Skip to comments.Victor Davis Hanson: President Obama’s First 70 Days. It really does all make sense
Posted on 04/01/2009 5:54:43 AM PDT by Tolik
In just the first 70 days of the new administration, a number of Obama supporters have expressed some dismay at their new president. Some find his ethically challenged appointments at odds with his soaring moral rhetoric.
Others lament his apparent inability to stir up supporters in impromptu speeches, at least in the manner he did with set oratory on the campaign trail. And they worry about his occasionally insensitive remark.
Many cannot quite figure out why, after lambasting George W. Bush for running a $500-billion deficit, Obama has outlined eight years of budgetary red ink that would nearly match the debt run up by all previous U.S. presidents combined.
But such disappointments should be tempered. Not only is Obama simply drawing on his past 30 years of education, writing, work, and associations, but he is also properly reflecting the worldview of many of those working for him.
What, then, is the mindset behind Americas new approach to domestic policy and foreign affairs?
If you believed that average Americans are not well educated, do not think in sophisticated and rational ways, and cannot be trusted to make good decisions, whether for themselves or for their nation, then you would expand the power of better-educated and wiser government overseers. This would ensure that, instead of millions of private agendas that lead individuals improperly, and at times recklessly, to acquire and consume, we would have benevolent and far-sighted powers directing our lives in ways that benefit the environment, the economy and themselves.
If you believed that highly educated and sometimes distracted liberals occasionally slip on rather mundane questions of taxes, lobbying, and conflict of interest but not at all in the felonious, premeditated manner of the corporate hierarchy then it would be necessary to overlook such minor lapses for the greater good of marshalling talented and well-disposed experts into progressive government.
If you believed that socially minded liberals are tolerant and extraordinarily empathetic, then their rather impolite speech is not at all offensive. Constant disparagement of the previous administration, and jokes about fellow Americans ranging from the physically or mentally impaired, to Nancy Reagan and her séances, to the stereotyped religion and culture of a clinging middle America, to the purported prejudices of a typical white person are not insensitive, let alone callous. No, the evocation of these occasional infelicities reflects the tally-sheet of nitpicking right-wing agitators, keen to bring down a hard-working progressive sacrificing for the people.
If you believed that compensation in this country was intrinsically unfair that income is arbitrary and quite capriciously rewards some while unjustly shortchanging others then you would wish to hike income and payroll taxes on high earners to reach confiscatory levels so that a fairer government could correct the errors of an unfair market for the benefit of the many. Higher taxes on some, then, are not just a means of raising revenue, but an important redistributive tool of government to spread the wealth around.
If you believed that government does too little for the average citizen that at present, with its unnecessary wars and perks for the wealthy, it cannot ensure everyone lifelong entitlement then you would wish to double, even triple present federal expenditures. The key would be to borrow enough now to provide relief to the people first, and only afterwards to worry how to pay off the resulting deficit of $1.7 trillion. Once people are accustomed to the services they deserve, they will ensure that their representatives find the right revenue mechanisms to guarantee that such necessary benefactions continue. If you build programs to help the people now, the necessary taxing and borrowing for a $3.6-trillion budget will come.
If you had little idea of how businesses are created, how they are run, and why they sometimes go broke, and if you thought that the truly talented and sophisticated never go into business but instead gravitate to the Ivy League to be trained as lawyers, professors, writers, and organizers, then you would assume that our present problems are largely the fault of the former, and can best be addressed by putting as many of the latter in your government as possible.
If you believed that Main Street and Wall Street have little, if anything, to do with why publishers can afford to extend million-dollar book advances, or why the Ivy League has millions in scholarships for students, or why foundations, universities, and governments can afford to hire so many advisors, consultants, administrators, lawyers, and professors, then you would never really connect the conditions that promote good business with those that allow intellectuals, technocrats, and bureaucrats to thrive.
If you believed that those with capital have had an unfortunate head start, or have done dubious things that others less fortunate would not, then you would seek ways to forgive loans, to allow the indebted to start over with a clean slate, to ensure new borrowing with record-low interest rates, to lower or eliminate taxes on most people, and to expand in turn the financial help from the government and not worry that stocks are down, dividends are nearly nonexistent, interest on deposits is at a record low, equity in real property has often disappeared, and accumulated capital is itself often diminished or insecure.
If you believed that the story of the United States is more a narrative of gender, race, and class oppression than of brave souls promoting liberty and trying to reify the promise of the Constitution, then you would have empathy for fellow victims of such endemic Western oppression. The cries from the heart we are hearing from Bolivia and Cuba, from Iran, Syria, and the West Bank, are not anti-American, much less illiberal: they are efforts to articulate the oppression that the people in those places have suffered at the hands of others.
While in the short run the once-victimized may need to be deterred in their anger from harming the United States or themselves, in the long run their legitimate grievances must be addressed through a variety of concessions, apologies, or dialogues in order to promote the general peace. That a Hugo Chávez calls Americans gringos, or Brazils President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva blames white, blue-eyed bankers for the financial mess, or that state-run Palestinian papers refer to Jews as pigs and apes, or that the Iranian president serially claims the Holocaust is a concoction of Zionists, is all an unfortunate rhetoric of the oppressed (in the same way Reverend Wright once referred to Italians as garlic noses), brought on by colonization and exploitation, rather than proof that a large portion of the world beyond our shores is run by racist and rather loony people.
