January 7, 2008

"Obama said things like: 'We are one nation; we are one people; and our time for change has come.'"

"Clinton said things like: 'I founded in the Senate the Bipartisan Manufacturing Caucus.'"

Shouldn't we prefer flat-footed competence to cheerful generalities? Yes, but conceding that you're boring doesn't make you more competent, inspiring people is part of the President's work, and the capacity to deliver a fine oration doesn't entail some corresponding incapacity.

64 comments:

Simon said...

Subtext: "We are one nation; we are one people; our differences don't matter, so why don't we all do it my way?"

It's "if you'd stop struggling I wouldn't have to keep fighting you" as "compromise."

Paul Zrimsek said...

We are one nation; we are one people; and our time for change has come.

What, again?

If we were really as unanimous as Obama makes out, the odds would be very much against our still needing to change anything.

Verso said...

Simon,
Which of the Republican candidates are you pulling for?

Pogo said...

The public's appetite for the pablum of a political savior is endless, while the appetite for bureaucratic competence is essentially nil.

And the Democratic love affair with Camelot never flags. They keep looking for a
Kennedy, but keep finding Jimmy Carter.

Pogo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fen said...

Verso: Simon, Which of the Republican candidates are you pulling for?

Verso, you can analyze Obama and Hillary on their own merits. No need to pull a tu quoque on Simon.

Der Hahn said...

I've always wanted to hear an explaination of exactly who has taken over the government that Obama pledges to take back. If we are all one united people but we don't control our country, then the government must have been take over by people who aren't *American*. Because no true *American* opposes Obama.

rhhardin said...

One nation, one people

Obama has the same speechwriters as Bush did for ``Homeland Security.''

Ein Volk resonates among folk over a certain age.

Ein Reich, Ein Führer continues the famous line.

One people, one nation, one leader, close enough.

Insipring, I guess. Today though the Germans are sad and dejected.

Ron said...

I might be more impressed if I knew what the hell the Bipartisan Manufacturing Caucus did, and if they were any good at it!

Verso said...

Tu quoque?

It's nice of you to leap to Simon's defense. I asked Simon who he's pulling for because I'm curious, and because Simon is a generally friendly person. I'm sorry if you were offended.

reader_iam said...

Why does the name Dukakis leap to mind?

reader_iam said...

And may I go back in time, too, and be 27 again?

George said...

Rhetoric has to be backed by some policy statement. For example, "Pay any price. Bear any burden." That means something.

Obama's applause line (in your headline) has zero content.

Romney has a new line, too:

"Ba ba ba ba ba! I'm lovin' MITT"

That really is a slogan his psychocosmetologists are using in New Hampshire.

The next level down intellectually would be grunts and squeaks.

goesh said...

The hegemony of jihadist Islam is not going to abate and I simply can't see Obama personally assuming any repsonsibility for having people killed. Hillary can and will. I think too his 'poetry' will mire and have to be endlessly spun in the face of powerful special interests, giving him a divided Cabinet and a hackneyed film covering the gloss of his armor we see shining today.

Alan said...

The claim--35 years experience of bringing change--rubs me the wrong way. Is she taking credit for her husband's experience?

Middle Class Guy said...

Hillary's problem is Bill's playbook. Obama stole Bill's playbook on how to campaign and will elections. Hillary is using the Dukakis/Dole method.

It is inspiration versus insipid.

Simon said...

Verso - my answer's not terribly inspiring, I'm afraid. ;) I'm not really "pulling for" any of them vis-a-vis one another (although I really don't like Huckabee). But I could be pretty happy with Thompson, Giuliani or Romney, and I could be happy enough with McCain given the alternatives on the other side. The two folks I'd really like to vote for for President - Gingrich or Bolton - aren't running, unfortunately, but that's probably just as well. ;)

Kirby Olson said...

I'm tired of the word "change." Making change is something that's necessary if you're applying for a job at 7-11, but a president doesn't necessarily have to make change.

Giuliani said that there's also another consideration of the word change. You can make something worse. Why do we need a president who will make our country more like Kenya, for instance?

Or more like the former Soviet Union.

