Fear. It is a basic, primitive emotion common to every living species on planet earth. It is the instinctual response that keeps animals alive in nature, and influences the thoughts and actions of humans. Edmund Burke once described the potency of fear saying, “No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.” Burke’s observations ring especially true in today’s hypersensitive, hyper-connected world of 24-hour news channels and social media, in which the flames of fear can be fanned in ways only dreamed of in ages past.
Our fear of illness feeds the hype about an Ebola virus “epidemic” sweeping across America. International headlines appear anytime someone vomits on a plane. Overlooked is the reality that Ebola thrives only in areas with poor sanitation, nutrition, and healthcare access; and can in fact be prevented and contained in societies like ours where proper sanitation, nutrition and healthcare are the norm.
We fear mass shootings. Although such incidents are extremely rare, and almost always perpetrated by an individual suffering from mental health issues, schools now are mobilized to routinely practice “lock downs,” and have implemented idiotic “zero tolerance” programs with unthinkingly absurd results – such as suspending a child for making hand gestures in the shape of a gun while playing at recess.
Our fear of airline crashes, stoked by the recent disasters involving Malaysian Airlines planes, has recently led to three commercial airliners landing prematurely because of arguments between passengers over reclining seats.
Fear mongering unfortunately is a highly effective tool of government; well-known to the current and previous administrations, which have used Americans’ fear of terror attacks since 9/11 to dramatically and dangerously increase government power in ways previously considered far out of limits, both legally and morally.
As the United States government has engaged in fear mongering to achieve political gains domestically, so have governments and organizations in other parts of the world. Even a relatively small terror organization, ISIS, demonstrated clearly its understanding of the power of fear, in releasing online videos of beheadings to create an image of power. In Russia, Vladimir Putin has kept the international community trapped in a game of cat and mouse with that country’s escalation of tensions in Ukraine, through the savvy use of media and machismo.
Were Ronald Reagan in power today, such displays of terror from these regimes and terror outfits would have been quickly assessed and responded to with clarity of purpose and result. When two U.S. servicemen were killed in the 1986 bombing of a Berlin nightclub, it took Reagan only 10 days to launch airstrikes against the responsible party, Muammar Gaddafi, very nearly killing him in the attack.
Unfortunately, none of Reagan’s hallmark traits of poise and resolve resonate in today’s Oval Office. Instead, we have Barack Obama – a president so thoroughly disinterested in projecting even the appearance of leadership that a round of golf trumps serious consideration of dealing with blatant terrorist acts targeting American citizens. A president so afraid to lead in the international arena, that the response to terror attacks on American citizens such as those by ISIS, is to wait and see whether the “international community” will first “come together” to help “degrade” and “manage” such attacks on US citizens and against his policies directly. A president whose avowed goal is to eventually bring terrorists “to justice” rather than killing them, destroying their sanctuaries and hunting them down like the curs they are.
Can one even imagine a Ronald Reagan, or Margaret Thatcher, mouthing such nonsense? Reagan did not exhibit fear or allow fear to direct his actions as commander in chief in dealing with terror threats from Qaddafi, or when confronting far broader foreign policy issues, such as standing toe-to-toe with the Soviet Union and forcing the “evil empire” to its knees? Reagan never was satisfied with “degrading” the Soviet Union or Qaddafi; his aim in fact and in rhetoric was to defeat them completely. Reagan was a leader who – importantly – knew how to lead; no metrosexual president he.
Is it any wonder Putin does as he pleases, or why terrorists in Iraq openly taunt Obama by name with the severed heads of American journalists? What have they to fear when they know that even as a U.S. Ambassador was assassinated in a terror attack in Benghazi, this Administration’s first, and virtually only, response was to duck responsibility with lies and misinformation?
Even at home, Obama’s fecklessness defines his Administration. This is obvious repeatedly in his utter refusal to work to accomplish anything of substance by actually acting as president. Being president is easy once you have been elected to that high post. Actually serving as president – proposing specific programs and legislation, and then working with the Congress, the media and interest groups actually to accomplish those -- takes hard work. Contrary to the liberal myth that Obama is a great “leader,” his only substantive domestic accomplishments came during his first term when Democrats had control of the House and the Senate. Although his actual accomplishments during that interregnum were disastrous substantively -- ObamaCare and Dodd-Frank – these were actual accomplishments. But, even so, it was not in fact Obama himself who lent the horsepower to achieve the results; it was the Democrat leaders in the Congress who did the heavy lifting.
Unlike other presidents during whose administrations major legislative victories were had – LBJ and the “Great Society,” or Ronald Reagan’s rebuilding of the domestic economy and America’s military power – Obama shuns the hard work necessary to achieve such results. Instead, he relies on speechifying and unilateral action. Signing executive orders and other presidential documents is easy (even if unlawful and unconstitutional). Such actions demand nothing of a president -- none of the hard work on the Hill his predecessors, both liberal and conservative, engaged in to avoid gridlock when power was not firmly in the grip of their political party.
We have survived inept presidents, like Jimmy Carter. We have survived really bad presidents, like Woodrow Wilson. And we have survived narcissist presidents such as Bill Clinton. However, America has never endured a president, who appears so afraid, so egotistical and so seemingly disinterested as this one. We must pray we can survive such a man for the next two years.