How badly do you want it? If you really wanted it, you would have gotten it. If you didn’t get it, that can only mean that you did not want it badly enough.
Our culture, such as it is, teaches these principles and precepts. It tells us that we need to know what we really, really want. Then, success will naturally follow. It’s not quite the same thing as what used to be called “the secret,” that is, imagining yourself successful will make you successful. Those who sold “the secret” even claimed that if you imagine that there will be an empty parking space, then there will be an empty parking space. It suggested that your mind can command reality. One imagines that it was all a test to see how gullible you are.
In the meantime, the alternative to wanting things very badly is working very hard to get them. Some will say that if you want it badly enough you will work hard to get it. Others will note that if your desire is the most important you might well convince yourself that you do not need to work as hard.
I suspect that the fact that we use the phrase—wanting something badly— is the way language tries to tell us something. We might say that we want something good, but when we are consumed by desire we say that we want something badly… though not necessarily that we want something bad to happen.
Anyway, Peggy Noonan made a very good point this morning, point about our president, the hapless negotiator. It has often been noted—on this blog and elsewhere—that President Obama is one of the world’s worst negotiators. From the failed negotiation with Iraq over the Status of Forces Agreement to his failure to negotiate with Congressional Republicans on just about anything to his gross mismanagement of relations with our allies around the world, and culminating in the deal he just negotiated with Iran, Obama has set a very bad example.
When people do not know how to negotiate, they sometimes prefer confrontation and drama. At other times, they simply capitulate. None of it looks like the exercise of cool reason.
Noonan argued that the Obama negotiates badly because his negotiating partners know that he wants the deal… too much. If you want the deal too badly, your adversary will take advantage of you. If you want the deal too badly you will be acting like you are negotiating the terms of a surrender.
First, she refers to the new deal with Iran, but then she expands her thought:
There will be plenty of serious criticism of the deal, accompanied by a generalized sense that the U.S. probably got taken—because Mr. Obama always wants it too much. As with the opening to Cuba, Mr. Obama put his face on it too early, put his name on it too hard, talked about it too much in public, let his aides give background interviews saying this is a crucial effort, a historic gambit, part of the president’s visionary legacy. The adversary sees this, the need and the want—they watch the news too!—and proceeds accordingly.
When negotiating with America’s adversaries Obama tends to project weakness. But, no one wants to look like a coward. Thus, Obama tries to balance and disguise his weakness by going to the opposite extreme: becoming a bully. He reserves that form of recalcitrance for his Republican adversaries… which used to be called the loyal opposition.
It’s not as though Obama is treating America’s enemies as friends. He is treating them as winners, as people who have won their war against America-- perhaps because, not being capitalists, they occupy the moral high ground. But, Obama is also treating Republicans as enemies. They occupy the moral low ground and thus must be crushed, mercilessly.
Mr. Obama is an odd one in that when there are rivals close by, in Congress for instance, with whom he could negotiate deals, he disses them in public, attacks their motives, yanks them around with executive orders, crushes them when possible. But when negotiating with actual tyrants he signals deference, hunger. I leave it to others to explain what it means when a man is bullying toward essentially good people and supplicating toward bad ones. But the sense is he always wants it too much and is consequently a poor negotiator, and this will have some impact on U.S. and world reaction.
How to explain what it means? Obviously, it means that Obama does not know how to negotiate. Also, it suggests that Obama does not see himself as America’s president. He does not see America’s enemies as enemies because he does not see them as his personal enemies.
He sees Republicans and people who criticize or question him as his true enemies. Being terribly thin-skinned, lacking in confidence or backbone, he strikes out against his political opponents. He does not care that they are loyal Americans, but only that they are his personal enemies.
One might also say that his actions derive from his view of the world and of world history. Obama is at war with the American right because he believes it to be the enemy of everything he considers good in the world. He does not see America’s enemies as hating people like him. They only hate Republicans. Being as the Republicans are the root of all evil, they must be bullied and defeated. At that point, America’s enemies will become America’s friends.