January 31 2013
Sometimes we think of political correctness as merely as a way of being sensitive to other people’s feelings—e.g., the deaf will feel better if they are called "hearing impaired."
Daniel Henninger points out in today’s Wall Street Journal that political correctness is more than that. It roots are in the sixties:
Back in 1965, when American politics watched the emergence of the New Left movement—rebranded today as "progressives"—a famous movement philosopher said the political left should be "liberated" from tolerating the opinions of the opposition:"Liberating tolerance would mean intolerance against movements from the Right and toleration of movements from the Left."
That efficient strategy was the work of Herbert Marcuse, the political theorist whose ideas are generally credited with creating the basis for campus speech codes. Marcuse said, "Certain things cannot be said, certain ideas cannot be expressed, certain policies cannot be proposed." Marcuse created political correctness.
Henninger links this to President Obama’s way of doing business, citing last week’s disturbing inaugural speech as an example of his modus operandi. President Obama used that historically elevated occasion to take an ungracious dig at his defeated opponent when he said that entitlement programs don't make us a “nation of takers.”
You may remember his 2010 whacking of the Supreme Court during his State of the Union address, another speech that offers the president an opportunity to bring the country together. The left was outraged that Justice Alito quietly mouthed the word “no” in response to what the president said.
Henninger sees this as the application of the brutal sixties notion that speakers from the right should not be heard.
Few are the men and women in American public life who haven't heard Mr. Dooley's famous aphorism: "Politics ain't beanbag." John Boehner, currently serving out his community service as speaker of the House, appears to have been meditating on Mr. Dooley's cautionary wisdom. At the Ripon Society last week he said the Obama administration was trying "to annihilate the Republican Party."
Better late than never, Speaker Boehner now sees that Barack Obama's notion of political competition is Mad Max inside the Thunderdome: "Two men enter, one man leaves."
You see the same singleness of vision and determination that his own will be done, regardless of anything else, in the president's recent "recess appointments" made while the Senate was not in recess.
John Yoo, the law professor who was a hate object of the left when he served in President George W. Bush’s Justice Department, addresses this power grab in a piece (subscription required) in today’s Wall Street Journal. Yoo's article dovetails nicely with the Henninger piece.
Obama, in effect, said he could determine if the Senate was in session--i.e., he was going to make his appointments regardless of the niceties of law. Yoo writes:
Mr. Obama, however, claimed the right to judge the legitimacy of the other branches' proceedings—a seizure of power unheard of in American history. A future president employing this power could ignore legislation that he thought insufficiently debated, recognize laws that had not met the filibuster's 60-vote requirement, or only enforce unanimous Supreme Court decisions.
In Noel Canning, Judge Sentelle confronted more than one instance of executive overreach. Mr. Obama has also distorted the Framers' presidency into an instigator of domestic revolution, rather than as the protector of the national security and the enforcer of the laws.
It is interesting that, even though presidential power grabs were present during the first Obama term, they did not become an issue during the campaign.
As Henninger says, however, better late than never.