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FDR, BHO and the Audacity of Arrogance

February 15, 2010

Barack Obama loves to be compared to Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt. Abraham Lincoln he definitely is not, but the FDR analogy is apt. In her superb book about the Great Depression, "The Forgotten Man," Amity Schlaes describes the almost schizophrenic way in which our 32nd president governed the nation for the first eight of his twelve long years in office.

Based on Schlaes' narrative, Roosevelt may well have been afflicted with Attention Deficit Syndrome (ADD). It seems the nation's longest serving president would become bored and frustrated with a given program, to the extent that he would come up with a new one almost every other week. Of course, part of the reason for this frustration was the fact that his schemes for government control of the economy — much like Barack Obama's — were destined to fail.

Another thing these two men shared was the inability to take criticism. Roosevelt famously tried to pack the Supreme Court with left-wing lackeys who would rubber stamp his socialist agenda for America. Many of his programs were designed to crush the private sector, which he obviously hated. Obama is even worse. Following the Saul Alinsky model outlined in the 1971 book, "Rules for Radicals," Obama, perhaps more than any of his predecessors, is obsessed with centralized planning of the U.S. economy. The result is the decline of American prestige and economic clout at a time when our natural resources and entrepreneurial spirit could lift us to heights that would make the post World War II era look like a second Great Depression.

Few people know that the American economy fell into a depression in the early 1920s that was every bit as severe a downturn as that experienced in the 1930s. It lasted less than one year. Why? Because the federal government took a hands-off approach in order to let the private sector pull us out of the ditch. Roosevelt (and before him, Herbert Hoover, the wonder boy who gave us new taxes on the wealthy and the ill-advised Smoot-Hawley tariff) believed in massive federal action to right the capsizing economic boat. Consequently, unemployment and economic growth was nearly as stagnant in 1937 as it was at the beginning of the decade, and it took the preparation for and execution of a world war to pull us out of the Depression.

Obama's proposed federal budget for next year has been called "staggering," "breathtaking," "unsustainable" and "irresponsible." It is much more than that. It is reckless and downright criminal. At an incomprehensible $3.8 trillion, with a $1.9 trillion deficit raising our overall national debt to $14.3 trillion, it steals from future generations not yet born. It condemns our children and grandchildren to a life of servitude to a state that pretends to have their best interests at heart but which really is interested in the same thing for which all governments thirst when they are allowed to become too big: power and control.

Pundit and best-selling author Ann Coulter has pointed out that the first draft of history is written by journalists, a frightening thought if ever one was uttered. But accurate presidential history will record that Presidents Roosevelt and Obama, politicians cut from the same collectivist cloth, were both possessed of an elitism that drove them to believe that they alone were the salvation of America.

Both men distrusted the private sector, yet blindly and naively placed their full confidence in government to solve the problems of the nation. And both had an underlying contempt for the Founders and their vision of a federalist system of relatively sovereign state governments working in concert with a national government of very limited and constitutionally well defined functions. Neither man believed in that vision, but rather perceived America as a flawed nation in need of a powerful central government dictating to subservient states and a limited private sector.

To paraphrase Obama (from the title of one of the two memoirs he published before ever accomplishing anything), it is a glaring example of the audacity of arrogance.

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Copyright ©2010 Doug Patton

Doug Patton describes himself as a recovering political speechwriter who agrees with himself more often than not. His weekly columns are syndicated by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Readers are encouraged to email him at dpatton@cagle.comand/or to follow him on Twitter at @Doug_Patton.