The 2001 audio tape of Barack Obama describing the Constitution as a document of "negative liberties" reveals an utterly Orwellian Obama. How can liberty be anything other than negative? Liberty is the absence of external control. Only in our age of collective thinking and untidy language could such a thing as "positive liberty" be conceived. The state power to coerce is not liberty.
Notions like "positive liberty" are part of the web of thought control by language manipulation which Orwell described in 1984. If Obama cannot think of "positive liberty" as a contradiction in terms, then he simply cannot think. The conscious surrender of language to the needs of the party creates a self-made prison from which escape is, quite literally, inconceivable. These unguarded remarks by Obama display a mind trapped in a reality in which words are phantoms.
Obama could have spoken about the limited value of liberty. Government does some things which reduce our private rights and yet which increase the common good. Politics is all about where the boundary between broad notions of promoting the general welfare by state coercion and preserving liberty should be. Politicians on the Left have often argued that liberty should be reined in more tightly so that "the people" can live better. But implying that more state power somehow increases liberty is beyond mere Leftism. It is entry into that dead realm of Newspeak in which language is pureed into nonsense, and then nonsense is presented as argument.
Obama could also have spoken about the private duty of charity, that moral imperative which makes the virtue of liberty pure. Charity, though, is private. True charity is always a free act. That does not make the moral duty of charity any less, but it means that it is a function of liberty. But it seems as if Obama's mind cannot grasp this sort of distinction.
Is the Orwellian character of Obama's mind a surprise? No. He is a man young enough to have grown up in a cocoon of semantic babble. The subliminal contradictions of popular entertainment, the indoctrinary quality of his education, the pandemic use of "politically correct" language, the nonexistence in Obama's universe of any need for critical thinking, his absorption into a parish filled with surreal anger which numb his conscience -- almost every single aspect of the life of Barack Obama dovetails into someone for whom the word "liberties" has no authentic meaning.
This is the newness of Obama in our history. Leftists like George McGovern and Jimmy Carter lived real lives. Both served in the military. Both seemed to have been genuinely religious. Both worked in private business. Both came from states that were conservative, and so they had to defend their political philosophies. Barack Obama, by contrast, has lived a life of utter sameness. There are no bumps or rough edges or hints of individuality at all.
It is not just his life, so marinated in rote theory, that makes Obama unique. He is an early prototype of a new creature in our lives: Orwell's children, if you will. These are the people who can honestly believe that September 11th was an "inside job" or that the CIA invented crack cocaine to hurt blacks. This is the generation which has grown up with no intellectual or cultural system of checks and balances.
Iron and dull control of education, destruction of the nuclear family, disappearance of religion in public life, degradation of art and entertainment into tasteless mush, and, most of all, the politicization of everything in life -- these forces have created a new sort of human being, a person who lacks from life any tools of discernment or devices to describe life outside of the realm of collectivist political rhetoric.
There is something about Obama, many of us sense, which is different from any other politician. Socialism is inadequate to explain Obama. He is both more and less than that. The Left with all its odd menagerie of causes and claims is not enough either. Obama is part of that but part of something more disturbing. He is someone who can say "negative liberties" unaware that he is saying nothing at all.