David Aikman - OneNewsNow Columnist - 5/6/2010 8:55:00 AMAmericans are comfortable with presidents who transparently like America. FDR (president 1933-1945) enjoyed himself as president, relished being in America and talking about it, and was, not surprisingly, re-elected three times. Ronald Reagan could hardly contain his enthusiasm for the country that was to elect him president twice (and might well have done so a third time had it been legal). Even the scandal-caked Bill Clinton exuded a sunny optimism about life that enabled him not only to survive his amorous follies in the White House, but to settle down in his second term into a politically and economically successful rhythm as president. The country, moreover, prospered economically during his presidency.
By contrast, America has recently been governed by presidents who were either suspicious of much of American life or didn't seem to think the country was up to snuff. Richard Nixon, though brilliantly successful in his conduct of American foreign policy, took with him into the White House a deep suspicion of his political opponents and critics that ultimately cost him his presidency. Jimmy Carter spoke of the "malaise" he thought was afflicting the country in the late 1970â€™s and was turned out of office after one term.
We now have the conundrum of Barack Obama. A clearly intelligent man with considerable rhetorical gifts, Obama has never convincingly expressed a liking for things about America. In fact, he entered the White House with a baggage-train of friends and associates who had expressed themselves savagely despising the U.S. and everything it stood for.
Most prominent, of course, was Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obamaâ€™s pastor for the 20 years that Obama attended the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. Wright came into national prominence when videos of his preaching damnation upon the United States emerged during Obama's presidential campaign in 2008. It is irrelevant whether Obama was personally present in church when Wright was pronouncing the offensive imprecations. Wright clearly didn't arrive at a decision to damn America from his church's pulpit through a sudden epiphany in the 1990s. His attitude of animosity towards the U.S. had evolved through his absorption of black liberation theology and his friendship with Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam. It defies imagination to believe that Obama was unaware of Wright's inflammatory views, even if he hadn't been witness to Wright's public rhetoric. While a member of Wright's church, did he ever mildly object to Wright's discourse? He has never claimed as much.
Obama has, of course, by now publicly repudiated Rev. Jeremiah Wright -- just as he has, courtesy of his former campaign manager and current White House advisor David Axelrod, maintained an antiseptic distance from another Chicago neighbor and former friend, William Ayers, founder of the 1970s Weather Underground organization. Ayers has never repented of his bombing campaign against the U.S. government, nor of his self-description as a "communist with a small C."
It is entirely possible that Obama has done an 180-degree turn since his teenage years in Hawaii being mentored by Frank Marshall Davis, a one-time prominent member of the Communist Party USA...or of his time at Occidental College when one then-radical contemporary recalls his espousal of Marxist-Leninist revolution for the U.S. After all, many of us have traveled long distances from the views we held in college.
It is also rather fruitless to assess to what degree President Obama may or may not still be a socialist or even a closet Marxist-Leninist. But his discomfort with much of what America stands for has now been on record for a long enough time to ask the question: does President Obama really like America, and if so, what parts of it appeal to him? He may indeed love the country, as Sarah Palin suggested might be the case during her vice-presidential campaign in 2008. That, however, can be altogether more abstract: you sometimes love a thing or a person because of what you want it to become.
Obama's clear dislike of America's capability of enriching people was first expressed during the 2008 presidential campaign, when he engaged in that interesting exchange with businessman "Joe the Plumber," in which he suggested that it would be good for all Americans to "spread the wealth around." His disdain for Wall Street bankers and investors has been expressed many times, as well as his contempt for people who make lots of money. As he said recently: "At a certain point, you have made enough money." Well, who says when "enough" is "enough"? A bureaucrat from the Department of Equitable Incomes?
Then again, Obama seems to be exceedingly uncomfortable with America's great power status. At a recent conference in Washington, DC, he made the remarkable comment, "whether we like it or not, we are a dominant military superpower."
Like it or not? Didn't America's superpower status enable it to win the Cold War and thus usher in political and economic freedom for millions of people hitherto under Communist tyranny in Eastern Europe?
It's true America has had a checkered history of behavior towards its own people...just ask Native Americans and the African-American community, who endured slavery. But at its best -- and it has been a very good place for much of its history -- it has shone a beacon of liberty and economic prosperity to the entire world. That's something that almost all Americans like. Does President Obama?
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