Tuesday, August 09, 2011
Brett Stephens makes a common conservative argument uncommonly well over at the Wall Street Journal: that Barack Obama is hardly the sharpest knife in the drawer. Stephens may be right, but at the end of the day, the question he raises (as well as its answer) is something of a distraction from what we ought to be thinking about as the opportunity to replace him approaches.
Stephens opens by comparing the Obama Presidency to a plane crash:
The aircraft was large, modern and considered among the world's safest. But that night it was flying straight into a huge thunderstorm. Turbulence was extreme, and airspeed indicators may not have been functioning properly. Worse, the pilots were incompetent. As the plane threatened to stall they panicked by pointing the nose up, losing speed when they ought to have done the opposite. It was all over in minutes.Obama's far-left credentials, as well as the antipathy of the far left to American "hegemony" (i.e., success, viewed, revealingly, as inherently predatory) are well-known, so one could reasonably answer the charge that our pilot is incompetent with something like, "Well, if a crash is his objective, he's actually doing pretty well."
Was this the fate of Flight 447, the Air France jet that plunged mysteriously into the Atlantic a couple of years ago? Could be. What I'm talking about here is the Obama presidency.
Stephens gives a nod to this interpretation when he notes that, "[C]onservatives often seem to think his blunders, foreign and domestic, are all part of a cunning scheme to turn the U.S. into a combination of Finland, Cuba and Saudi Arabia." But this way of looking at Obama ascribes too much power to historical personalities. Obama isn't involved in a cunning scheme at all: He's openly doing things whose end result will cause the country to become like Finland, Cuba, and Saudi Arabia. Obama can do so because many voters want him to do exactly those sorts of things, even though quite a few who back him would probably deny that these goals would cause such a result. Obama may well be inept, but given his agenda, whatever ineptitude he has might be something to celebrate.
Where I found myself no longer smiling as I read this piece was when Stephens offered the following evidence of Barack Obama's stupidity:
Then there's his habit of never trimming his sails, much less tacking to the prevailing wind. When Bill Clinton got hammered on health care, he reverted to centrist course and passed welfare reform. When it looked like the Iraq war was going to be lost, George Bush fired Don Rumsfeld and ordered the surge.In the sense that our political system makes radical change very difficult to achieve, even a politician informed by individualist principles would find himself having to accept steps in the right direction in lieu of major reforms, so Stephens may have a point in suggesting that Obama change course.
Mr. Obama, by contrast, appears to consider himself immune from error. Perhaps this explains why he has now doubled down on Heckuva Job Geithner. It also explains his insulting and politically inept habit of suggesting -- whether the issue is health care, or Arab-Israeli peace, or change we can believe in at some point in God's good time -- that the fault always lies in the failure of his audiences to listen attentively...
However, the comparison to Clinton rings an alarm bell when we consider what Obama has succeeded in getting away with (that Clinton couldn't, because it was too soon), despite his ineptitude -- and how close to disaster this country is. In our political system, the President has a great deal of power, but Obama can't act alone. Furthermore, many of the foibles Stephens points out are shared by plenty of other politicians, and not just from Obama's party. Notably, consider the callous disregard for fiscal reality from both sides of the aisle during the "default" "debate."
After going through his evidence for Obama's stupidity, Stephens ends by citing Forrest Gump as a wise fool: "Stupid is as stupid does." Maybe so, but who needs real stupidity when considerations other than the proper purpose of government and, indeed, the very constraints of reality take precedence in the minds of people who, although they may not be stupid, might as well be as a result of those considerations.
Whether Stephens is right or wrong about Barack Obama's intellect, the altruistic, collectivistic philosophy he shares with most other politicians -- and too much of the electorate -- will render whatever brainpower he's got moot, at least in terms of protecting the individual rights and lives of Americans and, with them, the greatness of our country.