The Corner

Obama and American Greatness

If you want a good distillation of this president’s wrongheaded view of the United States of America, look no further than this rhetorical bit from the end of tonight’s State of the Union address: “No one built this country on their own. This Nation is great because we built it together. This Nation is great because we worked as a team. This Nation is great because we get each other’s backs.”

Unity is central to American identity, but not the way Obama envisions it. E pluribus unum is not Latin for, “Hey, bro, let’s invest in some infrastructure together.” The notion that this nation is one big team that acts collectively toward shared goals set by the state would be completely foreign to the men who founded it. But that is Obama’s concept of America.

The Founders thought the nation was great, or could become great, because its people had secured individual liberty for themselves and their descendants by strictly limiting the power and reach of the state. The president uttered the word “liberty” only once tonight, and that was in relation not to the American people, but to emerging regimes in the Middle East: “We will support policies that lead to strong and stable democracies and open markets, because tyranny is no match for liberty.”

By contrast, Ronald Reagan in his 1982 SOTU said the word four times. “In forging this new partnership for America, we could achieve the oldest hopes of our Republic — prosperity for our nation, peace for the world, and the blessings of individual liberty for our children and, someday, for all of humanity,” Reagan said. And he concluded with this: “Let us so conduct ourselves that two centuries from now, another Congress and another President, meeting in this Chamber as we are meeting, will speak of us with pride, saying that we met the test and preserved for them in their day the sacred flame of liberty — this last, best hope of man on Earth.”

We have gone from “the sacred flame of liberty” to “we get each other’s backs.” It gives new meaning to the epithet, “President Downgrade.”

Andrew Cline Andrew Cline is the president of the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy, a free-market think tank in New Hampshire.

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