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Ground Control to President Obama
We don’t need attempts at soaring rhetoric in a time of earthbound problems.


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Mark Steyn

Round about this time in the election cycle, a presidential challenger finds himself on the stump and posing a simple test to voters: “Ask yourself — are you better off now than you were four years ago?”

But, in fact, you don’t need to ask yourself, because the Federal Reserve Board’s Survey of Consumer Finances has done it for you. Between 2007 and 2010, Americans’ median net worth fell 38.8 percent — or from $126,400 per family to $77,300 per family. Oh, dear. As I mentioned a few months ago, when readers asked me to recommend countries they could flee to, most of the countries worth fleeing to Americans can no longer afford to live in.

Which means we’ll just have to fix things here. How likely is Barack Obama to do this? A few days ago he came to Cleveland, a city that is a byword for economic dynamism, fiscal prudence, and sound government. He gave a 54-minute address that tried the patience even of the most doting court eunuchs. “One of the worst speeches I’ve ever heard Barack Obama make,” pronounced MSNBC’s Jonathan Alter, as loyal Democrat attendees fled the arena to volunteer for the Obamacare death-panel pilot program. In fairness to the president, I wouldn’t say it was that much worse, or duller, or more listless and inert than previous Obama speeches. In fact, much of it was exactly the same guff he was peddling when Jonathan Alter’s pals were still hailing him as the world’s greatest orator. The problem is the ever widening gulf between the speech and the slough of despond all about.

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Take, for example, the attempt at soaring rhetoric: “That’s how we built this country — together. We constructed railroads and highways, the Hoover Dam and the Golden Gate Bridge. We did those things together,” he said, in a passage that was presumably meant to be inspirational but was delivered with the faintly petulant air of a great man resentful at having to point out the obvious, yet again. “Together, we touched the surface of the moon, unlocked the mystery of the atom, connected the world through our own science and imagination. We haven’t done these things as Democrats or Republicans. We’ve done them as Americans.”

Beyond the cheap dissembling, there was a bleak, tragic quality to this paragraph. Does anyone really believe a second-term Obama administration is going to build anything? Yes, you, madam, the gullible sap at the back in the faded hope’n’change T-shirt. You seriously think your guy is going to put up another Hoover Dam? Let me quote one Deanna Archuleta, Obama’s deputy assistant secretary of the interior, in a speech to Democrat environmentalists in Nevada:

“You will never see another federal dam.”

Ever.

That seems pretty straightforward. America is out of the dam business. Just as the late Roman Empire no longer built aqueducts, so we no longer build dams. In fairness to the Romans, they left it to the barbarians to sweep in and destroy the existing aqueducts, whereas in America the government destroys the dams (some 200 this century) as an act of environmental virtue hailed by the deputy assistant secretary of the interior.

Obama can urge us all he wants to band together because when we dream big dreams there’s no limit to what Big Government can accomplish. But these days we can’t build a new Hoover Dam, only an attractive new corner office for the assistant deputy assistant deputy assistant secretary to the secretary of deputy assistants at the Department of Bureaucratic Sclerosis, and she’ll be happy to issue a compliance order that the Hoover Dam’s mandatory fish ladders are non-wheelchair-accessible, and so the whole joint needs to close. That we can do! If only we dare to dream Big Dreams!! Together!!!



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