This Is Where Liberalism Has Left Us

Article excerpt

The story is that as Mark Twain and novelist William Dean Howells stepped outside one morning, a downpour began and Howells asked Twain, "Do you think it will stop?" Twain answered, "It always has." The debt-ceiling impasse hasended, and a post-mortem validates conservatives' portrayal of Barack Obama and their dismay about the dangers and incompetence of liberalism's legacy, the regulatory state.

For weeks, you could not fling a brick in Washington without hitting someone with a debt-reduction plan -- unless you hit Obama, whose plan, which he intimated was terrifically brave, was never put on paper. In a prime-time spill of his usual applesauce about millionaires, billionaires and oil companies, he said, yet again, that justice demanded a "balanced" solution -- one involving new revenues.

By affirming liberalism's lodestar -- the principle that government's grasp on national resources must constantly increase -- Obama made himself a spectator in a Washington more conservative than it was during the Reagan presidency. By accepting, as he had no choice but to do, Congress' resolution of the crisis, Obama annoyed liberals. They indict him for apostasy from their one-word catechism, "More!" But egged on by them, he talked himself into a corner. Having said that failure to raise the ceiling would mean apocalypse, he could hardly say failure to raise revenues would be worse.

As with his dozens of exhortations during the health care debate, and his campaigning for candidates, his debt-ceiling rhetoric was impotent. Still, the debt debate was instructive about recent history, the openness of America's political process, and the nature of the American regime.

Regarding recent history: Panic-mongers warned, "Raise the ceiling lest the stock market experience a TARP convulsion." Yes, the market declined almost 778 points when the House rejected TARP. But who remembered that after TARP was quickly enacted, in the next five months the market lost another 3,800 points? …