President Obama has become “acutely” conscious of the “limits of his power,” reports theNew York Times, obviously sharing the president’s sense of pathos. Modern-day expectations for government have become so unmoored from common sense that a federal bureaucracy of nearly 3 million employees, erupting daily in mandates and directives, can be portrayed with a straight face as inadequate to the presidency. Leave aside Obamacare and the unilateral Dream Act. In the last few weeks alone, the White House has alerted the nation’s schools that disciplining black students at higher rates than whites will put them at risk of a federal lawsuit and has created a new federaltask force to “protect [college] students from sexual assault.” Both initiatives are based on fictions—that black students are no more fractiousin the classroom than whites and Asians (despite a homicide rate among black-male teens ten times that of other ethnic groups of the same agecombined), and that female college students are experiencing a rape epidemic of unprecedented proportions. Delusional or not, these directives will increase litigation, bloat already gigantic public and private bureaucracies even more, wrench schools and colleges further from their educational mission, and harden the patently counterfactual ideology of victimization.
Typical of all such churnings of the advocacy-government complex, the school-discipline and sexual-assault initiatives are drearily familiar, representing longstanding bureaucratic obsessions. But Obama’s announcement of his overstuffed sexual-assault task force for once did contain something new and noteworthy: a brief invocation of the chivalric ideal. Before examining that break from tradition, it’s worth reviewing the boilerplate that preceded it.