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Listen to the right-wing these days, and you’re bound to hear ad nauseum about Barack Obama’s allegedly ‘radical socialist’ agenda.
Box office record-smashing documentary “2016: Obama’s America” argues that the president endeavors to actualize the “anti-capitalist, anti-Christian, and anti-American” ambitions of his late father by destroying our country from within. (Because Obama, of course, hates America).
Echoing this sentiment, Mitt Romney has declared that Obama harbors “a vision of government that is entirely foreign to anything this nation has ever known.”
But wait just one second there, Mitt. As Joe Biden might put it, this is all a bunch of malarkey. Nothing about Barack Obama’s tenure in office thus far indicates that he is a stealth Marxist, wussy peacenik, Muslim Brotherhood booster, or any of the other countless caricatures dreamt up by unhinged internet commenters.
Newsflash: He has basically managed the executive branch as a conservative.
This may seem counter-intuitive, given all the fanciful theories flurrying about. But take a look at how true leftists currently perceive Obama. Many are beyond disillusioned, and refuse to support his reelection; that he’s a closet “socialist” would sure be news to them.
If anything about Obama is radical, according to this strain of thinking on the Left, it’s his perpetuation and expansion of George W. Bush-era civil liberties infringements.
Similarly, liberals often bemoan Obama’s over-cautiousness, his shunning of the Democratic base, and his instinct to negotiate with intransigent Republicans. Obama has long exhibited such qualities, dating back to his time as president of the Harvard Law Review, when he angered ideologically-allied colleagues by appointing three conservatives to prestigious editorships.
Traditional conservatism is marked by prudence, caution, and reluctance to overexert, but use of strong force where appropriate. On foreign policy — arguably the commander-in-chief’s most important duty — Mitt Romney demonstrates exactly none of these traits.
In what sense is dramatically increasing the size of our already-bloated defense budget, as Romney has demanded, a “conservative” virtue? By some calculations, military spending today is already greater than at any point since World War II. Pouring even more money into Pentagon boondoggles is not only foolish and wasteful, but poor strategy.
Romney’s saber-rattling at Iran does not bespeak “conservative” virtue either, nor does his aggressive rhetoric on Syria. There is nothing for conservatives to admire about prideful bellicosity.
The new wars in the Middle East that Romney seems to desire would only further diminish America’s standing overseas and, inevitably, lead to devastating loss of life.
As Ron Paul preaches: “They don’t hate us because we’re free. They hate us because we’re over there.” Romney has apparently learned nothing from the failures of the previous Republican administration. Why is he so fixated on meddling in the internal affairs of foreign nations?
The governor loves to criticize Obama over high gas prices, but can you imagine what an American-backed Israeli strike on Iran would do to international oil markets?
Romney undermined U.S. interests abroad last month when he cynically proclaimed that Obama “sympathized” with the Jihadist fighters who besieged our embassy in Egypt. And Romney is certainly not behaving like a “conservative” when he falsely accuses the commander-in-chief of going around the world on an “Apology Tour.”
Obama, for all his faults — and much to the consternation of liberals — is running as the real conservative in this race. Mitt Romney is running as a typical cheap politician.
Michael Tracey writes for Salon and The American Conservative.