of what Barack Obama says sounds very persuasive if you don't know
the facts -- and often sounds like sheer nonsense if you do.
Many voters will be comparing Mitt Romney with Barack Obama
between now and election day. But what might be even more revealing
would be comparing Obama with Obama. There is a big contrast
between Obama based on his rhetoric ("Obama 1") and Obama based on
his record ("Obama 2").
For example, during the 2008 election campaign, Obama 1 spoke of
"opening up and creating more transparency in government," so that
government spending plans would be posted on the Internet for days
before they passed into legislation. After he was elected
president, Obama said, "My Administration is committed to creating
an unprecedented level of openness in Government."
This Obama 1 sounds like a very good fellow. No wonder so many
people voted for him.
But then there is Obama 2. He passed a mammoth ObamaCare bill so
fast that even members of Congress didn't have time to read it,
much less the general public. It was by no means posted on the
Internet for days before the vote, as promised.
The Constitution of the United States requires transparency as
well. When people are nominated by a President to become Cabinet
members, the Constitution requires that they be confirmed by the
Senate before they can take office, so that facts about them can
become known before they are given the powers of their offices.
Although President Obama complied with this requirement when he
appointed Cabinet members, he also made other appointments to
powerful positions created by Executive Orders -- people aptly
called "czars" for the vast, unchecked powers they wielded, in some
cases greater than the powers exercised by Cabinet members.
These "czars" never had to be confirmed by the Senate, and so
had no public vetting before acquiring their powers. We had unknown
and unaccountable rulers placed over us.
Another aspect of transparency was the Constitution's
requirement that Congress pass a budget every year. The
Democratically controlled Senate during the Obama administration
has not passed a budget for three consecutive years.
Passing a budget makes the administration tell the public what
it will pay for, what it will have to cut to reduce the deficit --
and how big the deficit will be if they don't cut anything. By not
even passing a budget, Obama 2 and his party are in effect saying
to the public, "It is none of your business." Transparency?
In his oath of office, Barack Obama swore to see that the laws
are faithfully executed, as all Presidents do. But that was Obama
1. Once in the White House, Obama 2 proceeded to explicitly waive
the enforcement of laws he didn't agree with.
The immigration laws are a classic example. Failing to get
Congress to pass some version of amnesty, Obama 2 simply issued an
Executive Order exempting certain classes of illegal immigrants
from the immigration laws on the books.
Too many people have gotten sucked into a discussion of whether
it is a good or a bad thing for people brought into the country as
children to be exempted. But the whole reason for Constitutional
government is to have all three branches of government agree on
what the laws of the land shall be.
Obama 2 has decided instead that if Congress doesn't do what he
wants, he will do it by himself through Executive Orders.
If any President can unilaterally change the law, we are not
likely to have the same freedom under rule by presidential fiat as
under Constitutional government. This is especially dangerous in a
President's second term, when he need no longer have to consider
what the voters want. With a couple more Supreme Court appointments
he can permanently change the very nature of American
One of the most dangerous examples of a lack of transparency was
inadvertently revealed last March when Obama 2, unaware that a
microphone was on, told Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that,
after he is reelected, and never has to face the voters again, he
will have the "flexibility" to make a deal with Russia on missile
In other words, Obama will be able to make a deal with a country
that has been America's most implacable and most formidable
adversary for more than half a century -- a deal he couldn't make
if the voters knew about it before the election. Think about that
chilling prospect, and what it reveals about the real Obama.
Foreign policy - especially toward Israel
Nowhere is the contrast between Barack Obama, as defined by his
rhetoric ("Obama 1") and Barack Obama, as defined by his actions
("Obama 2") greater than in his foreign policy -- and especially
his policy toward Israel.
What if we put aside Barack Obama's rhetoric, and instead look
exclusively at his documented record over a period of decades, up
to and including the present?
The first thing that is most striking about that record is the
long string of his mentors and allies who were marked by hatred of
the United States, and a vision of the world in which the white,
Western nations have become prosperous by oppressing and exploiting
the non-white, non-Western nations.
The person most people have heard of who matched that
description has been Jeremiah Wright, whose church Barack Obama
attended for 20 years, and was still attending when he began his
campaign for the presidency. But Jeremiah Wright was just one in a
series of mentors and allies with a similar vision and a similar
visceral hostility to the West.
Barack Obama was virtually marinated in that vision from
childhood. His mother clashed with her Indonesian husband when he
began to move away from his earlier anti-Western radicalism and to
work with Western businesses investing in Indonesia.
As a counterweight to whatever ideological influence her
Indonesian husband might have on her son, she extolled the virtues
of his absent Kenyan father, who remained a doctrinaire,
anti-Western socialist to the end.
After Barack Obama was sent back to Hawaii to live with his
grandparents at age ten, his grandfather introduced him to a black
man named Frank Marshall Davis, who had a long career of
anti-American, anti-white propaganda that included a stint as a
member of the Communist Party. Davis was Obama's mentor on race
throughout his adolescent years, until Obama left for college.
The progression of such mentors and like-minded contemporaries
continued as Obama went through Occidental College, Columbia
University and the Harvard Law School.
