One thing all conservatives should scrupulously avoid is giving Barack Obama credit he doesn’t deserve. Too many leading voices on the right have done that in regard to the sweeping (and utterly unattainable) agenda he cobbled together in his State of the Union Address.
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), House whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), House Financial Services Chair Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), and even Fox News have all used the same misleading language to describe the Obama strategy. He’s “doubling down” on previous policies, they all say, and suggest that he’ll lose his bet because those policies have failed before.
It’s worth, however, considering the official definition of “doubling down” in the ever-popular game of Black Jack. When you double down, you hold the cards you have, double your bet, and limit yourself to just one new card. But in his utterly tone-deaf State of the Union, Obama dealt himself virtually all new cards, raising issues he and his party never even bothered to raise in the recent campaign. A mammoth tax hike of $320 billion? Which Democrat in 2014 campaigned on that sweetheart of an idea? A big new entitlement of free community college for those with C averages? An aggressive federal takeover of virtually all student loan programs, even beginning to assess yearly taxes on previously sheltered accounts parents set up for their own kids? How does that help the striving middle class?
These are new initiatives, not part of the roaring, swirling political debate that absorbed the country for most of six months in 2014. Even the president’s much-discussed executive amnesty for immigrants remained under wraps until after voting, with no explanation of how it would work or of any policy reason for the delay. He didn’t want to cost embattled Democratic Senators their seats in states like Arkansas, North Carolina, Montana, South Dakota, Kansas and Iowa, where any automatic grant of legal status remains deeply unpopular.
In other words, all of the president’s “bold” new initiatives – including a deeply ill-advised land grab of productive oil fields in Alaska, just announced – never received a healthy public debate in the rough-and-tumble of a fiercely fought political season. So President Obama in no way is “doubling down” – an attractive phrase that suggests precisely the sort of consistency and confidence, the sort of deep commitment to core principles that transcend shifting issues of the day, that the feckless Leader of the Free World so sorely lacks. Obama’s not raising his bet on just one more card- he’s asking for a whole new stacked deck with cards that he’s never even tried to deal before.
In so doing, he shows his utter contempt for the electoral process. In his briskly delivered 7,000 word, 28 page address he never mentioned the results of a fateful election just two months before in which more than 85 million citizens took the trouble to vote and to make their voices heard. His party, and Democratic ideas, received a resounding rejection – from Massachusetts to Mississippi, from Maryland to Illinois. Instead of listening, acknowledging at least something that the people he represents tried to tell him, the president seemed to suggest that they said nothing with their ballots since the overall turnout fell below 40% of those eligible.
So in one area alone he really did use a Black Jack strategy: he doubled down on reckless disregard- ignoring the voters and those conservative issues on which the public chose decisively, and preferring to re-scramble the agenda with a brand new and never vetted array of expensive new give-a-aways. The president richly deserves to lose all of these long-shot bets.