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To the Moon Township and Back

By now we should be inured to President Donald Trump’s unique brand of political rhetoric, but we can’t quite a shake a certain disquieting feeling about it. Even in a weekend chock full of serious stories, Trump’s speech at Moon Township, Pennsylvania, on Saturday was worrisome.
During a 75-minute stream-of-consciousness improvisation, Trump urged that America adopt the Chinese dictatorship’s draconian drug policies, called the National Broadcasting Company’s Chuck Todd a “sleeping son of a bitch” and griped that he hadn’t rewarded for his past hit reality show on the network with more favorable coverage, then once again predicted that all the “fake news” media would eventually help him win reelection for fear that people will stop watching the news if Trump isn’t on it. He defended his crazy steel tariffs and predicted a quick and decisive victory in the coming trade wars, described a congressional Democratic critic as a “very low-IQ person,” told a boastful and obviously untrue lie about winning the majority of the women’s vote in the past election, and blamed every American president back to Ronald Reagan for all his problems.
He also spent five minutes or so extolling the virtues of Rick Saccone, the Republican nominee in a special House of Representatives election to be held on Tuesday, which was the ostensible reason for the speech. The district has long been reliably Republican, and Trump won it easily, but all the polls are showing a tight race. They’re having a special election because the Republican who won office on a family values platform was forced to resign after it came out that he’d urged his mistress to get an abortion during a pregnancy scare, Republicans have been underperforming all the special elections since Trump’s electoral victory, and even lost an Alabama seat, so it’s a race the GOP can ill-afford to lose.
Trump’s crazy steel tariffs play well in the vicinity of Moon Township, where the once dominant steel industry has been decimated by competition from lower-wage and higher-tech factories, but naturally the Democratic nominee is just as enthusiastic about it as the Republican, and has the endorsement of the last remaining steelmaking unions, and so for that’s proving a wash. The Republican candidate is also by all accounts something of a bore, which is an unpardonable political sin in the age of Trump, and his Democratic opponent, Conor Lamb, is a former Marine with centrists positions and no apparent character defects, and even Trump noted in his rambling endorsement for Saccone that Lamb’s considered a rather handsome fellow.
Trump boasted that he’s better looking, which got a big laugh, and he dubbed the Democrat “Lamb the Sham,” which also got a big laugh, and then he mentioned the name of Democratic minority leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi, which set off an even louder round of boos. Lamb has stressed throughout the campaign that he would not vote for Pelosi as the House Democrats’ leader, so that might also prove a wash, but it went over big at the rally. Trump was less effusive in his praise of Saccone, and when he tried he trailed off into a mock-voice impression of some boring “presidential” type of president endorsing some boring House candidate. At least he didn’t openly say he might have endorsed the wrong guy in the Republican primary, as he did when he went to rally support for that credibly accused child molester of a Republican nominee who wound up losing that once-safe Alabama Senate seat, but Saccone could have done better.
The crowd loved it, of course, laughing at all the familiar laugh lines and booing any mention of the familiar villains, but even in the Rust Belt regions of Pennsylvania the act seems to be wearing thin. To us it looks and sounds like the ramblings of a mean-spirited and insecure and foul-mouthed fellow who’s in far above his ill-coiffed head, and we worry that in all sorts of districts and the foreign bureaus in such places as London and Berlin and Beijing and Pyongyang many people have reached the same conclusion.

