'The Real Burkean In American Politics Right Now Is Barack Obama'

September 9th, 2009 9:17 AM

"[I am] against this most monstrous of all meddling on the part of authority: the meddling with the subsistence of its people. . . . [One must] manfully . . . resist the very first idea, speculative or practical, that it is within the competence of government . . . to supply the poor with necessaries. . . . To provide for us in our necessities is not in the power of government. It would be a vain presumption in statesmen to think they can do it." -- Edmund Burke, 'Thoughts and Details on Scarcity', 1795.

Jon Meacham strikes me as a knowledgeable man. Surely the author of a well-regarded biography of Andrew Jackson knows his history.  Ignorance thus cannot explain how the Newsweek editor could with a straight face describe Barack Obama as "the real Burkean in American politics right now."  Yet on today's Morning Joe, Meacham effectively depicted Obama as the bearer of the torch of the man often described as the father of modern conservatism . . .

Discussing the health care debate, Meacham began with this dubious proposition about the president: "I don't think he's an ideologue." He then went from stretching credulity to shattering it into countless tiny shards.  [Note that Meacham's tongue-in-cheek references to a book and an author he couldn't quite remember were to Scarborough and his Last Best Hope.]

JON MEACHAM: I read a book—I can't remember the title—The Last Best Hope!

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Yes! A wonderful book: splendid.

MEACHAM: I can't remember who wrote it. Authors all look alike—it's terrible.  But I had a conversation with that author, who agreed I think with the premise that the real Burkean in American politics right now is Barack Obama. Because he's dealing with, when he came in, he dealt with reality as he found it, and may have gone too far at this point, but it's September the ninth.

SCARBOROUGH: You didn't read, you didn't read my book. Because I specifically, if you would have just gotten through the introduction you would have known that I said that Barack Obama has overreached, like George W. Bush overreached, and Americans are hungry for a Burkean conservative.