(Centennial Fellow) A month ago, Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank excoriated U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., for “sabotage” in the work of the “debt supercommittee.” The column was vintage Freudian projection, the technical term in psychology for the left’s attributing to its political opponents its own slanderous behavior. (Who will ever forget hearing Bill Clinton whining hypocritically about being a victim of “the politics of personal destruction?”)
As I write, the Congress is again at an impasse, reminding one of the wrangling last August leading to creation of that “supercommittee” — an exercise in nibbling around the edges that may have been designed to fail, as it certainly did. I suggest the supercommittee came into existence only as a hiding place for Members of Congress as they voted to increase the nation's debt ceiling.
Milbank called Kyl, “cold and ruthless … different from you and me.” Those descriptors are inconsistent. Yes, I like being exempted from Milbank’s projection onto Kyl of being cold and ruthless. It was the height of presumption, however, to suggest fairly that Kyl’s work in preventing another compromise on the road to Pres. Obama’s vision for the United States made Kyl different from a great many of us.
About October 30, 2008, candidate Obama proclaimed to his supporters, “We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.”
That had a distinctly ominous ring, given the identities of those few known to have influenced Obama up to that time (e.g., Saul Alinsky, Frank Marshall Davis, Jeremiah Wright, Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn).
Sinister is the accurate word today in light of nearly three years’ experience with the Obama presidency, two during which Obama enjoyed the connivance of congressional majorities led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
Some of us believe the United States of America to be the most successful experiment in world history — a nation exemplifying the exceptionalism so favorably attributed to it by the great Alexis de Tocqueville — and in no need of transformation ala Obama.
The fundamental transformation to statism sought by Obama and his Occupier allies is anathema to a majority of Americans. There is now a bright line between two camps. Neither can compromise, one must win.
The statist camp of the left has a notable advantage: a visceral commitment to being governors (or dictators, as the case may be). They also have the allegiance of major blocks of voters to whom they continue to pander with public resources.
Therefore, those of us in the camp rejecting statism have the more challenging task. The road back to what our Republic must be is narrow. We simply must do all possible to keep policy-makers between the lines on that narrow road. Those fatuously wringing their hands over failures to “compromise” would help drive us into Obama’s statist ditch.
Again the Obama administration announced that bureaucrats may decide when they will ignore laws. This instance involves illegal immigrants. But that’s not the point. The true problem is inconsistent, arbitrary application of government.
Every resident – you and I, business-people, employees, parents, young and old – needs a consistent legal context. If rules may or may not be enforced, we cannot plan. Business decisions, investment, even household budgeting become unfathomable.
Worse, bureaucrats with license to apply rules arbitrarily readily fall into corrupt cronyism. This CEO wants a regulation enforced against his competitors, or that union wants to pressure management. Influence-peddling and bribery will abound.
Then bribe demands spread. A contractor wants the inspector to approve a job, or you merely want to renew your driver’s license.
Without known rules consistently applied, America becomes a bureaucratic quicksand like Mexico or the Middle East. That will be the end of prosperity and freedom.
(Centennial Fellow) The President has scored a stunning foreign policy triumph. The country rejoices. Praise for the President’s leadership and the prowess of those soldiers he sent in harm’s way is bi-partisan and near universal. The pundits say this singular accomplishment probably assures the President’s re-election. The most attractive of his possible opponents in the other party decide that this isn’t their year. Those who are willing to run seem unappealing and poll poorly. Barack Obama in 2011? No, George H.W. Bush in 1991. History does not repeat itself, but it does offer instructive parallels and the similarities between today’s political environment and that of 1991 are striking. In actuality the advantages enjoyed by Bush were much greater than those of Obama. While the killing of Usama bin Laden is an immensely satisfying achievement of historic dimension, it cannot compare in magnitude with the lightning victory of Operation Desert Storm in expelling Saddam Hussein from Kuwait, a triumph that decisively expunged the dark shadow of defeat in Viet Nam that had long haunted our nation. This comparative is reinforced by the trajectory of the two men’s approval ratings: while Bush soared to a stratospheric 91%, Obama’s have only ticked upward to the mid fifties. So, how did Bush lose, and what does that event a generation ago, tell us about Obama’s prospects for 2012? One of the most memorable images of the 1992 Presidential campaign was a picture of Clinton’s irascible political manager James Carville seated at his desk in the “War Room” pointing to a sign above it that read: “It’s the Economy, Stupid.” Carville endlessly repeated this mantra and insured that it was the centerpiece of the entire Clinton campaign. On Election day Carville’s obsession was validated when a heretofore obscure Southern governor overthrew a sitting President. The exit polls were conclusive: The dominant issue for voters was the economy. The celebrated victory of Desert Storm was little help to Bush. His inability to budge the economy out of a stubborn recession was clearly the principal factor that defeated him. Throughout American history and fifty-six Presidential elections the factor that most consistently defeated the party in power was a bad economy. Nine times since 1928 the President’s party has been ousted from the White House. While there are always