Obama, Reagan, and Leadership

I just finished my backlog of reading that I missed while on vacation, and one article stood out among the rest. It included the head-shaking bewilderment at the President’s much-criticized “You Didn’t Build That” statement from last week, yet contrasted it with an obvious POSITIVE illustration.

From Larry Kudlow on National Review Online:

Does anybody remember, back in the depths of the recession of 1981‒82, how President Ronald Reagan kept his chin up and exhorted American businesses to work hard and produce an economic recovery?

Reagan had a program of tax cuts, limited domestic spending, deregulation, and a strong defense aimed at overturning Soviet Communism. He argued in speech after speech that his domestic plan would produce higher economic growth and lower unemployment, and that prosperity would generate the resources to fund a strong national security.

Cynics proliferated. But Reagan stayed with it, praising free enterprise and entrepreneurs. And eventually, sunny skies replaced gloomy clouds. “Morning in America” appeared in 1983‒84.

But here’s the key point: When Reagan praised our capitalist system and the businesses inside it, he provided a psychological lift to accompany his fiscal program. That was leadership.

Now contrast President Reagan’s performance with President Obama’s recent attack on business. Instead of exhorting entrepreneurship, Obama demonized it. Here’s the money quote: “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”

That’s a put down to business recovery, not an exhortation. Reagan praised entrepreneurs into recovery. Why must Obama trash them into recession?

Kudlow scores a bullseye with that one, since that is EXACTLY what Obama is doing: trashing them.


I’ve read and re-read Obama’s complete statement, and no amount of “subtext interpretation” can spin what he said into a Reaganesque pep talk.  No, it was intended to diminish individual achievement, inspiring only resentment among those who have not and never will achieve. And what’s worse, his policies are destroying the very people whom he purports to help.

More from Kudlow:

Obama does not understand that his government-centered model is doing vastly more harm than good. That’s why, three-and-a-half years in, he’s got slumping numbers on jobs, retail sales, manufacturing and home sales, and a GDP rate that could be 1 percent or less. We may be on the front end of another recession without even going through a real recovery.

And the center of economic gravity has shifted in the wrong direction. Food stamps are soaring. Social Security disability benefits are rising faster than jobs. And roughly half of U.S. households are receiving federal-transfer-payment assistance.

This is a European-style model, not an American one.

For the record, the Europeans aren’t exactly where I’d look for fiscal inspiration right now, if-you-know-what-I-mean.

I have to believe that enough people here in the States hold views that are antithetical to the President’s. I hope they learned the same lessons I did as I grew up: that hard work, individual determination and the American entrepreneurial spirit are what separates our country from everyone else. And that anyone who says otherwise is singing a siren song, to be ignored or ridiculed.

Kudlow summed it up thusly:

“This whole assault on success by left-wing politicians is a staggering reversal from the spirit of Ronald Reagan.”

Too true.

Now, just imagine what four more years with Obama and Co. in charge would look like?

12 responses to “Obama, Reagan, and Leadership

    • Thanks, DD.
      It’s not an original comparison, but the contrast has never been quite so sharply defined until now.

      Obama is trying to redefine what it means to be American and, if he’s successful, we’ll be worse than France, Greece OR Spain.

      At our size, if WE go down, EVERYone goes down.

  1. LivinRightinPGH

    I would argue that Obama has very MUCH been a leader. The problem is, he’s not leading the Country on the path that WE would like to see. To the contrary, he’s lead this country (and this will be the subject of my next blog post, soon to be forthcoming) RAPIDLY toward the REAL objectives of his ideology: Big Government Socialism, kill capitalism, welfare state, etc.

    Forget what he SAYS! Look at what he’s DONE! In just 3 and 1/2 years, he has progressed the socialist ideology FURTHER than all of the Democrats who proceeded him over the last 50 years.

    • Read what I wrote again, PGH:
      “…..it was intended to diminish individual achievement, inspiring only resentment among those who have not and never will achieve.”

      I didn’t say he wasn’t leading. Rather, it’s that his failure of leadership is in the way that we’ve always defined the term.
      Obama is inspiring class warfare, jealousy and envy. He’s making them weapons, and calling THAT leadership.

      We have always viewed leadership as strong, uplifting and inspirational. Obama’s leadership in divisive, petty and seeks to bring everyone down to the lowest common denominator.

      You’re right, it IS leadership…..but it isn’t leadership as we’ve known it to be. It is leadership by destruction.
      In this, as with everything else, Obama seeks to remake America, since he doesn’t like our country as it has always existed.

      • LivinRightinPGH

        Should have put (read as: dripping with sarcasm) after my opening sentence!

        JTR, I’m sure you’re just as hopeful for a true “leader” as I am. And, should Mr. Romney be the next Oval Office Occupant, I pray that he has the stones to be just that…..

        Frankly, I’m tired of the “well, he’s not AS bad as that other guy” type of candidate, and I KNOW you know what I mean!

        Welcome back from vacation!

  2. Pingback: The unconstrained vision of the state | Principles, Not Men

  3. It’s Evening in America,,,,

  4. Chris P. Bacon

    Obama and Reagan should not even be mentioned in the same sentence. Love your blog, btw first time here.

  5. Pingback: Obama in 2007 (video): President Demagogue strikes again | Two Heads are Better Than One

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