The Right Opinion

Obama Unbound

By Charles Krauthammer · Jan. 25, 2013

WASHINGTON – The media herd is stunned to discover that Barack Obama is a man of the left. After 699 teleprompted presidential speeches, the commentariat was apparently still oblivious. Until Monday's inaugural address, that is.

Where has everyone been these four years? The only surprise is that Obama chose his second inaugural, generally an occasion for “malice toward none” ecumenism, to unveil so uncompromising a left-liberal manifesto.

But the substance was no surprise. After all, Obama had unveiled his transformational agenda in his very first address to Congress, four years ago (Feb. 24, 2009). It was, I wrote at the time, “the boldest social democratic manifesto ever issued by a U.S. president.”

Nor was it mere talk. Obama went on to essentially nationalize health care, 18 percent of the U.S. economy – after passing an $833 billion stimulus that precipitated an unprecedented expansion of government spending. Washington now spends 24 percent of GDP, fully one-fifth higher than the postwar norm of 20 percent.

Obama's ambitions were derailed by the 2010 midterm shellacking that cost him the House. But now that he's won again, the revolution is back, as announced in Monday's inaugural address.

It was a paean to big government. At its heart was Obama's pledge to (1) defend unyieldingly the 20th-century welfare state and (2) expand it unrelentingly for the 21st.

The first part of that agenda – clinging zealously to the increasingly obsolete structures of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid – is the very definition of reactionary liberalism. Social Security was created when life expectancy was 62. Medicare was created when modern medical technology was in its infancy. Today's radically different demographics and technology have rendered these programs, as structured, unsustainable. Everyone knows that, unless reformed, they will swallow up the rest of the budget.

As for the second part – enlargement – Obama had already begun that in his first term with Obamacare. Monday's inaugural address reinstated yet another grand Obama project – healing the planet. It promised a state-created green energy sector, massively subsidized (even as the state's regulatory apparatus systematically squeezes fossil fuels, killing coal today, shale gas tomorrow).

The playbook is well known. As Czech President (and economist) Vaclav Klaus once explained, environmentalism is the successor to failed socialism as justification for all-pervasive rule by a politburo of experts. Only now, it acts in the name of not the proletariat but the planet.

Monday's address also served to disabuse the fantasists of any Obama interest in fiscal reform or debt reduction. This speech was spectacularly devoid of any acknowledgment of the central threat to the postindustrial democracies (as already seen in Europe) – the crisis of an increasingly insolvent entitlement state.

On the contrary. Obama is the apostle of the ever-expanding state. His speech was an ode to the collectivity. But by that he means only government, not the myriad of voluntary associations – religious, cultural, charitable, artistic, advocacy, ad infinitum – that are the glory of the American system.

For Obama, nothing lies between citizen and state. It is a desert, within which the isolated citizen finds protection only in the shadow of Leviathan. Put another way, this speech is the perfect homily for the marriage of Julia – the Obama campaign's atomized citizen, coddled from cradle to grave – and the state.

In the eye of history, Obama's second inaugural is a direct response to Ronald Reagan's first. On Jan. 20, 1981, Reagan had proclaimed: “Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.” And then succeeded in bending the national consensus to his ideology – as confirmed 15 years later when the next Democratic president declared “The era of big government is over.” So said Bill Clinton, who then proceeded to abolish welfare.

Obama is no Clinton. He doesn't abolish entitlements; he preserves the old ones and creates new ones in pursuit of a vision of a more just social order where fighting inequality and leveling social differences are the great task of government.

Obama said in 2008 that Reagan “changed the trajectory of America” in a way that Clinton did not. He meant that Reagan had transformed the political zeitgeist, while Clinton accepted and thus validated the new Reaganite norm.

Not Obama. His mission is to redeem and resurrect the 50-year pre-Reagan liberal ascendancy. Accordingly, his second inaugural address, ideologically unapologetic and aggressive, is his historical marker, his self-proclamation as the Reagan of the left. If he succeeds in these next four years, he will have earned the title.

© 2013, The Washington Post Writers Group

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9 Comments

Tod the tool guy in brooklyn ny said:

Lord God, bring down the haughty Socialists! Let the welfare leeches dry up in the hot sun. Change their hearts to limited, Constitutional models, like the Reagan Blueprint. Unite us to your model of E PLURIBUS UNUM. End the reign of terror by the Statists/Leftists, and embrace free enterprise. Amen.

Friday, January 25, 2013 at 5:56 AM

wjm in Colorado said:

I think Chairman Obamao has already won the title, "The Most Treasonous President Ever". He has his place in History with the anti-Capitalist champions Marx, Lenin, Castro, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao Tse Tung, Hitler, and the North Korean Dictators. If he succeeds, history shows what the country will be like, maybe Cuba will annex us?

