December 6 2011
Sometimes in unguarded moments the Obamas have said revealing things that later needed to be explained away—the president’s “bitter clingers” remark and Mrs. Obama’s being proud of her country “for the first time in my adult life” spring to mind.
The president seems to be making more of these bloopers as the pressure of running for re-election on his record gets to him. Speaking at a fundraising event with New York millionaires and billionaires the other day, he said this:
Our kids are going to be fine...And I always tell Malia and Sasha, look, you guys, I don’t worry about you . . . they’re on a path that is going to be successful, even if the country as a whole is not successful. But that’s not our vision of America. I don’t want an America where my kids are living behind walls and gates, and can’t feel a part of a country that is giving everybody a shot.
Where to begin? This remark is fascinating on so many levels. First and foremost, it reveals what the president of the United States thinks of the character of the country he leads. Unless his policies are enacted, he foresees an elite cowering behind gates, presumably afraid of the mobs outside, driven to crime by high unemployment. (I’ll refrain from any comparisons with Occupy Wall Street.)
This is not a shining city on a hill. This is a cesspool with enclaves of privilege. The Americans in this vision have very little in common with the hearty Americans who have risen to challenges time and again, from the Revolution, through the Civil War, the Depression and modern wars, some won, some not, but always finding it within to preserve a national character built on decency and a belief in hard work.
It is interesting to note that, while it took Ted Kennedy to concoct a scary and false version of “Robert Bork’s America,” Barack Obama needed no help in drawing an ugly picture of where he believes the country is heading. He has told us in his own words of his daughters' potential future, holed up behind walls, too frightened to venture out alone on bike trails to shop at Whole Foods. My fellow Americans, we are a scary lot.
In Barack Obama's America, there is only one way to avert this horror: adopting his policies. Leaving behind for a moment the supreme egotism of this claim, consider the supreme egotism of believing his children will do better than other people's children. Why will the Obama daughters and the children of the very rich in New York succeed, even if the United States turns into one big Hogarth sketch?
What in the president's view is the path to success? Answering this question brings me back to a gathering I covered during the 2008 campaign, when Mrs. Obama met with women in Richmond.
The women were invited to share Kleenex tissues and hard luck stories (some of the hard luck, I thought ungenerously, sounded awfully self-inflicted) about life in George Bush’s darkling America (times that are looking better now, but that’s another story). Mrs. Obama, not one to omit her own hardships, chimed in about her and her husband’s college loan debt.
But she admitted, "Barack and I had world-class educations" and "otherwise we wouldn't be here." As I noted back then, it made me wonder: Could the fragile Obama promise not have withstood, say, a large state university?
I imagine President Obama believes that his children will be okay not only because their father is the most powerful man in the world but because they go to the right schools. I hope there were a few self-made millionaires in the room when he made that statement, people who rose through the ranks, shaking their heads in disbelief. I imagine that some recent graduates—yes, even of our nation's most prestigious universities—who are today struggling to find employment were certainly shaking their heads, mournfully question the value of a college degree that seems increasingly irrelevant to the modern economy.
Tragically, Mr. Obama and many who share his values already are living in gated communities of the mind. They see themselves as separate from the rest of the country. Why, they don’t even need the votes of the yucky white working class to get re-elected! They’ll be okay if the country goes down the tubes because they are special.
But here’s the catch, Mr. President: Your kids won’t be okay if America fails.
If America fails, all of us, including your children, will live in a more dangerous world where economic opportunity and freedom are reduced, even for kids who have all the advantages.