Of all the weeks and all the commencement speeches he could have chosen, Barack Obama chose the absolutely worst one to deliver his snark about the fear of government tyranny. Within days of his Trust-The-State speech at Ohio State, came revelations of his Administration’s deception on Benghazi and then Friday’s bombshell about the abuse of the IRS to target and harass Obama’s conservative opponents.
Awkward, but revealing.
For some context, consider what Obama's predecessor, Thomas Jefferson, had to say on the subject:
When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. When the government fears the people, there is liberty.
Unfortunately, you’ve grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s at the root of all our problems; some of these same voices also doing their best to gum up the works. They’ll warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices.
Despite his intellectual pretensions, it was a sloppy speech, leaning heavily on his now familiar straw men, rather than substantive arguments.
But his message was clear: Fear your fellow citizens, not government.
Thomas Jefferson he is not.
Even by Obama’s standards it was breathtaking in its arrogance, but it was a raw expression of Obamanism: boundless faith in the power of government – the federal government – coupled with undisguised contempt for its critics.
Has any other president so openly sneered at the idea of liberty or the Jeffersonian tradition of jealously guarding individual rights from incursions of the government? Did FDR go so far? If Richard Nixon ever went there, we would no doubt have heard about it. A lot.
Oddly enough for such an accomplished academic, Obama seems never to have heard of the concept of hubris and its consequences. But this week, because of the extraordinary juxtaposition of events we are seeing them writ large.
Other than the power to prosecute, the taxing authority is the most awesome power the government has. It can ruin people and companies. When wielded for political purposes, it is a violation of the basic contract the American people have with their government. … It's a very big and bad deal.
And for a president determined to expand the power, reach, and scope of federal power -- and to deploy to IRS to oversee the nation's health care system -- a full-on political disaster.