In one of her most cogent campaign attacks on Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton ridiculed his faith in words. This, you may recall, led Obama to respond “I have a dream,” just words, etc. After it turned out that Obama had “borrowed” these particular words from Deval Patrick, Clinton uttered perhaps her best line of the campaign — “change you can xerox.”
Last night, Obama demonstrated how spot-on Clinton’s original attack was. Consider this statement.
And dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It’s not just quitting on yourself, it’s quitting on your country — and this country needs and values the talents of every American.
But dropping out of high school is obviously an option. There is no legal requirement that students complete high school, and for many Americans it may well make more sense to start working or to take care of their baby, than to walk listlessly through an extra year or two of “education.”
Does Obama really believe that he can inspire/shame the youth of America into completing high school? You wouldn’t think so, but then you wouldn’t have thought he would have a Greek temple constructed for his convention either. Perhaps he truly believes he’s the one high school drop-outs have been waiting for.
Now consider this statement:
I will not allow terrorists to plot against the American people from safe havens half a world away.
But a safe haven can be any nook or cranny in the world (nor need it be half a world; it can be a living room in Luton or in Bay Ridge). Does Obama really believe he can “disallow” all plotting against Americans? And what is he prepared to do to accomplish this? If he is to believed, nothing by way of interrogation that isn’t in the army field manual.
Obama’s faith in words was also evident in his only statement about the looming problems presented by “the growing costs in. . .Social Security.” Obama intends to “begin a conversation” on “the best way to strengthen” Social Security.
What about “securing lasting peace between Israel and her neighbors”? That’s easy, “we have appointed an envoy to sustain our effort.”
Obama’s faith in words is, I believe, a function of his life experiences. His faciility with words, both oral and written, is extraordinary — and it accounts almost entirely for his astonishing success in life. Obama has never run anything substantial other than a political campaign, so he has not yet confronted the limits of his words. He has dabbled in lawyering, where words can take on a disproportionate significance, and in teaching law, where words are the be-all and end-all.
The president is a parent and, if he is lucky, his children take his words seriously. Whether other people’s children, including those who dislike school and have other priorities, will do so is another matter.
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