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BHO: Fearmonger-in-Chief

Throughout the two year Presidential campaign, we heard President Obama rail continuously against his rivals, whom he accused of using the "politics of fear" and whom he termed "fearmongers." He began to beat that drum as far back as August of 2007. In a speech in Washington, he noted, "Freedom must mean freedom from fear, not the freedom of anarchy."

Throughout the campaign, he was fond of quoting FDR's famous line, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." 

Even the future First Lady, Michelle Obama got in on the fear act:

Now that he has attained the Oval Office, we see a complete reversal of this theme. Now, as he faces the need to motivate the public, only 25% of whom voted for him in the first place, as he tries to sell his "Stimulus Plan" to a highly skeptical public and Congress, he suddenly finds that fearmongering serves his purposes.

In recent weeks he has begun to play heavily on the fears of the public in regard to the ongoing recession, repeatedly raising the specter of the Great Depression both explicitly and by allusion.

In a recent speech at George Mason University, Obama intoned, "We start 2009 in the midst of a crisis unlike any we have seen in our lifetime — a crisis that has only deepened over the last few weeks. If nothing is done, this recession could linger for years." With his reference to lasting several years, he is clearly invoking the years-long duration of the Depression. 

More recently, in a speech delivered at Elkhart, Indiana, a one industry town which is the center of recreational vehicle manufacturing, he is quoted in The Washington Post as saying that the country is in, "an economic crisis as deep and as dire as any since the Great Depression," and "our nation will sink into a crisis that at some point we may be unable to reverse."

In his televised press conference on February 10th, he again summoned the bogeyman of the Great Depression, saying, "…we also inherited the most profound economic emergency since the Great Depression…" and, "So what I'm trying to underscore is what the people in Elkhart already understand: that this is not your ordinary run-of-the-mill recession. We are going through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression…"

There are many more instances of Obama's fearmongering in recent weeks, but there is a larger point here as well. All of these comparisons of the country's present financial crisis to the Depression are specious; we are a long ways from the depths to which the American economy sank during the 30s, and even on into the 40s, and it is dishonest of the President to prey on the fears of the public by drawing these comparisons.

In a well-written and -researched essay published yesterday in The Wall Street Journal, Bradley Schiller, a Professor of Economics at the University of Nevada at Reno notes, "President Barack Obama has turned fearmongering into an art form. He has repeatedly raised the specter of another Great Depression."

Schiller goes on to point out a number of areas in which the conditions the country experienced during the Depression were much more severe than those we are currently experiencing. He further notes that a better, more accurate comparison would be with the recession of 1980-'81, from which the economy rebounded into a period of strong growth. Schiller notes:

"Consider the job losses that Mr. Obama always cites. In the last year, the U.S. economy shed 3.4 million jobs. That's a grim statistic for sure, but represents just 2.2% of the labor force. From November 1981 to October 1982, 2.4 million jobs were lost — fewer in number than today, but the labor force was smaller. So 1981-82 job losses totaled 2.2% of the labor force, the same as now.

About Clavos

Raised in Mexico by American parents, Clavos is proudly bi-cultural, and considers both Spanish and English as his native languages. A lifelong boating enthusiast, Clavos lives aboard his ancient trawler, Second Act, in Coconut Grove, Florida and enjoys cruising the Bahamas and Florida Keys from that base. When not dealing with the never-ending maintenance issues inherent in ancient trawlers, Clavos sells yachts to finance his boat habit, but his real love (after boating, of course) is writing and editing; a craft he has practiced at Blogcritics since 2006.
  • Roger Nowosielski

    Greenspan shouldn’t get a pass.

  • Dr Dreadful

    name something that Frontline has produced in recent years that wouldn’t inspire a viewer to be more liberal.

    By ‘in recent years’, Baronius, do you mean since 2001?

    The purpose of investigative journalism, when done well, is to hold those in power accountable. For the past eight years, those in power have happened to be Republicans. I would expect shows like Frontline to be critical. I’m not sure how that translates into a liberal bias.

    I’ll have more time for that sort of argument if Frontline and similar shows fail to focus the magnifying glass on the Obama administration with any degree of consistency. Give it time, though. Doing a show like that now would be a bit like firing someone for poor job performance while they’re still in training.

  • Baronius

    There are two assumptions that you need to make in order to view Frontline as objective. First, that Republicans are always wrong. Second, that no Democrats’ mistakes are worth reporting on.

    Eliot Spitzer, the City of Detroit, the New York Times, the public school system, unions: are none of these institutions worthy of investigation? Where are the bad abortionists, and the bad national health care systems? How about Greenpeace – there have been stories about their questionable accounting for years, but as far as I know, not on Frontline. (Maybe they have snuck some in there. I think they did something about the UN peacekeepers five years ago, so it sometimes happens.)

    For that matter, I’d like some non-political shows. Because that’s the third Frontline assumption: not simply that the Dems are always right and the GOP is always wrong, but that there is nothing else to talk about. I’d like to see a story about a good defense contractor, but I know that’s never going to happen. At least give me something about Scientology, college recruiting scandals, or internet gaming scams. A story without a moral about the goodness of liberalism.

  • bliffle

    DD is correct.

    Investigative reporting usually puts the current power in a bad light (because they have the power to do wrong, QED). So the immature will make the wrong conclusion and impute wrong motives to the reporters.

