Nat Hentoff is one of America’s most respected, controversial and uncompromising writers/intellectuals. Not easily pigeon-holed into any category, he is a civil libertarian, Jewish atheist, pro-lifer, and sometime critic of the ideological left. Accordingly, he has angered nearly every political faction. He was a New Yorker staff writer for over 25 years, wrote many books on jazz, biographies and novels, including children’s books, and for 50 years wrote a weekly column for the Village Voice. He is now, at age 84, a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute.
In an interview with the Rutherford Institute on December 11, 2009, Hentoff calls Obama “possibly the most dangerous and destructive president we have ever had.” Here are excerpts of what Hentoff said in that interview:
“I try to avoid hyperbole, but I think Obama is possibly the most dangerous and destructive president we have ever had. An example is ObamaCare…. If the American people have their health care paid for by the government, depending on their age and their condition, they will be subject to a health commission just like in England which will decide if their lives are worth living much longer.
In terms of the Patriot Act, and all the other things he has pledged he would do, such as transparency in government, Obama has reneged on his promises. He pledged to end torture, but he has continued the CIA renditions where you kidnap people and send them to another country to be interrogated….. Throughout Obama’s career, he promised to limit the state secrets doctrine which the Bush-Cheney administration had abused enormously….[But] Obama is doing the same thing, even though he promised not to.
…I am beginning to think that this guy is a phony. Obama seems to have no firm principles that I can discern that he will adhere to. His only principle is his own aggrandizement. This is a very dangerous mindset for a president to have.
…Bush was led astray and we were led astray. However, I never thought that Bush himself was, in any sense, “evil.” I am hesitant to say this about Obama. Obama is a bad man in terms of the Constitution. The irony is that Obama was a law professor at the University of Chicago. He would, most of all, know that what he is doing weakens the Constitution.
In fact, we have never had more invasions of privacy than we have now. The Fourth Amendment is on life support and the chief agent of that is the National Security Agency. The NSA has the capacity to keep track of everything we do on the phone and on the internet. Obama has done nothing about that. In fact, he has perpetuated it. He has absolutely no judicial supervision of all of this. So all in all, Obama is a disaster.
…I am an atheist, although I very much admire and have been influenced by many traditionally religious people. I say this because the Left has taken what passes for their principles as an absolute religion. They don’t think anymore. They just react. When they have somebody like Obama whom they put into office, they believed in the religious sense and, of course, that is a large part of the reason for their silence on these issues. They are very hesitant to criticize Obama, but that is beginning to change.
…In England, you have what I would call government-imposed euthanasia. Under the British healthcare system, there is a commission that decides whether or not, based on your age and physical condition, the government should continue to pay for your health…. The present Stimulus Bill sets up the equivalent commission in the United States similar to that which is in England. The tipoff was months ago on the ABC network. President Obama was given a full hour to describe and endorse his health plan. A woman in the audience asked Obama about her mother. Her mother was, I believe, 101 years old and was in need of a certain kind of procedure. Her doctor didn’t want to do it because of her age. However, another doctor did and told this woman there is a joy of life in this person. The woman asked President Obama how he would deal with this sort of thing, and Obama said we cannot consider the joy of life in this situation. He said I would advise her to take a pain killer. That is the essence of the President of the United States.
…Obama has little, if any, principles except to aggrandize and make himself more and more important. You see that in his foreign policy. Obama lacks a backbone—both a constitutional backbone and a personal backbone. This is a man who is causing us and will cause us a great deal of harm constitutionally and personally. I say personally because I am 84 years old, and this is the first administration that has scared me in terms of my lifespan.
…A lot of people voted for Obama because of our history of racial discrimination in this country. They felt good even though they didn’t really know much about him and may have had some doubts. But at least they showed the world we could elect a black president. And that is still part of what he is riding on. Except that, too, is diminishing. In the recent Virginia election, the black vote diminished. Now why was that? I think a lot of black folks are wondering what this guy is really going to do, not only for them but for the country. If the country is injured, they will be injured. That may be sinking in.
…the general unemployment rate is going to continue for a long time and for all of us. I have never heard so many heart-wrenching stories of all kinds of people all across the economic spectrum. As usual, the people who are poorest—the blacks, Hispanics and disabled people—are going to suffer more than anyone else under the Obama administration. This is a dishonest administration, because it is becoming clear that the unemployment statistics of the Obama administration are not believable. I can’t think of a single area where Obama is not destructive.
…I spent a lot of time studying our Founders and people like Samuel Adams and the original Tea Party. What Adams and the Sons of Liberty did in Boston was spread the word about the abuses of the British. They had Committees of Correspondence that got the word out to the colonies. We need Committees of Correspondence now, and we are getting them. That is what is happening with the Tea Parties. I wrote a column called “The Second American Revolution” about the fact that people are acting for themselves as it happened with the Sons of Liberty which spread throughout the colonies. That was a very important awakening in this country. A lot of people in the adult population have a very limited idea as to why they are Americans, why we have a First Amendment or a Bill of Rights.
…Joe McCarthy’s regime was ended by Senators who realized that he had gone too far. What we have now may be more insidious. What we have now in America is a surveillance society. We have no idea how much the government knows and how much the CIA even knows about average citizens. The government is not supposed to be doing this in this country. They listen in on our phone calls. I am not exaggerating because I have studied this a long time. You have to be careful about what you do, about what you say, and that is more dangerous than what was happening with McCarthy, but the technology the government now possesses is so much more insidious.
…If James Madison or Thomas Jefferson were brought back to life and they looked at television and read the papers, they would not recognize the country.
The media has been very bad about informing us about what is going on. They focus on surface things. They do not focus enough on the fact that the Fourth Amendment is on life support and that we need a return to transparency in government. The media ignores what is really going on. But I am optimistic. I have to be optimistic, as I know you are. That is why you keep writing and keep doing what you do. You have to do this because we have been through very dark periods before. There are enough people who are starting to be actively involved that we can turn things around. And we need to encourage others to become involved.