Obama’s Patriotic Call

By: Guest Authors

By: Jeffrey Schmidt

The old saying goes that the truth comes after the “but.” And while there was no obvious “but” in Barack Obama’s speech on patriotism, there was enough said in his remarks to give voters a good idea of what he really means by patriotism. And it has a lot to do with the willingness to sacrifice in the cause of bigger, more intrusive government.

Obama’s speech in Independence, Missouri, last Monday was a classic two-fer. It was, on the one hand, an inoculation speech. His quote that he won’t question others patriotism, and he won’t allow anyone to question his, is in wide circulation. And we know why he said it. Democrats haven’t exactly been pro-military since Vietnam, nor would any serious observer characterize their foreign policy leanings as assertive. Obama is trying to sloth off that burden, a burden that he rightly shares.

On the other hand, listeners were treated to a liberal’s definition of modern patriotism. A substantial portion of the speech was dedicated to the themes of sacrifice and service. They’re favorites of liberals, who are rather fervent about them. Sacrifice doesn’t necessarily happen on battlegrounds, but at home in the service of government. Or it happens because politicians deem it is a good thing. Obama said this in his mellifluous voice:

“I also believe that patriotism must, if it is to mean anything, involve the willingness to sacrifice – to give up something we value on behalf of a larger cause.”

And he added:

“…the call to sacrifice for the country’s greater good remains an imperative of citizenship.”

Of course, it’s helpful to ask what lies just under those breezy lines. Some explanation was offered as the Senator continued.

With the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq ongoing, sacrifice means the rich paying more in taxes to foot the bill. Read the Senator’s platform and you learn, not incidentally, it means the rich paying more, period. And in an affluent country, aren’t most of us rich, anyway?

He belittled calls after 9/11 for Americans to resume their activities, specifically economic, with the line that citizens were “asked to shop.” A peculiar criticism, given that the nation’s economy was walloped in the aftermath of the attack. Does noble sacrifice entail shuttered businesses and joblessness?

Then he moved on to charge that after 9/11, President Bush and a Republican Congress (both unnamed) did nothing to reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil, and “thereby lessen our vulnerability to a volatile region.” So, what would a President Obama do? Well, he wouldn’t permit development of the nation’s oil and gas reserves off its shores and on its soil. Heaven forefend that he would open up ANWR. Ramped up production of clean coal – forget it. Oil shale – Coloradans don’t want it in their backyards. Nuclear power – remember the “China Syndrome?”

With Obama, the answer to our energy woes entails a national sharing of pain, government induced and mostly artificial, of course. Under his proposals, gas prices would keep rising. Five dollars a gallon for gas seems like a nice round number. Taxes would be imposed or raised to punish consumption. Hundreds of billions of dollars would be funneled into the research and development of exotic energy sources, like wind and solar, with the spurious promise that somewhere just around the corner, they’ll deliver cheap and abundant energy forever.

After chiding Washington for an absence of leadership, Obama lauded a new generation of Americans for “tak[ing] up the call.” If that has something of a religious ring to it, it may just be the intention.

Obama’s call is to public service, and young Americans, “not only those who have signed up to fight for our country in distant lands, but those who are fighting for a better America here at home,” are answering it.

Let’s not parse words too closely, but it’s worth noting that while liberals aren’t too keen on “fighting” our nation’s enemies, they’re very keen about “fighting” everything from illiteracy (public education, where art thou?) to excessive carbon – and carbo – consumption.

No one is dismissing public spiritedness. Helping out is a good thing, done voluntarily. And, at this point, Obama isn’t proposing that it be mandatory. But he did offer this telling comment:

“I believe one of the tasks of the next Administration is to ensure that this movement towards service grows and sustains itself in the years to come. We should expand AmeriCorps and grow the Peace Corps. We should encourage national service by making it part of the requirement for a new college assistance program…” (emphasis added)

It doesn’t take a logician to figure out where the Senator may be heading. Today, he promotes national service by making it part of the requirement for a new college assistance program. A new program, that is, but perhaps, tomorrow, all those old college programs will be rolled into the requirement. And after that, who knows? Crafty politicians, committed to making young people – or all people – answer the “call,” may very well find ways of writing laws that make the call a prerequisite to do or gain just about anything.

Smart liberals realized long ago that the Trojan Horse approach to public policy is to be preferred. Make a proposal small, innocuous and praiseworthy, and when enacted, begin to relentlessly expand it. In the 1930s, FDR offered Social Security as a meager pension supplement at a time when Americans didn’t live long after retirement. The new college assistance program requirement is right up that alley.

What Obama misses in his recipe of callings and service is that America has been, and continues to be, a land where its people answer calls. They do so as parents and neighbors, business owners and employees, church members and charitable givers and doers. And, when need arises, as soldiers. If Americans did not invent civic associations, they nearly perfected them. In unheralded ways, Americans go above and beyond the call daily. They do so because they elect to, not because of government inducements or the threat of penalty.

Tocqueville observed this about Americans in the formative years of the Republic. Barack Obama may well profit by reading or rereading Tocqueville. In his writings is the key to understanding the true nature of the American patriot.

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