President Obama used the six weeks after his election to remain in full campaign mode and attack the GOP relentlessly with the intent of marginalizing House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, as an effective leader of the Republican opposition.
He succeeded. Decisively. And thus defined his second term as a bitter grind before it even began, just as he signaled to the Republicans that there is zero upside to negotiating with this most partisan president.
How amusing will his second Inaugural address be when he reaches for the grand words about leading one nation and conquering the future for every child of every family?
“With malice toward none, with charity for all …” How 19th century is that?
The president conquered a lame-duck Congress. He did so as state after state rejected the Obamacare option of establishing health insurance exchanges, as the 2.3 percent tax on medical devices sent that industry reeling and as the lack of a Medicare fix meant doctors would refuse new seniors as patients. His first-term “achievement” is setting a land speed record for legislative failure, but he thinks the best defense to history’s judgment is a good offense against an inept speaker of the House.
He humbled Boehner and rendered him useless as a negotiating partner just as every economist in the country warned of the shock of the massive tax increases headed toward the Obama “recovery.”
So complete has been his rout of the speaker that Boehner prayed the Serenity Prayer and sent everyone home. Rarely has a drubbing been as total as the one the president delivered the House Republicans.
Not only has the president pushed the country to the fiscal cliff, he has carved his visage on it, even as he guaranteed it will never get to Mount Rushmore. “The Great Divider” wasted no time in claiming his place in presidential history.
Having managed to lose 4 million votes between 2008 and 2012, the most partisan and relentlessly negative president of modern times doubled down on all of his least generous instincts and went “full Lee Atwater,” embracing completely the advice that if your opponent is on the ground with a broken arm, step on it.
Atwater, of course, intended his counsel for the period before elections, but the permanent campaign requires permanent pummeling.
Republicans fully expect the president to follow this display of magnanimity with an immigration bill intended to divide the Republicans further, even if it does not produce a solution to the plight of the millions of illegal aliens the president has been proclaiming concern for since he first appeared on the national stage.
Not for this president is the example of George W. Bush who, having proclaimed his intent to use his political capital after his re-election in 2004, proceeded to beg in vain for Democrats to work with him on Social Security.
Just the opposite for Obama. He proclaims a desire to broker bipartisan agreement and then acts in such a fashion as to make such compromises impossible.
Thus does he model for all the emerging “democracies” of the Arab Spring an approach to electoral politics they can fully embrace.
Humbling and embarrassing your opponents in the aftermath of political victory is a new experience for Americans. However distasteful some might find it, it does provide the clarity that my radio colleague Dennis Prager extolls as the most useful of political conditions.
On this Christmas Eve 2012 the House GOP — indeed everyone in the country — knows what is ahead in the second term of President Obama. “Lincolnesque” isn’t the word that comes to mind.
Examiner Columnist Hugh Hewitt is a law professor at Chapman University Law School and a nationally syndicated radio talk show host who blogs daily at HughHewitt.com.