President Obama fancies himself a progressive in the Progressive tradition. He wants not only to ride the wave of the future but to sense where it is going and give it a nudge. As with all good progressives, it is history by which Obama takes his bearings, not the self-evident truths of the Declaration of Independence. Thus in his Oval Office speech this past Sunday, he declared that “we are on the right side of history.” Steve Hayward deals with the thought underlying this claim here.
The argument from history is a weak argument to begin with, but Obama does no honor to it. Recall that Obama came out in favor of preserving the democratic “process” in Egypt in order to support Mohammed Morsi. Obama sought to preserve Mohammed Morsi as president of Egypt. The damage Morsi’s authoritarian governance had done to rule of law and the other fundamentals of a free society were left unspoken.
Morsi was the man from the Muslim Brotherhood and it had been the project of Obama’s “smart diplomacy,” as he views it, to place the United States on the crest of the rising wave of Islamism in the Middle East. Obama is fine with the Muslim Brotherhood. He wants to help us overcome our inordinate fear of Islamism. Thus we had the spectacle of his Director of National Intelligence promoting the self-refuting assertion that the Muslim Brotherhood is a “very heterogeneous group, largely secular.”
Obama has a tropism for leaders in the troglodyte mold. Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu is of course anathema to Obama, but Obama’s best friend in the Middle East is Turkey’s Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The contrast is striking and not in Erdogan’s favor.
Obama would love to find a way to get the United States aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood’s Hamas branch in Gaza and Iran’s Hezbollah subsidiary in Syria and Lebanon. They are the logical destination of his Middle Eastern fantasies. Coincidentally, Obama has just named a fan of Hamas as his Senior Advisor to the President for the Counter-ISIL Campaign in Iraq and Syria. In the Middle East, anyway, Obama is riding the wave of the eighth century.
In 1940 Anne Morrow Lindbergh sought to make Americans comfortable with what she saw as “the wave of the future” in Europe. Her book of the same name had become an overnight sensation. “Few books in the history of publishing have encountered a reception like the one accorded” it, Scott Berg writes in his biography of Charles Lindbergh.
To return to Obama for a moment, let us recall that he helped preserve the rule of the mullahs in Iran at a key moment of peril presented by the popular uprising against them in 2009. Now Obama has sought to align the United States with Iran under the JCPOA preserving Iran’s nuclear program. The regime has reciprocated with continuing expressions of contempt for Obama and the United States. Obama’s main mullah — Ayatollah Khameni — well, he’s the kind of guy who inspired Mrs. Lindbergh’s raptures in 1940.
Mrs. Lindbergh’s book elicited E.B. White’s devastating dissent in the pages of the New Yorker, collected in White’s One Man’s Meat. Mrs. Lindbergh’s book is of historical interest only, but White’s essay is still worth reading today.
Perhaps most notably, Mrs. Lindbergh’s book also prompted a response from President Roosevelt once he was safely reelected to his third term on a non-interventionist platform. In his inaugural address, Roosevelt invoked Mrs. Lindbergh’s book, “chiseling her metaphor into the public consciousness,” in Berg’s words. “There are men who believe that…tyranny and slavery have become the surging wave of the future — and that freedom is an ebbing tide,” Roosevelt asserted. “But we Americans know that this is not true.”
Obama can mouth the words, but he lacks conviction. Freedom just doesn’t ring his chimes. It’s not the wave of the future he envisions. Given his record and his proclivities, Obama’s muffled echo of the progressive faith in history sounds like an uncertain kazoo.