Roger’s Rules

Words and Deeds: the Awful Advent of Buyer's Remorse

Writing in National Review just a year ago, I suggested that “The indispensable term for understanding the Obama aesthetic is kitsch, by which I do not mean bad, cloying art but the deliberate sentimentalization, i.e., the avoidance, of reality.” I went on to note the many similarities between Obama’s campaign image and rhetoric and the image and rhetoric of Socialist Realism. The cult of personality. The projection of abstract virtue onto an ever-receding future. The cultivation of homogenizing, collectivist sentiment. “There is,” I wrote,

something deeply childish about the Obama aesthetic. But it would be a great mistake to believe that immaturity is a guarantee of innocuousness. There is nothing at all innocent about Obama’s all-encompassing aesthetic, any more than there was about the more obviously minatory aesthetic of socialist realism. What Team Obama offers is socialism lite, with fantasy plugged in where the realism used to be. At bottom, the issue that Obama’s aesthetic raises belongs not to art criticism but to the question of our political future. The crucial thing to bear in mind is how uncompromising Obama’s aesthetic is. Recently, a television interviewer asked Obama if he had any doubts. “Never” was his response. That’s the answer he requires you to have as well.

Well, that was back on the campaign trail. How do things look seven months into the Hope-and-Change regime? Remember the so-called “Stimulus Package”? It was passed in two days by a Congress whose contempt for the people was so complete that no one who voted for the bill even bothered to read it.

But here we are, seven months later. Acknowledged unemployment is edging up to 10 percent (it’s more than double that among some groups). Surely we are now entitled to ask, What did the stimulus stimulate?

Those who believe that it was a useless gesture, an act of wild extravagance without issue, do not understand the real goals of the Obama machine. The last seven months have demonstrated beyond cavil that the Obama administration has two distinct levels of policy. There are the policies they say they are pursuing — “resetting” the economy, foreign policy, health care, etc. — and then there are the policies they actually are pursuing — sharply increased government intervention into the fabric of everyday life, centralization of control over wide swaths of the economy, a broad menu of egalitarian initiatives designed to “spread the wealth around” and enhance the agenda of political correctness.

Let’s pause to consider the stimulus package again. As Thomas Sowell observes in his column today,

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that it will be September 2010 before even three-quarters of the money will be spent. Some economists expect that it will not all be spent by the end of 2010.

So the question naturally arises, why the rush? At the time, Obama warned of imminent collapse (“catastrophe” was his alarmist word of the day) if we didn’t give him nearly $800 billion, right now, today. We gave him the money. Then what? What was the real motivation for that unseemly haste? I noted earlier this summer, although he got the dough, “the rumble you’ve been hearing in the background are doubts congregating. Any real stimulus does — what? It stimulates. And what has the President’s ‘stimulus’ (really, a spending) package given us (apart from higher taxes coming to a paycheck near you, I mean)? Take your time . . .”

Again, it would be wrong to infer that the so-called stimulus package was for naught. It really is bearing fruit. It’s just not the fruit that Obama promised. To appreciate this, you have to understand what the real — as distinct from the announced — purpose of the stimulus package was. It was not, as Sowell points out, “to get that money out into the economy as fast as possible.” On the contrary, the real purpose, Sowell explains,

was to get that money — and the power that goes with it — into the hands of the government. Power is what politics is all about.

More money and power in the hands of government officials, less money and power in the hands of individuals. That’s the real Obama ticket. Or, rather, it’s part of the real Obama ticket. For what we seeing playing out in domestic affairs is also going on in the international arena. What Obama is doing to us as individuals he is also endeavoring to do to America as a whole: to render it less powerful, less “exceptional,” more part of a housebroken collective.

Later today, the Dear Leader will address the schoolchildren of America. Part of the indoctrination may involve a video in which various celebrities pledge to undertake such wonders as ending world hunger, fomenting the instauration of world peace, etc. There is even one bit proclaiming “I pledge to be a servant to our President.” How much of that will survive the ridicule and alarm it sparked we won’t know until the day is over.

Then there is tomorrow, when the Dear Leader will address Congress about health care “reform.” I’ve written about this before (e.g., here). The bottom line, I believe, is once again to be found in the disparity between what Obama says he wants to do and what he really intends. He says he wants to “reform” health care and cut costs. We all know, however, that by “reform” he means “socialize” and by “cut costs” he means “cut benefits, impose rationing, and make the middle class pay through the nose.” Behind it all is an effort to make the government the puppet-master-in-chief.

All this is depressing enough. But there is a silver lining, or at least the promise of one. This weekend I was visiting friends in Northwest Connecticut. At an end-of-summer party on Sunday, I ran into an acquaintance, a very clever fellow who, like the vast majority of his confreres in that part of the world, had embraced Obama as a sort of savior of the world. Note the preterite. He followed Obama to the White House trailing clouds of glory. Now, seven months into the Obama Orgy of Debt, he is an older, wiser liberal. “Shades of the prison-house” have begun to close in upon him and the radiance he perceived around Obama has faded in the light of common day.

My friend is a savvy man of affairs, and he was shaken, not stirred, by the assault that team Obama had perpetrated on the U.S economy. We spoke for only a few minutes, so I did not have an opportunity to plumb the depths of his disillusionment. I came away, though, with this cheering thought: if my intelligent though programmatically liberal friend could have experienced so rapid and drastic a season of political maturation, what does that mean for the Obama’s agenda? If the Northwest corner of Connecticut is having buyer’s remorse and has started muttering about “Obamination,” what then? Will Obama’s Children’s Crusade later today or his address before the Politburo tomorrow materially alter the political dégringolade that has been gathering steam for two months? I doubt it. The disjunction between words and deeds that Thomas Sowell dilated on is becoming too wide and too obvious to conceal.