George F. Will: President Obama's speech a last chance to rethink transforming America
Campaigning in 1964, Lyndon Johnson, the third consequential progressive, exclaimed through a bull horn: "I just want to tell you this — we're in favor of a lot of things and we're against mighty few." He learned this progressive vernacular from his patron, FDR, who envisioned "an unlimited civilization capable of infinite progress." Poet Archibald MacLeish, FDR's choice for librarian of Congress, exemplified progressives' autointoxication: America has "the abundant means" to create "whatever world we have the courage to desire," and the ability to "take this country down" and "build it again as we please," to "take our cities apart and put them together," to lead our "rivers where we please to lead them," etc.
In 2012, Americans want from government not such flights of fancy but sobriety; not ecstatic evocations of dreamlike tomorrows but a tolerably functioning today; not fantasies about a world without scarcities and therefore without choices among our desires and appetites but a mature understanding of the limits to government's proper scope and actual competence. Tonight's speech is Obama's last chance to take a first step toward accommodation with a country increasingly concerned about his unmasked determination to "transform" what the Founders considered "fundamentals."
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