Given what we know now, I think Obama’s summer-2008 campaign speeches should have sounded something like this:
The Economy: “Make no mistake about it — we must have critical new investment and government priming to free us from the Bush recession. Therefore, if America is willing to embrace such Keynesian spending, I will promise to keep our unemployment rate below 10 percent, while my team borrows no more than an additional $5 trillion for new shovel-ready stimulus. I envision our national debt rising to no more than $16 trillion over my tenure. I also promise to take over any corporation that explores bankruptcy as a way to default on what it owes its union members and pensioners, who will always have a higher claim than any creditors or Wall Street speculators. I have already talked of spreading the wealth; but as president I promise to extend food stamps to more Americans than at any time in history.”
Foreign Policy: “Hope and change will go abroad as well. America needs a new foreign policy of the sort that I would call ‘leading from behind’ — something my envisioned diplomatic team of Samantha Power and Susan Rice have already worked out. An Obama administration will seek a reset strategy based on apologizing for the Bush imperiousness and accepting America’s declining power and the inevitability of American unpopularity. But that does not mean that I will not, in my first four years of governance, escalate in Afghanistan, keep troops in the lost war in Iraq, and from time to time bomb more Middle Eastern oil-exporting Islamic nations. Some of you may be worried at my supposed inconsistency, but remember that my new interventions will not require congressional approval, because I think my air strikes will be limited in nature.”
National Security: “I remind you that Guantanamo is al-Qaeda’s chief recruiting tool, which nevertheless must stay open. Make no mistake about it: Dead-of-night renditions, flawed tribunals, illegal preventive detention, and unnecessary phone intercepts and wiretaps are even worse Bush-Cheney policies that I will reluctantly expand or embrace for our national security. I don’t like George Bush’s judge-jury-executioner Predator airborne assassinations any better than you do. But I promise nonetheless to expand fivefold the number of terrorist suspects whom my team will kill in Pakistan and along its borders. I will kill, repeat kill, not capture Osama bin Laden — and go into Pakistan to do it. In contrast, my team will urge that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, his lieutenant in Guantanamo, must be tried in a civilian court in Manhattan — although we won’t be in any hurry to do so.
“I also envision a new Middle East order in which I urge that pro-American authoritarians like Mubarak in Egypt and Ben Ali in Tunisia bow to popular protest and step down. Yet in the ensuing unrest, I will not in paranoid fashion fret about the possible role of the Muslim Brotherhood, which, as you know, is now largely a secular organization. Indeed, I will give a major new speech of hope and change to the Arab world outlining my ideas on our new relationship, reminding the world how Islam helped to foster everything from the Western Renaissance and Enlightenment to modern medicine and science. Indeed, I can envision how a new ecumenical mosque might rise near Ground Zero.
“To ensure a new Middle East order, I will advise Israel to return to its 1967 borders and negotiate over the ‘right of return’ with a Palestinian authority that, like it or not, will include Hamas, whose territory in Gaza must be contiguous with that in the West Bank. The Obama administration will be bold enough to reach out to Iran and Syria. I will not, in cynical fashion, repeat the embarrassments of the 1950s, and so we must not encourage protests against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; and make no mistake about it: Bashar Assad is a reformer well worth restoring diplomatic relations with.”
Health Care: “Too many of our doctors unnecessarily take out tonsils and amputate limbs in search of profits. So let me be perfectly clear: At home, we need a new, comprehensive, federally mandated health-care plan for all Americans. But for unions and various Bay Area progressive groups that already take care of their workers, I promise exemption from the new costs and burdens. And I further promise that in my first four years, no one will frequent my White House more than Andy Stern, president of the SEIU. By the same token, if a profit-hungry company wants to relocate to a right-to-work state, I will do my best to stop it.”
Energy: “On the energy front, the Clinton and Bush administrations have already approved enough oil and gas leases to ensure that I don’t have to seek any new ones. In this era of hope and change, new drilling is no solution to high gas prices — except abroad, in exciting new offshore finds in places like Brazil. If oil production lags, we can also urge our Middle Eastern friends to increase their exports.
“Of course, electricity prices will skyrocket and coal companies might go bankrupt under my initiatives. In addition, I foresee $4-a-gallon gas — another necessary sacrifice for weaning us off fossil fuels and shrinking our carbon footprint. Some of you might consider trading in your eight-mile-a-gallon clunkers, especially if you did not take my prior advice to properly inflate your tires and tune your engines.
“I promise that new cap-and-trade legislation will be central to our energy policy as a further discouragement of fossil fuels. My team can easily shepherd such a bill through what I expect will be a new Democratic House and Senate. In this regard, you will soon get to know a brilliant new environmental organizer, Van Jones, who will be my green czar.”
Illegal Immigration: “Again, make no mistake about it: The so-called border fence with Mexico, as you know, is basically finished, so I will cancel any further work on it. My nativist Republican opponents, in contrast, want moats and alligators on the Rio Grande and wish to arrest innocent children on their way to buy ice cream — a good reason for Latinos to punish such enemies by keeping them in the back seat of the car. I promise to appoint an Hispanic Supreme Court justice, a Latina who assures us that she will be wiser than her white, male counterparts. If any state seeks to unilaterally enforce federal immigration law, I will go to court to sue it — and I welcome the opportunity to do so hand in hand with the Mexican government. In this regard, I will pass on introducing comprehensive immigration reform should we have large Democratic majorities in Congress, but instead will wait until the Republicans recapture the House to better delineate our political differences on the issue.”
Race: “Eric Holder, who will be my attorney general, will try to rectify our cowardly approach to race as he addresses concerns of our people. Police stereotyping of African-Americans, as you know, poses a threat to us all, and I will hold a summit to address it. The Bush White House has unfairly pursued the New Black Panther Party, and I will instruct my new attorney general to cease such witch-hunts. Just as we were aware of those who cling to their guns and Bibles in Pennsylvania, so we must be vigilant against other reactionary groups like the Tea Party, which might wish to subvert our agenda of hope and change.”
Attitude: “Finally, Michelle and I want to bring a fresh, alive new attitude to the White House, where hip hosts invite in rapper poets bold enough to urge that action be taken against racist police and George Bush. In this regard, I will be meeting more Americans from every walk of life on the golf links than any past American president, and Michelle will be reminding Americans of the great vacation opportunities that they need to explore in Costa del Sol, Martha’s Vineyard, and Vail. America, under my leadership, once more will be a downright kind country!”
— NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, the editor of Makers of Ancient Strategy: From the Persian Wars to the Fall of Rome, and the author of The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern.