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Do Not Disturb

Jun 3, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 36 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
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Harry Truman famously kept a sign on his desk in the Oval Office, “The Buck Stops Here.” Sixty years later, President Obama hangs a sign on the door to the Oval Office, “Do Not Disturb.” In 1978, about halfway between the two liberal presidents, Harvey Mansfield, as we’ve noted before, diagnosed the decline: “From having been the aggressive doctrine of vigorous, spirited men, liberalism has become hardly more than a trembling in the presence of illiberalism. .  .  . Who today is called a liberal for strength and confidence in defense of liberty?”

DAVID LEONARD

Not Barack Obama. He’s the Do Not Disturb president, presiding over a Do Not Disturb liberalism. So:

Do not disturb the commander in chief when Americans are under attack in Benghazi on the anniversary of September 11. Or when the Iranian regime moves forward to get nuclear weapons, or when civil war in Syria threatens to destabilize the Middle East. Or when detainees released from Gitmo find their way back to the battlefield to rejoin their old comrades in terror.

Do not disturb the chief executive, charged with taking care that the laws are faithfully executed, when there are reports and letters from members of Congress concerning the targeting of political opponents by his IRS, or when his Justice Department violates its own guidelines when going after the press, or when the implementation of his major legislative initiative is proving to be a train wreck.

It should be noted that today’s liberals are disturbed about some things. They’re disturbed about sexual harassment, politically incorrect speech, any resistance to the right to kill unborn babies, and Islamophobia, to pick a few items more or less at random. On these occasions, the Do Not Disturb sign is removed, and the front desk is bombarded with whining and insistent calls: Service, Now!

But in our republic we don’t have to answer the phone and hop to it when liberal elites call. They may occupy the fanciest suites, but we’re not relegated to serving as their concierge desk. And the president isn’t a wealthy patron whose wishes have to be heeded. He’s an elected official who can be checked by other elected officials in Congress. Here the people rule. The buck stops with the American people.

The country will pay a price for having, for a few more years, a liberal president who doesn’t choose to be disturbed by what should disturb him. But the real price would be if he (and his minions) convinced us not to be disturbed by the mounting threats to our well-being abroad and to liberty at home. He won’t succeed.

For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,

Through all our history, to the last,

In the hour of darkness and peril and need,

The people will waken and listen to hear .  .  .

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