Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

If you can’t stand the heat . . .

. . . get back in the kitchen.

I find Barack Obama’s anger at criticism of his wife to be charming, and entirely appropriate. But that’s the rub. I also tend to support traditional roles for men and women.

Had any other close supporter, associate, doner, or friend of Obama’s said the very same things that Mrs. Obama said, would those comments not be entirely appropriate grounds for criticism?

In short, we finds ourselves in an interesting situation, culturally speaking. If a wife is an equal partner with her husband in all respects, and if there are no pre-set roles for men and women, then she is simply a free, adult individual. Hence criticism of her opinions, is entirely appropriate. Only when women are home-makers, and not professionals with a stong interest in politics does the older model make sense. In fact, the two ideas go together. But it still, somehow, rubs us the wrong way when people criticize the candidate’s wife.

That reaction, of course, is probably due to our instinctive respect for a more traditional understanding of marriage--the very thing that liberals tend to oppose as passe and anachronistic.

In principle, what is wrong with criticizing the ideas (as opposed to the person) of someone who is now a public figure, and who is very close to the person who will probably be the next President? Is the wife of the candidate to be the one person who can hit the campaign trail, but not be criticized for what she says?

In practice, at least for now, that may very well be the case. After all, even if Mr. Obama is, in fact, a supporter of sexual equality (and it might be that here his instincts trump his ideology), it is useful to him to portray his opponants as mean-spirited people who attacked his poor, defenseless, wife. And why does the reaction resonate? Might it have something to do with the nature of men and women and their relationships?

Discussions - 32 Comments


His wife was out there courting trouble, and trouble is what she found. His wife is at least ostensibly, an educated woman, a mind as trained for battle as a mind can be by higher education in this country. And instead of letting his wife handle what she stirred up, he has to go in and "rescue" her from her own idiocy. And instead of riding in to support her, because he subscribes to the same views as she, he rode in to whine that she was getting hammered because she, {like "Reverend" Wright} was getting "taken out of context," when in fact, {again, like "Reverend" Wright} she was taken precisely IN context.

And you found this rather squalid display, "charming?"

"[C]harming" isn't a word I would have ever used for this situation. There's NOTHING "charming" about a grown man "whining" in public. Nothing at all, not under any circumstances. That's old school, but that's still how it is.

Obama's wife should stop showing her contempt for the country that has made her so prosperous. Then she would not get so much criticism.

I think all Conservatives and all true Americans fully sympathize with the views of Unsympathetic.

Criticize the ideas instead of the person? Methinks Mr Adams has had too many encounters with the thought police. Why exactly does Mr Adams wish to avoid criticising the Obamas as persons of bad ideas who are liars and rank opportunists to boot?

This post, like some others on NLT, is an unfortunate attempt to meld philosophy and politics. Sure, we can pine for the old days when candidates' spouses didn't get much involved, let alone attack the other side or express hostility toward American society. We can respect a man's defense of his wife. But that's not political analysis. There is nothing "charming" about Obama's attempts to manipulate Republicans into dropping all negativity from our campaign. It's bullying. Since Michelle has been deeply involved and strongly outspoken in this campaign, he doesn't have a leg to stand on. The public has every right to know what an extremist bitch she is. They will also come to suspect, I think rightly, that he cannot stand up to her. This is very big news indeed, and deserves to be.

And comments 1-4 are most appropriate responses. Well said.

I don't see how we avoid mixing politics and philosophy anywhere, anytime.

Mrs. Obama has been very aggressive in her public political speaking. "Don't attack my wife when she attacks you, conservative America." was really funny. The post presumes it was an emotional response, but what if it's a political response? It might not poll well that Barack allows Michelle to be hit by conservatives, Wouldn't an emotional response have been more immediate?

Two questions: Did the add in Tennessee, and Obama's reaction to it, help or hurt Obama, particularly his effort to portray Republicans as mean?

Why is that the case?

That question needs to be narrowed. Are you asking "did the add help Obama" WITHIN Tennessee, OUTSIDE of Tennessee, or both together.

Did it help his effort to portray the GOP as "mean," ---------- but is that the level of abstraction at which we'll consider the add. If I recall, Jesse Helms ran some rather "mean" adds, but it didn't hurt him politically, now did it. GHWB absolutely scorched Dukakis with the Willie Horton add, which he rode to victory. That add was POWERFUL, it featured a revolving gate, with one creepy dirtball after another walking through, and each walked through in the direction of the viewer. It absolutely ripped the policy of pardons apart. There's a great deal to say about that Willie Horton add, but one thing could never be said about it, and that was that it left the viewer with the idea that those who ran it were "nice" guys. "Nice" guys didn't come up with that one.

