Digital Dark Age Ahead?

Digital Dark Age Ahead?

By Matt


The Analogue Counter-Revolution, Part 5
Part 1: Step Away from the

Part 2: iPad,
Therefore I Am

Part 3: Life between the Cracks
4: The Tyranny of

Scholars from the Great Library of Alexandria in Egypt once
roamed the world to locate, copy, and catalogue the literary masterpieces of
antiquity — works of poetry, science, history, and religion — so that the
accumulated wisdom of the ancients would pass safely to future

It was not to be.  The Great Library, founded in the
3rd century B.C. by the Greek-speaking Ptolemaic dynasty, did not
survive the convulsions of history, nor did the bulk of its treasures.  No one
is really sure how or why — Julius Caesar’s army, accidental fire, and the
hordes of Muhammad have all been variously proposed.

We may never know
how exactly the library vanished, but we can be certain of the consequences — a
shocking dearth of the great intellectual and artistic works of deep antiquity
has come down to us.  Those works that have survived are known largely because
farsighted monks in the Dark Ages labored in the far corners of the West to
hand-copy those authors they knew and loved (see Thomas Cahill’s book How
the Irish Saved Civilization
for a thrilling account of this process).
Still, their efforts, while valiant, were insufficient to save the vast
majority of classical works from disappearing forever.

You may think that
digital technology will preclude such a catastrophic loss of culture ever
happening again.  In fact, our dependence on digitally stored information has
all but guaranteed a new informational Dark Age.

Digital information is
merely a collection of ones and zeros that requires software to be translated
for us.  As computer scientist Jeff Rothenberg has noted, “[m]ost people haven’t
recognized that digital stuff is encoded in some format that requires software
to render it in a form that humans can perceive. … Software that knows how to
render those bits becomes obsolete.  And it runs on computers that become

Indeed, the vast abundance of digital information showcases
its terrifyingly evanescent nature.  Computer software, essentially a
digital-to-human translation system, is updated on the average every year and a
half, and hardware more often than that.  New systems read only some of what was
encoded in older systems, and then often only in the most recent iterations.
Very quickly, the gulf between what is stored and what can be accessed becomes
unbridgeable.  Try slipping a floppy disk into your iPad to work on that novel
you started in college.

The danger is that as more and more of our lives
is committed to digital, only some portions of that data will be transferred to
new media, and the losses will compound with each successive generation.
Eventually you are left with a gaping hole in history, a vast ocean of
unrecoverable information rotting away in obsolete machines.

Of course,
if, instead of saving your college novel on a floppy disk, you had typed it out
on paper and stuck it in a drawer, you could easily pull it out again and start
working on it twenty years later — no translation software required.  It just
goes to show that the printed page, bound or rolled in traditional ways, is an
astonishingly durable medium.  Under the right conditions, it can last centuries
— or longer.

The correspondence of John and Abigail Adams, for example,
is now over two hundred years old.  It has become a testament to one of the
world’s great and enduring loves.  The letters themselves were saved and passed
on, and they are now housed in various private and scholarly collections.  The
paper and ink carried their love, then kept it safe, for them to read and
treasure — and now for us to read and treasure.

Now people write
e-mails, entirely disposable ephemera conveying utterly disposable thoughts.
Perhaps, unlike when the intellectual achievements of the Great Library of
Alexandria went up in smoke, when the Digital Dark Age arrives, we will not have
lost much that was worth keeping anyway.



