June 16, 2008
The Big O
Like Peggy Lee in "Is That All There Is," conservatives keep wondering if they are missing something about the Democratic presumptive presidential nominee, Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL). Meanwhile, we hum to ourselves, in a rich contralto,
If that's all there is my friends, then let's keep dancing
Let's break out the booze and have a ball
If that's all there is
It seems tailor-made to be a McCain campaign song, especially if, as everyone thinks, Republicans are going to get hammered anyway this November. Of course, these days, my friends, "binge drinking" is frowned upon by educated, evolved people and only practiced by bitter people after a Saturday afternoon trip to the gun club.
The song makes sense. There's nothing in Obama's "Blueprint for Change" except the usual liberal laundry list of new programs and subsidies for Democratic interest groups. But then you'd expect that in a document prepared for the Democratic Party primary season.
Now that Obama's the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party it is time to check his agenda for a heartbeat, and figure out if there is anything there beyond the Big O.
You'd think his big speech of Tuesday, June 3, 2008 would give us a clue, and it did. On Iraq, he's beginning to walk back towards the center:
We must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in -- but start leaving we must. It's time for Iraqis to take responsibility for their future.
It's an artful statement that could mean anything, but is certainly meant to reassure independent voters, hinting that an Obama administration would continue the Bush policy of standing-up the Iraqi government.
Then, on health care, Obama in his speech wants to:
...pass a health care plan that guarantees insurance to every American who wants it and brings down premiums for every family who needs it.
To understand what that means you need help, and the June 6, 2008 edition of The Wall Street Journal has an analysis of the candidate's position (available online) that mandates that large companies provide health insurance for their employees. Obama would "increase regulations and spend tax dollars" to guarantee health insurance to every American.
On education, the Journal says that Obama would add more money to support No Child Left Behind but relax its punitive aspects. Says Obama:
[W]e owe it to our children to invest in early childhood education; to recruit an army of new teachers and give them better pay and more support... a college education should not be a privilege for the wealthy few, but the birthright of every American.
In other words, on education it's liberal business-as-usual. There will be more money for the liberal education blob and more subsidies for liberal colleges.
It's on energy that Obama most closely honors his promise of "unity," but that's only because Republican John McCain buys into the liberal "consensus" on global warming. Obama "supports subsidies for solar and wind energy," and doesn't want nuclear power before "storage and safety issues are resolved," according to The Wall Street Journal.
Many conservatives are anxious to paint Barack Obama as a radical left-winger, and maybe he is. But plenty of liberals have flirted with the left, in a youthful experiment with a bit of radical rough trade. They return in their years of political viability to the liberal mainstream, and they propose a new top-down expert-led program here, or ratchet up a subsidy for Democratic voters there, just like every other liberal. Radical or mainstream, the difference is merely one of degree.
Sooner or later, after you've brought more and more of American life under the knout of compulsion and after you have provided every Democratic voter with a four-course dinner of government services you'll get to the day where the American people cry Uncle, break out the booze, and decide they can't take it any more.
Until then, here's an audacious hope. When you listen to Obama's rhetoric you may think: I'd have to be born yesterday to believe this! No taxpayer could buy into the notion that this is
...the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal,
or that college is a "privilege for the wealthy few," not when government in the United States spend north of $900 billion a year each on health care and education.
Maybe there's a clue here. Maybe Obama is the candidate for people born yesterday and the people that don't pay taxes. For the rest of us, the meaning of Obama seems to be symbolized in his ubiquitous "O" logo. He seems to add up not to "change," not to "unity," but to a Big Zero.