Michelle Obama left Saturday for the start of the first family's Hawaiian Christmas. President Obama stayed behind, supposedly to underscore the importance of Congress passing the payroll-tax extension - though some journalists noticed his announcement came awfully close to Mitt Romney's criticism of his planned golf holiday.
In or out of town, Mr. Obama is still playing games. Over the past year, his increasingly erratic policy decisions have been calculated to secure one end: winning a second term in office with its incipient immunity to political consequences or electoral accountability. Like the overlord in J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Fellowship of the Ring," he has made possession of this electoral bauble an all-consuming focus. As one character explains, "The Enemy still lacks one thing to give him strength and knowledge to beat down all resistance, break the last defenses and cover all the lands in a second darkness. He lacks the One Ring."
Pursuit of this prize explains the president's zigzags on U.S. involvement in and support for regime change in Libya and Egypt but not Syria, the withdrawal of all troops from Iraq and failure to blow up or retrieve the American drone brought down in Iran. It elucidates his muddied vacillation between the competing claims of big unions and environmentalists in the Keystone XL pipeline project. It informed his fish-on-dry-land routine during the debt-ceiling negotiations and recent tax-policy conversion and rebirth as a payroll-tax-cut zealot warring against those notorious tax-hiking Republicans. As one senior Republican aide described Mr. Obama's various negotiating positions on the payroll-tax cut, "He resisted it in 2009, he reluctantly agreed to it as part of the 2010 compromise, and now he's all in for it."
No cow is too sacred to sacrifice in Mr. Obama's struggle to gain his re-election brass ring. To the dismay of his core constituents, his striving for this prize resulted in Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius' choice to limit young girls' access to Plan B contraception/possible abortifacient. Harvard government professor Daniel Carpenter accused Mr. Obama of hiding behind his Cabinet secretaries and huffed in a New York Times op-ed, "Not only was [the decision] unexpected, but for the first time in American history, a Cabinet secretary - and by extension, a president - has overruled a drug-approval decision by the Food and Drug Administration."
As Tolkien's wise wizard Gandalf concludes about Sauron's ring obsession, "So he is seeking it, seeking it, and all his thought is bent on it. It is his great hope and our great fear." As long as Mr. Obama's attention is on his very own "precious," it won't be on what's good for the country.
Anneke E. Green is Assistant Editorial Page Editor for The Washington Times. Follow her on Twitter: @AnnekeEGreen
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