Saturday, 07 April 2012

Barack Obama: Administrator? The Facts Behind the Fiction

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Edward Mandell HouseOn April 3 Salon.com published an article by Arthur Goldwag that amounts to nothing more or less than a 1,700-word screed whose sole purpose appears to be branding the entire conservative movement as a bunch of “twisted,” gullible, conspiracy kooks who’ll believe anything as long as it comes from the right sources.

In a bit of uncomfortable irony, Goldwag demonstrates his own dearth of intellectual credibility and literary deftness by making one attempt after the other to denigrate a novel and thus deprive it of any possible potency.

Goldwag's target: Philip Dru: Administrator. Story of Tomorrow. Philip Dru is a novel published in 1912, written pseudonymously by Colonel Edward Mandell House (above, left) the previous year.

The book — described by Goldwag (a writer with no history of literary criticism) as a “bad turn-of-the-century novel” and “dated and didactic” — is recognized as a roman à clef political manifesto.

Given the alleged influence of the book, the literary skill of House is of little importance. As anyone who’s ever worked on a car knows, rusty tools often get the job done just as well as shiny new ones.

Or to put it another way, if a man came to you with a map showing the location of an immense treasure and there were several compelling reasons to believe the map was legitimate, would you crumple it up and throw it away simple because the man who delivered it used improper grammar?

The point is — and it is a significant one that somehow eludes Mr. Goldwag — whether or not Colonel House was a talentless hack when it came to writing fiction is immaterial. The only relevant analysis is whether or not the events depicted in his book bear any resemblance whatsoever to our contemporary political landscape and whether such similarities should be seen as a warning to the wary.

Let's briefly chronicle House’s résumé to see if he would be the sort of person with enough access and influence to endow his book with any added value, beyond that of an ordinary novel purporting to paint a dystopian picture of the future.

Edward Mandell House was an enigmatic man with undeniable ties to Wall Street and the oil industry. Of more importance to our present purpose, however, is the extraordinary influence exerted by House on President Woodrow Wilson.

In his book The Strangest Friendship in History: Woodrow Wilson and Colonel House, author George Sylvester Viereck aptly summarized the men’s relationship:

For seven long years, Colonel House was Woodrow Wilson's other self. For six long years he shared with him everything but the title of Chief Magistracy of the Republic. For six years, two rooms were at his disposal in the north wing of the White House. It was House who made the slate for the Cabinet, formulated the first policies of the Administration, and practically directed the foreign affairs of the United States.

Colonel House was very much the model of the modern corps of White House czars that have been granted expansive powers by the current occupant of the Oval Office.

Those who carry out their surreptitious missions under the cover provided by the long shadows of the powerful (namely, the Council on Foreign Relations founded by House himself) were so impressed by Colonel House's successful efforts at manipulating the President, they eventually stamped his role with the imprimatur of officialdom through the establishment of the National Security Council. Since its inception in 1947, every American president has been subject to the direction and demands of the cadre of advisors that compose the NSC's apparatus.

Now, in order to compare House’s protagonist to Barack Obama one needs to be familiar with the plot of Philip Dru: Administrator. To that end, I've written a brief synopsis:

In House's book, Philip Dru hatches a plot to wrest control of the government from those he believes are ruining the Republic. Dru’s ultimate goal is to install himself as "administrator" of the nation (a sort of benevolent dictator) endowed with plenipotentiary powers to enact his agenda, a roster of programs that includes an income tax, a social security plan, a central banking system, and a global governing body designed to preserve international security through the apparatus of a collective world congress.

Specifically, Dru's aim was to create a government in the United States that reflected the "socialism as dreamed by Karl Marx" married with a "spiritual element" that would serve as a delicate velvet glove around the iron fist of absolutism.

While Barack Obama certainly espouses positions that seem eerily similar to those of Administrator Dru, a more convincing argument for the identification of House’s book as a sort of Sibylline Scroll guiding the actions of Presidents past, present, and future will only be made by providing particular parallels between Dru's platform and those of recent administrations.

For our first example, consider the case of the aforementioned czars so prevalent in the Obama administration. Are these czars not the very essence of the “administrator” as defined by Dru in House’s book? Do they not oversee vast amounts of territory under the jurisdiction of the federal government? According to most estimates (and given their rapid proliferation an estimate isn’t easy to make), President Obama has named over 36 czars, at least 31 of which are actively carrying out his commands. That is quite the notorious accomplishment given that that exceeds the total number of czars who ruled Imperial Russia during its entire history.

Next, consider this statement from page 222 of Philip Dru: Administrator:

Our Constitution and our laws served us well for the first 100 years of our existence, but under the conditions of today, they are not only obsolete, but even grotesque.

Dru was speaking of his frustration that the limited government established by the Constitution was hampering his efforts to redistribute wealth according to his Marxist vision of equality. 

With that in mind, read what Barack Obama, then a state lawmaker, told a Chicago radio station during an interview conducted in 2001:

But, the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and of more basic issues such as political and economic justice in society.... The Constitution is a charter of negative liberties. Says what the states can’t do to you. Says what the federal government can’t do to you, but doesn’t say what the federal government or state government must do on your behalf.

Then, bemoaning the failure of the civil rights movement to ignore the courts and effect a more grassroots approach to changing society, Obama laments that the Constitution (“as interpreted”) prevents the creation of an “actual coalition of powers through which you bring about redistributive change” and the United States, he declares, “still suffers” from the restraints placed on that power by the Constitution.

Still not convinced? Here’s another example.

An essential step on Philip Dru’s path to converting America into a socialist utopia was placing a government representative on the board of all businesses in the country so as to dismantled the capitalist chokehold on corporations. Colonel House (through the character of Dru) declared that the United States was “debased by the power of wealth, under the thin guise of the constitutional protection of property.”

In order to facilitate the rapid implementation of every plank of his platform, Dru ignored Congress, decrying it as a hindrance to codifying his version of “good laws.”

Is there any way to deny that as President, Barack Obama has all but nationalized the automobile industry, installing proxies for the new federal owners on every board of directors? 

And, as evidence of the President’s disdain for the Constitution’s grant to Congress of exclusive legislative power, consider the article published  in 2010 by the New York Times informing readers that President Obama was fed up trying to convince, cajole, and compromise with the Republican Party in order to garner its rubber-stamp enshrinement of his legislative legacy. In his exasperation, he decides to rule by fiat.

Although candidate and erstwhile populist Candidate Obama criticized (and rightly so) former President Bush for his dictatorial usurpation of legislative power via the signing statement, President Obama's own personal experience with the mounting congressional resistance to his agenda has given him second thoughts about the utility of these controversial codas.

As was further reported by The New American, from the beginning of his administration, President Obama has sidestepped congressional impediments to the achievement of his legislative goals by using executive orders and signing statements.

Finally, so that all Americans might be equal, Administrator Dru enacts regulations placing “the property and lives of all” within  his benevolent bailiwick. Then, in order to assure that this mission was accomplished without delay or dilution, Dru proclaimed himself the ultimate source of all applicable laws. (See pages 154, 221).

Every unbiased observer would be forced to admit that since the hour of his inauguration, President Barack Obama has done everything in his power (and beyond it) to insinuate the federal government into every facet of life and to diminish and destroy the principle of private property.

So, despite Mr. Goldwag’s smear of conservatives as closeted anti-Semites and reactionary racists, the fact remains that the edifice of federal policies being constructed by Barack Obama is undeniably faithful to the blueprint drawn over a century ago by Edward Mandell House.

Photo: Edward Mandell House

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