Saturday, July 5, 2014

Cool Hand Barack

Many who still idolize Barack Obama admire his cool. They believe it’s a sign of grace under pressure. When chaos reigns, they say, Obama stands aside, takes the full measure of the situation and makes a decisive move.

Others believe that Obama’s supposed cool means that he is in over his head. What looks like serenity is the paralysis of a deer caught in the headlights.

It is fairly obvious that Obama did not understand what being the president entailed. It is also obvious that he has been overwhelmed by the job. Worse yet, he does not know it and therefore has never brought in the kinds of seasoned political hands who could help him steer the ship of state.

In a brilliant column Peggy Noonan offers an excellent analysis of the Obama cool:

But I'm not sure people are noticing the sheer strangeness of how the president is responding to the lack of success around him. He once seemed a serious man. He wrote books, lectured on the Constitution. Now he seems unserious, frivolous, shallow. He hangs with celebrities, plays golf. His references to Congress are merely sarcastic: "So sue me." "They don't do anything except block me. And call me names. It can't be that much fun."

Interestingly, Noonan lights on a sports metaphor, only to notice that it does not really suffice to describe the Obama presidency:

This is a president with 2½ years to go who shows every sign of running out the clock. Normally in a game you run out the clock when you're winning. He's running it out when he's losing.
Noonan continues:

All this is weird, unprecedented. The president shows no sign—none—of being overwhelmingly concerned and anxious at his predicaments or challenges. Every president before him would have been. They'd be questioning what they're doing wrong, changing tack. They'd be ordering frantic aides to meet and come up with what to change, how to change it, how to find common ground not only with Congress but with the electorate.

Instead he seems disinterested, disengaged almost to the point of disembodied. He is fatalistic, passive, minimalist. He talks about hitting "singles" and "doubles" in foreign policy.

Then, she offers an interesting and convincing explanation:

Barack Obama doesn't seem to care about his unpopularity, or the decisions he's made that have not turned out well. He doesn't seem concerned. A guess at the reason: He thinks he is right about his essential policies. He is steering the world toward not relying on America. He is steering America toward greater dependence on and allegiance to government. He is creating a more federally controlled, Washington-centric nation that is run and organized by progressives. He thinks he's done his work, set America on a leftward course, and though his poll numbers are down now, history will look back on him and see him as heroic, realistic, using his phone and pen each day in spite of unprecedented resistance. He is Lincoln, scorned in his time but loved by history.

He thinks he is in line with the arc of history, that America, for all its stops and starts, for all the recent Supreme Court rulings, has embarked in the long term on governmental and cultural progressivism. Thus in time history will have the wisdom to look back and see him for what he really was: the great one who took every sling and arrow, who endured rising unpopularity, the first black president and the only one made to suffer like this.

That's what he's doing by running out the clock: He's waiting for history to get its act together and see his true size.

One might call this arrogance. One might even call it narcissism. And yet, it shows an idealistic belief that sees the world as a narrative fiction.

If you are living a fiction, you are obliged to play your role. The outcome is inevitable. If you are playing a game you can take actions that can influence the outcome.

Barack Obama believes that he is right and that everyone who does not see it his way is wrong. He does not see a need to change course, because he believes that history will vindicate him.

If history is a grand narrative whose ending is predetermined, the best Obama can do is to place himself on the right side and wait.

The other night on Megyn Kelly’s show, Lt. Col. Ralph Peters suggested that Obama could not have spent twenty years listening to the fulminations of Rev. Jeremiah Wright without some of it having rubbed off.

Surely, he is correct. And yet, I fear that there is more to it than rubbing off.

Keep in mind that Jeremiah Wright was a proponent of black liberation theology. It was an offshoot of the liberation theology developed by a former Brazilian priest named Leonardo Boff. Through his theology Boff tried to marry Catholicism and Marxism. After the Church silenced him, Boff retired from his priesthood.