A clever political operator would use Michelle's comments to throw light on the murky past of that family, and thus throw light on Barrack Hussein Obama himself, a man with a scant record, scant at least in anything other than his affiliation with Black radicalism. Moreover, most negative adds cause a short term reaction that those who ran the add were mean and "negative." But is the add to be judged in the short term, or in the long term. How do we finally judge the effectiveness of an add? The standard is victory. The Willie Horton add was tremendously effective BECAUSE it led to the victory of the squish GHWB. That an add may lead to a short term reaction doesn't in any way argue against the OVERALL effectiveness of the add. Had Hillary weathered the early media storm, and truly unleashed on Barrack Hussein Obama, instead of having her husband work the margins, she wouldn't be in this situation right now. But she gave too great a credence to the media, who wanted to see the false messiah continue on his course, instead of heeding the cold dictates of political calculation.

Is the GOP guaranteed victory if they appear more "nice" than the Democrats? Is that the barometer now? Does American political history lead one to conclude that the party that prevailed over the other did so because the electorate viewed them as "nicer" than their opponents? I don't recall learning that in my political science classes. Maybe I missed that memo.

THAT'S EXACTLY the type of mentality that landed us the incoherence of our present "compassionate conservative" administration. That's the attitude of losers like Andy Card. That's the attitude that took the races in 2000 and 2004, races the GOP should have won in a walk, IN A WALK, and made them nail-biters we didn't know the results of till the next day. Bush too was always at pains to appear "nice." He privileged his own views of what was actually "nice," {and even on that subject, as usual, he's more often in error} over the political demands of statecraft, which are CLARITY, AND CONSISTENCY of purpose.

An add that CLARIFIES, in the long run, is much better than an add that leaves the electorate confused, but feeling vaguely aware of the "niceness" of those that ran it.

We don't want any Bush confusion around here.

">">"> This doesn't quite fit here, but it's close. David Gergen is an admirable man and a real conservative.

Gergen is a deep-dyed establishmentarian and no conservative at all.

Over all, I think Obama's reaction is helpful to him. It show's a "real guy" side that those whom he terms "God and gun clingers" will instinctively respect. This will probably over the obviously hypocritical stance, in that his wife is in the race full tilt and deserves all she has received and more.

That said, I think it is just a blip and not much of a help - nothing to write home about...

Obama is a huge hypocrite, and we need to be saying it every chance we get. While there was arguably a flash of manliness there, he's clearly a wimp overall. Disgustingly so. He isn't qualified to spend four minutes in the White House, let alone four years.

Obama has no justification for his attacks against the criticism of his wife's remarks.

If he doesn't want her criticized, then she shouldn't be stumping for his campaign.


This demonstrates that he is attempting to have his cake and eat it too.

14: Exactly. And attempting to "have his cake and eat it too" is one of the things that makes Obama a wuss. It is unmanly. It is manly to leap to the defense of one's wife. But in this case, Obama is not saying "she can't take criticism" (although she probably can't). He's saying: You have no right to criticize her, although she is an extremely political creature who makes comments that many people find noxious. This is not only unrealistic but authoritarian. It's bullying of the entire American people. An unrealistic, authoritarian bully is the last kind of president we should want. If All-Talk Barack were concerned with protecting his wife, he wouldn't let her make nasty speeches that invite our contempt.

I don't think David Frisk is going to vote for Senator Obama.

Someday you'll thank me, smartass. You have no idea how much is at stake for this country.

David . . . c'mon. I think even you can do better than that. There's no reason to be nasty with Steve. And I think there is a political element to Obama's actions here. Too late to link it now . . . but I'll be back with another post on this in the next couple days (frightfully busy this week). Obama did something very smart with this, in my book. He nearly made even me (!) swoon with that defense of Michelle. All this whining about trying to have it both ways . . . oh, please! Of course you can have it both ways . . . don't you know any women? It's a fine art, but it's possible. This isn't tiddly-winks. It's politics. Having it both ways is exactly what all wiley politicians try to do. Some are more successful than others. Obama may gain some ground with this outburst--with female voters, especially. And he needs them after he punches Hillary in the gut. Very clever. But he has to be careful with it because it can be overdone. He's messing with the art of seduction here. I don't think he has the stuff in the end. But some women are easier than others.

Julie, unhappily for you, Peggy Noonan's gig at the Wall Street Journal isn't about to expire. And if Obama ever does make you "swoon," you will be guilty of a LEFT TURN, and thereby in blatant violation of both the NLT motto and the spirit of Congressman Ashbrook. ("nearly" is bad enough.) You might do less damage to the cause of good government if you would scale back just a bit. For instance, you might favor us with a post on the Obama family's favorite ice cream. Or TV puppet. I'm sure Barack plays a lovely role in these matters as well. Such a cool guy and all ...

Your point that "all wiley" (sic: it's "wily") politicians try to have it both ways is typical of your sloppy, half-baked analysis. I don't recall Ronald Reagan and Jesse Helms, both very successful politicians, trying to have it both ways. Even George Bush, also very successful at least in terms of elections, isn't much for having it both ways. It would be more accurate to say that "many or most" smart (and dumb) politicians try to do this. More importantly, the fact that politicians very often try to have it both ways is no defense against it.

Yep, it is politics and Michelle is now a 'player' in his campaign, subject to the criticism that may come her way for her statements.

