Because I’m sick today I am going to reprint a series by one of my favourites, Thomas Sowell.
Many voters will be comparing Mitt Romney with Barack Obama between now and election day. But what might be even more revealing would be comparing Obama with Obama. There is a big contrast between Obama based on his rhetoric (“Obama 1”) and Obama based on his record (“Obama 2”).
For example, during the 2008 election campaign, Obama 1 spoke of “opening up and creating more transparency in government,” so that government spending plans would be posted on the Internet for days before they passed into legislation. After he was elected president, Obama said, “My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government.”
This Obama 1 sounds like a very good fellow. No wonder so many people voted for him.
But then there is Obama 2. He passed a mammoth ObamaCare bill so fast that even members of Congress didn’t have time to read it, much less the general public. It was by no means posted on the Internet for days before the vote, as promised.
The Constitution of the United States requires transparency as well. When people are nominated by a President to become Cabinet members, the Constitution requires that they be confirmed by the Senate before they can take office, so that facts about them can become known before they are given the powers of their offices.
Although President Obama complied with this requirement when he appointed Cabinet members, he also made other appointments to powerful positions created by Executive Orders — people aptly called “czars” for the vast, unchecked powers they wielded, in some cases greater than the powers exercised by Cabinet members.
These “czars” never had to be confirmed by the Senate, and so had no public vetting before acquiring their powers. We had unknown and unaccountable rulers placed over us.
Another aspect of transparency was the Constitution’s requirement that Congress pass a budget every year. The Democratically controlled Senate during the Obama administration has not passed a budget for three consecutive years.
Passing a budget makes the administration tell the public what it will pay for, what it will have to cut to reduce the deficit — and how big the deficit will be if they don’t cut anything. By not even passing a budget, Obama 2 and his party are in effect saying to the public, “It is none of your business.” Transparency?
In his oath of office, Barack Obama swore to see that the laws are faithfully executed, as all Presidents do. But that was Obama 1. Once in the White House, Obama 2 proceeded to explicitly waive the enforcement of laws he didn’t agree with.
The immigration laws are a classic example. Failing to get Congress to pass some version of amnesty, Obama 2 simply issued an Executive Order exempting certain classes of illegal immigrants from the immigration laws on the books.
Too many people have gotten sucked into a discussion of whether it is a good or a bad thing for people brought into the country as children to be exempted. But the whole reason for Constitutional government is to have all three branches of government agree on what the laws of the land shall be.
Obama 2 has decided instead that if Congress doesn’t do what he wants, he will do it by himself through Executive Orders.
If any President can unilaterally change the law, we are not likely to have the same freedom under rule by presidential fiat as under Constitutional government. This is especially dangerous in a President’s second term, when he need no longer have to consider what the voters want. With a couple more Supreme Court appointments he can permanently change the very nature of American government.
One of the most dangerous examples of a lack of transparency was inadvertently revealed last March when Obama 2, unaware that a microphone was on, told Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that, after he is reelected, and never has to face the voters again, he will have the “flexibility” to make a deal with Russia on missile defense systems.
In other words, Obama will be able to make a deal with a country that has been America’s most implacable and most formidable adversary for more than half a century — a deal he couldn’t make if the voters knew about it before the election. Think about that chilling prospect, and what it reveals about the real Obama.
Nowhere is the contrast between Barack Obama, as defined by his rhetoric (“Obama 1”) and Barack Obama as defined by his actions (“Obama 2”) greater than in his foreign policy — and especially his policy toward Israel.
What if we put aside Barack Obama’s rhetoric, and instead look exclusively at his documented record over a period of decades, up to and including the present?
The first thing that is most striking about that record is the long string of his mentors and allies who were marked by hatred of the United States, and a vision of the world in which the white, Western nations have become prosperous by oppressing and exploiting the non-white, non-Western nations.
The person most people have heard of who matched that description has been Jeremiah Wright, whose church Barack Obama attended for 20 years, and was still attending when he began his campaign for the presidency. But Jeremiah Wright was just one in a series of mentors and allies with a similar vision and a similar visceral hostility to the West.
Barack Obama was virtually marinated in that vision from childhood. His mother clashed with her Indonesian husband when he began to move away from his earlier anti-Western radicalism and to work with Western businesses investing in Indonesia.
