Skip to comments.Obama’s Truth
Posted on 09/18/2012 2:53:53 AM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
More than any Democratic president since Franklin Roosevelt, Barack Obama in his writings and speeches has worked out an impressive interpretation of American history that culminates in modern liberalism. It also culminates, not incidentally, in him. As a writer, Obamas strength is telling tales, and his story of America mixes together social, intellectual, and political history. It begins and keeps contending with the Founding with the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. He tries to tell a new story about the country that acknowledges, and then contextualizes, traditional views in ways that are meant to be reassuring but that point to very untraditional conclusions.
In The Audacity of Hope, his second book, in a chapter titled Values, he quotes the Declarations famous sentence on self-evident truths and then comments:
>>>Those simple words are our starting point as Americans; they describe not only the foundations of our government but the substance of our common creed. Not every American may be able to recite them; few, if asked, could trace the genesis of the Declaration of Independence to its roots in eighteenth-century liberal and republican thought. But the essential idea behind the Declaration that we are born into this world free, all of us; that each of us arrives with a bundle of rights that cant be taken away by any person or any state without just cause; that through our own agency we can, and must, make of our lives what we will is one that every American understands.<<<
It sounds practically Lincolnian, until one notices that the rights in this bundle are not said to be natural, exactly, nor true, and certainly not self-evident; and he seems to go out of his way not to admit that the Declaration proclaims that all men are created equal as well as free. These rights are an outgrowth of 18th-century political thought, he emphasizes, too recondite for most Americans to explain or remember.
When Lincoln himself explained the Declaration, he traced its central idea to God and nature, not to 18th-century ideologies. He called for all honor to Jefferson for introducing into a merely revolutionary document, an abstract truth, applicable to all men and all times. When Jefferson was asked about the documents meaning, he pointed to the common sense of the subject as well as to a philosophical tradition stretching back to Aristotle, Cicero, John Locke, and Algernon Sidney, among others. Although abstract in applying to human being qua human being, regardless of race, color, sex, religion, etc., the rights mentioned in the Declaration are based on a very obvious natural distinction. Jefferson wrote of the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God. No human being may rightly rule another human being, in other words, the way any human being may rightly rule a horse or some other brute animal buying it, selling it, working it for his own purposes. Justice is rooted in our human nature, our equality vis-à-vis one another and our inequality vis-à-vis lower and higher beings. Thats why, according to the Declaration (and according to Jefferson and Lincoln), slavery is wrong. Man is neither beast nor God, and must treat his fellow human beings accordingly. Is the difference between a human being and a horse an 18th-century distinction?
In speaking of the liberal and republican roots of the Declaration, Obama alludes to a scholarly debate over the interpretation of the Founding that was raging when he was at Harvard Law School. Ignited by, among other works, Gordon Woods The Creation of the American Republic, published in 1969, the debate challenged the prevailing view that the Founding was primarily indebted to Lockes political philosophy of economic and political liberalism (in the older sense), offering as the alternative a republican tradition that supposedly represented a communitarian, anti-capitalist road not taken, or perhaps a public philosophy, junior grade, that alternated or mingled with Lockeanism.
Obama soon makes clear that despite their fine words, Jefferson and the other Founders were less than faithful to the idealistic inferences of the liberalism and republicanism they proclaimed. Like a good law-school professor, in The Audacity of Hope Obama lines up evidence and argument on both sides before concluding that, in fact, the Founders probably did not understand their principles as natural and universal, despite their soaring language, but rather as confined to the 18th-century ruling class, that is, to the white race.
The Declaration of Independence may have been, he writes artfully, a transformative moment in world history, a great breakthrough for freedom, but that spirit of liberty didnt extend, in the minds of the Founders, to the slaves who worked their fields, made their beds, and nursed their children. As a result, the Constitution provided no protection to those outside the constitutional circle, to those who were not deemed members of Americas political community: the Native American whose treaties proved worthless before the court of the conqueror, or the black man Dred Scott, who would walk into the Supreme Court a free man and leave a slave. Obama doesnt argue, as Lincoln did, that the Supreme Court majority was in error, that Dred Scott was wrongly and unjustly returned to slavery, and that Chief Justice Roger Taneys dictum that in the Founders view the black man had no rights that the white man was bound to respect was a profound mistake. On the contrary, Obama accepts Dred Scott as rightly decided according to the standards of the time. He agrees, in effect, with Taneys reading of the Declaration and the Constitution, and with Stephen Douglass as well. Despite his well-advertised admiration for Lincoln, Obama sides with Lincolns opponents in their pro-slavery interpretation of Jefferson and the Declaration.
Consider now Obamas renowned speech on race, the one, delivered on March 18, 2008, devoted to starting a national conversation on the subject and to putting the Reverend Jeremiah Wrights notorious comments in their proper context. Wright had become an issue in the campaign when videos and recordings of his sermons surfaced, showing him vigorously swearing God damn America! for its sins against blacks and other minorities and arguing that the atrocities of 9/11 were payback for our imperialist and racist foreign policy in the Middle East a case of Americas chickens coming home to roost. The dog that didnt bark (to mix animal metaphors) was that the words of the Declaration that had been crucial in almost all such debates for 200 years all men are created equal do not appear in Obamas carefully composed speech on race in America. And so that already classic address, as Harvard historian James Kloppenberg calls it, on a topic that Obama said hed been thinking about for 20 years, exhibits a very different kind of argument, with a very different view of America, than one finds in, say, Martin Luther Kings great speech in 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial.
To begin with, Obama invokes neither Jefferson nor Lincoln. He refers to the Constitution briefly, noting its ideal of equal citizenship and that it promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time. But he doesnt mention the conclusion that he had announced in his book, namely, that the Declarations and the Constitutions people did not include blacks, especially not black slaves. In short, Obama regards the original intention of both the Declaration and the Constitution to be racist, even pro-slavery. But he refrains from making the point explicit because it would confirm the Reverend Wrights fundamental charge, that America is racist all the way down, a racist country based on a racist idea. And the point of the speech in Philadelphia, at the National Constitution Center, close to Independence Hall, the scene of the great events of 1776 and 1787, was not merely to repeat his condemnation of Wrights remarks in unequivocal terms but to put the whole controversy behind him without acknowledging his fundamental agreement with Wrights interpretation of American principles.
In truth, Obamas repudiation of Wrights statements was extremely equivocal. He calls the reverends charges not only wrong but divisive that is, untimely because the American people are hungry for a message of unity right now. Wright expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country, Obama says, a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America. What that means becomes clearer a little later, when Obama declares, The profound mistake of Reverend Wrights sermons is . . . that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made. Yet Obamas own candidacy confirms that America can change. That is the true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope the audacity to hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow. In blunt terms, Wright wasnt wrong that America was, and was intended to be, a racist or unjust nation; he was wrong, however, to speak as though the country were as racist or unjust as it used to be. America can change not in the sense of living up to its first principles but in the opposite sense, of moving away from them. Except, that is, from the deepest principle of all, which expresses the true genius of this nation our belief in change itself, or in the deliberative process that produces such change. Only the narrative of America, the movement away from its founding principles as originally understood, deserves liberals allegiance.
Wrights eruptions were dangerous to Obama not merely because they raised questions about his judgment in having Wright as his pastor and raised doubts about the candidates ability to be a unifying, post-racial figure. They were dangerous above all because they represented a particularly virulent strain of the spirit of Sixties radicalism and shook Obamas claim to have left all that behind him and his candidacy. As he said in his second, more decisive repudiation of his old friend on April 29, 2008, The reason our campaign has been so successful is because we had moved beyond these old arguments. Because he did not actually disagree with his pastors fundamental charge but could not say so openly, Obamas reasons for denouncing Wright became oddly personal. I dont think that he showed much concern for me, Obama told reporters. Indeed, Wrights performance at the National Press Club was a show of disrespect to me. Its . . . also, I think, an insult to what weve been trying to do in this campaign.
American history has moved far beyond Americas original principles, and Obama is glad of it. His understanding of the past thus pays lip service to such things as self-evident truths, original intent, and the Founders views but quickly changes the subject to values, visions, dreams, ideals, myths, and narratives. This is a postmodern move. We cant know or share truth, postmodernists assert, because there is no truth out there, but we can share stories and thus construct a community of shared meaning. Its these ideas that mark his farthest departure from FDRs liberalism and a fortiori from the American idea. Usually designated by a bundle of multisyllabic terms that signal their complexity, these ideas antifoundationalism, particularism, perspectivalism, and historicism also decisively shaped Obamas sensibility, writes Kloppenberg, his shrewdest liberal interpreter, who in Reading Obama provides some helpful definitions.
