Paul Kengor is professor of political science and executive director of the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. These articles are republished from V & V, a web site of the Center for Vision & Values. Paul Kengor is author of God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life (2004) and The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (2007). His latest book is The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan's Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007).
On Hope and Hate: Week One of Obama vs. Romney
Something wonderful unfolded in American politics the last few days.
Almost immediately after Rick Santorum dropped out of the Republican presidential hunt, David Axelrod and the Obama reelection team unleashed the class-warfare cannons. They expected to enjoy the first salvo of the season, fired by Democratic lobbyist Hilary Rosen. In a CNN interview, Rosen claimed that Mitt Romney's wife, Ann, "has actually never worked a day in her life."
It was a nasty blow, and the public rallied to Ann Romney's defense. As for Ann Romney, she didn't remain silent. "I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys," she said. "Believe me, it was hard work." She might have noted her considerable physical sacrifices as well - such as breast cancer and MS - but didn't.
While Hilary Rosen's shot was still smoldering, liberal blogs were rife with fresh Democratic talking points vilifying Mitt Romney as a "one percenter," asking whether he paid his "fair share" in taxes, and attacking him for squirreling away his vile riches in foreign bank accounts. It was total class warfare. And this was just week one!
But then came the wonderful thing: Merely six days after Hilary Rosen's comment, major polling organizations released numbers on a head-to-head match-up between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, and Romney suddenly has a lead. The most respected among them, Gallup, released numbers on April 17 showing Romney ahead by five points, 48 to 43 percent.
Why is this wonderful? It's not that I adore Mitt Romney, but I loathe class hatred. Marx and the Bolsheviks and their disciples did it with great destruction. I don't want it in my country.
It's hard to pinpoint the exact reasons for Romney's sudden surge over Obama, but no doubt some of this (particularly the swipe at Ann Romney) backfired. Or, at the least, some pollsters and pundits are interpreting it that way. If so, then maybe - just maybe - Axelrod might learn that not all forms of class warfare will resonate with Americans. Let's hope that's the case, because, otherwise, Axelrod and the president he serves - whom Axelrod portrays as the Great Unifier and fountain of hope - will be bitterly dividing this nation along economic lines.
As I wrote a few weeks ago, not only has President Obama been unceasingly employing class rhetoric for three years now, but Axelrod has been thrilling over precisely such an assault against Mitt Romney. "Obama officials intend to frame Romney as the very picture of greed in the great recession - a sort of political Gordon Gekko," reported an August 2011 Politico piece titled, "Obama plan: Destroy Romney." The piece quoted Axelrod:
He [Romney] was very, very good at making a profit for himself and his partners but not nearly as good [at] saving jobs for communities. He is very much the profile of what we've seen in the last decade on Wall Street.
This had been the plan before the Occupy Wall Street movement got up and running. Axelrod and Obama see Romney as red meat to feed the Occupy movement. As the Occupiers exploded last fall, Axelrod paused to tell MSNBC:
[Romney] says he represents business, but he really represents the Wall Street side of business.
Envy is a deadly sin, but Team Obama desires it as an excellent divide-and-conquer tactic. Axelrod and Obama both cut their political teeth in Chicago, home of Obama inspiration Saul Alinsky, who preached the tactic of "isolating" a target and "demonizing" it. Romney's riches fit the bill nicely.
More recently, in January, Axelrod told George Stephanopoulos that Romney is "not a job creator" but a "corporate raider" who outsourced "tens of thousands of jobs," "closed down more than 1,000 plants, stores, and offices," and raked in "hundreds of millions of dollars" at the expense of the poor. Axelrod referred to this as the sinister "Bain mentality."
Alas, here we are, April 2012, with the presidential race finally down to Obama vs. Romney, and the first polls show Obama behind this rapacious capitalist reptile.
So, will Romney's sudden surge signal to Axelrod and Obama to call off the class-warfare dogs? I doubt it. This thinking is too close to their hearts. They've been hungering for this; fomenting class envy is what they long to do. But maybe - just maybe - the American public won't swallow it.
