Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Obama Echoes Reagan in '81: Came the Revolution?

William Kristol takes President Barack Obama's political ambitions seriously, in "Republicans' Day of Reckoning":

After Tuesday night, no one should doubt Barack Obama's ambition. His silent dismissal of the efforts of his immediate predecessors -- he mentioned none of them -- is only one indication of the extent to which he intends to be a new president breaking new ground in a new era.

George W. Bush defined his presidency by his response to the terror attacks. Obama didn't discuss Sept. 11. And by relegating foreign policy to the status of a virtual afterthought, Obama indicated that he doesn't think his presidency will rise or fall by the success or failure of his diplomatic or military endeavors. Bill Clinton told Congress in 1996 that the era of big government was over. Obama withdrew that concession to conservatives and conservatism. George H.W. Bush worried in 1989 that we have more will than wallet. Obama has no such worries.

Obama's speech reminds of Ronald Reagan's in 1981 in its intention to reshape the American political landscape. But of course Obama wishes to undo the Reagan agenda. "For decades," he claimed, we haven't addressed the challenges of energy, health care and education. We have lived through "an era where too often short-term gains were prized over long-term prosperity." Difficult decisions were put off. But now "that day of reckoning has arrived, and the time to take charge of our future is here." The phrase "day of reckoning" may seem a little ominous coming from a candidate of hope and change. But it's appropriate, because it's certainly a day of reckoning for conservatives and Republicans.

For Obama's aim is not merely to "revive this economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity." Obama outlined much of this new foundation in the most unabashedly liberal and big-government speech a president has delivered to Congress since Lyndon Baines Johnson. Obama intends to use his big three issues, energy, health care and education, to transform the role of the U.S. federal government as fundamentally as did the New Deal and the Great Society.

Conservatives and Republicans will disapprove of this effort. They will oppose it. Can they do so effectively?
Well, Republicans will need a plan, which may incude hammering the Democratic agenda mercilessly, offering extreme policy skepticism as shrewd political hardball.

I have to note, though, that when Kristol compares Obama to Reagan, I'm reminded of
Daniel Patrick Moynihan's discussion of the Reagan adminstration's "revolution" of the early 1980s:

Drawing gleefully on the confessions of David Stockman, a former Federal budget director and guru of supply-side economics, Mr. Moynihan advances the case that the Administration intentionally created an enormous budget deficit as a way of forcing big reductions of social programs.
That is, starve the beast and kill big government. It worked, for a time.

With President Obama, it's the opposite: Not just the restoration of big government, but the starvation of free markets. And hence, the GOP cannot simply bank on the administration's policies failing to revive the economy, for hopes of a short-term pick-up of congressional seats in 2010 (as nice as that would be). Republicans have to develop an alternative altogether. The Obama administration's ideological agenda - now justified as "stabilizing markets" - is intentially vague on the (stealth) doctrines seeking to drive the U.S. toward the European social-welfare state model.

As Kristol notes, Republicans "need fresh thinking in a host of areas of domestic policy, thinking that builds on previous conservative achievements but that deals with the new economic and social realities.

Hat Tip: Memeorandum.

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Related: "Rush: If You Think Jindal Reeked Last Night, I Don’t Want to Hear From You Again."

2 comments:

Norm said...

Obama moved the census department into the White House to insure an unbeatable Democrat majority in the House. With Obama's "czars", future legislation will come out of the White House, not the Congress. The House of Representatives will be turned into a rubber stamp of the legislation coming out of the White House. Are we a nation of sheep?

Donald Douglas said...

I hope not, Norm, but this is getting pretty wild, the stealth especially.