As you have seen here and in the news, President Barack Obama has started a war against House Republicans over Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget, claiming the the spending cuts being proposed to domestic programs is “social darwinism.” Over at Cato @ Liberty, David Boaz takes Obama to task for the level of discourse he’s using to bash Republicans:
[H]eadlines this week report that President Obama accused the Republicans of “social Darwinism,” and I don’t see anyone exercised about that. A New York Times editorial endorses the attack.
Is “social Darwinist” within some bound of propriety that “socialist” violates? I don’t think so. After all, plenty of people call themselves socialists — not President Obama, to be sure, but estimable figures such as Tony Blair and Sen. Bernie Sanders. Members of the British Labour Party have been known to sing the socialist anthem “The Red Flag” on the floor of Parliament.
But no one calls himself a social Darwinist. Not now, not ever. Not Herbert Spencer. The term is always used to label one’s opponents. In that sense it’s clearly a more abusive term than “socialist,” a term that millions of people have proudly claimed.
Last week while giving the commencement speech to the graduating class at the University of Michigan, President Barack Obama addressed some of the rhetoric being bantered about and defended his view of how government should work:
“What troubles me is when I hear people say that all of government is inherently bad,” Obama said after receiving an honorary doctor of laws degree. “When our government is spoken of as some menacing, threatening foreign entity, it ignores the fact that in our democracy, government is us.”
But Obama was direct in urging both sides in the political debate to tone it down. “Throwing around phrases like ‘socialists’ and ‘Soviet-style takeover,’ ‘fascists’ and ‘right-wing nut’ — that may grab headlines,” he said. But it also “closes the door to the possibility of compromise. It undermines democratic deliberation,” he said.
“At its worst, it can send signals to the most extreme elements of our society that perhaps violence is a justifiable response.”
Passionate rhetoric isn’t new, he acknowledged. Politics in America, he said, “has never been for the thin-skinned or the faint of heart. … If you enter the arena, you should expect to get roughed up.”
It’s funny that Obama addresses the harsh discourse in politics and just a few days later a quote he gave for book on the first year of his presidency surfaces: