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« Looking For The Resurrection (Norman Costa) | Main | LEGOS and the Changing Face of American Higher Education »

September 01, 2011


One of the few A's in his college transcript are in 'World Military Systems', while he got a D in Economics. Yikes, this will leave no illusions about what his priorities will be if he makes it to the presidency.
Dumb, but shrewd, just like Palin, Bachmann, compassion completely scrambled by their ideological blinders.

I would like to refer everyone to the political cartoon, "Four more years!" wight posts down on AB.

Let me be provocative. I don't care if he wins. He's par for the course. We kiss way too much presidential butt, pretending we revere the office, which permits us to lament the inadequacy of the morons who occupy it. So, Sujatha, you're saying he'll be all about leading us into gratuitous belligerence? He's too dumb to do reasonably well in Economics (I'm not sure that's a failure), yet "shrewd" enough to stick to his ideological guns? Yeah, sounds presidential to me.

A president with a modicum of intelligence, who sees politics as the art of the possible amidst the numerous bad and worse choices that we end up with in the three branches, is much to be preferred to a Bush-ian repeat. Do you seriously think that say Kucinich, stood a chance of getting as much done had he been elected president, ideological purity notwithstanding.

Kos wrote today, "Look, we all need Obama reelected in 2012. Sure there's an idiot fringe who fantasizes about a primary challenge, but bottom line, the president has to win next year. It would be nice if his reelection could be assured because of strong and effective leadership, as opposed to hoping he survives thanks to whatever deranged candidate the GOP primary electorate vomits up. In other words, it'd be nice if the electorate voted for him as opposed to against, the GOP."

I recognize my own streak of ideological purity, yet I also vacillate between sympathy with Kos and incredulity toward him. Who "we," pundit? We, as in he and I, "need Obama"? (More likely, we, as in DK readers and contributors.) But boy is he desperate, isn't he? Yeah, it'd be "nice" if the president were strong and effective, if we'd feel good, rather than queasy, about reelecting him. This is the scope of possibility? And it's artful?

If you feel queasy about reelecting Obama, which is a perfectly fine position to take, the alternatives are even less appetizing. Perry would give the nation a case of stomach cancer, rather than mere indigestion.
The fact is when one votes for a politician, thinking that merely doing so will magically make all our wishes for what he/she will do materialize, it's quite akin to the kid that desperately wishes for a toy, but receiving it, loses all interest in it as not worth the anticipation. No wonder the toy gets tossed away, and the mind goes off in search of the next shiny item to aspire for.
Similarly you will be doomed to constant queasiness, as no politician will ever come close to fulfilling your real-time aspirations. Not Obama, not a reincarnated Roosevelt, JFK, pick your 'hero'.

I think Dean is saying that we should not see our presidents as "heroes" in the first place. What I find troubling about this view is that extrapolating on this line of thinking, we can become cynical about anyone who is in a leadership position. Are we then not to expect teachers to teach well, parents to guide kids to cope with life, doctors to treat and heal, judges to interpret the law with fairness, company owners to stick to good business practices, the police to protect etc.? Or should we just take incompetence, corruption, dereliction of duty by people in authority as mere human failings that is par for the course? Why organize society around leadership, law and order at all?

Despite the many ways that Obama has failed to show leadership and has disappointed his base by what is seen as capitulation to the GOP mischief makers, he is still miles ahead in decency, intelligence and right ideas than Rick Perry will ever be. We do want our elected leaders to reflect our own views of the world and what we wish our own lives to be. Sometimes, the leaders have to convince us that another view may be a better option. The power of persuasion is probably the most important quality we should seek in our leaders. Policies are implemented by the wonks. The problem with Obama is that he thinks of himself as a wonk. He gives the public too much credit in that he feels that the logic behind the steps he takes, are self explanatory and the voters will figure out the rightness and the wrongness of presidential actions. His sparse use of the bully pulpit may be the worst trait of "No-Drama-Obama."

