Friedman (And The Left’s) Continuing Delusion
I get a kick out of Thomas Friedman, because for a guy who travels around as he does and sees what he sees, he can seem so clueless at times. So here’s how he sets his article up:
A small news item from Tracy, Calif., caught my eye last week. Local station CBS 13 reported: “Tracy residents will now have to pay every time they call 911 for a medical emergency. But there are a couple of options. Residents can pay a $48 voluntary fee for the year, which allows them to call 911 as many times as necessary. Or there’s the option of not signing up for the annual fee. Instead they will be charged $300 if they make a call for help.”
Welcome to the lean years.
Yes, sir, we’ve just had our 70 fat years in America, thanks to the Greatest Generation and the bounty of freedom and prosperity they built for us. And in these past 70 years, leadership — whether of the country, a university, a company, a state, a charity, or a township — has largely been about giving things away, building things from scratch, lowering taxes or making grants.
But now it feels as if we are entering a new era, “where the great task of government and of leadership is going to be about taking things away from people,” said the Johns Hopkins University foreign policy expert Michael Mandelbaum.
A “new” era where government is going to be about “taking things away from people”? How in the world do you suppose we were able to have the “fat years”. Because government had been taking things away from those able to pay for years. Decades.
Suddenly those they were taking things away from no longer have a job or the income to support all the fat the government built up for so many years. We’re not in the “lean years” – we’re in the PAYGO years. Now, suddenly, the subsidies are drying up because tax revenues are down – way down. Want the services? Pay for them instead of expecting others to do so. And yes, we’re a compassionate country, we can make exceptions for things like 911 service. Provide it free to the elderly and poor. Just make sure “elderly” doesn’t start at 50 and poor is actually poor – i.e no way they could afford a $300 call.
Note that Friedman naturally makes an attempt to equate charity and government when he talks about “giving things away”. Of course it goes without saying that private charity is given voluntarily while government give always come from coerced tax money. Relativity at its finest.
Anyway, Friedman figures that President Obama is missing the boat. As he says “for a politician who speaks so well” he’s mystified why Obama can’t put together a “compelling narrative” from which to explain his politics and polices. The short answer, of course, is that despite the continued belief by the left that the problem lies with the how the message is delivered, in fact the problem is with the message itself. The “narrative” has been heard and examined by the nation and it’s been found wanting – severely wanting. Obama and Friedman could come up with the best narrative in the world and it would still come down to money we can’t afford and more government control/intrusion into our lives that we don’t want.
But let’s hear from Friedman:
Mr. Obama won the election because he was able to “rent” a significant number of independent voters — including Republican business types who had never voted for a Democrat in their lives — because they knew in their guts that the country was on the wrong track and was desperately in need of nation-building at home and that John McCain was not the man to do it.
They thought that Mr. Obama, despite his liberal credentials, had the unique skills, temperament, voice and values to pull the country together for this new Apollo program — not to take us to the moon, but into the 21st century.
Alas, though, instead of making nation-building in America his overarching narrative and then fitting health care, energy, educational reform, infrastructure, competitiveness and deficit reduction under that rubric, the president has pursued each separately. This made each initiative appear to be just some stand-alone liberal obsession to pay off a Democratic constituency — not an essential ingredient of a nation-building strategy — and, therefore, they have proved to be easily obstructed, picked off or delegitimized by opponents and lobbyists.
So “Obamism” feels at worst like a hodgepodge, at best like a to-do list — one that got way too dominated by health care instead of innovation and jobs — and not the least like a big, aspirational project that can bring out America’s still vast potential for greatness.
Friedman begins with a false assumption – the belief that Obama won to do what he’s trying to do now. Instead Obama won because of a general dissatisfaction with the way things were aggravated by two wars. There was a mood to punish the Republicans. Obama was an attractive candidate when compared to old man John McCain. Friedman interpreted the win as a mandate to do the things Friedman and the left have always wanted done. In fact it wasn’t that at all. It was the right man in the right place at the right time with the right nebulous message that others wrote for themselves. And it comes as no surprise then when their premise is put to the test (“this is why America elected Obama”) it comes up snake-eyes. It is the usual delusion we’ve been talking about for years – it is never, ever the message/premise/narrative. It is always about how it is delivered. It’s just not being properly explained, packaged or marketed. If only the right way to present it could be found, the public would go “ah, of course” and all would be right with the world.
Obamism has, in fact, been presented in every way possible and has been rejected each and every time. It is time that Friedman and the left stop the self-delusion and recognize that it isn’t a problem with delivery or packaging, it is a problem with what what they want to do. It’s not what the majority of Americans want to do and the route to a one-term presidency and minority in Congress is to keep believing it has to do with “narrative” and pushing the present Obamism agenda.