There's something profoundly tragic about the failed presidency of Barack Obama. He was supposed to be a new kind of president, a man who embodied hope and would transcend petty politics and even race. Instead, we're left with a downgraded America that is stagnating under the weight of its bloated government. As tragic as that alone is, even this is but a mere symptom of Mr. Obama's larger fundamental failure: He simply does not trust the Americans who entrusted him with the presidency.
Most presidents, we believe, ascend to the Oval Office, but for the 44th president, the reverse seems true. Whatever majesty the White House can muster must rise to the grandiosity of Barack Obama. "We are the ones we have been waiting for," said the man who writes autobiographies and later would claim to control the rise of the oceans.
As recently as this month, the food-stamp president of 13 million unemployed Americans declared himself the fourth-most-accomplished president in the history of the United States, eclipsing, in his own mind, President Reagan and even our nation's father, George Washington. That in only three years. Barack the Magnificent won't allow trivialities like $15 trillion debts or historic national credit downgrades dissuade him.
Mr. Obama may care deeply for America, but he believes in only one thing: Barack Obama. And you are not Barack Obama.
Where once the American flag was hailed universally as the ultimate symbol of freedom, we who live under it have slowly but surely surrendered our liberties to an insatiable government. Consider our decline in just the past two generations. Our grandfathers, who stood against evil and shed their blood to stop it, never would have tolerated their own government becoming so totalitarian that it would dictate to them what car they should drive, what (if any) health insurance they should choose or even what light bulb they should buy.
Has our generation been worthy of earlier Americans' sacrifices? Or have we surrendered their hard-fought victories in return for false promises of a big-government utopia that never materializes? Look no further than the politicians we elect. We have chosen as our president a man who believes we are unworthy, not of the previous generations' sacrifices, but rather unworthy of freedom itself.
The sum total of Mr. Obama's political philosophy, the unifying theme of his presidency, amounts to this: You cannot be trusted to live as a free American.
President Obama's first major legislative action, the failed $787 stimulus, revealed his fundamental distrust of free Americans. A president who actually trusts his people would stand aside as they freely chose how to invest their capital and their labor. Mr. Obama, on the other hand, simply doesn't believe you are smart enough to know what's best for you. He commandeered nearly $1 trillion dollars from the taxpayers and redirected it as he saw fit. That he squandered billions on crony boondoggles such as the Solyndra solar-panel company or laughable efforts to measure the malt-liquor habits of Buffalonians and the like is evidence merely of his incompetence. That he trusted only himself to allocate taxpayers' money in the first place - even if he had had the capacity to do so brilliantly - is evidence of a much larger offense: This president distrusts his subjects.
Obamacare is a modern-day monument to government arrogance. So untrustworthy are Americans that they cannot be allowed to decide for themselves whether to purchase health insurance or, if so, how much. Likewise, physicians are too untrustworthy to provide you with care without first consulting the government's "best practices" guidelines. Obamacare would solve both.
Untrustworthy bankers would become angelic under the restrictions of Dodd-Frank. Untrustworthy bloggers would fall in line under the Stop Online Piracy Act. Untrustworthy manufacturers would create the only jobs worth having under the dictates of the National Labor Relations Board. And untrustworthy energy consumers would act responsibly only under the restrictions of "cap and trade" or at least a dictatorial Environmental Protection Agency.
For statists like Mr. Obama, no matter how bloated our government has become, America is forever just one legislative act away from utopia, if only those untrustworthy Americans would just get in line. The man who ran on hope has instead embraced a tragic pessimism that views all free Americans with disdain as either incompetent rubes in need of his salvation or unrighteous villains in need of his rules. Either way, Mr. Obama embraces a command-and-control government and rejects American freedom.
Mr. Obama's distrust of Americans is his fatal flaw, and Republicans would be wise to exploit it fully. The GOP should resist the temptation simply to become a cleverer version of autocrats who pull the same powerful levers of government but in different directions. Instead, they should become the party that embraces liberty.
If the 2012 election is between Republicans and Democrats or even between conservatives and liberals, Republicans might win. But if the election is instead between a bloated, ineffectual government that distrusts its subjects and Americans who still yearn to breathe free, Republicans will win. Only then will voters have a dramatic choice between a party that trusts Americans to be free and a party that does not.
Dr. Milton R. Wolf, a Washington Times columnist, is a radiologist and President Obama's cousin. He blogs at miltonwolf.com.