03 September 2010

The Result of an Unexamined Life

There are plenty of times when things happen which could not be predicted beforehand. Then there are times when evidence exists which can indicate the general path of things, like the future track of a tropical storm, for instance. Given such evidence, one should be able to guess roughly what may happen in the future. Such evidence was available with regard to the Obama presidency during the campaign. That so much of it was purposely ignored is directly related to how disillusioned much of the electorate is with his administration now .

One such piece of evidence is Mr. Obama's belief that wealth should be redistributed based on government policy. From the famous - or infamous - Joe the Plummer exchange, where then candidate Obama claimed that spreading the wealth around is the right thing to do, one might logically assume that he would pursue policies to do just that. For some reason, many chose to ignore candidate Obama's off teleprompter moment and bought his hope-and-change vagueness instead. That was a mistake.

Less than two years into the Obama presidency, the county has massive government intervention into virtually all corners of industry and life. Not only did we receive a 2,000+ page health insurance mandate bill, but Mr. Obama recess-appointed an avowed wealth-redistributor, Donald Berwick, to head Medicare. Money has been redistributed to car companies (GM and Chrysler) and to individuals to entice them to buy cars (cash for clunkers). Money has been redistributed to too-big-to-fail quasi-governmental loan agencies (Fannie and Freddy) and individual mortgage holders (mortgage modification). All of that money comes out of regular, responsible American pockets at some point - either now or in the future. While the specifics might not have been predictable, the general redistributional drift certainly was if the off-teleprompter words of then candidate Obama's had been taken as his worldview.

It could have also been foreseen that Mr. Obama would verbally twist and turn, sometimes almost painfully, to avoid taking a strong, public stance on matters. Mr. Obama's record of voting "present" while in the Illinois State House is well documented. It is therefore no surprise that he would punt the particulars of policy matters so that he does not have to be tied up in deciding the details. This is true for the "stimulus" and health insurance reform, where Mr. Obama left the details to Congress. A more direct instance is his lack-of-stance on the so called "Ground Zero mosque." Mr. Obama has said that it is legal for the building to be built - a point which is not disputed. But he now refuses to take a stand on the propriety of building it. What's more, the matter is too big and has too many players for him to simply have a "beer summit" so that he can elucidate parties in a teachable moment and move on. So he ducks. This kind of tendency was also predictable.

Lastly, there is the illusion that Mr. Obama would be a president for all of the people. Then candidate Obama said that he would be a post-partisan president, a post-racial president; he would bring a new politics to Washington and would work with all interested parties. He even promised that his administration would be the most transparent, that unprecedented access would be afforded to the electorate. But this was not meant to be. Whereas Mr. Obama's campaign rhetoric seemed pivot on an inclusive "we", his history - and now most especially his speeches - revolve around the first person singular, "I". Mr. Obama has turned out to be an unprecedentedly first person singular president. But once again, this was predictable. Any man who writes two autobiographies (or self-focused books) before turning fifty should be suspected of thinking far too much of himself.

Mr. Obama's redistributive urge, his avoidance of particulars, and his self-centeredness were all evident while he campaigned for the office he now holds. And this very short list is not exhaustive; there are more aspects - some much more incendiary - which were clearly evident as well. The point here, however, is that he was able to sell the electorate a bill of goods which were not backed up by the evidence, they were rather only backed up by his teleprompted words. While there is danger in pulling out the microscope on political candidates, where flaws will certainly be found and may be needlessly magnified, getting the general drift, the philosophical underpinning, of a candidate is vital. If the candidacy and early presidency of Mr. Obama can teach us anything about how we go about evaluating our politicians, it is that we should look at the whole man, not just the teleprompted, sculpted words that flow melodiously from his mouth.


Anonymous said...

No offense meant but critical thinking is sorely lacking in the public school system.

Bob M. said...

No offense taken; I tend to agree.