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August 28, 2008
George Will on Obama's "banal" speeches
George Will has a warning for Obama before he "feeds rhetorical fishes and loaves to the multitudes in the football stadium tonight." Be specific:
Indeed, just recently, several Democrats were imploring Obama to get specific about what kind of "hope and change" he's talking about. These Democrats just don't get it. Obama thrives on obfuscation and nebulousness. If he gets specific, someone - or a lot of someones - might not like his ideas. His job is to remain sufficiently obscure until he is elected. And then, like any good disciple of radical Saul Alinsky, he will emerge and show his true colors as a far left liberal who wishes to implement an agenda he never talked about during the campaign.
If Socrates had engaged in an interminable presidential campaign in a media-drenched age, perhaps he, too, would have come to seem banal. But the fact that Obama lost nine of the final 14 primaries might have something to do with the fact that when he descends from the ether to practicalities, he reprises liberalism's most shopworn nostrums.
Russia, a Third World nation with First World missiles, is rampant; Iran is developing a missile inventory capable of delivering nuclear weapons the development of which will not be halted by Obama's promised "aggressive personal diplomacy." Yet Obama has vowed to "cut investments in unproven missile defense systems." Steamboats, railroads, airplanes and vaccines were "unproven" until farsighted people made investments. Furthermore, as Reuel Marc Gerecht of the American Enterprise Institute notes, Democrats will eventually embrace missile defense in Europe because they "will have nowhere else to go short of pre-emptive strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities." Obama, who might be the last person to learn that schools' cognitive outputs are not simply functions of financial inputs, promises more money for teachers, who, as usual, are about 10 percent of the Democrats' convention delegates and alternates. He waxes indignant about approximately 150,000 jobs sent overseas each year -- less than 1 percent of the number of jobs normally lost and gained in the creative destruction of America's dynamic economy. U.S. exports are fending off a recession while he complains about free trade. He deplores NAFTA, although since it was implemented in 1994, the U.S., Mexican and Canadian economies have grown 50 percent, 46 percent and 54 percent, respectively. Recycling George McGovern's 1972 "Demogrant" notion, Obama promises a $1,000 check for every family, financed by a "windfall profits" tax on oil companies. Obama is unintimidated by the rule against legislating about subjects one cannot define.
At the very least, says Will, Obama should get specific about Russia:
It is a shame Obama has so much invested in not saying anything. If he didn't, he could start a real debate about the nature of American power in the world and the best way to use it.
When he speaks tonight in a venue consecrated to the faux combat of football, the NATO alliance, which was 12 years old when he was born, may be collapsing because of its unwillingness to help enough in Afghanistan and its inability to respond seriously to Russia's combat in Georgia. It is unfair to neither NATO nor Obama to note that the alliance is practicing what he preaches: It is preaching to Vladimir Putin, who is unimpressed. NATO, said Lord Ismay, speaking of Europe in 1949, was created to "keep the Americans in, the Germans down and the Russians out." That Germany's appeasement reflex is part of NATO's weakness is perhaps progress, of sorts.
Journalism often must be preoccupied with matters barely remembered a week later. But decades hence, historians will write about today's response to Russia by the West, perhaps in obituaries for the idea of "the West." If Obama does not speak to this crisis tonight, that will speak volumes.
Instead, we are likely to get more of the same; vapid, innocuous truisms and platitudes that serve to give his supporters shiny baubles to look at and admire but leave the rest of us empty and wondering if he will ever get specific about anything.
Hat Tip: Ed Lasky