Barack Obama is the apostle of hope. But he also arouses the flipside of hope--fear. And while the fear he stirs may turn out to be unfounded, it's not irrational. People don't know who Obama really is or where his ideological center of gravity rests, to the extent it rests anywhere. He was a liberal in the Senate and the campaign, a centrist in the transition, and who knows what he'll be as president. He's elusive.
I count four separate fears. Whether he's a crypto-Marxist is not one of them. Neither is the absurd fear that he's secretly a Muslim, even a closet jihadist. Nor is the groundless claim Obama was actually born outside the United States and isn't really an American citizen. Forget all those. They're nonstarters.
He doesn't know what he's talking about. This is a legitimate fear. Obama throws around numbers like confetti. In the campaign, he said he would create 1 million jobs. After the election, he put out a plan he said would produce up to 3 million jobs. Then in a radio address on January 10, he said the number could reach 4.1 million and said 500,000 would be jobs in the alternative energy field, 200,000 in health care. Does he really believe he can achieve this? The fear is that he might.
"Social Security, we can solve," he told the Washington Post last week. Really? President Bush, freshly reelected, promoted Social Security reform in 2005 and got nowhere. Certainly Obama was no help. Obama said his administration will begin confronting the issues of entitlement reform and long-term budget deficits soon after it jump-starts job growth and the stock market," the Post reported. When will this happen? Not next year or next summer but next month when he convenes a "fiscal responsibility summit."
Obama is smart, Ivy League-educated, and able to discuss issues knowledgeably and intelligently. He's put together a strong staff. The same was often said of Bill Clinton. Brains and advanced degrees, though they thrill Washington's journalistic elite, aren't enough. Clinton didn't have a magic wand and neither does Obama. True, reality often creeps in. Obama initially aimed to shut down Guantánamo instantly. Later his aides said it might take a year. Last week, Obama told the Post he'd consider it a failure if the prison hadn't been closed by the end of his first term.
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