— Bud Norman

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A Not So Fond Farewell

President Barack Obama gave his farewell address on Tuesday night, so at least we’ve got that going for us.
President-elect Donald Trump once again grabbed all the attention, of course, with his indignantly “tweeted” denial of some juicy new allegations that were reportedly included in the intelligence community’s much-debated reports to Congress and other officials concerning Russia’s alleged meddling in the past election. A maybe true and maybe not true dossier of allegations was compiled by a reportedly respected ex-British intelligence official, and is now splashed all over the internet, and it mentions Russian prostitutes and some very kinky sex acts, as well as several presumably more hygienic but no less newsworthy contacts that Trump’s business and campaign officials had with Russian officials, and it’s undeniably more irresistible conversation fodder than another one of Obama’s orations.
All that cloak and dagger and kinky sex stuff will play out over the next several days or weeks or months, though, if not much longer than that, and in the meantime we feel obliged to take note of Obama’s speech.
For the past nine years or so we’ve been hearing about what a wonderfully eloquent orator Obama is, but we were once again unimpressed. The language is well-crafted enough by comparison to his successor’s schoolyard taunts and constant interjections of “believe me” and “OK?” and “that I can tell you,” but that’s damning by faint praise, and up against an Abraham Lincoln or Winston Churchill or Martin Luther King or any other first rate rhetorician it’s not at all memorable. Even his most awe-struck admirers are hard-pressed to remember any line he ever uttered quite so iconic as Dwight Eisenhower’s farewell address coinage of “military-industrial complex” or John Kennedy’s “bear any burden” shtick or even George W. Bush’s pithy “soft bigotry of low expectations,” and what they do come up with about “no red states or blues states” and “hope and change” and “yes we can” and that one about the sea levels falling now sounds faintly ridiculous after eight long years of his tiresome speeches.
Which left poor Obama, just 10 short days away from the seemingly inevitable inauguration of Trump, with the difficult job of making the case that all that hope had not been misplaced. He had a friendly audience in his adopted hometown of Chicago, all revved up by a soulful rendition of the the National Anthem, and he bounded on the stage with a rock star’s roar and a rock star’s rote greeting to a certain local neighborhood and a whole of thank you thank you very much, followed by some lame self-deprecating humor about being a lame duck, then he started waxing eloquent. He did so well enough that his still-ardent admirers who still feel that hope were probably tugging at their eyes, but any eyes that have been keeping a more unblinking watch on the past eight years were rolling.
There was some nostalgic talk about his young and idealistic days as a community organizer on the south side of Chicago, and how he learned that “Change only happens when ordinary people get involved, and they get engaged, and they come together to demand it.” That same south side of Chicago is presently so disorganized that it has a murder rate that would shock the denizens of your average third world hellhole, but so far the survivors haven’t gotten involved and engaged and demand change from Obama’s associates at City Hall, and somehow we got the sense that he wasn’t urging them to start now.
He followed that up with some rousing stuff about the wisdom of the founding fathers and their belief that we are “endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights, among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” At any rate it would have been rousing if he hadn’t spent the past eight years giving speeches about the country’s racist and sexist and classist origins, and steadfastly defending abortion rights, and restricting the citizens’ liberty in numerous ways, and generally making life miserable for anyone who was just trying to live it. There was some more rousing-for-the-faithful stuff about onward and upward to the more perfect union, along with a list of liberal goals that have been achieved over the years.
Even Obama had to admit that “Yes, our progress has been uneven,” and sometimes even “contentious,” and there was no talk about ocean levels falling or a new era of hope and change or any of the other stuff so many people were swooning for starting back about nine years ago. Instead, Obama tried to argue that things had worked out even better than promised. He touted the end of a Great Recession and “reboot” of America’s automotive industry and eight straight years of job growth, the shutdown of Iran’s nuclear weapons program and new relations with Cuba and of course the oft-cited death of Osama Bin Laden, along with a health care plan that insured another 20 million Americans, and boasted that “If I had told you that, you might have said our sights were set a little too high.
Even if that were all true it’s still setting the sights a little bit lower than during the messianic ’08 campaign, as far as we’re concerned, but without looking anything up and despite the florid language we were ready to dispute almost all of it. The Great Recession of ’08 did indeed come to an end, but recessions have always come to an end and usually with more robust employment gains than during the past below post-World War II averages, and who’s to say that whoever bought out General Motors would haven’t hired more workers? Iran’s nuclear weapons program is still on schedule and has a few billion dollar extra in its coffers thanks to Obama’s largesse, our new relations with Cuba are far too chummy with a communist regime for our tastes, and Obama saying he succeeded in killing Bin Laden where Bush had failed is like Nixon claiming credit for getting to the moon where Johnson and Kennedy had failed. That 20 million insured figure is by almost all other accounts vastly overstated, and includes a lot of people stuck on Medicaid and forced by buy overpriced insurance they don’t need, and it’s clearly one reason job growth has been so sluggish, and so many more people are stuck paying exorbitant rate increases and swelling budget deficits to pay for it that the guy who promised to repeal Obama’s signature piece of legislation wound up winning.
At that point Obama had to chide the crowd for booing the guy who did wind up winning, and we’ll give him credit for doing that, and he pledged a peaceful transfer of power and gave some props to George W. Bush for doing him the same solid. That was followed by a lot of talk exhorting Democrats to continuing be Democrats, and racism and climate change being very bad, and peace being better than war, along with some bragging about the oil boom he did everything he could to thwart, and a whole lot of blather that will be little noted and soon forgotten, to borrow a phrase from a more memorable orator. It didn’t convince us that we’d been wrong all along, and that Obama really was the Messiah we’d been told, but we suppose the true believers liked it, even if they can’t remember a single line of it today.
At this point we’re quite agnostic on the question of whether Trump really did pay those Russian prostitutes to perform those kinky sex acts while on a Moscow business trip, or whether any of those other dealings actually occurred, but we’re quite convinced he’s also no Messiah. All we can say at this point is that we can’t say we’re looking forward to four or eight more years of schoolyard taunts and constant interjections of “believe me” and “OK?” and “that I can tell you,” but at least the rest of Obama’s ponderous speeches will be more easily ignored as the forgettable asides of an ex-president.

