The war to divide Americans continues, with explicitly and purposely combative language from the no-longer-conciliatory Obama. The Obama who’s showing up now is the same guy who crowed “I won” when challenged by Congressional Republicans during a supposedly bipartisan closed-door meeting about the stimulus bill.
Obama has taken the gloves off—the kid ones, that is—and put on the boxing gloves. Now we know that when he said “change,” he really meant it:
…[Obama] will fight to change health care, energy and education in dramatic ways that will upset the status quo.
“The system we have now might work for the powerful and well-connected interests that have run Washington for far too long,” Obama said in his weekly radio and video address. “But I don’t. I work for the American people.”
The strain of populism that was always present in the Obama campaign is now coming to the fore. Flush with the victory of the nonpartisan stimulus bill, he is throwing down the gauntlet (more glove figures of sppech) and fighting for truth, justice, and the American way against the shadowy special interest groups that protect the wealthy and the status quo and hurt the common man/woman:
“I know these steps won’t sit well with the special interests and lobbyists who are invested in the old way of doing business, and I know they’re gearing up for a fight…My message to them is this: So am I.”
Forget the fact that Obama is rewarding powerful special interest groups and lobbyists as well—they just happen to be the ones he and his party define as the “good guys.” So if other interest groups and lobbyists are against his policies it must be because they are against change, you see, and everybody knows that change is good—especially if it’s the sort of change proposed by Obama.
There’s no room in Obama’s mind for the idea that many of those who oppose him might merely disagree about the best way to help the economy, or that some of their arguments might have merit, or that certain of their actions might benefit as all, although not in a direct welfare-state sort of way. He’d rather cast all of his opponents as the selfish enemy opposing the good, which is defined as his mantra of “change.”
And never mind that the change Obama is proposing is radical change. After all, he says he gave us fair warning, and if we voted for him we were giving him carte blanche to follow the most radical of all the many conflicting policies he outlined during his campaign (in the quote that follows, I’d omit the word “almost”):
Some analysts say Obama’s proposals are almost radical. But he said all of them were included in his campaign promises. “It is the change the American people voted for in November,” he said.
Obama must know, of course, that this is because almost everything was included in his campaign promises. That was part of his m.o.; to say many things at once, some of them contradictory. To seem centrist at one moment and radical at another. To change his mind. To deny what he’d said when he deemed it strategic to do so, and/or to “clarify” (read: reverse) his position.
And so I am virtually certain that most of what he is proposing now was indeed mentioned somewhere during his campaign. Back then, many of us bloggers on the right tried to highlight his more worrisome proposals and to mention his myriad radical associations. But Obama counted on the fact that a great many of the people who were about to vote for him weren’t paying attention to his more radical side, and would be lulled into a false sense of security by his centrist pose.
And if you retain doubt that it was a pose, then I fear you’re in deep denial. As Clive Crook (who is basically an Obama supporter) writes in this piece in Financial Times, Obama’s true nature has been revealed [emphasis mine]:
…I feel I owe Republicans an apology.
As you recall, in the debate over the fiscal stimulus, Republicans accused the president of presenting a measure they could not support, disguising this with an empty show of co-operation. Bipartisanship, they said, is more than inviting your opponents round for coffee and a chat. I did not buy it: I accused them, in effect, of brainless rejectionism and a refusal to compromise, and congratulated the president for trying to come to terms with the other side.
This budget says the Republicans had Mr Obama right all along. The draft contains no trace of compromise. It makes no gesture, however small, however costless to its larger agenda, of a bipartisan approach to the great questions it addresses. It is a liberal’s dream of a new New Deal…
Take this budget at face value, and when Mr Obama talks about “a new era of responsibility” he does not mean: “We are all in this together.” He means: “The rich are responsible for this mess and it is payback time.”
According to Obama, if you’re against the radical restructuring that he’s proposing, then you’re just a rich bloodsucker trying to get richer at the expense of the working stiff. Of course, this is the case for some of his opponents. But certainly far from all of them; much of the opposition is principled.
Insurance companies will dislike having “to bid competitively to continue offering Medicare coverage, but that’s how we’ll help preserve and protect Medicare and lower health care costs,” the president said. “I know that banks and big student lenders won’t like the idea that we’re ending their huge taxpayer subsidies, but that’s how we’ll save taxpayers nearly $50 billion and make college more affordable. I know that oil and gas companies won’t like us ending nearly $30 billion in tax breaks, but that’s how we’ll help fund a renewable energy economy.”
