Some would say it hardly matters at which school President Barack Obama gave his commencement address on May 1st. I agree. Most if not all American universities are top-heavy with every variety of left-wing and collectivist faculty, concentrated in the humanities and dedicated to lobotomizing their students and weeding out the recalcitrant. But while institutions like Harvard are noisily left, other major schools, like the University of Michigan, where Obama spoke, are quietly so. State universities turn out a higher proportion of indoctrinated serfs, obeisant automatons, and committed gauleiters than does Harvard, Yale or Princeton.
Was his speech “over-the-top”? Or an instance of underhanded dissimulation? Or evidence of plain ignorance? What did he mean by “civility,” which he mentioned three times? His speech has been analyzed in several columns. Luria Doan scores him on a dozen instances of hypocrisy and double-talk in “Obama Jumps the Shark In Michigan,” while Frederick Cosby also reports on Obama’s interview with Matt Lauer on NBC’s “Today.” Speaking openly about the Tea Party for the first time, he generously conceded that many of its participants are “legitimately concerned about the deficit,” but was dismissive of others.
So, there’s that segment of it (Tea Party movement) which I think is just dug in ideologically, and that strain has existed in American politics for a long time.
Since the American Revolution? Perhaps he wouldn’t have approved of the uncompromising “tone” of the original patriots. But apparently there’s nothing wrong with this socialist/pragmatist being “ideologically dug-in,” dedicated to “changing” America into a servile, European style nation.
His remarks on “civility” at Michigan were a sly overture to censorship, a trial balloon to see how his audience received it. The audience, with which he enjoyed a disturbing bonhomie, applauded and cheered his words without grasping what they were applauding and cheering.
Now, the second way to keep our democracy healthy is to maintain a basic level of civility in our public debate. (Applause.) These arguments we’re having over government and health care and war and taxes — these are serious arguments. They should arouse people’s passions, and it’s important for everybody to join in the debate, with all the vigor that the maintenance of a free people requires.
But we can’t expect to solve our problems if all we do is tear each other down. (Applause.) You can disagree with a certain policy without demonizing the person who espouses it. You can question somebody’s views and their judgment without questioning their motives or their patriotism. (Applause.) Throwing around phrases like “socialists” and “Soviet-style takeover” and “fascist” and “right-wing nut” — (laughter) — that may grab headlines, but it also has the effect of comparing our government, our political opponents, to authoritarian, even murderous regimes.
“Civility,” noted Obama, requires that opposing parties treat each other with “courtesy and respect.” Why? He gave no reasons. Note that he was brave enough to pronounce the terms “fascists,” “socialists,” and “Soviet-style takeover” — things he and Congress have been accused of being and doing — intending to obliterate their significance by pronouncing them and angling for the audience’s response — laughter — to help him wipe out that significance. The audience obliged.
All during the period leading up to the passage of ObamaCare, people’s passions were aroused. They were ignored. Everybody tried to join the “debate.” They were shut out in the name of “transparency.” Demonization is not a synonym for the accurate identification of ideas and motivations, which is what the Tea Parties have attempted to communicate over the noise of a hostile and demonizing press and the denigrating statements of Democratic politicians. One can’t question someone’s views or positions without delving into his motives and patriotism. (E.g., “Sir, if you know the idea is patently fraudulent, stupid, and costly, why are you for it?”) Note that three of the four instances of “demonization” are correct identifications of Obama’s demonstrable agenda; certainly not examples of Democratic name-calling.
The problem is that this kind of vilification and over-the-top rhetoric closes the door to the possibility of compromise. It undermines democratic deliberation. It prevents learning –- since, after all, why should we listen to a “fascist,” or a “socialist,” or a “right-wing nut,” or a left-wing nut”? (Laughter.)
The door was closed to compromise, except to anyone willing to compromise his principles to pass a bill that nationalized one-sixth of the American economy and declared that the lives and wealth of Americans are now federal property, to be managed and disposed of at a bureaucrat’s whim. “Democratic deliberation” is merely the triumph of the gang with the loudest mob and best press; the Founders knew that when they established a republic. And, we have been assaulted with the exhortations of fascists and socialists in and out of government for two years now. Note, also, how Obama lumps together “right-wing nuts” and “left-wing nuts,” as though no one could or should discern the difference between someone arguing for limited government and someone advocating unlimited government. This is vilification by equivocation.
He made one salient observation in the course of his address, and it may or may not be based on fact:
But what troubles me is when I hear people say that all of government is inherently bad. One of my favorite signs during the health care debate was somebody who said, “Keep Your Government Hands Out Of My Medicare” — (laughter) — which is essentially saying “Keep Government Out Of My Government-Run Health Care Plan.” (Laughter.)
