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Jewish World Review
Sept. 14, 2009
/ 25 Elul 5769
Obama won't surrender in his war of choice
So why can't the silver-tongued post-partisan healer seal the deal on this health care business? Surely it should be the work of moments for the greatest orator in American history to whip up a little medicinal Gettysburg, a touch of Henry V-in-the-Agincourt-casualty-tent, and put this thing away. Yet there he was the other night with the usual leaden medley of tinny grandiosity (all the this-is-the-moment, now-is-the-hour stuff), slippery reassurances (don't worry, you won't be "required" to change your present health arrangements), imputations of bad faith to anyone who takes a different view (they're playing "games"), and the copper-bottomed guarantee that you can have it all for no money down, no interest, no monthly payments, no nuthin' ("I will not sign it if it adds one dime to the deficit").
This would barely have passed muster four months back. After a summer of seething town halls and sliding approval numbers, it was a joke. Or, rather, it would be a joke if the president's intention was to persuade an increasingly skeptical, if not downright hostile, electorate. On the other hand, if the intention is to ram it down America's throat whatever the citizenry thinks, then the joke's on us.
If it was about "health care," it would be easier. It was assumed, for example, that the president's sly revision of "47 million people without health insurance" in his summer speeches to the substantially lower 30 million was a concession to those who said that his "plan" (he hasn't actually produced one, but why get hung up on details?) will cover gazillions of illegal immigrants.
If so, it's a rhetorical feint that's otherwise meaningless. The minute a first-world country has "free" health care, it becomes the provider of choice to anyone who can get there, particularly for any long-term ailments requiring state-of-the-art medications. In 2004, Britain's Health Protection Agency revealed that 44 percent of HIV patients being treated by the National Health Service were not residents of the United Kingdom at all but from southern Africa. In essence, a huge number of AIDS patients in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Swaziland and Lesotho have decided to outsource their health care needs to British taxpayers. Similar trends will manifest themselves here in nothing flat.
But, for the sake of argument, let us concede the president's current number of 30 million uninsured. In order to do something for the 10 percent of the population outside the current system, why is it necessary to destabilize the arrangements of the 90 percent within it?
Well, says the president, not so fast. Lots of people with insurance run into problems when they change jobs or move to another state. OK, In that case, why not ease the obstacles to health care portability?
Well, says the president, shuffling his cups and moving the pea under another shell, we're spending too much on health care. By "we're," he means you and you and you and you and millions of other Americans making individual choices over which he casually claims collective jurisdiction.
And that, ultimately, gets closer than anything else he says to giving the game away. For most of the previous presidency, the Left accused George W. Bush of using 9/11 as a pretext to attack Iraq. Since January, his successor has used the economic slump as a pretext to "reform" health care. Most voters don't buy it: They see it as Obama's "war of choice," and the more frantically he talks about it as a matter of urgency the weirder it seems. If he's having difficulty selling it, that's because it's not about "health." As I've written before, the appeal of this issue to him and to Nancy Pelosi, Barney Frank et al is that governmentalization of health care is the fastest way to a permanent left-of-center political culture one in which elections are always fought on the Left's issues and on the Left's terms, and in which "conservative" parties no longer talk about small government and individual liberty but find themselves retreating to one last pitiful rationale: that they can run the left-wing state more effectively than the Left can. Listen to your average British Tory or French Gaullist on the campaign trail, pledging to "deliver" government services more "efficiently."
Three stories bubbled up in the past week, although if you read The New York Times and the administration's other airbrushers you'll be blissfully unaware of them: The resignation of Van Jones, former (?) communist and current 9/11 "truther," from his post as Obama's "Green Jobs Czar." The reassignment" of Yosi Sergant at the National Endowment for the Arts after he was found to be urging government-funded arts groups to produce "art" in support of Obama policy positions. And, finally, the extraordinary undercover tape from Andrew Breitbart's Big Government Web site in which officials from ACORN (the Obama chums who'll be "helping" with the next census) offer advice on how pimps can get government housing loans for brothels employing underage girls from El Salvador.
What do all these Obama associates have in common? I mean, aside from the fact that Glenn Beck played a key role in exposing them. We are assured by the airbrushing media and "moderate" conservatives that Beck is crazy, a frothing spokesnut for the lunatic fringe. By contrast, Van Jones, Yosi Sergant and ACORN are all members of the lunatic mainstream, embedded philosophically and actually in the heart of Obamaland.
What all these individuals share is a supersized view of the state, from a make-work gig coordinating the invention of phony-baloney "green jobs" to Soviet-style government-licensed art in support of heroic government programs to government-funded "community organizers" organizing government funding for jailbait bordellos. OK, government-funded child prostitution's a bit of an outlier even for this crowd for the moment. But you get the general idea.
The New York Times' in-house conservative, David Brooks, was an early champion of Obama and is profiled in the current edition of The New Republic cooing paeans to the then-senator"s "pant leg and perfectly creased pant." Alas, for David Brooks, the bottom has dropped out of Obama's perfectly creased pants. The other day he was tutting that the Obama administration is in trouble because "it joined itself at the hip to the liberal leadership in Congress." My National Review colleague Jay Nordlinger was reminded of an old observation by the great Theodore Dalrymple. During his time as an English prison doctor, Dalrymple frequently met ne'er-do-wells who said they'd "fallen in with the wrong crowd," but, oddly enough, in all those years, he never met the wrong crowd.
Likewise, Obama didn't "join" himself to the liberal leadership; he is the liberal leadership. The administration didn't fall in with the wrong crowd; they are the wrong crowd. Van Jones, Yosi Sergant and ACORN are where Barack Obama's chosen to live all his adult life. Even if he wanted to be the bipartisan centrist of David Brooks' fantasies, look at his Rolodex and then figure out just where such a man would estimate the "center" to be.
My sense from Wednesday's speech is that the president's gonna shove this through in some form or other. It may cause a little temporary pain in Blue Dog districts in 2010, but the long-term gains will be transformative and irreversible.
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"America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It"
It's the end of the world as we know it...
Someday soon, you might wake up to the call to prayer from a muezzin. Europeans already are.
And liberals will still tell you that "diversity is our strength"while Talibanic enforcers cruise Greenwich Village burning books and barber shops, the Supreme Court decides sharia law doesn't violate the "separation of church and state," and the Hollywood Left decides to give up on gay rights in favor of the much safer charms of polygamy.
If you think this can't happen, you haven't been paying attention, as the hilarious, provocative, and brilliant Mark Steynthe most popular conservative columnist in the English-speaking worldshows to devastating effect in this, his first and eagerly awaited new book on American and global politics.
The future, as Steyn shows, belongs to the fecund and the confident. And the Islamists are both, while the Westwedded to a multiculturalism that undercuts its own confidence, a welfare state that nudges it toward sloth and self-indulgence, and a childlessness that consigns it to oblivionis looking ever more like the ruins of a civilization.
Europe, laments Steyn, is almost certainly a goner. The future, if the West has one, belongs to America alonewith maybe its cousins in brave Australia. But America can survive, prosper, and defend its freedom only if it continues to believe in itself, in the sturdier virtues of self-reliance (not government), in the centrality of family, and in the conviction that our country really is the world's last best hope.
Steyn argues that, contra the liberal cultural relativists, America should proclaim the obvious: we do have a better government, religion, and culture than our enemies, and we should spread America's influence around the worldfor our own sake as well as theirs.
Mark Steyn's America Alone is laugh-out-loud funnybut it will also change the way you look at the world. It is sure to be the most talked-about book of the year.
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© 2009, Mark Steyn