Wouldn't it be nice if the people of this country quit hating each other, including hating people with more money? I'm hoping so, but our messengers of hope, Obama and Axelrod, are hoping not.
Obama, the Russians, and Missile Defense: Historical Parallels
President Obama has caused quite a stir with a private comment made to Russian President Dimitri Medvedev. In discussing missile defense, Obama suggested he would be prepared to yield to Russian demands after the November election. "This is my last election," said Obama, not knowing his words were being picked up by an open microphone. "After my election, I have more flexibility." A pleased Medvedev replied: "I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir [Putin]."
This is a big deal. Obama understands that his longtime stance against U.S. missile defense - while in full accord with Russian leadership - is not popular with Americans. He cannot codify his stance in a formal agreement with Medvedev and Putin until after the November election - assuming he wins. It was a rare moment when Obama was caught on tape expressing his true beliefs.
Those beliefs are no surprise. Barack Obama has never supported missile defense. In 2008, he openly campaigned to "cut investments." It is most unfortunate that Americans would elect to the White House a man who rejects missile defense. Time and time again, in poll after poll, the vast majority of Americans have stated that if a nuclear missile were fired at the United States, we should have a missile-defense system (we do not) that would shoot it down. They believe this despite voting for Democratic presidential nominees who blocked missile defense: Al Gore, John Kerry, and Obama.
That said, I was taken aback by the historical irony of Obama's comment to Medvedev. It came 29 years almost to the day that Ronald Reagan, on March 23, 1983, announced his Strategic Defense Initiative. More fitting, Obama's remarks came precisely during the period in 1983 when liberal Democrats lined up to ridicule Reagan's SDI.
Immediately after Reagan's announcement, Senator Ted Kennedy dashed to the Senate floor to mock the SDI speech as "misleading, Red-scare tactics and reckless Star Wars schemes." The term quickly found itself typed into New York Times headlines that day. Kennedy inspired other Democrats to follow suit. Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HA) dismissed Reagan's talk of "Buck Rogers" weapons. Congresswoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA), today a U.S. senator from California, chuckled at the president's "astrological dream." Boxer ridiculed Reagan's vision of flying parking "garages" in orbit. The leftist scientist Carl Sagan, the face of Cosmos, a popular PBS series, joined the fun, howling at Reagan's silly machine: "In the foreground comes a very attractive laser battle station," guffawed Sagan, "which then makes a noise like bzzzt . . . bzzzt . . . bzzzt."
Needless to say, the Kremlin absolutely loved this; it was a badly needed gift, courtesy of America's Democrats. Reagan's announcement had terrified the Russians. They needed a way to turn the tables. They adored the lines about "Star Wars" and "Buck Rogers." They instantly co-opted the language and created a full propaganda campaign built precisely on these terms of derision by Democrats.
As with Barack Obama's statement against missile defense today, the Russians were elated.
That was March 1983. And yet, President Obama's comments bring to mind another troubling historical analogy. They follow Obama's September 17, 2009 announcement cancelling plans for joint missile defense between the United States, Poland, and the Czech Republic - former "Captive Nations" of the Soviet Bloc that have become superb U.S. allies, and who still fear the Russians. Obama's action was a shocking betrayal of these two allies, and it was done to mollify Vladimir Putin and the Russians.
Poles and Czechs were stunned. But Poles especially were aghast at the timing of Obama's decision: It came exactly 70 years to the day - September 17, 1939 - that Stalin's Red Army, in compliance with the Hitler-Stalin Pact, invaded Poland. The Soviets thereby joined the Nazis in assaulting Poland and starting World War II. Among other calamities for Poland, such as the Katyn Woods massacre, this joint attack made possible the Warsaw Ghetto and Auschwitz. Poland somehow survived, but its Jews did not.
Back then, too, in September 1939, Poland was virtually defenseless, and Uncle Sam didn't help.
This time, in September 2009, Poles and Czechs were asking for something much simpler: a U.S. commitment to the joint missile-defense system that America had promised under its previous president. No American troops were requested, no American tanks, planes, rifles, bullets, or grenades - only a defense system.
