Saturday, December 26, 2009

Nat Hentoff: "Obama is possibly the most dangerous and destructive president we have ever had."

Former Village Voice columnist Nat Hentoff has given a startling interview to John W. Whitehead, a conservative attorney who runs something called the Rutherford Foundation. (I hadn't heard of Whitehead before reading this interview. The Rutherford Foundation website portrays him as a constitutional scholar who has argued several cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, but the cover of his memoir which is prominently displayed on the website bills him as "The Man Who Defended Paula Jones".)

Whitehead's interview with Hentoff is cross-posted on the paleo-conservative Lew Rockwell website (read here: America Under Barack Obama by John W. Whitehead) where I found it. Here are some excerpts.

Nat Hentoff: I try to avoid hyperbole, but I think Obama is possibly the most dangerous and destructive president we have ever had. An example is ObamaCare, which is now embattled in the Senate. If that goes through the way Obama wants, we will have something very much like the British system. If the American people have their health care paid for by the government, depending on their age and their condition, they will be subject to a health commission just like in England which will decide if their lives are worth living much longer...

I am beginning to think that this guy is a phony. Obama seems to have no firm principles that I can discern that he will adhere to. His only principle is his own aggrandizement. This is a very dangerous mindset for a president to have.

JW: Do you consider Obama to be worse than George W. Bush?

NH: Oh, much worse... Obama is a bad man in terms of the Constitution. The irony is that Obama was a law professor at the University of Chicago. He would, most of all, know that what he is doing weakens the Constitution..."


NH: I am an atheist, although I very much admire and have been influenced by many traditionally religious people. I say this because the Left has taken what passes for their principles as an absolute religion. They don't think anymore. They just react. When they have somebody like Obama whom they put into office, they believed in the religious sense and, of course, that is a large part of the reason for their silence on these issues. They are very hesitant to criticize Obama, but that is beginning to change. Even on the cable network MSNBC, some of the strongest proponents of Obama are now beginning to question, if I may use their words, their "deity."

JW: Is the so-called health commission that you referred to earlier what some people are referring to as death panels? Is that too strong a word?

NH: That term was used with hyperbole about the parts of the health care bill where doctors are mandated, if people are on Medicare and of a certain age or in serious physical condition, to counsel them on their end-of-life alternatives. I don't believe that was a death panel. It was done to get the Medicare doctors to not spend too much money on them. The death panel issue arose with Tom Daschle, who was originally going to be the Health Czar. Daschle became enamored with the British system and wrote a book about health care, which influenced President Obama.

In England, you have what I would call government-imposed euthanasia. Under the British healthcare system, there is a commission that decides whether or not, based on your age and physical condition, the government should continue to pay for your health. That leads to the government not doing it and you gradually or suddenly die. The present Stimulus Bill sets up the equivalent commission in the United States similar to that which is in England. The tipoff was months ago on the ABC network. President Obama was given a full hour to describe and endorse his health plan. A woman in the audience asked Obama about her mother. Her mother was, I believe, 101 years old and was in need of a certain kind of procedure. Her doctor didn't want to do it because of her age. However, another doctor did and told this woman there is a joy of life in this person. The woman asked President Obama how he would deal with this sort of thing, and Obama said we cannot consider the joy of life in this situation. He said I would advise her to take a pain killer. That is the essence of the President of the United States.

JW: Do you think Obama is shallow?

NH: It's much worse than that. Obama has little, if any, principles except to aggrandize and make himself more and more important...

JW: What do you think of the Tea Party protests?

NH: I spent a lot of time studying our Founders and people like Samuel Adams and the original Tea Party. What Adams and the Sons of Liberty did in Boston was spread the word about the abuses of the British. They had Committees of Correspondence that got the word out to the colonies. We need Committees of Correspondence now, and we are getting them. That is what is happening with the Tea Parties. I wrote a column called "The Second American Revolution" about the fact that people are acting for themselves as it happened with the Sons of Liberty which spread throughout the colonies.

Over the course of a long career, Hentoff achieved fame as a jazz critic and as a liberal columnist advocating free speech and civil rights. Since his firing by the Voice last year, he has worked for the libertarian Cato Foundation.


Rebecca said...

What happened to Hentoff? I remember when he was known for his pro-human rights stance and his jazz reviewing. He wrote a marvelous memoir about growing up in Boston. How did he swing so far to the right?

Clay Barham said...

What is our mission in 2010? It should be to teach ourselves why America’s political tradition worked and what will happen if we change it. Obama wants us to change. He wants us to become like the Old World America left in the 18th century. He wants us to forget what the libertarian 19th century Democrats provided that gave us so much prosperity when compared to the stagnation of the Old World. He wants the American society well-oiled and ordered so the few elite can rule the many, for our own good, of course. America’s individual freedom has never been tried elsewhere, though partially approached in some more modern nations. Yet, 80% of the world’s people are struggling to exist, many starving, all under one dictatorship or another. Not so in America, unless deciding to be struggling and unhappy. We need to teach ourselves the difference so we can make the best decision of whether America will fall in line, get on its knees and be ruled by the few, or renew its pledge to individual freedom. That’s our task! Find help on

Anonymous said...

"If that goes through the way Obama wants, we will have something very much like the British system. If the American people have their health care paid for by the government, depending on their age and their condition, they will be subject to a health commission just like in England which will decide if their lives are worth living much longer..."

I remember when I read the Village Voice fairly often, years ago, and I admired Hentoff then. But he seems to have lost his good judgment. What he says about health care is so ignorant that I'm shocked.

Doesn't he know the difference between national health insurance and socialized medicine? Doesn't he know that, with national health coverage, doctors and and other health-care professionals are not employees of the government, as is the case in Britain? What is the matter with Hentoff? I would have expected better.

As far as I understand it, all Obama wanted was to offer a public option alongside private coverage. That way everyone could have somewhere to go for coverage, and not be forced to choose among HMOs.

And we're not even getting the public option now, just some help for the 30 of the 47 million currently uncovered. That's an improvement, and that was all Obama could get with the formidable opposition against him; still quite an accomplishment.

Moreover, doesn't Hentoff realize that HMOs also decide who lives or dies? When you have limited health care resources that cannot meet demand, you're going to have to make decisions no matter what system you have. Right now, it's often based on the patient's ability to pay. Or it's based on the HMO's bottom line. Is that better?

I recommend a book I've started called The Healing of America, by T.R. Reid. It is an informal but apparently honestly researched book comparing basic models: socialized medicine (as in Britain and Scandinavia), national health insurance (Canada), government-employer-provider-supported coverage (France, Germany), and pay-as-you-go (Third World). He says that the US is a mix of all four systems, depending on each citizen's age and situation. Very interesting.


Anonymous said...

One other point:

I think that Obama is an intelligent man trying to do his best, and trying to strike a balance between what he wants and the powers that be. I was disappointed by his choices of Summers and Geithner, but I believe his heart is in the right place.

It's a shame that people won't cut him some slack. On the right they paint him as a monster, and on the far left they paint him as a sellout.



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