Guest Commentary by Edward Cline:
As one pundit observed, there is no such government position as “The Office of the President-Elect.” Yet, it is a measure of Barack Obama’s hubris (and vanity) that for a time he held press conferences whose locus was a lectern bearing the splayed federal eagle encircled by the fictive and powerless title, a knock-off of the Presidential Seal. The title is as phony as a three-dollar bill. Or, for that matter, as a dollar bill, since the dollar bill is just a piece of paper declared to be the sole legal tender of the land, backed by nothing but the fictive “credit“ of the U.S. government, which is currently on a spending spree.
There was a time when one could tender a federal “pay to bearer on demand” note or certificate of any denomination in any bank and receive gold or silver specie in return. What passes for currency now is just glorified scrip and clad zinc.
Apparently, Obama’s staff may have read on the Internet some dissatisfaction with the sign among his supporters, and also some mockery from his opponents, and recommended a more modest form of hubris. Gone now is the whole bogus seal of office, and the title appears on a sign without embellishment. I have heard no reports of any journalist at one of these press conferences questioning the employment of the fictive title. Doubtless the person who dared challenge Obama on the counterfeit seal of office or the title would be banished from further news conferences.
Obama’s hubris is also a measure of the sanction granted him by large sections of the electorate and of the news media, a sanction he is very much aware of and is exploiting. It has given him leave to behave like a royal heir presumptive preparing for his imminent succession to the throne, conditioning himself to govern his subjects, many of whom want to be conditioned, governed, led, and told what to do and why. It is a servility he is also very much aware of and has not hesitated to exploit, as well.
Watching the press question Obama, one has the sense that journalists are not so much seeking clarification on policy or even so much as a fact, as asking for orders about what to think and say. And the president-elect is not shy about giving them. The press and news media have replaced a search for truth with a yearning for belief, even if it is suspected that the truth is buried beneath a mountain of lies and well-cultivated deceptions about the man, about his ideas, about his character, about his intentions.
In modern journalism, truth is a regrettable option, to be leavened with artful palaver. One can only despise a press that reports half-lies as the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Claude Rains, as the diplomat Dryden in Lawrence of Arabia, remarked about men who repress the truth: “…A man who tells half-lies has forgotten where he put it.”
Obama’s proposed economic agenda, which will include a socialist or Marxist “redistribution” plan under a more palatable name, is as transparently specious as the notion of “Intelligent Design.” (Were dinosaurs an instance of Unintelligent Design? Was their creator not as omniscient as has always been credited? Or were they an instance of divine planned obsolescence? There’s food for thought for creationists.) It is not any more intelligently designed than George W. Bush’s or Henry Paulson’s. Obama’s publicists, who now include most of the news media, are doing their best to assure the country that he is not a left-wing radical ready to seize the property and wealth of the rich and the upper middle class, but a “centrist” ready to compromise and “reach across the aisle” to find better bipartisan ways to salvage the economy and incidentally to ensure “social justice.”
Perhaps the most telling and honest appraisal of Obama’s present actions and intentions was voiced by Michael Gerson, writing for The Washington Post on December 3, in his column “Closet Centrist”:
…Obama’s appointments reveal something important about current Bush policies. Though Obama’s campaign savaged the administration as incompetent and radical,
Obama’s personnel decisions have effectively ratified Bush’s defense and economic approaches during the past few years. At the Pentagon, Obama rehired the architects of President Bush’s current military strategy -- [Robert] Gates, Gen. David Petraeus and Gen. Raymond Odierno. At the Treasury Department, Obama has rehired one of the main architects of Bush’s current economic approach [Timothy Geithner].
This continuity does not make Obama an ideological traitor. It indicates that Bush has been pursuing centrist, bipartisan policies -- without getting much bipartisan support. The transition between Bush and Obama is smoother than some expected, not merely because Obama has moderate instincts but because Bush does as well. Particularly on the economy, Bush has never been a libertarian; he has always matched a commitment to free markets with a willingness to intervene when markets stumble.
