Obama: Man Without a Conscience

(Originally published in November 2012)

For a long time, intrepid critics of Barack Obama have described him, accurately, as a pathological liar. The Benghazi affair must force even the most circumspect among us to recognize that the problem is even more serious: the President of the United States has no conscience. 

Most men do bad things during their lives. But most men know when they are doing a bad thing, and, more importantly, they feel bad about it. This is why, for most of us, bad behavior has its limits. There is a point beyond which we simply will not go, even for a greatly desired advantage. Our minds will not let us do it. We say things like, “I couldn’t live with myself if I did that.” 

This principle seems to extend very far down through the depths of human weakness, even to the actions of criminals. A “crime of passion” is so named in part because we presume that the criminal, had he not been momentarily overruled by a violent emotion, would have stopped himself short of committing the crime. This conception also implies that once the violent emotion has passed, the criminal will feel remorse, and probably also shame. 

If a sane man lacks this capacity for stopping or rebuking himself, not merely in a moment of extreme passion, but in calm moments, in long-anticipated situations, or in prepared statements, then we say he has no conscience. Barack Obama has long been a candidate for inclusion in the category of the conscienceless. Benghazi seals his fate. 

Have you ever told a lie? I do not mean a “white lie,” of course, which is usually intended not to harm others, but to bring about a long-term good. I mean a lie to advance yourself in a context in which your falsehood could hurt another person. Children and young adults are prone to such acts, because their still-developing character, or their fear of failure, sometimes gets the better of them. One hopes, however, that even while committing these offenses, a young person knows he is doing wrong, and is ashamed of blaming his friend for the broken window, or of telling his parents he was at the library. 

One of the ways we judge maturity is by observing whether a man has overcome that childish fear and weakness, and is now willing to deal plainly with others, even in situations wherein his own advantage or reputation is at stake. The development into healthy adulthood is, in part, the transition from good behavior with occasional violations to good character that naturally refrains from such violations. 

What if, on the other hand, the opposite transition occurs? What if the self-serving lies and other improprieties, with their consequent harm to others, become so habitual that they gradually carve a deep and wide gutter in one’s adult character, a tributary into which one’s deliberative processes are consistently directed by the soul’s own gravitational forces? Self-serving manipulation then becomes, not merely a childish temptation, but a normal part of one’s code of conduct. And here is where a real danger begins. 

As we have known since the Greeks, a man of good character does not choose the right thing out of a desire for external reward or approval; he chooses it because doing what is right has become his nature. In other words, choosing what is best, for its own sake, makes him happy. 

It is possible to become such a man in spite of a poor upbringing and bad influences; the odds, however, do not favor it. And with each passing year, as one’s behavior inclines ever farther towards the illicit side, the mind chips away continually at the natural reserves of shame and revulsion that are meant to be the soul’s weathervane as it journeys towards adult morality. At last, if this devolution is left unchecked, and worse yet, if practical circumstances provide this person the greatest possible latitude for his inclinations, and the fewest possible restraints—i.e., if he feels rewarded for and empowered by his amorality—the corruption becomes complete. The man has learned to pursue self-serving ends by any available means, and to dismiss potential harm to others, without any regrets or pangs of conscience. 

In short, he has developed into a textbook case of what Plato so aptly identifies as a “tyrannical soul”: 

When such men are only private individuals and before they get power, this is their character; they associate entirely with their own flatterers or ready tools; or if they want anything from anybody, they in their turn are equally ready to bow down before them: they profess every sort of affection for them; but when they have gained their point they know them no more.

“When they have gained their point they know them no more.” Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty can attest to that. As can, in a different way, Jeremiah Wright, Bill Ayers, and Frank Marshall Davis. 

Those last three names bring us to the heart of the matter. Born of an anti-American leftist mother; fathered by a socialist he knew mainly from legend; raised in part by grandparents with friends in low places; and then, through the tenderest years of his sentimental education (ages ten to eighteen), “mentored” by Davis, a Soviet-supporting communist, a pornographer who wrote boastfully of bisexuality, predatory conquests and group sex involving a thirteen year old girl—with such an upbringing, turning out badly is the default assumption. 

And then there were the drugs. Lots of them, on Obama’s own account, and not only a heavy marijuana habit, but also, as he implies, a fair amount of cocaine use over the course of years. (See here.) The pervasiveness of recreational drug use since the 1960s has caused some to blind themselves to the seriousness of this kind of personal history in a president, a man of extraordinary power, a commander-in-chief. The effects of the drugs themselves are not the whole problem, or perhaps even the worst of it. There is also the barely acknowledged element of criminality. A regular drug abuser must learn the tricks of the trade: which criminals are selling the “good stuff,” which are offering reasonable prices, and how to indulge the habit while avoiding the notice of the police or other authorities on a regular basis. Cutting a peephole through one’s conscience is a necessary process for one wishing to keep up such a pattern. Anyone who has known a regular drug user has seen this sad weakening of the soul. 

Being cool, fitting in with the radical Marxist crowd, became primary considerations during his university years. But when other acquaintances can be of use, the man without a conscience can easily accommodate. 

The LA Times’ puff piece on Obama upon his selection as president of the Harvard Law Review includes this interesting aside: 

Yet some of Obama’s peers question the motives of this second-year law student. They find it puzzling that despite Obama’s openly progressive views on social issues, he has also won support from staunch conservatives. Ironically, he has come under the most criticism from fellow black students for being too conciliatory toward conservatives and not choosing more blacks to other top positions on the law review.

“Too conciliatory toward conservatives”—is that a phrase you would associate with Obama? Not now, to be sure; but now he is president. Back then, he was still climbing, as Plato warns: “if they want anything from anybody, they in their turn are equally ready to bow down before them: they profess every sort of affection for them; but when they have gained their point they know them no more.” 

