Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

"America is no longer what it could be, what it once was."

. . . "And I say to myself, I don’t want that future for my children." This is what Barack Obama told a 7 year-old in response to the question, "Why do you want to be President."

There are so many things one could say about a remark like that and, yet, I am trying contain my anger. As a mother, my first reaction is to think of the little girl to whom he is speaking. Do you tell a little kid that their country is damaged goods and expect that to inspire the child (or anyone else within earshot)? These are not the words of a statesman--they are the words of a crank.

And notice that he is (as usual) vague about the terms up for discussion. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He’s winging it. We are not "what [we] could be, what [we] once [were]"? Well . . . that’s certainly true. We no longer have slavery. We no longer have segregated lunch counters. We no longer sit in perpetual fear of an evil empire with a nuclear arsenal pointed in our direction. We no longer watch helplessly as crippling diseases like Polio ravage through our communities. We no longer watch small businesses crumble as they pay the confiscatory tax rates of the late 1970s. So, yes, there are a good number of ways in which we have changed . . . and, I suppose, there’s an equal number of ways in which our country has changed that would not inspire my enthusiastic approval. So what? On balance, what reasonable American can deny that this is still--for all her flaws--the greatest country in the history of the world? If we can be better, Barack Obama is not the man to show us how.

What, exactly, is it that Senator Obama imagines cries out for his divine intervention? In what ways were we better before and in what ways are we worse now according to "Him." And what hubris must he have in order to imagine that the mere election of a "community organizer" and part time politician to the highest office in the land would, somehow, reverse all of America’s ills and create a future that is suitable for the Obama girls?

It is an outrageous statement and it exposes him--not only as a pompous, silly little man deserving of no serious consideration--but as an ungrateful, uninformed and unimaginative political rookie.

Discussions - 18 Comments

Good call, Julie. What great place would he prefer his children grow up in? One wonders whether he has ever visited anywhere else in the world, aside from 5-start resorts. This is the same kind of delusion exuded in Michelle Obama's speeches, e.g., "for first time ever I am proud of my country," etc. Anyone with any sense of what most of the world is like would be proud of this country every day, and would be happy that their kids are growing up here.

Wasn't it PETER LAWLER who posted just several days ago that Barrack Hussein wouldn't "blow it."

Barrack Hussein's answer to that puff question is a TEXTBOOK example of an unready politico "blowing it."

There's NO WAY that a guy could be soaking up the pathologies of Wright, Ayers, Soros, Meeks, Pflegger, et al, and be soaking up those pathologies for over two decades, and somehow keep the lid on his true beliefs during the course of a very long campaign.

The internal argument of this post seems to be non-sensical. The writer wants to know:

On balance, what reasonable American can deny that this is still--for all her flaws--the greatest country in the history of the world?

But she quotes no statement by Obama which is actually incompatible with such a claim.

The problem seems to me to be that the author is essentially just angry because all that Obama's statement is meant to imply is that the country would be better if he were elected. That's all that any presidential candidate would ever claim; and if they're not already in office its inevitable that they'll express disatisfaction with present state of affairs. Otherwise they would have no rationale for running for office in the first place. The author of this post is angry, however, because for her patriotism entails a kind of slavish worship of George W. Bush. If Obama is in fact governs for any period of time you can expect her to say far worse things about the state that the country is allegedly in. She might support a military insurrection. And for her this would be legitimate because for her America is simply equivilant to the Republican Party.

cf. the suggestion in 1996 by someone a lot like her that "our regime is becoming the democratic “tyrant state”"

[E]rskin, have you been following the comments of the false messiah over the course of his ever so brief career? If you had, you would not be able to deny, at least not in good faith, that the false and fraudulent messiah has MAJOR probs with American Exceptionalism.

I can't recall any candidate in American history with, to understate, so much ambivalence about the nature of this country, and her actions in the world. Didn't you listen to any of his "sermon to the Germans?"

The guy channels "Reverend" Wright.

