David Brooks insists President Obama “is an intelligent, judicious man who can see all sides of an issue” who acted out of character when he excoriated Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget. (“[H]e unleashed every 1980s liberal cliché in the book, calling the Republicans a bunch of trickle-down, Trojan horse-bearing social Darwinists. Social Darwinism, by the way, was a 19th-century philosophy that held, in part, that Aryans and Northern Europeans are racially superior to brown and Mediterranean peoples.”)
Let’s be clear about two things. The supposedly erudite Obama labeled Ryan a race supremacist. That’s what his staunchest moderate defender, Brooks, points out. And he’s right. Either the president is ignorant of the term he used or he’s getting an early jump on playing the race card. In either event, it’s uncalled for and repulsive. The liberal crowd that shrieks when some Republicans call Obama a “socialist” should clean up their own house.
Is “social Darwinist” within some bound of propriety that “socialist” violates? I don’t think so. After all, plenty of people call themselves socialists — not President Obama, to be sure, but estimable figures such as Tony Blair and Sen. Bernie Sanders. Members of the British Labour Party have been known to sing the socialist anthem “The Red Flag” on the floor of Parliament.
But no one calls himself a social Darwinist. Not now, not ever. Not Herbert Spencer. The term is always used to label one’s opponents. In that sense it’s clearly a more abusive term than “socialist,” a term that millions of people have proudly claimed.
How was the president’s use of the term not a controversy unto itself? Charitably we can say the media don’t have a clue what the term implies; more cynically we can say the media are once again playing interference for Obama.
Moreover, Brooks seems to have forgotten the long list of name-calling and decidedly unjudicious language that has characterized the president’s tenure. He insults the Supreme Court (first to the justices’ faces on the Citizens United case, and again this week). He accuses Republicans of wanting us to breath dirty air and drink dirty water. He says Republicans have put party above country. He’s vilified the Chamber of Commerce, Fox News, Wall Street and a list of other critics. In fact, he vilified Ryan in nearly the same terms last year.
Where has he demonstrated nuance and judiciousness ( Obama, I mean, not Brooks)?
This is a fantasy version of Obama — the solemn professor whose real problem is that he’s so darn smart we don’t get him. In fact, Obama embodies an academic only in his inhabitance of a left-wing cocoon and his certitude in his own virtue. Beyond that he’s simply a Chicago pol, or if you prefer, a bully.
At some point intellectually honest observers need to concede that the self-image of Obama as moderate and restrained doesn’t match the reality of his presidency. He jammed through Obamacare minus a genuine consensus, bypassed Congress with a slew of czars and adopted signing statements (refusing in effect to recognize portions of laws duly passed by Congress). His language about opponents has consistently been intemperate. He may have fooled some voters once, but no one at this stage in the game should take him as temperamentally or politically moderate.