I wish the candidates would start playing with the term more, and stop using the term as if it's some kind of panacea. The term has a lot of downsides that could be played with more effectively if any of these candidates had a little wit.

Spare change?

Doyle said...

a president doesn't necessarily have to make change.

George W. Bush's successor does. Desperately.

Mortimer Brezny said...

Actually, the only one who says "making change" is Hillary Clinton. The others use a formulation that doesn't sound like what cashiers do. She's trying to belittle their arguments, but it just makes her look ungracious.

Pogo said...

Desperately.

Liberals/leftists/progressives (or whatever title they prefer this week) never seem to learn from history that change can also be deleterious.

Doyle said...

Why do we need a president who will make our country more like Kenya, for instance?

Umm... WTF? I missed this the first time but obviously this is outlandishly racist bulls--t that should be pointed out.

Doyle said...

George W. Bush's presidency had lots of change in it:

We'd never invaded a country preemptively and on false pretenses before.

The president used to have to obey statutory laws.

We used to have a healthy middle class.

So you don't have to tell us that change can be a bad thing.

Pogo said...

No, but you're assuming Obama's changes would be "progress", i.e. a net positive.

I disagree. His verbiage is just wind, nothing more, mere smoke covering the usual New Deal crap.

Simon said...

Doyle said...
"The president used to have to obey statutory laws."

The President still has to obey Constitutionally-valid statutes; the President has never had to obey unconstitutional statutes. That'll go for President Hillary, too.

"We used to have a healthy middle class."

Simply asserting that there's a smaller middle class without explaining which end is leaking is problematic. "Economist Stephen Rose, defining the middle class as households with annual incomes between $30,000 and $100,000, says a smaller percentage of Americans are in that category than in 1979 -- because the percentage of Americans earning more than $100,000 has doubled from 12 to 24, while the percentage earning less than $30,000 is unchanged. 'So,' Rose says, 'the entire "decline" of the middle class came from people moving up the income ladder.'" (HT: Reader_iam).

Lastly, I think you miss Kirby's point. We do not need a President who will make our country more like Kenya: what had Kenya been in the news for in the last few weeks? Political violence. Do you think we DO need a President who will make our country more like Kenya? Which particular aspects of Kenya do you think the United States would benefit from more closely resembling?

Doyle said...

That George Will column was one of the worst pieces he's ever written.

For one thing, those appear to be nominal numbers! Anyone who makes a mistake that careless can't really care about getting his facts right at all.

Another example of Will's ridiculous argumentation from that column: he uses the % of tax revenues that come from the top 1%, and says how that number has grown and how unfair that is to the super-rich.

But it's not because they are being taxed more heavily, it's because their share of the national income has risen so much!

Honestly. That column was garbage.

Doyle said...

Which particular aspects of Kenya do you think the United States would benefit from more closely resembling?

Again, who is talking about emulating Kenya, besides the trailer trash upthread?

hdhouse said...

Pogo said..."And the Democratic love affair with Camelot never flags. They keep looking for a
Kennedy, but keep finding Jimmy Carter."

Well Pogo, after 8 years of a christmas tree that has no lights, a living room full of ponyshit and the only thing in it is a dumbass from texas, frankly a guy who can walk and chew gum should look pretty good.

Michael_H said...

Der Hahn said:

"I've always wanted to hear an explaination of exactly who has taken over the government that Obama pledges to take back."

Me too. As I understand Obama's speechifying, he wants to take back the government from the Democrat majority presently overseeing the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Kind of an odd position for a candidate to take, eh? But then again, no one actually examines what a candidate says, so long as the sloganeering makes the party faithful feel all wet and fuzzy.

Doyle said...

As I understand Obama's speechifying, he wants to take back the government from the Democrat majority presently overseeing the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Wow. If that's the impression Obama gives Republicans, he's even better than I thought!

Pogo said...

after 8 years of a christmas tree that has no lights, a living room full of ponyshit and the only thing in it is a dumbass from texas

Sometimes you write like an 8th grader who got sent to his room without the Wii.

former law student said...

mere smoke covering the usual New Deal crap.

Only on Althouse -- a commenter expressing nostalgia for the Great Depression.

Hoover was a great guy -- a humanitarian, businessman, and engineer -- but he wasn't up to the task of getting us out of the Depression.

Pogo said...

getting us out of the Depression

Neither was FDR, Democrat myths to the contrary. He merely continued Hoover's attempts to "fix" things via the government.

The New Deal dragged out the downcycle and far worsened the pain of the depression. And it ushered in the socialist mindset that now threatens to take over health care.

He managed the war well.
He was scary stupid about economics, and had a serious jones for Stalin. If he were Republican you guys would be crying out about fascism.

My favorites were when his administration prosecuted some poor schlub tailor for daring to sell his alterations for less than the mandatory government price. And when FDR would sit in bed and set the price of gold every day, based on what number he felt like giving it.

Yeah, those were the days.

You would do well to read The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression by Amity Shlaes.

former law student said...

Shouldn't we prefer flat-footed competence to cheerful generalities?

We expect more from a Presidential candidate than reciting a laundry list of relatively minor accomplishments. Did she make the difference between success and failure on any issue? Demonstrating competence is good if you're looking to fill a support role. By making such speeches, Obama's filling a leadership role. Maybe HRC would be a good Cabinet member for Obama.

former law student said...

We are one nation; we are one people; and our time for change has come.

If we were really as unanimous as Obama makes out, the odds would be very much against our still needing to change anything.


The unspoken message is that we need leadership to get where we want to be.

Simon said...

former law student said...
"[We are one nation; we are one people; and our time for change has come? If we were really as unanimous as Obama makes out, the odds would be very much against our still needing to change anything.] The unspoken message is that we need leadership to get where we want to be."

No. The unspoken message is that the "we" in that statement isn't "we Americans." It's "we" in contradistinction to "them" - the people who took over control of our country, as Der Hahn alluded to. The unspoken message is "we Democrats are one nation; we liberals are one people; and our time to take control of this country back from the evil rethuglican bushitlerchimpymchaliburton conglomerate has come."

Simon said...

Pogo said...
"Neither was FDR, Democrat myths to the contrary. He merely continued Hoover's attempts to "fix" things via the government."

Well, FDR was elected, the new deal was enacted, and later, the economy got better. I don't know what more evidence you need that obviously the former caused the latter.

Starts to become obvious why the people who buy the conventional wisdom about the New Deal also buy the gorethodoxy, doesn't it? ;)

former law student said...

neither did FDR, Democrat myths to the contrary. He merely continued Hoover's attempts to "fix" things via the government.

So Hoover was the original New Dealer? FDR merely extended Hoover's policies? Do the conservatives over at the Hoover Institution know this? Or are you saying that Hoover actually got us out of the Depression, and we were too dumb to realize this?

The New Deal dragged out the downcycle and far worsened the pain of the depression.

Originally I thought this would be impossible to prove, but each country responded differently to the challenge of the Great Depression. So if you could point to a country that recovered sooner and better than the U.S. did, by not employing New Deal techniques, I would concede your point. So, in your opinion, which national leader was most effective in ending the pain of the depression in his country, and how did he manage it?

former law student said...

The unspoken message is that the "we" in that statement isn't "we Americans." It's "we" in contradistinction to "them" - the people who took over control of our country, as Der Hahn alluded to.

I never thought anyone could interpret "We are one nation; we are one people" as excluding part of our nation. Wouldn't you have to speak of us vs. them? How would one speak inclusively of all the people? "We, all of us, yes even the war criminals in Washington?"

Pogo said...


Or are you saying that Hoover actually got us out of the Depression, and we were too dumb to realize this?
1. The New Deal was more statist than Hoover's plans, but it was no great leap.
2. The New Deal price and industrial controls did not get us out of the depression, but deepened it. It's relief efforts were wise.


a country that recovered sooner and better than the U.S. did, by not employing New Deal techniques, I would concede your point.

"Inept monetary policy explains the depression's severity, as Friedman and Schwartz argue. But because the gold standard caused many governments to make similar errors, the effects were worldwide, as Kindleberger contends.