As a counterweight to whatever ideological influence her Indonesian husband might have on her son, she extolled the virtues of his absent Kenyan father, who remained a doctrinaire, anti-Western socialist to the end.
After Barack Obama was sent back to Hawaii to live with his grandparents at age ten, his grandfather introduced him to a black man named Frank Marshall Davis, who had a long career of anti-American, anti-white propaganda that included a stint as a member of the Communist Party. Davis was Obama’s mentor on race throughout his adolescent years, until Obama left for college.
The progression of such mentors and like-minded contemporaries continued as Obama went through Occidental College, Columbia University and the Harvard Law School.
These included Professor Edward Said at Columbia, a spokesman for Palestinian terrorists, and Professor Derrick Bell at the Harvard Law School. Bell was an advocate of so-called “critical race theory” — an uncritical mishmash of notions by a man who said that he saw his role as deliberately annoying white people. Barack Obama literally embraced Professor Bell at a public gathering.
After Obama went out into the world and worked for a time in a private business, he regarded himself as being, in his own words, “a spy behind enemy lines.”
Later, when he began his political career by running for state office in Illinois, his campaign began with a fundraiser in the home of Bill Ayers, who had been a domestic terrorist who planted bombs in public places, including the Pentagon.
When this association was later revealed, Obama said that he was still a child during Ayers’ years as a terrorist. But Obama was by no means still a child when Ayers defended his years of terrorism in a statement that appeared in the New York Times — ironically, on September 11, 2001.
This is not the Barack Obama that most voters saw and elected President of the United States in 2008. What they saw was a carefully crafted image of a bright, articulate, energetic and genial fellow who would heal our racial and partisan divides. His likability was high and remained so, even after many became disappointed with his policies.
His geniality has carried him over many rough spots. But have you ever heard of a grumpy confidence man? Geniality is a prerequisite for the job.
What many regard as a failure of Obama’s foreign policy, especially in the Middle East, may well be one of his biggest successes. His desire to redistribute wealth domestically is part of a larger ideological vision that includes a redistribution of power internationally.
Obama has long said that the United States plays too large a role internationally. His policies suggest that Islamic countries need a larger role. The troubling question is whether he still sees his own role as “a spy behind enemy lines” in the White House.
Much puzzling behavior by Barack Obama falls into place when we go behind the image that he projects (“Obama 1”) to the factual reality of the man’s whole life and thrust (“Obama 2”).
Obama himself is well aware of the nature and importance of his image. In his own words, “I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views.” An 18th century philosopher put the matter bluntly: “When I speak, I put on a mask. When I act, I am forced to take it off.”
Many of Barack Obama’s actions as President of the United States reflect neither political expediency nor an attempt to promote the best interests of the American people. Take, for example, his bowing low from the waist to foreign leaders.
No President of the United States had ever done that before. It gained Obama nothing with the voters, nor was there any reason to think that he expected it to. Why then did he do it?
What did it accomplish? It brought the United States down a peg, in the eyes of the world, something that he has sought to do in many other ways.
These bows were perfectly consistent with his view of a maldistribution of power and prestige internationally, just as his domestic agenda reflects a felt need for a redistribution of wealth and power within American society.
It is not just the United States, but the Western world in general, including Israel, that needs to be brought down a peg, from the standpoint of the ideology prevalent among the people with whom Barack Obama has allied himself consistently for decades.
Against that background, it is not at all puzzling that President Obama has clamped down on offshore oil drilling by Americans in the Gulf of Mexico, but has actually encouraged and subsidized offshore oil drilling by Brazil with our tax dollars.
Nor is it surprising that he imposes draconian restrictions on industrial activities in the United States, in the name of fighting “global warming,” while accepting the fact that Third World nations that are beginning to industrialize will generate far more pollution than any restrictions in America can possibly offset.
That is another example of international redistribution — and payback for perceived past oppressions or exploitation of the West against the non-West. So is replacing pro-Western governments in the Middle East with Islamic extremist governments.
Some people may have gotten focused on the issue of Barack Obama’s birth certificate because so much of what he has done seems foreign to American ideals, traditions and interests. But birth tells us nothing about loyalty. One-time American Communist leader Earl Browder was descended from the Pilgrims.
