DENVER -- When Barack Obama feeds rhetorical fishes and loaves to the multitudes in the football stadium Thursday night, he should deliver a message of sufficient particularity that it seems particularly suited to Americans. One more inspirational oration, one general enough to please Berliners or even his fellow "citizens of the world," will confirm Pascal's point that "continuous eloquence wearies." That is so because it is not really eloquent. If it is continuous, it is necessarily formulaic and abstract, vague enough for any time and place, hence truly apposite for none.
If Socrates had engaged in an interminable presidential campaign in a media-drenched age, perhaps he, too, would have come to seem banal. But the fact that Obama lost nine of the final 14 primaries might have something to do with the fact that when he descends from the ether to practicalities, he reprises liberalism's most shopworn nostrums.
Russia, a third-world nation with first-world missiles, is rampant; Iran is developing a missile inventory capable of delivering nuclear weapons the development of which will not be halted by Obama's promised "aggressive personal diplomacy." Yet Obama has vowed to "cut investments in unproven missile defense systems." Steamboats, railroads, airplanes and vaccines were "unproven" until farsighted people made investments. Furthermore, as Reuel Marc Gerecht of the American Enterprise Institute notes, Democrats will eventually embrace missile defense in Europe because they "will have nowhere else to go short of pre-emptive strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities."
Obama, who might be the last person to learn that schools' cognitive outputs are not simply functions of financial inputs, promises more money for teachers, who, as usual, are about 10 percent of the Democrats' convention delegates and alternates. He waxes indignant about approximately 150,000 jobs sent overseas each year -- less than 1 percent of the number of jobs normally lost and gained in the creative destruction of America's dynamic economy. U.S. exports are fending off a recession while he complains about free trade. He deplores NAFTA, although since it was implemented in 1994 the U.S., Mexican and Canadian economies have grown 50 percent, 46 percent and 54 percent, respectively.
Recycling George McGovern's 1972 "Demogrant" notion, Obama promises a $1,000 check for every family, financed by a "windfall profits" tax on oil companies. Obama is unintimidated by the rule against legislating about subjects one cannot define.