It is unfair, Sujatha, to equate a general deep skepticism of politicians with magical thinking, or to assume my expectations and aspirations are extreme. Seems to me one charitable way to view the founding of the country is to acknowledge a similar queasiness among the founders. Granted, right off the bat they sought a hero in their military man George Washington, pretty much discarding the principles they'd articulated from a standpoint of wariness of people in power.

You're too generous to Obama, Ruchira. He is marginally superior to Perry, barely marginally. The problem with Obama isn't his coolness, his perception of himself as a capable technocrat or prudent statesman disinclined to make rash judgments. The problem is the malignant substance of his administration's work, starting with its nonchalance about war.

"Why organize society around leadership, law and order at all?" Indeed. It's a question we forever treat as rhetorical, to our detriment. My views of the world are malleable. I'm eager to be persuaded to accept an alternative as a course for a temporary solution. Perry's alternatives are absurd; Obama's are at best cunning and obscure. I'm at a loss to decide which could possibly be better in any meaningful way.

Your interrogation of my view, Ruchira, straddles the fence, because you use "expect" in two conflicting ways. One of the reasons we impose law and order, standards and regulations, is because we do expect--we can anticipate or predict, based on accumulated experience--that teachers will not teach well, doctors will fail to treat with care, judges will make biased rulings, humans will fail. But should we expect such behavior, i.e., settle for or require it?

Dean: It's not 'magical thinking' that you are showing here. The analogy to the kid and the toy is more one of the reality falling short of expectations, and inducing what seems to me to be a rather extreme backlash. "Obama OK to elect, Not Good on war, Not Good on gay rights, insipid on Universal Heathcare = same as Bush, marginally better than Perry." You totally ignore the lack of resources ( Blue Dog ridden Congress, Joe Lieberman, conservative majority Supreme Court) that the voters chose to deal him. Plus the juggernaut of an administration riddled with career appointees from the previous 8 years who couldn't be sacked post-haste.
I don't know if coming from a background of watching the wheeling and dealing that is the lifeblood of Indian politics has given me extra patience with Obama's approach to the presidency. I've watched ideological purity turn into fire and ashes in the 80's and 90's in India, so I don't place higher stock on it than a more realpolitik approach. Politics is no place for saints or the truly principled. Considering that yardstick, I would say that Obama's ability to stay on track with whatever he enunciated prior to becoming a senator has been remarkably close, probably an advantage of articulating a middle-road approach, anyway.
(P.S. My illusions of a politician being a hero were shattered by the Bofors scandal during the Rajiv Gandhi era. So, all I hope for is someone who can get something done, without being corrupt, mean or dictatorial about it.)

Respecting war, Obama is in certain respects worse than Bush. He's conducting more of them and their ilk, after all. Respecting health care, plainly he lied from the get-go. I have a gut feeling Obama is as intolerant of LGBTQ as Bush. There is no reason--he needs no resources but his own vaunted oratorical skill--that he can't firmly stand up for same-sex marriage, for instance. (I do believe there are reasonable positions favorable to LGBTQ for opposing same-sex marriage, by the way.)

Blaming lack of resources is question begging. A good president works with the resources he has. On second thought, that last remark is deliciously ambiguous...

I wish the late great Molly Ivins were around today to give us her spot-on take on the empty vessel that Rick Perry truly is. (In her inimitable style, it was Ivins who coined the term "Goodhair" for Perry)

More on 'magical thinking'. Jonathan Chait in the NYT:

Chait is not entirely confident about the strength of his own thesis, which relies mostly on subjunctives, second guessing, and denial. What's magical is his new physics of "leverage" and his new economy of "political capital." Neither of these is a zero-sum commodity. Isn't it arguable that exercising them would have improved their effectiveness?

