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A government big enough to give you everything you want is also big enough to take away everything you have.
– Barry Goldwater
Since Barack Obama was elected, plenty of books have been written criticizing his administration and accusing him of all sorts of things—from being a Marxist to lying about his citizenship to being a Muslim. But if you know me or if you're familiar with my commentaries on TV and radio, you know that I don't like to make politics personal. That's because I was raised to believe in the Golden Rule, and I don't know about you, but I certainly don't like being called names or ridiculed. So I want to start out by saying that if you've come here looking for a personal attack on President Obama and those in Washington, you should head to another shelf in the bookstore.
I don't doubt for a moment that Barack Obama loves our country and wants to make it better. In my political career, I've found that to be true, more often than not, about people who take a position different from mine. Respect and civility go a long way in campaigns and governance.
That being said, I have never been afraid to criticize a person when I think it's appropriate, especially when it comes to those who run our country. I believe that every American has a right and a responsibility to speak up when they're unhappy with the way our government is run, and that's why I'm writing this book. Because as much as I respect President Obama as a human being, I can't help but think that just about everything he thinks is good for America is actually bad for our present and worse for our future.
You are probably reading this book in February 2011, but thanks to the practical demands of publishing, I'm actually writing it in the fall of 2010. As I sit here, our country is mired in a crisis that has grown progressively (no pun intended) worse since Obama entered the White House. Our national unemployment rate is stuck at around 10 percent; our budget deficit is spiraling to unprecedented levels; we've adopted a federal health-care system that promises to raise costs and worsen care, even though most Americans didn't want it in the first place. On top of all that, we face threats from abroad in the form of terrorism, illegal and out-of-control immigration, and two wars (though allegedly the war in Iraq is over( that we can't seem to win. Meanwhile, our image abroad is rapidly sinking to where it was during the Carter years, as we've turned our backs on some of our most trusted international allies, like Israel, in favor of "diplomatic relations" with enemies like Russia and Iran.
We were promised better than this. The election of 2008 was supposed to signal the arrival of a "postpartisan" presidency. Happy days! Joy to the world! Well, did that happen? Candidate Obama said he would discover common ground between the two major parties and come up with public-policy answers that both sides could consider viable. Instead, President Obama has shown himself to be the most partisan president in my lifetime, hands down. In this respect, he has far outdistanced any political gamesmanship ever practiced by any president before him, whether Democrat or Republican. Bright as he seems to be, he consistently mistakes his election for a mandate to compromise our nation's future with breathtakingly sweeping plans like socialized medicine and so-called financial reform. And make no mistake about this: Those schemes and others have already saddled our descendants for generations with a mountain of debt that they can never pay back. (I'll have more to say about this later, with the scary numbers to prove it.)
In our political tradition, as you know, it's business as usual for candidates to campaign with harsh words for the opposition. The problem comes when the bickering continues after the swearing in. A true leader's Job One is to bring people together, not just mouth partisan slogans, and as hard as it may be to believe in our increasingly partisan world, I've known people on both sides of the aisle who have exhibited such character. One of those people is former president and fellow Arkansan Bill Clinton. Even though he strenuously campaigned for every opponent I ever had in Arkansas—whether I was running for U.S. senator, lieutenant governor, or governor—not once did he stoop to personal attacks or snarky comments about my being a Republican. He treated his opponents with respect and civility.
Well, I guess these are different times. But my biggest problem with President Obama isn't his insistent partisanship; it's his reliance on advice from people who don't understand the real world that you and I live in. Obama has overloaded his administration with policy wonks and Ivy League professors because he speaks their language. Virtually no one on his team has had experience running anything; they probably couldn't even run a lemonade stand. Their abstract theories, airy platitudes, and unrealistic promises may sound nice on paper or in a congressional debate, but in reality these politicians are just trying to cover up their own ignorance.
You don't need the wisdom of Solomon to see that their lack of experience is the reason we're currently experiencing an economic crisis. Think about it. When you're a governor or mayor—or even a smallbusiness owner—you don't have the option of printing money to cover your mistakes or to buy things you can't afford. I know. In Arkansas I had to balance the budget the old-fashioned way: The money coming into the state coffers had to be greater than or at least equal to the money going out. The result? Sometimes hard choices had to be made, but I made them. As those great political philosophers the Rolling Stones said, you can't always get what you want.
We have to hold the federal government to the same standard, and not only on the budget. On this and other issues there is a strong and building urgency to repair our weakened nation and rebuild the confidence of the American people. We need to go back to the first principles that the Founders built into our amazing Constitution. That means, in part, that we need decisive action now, not professorial dialogue and insanely complicated schemes that kowtow to special interests (like the three thousand pages of the ObamaCare bill).
In short, we need a government that works for the people. We need a simple government.
Don't get me wrong: I know that many of the nation's problems are highly complex. But I also know that the governing principles that can solve them, if we work together, are simple. Justice, integrity, freedom—the basic notions upon which America was founded—are simple. Somewhere along the way, too many of our leaders have picked up the idea that it takes something like rocket science or brain surgery to deal with public problems. Wrong. When a new law is too long for anyone to read, let alone understand, it's too long, period!
I've tried to follow the same principle in writing this book. First, I've approached the various topics here with the simple underlying principles that helped make our country strong. Then, in each case, I've explored solutions that would be consistent with those bedrock ideals.
I'm not trying to win a Pulitzer Prize or impress the folks at Harvard, Yale, or Stanford—if they'd even listen to me! I'm writing directly to everyone who loves America and believes that it's still the greatest country in the world (and can become even greater once we get back to basics( despite today's serious challenges. I'm writing for people who aren't ashamed to eat hot dogs and hamburgers (in moderation!) and probably think that a meal of snails is better suited to birds and fish than to humans.
Simply put, in other words, this book is intended for about 80 percent of the American people. And if just half of that group would read it and take it to heart, my wife and I would be set for quite a few of the golden years! But more important, my readers would be empowered and energized to restore clarity and common sense to our national government, just as the Founders intended.
Along the way, I hope to tell you some things you've probably never heard and remind you of some important things you may have forgotten, while keeping it all entertaining enough that you won't fall asleep mid-paragraph.
I also promise to be honest—perhaps painfully and brutally honest, when necessary. My goal is to be clear and open, and if that offends some people I'm all right with that. Personally, I'm so sick of the hypocritical, cynical, uninformed nonsense I've read and heard lately that I'd prefer to risk having some readers hate this book because they did understand it rather than have many hate it because they didn't understand it.
Of course, what I really hope is that, because you do understand the book, you'll love it. Call me vain if you want, but I think you're going to!