many issues in a Presidential contest, in eight of those elections a struggling U.S. economy was key to the incumbent party’s defeat. Two events within the space of five days illustrate the volatility of Obama’s political health. Late Sunday night – May 1st- Obama went on television to announce the killing of Bin Laden. Around the White House and across the country cheering flag waving crowds spontaneously took to the streets. Republican leaders uniformly praised the President’s “gutsy” call. Overnight polling over the next three days saw Obama’s approval ratings go from 46 % to 54 %. Five days later the Dept. of Labor announced that the U.S. unemployment rate had risen from 8.8 % to 9.0 %- the first increase in six months. The Obama “spinmeisters” were quick to commend the creation of 244,000 new jobs omitting to mention that a minimum of 250,000 new jobs a month are required just to keep up with population growth. More ominously for Obama the same polls that showed the up tick in his overall approval ratings following the killing of Bin Laden also showed 59 % of Americans disapproved of his handling of the economy and a stunning 70 % felt the country was “on the wrong track.” Add to this the fact that overall economic growth in the first quarter fell to an anemic 1.8 % - significantly lower than forecast- while gasoline prices rose to four dollars a gallon, and we’re looking at numbers and trends which if unreversed between now and election day make a second Obama term not just unlikely but historically virtually impossible. Strangely Obama seems not to fully grasp his peril. While applauding and subsidizing offshore oil drilling for Brazil, he denies American companies the right to do the same in the Gulf of Mexico. While his countrymen seethe over needing fifty dollars to fill their tanks, Obama is busy visiting wind farms, and touting solar panels. When George Bush was defeated in 1992, the most common criticism of him among voters was that he didn’t “get it”, and couldn’t relate to “people like us”. Whether Obama “gets it” or doesn’t want to get it may be irrelevant. What’s absolutely relevant, however, is that exploding deficits , crushing debt, and a sick economy means his chances for collecting a federal pension in 2013 are excellent.
(Centennial Fellow) Say this for President Barack Obama: he doesn't lack for vision.As a candidate, Obama spoke of "chang(ing) the trajectory of America" in a way that no president has since Ronald Reagan. Obama's vision is, of course, antithetical to Reagan's.Reagan said, "Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem."Obama believes that government spending can stimulate the economy and that government regulation will fix health care.Reagan's strategy for growing the economy and paying for government was to let Americans keep more of the money they earn, spend it on their own priorities, and pay more in taxes because they earned more.Obama's economic strategy is to increase tax rates, especially so on the most productive taxpayers, while financing runaway federal spending by borrowing 40 cents of every dollar spent from either the Chinese or from our children and grandchildren.It's not necessary to agree with Obama's vision to admire his focus - and to be absolutely terrified by it.When political prudence - evidenced by Republican Scott Brown's improbable election as U.S. Senator from Massachusetts - dictated pause or retreat from the government takeover of health care, Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid twisted arms and forged ahead, willingly risking vulnerable seats in Congress to realize their vision.Likewise, the 2010 election produced the largest Republican tidal wave in more than 60 years and might have suggested that it's time for Obama to moderate, a la Bill Clinton after 1994.Remarkably, the President shows no sign of moderation. In fact, quite the opposite.Despite Americans' increasing alarm at runaway spending, a towering national debt, and the ever-encroaching tentacles of government, Obama is setting the stage for a truly titanic election in 2012. He's betting that we prize our goodies from government more than we desire to pass on the American dream to our children and grandchildren.By 73%-22%, Americans say the federal government spends too much rather than taxes too little. Two-thirds of all Americans - and 70% of independents - believe that the cost of Medicare and Social Security has created a fiscal crisis or will do so within the next 10 years.But asked where to cut spending, the public is squeamish about reductions in Medicare, Social Security or virtually any other big ticket item.The governments we elected promised more than we can afford. Yet we're reluctant to break our dependency in order to avoid calamity in the long run - or even the not-so-long run.That's why Obama is cynically confident.Rep. Paul Ryan, chair of the House Budget Committee, has proposed a responsible plan to reform entitlements, keep tax rates low, and reduce government spending by more than $4 trillion without impacting anyone who is already 55 or older.Democrats demagogue the Ryan plan to try to frighten seniors, and Obama charges it would lead to "a fundamentally different America than the one we've known throughout most of our history."The President is, of course, fundamentally wrong. An America based on dependency would be fundamentally different.Obama's original budget called for $12 trillion in new debt from 2012 to 2021; his debt reduction plan claims a mere $9 trillion in new debt by 2023.Though he's running full-speed ahead into the torpedoes of public opinion, he's no fool.Are these really the rules of engagement Obama hopes will determine the outcome in 2012? Yes, because he truly believes in transforming America from a culture of personal freedom, responsibility and ingenuity to a society that depends on government for jobs, health care, retirement and other basic necessities.He's rolling the dice, but if Obama wins, he can preserve his government takeover of health care and place America irretrievably on the path of European welfare state socialism.That this transformation will deprive future generations of their chance to realize the American dream is simply the price Obama is willing to pay.That this transformation will be irreversible is Obama's legacy.
(Centennial Fellow) President Barack Obama, in his State of the Union speech, praised deficit reduction while pledging deficit enlargement, coming across like a phony dieter sneaking ice cream. Only he wasn't sneaking it. He was as much as licking the spoon in front of the nation as he said implausibly that we've got to have splurges of the kind that got us in trouble.
It won't work, least of all a splurge like a national high-speed rail system, which Obama called for and which may sound like fun except that we cannot afford to build it and certainly cannot afford to sustain it. Europe's smart and Europe does it, right? If you call $42 billion in annual government train subsidies smart, yeah, sure, but the benefits we would derive do not equal the price we would pay. Not even close.
We also need to get less dependent on oil, Obama said while pointing as an answer to biofuels, one of which, ethanol, is a mandated, subsidized, special interest scam making your food prices go up while doing zip to give us a cleaner environment. Biofuels of the future might be better, but let's let them prove themselves in the market.
You want jobs, maybe? We're going to get them, says Obama, by government interventions that will put past ones to shame – in energy, for instance. Let me turn society green and watch the jobs grow, he says, only they won't because, as any number of economists have pointed out, government-foisted energy jobs would come at the expense of government-negated energy jobs. As Obama confessed, the government doesn't know what's going to work in many energy fields, and here's the answer he did not agree to. Let the private sector figure it out through capitalist trial and error.
That's a solution that does work, and mightily, as Obama seemed to understand when he told the story of Brandon Fisher, a remarkable young man who started his own company in drilling technology and made the equipment that enabled the rescue of 33 men who might otherwise have died after a mine collapse in Chile. The lesson here is the power of entrepreneurial energy and how it can do one great thing after another if government does not dampen it with too many regulations and uncertainties, taxes that are too high or the threat of economic calamity caused by deficits and debt.
Prior to the speech, Obama had given some hints he was closing in on this reality, as opposed to remaining lost in statist dreams, and in the speech he also had some kind words for cutting back on spending, though not, I am afraid, very meaningful ones.
He talked about a freeze on discretionary spending, which is a tiny piece of the budget and a place that needs serious cuts after the additions he has piled on in just two years. And he talked about a deficit commission's compromise proposal while rejecting one of the most significant parts of it, a recommendation on how to restructure Social Security. His language on this was the language of an uncomprehending demagogue even if it's a known fact that some of his top advisors have agreed with commission points.
What's needed more than money in some of the areas he talked about is reform, if not by the federal government, by the states or localities: Get the tenure out of teaching and get the frills and pork out of publicly financed infrastructure, for instance. Obama needs to get past this notion that it is primarily the federal government that can accomplish anything and understand that its intrusions can in fact have massively disastrous consequences. He needs to lay off the ice cream.
(CCU Faculty) So our beloved Broncos have found their home next to the Titanic. At the bottom. In a sea of darkness. Hopes and dreams quite literally drowned. This development was as predictable as daylight to many of us when young Josh McDaniels was named coach less than two years ago. McDaniels carried with him the seeds of his and the Broncos destruction. In a phrase, the catastrophe is summed up in the proverb; “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18) But it is instructive to break it down. First, McDaniels thought his ideology, his “system” was so superior that all he needed to do was find athletes and “plug and play.” It was the system, not players, that mattered. So he first concluded that a Matt Cassell was a better quarterback than Jay Cutler. Yes, Cutler is an annoying prima donna but his upside is so much greater than a Cassell’s or a Kyle Orton’s, any fantasy league owner could see. This was followed by numerous personnel decisions that ranged from bizarre to disastrous concluding with one of the worst trades in Bronco history—Peyton Hillis for the not-so-mighty Quinn. Second, when you know everything you do not need or want assistants around you who might disagree. So from drafting to play calling to selecting coaches McD revolved out the people who were not “yes” men. The most inexplicable was Mike Nolan. The only redeeming characteristic of the 2009 Broncos was their defense, so, let’s fire the defensive coordinator. Who knows what Nolan said to be shown the door. But you can bet it was some kind of disagreement with Josh the Omniscient. Third, when you are a cut above the rest rules which apply to other people do not apply to you. So, in a still mystifying maneuver, McDaniel’s videographer taped a San Francisco practice, in clear violation of NFL rules. Good grief—the 49ers! Then he Watergated it by trying to hush it up. Don’t tell anyone. But one of his coaches leaked the truth and that was the final nail in the old coffin. Let’s shift from Denver, Colorado, to Washington, D.C. where this same type of drama is playing itself out in eerie similarity; a place where hubris can do some real damage. Our young president came into office full to the brim with himself. His inauguration would be noted as the time when the “planet began to heal” and the “oceans would recede.” He would incarnate the slogan, “We are the change we’ve been waiting for,” and other inscrutable and mind-numbing slogans. His administration would be composed of the anointed. No one with business savvy was needed. No one to the right of Karl Marx need apply. It didn’t even matter if you paid taxes—you could help precipitate the greatest spending orgy in world history. And when nervous Democrats warned of impending electoral disaster, the young president reassured them, “This time you’ve got me!” Then there would be no need to listen to the unwashed masses, the flotsam and jetsam of humanity. After all, these are people who “cling to their guns and religion” because an enlightened government had not done enough for them. But not to worry. The Enlightener himself had arrived. And what about all those foolish people who, because of their fear, were unable to “think scientifically.” No problem. The president would do their thinking for them. After all, McDaniels-like, he was the smartest man in any room he entered. Finally, who need rules? Constitutions are for suckers. What people really need are a string of syrupy slogans and endless, endless, endless speeches from the Anointed One. Heretofore, congress had been governed by regulations and procedures. No need for those now. Dispense with them and ram Obamacare down the throats of the critics. They will come to appreciate what their betters have done for them. And so our national government has come to look like the Broncos. Only the stakes are a bit higher. The future of constitutional government is at stake. And so is our ability function as a free market society. Josh McDaniels was fired twenty-two months into his reign. Obama would have suffered the same fate if the constitution so allowed. Let’s hope and pray that in four years it won’t be too late. Imagine what McD would have done to the Broncos in two more seasons.
(CCU Faculty) In a speech on Nov. 7 during his recent trip India, President Obama stated: “The phrase jihad has a lot of meaning within Islam and is subject to a lot of different interpretations, but I will say that first Islam is one of the world's great religions. More than a billion people practice Islam and an overwhelming majority view their obligations to a religion that reaffirms peace, fairness, tolerance. I think all of us recognize that this great religion, in the hands of a few extremists, has been distorted by violence.”
President Obama’s assertion that Islam is a great religion demands further consideration. Most importantly, what makes a religion “great”? Before turning to that specific question, two caveats: first, President Obama delivered his speech just a few days before moving on to Indonesia, a Muslim nation. In the political context, he may very well have simply been making an overture to the next stop on his Asia trip. Second, this is not meant as a partisan questioning of Obama. In a speech on September 17, 2001, President Bush stated: “The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That's not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace.” A few days later, in a meeting with American Muslim leaders, Bush stated that “the teachings of Islam are the teachings of peace and good."
Let’s return to our central question: what are the qualities of a “great” religion? There are two approaches to this question: one from a Christian perspective and the other from a political one.
First, consider the Christian approach to this. Christian faith teaches that there is only one way to salvation and eternal connection to God: a personal faith in Jesus Christ. Any religion that teaches otherwise is false. Can a Christian recognize another religion as “great”? If the followers of other religions are destined to eternity in hell and permanent separation from God, then the answer is obviously no.
The second, geo-political, approach to considering whether Islam is great is a bit more complicated. It is estimated that there are over between ¾ and 1 ½ billion Muslims in the world. If we were to measure greatness based solely on numbers, then with approximately 20% of the world’s population, Islam would be considered a “great” religion. However, if we are simply using popularity as our standard, then we can agree that “popular” does not always coincide with “right” or “great”.
