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Needed: ‘Leadership Out of the Swamp’
Sol W. Sanders
December 16, 2013
In 1967 Rudi Dutschke, a flamboyant leader of post-World War II European student radicals looking back on two centuries of failed revolutions, had an epiphany: Instead of attacking prevailing institutions head on, he advocated that his fellow revolutionaries should take a "long march through the institutions of power to create radical change from within government and society by becoming an integral part of the machinery." In the decades since, more than one aspiring revolutionary has attempted to implement his strategy, some even claimed credit for inventing it.

But American students, more intent on panty raids and Florida spring break orgies when not on their iPhones, have never been serious politicians. That is especially true compared to the history of student activism bringing on regime crashes in Europe and Asia. Looking back, the anti-Vietnam War student protests -- including the tragic 1970 clash at Ohio's Kent State that claimed four student lives and one permanent paralysis -- were atypical. In fact, the American anti-Vietnam War protests were more conceived in guilt by ill-informed, ahistorical, cosseted "collegiates" unjustly spared Vietnam military service.

That all comes to mind, now, trying to make sense of Obama administration policies through the fog of its obvious overwhelming incompetence. One begins to discern a pattern, a template that does come right out of the '60s. And alas! It is, willy-nilly, by accident or design, a success -- albeit temporary -- for "a long march through the institutions."

We know less than we should about President Barack Hussein Obama's own scholastic life, mainly because he has expended every effort and vast sums to block the normal scrutiny given politicians. But enough is known to perceive him as one of those young radicals who took "the long march." Policy in the second administration -- now free of any new electoral veto except for next year's mid-term Congressional elections -- reflects all the old attitudes of generations of dissent from the left to traditional American values and resulting domestic and foreign policy.

The current tempest over Obamacare is, of course, not only quintessential but expresses the state of mind of the country's current elected executive. One is tempted -- seeing the unbelievable extent of the disastrous rollout -- to see conspiracy. For even to the least computer-literate among us, whose daily lives involve constant contact with remarkably skilled IT marketing and billing in the private sector, it is inconceivable that the federal government could not have employed commensurate skills. Was this incredible mess just an accident characterizing the incompetence of the Obama Administration? Or did "the evil geniuses" behind Affordable Care -- for example, the estimable "bioethicist" Dr. Zeke Emanuel -- really intend chaos? Could it have been they meant to destroy former healthcare patterns, whatever their shortcomings, to create a situation so enervating that an exhausted body politic would accept Obama's favored solution: "single payer," "socialized," government-mandated medicine?

Probably not, simply because it's clear the technicians, at least, suspected a coming disaster that has overtaken the purported "chief legacy" of the Obama administration. The Obamacare chaos has now jeopardized, at least temporarily, the whole "liberal"/left agenda. But what we do see, in fact, is an aspect of that same "long march through the institutions." Individuals have reached the government zenith with the mindset of earlier generations of American pseudo-revolutionaries who along the way enthralled a less astute and pampered academic and media elite.

Evidence for this hypothesis is even more dramatic in the Obama administration's foreign policy. For there, except in moments of crises, the US public's interest and direct involvement is minimal. American lifestyle with its abundance not only of the necessities of life, but increasingly luxuries in the pursuit of elaborate leisure patterns, has given determined leadership an opportunity: Making external policy has been a plaything of the elite because of a largely apolitical citizenry.

So it was that idealists (and some realists) seized world leadership vacated by an exhausted Europe after World War II. An increasingly prosperous American public was willing to pay the bills without too many questions, especially since it offered new opportunities in foreign trade. It permitted Washington to contribute mightily to the reconstruction and growing prosperity of the Europeans. At the same time, it called for continuing sacrifices for policies -- not always astute -- in defeating the new totalitarian menace of the Soviet Union and world Communism. It even took a hand, with not all that much success, in efforts initiated by the former European colonial powers, to lift so-called Third World countries out of their misery.

But always at their back were the minority voices on the left. They were armed, often, with sound argument based on gaps in strategy and policy -- or the obvious failures such as unresolved wars in Korea, Vietnam, skirmishes in Latin American, and now Iraq and Afghanistan. Their litany was never exclusive. They often shared common cause with individuals in the political center and the right. And that old cliché about the commonality of extremes was certainly often the case: "Isolationism," for example, on the "far right" was often shared by the "far left" if for very different reasons. But today in part because of the vacuum created by the Obama administration's "leading from behind," bereft of American leadership destructive regional forces in almost every quarter of the globe have been unleashed.

This arrival of the left at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue via the long march zigzags back to an earlier time. But its fundamental beliefs, again allowing for its performance inadequacies, are clear...

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