I am thankful that, along with my engineering education at Columbia, I received a classical education which introduced me to great thinkers, past and present, who contributed to the foundations of Western civilization. One such person is Edmund Burke.
Burke was an 18th-century Irish statesman, author, orator, political theorist, and philosopher. He was a member of the House of Commons and of the Privy Council, a formal body of senior political advisers to the Crown. He supported American colonists in their grievances with the King. Burke was the type of politician that people say they want today because he is praised by both liberals and conservatives. He is considered the founder of modern conservatism and representative of its predecessor, classic liberalism.
There are two Burkean sayings which have applicability to problems currently facing the United States.
A. “A very great part of the mischiefs that vex the world arises from words.”
B. “Hypocrisy, of course, delights in the most sublime speculations; for, never intending to go beyond speculation, it costs nothing to have it magnificent.”
Both statements could apply to almost anything the Obama administration has propounded. Statement A points out the mischief that can be done by words. President Obama is definitely a man of words. A criticism leveled at him is that he is always in campaign mode, selling either himself or one of his pet programs or policies to some target audience. He talks, but he does not administer, although that is the constitutional responsibility of the president. Last Monday, Financial Times’ Edward Luce wrote that an Obama pitfall was “presenting speeches as governing.”
Yes, we had other presidents who liked to make speeches. Lincoln, both Roosevelts, Kennedy, and Clinton come to mind, but they governed, taking responsibility for the running of their administrations. Some of them even owned up to their mistakes. However, Obama pushes off failings and problems on underlings, predecessors, and others not in his administration. How he handled the implementation of Obamacare is an example. Truman he is not.
Words flow like water and, often, they come in the form of promises, which takes us to Statement B. One definition of hypocrisy is behavior that does not agree with what someone claims to believe or feel. “Deceit” is a synonym. Let’s look at some magnificent promises made by candidate and president Obama.
How about reducing the deficit and debt or having the most transparent administration ever? Or preventing unemployment from exceeding 8 percent or not shipping stimulus jobs overseas? Reset relations with Russia?
The most glaring misrepresentation, which bit Obama in the rear end this week, was his oft-repeated claim (about 30 times) about the effects of his eponymous health-care program. “If you’ve got health insurance, you like your doctor, you like your plan — you can keep your doctor, you can keep your plan,” he promised. “Nobody is talking about taking that away from you.”
Millions of cancellations later, the administration had to come up with a temporary quick fix, which I believe is unconstitutional (so does Howard Dean) because, in violation of the separation of powers, the president is overriding an act of Congress which he signed.
Another glaring misrepresentation is another oft-repeated presidential statement that he has Israel’s back. The administration is willing to ease sanctions on Iran for little commitment on Iran’s part to dial down its nuclear program.
Don’t worry. This would merely ratify what the State Department has been doing since June as a good will gesture to “moderate” Iranian President Rouhani. Israel protests and Secretary of State Kerry says that Netanyahu’s opposition is “premature” because no deal with Iran has been finalized. Of course, it’s too late to protest when there is a final deal.
Kerry appeared before the Senate Banking Committee to explain the administration’s apparent appeasement of Iran. The transparent administration would not share details of the American proposal with the committee in closed door session. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) was forceful in criticizing the presentation, calling it “very unconvincing” and “fairly anti-Israeli.”
Speaking of premature, Kerry, thought to be a friend of Israel, is laying the groundwork to blame Israel for the failure of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. In an interview with Israeli television, Kerry said if Israel does not make a deal, it invites delegitimization and violence in the form of a “third Intifada.” He was roundly condemned by American-Jewish leaders for these statements.
In another television interview, Kerry seems to have bought into the trope that Israelis stole Palestinian land.
IDF Radio reported that the United States has informed Israel and the Palestinian Authority that if negotiations between them do not advance, Washington will propose its own solution.
Given these examples, is it any wonder that American and world trust in the administration is dropping?
A parting word from Burke: “The true danger is when liberty is nibbled away, for expedients, and by parts.”