Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Lurking Dangers

I got to watch some of Obama's town hall thing today (you could probably find it on YouTube or something) and it reminded me why he is such a canny opponent.  Watching and listening to him is a strange and frustrating experience.  I get frustrated by his persistent intellectual dishonesty, but can't help but be impressed at his skill.

Obama was utterly deceptive about how the introduction of private accounts into Social Security would work.  He seemed to indicate that private accounts would involve older workers shifting all the money that would otherwise have gone to their Social Security benefits to the market.  He had some vague easy answers ("tweaks") about how Social Security could be saved and threw in a reference to a commission to give himself some third party validation.

He was even better...er worse on Medicare.  He repeated the amazing stupendous lie about how Obamacare extended the life of Medicare when Obamacare actually took hundreds of billions of dollars out of Medicare to pay for a new entitlement.  He was smart to use expert third party validation (from the Medicare actuaries who are required to credit the cuts as extending the life of Medicare because of arcane budget rules) so as to show how post partisan and nonideological he is.  If you didn't know about the CBO's commentary on this practice (and most people don't), Obama sounded like the most reasonable guy in the world and not a refugee from Enron's accounting department.

It doesn't really work to describe what Obama does.  You have to see and hear it.  There is something about his calmness, verbal fluidity, seeming empiricism, and easy confidence that adds up to what people think of as "moderate" in the flattering sense of the word.  He can talk for four minutes and it would take ten to explain what was wrong with what that nice smart man was saying.  It allows him to seem much less partisan and ideological than he really is.  It didn't matter so much today.  It is August and the economy is lousy.  The marginal voter isn't caring what he is saying or how he is saying it.  But we saw a preview of some of the most important domestic policy arguments that will dominate the next several years.  So the challenge is to explain both what was wrong with what Obama was saying and why your preferred policies will work better.  You have ten minutes and the message has to be pitched to the median American.  And you are following Obama.

He should not be underestimated.

Categories > Politics

Discussions - 6 Comments

I just don't see what you see about Obama. The first time I heard him speak during the 2008 Presidential campaign I thought he was full of lies and deception. Over two years later, watching him as President, I still think he is full of lies and deception. Now I know I am right about him being full of lies and deception. Just look at the state of this country as a result of his lies and deception. It is a mess. Period.

As a fellow Harvard law grad said of him years ago, Obama needs to be listened to as though he were a lawyer (which of course he is). Most journalists are too lazy or incompetent to do this (or simply pulling for him), and ordinary citizens are just beginning to catch on.

I think what you are saying has some validity, but I think that the voters were buying what he was saying when he was an unknown candidate with this smooth rhetorical style back in 2008, but that they're onto him and his big government, progressive policies by now. I don't think he should be overestimated, but his opponents should point out the road of policies where his words lead.

Ken, yup, though I would say that most people aren't so much catching on as not listening. I wish I could count on that not listening continuing. He also projects an intelectual integrity that is very helpful to him but not justified when you look at what he is really saying.

Tony, I don't think that any President would be doing well with this labor market. Can we imagine the job approval ratings of a President McCain under the same circumstances? You are right that his opponents should point out where his policies are actually going, but that is a much harder job than it sounds.

I agree with what you say, and at the same time I have never heard a president be so bitchy to his adversaries. His acceptance speech at the most recent Dem national convention, and any number of speeches since are the angriest and meanest I've ever seen. He absolutely loves to accuse his opponents of treason and bad faith and then follow up with a lecture on civility, of which he has little. In spite of his cool temperament, he strikes me as a tightly wound ball of rage.

RC2, yeah no doubt that Obama can be harshly critical and often in a prety personal way when you think about what he is actually saying. But I think that for persuadables, he doesn't project that kind of rage and malice of say a Howard Dean circa 2003-2004. This makes him alot easier to take and it is a big advantage. Though when he starts feeling control slipping away he does tend to become snide in an unattractive way (his recent slurpee comments.)

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