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Klavan On The Culture

Obama Is Wrong, Not Evil

September 19th, 2011 - 7:07 am

Over the weekend many people sent me this video, claiming that it shows Michelle Obama dissing the American flag during the 9/11 memorial ceremonies. Reacting to the ceremonial folding of Old Glory, Mrs. Obama purportedly turns to her husband and says, “All this just for a flag.” She then allegedly shakes her head and rolls her eyes while the president nods in agreement.

You don’t have to be a left-winger to call malarkey on this. It looks, sounds, and feels like internet nonsense and almost certainly is. I, for one, can’t read Mrs. Obama’s lips at all. I’m not even sure I can read her expression — which might be one of appreciation, as if she were saying, “Wow, isn’t it wonderful, all this for our flag.” Anyway, while the Obamas have always struck me as a pair of supercilious prats, they’re not heartless monsters. They’re at a ceremony memorializing 3,000 dead. They may not think what we all think but I’m sure they feel pretty much what we all feel — and if they didn’t, they wouldn’t talk about it while on camera. They’re not idiots either.

But what’s really annoying about silliness of this sort is how distracting it is. The failure of the Obama presidency is a genuinely important event both in history in general and in the history of ideas. It should be explained, discussed, and analyzed seriously — not obscured beneath perfervid speculation or absurd charges. Obama is not a Muslim.  He wasn’t born in Timbuktu.  He doesn’t rub his hands together when he’s alone and mutter, “The economy is almost destroyed. One more stimulus package should do the trick! Bwahahahaha.”

What Obama is is the representative and unyielding ideological supporter of a series of ideas that do not work and would be wrong even if they did. He is “a faithful scion of the political culture of the ’60s left,” as Norman Podhoretz put it in a calm, precise, and brilliant op-ed in the Wall Street Journal not long ago. Podhoretz wrote:

Whereas the communists had in their delusional vision of the Soviet Union a model of the kind of society that would replace the one they were bent on destroying, the new leftists only knew what they were against: America, or Amerika as they spelled it to suggest its kinship to Nazi Germany. Thanks, however, to the unmasking of the Soviet Union as a totalitarian nightmare, they did not know what they were for. Yet once they had pulled off the incredible feat of taking over the Democratic Party behind the presidential candidacy of George McGovern in 1972, they dropped the vain hope of a revolution, and in the social-democratic system most fully developed in Sweden they found an alternative to American capitalism that had a realistic possibility of being achieved through gradual political reform.

Most of Obama’s supporters, I would imagine, do not share the radical anti-Americanism inherent in this vision. But they often do share in its other errors: most crucially now, the idea that the government can or should be the architect of economic “fairness.” This idea is wrong in so many ways. Economically, it hampers the effectiveness of the markets by robbing money from the production of what people want in order to funnel it to what experts think they ought to want.  This fails because, for all people’s individual errors, the wisdom of crowds is almost always wiser than the experts. Stealing money from the markets for government schemes destroys jobs, punishes creators, and hamstrings businesses — and all because people with too much education and too little experience think they know better than those on the economic front lines.

But more important, such wealth redistribution is morally wrong, because it takes away our individual freedom of choice.  It gives the government the power (though it never has the right) to say to us, “No, you can’t spend the money you earn on a new TV, we want to use it to create green jobs or pay for other people’s children’s education or make sure one race gets as much work as another. We are the compassionate and wise and we know best.” This may seem appealing in the moment but it is viciously destructive over the long run. The moral heart of a nation, of the world, is individual choice. Fashioned, though it often is, in the crucible of foolishness and failure, it is still ultimately the only true path to decency and right action. Without free individual choice, without that crucible, a culture becomes flaccid, passive, unproductive, violent, and morally dead, a place-marker waiting to be conquered by the next group inspired by a moral vision. Welcome to Europe. Careful not to step in the sharia.

Obama is the president, and as such he should not be exempt from the usual attacks both personal and political that leaders have to suffer. But as far as possible, we need to stick to what matters. We need to explain to one another in detail why his ideas are wrong, why they’re failing, why they’ll fail again the next time someone gets the bright idea to elect one of these leftist clowns to high office.

We should not waste this important moment on childish slanders.

Also read: Obama’s “New” Plan Is Just Like His Old Plan

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