Some time ago, Apollo offered a theory about what was wrong with Obama:
We know this guy. He’s that college professor who never personally said anything outlandish, but when students spoke up in class and said outlandish things, he’d respond with something like “That may be right,” or “there’s some truth in that” instead of the more appropriate “that’s wrong and off topic.” Therefore more people felt free to raise their hands and say outlandish things, and those of us not interested in such nonsense stopped participating in class because it wasn’t worth it. Obama is the “that’s a valid point” professor, so he respects equally my anti-abortion point of view, and his pastor’s government-created-AIDS point of view. They’re all valid.
It seems that I wasn’t alone in finding Obama increasingly un-charming as the event unfolded yesterday. Even Dana Milbank notes that Obama ultimately came across as a bit of a condescending, well, jerk. Here’s Michael Gerson: “President Obama, as usual, was fluent, professorial and occasionally prickly. Some are impressed by the president’s informed, academic manner. Others (myself included) find an annoying condescension in Obama’s never-ending seminar.”
Obama’s habit of deciding what is a serious point and what are mere “talking points,” started out seeming like an attempt at fairness but ultimately revealed itself to be one of the more grating aspects of his personality and his philosophy (It’s worth noting that many points becometalking points because they are such good points!). After awhile, it seemed Obama deemed many talking points to be illegitimate simply because they were inconvenient to his argument.
This is not news to certain people who have greater immunity to his charms. Obama has a very thin skin when it comes to disagreement. He has a Fox News obsession. At campaign-style events, Obama has insisted that he doesn’t want to “hear any talk” from the people who “created this mess” or some such. Remember his call for a “new declaration of independence not just in our nation, but in our own lives — from ideology and small thinking, prejudice and bigotry.” Translation: Ideological objections to what I want to do are akin to bigotry and stupidity.
I think one of the great explanations for the mess the Obama administration is in — the whole cowbell dynamic — is that he, his advisers, and many of his fans in the press cannot fully grasp or appreciate the fact that he is not as charming to everyone else as he is to them (or himself). Hence, they think that the more he talks, the more persuasive he will be. Every president faces a similar problem which is why, until Obama, every White House tried to economize the deployment of the president’s political capital. The Obama White House strategy is almost the rhetorical version of its Keynesianism, the more you spend, the bigger the payoff.
The hidden cost of this strategy is that the more he talks the more pronounced or noticeable this tendency becomes for the average American. Eventually, it could come to define him. Presidents — all presidents — get caricatured eventually because certain traits become more identifiable over time. That’s one reason why parodies of presidents onSaturday Night Liveget more convincing and funnier at the end of their terms — everyone can recognize the traits and habits by then. The more instances where Obama grabs all of the attention while acting like an arrogant college professor — particularly as memories of Bush fade — the more opportunities the White House creates where people can say, “Hey, I finally figured out what bugs me about this guy.” Not long after that, it becomes a journalistic convention, a staple of late-night jokes and basis of SNL parodies.
From the confirming-stereotypes files and via Ann Althouse, African American magazine The Root recently published a list of black people so awful, that they’re an embarrassment to all black people and shouldn’t count as part of Black History. As distasteful as the concept is — and it’s pretty bad — their execution is even worse. The list includes horrible dictators like Robert Mugabe, Idi Amin, the Duvaliers of Haiti (okay), murders O.J. Simpson, John Allen Mohammad (still okay, I guess), scandal-prone celebrities like Dennis Rodman, Wesley Snipes, and R. Kelly (on the same list as dictators and murders? Really?), and — of course — conservatives/republicans like Alan Keyes*, Michael Steele, and Clarence Thomas:
Although he’s only the second man of color to serve in the Supreme Court, the Backstreet Boys have more standing in the black community than Clarence Thomas. That’s because he looks to the Constitution as “colorblind,” says he’s a man who just happens to be black and opposes government programs intended to help minorities. I’m not sure if the late Thurgood Marshall would want to pop Clarence ‘side his head with his gavel, but there are plenty of blacks who would volunteer to do it for him.
Yeah, they went there.
There was a mild scandal at CPAC involving a gay conservative group called GoProud. First, Liberty University pulled it’s sponsorship of CPAC — but still attended — when they learned GoProud would also be sponsoring. Then, things got really interesting when one of it’s members gave a short, libertarianish speech at a panel discussion, which earned a few boos and a fair number of cheers:
This sparked some jackass from the California YAF to make this speech:
It gets better: after the speech, one of the attendees confronted said jackass — Ryan Sorba — about his comments. Some ugly words followed between them, which ended with Sorba physically threatening his opponent.
