Friday, February 15, 2008


Is change in the abstract good? Not unless you're Senator Obama.

Lawrence Tribe, the Harvard Law professor who regularly mistakes left-wing ideology for intelligence, appears in a commercial where he calls his former student Barack Obama "brilliant." In fact, both Professor Tribe and Senator Obama look at the U.S. Constitution as an Etch-a-Sketch on which liberal jurists should scrawl their political prejudices. Brilliance and balderdash aren't compatible.

Obama, despite the free rides he took through various prestigious institutions (especially Harvard), isn't brilliant. He's a highly skilled manipulator of people, especially the young. He has two powerful mantras, hope and change, which he uses to fire up unsophisticated audiences.

Last night, I was gnashing my teeth about Obama's skillful use of the concept of change. My thinking went this way: of course, even the Senator's youthful audiences know in their heart-of-hearts that change is a coin flip. About half the time it's bad. Hillary Clinton has been trying lately, with limited success, to make that point.

As I was thinking about the suspect use of the word change, I began to read an article in The Economist (my favorite magazine). It was a review of Eric Weiner's provocatively titled new book: The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World.

Senator Obama wouldn't like Mr. Weiner. Why? Because Weiner points out that change isn't all it's cracked up to be. Understand that Obama was born in 1960. Of course, some good things have happened since then, such as the country's repudiation of segregation and Google's development of Blogger.

However, Weiner points out that many changes -- perhaps most of them, if I may utter a heresy -- have been bad ones. Comparing 1960 to the present, Wiener notes that the "divorce rate has doubled, the teen-suicide rate tripled, the violent-crime rate has quadrupled, and the prison population [largely Blacks and Hispanics] quintupled."

The Economist adds, "Also, depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems are on the rise . . . ."Senator Obama, meet Mr. Weiner (an NPR reporter). Of course, people at NPR are mainly liberals, but Weiner appears to have snuck in, perhaps through the back door. He asks the critical question about the change mantra: are the changes that have taken place for the good -- or not?

In 1960, Black female teenagers had an "illegitimacy" rate lower than that of white teens. Currently, however, Black females aged 15-19 have children out-of-wedlock at twice the level of white females. The pregnancy (and abortion) rates for Hispanic females exceed even the rate for Blacks. When a society basically pays teenagers to have babies, they will do so. The end result will be a disruption of families, which is exactly what's happened in Black communities.

I fear that Prof. Tribe's "brilliant" Obama will never get the point that conservatives grasp almost intuitively: that the past was in some ways (not all) better than the present. Obama will bore us all half-to-death pointing out how he's The Ghost of Christmas Future, while John McCain is the Ghost of Christmas past.

In fact, the change Obama advocates (basically income redistribution, inertia in education, and involuntary health programs) will aggravate the problems Weiner outlines. The Senator believes that change -- in the abstract -- is good. Obviously, he's wrong. When he and his student audiences are chanting "Yes we can!" we need to chant back, "But you shouldn't!"

John McCain is a man of my own generation, when many things (including the teen pregnancy rates) frankly were much better. In fact, the best thing McCain could do is to take us "back to the future." That is, he could find out what we were doing right in 1960 -- and that we've been doing wrong since that time.

That's certainly not Obama's approach. The programs he advocates -- more spending, more dependence on government, less emphasis on families -- are the same ones that have caused many of the problems we face. The statistics Weiner cites about divorce, teen suicide, violent crime, and prison populations all derive from the unintended consequences of what Lyndon Johnson called "The Great Society."

Obama, supposedly an agent of positive change, is really advocating more of the same -- and the result would of course change for the worse. Tomorrow isn't always better than yesterday, and the past isn't always superior to the future. And when the Emperor -- or a Senator -- has no clothes, it's essential to proclaim that fact.

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