Note From the Publisher

Obama Can’t Get Past the Past

By From the December 2011 - January 2012 issue

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Religion and american politics are intertwined in many ways, and there is unending concern, largely among his opponents, that a politician’s religious background will interfere with his judgment, affect his decisions and his appointments, and otherwise get in the way of his exercise of power. Mitt Romney’s critics constantly worry about his Mormonism, the mainstream press incessantly refers to the Evangelical influences on Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry, and Herman Cain is criticized for his ties to the Christian Right, although in a restrained way because he comes from the black Baptist tradition responsible for the civil rights movement and the "social justice" tradition of Martin Luther King, Jr.

But what if a presidential candidate’s religious authority preached anti-Semitism, opposed interracial marriage, and believed that HIV was designed by the U.S. government as a way of shrinking the black population? It would be off limits, is what would happen.

Well, we think it should be part of the debate, and so we continue our examination of some of President Obama’s old friends and colleagues with a well-researched piece on the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s pastor of 20 years from Chicago, who made a cameo appearance in the 2008 campaign and quickly disappeared. The American Spectator’s young reporter, Charles Johnson, dug deep into the archives in and around Chicago for information about the good Reverend that had escaped Hillary Clinton and John McCain in 2008 (Hillary was the candidate who first exposed Obama’s ties to Rev. Wright), and escaped the media as well. Mr. Johnson read every one of Wright’s sermons, his history of the church, all press accounts in mainstream and black media outlets, and much more.

Nobody knows for sure whether Obama shares Wright’s views, but we do know that those beliefs make the religious influences on conservative candidates that scare the bejeezus out of the media look pretty mild in comparison. But what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, and we think a harder look by the electorate at the good Reverend Wright would be well worthwhile.

The constant drumbeat we hear from Obama these days may not come from the Reverend Wright, but is taken right out of FDR’s playbook: redistribute the wealth by taxing the rich and get reelected by instituting class warfare. Burt and Anita Folsom, authors of a new book on the FDR administration, write that the rationale for the New Deal’s tax schemes has been bought hook, line, and sinker by the Obamaites, and that we should expect similar results. By 1945, marginal rates on incomes of more than $500,000 had shot to 98.7 percent—from 25 percent before FDR was elected -- and Roosevelt made no bones about campaigning against the rich for not paying their "fair share." But what Obama has failed to learn, or at least ignores, is that the results of FDR’s tax policies were a disaster: among other shortcomings, when top rates were raised to 79 percent in 1935, revenue into the federal treasury was half what it had been in 1929, when top rates were only 24 percent.

Politically, of course, class warfare worked for Roosevelt. And Obama believes it will work well for him. But like so many other things, there is a great deal about America that Obama does not understand. As Ronald Reagan wisely said, "Since when do we in America accept this alien and discredited theory of social and class warfare? Since when do we in America endorse the politics of envy and division?" Let us hope that the American people are still with Ronald Reagan. 

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About the Author

Alfred S. Regnery is a former publisher of The American Spectator. He is the former president and publisher of Regnery Publishing, Inc., which produced twenty-two New York Times bestsellers during his tenure. Regnery also served in the Justice Department during the Reagan Administration, worked on the U.S. Senate staff, and has been in private law practice.  He currently serves on several corporate and non-profit boards, and is the Chairman of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute .