Last Updated:January 28 @ 11:57 am

Harsanyi: Are Obama's Ideas Un-American?

By David Harsanyi

It seems that one of Mitt Romney's top surrogates, John Sununu, recently gave us a guided tour of the life cycle of a political gaffe.

First, he wished that President Barack Obama "would learn how to be an American," and then he amended the comment with a "what-I-really-meant-was" clarification, and finally, he surrendered, as they almost always do, by saying, "I made a mistake."

But did he? You don't have to be a birth certificate conspiracy kook to ponder the question. After all, we're no longer debating whether government should just be huge or whether it should be ginormous anymore. We're not really wrangling over what levels of debt or spending are acceptable. The president's central case rests on the idea that individuals should view government as society's moral center, the engine of prosperity and the arbiter of fairness. Traditionally speaking, that's not a very American notion.

Surely, he's not the first president to think it, but he's probably the first to say it -- and he says it over and over again. Take Obama's recent remarks to a crowd in Roanoke, Va.: "Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business -- you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn't get invented on its own."

Supporters protested that Republicans were highlighting one line from the text, unfairly portraying Obama's comments as an attack on business owners (which they were). But the broader context of the remark is even worse, because it's the president's definition of "this unbelievable American system" that's the real problem.

Employing Obama's logic, one could argue that nearly everything the president uses in his everyday life exists only because of so-called profit-mongering and selfishness -- most often in spite of government. The Internet languished for years in obscurity because government is rarely sensitive to the needs of consumers. And does anyone believe that individuals working together voluntarily (maybe with the help of some fat cat private equity firms) would not have come up with similar technology -- or that they would be unable to build bridges or roads themselves?

Obama has it all backward. It is the charity of a prosperous free society that allows people to become community organizers or attain "free" health care. Washington rarely helps the free market prosper, but a prosperous private sector is what allows Washington to throw billions of dollars into unproductive but morally pleasing environmental projects and dependency programs favored by the president. Society needs the rule of law to function, not another parent.

Of course, Obama is not the first class warrior in politics. But has there ever been a major presidential campaign focused almost exclusively on ginning up class envy and fear (Teddy Roosevelt's third-party run excluded)? The attack on Romney also, almost exclusively, entails calling out the guy for being rich and then relying on the assumption that you can only get that wealthy by being corrupt.

Sununu's comment was crudely put and too personal, but Obama's ideas do conflict with the traditional understanding of individual freedom. That said, there is nothing inherently wrong about pondering foreign ideas; almost all of ours are imported, after all. Early on, we pruned them, codified them and worked those ideas to our advantage. Most politicians express them in various ways; few follow through and protect them. The president, though, is arguing for a pretty drastic change to our stated -- oftentimes unpracticed -- philosophical understanding of government's role in our economic lives.

So if not un-American, the ideas that propel Obama's re-election campaign are certainly unprecedented.


David Harsanyi is a columnist and senior reporter at Human Events. Follow him on Twitter @davidharsanyi.


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  1. billwvComment by billwv
    July 19, 2012 @ 1:04 pm

    Ozero has a no-accomplishment re-election campaign. If he runs on his record; only the liberals will vote for him [but fewer and fewer]. He cannot rely on independents; who have seen what his failed administration has done to the economy. And he is actually under water in his bid to do anything to resurrect employment opportunities. Everything that this man touches has the reverse Midas touch [instead of gold --- ****]. If the white house was a commode; it needs a good flushing: hold down the handle.

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    • joereinhartComment by joereinhart
      July 19, 2012 @ 10:15 pm

      Problem is, there are enough liberals and welfare recipients to re-elect Obama. For rational people, this seems like an absurd statement, but young people…by and large, have never learned to quantify and qualify the statements of the media, the BBC and Yahoo liberals, they take the volume of liberals, the shear noise they make, as certain confirmation that their fantasy world is only one election away!

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  2. PATRIOTComment by PATRIOT
    July 19, 2012 @ 1:05 pm

    Obama’s ideas are not only un-American but also extremely hostile to everything pertaining to traditional America! This garbage about no one being able to become successful without the weight of the government boot is garbage! The government created roads, bridges and the internet with our money. You heard me right — our tax money. As a business owner I paid taxes to the government and they used my money to create these things. Therefore I paid my way, just like other taxpayers and we owe the government nothing. The debt has already been paid by the taxpayers many times over.

