Who knew: Apparently I would make a passable journalist, and could be well respected and remunerated for doing so. I know this because after I read Paul Roderick Gregory’s article in Forbes, “Is It Within Bounds To Ask: Is Obama A Socialist?” I did two things: I reminded myself of the definition of socialism using two readily available sources (I was smart and used two independent sources just in case one of them was leading me astray), and I cross-checked this definition against the policy positions set out on Barack Obama’s website.
Paul Roderick Gregory, who “journalists” for a living, did neither of these things; he is professionally negligent and apparently just whipped open his laptop and started typing. Either that, or he is professionally negligent and knows the information to be found on these websites very well, but thinks that all of his readers are idiots who are incapable or unlikely of doing the same. Now which could it be?
I am going to leave aside the semantic arguments about the meaning of the word “socialism” that Gregory employs in his companion piece “Is President Obama Truly A Socialist“, but basically Gregory holds his hands up and pleads that he doesn’t mean the traditional definition of socialism. No, he just means “socialism” as practiced by continental Europeans with their welfare states. Of course, this disclaimer is buried very deep within the article, so that the full impact of conflating Obama’s political philosophy with socialism is felt immediately, while the clarification is given only after the statement has had sufficient time to establish itself as fact:
By “socialist,” I do not mean a Lenin, Castro, or Mao, but whether Obama falls within the mainstream of contemporary socialism as represented, for example, by Germany’s Social Democrats, French Socialists, or Spain’s socialist-workers party?
By this criterion, yes, Obama is a socialist.
If Gregory wanted to make this more nuanced argument (still wrong, in my opinion) – that Obama’s policies are closely aligned to European social democracy – then he could go ahead and do so. But he has no interest in doing that. The only reason he even includes this tortured disclaimer is to clear the ground so that he can land his rhetorical punch on Obama, and label him a “socialist”.
From the stirring conclusion to the original article:
The upcoming November election offers American voters a choice that is starker than they understand. Obama brings to the table a deep distrust of free enterprise and a belief in government as the solution to most problems. Romney offers a vision of faith in private enterprise and a distrust of government intervention. Obama will disguise his views with “fair share” slogans and weak protestations of faith in private enterprise.
This is actually the closest that Gregory comes to cogency in either piece. I come from a centre-right perspective and do sometimes think that Obama is heavy-handed in his administration’s oversight of the free market. Interfering with private companies such as Boeing when they come to make decisions on where to locate their production, for example, strikes me as bullying and control-freakish. But I have never felt as though Obama was secretly yearning to nationalise Boeing and create a state-owned aerospace and defence company.
On the flip side, many of Romney’s contemporaries in industry are only too quick and happy to run to the government when it suits their needs, perhaps to ask for bailouts, favourable trading terms or tax loopholes, or to bring down the regulators on a rival that is becoming rather too successful. Hardly unheard-of.
Why am I even bothering to quote this trash? Only because it is emblematic and typical of the lazy type of charges that are levelled against Obama by some on the right. By calling out Gregory now, I free myself from the obligation do the same thing every time another right wing talking head repeats the same “Obama-Socialist” line on Fox News, or in a newspaper column.
So, Paul Roderick Gregory, the unfortunate person who I picked on to embody every die-hard tea partier and overenthusiastic Republican who is tempted to get carried away with the old rhetoric when disagreeing with President Obama’s economic policies: is it “within bounds to ask: is Obama a socialist?”
Sure, it’s within bounds. It’s just really, really dumb.
I had no idea that the bar for becoming a published Forbes contributor was set so low.