Obama speech

The Obama Speech:

This was a tremendously good speech. Read it, for speeches are better to be read than heard, as you can more easily separate the ideas from the rhetorical ability -- and it is the ideas that matter.

Let's talk about it. I think the core question is here: what, to judge from the speech, is the role of the American nation in Obama's view?

It is his starting point: "to form a more perfect union." He declares that he intends to be on the side of "the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag."

He has hard words only for one group: corporations. Here, too, he invokes an American patriotism of a sort -- he says he will punish companies that might ship jobs to non-Americans.

He very carefully avoids mention of immigration, eliding "Hispanics" into his section on health care and education in a way that makes clear he is talking about American citizens. He denounces the view that people should worry about their jobs being taken by someone who doesn't look like them, but again in terms that are not about immigration.

By phrasing it in terms of 'other Americans,' he avoids what I think may be a difficult problem: addressing the question of why Americans should hate corporations that ship jobs to Mexico, but be unbothered by illegal immigration that likewise replaces American workers with Mexican ones. As far as I can tell, the effect on the American worker is the same, except for the fact that illegal immigration requires those workers who do still have jobs to pay higher taxes that support the 'health care' and 'education' of the illegals.

The rule, then, is that America is meant to bring us all together: everyone in America, citizen or not, legal or not.

This is isolationism. Everyone in America is "in" -- the rest of the world is "out," and will be treated as such.

Iraqis are out -- we should bring the troops who fight together home, and forget the cause they fought for.

The third world is out -- sorry, Kenya -- for they are the primary beneficiaries of outsourcing, and access to the American market. Since the only way to preserve those jobs in America is to apply punitive tariffs on African or Indian goods, the poorest of the poor will lose.

Not all outsiders will lose; we know he wants to have talks with Iran and North Korea without preconditions. Iran, indeed, is apt to benefit greatly from a combination of American withdrawal from Iraq, and easy talks on their nuclear program. As in Africa but writ large, the brutal who are strong enough to take what they want will prosper.

With one exception. China loses, although his promised cuts in American defense -- and with it, any hope of containing an expansive China -- are a bonus for them. Yet the danger to their economy from punitive tariffs is such that it could cause a genuine social collapse. China's rapid economic expansion has left them with high expectations to meet, yet those expectations are really based on American-Chinese trade. This week's riots in China will be a tiny taste of what would happen if the Communists could suddenly no longer provide the growth and hope that the Chinese have come to expect.

A destabilized China and Middle East -- with Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey tugging at a failing Iraq -- is the legacy of such a policy. An Africa suffering from redoubled poverty and the murderous wars that accompany it there is another.

Will it buy a few more years of internal comfort and self-righteousness, before the twin crises of Social Security and Federal pensions come due? That I cannot say; but if Europe, which seems to be the model, is any indication -- yes. People are very good at being self-absorbed. We can be, too.

Or we can try to help mankind. America is rich; much has been given to us. Much is expected. Walking away from that responsibility would create a whirlwind that would, indeed, reshape the world.

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