A prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant is unfit to be the ruler of a free people. — The Declaration of Independence, July 4th, 1776.
January 20th, 2009. Another “date which will live in infamy.”
Watching news media coverage of Barack Obama’s journey to the White House was much like watching the broadcast propaganda of a dystopian fantasy in films like V, or the Richard Burton’s 1984, or Fahrenheit 451 — except that the news media is not a vast government department spewing out lies and disinformation, haranguing and brow-beating the public, but a nominally independent entity reporting Obama’s triumph with deliriously mindless happy talk. For all practical purposes, the news media have largely surrendered the sovereignty of the freedom of the press in exchange for the emotional solicitude of “hope” and the privilege of being a demagogue’s mouthpiece. That so many viewers and listeners disagree or are skeptical of what the news media has reported about Obama are blithely ignored by editorial writers and news anchors is a measure of media bias. We wish it to be so; ergo, it is true. He is our savior, our Messiah, our Leader. He will show us the way.
At a cost of over $150 million, the inauguration of January 20th had the character of a royal coronation (or a biblical pageant, if you will), witnessed by millions in Washington and on television by millions around the world, secured by 8,000 police, 11,000 military personnel, 1,000 park rangers, and countless plainclothesmen, and reported by a euphoric press. The millions who thronged or thrilled to see Obama become the 44th president of the United States are comfortable with the idea of being ruled, of being told what to do and why to live — and with the idea of seeing those who neither need nor want rulers overruled.
Having written extensively on America’s Revolutionary period in fiction and nonfiction, I took special and personal offense to Obama’s Philadelphia speech on January 17th, in which he appropriated the Revolution without once mentioning the ideas that made it possible. In that speech, he turned those unnamed ideas inside out, pronouncing the words “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” but meaning entirely different things by them. Your “life,” he said or implied, is not entirely your own, but your neighbor’s or the nation’s; your “liberty,” he suggested, exists as long it is regulated if not otherwise prohibited; your “pursuit of happiness,” he insisted, is possible but not before you serve and sacrifice for the good and happiness of all.
Lest it be thought that I am putting words into his mouth or twisting his meaning, read the transcripts of all of Obama’s campaign and acceptance speeches, and it will be seen that he is no friend of life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness — qua individual rights. Obama’s speeches have always been a broth of rhetorical ambiguities and populist language addressed to the worst in men, concealing an intention to rule, to decree, to govern like a prince with the unqualified leave of his subjects.
Obama’s admirers and supporters constitute a people who do not want to be free, and who do not want anyone else to be free. Allowing their emotions to govern their minimal thought and their actions, they have endorsed his notion that everyone must be tied in servitude and sacrifice to everyone else to “work together” for a “more perfect union.” Further, they view themselves as “victims,” and he has been the salve of their troubled souls.
I have argued for years that the Founders created a republic and were hostile to the idea of a democracy. Obama’s victory is a perilous instance of democracy in action. A majority of the electorate wished for bread and circuses. He has promised them bread and circuses. And uncounted tens of thousands of them have made what Diane Sawyer of ABC approvingly, but appropriately, called a “pilgrimage” to hear him promise them again.
But, listening to Obama and the obliging news media, one would get the impression that his “mandate” was unanimously granted by the whole nation. Not true. But Obama never knew the truth, while the news media has forgotten it or buried it.
An examination of his Philadelphia speech, however, is in order. That speech, like his past speeches and those of so many other power-seekers, is a conceptual mess. A line by line critique may be interesting, but fruitless. What deserves highlighting and closer scrutiny is his theft of the Revolution, for without that arrogant purloining of the Declaration, the speech would have had no substance. Obama dared not elaborate on the ideas that made the Revolution possible; they are radically antithetical to what he has professed to be the solution to the nation’s problems, real or imaginary.
It is noteworthy that while the terms tyrant and tyranny each occur twice in the Declaration of Independence, Obama dared not refer to them in the Philadelphia speech, either. Using them might have given his worshippers food for thought. Thinking is not what he wants Americans to do.
“And yet, they were willing to put all they were and all they had on the line — their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor –for a set of ideals that continue to light the world. That we are equal. That our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness come not from our laws, but from our maker. And that a government of, by, and for the people can endure.”
“They” were just a group of “farmers and lawyers, merchants and soldiers,” in addition to “fishermen, laborers, and craftsmen,” who somehow, for some reason, assembled to sign the Declaration, out of loyalty to a “set of ideals.” Which ideals? Private property? Freedom of speech? Ownership of their own lives? Ideals that they plucked from a tree? And how do those unnamed ideals continue to “light the world,” when statism and collectivism are on the rise around the globe?
Are we all “equal,” or equal before the law? And, before which laws? Objective laws that protect and ensure individual rights, or non-objective laws that rob us of those rights and surrender us to the unpredictable whims of arbitrary authority? And, no, those rights do not come from “our maker,” they come from a recognition of the nature of man as a being of volitional consciousness who must employ reason to survive, establish his goals and pursue them. Rights do not originate with ghosts, majority rule, or pragmatism.
