Found on Facebook (Clare Spark), I think this nicely describes Obama’s speech last night:
I am not the first to point out that Obama is a postmodern president. Tonight he proved that label by his “not-so-fast” speech on foreign policy vis a vis ISIS. It was what the pomos call ” a performative act”–the last word in magical thinking.
Indeed. Platitudes, chest thumping, equivocation – and absolutely nothing new. He’s given a speech … the act is complete. The “ususal”. Talk equals action.
As we’ve become familiar with the “non-apology apology” in today’s life, we have now been introduced to the “non-strategy strategy”. What he talked about wasn’t a strategy, it was pure justification for doing … not much (even though he made it clear he doesn’t need Congress’s approval to do … not much). Apparently he thinks that a few airstrikes and few advisors will stimulate “allies” to do much more than that and take the bit and run with it. Yeah, that’s always worked so well in the past. Leading from behind again.
Also unknown is how one is going to take an obviously dispirited and seemingly unwilling (incompetent) Iraqi army and turn it around any time soon, but if there is a plan in there, that seems to be it, sort of. Oh, that and a “National Guard” (new name for the “awakening’s” militias)? Say what? But what I mostly got from it was he, like many other mistaken arm-chair generals, believes that he can accomplish “degrading” ISIS by air. First, any significant degradation would require a sustained air campaign on the level of our Gulf War “shock and awe” campaign. Not going to happen. Secondly, finding and killing ISIS C4 nodes, like we did with Saddam, is an extraordinarily difficult task in comparison. While we may randomly accomplish knocking out some of those nodes, it will be mostly luck without good hard timely intelligence (and acted upon immediately) about an enemy which remains mostly mobile.
And how about him deciding ISIS isn’t “Islam” or “Islamic”? Since when does he get to decide? Certainly some parts of greater Islam are against ISIS, but then Sunnis have no use for Shiites either do they? Does that make one or the other not “Islam”. Who gets to decide? Such declarations do Obama’s poor credibility even more damage and feeds the conspiracy theorists. But, that said, one has to wonder why it was so important for him to include that in a national policy speech. It is a total non-sequitur in my opinion. But for whatever reason, he chose to include it.
I think James Joyner has a good take on the speech. His first reaction:
The first thing I’d note is how much it sounded like any number of foreign policy speeches given by his predecessor. He declared again and again that, “As Commander-in-Chief, my highest priority is the security of the American people” and proudly enumerated all the ways that “we have consistently taken the fight to terrorists who threaten our country.”
Our Peace Prize president sounding like Bush … got to love the irony. Of course what Obama didn’t expound upon is how his withdrawal of troops from Iraq helped enable the ISIS expansion. Reality (i.e. an objective military assessment of the status of the Iraqi army and its actual abilities) rarely, if every, conforms to an arbitrary political deadlines. I think it is clear to everyone the pullout at that time was a very bad idea. It takes time to build an effective fighting force. What is now left in Iraq is a shattered and dispirited force. Because of that, we’re put in the position to again try to salvage a situation there. With greater forethought and less ideology, we would have kept US forces still there to ensure the Iraqi military was actually ready to confront a threat like ISIS instead of pretending it was so to keep a political promise.
Joyner’s second thought:
The second observation is that it’s still not clear exactly what Obama’s strategy is. His stated political objective is to “degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy” but he offered no plan that could plausibly do more than the former.
Well, except for, you know, “air strikes”. Hand wave, promise, done. Polls suck? Hitting ISIS popular? Wag the dog. It’s all about politics and elections, folks. Not the security of the United States. If someone had told him that his poll numbers would rise by not playing golf … well, there are limits you know. If it was truly about the security of the United States, this administration would be working to secure our borders, not ignoring the immigration laws.
Frankly, this is simply the logical continuation of Obama’s existing ISIL non-strategy and, indeed, his general counter-terrorism strategy of blowing up the bad guys and hoping they get tired of it eventually. We could call it the Global War on Terror but, alas, that name’s been taken. That’s rather unsatisfying but it’s not at all obvious what more the United States can or should do to degrade ISIL. The threat to the homeland is too tangential at present to warrant the proverbial boots on the ground. So, it’s Whack-a-Mole with no end in sight.
And the moles will continue to be whacked as we hear glowing progress reports from the Eastasian front.
Because? Well, that’s how we roll now. Back to the future.
The more I read political spin these days, the more I feel the shadow of Orwell’s “Ministry of Truth” from “1984” trying to solidify its existence.
Yesterday’s disastrous GDP numbers were followed up by this nonsense from the White House:
The estimates found economic growth slowed to 1.5 percent last quarter – down from 2 percent the previous quarter and 4.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011 — but the chairman of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers said that at least it’s still growing.
Yes indeed. “Still growing”. That’s a bit like saying a baby born without a brain and being kept alive on life support is “still alive”.
Technically true, but in the case of the baby, a condition everyone would agree is a tragedy. In the case of this economy, as stated, those numbers are a disaster.
"Today’s report shows that the economy posted its twelfth straight quarter of positive growth," Alan B. Krueger wrote in a statement. "Over the last three years, the economy has expanded by 6.7 percent overall, and the private components of GDP have grown by 9.9 percent."
