Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Obama Fends Off Hard-Hitting Questions from Rolling Stone Editor

I am Your LIDER & MASTER & SOON your F-WORD!

Rolling Stone & Jann Wenner have gone a long way in the past forty years since I began reading the original back when the Beatles were still cover-fodder---and the horoscope of the month was avidly pursued by yours truly. Now it is devoted to punch/counterpunch interviews like Wenner's mano a mano with Obama:

When you came into office, you felt you would be able to work with the other side. When did you realize that the Republicans had abandoned any real effort to work with you and create bipartisan policy?

How do you feel about the fact that day after day, there's this really destructive attack on whatever you propose? Does that bother you? Has it shocked you?

You get credit for that.

What music have you been listening to lately? What have you discovered, what speaks to you these days?

You had Bob Dylan here. How did that go?

Did you cry?

Obama apparently wasn't prepared for Wenner's tough, no-holds-barred interview style, for he comes across quite poorly in the interview. The Associated Press's summary gives the best indication of why:
Admonishing his own party, President Barack Obama says it would be "inexcusable" and "irresponsible" for unenthusiastic Democratic voters to sit out the midterm elections, warning that the consequences could be a squandered agenda for years.
"People need to shake off this lethargy. People need to buck up," Obama told Rolling Stone in an interview to be published Friday. The president told Democrats that making change happen is hard and "if people now want to take their ball and go home, that tells me folks weren't serious in the first place."

Jann's mouth agape with shock and awe and even wonder at The Won's cosmic vibes. Obama's "progressive" base has been unhappy with him of late, and he has decided to make it clear that he's unhappy with them, too. As he tells Wenner:
I could have had a knock-down, drag-out fight on the public option that might have energized you and The Huffington Post [sic], and we would not have health care legislation now. I could have taken certain positions on aspects of the financial regulatory bill, where we got 90 percent of what we set out to get, and I could have held out for that last 10 percent, and we wouldn't have a bill. You've got to make a set of decisions in terms of "What are we trying to do here? Are we trying to just keep everybody ginned up for the next election, or at some point do you try to win elections because you're actually trying to govern?" I made a decision early on in my presidency that if I had an opportunity to do things that would make a difference for years to come, I'm going to go ahead and take it.

The president has a point. He has in fact proved himself to be an ideological extremist, governing as far to the left as he possibly can. That's why he's lost Middle America. The left's anger with him is misplaced; the actual source of their frustration is not Obama's policy preferences but the constraints on his ability to act that are entailed by the phrase "as he possibly can."

Yet the interview reveals one of Obama's worst character flaws: his insufferably condescending attitude. He is the kind of guy who is convinced he's always right and suffers from a compulsion to let everyone know he's right. This attitude is no less unattractive on the rare occasion when he actually is right.

As we noted yesterday, the politics of insult can have a certain snob appeal. When liberal politicians talk down to ordinary Americans, it can energize snooty so-called progressives who think they're better than everyone else. But even snooty progressives don't like being talked down to. Because they fancy themselves superior, they probably dislike it with a special intensity. At this rate, it won't be long before Obama's only remaining supporter is Barack Obama.

And even the fons et origo of New York Times linstitutiojnal wisdom, the redoutable Stanley Fish, demurs at the audacious blows The Won keeps landing on his own jaw with occasional belly punches to his own solar plexus:
The Democrats will be helping [Republicans] by saying scathing and dismissive things about the Tea Party and its candidates. The Greek mythological figure Antaeus won victory after victory because his opponents repeatedly threw him to the ground, not realizing that it was the earth (in the figure of his mother, Gaia) that nourished him and gave him renewed strength. The Tea Party's strength comes from the down-to-earth rhetoric it responds to and proclaims, and whenever high-brow critics heap the dirt of scorn and derision upon the party, its powers increase. . . .
Better, perhaps, to take a cue from Hercules, who figured out the source of Antaeus's strength and defeated him by embracing him in a bear hug, lifting him up high, and preventing him from touching the ground. Don't sling mud down in the dust where your opponents thrive. Instead, engage them as if you thought that the concerns they express (if not their forms of expression) are worthy of serious consideration, as indeed they are. Lift them up to the level of reasons and evidence and see how they fare in the rarified air of rational debate where they just might suffer the fate of Antaeus.
It's at least worth a try, because the way things are going we may soon be looking at Senator O'Donnell, Governor Paladino and, down the road a bit, President Palin.

Fish is surely right that Democrats would do better to ditch the condescending tone and strike a reasonable one, though he himself provides a poor example. "Down in the dust where your opponents thrive"? At least he's not as bad as Stanley Crouch of New York's Daily News, who calls to mind Rwanda's genocidaires when he refers to critics of the president as "spiritual vermin."

The problem, however, is that the Democratic left's unreason is a matter of substance as well as tone. ObamaCare, for example, was described as a fiscal perpetual-motion machine: By vastly expanding government control over medicine, it would reduce costs and provide care to everyone. The only way to reconcile these goals is through government rationing of expensive treatment--via death panels, in Sarah Palin's piercing term. The reason they attacked Palin as a "wingnut" for this statement is not that she was unreasonable but precisely that her logic was irrefutable.

Or consider the so-called stimulus law. Obama's economic advisers claimed it was necessary to spend nearly a trillion dollars of our money to prevent unemployment from going as high as 8%. They got their trillion, and we got unemployment of close to 10%. The Obama team now claims that things would have been even worse without the spending spree. Even this dubious assertion--the most favorable possible interpretation from their standpoint--reveals their utter incompetence as economic forecasters. How can the Democrats act reasonable if reason is not on their side?

Oh, Massa Crouch, Puh-leez dowan' throw me into that briar patch......!

No comments :