Obama might have been more troubled were the Tea Parties dominated by anti-government anarchists, which they were not. And, I don’t know if such a sign was ever displayed at a Tea Party. If one was, it is telling that he should choose that one to mock, and not any other sign that was non-contradictory, such as “Keep the Change, I’ll keep My Freedom.” That the audience laughed at his punch line is also telling. It would have laughed, also, had he mocked Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty, or give me death!” Obama did not have a “tough room” that rejected his humor, but rather a crowd friendly to him and to his policies.
In his address, Obama called for the abandonment of “over-the-top rhetoric” in political debate. What debate? From his perspective, the expansion of federal power over virtually every aspect of American life, except, perhaps, in weaving AIDS doilies, is a foregone conclusion. He is of the same mentality as those global-warming believers who proclaimed that the “science is settled” and would the deniers please be so kind as to shut up? “Civility,” to Obama and his sycophants in Congress and the MSM, means that the looted victims should just concede defeat, go quietly away and submit to extortion and robbery without much protest. “Drop your written complaints in the customer suggestion box as you go out, please.”
The trump card hidden up Obama’s sleeve, behind his notion of “debate,” is force. If he loses the “debate,” out will come the mandate.
It would be an error to think that Obama does not understand the First Amendment, which reads:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
There are six key prohibitions in it one could easily argue he has violated himself, one after the other, or is capable of violating. It would be easy to dismiss his power-lust and desire to empower Congress beyond even the most specious argument for federal authority as simple misunderstanding or plain ignorance. Actions speak louder than words, if the actions complement the words. But there is an obvious disconnect between Obama’s words and his actions to date, a dichotomy which is consciously consistent with his desire to establish the state as the end-all and be-all of American life. He praises freedom, but enacts and sanctions slavery. It’s not a very subtle or skillful instance of rhetorical legerdemain, and more men should call him on it. He has proven that he is a compulsive liar.
What one must come to grips with is his deliberate orchestration of the usurpation of the Constitution with the connivance of a willing Congress. For years, the man taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago. At one time, he must have had the Constitution, relevant documents, and case histories memorized. He knows what he is doing. He intends to conquer.
His University of Michigan address is rich with warning. And what I regard as particularly frightening is how Obama was greeted by a member of the crowd. It was reminiscent of the relationship between evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson and her mobs of adorers.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you!
THE PRESIDENT: I love you back. (Laughter.)
In all fairness, I have observed the same phenomenon between Sarah Palin and her admirers.
Moreover, he would not have been able to get away with it had he any real opposition to his aggressive campaign against American freedom — that is, opposition by a party that took its name literally and seriously. But, he doesn’t expect much in the way of opposition from the Republicans. He noted only three instances in his address of Republican presidents who advocated government programs, when he could have cited multiple dozens of other instances of “bipartisan“ collaboration in the establishment of the welfare state and federal controls, (He failed to credit George W. Bush with signing into law the expansion of unfunded Medicare prescription drug entitlements.)
Picture Thomas Jefferson in a debate with Obama. The contrast could not be more stark. Posed with constitutional questions from a moderator, Jefferson, who confessed to not being much of a public speaker, still would have been able to answer eloquently, forcefully, credibly, and memorably without the aid of notes, rehearsed answers, or teleprompters. That was the caliber of man and mind that founded the United States.
Obama would have to draw on his meager intellectual resources and the necessity to embellish his answers with dissembling ambiguity to participate in the debate. He would stumble badly. All he would project in the way of certitude is his belief in the welfare state and the authority of government to impose and govern it.
If truth be said, it is a man of Jefferson’s caliber and stature he would like to see ostracized. Men of Jefferson’s mettle are anathemas to him and his allies. I do not think Harvard, Yale, or the University of Michigan are producing them, so he has little to worry about. At least, such men are not going into politics.
However, how has Obama violated the First Amendment? Let us count the ways.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion……
Are an unthinking advocacy of and an unreasoning belief in the welfare state symptoms of a religion? Can the absence of evidence of a supreme deity (whatever its name) be legitimately paired with the absence of evidence of the “truth” of the welfare state? Could welfare statism be treated as a state religion? Has it actually been established?
Benito Mussolini proclaimed: “Fascism is a religion. The twentieth century will be known in history as the century of Fascism.” Would Obama dare contradict Mussolini’s assertion that the “keystone of the Fascist doctrine is its conception of the State, of its essence, its functions, and its aims. For Fascism the State is absolute, individuals and groups relative.” How would he gloss over Mussolini’s dictum, “All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state,” in an attempt to make his words sound like a pæan to liberty and homage to the Founders?
