Beliefnet
At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

In recent weeks, scandal after scandal has rocked Barack Obama’s administration.  His presidency might be imperiled.

Or it might not be.

Obama steadfastly remains an activist, a “community organizer.”  Nor has he forgotten that which he learned from the godfather of all community organizers, Saul Alinsky. 

In his Rules for Radicals, Alinsky writes that the goal “of the organizer is to maneuver and bait the establishment so that it will publicly attack him as a ‘dangerous enemy.’”

Now, given that he is the President of the United States, Obama’s should be recognized by the world as the face of “the establishment.”  Obama, though, does not want this, for to be associated with “the establishment” is to be identified with the status quo, politics as usual.  But Obama promised hope, change, and even “the fundamental transformation” of America.  To make good on this promise, he needs the support of the electorate.  Yet to elicit this support, he must convince Americans not just that he is not a member of the establishment.  He must convince them that he is its enemy.   

More specifically, he must have us believe that it is those in the establishment that view him as a “dangerous enemy.”

Alinsky explains that the term “‘enemy’ is sufficient to put the organizer on the side of the people,” and that “the brand ‘dangerous’” proves that “the establishment” has “fear of the organizer,” “fear that he represents a threat to its omnipotence.”  Once this fear is established for all to see, the organizer can get to work.

Doubtless, Obama did not want for any of these scandals to come to light. Now that they’ve arisen, though, they can be exploited to depict himself as a Washington outsider and his Republican nemeses as “the establishment” that has vowed to destroy him.  Potentially, this strategy trades off short-term loss for long-term gain.

Again, Alinsky is instructive here: “If by losing in a certain action” the organizer “can get more members than by winning, then victory lies in losing and he will lose.”

There is another respect in which Obama will exploit “the crises” of government that the Republicans are trying to expose in his administration.  Rahm Emmanuel warned us against letting “a good crisis go to waste.”  Crises disorganize our ordinary categories and assumptions.  At the same time, according to Alinsky, they both reflect and “stir up” the “dissatisfaction and discontent” of the people.  This is great news for the organizer, for he can then “provide a channel into which” people “can angrily pour their frustrations [.]”

Your average person—the average voter—wants crises resolved. He longs for normalcy, some semblance of calm.   Now, Obama remains more popular than his Republican opponents, and he long ago succeeded in convincing many Americans that the GOP is the establishment while he is their “dangerous enemy.”  As long as they are perceived as “crisis mongers,” Obama counts upon the public growing weary—and frustrated—with them.  At the same time, he can style himself the hero, the organizer par excellence, who will relieve Americans’ of their exasperation by conceding that there are crises and then swooping in to solve them.  Of course, such “solutions” will come at the cost of an ever larger government, one that is even more amenable to his agenda.

But this is exactly what Obama wants, of course.

So, Obama, in spite of being among the most politically powerful people in the world, has many Americans believing that he is an enemy of the establishment. And though all of the crises of government over which his opponents are sounding the alarm are scandals for which his administration is responsible, it is Obama who will be able to take credit for resolving them.  The country has never had a president, and not even many politicians of any sort, really, who were better suited to pull off these two seemingly insurmountable tasks than is Obama.  Why?

That the media continually run cover for him obviously explains quite a bit.  Yet the President’s rivals err gravely if they attribute his success solely to the media’s partisan loyalties.

In the popular imagination—reinforced daily by Hollywood, the media, and academia—the American political establishment remains under the control of whites generally and white men specifically (i.e. “the good old boy network”). And blacks remain victims of racial oppression.  President or not, Obama’s blackness is seen as automatically rendering him an enemy of the establishment. His Arabic name, however, signifies an even wider gap between Obama and the latter.

Republicans must hold Obama accountable for his actions.  At the same time, they must reckon with our current racial politics—and the ease with which Obama, the Alinskyite, will use these perceptions to his advantage.     

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few weeks ago, Thomas Sowell wrote an article in which he implied that thinking—serious thinking—is an activity whose time has come and gone.

If ever we needed proof of this, the Reverend Elizabeth Mollard supplies us with it in spades.

On May 12th, The Lancaster New Era edition of The Intelligencer Journal published a letter by Mollard that expressed her displeasure with the paper’s columnist, Paul Gottfried.  Interestingly enough, it is Gottfried’s critique of none other than Sowell himself—“Thomas Sowell’s Genetic Fallacies”—that has Mollard and a number of Christian clerics who co-signed her rebuttal up in arms.

According to Mollard, Gottfried defends the position that interracial disparities “in education and income….must be due to…genetic makeup.”

This is simply wrong.

Gottfried is clear that his objection to Sowell is that the latter “seems to be denying entirely the effects of genetic inheritance.” That is, he is not interested in offering an account of inter-group disparities, but in challenging Sowell’s insinuation that genetics play no role in explaining human accomplishment.  Gottfried is modest, for he only asks that Sowell supply some support for the radically counterintuitive proposition all that we are stems solely from our choices.

