Something called the Jed Report goes after me with moonbatty gusto for my USA Today column. You can judge the caliber of the guy from his writing and style yourself (I don’t know anything about him beyond this sophomoric bile). But he says that I’m attacking Reagan because Reagan said “the exact same thing” as Obama. But the two quotes he uses aren’t, you know, exact. Reagan was talking about making America “great again.” In the quote I highlighted, Obama is talking about making America “great,” full stop — as in we can make America great for the first time. They are very different sentiments and Obama’s expressed his more revolutionary sentiment more than once. Besides, contrary to this Jed guy, I don’t hang my entire argument on the one quote (which Jed can’t even get right). For example, I note that Obama also said in his nomination-clincher speech that his victory marks the moment when America finally took care of the sick and the jobless — as if America never did these things before (and as if the government and the country are the same thing). Obama constantly wants to have it both ways. He wants to sound like he’s in the small c-conservative patriotic mainstream and he wants to claim that he represents a much-needed revolution that will over turn just about everything. These things are at odds, like it or not. And lest someone say I’m paying too close attention to his words, let us recall Obama’s own scorn for those who say his speeches are “just words.”
Anyway, I feel like a fool responding to this yutz at all, but it raises a point that I often hear when criticizing messianic rhetoric from Obama and other liberals. They say “Reagan talked that way too!” And to an extent it’s true, Reagan did have a millennial streak in his rhetoric (City on a Hill and all that). But the key difference is that invoking scripture, or similar language, in order to justify shrinking government at home and liberating mankind from collectivism abroad is quite different than invoking government to justify an enormous expansion of the state into people’s lives. Reagan did not believe that government was the instrument of salvation, he believed it was the obstacle to what is best in ourselves and in our nation. Obama’s theology (much like Hillary Clinton’s) is the exact opposite of that. Likewise with this patriotism stuff. Reagan’s invocation of patriotism to make this country great again involved getting eurosclerotic government out of our lives (and improving our national defense). Obama’s patriotism talk, like his social gospel talk, is motivated by a desire to get Americans to rally around the government and his very narrow conception of “unity.” Those are big differences.