Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Audacity of “The Audacity of Hope...

...the tome of a “Rock-Star.”

A much loved person gave me this book by Barack Obama for Christmas. I think the gift was in retribution for my gift of an Ann Coulter book to her a couple of years ago.

Before I explain what I really think of the book, I want to digress into my distinction between the mindset of a conservative and a liberal.

A conservative (of many degrees) appreciates and acknowledges the heritage of this nation and attempts to perpetuate and refine and improve those qualities that made her great.

A liberal (of many degrees) tends to minimize or dismiss the heritage of this nation that made her great. Even the historical definitions of “great” tend to be castigated as less than good.

The phrase “of many degrees” acknowledges that “conservative” and “non-conservative” labels are not intended to be black and white. There are indeed many shades of grey as well as the potential of excess toward one extreme or another. But the “absolute” that I ascribe to is that there is a frighteningly large number of influential people in this nation who have little appreciation for the qualities that made this nation great and who are, in fact, changing the definition of “great” to mean something less than desirable. Barack Obama is one of these people.
The reality is we are as a nation, polarized. Barack contributes to this polarization with such comments as “when I see Ann Coulter or Sean Hannity baying across the television screen, I find it hard to take them seriously.” That is not a unifying statement that a presidential candidate needs to express. I am one of millions who embraces the message of these individuals. That statement is dismissive of our opinions and values.

Before I digress too far into rambling narrative, I will shorten this book review into a number of bullet points that provide examples of things I find troubling about Baracks’ position on a variety of issues. These are just a few of the many that jumped off the page at me:

  • Page 22 – Health Care: Barack infers that there needs to be more centralized control of our health care system because it “is broken: wildly expensive, terribly inefficient, etc. Our health care system is not yet intended to be an all-inclusive, full bore, government run socialist system. It is intended to be a safety net – with the individual primarily responsible for his own health care. Barack seems to favor minimizing individual responsibility and maximizing federal government responsibility. Most people probably do prefer this “easier path” until they realize that they are the ones who will pay for it through increased taxes. And then these same people will want their taxes reduced which will gut the effectiveness and quality of the socialized healthcare program. But, as Barack does, complaining about the existing system is great for political points.

  • Page 23 – Terrorism: Barack frames our battle against terrorism as either “belligerence or isolationism.” Such framing in extremes is not helpful, if that is how he sees it. Apparently he sees our current policies as “belligerence” and anything less would be “isolationism.” It sounds like he is suggesting we can eliminate the basic Islamic doctrine of intolerance and violence by eliminating “global poverty and failed states.” This is just one of the many areas of the book where he dismisses or ignores the basic character of Islam and assumes it is just another mouth to feed. Could he have a bias toward Islam? More on that later.

  • On several pages (36-38) Barack rails against what he calls “absolutism.” He seems to be concerned that there is a moral distinction between right and wrong. Feeling strongly about the goodness or appropriateness of a particular path is considered narrow-minded. He appears to believe that there is no right path – it is all good. His religious confusion bears this out. As much as I liked Jimmy Carter personally, his presidency is noted as being among the most ambivalent (wishy-washy). Barack seems to mirror Jimmy.
    Page 56: Barack “firmly believe(s) … since 9/11, we have played fast and loose with constitutional principles in the fight against terrorism.” I firmly believe we have done too little.

  • Page 199: He calls the reasons for Pilgrims coming to our shores and the religious basis for our civil rights movement “religiosity”. My understanding of the term, confirmed by a quick web-scan of the definition, portrays the word as somewhat negative: “Excessive or affected piety.” “Exaggerated or affected piety and religious zeal.” I don’t know if he just carelessly used the word, or if he really believes that the Pilgrims’ or Martin Luther King’s faith and piety were excessive, affected, and exaggerated.

  • Pages 202-205: Barack speaks of his “insight into this movement toward a deepening religious commitment…” and then describes the beliefs and experiences of his parents. He recalls, “For my mother, organized religion too often dressed up closed-mindedness in the garb of piety, cruelty and oppression in the cloak of righteousness.” Is this how he sees religion? His father was almost entirely absent from his childhood, was raised Muslim, and later became a confirmed atheist. His mother remarried to an equally skeptical Indonesian who “saw religion as not particularly useful…” and “who had grown up in a country that easily blended its Islamic faith with remnants of Hinduism, Buddhism, and ancient animist traditions.” He continues, “I was sent first to a neighborhood Catholic school and then to a predominantly Muslim school.” I wonder what they taught in that Muslim school? Was it sharia law? Was it dhimmitude? Was it jihad? We need to get a better handle on this kind of background before we entertain it for our president. For those who are ignorant of what Islamic schools teach, even in this country, this may seem to be an insignificant concern. But in Indonesia? Hmmm.
  • Page 206: I have great respect for Alan Keyes. Barack is antithetical to Alan. Alan gets under his skin. That demonstrates how opposite Barrack’s views are from mine.
  • Page 211: Barack again paraphrases Alan Keyes, a characterization I agree with, but one with which Barack intends to discredit Alan, his faith and principles.
    Many pages: Barack favors abortion rights. I guess for some, this is a good reason to vote for him. But it demonstrates again that Alan is right about Barack’s lack of religious principle.

  • Pages 213-214: Barack appears to argue for including a bit more “religiosity” into political debate, while he disagrees with the major principles of such religions. The message I get from all this is that he is confused. It is almost funny how Barack devotes an entire chapter to “Values”. Yet just about every value he discusses he semi-embraces so tentatively. His highest value appears to be doubt!
  • Page 218: Barack is revealing his ignorance of and confusion about Christian scripture when he publicly exposes his uncertainty of which principles should be followed: e.g. stoning your child and advocacy of slavery (from the Old Testament) or the Sermon on the Mount which is a “love everybody” statement not pleasing to the Defense Department. He admonishes the religious folk for being too “black and white”, but then portrays these two extremes of interpreting Scripture. Hrummph.
  • Page 222: (re: “For many practicing Christians…”) Barack states his belief that an acknowledged transgression disqualifies the Christian from any future discernment of right and wrong in others. Any of us who have had lapses in our behavior must now embrace everyone else’s choice of continuing transgression of what we understand to be God’s moral law. My one-time transgression now requires me to accept and support everyone else’s continuing immoral behavior. That philosophy will lead to absolute moral decay and degeneracy. There will be no one left to defend what is morally right anymore. Barack is wrong on this one
  • Page 233-234: Barack sounds like he cannot accept any “truth” as truth. With him, everything is tentative, especially his faith belief system. When he reads the Bible, he says, “I must be continually open to new revelations – whether they come from a lesbian friend or a doctor opposed to abortion.” Or, I might add, or from a convicted child molester, a serial killer, or an Islamic suicide bomber. I don’t think so. Where does Barack draw the line? So, revelation from God should be accepted no matter the source – no matter what the character of the individual? That is so far removed from reality it sounds like the voice of “Chuckie” in a rock-star’s body.
  • Page 278: He continues his longing for the Indonesia of his childhood, despite the calls for the imposition of sharia law, the “vice squads” that attack churches, nightclubs, casinos; the bombings and the absolute loss of any semblance of civil rights. What was he taught in his Muslim school?
  • Page 279-280: No wonder he’s snowed much of the American population, who have difficulty or lose interest in reading beyond the 8th grade level. Here, starting with the last paragraph on the bottom of page 279, we have a 150+ word sentence. This would probably be classified as an incomprehensible graduate-level sentence. This example jumped out at me. Much of the book is written in this style. His erudition is mind-boggling.
  • Page 307: “In coping with the asymmetrical threats that we’ll face in the future – from terrorist networks and the handful of states that support them…” What? Only a handful of states support terrorist networks? Where has he been? Let’s see, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Indonesia (good ‘ol Indonesia), several nations in Africa, and Iraq is still questionable. Whether these states willingly support terror networks or are intimidated into supporting terror, they still support terror. Many more states harbor some level of terrorist cells out of fear or inability to control them. This clearly constitutes more than a “handful.”
  • Page 315: Barack doesn’t “dismiss these critics out of hand,” those who “take their lead from left-leaning populists like Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, or … to more traditional principles of social organization, like Islamic law.” Well, now, let’s dissect this statement. Barack seems open to just about any and every idea. How open minded of him. Hugo is merely a “left-leaning populist?” Islamic law is merely “a more traditional principle of social organization?” It is statements like these that cause concern. And if Barack’s convoluted writing style or my ignorance of the English language causes me to misunderstand what he’s saying, then I can assure you that there are millions who are also misunderstanding. That leaves me with the conclusion that Barack either cannot express himself clearly without misunderstanding, or he is a threat to the future of this nation.
  • I note there isn’t any entry in the Index on Islam or Muslim, although references are sprinkled throughout the text.
  • He demonstrates little interest in or understanding of the nature and magnitude of the Islamo-fascist threat to this nation and the civilized world.
  • He avoids use of the word “illegal immigrant” or “illegal alien” (the word “illegal” does not appear in the index. He is apparently concerned that feelings might get hurt. In fact, he substantially ignores the difference between an immigrant (“legal” by definition) and illegal aliens. He instead focuses on the need to “recognize the humanity” of illegals. I’ll try to use the “humanity” approach with the cop the next time I get pulled over for violating a law much less significant than the numerous laws most illegal aliens are breaking.

Other than these few minor annoyances, the book was warm and very human – wink wink.

To be fair, there are several positions Barack takes that I agree with. The need for energy independence is one of them. Making the nation more competitive in the world market is another. Simplifying federal programs is another. His occasional criticism of liberals is promising, if not token. Creating opportunity for greater participation in national decisions is another, however unrealistic such participation may be (it makes a great populist statement).

Why is Barack so instantly popular with much of the nation? His good looks – his charisma – his endorsement by Oprah - his “rock star” aura – and his Hollywood-esque disdain of most things reflecting the heritage of our nation.

Overall, Baracks’ background and attitudes frighten me. He will not be good for this nation. No – I will not vote for him.

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