Indeed, not only is this a reasonable request in its own right, but it is particularly reasonable given that Sowell, a black man who has a history of studying race and IQ going back some 40 years, has himself insisted in the past that genetics do in fact figure to some extent in accounting for group performance.

Next, Mollard likens Gottfried’s views to those of Hitler.

This would be offensive to any person with an IQ above four if it wasn’t so patently absurd.

A person born without legs, regardless of how diligently he tries, will never be as good of a basketball player as is Michael Jordan. An individual with mental retardation will never become an astrophysicist. Obviously, in conceding this we in no way purport to pronounce upon “the worth” or dignity, the “superiority” or “inferiority,” of the individuals involved—irrespective of whether the individuals in question are members of different racial groups.

If it is unfair for us to liken ourselves to segregationists and Hitler for taking stock of the genetic determinism in cases of this sort, it is that much more unfair to draw these comparisons with Gottfried who, after all, only expressed incredulity over the notion that genetics are of zero consequence in accounting for human performance.

Gottfried is a Jew whose family fled Nazi persecution in its native Austria—but not before Hitler murdered some of his relatives.  This makes Mollard’s charge of “Holocaust denial” against him that much more egregious.

While she never explicitly accuses him of such, this is exactly what she is driving at when she writes that Gottfried’s position on Hitler’s motivation is “in clear contradiction to the research of reputable historians who have documented many examples of Hitler’s medical experiments and murder of those, particularly Jews, that he believed were physically inferior.”

In reality, Gottfried never denied—and, given his family history, never could deny—that Hitler did just the sorts of things that Mollard and “reputable historians” claim he did.  What he denies is that Hitler’s slaughter of Jews was motivated by a belief in their intellectual inferiority.  He writes that “the Nazis never advocated the expulsion or destruction of the Jews as ‘racially inferior.’”  Rather, “Hitler and others in his group thought Jews were quite clever but working maliciously against the Aryan race.”

From assault to genocide to war, just a second’s reflection on any number of acts of violence immediately reveals that, not infrequently, a belief in the innate superiority of oneself or one’s group is a non-factor.  Did the Allied Powers believe that they were innately superior to the Axis Powers?  Must the elderly woman believe in the genetic inferiority of the burglar who she shoots and kills?  Must rival gangsters subscribe to some doctrine or other of innate or genetic inferiority before they can shoot each other down?

Finally, Mollard says that her and her colleagues “reject this type of belief”—the belief that genetics might have something to do with accomplishment—because they think that it lends “credence” to “hatred.”

As a Christian, it is hatred that I reject, not some belief that might be used to justify or fuel it.  Presumably, Mollard and company reject hatred also.  It is on hatred, then, that they should focus, for hatred can and does take flight from any number of ideas—including ideas that have achieved the status of facts.

For instance, some members of just those minority groups on whose behalf Mollard advocates hate whites on the basis of the belief that they have suffered historical indignities because of the majority’s belief that they are inferior.  Are Mollard and her colleagues willing to renounce this belief?

Mollard and the co-signers of her letter have argued here in bad faith.  In the spirit of their Master, they should do the Christian thing and ask Paul Gottfried for forgiveness.

 

 

Not so long ago, such conservative movement notables as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and many of their colleagues were singing the praises of Florida Senator Marco Rubio.  The latter, we have been told, is a rock-ribbed conservative and GOP star who could very well be the next president of the United States.

Doubtless, it is courtesy of the pivotal role that he’s played in promoting the amnesty agenda of “the Gang of Eight” that accounts for why the enthusiasm for Rubio among movement celebrities at least appears to have cooled some.  Hopefully, appearance here coincides with reality, for Rubio is not now, nor has he ever been, a conservative.  His position on immigration is just the latest proof of this.

Yet it isn’t just that Rubio has been tenaciously advancing amnesty for millions upon millions of illegal immigrants, though this is bad enough.  What’s worse is the dishonesty that he’s shown in his pursuit of this end.

Rubio features in an ad that is played incessantly in Republican-friendly venues in which he tries to convince his party’s base that his amnesty plan is “bold, very conservative, a tough line on immigration.”  But, observes Jon Feere from the Center for Immigration Studies, given “all the exemptions and waivers” contained in his bill, “it is difficult” to buy this.

Rubio also promises that for the 11 million or so amnestied immigrants, there will be “no federal benefits, no food stamps, no welfare, no Obamacare,” and “they [will] have to prove that they’re gainfully employed.”  Feere’s response: “Rubio is simply wrong with these assertions.” He explains: “Illegal immigrants are already receiving federal benefits and this bill would do nothing to stop that.” Moreover, Rubio’s plan “would actually extend greater amounts of benefits to illegal immigrants by giving them legal status.”

Rubio claims that his plan deals with the problem of illegal immigration “once and for all,” but as Feere points out, the 1986 amnesty on which Reagan signed off also promised to deal with this problem “once and for all.”  It failed abysmally to deliver. Why think things will be different now?

According to Rubio, his bill does not incite immigrants to come to America illegally.  Feere remarks that, evidently, Rubio is not paying any mind to “border officials” who have testified to the contrary before Congress.  Feere cites a Washington Times article in which Border Patrol Chief Michael J. Fisher’s testimony before the Senate is relayed.  Fisher is blunt: “We have seen an increase in attempted entries.”  The article continues: “He [Fisher] said part of the reason for an increase is that Congress is talking about legalizing illegal immigrants, which is luring more foreigners to try to be in the U.S. when amnesty takes effect.”

Rubio’s claim that amnesty is not “unfair to the people who have done it the right way” is just as bogus as his other assertions.  Feere writes: “The reality is that illegal aliens get to stay in the country the moment they apply for amnesty.”  As soon as they pass “the simple background check, they receive legal status and nearly all the benefits of citizenship [.]”

Rubio’s ad calls for us to “stand” with him in putting an end to “de facto amnesty” while supporting “Conservative Immigration Reform.”  Feere replies that “Rubio wants to turn the de facto amnesty that we’re currently experiencing as a result of non-enforcement of immigration laws into a de jure amnesty for millions of people who do not belong here.”  At the same time, he “asks you to ‘stand’ with him, but Rubio himself is standing with Obama, Napolitano, La Raza, the ACLU, and many other amnesty supporters who cannot be described as ‘conservative’ in any sense of the word.”

Feere does a thorough job of exposing Rubio’s comprehensive amnesty plan for the sham that it is.  However, just a modicum of common sense is enough to see that Rubio and his accomplices in the Gang of Eight are trying to pull one over on us.

Our government has proven itself to be either incapable of or unwilling to enforce our immigration laws up until this point.  Now, after Rubio and company heap new conditions upon the old law books, we’re expected to believe that the government will finally do what it has neglected doing for decades.

But if you believe this, then you’ll believe that Marco Rubio is a conservative.

Thomas Sowell recently wrote an article in which he suggested that “thinking” is an activity whose time has come and gone.  Yet if he is right—and I believe that he is—then it isn’t only the intellectual virtue of analytical rigor of which we deprive ourselves.

The 17th century French philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote that “thought” is “the essence of morality.”  Thinking is no different than any other activity inasmuch as it requires both lots of practice as well as the self-discipline that it takes to commit to all of this practicing.  Yet self-discipline, in this context, demands the cultivation of virtues, not just of the mind, but of the thinker’s overall character.

Courage is one virtue that is indispensable to clear thinking.  It takes guts to examine one’s own preconceptions, to follow an argument to its logical term—regardless of whether this means the doom of one’s own cherished beliefs.  It probably takes even more guts to subject the ideology of the mob, the conventional wisdom, to this same withering interrogation.

Courage, though, is a virtue that in any number of activities can and does co-exist with vice.  In war and in sports, say, a man’s courage needn’t prevent him from acting unjustly.  But the courageous thinker has an acute sense of justice, for there is no idea, regardless of how silly, popular, or offensive it may be, to which he will refuse a fair hearing.

There are more character excellences that clear thinking breeds.  However, these two virtues alone are enough to commend it.

Courage and justice are goods worth possessing on their own account, but they are also essential to good citizenship—especially when the citizen is supposed to be a self-governing agent.

Lest the individual citizen have the courage of his convictions, the courage to challenge the consensus of “the majority,” the latter promises to reduce itself to nothing more or less than a mob.  Ditto if individuals lack justice.

How different matters would be if our culture held thinking in as high esteem as it holds, say, Honey Booboo.  Consider the Benghazi case in light of an America obsessed with thinking clearly.

Democrats are laboring inexhaustibly to convince the public that this whole thing is an issue only because Republicans insist upon “politicizing” it.  In a culture in which clear thinking is endemic, no Democratic politician would even conceive of peddling this line, much less attempt to do so.

To the clear thinker, it is a no-brainer that a murderous attack against the American government, an attack about which the latter conveyed what we now know was gross misinformation, is nothing if it isn’t a political event.  In other words, it is self-politicizing: it became “politicized” long before anyone could have deliberately set out to make it so.

The clear thinker also knows that even if it is true that Republicans are interested in Benghazi only for the sake of punishing Democrats, this is neither here nor there.  Knowledge of a person’s intentions is indispensable to determining his character—not the rightness or wrongness of his actions.  For the wrong reasons, one may do the right thing, and for the right reasons, one may act wrongly.

Whether or not the Obama administration is guilty of a cover up of epic proportions is a question worth asking in its own right—regardless of who is asking it, or why.

White House spokesperson Jay Carney suggests that the events that unfolded in Benghazi are immaterial because they “happened a long time ago.”  The clear thinker realizes that regardless of when Benghazi occurred, time is no more relevant to moral value than is size or color.  Unless this was true, it would be pointless for us to discuss anything or anyone from the past.

Like anything else worthwhile, clear thinking is hard work.  Yet its benefits—both for the individual and the citizenry—more than compensate for its costs.