In some ways, erskin, it's not a big deal, since I certainly would admit that I often have my own version of "America is no longer what it could be, what it once was." And yes, so do many of my fellow NLTers, if they're honest. But I don't think I would ever say this to a seven year old. Especially in a public setting. Especially when I'm a presidential candidate! For we conservatives, it smells like Carter, and it does not remind one of the better winds of morale that came from Reagan, or even from FDR. Julie is right that it has the scent of the privileged crank.

Julie, You are correct to point out Obama's stupidity and arrogance in answering the question of a child in the way that he does. He should tell the youngster that she lives in a good country that he is proud to live in, and that he is honored to be considered for its presidency.

But consider it from Obama's point of view. When he concedes that conservatives like Reagan had the good ideas of their times, and that they furthermore transformed the political debate in this country--he is not only giving credit to conservatives, he is lamenting the fact that such arguments were ever given public hearing. He longs for the days when arguments for social justice, affirmative action, and the war on poverty did not lack self confidence and overwhelming self-evidence. He can't offer any principled argument in favor of the return of such policies, but he thinks it was better back then.

One could add that he laments the lack of a strong anti-war movement as well--liberals of his type blame the missing presence of mass anti-war demonstrations on the lack of a functioning draft at present (as Charlie Rangel said when he wanted to reinstate it).

So in Obama's view, America today is worse off due to the loss of vision of liberal leaders in the 1970s, and their capitulation to conservative arguments in the 1980s. It should be noted that the America of which he speaks in terms of a near Jeremiad literally existed for awhile. So much so, that I had a leftist sociology professor in the 1990s who hated Clinton for ending "welfare as we know it." His principles, of which he had a hard time defending, were being defeated by the arguments of Charles Murray, James Q. Wilson, etc. Obama is no different in this regard.

So Obama wants to return to the arguments of the 60s and the 70s, when he thinks America was more "progressive" with regard to issues like poverty, race, and education. He wants to add health care to the mix.

Obama is on tougher grounds regarding foreign policy. Should we begin a SALT III treaty with Iran?

What are Obama's principles? What is it that he wants, other than a continued expansion of the administrative, regulatory, welfare state? He misses the glory days of the Great Society.

Anyway, you are right to express dismay at his stupidity with regard to speaking to children, but it is somewhat understandable (from what I take to be his point of view). It still does not make it right.

By the way, what do I mean regarding Obama's jeremiad. Namely, the declension from the understanding that certain policies designed to assist various aggrieved groups must become a proprietary interest that necessarily be understood as programmatic rights that the aggrieved groups are entitled to. When Obama thinks America has turned the wrong direction he merely
means a return to such policies.

Will Obamamanics follow him in this regard? It depends on how he puts it. If he says that George Washington wanted the same things when he wanted remuneration for his soldiers, then I suspect he will be persuasive. You did the same in your time, and therefore you deserve the rewards.

You may argue that it is contingent upon demonstrating one's loyalty to one's country in a way that proves one was willing to put one's life on the line. But if one has always been screwed by the dominant vision, then one says that putting one's life on the line is tantamount to the claim for the greatest of patriots. George Washington only had his wealth and good name to lose. As a black American, I have nothing to gain ot lose.

I don't think Obama will be this radical--but it can be a persuasive argument if moderated a bit.

Yes, and let's not forget that other inexperienced Illinois congressperson who also criticized what his nation had become in some speech he gave at a Young Man's Lyceum - saying that the current generation had declined and calling for a renewal of civic spirit. And how dare he say this before a "young man's" Lyceum - there might have even been a 7 year old in the group! Gosh, won't we ever learn not to listen to these America haters???

I note, once again, that all you (y'all, not just the current author) are capable of posting here are a set of frankly cranky screeds against Obama. The effect is like that moment in the Wizard of Oz - don't look at that old man behind the curtain. Don't look at McCain - just keep your eyes focused on any niggling critique we can cook up against Obama. Why not train your incisive, theoretical minds on how we came to have two such problematic candidates? Could it be we have some severe civic challenges that we are not facing? Why not point out that neither is adequately addressing the real problems we face in this nation (or do you deny that we face some serious problems?)?

Four and eight years ago you were all doubtlessly playing the same game, hammering Gore then Kerry without noticing that Bush was, is, and has been a catastrophe. It's amazing you're all willing to do the same in the name of defending some very tired and failed ideas on the Right. I don't subscribe to the tired and failed ideas of the Left, but if this is the best that bright young conservative minds have to offer, then we are in real trouble.

Red Tory just said what I have been thinking for several months. I've enjoyed and learned from this generally find blog for several years. However, the substance and tone of the Obama critiques has been extremely disapointing, far below what I expected.
Great comment Red

Yes, McCain was not my conservative choice, but I have no choice left to me in this election. I do not see that we ever have a choice but to take what is available in candidates. Who did you like other than GWB eight years ago?

McCain only looks good to me in light of Obama. I am more than a little nervous about his presidency. I am REALLY nervous about an Obama presidency. What he says does make mecranky. Yet, what more is there to say about him, especially after months of campaigning?

However, if Obama keeps up his current course, I do not see that I need to worry about him at all. I read that he's aware of Obama fatigue. Everything of substance that could be said about him has probably already been said. Maybe there will be more than cranky, nit-picky stuff till November, but that probably depends on world and national events. What the heck do you guys want?

Obama is an actor.

Nothing more, nothing less.

And for those of the historic mind ...

What was Lincoln talking about when he spoke of change?

Compare that to what Obama means or seems to mean when he utters change?

How are they even similar, other than superficial?

Erskin pretty much nailed it.

I'll just add that I recall quite clearly the 8 years of the Clinton presidency when the right was continually and progressively decrying that America's glory was fading or had been destroyed altogether by the evil Bubba. I don't doubt that Ponzi was among the mourners.

I just can't believe in the change that Obama says we can believe in. I can believe in America needing to change, but just don't like his vision for it, except when he speaks in the most vague and visionary terms. When he gets down to specifics, he loses me.

I am guilty of thinking that the Clinton years did not help. But perhaps he did not get to fulfill some bright vision for change in America because we nasty Republicans held him back. I always missed the glory that was Clinton. Yet I would bet, based on Julie's post, that she would not be willing to say that even Clinton had done much to diminish America's glory. I thought the point of that post was that a man would have to be blind or stupid not see America's glory, despite her flaws.

Red Tory's comment is good. I don't take back what I said, but he's onto a larger phenomenon. Obama-fatigue is not just besetting those inclined to love him, but those inclined to fear him! The latter are getting weary of Obama-critique, some of which has been pretty niggling. It has gotten old, and it does seem lazy. Although really NLT is not nearly as bad as a lot of conservative outlets on this, but apparently Ryan and Red Tory want us to be at this super-insightful level where we're explaining why conservatism is in trouble election-wise and why we have a problematic/mediocre candidate. Well I don't know. Back in the 2000, Red Tory, I voted for Gore, which shows you how smart I am. I am not a fan of John McCain, and worry about his presidency esp. given a Democratic legislative branch, although I do see now that he's much more electable than my preference Romney would have been. And I am very thankful our guy isn't Giuliani. As far as I can tell, McCain simply got lucky, getting a gust of wind behind his sails precisely when the other boats were lagging, or had colided into one another. Why didn't we have better candidates overall? I don't know.

I guess we should talk about McCain more, or policies more...any ideas, Red Tory and Ryan? If McCain wins, then my interest will perk about how conservatives should deal with him, in both sense of the word "deal." Right now all the MSM media wants to do is find some dirt on him, find flip-flops on him(they're there), or talk about how he's like Bush. Is there a word that combines "ugh" and "yawn?" 'cause there just isn't that much along these lines to get excited about, whether one is for or against McCain. And conservative media are basically responding to this MSM pattern by saying, "So besides your dutiful X-today-said-this-Y-reponded-with-that coverage, besides your occassional failed attempts to stir up some controversy on McCain, you mainly wanna talk about Obama? Sounds good to us!" So there just isn't a good conversation to join about that "man behind the curtain," who, yes, could turn out to be a very problematic man for the oval office. But he's the nominee now, and that's that. At least the signs presentation-wise with McCain are better than they were with Bush. And at least he ain't the no-there-there but ambition Obama.(Okay, maybe there's cloaked McGovernite liberalism there!) See, even in the course of this comment, Obama's flaws remain more interesting to me than McCain's ho-hum best-we-can-do virtues! So sue me.

I'm no fan of Obama, but Julie Ponzi's interpretation of Obama's words are very hostile and it is unlikely that any persuadable voter shared it. Its pretty clear that Obama did not mean that America is not better off now that slavery is over.

Obama's points seem to be the banal ones that America was better off before the Republicans took the presidency in 2001 (a point that a majority of Americans probably agree with) and that Obama hopes to fix the damage as President. That would be the expected tack of the presidential candidate of the out party.

Julie's point rankles for a second reason. When conservatives point to some change for the worse (the rise in fatherless families for example), liberals will often answer with something like, "So you think the past was better huh? Well the past had slavery, and... Jim Crow and... women couldn't vote... and... Hitler was running wild. So the past really wasn't that great." The post partook of some of the same spirit.

If Reagan had made a similar statement in 1980 (minus the references to the Reagan children, who were grown) would it be such an outrage? Would he have been wrong because there was no slavery anymore? Or would he have been right that in the very limited sense that America was worse for the Carter presidency? Of course one can argue that Reagan was a greater man than Obama. True, but as conservatives we would be expected to say that, and in 1980, Reagan was still unproven at the presidential level. Does there seem to be one standard for our guys and another standard for their guys?

"Most Americans have no real understanding of the operation of the international money lenders. The accounts of the Federal Reserve system have never been audited. It operates outside the control of Congress and manipulates the credit of the United States." - Barry Goldwater, R-AZ

"I have unwittingly ruined my country." - W. Wilson, upon passage of Federal Reserve Act, 1913

"It (the Great Depression) was not accidental; it was a carefully contrived occurrence. The international Bankers sought to bring about a condition of despair here so that they might emerge as rulers of us all." - Louis McFadden

"I have two great enemies, the southern army in front of me and the financial institutions, in the rear. Of the two, the one in the rear is the greatest enemy..... I see in the future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed. I feel at this moment more anxiety for the safety of my country than ever before, even in the midst of the war." - Abraham Lincoln

Obama is another shill telling a select group what they want to hear in order to maintain social control, but in his assertion he is right and these people realized it. On the idea of censoring ideas for the young. Im not saying we should rob the young of any sort of innocence but indoctrinating them with an orgy of flag waving and fireworks is hardly the way to go.

There are some good (and fair) criticisms above. It is not clear from what I said why Obama's remarks differ from similar laments that (too often) come from conservatives. A good deal can be said about all of this. For now, I will say only that--most of the time--decrying the future as inferior to the past is, if not simply wrong, overstated. Both sides do this and it is not often to good effect.

A better thing to do (and Obama has consciously tried to do this in the past) is to imitate Reagan who reminded us of what is good in our past and--instead of damning what we have become--insisted that we are still blood of that blood and flesh of that flesh. We are still, after all is said and done, Americans and we can (and will) do great things that are equal to our good reputation.

If our Republican robe is soiled, we can wash it clean. But it is rarely as soiled as the would be laundry man would have you believe.

It is still striking to me that, when given a softball question like that from a seven-year-old, Obama could not bring himself to say something good about his country. His first instinct was to criticize and to set himself apart. When he is not giving prepared remarks, this is always his mode. I think it is telling.

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