The Wall Street Journal reported this past week that President Obama is going forward with an on-again-off-again measure to review the myriad ways in which various policies of Executive bureaus may be hampering economic growth and inflating the cost of doing business. Despite the administration’s insistence that the policy is nothing new, merely the continuation of measures taken since his inauguration that had yet to be recognized, the truth seems to be an interesting window into the president’s political tactics and the indecisive pandering in which it has engaged through one too many crises.
One message seems to ring clear through all of the political smoke and mirrors: the president is a friend to business. And to regulation. He is an ally to industry, as well as to environmentalists. He is concerned about the rising cost of living in America, including high gas prices, but when given the opportunity allows the Department of the Interior to attempt a complete shut down of even the safest and most fully-functioning offshore drilling rigs. He is sensitive to the fact that the success of small businesses and the improvement of retail sales figures are crucial to economic recovery, but has taken the recession as an opportunity to attempt to raise taxes on the owners of those businesses as well as create a new “consumer advocacy” bureau to be led by an official indefinitely appointed without senate approval. Now, it seems, the president who stated last year that he believes that “at a certain point, you’ve made enough money” is making his concern for the well-being of corporate America a subject of discussion. As the locus of power has shifted to the right, after a year of endorsing his party in their numerous (and continuing) attempts to subvert legislative procedure, he is extending a hand across the aisle on numerous issues and asking that we set aside the last two years of our history to join in the spirit of reconciliation.
Most evidently, his recent shift in tactics speaks to his anticipation of the 2012 elections, his desire to appear as more of a moderate, and his fear of having Democratic victories of the past year overturned by a now enlivened and vociferous Right. Another more primary trait which it accentuates, however, is the remarkable pragmatism of his administration— such that, knowing the extent of the impositions which it was to enact upon American businessmen in coming years, it had already written into being (though never truly pursued) a last-ditch initiative to investigate and half-heartedly quell policies within the executive branch which might be construed as contrary to the well-being of business. The measure is clearly the equivalent of a political insurance policy so that, should popular opinion turn against the president and he should be viewed as antithetical to American enterprise, they might invoke the order and claim that they had been a pro-business administration all the while, that we had all been ignorant to the true nature of their aims. It is a fascinating look at an administration’s efforts to test precisely how broad is the spectrum of beliefs to which one can attest without luring accusations of hypocrisy and how deep are the bounds of Americans’ gullibility.
Principles— that is, moral principles— are, by definition, immobile. They are the constants around which revolve our many beliefs, conceptions, and assertions and which define to what end we devote our lives and our life’s work. No individual— and no administration— which attempts to succeed upon the agility with which they can reconstitute themselves in any given circumstance or political climate can claim to be working toward a specific ideal. President Obama, in the course of his last campaign, was decried as a dogmatist, an extremist, a radical. It pains me to tell you that the truth is far more sinister to the principles upon which America was founded. He is a pragmatist in the classical philosophic sense. Where a dogmatist, even a Marxist extremist or Islamic fundamentalist, can be debated and dispelled decisively, since they each adhere firmly to fixed and unmoving beliefs, a pragmatist evades any attempt to clearly define his words and actions even to himself and, as such, seeks no clear and final goal. He is subject to the opinions and inclinations of the moment and is thus rendered incapable of the sort of decisive leadership required for true achievement. If America is to set itself upon the path to recovery, to achievement, and to the realization of its potential, it is the intellectual cancer of pragmatism which must be eradicated from our education systems, our political systems, and from our own pathologies. We must remember always that the road to nowhere is paved in moderation.