>>>By antifoundationalism and particularism I mean the denial of universal principles. According to this way of thinking, human cultures are human constructions; different people exhibit different forms of behavior because they cherish different values. By perspectivalism I mean the belief that everything we see is conditioned by where we stand. There is no privileged, objective vantage point free from the perspective of particular cultural values. By historicism I mean the conviction that all human values and practices are products of historical processes and must be interpreted within historical frameworks. All principles and social patterns change; none stands outside the flow of history. These ideas come in different flavors, more and less radical and more and less nihilist.<<<
Kloppenberg should be praised for his candor. Obamas sensibility, his ways of thinking about culture and politics, rests on the hidden strata of these ideas, he explains.
More and less radical, more and less nihilist Obama comes in on the less side, but then a little bit of nihilism goes a long way. To quote from The Audacity of Hope:
>>>Implicit . . . in the very idea of ordered liberty was a rejection of absolute truth, the infallibility of any idea or ideology or theology or ism, any tyrannical consistency that might lock future generations into a single, unalterable course, or drive both majorities and minorities into the cruelties of the Inquisition, the pogrom, the gulag, or the jihad.<<<
There is no absolute truth and thats the absolute truth, he argues. Such feeble, self-contradictory reasoning is at the heart of Obamas very private and yet very public struggle with himself to determine whether there is anything anywhere that can truly be known, or even that it is rational to have faith in. Anyone who believes, really believes, in absolute truth, he asserts, is a fanatic or in imminent danger of becoming a fanatic; absolute truth is the mother of extremism everywhere.
Although its certainly a good thing that America avoided religious and political tyranny, no previous president has ever credited this achievement to the Founders rejection of absolute truth, previously known as truth. Is the idea that human freedom is right, and slavery wrong, thus to be rejected lest we embrace an absolute truth? What becomes of the universal truths Obama himself celebrates on occasion? Surely the problem is not with the degree of belief, but with the falseness of the causes for which the Inquisition, the pogrom, the gulag, and the jihad stood. A fervent belief in religious liberty is not equivalent to a fervent belief in religious tyranny, any more than a passionate belief in democracy is equivalent to a passionate longing for dictatorship. Has he forgotten Martin Luther Kings reflections on this question in his Letter from Birmingham Jail? After drawing on Augustine and Thomas Aquinas to distinguish between just and unjust laws a distinction postmodernism makes impossible to uphold except ironically King offers a defense against exactly the kind of charge of extremism that underlies Obamas renunciation of absolute truth.
>>>Was not Jesus an extremist for love: Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. Was not Amos an extremist for justice: Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. . . . And Abraham Lincoln: This nation cannot survive half slave and half free. And Thomas Jefferson: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice, or for the extension of justice?<<<
Nothing like the moral clarity and moral reasoning of this passage will be found in Obamas speech on race. It was hailed for its comprehensive empathy with black Americans who have long suffered racial scorn and discrimination, as well as with working-class whites who resent affirmative action and immigration. Predictably, it called for a national conversation on the issue, with a view to mutual understanding and to all factions discovering their need for a sympathetic state to recognize their grievances. His predilection for such conversations is the reverse side of his rejection of absolute truth. In The Audacity of Hope, within two pages of his criticism of the Founders for allegedly excluding black Americans from constitutional protection as equal human beings and citizens, he warns against all such sweeping truth claims, and indeed praises the Founders for being suspicious of abstraction. On every major question in Americas early history, he writes, theory yielded to fact and necessity. . . . It may be the vision of the Founders that inspires us, but it was their realism, their practicality and flexibility and curiosity, that ensured the Unions survival. Obama cannot decide whether to blame the Founders as racists or to celebrate them as relativists; to assail them for not applying their truths absolutely to blacks and Indians along with whites, or to praise them for compromising their too-absolute principles for the sake of something concrete.
His attempt to resolve this contradiction carries him into still deeper and murkier waters.