State of the Union: Mammoth Government is the New Normal

State of the Union: Mammoth Government is the New

January 27th, 2011

Ben Johnson,

In his 2011
State of the Union Address
, Barack Obama gave himself five more years of
trillion-dollar deficit spending, a $678 billion income tax hike, a Social
Security tax increase, and the permanent extension of ObamaCare – and he gave
Republicans medical malpractice reform and a joke about a salmon.
Since his inauguration, the president has gone on a two-year spending orgy
unrivaled since the days of Lyndon Johnson or FDR. Faced with a national
backlash against towering debt, he has come up with a “compromise”: Americans
should accept the big government expansion he has forced down their throats and
move on. This follows the president’s familiar pattern of forcing through costly
and unpopular measures, then promising “discipline” after the fact.
The most reported aspect of the speech was Obama’s pledge to freeze
discretionary, non-military spending at their current levels – exempting such
major programs as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Homeland
At the risk of stating the obvious, which perhaps no one has yet stated,
there is no “savings.” As President Obama would say, “Let’s be
clear”: Savings is when you reduce the amount of money you are spending. The
president’s proposal is to spend the same amount of money. The only “savings”
would come from the fact that inflation
unleashed by deficit
and quantitative
will devalue the dollar – but this is hardly a cause for cheer.
History shows that spending freezes rarely freeze anything. The most
ambitious attempt was the 1985 Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act, which attempted to
control deficit spending by future Congresses, but many of the same politicians
who voted for the bill decided they would not abide by its terms the next year.
Deficits continued to mount. To give a more recent example, last year Congress
approved slightly more
than half
of the whopping $11.5 billion in spending cuts Obama requested
last year.
The amount of the budget actually affected is rather modest, indeed. It would
apply to approximately
12 percent of the budget
. Alec Phillips, an analyst with Goldman Sachs,
estimates that if every Congress for the next five years holds to current
levels, it would “save” $200 billion. The New York Times noted its
higher estimate of “$250 billion in savings over 10 years would be less than 3
percent of the roughly $9 trillion in additional deficits the government is
expected to accumulate
over that time.” Obama’s plan would cost
half-a-trillion dollars more
than returning
to 2008 spending levels
, as proposed by the most moderate Republicans. Sen.
Rand Paul has proposed a half-a-trillion
dollar spending cut
this year, which includes cutting food stamps
and eliminating the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National
Endowment for the Arts. Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan and Senator Jim DeMint
introduced a bill to cut
$2.5 trillion
over ten years, eliminating the aforementioned programs as
well as Amtrak and the president’s “high-speed rail” and rolling back spending
to 2006 levels. Obama’s freeze is small beer in its own terms and hypocritical
when paired with his calls for new spending.
The State of the Union made only passing reference to the greatest budgetary
crisis facing us: out of control entitlements (and most of his “solutions” are
bad ideas; see below). “Mandatory” spending alone exceeds projected federal
revenues – the amount of money the government took in all year. If we eliminated
100 percent of discretionary spending – privatized the Post Office, dismantled
the military, and fired every federal prosecutor and judge – we would still run a
Nonetheless, the president instructed us, “The final step to winning the
future is to make sure we aren’t buried under a mountain of debt.” As though we
are not already buried under a mountain of debt. As though this were not a
mountain of his own making. As though it were not one he wished to greatly
What Obama intends to freeze is big government. His proposal to hold-the-line
comes after he jacked
up federal spending by 84 percent
. After inflating the federal government
beyond the free market’s carrying capacity, he now wishes to maintain the status
As usual Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-AL, had the best analysis of Obama’s spending
freeze, calling it “a plan for deficit preservation.” The day
after the State of the Union speech, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO)
predicted the deficit for 2011 will be….

