Politics & Policy

The Benefit of Doubt

Obama must earn our respect.

Many years ago, at a certain academic institution, there was an experimental program that the faculty had to vote on as to whether or not it should be made permanent.

I rose at the faculty meeting to say that I knew practically nothing about whether the program was good or bad, and that the information that had been supplied to us was too vague for us to have any basis for voting, one way or the other. My suggestion was that we get more concrete information before having a vote.

The director of that program rose immediately and responded indignantly and sarcastically to what I had just said — and the faculty gave him a standing ovation.

After the faculty meeting was over, I told a colleague that I was stunned and baffled by the faculty’s fierce response to my simply saying that we needed more information before voting.

“Tom, you don’t understand,” he said. “Those people need to believe in that man. They have invested so much hope and trust in him that they cannot let you stir up any doubts.”

Years later, and hundreds of miles away, I learned that my worst misgivings about that program did not begin to approach the reality, which included organized criminal activity.

The memory of that long-ago episode has come back more than once while observing both the actions of the Obama administration and the fierce reactions of its supporters to any questioning or criticism.

Almost never do these reactions include factual or logical arguments against the administration’s critics. Instead, there is indignation, accusations of bad faith, and even charges of racism.

Here too, it seems as if so many people have invested so much hope and trust in Barack Obama that it is intolerable that anyone should come along and stir up any doubts that could threaten their house of cards.

Among the most pathetic letters and e-mails I receive are those from people who ask why I don’t write more “positively” about Obama or “give him the benefit of the doubt.”

No one — not even the president of the United States — has an entitlement to a “positive” response to his actions. The entitlement mentality has eroded the once-common belief that you earned things, including respect, instead of being given them.

As for the benefit of the doubt, no one — especially not the president of the United States — is entitled to that, when his actions can jeopardize the rights of 300 million Americans domestically and the security of the nation in an international jungle, where nuclear weapons may soon be in the hands of people with suicidal fanaticism. Will it take a mushroom cloud over an American city to make that clear? Was 9/11 not enough?

When a president of the United States has begun the process of dismantling America from within, and exposing us to dangerous enemies outside, the time is long past for being concerned about his public image. He has his own press agents for that.

Internationally, Barack Obama has made every mistake that was made by the Western democracies in the 1930s, mistakes that put Hitler in a position to start World War II — and come dangerously close to winning it.

At the heart of those mistakes was trying to mollify your enemies by throwing your friends to the wolves. The Obama administration has already done that by reneging on this country’s commitment to put a missile-defense shield in Eastern Europe and by its lackadaisical foot-dragging on doing anything serious to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons. That means, for all practical purposes, throwing Israel to the wolves as well.

Countries around the world that have to look out for their own national survival, above all, are not going to ignore how much Obama has downgraded the reliability of America’s commitments.

Iraq, for example, knows that Iran is going to be next door forever, while Americans may be gone in a few years. South Korea likewise knows that North Korea is permanently next door but who knows when the Obama administration will get a bright idea to pull out? Countries in South America know that Hugo Chávez is allying Venezuela with Iran. Dare they ally themselves with an unreliable U.S.A.? Or should they join our enemies to work against us?

This issue is too serious for squeamish silence.

Thomas SowellThomas Sowell is an American economist, social theorist, political philosopher, and author, whose books include Basic Economics. He is currently senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

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