Roger’s Rules

Obama: Moderate, Or Radical in Moderate's clothing?

For many voters, I suspect, the choice next Tuesday comes down to an exercise in risk assessment. Is Barack Obama, despite his dubious connections (William Ayers, Jeremiah Wright, Tony Rezko, Rashid Khalidi, et al.) and euro-socialist spread-the-wealth-around rhetoric, is he, when all is said and done, a moderate, centrist character who would govern pragmatically, not ideologically?

Or is he a more radical character who has cultivated suit-and-tie respectability in order to get elected, after which he will pursue radical, redistributionist policies economically, socially, and in foreign affairs?

Both possibilities have their partisans. I incline to the latter, partly for the reasons Andy McCarthy outlined in “Obama’s ‘Redistributive Change’ and the Death of Freedom“. Obama, as he made the move from radical “community organizer” to the national national stage, “put on mainstream airs.” It has been a stunningly effective makeover. As late as 2001, in that now-infamous interview he gave on Illinois public radio, Obama advocated breaking free “from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers and the Constitution” in order to address “issues of the redistribution of wealth.” Increasingly, though, Obama modulated his rhetoric, if not his aims. Sure, the mask would occasionally slip, as when, in an unscripted exchange, he acknowledge to “Joe the plumber” Wurzelbacher that he didn’t want to punish success; no, never that. He merely wanted to “spread the wealth around.”

But that was a rare, and inadvertent, moment of candor. Note that Obama has not repeated the mistake, which may yet cost him the election. Instead, he speaks vaguely of “economic justice.” As McCarthy notes, however, although Obama tends to couch “his radicalism in soothing euphemisms,” the underlying goal is one that Karl Marx would look upon benignly. “Economic justice,” for example,

is simply the finance angle of “social justice,” the idée fixe of Obama and his coven of Change-agents — like Michael Klonsky, the communist educator who ran a “social justice” blog on Obama’s official campaign website. Such radicals give the Warren Court high marks on non-economic rights, but flunk the justices on redistribution: the purported right of society’s ne’er-do-wells to pick the pockets of its achievers through the coercive power of government.

There are, as I say, many who believe that Obama is a far more anodyne character–after all, he is well spoken and, as Joe Biden said before he became Head of the Office of Gaffes and Obama’s choice for VP, he is “bright and clean.” He doesn’t look scary.

But the more I know about Obama–and the more I know we don’t know about his past–the more I worry. The Wall Street Journal‘s Daniel Henninger captured my concern–well, part of my concern–in his column today:

I don’t agree with the argument that an Obama-Pelosi-Reid government is a one-off, that good old nonideological American pragmatism will temper their ambitions. Not true. With this election, the U.S. is at a philosophical tipping point.

The goal of Sen. Obama and the modern, “progressive” Democratic Party is to move the U.S. in the direction of Western Europe, the so-called German model and its “social market economy.” Under this notion, business is highly regulated, as it would be in the next Congress under Democratic House committee chairmen Markey, Frank and Waxman. Business is allowed to create “wealth” so long as its utility is not primarily to create new jobs or economic growth but to support a deep welfare system.

This really is an “historic” election, Henninger notes, not simply because of the changes Obama wishes to make in the American system but also because the political environment–a predicted Democratic super-majority in Congress–is shaping up to give him carte-blanche for his radical initiatives.

Obama said everyone making $200,000 or less would get a tax cut; a day or two ago, Joe Biden declared (Gaffed? Let slip? Prepared the ground? Put us on notice?) that tax cuts should “go to [people] making under $150,000 a year.” What happened to that extra $50,000? As The New York Post put it yesterday, commenting on Biden’s speech, we have been given “fair warning.”

Let those who have ears to hear . . .