May 18, 2008: Waterfront Park Speech
Obama Says We Must Ask World's Permission
to Drive SUVs, Heat Our Homes, and Eat What We Want


Thousands of people – who came to Waterfront Park in Portland, Oregon to see a free concert by the rock group The Decembrists – got to see Barack Obama make a campaign speech.


What follows are excerpts from Obama's speech, culled from several different online sources. Obama's words are in green. Our replies are in red.


"Let me be clear, privatizing Social Security was a bad idea when George W. Bush proposed it, it's a bad idea today. That's why I stood up against this plan in the Senate and that's why I won't stand for it as President.”


Privatizing Social Security is not only not a bad idea, it’s the only idea that will prevent both the old and the young in this country from being crushed under a mountain of IOUs that are piling up in the Federal Treasury faster than they can possibly be paid.


When the first monthly social security check was issued to Ida May Fuller of Brattleboro, Vermont, on January 31, 1940, the social security taxes of 42 workers were available to pay her benefits. Over the years, as the number of retirees increased and the benefits became more generous, that number shrank to four. The taxes of four workers now pay the benefits of each retiree. In twenty or thirty years, that will be down to two – unless either taxes are raised or benefits are cut. Or both. That’s how the system’s set up now. That’s the system Obama effectively wants kept in place.

"We have to protect Social Security for future generations without pushing the burden onto seniors who have earned the right to retire in dignity."


True – but the only way to protect Social Security for future generations is by privatizing it. If, as Obama suggests, we reject that path, we’ll end up with plenty of burdens and very little dignity for everyone. The young will be burdened with high taxes. The old will be burdened by guilt – or much lower benefits than today. Or both. And in place of the dignity (or the absence of rancor) that we have now over the issue, we’ll have a bitter intergenerational political war in Congress that will spill out into the culture. Retirees will resent the young for denying them the material security and comfort in their old age to which they think themselves entitled. The young will resent retirees for taxing them heavily in their prime wage-earning years, when they have their own careers, family, and retirement to worry about. That’s where we’re headed if Obama and other pols who think like him win this argument.

“John McCain has decided to run for George Bush’s third term, and we cannot afford to have George Bush’s policies in the White House after this election.”


We’re going to be hearing a lot of the “McCain Term 1 = Bush Term 3” slam from the Democrat party from now until November. In response, McCain’s campaign is trying at every opportunity to highlight how different the Arizona Senator is from President Bush, and there’s more than a little truth to that – the two men have held different positions on such important issues as tax cuts, war strategy, global warming, and federal spending.


None of that will make a lick of difference to Obama. Even if McCain and Bush were as different as night and day, the mud-storm of the general election would obscure that fact for large numbers of voters who either aren’t paying attention, don’t care, or don’t want to see how different McCain and Bush are.


That’s why it’s a mistake for McCain’s people to go around saying how unlike Bush McCain is. McCain should downplay his differences with the President – or better yet, defend him. There’s much that President Bush has done – the War on Terror, and Supreme Court appointments – that McCain could and should proudly salute. This would do much to blunt the force of Obama’s attack. Sometimes there’s no better way to win an argument than to agree with your opponent.

“We are not going to settle for what is, we are going to imagine what might be. We are not a people that turns our back on each other; we are a people that depends on each other.”


There is no better example of the emptiness of Obama’s rhetoric than this quote. His words are like cotton candy – sweet tasting and full of air; they dissolve at the slightest touch.


So let’s touch them. What does Obama mean “to settle for what is”. That could mean anything. The government as presently constituted is many different things to many different people. What are the “what is’s” Obama thinks we shouldn’t settle for? The definition of marriage as a man and a woman? The tax cuts signed by President Bush that have kept our country prosperous? Our semi-socialized health care system?


Obama has a gift for sickly-sweet turns of phrase that are inherently insulting to conservatives – “we are not a people that turns our back on each other” is a typical example. He’s implying here that the way we do things now is the conservative/uncompassionate way, and that he would change it, presumably by putting the government in charge of our health care system and vastly expanding existing entitlements and creating many new ones. The resulting burden on our most productive citizens – the “rich” – would hurt far more people than it would help. The only people who will benefit will be lawyers and government bureaucrats. True, they have families to feed too. But they don’t create jobs and prosperity for anyone but themselves.


Obama condemned Bush’s recent remarks in Israel where, as Obama characterized it, the president compared those who believe in diplomatic efforts with our Middle East adversaries to those who appeased Adolph Hitler before World War II.


“The world is too dangerous for us to believe in that kind of nonsense,” Obama said.

President Bush is exactly right in comparing people like Obama – who would talk without preconditions to our enemies in the Middle East – to people like Neville Chamberlain, who gave Adolph Hitler virtually everything he wanted in the late 1930s and in return got nothing but empty promises, worthless paper treaties – and World War II.


People like Obama have learned nothing from history. They’re the ones offering “nonsense”. It’s nonsense to think that countries like Iran or Syria will be charmed by Obama’s silver tongue and renounce deeply held goals and doctrines – like the acquisition of nuclear weapons and the destruction of Israel. It’s nonsense to think that our sworn enemies will see our offers to talk with them without condition as anything but a weakness to be exploited.

“We can't drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times ... and then just expect that other countries are going to say OK. That's not leadership. That's not going to happen.”


Of all the foolish things Obama has said in his campaign, this has to be one of the most foolish of all. I defy him to look back through all of recorded history and find a single example of a country – any country, much less a world superpower – that cringingly asked for other countries’ approval about the basic lifestyle choices of its citizens.

If we’re foolish enough to elect Obama, and foolish enough to allow him to concoct some sort of Private Life Sovereignty Surrender Act (although it wouldn’t be called that; it would be called something like the “Personal Responsibility Act for the Children” or some such rubbish), we would earn not the world’s respect or admiration but its scorn and derision.


Still Obama’s comment, ridiculous as it is, is highly revealing of his mindset, and the liberal mindset in general. It tells us that he considers the choices we make about the cars we drive, the food we eat, and the air temperature in our houses are no longer choices private citizens make for themselves, but choices that governments make for private citizens.


Back to Speeches by Barack Obama

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