Mona Charen
Speaking at Ohio State just a few days before abuse of power and dishonesty scandals swept over his administration, President Obama sang one of his trademark odes to the benevolence of government:

Unfortunately you've grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that's at the root of all of our problems. ... They'll warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices. Because what they suggest is that our ... experiment in self-rule is somehow just a sham with which we can't be trusted.It was vintage Obama -- caricaturing his opponents' views (who believes government is at the root of "all" our problems?), and implying that concern about government overreach is equivalent to rejecting self-rule.

It's plausible to grant that Obama himself did not know that IRS agents were targeting tea party groups, Jews and other -- one almost wants to write "enemies of the state" -- for audits, harassment and delay. If Obama understood the conservative critique of big government even a little, he would know that his lack of knowledge is expected. In fact, it's part of the problem. As David Axelrod put it, the government is just "too vast" for the president to control. Who would have thought?

Obviously the government has always been too large for any one person to control. But our brilliant founders arranged matters so that power would be diffuse. Interest would counter interest, branch would check branch and transparency would ensure accountability to the voters. As James Madison wrote in Federalist No. 51:

Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?

The tea party movement -- those the IRS harassed -- dressed up as Founders, a rich irony. A good progressive, Obama finds Adams, Jefferson and Co. passe. He doesn't recognize the capacity of government to abuse power when in the proper (i.e. Democratic) hands -- or, more likely, doesn't care. His arrogance about his own good intentions for the "middle class" -- odd that he almost never speaks of the poor -- makes him contemptuous of those who agree with Madison that government power must always be carefully constrained.


Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
 
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