As we plod through the last year of the current presidential term, a term that dedicated Obama supporters hope will be followed by another four years of Obama tenure, the object of their hopes remains unique in the annals of American chief executives. Although poll after poll rates his job-performance as unacceptable, his personal rating continues to be strong. His image as a “wonderful man” is tenaciously held by many.
So, just what is it that accounts for the ambiguity between performance and persona? Who is this man?
Barak Obama was elected president of the United States in 2008. He was elected not because of proven statesmanship, nor for legislative contribution, nor for business know-how, nor for outstanding moral behavior, nor for demonstrated love of country. He was elected because of his rhetorical skills, his charming and ingratiating manner, and his ability to project a shimmering image that promised all things to all people. His promise of “change” and his easy, yet persuasive, delivery convinced individual citizens that he spoke directly to each of them – and to the kind of change each wanted. It mattered little to them that he spoke in broad generalities, criticizing how “bad” things were and how “good” he would make them. Slogans like “Yes, we can!”, “Change we can believe in!”, and “Help me take back America!” resonated with an electorate mesmerized by the trappings of leadership, whose hopes for the man far exceeded the potential that prompted them. His meager credentials consisted of eight years in the Illinois state legislature actively soliciting for the local liberal interests in his Chicago district, and one incomplete and unimpressive term as a US senator.
Now, after three and a half years of his administration, it has become clear that Mr. Obama is an ardent ideologue with a very specific agenda. He has, in a sense, made good on his promise of change. But the changes he has approved, some of which he has pressed into legislation (and some of which he has mandated through executive privilege) do not simply reform and optimize the function of government within the framework of traditional American values, but rather uproot the values themselves. He substitutes for them a government-sponsored morality, one that has no dependence on the Creator, religion, or the concept of absolute truth. Most of his ideas are predicated on a militant secular program that marginalizes religious participation in the public arena and penalizes those whose understanding of morality differ from the version that he and the government he represents endorse.
Perhaps to his credit, his campaign against organized religion and traditional morality is not disguised; rather, it is openly aggressive and unapologetically advanced. His administration no longer refers to religion as such; it is now known as “worship,” a term that ignores the scope and the institutional make-up of religion. He identifies himself as a Christian but attends no church with regularity. He has disassociated himself from both the church he attended for 20 years, the United Church of Christ, and a long-time pastor of that church, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright (who has been accused, not without evidence, of anti-US sentiments). His personal code of morals permits and effectively encourages abortion, embryonic stem cell research, human egg donation for research, and euthanasia. His administration has carefully crafted words that appear to convey his opposition to human cloning, but when more closely scrutinized, they simply discourage efforts to clone a human being – thereby leaving the door wide open for the cloning process to provide “therapeutic” stem cells for medical research. All these positions are radically opposed by pro-life elements in society because they require the killing of human beings at the earliest stages of their physical development.
One of the most bizarre of the President’s inexplicable intrusions into both traditional morality and the due process of constitutional government revolves around the issue of same-sex marriage. In 1996, both houses of Congress, by substantial majority votes, enacted into Federal law the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The underlying premise of DOMA defines marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman. The premise itself has been recognized by civilization from time immemorial, and its formalization in the DOMA Act was acknowledged and enforced since its inception 15 years ago by our federal courts of law. The defense of this law – and of all federal law – against judicial challenges that may occur over time is the appointed responsibility of the US Justice Department, headed by the Attorney General who in turn is appointed by, and reports to, the Chief Executive of the US. Questions of constitutionality that arise in the course of adjudication are solely within the domain of the judiciary (in accordance with the separation of powers that define and authorize the extent and limits of federal government in the United States.) The executive branch holds the responsibility for “executing the instructions of Congress,” i.e., supporting and defending the laws passed by the legislature.
In light of these clear definitions of the powers explicit in each of the three branches of government, Eric Holder, US Attorney General representing the White House, announced on February 23, 2011 that the Justice Department would no longer defend DOMA’s definition of marriage in court. In other words, the executive branch was refusing to carry out its designated responsibility to “execute the instructions of Congress.” Mr. Holder offered as reason for his action the arbitrary decision of the administration that the DOMA Act was unconstitutional – this in spite of the clear constitutional directives that reserve the power of constitutional review to the judicial branch of government.
In a single move, then, the executive branch of US government directed by Mr. Obama has flatly refused to carry out its constitutional responsibility to “execute the instructions of Congress,” and moreover, has usurped from the judicial branch its power to determine the constitutionality of American law.
It is difficult to deny that implicit in these actions are notes of ideological excess, personal arrogance, and disregard for traditional US law.
