December 8 2011
There has been a great deal of talk about President Obama’s ugly mischaracterization of his political opponents in the Osawatomie, Kansas speech (Dan Henninger says that in the Tuesday speech the president was more Don Corleone than TR, the president's latest persona).
It wasn’t the sort of speech the leader of a country should give. But one aspect of the speech (in my opinion) gives those who do not embrace the president's views an opening you could drive quite a few Chevy Volt's through.
Speaking of Republicans, the president said this:
Their philosophy is simple. We are better off when everybody is left to fend for themselves and play by their own rules.
Okay, I don’t think we should be able to “play by our own rules” but what is so wrong with fending for ourselves? Is that so bad? Think about it: aren’t people better off when government promotes policies that help us to take care of ourselves rather than fending for us?
In Osawatomie (rimes with de-ma-go-guery?), the president set up a reasonable proposition (Republicans want you to take care of yourselves!) in such a way that it looks hard-hearted to say, “So what’s wrong with wanting people to run their own lives?”
It would require somebody with more knowledge of government, economics, and political science to say with authority what the role of government should be when people are down and out. I do not want people to starve to death or be unable to take care of their children. But I do know this: President Obama appears to want government to take care of people who might be able to “fend” for themselves. Question: How is that working out for Europe?
Most of the speech was indeed dishonest, as conservatives have noted. Henninger nailed the central idea of the speech:
The Kansas speech was built around one concrete policy idea: that the rich and millionaires (officially still defined as families with before-tax income above $250,000) should send him more money so he can "invest" it.
This single policy, if we heard correctly, will end high unemployment, raise middle-class incomes, put children through college, make America fair and defeat countries that pollute.
Meanwhile, the D.C. Examiner notes in an editorial that the Osawatomie speech “launches [an] assault on facts and history.” The White House admitted that they have no information to back up the president’s applause line that “some billionaires” have a tax rate as low as one percent. The editors write:
Similarly, Obama endlessly repeats his contention that the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 were "the most expensive tax cuts for the wealthy in history."
That characterization is the key to his claim that his predecessor's policies caused the Great Recession of 2008, as well as "the slowest job growth in half a century and massive deficits." But again, as noted by Kessler, Obama "should not suggest that the Bush tax cuts were aimed only at the wealthy, since that is not correct."
Obama can make whatever arguments he likes for his policies, but surely that's possible without doing rhetorical violence to the facts.
It was a speech unworthy of a president. But I think insufficient attention is being paid to another aspect of it: the president’s multiple personalities. In Kansas, President Obama debuted his new Teddy Roosevelt persona, which is replacing previous personas (Lincoln, FDR, Woodrow Wilson, Harry Truman, and Ronald Reagan).
Somebody at the White House should rent “The Three Faces of Eve” to find out just how disconcerting multiple personalities can be.