Jonah Goldberg

For Obama, the only things separating America from redemption are politics, specifically obstruction from unhinged Republicans and others clinging to outdated and vaguely illegitimate motives. Opposition to gun control is irrational because the "government is us." Reject warnings "that tyranny is always lurking," he told the graduating class at Ohio State, because a self-governing people cannot tyrannize themselves.

But, suddenly, when the administration finds itself ensnared by errors of its own making, the curtain is drawn back on the cult of expertise and the fantasy of statist redemption. Early on in the IRS scandal, before the agency's initial lies were exposed, David Axelrod defended the administration on the grounds that the "government is so vast" the president "can't know" what's going on "underneath" him. Of course, it was Obama who once said, "I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors."

That is, when things are going relatively well. When scandal hits the fan, he goes from "the government is us" to talking of his own agencies the way a czar might dismiss an injustice in some Siberian backwater. The hubris of omni-competence gives way to "lighten up, we're idiots."

Many of his defenders now rush to insist that it's unfair to hold him to too high standard. He's just a man, just a politician. Well, duh.

Meanwhile, Obama insists that he is outraged. And, if sincere, that's nice. But so what? What the president seems to have never fully understood is that the founders were smarter than he or that the American people aren't as dumb as he thinks we are. His outrage is beside the point.

A free people will have legitimate differences on questions of policy. A government as vast as it is -- never mind as vast he wants it to be -- is destined to abuse its power, particularly in a climate where a savior-president is incessantly delegitimizing dissent (and journalistic scrutiny). Government officials will behave like idiots sometimes, not because they are individually dumb but because a government that takes on too much will make an idiot out of anyone who thinks there's no limit to what it can do. That alone is good reason to fear tyranny. Indeed, it would be idiotic not to.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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