Friday, January 25, 2013 at 10:14 AM

Tex Horn in Texas said:

Mac, do you really expect Republicans to do anything to keep Obutthead from destroying this country? I don't see it, pardner. From what I see, they're mostly assisting. With the possible exception of the Tea Party candidates, who is going to oppose the Traitor-in-Chief? In a recent letter I received from John Cornyn, from Texas, the number two Republican in the Senate, he said that he supported 2nd Amendment rights, defined as hunting, sport shooting, and self defense. What about defense against an out-of-control government? I suspect that he and other Republicans will vote for some type of gun control. Does this sound like help or rolling over? The Republicans are direction-less.

Friday, January 25, 2013 at 11:48 AM

RudyT in Pittsburgh, PA replied:

If the election was held again tomorrow, how many of those former McCain supporters who didn't vote for Romney would decide to get off their asses and "pull the lever"?

I think that nothing has changed their mind. You want traitors? Look to those who refused to help (vote) when we needed them.

We get the government that we deserve.

Friday, January 25, 2013 at 2:24 PM

Tex Horn in Texas said:

Rudy T, I agree. I'm a Libertarian, but I voted for Romney in an attempt to rid this country of it's dictator. Those who don't vote did not use their voice, their power, and they deserve what they get.

Friday, January 25, 2013 at 2:33 PM

d.w.hudson in Michigan said:

Those who voted for Obama are going to get what they deserve but the rest of us are still looking for a party of constitutitonalism and the president we need. The republicans have gotten it into their minds that since the democrats won they must become more like the democrats in order to win. They are mistaken. Until the republican "leadership" realizes that the path to victory is leading instead of following and by adherence to the principles of individual freedom and smaller government, our nation will remain adrift in the seas of democrat socialistic tyranny. It appears the lessons of 2010 have been lost. If we are to look for republican leaders, we need look no farther those who vote "no" to increasing the debt piled upon American citizens by government employees acting beyond their constitutional authority. Leaders do not surrender when a battle is lost. They regroup and attack. Leaders do not surrender.

Friday, January 25, 2013 at 4:15 PM

Tod the tool guy in brooklyn ny said:

Great points made here, Patriots; form the British square, and start firing, even if it becomes like fighting the Zulu warriors (with spears)!

Friday, January 25, 2013 at 5:54 PM

Jim in Alabama said:

1) Ronald Reagan came to office with an intent and a rough plan to destroy the USSR. He was not confused or faint-hearted. He was playing to win. And he ultimately won, his efforts finding fruition at the Soviet collapse shortly after he left office. The long and over-simplified short of it, was that he saw, in concert with some of the finest geo-political analysts around, that their economy might implode if they were pushed into an excessive frenzy of spending. A massive increase in U.S. Military spending took place under Reagan, along with a huge exaggeration of the impending success of the "Star Wars" program, with its potential for eliminating the Mutually Assured Destruction factor, which had stood as Russia's sure protection from nuclear attack As predicted, and as intended, the Soviet Union launched an unsustainable spending spree, which ultimately led to the Great Fall of Communism.

2) The "Great Fall of Communism" was a tad over-rated. There were tremendous opportunities to support positive developments that a real Statesman might have realized. Clinton saw none of them. The break-up of the USSR began with the expression of many genuinely democratic urges and the opening of vast KGB archives afforded us incredible insight into the past successes of their Information Ministry's propaganda. We learned that their greatest pride attached to the effectiveness of their campaign to turn America against the War in Vietnam. We may well have done it all quite well without them. But the fact is that we didn't. Their direct and concerted efforts, through a combination of agents, sympathetic leftist organizations, proxies, useful idiots, and even a future Presidential candidate, succeeded in convincing an effective majority of Americans, that this particularly critical fight in the war against communism was a cruel colonial aggression in the service of the rich. So there is precedent for today's thesis.

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Friday, January 25, 2013 at 6:25 PM

Jim in Alabama said:

3) The Soviet Union is gone and the Russian Republic is smaller and perhaps more manageable now, and is currently led by the former head of their KGB. Any past difficulties with Red China have been resolved into a solid alliance. We have forgotten and so we assume that the Russians have forgotten. But they have not forgotten. We destroyed their empire. We defeated them. No bloodshed? No harm, no foul? We can think what we want, but surely they do not see it that way at all. The question is, what form does their vengeance take? How successful is their counterstrike? Or do we imagine that again we're doing it all on our own?

4) We now face a broad array of near Stalinist Leftists and Islamic Jihadists. They have all always been and are now still dedicated to the destruction of our nation and our liberties and our leadership role in the world. They have now taken the White House. And kept it in spite of the appalling failure of every policy of the last four years. And we are watching a great parallel. Before our eyes we are watching an obscene orgy of spending past any measure of concern for our future. And vast portions of these multi-trillion dollar budgets are being diverted to enemies within and without. Could it now be that "as intended", the United States has launched an unsustainable spending spree, which may well ultimately lead to the Great Fall of Capitalism?

The Collapse of the USSR slowed the march of tyranny. The Destruction of America will end the last best hope of free men. I don't think I'm being too paranoid. I think I'm just drawing some lines between some very big dots. And I think that there are wheels turning that are bigger that what we can plainly see.

Friday, January 25, 2013 at 6:26 PM