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Obama the Magic Mirror Candidate

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            For years, liberals have been claiming they live in the “reality based community,” while conservatives supposedly live in some unrealistic fantasy world. As the longest presidential election in planetary history wheezes to a close, though, it’s clear that the roles have been reversed. It’s liberals living in a fantasy world.

            If you want proof, just look at the campaign signs, growing like mushrooms on lawns across the fruited plain.

            Those for the Republican candidate tend to be pedestrian. “McCain for president 2008” is a popular design. Like most yard signs, McCain’s seem primarily aimed at showing neighbors which candidate you’re going to vote for.

The Obama signs, however, are a far different story.

            His campaign has introduced the concept of the mega sign, 2 feet by 3, which can be used to display any sentiment, no matter how removed from reality it may be. Many of these simply say “Vote for Change,” which obviously means whatever the reader wants it to mean. Want to change the planet? Or simply your socks? Either way, Obama’s apparently your man.

Another sign, seen in Arlington, Va., reads, “Obama/Biden for lower taxes.” Now, if I lived next door, I’d probably place an “Obama/Biden for more dishonest signs” placard on my lawn, but it’s unlikely any liberal passersby would get the irony.

And there are also plenty of people freelancing, designing their own yard signs. One in my neighborhood says simply, “OBAMA” in all capitals. The two As are crested with halos, like the former logo of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, California.

For most people, of course, the only circular rings we associate with politicians are handcuffs (see Stevens, Ted as a recent example). And there’s a good reason for that: Politicians are far more likely to break the law than to break the mold and change the world.

But that’s the secret of the Obama campaign. It’s a magic mirror, allowing supporters to peer in and see whatever they want to see. See the tax cuts sign cited above. Where would an ordinary voter get the idea that the liberal candidates aim to cut taxes?

            Well, Obama and Biden keep reporting that “95 percent” of Americans will get a tax cut under their leadership. But maybe they ought to consult with other leading liberals in their party before they get too cocky.

            “We’ll have to raise taxes ultimately,” Rep. Barney Frank, chair of the House Banking Committee, recently told an editorial board. But that’s all right, because as he added on CNBC, “I think there are a lot of very rich people out there whom we can tax at a point down the road and recover some of this money.”

Those Obama supporters who live in reality should be prepared for their candidate to pull a Bill Clinton. Recall that he promised a “middle-class tax cut” in 1992, but swiftly shelved the idea once he was elected.

Obama’s Web site also promises that, as president, he “will complete the effort to increase our ground forces by 65,000 soldiers and 27,000 Marines.” That’s important. As Obama himself wrote last year in Foreign Affairs magazine, “A strong military is, more than anything, necessary to sustain peace.”

In the same article, Obama added that, “Unfortunately, the U.S. Army and the Marine Corps, according to our military leaders, are facing a crisis. The Pentagon cannot certify a single army unit within the United States as fully ready to respond in the event of a new crisis or emergency beyond Iraq.”

Yet let’s again turn to Congressman Frank, whose perch on the Banking Committee makes him the gatekeeper for House spending priorities. He told the editorial board of the South Coast Standard-Times that he favors cutting defense spending by 25 percent. “We don’t need all these fancy new weapons. I think there needs to be additional review,” he added. Of course, it’s impossible to see how spending far less on defense is going to pull the military out of its supposed decline.

Nobody can doubt we’re at a difficult moment in American history. A collapse in housing prices and the federal mega-bailout of our financial industry have everyone on edge. Yet let’s remember that the average American in 2008 still has things better than virtually anyone at virtually any time, ever.

“For essentially all of human history,” Gregg Easterbrook notes in his 2003 book, The Progress Paradox, “the typical person’s lot has been unceasing toil, meager living circumstances, uncertainty about food, rudimentary health care, limited education, little travel or entertainment; all followed by early death.” The reality is that all of those hurdles have been cleared for us. Americans in the 21st century never give them a second thought.

By all means, vote for whomever you like on Tuesday. But remember, if you vote simply for “change,” you may be sorely disappointed with what the new administration brings.

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