That is the most perceptive admission to date to be found in the liberal press on the absence of any fundamental difference between Republican and Democratic economic policies. But Gerson did not mention Obama’s nomination of Lawrence Summers, former Treasury secretary under Bill Clinton and former president of Harvard University, to be head of the National Economic Council. He is regarded as some kind of economic wizard and troubleshooter.
David Leonhardt of The New York Times, however, let the cat out of the bag in his article of November 26, “The Return of Larry Summers”:
His favorite argument today…goes like this: To undo the rise in income inequality since the late ‘70s, every household in the top 1 percent of the distribution, which makes $1.7 million on average, would need to write a check for $800,000. This money could then be pooled and used to send out a $10,000 check to every household in the bottom 80 percent of the distribution, those making less than $120,000. Only then would the country be as economically equal as it was three decades ago.
One cannot get more socialistic than that. Never mind, says Summers, the rewards of wise investments by private individuals -- that has nothing to do with “social justice” -- never mind the capital represented by the multiple $800,000 checks that would not be ploughed back into the economy as investments in productive enterprises, never mind cause and effect, never mind the rights of the rich: all the “little guys” must be awarded their fair share of the economic pie, and if that hurts the rich and reduces them and everyone else to penury, too bad. We will have social and economic justice even if it penalizes everyone, but especially the rich, and on that foundation of theft and misery we will build a more equitable society.
No one should doubt that Obama shares with Summers his collectivist fantasy land, nor that he regards Summers’ redistribution idea as just an ideological day-dream. There will be no reality-checking Austrian or laissez-faire economists in an Obama administration, just as there were none in George W. Bush’s.
“It’s not that I want to punish your success,” Obama told the Plumber Joes of the nation. “I just want to make sure that everybody who is behind you, that they’ve got a good chance for success too. My attitude is that if the economy’s good for folks from the bottom up, it’s gonna be good for everybody….I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.”
For a while, perhaps, up until the time the money is spent, goods become scarce, the capital is consumed. Only blame will be in plentiful supply, and it will be directed at everything and everyone but the chief culprit: the government.
Obama’s presumptuousness is in sync with the giddy, arrogant sanctimony too evident now in the political aristocracy. Witness the malicious glee, for example, with which politicians are subjecting cringing auto executives to egalitarian-premised interrogations, executives who are guilty of asking for their own “bailout,” not to mention of submitting themselves to the interrogation. (Do not expect them to emulate William H. Vanderbilt, the railroad tycoon, and reply to their interrogators and the press, “The public be damned!“) If you ever wanted a concrete picture of Ayn Rand’s “drooling beast” (The Fountainhead) look to the Senate and House, particularly at Henry Waxman, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi, and pick your villain. There is no reasoning with them, their power-lust is gracelessly shameless, and they mean to deliver the final death blows to what remains of freedom in this country.
Do not count on Obama undergoing, at some future date, when his agenda self-destructs, an eye-opening epiphany concerning the catastrophic consequences of his economic and social policies, which will simply punctuate the cumulative economic and social policies of the past, including Republican ones. If he is true to his model of FDR, with whom the press and news media are comparing him, he will not acknowledge the wrongness of his policies. After all, FDR never apologized for prolonging the Great Depression.
Do not grant Obama the meanest shadow of a doubt. Should things not go right, when reality catches up with his policies and those of his predecessors in office, he and his advisors will simply blame America for not being statist enough and Americans for being too selfish. They will blame all those Americans who will have exercised their modicum of volition and liberty and acted in the name of self-preservation and upset their calculations and plans. His cabinet and advisors are largely composed of persons who hate America -- that is, America the land of the free -- all of whom will want to force everyone to tow the line of statism.
Barack Obama claims that he does not mind disagreement, but has also said that as president-elect and as president, he will ultimately make policy, regardless of the rationality of any disagreement.
He will be Head of State, and he will give orders. Make way for the King.
Crossposted at The Dougout