Obama's Liberal Arrogance Will Be His Undoing
by Jonah Goldberg
The most remarkable, or certainly the least remarked on, aspect of Barack Obama's first 100 days has been the infectious arrogance of his presidency. There's no denying that this is liberalism's greatest opportunity for wish fulfillment since at least 1964. But to listen to Democrats, the only check on their ambition is the limit of their imaginations. "The world has changed," Sen. Charles Schumer of New York proclaimed on MSNBC. "The old Reagan philosophy that served them well politically from 1980 to about 2004 and 2006 is over. But the hard right, which still believes ... (in) traditional-values kind of arguments and strong foreign policy, all that is over."
Right. "Family values" and "strong foreign policy" belong next to the "free silver" movement in the lexicon of dead political causes. No doubt Schumer was employing the kind of simplified shorthand one uses when everyone in the room already agrees with you. He can be forgiven for mistaking an MSNBC studio for such a milieu, but it seemed not to dawn on him that anybody watching might see it differently.
When George W. Bush was in office, we heard constantly about the poisonous nature of American polarization. For example, Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg came out with a book arguing that "our nation's political landscape is now divided more deeply and more evenly than perhaps ever before." One can charitably say this was abject nonsense. Evenly divided? Maybe. But more deeply? Feh.
During the Civil War, the political landscape was so deeply divided that 600,000 Americans died. During the 1930s, labor strife and revolutionary ardor threatened the stability of the republic. In the 1960s, political assassinations, riots and bombings punctuated our political discourse.
It says something about the relationship of liberals to political power that they can overlook domestic dissent when they're at the wheel. When the GOP is in office, America is seen as hopelessly divided because dissent is the highest form of patriotism. When Democrats are in charge, the Frank Riches suddenly declare the culture war over and dismiss dissent as the scary work of the sort of cranks Obama's Department of Homeland Security needs to monitor.
If liberals thought so fondly of social peace and consensus, they would look more favorably on the 1920s and 1950s. Instead, their political idylls are the tumultuous '30s and '60s, when liberalism, if not necessarily liberals, rode high in the saddle.
Sure, America was divided under Bush. And it's still divided under Obama (just look at the recent Minnesota Senate race and the New York congressional special election). According to the polls, America is a bit less divided under Obama than it was at the end of Bush's first 100 days. But not as much less as you would expect, given Obama's victory margin and the rally-around-the-president effect of the financial crisis (not to mention the disarray of the GOP).
Meanwhile, circulation for the conservative National Review (where I work) is soaring. More people watch Fox News (where I am a contributor) in prime time than watch CNN and MSNBC combined. The "tea parties" may not have been as big as your typical union-organized "spontaneous" demonstration, but they were far more significant than any protests this early in Bush's tenure. And yet, according to Democrats and liberal pundits, America is enjoying unprecedented unity, and conservatives are going the way of the dodo.
Obama has surely helped set the tone for the unfolding riot of liberal hubris. In his effort to reprise the sort of expansion of liberal power we saw in the '30s and '60s, Obama has -- without a whiff of self-doubt -- committed America to $6.5 trillion in extra debt, $65 billion for each of his first 100 days, and that's based on an impossibly rosy forecast of the economy. No wonder congressional Democrats clamor to take over corporations, tax the air we breathe and set wages for everybody.
On social issues such as abortion and embryonic stem cell research, Obama has proved to be, if anything, more of a left-wing culture warrior than Bush was a right-wing one. All the while, Obama transmogrifies his principled opponents into straw-man ideologues while preening about his own humble pragmatism. For him, bipartisanship is defined as shutting up and getting in line.
I'm not arguing that conservatives are poised to make some miraculous comeback. They're not. But American politics didn't come to an end with Obama's election, and nothing in politics breeds corrective antibodies more quickly than overreaching arrogance. And by that measure, Obama's first 100 days have been a huge down payment on the inevitable correction to come.
