Archive for the ‘Barack Obama’ Category

So at the Republican debate last Saturday night, Donald Trump went hard at Jeb Bush in his usual aggressive, bullying style. “Obviously, the war in Iraq is a big, fat mistake, all right? George Bush made a mistake. We can make mistakes. But that one was a beauty. We should have never been in Iraq. We have destabilized the Middle East.” And, “The World Trade Center came down during your brother’s reign. Remember that.” Trump continued that line of thought on the Sunday talk shows, and he’s kept it up on Twitter today:

Trump was booed at the debate, but the lingering question is, will his performance hurt him in South Carolina? I suspect not, and the reason is that Trump is speaking some unspoken truths that many conservatives know to be true in their gut. Deep down, they at least suspect that they were lied to about the Iraq war, and they know it was a mistake. They actually do know that the World Trade Center towers came down during the George W. Bush administration. They do know that no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq. And yet, they stick to the party line. Why?

Well, first of all, to begin questioning the party line would be to admit that they themselves were wrong. That’s a problem for people who pride themselves on being, say, intelligence analysts. But it’s also because the thought leaders within their bubble continue to insist that the World Trade Center bombing was actually President Clinton’s fault, that the Iraq War was necessary because Saddam Hussein posed an existential threat to the United States, and that WMD actually were found, just like President Bush said they would (and even though President Bush has admitted they weren’t found). So it’s easy to just stick to the party line and keep the doubts beneath the surface, left unspoken. It’s a form of peer pressure.

We need to remember that a lot of conservatives have isolated themselves from anyone they think may be a liberal. This includes most of mainstream thought, not just true liberals. A perfect example is our friends at Blogs For Victory. Not only are they afraid to have anonymous discussions with individuals who challenge their opinions, their fear even extends to their daily, non-Internet lives. We know this because of the many times they have explained that they no longer speak to friends, or even relatives, who they deem to be “liberals.” They simply can’t stomach the thought of their worldview being challenged. Of course, the biggest challenge to them has been the election and re-election of Barack Obama. Sometimes these conservatives explain that they actually have healthy disagreement amongst themselves, but in saying so, they leave out what truly unites them, which is their shared hatred of President Obama and their belief that he is an illegitimate president.

This doesn’t mean that they aren’t aware of the mistakes of the Bush presidency–they’re just not willing to accept them being pointing them out by people who aren’t their thought leaders. Now along comes Donald Trump, who, at the Republican debate of all places, just comes right out and says it: Bush lied, the Iraq war was a horrible mistake, etc. Yeah, some people booed, but a lot of them know he’s right, even if they’re afraid to say so. An actual Republican candidate is giving legitimacy to some unaired thoughts.

They also believe he’s right when he says that Social Security and Medicare should be saved, not slashed. This particularly resonates with many of the bubble people because, well, they do or will shortly depend on Social Security and Medicare. See, conservative politicians can carry on about the Constitution and all, but conservative voters are a bit more pragmatic. It’s just that they generally won’t deviate from the party line until someone representing the party gives them permission to. And that’s what Donald Trump is doing. Conservatives would never accept it from a Democrat, but Donald Trump is running as a Republican, so he’s giving voice to their private thoughts.

You’ll continue to hear the usual conservative thought leaders bashing Trump for his apostasy. But silently, conservative voters are hearing things from Trump that they’ve thought about in their private moments–thoughts they wouldn’t admit to other conservatives, and would certainly never admit to a liberal–that is, if they even talk to any liberals anymore. But they do vote. We’ll soon see if Trump gets nicked by his outbursts or not.

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David Brooks, of all people, states what has become painfully obvious so far in the 2016 presidential election cycle: “I miss Barack Obama.” Not his policies, of course, because Brooks is to the right philosophically of the president. But as Brooks says, “Many of the traits of character and leadership that Obama possesses, and that maybe we have taken too much for granted, have suddenly gone missing or are in short supply.” I particularly like the line about this year’s candidates “wallow[ing] in the pornography of pessimism, to conclude that this country is on the verge of complete collapse.”

