In a typically captivating post published in March, National Review’s Kevin Williamson observed that the hysterical headlines accompanying the ubiquitous and perfunctory write ups of Comedy Central host Jon Stewart’s latest rant are inversely proportional to the segment’s actual shock value.
Stewart is the “destroyer,” as Williamson dubbed him, because he is so often depicted by his fans as “destroying” this or the other conservative shibboleth. Even if Stewart doesn’t quite “destroy” but merely dings his target, he is credited with a great goring of someone’s ox. It feels mechanical and obligatory.
That same pressure to “destroy” and be credited with that destruction is falling on both President Obama and his admirers. On Monday, the president announced a proposal which would allow students to refinance their student loans in order to reduce the cost associated with attending college. Legislation proposed in the Senate to enact this student loan reform, which the CBO estimates would cost the government $51 billion through 2024, would be financed through yet another income tax hike on those making more than $1 million. It is unlikely to meet with approval from House Republicans.
For that reason alone, this is a political proposal likely aimed at energizing presently disengaged younger voters. If you were thinking of giving the president the benefit of the doubt and prefer to believe that Obama is not merely crafting a crass political cudgel for the 2014 election cycle with his latest proposal, you were let down when Obama confirmed the worst suspicions of his critics.
Announcing that he was departing from his prepared text, Obama chewed the scenery when he preemptively lashed out at conservatives for opposing his latest common sense proposal.
“I don’t know, by the way, why folks aren’t more outraged by this,” Obama wondered. “It would be scandalous if we allowed those kinds of tax loopholes for the very, very fortunate to survive while students are just getting started with their lives.”
“I want Americans to pay attention to see where their lawmakers’ priorities lie here,” the president lectured. “You’ve got a group of far-right Republicans in congress who push this trickle-down economic plan, telling hard working students and families you’re on your own.”
“If you’re a big oil company, they’ll go to bat for you,” the president asserted. “If you’re a student, good luck.”
“Some of these Republicans in Congress seem to believe that it’s just because — that just because some of the young people behind me need some help, that they’re not trying hard enough,” he concluded. “They don’t get it.”
To this tired retread, one expects the usual fawning reviews from Obama’s coterie of devotees; Obama “burns,” “schools,” “obliterates,” “annihilates,” “drops mic on,” or even the overused “destroys” his GOP opponents. But the predictable call-and-response has lost its sting, and you get the impression that both Obama and his Pavlovian supporters in the center-left political press are merely going through the motions.
One day in the near future, though probably not today, Obama will issue one of his exhausted broadsides against the Republican caricature he has so often lambasted, but the predictable response will not materialize. His supporters will no longer be satisfied with rhetorical victories alone. That day is not today, but it is coming.