Paul Kengor is professor of political science and executive director of the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. These articles are republished from The American Spectator. Paul Kengor is author of God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life (2004), The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (2007), and The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan's Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007). His latest book is The Communist - Frank Marshall Davis: The Untold Story of Barack Obama's Mentor (Threshold Editions / Mercury Ink (2012).
Is Obama Still Relevant?
Editors Note: This essay was written just after the midterm elections.
"Today I had a chance to speak with John Boehner and congratulated Mitch McConnell on becoming the next Senate majority leader," said Barack Obama in the opening of his White House press conference following the Democrats' Tuesday massacre. "And I told them both that I look forward to finishing up this Congress's business and then working together for the next two years to advance America's business." The president is looking forward to "working together to deliver for the American people."
Obama struck an optimistic, cooperative tone. Of course, he had better. If he wants to have any relevance going forward, what choice does he have but to play nice with Republicans, or at least talk nice?
This begs the trillion-dollar question: Is Obama still relevant? Given the truly historic proportion of this Republican victory, is Barack Obama about to become the lamest of lame ducks?
Before Republicans get too excited, I would caution that a president is never irrelevant, simply due to the sheer power of the office. We don't call it the Bully Pulpit for nothing. There are plenty of muscles for the commander-in-chief to flex, even if the opposing party runs the fitness center.
I would point conservatives to a notable example from their presidential icon, Ronald Reagan. Six years into his presidency, in 1986, Ronald Reagan's party likewise lost the Senate, and again lost the House. And yet, Reagan's final two years were rich with success. He and Mikhail Gorbachev held four summits, in Reykjavik, Washington, Moscow, and New York. They signed history's greatest nuclear-missile treaty: the INF Treaty. Domestically, Reagan reaped the benefits of the 1986 Tax Reform Act, a further boon to economic prosperity.
Alas, there was one key negative in Reagan's final two years: the Iran-Contra hearings. With the help of the Dan Rather-media, Democrats in Congress tried to turn Iran-Contra into the second coming of Watergate. The sharks were in the water. They wanted Reagan's demise.
Could Republicans seek the same against Obama? I doubt it. Any attempt to do so, no matter the validity, would be met with the loudest wails of "racism" and everything and anything else from the progressive corner. Republicans will not want to jeopardize their chances for the White House in 2016. Impeaching Obama would be politically counterproductive.
But while Barack Obama might not be the subject of Capitol Hill hearings, the Democrats' presumptive nominee in 2016, Hillary Clinton, likely will be. This seems inevitable, given that Benghazi demands continued investigation.
But back to the Reagan analogy: Ronald Reagan generally enjoyed an excellent final two years from a policy standpoint, especially in foreign policy. Could Obama do the same? No, I don't think so. Consider:
In foreign policy, Obama is plainly not a leader. I don't think he wants to be. His view of America in the world is a diminished America. He has willingly and happily diminished his own leadership role. There will be no Obama-Putin moments similar to Reagan-Gorbachev ones - quite the contrary.
Domestically, his signature policy achievement, Obamacare, will be slowed if not stopped. It has now lost all momentum and assistance from the Congress. Obama is no longer on offense. That's especially true given his pronounced inability to reach across the aisle over the past six years, an opposition he once called "hostage-takers."
"I continue to believe we are simply more than just a collection of red and blue states," Obama told the press on Tuesday, seeking a more conciliatory tone. "We are the United States."
The rhetoric is nice, but given Obama's ideology and perhaps psychology, I don't foresee him suddenly becoming the great unifier, initiating a cascade of bipartisan triumphs. I can't even imagine what those would be.
So, for Obama to implement much of anything from his agenda, what will it take? His main source of impact will not come in bipartisan achievements but in unilateral overtures. We may see him attempt to further rely on executive orders, which would be unfortunate and even more divisive. He will also hammer out a long-term liberal legacy with the courts, where he can help shape law and culture. Given the opportunity, he will seize the chance to replace Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with another leftist in the mold (and youth) of Elena Kagan. The long-term impact on issues like religious freedom could be dismal. If Obama has made any particularly discernible "change," it is in the courts.
