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Baked in the Cake

Everything you needed to know about Obama could have been learned from his campaign.

Aug 2, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 43 • By PETER WEHNER
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During the 2008 campaign, it was clear that Barack Obama would govern as a liberal on several important issues. But it seemed possible that, at least in other areas, he might govern as what he insisted he was: something of a centrist, pragmatic and reasonable, nonideological and relatively bipartisan.

Baked in the Cake

Photo Credit: AP, Jae C.Hong

It was not to be. And it turns out that there were several moments in the campaign that revealed what an Obama presidency would be like. They were not the result of grand policy pronouncements or statements made in major speeches. Rather, they were more often than not words spoken off-the-cuff, in a more informal setting, and in several instances they were not meant to be made public. But they were; and they provided an insight into Obama’s core beliefs, a sneak preview of coming attractions.

 Here are three such moments.

‘I think when you spread the wealth around it’s good for everybody.’

Obama said those words to Joe Wurzelbacher in an unscripted exchange in Ohio on October 14, 2008. They opened a window into Obama’s view of the role of government and his conception of social justice. He seems to be inclined toward equality of results, not just equality of opportunity—and he sees government as the instrument to bring that about.

Like many modern-day liberals, Obama seems to resent wealthy people—or at least those wealthy people who don’t support him or who earned their wealth through enterprises other than, say, multimillion dollar movie deals. Taxing the well-to-do is not simply an economic policy; Obama views it as a moral good, a social virtue, a noble sacrifice. The role of the state is to reduce inequality even if it comes at the expense of growth and prosperity.

The president and his administration’s unyielding attacks on the “rich,” on CEOs, corporations, and wealth creation, are therefore predictable and inevitable. They are a manifestation of his economic and social views. Although it was late in coming around, the Chamber of Commerce has finally realized that Obama’s policies constitute a “general attack on our free enterprise system.” 

‘For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country.’ 

These words were uttered not by Barack Obama but by his wife Michelle in a campaign appearance in Milwaukee on February 18, 2008, in support of her husband’s presidential bid. It’s reasonable to conclude, however, that this statement represented both of their worldviews. 

We have seen their attitude toward America play out in different ways, most especially in Obama’s worldwide apology tour, where he criticized America for actions past and present, for reasons real and imagined. He has criticized America on everything from committing “torture” to dragging our feet on global warming, from our selective promotion of democracy to unilateralism, from disrespecting Europe to showing lack of respect to the Muslim world. Even the attacks on September 11, 2001, count against America. According to Obama, they “led some in my country to view Islam as inevitably hostile not only to America and Western countries, but also to human rights. All this has bred more fear and more mistrust.”

The belief that America is run-of-the-mill is also reflected in Obama’s April 2009 statement in France when he was asked if he believed in American exceptionalism. “I believe in American exceptionalism,” Obama said, “just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” That is a skillful politician’s way of saying he doesn’t believe in American exceptionalism.

When the Iranian regime was crushing the freedom movement, Obama explained his reluctance to “meddle” in the affairs of Iran because of what America did there more than a half-century ago. And so it is no surprise to find a critical view of America reflected in the words of Obama diplomatic aides such as Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner who, when asked if he brought up the Arizona immigration law in his discussions with the Chinese, said, “We brought it up early and often. It was mentioned in the first session, and as a troubling trend in our society and an indication that we have to deal with issues of discrimination or potential discrimination, and that these are issues very much being debated in our own society.”

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