Do any of today’s candidates project an air of optimism? Maybe Trump comes close, but only in the sense that this country is already so monumentally stupid, weak, and screwed up that it will take a bully like himself to fix it. Christie? Same story, but more articulately expressed. Rubio? A wannabe. Cruz? As Brooks asks, would you want Cruz on the board of your community groups or charities? Carson? He might have once been a brilliant brain surgeon, but he’s simply out of his depth as a national politician, eagerly gobbling up every conspiracy theory put in front of him. Bush? He had the potential to come across as an actual compassionate human being, but he got steamrolled by the rest of the bullies. Sanders? Sadly, he also sounds a one-note symphony of pessimism, only from the left.

In any event, I’m post the rest of the article because it’s worth reading.

The first and most important of these [traits of character and leadership] is basic integrity. The Obama administration has been remarkably scandal-free. Think of the way Iran-contra or the Lewinsky scandals swallowed years from Reagan and Clinton.

We’ve had very little of that from Obama. He and his staff have generally behaved with basic rectitude. Hillary Clinton is constantly having to hold these defensive press conferences when she’s trying to explain away some vaguely shady shortcut she’s taken, or decision she has made, but Obama has not had to do that.

He and his wife have not only displayed superior integrity themselves, they have mostly attracted and hired people with high personal standards. There are all sorts of unsightly characters floating around politics, including in the Clinton camp and in Gov. Chris Christie’s administration. This sort has been blocked from team Obama.

Second, a sense of basic humanity. Donald Trump has spent much of this campaign vowing to block Muslim immigration. You can only say that if you treat Muslim Americans as an abstraction. President Obama, meanwhile, went to a mosque, looked into people’s eyes and gave a wonderful speech reasserting their place as Americans.

He’s exuded this basic care and respect for the dignity of others time and time again. Let’s put it this way: Imagine if Barack and Michelle Obama joined the board of a charity you’re involved in. You’d be happy to have such people in your community. Could you say that comfortably about Ted Cruz? The quality of a president’s humanity flows out in the unexpected but important moments.

Third, a soundness in his decision-making process. Over the years I have spoken to many members of this administration who were disappointed that the president didn’t take their advice. But those disappointed staffers almost always felt that their views had been considered in depth.

Obama’s basic approach is to promote his values as much as he can within the limits of the situation. Bernie Sanders, by contrast, has been so blinded by his values that the reality of the situation does not seem to penetrate his mind.

Take health care. Passing Obamacare was a mighty lift that led to two gigantic midterm election defeats. As Megan McArdle pointed out in her Bloomberg View column, Obamacare took coverage away from only a small minority of Americans. Sanderscare would take employer coverage away from tens of millions of satisfied customers, destroy the health insurance business and levy massive new tax hikes. This is epic social disruption.

To think you could pass Sanderscare through a polarized Washington and in a country deeply suspicious of government is to live in intellectual fairyland. President Obama may have been too cautious, especially in the Middle East, but at least he’s able to grasp the reality of the situation.

Fourth, grace under pressure. I happen to find it charming that Marco Rubio gets nervous on the big occasions — that he grabs for the bottle of water, breaks out in a sweat and went robotic in the last debate. It shows Rubio is a normal person. And I happen to think overconfidence is one of Obama’s great flaws. But a president has to maintain equipoise under enormous pressure. Obama has done that, especially amid the financial crisis. After Saturday night, this is now an open question about Rubio.

Fifth, a resilient sense of optimism. To hear Sanders or Trump, Cruz and Ben Carson campaign is to wallow in the pornography of pessimism, to conclude that this country is on the verge of complete collapse. That’s simply not true. We have problems, but they are less serious than those faced by just about any other nation on earth.

People are motivated to make wise choices more by hope and opportunity than by fear, cynicism, hatred and despair. Unlike many current candidates, Obama has not appealed to those passions.

No, Obama has not been temperamentally perfect. Too often he’s been disdainful, aloof, resentful and insular. But there is a tone of ugliness creeping across the world, as democracies retreat, as tribalism mounts, as suspiciousness and authoritarianism take center stage.

Obama radiates an ethos of integrity, humanity, good manners and elegance that I’m beginning to miss, and that I suspect we will all miss a bit, regardless of who replaces him.

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/09/opinion/i-miss-barack-obama.html