Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Obama's 'Life of Julia' is the wrong vision for America

By William J. Bennett, CNN Contributor
May 9, 2012 -- Updated 1703 GMT (0103 HKT)
Julia's happily-ever-after tale is remarkably void of reality, says William Bennett.
Julia's happily-ever-after tale is remarkably void of reality, says William Bennett.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • President Obama's campaign launches a fictional storybook ad called "The Life of Julia"
  • William Bennett: Buried within the ad is the ideological vision of modern liberalism
  • He says the story of Julia represents Obama's view of the state's role in an individual's life
  • Bennett: Conservatives must be able to craft an alternative vision

Editor's note: William J. Bennett, a CNN contributor, is the author of "The Book of Man: Readings on the Path to Manhood." He was U.S. secretary of education from 1985 to 1988 and director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under President George H.W. Bush.

(CNN) -- Last week, President Obama's campaign launched a fictional storybook ad called, "The Life of Julia." The slide show narrative follows Julia, a cartoon character, from age 3 to age 67 and explains how Obama's policies, from Head Start to Obamacare to mandated contraception coverage to Medicare reform, would provide Julia with a better life than Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan could.

Julia is not your typical all-American girl, but an obviously independent, yuppie liberal woman. She goes to public school, graduates college, and becomes a Web designer. She is able to pursue her career because, at age 27, "her health insurance is required to cover birth control and preventive care, letting Julia focus on her work rather than worry about her health."

At age 31 she "decides to have a child," with no mention of a father or husband. Her son Zachary heads off to a Race to the Top funded public school, while Julia goes on to start her own Web business. She retires at age 67 with Social Security and Medicare supporting her financially and spends her later years volunteering in a community garden.

William Bennett
William Bennett

Julia's happily-ever-after tale is remarkably void of reality. Nowhere in her fictional life is it mentioned that Head Start has done little, if anything, to improve elementary education, that she will likely graduate with $25,000 in student loan debt, that she has a 50% chance of being unemployed or underemployed after college, that Medicare and Social Security are headed toward insolvency, and that her share of the national debt is $50,000 and growing.

For Republicans, Julia's story might seem like a joke too good to be true, but they should take it very seriously. Because buried within "The Life of Julia" is the ideological vision of modern liberalism -- to create a state that takes care of its people from cradle to grave. The story of Julia is a microcosm of Obama's vision for America and emblematic of his view of the government's role in an individual's life.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter and Facebook.com/cnnopinion

"The Life of Julia" has done what many conservatives have failed to do so far -- outline in exacting detail what modern Democratic policy wants for individuals. Here we have Obama's 21st century synthesis of the Great Society, New Deal and New Frontier.

Julia's entire life is defined by her interactions with the state. Government is everywhere and each step of her life is tied to a government program. Notably absent in her story is any relationship with a husband, family, church or community, except a "community" garden where she works post-retirement. Instead, the state has taken their place and is her primary relationship.

As banal and hackneyed as Julia's life of government dependence may seem, many Americans support it. After all, similar promises lured a number of European countries into overreaching and under-supported social safety nets. With the American family less intact than ever and with single motherhood at historic highs, women like Julia are increasingly left on their own. The idea of government assistance can become more and more attractive to them and even necessary.

Democratic policymakers realize that in the absence of self-sustaining family units, government can step in and fill the void. And a government large enough to fill that void can eventually take the place of the family altogether. Cultural commentator Heather Mac Donald recently wrote, "The single mother has become the cornerstone of Democratic politics." Julia is the perfect example.

In response, conservatives must defend their own cornerstones -- individual liberty, virtue and earned success. Conservatives must make the case that earned success is preferable to government dependency, and that Julia is more likely to achieve success and fulfillment in a good, stable family. As families grow stronger, schools, churches and communities improve, and Julia's chances for success improve, both for herself and her son. But as government grows larger and more intrusive, Julia's personal liberty and opportunities may shrink.

Whatever pleasure Republicans may get from jokes or parodies of Julia, the fact is that many women will choose her life, some out of necessity or believing it's necessary. "The Life of Julia" should make it obvious that this election is about more than offering Julia a better job and more benefits. Conservatives must be able to provide Julia an alternative vision for a better future. Without it, Julia might have nowhere else to turn but to the government, and that is nothing to laugh about.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of William J. Bennett.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 1925 GMT (0325 HKT)
Maria Cardona says Republicans should appreciate President Obama's executive action on immigration.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 1244 GMT (2044 HKT)
Van Jones says the Hunger Games is a more sweeping critique of wealth inequality than Elizabeth Warren's speech.
November 20, 2014 -- Updated 2329 GMT (0729 HKT)
obama immigration
David Gergen: It's deeply troubling to grant legal safe haven to unauthorized immigrants by executive order.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 0134 GMT (0934 HKT)
Charles Kaiser recalls a four-hour lunch that offered insight into the famed director's genius.
November 20, 2014 -- Updated 2012 GMT (0412 HKT)
The plan by President Obama to provide legal status to millions of undocumented adults living in the U.S. leaves Republicans in a political quandary.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 0313 GMT (1113 HKT)
Despite criticism from those on the right, Obama's expected immigration plans won't make much difference to deportation numbers, says Ruben Navarette.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 0121 GMT (0921 HKT)
As new information and accusers against Bill Cosby are brought to light, we are reminded of an unshakable feature of American life: rape culture.
November 20, 2014 -- Updated 2256 GMT (0656 HKT)
When black people protest against police violence in Ferguson, Missouri, they're thought of as a "mob."
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 2011 GMT (0411 HKT)
Lost in much of the coverage of ISIS brutality is how successful the group has been at attracting other groups, says Peter Bergen.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1345 GMT (2145 HKT)
Do recent developments mean that full legalization of pot is inevitable? Not necessarily, but one would hope so, says Jeffrey Miron.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
We don't know what Bill Cosby did or did not do, but these allegations should not be easily dismissed, says Leslie Morgan Steiner.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1519 GMT (2319 HKT)
Does Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas have the influence to bring stability to Jerusalem?
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1759 GMT (0159 HKT)
Even though there are far fewer people being stopped, does continued use of "broken windows" strategy mean minorities are still the target of undue police enforcement?
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 0258 GMT (1058 HKT)
The truth is, we ran away from the best progressive persuasion voice in our times because the ghost of our country's original sin still haunts us, writes Cornell Belcher.
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 2141 GMT (0541 HKT)
Children living in the Syrian city of Aleppo watch the sky. Not for signs of winter's approach, although the cold winds are already blowing, but for barrel bombs.
November 17, 2014 -- Updated 1321 GMT (2121 HKT)
We're stuck in a kind of Middle East Bermuda Triangle where messy outcomes are more likely than neat solutions, says Aaron David Miller.
November 17, 2014 -- Updated 1216 GMT (2016 HKT)
In the midst of the fight against Islamist rebels seeking to turn the clock back, a Kurdish region in Syria has approved a law ordering equality for women. Take that, ISIS!
November 17, 2014 -- Updated 0407 GMT (1207 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says President Obama would be justified in acting on his own to limit deportations
ADVERTISEMENT