Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Three Degrees of Demagoguery

In a word, the State of the Union is stupefied.

The President, under pressure to rally a nation while placating a patchwork Congress, did his oratorical best but looked like a man leaning backward while urging Americans to "out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world" in the future.

Unlike Tuscon, this speech came, as it had to, less from Barack Obama's heart than a region of his political brain calculated to co-opt GOP opposition while laying out a blueprint for future growth. But that meant glossing over really hard choices to be made now in the face of public dissatisfaction and distrust. (His low point was trying to make Boehner blubber by mentioning his saloon-sweeping days.)

In that sense, the President practiced what a conservative New York Times columnist calls "The Politics of Evasion" by not mentioning non-Republican elephants in the room--entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare that threaten the government's solvency.

If he can be accused of demagoguery by omission, the opposing responses were full frontal in their distortion of American reality in 2011.

In the official rebuttal, Rep. Paul Ryan presented a plausible argument against government spending, omitting only the reasons for it and his own Draconian proposals for slashing it, the mask slipping just once in warning about transforming "our social safety net into a hammock, which lulls able-bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency."

If Ryan was slippery, Michelle Bachmann was Tea Party loony, with a misplaced teleprompter aptly making her look like she was talking to some fringe on her right, while dopey charts showed deficits rising steeply under Obama after Bush.

None of the night's three speakers addressed the reality of the past two years--that Barack Obama was sworn into management of a burning building and had little choice but to aim fire hoses of spending at unfreezing credit markets, saving Detroit and trying to stimulate the economy.

Whether he always did it wisely or well is not the main point, but accusing him of using too much water to put out the fires is a textbook definition of demagoguery.

Now that this stupefying "debate" is over, the President can go on to arm-wrestle Congress on where to spend and where to cut.

"At times Tuesday night," says a Times editorial, "Mr. Obama was genuinely inspiring with a vision for the country to move forward with confidence and sense of responsibility. Americans need to hear a lot more like that from him."

In detail.


Octopus said...

Lets not beat around the bush and just get straight to the point: Bachmann's speech was more than just loony; it was intellectually dishonest. Her talking point graphic showed a declining economic indicator since the Obama administration began; but her fatal error of omission was in her deliberate distortion of the relationship between cause and effect.

In fact, the most severe recession since the Great Depression started in 2007 … in the Bush administration. The warning of impending disaster was first sounded by then Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulson … of the Bush administration. The TARP bill was hurried through Congress and signed into law … in the Bush administration.

When a speeding car runs out of gas in one administration and coasts to a dead stop in the next administration, where does the fault lie? The fault lies with the administration that forgot through lack of oversight to put gas in the car; not the one that got stuck with towing the car to a gas station.

Mainstream media lets all lies go unchallenged … and far too many bloggers do the same. It only takes a minute to go the extra mile and point out these cheap political tactics.

Errors of omission followed by errors in critical analysis, no wonder why the American public is dumbed down while demagogues and hacks get away with factual murder.

Yellow Dog Don said...

It is futile to beat a dead elephant, but it would have been adult of the Right to have shown some concern while G W Bush spent the $236 billion surplus over his 8 years in office.
It would be intelligent today if they would give some idea on how to bring the budget back to solvency without simultaneously cutting taxes and spending, thereby creating a deflationary trap.

Michele said...

"In that sense, the President practiced what a conservative New York Times columnist calls "The Politics of Evasion" by not mentioning non-Republican elephants in the room--entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare that threaten the government's solvency."
You must not have been listening because Obama said he wanted to strengthen Social Security. So - he DID mention it.

Phoenix Justice said...

I like to think that President Obama's 2011 State of the Union Speech solidified what I call his "milquetoast presidency". He is so busy trying to please everyone, especially those on the right, that he isn't governing.

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