If you think of the world in Hegelian or Marxist terms, you will develop a habit of thinking in terms of historical inevitabilities, or a grand narrative that is playing itself out in history. Obama seems perfectly comfortable believing that he has caught the great historical wave and that it will ultimately vindicate him.


Anonymous said...

"He once seemed a serious man. He wrote books, lectured on the Constitution."

Books like Dreams from my Father and Audacity of Hope?

He never made professor at U of C.

He was just some 'clean-cut black guy' cheery-picked by rich Liberal Jews and homosexuals in Hyde Park to dupe the dumb masses.

Buttercup said...

Obama and his wife know that they will always be adored within their circles. They will always have fame and money. They and their children and grandchildren will be well cared for just like the Clintons and Chelsea have done well no matter how much Hillary doth protest too much. Also, see Al Gore.

Its the same phenomenon with all these politicians and Obamacare. Pelosi, Reid, etc. know they will never be ruled by the caprices of the health care bureaucracies, so what do they care. They are wealthy and more importantly, well connected, so they and theirs will always be well cared for.

Ares Olympus said...

It must be hard to be a political pundit. You have to dress up strawmen and knock them down, but in a more clever way than the last time, while pretty much saying the same thing - someone I don't care about sucks. How tedious.

For every opinion a pundit holds, there is an equal and opposite opinion they also hold the will reappear moment that it suits their narrative, maybe so of like a politician perhaps, except without any need for grace.

Anonymous said...

Cool or indifferent?

Obama embodies postmodern chic. There is no truth, so he deems himself the superman/daesin/thetan just creates his own and the "we are the people we've been waiting for" people follow him like zombies. He is the new American redeemer, Jeremiah Wright's creation. Obama doesn't need anyone else. He is his own truth. After all, "You didn't build that!"

The media's burial of the Jeremiah Wright story in 2007 confirmed that the mainstream media was in the bag, championing O's campaign narrative that held his grandmother's racism as comparable to Wright's. He declared he would not declare either, though one was blood and the other a long-term choice. McCain's declaring the Wright issue off limits sealed his doom as a candidate.

Now that the planet has healed and the oceans have receded, what's next for The One?


Sam L. said...

Ares been reading too much from Paullie "The Beard" Krugman.

Baloo said...

Very insightful, you and Peggy Noonan both. I've reblogged this here with comments and illustation:

Never mind being President — Obama may be too cool to be ANYTHING!

Lastango said...

Ben Shapiro presents Obama and his Administration as being engaged in a criminal conspiracy.

That's close to my own thinking: that the choices he and his confederated have made were deliberate decisions, the product of calculated self-interest.

Accordingly here's a short list of things that do NOT drive Obama administration policy:
- Amateurism.
- Delusion.
- Confusion.
- Ideology.
- Incompetence.
- Detachment.

Are Obama and his key players incompetent amateurs, in over their heads and out of their depth? I see them as all that and worse. But that isn't what gives rise to the dysfunctional outcomes of their decisions. The Administration's disasters have come about because the power-wielders are politically and personally self-serving, and utterly ruthless and corrupt. There is nothing they won't do to further the interests of their allies, and to destroy their enemies. Considerations of sound foreign policy, fiscal management, or an understanding of the rule of law or the workings of civil society have no bearing on how the Administration operates. For example, Holder is not AG despite being an amoral political thug, he is AG because he is that thug. No one without that mental profile would ever have been selected as AG. If you intend to run a pirate ship, you need a crew of pirates.

Similarly, consider why Obama would appoint a buffoon like John Kerry to be Secretary of State. The choice seems to defy logic, until one realizes that the content of the Administration's foreign policy is irrelevant to the Administration. If your goal is to extend your Administration's avaricious gangsterism to the global arena, you do not need a savvy diplomat to navigate the world's troubled waters. You need a gangster... someone who will cut any deal with anyone to grab & divide the spoils. And stupid, venal, untouchable people make excellent team players.

