Kevin Williamson’s thoughtful and helpful piece, “The Front Man,” raises the question of why President Obama has so openly, systematically, and remorselessly set about exploring the limits of his ability to disregard the law. I have a somewhat different take on that question, and it begins with this video excerpt from an address given by Obama in 2002. (The video emerged during the 2012 campaign.) There, Obama says, “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but rich people are all for non-violence. Why wouldn’t they be? They’ve got what they want.”
Obama goes on to speak of the “subtle violence” perpetrated against the public by “accountants and tax loopholes.” Here the future president shows himself perfectly capable of drawing upon the thought of his more questionable friends, who argued that the chronic violence of the system itself justifies counter-violence, at least in principle, even if not in practice in our current context. (Here’s Jay Nordlinger’s take on Obama’s remarks.)
Radical? Leftist? Seems like. Yet for those who’d prefer not to draw that conclusion, let’s just say that previous presidents would have been unlikely to have used such language, even in the early stages of their political careers.
It strikes me as a relatively simple matter to get from that address by Obama to where we are today. It’s a short step from: “Rich people are all for non-violence. They’ve got what they want” to “Rich people are all for presidents enforcing the law and remaining within the Constitutional limits of their powers. They’ve got what they want.”
Then again, it seems a bit rude to bring up the distant days of 2002 at this point. Come to think of it, eleven years is an awfully long time. Obama’s probably already forgotten he ever used to talk that way. After all, we have.