Er, if you say so. He’s mostly persuasive in persuading you there’s no urgency about anything: All that stuff about Americans sweating and straining for the most distant horizon is his way of saying you can go back to sleep for another couple of decades.
If we hadn’t been assured by the New York Times that this man is the Greatest Orator of All Time, there would be something offensive in the leader of the Brokest Nation in History bragging that we’re not the guys to shirk a challenge, however grueling and demanding it may be, no sirree. The salient feature of America in the Age of Obama is a failed government class institutionally committed to living beyond its means, and a citizenry too many of whom are content to string along. Remember Peggy Joseph of Sarasota, Fla.? “I never thought this day would ever happen,” she gushed after an Obama rally in 2008. “I won’t have to worry about putting gas in my car. I won’t have to worry about paying my mortgage.” Is Peggy really the gal you’d want to hike a steep hill with?
In Speechworld, nation-building can be done through flatulent rhetoric. In Realworld, nations are built by people, and in America the productive class is battered and reeling. Obama wasted a trillion dollars on a phony stimulus that stimulated nothing but government, and wants to try it one mo’ time. That’s what yokes “nation-building” near and far. According to the World Bank, the Western military/aid presence now accounts for 97 percent of Afghanistan’s GDP. The bit that’s left doesn’t function, not least because it doesn’t need to. How can, say, Helmand develop an economic base when everybody with a whit of sense is making massively inflated salaries as a translator for the Yanks or a security guard for some EU outreach project? When the 97 percent revenue tide recedes with the American withdrawal, what’s left will be the same old 3 percent ugly tribal dump Afghanistan was a decade ago. It will leave as little trace as the Obama stimulus.
The sheer waste is appalling, immoral, and deeply destructive. In Kandahar as in California, all that matters is excess: It’s not working? Then you need to spend more. More more more. What does it matter? You’re not spending anything real. America would have to find $15 trillion just to get back to having nothing in its pocket. But who cares? As long as we’re united in our commitment to excess, no CBO debt-to-GDP ratio graph is too steep for us to take to the next level, and no horizon — 2060, 2080, 2104 — is too distant to serve as a plausible estimate for significant deficit reduction.
In Realworld, political speeches would be about closing down unnecessary federal bureaucracies, dramatically downsizing or merging others, and ending makework projects and mission creep. The culture of excess that distinguishes the hyperpower at twilight would be reviled at every turn. But instead the “hugely persuasive” orator declares that there’s nothing to worry about that even more government can’t cure. In Speechworld, “no hill is too steep, no horizon is beyond our reach.” In Realworld, that’s mainly because we’re going downhill. And the horizon is a cliff edge.
— Mark Steyn, a National Review columnist, is author of America Alone. © 2011 Mark Steyn.