Yes sir, the private sector is “doing fine”. 9.9% growth in three years! As for the GDP (which is forecast now to be at an annual rate of 1.3%), hey, it’s still growing.
Unsaid by the spokesman for the Ministry of Truth, is just “growing” just isn’t good enough to be considered “positive”. Rule of thumb?
Therefore, economists agree the ideal GDP growth rate is more than 2%, but less than 4%. In between the two recessions, the annual economic growth rate was ideal:
- 2.5% in 2003.
- 3.9% in 2004.
- 3.2% in 2005.
- 2.7% in 2006.
- 2.0% in 2007.
What economists are also coming to agree on is excessive debt – like that we’ve run up – puts about a 1.2% penalty on GDP. Or said another way, we’re unlikely to see GDP growth return to the “ideal” anytime soon, given the 10 year plan by government to spend 46 trillion dollars we don’t have. If you’re wondering what all that means, consult the Japanese economy for the last two decades. That’s likely the new “normal” with the policies in place from this administration.
But hey, if everyone would rather talk about Mitt Romney’s wonderful European adventure (hey, at least he’s not bowing to everyone in sight), that’s fine. It is certainly something the Ministry of Truth would approve.
A “tax amnesty” ad from Pennsylvania:
Big Brother has nothing on these folks.
Is anyone else even slightly creeped out by this upcoming presidential address to our kids and grandkids?
Maybe its just me but there’s something just not quite right about it all. Oh, I suspect he’ll be very careful about what he has to say and probably keep it pretty general in tone and nature. But there’s just something about a politician addressing young children without an alternate or dissenting voice that smacks of, oh I don’t know, some novel I read years and years ago.
In fact, I’m pretty sure they made a movie of that book.
You know, it’s one thing for a teacher to use a politician’s words or deeds in class as an example of some point they’re trying to make in a lesson. But it is quite another to have a captive audience with no choice as to whether they listen or watch sitting in front of TVs because a politician decided that would be a good idea.
Maybe it’s my cynical nature that’s coming to the fore. Who knows, this may be nothing but a “hey youngsters, good luck in school and try to do your best” speech. But then I wonder why, if that’s so, he assumes the right to make such a speech best left to moms and dads. Of course he did tell us this week to make sure we wash our hands, sneeze in our sleeve and stay home if we’re sick. So addressing real children after treating us all like children isn’t a real stretch.
The real reason there’s a growing creep factor to all of this is that not only does he presume to have the right to address our kids, his speech has a lesson plan. It’s one thing to have a politician give a speech and everyone go, “ok, that’s nice” and get back to work. But it is entirely creepy when that politician has a lesson plan sent out to accompany the speech. For the pre-K to 6th grade group the plan suggests pre-speech questions like: “Why is it important that we listen to the President and other elected officials, like the mayor, senators, members of congress, or the governor? Why is what they say important?”
Now that doesn’t tend to border on indoctrination or anything does it? “Obey you young skulls full of mush. Elected officials are good. Listen to them. Question authority? Not till you get to the 7th grade.”
7th – 12th graders get a little more sophisticated lesson plan than do the little guys. And guess who it is all about?
Short readings. Notable quotes excerpted (and posted in large print on board) from President Obama’s speeches about education. Teacher might ask students to think alone, compare ideas with a partner, and share their collaborations with the class (Think/Pair/Share) about the following: What are our interpretations of these excerpts? Based on these excerpts, what can we infer the President believes is important to be successful educationally?
Yeah, you see, this seems to be more than “hey youngsters, good luck in school and try to do your best”, doesn’t it?
After the speech, the 7-12 crew will have a “guided discussion” in which questions like, “What is President Obama inspiring you to do? What is he challenging you to do?”, will be pondered.
And the poor little tykes in preK to 6 (preK?)? Well they get the full cult of personality treatment:
Students could discuss their responses to the following questions:
What do you think the President wants us to do?
Does the speech make you want to do anything?
Are we able to do what President Obama is asking of us?
What would you like to tell the President?
Boy, you know what I’d like to tell the President if I was in one of those classes?
Leave our freakin’ kids alone. And don’t ever assume you have either the right or privilege of addressing them about anything ever again without our permission.
But, you know, that’d probably be some sort of overreaction or something. After all, I’m sure his intentions are sweet and pure and good and he only want’s to be our national daddy. And anyway, I don’t even have a lesson plan.
Stephanie Gutmann brings up something I’ve noticed. She starts with an Orwell quote:
“The program of the Two Minutes Hate varied from day to day, but there was none in which Goldstein was not the principal figure. He was the primal traitor…All subsequent crimes against the Party, all treacheries, acts of sabotage, heresies, deviations, sprang directly out of his teaching. Somewhere or other he was still alive and hatching his conspiracies, perhaps somewhere beyond the sea, under the protection of his foreign paymasters perhaps even — so it was occasionally rumoured in some hiding place in Oceania itself.”
