Klavan On The Culture

The Unbearable Smallness of Obama's Vision

When Bill Clinton accepted the Democratic nomination for president in 1992, he took enough time out from breaking Biblical commandments to quote Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” The line was a deft jab at his incumbent opponent, the first President George Bush who, when urged to think through the overall direction of his presidency, was said to have responded in annoyance, “Oh, the vision thing!”

Vision was supposed to be Barack Obama’s strong suit, wasn’t it? Hope? Change? “Fundamentally transforming the United States of America”? Certainly, our idiot and narrative-drunk media saw him that way. “We thought he was going to be the next messiah,” said no less a narrative-drunk idiot than Barbara Walters. He was “an enlightened being,” a “lightworker,” said another of these media knuckleheads. And one of the president’s most ardent admirers described him as a man with “a gift.” Oh wait, that was Obama talking about himself.

I haven’t commented much about the Bergdahl swap. Five guys named Moe(hammed) in exchange for the character from Showtime’s Homeland. I’ll leave parsing the good and bad of that trade-off to more expert observers. Surely it’s not a terrific omen for the administration that MSNBC’s Chris Matthews called the deal “nasty,” and “disreputable,” but luckily for Obama, Matthews said that in the privacy of his own show where no one was likely to hear.

What did bother me, though, as it bothered so many, was the Rose Garden celebration of Bergdahl’s release. As if it were some happy days triumph to free five American-hating kill-crazy Islamist thugs in order to secure the release of a U.S. soldier who called the title of U.S. soldier the “lie of fools.” Could Obama have thought our jubilation at this great victory was going to wipe away the stench of the VA scandal? Or (more likely, I think) that it would erase our dismay at the ruinous disaster-upon-disaster foreign policy of the man who was going to teach all us neo-con cavemen the meaning of smart power?

I don’t have to list the clowns who’ve poured out of that Volkswagen. The Russian “reset” that turned out to reset the Soviet Union; the Syrian red line that wasn’t there; the useless and costly surge in Afghanistan ending in retreat; the surrender of our victory in Iraq. And just wait till those Iranian nukes are up and running. How, one wonders, will the media try to spin that crap fest into a success?

Did Obama think we’d forget all that in our joy over this bum deal? Who does he think we are?

Ah, well, that’s just it. Because all of this — the idea that Bergdahl’s release was some kind of victory, the idea that a fake triumph would make us forget the mess and failure of Obama’s actions around the world, that mess and failure themselves — all of it is the result of a lack of vision — or, that is, of a small, petty vision of what America is and what it represents.

Dig this line from Obama’s recent West Point commencement address, the one in which he tried to convince the skeptical grads that what looked like his weak failure to lead on every front was in fact strong, muscular leadership. Who were they going to believe, after all? The president — or their lying eyes?

I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being. But what makes us exceptional is not our ability to flout international norms and the rule of law; it is our willingness to affirm them through our actions.

Wow. Got that? The president has a vision of our nation as a place where we obey international law and live up to the international norm. I know that gets my blood pumping. Just makes you want to suck it up and salute, doesn’t it? I mean, I wouldn’t want to think America was exceptional for what it stood for — like, oh I don’t know; freedom, say — because then we’d have to stand against something too — like the kind of oppression and slavery that actually is the norm in a whole lot of non-western countries around the world… and, increasingly, in western countries where Muslims have been allowed to have their way and opposing them out loud has been outlawed. We’d have to stand up for Americans when they made videos others didn’t like and loudly declare that our way — toleration, respect for private property and western law — is morally superior to the savagery of sharia and the travesty of communism. And then maybe some people wouldn’t like us anymore. We might “create more enemies than we take off the battlefield,” as the president nonsensically fretted in his West Point speech. No, better to show everyone how exceptionally we obey international law and affirm the international norm, whatever the hell that is. Then people will like us and the world will be a safer place. Like it is now. Can’t you tell?

Clinton was right — or maybe it was that Bible whose morality he routinely flouted: “Without vision, the people perish.” And Obama is a president without vision, or with a vision so puny it’s hardly worth the name. All those big windy words — that hopey-changey stuff? Forget about it. Vision-wise? Look around you. The guy’s got nothing.