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
updated 1:03 PM EDT, Wed May 9, 2012
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
updated 3:50 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016.
updated 4:52 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
updated 12:29 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider say a YouTube video apparently posted by ISIS seems to show that the group has a surveillance drone, highlighting a new reality: Terrorist groups have technology once only used by states
updated 5:04 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
updated 5:45 PM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
updated 1:27 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
John Bare says the Ice Bucket Challenge signals a new kind of activism and peer-to-peer fund-raising.
updated 8:31 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
James Dawes says calling ISIS evil over and over again could very well make it harder to stop them.
updated 9:05 PM EDT, Sat August 23, 2014
As the inquiry into the shooting of Michael Brown continues, critics question the prosecutor's impartiality.
updated 6:47 PM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
Newt Gingrich says it's troubling that a vicious group like ISIS can recruit so many young men from Britain.
updated 10:50 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
David Weinberger says Twitter and other social networks have been vested with a responsibility, and a trust, they did not ask for.
updated 7:03 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
John Inazu says the slogan "We are Ferguson" is meant to express empathy and solidarity. It's not true: Not all of us live in those circumstances. But we all made them.
updated 8:23 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling says he learned that the territory ISIS wants to control is amazingly complex.
updated 3:51 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Cerue Garlo says Liberia is desperate for help amid a Ebola outbreak that has touched every aspect of life.
updated 1:42 PM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Eric Liu says Republicans who want to restrict voting may win now, but the party will suffer in the long term.
updated 11:38 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Jay Parini: Jesus, Pope and now researchers agree: Wealth decreases our ability to sympathize with the poor.
updated 8:00 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Judy Melinek offers a medical examiner's perspective on what happens when police kill people like Michael Brown.
updated 6:03 PM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
It used to be billy clubs, fire hoses and snarling German shepherds. Now it's armored personnel carriers and flash-bang grenades, writes Kara Dansky.
updated 1:27 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Maria Haberfeld: People who are unfamiliar with police work can reasonably ask, why was an unarmed man shot so many times, and why was deadly force used at all?
updated 5:52 PM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
Ruben Navarrette notes that this fall, minority students will outnumber white students at America's public schools.
updated 5:21 PM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
Humans have driven to extinction four marine mammal species in modern times. As you read this, we are on the brink of losing the fifth, write three experts.
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
Pepper Schwartz asks why young women are so entranced with Kardashian, who's putting together a 352-page book of selfies
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT