WASHINGTON -- Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is Time magazine's "Person of the Year." Twelve months ago, the "honor" went to then-President-elect Barack Obama. Notably, the 1932 recipient was President-elect Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who asserted in his March 4, 1933, inaugural address, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."
Mr. Roosevelt went on to describe the economic anxieties of millions left jobless in a deepening depression as "nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance." He then served notice that if the "national emergency" required it, he would "ask the Congress for the one remaining instrument to meet the crisis -- broad executive power to wage a war against the emergency, as great as the power that would be given to (him) if we were in fact invaded by a foreign foe."
Viewing the grainy black-and-white film of FDR's first of four inaugurals, it is easy to get caught up in his measured, articulate delivery. It is much like watching Mr. Obama before a teleprompter. Reading FDR's words today, more than 76 years after they were spoken, is very scary stuff.
Mr. Roosevelt's masterful exploitation of "fear" masks his blueprint for a vast expansion of federal control over the day-to-day lives of ordinary American citizens. It worked. Well before U.S. involvement in World War II, FDR was granted unprecedented power to preside over a federal bureaucracy that grew more than tenfold in size, expense and authority.
Apparently, Mr. Obama and his cronies in Congress have studied the FDR playbook carefully. Last week, the president admonished Republicans to "stop trying to frighten the American people." But a careful review of the record reveals that it isn't the GOP that has been sowing alarm. "Fear" has been the political staple of the O-Team since the 2008 presidential campaign -- and even more so since the election.
On Nov. 9, 2008, less than a week after the ballot, Rahm Emanuel, Mr. Obama's designee to be White House chief of staff, told us: "Rule one: Never allow a crisis to go to waste. They are opportunities to do big things." It is a prescription that has been followed carefully to justify government intervention, e.g., the takeovers of private financial institutions, the auto industry, America's health care system and even global "climate control."
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.