>>>The best I can do in the face of our history is remind myself that it has not always been the pragmatist, the voice of reason, or the force of compromise, that has created the conditions for liberty. The hard, cold facts remind me that it was unbending idealists like William Lloyd Garrison who first sounded the clarion call for justice; that it was slaves and former slaves, men like . . . Frederick Douglass and women like Harriet Tubman, who recognized power would concede nothing without a fight. It was the wild-eyed prophecies of John Brown, his willingness to spill blood and not just words on behalf of his visions, that helped force the issue of a nation half slave and half free. Im reminded that deliberation and the constitutional order may sometimes be the luxury of the powerful, and that it has sometimes been the cranks, the zealots, the prophets, the agitators, and the unreasonable in other words, the absolutists that have fought for a new order.<<<
Obama turns for inspiration to the abolitionists, drawing no distinction between a superb publicist and reasoner like Frederick Douglass and a butcher like John Brown, who was happy to spill blood and not just words on behalf of his visions. Both were absolutists, which by Obamas definition means they were unreasonable, but they were willing to fight for a new order. He goes on to confess he has a soft spot for those possessed of similar certainty today, for example, the antiabortion activist or the animal rights activist who is willing to break the law. He seems to suffer from certainty envy. He respects passionate, even fanatic commitment as such. Though he may disagree with their views, he admits that I am robbed even of the certainty of uncertainty for sometimes absolute truths may well be absolute. Not true, necessarily, but absolute. Its hard to know what he means exactly. That the truths are fit for the times, are destined to win out and forge a new order? That they are willed absolutely, not pragmatically or contingently? Even his rejection of absolute truth is now uncertain.
So finally, in his perplexity, he turns again to Lincoln. Like no man before or since, Lincoln understood both the deliberative function of our democracy and the limits of such deliberation. His presidency combined firm convictions with practicality or expediency. Obama seems never to have heard of prudence, the way a statesman (or any reasonable and decent person) moves from universal principles to particular conclusions in particular circumstances. The 16th president, he ventures, was humble and self-aware, maintaining within himself the balance between two contradictory ideas, that on the one hand we are all imperfect and thus must reach for common understandings, and on the other that at times we must act nonetheless, as if we are certain, protected from error only by providence. For a man like Lincoln there is no such thing, he says in effect, as acting with moral certainty, only acting as if we are certain, God help us. Unlike John Brown, Lincoln was an absolutist who realized the limitations of absolutism, yet he still brought forth a new order. Lincoln, and those buried at Gettysburg, Obama concludes, remind us that we should pursue our own absolute truths only if we acknowledge that there may be a terrible price to pay.
Our own absolute truths? Those words ought to send a shudder down Americans constitutional spine, assuming we still have one.
Mr. Kesler is a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute, the editor of the Claremont Review of Books, and a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College. This article is adapted from his new book, I Am the Change: Barack Obama and the Crisis of Liberalism, published by HarperCollins.
I reject his reality and substitute my own.
I've yet to see any proof that anything "written" by Obama was actually written by Obama.
obama’s belief in HIMSELF is the antithesis of truth. The very idea that he is a partner with G-d in running this planet should have scared the bejeepers out of anyone who heard it. Casting himself as a messiah is a sign of the epitome of insanity and instead of running as far away from it as we could, many embraced it as THEIR truth as well. The rest is now, unfortunately, history. His absolute vile corruption has corrupted absolutely, and I don’t see how we can get out of this without a fight.
it seems to me. Obama's entire philosophy is based on this section whereas he is the decided of just cause.
Obama does not think — he is a sociopathic communist-programmed golf-playing automaton. He does not write, he gets others to do it for him. He does not speak except when reading from a teleprompter what his controllers have written. He does not govern except when following orders from his puppet masters. But he is a nice guy, a regular kinda guy, at least when he’s not destroying the country.
And the mission is -- get reelected and give us the time we need to finish de-developing the United States.
John P. Holdren - Obama's long time Office of Science and Technology Czar and policy adviser:
..............."In 1969 Holdren wrote that it was imperative to convince society and its leaders that there is no alternative but the cessation of our irresponsible, all-demanding, and all-consuming population growth. That same year, he and professor of population studies Paul Ehrlich jointly predicted: If population control measures are not initiated immediately and effectively, all the technology man can bring to bear will not fend off the misery to come.
In 1971 Holdren and Ehrlich warned that some form of ecocatastrophe, if not thermonuclear war, seems almost certain to overtake us before the end of the century.