— Bud Norman

The State of the Dis-Union

President Barack Obama gave his annual State of the Union address Thursday night, and barring the remote possibility that those quadrennial conspiracy theories about a presidential coup at long last prove true it will be his last. The speech marks a point in history when just a few weeks more than a year a left until the end of the Obama error, there is still some faint hope left that at least the next four years after that will be at least somewhat better, and we are glad of such small favors. Everything else about the speech, alas, did little to hearten to us about the true state of the Union.
The speech began with a promise to be brief, which of course was not kept, and went downhill from there. Without any major policy initiatives or other big ideas to announce, and with no hope of getting anything that he might have thought of past the Republican-dominated Congress he has brought into being, Obama mostly used the occasion of his last prime-time network special to make the case that he truly is the Messiah that his post-religious mania of a campaign in ’08 promised. He cited the seemingly healthy unemployment rate of 5 percent but neglected to mention that the number of working age Americans actually working is at a 38-year-low and getting lower, or that the thousand points the Dow Jones averages have already shed in this still-new year has everybody spooked that it’s going to get worse yet, and we doubt he convinced any of his scant viewership here in flyover country that happy days are here again.
There was talk of how deficits have been cut in half since the record-setting first years of his administration under a compliant Democrat-controlled Congress, but not talk of the $8 trillion in debt that has been racked up in his seven years. He mentioned the supposed millions of Americans who now have health insurance under Obamacare, but he didn’t mention how many of them are getting better health care under the Medicaid program they’ve wound up with, or how much more the rest of the country is paying for their premiums, or that randy younger hipsters are forbidden to purchase the catastrophic plans that would have been their best bet in a free market system and that celibate nuns are being forced to purchase contraceptive coverage to subsidize those young hipsters’ appalling sex lives, and that it all seems destined for the long-predicted death spiral of fiscal insolvency, and that at this point relatively few Americans are any longer sold on Obamacare.

