Buried in the 17th paragraph of one of those mewling New York Times pieces on the woes of Obama — can we start calling him Woe-bama yet? — appeared these two words: “going Bulworth.”
Obama himself, the Times explained, has been “longingly” telling his inner circle that what he’d really like to do is what Sen. Jay Bulworth, played by Warren Beatty in his 1998 movie “Bulworth,” did: to go public as an unabashed, angry and admitted socialist.
It’s as if Ronald Reagan had been caught saying he wanted to “Go Strangelove.”
In confessing his dreams of “going Bulworth,” Obama confirmed that what he thinks and what he says out loud are two different things. He let slip the mask of a center-left moderate — a “pragmatist” who only cares about “what works.” The press and even right-of-center columnists like Ross Douthat and David Brooks have always insisted that this completely unconvincing masquerade is genuine.
“Bulworth” is set during the campaign season of 1996, when progressives’ frustration with Bill Clinton was reaching a boil (just before the Lewinsky scandal turned them into his defenders again). The title character is a cautious, Clintonian Democratic senator who breaks down in despair at his own moderate campaign, in which he questions race preferences, welfare and bloated government.
Recognizing that he is a sellout makes him despondent to the point of suicide (I trust this is not the part of Bulworth with which Obama identifies). So, he first takes out a life insurance policy, then hires a hit man to assassinate him.
With nothing left to lose, Bulworth speaks his mind and becomes a sensation and unexpected contender for the presidency by giving far-left campaign speeches in rap form. In the movie’s centerpiece moment, Bulworth does a rap about health care and cries, “Socialism!” to a stunned crowd. (The lyrics run, “Yeah, yeah / You can call it single-payer or Canadian way / Only socialized medicine will ever save the day! Come on now, lemme hear that dirty word: Socialism!”)
This is President Obama’s id, the little man he wishes he could let out to party.
But at least Bulworth is more upfront about the catch-all term for his program. President Obama and many others (including the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary) seem to confuse socialism with communism — common ownership of the economy.
But most people understand socialism as shorthand for a European-style economy that allows private property but is government-directed for the (alleged) common good.
A country whose economy is more public than private is socialist — such as France, where 57% of GDP is government spending. Few would deny that Obama’s goal is to put a beret on the US economy. Saying so, though, would require Bulworthian frankness.
Yet the flip side of Obama’s fantasy is what’s getting him into trouble: His administration may not be able to say what it fervently believes, but it can muzzle others who want to speak their minds.
The Benghazi e-mails show that his administration sought to shut up the CIA and conceal the damaging truth that it always knew al Qaeda terrorists (not demonstrators) attacked us last Sept. 11 in Libya. The AP scandal shows his Justice Department clamping down on what reporters say. The IRS scandal reveals his tax minions trying to silence the Tea Party.
This is an administration that wishes only one man ever got a chance to speak up, loud and proud, in unapologetically socialist terms — while everybody else gets a strip of duct tape slapped over their mouths.