Viewing capitalism as an economic system that is inherently harmful to the natural environment, Holdren and Ehrlich (in their 1973 book Human Ecology: Problems and Solutions) called for a massive campaign to de-develop the United States and other Western nations in order to conserve energy and facilitate growth in underdeveloped countries. De-development, they said, means bringing our economic system into line with the realities of ecology and the world resource situation. By de-development, they elaborated, we mean lower per-capita energy consumption, fewer gadgets, and the abolition of planned obsolescence. The authors added:
"The need for de-development presents our economists with a major challenge. They must design a stable, low-consumption economy in which there is a much more equitable distribution of wealth than in the present one. Redistribution of wealth both within and among nations is absolutely essential if a decent life is to be provided for every human being."
On another occasion, Holdren, when asked whether Americans would "need to reduce their living standards," said:
"I think ultimately that the rate of growth of material consumption is going to have to come down, and theres going to have to be a degree of redistribution of how much we consume, in terms of energy and material resources, in order to leave room for people who are poor to become more prosperous."
In 1977 Holdren and Ehrlich quantified their anti-capitalist philosophy in a mathematical equation, I=PAT, where a negative environmental impact (I) was the product of such undesirable factors as population growth (P), increasing affluence (A), and improving technology (T). In an effort to minimize environmental damage, they prescribed organized evasive action: population control, limitation of material consumption, redistribution of wealth, transitions to technologies that are environmentally and socially less disruptive than todays, and movement toward some kind of world government.
In the 1980s Holdren opposed the Reagan administrations military buildup, warning that it would likely increase the belligerency of the Soviet government.
In 1984, Holdren served on the editorial board of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, a publication whose personnel were accused of providing vital nuclear information that helped the Soviet Union develop its first atomic bomb. Two of the magazine's founding sponsors, Leo Szilard and Robert Oppenheimer, were accused of passing information from the Manhattan Project, in which they were key participants, to the Soviets.
In 1986 Holdren predicted that carbon dioxide-induced famines could kill as many as a billion people before the year 2020.
In 2006 Holdren suggested that as a result of global warming, sea levels worldwide could rise by 13 feet by the end of the 21st century. A subsequent estimate by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change placed the figure at 13 inches.
In the October 2008 issue of Scientific American, Holdren wrote: The ongoing disruption of the Earth's climate by man-made greenhouse gases is already well beyond dangerous and is careening toward completely unmanageable. Carbon dioxide (CO2), he added, is the most important of civilization's emissions and the most difficult to reduce. About 80 percent comes from burning coal, oil and natural gas; most of the rest comes from deforestation in the tropics.
Today Holdren characterizes researchers who doubt whether human activity is responsible for global warming, or that global warming even poses a serious threat, as people who infest the public discourse with dangerous ideas that pose a menace to humanity.
Holdren is a longtome anti-nuclear activist. From 1987-97 he chaired the Executive Committee of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs (PCSWA), an international group of scientists who promote arms control. In 1995 he delivered a Nobel Peace Prize acceptance lecture on behalf of the PCSWA. From 1993-2004 he chaired the Committee on International Security and Arms Control of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. In 2005 he called on the U.S. to issue a no first use policy for nuclear weapons and to eliminate nuclear retaliation as a possible response to chemical or biological attacks.
On December 20, 2008, President-elect Barack Obama named Holdren as his choice to be Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Co-Chair of the Presidents Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.".................... Source
April 12, 2012: "The Obama administrations top science and technology official, who has argued for the economic de-development of America, warned science students last Friday that the United States cannot expect to be number one forever.
We cant expect to be number one in everything indefinitely, Dr. John P. Holdren said at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
...Holdren called it a mixed picture, and said it was not purely bad for the United States that other countries were making gains instead of us.
That is, there are many benefits to the increasing capabilities of science and technology in other countries around the world, he said. Its not an unmixed or dead loss that other countries are getting better in science and technology.
Other countries getting better increases their capabilities to improve the standard of living of their countries, to improve their economies and, as a result, ultimately to make the world a better and safer place.
Holdren, who was previously director of the Science, Technology and Public Policy program at Harvards Kennedy School of Government, said that as a result of those good advances, We cant expect to be number one in everything indefinitely. Source
yeah, I read that the first time...