The Rest of the World and Obama

The Rest of the World and Obama

By Steve


One of the primary narratives of the Democrats and the media during the
entire tenure of the George W. Bush’s term was that the United States was held
in historically low regard throughout the rest of the world.  This became, after
“Bush lied,” the second-most frequently repeated talking point.  Whether there
was any basis for this claim was immaterial; it was a handy cudgel for defeating
and humiliating the president.
For the past twenty-five-plus years, I have been involved in the
international marketplace, having dealt in countries as varied as the United
Kingdom, China, and Ghana.  Never in that period of time, from Ronald Reagan to
Barack Obama, have I found it more difficult to defend the polices of the United
States and listen to more overt criticism of any sitting president than I do
Over the years, it has been my experience that at nearly all business
meetings or conversations, domestic politics, either in the United States or any
other country, is rarely discussed unless there has been a major event such as
an election or a natural disaster.  Normally, all focus is on the transaction at
hand.  At times, there has been good-natured banter about the generic American
character, but that is more reflective of the fact the United States has, for
nearly seventy years, overwhelmingly dominated the world scene.  When one is at
the top of the heap, an element of envy mingled with grudging respect is to be
During the Bush years, while encountering some criticism of the Iraq war
decision and a media-driven reflexive belief in Bush’s “cowboy mentality”
(promoted to some degree by his Texas drawl and demeanor), there was no
noticeable difference in the conversations and attitudes of the many people I
met overseas.
By stark contrast, today, virtually every conversation includes a variation
of the following: “Do you people have any idea of what you are doing?”  The
primary reason for this reaction is the stark reality that the current world
order, which has been historically successful and dominated by the United
States, is beginning to unravel.  That unraveling is primarily because of
American government-induced financial policies that triggered a worldwide
catastrophic collapse in 2008 and the nearly incomprehensible economic policies
pursued since.
Over the past two years and into 2011, the United States has gone on the
most astounding spending and money-printing binge in the history of mankind.
From the end of 2008 through the end of 2011, over $4.3 trillion will
have been added to the national debt.  That is the same as the annual Gross
Domestic Product of the third-largest economy in the world: Japan.
Further, the Federal Reserve has increased the money supply by an equally
astounding $1.5 trillion, engulfing the world in dollars and thereby triggering
inflation, disrupting the normal flow of capital, and promoting additional
apprehension of the future.
Yet there does not appear to be any real effort to change course.  Instead
and despite many underlying factors, such as a stubbornly high unemployment
rate, real estate values still declining, a potential stock market bubble due to
too many dollars looking for a home, and inflation that the government refuses
to recognize, there no indication that Washington D.C. — particularly after the
State of the Union speech — is taking the current state of affairs
Despite the obligatory bows to Beijing, the international marketplace does
not want to see China replace the United States as the preeminent economic and
military power in the world.  China is inherently unstable with its population
time bomb, and its government cannot be considered benign based on its human
rights abuses, totalitarian governing philosophy, and overt desire to dominate
the planet.
If the United States collapses under its own weight, the world will be
thrown into chaos, and many in the international marketplace recognize that very
real possibility.
Thus, in my many conversations with those overseas, the subject matter
turns quickly to Barack Obama.  The most frequent adjectives used to describe
our current president are “incompetent,” “amateurish,” “narcissistic,”
“inexperienced,” and “haughty.”  This is often followed by a confession that
accusers too were impressed with Obama during his campaign and fell for his
smooth delivery, rhetoric, and appearance.
They felt, along with many Americans, that no one could possibly do this
much damage in such a short time, considering the sheer size of the United
States and its economy.  Barack Obama has become the butt of many jokes and
satire.  Virtually everyone I talk to wants to discuss his failings.  Recently,
the Swiss Marc
, an internationally renowned investor and author whom I have met, said
the following on Bloomberg TV’s “Street Smart”: “Obama has done a horrible job.
He’s dishonest … Foreigners laugh at him … He’s like a
Mr. Faber is not alone in his sentiment; it has become common not only in
the boardrooms, but also the halls of government.  I was told by an acquaintance
that during the recent G-20 Summit in Seoul, South Korea, there was near-open
mocking of Obama behind the scenes.  It is not a coincidence that the number of
Mr. Obama’s trips overseas has been curtailed.
The most telling comment made to me was by a business associate in London
when he said, “When the world needs a firm hand and competent leadership, we are
given a fool whose only interest is himself and his ideology.  His level of
incompetence knows no bounds, yet we all must suffer for it.”
Throughout the world today, strategies and plans are being put in place on
how to survive and prosper without the United States as the major global player
if America does not come to its senses, reverse course, and change leadership.
Never has worldwide esteem for the United States fallen to such a low
As for me, I can only tell those I deal with that I still have faith in the
American people — their determination, their ingenuity, and their ability to
finally wake up to reality and change course.  I firmly believe that they will.
The response when I say those things?  “We hope you are right; the world needs
your country to be strong and resolute.”


