Friday, April 30, 2010


President Obama’s loyalists have commented on his pragmatic approach to policy matters, ostensibly to distance him from the Reagan/George W. Bush leadership styles and to mask his ideological past and his current presidential policies. Those touting Mr. Obama as someone who rises above the political fray and is a “thinking out of the box” pragmatist are disingenuous at best. Especially when one ponders his rigid worldviews grounded in ideological progressive/socialist approaches to resolving matters of domestic and foreign interest.

If President Obama is a pragmatist, rather than an ideologue, then his approach to policy matters seems eerily like some form of self-styled pragmatism that suits his progressive/socialist ideologies. One must also question whether any notion of basing U.S. policy decisions on pragmatism lends itself to matters of American government. For all those who praise Mr. Obama for his pragmatism, it begs the question, at what price pragmatic?

If we in fact conclude that Mr. Obama does employ (and by his and his loyalist’s accounts he does) pragmatism in policy-making decisions, is it employed at the expense of the fundamental laws embodied within the U.S. Constitution? Are Americans left with a President that either affronts the U.S. Constitution as a "tool" through which he applies self-indulgent pragmatic theory or an ideological progressive/socialist shrouding himself in some form of high-minded pragmatism?

Not an attractive set of questions for Americas to answer. However, it's Obama's worldviews that hold the answer key.

Obama’s Pragmatist Loyalists

There have been a number of essays and articles touting President Obama, pre and post his election, as a non-ideologue who will employ pragmatism to solve America’s problems. A president who will bridge the ideological gaps of left and right and then forge a road towards American success. Christopher Hayes, in a Dec. 2008 essay in The Nation, presumably attempts to excite his readers with “great news” that the forthcoming Obama presidency will foretell an anti-ideologue that will govern and lead through a purely pragmatic approach to problem solving devoid of ideological interests and agendas.

Mr. Hayes musters off a list, all “FOBs” (Friends of Obama) mind you, ranging from inner-circle types such as Vice-President Biden, Valerie Jarrett and Cass Sunstein to liberal political commentators such as David Sanger, Glenn Greenwald and George Packer, who depict Mr. Obama as an admirable pragmatic populist progressive thinker. Ms. Jarrett can sum up their views in Mr. Hayes’s article, when she is quoted as saying,
"I'm not sure people understand how pragmatic he is. He's a pragmatist. He really wants to get things done".

Get things done, indeed. Get things done by any means necessary, pragmatic or otherwise and damn the U.S. Constitution, but as a tool for his means.

President Obama has also not been shy about cloaking his ideological worldview penchants in the name of pragmatism. In an interview with Steve Kroft on 60 Minutes then President-elect Obama states that when it comes to economic policy, he doesn't want to "get bottled up in a lot of ideology and 'Is this conservative or liberal?' My interest is finding something that works." Mr. Obama also alluded to his pragmatic approach with his humorous comment to GOP lawmakers at the House Republican retreat by saying, “I am not an ideologue”. A very “he doth protest too much” moment reminiscent of President Nixon’s famous plea, “I am not a crook”.

Norman Ornstein, no less of the American Enterprise Institute, has penned two articles claiming President Obama is a pragmatic leader. In his article entitled Obama's Health-Care Realism” Mr. Ornstein characterizes the President by saying,
“The Obama strategy since his election has been based on a gimlet-eyed and pragmatic assessment of the prospects and limits afforded by public opinion and the political process.”

In his article entitled “Obama: A pragmatic moderate faces the 'socialist' smear”, Mr. Ornstein begs the question on those who characterize President Obama’s policies as progressive/socialist through an excruciating excuse-making tirade defending Obama’s policies through the lens of pragmatism. Ornstein states the following,
"This president is a mainstream, pragmatic moderate, operating in the center of American politics; center-left, perhaps, but not left of center.”

Pragmatism and John Dewey
In light of all this presidential pragmatism praise, it is important to put into context pragmatism's history, theory and it's suitability when governing as an American President. If Mr. Obama is in fact this prudent pragmatist, how did he derive his context for applying this theory and is it's usage consistent with a president's oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution?

Pragmatism is commonly understood as a practical approach to problems and affairs; however its roots run much deeper. Pragmatism is a philosophical movement, developed in the United States, which holds that both the meaning and the truth of any idea is a function of its practical outcome. Pragmatists claim that an ideology or proposition is true if it works satisfactorily, that the meaning of a proposition is to be found in the practical consequences of accepting it, and that unpractical ideas are to be rejected.

Fundamental to pragmatism is a strong anti-absolutism and a philosophy of mutable truth and ideas that are true insofar as they are useful in a specific situation; what works today in one case may not work tomorrow in another case. Ethical ideas are accepted as long as they continue to work. The standard of moral truth is expediency.C.S. Peirce, William James and John Dewey are leading early American pragmatist theorists. In Louis Menand’s “The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America" they all believed that, "
...ideas are not 'out there' waiting to be discovered, but are tolls—like forks and knives and microchips—that people devise to cope with the world in which they find themselves… And they believed that since ideas are provisional responses to particular and irreproducible circumstances, their survival depends not on their immutability but on their adaptability."

Therefore the true pragmatist casts all ideas to the wind, unless they serve an immediate purpose towards an expedient and practical solution. As we meander through this murky wetland to resolve President Obama's use of pragmatism, keep in mind that the American Constitution is rife with ideas.

Of the three leading founders of pragmatism in America, John Dewey (1859-1952) appears to be the most identifiable with President Obama's approach to pragmatic governing to further his worldviews. Author of The School and Society, Dewey was one of the founders and the leading philosopher of “progressive” education and developed his educational philosophy when he joined the faculty of the University of Chicago in 1894, coincidentally Obama's former employer. He founded the university's Laboratory School to test scientifically his ideas for improving education.

John Dewey was a democratic socialist who applied his "tool", the idea of socialism, to advance his pragmatic beliefs as to his worldview of a new social order by using children's education as a catalyst. Dewey's dangerous contributions to progressive educational techniques advanced the theory that schools should condition children for the desired "social order.

Dewey’s goal was to achieve a utopian “equality” implemented by government intervention in the private sector, so that men can obtain their “wants” as well as their needs. It was the children Dewey targeted as the means by which to obtain his desire. Dewey dismissed as irrelevant the teaching of fundamental knowledge such as reading, writing, math, and science. Both the educator and the students are to be flexible and tentative.

His purpose of a school was to foster social consciousness. Dewey’s new school would become a vehicle for the de-alienation and socialization of the child. The school would be an embryonic socialist community in which the progress of the student could only be justified by his relation to the group.

John Dewey wanted government to take over all education via government schools. He praised socialist Edward Bellamy as his “Great American Prophet” after Bellamy wrote the book Looking Backward wherein Bellamy penned his totalitarian vision.

Dewey was fascinated by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and between 1920 and 1928 wrote many articles praising the “new” educational system imposed by the totalitarian socialists. At the invitation of the Commissar of Education in 1928, Dewey traveled to the new USSR. (For greater insight into the damage John Dewey inflicted on America’s educational system please refer to articles by Chuck Roger in the American Thinker, Bruce Deitrick Price in American Chronicle and Bob Cheeks’ review of the book “John Dewey and the Decline of American Education” by Henry T. Edmondson).

Dewey's social pragmatism envisioned a collective society that assures "the full growth of all its individuals," a society in which "individualism and socialism" become one. According to John Dewey’s social pragmatism, what is true is that which works for a society (not for an individual) through the promotion of the public good. Dewey advocated a relativistic (truth and moral values are not absolute but are relative to the persons or groups holding them), secularized form of altruism that calls for sacrificing oneself to attain the ends of the People. In this view society, rather than the individual, passes moral judgment. Social policies are measured by their consequences instead of by abstract principles of what is right or just. He considered himself a democratic socialist in the 1920s and '30s, and questioned corporate capitalism's capacity to promote democratic values.

John Dewey’s beliefs were codified in and he was a signer of the Humanist Manifesto in 1933. A debatable name given it's inherent affirmational affronts to humane opportunities for freedoms, innovation and independence. This Manifesto, authored primarily by educators at the University of Chicago and Columbia University, was a total and complete abdication of theism--God does not exist! In fact the first affirmation within this Manifesto is,
“ Religious humanists regard the universe as self-existing and not created.”

The Manifesto’s purpose was to advance a new worldview that, in addition to a secular outlook, a world that denounces capitalism and proposes "change" to a new economic order calling for "wealth redistribution". The Manifesto's fourteenth affirmation codifies this belief and states,
“ existing acquisitive and profit-motivated society has shown itself to be inadequate and that a radical change in methods, controls, and motives must be instituted. A socialized and cooperative economic order must be established to the end that the equitable distribution of the means of life be possible. The goal of humanism is a free and universal society in which people voluntarily and intelligently cooperate for the common good. Humanists demand a shared life in a shared world.”

Obama / Dewey Parallels
President Obama's worldview parallels Dewey's socialist/humanist view virtually in its entirety. One only needs to review his remarks prior to his ascent to the presidency. His Joe the Plumber remark “share the wealth” and his pre-presidential radio interview in 2001 wherein he commented on redistributing the wealth by saying,

"One of the, I think, tragedies of the civil rights movement was because the civil rights movement became so court focused I think there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organising and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalition of powers through which you bring about redistributive change. In some ways we still suffer from that."

Other examples of his Dewey-like socialist allegiances are his deep association with radical leftist neo-Marxist groups such as the Chicago New Party, the Democratic Socialists of America, his ties to ACORN, and his admitted attendance at socialist conferences at New York’s Cooper Union, wherein Mr. Obama writes on p.122 of his 1995 autobiography “Dreams From My Father",

"ideas are not 'out there' waiting to be discovered, but are tools—like forks and knives and microchips—that people devise to cope with the world in which they find themselves… And they believed that since ideas are provisional responses to particular and irreproducible circumstances, their survival depends not on their immutability but on their adaptability. Under the Darwinian imperative of pragmatism, we must be prepared to discard our old ideas as readily as we discard our old tools.
“Political discussions, the kind that at Occidental had once seemed so intense and purposeful, came to take on the flavor of the socialist conferences that I sometimes attended at Cooper Union or the African cultural fairs that took place in Harlem or Brooklyn during the summers-a few of the many diversions that New York had to offer, like going to a foreign film or ice-skating at the Rockefeller Center.”

(For a comprehensive accounting of President Obama’s international socialist connections please refer to Cliff Kincaid’s article in Accuracy in Media.)

President Obama brings home his Deweyian worldview beliefs when he made his Berlin Wall anniversary speech on July 24, 2008. In that speech then candidate Obama espoused his new social order calling for a “citizens of the world” view denouncing prosperity opportunities in any one nation, i.e., the U.S. In his speech he said the following,
"the walls between the countries with the most and those with the least cannot stand … the walls between … natives and immigrants ... cannot stand. These now are the walls that we must tear down. We know they have fallen before. After centuries of strife, the people of Europe have formed a Union of promise and prosperity."

John Dewey could not have said it better!! Obama’s Berlin remarks are virtually directly out of the Humanist Manifesto’s fourteenth affirmation. In fact, the Godless, antitheist, pragmatists of the progressive/socialists International Humanist and Ethical Union endorsed and applauded President Obama's election victory by saying,

"It was not merely necessary that Barack Obama become the President of the United States, it was vital that he become so through popular mandate."

Obama’s Constitutional Tools To Advance His Worldview 
Mr. Hayes, Ornstein et alia pragmatism defense is all fatally flawed. If President Obama indeed has employed social pragmatism in his policies then how does it all appear to be conveniently and singularly seen through the worldview prism of a progressive/socialist agenda? The challenge for all Obama pragmatist defenders is to uncover an example of one domestic policy issue taken up by President Obama that utilized America’s free-market capitalist system. As the President has stated when railing against Wall Street profits and consistent with his worldview enunciated in his Berlin speech,
“There will be time for them to make profits, and there will be time for them to get bonuses, now’s not that time”.

