A Further Perspective

Austin and Guantanamo: A Lesson in Responsibility

Liberalism and a pilot: Why Obama is wrong about Guantanamo.

By 2.19.10

"During the presidential campaign last year, Mr. Obama railed against the detention complex on an American military base in Cuba, calling it a symbol used by terrorists to recruit new members. Within days of his inauguration, he ordered Guantánamo closed by January."
-- New York Times,
November 18, 2009

"We are responsible for what we are."
-- Jean Paul Sartre, 1939


What are we really seeing in Austin, Texas? 

The proverbial and admittedly overused but still accurate phrase: a teachable moment.

President Obama believes Guantanamo, which imprisons military combatants captured on the battlefield (also known as the world), is, as the Times faithfully reported, "a symbol used by terrorists to recruit new members."

Yesterday, one Joseph Stack flew a plane into an office building that housed an IRS office. In a lengthy screed discovered in the aftermath, Stack blamed the IRS for his actions.

Which raised instantly the question: are President Obama and American liberals at fault for the actions of Mr. Stack?

After all, the President and his liberal allies have made it abundantly clear in the last year that they intend to plunge Americans into so much debt that there will be nothing left to do, in the view of millions of Americans, than raise taxes. Beginning with those who earn more than $250,000 a year, but not limited to that if one is familiar with all the proposed taxes out there on everything from soda (New York) to sex (Nevada -- but of course.) That doesn't even count the myriad of state and local income, property, corporation, inheritance and other taxes in a list it takes H&R Block 24 hours a day to even begin to understand. And taxes, of course, is the raison d'être for the very existence of the iconic American symbol of the tax collector -- the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS.

Mr. Stack's target.

The logic is inescapable. If Guantanamo is a symbol that so infuriates terrorists to violence and this is therefore, a justification for closing it -- hey, you don't want to encourage those terrorists, do you? --obviously an IRS that so infuriated Mr. Stack should be closed as well.

And the President who wishes to put more and more of the income of Americans in a position to be collected by the IRS -- is responsible for making the IRS into that symbol.



The problem here, beginning at this moment with Mr. Obama but certainly not limited to him, is a refusal to acknowledge that we -- that would be all of us walking the planet -- need to take responsibility for what we do. Which means whether you are hunched in a cave in Afghanistan, living in the White House, having a disagreement with the IRS or are engaged in any of a limitless number of human actions anywhere in the world you, yes you, are responsible for what you do.

Those who would remove this responsibility are always easy to spot. This "X made me do it" doctrine has in fact become one of the hallmarks of modern liberalism that has, in response, driven the success of the conservative movement, many of whose most active and prominent activists are currently gathered in Washington for the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. In 1995 following the Oklahoma bombing, to cite but one example, President Clinton sought to blame the actions of Timothy McVeigh on conservative talk radio, which is to say You Know Who. It was bizarre, if not pathetic, and was troubling evidence of a man for whom the concept of personal responsibility seemed difficult to grasp. Three years later this proved to be all too accurate an assessment as Mr. Clinton initially sought to blame his Monica Lewinsky woes on everybody else, from (in Mrs. Clinton's memorable phrase) a "vast right wing conspiracy" to Ken Starr to, yes indeed, this very publication and its loveable founder and editor, R. Emmett Tyrrell.. Just in the last few days, a new book by Duquesne University law school professor Ken Gormley has Mr. Clinton still doing this over a decade later. In fact, it was the then-President's own actions which caused the problem, just as it was the actions of Timothy McVeigh -- not anyone or anything else -- that caused the Oklahoma City bombing.

Contrary to President Obama's assertions, no one at Guantanamo Bay is responsible for recruiting terrorists. Terrorists are responsible for recruiting themselves. Period. There was no Guantanamo Bay prison on the morning of 9/11 -- but the terrorists came anyway. 

So too were the Jews of 1920s Germany not responsible for the actions of Adolf Hitler – a responsibility for the world's most spectacular example of evil that belonged to, of course, Hitler himself. It was not JFK's anti-communism that killed him, it was Lee Harvey Oswald. Not Martin Luther King's civil rights activism that was responsible for his death -- it was James Earl Ray who pulled the assassin's trigger. And to the liberals who have asked the question: yes indeed, George W. Bush has many, many times taken responsibility for his decisions on Iraq.

In the midst of this terrible thing that Mr. Stack -- and Mr. Stack alone at this writing -- has done, it is past time for Americans to step up their conversation about that oldest of conservative principles: individual responsibility.

This is the principle at the core of the new Senator Scott Brown's success in Massachusetts. It is the heart of the new Governor Chris Christie's no-nonsense speech on spending to the New Jersey legislature. It was central to the victory of Virginia's new Governor Bob McDonnell.

Make no mistake. There is a considerable difference between individual responsibility -- which is a responsibility of everyone in a family, a community, a state, a nation and a world -- and human perfection. Of which there is none. Now, or ever.

People, human beings one and all, make mistakes. The question is: Are they capable of taking responsibility for those mistakes when made? Of recognizing them? Correcting them? Educating themselves to try and not, at the very least, repeat the same mistake -- over and over and over again.

Self-evidently, Mr. Stack fails this test. Murderously so.

One can disagree with the IRS all day long -- or Presidents Obama, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan and so on back to George Washington. You don't (does this really need to be said?) kill the IRS agents or the president or the boss or the ex-wife or -- as Islamic jihadists should but won't note -- Westerners, Jews, or each other.

But if you do -- there is only one person to blame. And it isn't The Other Guy. It's you.

It's not the IRS. It's not Guantanamo Bay. It's you.

This is called taking responsibility for one's actions.

Modern American liberalism is, for whatever reason, repeatedly of a mind to demonstrate their inability to accept this responsibility.

Which is why they are failing abysmally to govern this country

And why they will be held responsible for that failure.

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About the Author

 Jeffrey Lord, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is a former aide to Jack Kemp and Ronald Reagan. An author and CNN commentator, he writes from Pennsylvania at jlpa1@aol.com and @JeffJlpa1. His new book, What America Needs: The Case for Trump, is now out from Regnery Publishing.