Sharks Are Not Misunderstood Dolphins, and Islam Is Not a Religion of Peace

Sharks Are Not Misunderstood Dolphins, and Islam Is Not a Religion of

By Kevin


I’ve often been told rumors from very old, wise people about a time, long
before I was born, when “Saturday Night Live” was both funny and relevant.  It’s
hard to believe, but in those unimaginably distant days deep into the past,
Chevy Chase played a Land
who wore various disguises in attempts to break into people’s
apartments and eat them.  When subterfuge and gimmicks failed, he just lied and
told various idiots he was a dolphin.
[Knock, knock]
“Who’s there?  It’s not that Land Shark I’ve heard about, is it?”
“Nope.  Just a candygram, Ma’am.”
“Candygram?  I’ve never heard of such a thing.  I think you are that Land
“No, Ma’am.  I am just a misunderstood dolphin.”
“A dolphin?  Well, okay then.  No cause for alarm if you are only a
dolphin.  I certainly wouldn’t want to appear to be species-ist by having
reservations about trusting a dolphin.”
In case you haven’t seen it in late-night reruns, that scene ends with
a monstrous foam shark head bursting through the door to devour Jane Curtin,
Gilda Radner, Laraine Newman, Lily Tomlin, and other unsuspecting New York City
victims in one hungry gulp.
Whenever there’s a new Islamic terrorist attack somewhere in the world (and
that’s somewhat redundantly phrased because just about the only terrorist
attacks that occur in this world are Islamic, unless of course you have heard of
murder sprees the Amish and Buddhists often go on whenever someone draws a
cartoon they don’t like or names a dog after a self-proclaimed prophet they
revere…oh wait, no, those are Muslims who do that, as usual…never mind), I
always think of this dusty old SNL skit.  The American media deliberately plays
the role of stunned bystander shocked that there really was a Land
Shark at the door.
The idiots.
No matter how many times the delusional fools in the American media try to
convince you otherwise, sharks are not misunderstood dolphins, and Islam is not
a religion of peace.
I think that even the media knows this, on some level, because I’ve noticed
that few journalists ever cover Islamic terror attacks the way they’d report on
other murder sprees and tragedies committed by non-Muslims.
In the case of the latter, great effort is made to explain precisely why
someone like Jared
Lee Loughner
picked up a gun, killed six, and injured a dozen more in his
assassination attempt on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.  His parents,
friends, teachers, distant relatives, acquaintances, and kindergarten teacher,
and a kid who sat next to him for an hour and a half on the ride to summer camp
fifteen years ago, are all scrutinized for clues into his behavior, then blamed
for being bad influences on him.  The media stokes an abusive outrage against
these people — the parents in particular — for not catching the warning signs
that could have prevented these murders.  Simultaneously, the media and the left
join together in politicizing the tragedy, invoking Rahm Emanuel’s corollary to
the Alinsky Rules for Radicals that no good crisis should go to waste.  This
means that in addition to the people a murderer like Loughner actually knew, the
entire conservative movement in this country must also be held responsible for
this single man’s actions, including people Loughner never met, spoke to, or
even knew much about, like Governor Sarah Palin.
When a Muslim commits an act of mass-murdering terrorism, in contrast, the
left does not camp out in front of the shooter/assassin/bomber’s home and
scrutinize every person he ever in his life came in contact with and blame them
all for his actions.  Instead, the media personalities report on acts of
terrorism the way they do shark attacks.
When great whites gobble a surfer
or menace a beach somewhere, the media runs footage of vacationers running
screaming from the water, family members of the victims shocked and in tears
huddled together by the lifeguard station, and plenty of stock footage of
ambulances racing to hospitals with helicopters overhead surveying the carnage.
No effort is made to track down the family of the sharks responsible for
the attacks, and not much effort at all is made to get inside the mind of the
sharks to figure out why they did what they did, or to pretend Governor Palin
was behind it after all, just as everyone in the media suspected.  Palin is
behind everything, you know, except the things the media likes, which
she’s singlehandedly responsible for making less likable just because she’s
breathing.  Always breathing, somewhere, living rent-free in the media’s
There is no attempt in the media to connect shark attacks to any political
ideology, because the sharks are of course brutes composed entirely of teeth,
fins, and bite, churning the waters with blood, guts, and foam because that’s
just what sharks do.  Everyone accepts that, even the most delusional bleeding
hearts in the media ranks.
Sharks are just animals.  Animals like sharks kill people sometimes.  It’s
horrific and frightening, but there’s no one to blame.  After a day in the
headlines, it’s back to reporting on how terrible the Tea Party is and how
Governor Palin hunts werewolves from helicopters she, Todd, and her children
make themselves in their backyard in Wasilla — or some other nonsense the likes
of Ashley Judd are bound to parrot at the next red-carpet gala.  “Did you hear
what Sarah Palin did now?”  Because the entire Palin family has been
ascribed everything the media elite detest about regular, hardworking Americans,
including the twisted fixation the media has on the conceit that these regular
Americans are virulent racists.
But have you realized how intensely condescending and bigoted the left is
toward Muslims in all of its reporting?  The actions of a non-Muslim mass
murderer like Loughner are pinned on everyone he ever met (and conservatives
like Governor Palin whom he never in fact met), but the carnage caused by
Muslims and sharks alike isn’t blamed on anyone or anything and just chalked up
to “tragedy.”  Nothing more to see here, just move along now, and stay out of
the water or don’t get on an airplane for a while, and you’ll be just fine.
The reason terrorist attacks are reported on with the same style of
coverage reserved for shark attacks is because the left sees both sharks and
Muslims as just dumb animals who do what they do, unexpectedly, in gruesome
fashion, without any blame assigned for their actions.
Sharks aren’t people who can be held accountable for what they do — and
neither are Muslims in the eyes of the left.
When is the last time you saw MSNBC devote hour-long news specials to the
parents, friends, teachers, and other relatives of Muslim terrorists responsible
for mass murders and assorted bombings?  When was the last time CNN scheduled an
in-depth look into the Koran and the very clear recipes for murder and mayhem
contained in its instructive pages?  Probably about the last time the Discovery
Channel set aside a night of Shark Week to explore the familial relations of the
deep’s apex predators and why their behavior is influenced by blowfish with
chalkboards or barracudas who put targets on treasure maps at the bottom of the
If a big story about some explosive, horrific event comes knocking at the
door, rest assured the New York Times and rest of the dinosaur media will first
ask if a Muslim’s involved before they decide on the course and tone of their
If it’s a member of the “Religion of Peace” who blew dozens to pieces, then
the trusty old shark attack template for reporting is dusted off, with no blame
assigned to anyone or anything for this lone animal’s aggressive actions.
If it’s anyone at all with a link to conservatism who held the gun or lit
the fuse, especially anyone connected to Governor Palin, no matter how remotely,
then the story is covered obsessively, for months, with the full resources of
the Gray Lady dumped into an indictment of every Republican less than a thousand
miles away from the scene of the crime.
It is as predictable and tired as a stale old “Saturday Night Live” skit.
Only it’s half as funny, and ten times as stomach-turningly tragic.
Kevin DuJan is the editor of Hillbuzz.