1984 by George Orwell
She then says:
In the passage above, and throughout 1984 and Animal Farm, George Orwell illustrates how regimes with tentative hold over beleaguered populations deflect anger away from their own corruptions and mistakes with the deployment of a greatly embellished, even invented, external enemy.
There are many things that bug me about Barack Obama — the insane laundry list speeches, the silly rhetoric, the hostility to the free market — but these are all talked about. He has another habit that hasn’t been talked about so much and, of all the things he does, it makes me the most queasy.
It’s pretty subtle, but I think it’s worth keeping an eye on because, if it were to become full-blown, it has the potential to be the most socially damaging element of his presidency.
I’m talking about what I’m going to call his Goldstein-ism, his tendency to make veiled, dark allusions to a recently vanquished “other”, an evil being (he is never specific) who is, he always implies, the real cause of all our problems.
His references to his “inherited” problem, to bankers, greedy Wall Street and his “predecessor” are all too common, not to mention Limbaugh and Hannity.
So why this tendency to attempt to deflect criticism by blaming it on others? Well, consider the Obama march to the presidency. His entire campaign was based on how bad George Bush was and how necessary it was to replace him. Bush was Obama’s “Goldstein”. And Obama used Bush to deflect attention from his own paper thin resume and lack of experience. He managed to make Bush so bad that those things didn’t matter to most Americans who bought the characterization.
But Bush is gone now. And Obama has no specific “Goldstein” with whom he can shift blame and/or deflect attention. But Gutmann points out, he still tries to use Bush when possible. For example:
Monday was full of terrible economic news. It was another day of “unstoppable selling on Wall Street,” according to AP, a day in which Foreign Policy said ” the markets were sending an unambiguous signal that the U.S. economy is now headed in the wrong direction.” How did the administration respond?
I do not think it a coincidence that late in the day the administration “threw open the curtain on years of Bush-era secrets” as the ever in-the-tank Associated Press put it, with the release of memos “that claimed exceptional search-and-seizure powers…”
Soooo, what was in these scary-sounding memos? Midway down the article AP explains that the memos detailed possible legal rationale for tactics the Bush admin was considering using in its anti-terror program. You’d have to read further still to see that the “Bush administration eventually abandoned many of the legal conclusions.” Nevertheless, AP harrumphs, “the documents themselves [about stuff that had been discussed] had been closely held.” But who cares what the article actually said: It generated a nice headline — “Obama releases secret Bush anti-terror memos” — during a day the populace might have been thinking disloyal thoughts about the their president’s direction.
Of course this gets harder and harder for Obama to do, and besides, it’s unseemly if a president does it – that’s what minions are for. And as Bush fades, a new Goldstien is necessary. Enter Robert Gibbs, Rush Limbaugh, and others:
Jim Cramer. Rush Limbaugh. Rick Santelli.
What do they all have in common? Most likely, none of them is getting invited to the White House Christmas party.
All three media personalities have been singled out by President Obama’s press shop in the course of less than two weeks. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, in doing so, has shown an unusual willingness to spar with cable and radio hosts who take shots at his boss.
The rebuttals have ranged from playful ribbing to disdainful scolding.
One of the things we didn’t see, for the most part, was these sorts of assaults on people who weren’t the political opposition during the Bush years. And, in fact, few assaults on those that were in the political opposition. Never once was Keith Olberman or a host of others called out from the White House Press Secretary’s podium. In fact, they were mostly, if not completely ignored. But obviously the same can’t be said of the Obama White House.
So, you have to ask, “why”?
Try Rule 12 from Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals“:
RULE 12: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions.
As you recall, Mr. Bi-partisan, “heal the nation” Obama did have one thing on that thin resume – he was a community organizer from the Saul Alinsky school of organizing.
And as for the attacks coming from the White House Press podium? Rule 5 covers that:
RULE 5: “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” There is no defense. It’s irrational. It’s infuriating. It also works as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions.
After watching the man for two plus years, I’ve come to realize this is more than a tendency, it’s his modus operandi. And one should assume his administration will reflect the bosses MO when dealing with criticism. The difference is Obama has himself under pretty tight control. I’m not so sure that can be said of some others. And that’s where Rule 6 comes in:
RULE 6: “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.” They’ll keep doing it without urging and come back to do more. They’re doing their thing, and will even suggest better ones.
The danger with Rule 6 as it is now being executed gleefully by Gibbs (“There are very few days that I’ve had more fun,” Gibbs said.) is that he (and others) will overreach. They always do. And it certainly came as no surprise to me to find out Rahm Emanuel was involved in the Limbaugh attacks. So my prediction is this new and advanced “politics of personal destruction” campaign that this administration has embarked on will blow up in their face at some point.
But that doesn’t detract from Gutmann’s point about Obama’s tendency to need and rely on a “Goldstein”. I’m not a psychologist or a psychiatrist, but it seems to indicate, at least to me, a deep-seated sense of insecurity. If I had no more experience than Obama has, I might be looking for such a scape-goat myself. Knowing that, however, damn well doesn’t make me feel better about it though. But we shouldn’t be surprised when a Saul Alinsky trained community organizer acts like a Saul Alinsky trained community organizer, should we?