Joe Klein is taking a road trip. Getting out of his usual digs in tony Pelham, New York, downtown Manhattan and the media establishment, and finally the Beltway, has been good for him. Time gave him the assignment to depart from his usual type articles to drive through America, meet and talk with regular folk, and see what is on their minds.
This week, Klein found himself in Texarkana, Arkansas—a small town in which the Texas-Arkansas border runs through the middle of the small area—giving it two of everything; two city halls, two mayors, two police and fire departments. (You may not have heard of it before, unless in the ’60s folk boom era, you sang the song “Cotton Fields,” whose verse begins “Just a mile from Terxarkana….)
Anyway, what Klein finds is what concerns most people he met are not the contested social issues like abortion, evolution or immigration. Instead, he writes, the talk was “all about too much government: too much governing regulation, too many people dependent on government.” One of the mayors complains to Klein about Social Security disability payment, which he says is giving drug addicts and drunks “three times the amount my father-in-law does on Social Security retirement.” And another person tells him that children with ADD can get Social Security disability payments also. Says the woman: “I don’t believe we have any legal or moral obligation to pay any money to people too drunk to work or lazy to work.”
Another gripe was the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, which one builder explained prevented him from receiving bank loans he always used to be able to get, known as “character loans,” since he had a good repayment record. Now, a deal fell through because he needed a quick loan, and Dodd-Frank prohibited him from moving on the process for a six week period. By then it was too late. Similarly, another businessman told Klein how for similar reasons, he could not expand his nursing home business. He even heard the same complaint from a banker who is the mayor of Hope, Bill Clinton’s home town. Not a Tea Party supporter like the people in Texarkana, this banker explained how impossible it was to give anyone home loans anymore.
Surprisingly, Klein writes- and one must say you do not expect to find this from Klein:
It seemed to me that the closer the Tea Party folks got to home, the more legitimate their beefs were. On the most basic, local level, their concern about waste and corruption seemed a good thing, a valuable revival of citizen concern after a long period of apathy. And the federal government does tend to impose layer upon layer of new regulations without keeping track of how they’re working.
Anything President Obama has done to address these problems, Klein adds, “hasn’t reached Texarkana. I found myself in sympathy with much that the Miller County Patriots were saying,” referring to the name of the local Tea Party group. Until, that is, “one man called the President a socialist who wanted government to run everything,” and that since he went around the world apologizing for the United States, he didn’t think Obama was a patriot.
So Klein concludes: “When they’re talking about character loans, I’m all ears. Whey they’re fantasizing about socialism, I’m not.”
So, here, I highly recommend that Joe Klein take a look at Charles Krauthammer’s latest column. Klein has taken half a leap; unusual for a MSM liberal, he has listened to regular Tea Party folks, and has not condemned them as racist, fascist and as a bunch of extremist nuts. But he stops short at taking their view of Obama as anything but crazed.
What Krauthammer writes is just the remedy he needs. The president’s obsession with fairness, he writes, and his desire to propose new tax hikes in a time of recession, including raising capital gains taxes, is a case of “Fairness trumps growth. Fairness trumps revenue. Fairness trumps economic logic.”
What Obama is engaging, Krauthammer writes, is a campaign manifesto based on “anti-millionaire populism,” which he hopes will take effect, mobilize his base, and allow him to win in 2012. Krauthammer writes:
Obama’s Democratic base is electrified. On the left, the new message is playing to rave reviews. It has rekindled the enthusiasm of his core constituency — the MoveOn, Hollywood liberal, Upper West Side precincts best described years ago by John Updike: “Like most of the neighborhood, she was a fighting liberal, fighting to have her money taken from her.”
So the new Obama, the soak-the-rich proud class warrior, is precisely the old Obama of 2008 and the man who began his political career in the precincts of left-wing Chicago politics—-the arena of CP fellow-travelers, bona-fide leftists, old Marxists and “democratic socialists” of all sorts. Now, his preferred policies, Krauthammer notes, are those of a “conviction politician, one deeply committed to his own social-democratic vision.” He explains here:
But this is more than a political calculation. It is more than just a pander to his base. It is a pander to himself: Obama is a member of his base. He believes this stuff. It is an easy and comfortable political shift for him, because it’s a shift from a phony centrism back to his social-democratic core, from positioning to authenticity.
The authentic Obama is a leveler, a committed social democrat, a staunch believer in the redistributionist state, a tribune, above all, of “fairness” — understood as government-imposed and government-enforced equality.
To become excited, Obama needs to campaign in a comfortable mode, that based on his core real beliefs—not on a phony orchestrated centrism that excites no one, provides anger from the left-wing base, and doesn’t satisfy the independent swing voters who are moving away from him anyway.
Obama, Krauthammer truthfully writes, has decided to say what he believes, which is obvious to anyone who watched his Rose Garden comments a few days ago. He is not just talking left for the benefit of MoveOn.org, but because he is finally freeing himself from what his political minded advisors recommend he do, and saying what he believes. He has returned to the authenticity of his 2009 remarks about our being close to creating a “fundamental transformation of America” into his true goal: a leftist and statist regime in which the experts who believe in legislating fairness gain control, and implement America on the road to becoming Greece.
So returning to Joe Klein, who probably hasn’t had time to read much as he drives from the East Coast to the West, to see that it’s not only the Tea Party people in Texarkana who understand our President’s true goals; it is an intellectual like Charles Krauthammer, whose understanding trumps that of Klein’s any day of the week. Maybe, just maybe, Klein will reconsider, and come to see that regular people like those he has found on the road hold more wisdom that a representative of the leftist New York media such as himself.