Naval lookouts in the last century were advised not to stare directly at dim objects in the dark because the human eye's night vision receptors were clustered away from the center of the retina. If they looked to one side they would more clearly see what was in the center of the field of view. By analogy, the best way to examine events in America might be to look off indirectly -- at the elections in Venezuela perhaps -- in order to see dead ahead more clearly.
This is especially true because the political receptors of many pundits are getting jaded. Peter Wehner at Commentary, for example, is almost shellshocked by the president's repetitiveness. Wehner is tired of listening to the same old, same old and has nearly tuned out. "If you want to witness an adamantine mind at work, you could do a whole lot worse than observe the 44th president of the United States. Barack Obama is the most rigidly ideological president of my lifetime, a man who has a nearly blind adherence to a particular ideology (progressivism). It’s a disturbing, if at times a psychologically fascinating, thing to witness."
Wehner knows the stock responses to every terrorist attack: nothing to do with Islam; "don't do stupid shit"; "don't be racist." Or that all-purpose retort to every demand for power: "you didn't build that." Why talk to a man with a mind as closed as Obama's, Wehner's article asks.
You talk in order to maintain the illusion a conversation is still possible. The voters in Venezuela, after 17 years of voting Chavismo into power, believe they can vote Maduro out of office. The opposition may now have 113 seats in a 167-member assembly, a two thirds majority. Maduro gone, right? Well not necessarily. As the Chavista president reminded the voters: voting out socialism is no ordinary matter. Whatever you do, you can't stop the revolution.
Maduro's arguments are another way of asserting what we hear from time to time. When the "gains" of a messianic system become too great to reverse, they become too important to ever be given back. Other projects of equal weight, like the formation of the European Union, are of such importance that they adhere to the principle of "vote until you get it right." For example, Ireland and Denmark were put through two referendums until they accepted the desired result. In the things that really matter, the moral arc of history -- not uninformed public opinion -- gets the last word.
Nowhere is this more true than of Islamism. As Recep Tayyip Erdoğan so memorably put it: democracy is like a bus. “Once I get to my stop, I’m getting off." If Maduro is riding on the Bolivarian express, Erdogan is on the Caliphate Special. You can't stop the music. Nobody can stop the music.
In reality we don't have a conversation, we have a monologue.
Having looked indirectly at peripheral objects like Venezuela, the EU or Turkey, it may now be possible to see Barack Obama's speech on the San Bernardino terror attack more clearly. For here the adamantine mind of the president is on full display. His superficial message is the same reassuring theme as always, along FDR's lines of "the only thing to fear is fear itself." Terrorism is not "between America and Islam." Just give him more power and rest easy at home.Muslim-Americans are our friends and our neighbors. Our co-workers. Our sports heroes. And, yes, they are our men and women in uniform who are willing to die in defense of our country. We have to remember that. ...Yet having coated his remarks with that syntactic sugar, Obama gets down to a very grim business. And what a contrast it is. He ticks off a program at cruel variance with the outward message. What we need to do to stay alive, he says, is control guns, clamp down on social media, review the visa-waiver program. The fine print of the speech is such a negation of the soaring rhetoric that it might as well be from another speech.
It is our responsibility to reject religious tests on who we admit into this country. It's our responsibility to reject proposals that Muslim-Americans should somehow be treated differently. Because when we travel down that road, we lose. That kind of divisiveness, that betrayal of our values plays into the hands of groups like ISIL.
A moment's consideration of the speech makes it apparent that "the only thing to fear is not fear itself." The main thing to fear is falsification. The administration is deathly afraid of admitting it got it wrong from the beginning. Or worse yet, admitting where it was going all along. That would ruin its aura of benevolent omniscience. Hope and Change in conflict with Islamism can neither be explained nor managed within the framework of the Narrative. The result is two messages in the speech: the pablum of the Narrative overlaid with the creeping fascism of the details.
But here again one needs to look away to see things clearly. It's not just Obama who is putting the fist in the velvet glove. Across the Atlantic, France's state of emergency could be extended indefinitely. Europe is creating a central border force with authority to override any national sovereignty. If we're surrounded by "friends and neighbors" then we better leave the neighborhood.
Bit by bit the world is both shutting down and boarding up. For the first time in history, online sales to each in his atomized individual home outpaced sales from stores. "Friends and neighbors" no longer seek excitement in crowds, they hide and arm up, Obama's assurances notwithstanding.
Opinions are only spoken in code -- ask Loretta Lynch why. In a bizarre, almost surreal process we are told there are no enemies to fear even as we are warned to lower our voices lest we provoke that which does not officially exist -- yet of which we are afraid.
The administration's attempts to square the circle are almost ludicrous. In a classic opening paragraph disculpating Obama from his inaccurate Thanksgiving prediction of safety just days before the San Bernardino attack, the New York Times invoked presidential ignorance as the excuse for error.The day before Thanksgiving, President Obama reassured Americans there was “no specific and credible intelligence indicating a plot on the homeland.” Seven days later came an explosion of gunfire and the deadliest terrorist attack in America since Sept. 11, 2001.It's as frank an admission of failure as ever graced the pages of the Gray Lady. The article quotes sources who say that only by curbing the Fourth, Second and First Amendments can the administration make up for the shortcomings of the FBI, CIA and NSA. "Unable to curb the availability of guns at home or extremist propaganda from overseas, the authorities may have to rely more on encouraging Americans to watch one another and report suspicions. Federal and local governments already have programs urging friends, families and neighbors to identify people targeted for recruitment."
What may be most disturbing is not that Mr. Obama was wrong, but that apparently he was right. By all accounts so far, the government had no concrete intelligence warning of the assault on Wednesday that killed 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif.
Pavlik Morozov, meet Barack Obama. The only question is, who does little Pavlik monitor: ISIS or the NRA?
It's quite a price to pay for a bill to fend off a danger which doesn't exist, but it is only the first of many down payments that will be made to maintain the false illusions of the adamantine mind.