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Mr. Hope and Change

Armstrong Williams | 5/17/2012, 1:48 p.m.
At Thanksgiving, embracing the winds of change and increasing our faith

Thales of Miletus, considered one of the first philosophers in history, said, perhaps jokingly, that hope is the most abundant thing in the world, because even when you have absolutely nothing, hey, at least you still have hope.

We're not seeing a whole lot of hope coming out of the Obama campaign this time around, despite whatever Thales might have said. Remember the good old days, when Sen. Barack Obama--without the gray hair!--analyzed for us the concept of hope, its very definition, its meaning, waxing poetically on this magical substance that he had invented and was now selling for five trillion borrowed dollars?

"Hope is not blind optimism. It's not ignoring the enormity of the task ahead or the roadblocks that stand in our path. It's not sitting on the sidelines or shirking from a fight. Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite all evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it, and to work for it, and to fight for it. Hope is the belief that destiny will not be written for us, but by us, by the men and women who are not content to settle for the world as it is, who have the courage to remake the world as it should be."

What's curious is that insisting on something despite all evidence to the contrary sounds a lot like blind optimism and ignoring the roadblocks that stand in our path. Regardless, why we need a U.S. senator to explain what hope means or how any of this logorrhea might bear on policy is still a complete mystery to everyone who was paying attention in those heady days, $5 trillion ago.

Hope was even in the title of his book about himself--his second one, excuse me--a title taken from a sermon given by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

As in 2008, Obama is running on biography, personality and on the perceived faults of his opponent or people associated with his opponent. He must believe that those tactics will work or else he would not be running such a campaign.

But we're not hearing about hope anymore.

This year's version of "Hope and Change" is "Forward." It's a term just as empty of content as "Hope and Change," something that no one can disagree with. It's easy to see why it's so useful. But it's also easy to see that it's stupid.

G.K. Chesterton says in "Heretics" that "progress is a comparative of which we have not settled the superlative." That is, to say we're "progressive" or going "Forward," we have to have some goal in mind, some ideal toward which we are striving. It is a term only for people of a shared faith.

But Obama has no ideal, no goal. There is no improved future that he is promising us. All he offers us is more. He is, instead, blinded by the beam in his eye, trying to remove the splinter from Romney's eye.

It is customary, of course, for an incumbent to go negative, but Obama is so cynical that even when he does tout the one undeniable bright spot on his record--the killing of Osama bin Laden by Navy SEAL Team Six--he goes negative with it, asking if Romney would have made the same decision.

This is counterfactual, which means that you can't disprove it or even talk about it meaningfully, hence its usefulness to Team Obama. They'll take what-might-have-happened any day over what-actually-has-happened. Don't believe me? See all their rationalizations about the weakness of our recovery from the recession. By their standards, anything other than the Great Depression would be a victory.

Team Romney, while certainly going negative early, has actually been the party of hope in this cycle. Romney's election slogan is "Believe in America." This, too, is light on content but not quite so destitute of meaning as anything Team Obama has put out. It's simple optimism--don't count us out. "Forward"? That depends on what direction you're facing, and the vast majority of Americans think that we're headed in the wrong one.

If even the president, Mr. Hope and Change himself, has given up on hope, then our country might be hopeless, too.

Armstrong Williams is on Sirius/XM Power 169, 7-8 p.m. and 4-5 a.m., Monday through Friday. Become a fan on Facebook at www.facebook.com/arightside and follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/arightside.