Dennis said...

It must be hard to be an Obama lover because you just have to keep making more and more excuses for the failures and plain incompetence he and his administration keep blundering into. Slowly even the low information voter is noting that the "Emperor has no clothes."
I know the feeling because I voted for Jimmy Carter because he was a Democrat who had actually served in the military and should have at the very least known the needs and uses of it. Never again will I vote for someone and not know as much as I can get about the person, though in most cases it is the lesser of two evils.
As Lastango said the only real care he has for this country and its citizens, Thank God at this juncture in history we have not become subjects, is self serving and not in the interest of either the country or its people. An aside. When the government can control what medical care one can get they are very close to making one a subject. If they can control the language one uses by denoting it is a form of hate or oppressive speech one is close to being a subject. When the government can take your ability to defend yourself away then one is close to being a subject.
Foreign policy gets in the way of Obama transforming this country into an oligarchy where he and his fellow travelers will control every aspect of our lives. The bigger the government the less freedom we all have.
There are so many laws in this country that not one of us cannot be prosecuted by a controlling government. If one thinks that they are immune to these kind of acts by government one has no real concept about how many rules and regulations are promulgated each and every day. Gone are the days of "Ignorance of the law is no excuse."
One does not need to create "straw-men." The reality is far more dangerous.

Anonymous said...

The Obama Administration is a shameless, lawless Chicago political operation. There are no people acting independently. People who go rogue in Chicago politics end up with a bad limp or are found dead in the river.thus is all coordinated.

One more name for ya alongside Kerry's: Joe Biden. He's Obama's insurance policy.

The IRS targeting of conservative groups is THE political scandal of our age, and it was launched by the White House with the President's full knowledge and endorsement. Lois Lerner is not a patsy, she is a full-fledged political operative. This goes all the way to the top. The IRS targeted political opponents using the most terrifying weapon in the federal bureaucracy: auditing. It's not just for Scientologists anymore. The President's most feared political opponents were not high-level political operatives of the opposition party. Instead, they were private citizens organizing grassroots resistance to Administration economic policies. This is a different kind of scandal. The U.S. government conducted operations against "community organizers" advocating for significant reductions government spending and against regulatory intrusion. Obama's goons brought a howitzer to a rabbit hunt. After all, you have to send a clear message to silence people. That's how thuggery works, and fear is why it works. That's why the Attorney General won't investigate.

Straw men are combustible. So is the Constitution.


Anonymous said...

I want to amend one part of what I said above about Obama's "full knowledge and endorsement." I think the a Obama White House established the tenor and bearing if its Chicago-style politics early in the Administration. His direct remarks to Supreme Court justices for the Citizens United decision in his 2010 State of the Union was a clear signal delivered in unprecedented form: he publicly dressed them down on live television. He doesn't have to be hands on in directing an operation like IRS targeting, and a modern White House would be sophisticated in getting the word out on the street about what needs to be done. Obama's lieutenants are clear to direct operatives on their own without putting the President directly at risk.

Which begs another point: bureaucratic integrity and respect for the Constitution's Separation of Powers, which is the fire genius of our government structure. I recently watched a PBS "Frontline" episode on the NSA and the surveillance state. I was struck by the Bush-era Justice Department attorney appointees (even clear Bush allies who sympathized with his war powers) questioning whether the President had these powers to make certain national security Executive Orders. The skeptics included Attorney General Ashcroft. There was a healthy skepticism among high-level career officials at the CIA, DIA, NSA and Justice Department about whether the President had these sweeping powers under Article II. That was then. Where are these same bureaucrats and appointees now? Who's asking questions? How about at Holder's Justice Department? How about at the IRS, EPA and HHS? It all seems to be "Because I can" politics. Who's acting as a check on executive power? That's what I find scary.


sestamibi said...

But can he eat fifty eggs in an hour?