These included Professor Edward Said at Columbia, a spokesman
for Palestinian terrorists, and Professor Derrick Bell at the
Harvard Law School. Bell was an advocate of so-called "critical
race theory" -- an uncritical mishmash of notions by a man who said
that he saw his role as deliberately annoying white people. Barack
Obama literally embraced Professor Bell at a public gathering.
After Obama went out into the world and worked for a time in a
private business, he regarded himself as being, in his own words,
"a spy behind enemy lines."
Later, when he began his political career by running for state
office in Illinois, his campaign began with a fundraiser in the
home of Bill Ayers, who had been a domestic terrorist who planted
bombs in public places, including the Pentagon.
When this association was later revealed, Obama said that he was
still a child during Ayers' years as a terrorist. But Obama was by
no means still a child when Ayers defended his years of terrorism
in a statement that appeared in the New York Times --
ironically, on September 11, 2001.
This is not the Barack Obama that most voters saw and elected
President of the United States in 2008. What they saw was a
carefully crafted image of a bright, articulate, energetic and
genial fellow who would heal our racial and partisan divides. His
likability was high and remained so, even after many became
disappointed with his policies.
His geniality has carried him over many rough spots. But have
you ever heard of a grumpy confidence man? Geniality is a
prerequisite for the job.
What many regard as a failure of Obama's foreign policy,
especially in the Middle East, may well be one of his biggest
successes. His desire to redistribute wealth domestically is part
of a larger ideological vision that includes a redistribution of
Obama has long said that the United States plays too large a
role internationally. His policies suggest that Islamic countries
need a larger role. The troubling question is whether he still sees
his own role as "a spy behind enemy lines" in the White House.
Bringing the U.S. down a peg
Much puzzling behavior by Barack Obama falls into place when we
go behind the image that he projects ("Obama 1") to the factual
reality of the man's whole life and thrust ("Obama 2").
Obama himself is well aware of the nature and importance of his
image. In his own words, "I serve as a blank screen on which people
of vastly different political stripes project their own views." An
18th century philosopher put the matter bluntly: "When I speak, I
put on a mask. When I act, I am forced to take it off."
Many of Barack Obama's actions as President of the United States
reflect neither political expediency nor an attempt to promote the
best interests of the American people. Take, for example, his
bowing low from the waist to foreign leaders.
No President of the United States had ever done that before. It
gained Obama nothing with the voters, nor was there any reason to
think that he expected it to. Why then did he do it?
What did it accomplish? It brought the United States down a peg,
in the eyes of the world, something that he has sought to do in
many other ways.
These bows were perfectly consistent with his view of a
maldistribution of power and prestige internationally, just as his
domestic agenda reflects a felt need for a redistribution of wealth
and power within American society.
It is not just the United States, but the Western world in
general, including Israel, that needs to be brought down a peg,
from the standpoint of the ideology prevalent among the people with
whom Barack Obama has allied himself consistently for decades.
Against that background, it is not at all puzzling that
President Obama has clamped down on offshore oil drilling by
Americans in the Gulf of Mexico, but has actually encouraged and
subsidized offshore oil drilling by Brazil with our tax
Nor is it surprising that he imposes draconian restrictions on
industrial activities in the United States, in the name of fighting
"global warming," while accepting the fact that Third World nations
that are beginning to industrialize will generate far more
pollution than any restrictions in America can possibly offset.
That is another example of international redistribution -- and
payback for perceived past oppressions or exploitation of the West
against the non-West. So is replacing pro-Western governments in
the Middle East with Islamic extremist governments.
Some people may have gotten focused on the issue of Barack
Obama's birth certificate because so much of what he has done seems
foreign to American ideals, traditions and interests. But birth
tells us nothing about loyalty. One-time American Communist leader
Earl Browder was descended from the Pilgrims.
Those who have questioned whether Barack Obama is really a
citizen of the United States have missed the larger question:
Whether he considers himself a citizen of the world. Think about
this remarkable statement by Obama during the 2008 campaign: "We
can't drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes
on 72 degrees at all times ... and then just expect that every
other country is going to say, 'OK.'"
Are Americans supposed to let foreigners tell them how to live
their lives? The implied answer is clearly "Yes!" When President
Obama went to the United Nations for authority to take military
action and ignored the Congress of the United States, that was all
consistent with his vision of the way the world should be.
How has Obama gotten away with so many things that are foreign
to American beliefs and traditions? Partly it is because of a
quiescent media, sharing many of his ideological views and/or
focused on the symbolism of his being "the first black President."
But part of his success must be credited -- if that is the word --
to his own rhetorical talents and his ability to project an image
that many people accept and welcome.
The role of a confidence man is not to convince skeptics, but to
help the gullible believe what they want to believe. Most of what
Barack Obama says sounds very persuasive if you don't know the
facts -- and often sounds like sheer nonsense if you do. But he is
not trying to convince skeptics, nor worried about looking
ridiculous to informed people who won't vote for him anyway.
This is a source of much polarization between those who see and
accept Obama 1 and those who see through that facade to Obama
Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution,
Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305.
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