First of all, I’d like to thank everyone for the wonderful birthday wishes; they were much appreciated. And I’d especially like to thank s.z. for the lovely tribute, and a photo which was not only thoughtful and appropriate, but also — according to our sitemeter stats — irresistible to that portion of the online community who spent yesterday searching Google Images for “nude albino Ann Coulter”+”nipples and muttonchops.”
I gave myself the gift of a wingnut free day, but it’s Tuesday morning, which means that Jonah Goldberg has washed down a bran muffin with a glass of Kool-Aid, and passed his latest column.
Obama prefers the word “progressive” to “liberal” because it makes it sound like he’s shedding old liberal ideas.
Or because it’s been regarded as a curse ever since Reagan began referring with mock horror to “the L-Word” (a term that has lately and proudly been reclaimed by fake TV lesbians) or twisted into its own antonym by vandals who gleefully egg and TP the language until oxymorons like “Liberal Fascism” are considered suitable book titles, rather than evidence of aphasia.
America first encountered the vision Obama espouses under Woodrow Wilson, the first progressive president, and the first to openly disparage the U.S. Constitution as a hindrance to enlightened government.
Yes, in those quaint, bygone days, our founding document was actually considered a “hindrance” to unfettered government action, as opposed to today’s more sophisticated view of the Constitution as a novelty doormat.
In a vital essay in the current Claremont Review of Books, Charles Kesler notes that Obama mentions Franklin Roosevelt in his book, “The Audacity of Hope,” more times than any living Democratic politician.
Huh? What the hell has a leader like FDR got to do with hope?
That’s not surprising, given that FDR — a veteran of the Wilson administration — carried the progressive vision of government much further than Wilson himself.
As Wilson’s Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Roosevelt singlehandedly turned the entire service into an anarcho-syndicalist collective.
In 1944, FDR proposed updating the Bill of Rights with a new “economic bill of rights” that would define freedom not as liberty from government intrusion but as the possession of goodies provided by government.
You tell ‘em, Jonah. Can you believe this list of goodies Roosevelt was throwing around like a drunken Mardi Gras krewe pitching beads at a bunch of bare-breasted co-eds?
The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;
The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;
The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;
The right of every family to a decent home;
The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;
The right to a good education.
All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.
Supporting Medicare, public schools, and anti-trust laws with tax dollars is the moral equivalent of Nancy Pelosi driving around in a Hummer and passing out free iPods. But back to Jonah:
“Necessitous men are not free men,” FDR proclaimed.
Quoted, actually. “Necessitous men,” says the Lord Chancellor, in Vernon v Bethell, 2 Eden 113 (1762), “are not, truly speaking, free men; but, to answer a present emergency, will submit to any terms that the crafty may impose on them.” Which makes it even worse, because we’re this close to electing a man who’s in secret thrall to 18th century Soviet commissars! Not to mention terrorists, which Jonah actually does mention because he’s got a checklist to get through. So he also gifts us with yet another citation of William Ayers, a man who — though Obama doesn’t condone his actions in the 1960s — nonetheless helped the future Senator to terrorize public education by bombing the Chicago school system with reform. But Jonah saves his precious wind for the big finish — rearranging the words and meanings of that old Obama radio interview until it resembles a Scrabble match played by four Pentecostals in the grip of glossolalia.
First, let’s look at what Obama actually said (via Political Animal), the better to appreciate Jonah’s lexigraphical legerdemain.
Obama in that interview said, “If you look at the victories and failures of the civil rights movement, and its litigation strategy in the court, I think where it succeeded was to vest formal rights in previously dispossessed peoples, so that I would now have the right to vote, I would now be able to sit at a lunch counter and order and as long as I could pay for it I’d be okay.”
“But,” Obama said, “The Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth and sort of more basic issues of political and economic justice in this society. And to that extent as radical as I think people tried to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn’t that radical. It didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the founding fathers in the Constitution, as least as it’s been interpreted, and Warren Court interpreted in the same way that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties, says what the states can’t do to you, says what the federal government can’t do to you, but it doesn’t say what the federal government or the state government must do on your behalf. And that hasn’t shifted.”
Obama said “one of the, I think, the tragedies of the civil rights movement, was because the civil rights movement became so court focused, I think that there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalitions of power through which you bring about redistributive change, and in some ways we still suffer from that.”
When a caller inquired about whether the courts are the appropriate mechanism for socio-economic progress, Obama said remedies should come through legislation, not the judiciary.
Now let’s see how a master wordsmith can take these old words internally, digest them, and pull something entirely new, fresh, and misleading out of his ass:
A just-unearthed 2001 interview with Obama on Chicago public radio reveals as much. Then a law school instructor and state legislator, Obama offered an eloquent indictment of the Warren court for not being radical enough. While the court rightly gave blacks traditional rights, argued Obama, the “tragedy” was that “the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth.” Unfortunately, according to Obama, “it didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the founding fathers and the Constitution.”
Now that’s some seriously green-minded recycling. And if Jonah hasn’t quite succeeding in turning his raw sewage into potable water, he’s at least made it suitable for irrigating the grapes of wrath.
Save for his skin color, Obama doesn’t represent anything novel. Rather, he symbolizes a return to an older vision of the United States that was seen as the “wave of the future” eight decades ago.
I for one have no desire to go back to that future.
In short, all Obama has going for him is his skin. And although that dusky flesh promises change for the future, it’s really a time machine that will take us back to the past! And who wears fake, but technologically advanced skin? The Lizard People from V, who conquered the entire Made for TV earth in 1983! And since leg warmers, crimped hair, and Ronald Reagan were also popular back then, I think I’ll just stay here with Jonah. You kids go on, have fun. Give my regards to the side ponytails and the Cabbage Patch dolls.