By Lucas Roebuck
In one sense, the Obama doctrine — which says we can do more for our foreign policy with an open hand than a clinched fist — is embedded in an element of truth. If you subscribe to the realpolitik philosophy popularized by Theodore Roosevelt's speaking softly and carrying a big stick, you believe a good president has both of these critical diplomatic skills. President Barack Obama certainly has mastered the speak softly side of the equation; whereas President George W. Bush proved adept with the stick.
Obama certainly hopes to prove something by extending the hand of friendship to people like Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Obama's cozying to these individuals has drawn criticism from his political enemies, but little objection has emanated from the international human rights groups that purport to fight for the politically oppressed. Too star-struck with Obama, I suppose.
Freedom of expression should be a fundamental human right, no matter what country you live in, right? America should use its influence to help those who are oppressed to gain the right to free political speech, right? I wonder if Obama thinks so.
Ahmadinejad jails journalists. Chavez has moved to silence opposition press in favor of the more Hugo-friendly state-run media. Castro has imprisoned his political opponents for decades. Russia's Vladimir Putin has done all three, not to mention tucking away his political opponents in unknown political prisons - or sending them a gift of radioactive poison.
Obama's lack of condemnation of these men is like one who will sit by and let people be denied certain rights because of their race.
Does Obama think that by being friends with these men, his messianic charisma will convince them to free political prisoners and allow a legitimate free press to operate within their borders? In other words, the Obama doctrine says, "Obama is so cool, all the other world leaders will want to be like him."
Frankly, I am worried about the opposite happening. I'm worried about these leaders rubbing off on Obama. What do Putin, Castro and Chavez have in common with Obama? They all represent some version of leftist ideology. It's no crime to be a leftist, and certainly the political left has made significant positive contributions to various political systems.
But leftist leaders, once empowered, often believe that imposing the state-engineered utopia is a goal that is worth almost any price. What happens when Obama decides that his goals of universal health care, lowering carbon emissions or even wealth redistribution (a.k.a. social justice) are worth the silencing of his political enemies or any ideological dissent?
American presidents come and go because our culture of free expression practically demands it. Castro, Chavez and Putin, in denying political speech, have been able to hold onto power. I don't know about Putin, but I am sure that for Castro and Chavez, holding onto power was a necessary evil for the sake of the leftist revolution.
The pieces are falling into place for Obama to assure that only he and his ideological decedents have a voice in America. The Department of Homeland Security's memo declaring pro-lifers and veterans (probably the two strongest anti-Obama voting blocs) to be potential terrorists is a scary shadow of how the executive branch could abuse its authority to marginalize dissent. Mix that with the psychological research from America's left-leaning group-think universities attempting to understand the "mental disorder" that is conservatism, and the government could have multiple reasons for locking hacks like me away.
The Supreme Court provides the only balance to Obama's power. However, with his new super-majority in the Senate, Obama could now get away with court-packing. In 2007, writing for The New York Times, author Jean Edward Smith opined, "If the current five-man majority persists in thumbing its nose at popular values, the election of a Democratic president and Congress could provide a corrective. It requires only a majority vote in both houses to add a justice or two. Chief Justice John Roberts and his conservative colleagues might do well to bear in mind that the roll call of presidents who have used this option includes not just Roosevelt but also Adams, Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln and Grant." Do you really think that Rahm Emanuel hasn't already given this idea serious thought?
Obama is a few steps away from controlling the major banks. What sort of ideological litmus test will you have to pass to get a loan? He has used the economic crisis to take over the auto industry and hand it to his political supporters in the unions. In 2012, Obama will redraw congressional districts to his advantage, now that the census is directly under White House control.
One hundred days into his presidency, Obama already has more political power at his disposal than any president since World War II - perhaps in history.
I am not saying that Obama is or will ever be a tyrant. But I wonder what means he will use to get to his ends - and when that happens, will we recognize the America that Obama's change has brought?