Battleground America: The Presidential Wars

Tracking the source of Obama’s strange and troubling attitudes.

The temper of mind of the current occupant of the White House has led to considerable controversy and much speculation respecting causes and origins. For some, like Stanley Kurtz and Dinesh D’Souza, Obama’s strange and troubling attitudes are not hard to fathom and track to their source; his insecure past, random upbringing and dubious influences may well have given us the third-rate and self-regarding dilettante orating on the national stage today. For others, mainly among a skeptical lay populace, the president remains something of an enigma. But most of his critics agree that, as the intellectual ward of sundry leftist ideologues, his lack of any significant political accomplishments prior to his elevation to the presidency and the crippling dearth of fresh ideas and original solutions to national problems should come as no surprise. Whatever factors might account for his lack of fit—D’Souza, for example, believes that Obama is motivated primarily by an anti-colonial rage learned from his father—it is becoming increasingly clear that Barack Obama is egregiously unqualified for the highest office in the land.

This is not to suggest that he is entirely without gifts. He does command a potent rhetorical flair, albeit with the help of his ubiquitous teleprompter. He flashes a winning smile when it suits. He knows how to target and malign his adversaries, a technique he picked up from the writings of his mentor, Saul Alinsky, which he has followed with exemplary fidelity. His studied mellifluousness is able to cajole an impressionable audience (so long, that is, as he stays on teleprompter and the device works properly). Such attainments make him a formidable figure in any conceivable debate, encounter or address.

But aside from the neo-Marxist agenda he rigidly adheres to, his is not a stable personality. He is a classic narcissist, enamored of his mediatric presence, self-indulgent, thin-skinned, incapable of making clear decisions that require the labor of thought and which he generally outsources to his aides and advisers, and indifferent to the consequences of his actions—or lack of such. It is fair to assume that he is far more preoccupied with his own welfare than with the welfare of the nation he was elected to govern, which he never ceases to lecture on the virtues of austerity while himself enjoying abundant leisure, frequent vacations and a millionaire’s income. This makes him not only a narcissist but a hypocrite.

Perhaps more interesting is his concept of who qualifies as an enemy or a problem. It is certainly not the genocidal and anti-American Iranian regime with which he has sought to enter into sympathetic conversation, or the Syrian butcher Bashar Assad whom his secretary of state has called a “reformer,” or the Muslim Brotherhood which patently envisages the subversion of America and which he now esteems as a formal partner in dialogue, or the Russian autocracy currently flexing its muscles in the international arena, or China and its expansionist designs. Obama’s policies with regard to these actors are limp and recessive, if not actually non-existent.

On the contrary, Obama has redefined the concept of an enemy or a problem to incorporate America’s democratic allies, such as Honduras and especially Israel, two countries that have felt the brunt of his scorn and even his anger. No less distressing, Obama has turned his vindictiveness on diverse sectors of his own people, be they conservatives, Republicans, Tea Partiers, certain News organizations, radio hosts, middle class white voters, various job-producing industries, defenders of the southern border against cartel-related violence and infiltration, patriots who reject blanket amnesty for “illegals,” those who earn more than $250,000 per annum and, indeed, anyone who dares challenge his ascendancy or oppose his socialist and redistributionist program for the nation.

Tom Blumer, who refers to Obama as a “punk president,” remarks that the president’s administration “seemingly treats anyone who would disturb its budding empire as an enemy and not merely as an opponent.” No “seemingly” about it. Blogger Doug Ross has provided a salient if partial list of those whom Obama reckons as enemies. For Obama, the enemy or the problem is not someone who wants to blow up Times Square or enter the country illegally or build a mosque in the vicinity of Ground Zero but anyone who entertains a different idea of what national security, social cohesion and economic prosperity may entail.

In fact, the enemy is a large segment of the very population he is sworn to protect and honorably represent, if not the very country itself he ostensibly leads. His campaign against the vigor and solvency of the United States is indisputable, whether we are considering the unsustainable exorbitance of “Obamacare”; or the bid to install cap-and-trade; or the printing of fiat money; or the defamatory assault against the Chamber of Commerce; or the strangling effects of excessive bureaucratic regulation; or his intention, let’s say, to raise high the debt ceiling, carpenter; or his politicization of the Department of Justice; or his reluctance to drill for oil which would move the country along the path to energy self-sufficiency and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs in the process. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that for this president, the United States is Battleground America.

True, probing so inscrutable a personality as Barack Obama can be a frustrating proposition. The president, after all, is vexingly protean. Is Victor Davis Hanson accurate in his playboy depiction of Obama as “an inexperienced, hard-left, messianic president whose job apparently was to enjoy life, politick, play golf, hang out at Martha’s Vineyard, pick up prizes and awards, and turn the economy and foreign policy over to the Ivy League professoriate.”? Does “Obama clearly ha[ve] Muslim sensibilities,” as African-American clergyman E.W. Jackson claims? Is Stanley Kurtz right to see him almost exclusively as a “stealth” socialist or is Dinesh D’Souza closer to the truth when he posits a hatred for America stemming from Obama’s anti-colonialist father? Theories abound.

Nevertheless, as I have pointed out, several aspects or features of his “career” are plainly observable: his relatively obscure past, air of resentment and obvious irascibility, his anti-American training and agenda, his indecisiveness in foreign policy, and his evident belligerence and even hostility toward those of his fellow Americans who tend to disagree with him. As Alinsky recommended in Rules for Radicals, “pick the target, freeze it, personalize it and polarize it.” And this is precisely what Obama has done, though sparing America’s self-declared enemies where such a tactic would be useful and productive.

Instead, he has applied Alinsky’s Rule 13 not only to America’s geostrategic allies, but also to those amongst the American electorate whom he views as competitors, or as obstacles to his leveling ambitions, or indeed to anyone who resists on principle his vision for the country’s future. As has been well-documented, he does not engage in reasonable discussion; he attacks, denounces, slanders and strikes—he will bring a gun to a knife fight. And where he can, he will govern by executive order. There is lots of temper in his temperament. Such is his modus operandi.

Let Americans not be deceived about this. They are ruled by a gimcrack president with a chip on his shoulder who has bought into a loony and retrograde ideology. Worse, the nonsense Obama spouts and enacts is nothing short of destructive. As novelist and poet Mervyn Peake has said, “Nonsense can take you by the hand and lead you nowhere.” In the case we are examining, a winning smile is a losing proposition. As for rhetoric, it is as often as not a strategic distraction; by their deeds shall ye know them. The economic plan Obama is implementing looks to bankrupt the country. By his lights, Congress is a nuisance to be circumvented, as in the Libyan affair. The dictates and Resolutions of the United Nations appear to take precedence over the Articles of the Constitution, which is an impediment to his political designs. We are informed that America is no more “exceptional” than any other nation. And as we have seen, Americans of a different persuasion are to be frozen, personalized and polarized.

All this is so well known as to require little commentary; yet many are loath to draw the inescapable conclusion. A president for whom the major battle to be fought and won is not with totalitarian entities or hegemonic Islam but with center-right, consensus America is a president who is himself the enemy or the problem.