It is the height of narcissism that Obama would steal from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, as well, and change the meaning of that president’s words.
“We are here today not simply to pay tribute to our first patriots but to take up the work that they began.”
What work was that? To expand the scope of government powers so they intrude upon every facet of an individual’s life? Obama taught law, but has he ever read even an infinitesimal fraction of the political thought the Founders read in order to argue for a limited government?
“Only in a handful of times in our history has a generation been confronted with challenges so vast. An economy that is faltering. Two wars, one that needs to be ended responsibly, one that needs to be waged wisely. A planet that is warming from our unsustainable dependence on oil.”
The economy is faltering because of government interventionist policies. The two wars were against the wrong enemies; one can be certain that Obama will be as wrong-headed about those enemies as was Bush. And, no, the planet is not warming because of our dependence on oil, if it is warming at all. And our dependence on oil would be sustainable if we had free markets, if the government were prohibited from making deals with dictatorships, medieval monarchies and other tin pot regimes, and if the government were constrained from having any role in the economy. Economies are not created by governments; they can only be taken over by them, as ours has been incrementally for over a century.
Not all the news media are ignorant of economics or indifferent to reason. One refreshing exception is a brilliantly pungent article that appeared in The Scotsman on January 18th, “New president, same old snake-oil economics,” whose author warns that Obama’s plan to fix the economy by creating 244,000 new government jobs and 459,000 new jobs in “green energy” will only smother an economy already wheezing from federally injected emphysema. Gerald Warner notes:
“Overall, Obama promises more than three million new jobs. Unfortunately, some clever clogs in Congress with a ball-point and the back of an envelope spotted that meant a cost of $275,000 per job. Governments cannot create jobs. All they can do is invent camouflaged welfare programs. Only the market can create jobs; and massive “job” creation in the public sector destroys real employment.”
But Rahm “The Enforcer” Emmanuel, Obama’s chief of staff, once advised that “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” So, to hell with reason and costs and rights. It’s the perfect time to take over everything and everyone. Run Warner’s observation by Emmanuel, and he would growl and probably reach for his baseball bat. Run it by any random news anchor, and he would blink in utter confusion. Run it by Obama, and he would begin sucking his thumb in denial.
In Philadelphia, he decreed:
“What is required is the same perseverance and idealism that our founders displayed. What is required is a new declaration of independence, not just in our nation, but in our own lives — from ideology and small thinking, prejudice and bigotry — an appeal not to our easy instincts but to our better angels.”
This is an especially significant paragraph. What Obama is stating is that the nation needs a declaration of independence from the Declaration of Independence, that is, from the ideas or ideology that made the Declaration possible, and from “small thinking,” a code term for selfishness. He is willing to draft that new declaration into a manifesto of “responsibility,” that is, the “responsibility” of Americans to become a selfless zombie population moved by “giving,” “caring,” “service” to a cause “higher” than oneself, and “self-sacrifice.”
As for “prejudice” and “bigotry,” his entire campaign was based on just those phenomena, and have nothing to do with the economic “crisis.” He proposes to replace a crucial intellectual priority with a mystical one, that is, with a deference to our “better angels,” which one can only guess is a reference to man’s allegedly “innate” desire to sacrifice and live for others.
“Let’s build a government that is responsible to the people, and accept our own responsibilities as citizens to hold our government accountable.”
It sounds benign, even banal enough. What politician indicted for corruption and serving time hasn’t said the same thing? But, given the statist and collectivist character of Obama’s political and economic program, this statement is a call for the government to be responsible for expanding the welfare state, and a call for citizens to blame the government for not expanding it faster and more widely.
Obama claims that he will make government “accountability” and “responsibility” two of his top priorities. Were this promise not taken so seriously by so many who ought to know better, such hubris would be laughable, given that he, Emmanuel, and so many in his administration are products of the Chicago political machine, given that so many are indictable Clinton era Jacks-in-the-Box, and given that he has nominated for key posts in his cabinet out-and-out socialists, such as Eric Holder as Attorney General and Carol Browner as his energy-environment “czarina.” Obama and his picked wrecking crew are sledgehammer- and shovel-ready to smash and bury what remains of the American republic. There isn’t a person Obama has picked for his cabinet, staff, and other government posts who isn’t already a human Petri dish of corruption ready to cash in on his power. No “idealistic” tyranny in history has ever been inoculated from the accompanying corruption.
Having used the Declaration of Independence as a crib sheet, Obama also wishes to scrap what remains in effect in the Constitution. The Wall Street Journal on October 28th cited his statements during an interview on a Chicago public radio station on September 6, 2001, that, in his opinion, the Constitution hasn’t been emasculated enough.
“Mr. Obama noted that the Supreme Court under Chief Justice Earl Warren