In a recent interview with Hugh Hewitt, Charles Krauthammer had this to say about climate control:
It’s a religion, Hugh. It’s not facts, it’s not science. It’s a religion. And they’ll do human sacrifice if they have to. The numbers are made up. They know, for example, I mean all of the cap-and-trade stuff, which would really destroy our economy, they know would be swallowed up in a week or two of India and Chinese emissions. China is starting a coal fired plant every week on average, and that is just throwing all that CO2 into the atmosphere, of which our reductions would be negligible. It would simply end up as a great transfer of wealth out of the West into the third world on a scale never seen. But it’s a religion. So they are impervious to empirical evidence.
Indeed, the theme for the Obama administration seems to be just that –“Impervious to empirical evidence!”.
Throughout the campaign and continuing into his presidency Obama has decried George W. Bush as an “ideologue,” a man blinded by preexisting conceptions and inured to evidence which contradicted his worldview. But it is the Obama team which in just seven months has perfected the art of denying or evading facts. It doesn’t matter if the subject is small or large. It can be a domestic or foreign policy issue. The modus operandi is the same: don’t give them the facts; they’ve made up their minds.
We just witnessed Gates-gate — the triumph of an ideologically driven narrative (America is as racist a country as it’s ever been) over facts. The president even told us he didn’t know the facts — and then proceeded to embroil us (and him) in a tale of racial profiling contrived out of thin air.
That’s the story of health care reform as well. For months we were told that Obama’s health care reform would save money. Facts? None. Experience (on everything from Medicare to farm subsidies to the Post Office) and common sense tell us that if the government sets up a program and then chases the private sector out of business, it will cost more (e.g. for medical care, food or mail service) than it did before — and much more over time than was promised. It took the CBO to finally rain on the “bend the cost curve” fantasy of the Obama team.
On domestic policy nothing has topped the stimulus plan for faith-based government — the boundless belief in the power of government to create jobs and of government spending to create wealth. Neither the New Deal experience or the research of their own economic advisor dissuaded them from spending a trillion dollars (interest included) to “save or create” 3.5 (or was it 4?) million jobs.
But “impervious to empirical evidence” is especially, and dangerously, in ascension in foreign policy. Unlike Bush (the allegedly-impervious-to-facts president who undertook a daunting mid-war review and revised our Iraq strategy based on the evidence before him), this president is in no need of evidence — either historical or contemporary — to shape his foreign policy.
He pronounces that nonproliferation treaties and disarmament efforts by the U.S. will encourage North Korea and Iran to give up their nuclear plans. Neither the Cold War experience nor the development and spread of nuclear programs among these rogue states (all while the U.S. nuclear arsenal was declining) suggests this is a viable plan. But we must have faith.
Nowhere is fact-less policy more in evidence than in our Middle East policy. As Elliot Abrams details, Obama’s Middle East policy “is in fact following a highly ideological policy path” built on denial of the very real threat posed by Iran’s acquisition of nuclear power and the fiction that the key to unlocking peace resides in Israel’s unilaterally freezing all settlement growth. He observes:
A recent International Monetary Fund report stated that “macroeconomic conditions in the West Bank have improved” largely because “Israeli restrictions on internal trade and the passage of people have been relaxed significantly.” What’s more, says the IMF, “continuation of the relaxation of restrictions could result in real GDP growth of 7 percent for 2009 as a whole.” That’s a gross domestic product growth rate Americans would leap at, so what’s this dispute about?
It is, once again, about the subordination of reality to preexisting theories. In this case, the theory is that every problem in the Middle East is related to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. The administration takes the view that “merely” improving life for Palestinians and doing the hard work needed to prepare them for eventual independence isn’t enough. Nor is it daunted by the minor detail that half of the eventual Palestine is controlled by the terrorist group Hamas.
In all these discrete areas Obama comes to the issue with a preexisting belief system — cops engage in racial profiling, government-run health care will be cheaper, government spending creates wealth, disarmament impresses aggressors, Israel’s settlements are the central problem in the Middle East — which requires Herculean efforts to rewrite or ignore history and economic realities.
Unlike Obama, the public can see the world as it is and recall history as it actually occurred. We know carbon emissions will only increase so long as India and China refuse to shackle their own economies. We know Keynesian boondoggle spending doesn’t work to pull us out of recessions — and hasn’t created any jobs this time around. We know Israel has withdrawn from land in hopes of achieving peace (in Gaza most recently) and offered the Palestinians their own state. But such data is irrelevant, a nuisance to be swept away, as Obama pursues his liberal vision here and abroad.
Despite his disdain for facts, Obama cannot evade reality indefinitely. Unemployment figures and polling data are real. Deficit figures are real. And the public’s unease with political zealotry is real as well. Unless Obama gives up his aversion to empirical evidence, the voters will deliver a dose of reality.
After all, unlike religion, the people get the final say in politics.