Sunday, October 18, 2009

President Obama, male model

Andrew Sullivan makes his latest case for the Obama Administration:
There is a strange quality to Barack Obama’s pragmatism. It can look like dilly-dallying, weakness, indecisiveness. But although he may seem weak at times, one of the words most applicable to him is something else entirely: ruthless. Beneath the crisp suit and easy smile there is a core of strategic steel. In this respect, Obama’s domestic strategy is rather like his foreign one — not so much weakness but the occasional appearance of weakness as a kind of strategy.

The pattern is now almost trademarked. He carefully lays out the structural message he is trying to convey. At home, it is: we all have to fix the mess left by Bush-Cheney. Abroad, it is: we all have to fix the mess left by Bush-Cheney. And then ... not much.
Essentially, Sullivan is making the case for Barack Obama as President Zoolander. When anybody tries to take advantage of his perceived wimpiness, President Zoolander will use his trademarked "Blue Steel" pose to awe them into submission. The problem with this analysis is that the only people in the world who seem to be fooled by the Obama mystique are Obama's domestic supporters.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Obama's Peace prize is a badge of shame.

President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize today. Normally, such a prize could be considered an honor to the recipient. However, for a world leader engaged in a war against terror (even if he won't acknowledge it as such) to accept a peace prize is an insult to his country. For a world leader engaged in a war against the perpetrators of the most notorious mass murders of Americans in the modern era and losing the war, accepting the peace prize is a total humiliation.

Why exactly are we fighting the war in Afghanistan now? It can't be to defeat Al Qaeda since, according to President Obama, we're not at "war" with "terror" anymore. It can't be to defeat the Taliban since, according to President Obama, we willing to neogtiate with the "moderate Taliban".

It turns out that the latest thinking from the White House is that we're fighting to keep Osama bin Ladin from taking a cabinet position in Afghanistan's government:
Those talks have sharpened the mission's focus to fighting Al Qaeda above all other goals and downgraded the emphasis on defeating the Taliban, a senior administration official who participated in the discussions said Thursday. This second official was authorized to talk to The Associated Press but not to be identified, because the discussions were private.

Under the evolving strategy, the official said, the U.S. would fight only to keep the Taliban from retaking control of Afghanistan's central government -- something it is now far from being capable of -- and from turning the country back into the sanctuary for Al Qaeda that it was before the 2001 invasion ousted the regime.

The official said Obama will determine how many more U.S. troops to deploy to Afghanistan based only on keeping Al Qaeda at bay.
Obama's peace prize is the sugar intended to make this bitter pill go down.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Moronic counter-memes from Obama supporters

President Obama's failed Olympic lobbing effort has definitely damaged his political capital. One way that you can tell is that the usual suspects are desperately trying to give Obama political cover. Here's a relatively pathetic defense from the Daily Dish: President Obama isn't a narcissist because, hey, Presidents Bush and Clinton were narcissists too. "Language Log" makes the case in a critique of George Will's latest column:
I took the transcript of Obama's first press conference (from 2/9/2009), and found that he used 'I' 163 times in 7,775 total words, for a rate of 2.10%. He also used 'me' 8 times and 'my' 35 times, for a total first-person singular pronoun count of 206 in 7,775 words, or a rate of 2.65%.

For comparison, I took George W. Bush's first two solo press conferences as president (from 2/22/2001 and 3/29/2001), and found that W used 'I' 239 times in 6,681 total words, for a rate of 3.58% — a rate 72% higher than Obama's rate. President Bush also used 'me' 26 times, 'my' 31 times, and 'myself' 4 times, for a total first-person singular pronoun count of 300 in 6,681 words, or a rate of 4.49% (59% higher than Obama).

For a third data point, I took William J. Clinton's first two solo press conferences as president (from 1/29/1993 and 3/23/1993), and found that he used 'I' 218 times, 'me' 34 times, 'my' 22 times, and 'myself' once, in 6,935 total words. That's a total of 275 first-person singular pronouns, and a rate of 3.14% for 'I' (51% higher than Obama), and 3.87% for first-person singular pronouns overall (50% higher than Obama).
Gee, could it be that presidents often use first-person singular pronouns in press conferences because that's when they tell people what they've been doing? The point of Obama's narcissism isn't that he talks about himself when he's talking about his job. Every world leader since the beginning of time has done that. As the deliberations of the IOC have made clear, the point of Obama's narcissism is that he can't stop talking about himself even when he especially needs to stop talking about himself.

Of course, "Language Log" knows that its argument is not particularly convincing, so it makes a secondary attack on Will's "metric":
There are two interesting questions here, it seems to me. The first one is why George F. Will is so struck by rates of first-person usage, on the part of Barack and Michelle Obama, that are significantly lower than has been typical of recent presidents and first ladies on similar occasions.
The obvious answer is that George F. Will is not obsessed with usage rates of first-person pronouns. When George F. Will writes something like this --
In the 41 sentences of her remarks, Michelle Obama used some form of the personal pronouns "I" or "me" 44 times. Her husband was, comparatively, a shrinking violet, using those pronouns only 26 times in 48 sentences. Still, 70 times in 89 sentences conveyed the message that somehow their fascinating selves were what made, or should have made, Chicago's case compelling.
-- he is engaging in a literary technique that is called rhetoric. The meaning of these statistics is to communicate to the reader that President Obama's narcissism is shockingly well-developed; so much so that you might find yourself counting first-person pronouns out of sheer disbelief.

Of course, "Language Log" knows this as well, so it is finally forced to admit defeat and go ad hominem:
Now that I think of it, there's another significant question here as well. How in the world did our culture award major-pundit status to someone whose writings are as empirically and spiritually empty as those of George F. Will?

Saturday, October 03, 2009

President Barrack Obama bungles it again.

The big news at the end of this week was Rio de Janeiro being awarded the 2016 Olympics despite the fact that President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and the Oprah had personally lobbied the International Olympic Committee to choose Chicago instead. Jules Crittenden has an enormous list of reactions to this failed Olympic bid.

Personally, I think that President Obama's unsuccessful lobbying efforts were a totally bungled disaster for the United States. Tragically, Obama's defeat here was partially self-inflicted. Why? Because everyone knows that the President da Silva of Brazil has been flirting with Hugo Chávez-style socialism ever since he was elected. A 2016 Olympics in Rio gives the Chávez-aligned nations a chance, if they so wish, to showcase socialism as a South American counterweight to the United States. An IOC the views the Olympics as a world-funded débutante party for up and coming nations would be naturally sympathetic to the argument.

So to win the Olympics for Chicago, President Obama needed to change the basic narrative of the case for Rio, namely that the 2016 Olympics would mark a United States was in decline relative to South America. So how did Obama counter that impression in his lobbying effort? Actually, he spent his term in office reinforcing that impression. President Obama has spent the last eight months apologizing for America's misdeeds, flirting with Chávez and Chávez cronies such as Manuel Zelaya of Honduras, and presiding over a seemingly intractably economic downturn. Obama's industrial policy is deindustrialization to conserve resources; his economic policy is government-subsidized stasis to keep the depression at bay; his health care policy is to conserve resources for the young and productive; his foreign policy is retreat on all fronts to cut costs.

In short, everything about Obama's government says "American decline". The sheer fact that Obama has to lobby some guy on an international committee to save Chicago by throwing money at it, as if Obama was the president of some third-world, basket-case nation, says "American decline".