Pelosi Logged 43 Flights Covering 90,155 Miles from January to October 2010; Received “Chocolate-Covered Strawberries” for Birthday Surprise

Pelosi Logged 43 Flights Covering 90,155 Miles from January to October 2010; Received “Chocolate-Covered Strawberries” for Birthday Surprise

Contact Information:
Press Office 202-646-5172, ext 305

Washington, DC — January 26, 2011

Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it has obtained new documents from the United States Air Force detailing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s use of United States Air Force aircraft in 2010. According to the documents, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Pelosi used Air Force aircraft for 43 flights from January 1 to October 1, 2010. According to documents previously uncovered by Judicial Watch, by comparison, Nancy Pelosi logged 47 flights in the prior nine-month period, April 1, 2009, to January 1, 2010.
The most recent documents uncovered by Judicial Watch include a Passenger Mission Activity chart detailing all of former Speaker Pelosi’s flights January 1 to October 1, 2010, as well as detailed shopping lists for some flights, flight authorization forms, Mission Expense Records and internal Air Force correspondence related to the flights. Among the highlights from the documents, obtained pursuant to a FOIA request filed on September 10, 2010:
  • Pelosi used the Air Force aircraft for a total of 43 trips, covering 90,155 miles, from January 1 through October 1, 2010. The Air Force documented in-flight expenses for 22 of these flights totaling $1,821.33. The Air Force did not provide expense information for the remaining 21 flights.
  • Former Speaker Pelosi received chocolate covered strawberries as a birthday surprise on a March 26, 2010 flight. According to one internal Air Force email sent on March 25, 2010: “The speaker’s office is requesting egg salad sandwiches on wheat toast with fruit (watermelon, etc) for desert [sic]. It’s the speaker’s B-Day tomorrow so we’re also asking for something like chocolate covered strawberries (dark chocolate preferred)…” The immediate response to the email from another member of the Air Force staff: “Copy all. We’ll plan something for the birthday and take care of the meal.”
According to previous documents uncovered by Judicial Watch, the former Speaker’s military travel cost the United States Air Force $2,100,744.59 over one two-year period — $101,429.14 of which was for in-flight expenses, including food and alcohol. For example, purchases for one Pelosi-led congressional delegation traveling from Washington, DC, through Tel Aviv, Israel to Baghdad, Iraq May 15-20, 2008, included: Johnny Walker Red scotch, Grey Goose vodka, E&J brandy, Baileys Irish Cream, Maker’s Mark whiskey, Courvoisier cognac, Bacardi Light rum, Jim Beam whiskey, Beefeater gin, Dewar’s scotch, Bombay Sapphire gin, Jack Daniel’s whiskey, Corona beer and several bottles of wine.
Judicial Watch also previously uncovered internal Department of Defense (DOD) email correspondence detailing attempts by DOD staff to accommodate Pelosi’s numerous requests for military escorts and military aircraft as well as the speaker’s last minute cancellations and changes. For example, in response to a series of requests for military aircraft, one DOD official wrote, “Any chance of politely querying [Pelosi’s team] if they really intend to do all of these or are they just picking every weekend?…[T]here’s no need to block every weekend ‘just in case’…” The email also notes that Pelosi’s office had, “a history of canceling many of their past requests.”
Judicial Watch also uncovered emails from the DOD that show the Pentagon worked hand-in-hand with congressional offices prior to releasing documents regarding congressional military travel under the FOIA. These “heads up” emails involved FOIA requests filed by Judicial Watch, The Wall Street Journal, Congressional Quarterly, and Roll Call, among other organizations, related to the use of military aircraft by a number of congressional members, including Pelosi.
“Despite the media firestorm over her military travel abuses, Nancy Pelosi continued to use the United States Air Force as her own personal travel agency right up until her final days as House Speaker,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Nancy Pelosi demonstrated an alarming disregard for the men and women in the U.S. Air Force during her tenure as House Speaker. We are pleased that Speaker Boehner will not follow Pelosi’s corrupt example and will instead fly commercial. But this scandal is not only about travel by the Speaker of the House. Through the Speaker’s office, other members of the House are able to obtain permission for the use of military luxury travel for congressional delegation trips abroad. These trips, known as CODELs, have exploded in number and cost. Speaker Boehner needs to reform this abuse of our military’s assets. This is the right thing to do for the U.S. Air Force and for the American taxpayer.”

