Some Precursors of Obama's 'Yes, we are better off!'

President Obama has doubled-down on the absurd claim that somehow Americans are better off than four years ago, and is now running advertising with the preposterous message.

While I -- along with the millions of people who are jobless or facing foreclosure -- gaped in amazement at the ourageousness of this claim, I found myself humming "it seems to me I've heard that song before". Claiming victory in the midst of the ruins of defeat is an old political ploy; it is the ubiquitous little black nothing of propaganda. One fondly remembers Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf, the Iraqi information minister, confidently proclaiming that Saddam's forces would annihilate American troops while U.S. tanks roared past him.

Some of Obama's precursors are worth recalling by way of comparison. The ultimate eponym is the Barmecide feast  from the Thousand and One Nights, in which a wealthy man invites a starving beggar to partake of a nonexistent dinner:

When the Barmecide had done rubbing his hands, he raised his voice, and cried, "Set food before us at once, we are very hungry." No food was brought, but the Barmecide pretended to help himself from a dish, and carry a morsel to his mouth, saying as he did so, "Eat, my friend, eat, I entreat. Help yourself as freely as if you were at home!"

In like manner, Obama invites the unemployed to live on wages from the jobs he wants them to imagine he has created.

A modern version is Andrei Sinyavsky's The Makepeace Experiment, in which a young bicycle repairman enforces a hypnotic utopia on the citizens of a Soviet town, convincing them that they are feasting on caviar while they are actually eating toothpaste. This satire on Khrushchev's failed agricultural policies earned its author a decade in the Gulag.   

A similar incident occurs in Orwell's 1984:

It appeared that there had even been demonstrations to thank Big Brother for raising the chocolate ration to twenty grammes a week. And only yesterday, he reflected, it had been announced that the ration was to be REDUCED to twenty grammes a week. Was it possible that they could swallow that, after only twenty-four hours? Yes, they swallowed it.

It would seem that Obama, like Big Brother, expects us to be so well programmed in Doublethink that we will accept such contradictions without blinking. And he may be right. Although Fox News has emphatically refuted Obama's claims about jobs, no one else seems to have noticed.

The Clinton/Obama picture of the rosiness of our present situation might well be termed a Potemkin village. One is also reminded of Washington Irving:

I have seen a turtle-fed alderman swallow publicly a basin of charity soup, smacking his lips at every mouthful and pronouncing it "excellent food for the poor."

Considering Obama's little million-dollar vacations and anniversary dinners, and the benefits he has heaped upon his past supporters and bundlers, "you're better off" should read "we're better off", or more vulgarly, "I'm all right Jack!" .

I would not have dared to compare Clinton's and Obama's claims to Hitler's "big lie". However, since a prominent Democrat has already made that accusation about the Republican campaign, I feel justified in pointing out that that particular shoe would fit Obama's foot much better. He repeats his untruths so persistently that, as in the old adage, after a year people believe him. The truth is, as my current bumper sticker reads:


But to return to precursors, the most obvious one, the one with which Clinton began his speech, was Roosevelt's response to the Great Depression. The truth is, it was not a success. After eight years, we were still in a depression that was not relieved until the boom of WWII. And yet, if Roosevelt had claimed in 1936 that "we are better off now than four years ago", he could have made a far better case than Obama. Unemployment had decreased from 24% to 17 % and the gross national product had risen from $59B to $84B. And Roosevelt did this with only moderate annual deficits that did not -- as Obama has done -- threaten a national debt collapse. In this respect, we should seek precursors of Obama's claim in recent Greek and Spanish proclamations.

But these precursors tell only part of the story. We must consider the issues that Clinton and Obama ignored or hastily glossed over -- such as foreign affairs. Obama inherited an Iraq that had been successfully pacified and a war in Afghanistan that was at least a tossup. He has since allowed the former to lapse into semi-anarchy and the latter (partly by firing a successful general for saying naughty things about him) into a humiliating withdrawal. He has repeatedly scorned and betrayed Israel, our only true ally in the Middle East, while abjectly kowtowing to hostile Islamic regimes and letting Iran make its bomb. He has allowed the "Arab Spring" to turn, as predicted, into a Jihaddist summer. He has meekly stood by while Putin consolidated his power and started rebuilding the Soviet Union. He has, in order to pay for his bureaucratic extravagances, allowed China to become so formidable a creditor that it can compel us to alter our policies. His prohibitions against "racial profiling" have made our borders and airports so porous that terrorists can come and go freely.

With regard to these issues, let me admit that, with a bit of modification, Obama's claim is valid. He can proudly proclaim that "the enemies of our country are better off now than four years ago."