Back in the days of Gary Larson’s classic “Far Side” newspaper cartoon, he once drew a pair of scientists in lab coats observing Larson’s usual coterie of misshapen Bizarro World hominids and added a caption that, paraphrasing the Anthony Newley standard, went something like, “Of course they’re fools, Smithers. The question is: What kind of fools are they?” (Unfortunately, I’m not back home yet, or I would have scanned a copy of the cartoon to illustrate this post.)
Similarly, in a rare and lengthy essay for Commentary, Jonah Goldberg writes, “Surely if fans of President Obama’s program” in the MSM “feel free to call it socialist”, even as they attack conservatives for using the S-word in regards to BHO, “critics may be permitted to do likewise.”
But, as Jonah asks, what kind of socialist is Obama?
The assertion that Barack Obama is a socialist became a hallmark of the 2008 presidential campaign. His opponent, John McCain, used Obama’s own extemporaneous words to an Ohio plumber as Exhibit A: “When you spread the wealth around,” Obama had said, “it’s good for everybody.” That, McCain insisted, sounded “a lot like socialism,” as did Obama’s proposals to raise taxes on the wealthy and high earners for the explicit purpose of taking better care of the lower and middle classes with that redistributed money.
Republicans believed they had hit a rhetorical mother lode with this line of argument in 2008, but their efforts to make hay of Obama’s putative socialism proved unedifying, if not outright comic. The National Committee of the Republican Party even formally considered a resolution on whether the Democratic party should change its name to “the Democratic Socialist Party” of the United States. The stunt was shelved infavor of compromise language lamenting the Democrats’ “march toward socialism.”
Fourteen months into his presidency, in March 2010, Obama succeeded in muscling through Congress a partial government takeover of the national health-care system. That legislative accomplishment followed Obama’s decision a year earlier, without congressional approval, to nationalize two of the country’s Big Three automobile companies. In the intervening months, he had also imposed specific wage ceilings on employees at banks that had taken federal bailout money—the first such federal wage controls since an ill-fated experiment by Richard Nixon in 1971. Obama also made the federal government the direct provider of student loans, and did so by putting that significant change in American policy inside the larger health-care bill. In a September 2009 press conference, Obama suggested that a publicly funded health-care system might help “avoid some of the overhead that gets eaten up at private companies by profits and excessive administrative costs”—thus mistaking the act of making money, the foundational cornerstone of capitalism itself, with the generation of unnecessary expenses.
Given his conduct and rhetoric as president, we have every reason to reopen the question from 2008 and ask, quite simply, What kind of socialist is Barack Obama?
Definitely read the whole thing.
Related: At one of the April 15th Tea Parties, Ron Paul attempted to argue that Obama wasn’t a socialist, he was a corporatist; of course, corporatism is simply a derivation of socialism, they’re all signposts on a highway that heads inexorably left. Along the way, the one candidate in 2008 who actually had executive experience before running reminds us today to beware of “Institutionalizing Crony Capitalism.”