As others have noted, this is rather incredible, and in a good way: CPACers just booed a homophobic jerk off the stage, though whether it was for his homophobia or his jerkitude remains unclear (I’m guessing, but the boos in the first speech sure sound like they could be Sorba’s and they would certainly be consistent with his behavior in his speech). Still, it’s heartening to see CPACers of all people — the same folks who, a few years ago, thought it was hilarious when Anne Coulter called John Edwards a faggot — to reject some homophobic jerk in favor of a liberty-loving gay group.
* Alan Keyes certainly is embarrassing, but that feeling shouldn’t be limited to Black folks.
A few weeks ago, I pointed out that the only complaint Marc Thiessen is capable of offering about Bush-Era detention and interrogation policy is that they should have done exactly what they did, only with more awesome.
It’s an infuriating self-criticism for two reasons. First, it’s simply not plausible that — given the tremendous strains and pressures of the months and years immediately following 9/11 — that they didn’t make some serious error in judgment that they subsequently realize was mistaken. Second, it’s the kind of self-criticism whose only function is self-compliment; their only mistake, Theissen argues, was fail to realize how incredibly — how awesomely! – right they were from the beginning.
Theissen, however, is not alone in this attitude. Having suffered set-back after set-back, defeat after defeat, and rejection after rejection, President Obama unveiled a new health care reform bill earlier today. By all accounts, it differs from both the Senate and the House bills in one important, essential way: it’s more awesome.
NB: Aparently, Marc Thiessen has written a best-selling, insightful, and reasonably-priced book on the subject that answers all conceivable questions in thorough detail and clear prose. How interesting! Whatashamehedoesn’tpromoteitmoreoften.
Do you know how to tell that Barry is not actually serious about passing his health care bill? Because he uses it as a tool to fight for abortion.
Unbelievable. All the Democrats had to do is get the framwork of national control of health care in place – and there are votes in both houses to do it – and then every future Congressional race could be held on their terms. Do we cover X procedure? But instead they simply can’t help themselves. They must have it all at once.
Why any insurance policy would cover abortion is beyond me. Even if you buy into the pro-abortion agenda 100% – you think a fetus is a clump of cells with no more value than a wart, and that a woman should be able to get rid of that clump of cells at any time up to the moment of delivery – we pretty much know who has abortions. Insurance is premised on spreading the risk, making those who don’t have a misfortune pay for the problems of those who do. But an unintended pregnancy is a condition whose causes are known and, with precious few exceptions, preventable at no financial cost.
Even if some insurance policies should cover abortion, though, the notion of having a government-run insurance company pay for abortions should be anathema to most Americans. Majority-rule must pay some heed to the minority. Just as we don’t draft the Amish, we shouldn’t use the government to confiscate money from the 50% or so of Americans who call themselves “pro-life” to pay for the abortions of a small minority.
But the administration is simply too full of itself and its “historic moment” to stop anywhere short of imposing 100% of the liberal agenda on the country, regardless of what the country wants. Obama believes that he must have it all, and he must have it now. No need to bother with formalities or persuasion. I think there’s a word for that; it may need to be redefined come November.
Watching BBC America, waiting for Top Gear to come on, and BBC World News America did a preview of a report they’re doing this week from Cuba. “And, of course, there’s the spirit of Fidel Castro, El Commandante, who ruled over this country for nearly half a century, a world record.”
Um, no? Should I chalk that up to Commie media censorship?
The conservative blogosphere is taking amomentarytime-out to mark the passing of Arnold Beichman, a fellow at the Hoover Institution and anti-Soviet crusader. Arnold was a friend of my father’s who quickly became a friend of our entire family; so much so, that my sister and I called him “Uncle Arnold.” He was one of those rare individuals who possessed a powerful mind and an equally gracious heart; I’m very priviledged to have known him.
Hearing of his passing yesterday, my parents (as only parents can) not only remembered, but found an essay I wrote about him for a middle school assignment way back in in 1995. I certainly won’t pass it off as any great feat of literature, but it does one thing surprisingly well. Arnold had an amazing ability to instantly size-up another person — such as a little snot like me at 14 — and effortlessly bring the conversation to the highest level that person was capable of reaching.
Arnold, of course, could always sail higher.
Uncle Arnold? He’s Crazy!
When I was two years old (I don’t remember any of this) I went to my “Uncle” Arnold’s house in British Columbia. I spent the next week running around on beaches, building sand castles and listening to Arnold’s jokes.
Since then I have moved to Washington state and have seen him about five times (two since moving). Every time I see “Uncle” Arnold he looks older but acts younger. When my sister was three and was told that Arnold was coming to visit, she replied, “Uncle Arnold? He’s Crazy.”
