President Obama’s commencement speech at the University of Michigan on May 1 would have been great, except that it so blatantly contradicts his actions that the speech was nothing short of Orwellian. This is only the latest example of where Obama’s rhetoric is diametrically opposed to his policies, and included one of his favorite tactics to discredit his critics and advance his agenda.
Last Saturday, the president spoke to new graduates in Ann Arbor about valuing dissent. He suggested those who listen to Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck visit liberal websites. Evidently appreciating that this would seem unbalanced, he also said that those who read the New York Times should try the Wall Street Journal on occasion.
The president cited these as examples of valuing diversity. He concluded that, “the practice of listening to opposing voices is essential for effective citizenship.”
The president added, “You can disagree with a certain policy without demonizing the person who espouses it. You can question someone’s views and their judgment without questioning their motives or their patriotism.” He then criticizes those who use phrases such as “socialist” or “Soviet-style takeover” to describe his policies.
President Obama’s hypocrisy is simply breathless. These statements completely contradict his policies.
First, what if such a descriptive term is appropriate? “Socialism” is where government controls the means of economic production to provide a certain minimum standard of living through basic entitlements, paid for through taxes and fees. You can refer to a particular law as embodying socialism without calling its supporters socialists.
Under that definition, key parts of programs such as Obamacare are, in fact, socialistic.
Complaining about that fact doesn’t change it.
More disturbing, though, is that the president goes on to say that using such words, “has been practiced by both fringes of the ideological spectrum.”
Did you catch that? If you use words like “socialist,” then you’re part of the lunatic fringe.
President Obama uses these tactics to marginalize his critics. Instead of having to engage his opponents to defend his policies, it allows him to say that his critics are fringe extremists, whose arguments he will not dignify with a serious response.
In my new book, "The Blueprint," my co-author and I show how a key part of Barack Obama’s communication strategy on almost every issue is to make a strawman argument. That’s where you characterize your opposition’s argument as something other than what it really is. You then knock this “strawman” (scarecrow) to the ground, and claim that you’ve beaten your opponent.
The strawman argument is that he says his critics are declaring that, “all government … is inherently bad.” No, criticizing certain policies of the current administration is not the same as saying that government is inherently bad. It’s not being anti-government; it’s just being anti- big government. Or in some cases—such as opposing Obamacare’s individual mandate—it’s being opposed to government actions that violate the Constitution.
By saying that anyone who calls Obamacare “socialist” or says that taking over private companies is a “Soviet-style takeover” is a wing-nut, the president is saying that everyday Americans should write off those people and pay no mind to their words. Although claiming to welcome dissent, it’s a call on people not to even listen to dissent.
But what about those Americans who want to listen to such opposition voices? The president has a solution for dealing with those people, as well.
President Obama has appointed a “diversity czar” at the FCC, Mark Lloyd, who openly praises communist dictator Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. In our book The Blueprint, we discuss Mark Lloyd (and Obama’s other czars), showing how these shadowy appointees are unconstitutional and do the White House’s dirty work. This is especially true when it comes to silencing those same opposition voices that the president embraced in his Michigan speech.
Czar Lloyd’s mission is to silence dissent. He advocates a 100% tax on talk radio, which would run talk radio into bankruptcy. He argues that panels of inner-city activists (think ACORN) should have the power to censor radio content, where they would doubtless object to conservative talk shows. Lloyd also says such panels should have the power to require “local” content, which is to say that conservative voices like Rush, Beck, Hannity, and Hugh Hewitt could be barred from the air, because they have national shows. This censorship regime would also extend to those who are not labeled “conservative,” but are clearly not liberal, either, such as Dennis Miller and Don Imus.
These policies are the real Obama agenda when it comes to opposition voices. These are the policies that are consistent with his earlier rhetoric, such as the White House’s war on Rush Limbaugh last year, and even its war on Fox News (with Obama’s chief of staff and other top advisors making the ridiculous statement that a 24-hour global news giant is somehow not a news outlet).
What is most frightening, then, is how the president’s public speeches are the direct opposite of the actions he’s taking. This doublespeak is alarming, revealing a White House that is completely comfortable with saying one thing, while doing exactly what it claims to condemn.
Democracy does indeed depend on robust opposition, attended by civility and mutual respect as we all debate the issues of the day. When a president calls for exactly those things, but then pursues a contrary agenda, it puts the nation is the precarious position of not being able to trust what the White House says, and instead needing to verify facts for ourselves.
In such an environment, we need all the more to stop White House attempts to marginalize and silence its critics. The loyal opposition must be allowed to speak.
Ken Klukowski is the co-author of the new book The Blueprint: Obama’s Plan to Subvert the Constitution and Build an Imperial Presidency,. He is a frequent Fox Forum contributor.
Fox Forum is on Twitter. Follow us @fxnopinion.
Ken Klukowski is an attorney who works on religious liberty for First Liberty Institute and on constitutional interpretation for the American Civil Rights Union.