Among pundits on the right, there has been disagreement for quite some time over the fundamental motives informing President Obama's agenda. Essentially two schools of thought on the matter have emerged.
One school insists that while the president's policy prescriptions are indeed ultimately destructive, he nevertheless genuinely believes that their implementation is what's best for the country. This is the position taken by the likes of, say, Bill O'Reilly and nationally syndicated radio talk show host Michael Medved.
Members of the other school are convinced that Obama is resolved to weaken America. Only a determination on his part to diminish the country's military and economic preeminence in the world and traditional liberties at home can account for an agenda that is so obviously destructive of the nation that we have always known. Among the most illustrious exponents of this view is Rush Limbaugh.
Adherents of the first position think that the adherents of the second line are idiotic, if not "crazy" (although, interestingly, they haven't dared to call out by name "the King of talk radio" who has been in the vanguard of advancing it); champions of the latter believe that the former are naïve and confused.
This may come as a shock to both sets of apologists, but a synthesis of their perspectives is attainable.
Though there have been more than a few thinkers who have quarreled with it, the thesis that no one ever chooses evil for its own sake has an impressive pedigree stretching back into antiquity. Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Christian theorists up to the present day have affirmed that evil is always done for the sake of some perceived good -- pleasure, riches, power, fame, love, and so forth. It is in light of this principle that we can hope to go some distance in reconciling these two competing positions on Obama's intentions.
The idea that the President of the United States wakes up each morning scheming over how he may ruin the country over which he presides is, of course, the stuff of fantasy. Contrary to what the Michael Medveds insinuate, however, I don't think for a second that either Rush or the legions of people who share his view of Obama entertain this view. Still, given the baldness with which Rush and others have stated their position, I suppose it lends itself to this caricature.
But it is similarly foolish to think that it is from nothing other than the union of an ignorance of the most basic economic principles and a comparable ignorance of history that the President's obviously destructive policies are begotten. Regrettably, to hear O'Reilly and Medved speak, one could be forgiven for concluding that this is what they really think.
While discussing this issue with a friend of mine recently, he reminded me of C.S Lewis' argument regarding the Jesus who is presented to us in the pages of the New Testament: either Jesus was the Son of God, as He claimed, or else He was an egomaniac or a madman. Given the self-referential remarks that the Biblical authors attribute to Jesus, there is simply no other alternative. Likewise, my friend continued, Obama's utterances and deeds are born of either an invincible ignorance of their consequences -- in which case he is without question the most incompetent president of all time -- or a plan to ruin America -- in which case he is indeed guilty of the designs that Rush and others ascribe to him. There is no third possibility.
Or maybe there is.
Obama knows that his economic policies are productive of neither liberty as traditionally conceived by Americans nor prosperity. He would have to be, not just the most incompetent president ever, but among the most dense of human beings, for given the extensive exposure that he has had to both Keynesian and neo-Marxian philosophy -- anyone who takes the time to read his memoirs, particularly his first, and who considers the worldview of the people with whom he has surrounded himself for most of his life would know this -- he could only know by now full well the fruits that these policies promise to reap.
But from this it doesn't follow that Obama anticipates the ruination of America as such. There can be no doubt, I think, that he wants to preside over an America that is morally superior and, hence, better, than the country that elected him two years ago. The problem, though, is that the America of Obama's imaginings is radically unlike the America to which most of its citizens have an acquired affection and even more unlike the America within which their ancestors made their home. That is, the "fundamental transformation" that Obama wants to visit upon America demands nothing more or less than the death of America as it is currently constituted; only once America as a living reality is eliminated can America as Obama's ideal be substituted for it.
The philosopher Ronald Dworkin once said that "a more equal society" -- a society the resources of which are equally "distributed" -- is better than the contrary, even if its citizens prefer inequality. Anyone who has paid any attention at all to Obama must know that he couldn't agree more with this thought.
So, our president does indeed think that as a people, Americans will be "better" in the wake of the "fundamental transformation" that he wants to impose upon us. So the O'Reillys and Medveds are correct in this respect. However, neither Rush, myself, nor the large numbers of Americans who love the liberties which our forefathers labored indefatigably to bequeath to us are likely to receive much consolation from this. After all, the fact remains that his intentions aside, our president is determined to see the historic nation that is the real America go the way of the dinosaur.