Over the weekend, Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer spoke at the National Review Institute Summit in Washington, D.C. During a question-and-answer session, he was asked if he thought President Barack Obama would attempt to hand-pick his successor in order to help guide the country down a path to “socialism.”
Krauthammer began his response by advising against using that term.
“I would just caution you about using the word, ‘socialism,’” Krauthammer said. “The reason is it is too broad a term. It encompasses all kinds of socialism, including the nasty totalitarian examples — the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic, Cuba, Korea.”
“I just would caution you to use the word ‘social democrat’ because that is what he is. … He is not an acolyte of the ‘Communist Manifesto.’ He is in the tradition of the, you know, the quite remarkable and respectable social democrats in Europe. [The] Labor Party, I think, would be a good example, a good counterpart.”
“So, I am just a little wary about using that,” Krauthammer continued. “I think you ought to identify him as somebody whose ideal is a society more European, which he sees as a more just society where there’s less inequality. So I think we ought to give him the kind of respect for his ideology that he denies our side in looking at our ideology and the set of ideas that we believe in.”
Krauthammer said it was less important whether Obama chose his successesor and more crucial what kind of groundwork he would lay for him or her.
“I think Obama, just seeing what he is doing, I think he thinks that he sees himself as a Reagan-like president,” he said, “and I quoted in my column this morning a statement he made in 2008 which I found utterly fascinating, where he said that Ronald Reagan was consequential historically in a way that Clinton was not.”
“And what he meant is that Reagan himself had changed the ideological trajectory of the country, which had been for a half a century on a liberal ideological trajectory, and he changed it almost overnight, which led to a 30-year conservative ascendency. And I think the evidence of that ascendency is the fact that smack-dab in the middle of it, halfway between Reagan’s inaugural and Obama’s second inaugural, you had a president of the Democratic Party who declared the era of big government is over, accepting the premises of the Reagan revolution and then abolishing welfare, in fact.”
Krauthammer reiterated a point he had made on the day of Obama’s second inauguration: that Obama sought to declare the end of Reaganism with his speech.
“So I think he sees himself as a man who will reverse that course. He started with Obamacare, he’s continued it with the stimulus and the ratcheting up of the amount of spending the government is doing, historically high for peacetime since World War II,” Krauthammer said.
“I think he sees his next step is to raise the levels of taxation in order that it would meet the levels of spending. Because if you want European levels of entitlements in the country, you’re going to have to eventually have European levels of taxation.”
“So he sees himself as establishing the foundations of the more social democratic society,” he said.
“And I think he thinks he can do enough in the two terms that that will establish that, so regardless of who succeeds him, it will be established. And I think our task as conservatives is to understand exactly what he wants to do, how he wants to do it, to give it a modicum of respect and understanding as to where that tradition originates, and to say that we think the United States is different fundamentally from Europe — historically and culturally and politically. That we put much more emphasis on the individual, on liberty versus equality. There is a reason that in the New York Harbor there’s a Statue of Liberty — it’s not a Statue of Equality.”
Krauthammer urged conservatives to make a case for liberty and its benefits in order to defeat the President’s agenda.
“We have a sense that when we develop the individual and strengthen civil society, we will emerge with a more free — and in the end a more equal — society in terms of opportunity, openness and fairness,” he said.
“So I think that is the case we ought to make. We ought to take this task on seriously and to make the ideological, the intellectual argument. And if we do it well, and appeal to the more American individualistic tradition, we will succeed. And that’s the reason for my optimism, which is sort of independent of who the individuals are who present the case on the other side of here. But we simply have to make the case. If we do, we will win.”