If we look at the countries who have Islam as the official religion and those that are governed by Islamic rulers, there are approximately 25 countries. When we add to that number those countries where Islam is the predominant religion, the number rises to 47. Again, this suggests that Islam is indeed popular and influential in many countries. But does popularity and influence translate into right and great?
Does size and influence equate with greatness? While it certainly does make the religion impactful, we obviously need to measure the impact to determine greatness. No American can deny that racism was a widely held belief in American history, and that the racism that existed was significantly impactful on American culture. However, we would certainly not describe it as “great”.
Finally, we must consider what some of the political mandates of Islam and Sharia are so that we can better judge the impact. The list of Muslim political mandates is often quite disturbing, including: the second class citizenship of non-believers, women and homosexuals; a Fatwa against Salman Rushdie and of cartoonists who dare to draw Mohammad; the harboring, encouraging and sanctioning of violent terrorist attacks against innocent civilians; etc. A study done by the Pew Research Center in 2005 of Muslims around the world found widespread support for terrorism and of Osama bin Laden. For instance, Muslims in Jordan, Indonesia and Pakistan supported suicide bombings and violence against civilians at a rate of 57%, 15% and 25%, respectively. For the same countries, confidence in bin Laden was 61%, 36% and 52%. Does this behavior translate to a “great” religion?
Not only is Islam associated with great wrongs, but the accomplishments of the faith also need to be questioned. James 1:27 states: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” Are the deeds of Islam “great”? When horrible natural disasters occur around the world, is Islam the first to respond? When terror reigns, do they condemn? When women are oppressed, do they step in and stop? When people of other faiths dare to worship their God, do they fight for this right?
President Obama owes the public an explanation of exactly what it is that makes Islam “great”.
(CCU Student) The tides have turned, but sadly worldviews have not. Politico.com released two intriguing articles this past week. The first article pertains to Barack Obama’s interview on 60 Minutes. The other discusses Nancy Pelosi’s views post-election.
I am all for a well-rounded proposal on any issue. But for once I want to hear the “how”! Most reoccurring during the previous two years and, proposals by the political left have pervasively (arguably“intentionally”) tiptoed around the ‘how’-question regarding virtually any idea, bill, plan, etc. Under crossfire and criticism our president, speaker of the house (now former), and many other elected officials of the Democratic Party have misconstrued reality and invited us into an imagination land in which ideas do not have to be clearly documented.
In its true essence, man’s proclivity to differ in opinion with another is a fact of life. I wholeheartedly believe when humans compete, the best will prevail. Yet, the precedent set amongst the upper echelon is not persuasion, it is manipulation. Obama’s statements on60 Minutes display his position is a manner of persuading and not just leading (his exact words)—which sincerely worries me!
Use of the word, “persuasion” in its general connotation does not worry me. But my opinion shifts when used in the context: persuasion to support a ‘plan’ that’s reasoning fails to stress solid statistical proof, documentation, statistical data, etc.
Once upon a time, persuading somebody to a side was accomplished by laying out the facts—period! When all the incontrovertible information was laid out on the table, the chips will fall where they may. However, what we have experienced in this country by many of our elected officials has NOT been leadership, it has been a hybrid form of intellectual manipulation.
Former Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi recently said, “Driven by the urgency of creating jobs & protecting [health care reform and Wall Street reform], Social Security & Medicare, I am running for Dem Leader.” Intensely read over this and take the words carefully—then pair it up with virtually any speech by Pelosi or Obama—then put the ratio of “statements” compared to “statistical [numerical, economical, financial, etc] evidence”. These numbers will be astonishing. Point blank, when ideas sound too good to be true, they often are; yet the overwhelming majority has fallen for it.
I believe in America. I believe that when the current administration’spromises are not fulfilled, the citizens are worse off than they were two years ago, and the United States is even further in debt, more people will wake up. But once citizens wake up, when will America collectively begin to realize that their lives are better off handled by themselves and NOT by omnipotent moral busybodies whom they believe have their best interest in mind? Therefore, I implore you not tobe persuaded! Do what Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly encourage: “Look at the facts for yourself.”
As professor of European History at Colorado Christian University, I regularly teach courses on Communism. Last week my students turned in their book reports on History of the Russian Revolution by Harvard professor Richard Pipes. While grading their papers, I noticed that my students drew many comparisons between Lenin and Obama.
