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Obama: Man on a Mission
A profile in cynicism


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Jonah Goldberg

In 2007, then-senator Barack Obama insisted that the coming presidential primary- and general-election campaigns “shouldn’t be about making each other look bad, they should be about figuring out how we can all do some good for this precious country of ours. That’s our mission.”

“And in this mission,” he continued, “our rivals won’t be one another, and I would assert it won’t even be the other party. It’s going to be cynicism that we’re fighting against.”

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I guess I missed the moment when Obama hung his “Mission Accomplished” banner. Because from where I’m sitting, it looks more like the president not only lost his battle against cynicism, he defected to the other side.

In his remarks this week in Osawatomie, Kan. — the site of Theodore Roosevelt’s famous 1910 “new nationalism” speech — Obama laid out the themes for his reelection campaign.

White House press secretary Jay Carney denies it was an “election speech,” but Obama’s own campaign manager, Jim Messina, touted it as one in a fundraising e-mail.

But such is the way of this White House. Facts are dependent variables, history the president’s Pool of Narcissus, reflecting his own glory. Hence, Obama cherry-picks TR’s “new nationalism” as a justification for his own agenda and proof that today’s Republicans are extreme.

After all, was not TR a “Republican son of a wealthy family,” as Obama put it?

Well, yes, he was. And then, he wasn’t. TR left the Republican party to promote his “new nationalism” philosophy and run as a Progressive — a “super socialist,” in the words of the New York Times in 1913. 

As a Republican president, Roosevelt had been a “trust buster.” As Progressive gadfly, Roosevelt believed in making the trusts bigger, stronger, and more entwined with the federal government, orchestrated by an all-powerful “Federal Bureau of Corporations.”

“Concentration, cooperation, and control,” he explained in his acceptance speech at the 1912 Progressive convention, “are the key words for a scientific solution of the mighty industrial problem which now confronts this nation.” 

It’s no surprise Obama would find the Progressive Teddy so reasonable. Nor is it shocking that Obama would fail to explain to today’s generation the true intentions of that “Republican son of a wealthy family.”

And no wonder Obama thinks that low tax rates in the 1920s were a significant cause of the Great Depression. Or that he sees income inequality as the chief problem during the 1930s — and today.



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