Many economists now believe that the New Deal, apart from its gold policy, probably had little impact on economic activity. At the heart of the early New Deal were the National Recovery Administration (NRA) and the Agriculture Adjustment Act (AAA). Created in Roosevelt's first hundred days, they sought to promote recovery by propping up prices. The idea was to improve incomes and halt bankruptcies. The AAA tried to eliminate agricultural surpluses (pigs were slaughtered, crops destroyed) and paid farmers not to plant. The NRA allowed companies in the same industry to set wages, prices, and working hours in an effort to check "destructive competition." This approach rested on a remarkable contradiction: the way to get recovery, which requires more production, is to have less production. There never has been much evidence that it worked, and the Supreme Court found the NRA unconstitutional in 1935. **"


While the New Deal efforts to relieve suffering were wise, the broader efforts to control the economy made things worse. No country escaped this because the worldwide lust for socialism was at its peak, and the errors were repeated in nation after nation.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Doyle said: George W. Bush's presidency had lots of change in it:

We'd never invaded a country preemptively and on false pretenses before.

The president used to have to obey statutory laws.

We used to have a healthy middle class.

So you don't have to tell us that change can be a bad thing.


I'm betting you flunked US history.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Well Pogo, after 8 years of a christmas tree that has no lights, a living room full of ponyshit and the only thing in it is a dumbass from texas, frankly a guy who can walk and chew gum should look pretty good.

Well some of us would have thought you progressives would have set the bar a bit higher but maybe that was asking for too much.

As I said in another thread, give me a JFK and I'd vote for him. Alas, I'll wager he'd hardly recognize his party today.

An Edjamikated Redneck said...

As I said in another thread, give me a JFK and I'd vote for him. Alas, I'll wager he'd hardly recognize his party today.

Or would he even claim it?

An Edjamikated Redneck said...

I remeber reading once that warfare was a way to bleed off excess capacity in nations, and the corelation of the Great Depression and WWII illustrate that point for me.

None of FDR's programs brought us out of the GD; it was WWII, and the wasting of the excess production of men, manpower and materials that did it.

pst314 said...

"I might be more impressed if I knew what the hell the Bipartisan Manufacturing Caucus did, and if they were any good at it"

They manufactured bipartisans, and their fabrication facilties were just down the road from the Pew Astroturf factory.

Paul Zrimsek said...

If nothing else, "we" evidently excludes the people who've been electing all that non-leadership up to now.

Revenant said...

I'm middle class, and I'm better off than I was eight years ago. So is almost everyone I know. Anyone who wants to convince me that Bush has made things worse for the middle class needs to provide some numbers.

former law student said...

If nothing else, "we" evidently excludes the people who've been electing all that non-leadership up to now.

This assumes that the American people wholeheartedly embraced W. Currently, only 1/3 of the people approve of the job W.'s doing, so I don't think they do. I think the bulk of the people had the same problem I have: I almost never see a candidate I really want to vote for, so I end up picking the lesser of two evils.

If they want to win this time, the Dems are going to have to serve up something better than "buckets of warm spit" like Gore and Kerry.

Hoosier Daddy said...

If they want to win this time, the Dems are going to have to serve up something better than "buckets of warm spit" like Gore and Kerry.

Well I think they have succeeded in that with Obama. Considering that overall Obama's policies are indistinguishable from Gore or Kerry, he at least is someone that is charasmatic and at least interesting to listen to. Obama clicks well with the masses and doesn't strike people as Mr. Roboto or an insufferable East Coast elite whose only record of achievement is marrying rich widows.

Simon said...

former law student said...
"I never thought anyone could interpret 'We are one nation; we are one people' as excluding part of our nation. Wouldn't you have to speak of us vs. them?"

I would never have thought anyone would have the gall to present "us vs. them" couched in the utterly disingenuous language of "we are one nation" etc. Yet he does. You start to see why he grates on me so much, presumably. He speaks the language of inclusivity while excluding anyone who doesn't share his views. The very worst possibility is that he's sincere; if that's the case, it descends from unlikely to impossible that he'll compromise or bring us together as a nation, because if that's so, he doesn't comprehend that there's another side to compromise with. You can't think you're leading a crusade to take back America without either claiming or assuming that you're on a crusade to take back America from the people who've taken it from you. But the people who have "taken" it are also Americans. They are Americans who disagree with him and his values, and neither Obama nor his supporters grasp or care about that - all they see is a vast comspiracy to steal America from "the people" (again, the assumption being that "the people" means everyone who didn't vote for Bush).

