I ended my July 5th, 2009 commentary, “Parsing Obama,” with reference to a remark made by Charles Krauthammer in the Washington Post, that, to understand President Barack Obama, one must pay attention to what he does, not to what he says.
On March 23 we paid attention to what he both said and did: he conscripted the medical and insurance fields into government service, and claimed he looked up into the sky and saw no asteroids hurtling toward the earth as punishment for enacting such a law. It was an “historic event” that he proved did not trigger the wrath of nature. Such flippant mockery of the opponents of ObamaCare is easy to understand, and the “historic event’ will be another day that will live in infamy.
Trying to shame a flippant Obama over his lies, posturing, and political subterfuge is as futile as throwing spitballs at a charging rhino, or shooting rubber bands at a provoked bull. He isn’t going to be stopped. He intends to knock you down and gore you until you move no more, and for extra measure, toss you into the air a few times to make sure you‘re no longer a threat or a provocation. His collectivist soul and commitment to subduing America requires that he be deaf to public opposition to his agenda and heedless of the consequences of bringing it to implementation. This requires the habitual and ultimately ingrained psychological insulation adopted by all power-lusters and dictators. They don’t like being contradicted, questioned, or doubted.
It is akin to the psycho-epistemological state of James Taggart in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, who introduces himself with an impatient, “Don’t bother me, don’t bother me, don’t bother me.” As it is with Taggart, reality is Obama’s enemy; wishing seems to make it go away, and if there are unfortunate consequences of that action, they will fall on other people, not on him.
In an excellent analysis of Obama’s habitual pragmatism, Doug Reich on The Rational Capitalist site ably parses the workings of the mind of a pragmatist when dealing with unwelcome questions and issues. It was not Mr. Reich’s purpose, but his essay doesn’t address the question of why an individual would adopt such a practice, for example, of Obama’s evident hostility for anything that threatens to contradict his own ideological premises. Examining Obama’s 17-minute “answer” to a simple question about the wisdom of raising taxes, Obama oscillated between using words, on one hand, as weapons, and on the other, as excelsior.
Obama does not speak so much “Newspeak” as he does “No Speak.” His delivery style, in which he cannot or will not speak truthfully in generalities, and when faced with public questions, can be characterized as tossing a hundred tightly crumpled pieces of paper into a waste basket, and leaving listeners to retrieve them, flatten them out, and piece them together, if possible, into a coherent whole.
As a pragmatic policy, it is one he is comfortable with. But it doesn’t mean that it is unintentional, either. It is his preferred way of fending off ideas and words that imperil his epistemology and metaphysics. He is probably certain that a basketball will go through a hoop and that a golf ball will land on the green somewhere. But he cannot be certain of much else. More importantly, certainty isn’t crucial to him. Things like economics, finance, market forces, individual rights, and certainly the language of the Constitution are beyond his grasp because he chooses them to be.
He is not the only president to adopt a policy of public and personal obfuscation (Ayn Rand called it “blanking out“); Republican and Democratic ones honed the practice over generations. Obama is only the latest but crudest practitioner of it.
For example, an Associated Press report reveals that Islam and jihad are no longer going to be acceptable subjects in reviewing national security strategy.
President Barack Obama’s advisers plan to remove terms such as “Islamic radicalism” from a document outlining national security strategy and will use the new version to emphasize that the U.S. does not view Muslim nations through the lens of terrorism, counterterrorism officials say….
The revisions are part of a larger effort about which the White House talks openly, one that seeks to change not just how the U.S. talks to Muslim nations, but also what it talks to them about, from health care and science to business startups and education. That shift away from terrorism has been building for a year, since Obama went to Cairo and promised a “new beginning” in the relationship between the U.S. and the Muslim world. The White House believes the previous administration based that relationship entirely on fighting terrorism and winning the war of ideas.
Obama is certainly wrong about Bush’s strategy. But note that excising all terms referring to Islamic terrorism and jihad will accomplish Obama’s goal of de-demonizing Islam, terrorism, and jihad, as though doing so will render them non-existent and therefore unrelated to national security. This is putting on the proverbial rose-colored glasses, but a pair that can filter out the guns, bombs, 9/11, Iran’s nuclear fuel program, and Islam’s decades-old war against the West.
He doesn’t wish these things to have any substance. His solution is to banish any terms that serve as referents to them. Is this indicative of a hostility towards his own country, of a desire to see it vanquished by Islamists? Yes, because he would not banish the terms if he did not concede, in some dark corner of his consciousness, that their referents existed. He would rather paste a smiley face on the head of a cobra. And if the cobra strikes Americans again, it will be their fault for antagonizing it.
Another example of Obama’s mockery of words that mean something — and not just anything — was reported in the Washington Examiner. Wading into criticisms from the press that reported his declining poll numbers and that the country is “divided” on ObamaCare, he went stand-up comic:
“Can you imagine if some of these reporters were working on a farm?” Obama asked. “You planted some seeds, and they came out the next day, and they looked, and nothing’s happened! (Laughter and applause.) There’s no crop! We’re going to starve! Oh, no! (Applause.) It’s a disaster! (Laughter.)”
Reality will have the last laugh. The economic consequences of the legislation he signed into law will be catastrophic. He knows it, as well as do Speaker Pelosi, Senator Reid, and every politician who voted for it. Yet, it may seem odd that he is still campaigning for it. That is because he must overcome Americans’ loyalty to reality.
