President Obama formally kicked off his re-election campaign in Richmond, Va., and Columbus, Ohio, Saturday, and his theme was certainly not, shall we say, "it's morning again in America" -- President Ronald Reagan's optimistic re-election slogan in 1984.
Obama's central message was more like: "Hey, I realize things look bad, and I'm not going to pretend you want four more years of this. But just think how much worse it would have been without me and how much worse it's going to get if you get rid of me."
Interestingly, mainstream media journalists Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake were certain enough that Obama wasn't sufficiently forthcoming in his speech that they co-wrote a piece for The Washington Post "parsing" it. Without a whiff of disapproval, they said, "This being politics, Obama said less than what he meant. But, that's where we come in." The two then set out Obama's "most quotable lines" and followed each with their "translation of the message he was trying to send."
The writers are obviously sympathetic to Obama's agenda and, as fellow liberals, share his end-justifies-the-means sleight of hand -- whatever it takes to keep this federal juggernaut barreling along. Let's look at just a few of the quotes they highlighted.
Obama said: "I don't care how many ways you try to explain it: Corporations aren't people. People are people." The writers said Obama was responding to Mitt Romney's earlier remark that "corporations are people," and they said Obama intended to send this message: "Romney is the business candidate. I am the people's candidate."
Well, Romney is right. Most corporations (excepting holding companies and the like) are owned and operated by people. But Obama must depersonalize them because it makes his attacks on business seem less personal, which brings us to another point. Obama has denied he is anti-business, but everything about him screams otherwise, and even many of his liberal defenders, from these two writers to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to Fareed Zakaria, have been hard-pressed to deny that he either is anti-business or sends unmistakable signals that he is.
Notice also how Obama framed the issue, which is revealing both as to his attitude toward business (mildly adversarial to hostile) and as to his general political worldview (us against them). He gratuitously drew a line of demarcation between corporations (read: business) and people. This is a false choice. Why can't we be pro-corporation and pro-people? Shouldn't an American president be bullish on both? The answer is yes, but Obama can't be; his class-conscious ideology forbids it, and electoral imperatives demand that he demonize his political opponents, which is why his hype about all of us coming together as one rings so hollow and disingenuous.
If you still doubt Obama's mindset, you should consider another quote: "We came together because we believe that in America, your success shouldn't be determined by the circumstances of your birth." Is there any way to read this statement apart from the drippingly bellicose class warfare resentment it connotes?
Obama also said, "Osama bin Laden is no longer a threat to this country." Not to dabble in ancient Greek philosophy, but I dare say that the influence of a human being, especially one who has been as pivotally important to al-Qaida's ongoing jihad against the United States and its allies, can live well beyond the grave.
What's more naive and even dangerous about the statement is that it implies that bin Laden's death justifies the false hope that the enemy is less determined to destroy us than before and that we may now relax our guard. Yes, we get that Obama wants to keep reminding us that he issued the kill order for bin Laden, but let's not give him the further leeway of overblowing the significance of the kill to the war on terror.
This whole issue is a bit spooky when you consider Obama's double-minded approach to the war. On the one hand, he would have us believe it's darn near over; he's replaced our so-called jingoistic rhetoric with such gems as kinetic military actions and overseas contingency operations, and he seems to believe his overt efforts to reach out to the Muslim world, including flowery panegyrics to Muslim culture and the construction of Gitmo basketball courts, have mitigated Islamist hatred toward America and the West. (Polls emphatically say otherwise.) On the other hand, he's operating assassination drones like a repressed schoolboy with new toys and indulging in indefinite detentions of enemy combatants, as if wholly unaware of what the other half of his split personality has been preaching.
I've just scratched the surface, but the inescapable conclusion is that Obama cannot spin his domestic and foreign policy records enough to conceal the truth of his actual record. Indeed, the stubborn truth will be his greatest obstacle in November.