There were the Reagan-esque uses of specially invited heroes, with this the honorific chair being filled by one of those pitiable Syrian refugees, presumably a more a savory character than the Syrian refugees who have been implicated in a number of gang rapes in western cities in past weeks, and an empty chair for the victims of National Rifle Association-inspired gun violence, but none for those killed in Benghazi or the Chicago’s gang districts, and we doubt anyone will be persuaded by that.

There’s that breakthrough deal with Iran to allow it regional hegemony and apocalyptic nuclear status anytime it wishes, along with a $150 billion signing bonus, but that went unmentioned because of Obama’s usual bad timing. His embarrassing dismissal of the Islamic State as the “jayvee team” of terrorism just before it gained control of an Indiana-sized territory, and his premature declaration that the terror group was “contained” just before it launched deadly attacks against Russian airliners and Parisian rock ‘n’ roll fans and the social services workers of San Bernardino, apparently kept him from touting his touting his peace breakthrough with Iran just hours after that country took 10 American sailors hostage. He did blather on about those crazy Republicans who seem to think that Islam might have something to do with the 1,400-year-old clash between Islam and the once Judeo-Christian West, but we sense that even Obama realizes that nobody out there in flyover country is still buying that. There was also something about Vice President Joe Biden curing cancer with another moonshot, but we’ll skeptically await the results.
The most striking part of the speech by far was Obama’s uncharacteristically humble concern about the political rhetoric that has resulted from his seven years in office and the year of campaigning that preceded it. “It’s one of the few regrets of my presidency,” he shockingly said, “that the rancor and suspicions between the parties has gotten worse than better. There’s no doubt that a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide, and I guarantee I’ll keep trying better so long as I hold this office.” There’s some uncertainty as to whether he was referring to the Republican or Democratic Roosevelt, but in either case it’s a touching use of the old humble bit. It certainly represents an improvement over telling his loyal opposition that they can still be involved in government so long as they “sit in the back of bus,” or advising his Latino supporters to “punish their enemies,” or charging that his opponents want dirty air and water and what’s worst for everybody, or any of the similar rhetoric that has characterized the last eight years of Obama’s national prominence, but we’ll have to await the results of that promise as well. We don’t doubt that our president regrets that his “get in their faces” and “bring a gun to a knife fight” style of rhetoric that has suddenly allowed a bumptious billionaire and sudden Republican to employ equally harsh and ad hominem rhetoric against the status quo that Obama insists is so comfortable. Obama might have been grousing at least in part about the more honest self-described Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is currently gaining ground in the Democratic Party’s presidential race by admitting those dire work force participation rates and other glum economic realities and proposing even kookier solutions, but in any case he at least forced to concede that is legendary oratorical gifts have not proved adequate to the moment.
There’s another year and a few weeks left of America’s enemies seizing on the mont to advance the evil plans, and so far it doesn’t look like a roaring year for the economy, and even Obama is meekly conceding that the public discussion he has dominated over the past eight years about what to do about it it is likely to yield any solutions, and we are left with a less sanguine assessment of the state of the Union than our president can offer.

