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Reagan vs. Obama: What is the American Dream?


Today's press conference underscored a few familiar themes of the Obama presidency:

1) The president thinks we are all children who should be treated as such -- i.e. We need to "eat our peas"; and

2) The president has a vastly different idea of what the "American Dream" is than most of America.

President Obama's definition of the American Dream is cringeworthy. In one breath, he talks about how anything is possible in America if you're willing to work for it while simultaneously insisting government's collective touch is needed to ensure individual success. Like any good conservative who believes in the power of the individual in a free society, such contrasting thoughts strung together in a rhetorical talking point sends chills down my spine.

Even more chilling, however, was Obama's invocation of Ronald Reagan in trying to sell this liberal hybrid version of the American Dream. "If not now, when?" Obama rhetorically asked today while making his case for increased taxes on the wealthiest Americans to further shift the burden of America's out-of-control spending on the backs of the country's job makers.

During his second inaugural address, President Reagan used this line to make the opposite case -- the case for reigning in government's ability to tax & spend:

The time has come for a new American emancipation—a great national drive to tear down economic barriers and liberate the spirit of enterprise in the most distressed areas of our country. My friends, together we can do this, and do it we must, so help me God. ...

A dynamic economy, with more citizens working and paying taxes, will be our strongest tool to bring down budget deficits. But an almost unbroken 50 years of deficit spending has finally brought us to a time of reckoning. We have come to a turning point, a moment for hard decisions. I have asked the Cabinet and my staff a question, and now I put the same question to all of you: If not us, who? And if not now, when? It must be done by all of us going forward with a program aimed at reaching a balanced budget. We can then begin reducing the national debt.

I will shortly submit a budget to the Congress aimed at freezing government program spending for the next year. Beyond that, we must take further steps to permanently control Government's power to tax and spend. We must act now to protect future generations from Government's desire to spend its citizens' money and tax them into servitude when the bills come due. Let us make it unconstitutional for the Federal Government to spend more than the Federal Government takes in.

Obama is no stranger to invoking conservative rhetoric in selling his liberal policies to the American electorate.  I was continually amazed during the 2008 presidential election as Obama's wordsmiths laced liberal stump speeches on collective salvation with conservative talking points on the importance of hard work and individual responsibility.  I'm not one to pay many compliments to President Obama, but I'll admit that no one -- not even Bill Clinton -- has pulled this bait & switch better.

Look for much more of this liberal-conservative sleight of hand trick as we head for the homestretch to the 2012 election.

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