Obama’s Narrative – And What It Lacks

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.

12 thoughts on “Obama’s Narrative – And What It Lacks”

  1. First: The link to Belmont Club is ng.
    Second: Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism is a must read for this election season. He explains the connections between fascism, progressivism, and liberalism and the roles of Wilson, FDR, JFK and LBJ in making them the center of American politics. He discusses Hillary as the prime example of Liberal Fascism in current politics. The book was written before Obama’s ascent, but it is clear that he is the very model of a liberal fascist politician.
    Read it before it is too late.

  2. Thanks, think it is fixed (and added other one).
    Of course, some of this just proves folksayings can be wise: “If you don’t stand for something, then you’ll fall for anything.”

  3. I would just note that if we ought not pay people to like us then we should not be subsidizing so many potential militants–this is on record and can be searched–not to become militants even though they are unemployed.Yes. We subsidize many unemployed in Iraq to keep them from becoming militant.

  4. Dear Tatyana:

    I am a bit reluctant to use the name I had often used, J>H>, since Steven King’s son now uses that name for his novels…He is much more worthy of the name. I have published under the name used (Fred Lapides) here, but have addtional names, some used for fun and others professionally.

  5. I think the narratives arises because it is the only one that requires someone like Obama et al to have power. Obama is good at talking and persuading so he creates a narrative in which persuasive speech can solve the problem. Such a narcissistically driven analysis is doomed to failure.

  6. I shan’t reciprocate with off topic remarks to defend myself against name calling. I would suggest that Obama is drawing a lot of potential voters from avast and diverse group of people. There are even some, such as the conservative Andew Sullivan, who support Obama because he (as do some others) feel that the GOP needs a sound defeat in order to get back to true conservative principles, the strength of the party at one time, as noted too in this week’s issue of Newsweek.

    Now whether or not Obama can make good on his generalized suggestions remains to be seen, should he win the White House. But isn’t that always the case? Look at the campaign speeches for Ronald Reagan. Evn a party platform remains chat roomstuff till Congress and the president try to pass legislation.

  7. Obamamania strikes me as combining two somewhat disparate strands in American politics.

    The first is a variation of the “secular-religious faith” form of belief similar to the impervious devotion of many to AGW, which lives on with relentless vigor in spite of any number of cogent analyses which seriously call into questions many of the doctrine’s basic assertions.

    The desparate enthusiasm for Obama reminds me of the frenzy that AGW “true believers” go into when anyone questions the validity of that theory.

    Secondly, the “all things to all people”, (except for the clearly identified villians that he will put in their place), aspect of his campaign reminds me of the statist-populism of Huey Long back in the 1930’s. Obama’s rise through the corrupt Illinois political machine is also reminiscent of the Louisiana culture that Long remade to serve his own ends.

    I also am concerned that the level of fervor generated in his followers might very well bubble over if it appears he is going to lose, or has lost, either the nomination or the election. It is powerfully emotional in a group which is disinclined by age (for many) and political orientation to absorb disappointments gracefully. (The left has a never-ending capacity to justify violence against its opponents, and claim victimhood if there is any response)

    I think it unlikely he could win an election against McCain, but it is an interesting laboratory in the self-destructive elements of “identity” politics and victimology-as-ideology.

    Should be an interesting year.

  8. >Obama is good at talking and persuading so he creates a narrative in which persuasive speech can solve the problem

    I have yet to come away with an understanding of what the problem is and what the solution is. (from Obama).. All i hear is

    [Platitude] [Platitude] Hope! [Platitude] [Nasty attack on George Bush] [Platitude] CHANGE! [Platitude] I CAN GET THINGS DONE BY WORKING ACROSS THE AISLE (even though he has the most leftist voting record in the Senate). [Platitude] CHANGE!

  9. You are not going to get a serious listing of proposed changes from candidates on tv campaigns. However, a simple Google search “Obama proposed changes” will give a substantial list, beginning with bankruptcy laws and on to Health plans and education etc etc

    Now you probably will not agree with many or any of his proposals, but
    to suggest he has nothing but bumper sticker slogans is simply not true.

  10. Obama’s election, as with many Democrat candidates in the past, seems to be based on the ‘young’ turning out in droves. This conventional wisdom, that the liberal press insists upon every election cycle, is a hope for better participation in elections by those who are the direct recipients of our government’s largess (we taxpayers). In other words, if only we could get the undereducated to the polls, the Democrats would never lose another election.

    This is not likely to happen… the Democrats will have to try to steal the election as they have in the past. They will be more successful this year (again) because of their success in winning so many governorships in ’06.

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