After reading the title of this column, readers might think I have reverted to my days as a stuffy college professor. Never fear, that has not happened. My days of academic pomposity are well past. The title of this column is adopted from a Theodore Roosevelt quote referring to President Woodrow Wilson’s weak-kneed leadership in the run-up to World War I. In reading this quote, it struck me that Roosevelt could have been talking about President Obama. The term logothete is Greek for bean counting bureaucrat. In making his colorful statement about the President, Roosevelt was saying that Wilson was a silver-tongued, deceptive, self-serving bureaucrat rather than a leader.
To understand why Roosevelt would make such a comment about President Wilson and why I think the same thing can be said about President Obama, one must have the context of the quote. When Roosevelt called Wilson a “shifty, adroit, and selfish logothete,” he was frustrated with the president for having no vision larger than getting re-elected, and he thought Wilson used his adroit command of the language in ways that were shifty—ways intended to deceive the American public. To followers of current events, Roosevelt’s comments should sound eerily familiar. He could have been talking about President Obama. Hence, the title of this column.
Now that he knows who his opponent will be, President Obama has hit the campaign trail and is running hard. Clearly, the only vision that matters to him at this point is the vision of spending four more years in the White House. To this end, he is adroitly and shiftily twisting the facts in his campaign speeches. President Obama’s campaign tactics may be deceitful, but they are effective. In fact, they would make the shiftiest ward boss in Chicago proud. They include: 1) Buying votes by opening the U.S. Treasury, in the form of entitlements, to as many people as possible, 2) Stoking the fires of class envy with his “fair share” rhetoric, and 3) Pandering to the poor by painting himself as a latter-day Robin Hood come to rescue them from America’s heartless conservatives who want them all to die without healthcare or financial aid.
The president recently completed an entitlement tour of selected universities where the gist of his message to college students was: vote for me and I will make sure that low-cost student loans keep flowing like water from the federal treasury. The President is offering a one-year loan-rate freeze, a political ploy that could cost U.S. taxpayers $6 billion. Fighting back, Mitt Romney is offering the same one-time deal for college students. The difference between the President and Romney is that Romney is being frank in telling college students, “Good luck when you graduate. Because of President Obama’s misguided economic policies—there will be very few jobs available for you.” President Obama, on the other hand, is conveniently avoiding any discussion of jobs for college graduates.
The President has translated his “fair share” rhetoric into a proposed policy that has come to known as “The Buffett Rule.” He is going around the country telling people who pay no taxes that he will erase the federal deficit of $15 trillion by raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans—the top one-percent. This is his class-envy tactic. What he is not saying is that: 1) The Buffett Rule will raise only about $4.7 billion a year for ten years while his other budget proposals will increase spending by $6.7 billion a year over the same period, and 2) Comparing $4.7 billion a year for ten years or a total of $47 billion to a $15 trillion deficit is the same as comparing half of a penny to a dollar. The reason the President can get away with playing fast and loose with the numbers is that he has run up the federal deficit until it is so high that the American public can no longer do the math.
The President saves his most adroit shiftiness for the promises he makes about healthcare. By now the reader knows all about those promises, so they will not be repeated here. What he does not tell anyone is that the poor already have access to free healthcare. Go to the emergency room of any hospital in America and you will find signs in English and Spanish informing patients that they cannot be turned away for lack of funds. The hospital must provide the care that is needed. This policy costs for-profit hospitals in America billions of dollars every year. Theodore Roosevelt was talking about Woodrow Wilson when he used the colorful phase, “a shifty, adroit, selfish logothete,” and he was right. But he could have been talking about Barack Obama.