The Bolshevik government:
1) was run by intellectuals who didn’t understand economics, despised capitalism, never knew how to run a business, never had any money, and had never earned money.
2) stirred up the masses promising hope and change; specifically “Peace, Land, and Bread”, but all the people got was violence, confiscation of their land for collective farms, and starvation.
3) took over private enterprises by the state, especially “the commanding heights”, the major industries like banking and heavy industry, and those most influential like media and education.
4) massively expanded the money supply to inflate the currency and destroy personal wealth; in the process they destroyed the economy, caused massive unemployment, shortages, and poverty.
5) redistributed wealth in the name of social justice, actually it was confiscated from the productive (forcibly taking grain from peasants, who then starved), resulting in less productivity the next year.
6) in the name of the working class took away the secret ballot from union members, forced labor on the entire populace, paid them in worthless paper money with nothing in the stores to buy. A common saying in Soviet controlled areas was “we pretend to work, and they pretend to pay us.”
7) Government failures were blamed on the previous administration, the war, and political enemies, but never on their bankrupt political philosophy, economic stupidity, or inept administration.
As I read my students; papers, I was reminded of the old maxim, that “those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
Watson worked with Army Intel in Cold War Berlin specializing in Eastern Europe, has graduate degrees in European history from the University of California, and recently taught Free Markets and the values of Western Civilization in a former Soviet republic as a Fulbright scholar. He is now a professor at CCU and a fellow of the Centennial Institute.
(Centennial Institute Fellow) Lots of pundits are trying to figure out why President Obama is facing disaster this midterm election, but few have said it better than Michael Oakeshott despite his disadvantage of having been dead for 20 years.
Oakeshott was an English philosopher. His specialty was politics and his disposition was to prefer "fact to mystery," "the limited to the unbounded" and "present laughter to Utopian bliss." He said all this in an essay titled, "On Being Conservative," in which he also trenchantly described politicians of the opposite sort, what I would call the Obama sort.
Such people, he said, see government "as a vast reservoir of power," and that power "inspires them to dream," to come up with "favorite projects" that "they sincerely believe are for the benefit of mankind." So they grab for the power, maybe increase it, and then use it to impose these projects on everyone else. To them, government is "an instrument of passion" and "the art of politics is to inflame and direct desire."
That's not Obama? Of course it is. He spent 2008 stirring up as much emotion as he could, telling voters how awful things were for them and how he would make it all better. His favorite project has been a health-care remake that would leave no stethoscope untouched, or nearly none as government intrudes massively in the requirements and changes it plans to enforce when it more productively could have addressed certain particulars with nonabrasive, inexpensive prudence.
Back during the presidential campaign two years ago, voters fell for this charismatic orator, some literally swooning during his speeches. Oakeshott gives some reasons this could happen. The wants of some are "so vague" that they will reach out for whatever is proffered, he said. And that word -- "vague" -- aptly describes Obama's promises of "hope and change" that some of us felt obscure to the point of inanity.
Oakeshott tells us something else is also at work, namely that some "prefer the promise of a provided abundance to the opportunity of choice and activity on their own account.," which is to say, some will shrug at liberty losses as they cheer pledges of income redistribution and extension of the welfare state.
But as our philosopher also notes in this essay, the sailing may not be smooth for adventurous politicians. Elsewhere in his writings, he spells out a major reason this is so. There are lots of nifty theories cooked up by academics and embraced by politicians who don't get it that theory is one thing, practicality another -- that there are all kinds of perfectly tidy, well-researched, uplifting dreams that ought to stay dreams. Convert them into real-world programs and they produce nightmarish results.
As so it is with Obama's self-declared triumphs. Even though it won't fully kick in for some years, the health plan is already stymieing business expansion and raising premiums. And the $862 billion stimulus that was supposed to create millions of jobs as America leaped from recession? Facts caught up with this mystery, as even Obama had to admit to some degree in discussing all those "shovel-ready" infrastructure projects he had promised. There were no such things, he has now said, apparently having learned what was perfectly obvious from the start in this world of environmental impact statements.
When things like this go amiss, says Oakeshott, "we become aware of what the camel thinks of the camel driver," and that is what's happening in the midterm elections. A public plagued with Obama's version of plenty is turning on him and his abettors. It's not because voters have been rendered idiots by hard economic circumstances, as Obama put it somewhat more circumspectly in one of his talks, but because we see a truth he seems utterly incapable of accepting.
Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado.