No, no, not quite an indictment, you understand - in the “Hear ye! Hear ye!” sense made familiar by the constant procession of lawyers across the television screen.
We might better call David Limbaugh’s book on “the One” a bill of particulars - very particular particulars, indeed - bearing not only on President Obama’s presidential means and methods, but on his ways of being Barack Obama. Neither Rahm Emanuel nor Robert Gibbs will wish to handle this book bare-handed. It’s that hot.
No political book, especially one published weeks before a crucial election, is likely ever to be called a model of rhetorical objectivity. It doesn’t do, in other words, to judge “Crimes Against Liberty” by the likelihood that Harvard will assign it to history graduate students 50 years hence. Mr. Limbaugh takes Mr. Obama apart limb by limb for defects of policy and personality alike, presenting him to us as - I am quoting - “liar,” “narcissist,” “bully,” “dictator,” “imperious” and “anti-American.”
It is what might be called, except by Democrats, fierce, tenacious engagement, in the manner vouchsafed political commentators by the First Amendment to the Constitution. Mr. Emanuel and Mr. Gibbs are entitled to surge back at the guy with their own accounts of how the president is, well, everything he says he is, if not a lot more, all of it admirable.
That possibility cuts very near the heart of Mr. Limbaugh’s argument that a lot of what Mr. Obama says is false, partisan and mean-spirited - a bill of goods, as it turns out. In the chapter he calls “The Liar,” Mr. Limbaugh writes that Mr. Obama’s “outright, habitual lies are a fundamental aspect of his governance.”
A few graybeards can recall how, when the Watergate investigation unmasked President Nixon’s involvement in the cover-up of the original break-in, commentators scrambled to find comparable instances of presidential deception - and came up mostly dry, save for some scattered prevarications by Franklin D. Roosevelt.
“[H]e is determined [via health care] to create a new entitlement to vastly expand the dependency class on whom he and other Democrats increasingly rely for their votes, their careers, and their resulting political power. What this is ultimately about is expanding government control - it’s about crimes against our liberties.”
Moreover: “He certainly does not want America to suffer another terrorist attack, but his slavish adherence to ideology results in policies that make that horrifying outcome much more likely,” through appeasement policies that surely make our country’s enemies giggle with glee. Meanwhile, he “seems to believe that [Israel] is just another Western imposition on noble, innocent Muslim societies.”
Well, OK. All that should stir up the steadily swelling anti-Obama legions - and actuate Democratic pushback, according to our country’s honorable, time-tested, etc., etc., tradition of free speech. I’m not sure how much else this book accomplishes or, in fact, was ever meant to accomplish.
Without doubting the basis for Mr. Limbaugh’s fury, I think many might concede that there’s much, much more we need to know about Mr. Obama and the political-cultural conditions that carried him unexpectedly to the political heights.
That’s to say, there’s much, much more we need to know about ourselves. We - in the “we the people” sense, I mean, of course - chose him as the grand leader of us all. “We” knew we had never heard of him until just a few years prior to our handing him the car keys (to borrow one of his favorite images).
No other major-party nominee since Wendell Willkie came upon us more suddenly, more unheralded - not even Jimmy Carter. We appeared not to care. We took our self-anointed savior at his own self-estimate - cut him endless slack when he delivered himself of grandiose promises, making claims about himself that were not, to say the least, grounded in our experience.