Obama’s Love Affair with Chairman Mao: Part Deux

Obama’s Love Affair with Chairman Mao: Part Deux

Stella Paul


Remember when Obama celebrated his very first White House Christmas by
hanging Chairman
on his tree?  After all, nothing says, “I’m a traditional American,”
better than a shiny ball emblazoned with the face of a mass murdering Communist,
sparkling like an angel’s wings on Christmas
Alas, Obama’s paltry poll numbers forced him into all sorts of tiresome
charades, like decorating his Christmas tree without any Communists this year,
and ostentatiously shlepping around a book on Ronald Reagan.
But true love is hard to hide; it keeps blazing through in all the little
things.  Like publicly bowing to Mao’s successor,
Hu Jintao, with the trusting submission of a lovesick puppy.   Hey, it’s just a
nuclear summit… it’s not like Obama needed to look strong or
And then there are this week’s adoring little signals: delighting in
pianist Lang Lang’s musical performance at the White House of a famous Chinese
ballad.  It turns out the song, “My Motherland,” is a glorious celebration of
the slaughter of American “jackals” (otherwise known as drafted American
soldiers in the Korean war).  The ChiCom tyrants loved it, and the whole world
got to laugh at us pathetic suckers. Obama
was in heaven!
Now think back to junior high school, when all your friends figured out
your latest crush, because you couldn’t stop talking about him.  Well, check out
Obama’s State of the Union!  There he was, once again sending gooey love signals
to China — “home to the world’s largest private solar research facility, and
the world’s fastest computer.”  And its limpid, lustrous eyes aren’t bad
As Jim Hoft of Gateway Pundit notes,
“It was historic. Obama cheers Maoist song at White House State Dinner, Praises
Commie China in the State of the Union…All in One Week.”
America breathlessly awaits the day that Obama loves us with as much ardor
as he loves the communist Chinese.


The Role Model: What Obama Sees in Reagan

The Role Model: What Obama Sees in Reagan

By Michael Scherer and Michael Duffy
In May 2010, Barack Obama invited a small group of presidential historians to the White House for a working supper in the Family Dining Room. It was the second time he’d had the group in since taking office, and as he sat down across the table from his wife Michelle, the President pressed his guests for lessons from his predecessors. But as the conversation progressed, it became clear to several in the room that Obama seemed less interested in talking about Lincoln’s team of rivals or Kennedy’s Camelot than the accomplishments of an amiable conservative named Ronald Reagan, who had sparked a revolution three decades earlier when he arrived in the Oval Office. Obama and Reagan share a number of gifts but virtually no priorities. And yet Obama was clearly impressed by the way Reagan had transformed Americans’ attitude about government. The 44th President regarded the 40th, said one participant, as a vital “point of reference.” Douglas Brinkley, who edited Reagan’s diaries and attended the May dinner, left with a clear impression that Obama had found a role model. “There are policies, and there is persona, and a lot can be told by persona,” he says. “Obama is approaching the job in a Reaganesque fashion.”
When Obama stood before Congress, the Cabinet and the American people to deliver his second State of the Union address, both the Reagan persona and policies put in appearances. He proposed a freeze in discretionary spending and federal salaries, a push to simplify the tax code and billions in cuts to the defense budget, and he made new calls for a bipartisan effort to repair Social Security.  Each of these had been proposed before by another third-year President coming off a midterm defeat in a period of high unemployment. “Let us, in these next two years — men and women of both parties, every political shade — concentrate on the long-range, bipartisan responsibilities of government,” Reagan said in his 1983 State of the Union, “not the short-range or short-term temptations of partisan politics.”(See Reagan in TIME’s top 10 memorable debate moments.)
At a glance, it’s hard to imagine a President who had less in common with Reagan than the Ivy League lawyer from Hawaii who seeks larger federal investments, a bigger social safety net and new regulations for Wall Street and Big Oil. But under the surface, there is no mistaking Obama’s increasing reliance on his predecessor’s career as a helpful template for his own. Since the November elections, Obama has brought corporate executives into the White House, reached out to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and made compromise his new watchword. He signed a surprise $858 billion tax cut that would have made Reagan weep with joy and huddled with Reagan’s former White House chief of staff Ken Duberstein for lessons learned when the Gipper governed amid economic troubles. Over the Christmas break, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs tweeted that Obama was reading a Reagan biography, and just to confirm the bond, Obama recently wrote an homage to Reagan for USA Today. “Reagan recognized the American people’s hunger for accountability and change,” Obama wrote, conferring on Reagan two of his most cherished political slogans.(See “From Actor to Politician: 1966, Ronald Reagan’s Pivotal Year.”)
Every man who occupies the Oval Office discovers that the place is haunted — by both the achievements and the failures of his predecessors. It is only natural for them to ask, How will I stack up? Where will history rank me? And do I really belong here with the likes of Washington, Jefferson and all the rest? LBJ worried constantly about Eisenhower’s opinion. Reagan often modeled himself in style on Franklin Delano Roosevelt, for whom he cast his first vote for President, in 1932. George H.W. Bush asked himself, Can I be another Teddy Roosevelt? When George W. Bush was asked after his first term whether he thought more or less highly of any of his predecessors, he replied that having sat in the chair himself, he thought more highly of all of them.
Obama’s affection for Reagan’s political style carries with it a clear self-interest. White House aides gaze fondly at the arc of the Reagan presidency in part because they pray Obama’s will mirror it. Both men entered office in wave elections in which the political center made a historic shift. Both faced deep economic downturns with spiking unemployment in their first term. Both relied heavily on the power of oratory. “Our hope,” admits Gibbs, “is the story ends the same way.” (Read “The Reagan Revelation.”)
What Reagan Taught Obama
In many ways, the Gipper gave Obama his start. Obama’s first public political act occurred on Feb. 18, 1981, just 29 days after Reagan took the oath of office in Washington. The 19-year-old sophomore, who had just abandoned the nickname Barry for his birth name Barack, climbed onto an outdoor stage at Occidental College to urge his school to divest from companies doing business in apartheid South Africa. “There’s a struggle going on,” he called out. “I say, there’s a struggle going on.” As he spoke, Reagan was already laying the groundwork to shift U.S. policy on South Africa in the opposite direction, giving cover to the all-white government under a policy called constructive engagement. (Comment on this story.)
In the years that followed, Reagan would come to epitomize all that Obama opposed. Reagan cut social spending in America’s cities, backed what Obama called “death squads” in El Salvador and began to build what Obama regarded as an “ill conceived” missile-defense shield. “I personally came of age during the Reagan presidency,” Obama wrote later, recalling the classroom debates in his courses on international affairs. When he graduated from Columbia in 1983, Obama decided to become a community organizer. “I’d pronounce the need for change,” Obama wrote in his memoir. “Change in the White House, where Reagan and his minions were carrying on their dirty deeds.” A decade later, he was still at it, leading a 1992 Illinois voter-registration effort aimed at breaking the Reagan coalition’s hold on his state’s electoral votes.

But in Obama’s story line, Reagan has been more than just the antagonist. As the 1980s rolled on and Obama matured, Reagan became a model for leadership. The attraction was less substantive than stylistic and instinctive. Both had strong mothers and dysfunctional fathers. Both prided themselves on bringing people together. Obama even conceded that he sometimes felt the emotional pull of Reagan’s vision. “I understood his appeal,” Obama recalled in his second book, The Audacity of Hope. “Reagan spoke to America’s longing for order, our need to believe that we are not simply subject to blind, impersonal forces but that we can shape our individual and collective destinies.” The Great Communicator, it seems, had struck a chord.
This admiration stayed with Obama after he rose to the U.S. Senate and as he weighed a run at the White House. In late 2006, his top strategist, David Axelrod, laid out an Obama-as-Reagan theory of the race. “I remember talking about the fact that this had the potential to be one of those big-change elections like 1980,” Axelrod says now. “The Republican project seemed to have run out of gas.” Axelrod believed the political pendulum, which had swung left with the New Deal and had been reversed by Reagan, was once again reaching the end of its arc. (See Patti Davis on her father Ronald Reagan’s best qualities.)
Among Obama loyalists, the Reagan theory was received wisdom, and for political reasons it was closely held. In January 2008, Obama broke cover. “I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that, you know, Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not,” Obama told a newspaper editorial board in Nevada. “He tapped into what people were already feeling, which is, We want clarity, we want optimism.” Obama’s comments inflamed the Democratic left (not to mention the Clinton operation), but his aides thought little of it at the time. “I basically told headquarters, ‘Sorry I didn’t call this in,'” remembers Gibbs, who was traveling with Obama at the time. “I had just heard him say this so many times.”
In the 2008 general election, Obama’s aides saw their challenge as the same one Reagan faced against Jimmy Carter: a need to demonstrate authority and credibility to the American people, many of whom thought Reagan might not be suitable as Commander in Chief. While Reagan solidified his support in a televised debate with Carter, Obama did it by outmaneuvering John McCain with his far steadier handling of the financial collapse. Obama’s campaign team even sought for a time to stage an event at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, where Reagan made history.
Theory into Practice
Shortly after the election, reporters Dan Balz and Haynes Johnson asked Obama if he thought his victory marked the end of the Reagan era. “What Reagan ushered in was a skepticism toward government solutions to every problem,” Obama said. “I don’t think that has changed.” But then he went on to say he believed his election would spell “an end to the knee-jerk reaction toward the New Deal and Big Government.” In Obama’s mind, his election was not an endorsement of the outsize government role that Reagan battled — bureaucratic, ever expanding, self-interested — but a cry for government that could carry out its basic missions more effectively. “I think what you’re seeing is a correction to the correction,” Obama explained. (See Reagan in TIME’s top 10 political defections.)