Simon said...

I mean, it really is more than one ought to have to bear. Listening to his speeches you end up just really finding yourself so angry at him that it gets dificult to verbalize just how wrong, how duplicitous (of self-deceived) he is. I feel like Lois at the end of the episode of Family Guy where Peter steals Lois' production of The King And I only to totally ruin it: I find myself at a loss for words to express how profoundly this blows. Why do people not see through him?

Kirby Olson said...

I find the Democrats completely opaque. I confess I have always voted for Democrats except once. But I can't figure out what any of them are really saying any longer. It's like I've lost the code.

Maybe that's why no one can see through them. They're doing their best to be opaque.

One thing I keep hearing Mrs. Clinton say: voting for me would make change! I'd be the first woman president!

But I'm more interested in what policies she might have, or what they might cost.

I can't find that same thing with Obama or Edwards, either.

Richardson at least has a sense of humor, but I don't know what any of them stand for.

With Rudy G. I always know just what he will do, and how he'll do it. Same with McCain. Same with Huckabee.

Voting for the others would be like taking a chance on the ? in the candy machine. And usually whatever you got, they didn't want you to see, because had you seen it, you wouldn't have wanted it.

Why can't the Democrats be up front and talk in simple clear visible terms about what they want, and how much it is going to cost?

Do they really want to be this opaque?

Palladian said...

"They manufactured bipartisans, and their fabrication facilties were just down the road from the Pew Astroturf factory."

Didn't Bill Clinton hit the Bipartisan Manufacturing Caucus factory with a cruise missile when he was trying to kill Bin Laden?

No wonder we're all so polarized today.

John Stodder said...

Doyle's right in one sense. When Obama, Edwards and Clinton argue about who is in a better position to "make change," they are simply talking about a change from the Bush years. Pretty basic.

The argument amongst them comes down to a variation on Michael Dukakis' plea for votes on "competence, not ideology." Democrats think it's a given they are more competent.

So, among the three Democratic leaders, who could most competently undo what Democrats don't like about Bush.

Or, perhaps it means, who is the most competent candidate, and most assured of winning in '08 thus giving the Democrats an opportunity to undo Bush.

At this point, all three of them look pretty strong to me in terms of electability. It's the strongest field of Democratic challengers since 1992. Obama is so good he has overshadowed Edwards, who is really hitting his stride. Clinton isn't very good, but she didn't feel like she had to be. Now that the pressure's really on, I bet she improves too. (She needs to send Bill home, however.)

I have no idea what we'd get in terms of governing style from Obama or Edwards, since they've never run anything.

I'd hire Edwards in a second as my lawyer. I'd like to hope Obama is like Lincoln -- his great natural talent as a leader extending to leading an Administration. Or like Reagan -- a thematic leader who inspires loyalty and hard work from his minions.

With Hillary, you have to take on faith that she's a older and wiser person than the one who screwed up health care. Her style back then was to confuse people, and then harshly belittle them for not getting it. Has she matured since then?

former law student said...

Her style back then was to confuse people, and then harshly belittle them for not getting it.

Excellent way to put it. The last President to cling to the "I'm right and you're just too dumb to see it" was Jimmy "Malaise" Carter -- the least effective President in modern memory. HRC would epitomize the Nanny state because she would nag nag nag. (or rather the Naggy state, or perhaps the Schoolmarm state).

HRC's on her best behavior now, because she knows she has to submerge her personality to have a hope of getting the job. But, if she ever became President, watch out.

Blake said...

Kirby,

I think they're opaque because they don't think their actual policies (to the extent said policies have been thought through) could win.

Simon,

You're analyzing Obama's words more than he does, I suspect. I mean, do you really feel represented by Washington? I don't. He's gonna take it back from those guys who don't represent you. No need to get ideological about it. ;-) He seems the least ossified of the candidates, so we won't really know what he's gonna do till he gets there, because he won't really know.

