The deal with the devil is made. Kamala Harris is determined to see it through.
Obama’s Coming Fourth Term
The shadow presidency may be shady, but it’s hardly secret.
When Dmitry Medvedev became the President of Russia in 2008, his compatriots understood the game. Vladimir Putin, who had already served two consecutive presidential terms, was constitutionally limited from serving the next one, so he swapped roles with the prime minister. Few had doubts about who was in charge, and when Medvedev’s term expired in 2012, Putin assumed the presidency once again. He amended the constitution to end term limits and has now been the head of state for 11 straight years.
Russians didn’t necessarily view his machinations in a negative light. Instead, they saw them as a proof of their leader’s cleverness. They had a name for it, mnogohodovochka, or a multi-step chess strategy. After years of chaos, they very much liked to see a grandmaster consolidating power.
The opposition was of a different opinion. It saw mnogohodovochka as a violation of constitutional order, the symbol of the broken promise of openness and democratic process, the betrayed hopes of the nineties. In 2014, singer Vasya Oblomov released an album called Mnogokhodovochka. The title track decried pervasive corruption and servility, predicting war and destruction using precise, recognizable detail:
The pop had BMW7
The neighbor—a used 6
College diplomas for sale
In the train’s upper tier side bed
Lies a man with dear leaders tattooed on his chest
First Dimon [Medvedev], now Vovochka [Putin] again,
Arms race is lost,
A rifle instead of a book in young man’s hands
Icons on the graves of unknown soldiers,
I envy the ease and openness with which Russians address the subject of political corruption. How come Russians, with their history of tyranny and repression, get to discuss their unlawful leadership vocally, but we Americans, despite all of our constitutional guarantees of free speech, are totally mum about a very similar situation?
That Joe Biden is not our functioning president is beyond doubt. In a Zogby poll conducted shortly before the 2020 election, 55 percent of likely voters already agreed with the statement that the Democratic candidate is in the early stages of dementia. In the past three years, his mental capacities have declined visibly and precipitously.
The president spends much of his time vacationing. His speech is slurred, and his gait is unsteady. He’s fallen in public multiple times. He frequently appears disoriented and is increasingly an international embarrassment. At a recent multi-lateral function, he forgot to shake hands with the Brazilian president, and in Japan he shook hands with a member of an honor guard. Out of the blue, he made the sign of the cross when sitting with Bibi Netanyahu. Speaking at a fundraising event in New York, he repeated the same story twice within minutes.
It’s clear that Joe Biden doesn’t have the mental agility to lead the country, much less control the nuclear briefcase. The subject of his dementia comes up fairly often, especially on the Right. Yet the question of who is actually leading the country is almost never raised, even though there is an obvious candidate. There is zero willingness to investigate the matter.
The gossip about Joe’s presidency being Obama’s third term has been around for some time. In a fantastic conversation printed in Tablet, David Samuels and Obama biographer David Garrow discussed that possibility. Samuels noted that although there is a lot of talk in the capital about the 44th president running the executive branch out of his D.C. mansion, journalists are reluctant to investigate.
Garrow noted the press handling of the extraconstitutional nature of the arrangement:
[E]very few months a sanitized report appears on some aspect of the ex-president’s outside public advocacy, presented within limits that are clearly being set by Obama’s political operatives—which conveniently elide the problems that are inherent in having a person with no constitutional role or congressional oversight take an active role in executive decision-making.
Texas Senator Ted Cruz recently made a statement that Barack Obama is running the Biden Administration. But this stands in contrast with the rest of the establishment’s silence. And if an occasional quip about the nature of the regime pops up in the media, maybe in the form of a meme, there is no discourse, no attempt to make sense of what is going on in the Oval Office. Even the Right is more comfortable talking about large, powerful groups like the globalists or the swamp ruling through bureaucratic institutions than to consider the meaning of a senile president embodying the executive authority of the U.S. government. This summer, a vague song about power called “Rich Men North of Richmond” became an instant social media sensation. I can’t help thinking that it’s not the single wealthy individuals that we want to hear about, but one specific man, our clandestine leader.
To talk vocally about the nature of the Biden presidency would mean to acknowledge something completely alien to the American psyche. We think of ourselves as the people with a quarter of a millennium-old democratic traditions, a freedom-loving and irreverent nation. The people waving the Gadsden flags would not tolerate a puppet regime.
And because we are a country obsessed with race, our first black president can’t be revealed to be subverting our constitutional order. Interracial relations took a dive during Obama’s second term and continue to worsen. The news that the former president is pulling the strings for the incapacitated Biden could bring them to the boiling point.
The idea is too dark for most Americans to consider. Even conservatives who continuously warned that Obama, born in Hawaii to a foreign father and raised abroad, is not aligned with our mentality are not ready for the hard crash of the hope and change circa 2008. It’s one thing to warn about voting for a questionable candidate, and another to see that same candidate upend the constitutional order.
Are we ready to discover that, contrary to what they have been telling us about their movement, a very large segment of the Left doesn’t care for democracy? That they are very proud of Obama who, like their dreaded nemesis Putin, is cleverly running an extraconstitutional regime, the first one in American history? Because many them can be expected to take that position, obliterating their alleged commitment to democracy.
Being vocal about the third Obama presidential term would challenge our very conception of who we are as a people. We may not like the outcome of that free debate. But pretending that nothing extraordinary is going on in D.C. is changing our relationship with the federal power apparatus. We are at a fork in the road. Which way, America?
The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.
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