So, is President Barack Obama still relevant? Yes, but much less so. His own radicalism in attempting to fundamentally transform America has prompted Americans to fundamentally transform his plans.
Wolfboy and Princess Cupcake: The Complementarity of the Sexes
Ecumenism at its best was recently demonstrated at the Vatican, where dozens of faith leaders worldwide assembled to remind us of the essential complementarity of men and women in life, marriage, and parenthood. It was enough to prompt a high-five between Pope Francis and evangelical pastor James Robison.
Of course, do we really need reminding that male and female are different? Absolutely, especially with the advent of same-sex marriage, which is prompting assertions that it "doesn't matter" whether two men or two women parent a household.
Ask any parent if males and females are different. My wife and I have eight children under our roof, and the boy-girl differences are dramatic.
Here's a typical Saturday morning exchange at our house: "Daddy!" my 7-year-old son yells, running toward me in camouflage hunting clothes. "I had a dream last night that I stabbed Bigfoot nine times with a spear!" Not missing a beat, his 3-year-old sister prances and dances toward me in a flowered pink dress: "Daddy, I had a dream about a ladybug!"
The 3-year-old goes by "Princess Cupcake." She's of the age where she dresses up and displays herself in front of me waiting for me to gush, "Wow, you look like a princess!" She beams. Her older sisters did the same thing. The first time I said that to her oldest sister, she calmly glowed to her mom, "He said I look like a princess."
Needless to say, the boys have never done that - not once in 20,000-plus days of combined lives.
My wife and I have nothing to do with these differences, other than providing the chromosomes.
My 7-year-old boy, long before fancying himself a Bigfoot slayer, declared himself "Wolfboy." My wife and I certainly didn't come up with that one. She will tell you that she did not give birth to a wolf boy. No, it was he alone who transmogrified himself into this half beast, half boy.
Wolfboy sauntered around the house creeping, preying. We attempted to keep these wild manifestations at, shall we say, bay - a more restrained Wolfboy. One day at the home of friends, he politely asked my wife if he could go outside to "howl," to the giggles of my friend's teenage girl.
Fortunately, the Wolfboy thing eventually cooled. One afternoon he grabbed two chopsticks for fangs, shoving them into his throat. Wolfboy had to be taken to the hospital. We've since had several full moons with no reappearances.
That brings me back to the differences in the sexes. These traits follow us into adulthood, marriage, and parenting. There are things my wife does that I just can't. She happily jumps up in the middle of the night at the slightest cry. I lay there groaning. On the flip side, she has no yearning to take the teenage boys hunting in 20-degree weather with rifles and crossbows to shoot and gut and hang and skin and butcher a deer. My boys crave that, and they're utterly mystified at their sisters' insatiable interest in the Duggar family's weddings.
In short, all of this is obvious, observable. Really, to deny it is to be warped by ideology, culture, politics, or some agenda.
That brings me back to the ecumenical gathering at the Vatican, where these gender differences in married and family life were acknowledged and celebrated.
"The biggest threat to marriage is that people have forgotten its purpose," said Pastor Rick Warren, the 28th speaker at the conference:
Children who grow up with the presence of a mother and father are more successful in life, are healthier, are stronger, are less likely to be involved in crime, are less likely to go to prison, are less likely to be involved in drug abuse, are less likely to live in poverty. If you really want to support children, we need to support two-parent families, a husband and a wife, a mom and a dad.
The bishop of Rome didn't disagree with the Saddleback Church pastor.
"Children have a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother," said Pope Francis. Such households are best "capable of creating a suitable environment for the child's development and emotional maturity."
Of course, not all children get that ideal, but it's an ideal our culture should strive for rather than against. We were made male and female, and from birth to death and childhood to parenthood, those differences have a distinct and complementary purpose. *