As a young man, attempting to sell himself to publishers as someone with a unique perspective on the “black experience,” Obama told his literary agent that he was born in Kenya. He let that biographical detail stand for sixteen years, including through later rewrites of his agency bio, until, in 2007, someone presumably alerted someone to the fact that it would disqualify him from running for president. 

His long-time pastor, who performed his wedding ceremony, is an infamous anti-American, anti-Semitic leftist. Obama, faced with this revelation in the midst of his presidential ascent, disowned his adviser and mentor, and, according to the latter, offered him a substantial sum of money to keep his mouth shut. 

He excised Davis from the audio version of Dreams from My Father, which was recorded after he entered electoral politics. He distanced himself from Ayers, who appears to have ghost-written Dreams, who hosted the coffee klatch that launched his political career, and who was in attendance with him at the infamous Rashid Khalidi tribute dinner, dismissively calling him “a guy from my neighborhood.” 

“When they have gained their point they know them no more.” 

Then, of course, there is his blatant disregard for reality on policy matters. Obama has increased the national debt faster than had previously been thought humanly possible—and yet consistently portrays himself as a deficit hawk. He spoke clearly before his election about his goal of achieving complete government-run (i.e., socialized) healthcare in America, by means of gradual steps (see here and here)—and yet flatly denied any such intention throughout the ObamaCare fight. 

And now, having reached rock bottom, he gives us Benghazi. As was known throughout most of the world on September 12, the attack was a planned terrorist operation, and in no way connected to a video protest. The administration’s cover story (aka lie) was, as Thomas Sowell says, intended to allow a “cooling out” period—to attenuate the process of revealing the truth so that, by the time the worst is known, the population will have become weary of the story, and see the final revelation as insignificant. 

In this case, however, the attenuation process may backfire, and instead create a “heating up” period. As we become increasingly, gradually, sickeningly aware of the level of the administration’s real time knowledge of the attack, Obama’s soul is revealed. He has been transmogrified for all the world to see: the Dorian Gray portrait hidden away in the spare room is now, at last, etched on his own face. 

Seven hours of slow, violent, torturous death and destruction at the consulate and the safe house. Hours of urgent calls for support, backup, rescue. A live feed from a drone detailing the events on laptops throughout Washington. The hideousness does not fade, but rather becomes starker each day. 

Was the president aware of these events during the first few of those seven long hours? Obviously, he would have been notified of such events immediately, were he available. Equally obviously, the president is always, in theory, available. If he could not be “reached” during those first hours, then the answer to the natural follow-up question—”Why not?”—is too twisted to contemplate. 

Let us assume, then, that he knew. As has already been well-documented by others, there is something mind-numbing about the thought of the president sitting there, hearing the accounts, the urgent requests, and presumably various recommended courses of action—and doing nothing. For seven hours. And then going to bed. And then to Las Vegas for a fun-filled fundraiser. 

Damning as all of that is, however, it is less soul-revealing than his subsequent video protest cover story. During the second presidential debate, when Mitt Romney challenged him on Benghazi and the lies, Obama went into his carefully memorized diatribe about his response to the attack, staring Romney down indignantly all the while. He also said this: 

As soon as we found out the Benghazi consulate was being overrun, I was on the phone with my national security team, and I gave them three instructions: Number one, beef up our security and procedures, not just in Libya, but in every embassy and consulate in the region. Number two, investigate exactly what happened, regardless of where the facts lead us…. And number three, we are going to find out who did this and we are going to hunt them down.

As I noted at the time, the grammar in the first sentence is an acknowledgment that he was aware of the events while they were happening, and yet his “three instructions” are absurd as a response to an ongoing attack. 

Interestingly, he used those same practiced talking points again last week:

The minute I found out what was going on, I gave three very clear directives: number one, make sure that we are securing our personnel and doing whatever we need to; number two, we’re going to investigate exactly what happened and make sure it doesn’t happen again; number three, find out who did this so we can bring them to justice.

Between these two recitations, we learned that the administration knew more than enough about “what was going on,” while it was going on. But this did not stop Obama from continuing to press his absurd talking points. While his embassy staff and security people in Libya were being attacked, burned out, asphyxiated, sodomized, murdered, he was, he claims, giving abstract instructions about “securing our personnel” and investigating “exactly what happened.”

And in the weeks between his live updates on this atrocity, and his proud account of his complete lack of specific orders to do something, he went to the Rose Garden to say this:

Since our founding, the United States has been a nation that respects all faiths. We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. But there is absolutely no justification to this type of senseless violence.

And he went to Univision to say this:

What we’ve seen over the past week, week and a half, is something that we’ve actually seen in the past, where there is an offensive video or cartoon directed at the Prophet Muhammad—this is obviously something that then is used as an excuse by some to carry out inexcusable violent acts directed at Westerners or Americans.

And he went to the UN to say this:

That is what we saw play out in the last two weeks, as a crude and disgusting video sparked outrage throughout the Muslim world….

He knew from the first that this narrative was a complete falsehood. He also had to know that by perpetuating it, he was inciting violence in the Middle East. He knowingly, willingly threw a match into the world’s biggest powder keg, concerned only with protecting his election campaign, and with concealing whatever dark truths lurk in those seven hours of deadly silence from his end of the red phone.

What kind of man could look his interviewers, his debate opponents, and his fellow citizens steadily in the eye and do such a thing? Even Bill Clinton broke a sweat.

The answer is now clear. Plato has another important warning about the man without a conscience, the tyrannical soul:

If the people yield, well and good; but if they resist him, as he began by beating his own father and mother, so now, if he has the power, he beats them, and will keep his dear old fatherland or motherland, as the Cretans say, in subjection to his young retainers whom he has introduced to be their rulers and masters.

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