President Barack Obama is a beguiling but confounding figure. As he said of himself in "The Audacity of Hope," "I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views." It is indeed audacious that he should proclaim this consciously disingenuous attribute. And as one reads his inaugural address, it is hard not to conclude that it was crafted shrewdly to perpetuate such confusion.
Run-of-the-mill politicians try to hide their duplicity. Only the most gifted of that profession brag that they intend to confound and confuse the public. Such an effort is beyond ingenious; it is brazenly ingenuous.
And it is working. Many of my fellow conservative commentators are embarrassingly eager to search Obama's words, groveling for hopeful signs that he is not a radical intent on changing the face and nature of our republic...
I believe that Obama intends to craft a new nationalism, using the disassembled timber of our traditional values to build a new, more collectivist and less individualistic ship of state. The planks will look vaguely familiar, but the ship will be quite different. It is as if he would disassemble the warship Old Ironsides and build with its timbers a collectivist's ark.
Oddly, my suspicion is confirmed by my liberal friend, scholar and columnist for The Washington Post E.J. Dionne, who wrote last week that "President Obama intends to use conservative values for progressive ends. He will cast extreme individualism as an infantile approach to politics that must be supplanted by a more adult sense of personal and collective responsibility. And in trying to do all these things, he will confuse a lot of people."
Perhaps E.J., hopefully, and I, suspiciously, both have misread Obama. But one is entitled to be suspicious of a politician who openly brags, "I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views." That strikes me as a conscious intent to deceive in order to diffuse opposition to his designs until it is too late to block them. Ronald Reagan never hid his policy intentions from public view. Neither, in fairness, did Lyndon Johnson or Walter Mondale or Barney Frank or Nancy Pelosi.
A politician who will not sail under his own flag sails, in effect, against all flags. Such a strategy may, in time, undercut his support from increasingly suspicious progressives, liberals, moderates and conservatives -- once they recognize the deception.
(Tony Blankley, "Obama's Collectivist Nationalism" January 28)