  • Baronius

    I appreciate that role, Bliffle. But I don’t recall the Clinton administration being under the same scrutiny from PBS, nor the Pelosi speakership receiving the same criticism as that of Gingrich. And as I noted, the criticism is always from the same direction – Bush is never criticized for expanding the government’s role in health care, for example. Also, there are many institutions in power, in the US and around the world, but Frontline always investigates the Republican/capitalist ones.

  • Dr Dreadful

    Well, Baronius, Frontline‘s website has a complete list of reports broadcast since the show started, so you can look through and judge for yourself.

    Things like Spitzer and Detroit are IMHO a bit parochial for the sort of remit Frontline gives itself. I’d agree with you about public schools and unions. I’m not sure what you’d like investigated about the New York Times: that sort of thing seems a bit self-referential to me – journalists investigating journalism…

    A lot of the other issues you mention are, again, somewhat outside the scope of Frontline, and are more the sort of thing you’d expect to see on 60 Minutes or 48 Hours. (Which, by all accounts, also used to do the sort of hard-hitting journalism Frontline does – no more, alas.)

    Any good investigative journalism is subjective. The measure of impartiality is whether liberals in positions of power are examined as harshly as conservatives in positions of power. One of the most important jobs of the press in a free society is to hold the government beast accountable, regardless of whether it’s an equine or a pachyderm.

    I browsed back through the shows of the Clinton era and there were a number of reports critical of the incumbent administration, especially during the Balkan crisis. There were also many documentaries which investigated peripherally political topics, like big business malpractice. Since big business traditionally allies closer with the GOP than with the Democrats, I don’t see that as evidence of political bias.

    And unfortunately, good news just isn’t news – at least, it’s not investigative news. So no surprise there.

    As for non-political reports, there were several broadcast last year, on topics including the young generation in China, a climbing disaster on Mount Everest, the dangers of the iron pipe foundry industry, and teens and online networking.

    One final thought: perhaps the reason liberals don’t get as much attention from Frontline at the moment is simply that they aren’t anything like as naughty as conservatives? ;-)

  • handyguy

    Baronius –

    Maybe you just object to a nonfiction film having a point of view? If so, I don’t agree or understand.

    I don’t think of Frontline as strictly a show about politics. As has been pointed out, it’s a show made by grown-ups for grown-ups. It can also be as tense as a thriller, as with the show on Cheney’s views about executive power. [Maybe a little too much doomy thriller music in that one, too.]

    The Atwater show seemed perfectly fair to me, and actually a little too sympathetic toward super slimeball Atwater. I’m not sure why you objected so strongly to it. They certainly interviewed a lot of his friends and sympathizers. It wasn’t presented as a hit piece, but they didn’t pretend Atwater was a benign presence. He wasn’t!

    The show about health care in other countries was excellent – and not partisan…far superior to Michael Moore’s Sicko. [Moore has a point of view of course, but he's more interested in cheap effects than facts.]

    The show about the early Christians was just phenomenally well done [is that what you are referring to as discounted Bible theory?!] — it was a documentary about academic research, not about religion per se. I haven’t seen the one about Hugo Chavez, but I doubt it is propaganda — though it might have a point of view.

    And, um, does Frontline inspire you to be more liberal? If so, interesting! If not, I imagine other viewers are capable of having balanced responses also.

    What would be an example of a film that you approve of as being properly ‘neutral’/objective?

    Some of the most extraordinary documentary films ever made have a point of view: Taxi to the Dark Side and The Power of Nightmares to name two recent ones. They certainly wouldn’t be better films if you drained them of their point of view.

    Also The Sorrow and the Pity. And Spike Lee’s film about Katrina, When the Levees Broke. Unbelievably powerful stuff. If it inspires anyone to be more humane and caring [forget liberal for a minute], thank God!

  • Hope and Change?

    “Spike Lee’s film about Katrina”

    Yes a great film that proves the point that if you depend on government to take care of you, you are gonna die…

    The Scamulus bill is the whole countries Katrinas…we are sitting here waiting for the morons in DC…to save us and our money! Wake up!!! it aint gonna happen!

    King Barry is starting to look like Mayor Nagin!!

  • handyguy

    If you mean what you said about Lee’s film being great, that’s an indication that you just possibly have some actual feelings and some empathy.

    It wouldn’t hurt you to display more of those in your writing, and fewer crude, feeble insults.

  • Roger Nowosielski

    You are getting quite a compliment here, H&C, whether you realize it or not. Are you going to live now up to everybody’s expectations?

  • handyguy

    Alert: Someone else seems to have joined the ranks of the fearmongers!

    Former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said on Tuesday the current global recession will “surely be the longest and deepest” since the 1930s and more government rescue funds are needed to stabilize the U.S. financial system.

  • Roger Nowosielski

    What’s Bernake’s view?

  • bliffle

    Roger asks:

    “#42 — …
    In that case, compared to items number 3 & 6 in your #39, the present package is chickenfeed.

    It makes one wonder then: What the stink is all about? ”


  • Roger Nowosielski

    Power and smokescreen!

  • handyguy

    Well, since Ben Bernanke co-invented Tarp, and since, according to Pelosi, Frank and others, Bernanke joined Paulson in an emergency evening meeting with Congressional leaders to warn them that they needed to hand over $700 billion, immediately, or there might not be a banking system left by Monday…

    I would say he has already expressed an opinion.

    He’s also supposed to be something of a scholar on the Great Depression, and is obsessed with preventing a recurrence.

  • jungle warrior

    sounds to me like Clavos has “small man’s syndrome”

  • Roger Nowosielski

    Could you explain that?