Is the swooning a testament to Obama's political genious or the revelation of the shallowness of those who were swooned (if that is even a word) or both?

Julie is in some danger of staking herself out as the lightweight femme of NLT. Chastizing David for "smartass" (entirely appropriate, if idiomatic,in his reply) smacks of Momism.

I disagree with the logic of Richard Adam's post, but I do agree that this question is best answered with a yes: "Might it have something to do with the nature of men and women and their relationships?"

Of course the true nature of the relationships between men and women in 2008 hardly corresponds to any easy logic.

The truth of the matter is that this election is much more about proxy battles than anything Obama or McCain actually believe. The truth of the matter is that Obama is much better positioned to fight these proxy battles because he understands how politics is a series of proxy battles.

That is Obama isn't even fighting the arguments of a Richard Adams, but he is reacting almost directly towards all the viciousness racism and sexism bouncing around the internet.

In other words who is to say in what logical structure american minds will contextualize the statements of Obama?

In general if we could both agree on a means of measuring it, I am almost certainly willing to bet against this statement: "In principle, what is wrong with criticizing the ideas (as opposed to the person) of someone who is now a public figure, and who is very close to the person who will probably be the next President?"

In other words why should I bother answering the "in principle" question, if this would simply be a smoke screen and an excuse for closeing a blind eye to the (as opposed to the person) question?

In other words what Obama says resonates much more strongly than Dan or David Frisk would ever know in part because Obama is successfully timing his quite reasonable reactions to gaffes in the attacking mechanism. Obama can get away with linking the comments of Bush in Israel to a personal attack because of the media flow. Obama's comments in the Atlantic were picked up, just shortly before Bush made his comments.

If I was to do serious political science I would go to a website like NoLeft Turns, Freakonomics and say the Huffington Post, and I would study not the logic of the posts themselves in isolation, but the logic of the comments.

Obama doesn't have to respond to the logic of a Richard Adams, if he can tap into a deeper logic(even if apparently illogical and contradictory) contention is that Obama is naturally in sync with how americans actually contextualize media flows.

I repeat my assertion that Obama is a Hegelian sociologist.

I have not scene this much righteous indignation here at NLT ever. Too bad it was not spent during 94-06, when the "conservative" GOP was dashing your hopes against the rock over and over and over and over...

Mr. Frisk is correct, in that much is at stake, or rather was. It's too late Mr. Frisk - full blown in your face liberalism is right around the corner for at least 4 years. President Obama and his veto proof margins in congress means we get REAL liberalism.

However, your raw anger is a bit over the top. You should have seen this coming since 04 at least. What did you think the future of the GOP was going to be when the party supports the Arlen Spector's over the Pat Toomey's?

As a traditional Conservative, I am looking forward to the honest liberalism coming. It will be better than the dishonest liberalism of the GOP in the long run. In fact, if it was close (LOL - the "maverick" actually making it close - where are those flying pigs?) I might have to pull the lever for Obama myself.

Now THAT will surely tick Mr. Frisk off...:)

Interesting point Mr. Lewis. However, you can also explain his response not as an essentially cynical/calculating response to political realities, rather as an instinctive response "from the heart" that while correct essentially, is incorrect in the final analysis given the realities of his wife being on the campaign trail.

I lean toward it being instinctive. This surprises even me, given that I have been conditioned by the failure of the GOP to expect deep deep political manipulation. Still, Obama strikes me as a honest liberal, a man with a core of principal even if that core is under tremendous pressure from his ambitious, political self...

24: What makes you think I didn't see it coming? I wonder if you could pass an elementary logic class.

23: Exactly. At election time, the candidates are proxies for the party. And those who speak on behalf of the candidates are proxies for the candidates. They are fair game for the same level of criticism that applies to the candidate himself -- and, if justified by the facts, for the same contempt as well.

What makes you think I didn't see it coming?

Your anger. You come across as pissed off. You are intentionally insulting as in "I wonder..." etc. I was giving you the benefit of the doubt that you are surprised at the circumstances we find ourselves in.

You should have taken the lead, as now you appear to be a jack-ass intentionally...;)

Perhaps you should find a site where no one is ever "pissed off." Depending on the subject and what I'm responding to, yes, I can be upset. As can many others on NLT. It is often warranted, is it not? I think I've always kept in bounds. I do admit to a barbed wit. Apparently we live in an age where this is evidence of unacceptable "anger." Rather unimaginative of you.

David always struggles with the "manly" when it's that time of month. He'll snap out of it, you just wait and see.

We all need to be mindful of a sharp distinction. The message of Obama, ordinary pol, isn't the message that is resonating. It's the message of the false messiah that has found traction. Which is not unexpected, it's in the nature of things that foolish people follow false messiahs.

The GOP can profitably maneuver in that space that exists between Obama, and the false messiah; there's advantage to be found there.

30: Tom, you've written quite a cryptic comment. Why don't you come out and say whatever you mean, like the real Tom Paine?

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