— Bud Norman

Scary Monsters of the Left’s Imagination

Not content with shoving grandmothers off of cliffs, stranding polar bears on ice floes, and waging war on women, the Republicans are now making three-year-old girls cry. That’s the word on the left side of the internet, at least, after Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s frank assessment of America’s recent foreign policy frightened a young listener.
The incident occurred during a pre-presidential campaign speech in New Hampshire, where Cruz told the small crowd that because of “the Obama-Clinton foreign policy of leading from behind” the “whole world is on fire.” This news proved so alarming to a little girl on the front row that she demanded confirmation that the world was on fire, and when Cruz reiterated that it was she reportedly began crying. Cruz immediately tried to reassure the girl that “Your mommy is here and everyone is here to make sure that the world you grow up is even better,” but too late to escape the protective wrath of the liberal punditry. A site called Raw Story headlined its story “Ted Cruz scares the hell out of a terrified little girl,” and describes the Senator “shouting” his speech. New York Magazine went with “Ted Cruz’s Campaign Strategy: Scare Little Kids,” and imagines the girl, “Forced to sit scarily close to the spittle-spewing angry monster posing as a junior Senator from Texas,” wondering “Mommy, why is that mean man yelling at me?” At the Daily Kos web site, the headline was “Cruz terrifies a small child, his ideas should terrify us all,” and the story was mostly about Cruz advocating such “crazy” policies as making education a local and state rather than federal responsibility.
Most of the sites at least provide video footage of the event, which allows the reader to draw his conclusions about whether Cruz was shouting or spewing spittle or yelling at a little girl, and whether the little girl was so traumatized as the reports would suggest. Our viewing of the video reveals that Cruz was speaking at a normal volume, no spittle was spewed, his interaction with the little girl was not at all threatening, and that she seemed more flummoxed by the metaphorical language than terrified by a monster. The girl’s mother has been telling anyone who will listen that no lasting damage was done, and that her daughter left with the hopeful impression that “Cruz is the man who puts the fires out,” but the left dismisses her testimony on the theory that anyone who would take a child to a Cruz speech is obviously an unfit parent, so we will leave the reader to his own judgment.
We suspect, however, that Cruz’s critics would have been offended by his criticism of President Barack Obama no matter how quietly or literally or dryly it was expressed. Such lese majeste is frightening to liberals, and they seem to be projecting their own fears on to that little girl. We can’t recall these liberals tsk-tsking when former Vice President Al Gore was bellowing that George W. Bush had betrayed his country, or former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean was howling his famous campaign trail scream, or presumptive Democratic presidential nominee was shrieking that she had a right to debate and disagree with any presidential administration, and we assume that youngsters were in attendance on each of those far louder and more spittle-spewed occasions. Nor do liberals seem to mind frightening the young folks with tales of grandmothers being thrown off cliffs and polar bears stranded on ice floes or Republican wars on women that will force them into back alley abortionists.
Cruz’s rhetoric was restrained by comparison, and we dare say it even understated the international mess that has resulted from Obama’s foreign policy. Had he taken the time to list all the problems, from Iran’s imminent nuclear bomb to Russia’s revanchist romp across eastern Europe to the military build-up China is financing with America’s debt service payments, that poor little girl truly would have suffered a lifetime of nightmares. We’re old enough to recognize “the world is on fire” as a figure of speech, and can even recall the Carter years, and it’s not Cruz that we’re afraid of.

— Bud Norman

Beyond Debate

The most disheartening story we encountered in the past month concerned the little-noticed world of college debate, which was once a stubborn outpost of rigorous intellectual exercise but apparently has since degenerated into just another territory of trendy academic nonsense. We found this alarming partly for personal reasons, as the old style of scholastic debate was a favorite pastime of our otherwise wasted youth, but also for more pertinent reasons, as the same degeneration is so painfully apparent in the quality of the modern world’s real-life debates.
Way back in our playing days high school and college debate taught how to formulate a logical argument and state it persuasively, among many other things. Intensive research about the topics chosen for each season was required to bring home those cheap trophies and silver cups and the satisfaction of prevailing in verbal combat, and we wound up knowing enough about subjects ranging from the criminal justice system to international trade to learn how very complicated they are and how very badly they are often managed. The sport taught us the basics of economics and political theory, how to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of particular policy proposal and compare its potential benefits to its inherent risks, and to consider the myriad of intended consequences that could always be found in even the most appealing ideas. Teachers, colleagues, competitors, and the thick stack of books we we devoured taught us enough about the social sciences to convincingly question the methodology of almost all of it. Debate taught how to spot a logical fallacy, and for showing-off purposes it even taught the Greek classifications for many of them. It taught us to question sources, a knack that came in handy during years of toil in the media, and to question underlying assumptions and check the results. Like everyone else that we know who took part back in those days, who are by and large a remarkably successful lot, we regard scholastic debate as by far the most educational experience of our education.
Nowadays, according to The Atlantic Monthly, collegiate debate competitions are teaching is distinctly different lessons. The magazine reports that the most recent final round of the Cross Examination Debate Association’s championship featured two teams that chose to ignore the chosen topic about presidential war powers and instead argue about an alleged war by the United States government against poor black communities. Instead, according to The Atlantic Monthly, “the two teams engaged in a heated discussion of concepts like ‘nigga authenticity’ and performed hip-hop and spoken word poetry in the traditional timed format. At one point during (a competitor’s) rebuttal, the clock ran out but he refused to yield the floor. ‘F**k the time,’ he yelled.” Such antics have prevailed in recent years, according to the magazine’s account, with an Emporia State University team winning the previous year’s championship with “Many of their arguments, based on personal memoir and rap music, completely (ignoring) the stated resolution, and instead (asserting) that the framework of collegiate debate has historically privileged straight, white, middle-class students.” The once-venerable Atlantic Monthly reports this as an exciting new development in an article headlined “Hacking Traditional White College Debate’s White Privilege Problem,” which goes to show that an alarming decline in standards is not restricted to collegiate debate.
A jaded scribe at the conservative Weekly Standard read the same article and cynically concluded that at least collegiate debate has become up-to-date, as personal memoir and rap music and screeds about race and class and gender and all the other fashionable concepts are the way arguments are won in contemporary America, and it pains us to concede he has a point. In all of our conversations with people outside our coterie of fellow right-wing bastards over the past many years we have found that facts and logics and such petty matters as results are of little avail in persuading people. During a recent discussion about out-of-wedlock births the woman we were talking with demanded the names of any pregnant teenagers we currently knew before she would even consider our opinions on the matter, as if knowing a presently knocked-up 16-year-old might make us more enthusiastic for bastardy, another friend was offended by the suggestion that the United Auto Workers bear any responsibility for General Motors’ recent woes resulting from the company’s faulty ignition switches just because they own the company as a result of the government’s sweetheart bail-out deal, and anecdote trumps data every time. One of our more right-leaning pals recalled attending a public forum on gun control where a woman gave a heart-rending account of losing a son to a gun accident, ergo more control is needed, and admitted with some frustration that there was no arguing with that fallacy. Of course, almost any logical argument seems to be negated the white maleness of the person making it. Logic itself is a white male construct, after all, as evidenced by those Greek classifications that the nerds use to show off, and is therefore a tool of cultural oppression or some such academic cant. As crazy as it sounds, though, the last two presidential elections were won by personal memoir and rap music and screeds about race and class and gender, even though the results were starkly apparent by the second one, and our country now proceeds with policies derived from these ideas rather than facts and logic and results.
The results, we expect, will not be beneficial. Quaint notions about facts and logic and dispassionate analysis and adherence to time limits and standards of acceptable language might have been originally discerned by those pesky dead white males, but so were the laws of gravity, and anyone who thinks his “nigga authenticity” renders such intellectual constructs irrelevant is invited to test that theory by walking off a tall building. Alas, the degeneration of public discourse threatens to take us all on that metaphorical plunge.
One of the better sources of news and opinion on the modern media landscape is the estimable Powerlineblog.com web site, and we were not surprised to learn that its authors were veterans of the old-time college debate circuit. They shared our disheartened response to The Atlantic Monthly’s report, and noted that while the college debaters of the old days were in fact a very diverse group of people in terms of race and class and gender and individual characteristics they were all privileged to have learned from the best of the world’s civilization rather than its latest crazes. It’s a shame that the current crop of debaters won’t enjoy the same privilege, and that the rest of the country will suffer the consequences.

