Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Obama's Greatest Achievement

If you're thinking that it's not easy to use the words "achievement" and "Obama" in the same sentence, you are right.

But just because it's not easy does not mean that it's impossible.

As in this sentence: Wouldn't it be ironic if Obama's greatest achievement were to make us miss George Bush?

So says Stanley Fish in a post today. Link here. According to Fish, a man of the left, when you compare the real George Bush with the real Barack Obama, George Bush starts looking very good indeed.

If Obama's best policies are holdovers from the Bush administration, and if the Iraq War can now be said, by a liberal publication like Newsweek, to be a great step forward... well then, perhaps George Bush was not as bad as his detractors believed.

When you compare the mild-mannered George Bush with the demagogic Obama, you see that a man who says what he means and means what he says wears better than a man who has no conviction beyond his will to manipulate the emotions of his audience.

Fish grants himself some credit for having predicted the rehabilitation of Bush's reputation, and it is credit richly deserved.

For someone who, I easily imagine, voted for Obama, not getting caught up in the anti-Bush mania counts as an important intellectual achievement. Since Fish has also refused to get swept away by the anti-Palin mania, we should not only give him credit for prescience, but also for intellectual integrity.

The quality is so little in evidence in the leftist media that its appearance deserves recognition.

We all like to talk about the madness of crowds, especially when it concerns financial markets. We wax philosophical about the dot-com mania, about the tulip mania, the South Seas bubble, and now, the housing and mortgage bubbles.

And yet, as I mentioned last week, once such manias take hold it is very, very difficult to avoid getting swept up by them. Link here.

For all of the energy we have spent analyzing stock market manias, we spend precious little time looking at intellectual manias. And this is hardly a trivial matter. People who are savvy beyond reason at business and investing are perfectly capable of allowing their minds to be hijacked by the latest intellectual mania.

The most flagrant example of what happens to your mind when it becomes completely overwhelmed by an intellectual mania is... George Soros. Need I say more.

Just ask yourself this, without naming too many names: how many business leaders and market mavens were caught up in Obamamania? And how long will it take them to figure out that, for all of their business acumen and investing skill, that they are mere babes in the woods when it comes to the marketplace of ideas?

Of course, the media bears considerable responsibility for the recent spate of intellectual manias. The media happily served the interests of the Democratic National Committee by demonizing George Bush and for making his name an object of scorn and derision.

Was Bush-hatred a mania? Of course, it was. Did you ever try to discuss the merits of the Bush administration with someone who was caught up in the mania? You would have been confronted by a raving lunatic, consumed by passion, convinced beyond reason that he was right.

And then there was Obamamania. As much as I respect Bernard Goldbery the media did not have a slobbering love affair with Obama-- love affairs, even slobbering, have a certain residual charm-- but it got caught up in a mania of its own making. Obviously, the media worked long and hard to fire up a mania that took an inexperienced and unqualified man to the White House. No small achievement that.

Even today, Stanley Fish notwithstanding, the media has continued to demonize Sarah Palin. To the point where the leftist venom directed against George Bush has magically been transferred to Sarah Palin.

The moral of the story is that for all of our knowledge about the workings of the financial markets and the play of emotion in investing decisions, we know precious little about the workings of emotion in the marketplace of ideas.

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