The President's worldviews were also evident in his teaching days at the University of Chicago's law school. As a law professor Obama was known as a pragmatic when it came to interpreting the Constitution. He utilized the Constitution simply as a tool to find the sweet spot on how to level-set societal needs, avoiding any high theory when it came to Constitutional interpretation. As Jodi Kantor reports in the New York Times,

"Former students and colleagues describe Mr. Obama as a minimalist (skeptical of court-led efforts at social change) and a structuralist (interested in how the law metes out power in society). And more than anythingelse, he is a pragmatist who urged those around him to be more keenly attuned to the real-life impact of decisions. This may be his distinguishing quality as a legal thinker: an unwillingness to deal in abstraction, a constant desire to know how court decisions affect people’s lives.Though Mr. Obama rarely spoke of his own views, students say they sensed his disdain for formalism, the idea —often espoused by Justices Scalia and Clarence Thomas, but sometimes by liberals as well — that law can be decided independent of the political and social context in which it is applied."
President Obama is certainly practicing what he preached to his students when it comes to Constitutional interpretation. His pragmatic encroachments on the Constitution to advance his worldview is unprecedented. The litany of constitutional deconstructionism perpetrated on America in his fifteen months as President Obama’s is alarming. Maryan Zihala, J.D., provides valuable insght into the numerous unconstitutional actions on the part of the Obama presidency all in the name of his worldview of collectivism for his vision of the "common good".
  • Corporate seizures: the seizure of AIG, Citigroup, Bank of America, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, GMAC, General Motors, Chrysler: a violation of the eminent domain clause of the 5th Amendment.
  • Stimulus bill: she writes that on the spending limitations in the Constitution, Madison wrote: “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.”
  • ObamaCare: there is absolutely no constitutional authority for the federal government to be taking over the health care system, forcing taxpayers to pay for the health care of others, and requiring individuals to have health care insurance – on pain of fines and incarceration. To date thirteen states have challenged ObamaCare as unconstitutional.
  • ObamaCzars: President Obama now has almost three dozen of these policy analysts working in the White House. In the past, Congress has created about a dozen offices for the president with the top position held by a Senate-confirmed presidential appointee. Obama has tripled this number and none of his new czars have been confirmed by the Senate. This is beyond any constitutional executive powers; this is legislating by presidential fiat. Article 2, Section 2 of the Constitution says: “He shall have power . . . and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls.” Article 2 does allow that the Congress may vest the appointment power in the president alone, by law – but Congress has not done this in regard to the cadre of new czars appointed by this president.

Obama Uncovered
President Obama's loyalists either are blinded by political partisanship or can't see the proverbial forest for the trees when assessing the President's governing philosophy. The heart of his philosophy is not pragmatism. That is simply a means to an end to create a worldview of collectivism. The Constitution is merely a tool for Mr. Obama to apply pragmatic thought to achieve his worldview.

President Obama wears horse blinders that permit him to see only his sanguine vision of the world as a “sea of collective mediocrities” and the benefits of progressive/socialist ideologies to support that vision. He will employ pragmatic theory to advance his worldview regardless of how much it infringes on the tenants of the U.S. Constitution. Ideology and pragmatism, by nature, are mutually exclusive.

However, as any good little pragmatist will confirm, for one to shape their worldview they use ideas as tools, albeit socialist ideologies and/or constitutional ideology deconstruction, to accomplish their goal. The President has managed to convince his loyalists that he is, as Mr. Ornstein notes, “a pragmatic moderate” and not an ideologue. A neat trick that our President has been able to pull on willing believers, until one peels back the many layers of the Obama onion.

So who is President Barack Hussein Obama? A Deweyian social pragmatist. A progressive/socialist ideologue? A Humanist Manifesto devotee? A constitutional deconstructionist? Unfortunately, all of the above. He is a tsunami of ideologies, theories, manifestos and deconstructionism culminating in a mindset to transform the U.S. (and the world) into a collectivist society. Collectivism achieved through statism, socialism or any other political philosophy sans capitalism, the one philosophy that flies in the face of mediocrity.

His most egregious crime while pursuing that “dare to dream” worldview is his failure to uphold his oath as President to the fundamental tenants of our Constitution. A president is expected to worship at the Constitutional altar. President Obama treats it like an old machete to cleave through his version of societal injustices towards his collectivist worldview.

As this President moves through his tenure, his Obama campaign mantra of “hope and change” continues to live on in his mind. Change by any means pragmatically necessary to meet his collectivist worldview. A presidency that is a cautionary tale for all current and future Americans.

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