In what is becoming the most pedagogic Presidency in memory, President Obama has demonstrated his fondness for putting on his rhetorical tweed jacket and lecturing the people who put him in office. His professorial roots are ostentatiously displayed on issues across the political spectrum, but no phrase of his is more threadbare than his labeling of something as “the right thing to do”. Despite the fact that this statement is devoid of meaning in the morally-relativist world in which President Obama believes he lives, he seems to use it daily for one subject or another.
We were told that passing his healthcare law was “the right thing to do”. Offering amnesty and federal benefits to the children of illegal immigrants via his DREAM Act was also “the right thing to do”. As was extending the tax credits for so-called clean energy companies. Right-things-to-do also include making the tuition tax credit permanent, supporting No Child Left Behind, the repeal of DADT, re-upping the Payroll Tax, and supporting clean energy initiatives, or at least that’s what we have been told. Most recently, he has pontificated to the American people that exerting military might against the Syrian government is “the right thing to do”.
How trite has this phrase of his become? In a 2010 speech in Youngstown, Ohio, the President used the phrase 18 times in one speech, including 9 times in a 200-word stretch at the end of his written remarks. It’s enough to make one wonder if there is anything which isn’t the right thing to do, but of course we know the answer to that question. The unspoken assertion which accompanies the-right-thing-to-do designation is that acting against the President’s suggestion is the-wrong-thing-to-do. So opposition to Obamacare, the DREAM Act, repealing DADT, attacking Syria, or really anything President Obama supports, becomes effort exerted for the “wrong thing”. This is a subtle but effective tactic which he uses to great effect.
It allows him to frame the topic at hand in terms of absolute morality, while he keeps his foot in the camp of moral relativism. If he were a more intellectual man, it could be credited to him as a brilliant political maneuver, but since his particular brand of cunning spawns from the Chicago School of Politics it’s more likely that his stance is pragmatic rather than strategic. On issues ranging from abortion to homosexuality, the President has clearly demonstrated that he believes controversial issues are to be determined by one’s own morality which has been shaped and developed by life’s experiences. Certainly his own “evolution” on the issue of same-sex marriage has demonstrated that his view of morality is subject to change. Yet he patronizes the American public with statements that blatantly assert that there exists a right thing to do!
So which is it, Mr. President? If your innumerable statements are true, then it means absolute morality exists. It means that there is indeed a “right” thing to do, which in turn means that there is a “wrong” thing to do as well. So let’s have that conversation. Too often, a fawning media and rubber-stamp intelligentsia have given this maneuver a pass, when it should be acknowledged and questioned:
— “How do you determine the right thing to do, Mr. President?”
— “Who’s ‘right’ are we talking about here? Is this the right thing for all Americans? If so, how do you know? What is the source of this conviction?”
— “If absolute morality exists, as your position is affirming that you believe, can we revisit some of your more ambiguous policy positions which seem to be based on the presumption that morality is relative to the individual?”
— “For instance, when you state that abortion is a personal choice which you support, are you taking the position that a) abortion is only right or wrong according to each individual’s personal beliefs, or b) abortion is a moral good for America? I will advise you that selecting Option A will invalidate the 3,000 times you’ve called something the-right-thing-to-do.”
— “ If there is a right-thing-to-do when faced with the choice between extending the payroll tax holiday or not, then there is certainly a right-thing-to-do when faced with the choice of having a doctor kill a baby in a womb or not.”
For too long this type of intellectual dalliance has been tolerated without challenge. We have allowed our ideological opponents to dictate the terms of our engagement and they have done so in a manner which assures their victory. What choice has the President left those who oppose his proposed course of action? The opposition is forced to choose between absconding from their ideological position or affirming support for something which has been labeled the-wrong-thing-to-do.
It is the equivalent of a baseball team which instructs the umpire to give the tie to the runner when they’re batting and to give the tie to the defense when they’re fielding. Sadly, the umps in our game are all too willing to allow this arrangement and our team manager is too incompetent to protest. It’s up to the American people to rail against the inconsistencies of moral relativism and if that doesn’t work, to evict our manager in favor of someone who has the stones to do his job.