Belmont Club analyzes the narrative Obama used in last night’s debate – a tale that somehow dominated comments on Jonathan’s post (which seemed to be about Obama’s interesting brand of populist economics). Wretchard had an earlier take on the debate as well.
All other arguments aside, shouldn’t a Commander in Chief grasp that while the few years between the spring of 2004 and the spring of 2008 might seem static in terms of, say, evolution, they indicate quite different realities in war?
What seems lacking from both Democratic candidates is proportion. We’ve always claimed that the Clintons see chiefly in terms of the Clintons. Well, yes, there’s that. But neither Democratic contender seems to have a sense of history, a sense of the tragic nature of our aspirations, nor a sense that America is a superpower and as such it has enemies and responsibilities on a large scale.
Without that, they don’t seem to take responsibilities seriously. Their sense of the variables they will need to consider (and can never, really, be certain about) in foreign policy seem feckless. On the other hand, they take a disproportionate responsibility at home – indeed, in our homes. They can’t make my life safe – they can make it safer, perhaps. I don’t mind government regulation on lead paint for toys. But they can’t raise my children, take care of me in some vague and paternalistic way. If I have unrealistic expectations of my salary for next year, I shouldn’t expect them to bail me out of a mortgage I have undertaken with insufficient forethought. But, most of all, neither can save my soul; I would think each would have enough to do without taking on a task that surely requires omnipotence.
Of course, if they took their responsibilities seriously, they would try to protect us from terrorists (though I suspect they’d have to be good and also lucky). But I get little sense that they’ve gotten their heads around the conflicts of our time, the geography of the Middle East, the usefulness of property rights, the necessity for growth as individuals and as nations of the freedoms of the marketplace (of ideas, religion, speech, products). Nor have they thought about how these arise from truths about human nature. Obama complained that we were spending money in Iraq that might better be spent making South Americans like us. Paying people to like us is seldom the basis of satisfactory personal nor diplomatic relations. Besides, most nations should need us only in times of crisis (nations can little prepare for, say, a tsunami). We need leaders who understand transparency and the rule of law are what we have to give – and that is far more valuable than any money drained to support the troops in Iraq. We need a leader who understands our heritage and believes human rights are universal, that this belief is not just something to be proud of but which helps define a generous and mature view of the world, a view that seeks partners rather than supplicants.
A passage from the Captain’s Quarters’ post linked above:
This, though, is the religion of statism distilled to its essence. Only a government can rescue people from the consequences of their own decisions. Only government programs can provide for your every need, and only government can use your money wisely enough to ensure that your needs get covered. Individuals cannot possibly manage to help their neighbors through their churches or community organizations, let alone encourage people to do for themselves.
And all you need to enter the statist Utopia is to sell your soul. So that it can be fixed.