Passing the budget, even with a Democratic-controlled Congress, “won’t be easy,” Obama said. “Because it represents real and dramatic change, it also represents a threat to the status quo in Washington.”
But there are reasons to object to his proposals other than defending business as usual in Washington. There’s the huge deficit they will run up. There’s the tax burden that is almost bound to worsen the recession and discourage investment in new business—and which might not even raise much revenue, certainly nowhere near as much as would be needed. There’s a reduction in the quality of health care for the elderly. There’s a rise in gas prices because the taxes will be passed along to all of us.
I don’t usually quote Andrew Sullivan, but something he wrote on the subject recently caught my eye. It appears that even Obamaphile Sullivan is wrestling with discomfort over the radical nature of Obama’s policy proposals. For example, here’s Sullivan writing on February 25th:
[The]…question about Obama is whether the crises we are all confronting require or demand a seismic shift, to keep the American ship afloat. I have felt a deep ambivalence about this since one of my first posts absorbing what Obama meant.
I would love to know when that “first post” was written. When did Sullilvan first begin to “absorb what Obama meant?” During the campaign? Or during the lead up to the stimulus bill? Or even more recently than that? Did the fact that Sullivan fell wholly under the spell of the charismatic orator originally blind him to what the man was actually saying he would do? Did Sulllivan only hear what he wanted to hear, as one often does when in the first flush of infatuation? And is he starting to come to? If so, how long will it take, and how many others might do the same?
Here’s more from the same Sullivan piece:
Do I worry that government will over-reach? You bet I do. Is my instinct and inclination to do less than Obama plans? You bet it is.
Now read what Sullivan has to say two days later, on February 27. After an intro that lauds Obama’s tactical genius, he writes:
[A]fter presenting such a centrist, bi-partisan, moderate and personally trustworthy front, he gets to unveil a radical long-term agenda that really will soak the very rich and invest in the poor. Given the crisis, he has seized this moment for more radicalism than might have seemed possible only a couple of months ago.
Sullivan goes on to discuss whether Obama’s proposals will be successful or not; he’s still agnostic on that. But it is deeply troubling to me how Sullivan can describe the bait and switch tactic by which Obama won the election and yet ignore the fundamental indecency of such deceptiveness. And how can Obama claim the American people knew about his far liberal plans all the time, when they were purposely obscured and muffled by his centrist rhetoric? And is this not at variance with “personal trustworthiness?”
In the February 25th piece, Sulllivan quotes Ross Douthat on Obama’s speech to Congress the evening before. Once again, see how the evaluation is of Obama’s style and strategy rather than his substance, and how the duplicity of the man is considered clever rather than problematic:
Obama was fantastic…He laid out the most ambitious and expensive domestic agenda of any Democratic President since LBJ, and did it so smoothly that you’d think he was just selling an incremental center-left pragmatism…It was the speech of a man seeking to turn a moment of crisis into a domestic-policy revolution, and oozing confidence from every pore along the way. Now all he has to do is find a way to pay for it …
Oh, is that all?
It’s a repellent picture, whether Douthat realizes it or not: Obama as smooth salesman, deceiving the American people about his revolution, and all for their own good. And as for that confidence that “oozes from every pore,” it’s disturbing in its arrogance. For all of Obama’s failure to project optimism about the economy, he has tremendous confidence in one thing: his ability to ram his program through Congress before the American people even know what hit them.
One of the most chilling quotes from Obama that I’ve ever read is this one, reported by Fred Barnes recently:
When Barack Obama met with TV anchors at a White House lunch last week, he assured them he likes being president. “And it turns out I’m very good at it,” he added.
Let that one sink in for a moment. President for only a little over a month and he’s “very good at it.” The stock market falling every day (as I write this, it’s in the 6800s) and he’s “very good at it.”
Confidence is one thing. Untrammeled, unashamed hubris is another. The worrisome signs have been there from the start with Obama.
Remember this McCain campaign ad? It seems like a long time ago, but it bears repeating (note especially the brief exchange at :29 in which the interviewer asks Obama “Do you ever have any doubts?” and he responds with a firm and chilling “Never”):
The American people—along with Andrew Sullivan and Clive Crook—should be having some doubts about Obama right about now. Let’s hope it’s not too late.