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    • joelinpdxComment by joelinpdx
      July 19, 2012 @ 3:46 pm

      Interesting comments in this clip from Adam Corolla…He asks when it became so wrong to be successful. (NSFW: Contains the ‘F’ word and the ‘S’ word)

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    • thedoveComment by thedove
      July 19, 2012 @ 4:24 pm

      “The debt has already been paid by the taxpayers many times over.”

      And by the blood of patriots who fought to defend a system of less government, not more.

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  3. cjonsonComment by cjonson
    July 19, 2012 @ 3:06 pm

    What about tolls? Not only were bridges and roads built with tax money, but we also pay tolls which are collected to pay for the financing of the bridge, the maintenance of it or just to generate more “revenue” for the state.

    The president’s comment were just ridiculous and the explanation given by Democrats was even more ridiculous trying to say Obama said something completely different than what he said.

    None of it made sense. It was just a complete insult to people who took a risk to start a business. Just look at the restaurant business. How many people open and close restaurants within a year? They risk and many can’t make it out of the first year.

    Obama wants to take the credit away from those who are able to succeed through hard work and good management and yeah maybe some good fortune, but that is life. Nothing is fair. Timing, location, different things out of people’s control can affect whether or not their business is successful.

    To insult those who did take a risk is just foolish.

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  4. joelinpdxComment by joelinpdx
    July 19, 2012 @ 3:41 pm

    Actually, I think un-American works just fine. I understand Sununu’s walk back on his comments…he had to put up with the MSM, after all. Note: I said I understand it, I don’t agree with it. Obozo is an un-American piece of trash (read: S**t).

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  5. roncdeweijzeComment by roncdeweijze
    July 19, 2012 @ 3:50 pm

    Not many are allowed to grow up in public, but sometimes it is necessary when your crib was not in America and your educators did not believe in the American system, unless it changed.

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  6. FlaJimComment by FlaJim
    July 19, 2012 @ 4:20 pm

    He’s not un-American, he’s anti-American. He hates our country and his every action proves that.

    And, by the way, Harsanyl, birth certificate doubters are not kooks. The posted birth certificate is demonstrably counterfeit — a fraud. Just as its subject is.

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  7. thedoveComment by thedove
    July 19, 2012 @ 4:21 pm

    “and finally, he surrendered, as they almost always do, by saying, ‘I made a mistake.’”

    And therein lies the problem. Come on, conservative “leaders,” start standing your ground. Obama is not an American in his thinking, which is what the comment addressed. Why run away from calling attention to a truth?

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  8. Wissle60Comment by Wissle60
    July 19, 2012 @ 4:23 pm

    “You don’t have to be a birth certificate conspiracy kook to ponder the question. ” I don’t think I’m a Kook, and I think there is something up with the B.C.! Too much smoke for there not to be. It doesn’t have to have anything to do with Kenya, but there is something being hidden!
    That being said, I agree – all of his ideas are very un-American; but then look at his upbringing! Very un-American!

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  9. dbamichaelComment by dbamichael
    July 19, 2012 @ 4:36 pm


    “…Sununu’s comment was crudely put and too personal…”

    Sununu’s original comment was aptly put, I’m done with this politically correct, play nice c r a p. PC ideology has done as much damage to this country as Obama’s politics.

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  10. jruss45Comment by jruss45
    July 19, 2012 @ 4:37 pm

    Everything Obama has done has been in full compliance with with United Nations Agenda 21 that calls for the abolition of national sovereignty and the establishment of a ‘New World Order’ where the United Nations controls all the air, water, land, food, medicine and money of the World. Yes, the differences between the New World Order and our Constitution are as different as night and day, black and white, Slavery and freedom of choice [Agency].

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  11. cxComment by genesal
    July 19, 2012 @ 4:54 pm

    Of course he’s un-American, he’s an alien, from which planet I’m not sure. Probably came thru a ‘worm hole’.

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    • joelinpdxComment by joelinpdx
      July 19, 2012 @ 8:26 pm

      Good for a laugh Gen.

