November 10, 2008

The Defining Difference

Justin Katz

So Julia Steiny gave me a change for which to hope in an Obama presidency:

Last summer, presidential candidate Barack Obama addressed the National Education Association's annual convention, by way of video stream projected onto a big screen. ...

But then, without changing his tone of voice, he enthusiastically endorsed charter schools. The crowd was eerily silent, and stayed that way as he proudly proclaimed his career-long support of public-school choice. ...

And then, without apology, he swore that he would support allowing districts to "reward" teachers who take on extra responsibilities, or work in hard-to-serve areas, or perform consistently well in the classroom. He doesn't use the words, but this is none other than union-loathed "merit pay." The assembly outright booed the man. Loudly. He responded by saying "I know this wasn't necessarily the most popular part of my speech last year, but I said it then, and I'm saying it again today, because it is what I believe."


The video is as Steiny describes it, although I'd note that Obama, that masterful architect of speeches, positions his declaration of belief as the down-note from which to declare that he'll "always be an honest partner to you [union educators] in the White House." Moreover, it cannot be ignored that these were mere words — and delivered via streaming video, so the impact of the live audience could not be felt.

That extrapolates to my continuing unease about others' faith in Obama. He drops a hopeful hint from time to time. He'll speak beyond his audience periodically, giving nods to those outside of the room, metaphorically speaking. But that's all it is: talk and nods. Kyle-Anne Shiver describes her measure of our next president thus (all emphasis in original):

My opinion was gradually set in steel as I read and studied and pored over Obama's own books. The incongruous details of his race-obsessed memoir — the invented episodes, the composite characters, the utter lack of humility and true introspection — all bespoke a man of innate dishonesty and a lack of healthy shame. His audacious book on politics did nothing but hammer home his lack of principles and values, as he equivocated every single position, until the reader could determine absolutely nothing coherent about the writer.

Barack Obama has lived 47 years. In all that time, he has presented himself in public as a multi-dimensional symbolic figure, self-anointed as far more special than any of his actual deeds have ever — even in a single instance — validated as reality. If ever there was a more enigmatic figure in American public life, I have yet to discover him.

I don't suspect that Obama intends to reach the Oval Office and throw off the veil, as it were, proving all of conservatives' darkest fears within those first 100 days. Rather, he's likely to try to perpetuate the practice that has gotten him where he is: He'll try to speak music to every ear and act with enigmatically enough to disallow stark assessment.

Even in that, though, I fear that my exuberant friend Rocco DiPippo is correct in his assessment of the reception that Obama's self-representation is likely receiving in the arid fever-swamps of terrorist enclaves:

From his promises to hold non-conditional talks with America's enemies to his promises to strip funding for America's military, they smell weakness. For instance, Obama's trademark "gender neutral" hazy blue motifs -- the ones that grace his website and his campaign merchandise -- put forth a message of softness, femininity and oozing pliability. Our enemies read signals like those and strategize accordingly. ...

Be prepared, you Obama and media-snookered fools. You have elected a weakling, a pacifist in a time of war against a determined, ruthless enemy who wishes death to all of you.

Prepare yourselves to have the blood of innocent Iraqis on your hands -- and to have America's broken promise of a peaceful, terror-free Iraq on your consciences when your false Messiah abandons 25 million souls to the beheaders and the rapists and the torturers and the mass murderers. All in the name of "Change."

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It is very ironic that you fault Obama's lack of bipartisanship. Not just because his presidency hasn't even begun, but because when the hell have people on your side of the debate "spoken to people outside of the room"?

"Conservatism" in the hands of people like you has become a small conversation among a few true-believers, the rest of the world be damned. Indeed, the next time one of you AR bloggers links approvingly to something other than NRO will be the first time.

You nod along as conversatives become the "stupid party" -- one where it is encouraged to mock Nobel laureates while following the economic advice of plumbers.

Posted by: Pragmatist at November 10, 2008 9:11 AM

Which Nobel laureates pray tell?Rigoberta Menchu?An admitted liar who still retained her prize because it was politically correct.So outside of the sciences,WTF is a Nobel Prize worth?
Paul Krugman?He commented that anyone who voted for McCain had "something wrong with them".F**k him.It wsn't the Krugmans who went to war for this country.