If you believed that the traditions and customs of the United States are largely a story of the oppressed overcoming the perniciousness of the privileged, rather than the collective efforts of the many to stop tyranny, then you would talk about past oppression, past victimization, and past unfairness far more than you would evoke Shiloh, the Meuse-Argonne, or Iwo Jima.
If you believed that the United States is hardly exceptional, but merely one nation not all that different from others, then you would have confidence in the aggregate wisdom of the United Nations, and the cultural and economic paradigms provided by the nations of the European Union.
If you believed that wars, crises, and international tensions are brought about by miscommunications, misunderstandings, and Western insensitivity, rather than by despots trying to advance illiberal agendas whenever and wherever they sense an opening, then you would blame past administrations for our present ills, with all their bellicose and retrograde talk of preparedness, deterrence, and pre-emption. You would grandly proclaim a new age of harmonious relations, and count on your rhetorical abilities and charisma to persuade past rivals and mischaracterized enemies that, at this rare but opportune moment, there are no real differences between us and thus no reasons for future disputes.
In other words, if you believed as President Obama and many of his advisors do, then you would do what Obama and his advisors are now doing.
... they also tend to prefer courses of action which ought to work for the right reasons over courses of action that actually do. That's a problem when you're in control of the economy.
Not just in economy.
See what Krauthammer said on the G-20 summit:
This is a test of the proposition that Obama had run on last year, that the source of our difficulties abroad, the source of anti-Americanism, of dissension among our allies and the alleged isolation of the United States was George Bush.
And Obama was not Bush, and he was going to be a new figure, a transcendent, multi-cultural, attractive, young, new American leader who would rally the world.
Well, we have a test. He's going to Europe. He's not even asking the allies for an increase in troops in Afghanistan, which we desperately need, because he's going to get a no.
He wants a stimulus in Europe. He's not even asking because he's not going to get it. The Germans and the French are against it for historical reasons and economic reasons, and the power of personal diplomacy that Obama ran on and pretends he has doesn't exist. It's all about national interests.
And then on the issue of Iran, he is not going to get anything. In fact, he is not even going to get assistance from the Russians, to whom he essentially offered new influence over Eastern Europe in return.
The bottom line is that personal diplomacy is a nice idea. It amounts to nothing. Nations act on their national interests. And he is weak in Europe because we don't have a lot of cards to play in this economic crisis.
...which is why VDH uses the verb "believe". There is no arguing with "beliefs."
See my new tagline.
<< I use the words *government bureaucracy* >>
I like your idea. We can effect change of thinking with control of vocabulary. For example, I note that even Senator Kerry is using the term “taxpayers’ dollars/money”. A few years ago everyone, including republican officials, said “government money.”
This afternoon, I heard bits of Sean Hannity’s show where he was discussing bonuses that were paid to Congressional staffers. We need to follow up on this and share it with our Obama-supporting acquaintances - Especially since the word “bonus” has recently been so demonized.
Are Congressional staffers not civil servants?
Are civil servants entitled to bonuses?
This election was inevitable, it just happens to have been the one in which the freeloaders decided that they really could just take whatever they wanted from the productive members of society.
I don’t really think we’re going to turn into Cambodia, but just become like every other country in the world. Which is only bad if you remember what America was like, or if you really did love liberty, and were willing to assume the responsibilities that came with it.
But that’s all water under the bridge at this point. With Rahm Emmanuel and Acorn running the next census, there is exactly zero chance that what we knew as America will be resurrected as a free and prosperous nation.
We will now be reduced to aspiring the mere crumbs of our fathers. We are indebted beyond our ability to pay. We will submit the glory of our great nation to every tin pot dictator in the UN who has long eyed us with utter jealousy and contempt. We will surrender to the world court and in effect lose our sovereignty.
In 90 short days Rahm Immanual and Obama have plotted and endeavored to undermine the dignity of a once mighty nation. The die has been cast. The corrupt MSM have cast their lot and the American people seem completely incapable of being able to discern the truth and thus willingly accept the poison gruel the corrupt MSM spoon feeds them on a constant basis. Americans no longer ask questions. No longer labor to uncover the truth, they meekly sit in front of their flat screen TVs and believe that someone - mostly the government - owes them their happiness regardless of the cost. No longer do they believe they themselves must work and carve out their lives; no the government owes them an easy life and the Democrats willing feed into that now common belief.
Unless there is some dramatic turn of events I believe we are doomed to a mundane and colorless life where we will always yearn for something else but will now be powerless to achieve. We are being emasculated as we speak.
Obama makes me miss the big idiot. I was just asking a friend last night, “Can you believe we thought we were miserable in the ‘90s?” This guy’s an f’in nightmare.
Of course, the secret to the Clinton years is that we had a Congress that was acting as the loyal opposition and on fire with ideas.
Can’t disagree with any of that.
I wish I could, but I can’t.
If you believe that propagandists, financial oligarchs, socialization of risk socialists, international socialists/collectivists/progressives have foisted the perfect puppet on us with ZERO downside risk...