In another twisting of words, Obama claimed that without “reforming” health care, “this country was going to go bankrupt.” But, isn’t it already? What are trillion dollar government debts, with no way to even service the debt except to confiscate more lives and wealth, but a sign of bankruptcy? He must have had a sneak peek at the Director of the Congressional Budget Office’s blog notice that:
Under current law, the federal budget is on an unsustainable path, because federal debt will continue to grow much faster than the economy over the long run.
But Obama is claiming that astronomical federal spending programs on ObamaCare and everything else would make the federal budget sustainable. Is this mere pragmatism, or evidence for a contempt for the truth?
Harry Smith of CBS spent some time with Obama at the White House, and asked him what he thought of what was being said about him.
“I’ve been listening to talk radio, the kindest of terms is a socialist, worst of which I’ve heard is you called a Nazi, are you aware of the level of enmity that crosses the airwaves about you?” asked Smith.
“Well I think that when you listen to Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck, it’s pretty apparent, but keep in mind that there have been periods in American history where this kind of vitriol comes out,” said Obama. “It happens often when you’ve got an economy that is making people more anxious, but that’s not the vast majority of Americans. I think vast majority of Americans know that we’re trying hard. I want what’s best for the country. They may disagree on certain policy issues but I didn’t buy all the hype right after inauguration where everybody was only saying nice things about me and I don’t get too worried when things aren’t going as well because I know that, over time, these things turn.
It may be comforting to know that at least Harry Smith listens to the enemy, but one must question his stock of political knowledge; even a National Socialist would wonder why he makes a distinction between the terms socialist and Nazi; because a Nazi is a socialist and a socialist is a Nazi, for after all, it‘s just a matter of the nature and scope of government controls. He then prompts Obama to agree about the “level of enmity that crosses the airwaves” about the President, the key term being enmity. Not about disagreement, or opposition, or even stance, either of which might have elicited a different response from Obama. Smith acted as Obama’s walking, talking teleprompter.
Obama’s first sentence falls in line with Smith’s prompting. He complements enmity with “this kind of vitriol,” charging popular talk show hosts Limbaugh and Beck with inflammatory, violence-inciting speech, but, more importantly, insinuating, as many liberal pundits and politicians have, that such speech naturally triggers violence.
Such speech “happens often when you’ve got an economy that is making people more anxious.” So, it’s nothing important, anxiety about the future of the country, Americans worried about the future of their freedom and livelihoods, that’s all just a knee-jerk response to the prospect of more taxes, controls and regulations, all the destruction that seems to be ahead of them because of Obama’s and his predecessors’ economic policies — that’s to be expected. Obama may as well have suggested that Americans take a sedative and stop making so much noise.
Oblivious or indifferent to polls conducted by friendly and opposition pollsters alike, Obama then claims that it’s just a minority of Americans making all the noise, they’re just the wingnuts and the lunatic fringe, they can be dismissed, because other Americans understand that he’s “trying hard.” “I want what’s best for the country.” Which is what? What he promised during his campaign and has promised while in office all the while, in sugary, not so hard to decipher rhetoric, a command economy that is essentially socialistic with fascist trappings.
“They may disagree on certain policy issues” — but not on his whole agenda? Not on his push to force Americans to buy insurance, or to enslave the medical profession, or to take over one-sixth of the economy, or to usurp the Constitution and toss it into an Orwellian memory hole?. Pish! Stuff and nonsense! Mere details!
A moment later Obama remarks: “I do think that everybody has a responsibility — Democrats or Republicans — to tone down some of this rhetoric, some of these comments” — or else what? What is it about the “tone” that bothers him and his Democratic allies? And why is it that Democrats can exhibit “tone,” but not their opponents, lest they be accused of “hatefulness”? Hate is an emotional response to something one fears. One of its contributing emotions is anger. And what is it that his critics and enemies are angry about?
Why would Obama believe that such hatefulness and anger are undeserved — unless he believed that he was committing treason, but that it was okay, because others were complicit in the treason, so it couldn’t be a crime, it‘s just politics, it‘s just “community organizing.” It is only the “tone” he hears, not the ideational content of that tone. That, he refuses to acknowledge; his self-induced insulation protects him from it.
So, who is it that is also imbued with hatefulness and anger, and whose actions precipitated deserved reciprocation?
Being hateful and angry about political policies that are asphyxiating freedom, as The Washington Post’s Michael Gerson sneers, is not “political maturity.” Grow up, Americans. This is a democracy, not a republic that ensures the protection of rights against majorities or minorities, against a real or imaginary “will of the people.” Take your medicine and stop complaining.
George Orwell, in an essay appended to his dystopian novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, remarks that:
Prerevolutionary literature could only be subjected [by government lexicographers] to ideological translation — that is, alteration in sense as well as language. Take for example the well-known passage from the Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among men, deriving their powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of Government becomes destructive of those ends, it is the right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government.
It would have been quite impossible to render this into Newspeak while keeping to the sense of the original. The nearest one could come to doing so would be to swallow the whole passage up in the single word crimethink. A full translation could only be an ideological translation, whereby Jefferson’s words would be changed into a panegyric on absolute government.
And it is absolute government that Obama and Congress are promoting, enacting, and imposing on what is left of the American republic — but calling it a paradise of “social justice.” And saying that it is a “social crime” to think otherwise. Beneath the patina of Obama’s words as weapons and the excelsior of his mockery lies a leaden malice that dares not show its face — for his country, for Americans, for reason.
*“The Principles of Newspeak“ in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four: Text, Sources, Criticism, 1963. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (1982 edition), pp. 204-205.