Opinion

Obama’s SOTU: In the footsteps of Hugo Chavez

Barrett Kalellis Contributor

During the 70-minute yawn-a-thon that was the president’s State of the Union address, my wife and I found the perfect solution to this political monologue—we turned off the sound.

This was beneficial on many levels, not the least of which was to spare us the posturings, the platitudes, the prevarications, the pandering, the propaganda, the petulance and the inappropriate slap in the face to the Supreme Court by Barack Obama. For us, the entire event was a total bore, even to many of the dozing participants, but imagine what it must have been like if you actually had to hear it.

In his presidential run, observations were made that Obama seemed less a candidate for office than he did an actor trying out for a role in a play, after being handed an audition script. Masterful at telling people exactly what they want to hear, Obama has maintained this actor’s persona throughout public appearances in the first year of his presidency.

Certainly all the indicators are there: the teleprompters to maintain eye contact; the tennis match back-and-forth from left to right, to address the audience in equal increments; hand gestures to dramatize his rhetorical points; and the long, cool and studied gaze over the heads of congressmen and senators, looking upward to the balcony—hands folded on the lectern—waiting for applause to die down.

The lugubriousness of the drama was offset only by the flibbertygibbety antics of Nancy Pelosi, who could be counted on to be the first to spring from her seat like a jack-in-the-box on sundry applause lines for Democrats.

With manipulative tone and carefully crafted rhetoric, Obama’s performance resembles not so much the obligatory SOTU addresses that presidents make every January; rather, it has eerily taken the cast of televised speeches by certain Latin American caudillos like the Castro brothers, or more recently, Hugo Chavez.

Socialist politicians like Chavez use television as vehicles to hector their opponents in marathon speeches and to stoke passions in their followers, particularly during times of domestic hardships or foreign entanglements. In practice, they try to consolidate their hold on power by stifling dissent, outlawing independent media, nationalizing key industries, manipulating the currency, replacing skilled employees with political cronies, raising taxes and pumping up public spending—ultimately bringing their countries to economic and social ruin.

But does Barack Obama bear any similarities with these guys? First, he has a hard-left background from his early days, as well as a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress that is in thrall to the party’s hard left. Using a rationale based on both real and imagined crises, Obama has been able to aggregate more power to the government by bringing the financial industry—both banking and Wall Street—to heel by either partial ownership/control through taxpayer loans or by threatening punitive regulation.

Obama’s ideological proclivity would be to make the country over through collectivist means instead of free market capitalism. Thus his takeover of General Motors became an excuse to pay favors to the UAW, as well as thump for his “green power” campaign hobbyhorse. The insurance and medical care industries are still in his crosshairs for a thinly disguised government takeover unless the public pushes back even harder against creeping socialized medicine.

At the present time, and given the unsustainable levels of spending and taxation Obama and his party are ramrodding, it is quite clear they are making a concerted effort to take the reins of the economy out of the hands of the people and place them in the hands of the government—regardless of the expressed will of the people.

Then, too, his foreign policy is a shambles, preferring to let fanatic Muslims and militant Islam off the hook, while jetting around the world to declare mea culpas and deliver soothing messages of appeasement to oppressive governments. His decision to bring terrorists to criminal court has raised questions about his sanity, or perhaps, only his motives.

One other thing should be said. Leftist leaders who wish to capture their societies have always done so by developing a cult of personality unto themselves. Like his mentor Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez has often declared that his leftist intentions would be irreparably damaged without himself at the helm. Long before he was elected to the presidency, Obama’s cult of personality started with his personal magnetism, salesmanship and oratory, sustained primarily by a compliant media with its own ideological axe to grind.

While Chavez is a dangerous, authoritarian, thuggish demagogue, Obama is no less destructive and demagogic—but more subtle and manipulative. At the core, though, his beliefs, and the values of the radical coterie that he has surrounded himself with, are anti-American.

The public is beginning to wake up to this danger, if the well-publicized Democratic defeats in Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts are any indication. But while turning off the TV sound is one way to curb Obama’s demagogic power for an evening, a lot more action is going to be needed to mobilize voters to hasten him down the road to a one-term presidency.

Barrett Kalellis is a Michigan-based columnist and writer whose articles appear regularly in various local and national print publications, and has been a featured pundit for several political Web sites.