by Victor Davis Hanson
Attention, Little Knowledge
Obama himself at various times in his memoirs — never have presidential autobiographies sold so many copies, and yet have been so little read by the press — talked about people seeing in him what they wished. And now on the eve of the election, I confess I have no idea about who he is or what he stands for. If he is elected, I can only hope for the best, and pray a few sober old Clintonites like Paul Volcker or Robert Rubin will step forward.
What is a “Huge Sum”?
Does Obama really, as Joe Biden promised, wish to shut down coal-generated electricity plants?
He denied it, of course. But then on the eve of the election we see a recording just released of what he recently boasted about on the topic: “If somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can; it’s just that it will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.”
Note again the boastful Obama’s usage of “bankrupt” them — as if the destruction of an entire industry that currently warms the water, cooks the food, and keeps the lights on for 150 million Americans can simply fold, without consequences to the industry’s workers and to us, the consumers of their electricity. Are we to use our stoves for five or six hours a day as the wind and sun allow, in order to prove that we are ‘green” and no longer ‘selfish’?
So, are the selfish rich making $300,000, $250,000, $200,000, $150,000 or $120,000?
Who knows, we’ve heard all of these figures as benchmarks for the next gargantuan tax bite. Is ‘socialism’ an unfair indictment of Obama’s policies (perhaps mandated ‘equality of result’ is more polite)? I think not, since he regrets the inability to use the Supreme Court to redistribute capital, or what he later dubbed ‘spread the wealth around’. Is the term ‘socialist’ antithetical to, or suggestive of, his agenda that would raise income-based taxation in many states (state, federal, FICA, Medicare) to 65% of the incomes of those who now pay over 60% of the nation’s aggregate taxes, while upping the number of those exempt from federal income tax obligation to nearly half of the nation’s wage earners?
What does one call that? Fairness — when one proceeds to give cash credits to many of those who are not paying any federal income taxes at all? That will be a pretty large political constituency — half the nation’s wage-earners — who will be appreciative that someone exempted them from all concern about where and how much of their government’s revenues derive.
More Therapeutic Studies?
I worry about education, since at various times Obama has called for reparations (in deed, not word), more oppression studies, and praised ethnic magnet schools. Clearly to address the underclass we need instead a more traditional curriculum and back to basics emphasis on reading, literatures, math, and science, and less on the therapeutic “they” who did this to us. I wrote an article in the current issue of City Journal on this, and worry that much of our most critical problems derive from a substandard school system, that needs radical reform and competition, not more money.
Yes, No — or Present?
I don’t know what Obama feels about drilling, nuclear power, FISA, NAFTA, capital punishment, abortion, guns, Iran, the surge, Jerusalem, campaign financing, etc. But I do get the impression that he is more or less cognizant that most of his views around 2006 were at odds with the American people’s, and so he had to change or drop them (and most of his social circle) to get elected, or at least mention them only at small private gatherings in San Francisco.
The mystery? Will he revert back to the constant Obama of the last 30 years who waged dirty 1996 and 2004 campaigns, and shared apparently ideologies with Ayers, Khalidi, Pfleger, and Wright and others in his Chicago extremist cadre? Or will he govern as a center-leftist, corralling a Frank, Pelosi, and Reed and the most fringe beyond them?
Truman or Carter?
Will Obama really, at a time of near recession, create a trillion dollars of new spending programs, when many of the existing ones don’t work and contribute to a half-trillion dollar current deficit? Note in almost every speech, Obama lists a new federal bromide to address our malaise, rarely if ever advice to curb our own extravagant spending and borrowing, honor our debts, live lives that lessen our reliance on a burdened federal government, or seek personal responsibility to curtail illegitimacy, drug use, high school drop-out rates, and illegality that do so much to impoverish the nation. Surely some of the things that got us into the current mess were self-induced and not entirely the fault of the greedy “they” on Wall Street and in Washington?
A Minor Morality Tale
His aunt Zeitunie is a minor road bump and familiar to everyone who has an embarrassing relative. But Auntie Z. is also emblematic nevertheless of many of the concerns one has about the blank Obama slate. Let me state first that no one is completely responsible for one’s immediate family, but we need at least a statement on that from Obama that his aunt’s illegality is a worry to him, and he will take as much care to see her comply with American law as he did to write of her in the past. Some minor concerns:
1) Charity Begins at Home? She appeared in cameo fashion in his memoirs as proof of his strong family ties (and attended, I think, his swearing in as a US Senator); but then was subsequently languishing as an illegal alien, in violation of a deportation order, in a public housing project a mere hour’s flight from Chicago. I am skeptical of someone like Obama who dubs others “selfish” for worrying that upping federal tax by 20% on those who currently pay the most in taxes (5% income tax hike, 15.3 FICA self-employment tax exposure), all for dubious expenditures, and cannot even take care of someone he cited in his memoir as “family.”
2) An Objective Press? The press story is somehow now about who ‘leaked’ information that his aunt had defied a deportation order and was in the country illegally. This is yet another sign that U.S. immigration law is made laughable, and its enforcement a joke to the rather limited extent the law is even applied. One not only can overstay a visa, ignore a court order, ignore campaign laws, ignore public housing requirements, but do so in such a context that revelation of such serial lawbreaking, not the serial lawbreaking itself, is proof of wrong.
3) Mr. Axlerod of recent Chicago Fame. More of the double standard. David Axlerod, the Chicago master of leaking information to destroy adversaries, is suddenly worried about supposed leaks of government documents? Aside from Joe the Plumber, he should ask why and how the sealed divorce records of both Obama’s Democratic primary rival and his general election Republican opponent were leaked, imploding both campaigns and ensuring the election of Obama in 2004 to the Senate. If the aunt story was improperly leaked by a right-wing immigration official, can’t Axlerod at least say “Damnit, I was Axleroded!”
4) If You Can’t Trust Your Aunt, Who Can You Trust? Obama said that his historical rejection of campaign finance (after a promise to abide by the statutes), and his subsequent creation of $600 million war-chest, should not cause worry because so many of the donors were “small”.
Thus any questions about fake names, addresses, lack of compliance with identifying donors by name, foreign contributors, and prepaid credit cards were essentially McCarthyite — given the historical lift Obama had given the American electoral process.
But if the Obama campaign cannot even guarantee that his own aunt followed the law (it is illegal for foreigners to contribute to U.S. presidential campaigns), what does that say about the millions of others we are supposed to believe, on the assurance of Obama himself, were supposedly legitimate and lawful donors? How ethical is it for someone who is in violation of the law, and receiving some sort of public subsidy to then donate money, illegally again, to a campaign?
5) Do as I Say, not as I Do! The media, rather than enlightening us about Obama’s background, consistency in thought, past behavior, and character, instead turns on anyone and anything that stands in the way of his ascension. So Auntie Zeitunie is a distraction, yes. But also no: perhaps the next President of the United States, who promises to tax to increase the social safety net, and demonizes those as selfish who disagree, can at least help a little in taking care of his own aunt, and ensure that she changes her mind about her defiance of deportation orders, her violation of Boston public housing guidelines, and her rather brazen disregard of campaign financing laws.
6) It’s the Law, Stupid! That is the issue here. The law really does matter. I can’t think of any aunt of any President who violated so many statutes to so little consternation — or someone who so authoritatively lectured the nation on the responsibilities of social welfare and their moral obligations to give to the state purse, who in turn proved so unaware of the impoverished and illegal conditions of his own family.
A minor point, but indicative that Obama remains a blank slate on the eve of the election. We had two years of hope and change, and not a day of hope for what? and change this or that?
©2008 Victor Davis Hanson