Empty Rhetoric

Condescender In Chief

Charles Krauthammer has an excellent column about President Obama’s immigration speech in El Paso the other day.  Here’s a sample:

The El Paso speech is notable not for breaking any new ground on immigration but for perfectly illustrating Obama’s political style: the professorial, almost therapeutic, invitation to civil discourse, wrapped around the basest of rhetorical devices — charges of malice compounded with accusations of bad faith. “They’ll never be satisfied,” said Obama about border control. “And I understand that. That’s politics.”

How understanding. The other side plays “politics,” Obama acts in the public interest. Their eyes are on poll numbers, political power, the next election; Obama’s rest fixedly on the little children.

This impugning of motives is an Obama constant. “They” play politics with deficit reduction, with government shutdowns, with health care. And now immigration. It is ironic that such a charge should be made in a speech that is nothing but politics. There is zero chance of any immigration legislation passing Congress in the next two years. El Paso was simply an attempt to gin up the Hispanic vote as part of an openly political two-city, three-event campaign swing in preparation for 2012.

Accordingly, the El Paso speech featured two other staples: the breathtaking invention and the statistical sleight of hand.

Krauthammer continues, calling out the president for his abuse of statistics and his demagoguery.

For a man who has blown so much hot air about civility and changing the dialogue in Washington, President Obama has been in fact more overtly partisan than any president I can recall, and my political memory dates back to Reagan.  Most of the president’s major addresses contain the following elements:

1 - Discussion of other side’s opposition to his plans in tone that suggests mild surprise and even outrage that other people have differing viewpoints.  President Obama often pays lip service to respecting other’s viewpoints, but when he actually gets around to discussing policy issues his tone becomes sarcastic and mocking, as though no sentient human being could possibly think other than he does.

2Erecting strawman arguments and mischaracterizing opponents’ positions. An absolute staple of any Obama speech, as highlighted by Krauthammer above.

3 – Testily dismissing opponents.  Having characterized his opponents as people who want to starve the elderly, children, women, Asians, Eskimos, and puppies, President Obama then concludes this portion of his speech with a metaphorical wave of his hand.  On several occasions he has quite literally said that Republican input was not welcome.

What a uniter, that guy.

And here’s the thing.  In a certain sense I don’t really care.  There were times during George Bush’s presidency that I wanted him to be a bit feistier and take on his opponents more fiercely.  Presidents are supposed to be above the fray, but that’s a bit of hogwash.  Presidents can be partisan crusaders as long as they keep it within respectful limits.  In other words, they should be above the level of your typical comment box antagonist.

Besides, when President Obama gets into sarcastic mode it’s one of the few times he almost seems human and non-boring.  Most of the time Obama displays two rhetorical styles: faux Martin Luther King Jr, and robot teleprompter reader.  Either he’s doing his worst impression of a dynamic speaker or else he sounds like someone who has just woken from a deep nap.  I don’t know who these people are that think he’s a great speaker, but frankly he rarely speaks like a normal man except when he’s cranky and sarcastic.  In fact, if he were more regularly sarcastic and petty then I might be able to sit through more of his talks.  At least then they would be entertaining.

No, what grates about his divisive rhetoric is that it contradicts all his campaign blabber from 2008.  Oh, sure, it’s the same nonsense we hear from all camps every election season, and I’m sure several GOP candidates this Fall and Winter will go out of their way to make some appeal to “curing our partisan discord.”  Hopefully I will have my bucket at the ready for such moments.  But not only has Obama not kept this unkeepable promise, he actually has gone above and beyond to completely obliterate any sense of being some kind of uniter.

Unfortunately we will never learn, and again we’ll fall for this cheap rhetoric in the future.  As I said, we’ll get more of the same in 2o12.  Like the rising of the sun and its setting, empty campaign promises of entering into some non partisan fairy land are sure bets.  Such meaningless dribble overlooks two facts of life:  there have been very few times in American history when we have not been subject to deep partisan divides, and there will never be a time in America where people do not have passionate beliefs that are irreconcilable with other beliefs.  That’s not to say we have to be jerks about it, but it should make us wake up to the reality that differences of opinion will always exist in a free country, and glossing over those differences by vacuous campaign rhetoric won’t bring us any closer to bridging those gaps.

Lying to Join The Band of Brothers

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I have never served in combat or been in a warzone for which I thank God.  However, many of my friends are veterans of combat in conflicts stretching from World War II to Iraq.  Such an experience marks them.  They tell me that they have some of their best memories from their time in service, along with some of their worst.  It is a crucible that they have passed through which is hard to completely convey to someone like me who has never gone through it.  Usually they do not speak much of it, although often I have seen a quiet pride when they do speak about it:  a knowledge that they were given a test on their passage through life and made it through, mingled with sadness for their friends who were lost.  They belong to the exclusive club of those called upon to put their lives on the line for the rest of us.  They are entitled to respect for their service, whether they are given that respect by the rest of us or not.

Therefore I take a very dim view of anyone who seeks entry into their ranks under false pretences.  The New York Times has revealed that Richard Blumenthal, Democrat Attorney General of Connecticut and candidate for the Democrat nomination for the US Senate is one such person:

At a ceremony honoring veterans and senior citizens who sent presents to soldiers overseas, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut rose and spoke of an earlier time in his life.

We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam,” Mr. Blumenthal said to the group gathered in Norwalk in March 2008. “And you exemplify it. Whatever we think about the war, whatever we call it — Afghanistan or Iraq — we owe our military men and women unconditional support.”

There was one problem: Mr. Blumenthal, a Democrat now running for the United States Senate, never served in Vietnam. He obtained at least five military deferments from 1965 to 1970 and took repeated steps that enabled him to avoid going to war, according to records.

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The Flames of Dissent and Discord

Patrick Kennedy

Politicians make asinine statements all the time, but sometimes there is one that stands out from the crowd for its sheer cluelessness, duplicity and perversity.  Patrick Kennedy, yep, one of Teddy Kennedy’s sons, a Democrat member of Congress from Rhode Island, lambasted the Church for not falling into line behind ObamaCare. Here is a statement that he made  to CNSNews.

“I can’t understand for the life of me how the Catholic Church could be against the biggest social justice issue of our time, where the very dignity of the human person is being respected by the fact that we’re caring and giving health care to the human person–that right now we have 50 million people who are uninsured,” Kennedy told CNSNews.com when asked about a letter the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) had sent to members of Congress stating the bishops’ position on abortion funding in the health-care bill.

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The Obligatory Obama Speech Post

After months of discussion, Obama finally gave his commencement address at Notre Dame University today.  Due to a near fascistic exercise on the part of the ND administration, the event was virtually free of any signs of protest, and Obama made full use of the event to do his “don’t you wish you could be as moderate and measured as I am” shtick which we know so well from the campaign.  The text is as follows:

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The Giggle Test

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In my “real life”, for my sins no doubt, I am an attorney.  Before I raise an argument in court before a judge or a jury, I always make sure it can pass the giggle test.  It has two components:  1.  Can I make the argument with a straight face;  and 2.  do I think a judge or a jury can hear the argument without giggling.  The giggle test has saved me a lot of embarrassment over the years in court.

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