Obama's 'Evil Empire' Speech
After all, since Obama's second inaugural address, commentators both left and right have been busily comparing Obama to Reagan. The Daily Beast: "[Obama] wants to do for liberalism...what Ronald Reagan did for conservatism." E.J. Dionne: "Obama's role model is Ronald Reagan[.]" Charles Krauthammer: "[Obama's] second inaugural address... is his self-proclamation as the Reagan of the Left."
Besides noting the stark ideological differences of each president, most pundits agreed that Obama shares with Reagan not just clear articulation of the vision of his base, but a "transformational" goal -- to end the era of the dominant philosophy that preceded him. Dionne referred to the common objective of "long-term electoral realignment," which for Obama is the reversal of Reagan's political legacy.
Many of the editorials were based on a comparison of Obama's second inaugural address to Reagan's first. "In the eye of history," noted Krauthammer, Obama's speech was a "direct response." (In the eye of conservatism, however, it was more like a direct poke.)
A side-by-side analysis of both speeches is indeed an interesting exercise -- exposing several examples of the Orwellian mirror that liberalism has become: Big government is not the problem, it's the solution; collectivism promises more freedom than individual liberty; and as Dionne noted, "strength through peace" vs. peace through strength.
But most revealing is a comparison of Obama's address to another of Reagan's -- the famous "evil empire" speech.
Within the first few sentences Reagan quoted Lincoln: "I think I understand how Abraham Lincoln felt when he said, 'I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.'" Of course, Reagan was giving the speech to a room full of evangelicals -- but recall Obama's response when he was once asked whether he prayed often:
Uh, yeah, I guess I do. Its' not formal, me getting on my knees. I think I have an ongoing conversation with God. I think throughout the day, I'm constantly asking myself questions about what I'm doing, why am I doing it.
That interesting admission brings to mind another Orwellian contrast -- from "prayer changes things" to "things change prayer." Note also the "rhetorical shift" employed by this administration and all it subtly implies: "freedom of worship" in lieu of "freedom of religion." For Reagan, belief in God was foundational to a philosophy of self-government and liberty. Obama's appeals to religion often seem a shallow political tool to promote the latest collectivist policy he pushes. When Obama implores our nation to become "brother's keepers," we wonder what meaning he attaches to "keeper."
Much of Reagan's speech dealt with the pressing social issues of the day, such as parental notification, abortion, and school prayer. An examination of his specific comments further reveals the magnitude of the ideological divide that separates Reagan and Obama, a chasm much deeper than one created merely by differences in economic policy.
Watching, instead of only reading, Reagan's speech brings to light another interesting comparison. Both Obama and Reagan are considered (at least by their fans) gifted speakers who ably and confidently articulate their convictions. But the friendly air of humble servitude that surrounded Reagan is the antithesis of the haloed, "above the country" "sort of God" "second coming" savior aura of Obama, peddled nonstop by his adoring media.
The statements at the end of Reagan's speech, though, are what made it famous. After describing communist ideology, Reagan dared to define it as "evil":
Yes, let us pray for the salvation of all of those who live in that totalitarian darkness -- pray they will discover the joy of knowing God. But until they do, let us be aware that while they preach the supremacy of the state, declare its omnipotence over individual man, and predict its eventual domination of all peoples on the Earth, they are the focus of evil in the modern world.
Reagan designated communist nations as "evil empires." Further, he characterized nuclear freeze proposals an "illusion of peace." Had he heard Obama's off-mic "flexibility" offer to Russia's Medvedev or his second inaugural address, Reagan would likely have described the comments as "simple-minded appeasement or wishful thinking." Reagan would probably also consider the Obama administration's role, for example, in the "Arab Spring" and the subsequent ascendance of the Muslim Brotherhood -- as evidence of "accommodation" to the "aggressive impulses" of totalitarian regimes.
Nowhere in Obama's speech did he identify evil, an "evil empire" or for that matter, a real enemy. Rarely does he mention Islamic "terrorism." A nuclear North Korea or Iran. Nor the totalitarianism of Shariah, the very real war on women it wages, and its threat of worldwide domination.
In fact, looking back at the text of Obama's address, the only enemies he alluded to were straw men and false choice illusions -- apparently representative of Tea Partiers and conservatives. In other of Obama's speeches and comments, "enemies" referred to opposers of his immigration policies, the "rich" who balk at doing "a little bit more" than their "fair share" and "didn't build that," and an "obstructionist Republican Congress."
In a speech before the United Nations, Obama described people "[t]he future must not belong to" (is that another way to say "enemies"?) -- "those who slander the prophet of Islam."
And if enemies represent targets that must be thwarted, neutralized, or in the most drastic sense, destroyed -- it is illuminating to note that many of Obama's supporters are abortion advocates, some of whom openly admit that an unborn child is "a life worth sacrificing." Others wish "health sinners" would hurry up and die and actually promote the means to "pull the plug" on granny. Some assert that Christian beliefs represent "hate speech." And prominent mainstream voices urge Obama to "go for the throat" of his political foes.
Reagan often chided American progressives for knowing "so much that isn't so" and referred to them as "well-meaning liberal friends." Such banter stands in sharp contrast to Obama's frequent use of false choices and straw men that portray conservatives as heartless, selfish extremists; as do exhortations to his base to "vote for revenge."
Is Obama really the "anti-Reagan?" It does seem so -- Obama's big-government ideology is the opposite of Reaganism, and Obama intends to reverse the nation's philosophical course set by Reagan. Within this new, inverted era of "anti-Reaganism," ruled by a party that three times booed the mention of God in its platform -- what is regarded as "evil?"
To progressives, could the anti-Reagan "evil empire" simply represent Americans who believe that Obama's reversal propels the nation -- not forward -- but backward into an economic, immoral abyss? Does this empire consist of those who didn't "go Obama" and other "grown-ups" without Obama kool-aid moustaches? And is the empire ruled by an outdated, "flawed" Constitution?
In this new Orwellian world of Obama as the anti-Reagan, the image on the projection screen during the "two-minutes hate," instead of symbols of communism or totalitarian regimes, might be the First Amendment, the Second Amendment -- really, any of America's founding documents. Or it could be a picture of Congress. A court ruling. Anything, anybody that interrupts the trajectory of Obama's transformational legacy.
It might also be a picture of you.