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  12. Spiritof76Comment by Spiritof76
    July 19, 2012 @ 6:16 pm

    The title reveals the timidity of the conversation or writing that constantly takes place in the conservative media. It is like asking, “Are communist ideas anti-American?”. Why can’t we recognize a spade a spade. Obama hates American as founded because his ideology fits communist ideology, shaped by his mentor, Frank Marshall Davis and all his friends and associates. Very few people on our side are asking, where are his records, why are they sealed and what is he hiding? Only Dnald Trump has the guts to pose those questions publically. I don’t see any mention here of Obama’s forged birth certificate and Sheriff Arapio’s investigation.

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    • niloc45ukComment by niloc45uk
      July 20, 2012 @ 4:36 am

      Get ral and knoew the acts. You will not get rich with Romney’s trickle down economics policy. Look at the facts my friend and get wise. George Bush tried it and failed. Squandering the record surplus from Clinton in tax cuts. Reagan and Clinton taxed the rich and everyone prospered, even the rich got richer, because ordinary people had more money to spend. So dont be fooled. Romneynomics only gut the middle class and enrich the super rich. Their tax break only goes to their swiss bank account. While they increase theit wealth 300% , the midddle class income declined. Tax cuts does not create jobs. Only demand for goods and services influence businesses to hire people and that happens only when the middleclass has disposible income to spend on goods and services.

      Look at the facts, listen to both sides and pick sence from nonsence. Romney cannot run on his record as governor, neither can he as a businessman. I dare him to show his tax returns , because they will only proove that he is not all that patriotic. Just another rich guy who thinks that ordinary americans wants to live off the government and his precious tax dollars is all too important to the job creators. Where are the jobs ? you got your tax break, so where are the jobs. Its time to wise up and support this president and make “America land we love” prosper again.

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    • BillzillaComment by Billzilla
      July 20, 2012 @ 10:31 am

      “Get ral and knoew the acts. You will not get rich with Romney’s trickle down economics policy. Look at the facts my friend and get wise. George Bush tried it and failed. Squandering the record surplus from Clinton in tax cuts. Reagan and Clinton taxed the rich and everyone prospered, even the rich got richer, because ordinary people had more money to spend.”

      Since you must have recently arrived here from another planet, ignorant of the real facts here in the USA, causing you to post nonsense, such as the drivel above: Welcome to Earth, but please obtain a real education, and learn to spell, before posting such tripe.

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    • FlaJimComment by FlaJim
      July 20, 2012 @ 10:57 am

      Nilo(whatever), you’re a knucklehead and obviously oblivious to history and view facts as enemies. I suppose you believe in trickle up economics as peopel on the public teat splash it all up or some similar convoluted idea. You clearly dlept through both basic English and Economics classes before dropping out of school in the 6th grade at the age of 23.

      The tax cuts engineered by Reagan resulted in the creation of millions of jobs and the biggest boom in the economy since the 20s and it lasted over a quarter of a century. The Bush tax cuts rescued a moribund economy following 9/11.

      The uncertainty of the market since the current unpredictable nitwit occupied the White House has produce a stagnant economy since no one knows what the next new set of rules will hold. That’s purposeful since the neo-Marxist hates America and wants to destroy it. He’s America’s primary enemy.

      Anyone applauding the compaigner in chief and urging him on is an enemy as well. You’re in that group.

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  13. joereinhartComment by joereinhart
    July 20, 2012 @ 6:00 am


    niloc45uk…let me guess, the birthplace of the stiff upper lip (and quivering lower one)The country that claims, as it’s sole contribution to world cuisine…The Chip.
    You advise me to “Get ral” and “knoew the acts.”
    Wow! Did your ancestor like…invent this language or something?

    Tell, why should anyone listen to an angry Englishman when it comes to the presidential vote? Need I remind you, you Queen, the one who subscribed to “Blacks on Blondes” as a political expediency…is DEAD?

    You English, we saved your butts twice and if not for America you would ALL SPEAK GERMAN, but still, there you are, angry because America was bold enough to “leave your Empire!”

    Tiny angry Englishmen…so tiresome.

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  14. lindaComment by linda
    July 20, 2012 @ 10:11 am

    Please don’t refer to people who are troubled by the initially-missing birth certificate, then later the fake one provided last year, as “conspiracy kooks.” These people are legitimately concerned that we may have a president who is ineligible to hold the office. The Constitution matters!

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