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Pete Souza/White House

Fault lines

Americans failed to vet the most senior man in the West Wing

Issue: "News of the Year," Jan. 2, 2010

I don't know how the Spanish high school history books tell it, but it seems God put the kibosh on the Spanish Armada of 1588. The bloated cargo holds that slowed King Philip's fleet and rendered it no match for England's nimbler sea vessels were arguably of human and not divine cause, but Captain Drake couldn't take any credit for gale-force winds that whipped the enemy's galleons onto the treacherous coast of Scotland.

No one knew a year ago what 2009 would hold, and no one knows what 2010 will serve up. As they say, if you could tell the future, you'd be fabulously wealthy. (I'll take mine in gold, please.) But history in the rearview mirror always makes me feel I should have foreseen some things better than I did. From the swirl of events, a sifting begins to take place in my mind, dividing the indubitable "acts of God" (a rising southwesterly wind) and those that now appear to be man's fault (cumbersome ships).

Much of the current state of the nation seems to be of the second kind. A debt of $12 trillion in is not an "oops" news item. Granting ­mortgages to people without good jobs is something your ­grandmother would have called ludicrous. Taxpayers subsidizing the wives of Muslim polygamists in Ontario is a choice, not a chance event. Creeping Shariah law in Europe is a series of capitulations, not an accident. And what shall we say of government part-ownership of car companies and banks; unemployment figures in the double digits; a discernable slouching toward socialism (Solzhenitsyn said, "Socialism of any type and shade leads to a destruction of the human spirit."); and the new EU President Van Rompuy's statement that "the climate conference in Copenhagen is another step toward the global management of our planet"?

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When President Obama's former green jobs czar Van Jones resigned because conservatives had nit-picky objections to a few details in his portfolio-like his past involvement in a Bay Area Marxist-based group called "Standing Together to Organize a Revolutionary Movement"-a White House spokesman who wanted to remain anonymous said with embarrassment that "his past was not reviewed to the same degree as the more senior assistants to the president and other top advisers inside the West Wing."

Thus did the administration tacitly admit the importance of vetting a man's past in order to predict his future. They agreed that we may expect some organic connection there, and not utter randomness.

Shall we not chide ourselves for the same failure to vet the most senior man of all in the West Wing? Is it unreasonable to connect historical dots between the present state of the union and Barack Obama's coming up as a disciple of radical community organizer Saul Alinsky, who wrote in Rules for Radicals: "What follows is for those who want to change the world from what it is to what they believe it should be. The Prince was written by Machiavelli for the Haves on how to hold power. Rules for Radicals is written for the Have-Nots on how to take it away. . . . You do what you can with what you have and clothe it with moral garments"?

Or is it unreasonable to consider Obama's past employment as a trainer of the shock troops of ACORN, the community organization that "pressured banks to provide mortgages and home improvement loans in low-income communities" (David Walls, Power to the People: Thirty-five Years of Community Organizing, 1994)?

There is a fable about a scorpion who asks a frog for a lift across the river. The frog very sensibly demurs; he has heard what scorpions do with their stingers. The scorpion then reasons with the frog that it is silly to worry about his past reputation because the fact is that if he killed the frog who was carrying him, he would die himself. This is enough to persuade the feckless amphibian, and he takes on his dubious passenger. Halfway into the voyage the scorpion stings his host. The frog, in his death throes, says, "Why did you do that? Now you will die too." The scorpion replies, "It's my nature."
If you have a question or comment for Andrée Seu, send it to aseu@worldmag.com.
To hear commentaries by Andrée Seu, click here.

Andrée Seu
Andrée Seu

Andrée is the author of three books: Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me, Normal Kingdom Business, and We Shall Have Spring Again. Follow Andrée on Twitter @Andreespeterson.

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