A Hundred Days of Media Love
There's something very curious -- even laughable -- about watching the media assemble to offer President Obama a grade after the first 100 days. They weren't exactly a team of dispassionate scientists in a lab. They continue to be what they've been all along -- a rolling gaggle of Obama cheerleaders -- only before it was a campaign, and now it's an administration. So now they're assessing whether their awe-inspiring historic candidate still glows with the luster of victory. Hmm ... let's see. They applied the luster, they boasted of the luster, and you can bet your bottom dollar they'll continue doing both.
Remember Chris Matthews, and apply his pre-inauguration pledge across the media: "I want to do everything I can to make this thing work, this new presidency work."
Three months have made zero difference in the major media's ardor. They were head over heels in love on Jan. 20, and they're still head over heels in love on April 29. Just as before, Obama is automatically destined for historical greatness: "Obama's start has been the most impressive of any president since FDR," crowed Time magazine. One can also say, "Obama has been the most socialist since FDR."
Time ran a long column of puffery from Joe Klein, who adored Obama's radical change from government-asphyxiating Reaganism and his long view of the sweep of history, as opposed to our "quick-fix, sugar-rush, attention-deficit society of the postmodern age." Klein declared, "The legislative achievements have been stupendous -- the $789-stimulus bill, the budget plan that is still being hammered out (and may, ultimately, include the next landmark safety-net program, universal health insurance)."
"Stupendous." That's what socialists think. Conservatives call it horrendous. You can quickly see whose side the media favor -- the multiplication of "landmark safety nets" of socialism, from the government takeover of health care to the imposition of onerous global-warming taxes.
Pirates, armed guards and “civilized” popinjays: “Certainly there are non-lethal ways to fight pirates, but as Gen. Petraeus said the other day, and I’m paraphrasing, I wouldn’t want to be on a water cannon when the guy at the other end has an RPG. Fighting off pirates requires resistance, and resistance requires at least equality in firepower. The whole point is to make piracy less and less attractive. Right now the pirates pick a target, board it and name their ransom. The risk to reward ratio is so low they won’t consider returning to their former life. One way to help them make such a decision more readily is to raise that reward-to-risk ratio to a level that it is no longer attractive. Seems to me armed ships along with military intervention are certainly a good way to do that.”
Arlen Specter's betrayal: "Sen. Arlen Specter's switch to the Democratic Party has implications on a personal and national scale. For Pennsylvanians, who must decide who will represent us in the U.S. Senate next year, the stakes are personal. A central question will be whether Mr. Specter can be trusted on anything. In recent weeks, Mr. Specter has made numerous statements about how important it is to deny Democrats the 60th seat in the U.S. Senate and how he intended to remain a Republican to prevent one-party dominance in Washington. What Pennsylvanians have to ask themselves now is whether Mr. Specter is, in fact, devoted to any principle other than his own re-election. On that question, there is much evidence. Mr. Specter began his political career as a Democrat, switched to the Republican side out of political convenience and has switched back for the same reason. On issue after issue, he has changed his position over the years to benefit his political calculations. The most recent example is card check, which denies workers a secret ballot in labor-union elections. First Mr. Specter supported it, then he opposed it when faced with Republican primary opposition, and now, who knows? That's something Pennsylvania Democrats will have to contend with. Do they really want to nominate someone who will switch his principles on a dime?"
How to send unionists bankrupt: Sell them a failed company: "To avoid a bankruptcy of Chrysler LLC at the end of the week, the Obama administration is trying to push through a deal that gives the automaker's unions majority ownership - a deal that could blow up if the company's lenders reject it. The pending proposal for Chrysler eventually would give the United Autoworkers Union a 55 percent stake in the company. That would exceed even the 35 percent share eventually given to Fiat, Chrysler's purported partner whose agreement to the deal will be critical if the company is to stay afloat. Chrysler's secured bank lenders would get no more than a 10 percent stake along with $2 billion in cash to expunge nearly $7 billion in debt. Mr. Welch said the auto companies would be better off getting out from under government control and going bankrupt. They would be able to get a fresh start as new companies that would be free of debt and free of union constraints that have hobbled the American car companies and made them uncompetitive with foreign manufacturers. Giving the union control of the company "seems fitting since the unions are one of the principal reasons why Chrysler went broke. They destroyed it and now they're getting the spoils," said Peter Schiff, president of Euro Pacific Capital."
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena
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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)