Those who have questioned whether Barack Obama is really a citizen of the United States have missed the larger question: Whether he considers himself a citizen of the world. Think about this remarkable statement by Obama during the 2008 campaign: “We can’t drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times … and then just expect that every other country is going to say, ‘OK.'”
Are Americans supposed to let foreigners tell them how to live their lives? The implied answer is clearly “Yes!” When President Obama went to the United Nations for authority to take military action and ignored the Congress of the United States, that was all consistent with his vision of the way the world should be.
How has Obama gotten away with so many things that are foreign to American beliefs and traditions? Partly it is because of a quiescent media, sharing many of his ideological views and/or focused on the symbolism of his being “the first black President.” But part of his success must be credited — if that is the word — to his own rhetorical talents and his ability to project an image that many people accept and welcome.
The role of a confidence man is not to convince skeptics, but to help the gullible believe what they want to believe. Most of what Barack Obama says sounds very persuasive if you don’t know the facts — and often sounds like sheer nonsense if you do. But he is not trying to convince skeptics, nor worried about looking ridiculous to informed people who won’t vote for him anyway.
This is a source of much polarization between those who see and accept Obama 1 and those who see through that facade to Obama 2.
During the same week the American ambassador to Libya was murdered and his dead body dragged through the streets by celebrating mobs, the president of the United States found time to go on the David Letterman show to demonstrate his sense of humor and how cool he is.
But Barack Obama did not have time to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of a nation repeatedly threatened with annihilation by Iranian leaders working feverishly toward the creation of nuclear bombs.
This was an extraordinary thing in itself, something that probably no other president of the United States could have gotten away with without raising a firestorm of criticisms and denunciations. But much of the media see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil when it comes to Barack Obama — especially during an election year.
Nor was this public rebuff of a publicly requested meeting with Netanyahu unique in its expression of disrespect, if not contempt, for both the man and his country.
Despite his glowing assertions of his commitment to Israel, especially in speeches to American Jewish groups, Obama has been working against Israel’s interests from his first day in the White House. As in many other contexts, what Obama says and does are often opposite.
The vision in which Obama has been steeped is one in which white Western nations have oppressed and exploited nonwhite, non-Western nations, becoming rich and arrogant at other people’s expense. It is a vision that calls out, not for justice, but for payback.
When Jeremiah Wright said, “white folks’ greed runs a world in need” — and Obama, by his own account, was moved to tears — it captured in a few melodramatic words what a whole series of Obama’s mentors and allies had been saying for decades. No wonder it resonated with him.
Despite hopes that Barack Obama’s election as president of the United States would mark the beginning of a post-racial era in America, no hope was ever so completely doomed from the outset.
Anyone who looks beyond Obama’s soothing words about race to his record, from his joining self-segregated black students in college to his appointing Al Sharpton as a White House adviser, can see the contrast between rhetoric and reality.
Obama is not the first leader of a nation whose actions reflected some half-baked vision, enveloped in lofty rhetoric and spiced with a huge dose of ego. Nor would he be the first such leader to steer his nation into a historic catastrophe.
In Obama’s case, the potential for catastrophe is international in scope, and perhaps irretrievable in its consequences, as he stalls with feckless gestures as terrorist-sponsoring Iran moves toward the production of nuclear bombs.
Obama’s rhetoric says he will protect Israel, but the actions of Obama have in fact protected Iran from an Israeli attack on its nuclear facilities — until it is now questionable whether Iran’s deeply buried nuclear facilities can be destroyed by the Israelis.
Those deeply buried facilities took time to build, and Obama’s policies gave them that time, with his lackadaisical approach of seeking United Nations resolutions and international sanctions that never had any serious chance of stopping Iran’s movement toward becoming a nuclear power. And Obama had to know that.
In March, “Foreign Policy” magazine reported that “several high-level sources” in the Obama administration had revealed Israel’s secret relationship with Azerbaijan, where Israeli planes could refuel to or from an airstrike against Iran’s nuclear facilities.
The administration feared “the risks of an Israeli strike on Iran,” according to these “high-level sources.” Apparently the risks of an Iranian nuclear strike on Israel are not so much feared.
This leak was one of the historic and unconscionable betrayals of an ally whose very existence is threatened. But the media still saw no evil, heard no evil and spoke no evil. The only question now is whether American voters will wake up before it is too late — not just for Israel, but for America too.