And while that sounds snarky, it's not really. Would you rather have a committed socialist determined to have the state do everything (like Hillary) or someone who's state-friendly but willing to look at the situation with fresh eyes?

former law student said...

Would you rather have a committed socialist determined to have the state do everything (like Hillary)

This raises the question of why Wal-Mart would put a committed socialist like Hillary on their Board of Directors. Further, committed socialists rarely make killings in the cattle futures market; it doesn't jibe with "from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs."

Revenant said...

This raises the question of why Wal-Mart would put a committed socialist like Hillary on their Board of Directors.

Socialism generally isn't bad for market leaders. The big companies can usually cut deals with the government that effectively cut the little guys out of the market. They might make less money, but they have fewer worries, too.

Pogo said...

it doesn't jibe with "from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs."

Of course it does. Marxists were always kleptocrats, and thought that some pigs were more equal than others.

See Soviet nomenklatura for a review.

Simon said...

Blake said...
"You're analyzing Obama's words more than he does, I suspect. I mean, do you really feel represented by Washington? I don't. He's gonna take it back from those guys who don't represent you."

I don't feel represented by most of the Republicans there, but I feel even less represented by the Democrats there. So I don't think that gets you anywhere - if you want to analyze it through that lens, you'd have to conclude that he's going to take a bad situation and make it even worse.

"He seems the least ossified of the candidates.... Would you rather have a committed socialist determined to have the state do everything (like Hillary) or someone who's state-friendly but willing to look at the situation with fresh eyes?"

I think you've been taken in if you think Obama is any less ossified and determined than the other candidate. I see nothing at all that indicates he as "fresh eyes" - he appears to the view the world through exactly the same discredited liberal lens as every other candidate. The only difference is the way that he talks about it, but it's to the same effect.

Blake said...

Simon,

I'm giving you a chance here. Don't make me call you racist.

Seriously, though, from what I've read Obama has had some hard-left positions that he backed off when he saw they weren't working.

I think that's swell. We could use less stupid.

I don't disagree that he's a Rorschach, that he's unprepared, etc., but I do think you're being literal about his rhetoric--way more literal than he is.

But really, on what basis can you say that Obama would be worse than Edwards or Clinton? They all just want to be popular.

Revenant said...

Seriously, though, from what I've read Obama has had some hard-left positions that he backed off when he saw they weren't working.

I've heard that several times recently, but I haven't heard exactly what his new, non-left-wing positions supposedly are.

Furthermore, the claim here is that Obama brings a fresh perspective and willingness to consider new ideas. It isn't enough to claim that he has changed his mind once or twice -- you need to show what the evidence is that he's more willing to change his mind than his Democratic or Republican opponents are.

You also, in my opinion, need to explain why he, unlikely many of his fellow Democrats, is absolutely unwilling to consider that Petraeus' "surge" plan may have (a) been a good idea or (b) worked. He doesn't appear to have considered any new ideas relating to the Iraq war since the war began.

Simon said...

Blake:
"I'm giving you a chance here. Don't make me call you racist."

The very idea's laughable. Because he's black we have to be careful with our criticism lest someone think it's motivated by racial animus? That's not going to fly. He should be - and by me, will be - treated exactly like a white politician or a brown politician. His color - I won't say race (see Scalia's Adarand concurrence) buys him nothing, plus or minus.

"Seriously, though, from what I've read Obama has had some hard-left positions that he backed off when he saw they weren't working."

I don't see any evidence of that.

"But really, on what basis can you say that Obama would be worse than Edwards or Clinton? They all just want to be popular."

In terms of substantive policy, they're basically identical, but the other two are honest about it. They know who they are and (relatively-speaking) don't try to hide it behind a shroud of faux centrist rhetoric.

Blake said...

In terms of substantive policy, they're basically identical, but the other two are honest about it. They know who they are and (relatively-speaking) don't try to hide it behind a shroud of faux centrist rhetoric.

Well, perhaps they should, eh?

Seems to be killing Fred, the whole "substance" thing.