Understanding the Nihilist in the White House

Wall Street Journal columnist and former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan is an example of a type of person with a good mind who has huge pockets of -- I’m not sure exactly what to call it. Naivete? Trust? Idealism? Lack of comprehension? Almost willful blindness? She often gets to a certain point in understanding someone or something and then stops, refusing to open the door of the room she stands before, afraid to look inside. Or she opens it a crack, takes a tiny peek, and then slams it shut.

It is not just Noonan who does this sort of thing, either. If it were, it would hardly matter at all, even though she’s an influential columnist. This is the mindset of a great many people. It almost seems as though there are three kinds of humans in the world, and all of them are useful to Obama: those who are naive about human nature, those who are so cynical they equally condemn all politicians as equally bad/corrupt/selfish, and those who justify anything a public figure does if it furthers their own goals.

There’s a fourth: those who see more clearly that that. But of course, some of those who think they see clearly fall into one of the above categories.

Now for Noonan, who has written a column titled, “The Nihilist in the White House.” You know who it’s about:

The president’s executive action on immigration is an act of willful nihilism that he himself had argued against in the past. It is a sharp stick in the eye of the new congressional majority. It is at odds with—it defies—the meaning and message of the last election, and therefore is destructive to the reputation of democracy itself. It is huge in its impact but has only a sole cause, the president’s lone will. It damages the standing of our tottery political institutions rather than strengthening them, which is what they desperately need, and sets a template for future executive abuse. It will surely encourage increased illegal immigration and thus further erode the position of the American working class.

The term nihilism has quite a few definitions. One of them refers to a Russian revolutionary movement that advocated violent overthrow of the government during the 1860s-1880s. Obama is indeed a leftist, but that doesn’t seem to be his style (at the moment, he is the government), although it’s not difficult to believe that he would justify and order violence if he needed it and felt he could get away with it.

Nihilism also involves one or all of the following beliefs/attitudes: that life has no intrinsic meaning, that morality does not inherently exist, and/or that reality itself does not exist (“an extreme form of skepticism that denies all existence”). I don’t read Obama’s mind (or Noonan’s), but I think we probably can safely eliminate that last one from what Noonan might be talking about. Perhaps we can eliminate the first one; perhaps not. That leaves us with the middle definition, that morality does not inherently exist, and I think that is part of what Noonan might be getting at.

But it is clear that one of the main things that motivated Noonan’s use of the word “nihilist” for Obama was that he is bent on destruction rather than creation, because destruction for its own sake is also part of the arsenal of nihilism. In the paragraph of hers that I quoted above, she uses words that express this to describe the effects of Obama’s executive order on immigration [emphasis mine]: it is “destructive to the reputation of democracy itself,” it “damages the standing of our tottery political institutions,” and it “erode[s] the position of the American working class.”

I agree that Obama wants to destroy. His nihilism would be of the “active” type, however, because he also wants to create:

…"[A]ctive" nihilism on the other hand destroys to level the field for constructing something new. This form of nihilism is characterized by Nietzsche as “a sign of strength,” a wilful destruction of the old values to wipe the slate clean and lay down one’s own beliefs and interpretations, contrary to the passive nihilism that resigns itself with the decomposition of the old values.

In what does Obama believe, and what does he wish to create? His beliefs are those of the left: America must be punished and humbled for its crimes, which include colonialism and racism. And what does he want to build? He is dedicated to the idea that America must be remade into a leftist welfare state of the European type (or the Chavez type). Purposely encouraging illegal immigration seems a great way to further those goals, as well as (he believes) to gain the future votes of such immigrants and their offspring for the left.

Noonan ignores those goals, but that’s not the only way in which she exhibits naïveté. Here’s another:

This White House seems driven—does it understand this?—by a kind of political nihilism. They agitate, aggravate, fray and separate.

Translation: Obama and his White House are not carrying out their unifying, uplifting, positive rhetoric of yore. Instead of building (as other presidents of both parties have tried to do, and as Obama has said he wishes to do), they destroy. Instead of uniting, they separate. Is this deliberate, or are they unaware of what they’re doing?

My response to Noonan is this: are you joking? What part of “community activist” do you not understand? What part of “Alinskyite“?

But Noonan herself seems not to be aware of any of this. Or perhaps she is merely doubting and denying her own dawning understanding and its meaning, because it is too frightening. She refuses to connect the dots. And she is most assuredly not a dumb person, nor does she lack perceptiveness. But she has a blind spot for human evil, and would like to attribute the best motives to people rather than the worst, despite the evidence before her eyes.

In this she is not alone. Much of America ignored (and many still ignore) the evidence before their eyes, which is now irrefutable. Obama’s destructiveness is deliberate, and his goals are the remaking of American in a leftist image, and permanent power for the left. This continuing denial on the part of many Americans is one of the main reasons he may succeed.