That’s not the sort of slogan that fits easily on a bumper sticker. One reason was that, unlike Reagan’s, Obama’s central theme remains somewhat mysterious. No one was unclear about Reagan’s guiding philosophy: “Government is the problem,” he declared on his Inauguration Day, and by then he had been saying it for nearly 20 years. Obama’s is more complex. He wants to reset the public’s attitude toward government, reverse 30 years of skepticism and mistrust and usher in a new era in which government solutions are again seen as part of the answer to the nation’s ills. But the yearlong health care debate only reminded Americans of government’s tendency to slow things down, muddle the choices and perhaps make them more expensive. A September Gallup poll found that 7 in 10 Americans had a negative impression of the federal government; they used words like too big, confused and corrupt to describe it. Obama’s signature initiative, a vast expansion of the federal role in health care, has mostly polled under 50% since mid-2009.
Yet even the midterm wipeout has become part of the borrowed Reagan script. For months, aides like Axelrod warned Obama to expect a drop in the polls like the one Reagan suffered during the 1982 recession. Reagan “wasn’t the Great Communicator then,” notes one senior Obama aide. Just as Reagan’s revolutionary agenda coincided with a historic recession, massive unemployment and a humbling defeat in the 1982 midterms, the story went, Obama’s new spending programs coincided with a historic recession, deep unemployment and midterms that cost the Democrats control of Congress. As the 2010 elections approached, White House aides struggled to recast press expectations in the mold of Reagan’s early struggles. “The most analogous election to the midterms probably isn’t the environment Clinton faced in 1994,” argued communications director Dan Pfeiffer. “It’s the one Reagan faced in 1982.”

This is where the Obama-Reagan comparison begins to break down. Lou Cannon, who wrote the Reagan biography that Obama read on vacation, points out that economic growth in the U.S. in the four quarters following the 1982 elections averaged a steroidal 7%. Most economists expect the U.S. economy to grow no more than half as fast this year. “If you were to say to anyone now that the U.S. would have a 7% growth rate in 2011, they would be writing the second Inaugural speech already,” says Cannon.
Duberstein, Reagan’s chief of staff, believes that Obama and Reagan share some traits: both loners more than backslappers, both heavily reliant on their spouses, both more trusting of their instincts than their advisers. But the 44th President has some ways to go before matching the 40th in the communications department. “Obama for the first two years has tried to forge a consensus in Washington,” Duberstein says. “He needs to take a page from Reagan and forge a consensus in America. Let his aides worry about the back and forth in D.C. He needs to be communicating with the American people.” (See TIME’s 2004 appreciation piece on Reagan.)
When Obama’s Jan. 25 speech soared highest, it streaked far above Washington’s often pointless political skirmishes and spoke directly to the nation’s pride. “As contentious and frustrating and messy as our democracy can sometimes be,” the President said, “I know there isn’t a person here who would trade places with any other nation on earth.”

Right Guard: Reagan fashioned a revolution that was positive and optimistic and found approval among both Republicans and Democrats

New Centrist: Chastened by voters in November, Obama is leading his team back toward the middle
Blessed by Weakened Rivals
Historians have noticed that Obama’s current situation shares one other similarity with the dark days of the Reagan era: the eroding unity of their opponents. Democrats were splitting in two in the early 1980s, into a labor-backed left and a new group of moderates who wanted to move the party to the center. Today, Obama faces a Republican Party that is struggling to reconcile its traditional, business-friendly wing and the upstart, impatient Tea Party faction. The split is starting to be distracting for the GOP. After Obama’s speech, Republicans came back with two responses — one from the party’s leadership and one from a junior Congresswoman from Minnesota, Michele Bachmann, under the Tea Party banner. Bachmann said she did not intend “to compete with the official Republican remarks,” but that was exactly the effect. “It was problematic and confusing for the Republican Party,” says Mark McKinnon, a former strategist for John McCain. When reporters asked McCain about the Bachmann rebuttal, he said with a wink, “It’s a free country.”
Reagan’s fiercest defenders naturally are suspicious about Obama’s bromance with Reagan. “He’s been trying to unspool everything Reagan stood for,” says one old hand. Nor is the Reagan role model something the President can really boast about to his nervous allies on the left. Obama will not take part in the 100th birthday celebration for Reagan at Simi Valley, Calif., in early March, though he may have something to contribute when a black-tie gala is held in Washington later this spring. (See TIME’s photo-essay “Ronald Reagan’s Fulcrum Year: 1966.”)
Obama invited Nancy Reagan to the White House 19 months ago, when he signed legislation creating a commission to plan for her husband’s centennial. The meeting was cordial and generous on both sides. Nancy and Michelle Obama had lunch. Nancy, who in her ninth decade retains a healthy sense of humor, didn’t miss a chance to point out one difference between Obama and her late husband. “You’re a lefty,” she said as Obama inked the Reagan commission into law.
“I am a lefty,” Obama replied. A lefty who wants to be remembered just like Ronnie.