I was watching a commercial on TV, where this poor veteran who had served this great country honorably in war, is forced to thank the "people of Venezuela" for oil handouts courtesy of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's empty largess, by way of Joe Kennedy's vanity, or rather his Citizen's Energy program. And it got me thinking, just what was President Obama's response to President Hugo Chavez's so called election abolishing term limits? This was an election which basically removed any pretense of a democracy in Venezuela, as if that were really a question anyway. It turns out, Obama's state department didn't really have a problem with it.
Democracy in Venezuela is now officially over, and the American President's bully pulpit is precisely the place to weigh in. American presidents have had a long history of speaking out in the name of freedom, as demonstrated by Kennedy and Reagan, not to mention President Lincoln whom the press has recently been fond of likening to President Obama. But apparently such a comparison isn't justified. Some try and defend the administration's (lack of) response as a smart, stealth strategy focusing on energy independence and I can agree that this should be part of our answer. But for the Venezuelan people who have had their assets nationalized, their voices squelched, and have seen their overall quality of life plunge at the hands of this wannabe dictator, perhaps they were expecting a bit more hope and leadership from America than, of all things, praising Venezuela's "civic spirit."
Elsewhere in the world, freedom took another step back. During her first trip to China, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was asked about pressuring the Chinese on human rights issues and Tibet. Mrs. Clinton said, "Our pressing on those issues can't interfere on the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis and the security crisis." On the economy and fighting terrorism, sure. But the "global climate change crisis" is more important than human rights? Really Hillary?
On Friday, CNN aired a video of President Obama saying:
"If a federal agency proposes a project that will waste that money, I will not hesitate to call them out on it, and put a stop to it. But I want everyone here to be on notice that if a local government does the same, I will call them out on it as well, and use the full power of my office and our administration to stop it."
I don't remember the president calling anyone in congress out on the wasteful spending that was put in the stimulus. Not a peep about condoms, or a gripe about sod on the National Mall. Obama actually defended pork as stimulus. Obama's definition of "wasteful spending" is arbitrary at best. The real message in President Obama's statement is: Spend the money the way Obama wants, or you will be crucified from the President's bully pulpit and in the press. Not a good recipe for re-election, putting local politicians between an untenable rock and a hard place in serving their constituents.
The tenth amendment clearly supports states rights. Yet even if a state's populace didn't elect President Obama, if a state wants to get access to their share of stimulus money, they will have to put aside their own local judgment on matters and spend it however Obama decides. On Meet the Press, Louisiana Govenor Bobby Jindal made this very case, saying:
"The $100 million we turned down was temporary federal dollars that would require us to change our unemployment laws. That would've actually raised taxes on Louisiana businesses. We as a state would've been responsible for paying for those benefits after the federal money disappeared."
The provisions Governor Jindal mentions, hidden in a thousand page bill rushed through congress in the night at the President's behest, breaking his own campaign promise for a five day period of sunlight, has led many to suggest that the stimulus plan is actually a "trojan horse" for the Democratic spending agenda. While many in the media have hailed the passing of Obama's stimulus package as a giant victory for a new president, the sober reality is this has not been the most stunning example of legislating in a free and transparent democracy.
Well over a trillion dollars spent (not including interest and other costs, which makes it trillions of dollars spent) in just a single month! Someone has to pay the credit card bill for this shopping spree. Enter Timothy Geithner's IRS, and increasing rates of taxation, restricting personal freedom for Americans on an intimately personal level. Meanwhile, President Obama, on permanent campaign mode in swing caucus states, makes the case for these expensive plans with his catastrophe rhetoric, further driving the markets down (over 2000 points since Obama's election) and self fulfilling the supposed need for "action." A double whammy of higher taxes and an ever dwindling 401k for every American who isn't asking for a handout.
Obama was going to appoint former Senator Tom Daschle as Secretary of Health and Human Services. When Daschle withdrew, the second Obama appointee with tax problems, the media elite voiced sadness that real government health care might never happen as a result. But Daschle's plan was about taking away individual options, rationing care, saving money by not offering every choice to those who are deemed by Daschle's "Health Fed" to be medically unsaveable. Such a system would destroy the private system, stymie research and development of new treatments along with lowering the quality and choice Americans have now.
Obama has talked down the American health care industry again and again, regardless of the many life saving and extending inventions our medical industry has donated to humanity. Judging the American health care system based on bad lifestyle habits is yet another false argument sold to the American people as evidence for the need to take action. The real problem with our health care system is one of cost and availability, not quality. Can't the government just focus on providing a way for people who need and want health care to obtain it, without dismantling every positive thing that it offers? In order to do that, the left would first have to admit that there are positives with the health care system. I'll take the freedom to choose therapies developed by a thriving private medical sector, that will keep me living longer and happier than my parents, over government cheese as health care any day.
To his credit, President Obama has voiced opposition to the Orwellian "Fairness Doctrine." But Obama seems to eagerly support the equally Orwellian "Employee Free Choice Act." Both laws only serve to reduce the rights of Americans; one by effectively limiting free speech on the radio and internet via regulatory rules around content, the other by taking away the right of employees to have a private vote on the matter of unionization in their own workplace. Given Obama's support of the Employee Free Choice act, one wonders whether his opposition to the Fairness Doctrine was a mere political calculation, rather than a bona fide stance in favor of free speech and the first amendment. In any case, the fact that we are even talking about these insane intrusions of government into our lives shows just how far to the left the conversation is starting, just how high the regard for freedom our new Democratic government seems to have.
This is apparently the new game plan for America. All of a sudden freedom isn't so important. Not unless we're talking about the rights of terrorists, or any Bush-era strategies envisioned to keep Americans safe. When the War on Terror was issue #1, Liberals often paraphrased Ben Franklin's saying that "He who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither." But Franklin wasn't for a weak foreign policy or keeping mum on the loss of freedom elsewhere in the world. Mr. Franklin, were he alive today, might revise his quotation for modern times accordingly, "He who sacrifices freedom for job security, economic insecurity and medical insurance, deserves none of the above."