“In the words of Scripture,” Barack Obama announced at his inauguration, “the time has come to set aside childish things.”
So why does the president of the United States embrace the most childish interpretation of political discourse ever put forward on a national stage?
Politics is about making choices. We either cut spending or we grow spending. We either have less regulation or more regulation. We either strengthen defense or we weaken it. Obama seemingly understands this. He has repeatedly referred to the “hard choices” we face as a nation.
Yet, despite his “hard choices” rhetoric, Barack Obama’s favorite political tactic is to claim that no choices need be made at all; all political differences of opinion, he says, can be chalked up to misunderstanding rather than conflicting fundamental values. All choices are “false choices” if we just think deeply enough. Or rather, if Obama thinks deeply enough.
And so Obama claimed in the Chicago Tribune that Americans “need not choose between a chaotic and unforgiving capitalism and an oppressive government-run economy.” That choice, he said, is a “false choice.” It is a false choice as he phrases it – capitalism isn’t chaotic and unforgiving. But the simple choice between capitalism and a government-managed economy is a real choice – and it’s the most important choice Americans have faced in half a century. Obscuring the need to make that choice by glossing over it with happy talk does a profound disservice to the American people.
According to Obama, “false choices” aren’t restricted to the economy – they’re also present with regard to stem cell research. While Obama paid lip service to the moral qualms of the anti-embryonic stem cell research advocates, he then dismissed their intelligence. “Our government has forced what I believe is a false choice between sound science and moral values,” he announced while restoring unfettered federal funding to embryonic stem cell research. Those moral thinkers who struggle with the implications of destroying potential human life in order to embark upon decades-long research projects are idiots, according to the president.
We’ve all been suckered by “false choices” on national defense, too, Obama tells us. Determining the future of Guantanamo Bay is easy, he smiles; we shut it down, thereby ending the “false choice between our safety and our ideals.” Again, this is nonsensical: Ask the Sept. 11 victims’ families whether releasing terrorists onto U.S. soil for civil liberties purposes presents a conflict between safety and ideals. American presidents from Washington to Lincoln to FDR to Bush have struggled with the balance between security and civil liberties. But apparently, according to Obama, they were a bunch of dummies – that choice is “false.”
Obama’s not done with the “false choices.” There are “false choices” with regard to the environment, too. “Throughout our history,” Obama recently stated, “there’s been a tension between those who have sought to conserve our natural resources for the benefit of future generations, and those who have sought to profit from these resources. But I’m here to tell you this is a false choice.” Really? Then why do Democrats insist on blocking drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve? After all, the choice between allowing oil companies to profit from resources and conserving natural resources is a false one.
In reality, of course, all of these choices are hard choices. Do we choose the warm feeling of a low-growth, government-managed economy over the dynamism and creativity of capitalism? Do we choose to destroy potential human beings in order to potentially save human beings? Do we stop law enforcement measures to preserve civil liberties or do we fight the threat of terrorism with every tool at our disposal? Do we choose green living over the continued expansion of our economy?
These are the questions around which American politics revolve. These are questions that reflect our fundamental values. And these are the questions President Obama hates, because they strip away the shallow, puerile rhetoric of hope, change, and unity, and instead ask Americans to think more deeply.
And so Obama labels such questions “false choices.” By doing so, he assumes the role of all-knowing prophet, able to solve all political conflicts by declaring them fictitious. While we mortals debate the issues, Obama stands far above them, handing down his judgment from on high, bringing unity where once there was conflict.
This is dangerous stuff. America’s greatness lies in its willingness to argue tough questions in the public square. Presenting such questions as easy calls to be handled by a wise aristocracy is fundamentally destructive of the very basis of self-government. But then again, according to Obama, the choice between rule of administrative aristocrats and the rule of the people is probably just another “false choice.”