Delivering a speech at the National Prayer Breakfast on February 4, 2010, President Obama twice referred to a Navy corpsman as a “corpse-man,” a solecism he had made before. Those familiar with the president’s penchant for getting things wrong would not have been surprised. After all, the man who famously believed there are 58 states in the union, that Austrians speak “Austrian,” that America and Islam “share common principles of justice and progress, tolerance and the dignity of all human beings,” and other screamers too numerous to mention, might plausibly be expected to misspeak whenever given the opportunity to embarrass himself.
His malapropisms, however, are not only a sign of a deeply ignorant man but also a symptom of the policy miscarriages he has implemented since taking office — again, too numerous to mention in toto. The most recent, of course, is his thorough mishandling of the Egyptian imbroglio, especially his opening the door to the ascendancy of the notorious Muslim Brotherhood into the corridors of power. But given his bungling in both Iraq and Afghanistan, his unwillingness to take steps to prevent Iranian weapons and insurgents from crossing into the battle zone, and his placing American civil security into the palsied hands of Janet Napolitano, his corpse-man gaffe has distinct and ironic implications for American servicemen as well as civilians.
For those who follow American politics closely, but from a privileged distance — as does this Canadian — it is hard to resist the conclusion that Barack Obama is nothing short of a national catastrophe, surely the worst presidential blight to fall on the U.S. since the woeful Jimmy Carter and probably as far back as Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce or John Tyler — take your pick. Many if not most American presidents, it must be admitted, with only a minim of illustrious exceptions, were flat-out second-raters. True, this is par for the course for the majority of political leaders around the world, but Obama is a special case. His evident failings of character and insight might be bearable in a comparatively less hazardous epoch, but in a time of looming insolvency and market collapse, the demographic incursion of extremist elements into the social fabric, aka “stealth jihad,” the advancing might of rejuvenated autocracies, an exploding Middle East and the nuclearization of rogue nations, Obama is quite simply the worst possible president at the worst possible time.
It is necessary, however, to see Obama not only as a cause of the American malaise but also as an effect of a process of ongoing decay and a reflection of the majority who elected him. He is the offspring of the god of civil unrest which has been gathering momentum at least since the radical 1960s. As David Horowitz laments, “we now live in a country so divided there are two Americas and two cultures which speak a different language.” The tensions tearing America apart today are so massive as to seem almost unbridgeable. If, to take a fanciful example, America should one day fracture into two nations, call them the United States of America and the Republic of the United States, one could conceive an enmity between them no less intense, say, than that between Venezuela and Colombia. (The Panarin hypothesis posits not two but six discrete fragments.) Barring a domestic “reset” and a genuine conservative resurgence, the “culture wars” may well become terminally divisive.
The viciousness of rhetorical combat, the rage of slander and vituperation erupting in the national discourse — largely, though not exclusively, emanating from the emotional inferno of the left — transcend the connotation of that increasingly common epithet, “incivility.” It is far more than that. The clash of two sundered cultures, variously denominated as red and blue, conservative and socialist, right and left, Republican and Democrat, is a dire portent of things to come. Democrats and Republicans may for a time be able to work together in the House as Obama attempts to rejigger himself for 2012, but they are perpetually at loggerheads in the media, the blogosphere, and the body politic itself. It is a virtual war of words, hearts, and minds, occasionally breaking out in sporadic acts of violence, which is now reaching a crescendo.
Obama may not be a sole cause but he is undoubtedly a major exacerbation of the split in the civil constituencies that make up the nation. He wafted into electoral politics like a modern Lohengrin, a “knight of the swan” sailing into a contemporary Brabant to rescue a hapless princess. But it didn’t quite work out that way and the hapless princess, bearing the torch of liberty, may soon expire of inanition if she is not rescued a second time.
For Obama is driving his country into the ground, espousing a social and economic agenda that can only lead to bankruptcy and increasing discord. At the same time, his foreign policy has reduced the United States to an international laughing stock, empowered its enemies, and abandoned its friends and allies. “It is going to be a long two years,” writes Victor Davis Hanson, now that “the world has figured Obama out, and the wages of our version of 1979-80 are coming due.” Hanson is alluding, of course, to the Iran/Egypt analogy and Obama’s repetition of Carter’s monumental error in empowering an Islamic fundamentalist regime masking as a democratic alternative. It is as if the faculty of memory has been removed and time has stopped, as if, let’s say, a chronosectomy has been performed. But Hanson’s warning has far more sweeping significance for a nation that is rapidly “losing it.” For one thing, America’s territorial waters, so to speak, are shrinking. America is not the colossus it used to be. For another, as we have seen, its cohesion is crumbling. The United States is no longer united.
Ascribing blame is generally an unproductive habit and merely adds to the heat of public rancor. Nevertheless, responsibility for a clearly deteriorating situation must sometimes be assigned and there can be little doubt that the attempt to impose an unpopular leftist program of Robin Hood economics, environmental thuggery, and transnational accommodation upon what is historically a free-market constitutional republic must release the demons of social dissension and cultural rupture. When the misconceived policy of “Islamic outreach” is added to the farrago of mischiefs, the recipe for disaster is pretty well complete. The problem for the left in this latter regard, as Jonathan Spyer points out with respect to the Israeli left in The Transforming Fire, “is that they don’t find leftists on the other side.” Though, obviously, this has not stopped the sinister cohort from blundering on. For all these costly aberrations, the left is undeniably accountable and Barack Obama, as its most conspicuous standard bearer, is the visible manifestation of a disintegrating nation. Inevitably, there will be casualties.
Peter Wood’s important 2007 book A Bee in the Mouth addresses the issue of “our new anger in contrast to our older habits of emotional restraint.” It is certainly worth reading. But I’m afraid that the effort and recommendation to calm the Furies, as represented by his analysis, will go for naught unless the intemperate left is progressively marginalized and its propaganda organs, like MSNBC, the New York Times, the Soros-funded organizations, the spurious NGOs, the voracious labor unions, the special interest groups, and many fellow-traveling websites are serially exposed for what they are by a relentless tympani of fact and argument.
As Ronald Reagan urged in his 1983 “Evil Empire” speech, we must beware “the temptation to…blithely declare yourself above it all and label both sides equally at fault.” What applied then in the international arena applies now on the domestic front. The cultures wars must go on until one side wins or all is lost, which is to say, until either America or the left triumphs. There is no doubt on which ideological parapet Barack Obama stands. Like Hollywood sequels, Obama II would be an even greater clunker than its original version; only, this is no movie but a real-life megaflop in the making.
For this reason the battle must continue. There is, regrettably, no option if one of the most destructive and recidivist presidents in American history is to be chased from office before his corpse-man gaffe becomes ever more of a reality. Such a consummation might be a first step in at least partially recuperating the Democratic left back into the majority consensus of American life via the modality of a crushing defeat and, perhaps, of narrowing the rift that divides the nation from itself.