September 13th, 2013

Jay Carney: hey, let’s celebrate indecisiveness!

You cannot make this stuff up. But apparently Jay Carney can:

…Carney [was asked] to respond to a criticism of the president leveled by Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) who said he was “disappointed” with Obama’s seeming indecisiveness on whether or not to pursue military strikes in Syria…

“I would simply say that, when it comes to being commander-in-chief, I think the American people, at least in my assessment, appreciate a commander-in-chief who takes in new information and doesn’t, you know, celebrate decisiveness for the sake of decisiveness,” Carney added.

Implicit in Carney’s statement is the notion that George Bush—the favorite bête noire of the Obama administration—did “celebrate decisiveness for the sake of decisiveness” rather than for the content of his decisions. The statement is not only another insult to Bush in a long line of them—and another attempt to defend Obama by contrasting him with some strawman characteristic of his predecessor—but it is logically absurd.

Even if Bush had “celebrated decisiveness for the sake of decisiveness,” that still would not mean that anyone should appreciate (or celebrate) indecisiveness in his successor, especially in the role of commander-in-chief. Dithering, backtracking, meandering, reversing, contradicting, and failing to decide much of anything sends a message of extreme weakness that can only be damaging— and which other more decisive foreign leaders are likely to use to their advantage.

Carney’s pernicious sophistry (and Obama) aside, the more general question of the value of decisiveness versus indecisiveness can be looked at in terms of Isaiah Berlin’s old fox-hedgehog quandary:

There is a line among the fragments of the Greek poet Archilochus which says: ‘The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing’. Scholars have differed about the correct interpretation of these dark words, which may mean no more than that the fox, for all his cunning, is defeated by the hedgehog’s one defense. But, taken figuratively, the words can be made to yield a sense in which they mark one of the deepest differences which divide writers and thinkers, and, it may be, human beings in general. For there exists a great chasm between those, on one side, who relate everything to a single central vision, one system less or more coherent or articulate, in terms of which they understand, think and feel-a single, universal, organizing principle in terms of which alone all that they are and say has significance-and, on the other side, those who pursue many ends, often unrelated and even contradictory, connected, if at all, only in some de facto way, for some psychological or physiological cause, related by no moral or aesthetic principle…

Hedgehogs tend to be decisive due to their unity of vision and purpose. Foxes tend to shift and waver, and yet often like to tout their own superiority (remember “nuance”?), much as Carney does with Obama (who may or may not actually be a fox) here.

While it’s true that commanders-in-chief need to be flexible and responsive to changing circumstances, they cannot be indecisive foxes if they want to successfully convey the right message to opponents for whom indecisiveness signals a vulnerability ripe for exploitation.

[Hat tip: Ace of Spades.]

22 Responses to “Jay Carney: hey, let’s celebrate indecisiveness!”

  1. Cappy Says:

    Is it just me, or do others notice many of the liberal bent, especially in the media, relishing the thought of “walking a tightrope” or “having a dilemma”. It almost seems that they prize this level of decisiveness as some mark of intellect.

  2. rickl Says:

    Perhaps I’m naïve, but isn’t it the job of an executive to…make decisions?

  3. sharpie Says:

    There’s a third category:

    What difference does it make?

    This category incorporates everything into nothing.

    (I could have said “nothingness” instead of “nothing” to impress the progressive, but those idiots aren’t reading this blog. Forgive me this indiscretion and aside: Hey NSA, fa(k you.)

  4. Oldflyer Says:

    We have examined Obama and his foibles frequently. Carney interests me.
    I expect most folks, who have been in the working world for an extended period, have held jobs for which it was just difficult to get up and go to work. There can be a variety of reasons. Sometimes you just feel that it is not honest work at its essence. Or, perhaps the work is simply mind numbingly boring. I know the feeling–in each instance. In fact I have left jobs to escape that dread.

    So, I wonder about folks like Carney, and his predecessor. What can he think when he contemplates the day? Does it bother him at all that he has to go before the world and spout gibberish, dishonest gibberish at that? Is he simply a con man, who cares not what he says, and thinks that he is “oh so clever” for putting it over on the less gifted once again? Or is he a true believer who has somehow convinced himself that dishonest gibberish in a micro sense is actually equal to greater truth in the macro? Deep down does he suffer pangs of remorse; even though he is committed to soldier on for the One?

    We will likely never know. I find myself overusing the term “buffoon” when I speak of members of this Administration; but, too often, the description just fits.

  5. Ymarsakar Says:

    Rick, he made plenty of decisions to hurt and torture Americans that opposed Democrats.

    That’s what they think is really important to be decisive on.

    Being decisively against their allies, is a different issue.

  6. Ann Says:

    Just watched the video of Carney making that statement. I was curious to see if he showed the slightest bit of embarrassment saying it. I don’t think he does, which must mean it makes perfect sense to him.

    But then why did he see the need to add that caveat of “at least in my assessment” — was it a slight backing off because the line was written for him and somewhere deep inside he knew it was fatuous?

    Or, of course, he’s just one cynical SOB.