High on the list of the president’s economic objectives is the re-distribution of wealth in the U.S. The idea in itself may not be without some merit, calling as it does for less poverty at the bottom – as well as less opulence at the top. Certainly, America does need to work toward raising the standard of living for those who have little and to discourage the acquisitiveness of those who have much, but the trick lies in doing this without government edict, without inhibiting investment, and without inciting one class of citizens against another. Mr. Obama’s approach to the problem is to condemn as “greedy” an ill-defined class of people whom he labels “rich,” to raise their taxes without properly recognizing the level of their current tax contribution, and to ignore the underlying role they play in keeping our economy healthy. With great aplomb, he adopts the time-worn tactic of the demagogue – focusing public attention on bogus explanations of why his policies have failed – claiming that their failure is due not to intrinsic flaws, but rather because of opposing political intrigue and because of the avarice of the “unconscionable rich.” This tack supports his drive to redistribute wealth and, at the same time, attracts the political support of many lower- and middle-class voters who have only a limited view of the dynamics of a vigorous economy in a free society. His demonization of those he has defined as wealthy is clearly designed to attract popular voter support in the next election. The potentially dire consequences of further dividing the country’s electorate are not a matter of concern for this president.
It may be significant that Mr. Obama’s single major legislative “achievement” in his three and a half-year presidency occurred in the field of health care coverage. It is termed “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” but for obvious reasons is now popularly known as “Obamacare.” It took massive political pressures at the eleventh hour to swing the vote in Obama’s favor by a miniscule margin – this down-to-the-wire effort necessary despite the heavy majorities his party held in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. The reluctance shown by Congress to support the plan is not hard to understand. No elective official is anxious to be associated with a program that promises to cut Medicare entitlements by between 280 billion and 500 billion dollars over the next 10 years. That such reductions will be paid for by cutting costs and eliminating waste is political wishful thinking; only massive tax increases can promise to keep a slim finger in the dike. The long and short of “Obamacare” is that 280-500 billion dollars will be switched – over the next ten years – from medical support of the elderly to that of some fraction of a younger generation of Americans currently not covered by medical insurance.
The switch of funding itself may or may not be defensible, but the manner in which it has been politically forced is entirely unacceptable. Only the recent unexpected action by the Supreme Court – in a 5 to 4 decision – declaring mandatory participation (all must accept and pay for health insurance coverage or pay a penalty tax) kept the bill from being declared unconstitutional. It is ironic that the prime victims in this piece of government tyranny are not only the elderly, but the very people the plan supposedly is designed to help: the younger generation, those who will pay the lion’s share of forced health care insurance. The claim that the plan will provide medical coverage for all younger Americans is nonsense – the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) in a 2010 analysis reveals that about 23 million younger people in the US will still be without health insurance when the plan is fully implemented in 2019.
In the face of all this, the personal attributes that gained Mr. Obama the presidency in the first place, still persuade many of his supporters that he is a “wonderful” man – only trying to do the “right thing.” The facts are that his iron-fisted relativism, his government sponsored morality, his class warfare tactics, and his anti-religious bent, coupled with his failed record to stimulate jobs and his massive application of cash infusions into an unresponsive economy, make him a shoo-in candidate for the worst president ever to darken the White House door.
As any student of political science knows, radical political programs require powerful emotional tools to re-orient the views of the governed – the more radical the program, the more extreme the means. In Mr. Obama’s world, everyone becomes his and her own oracle of Delphi, encouraged to flaunt the rules of a society that took countless centuries to forge. He would limit them only by applying a new morality, one “legally” imposed by government and fostered by post-modern concepts that include virtually unrestricted sexual license on the one hand, and purposeful constraints on the freedoms of speech and religion on the other.
Capping his three years as president, and despite massive spending that has ballooned the national debt to 15.5 trillion dollars in 2011, his administration has utterly failed to provide effective remedies for a faltering economy and chronic joblessness. There are at least three defenses he offers to explain this failure; the first is to blame the previous administration for the ongoing recession; the second is to blame Republicans in Congress for blocking his programs; and the third is to cite the “greed” of the wealthy who he claims do not bear a fair share of the nation’s tax burden. The facts are that the Bush administration has been gone now for more than three years while the Democrats controlled Congress for two of those same three years. As for the wealthy, the top 5% of that group contributed 58.7% of all the income taxes collected in 2010.
A dispassionate appraisal of Mr. Obama’s ideology and leadership performance, as negative as it might be, still leaves the burning question: will the beguiled supporters of this “wonderful man” again choose persona over performance and back him for a second term? The terrible truth is that some of them (not enough, we hope) will.