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Mona Charen
Mona Charen
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About Those "False Choices"


One of President Obama's strengths is his mild manner. It tends to give the impression of reasonableness, and is reinforced by his habit of presenting strongly ideological moves as mere pragmatism. Rather than acknowledge that he is choosing sides, he spins tales of transcending "the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long..."

In reversing his predecessor's executive order regarding embryonic stem cell research, the president outlined the choice as follows: "In recent years, when it comes to stem cell research, rather than furthering discovery, our government has forced what I believe is a false choice between sound science and moral values. In this case, I believe the two are not inconsistent." You see, there really is no moral quandary worth considering because "I believe we are called to care for each other and work to ease human suffering." Everyone is for easing human suffering. That begs the question: Would the president be in favor of easing human suffering if it required using the organs of, say, 6-month-old fetuses? The problem is not that some people are against "sound science" but rather that science cannot answer questions like "When is human life worthy of respect and protection?" Those are inherently political questions that can only be answered by the whole society.

A few sentences later, President Obama himself acknowledged that "sound science" is not the only consideration. He declared that "we will ensure that our government never opens the door to the use of cloning for human reproduction. It is dangerous, profoundly wrong, and has no place in our society, or any society." Come again? What if human cloning could get paraplegics to walk again or deliver diabetics from a lifetime of needles? What if the federal government's refusal to fund such research caused "some of our best scientists (to) leave for other countries that will sponsor their work"? Apparently there are moral constraints on science and President Obama stands ready to impose them.

One of President Obama's first official acts was to announce the closing of the detention center in Guantanamo Bay and to issue a new executive order on permissible interrogation techniques.

"We reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals," the president proclaimed in his inaugural address. Once again, he dismisses a genuine dilemma as a false choice. There is no conflict between the two because "It is precisely our ideals that give us the strength and moral high ground to … deal with the unthinking violence that we see emanating from terrorism organizations around the world." Is it? Before 9/11, the U.S. was not known around the world for subjecting prisoners to harsh questioning. Did that protect us? Former CIA Director Michael Hayden has offered the view that tough interrogation succeeded in getting some of the worst al-Qaida terrorists to talk. "The Abu Zubaydahs, the Khalid Sheikh Mohammeds, I just can't conceive of any other way, given their character, given their commitment to what it is they do" he told the BBC.

This is not to suggest that stress positions, sleep deprivation, or waterboarding (which was reportedly used in only three cases) are or are not torture. But it is possible, reasonable people can agree, that in certain situations such rough treatment of a detainee might actually be the more moral choice — for example, if half a million people would die from a nuclear explosive hidden in a large city. And once again, one senses that Obama himself knows this and simply chooses to de-emphasize it.

Buried in his statement about interrogations was the promise to create a committee to consider whether the Army Field Manual techniques are too limiting "when employed by departments or agencies outside the military." And when members of the Senate Intelligence Committee asked CIA chief Leon Panetta about a ticking-bomb scenario at his confirmation hearing, Panetta said, "If we had a ticking-bomb situation and, obviously, whatever was being used I felt was not sufficient, I would not hesitate to go to the President of the United States and request whatever additional authority I would need."

The White House did not contradict the CIA director, which isn't surprising. We're beginning to understand the pattern. Wave away serious moral and or policy quandaries; grandstand about your own superior morals; and hope no one notices that you are contradicting yourself.

To find out more about Mona Charen and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at



3 Comments | Post Comment
Ma'am; community is morality to most people...Power is morality to others in that to have it all is justified... But; for you to say: Impression of reasonableness, must mean, in fact, that he is not reasonable... A strange quality in an attorney; would you not say unless illogic is shared across the spectrum of the law... I would suggest that nothing like that is the case; that while the law is reasonable, it has no heart.... What you say, of habit of presenting strongly ideological moves as pragmatism, you must know is only turning your defense into an attack.... Values, principals, ideals, religion, morals are all the halmark of the republican attack and slander machine...What else do they make issues out of???? Nationalism, communism, socialism, capitalism??? What are all these things but ideologies??? You do not want to let on that ideologies do your thinking for you, and that all your arguments are framed in defense of your ideologies or or in attack on counter ideologies; but it is not thought, and it is not rational, and it is not pragmatic... Now, law is itself an ideology, and a very rigorous one, again with its own logic.... But to suggest that Mr. Obama is pushing ideology is false compared to Mr. Bush, and most republican Presidents who were all ideology, and no brain... These are difficult times, and the president is presented with many problems and many choices... Personally, I have studied socialism, and looked hard at capitalism... Much as Mr. Obama is slandered as a socialist, I can see he is not one, but that is the method of ideologues, to damn the enemy with your own sin...The problem I have with Mr. Obama is that he is trying with all his heart to save American Capitalism against the wishes of those who want power even if the price of that power is the destruction of their society... Now, it is not my society... It does not work for me...It does not work for most of the people I know, and even those who have something, and know some good from society see the misery and futility that springs out of ideological America, and know it cannot last... It does not matter what an economy or a government is called.... It does not matter what logic defends it... What matters is whether it works for people.... What is said of socialism that it works in theory, but not in practice is totally false...It has always worked in practice as a natural economy, just as democracy has always worked as a natural government.... It is when people try to impose upon others some ideology that is little understood in it natural form and expect living human beings to conform to it that problems arise... Capitalism does not work in theory... How can good come out of greed, or unseen hands put dollars in the hands of barons, and bankers???Yet it is thought to work well in practice if we can ignore all the pollution, and war, and poverty, and crime... If we could now ignore the depression and the constant series of gluts and crisis we have had in recent years, and all the number of times government has had to make good the shorts of business, then capital might be said to be called a success... There is one big reason Mr Obama is forced to be pragmatist, and it is because the ideology has fallen flat, and it is your ideology, and it is your ideology he is trying to fix against your will...Now, to me, that is an ideologue who will not do what is right, or smart if it does not fit with your particular ideology... Your commanding ideology is reactionary republicanism, which has no relationship with republicanism as a natural form...Yours is the republicanism that denies to the people the power of democracy, and the justice that democracy would make possible... All I can tell you ma'am is that Mr. Obama is not trying to save capitalism for me... I have carried that dumb ox most of my life, and while I may carry it to my grave, it is against my will... I hope you succeed in making certain of Mr. Obama's failure because it may mean liberty for all of mankind...You must stop your friends at all cost if they do not act exactly as your ideology demands...Good luck to you...Thanks...Sweeney
Comment: #1
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Sat Mar 14, 2009 8:50 PM
Fed Chairman, Ben Bernanke, stated and I'm quoting ‘We really had no choice in bailout of
AIG!' Yes, Mr. Bernanke, you did have a choice! When AIG received first bailout, why
weren't strict guidelines imposed on them; such as, NO MORE BONUSES, cut ‘CEO fat cat'
salaries, freebies, and retirements to maximum $25,000.00 year. Older employees, offer
them an early retirement package! All other salaries to be cut by at least one-quarter, as a
slice of the pie is better than no slice at all! Mr. Bernanke this includes you and the rest of
politicians! The other option would have been to let AIG file bankruptcy so they could start
over, and maybe this time they would be more concerned and knowledgeable of what it
takes to run a company by tightening their pocketbooks! You see, Mr. Bernanke, bad
choices is what's put America into Bankruptcy and borrowing money from foreign
countries that we can't pay the interest on! Where's the common sense in these matters?

Taxpayers understand Bay of Thailand is buying AIG Retail Bank Company and deal is to
be completed April 2009. Since this is really Taxpayers money, will you and rest of
politicians make sure AIG pay off the trillions of dollars borrowed, without Taxpayers'
consent, to foreign countries?

That brings Taxpayers to the latest for AIG's bonuses and the statement “If we don't pay
them big bonues, they'll sue us!” How dumb you are? It's Taxpayers' money, not yours to
give! It's time for for AIG, Freddie, Fannie, Banks, Automakers and anyone else standing in
line taking Taxpayers money to immediately file Bankruptcy! Enough is Enough!

President Obama's top economic advisers vigorously defends his 3.6 trillion budget! News
flash for you -- “Taxpayers don't defend this nor any of the so-called put people back to
work programs, called infrastructures. I just left a meeting in which one of the ‘economic
advisers' from a bank stated he'd been in DC for a week!” I asked him why he thought
America needed infrastructures if we didn't bring textile and furniture manufacturing jobs
back to America? He stated ‘they' didn't discuss this, just infrastructures! Remember, these
large banks like Citicorp, Wachovia, etc. were bailed out! Taxpayers wonder why we're
bailing them out if politicians continue allowing the ‘economic' idiots to advise them. He
had no answers! Guess what, Mr. Economic Adviser was hoping the floor would open up
and I'd fall through it! You see, all the expert politicians and economists know as much
about ‘thrifty management' as a newborn and this, folks, is the reason for Change and not
Obama's change methods, either!

There seems to be a lot of ‘experts' in government and financial institutions with no
common sense. It's time to run America like a private business; meaning, President, Vice-
President, Secretary, and Treasurer. All these cabinet members collecting huge salaries
and benefits will have to come to an end. Taxpayers know it's time to cut salaries to
$12,000.00 yearly for all politicians. After all, these Public Servant jobs give less than 30
days of service and, in today's world of mismanagement, deceit and greed, so this is more
money than they deserve.

Why aren't we prosecuting the people handing out Taxpayers monies and the people
who's receiving it? The reasons being very clear-who's collecting and benefiting!

Comment: #2
Posted by: Shirley deLong
Sun Mar 15, 2009 4:00 PM
Dear Mona Charen,
I feel your pain! It's so infuriating to have a reasonable President!!!! His mild manner and desire to not choose sides can just drive a person crazy! It seems like he actually wants to unite us instead of divide us like our last President...the nerve! On top of all of this he won't even tolerate a little torture here and there (when there were only three REPORTED cases of it afterall). Sure wish we had the old guy back, with his blatant contradictions, out right lies (which resulted in thousands of needless deaths) and so called "higher moral grounds"....
Kindest regards,
Comment: #3
Posted by: shannon
Sun Mar 15, 2009 8:23 PM
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