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April 7, 2008

Barack Obama and the Politics of Fear


“I don’t just want to end the war. I want to end the mindset that got us into war,” Barack Obama says. “End the politics of fear. And using 9/11 to scare up votes.”


It is nice to see that Obama is, after all, just another old-style politician. For a second, I was worried he was something new.


Obama here peddles the same Democratic talking point used for years now, namely that Republicans tend to suggest that we need to protect our nation from the severe threats presented by those who seek to harm the United States.


In other words, by the “politics of fear,” Barack Obama simply means “national security.” It is unnecessary to worry about such issues because, you know, it’s not like 3,000 of our friends were slaughtered a few years ago or anything.


The likes of Obama have for years been promoting the myth that Republicans have used 9/11 and the politics of fear to inappropriately score votes, but these accusers have yet to present a single drop of evidence to back up their claims.


What is most ironic, however, is that the same Obama who complains about those who “scare up votes” is himself a leading contender for the politics of fear prize.


Obama does not talk about the war on terror as a war we are winning, or about the surge as a strategy that has given us back control of much of Iraq. Instead he talks of our remarkable success against terrorist plots at home and Iraqi terrorists abroad as failures that have made our world more dangerous, and indicates that his different policies will save us from these new threats.


But where Obama’s apocalyptic tongue really shines is on economic matters. Since he began his candidacy in early 2007, long before the very recent slowdown in the economy, and through historically low unemployment rates, extraordinarily strong GDP growth and a booming stock market, Obama promoted economic panic and gloom like no one else (well, maybe like Hillary Clinton, but no one pretends she’s something new).


Obama’s pessimistic speeches about the struggling masses and his anti-rich rhetoric do nothing but arouse class warfare sentiments among his followers, which can only harm the country and lead to government policies that defy the principles of economics.


Yes, the politics of fear are just as existent in economic issues as the Obama types allege they are in national security issues. Except that the national security threats widely discussed in past years are quite real, as we saw in 9/11 and the several terrorist plots our law enforcement community has since crushed. Obama, however, has championed economic defeatism even when our economy was doing very well. That is not only politics of fear, it is also dirty politics.


Obama has gone so far as to declare that he would be willing to talk to our worst enemies in order to make America more respected abroad. Yet at the same time, he opposes new free trade agreements and threatens to withdraw from existing ones. Just ask the Colombians, South Koreans, Canadians and Mexicans how much such actions would “improve” the image of America from their perspective.


Yet Obama is willing to defy the factual benefits of free trade (which even Bill Clinton advocated), and willing to advance the idea that America is incapable of competing in an open world, in order to score with particular classes of voters. He is willing to ruin our relationship with key allies and harm economically valuable employers in order to win his party’s nomination, instead of educating his followers about the tremendous benefits of free trade – perhaps the economic issue that enjoys the broadest consensus among economists worldwide.


Indeed, if the politics of fear regarding terrorism is what Obama says gave us “the mindset that got us into war,” then the politics of fear concerning free trade is what would give us the mindset to impose the same tariffs and trade barriers that have debilitated our economy over and over in history.


The Obama campaign’s other major ambassador, potential future First Lady Michelle Obama, and the same woman who declared she never had a reason to be proud of her country until recent months, has adopted the same themes as Barack. We are a country that is divided and “just downright mean,” she says. We are a country of “cynics,” “sloths,” “complacents,” and “struggling folks who are barely making it every day.”


That’s special.


“Let me tell you, don’t get sick in America,” Michelle Obama says about health care, despite the fact that countless people from all over the world actually come to America for the sole purpose of being sick here. She forgets that even Canadians would rather spend their savings in U.S. hospitals rather than suffer through Canada’s “free” single-payer health care system, which, incidentally, Obama’s plan moves a step closer to.


So much for ending the politics of fear. Barack Obama has attempted to present himself as something new and different. But he is far from it. The rhetoric emanating from him and his campaign is absolutely no less intended to “scare up votes” than other old-style politicians, such as Hillary Clinton. If Obama truly wishes to end the politics of fear, he must start by taking a long, hard look at himself.


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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