Misoverestimating Selfhyperadulation?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

I have often described Barack Obama's political philosophy as pragmatism (i.e., range-of-the-moment and employing cultural defaults as criteria for "what 'works'"). The President is hardly unique in possessing that flaw, but Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal indirectly brings up the following interesting question: Can some pragmatists be "better" than others? That or he caused me to think of it when he examined the intellectual shoals from which Obama draws his oratory:

Maybe Mr. Obama has similar literary tastes [to Lincoln (e.g., Shakespeare) --ed]. It doesn't show. "An economy built to last," the refrain from his 2012 State of the Union, borrows from an ad slogan once used to sell the Ford Edsel. "Nation-building at home," another favorite presidential trope, was born in a Tom Friedman column. "We are the ones we have been waiting for" is the title of a volume of essays by Alice Walker. "The audacity of hope" is adapted from a Jeremiah Wright sermon. "Yes We Can!" is the anthem from "Bob the Builder," a TV cartoon aimed at 3-year-olds.

There is a common view that good policy and good rhetoric have little intrinsic connection. Not so. President Obama's stupendously shallow rhetoric betrays a remarkably superficial mind. Superficial minds designed ObamaCare. Superficial minds are now astounded by its elementary failures, and will continue to be astounded by the failures to come. [link in original]
I am not familiar enough with Stephens to know whether he is jumping onto the conservative bandwagon that Obama is failing merely (or primarily) because he is incompetent, but he makes a good point here, and this presents us with the opportunity to consider what a more competent President might have wrought. 

Perhaps a less obviously atrocious program might have spared Democrats the embarrassment they are now facing -- and the President is desperately trying to  forestall with his delays and "fixes". (Perhaps someone better briefed on how the insurance industry works might have slowly phased out "bad" policies, for example.) But would such a program even then have delivered on its promise, or -- and more conservatives could stand to ask the question -- would it have less trampled the liberty Obama has sworn to protect?

It is fine to point out how unsophisticated Obama is, but this is something that will buy us time at best. Advocates of freedom still have work to do. Obama may have set the table, but the main courses, of challenging the propriety of government meddling and theft, won't serve themselves. That the failures are coming faster and more obviously doesn't mean that everyone knows why they had to come. To focus too much on Obama's competence risks distracting from that fact and from the stern and long overdue moral appraisal due to the welfare state.

Obama really screwed up his takeover of the medical sector. Be glad of that, but don't expect the government to back out on its own.

-- CAV

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