One of my favorite scenes in the movie Amadeus has the composer Antonio Salieri conducting the ending of his latest Opera (Axur, re d'Ormus). At the conclusion of the piece, the (mostly musically illiterate) audience gives him a rousing ovation. The Austrian Emperor (Joseph ll) makes his way to the stage to proclaim that what was just heard was the greatest opera ever composed. After the Emperor leaves, Mozart approaches Salieri. Salieri, who idolizes Mozart as a composer (while detesting him personally), asks him if he was pleased by the opera. Mozart responds with sarcasm, which the clueless Salieri fails to detect.
Mozart - "I never knew music like that was possible".
Salieri – "You flatter me."
Mozart – "No no. One hears such sounds and what can one say but… Salieri!"
So it was with President Obama’s latest campaign speech Thursday night, badly disguised as a fix for the economy. “When one hears such words what can one say but…Obama!"
It’s been said – quite frequently nowadays – that one definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. This actually seems more like stupidity to me. Whichever way you label it, liberals are clearly afflicted. I read recently that government stimulus packages have three effects – two of which are negative. There’s the initial temporary positive jolt to the economy – the sugar rush after eating a candy bar. This is followed by a depressive reaction as the stimulus passes through the system and flickers out – the sugar hangover. Then, finally the bill comes due – the candy bar needs to be paid for, with interest.
The first stimulus package, passed by a Democratic Congress (without a single Republican assenting vote – good for them), and signed by the president, cost roughly $850 billion. It caused a brief, minor uptick in growth, which then faded. We’re now suffering through the second phase – slow growth, high unemployment – which will worsen as the economy is further burdened with the expectation of higher taxes to pay the bill.
Liberals (notably, Paul Krugman) speculate that the stimulus didn’t work because it wasn’t big enough. (That’s what she said). Even if that were true, and it isn't, tacking on a smaller one ($450 billion) after the small beneficial effect of the first has died away, is certain to fail. For Obama, that doesn’t matter so much as the campaign imperative to show that he’s “doing something”.
Holman Jenkins has a perceptive column in the WSJ today which captures Obama’s true sentiments. Jenkins’ piece is written as a satirical first draft of Obama's Thursday speech. A few excerpts –
Jobs are the No. 1 priority of the American people. Jobs are the No. 1 priority of my administration's rhetoric. Jobs have not been the No. 1 priority of my administration's policies, however.
Consider my background. I don't know much about business and, frankly, don't care to. You see, I have a self-reinforcing image of Barack Obama. I am high-minded. Business people are greedy and, somehow, lesser. I stay focused on that.
Some might say, "Had I known this I never would have voted for you." A) You weren't listening carefully; and B) that was my intention, my art. To conceal—for instance, by dropping one's Gs—is what it means to be an effective left-wing ideologue in America these days.
In closing, let us recognize that an election is approaching. The time is upon us when my administration must ratchet up its rhetoric to make it sound like your agenda (jobs, growth) is my agenda.
Indeed, I will begin tonight by junking the more revealing passages of this draft speech and pretending that I place a higher value on job-creating pragmatism than on my progressive shibboleths.
This, I hope, will cause you to re-elect me. Thank you for listening.