Obama’s belief in the welfare state and government power has permitted him to caution, in words dulcified by his humor, but openly and with the approval of 92,000 listeners in the University of Michigan stadium, that criticism and opposition to his agenda are intolerable and that he could be persuaded to do something about it.
The belief in the “rightness” or “truth” of the welfare state is of the same species of belief as that about God or a supreme “intelligent designer.” It is simply a truism, never to be questioned, only accepted on faith as infallible and inspired. The “greatest good for the greatest number,” in a welfare state, however and historically, always proves to be the greatest misery for the greatest number. But, belief in the welfare state is “true faith.” Belief in it is reason- and evidence-proof. Both parties adhere to the belief. Believers simply dismiss reason and the evidence of its destructiveness. It is a genuine “article of faith,” infallible and beyond doubt. The alleged efficacy of the welfare state as a vehicle for “social justice” is a revealed supernatural verity.
Revealed by whom? By the works of Auguste Comte, Karl Marx, Lenin, and countless other humanitarians. Their opposite numbers are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Their vicars on earth can be represented by Stalin, Mao, the Khmer Rouge, and Hitler. What difference should it make to a man if he is slain with a Christian metropolitan, an Islamic scimitar, or by all 906 pages of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 dropped on his head? (That is the official page count.)
…or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….
Neither Obama nor Congress has yet prohibited the free exercise of anyone’s religion. If welfare statism can be called a religion, Obama and Congress (and their predecessors) have freely exercised it, and taxed all other denominations to support it. Better informed students of American history think we got away from this kind of thing with the Declaration of Independence.
…or abridging the freedom of speech….
The most recent abridgement of freedom of speech, the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Law, was dealt a serious blow by the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Citizens United case. But the Federal Election Commission has not been dissolved and it retains some power to decide who may and may not exercise speech during election campaigns.
…or of the press….
The traditional press, together with broadcast news, has not needed to be controlled or censored by the government. With few exceptions, and with a variety of passions, the MSM have for decades largely endorsed the federal government’s expansion of power. The new “press” is the Internet, and Cass Sunstein, head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, and others in the Obama administration, are devising rationales and ways to control this new press, lately through the net neutrality scam. They’re still pondering how to suppress speech without calling it censorship.
…or the right of the people peaceably to assemble….
The people peaceably assembled, repeatedly, in countless cities and towns, for over a year. The only incidents of violence were when these assemblies were invaded or infiltrated by those with malicious intent, or with the Saul Alinskyite purpose of discrediting the assemblies. These incidents were instigated at the behest of organizations in alliance with the Democratic Party, which hired proxies to do what it could not do publicly.
…and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Countless emails, letters, faxes, literal petitions, and telephone voice messages from American citizens deluged members of Congress protesting the contents, aim, and scale of ObamaCare. To no avail. State lawsuits are now being filed against the federal government for Congressional over-reach and for violation of states’ rights. Doubtless some of these and private suits will wend their way to the Supreme Court. But, what good is the liberty to petition the government to redress grievances, when an authoritarian regime can ignore the petitions and dismiss the grievances as “racist,” “homophobic,” “Nazi,” or “anti-government”? Or simply because it doesn’t wish to recognize them?
To be sure, “civility” requires courtesy and the premise that issues can be discussed or debated without resorting to ad hominem and ridicule. It does not necessarily imply “respect” for an opponent’s views, but rather disagreement with the fundamentals of those views, and a willingness to attempt persuasion by way of refutation. It also requires an esteem, if not for his views, then at least for an opponent’s honesty, intelligence, and standing in his field.
“Disagreement ” with the positions and arguments of opponents of ObamaCare has been and continues to be delinquent in the actions and statements of Obama and the Democrats. In its place is an elitist, patronizing hubris that does not deign to recognize dissension.
Esteem in civility has not been accorded the Republicans, the Tea Party, and the American electorate at any step in the pursuit of Obama’s and Congress’s legislative agenda. Given all the lies, deceit, machinations, behind-closed-doors deal-making and horse-trading, bribery, billions in pork, scabrous arrogance, ridicule, derogatory statements, vilification, demonization, and brazen disregard for the Constitution and individual rights and a concomitant indifference to the consequences that have marked Obama’s administration and Congress’s behavior, Obama has no right to lecture anyone on the subject of “civility.”
Because “civility,” to him, is just another way to silence his opposition. He may speak loudly and distinctly; he expects the rest of us to mutter, sotto voce, “But, it‘s wrong!”