In today's NY Times, U2's Bono writes in support of President Obama's "rebranding" of America, as worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize in and of itself. Note that, in reference to one of my rhetorical questions, he still doesn't cite any actual accomplishment.
There’s a sense in some quarters of these not-so-United States that Norway, Europe and the World haven’t a clue about the real President Obama; instead, they fixate on a fantasy version of the president, a projection of what they hope and wish he is, and what they wish America to be.
Well, I happen to be European, and I can project with the best of them. (ed: no kidding) So here’s why I think the virtual Obama is the real Obama, and why I think the man might deserve the hype. It starts with a quotation from a speech he gave at the United Nations last month:
“We will support the Millennium Development Goals, and approach next year’s summit with a global plan to make them a reality. And we will set our sights on the eradication of extreme poverty in our time.”
Bono then explains the Millenium Development Goals, basically to halve "extreme poverty" by 2015; the President says eradicate it. He then lists some of the President's other stated goals and pronounces them a "rebranding" of America about which "many" have spoken.
Many have spoken about the need for a rebranding of America. Rebrand, restart, reboot. In my view these 36 words, alongside the administration’s approach to fighting nuclear proliferation and climate change, improving relations in the Middle East and, by the way, creating jobs and providing health care at home, are rebranding in action.
By the way, I "provide health care at home" in my own orthopaedic practice. What he really means is nationalize healthcare, but he can't actually write what he means. "Many" really means many progressives and leftists. "Fighting nuclear proliferation" apparently means disarming America's nukes while allowing both Iran and North Korea to expand the nuclear club. And "creating jobs" means, if you're Mr. Obama, about 30,000 jobs in nine months. But I digress.
All of this is typical Euro-leftist pap, until Bono ventures forth with an incorrect interpretation of the "idea" of America.
These new steps — and those 36 words — remind the world that America is not just a country but an idea, a great idea about opportunity for all and responsibility to your fellow man.
Well, in Bono's defense Mr. Obama doesn't have the greatest understanding of the Constitution and it's relation to the American experiment either. See the full quote referencing "redistributive change" at the link. Andrew McCarthy elaborates.
True to form, Obama has twisted the most elementary points. First, the Framers viewed government as a necessary evil: required for a free people’s collective security but, if insufficiently checked, guaranteed to devour liberty. The purpose of the Constitution was not to make the positive case for government but for freedom. Freedom cannot exist without order, and thus implies some measure of government. But it is a limited government, vested with only the powers expressly enumerated. As the framers knew, a government that strays beyond those powers is necessarily treading on freedom’s territory. It is certain to erode the very “Blessings of Liberty” the Constitution was designed to secure.
Relatedly, the Constitution does state the positive case for government in its opening lines. Government is required to safeguard the rule of law and the national security. These injunctions are vital: there is no liberty without them.
The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce;
Both Bono and Mr. Obama need to understand that the American idea is not "responsibility to your fellow man," but responsibility to protect the freedoms and liberties of your fellow man. Use of government authority for what are deemed by the few to be beneficial social goals is specifically what the Constitution, as per Madison, was designed to restrict. When the government, rather than protecting equality of freedom and opportunity, takes it upon itself to choose heroes and villains in society and to offer opinions on the just fruits of a citizen's labors then it oversteps, and lessens freedom for all. That part about responsibility to your fellow man comes from this nation's Christian underpinnings, and is an individual and not governmental responsibility.
By the way, if Bono and Mr. Obama are really interested in halving (or eradicating) poverty, they could do a lot better by throwing support behind democratic movements, and encouraging capitalism (Michael Moore's nonsense notwithstanding).
10/18/09 2042: Michael Barone notes that America is not that European, and that the more we learn about Mr. Obama and where he wants to take us, the less popular he and his policies are.
Barack Obama's European tendencies aren't in doubt. His policies on government spending, taxation, health care and carbon emissions would all tend to bring America in line with European norms, to a far greater degree than any other president of the last 40 years and probably any president ever.
And what of America's special place in the world? "I believe in American exceptionalism," Obama said on one of his trips to Europe, "just as I suspect that Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism." In other words, not at all...
The late political scientist Seymour Martin Lipset, who wrote a book on American exceptionalism, long noted that Americans are more individualistic and less collectivist than Western Europeans (or Canadians). The election of a president who in many ways seeks to push America in a European direction seems to have increased rather than decreased those differences.
Why? My explanation is that until November 2008 Americans did not have any reason to contemplate what a more European approach would mean in real-life terms. Now, with Obama in the White House and a heavily Democratic Congress, they do. And they mostly don't like it.