Monday, 7 December 2009

Cognitive dissonance 101

When I first read this article, having Googled for the text of President Obama’s Berlin Wall speech, I couldn’t believe that it wasn’t a wicked (and wickedly funny), all-time best Right wing spoof of some Left Liberal’s obsequious paean to The One. For me this was like a dream come true: except, obviously, without all the lesbians..

It turned out not to be so. Someone’s actually getting paid by the shareholders of The Boston Globe to write this reality-free garbage.

But I have promised not to fisk at least once a week, (which I’ll fulfil today), and I’m sworn to saying something positive about a Right wing point of view each week (which in this case means it’s enough to say that no-one on the Right wrote unqualified tosh like this about Ronald Reagan during the first year of his presidency or for much later as far as I know,) and… besides, some of you have been very creative and responsive lately.

So let’s not fisk it at all.

Let’s instead accentuate the positive, shall we, and show up something that isn’t a non-sequitur; or isn’t flatly gainsaid by some other part of the piece; or an outright lie or - better yet - that doesn’t match this particular gem’s combination of mendacity, hypocrisy, more mendacity or the dramatic irony of what a crock each part of it is compared with the rest of the article or to the little circle of firelight that we call reality

At critical points in the 2008 campaign, Obama boldly defied conventional wisdom about fund-raising, organizing, message strategy, and crisis management.”

The candidate who had “The Audacity to Win’’ - as chronicled in the new book by his campaign manager David Plouffe - is a president with the audacity to wage war with a pre-announced date for winding it down.

His predecessor, George W. Bush, never lived down the “Mission accomplished’’ banner that hung across the aircraft carrier he landed on in May 2003. At the time of Bush’s now infamous photo-op, the conventional phase of war was over in Iraq. But the insurgency that developed afterward took thousands of American lives. The banner and the president in a flight suit declaring an end to major combat operations turned into a morbid national joke.

Last week, Obama used a West Point setting to essentially declare his mission accomplished before it even begins. He is sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, with a vow to start pulling them out in 2011.

Now, that’s true audacity, and totally in keeping with candidate Obama’s willingness to continually roll the dice.

Plouffe’s book chronicles many examples of dice-rolling, from minor to grandiose.

When Obama decided to run for president, he gambled that the country was somehow ready to elect “an African-American man, born to a Kenyan father and a Kansan mother, just four years out of the Illinois state senator,’’ as Plouffe writes. To get to the point of convincing voters that he was the right man for the times, Obama first had to gamble that he could derail Hillary Rodham Clinton, the all-but inevitable Democratic nominee.

At critical points in the 2008 campaign, Obama boldly defied conventional wisdom about fund-raising, organizing, message strategy, and crisis management.

He tackled the race issue head-on with a ground-breaking speech. He took an overseas trip that could have backfired in any number of ways; Plouffe calls the speech that candidate Obama delivered in Berlin “truly audacious.’’

“One of the fundamental truths of the campaign’s story, one that will always stick with those of us who went through it, is that we threw long,’’ writes Plouffe. “We refused to be defined by past electoral and American history, by what we were told we couldn’t do. We tried to see things simply as they existed. We refused to accept the story that many thought would be written for us and instead wrote our own chapter of history.’’

The gambles paid off. Obama won.

Now, after what we are told was long, thoughtful, gut-checking analysis, he is embarking on another kind of gamble. He is marching more American troops into Afghanistan and betting that he can order them to start coming home in time for his reelection campaign.

If Obama has any second thoughts in the months ahead, he can turn to Karl Rove’s laudatory opinion piece, published in the Wall Street Journal under the headline, “Obama can win in Afghanistan.’’

Now, Rove represents an administration that really knew how to start and end a war, doesn’t he?

Obama’s problem is that starting war, or escalating it, is relatively easy. Ending war is hard.

Andrew Bacevich, a retired US Army colonel, Vietnam War veteran, and Boston University professor of history, said on the radio show “Democracy Now’’: “He seems to assume that war is a predictable and controllable instrument that can be directed with precision by people sitting in offices back in Washington, D.C. I think the history of Vietnam and the history of war more broadly teaches us something different. And that is, when statesmen choose war, they really are simply rolling the dice.’’

There it is again, the phrase that allowed a first-term senator from Illinois to shock the political establishment and win the war.

Rolling the dice.

If he loses this gamble, Obama could lose the presidency. Then again, Bush was reelected even after the “Mission accomplished’’ debacle.

But with this gamble, there is much more at stake than reelection: the country’s trust and the lives of its precious sons and daughters.

So its good, truthful, consistent, or hopeful points about the Obama Presidency are…?


JuliaM said...

"For me this was like a dream come true: except, obviously, without all the lesbians.."


North Northwester said...

Thank you, thank you. You've all been a wonderful audience. I'm here till Doomsday...


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