Here is the review of Barack Obama’s “The Audacity of Hope” by my former student, Caleb Jones (a.k.a. “The Jones”). Obama’s rejection of absolute truth goes beyond the passage we discussed yesterday, and in fact seems to be a theme of the whole book. I’ll just post the entire review for our consideration. Other people who have read the book, please weigh in. Notice that the issue here is the presidential candidate’s underlying philosophy, worldview, and political theory:
Well, it happened. I was sitting in BWI airport, 2 hours before my flight left, with nothing to do or read. So I went to the mini-bookstore, a collection of New York Times bestsellers and paperback novels, and tried to pick something out. After deciding that I didn’t want to solve Sudoku until my head exploded, read a Steven King novel about a mysterious evil force coming to town, or read another Steven King novel about another mysterious evil force coming BACK to town, I decided to go with…. ….oh man, this hurts…. …The Audacity of Hope, by Barack Obama.
Now Obama’s book was being sold in a Literary Fluff Bookstore, and honestly, he delivered for a while. He talked a lot about the difficulties of running for office, how we shouldn’t have to hate people while we disagree with them (which I agree with, and why ironically, I really like John McCain), and a good bit of other heartwarming stuff. I was actually enjoying myself. He starts talking about our Constitution, however, and it got on my nerves where he explicitly agrees with Justice Breyer’s “Living Constitution” theory. But then, on page 93, he really ticks me off. He is talking about the views of the Founders and the writing of the Constitution when he says:
“It’s not just absolute power that the Founders sought to prevent. Implicit in its structure, in the very idea of ordered liberty, was a rejection of absolute truth, the infallibility of any idea or ideology or theology or “ism,” any tyrannical consistency that might lock future generations into a single, unalterable course, or drive both majorities and minorities into the cruelties of the Inquisition, the pogrom, the gulag, or the jihad. The Founders may have trusted in God, but true to the Enlightenment spirit, they also trusted in the minds and senses that God had given them. They were suspicious of abstraction and liked asking questions, which is why at every turn in our early history theory yielded to fact and necessity.”
This is very odd to me. Especially since just a few dozen pages before this, Obama sees it very important to quote the Declaration of Independence:
“We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” (and although not in the book, this next phrase is important, too.) “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
Now let’s seriously look at these two statements, Obama says that the Founders said and according to our American system of government, it is IMPOSSIBLE to have absolute truth and ordered liberty. But look at the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self evident,” which means that anyone, through reason, logic, and truth, can know this stuff. It says that we are endowed by our Creator, not any government or majority or human authority, with certain UNALIENABLE rights. Unalienable, it means that you can’t take them away. You can pretend they don’t exist. No matter what kind of authority you set up on earth, no matter how powerful your nation or your empire or your totalitarian state, regardless if you have brainwashed the entire population into believing that they do not have these rights and silenced every opposing voice through force, a government is still WRONG for taking these rights away. No matter what anybody says, no matter what anybody else thinks, this universal maxim holds true. “That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among Men,” meaning the only reason government has ANY legitimacy, is because it affirms (not creates) these rights which were given by God. If a government does anything else, they are silly tyrants, moving men and armies about for selfish gain and vanity, which has no just authority under heaven.
That is the foundation of our Republic, and it is a strong absolute belief. Sorry, Obama. You’re wrong.
After reading this section, I think I figured out a lot of other things in the books. Obama says throughout the book that he “respects” opposing views. The view of original intent. The view of limited government and independence, etc, even though he disagrees with them. No, Obama. You don’t respect these views. If you respected them, you would have deference to them. You would include them in your policies and your legislation. Obviously, you respect the PEOPLE giving these views. That’s why you have deference to them. You try not to demon-ize them as you disagree. But you disagree. You totally reject the view after (hopefully) you have taken those views in and put them through an honest and thoughtful reasoning process. Once you see that they do not logically have any grounding, you reject them. That’s what disagreeing is.
But Obama has a problem with absolutes: Absolutes that derive from religion or even logic, hence the “respecting views.” You see, the non relativistic way of going about this is to appeal to something which everybody shares: logic and reason. These things exist outside of ourselves, because even if we trick ourselves into believing something that is absurd, it doesn’t mean we’re right. We just need a more logical, more reasonable, or more rightly-oriented person to correct us from our fallible human natures. An appeal to logic is an appeal to God and his order, to immutable laws that are written in the foundations of the universe and that exist outside of human thought, emotion, or inclination.
At one point in the book, Obama even says he can’t even bring himself to the absolute rejection of absolutes! (page 97) He can’t bring himself to call some someone else wrong. He has totally rejected reason based on truth. If Obama can’t appeal to that, what does he appeal to? Well, himself, for what else does he have? And that is audacious. Before, this whole thing was silly; now its getting scary. And it once again begs the question, “Who does this guy think he is?”