued that the ACA was legal precisely because it qualified as a tax. Lastly, the former president claimed the healthcare exchanges established under Obamacare would be safe, efficient, and effective. Not so.
Recall how President Obama argued that he was going to stick it to the insurance companies? Instead, it’s become clear that Affordable Care Act was little more than a giveaway to them. It encouraged private insurance companies to kick the sickliest and most vulnerable off their insurance plans and then further allowed costs to escalate to such an extent that only the wealthiest Americans could afford to maintain their private insurance.
In foreign policy, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran over their nuclear weapons program was also a windfall for the Iranians. Obama’s modus operandi in selling the Iran deal was the same as that deployed on behalf of Obamacare: deception. Obama insisted that the agreement with Iran should be hashed out in secret and refused to allow Congress to fully debate the matter. Obama claimed he was working this way in the name of peace and that he knew best about how to achieve it. In reality, Obama just wanted a piece of paper he could affix to his legacy, consequences be damned. As in the ACA deliberations, Obama’s ego combined with his wrongheaded worldview—and we’re paying the price today.
Lee Smith correctly argued that Obama entered office with an almost-obsessive urge to make a deal with the Iranians. As Smith shows, Obama’s hesitance to hit the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria was likely due to his early commitment to making a deal-at-all-costs with Tehran. It can further explain why Obama was enthusiastic about letting the Russians handle eradicating Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons stockpile, something no one seriously believed the Russians would—or could—do. Of course, we know that this has been proven correct in recent years, with tragic results.
Going back to 2009, it’s evident that the urge for a deal motivated Obama to ignore the mullahs’ crackdown on pro-democracy protesters marching in Tehran. I fear that it’s the reason for Obama’s precipitous withdrawal from Iraq in 2011 after we had finally stabilized the situation there.
And Obama’s determination not only to push away our traditional Sunni Arab allies but also to support the Islamists in the Arab Spring (a movement that received massive support from Iran) is best explained in the context of his obsession with getting a deal.
Thanks to Israeli intelligence, we now know for certain that Obama’s Iran deal was a total failure. As he did regarding healthcare, Obama believed in an entirely unrealistic theory. He believed that the federal government knew best how to allocate limited medical resources to the American people. In the case of Iran, Obama believed in a bizarre theory that, if the United States distanced itself from its allies in Israel as well as those in the Sunni Arab world, and allowed for Tehran to acquire nuclear weapons, then a three-sided balance-of-power paradigm would emerge. Obama was willing to deceive and manipulate the process to get what he wanted at unprecedented levels.
Obama’s behavior pushing the Affordable Care Act and the Iran deal explain why 63 million Americans voted for Donald Trump in 2016. They were tired of lies, manipulation, and failure.
Allowing Iran to acquire nuclear weapons would induce a major war, not deter one—in much the same way that handing over the health care of 306 million Americans to the federal government would exacerbate the healthcare crisis in the United States rather than remedy it.
But Obama thought he knew better.
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