*Posted by Joe Wooddell
On October 17, 2013, President Obama advised the following: “And now that the government is reopened, and this threat to our economy is removed, all of us need to stop focusing on the lobbyists and the bloggers and the talking heads on radio and the professional activists who profit from conflict, and focus on what the majority of Americans sent us here to do, and that’s grow this economy; create good jobs; strengthen the middle class; educate our kids; lay the foundation for broad-based prosperity and get our fiscal house in order for the long haul. That’s why we’re here. That should be our focus.” (His entire remarks can be found here.
So, the President encouraged listeners to “stop focusing on the lobbyists,” “bloggers,” “talking heads on radio,” and “professional activists who profit from conflict.” True, we should not focus merely on these things, but we should pay attention to them all. To lobbyists in order to see who’s influencing our leaders, what they are influencing them to do, and whether it’s legal; to “professional activists who profit from conflict” so as to analyze whether their arguments are valid and sound. (To learn the difference between a valid and sound argument, sign up for Critical Thinking at Criswell College next Spring, meeting on Thursdays from 1:30-4:00. Schedule and registration info is forthcoming at www.criswell.edu.)
We ought not to equate radio personalities and bloggers with lobbyists and activists indiscriminately. Since we typically have a negative opinion of the former two, Obama disparages the latter two groups by association with the former. When he mentions radio he probably doesn’t mean the wonderfully fair and unbiased segments and personalities of National Public Radio (read sarcasm here), but rather conservatives whose audiences together number in the tens of millions. And why doesn’t he advise against the “talking heads” on television? Is it because television is more objective, fair, and balanced, or because so many of the television “news” shows and personalities seldom challenge him the way radio personalities do?
What about bloggers? Does the President really think their views should not be considered? Surely the President sees the internet as a wonderful tool for the freedoms of speech and press guaranteed in the Constitution’s First Amendment. Shouldn’t he see blogs as ideal for ‘the little guy’ to have his voice heard in this world of news conglomerates and broadcasting empires? Rather than fearing or disparaging blogs, he ought to welcome and encourage open, honest, detailed debate in the public square. The internet is no exception.
Finally, when the President says voters sent their elected officials to Washington to “grow this economy; create good jobs; strengthen the middle class; educate our kids; lay the foundation for broad-based prosperity and get our fiscal house in order for the long haul,” he should remember that at least half of America doesn’t want Washington doing any of these things. For example, I don’t expect Washington to grow the economy except by instituting policies that make it easier for entrepreneurs and businesses to succeed. Regarding the strength of the “middle class,” it’s more hurtful than helpful even to talk about society in terms of “classes.” It invites animosity rather than unity. Instead, we should talk about all Americans becoming more free, secure, and better off.
As to educating our kids, I’ll keep it simple and direct: Dear Mr. President, please don’t even try. Instead, you and other elected officials should attempt to create conditions whereby parents and local communities become more empowered as their children’s primary educators. Finally, regarding the foundation for broad-based prosperity, fiscal responsibility, and security: these are done not by spending more but less.