— Bud Norman

Sounding Smart to Stupid People

Many years ago we had a friend on our high school debate team who adopted the odd habit of adding an extra syllable to words. When devising a plan he would “strategetize” rather “strategize,” for instance, and he was adamant that “conservativism” rather than “conservatism” is the political philosophy espoused by conservatives.
He did this on the belief that most people are impressed and intimated by multi-syllabic words, and that by adding an extra consonant to a three-syllable word he could make it one-third more impressive and intimidating. Judging by the awestruck looks that would cross some people’s faces whenever he unleashed one of his new and improved coinages, and they way they seemed willing to accept whatever nonsensical argument he was making, we were forced concede there might be something to his theory. We tried to persuade him that although his highfalutin and fundamentally incorrect verbiage made him sound smart to stupid people it also made him sound stupid to smart people, but he’d laugh off the criticism by noting that because there are far more stupid people than smart people he would ultimately be more widely regarded as smart by saying such stupid things. As much as his mispronunciations grated on our sensitive ears, we had to admit there was probably something to that theory as well.
Our friend has since become a highly successful businessman, of course, and we’re pleased to hear that he’s still a staunch conservative. Perhaps he’s calling himself a “conservativist” these days, and still insisting that all the lexicographers and the rest of the English-speaking world have it wrong, but at any rate he still seems to be plying his shrewdly cynical rhetorical skills on behalf of the right causes. This is good to know, because liberalism in general and President Barack Obama in particular are especially adept at sounding smart to stupid people even when it entails the modest political cost of sounding stupid to smart people. Although they haven’t yet mastered the art of the extra syllable, they have an undeniable knack for manufacturing slogans with poll-tested mass appeal that somehow strike a more informed audience as wrong.
Two examples shouted out during Obama’s address Monday on behalf of his beleaguered Obamacare. The speech mostly extolled the great successes of the program, with some conspicuously uninspiring examples standing as props behind the podium, which will seem suspicious enough to smart people, but the president did briefly acknowledge the widely-reported difficulties with the web site that is supposed to make it all run and promised that a “surge” of the “best and brightest” professionals from the public and private sectors would soon have it all worked out. Smart people will immediately note the uncharacteristically generous acknowledgement of professional expertise in the private sector, especially on behalf of a program that seems designed to drive the money-loving bastards out of the of the health care field, but those of a certain age and a still-sound memory will be struck by the use of “surge” and “best and brightest.”
One needn’t be too old to remember when the word “surge” became associated with President George W. Bush’s military strategy — or “strategery,” if you prefer — to deal with the insurgency in Iraq. Then-Sen. Obama ridiculed the idea, and voted against its funding, but it proved successful enough in the field that President Obama uses the word “surge” with certainty that it will reassure a wary public that a sufficient outpouring of manpower will solve any problem. Smart people will savor the irony, even as they worry that a mass influx of soldiers will solve a military problem more often than a massive influx of computer programmers can fix a fundamentally-flawed health care system.
More seasoned readers will also raise an eyebrow at that “best and brightest” reference. They’ll recall that the phrase was introduced into parlance by David Halberstam’s book of same title about the Kennedy and Johnson administration stars who urged on the war in Vietnam. “The Best and Brightest” was meant ironically, of course, and as it became a cliché it was always used with sarcastic quotation marks. Anyone familiar with the phrase’s early usage will not be reassured that the “best and brightest” have been unleashed on America’s health.
Other examples abound in Obama’s political career. He once promised “peace in our time,” apparently either unaware or unconcerned that the slogan was famously associated with British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s disastrous attempt at appeasing Adolf Hitler, and his apologists have created such formulations as “leading from behind.” “Hope and Change,” “Yes, We can,” “the failed policies of the Bush administration” and all the other vague slogans of his first presidential campaign had the same winning effect on the stupid and same calculated disregard for the smart, and all were delivered with a smug cocksureness and upraised chin that even our shrewd high school friend could not equal. It might not work with Obamacare, as even the stupidest among us can figure out when their health care costs are rising and grandma’s hip replacement is being put off, but most of the time it seems to work well enough. In order to counter this dangerous strategery, conservativists will have to learn to fight back.

— Bud Norman