This week, everyone who isn’t still in thrall to Barack Obama is pointing out just how feeble America now looks internationally, with the Syrian “red line” debacle and now the Ukraine crisis, where Obama’s response so far has been a long phone call to Putin, whilst modelling jeans (see here). As it happens, The Knife thinks Putin had less choice than is being claimed. War hasn’t yet broken out, in fact no one has yet been shot (see here for a compelling argument).
Whatever, the decline of the USA’s authority started a long time ago, with Obama’s like-minded, but somewhat slippier mentor, Bill Clinton. Here is Robert Bork, in a remarkably prescient passage from 1998, recently revived:
This president has subverted our system of justice and the ideal of the rule of law, debased our politics, vulgarized our culture, and brought a totalitarian impulse to our government. The really bad news, however, is that unless we display in the future far more care and attention than we did in 1992 and 1996, we will repeat our mistakes and elect more unprincipled demagogues.
The rule of law is subverted when law itself, and the institutions that guard the law, are seen as no more than a means, or sometimes an obstacle, to power.
And Obama has certainly decided to ignore the Constitution when it suits him, and attempt to rule by imperial fiat. Bork was a brilliant but at times controversial judge and scholar, his basic thesis with Clinton was that if you behave badly with the basics of the Presidency, it will cast a very long shadow. Clinton also screwed up on his foreign policy, but domestically created a strong economy. Obama has thus far screwed up on both. Bork was correct, the mistake has been repeated. As he concluded:
…there will be other Clintons, dismaying as that is to contemplate…. as the public loses competence to judge merits, it values “sincerity,” which it believes, quite erroneously, that it is able to judge.
Clinton has learned to fake sincerity; others will too.