What is a zero-sum commodity?
Yes, it's quite arguable that he could have spent more political capital on some of his actions, with resultant loss of leverage in some other issues. For a centrist who somehow metamorphosed into a tabula rasa long enough to sweep him into office, he has done quite well, which is why your equation of him to Bush and Perry leaves me baffled. Perry and Bush, are far right and will/did not hesitate to trample over the Constitution in achieving their ends.

Welcome to the US post-2012, if Perry/Palin or Perry/Bachmann are elected to the presidency.

Handmaid's tale redux, all GLBT might as well immigrate en masse to Canada, US will have targeted Iran for the next war and consequent billions to the defense contractors, all schools will be like those in Texas, etc.

If it is Perry / Bachmann, the LGBT won't have to leave for Canada. They will be saved from their depraved afflictions through therapy and prayer. Jews, Muslims, Hindus and other non-Christians may be "cured" too.

When our own side is perceived to have betrayed us, it may be more than mere "Narcissism of small differences." But the majority of Democratic voters are centrists themselves. Kos & Co. do not represent them. Heck, I am way more on the left of most of my middle aged Democrat friends. So they are far more forgiving towards Obama even though they are not particularly happy with everything he has done. It is the committed (and younger) left liberals who are feeling bitterly let down and understandably so. Obama's efforts to appease the right has been frustrating, to say the least. But the thing to keep in mind is that choosing the "lesser of two evils" does not mean that the nature of the "evils" is interchangeable. Obama and Perry are vastly different in their world views, no matter what compromises Obama has foolishly made with an insatiable opposition which is going to hate him no matter what he has to offer.

Kos is a large community, not fairly painted with a broad brush. I stumble over a lot of "centrists" there, folks who cut the president some slack or gripe about Greenwald. Here, on the other hand, is an apt one by, I suppose, a more left-leaning contributor.

By the way, why must everybody refer to Obama's "rhetoric"? I realize his oratorical prowess is intended, and I know that rhetoric was once a discipline aimed at developing orators, but he's not a particularly compelling speaker--I can't think of a POTUS who was, all of them being self-important windbags--and the only thing he has going for him as a speaker is his contrived demeanor of level headed solemnity, the professorial habit that so irks resentful right-wingers, which has nothing to do with the rhetorical composition of his spoken texts.

Rhetoric is a matter of personal taste. Obama, I have found is actually better in one-to-one "professorial" interviews than he sometimes is in his public speeches. He has his moments, good and bad, on the podium. But as far as the average politician goes, including presidential candidates, he is better than most. If you want to hear some partisan demagoguery and shoot-from-the hip sound bites, tune in to NBC's GOP debate tonight. I am pretty keen to see how Governor "Goodhair" will fare in a national forum. During all these years in Texas I have seen him avoid debates and get away with name calling campaigns.

If you can stand to watch Obama at all, you should hear him speak tomorrow when he plans to lay out his plans for nation. If I were his speech writer, the sound bite I would want him to direct at the obstructionist GOP might be something like, "Either you are with me or you are against the American people." It worked for Bush when the nation was scared to death of terrorists. It may work for Obama, when people are nervous about their jobs and way of life.

No, Ruchira, rhetoric is certainly not a matter of personal taste. It is a systematic wielding of the language. Its effect is, in part, a subjective perception, but its mechanisms are linguistic fact, much as a traditional sonnet form can be described objectively even if its effect is variously experienced. Those who comment on Obama's rhetoric intend to import this concrete, and therefore indisputable, significance of the word, but what they're really referring to is its more figurative sense of elegant language and gesture. Well, Obama really doesn't exhibit either characteristic. His speeches aren't particularly well-crafted texts, and his delivery is run-of-the-mill candidate-for-high-school-class-president.

But so what? I wouldn't care if a president gave speeches in terza rima, Pig Latin, or cocky sound-bites. He can say, "Either you're with me..." all he wants, he can promise soda pop flowing from the drinking fountains, but he knows 1) they are with him, and 2) he's with them, and he behaves accordingly.

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