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Re: It’s Not a Gaffe

I wanted to add to your comments about Senator Obama’s statement, Jennifer, that “America is …, uh, is no longer, uh … what it could be, what it once was. And I say to myself, I don’t want that future for my children.”

Obama is right in one respect: America isn’t “what it once was.” In fact, in important respects it is much better than it once was.

As my Ethics and Public Policy Center colleague Yuval Levin and I attempted to show in COMMENTARY in December, the United States, over the last decade-and-a-half, has made progress–and in some cases enormous progress — on social and cultural issues like welfare, crime, drug use, welfare, teen sexual activity, teen suicides, teen smoking, binge drinking, and others.

Obama is succumbing to a common temptation of challengers (which is what essentially Obama is) running for President, which is to wildly overstate the difficulties facing America. Ours is certainly not a nation without its flaws and challenges, and we have hit a rough patch with the economy. But by any reasonable historical standard, we live in an amazingly blessed time and nation.

The declinist view, which Obama appears to hold, is a species of Bush Derangement Syndrome. And it, in turn, is closely linked with the “America is Downright Mean” view, which Obama’s wife Michelle so ably represents. When the two are combined, it hardly equals “hope.”

Barack Obama seems to be taking up where Bob “let me build you a bridge to the past” Dole and Jimmy “we’re suffering a crisis of the American spirit” Carter left off. If Obama keeps it up, he may end up suffering a similar political fate.



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