“Relax. It’s just campaign rhetoric…”
Those were some of the not-so-reassuring words of a left-leaning media pundit friend of mine back in the Summer of 2008. I had just written here in this column more of candidate Obama’s own words, as he continued to cross the country spewing venom at American free market enterprise. “But he won’t govern that way” my friend insisted. “It’s just a campaign, Austin. Ease up..”
Now, as we approach the two-month milestone of his presidency, we have a pretty good idea of how Obama “governs.” Is it consistent with the campaign rhetoric? It’s actually a mixed bag, and both his consistencies and inconsistencies spell trouble.
Last week Fred Barnes at the Weekly Standard noted that on a wide array of issues, Obama’s behavior is woefully inconsistent with his rhetoric, and that the President has a propensity for “doing the opposite” of what he says. Obama insists that he is not a “big government” advocate, then proposes a federal budget that dramatically expands the reach of government in nearly every area of American life. He decries petty distractions that prevent people from focusing on the important issues, yet since his inauguration, the President and members of his administration have been playing an intentional and strategic game of publicly demonizing talk show host Rush Limbaugh. In many important areas where Obama promised “change” in Washington - - higher ethical standards and greater “transparency” in his administration, and ending the undue influence of lobbyists, as examples - - he has indeed done the opposite, hiring former lobbyists, repeatedly nominating tax cheats for cabinet positions, and proffering ambiguous monetary policy.
The President’s inconsistencies have become so egregious that Peter Whener of Washington, DC’s Ethics And Public Policy Center was compelled last week to describe Obama as an “agent of cynicism.” Writing in Commentary magazine, Wehner stated that Obama is pretending that “the politics of cynicism“ is the “politics of hope,” and is displaying a willingness to “vulgarize and invert the meaning of words” so as to advance his own “narrow aims.”
But just as President Obama has established a clear pattern of ignoring many of his campaign promises and “doing the opposite” in so many areas of his presidency, it is also true that on economic matters, Obama is essentially in lock-step with what he promised on the campaign trail. In fact, those who watched and listened to Obama’s economic rhetoric over the course of his two year campaign and presumed that he would deliver something different after being elected, and were so quick to dismiss his economic promises as “just a campaign” (as was the case with my liberal media pundit friend) - - well, perhaps those individuals are, themselves, “agents of cynicism.”
I covered the 2008 presidential race very carefully, both on talk radio and in writing. Along the way I kept thinking that eventually, somewhere, at some moment, Senator Obama would have to say something positive about American enterprise. Instead, what we got from the candidate was an all-out disdain for business, and repeated promises to dramatically increases taxes and regulations on corporations, anger and “outrage” when corporations reported profits that were “too big,” and promises to re-distribute corporate profits back to “the American people.” On the rare occasion when Obama would offer tacit respect for “hard working Americans,” it was almost always in the context of characterizing workers as “victims,” and business owners as perpetrators.
Likewise, candidate Obama spent nearly his entire two year presidential bid fanning the flames of resentment towards financially successful people. He continually criticized what he called the “Bush tax cuts for the rich,” implying that the Bush administration cut taxes for wealthier Americans, while leaving tax rates the same, or even raising them, for less wealthy income earners (that of course was false - - the Congress and the President reduced the tax burden for all Americans earlier this decade).
Long before the market meltdown of last Fall, and before our government began it’s recent pathology of bailing-out failed corporations with American tax payer dollars, Obama was promising what he called a “federal crack down” on what he defined as “excessive pay” for business leaders. Market mechanisms and corporate boards of directors had gotten it all wrong when it came to fairly compensating employees, but he knew what was fair, and was going to “fix” the problem. And he repeatedly lectured about his plan to bring America to “economic justice,” never actually defining what “economic justice“ meant, yet clearly implying that our capitalist economic system is inherently “unjust,” and that he, alone, could right all the wrongs.
Now, President Obama wants to raise taxes on individual Americans (the punishment is especially great for America‘s highest income earners), decrease foreign trade, and reduce allowable tax deductions for charitable contributions - - all in the midst of a recession.
A note to the “hope” and “change” cynics: It wasn’t just “campaign rhetoric.”