Posted by: joe bernstein at November 10, 2008 9:43 AM

Calm down and think. You seem to be saying that going to war for your country somehow instills righteousness in the combatants. Not necessarily so, the fact that one picks up a weapon means that one has picked up a weapon. The heart of the matter is what's in the heart of the individual, and neither you nor I can see into another person's heart. There are true patriots and there are jingoists and sociopaths, and you know very well that all three types have picked up a weapon to ostensively "fight for a country". What do you think of the Nazi soldiers who fought for the Third Reich, not much, I suspect.

Cool down, you'll sleep better.
Your amigo,

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at November 10, 2008 11:49 AM

I agree that it is somewhat disingenuous to criticize Obama already, especially for his lack-of-record for bipartisanship. It is the same bipartisanship that many conservatives criticized McCain for. He was damned if he did, (RINO) and if he didn’t he’d be criticized for lack of bipartisanship. Such as life in the political arena where many conservatives are saying McCain lost because he wasn’t a “real” conservative when the truth is that it was the recent economic crisis, Bush’s low ratings and the fact that Obama beat him on the all-important charm scale. The fact that McCain got 47% of the popular vote despite everything against him is solid evidence of the strong partisan divided country. I truly believe that if Romney or even Huckabee were the (R) nominee, they might have won being able to compete with Obama on the charm factor. Obama cannot bridge the partisan gap and ‘unite the country’, despite the rhetoric. No human is capable of doing that.

OTL, you are correct that not every combat is a righteous act or combatant a patriot. Who some call refer as patriot/hero others call a murderer. Some assert that those who flew the planes on 9/11 as heroes. Some assert the people who are fighting in Iraq/Afghanistan as patriots. More assertions and denials.

Posted by: msteven at November 10, 2008 12:57 PM

OTL-I wasn't talking about self righteousness-going to war is a big sacrifice in the lives of most people who have to go,or even choose to go.
I was just expressing my attitude that some people disdain getting even a little bit uncomfortable or put out because they are so f**kin' important.It cuts both ways-Bush surrounded himself with draft dodging scumbags like Dick Cheney,Paul Wolfowitz,Richard Perle,etc.
Krugman's comment was out of line-so I cut loose on him-he just rubs me the wrong way.
I hated the exemption(deferment)system because I thought it made the draft a discriminatory procedure-weighted against those not lucky enough to be in college or "divinity students"or some other magical elitist classification.I refused a student deferment and enlisted precisely because I didn't want to benefit at the expense of others.I walked the talk when I was 18 and don't regret it.But it wasn't like it didn't put my life on hold for a while.For some of my friends it was permanent.McCain deserves more respect from Krugman is what I am saying,is that so radical?
About "Nazi" soldiers?If they were Nazi Party people,f**k them to Hell.But if they were draftees,how are they to blame?
My father,who was Jewish,worked in a factory with a man who had been a German paratrooper and lost his leg in 1940 in France.My father served in WW2 but not in the European theater.They got along fine,because my dad said he was just another guy who got drafted and had no liking for Hitler or the Nazis.But my dad wouldn't buy anything made in Germany-he thought their industries were complicit in the mass murders.He was not going to personalize it against a guy who just did what he had to in order to survive.
It's the effete arrogance of the Krugmans that galls me.

Posted by: joe bernstein at November 10, 2008 2:34 PM

Thanks for the above. Some things I agree with, some things I don't. I do respect your integrity, even if I think that some of it is misguided.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at November 10, 2008 8:18 PM


I don't think you mean "disingenuous." One can be wrong, even unfair, without being dishonest about it, and I've long thought that one irony of the campaign is that McCain was the true bipartisan of the two. It's a quality for which I'll happily fault him, if you like.

Posted by: Justin Katz at November 10, 2008 8:37 PM

OTL-I'll be glad to discuss he great questions with you over steaming plates of boiled cabbage-now if you can tell me the origin of that idea it'll be a pisser-if you can't,I'll tell you tomorrow and you'll say"of course- who else woulda come up with that!"
We can't be serious 24/7.

Posted by: joe bernstein at November 10, 2008 10:22 PM

I guess disingenuous was the word that came to my mind, not in being intentionally dishonest but I do think it was hypocritical for the reasons I described.

In general, I think you are way over-reacting to Obama’s win. I don’t think that the ‘masses were drawn to Obama’ as you say. He was the preferred candidate among the two, by not an overwhelming majority (same as Bush over Dukakis) in an environment where most of the factors favored his party.

Despite the dramatic elation by some, this is no more a political shift than was the Republican takeover in 1994.

Posted by: msteven at November 11, 2008 12:27 PM
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