Arnold Beichman is not my uncle, nor is he crazy. In fact, I have no blood relation to him at all. He’s just one of my dad’s friends, who happens to be my friend as well. He and my dad met about one year after I was born in Washington D.C. Arnold (who is eighty-something) is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University in San Fransico. He is a scholar and a journalist, having published two articles in the Washington Times just last week.
Arnold is a rather heavy man with more hair on his chest than on his head. He speaks very loudly, usually complaining.
He acts rather childish at times and one wonders how he used to make a living, which he obviously has. He loves to tell jokes and knows a surprisingly large amount about everything.
The last time Arnold came out here, two months ago, he came with his wife Carol. They had never been to the islands and were toying with the idea of buying property here.
“So, Tommy, what’s your scientific outlook?”, he asked me loudly at the table the first night out here.
“Uh I don’t…have one yet,” I said, rather confused.
“Well, now you do”.
We began to talk about everything new in the scientific world, namely the Hubble Telescope. He told us some of his jokes, none of which I can remember, unfortunately, but know I laughed at.
Later that night I was playing a World War II flight simulator, fending off Germans from my bomber squadron. Half way through he walked in and asked,
“What are you flying?”
“P-51 Mustang,” I responded. Now, I could be a scholar on aircraft of the second World War. I have read many books on the subject and can recognize most on sight.
“What are you up against?”
“Two Focke Wulf 190s,” telling the name of the German planes I was dog-fighting with.
“You know how mustang pilots got Focke Wulfs?”, he said as I hit the PAUSE button to listen. “They would go on a straight power-dive hitting about 400 mph …”
I listened to him closely and for a long time thinking,”Wait a minute. I should be lecturing him.” But he obviously knew more on the subject than I did.
At first glance Arnold is a large, slightly childish old man. It also happens to be that he is a first-class scholar and an excellent journalist who can produce articles at a very high comprehension level. (I had to read them twice to understand them). Arnold shows that while first impressions are important, they may not tell the whole story about someone.
I’d no idea how badly off Roger Ebert was, simply because I don’t pay that much attention to movies. But I couldn’t stop reading this profile:
Roger Ebert can’t remember the last thing he ate. He can’t remember the last thing he drank, either, or the last thing he said. Of course, those things existed; those lasts happened. They just didn’t happen with enough warning for him to have bothered committing them to memory — it wasn’t as though he sat down, knowingly, to his last supper or last cup of coffee or to whisper a last word into Chaz’s ear. The doctors told him they were going to give him back his ability to eat, drink, and talk. But the doctors were wrong, weren’t they? On some morning or afternoon or evening, sometime in 2006, Ebert took his last bite and sip, and he spoke his last word.
Ebert’s lasts almost certainly took place in a hospital. That much he can guess. His last food was probably nothing special, except that it was: hot soup in a brown plastic bowl; maybe some oatmeal; perhaps a saltine or some canned peaches. His last drink? Water, most likely, but maybe juice, again slurped out of plastic with the tinfoil lid peeled back. The last thing he said? Ebert thinks about it for a few moments, and then his eyes go wide behind his glasses, and he looks out into space in case the answer is floating in the air somewhere. It isn’t. He looks surprised that he can’t remember. He knows the last words Studs Terkel’s wife, Ida, muttered when she was wheeled into the operating room (“Louis, what have you gotten me into now?”), but Ebert doesn’t know what his own last words were. He thinks he probably said goodbye to Chaz before one of his own trips into the operating room, perhaps when he had parts of his salivary glands taken out — but that can’t be right. He was back on TV after that operation. Whenever it was, the moment wasn’t cinematic. His last words weren’t recorded. There was just his voice, and then there wasn’t.
Now his hands do the talking. They are delicate, long-fingered, wrapped in skin as thin and translucent as silk. He wears his wedding ring on the middle finger of his left hand; he’s lost so much weight since he and Chaz were married in 1992 that it won’t stay where it belongs, especially now that his hands are so busy. There is almost always a pen in one and a spiral notebook or a pad of Post-it notes in the other — unless he’s at home, in which case his fingers are feverishly banging the keys of his MacBook Pro.
. . . to help me realize how much I like Obama, how much John Edwards deserves forgiveness [!!??!?!?!], and “What happened during the George W. Bush years was in its way as devastating as the earthquake in Haiti, or daily life for much of India — just as many dead, and a constitution nearly destroyed.”
I didn’t know things were so bad for the LA Times that they were printing essays that were rejected from college newspapers. At least, I hope that’s where they got it: nowhere off a college campus have I ever read that much cooly idiotic condescension and ignorance.