Two days ago President Obama was in Portland, Maine, to give a speech promoting the HCR bill.
I’ve observed before that sometimes Obama will put two contradictory assertions in the same address, hoping the discrepancies in logic will go unnoticed. But he usually places them some distance apart from each other. This time, however, they followed one another in fairly rapid succession in his speech.
Judge for yourself. Here’s Obama in his familiar folksy, sarcastic, and contemptuously mocking mode, having a fine old time egging the crowd on to laugh at those who’ve had the audacity to criticize the bill by pointing out its profound dangers (I’m not sure whether the relevant parts of his address were scripted or ad-lib):
THE PRESIDENT: You turned on the news, you’d see that those same folks who were hollering about [HCR] before it passed, they’re still hollering, about how the world will end because we passed this bill. (Laughter.) This is not an exaggeration. John Boehner called the passage of this bill —
THE PRESIDENT: — no need to — we don’t need to boo, I just want to give the facts — called this passage of this bill “Armageddon.” You had others who said this is the end of freedom as we know it.
So after I signed the bill, I looked around. (Laughter and applause.) I looked up at the sky to see if asteroids were coming. (Laughter.) I looked at the ground to see if cracks had opened up in the earth. You know what, it turned out it was a pretty nice day. (Laughter and applause.) Birds were still chirping. Folks were strolling down the street. Nobody had lost their doctor. Nobody had pulled the plug on Granny. (Laughter.) Nobody was being dragged away to be forced into some government-run health care plan.
But the thing is, though, you have to love some of the pundits in Washington. Every single day since I signed the reform law, there’s been another poll or headline that said “Nation still divided on health care reform. Polls haven’t changed yet.” Well, yeah. It just happened last week. (Laughter and applause.) It’s only been a week. (Applause.)
Can you imagine if some of these reporters were working on a farm? (Laughter.) You planted some seeds, and they came out the next day, and they looked, and nothing’s happened! (Laughter and applause.) There’s no crop! We’re going to starve! Oh, no! (Applause.) It’s a disaster! (Laughter.)
Let’s review: those who warned that Obamacare would have severely negative results are birdbrained idiots because the first week after it was signed life goes on as before. And those who point out that his polls numbers haven’t risen as a result of the passage of Obamacare are birdbrained idiots because of course nothing about it has gone into effect yet.
I’m sure many if not most in that cheering crowd got caught up in the giddy delight of the whole enterprise of gleefully mocking one’s critics after a victory. Who cares that the coach is speaking nonsense, completely contradicting himself, when it’s so much fun to spike the ball in the endzone and do a jubilant victory dance?
Mocking his serious critics is one of Obama’s favorite activities. I can’t say I recall hearing any previous president (Democrat or Republican) do it very much in public (although in private it no doubt was a very different matter). The only person who comes to mind—although I don’t think Obama would like this comparison very much—was Nixon’s Vice President Spiro Agnew, who had to resign amidst bribery and tax evasion charges in 1973.
Agnew was known for relishing a verbal battle. But looking back, Agnew was the soul of sophisticated wit compared to Obama:
With the help of White House speechwriters Pat Buchanan and William Safire, Agnew developed a distinctive, jeering speech style that mixed some heavy fun into the contempt.
In a 1969 speech against war protesters, he said, “A spirit of national masochism prevails, encouraged by an effete corps of impudent snobs who characterize themselves as intellectuals.” “In the United States today,” Agnew told a 1970 audience in San Diego, “we have more than our share of the nattering nabobs of negativism.” He went after “pusillanimous pussyfooters” and “vicars of vacillation” and “the hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history.”
Agnew (or perhaps Safire or the offputting Buchanan) apparently was fond of alliteration. Obama is not.
One thing Obama is fond of, however, is delivering the usual nonsensical reassurances without actually answering his critics’ analyses of the issues. You know the drill: you can keep your insurance if you like it. The Republicans want total deregulation of the insurance companies; no controls at all. Obamacare will be good for the elderly. It will reduce the deficit. And so on and so forth.
And the crowd cheered on.