President Obama reversed that promise on September 17, 2009.
Many Poles saw the move as another painful example of Uncle Sam siding with Russia at Poland's expense and to Poland's detriment, a tragic history that goes back to Yalta in February 1945.
President Obama's moves on missile defense contain some chilling historical parallels. This is not good.
Will any of this matter to Obama's supporters? No, it won't.
On Ozzie Guillen, Fidel Castro, and Baseball in Cuba
"I love Fidel Castro," said Florida Marlin's manager Ozzie Guillen to Time magazine. "A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that [expletive] is still here." Guillen "respects" the Cuban despot.
Guillen has since apologized profusely for his comments, which infuriated Florida's Cuban emigre community - and for good reason.
Fidel Castro is a tyrant. I could go through a litany of the man's crimes against humanity since he turned a beautiful country into a Communist dictatorship over 50 years ago. Castro violated every form of basic human rights, from freedom of speech, to press, to assembly, to religion. He jailed dissidents and never stood for election - a promise he made in 1959. Liberals might take note of Castro's locking up of homosexuals on the island. And then there was that whole Cuban Missile Crisis thing, where Fidel and his pal Che Guevara - a hero at American universities - actually wanted to launch the nuclear missiles at the United States, and unleash nuclear Armageddon. And don't forget about the 15,000-20,000 Cubans that Castro has executed, or the tens of thousands who have drowned trying to swim 100 miles to the shores of Florida.
Safely ensconced on our shores is Mr. Ozzie Guillen, who became rich playing baseball under America's free-enterprise system. Guillen currently basks in a four-year, $10 million contract for managing the Marlins. He would never be able to make that kind of money in Cuba. In fact, to consider just how bad Cuba is under Castro, let's stick to baseball.
Fidel's favorite sport is baseball. He turned it into a national past time in Cuba. Unfortunately, Cuban players are not permitted to score some badly needed dollars, or personal freedom. I recall a telling incident in the spring of 1999. The Cuban national team came to America; specifically, to Oriole Park at Camden Yards, where they played the Baltimore Orioles. They blew out the Orioles 12 to 6, giving Castro something to crow about. He framed the win as a victory for Communism over capitalism.
Not heralded by Castro, however, was the plight of his players. The entire payroll for the Cuban national team was $2,400 - yes, for the entire team. Each man on the roster of 20 players was paid a paltry $120 per year, just like everyone else in Cuba, from doctors, to teachers, to maintenance workers. That's called equal distribution of wealth. By comparison, the Orioles payroll for that year was $80 million, with players like Albert Belle and Cal Ripken enjoying huge long-term contracts.
Alas, no one in Cuba has a payroll quite like Fidel Castro. At the time, Forbes magazine published its annual list of the world's wealthiest leaders. Placing eighth was Castro at $110 million - a conservative estimate that doesn't begin to account for the billions of dollars in land, industry, and resources he has personally confiscated.
"We fight not to create millionaires!" proclaimed Fidel. Well, that's not quite true. Cuba has its share of filthy rich; they are the "one percent" of Communist Party cronies and apparatchiks, from Fidel's brother Raul (Cuba's current leader) to other corrupt mansion Marxists. They are typical of any Communist regime.
Of course, Cubans painfully realize their horrible situation. Testimony to that was the reaction of the Cuban national team immediately after they defeated the Baltimore Orioles. Rigoberto Herrera Betancourt defected. And while a bragging Fidel chomped on a hundred-dollar cigar, six other members of the Cuban delegation "overslept" and missed the airplane home. All did this at great personal risk to themselves and the families they left behind. They don't love Castro.
Ozzie Guillen, however, expressed a markedly different sentiment. Needless to say, if Guillen lived in Cuba, he would never have gotten the opportunities he has in America. He'd be poor or in prison.
Guillen is now in hot water in Florida, dealing with a five-game suspension because of his comments. Fans are still furious.
Well, if it gets worse, maybe he could consider managing the Cuban national team. I hear they're paying $120 a year. *