  7. Ymarsakar Says:

    It takes courage to make a decision instead of waiting, when waiting is in itself the wrong decision.

    The Left’s courage is summed up as Obama’s post birth abortion philosophy.

    Those who have no political influence gets stomped on. Those that do, get vacations with Michelle. Pretty simple.

    Are you in or are you out?

  8. Sam L. Says:

    From top to bottom, the Obama administration has no class, and shows it off so well.

  9. expat Says:

    The problem with Obama is not that he changed his mind on the basis of new information. The problem is that he is too stupid to anticipate problems and seek information before he opens his mouth. He is so convinced of the infallibilty of his ideas and he acts so demeaning to those who may have a different take on things that he doesn’t get information he needs. The simple example is Travon Martin. The prsedential level complex example is Syria (and Egypt and Honduras and Russia).

  10. Eric Says:

    Obama is a textbook charismatic authority type in Max Weber’s typology.

    Jay Carney is doing the job he was hired to do. If he couldn’t do it over scruples, he wouldn’t have been hired to do it.

  11. Dale Light Says:

    Regarding Berlin’s essay and your celebration of decisive hedgehogs I would refer you to Jack Gilbert’s little poem:

    Flat Hedgehogs

    When the hedgehogs here at night
    see a car and its fierce lights
    coming at them, they do the one
    big thing they know.

  12. Eric Says:

    If the GOP was smart, they would use all of these openings to rehabilitate Bush’s legacy via a compare/contrast with Obama.

  13. sdferr Says:

    I heard somewhere once that tragedy takes for its subject the men of decision, the political men, the men of action and aggressive assertion in the world, but never the wise (i.e., the poets who wrote the tragedies).

    Comedy, on the other hand, it was said, is ever written about the withdrawn thinkers, those wise dreamers and their risible ways.

    Are these two categories reducible to this fox and hedgehog story? Are hedgehogs tragic beings and foxes comical somehow? Or are tragic poets hedgehogs and comic poets foxes?

  14. M J R Says:

    Eric, 9:14 pm — “If the GOP was smart, . . .”

    Error in premise.

  15. Lizzy Says:

    Contrary to what Carney believes the American public appreciates in a president, we sure needed Obama to be decisive on 9/11/2012. He also could have been more decisive when authorizing the Bin Laden raid if Richard Miniter’s account is correct (we and Obama are lucky to have had others willing to make the call while Obama dithered on the links).

    Of course Carney’s excuse for Obama is b.s.. I just hate that Obama’s lack of seriousness is going to get more people killed. And people like Carney and the MSM will be there to assure us that it was only because of Obama’s superior leadership it wasn’t worse.

  16. Ymarsakar Says:

    Corruption in the leadership can often be seen where their actions don’t have consequences, unless you are a grunt. When DAs, lawyers, President for life lawyers, can do things, and nothing happens to them or they keep on trucking along, society eventually breaks from the strain of supporting top heavy aristos.

  17. FOAF Says:

    When asked to respond to criticism of President Obama as a “weasel”, Carney responded, “I think the American people appreciate a President who does not make a fetish of meaning what he says”.

    OK, I *did* make that up. But I’m expecting it at the next press conference.

  18. NeoConScum Says:

    Don’t worry your useless-feckless self, Jay. We’ve watched The Boy King campaign tirelessly for
    4-years+8-months. NO executive has been revealed. Leadership..? Nope. Work in the, ya know, Executive Office at the ya know, White House..? Nope. Hard, trudging, sweaty, decision making and example setting..? Nope.

    Golf..? YEP. Empty travel..? YEP. BLAME others..? YEP, non-stop. Avoidance of responsibility as LEADER..? Ohhhhh, yeah, Baybeeeee..! Perpetually.

  19. NeoConScum Says:

    …*VTC*…? (*VAST Testicular Concavity*)

    YEP. Only president to make Jimmah Cawtah look ‘Well Endowed’.

  20. Gringo Says:

    From the lips of Jay ” Baghdad Bob” Carney:

    “I would simply say that, when it comes to being commander-in-chief, I think the American people, at least in my assessment, appreciate a commander-in-chief who takes in new information and doesn’t, you know, celebrate decisiveness for the sake of decisiveness,” Carney added.

    I am reminded of the libs’ celebration of NUANCE. John Francis Kerry was a big nuance-man, back in the day. After all it takes NUANCE to say that you voted for it before you voted against it. Lo and behold, it turns out that NUANCE turns up in lib-government-speak on Syria.

    “The idea was to put a chill into the Assad regime without actually trapping the president into any predetermined action,” said one senior official, who, like others, discussed the internal debate on the condition of anonymity. But “what the president said in August was unscripted,” another official said. Mr. Obama was thinking of a chemical attack that would cause mass fatalities, not relatively small-scale episodes like those now being investigated, except the “nuance got completely dropped.”

    As long as you have NUANCE, it doesn’t matter if you can actually make a decision. It’s all about style points. The POTUS and Secretary of State think that the model for making decisions in the international arena is the parading of models at a Paris fashion show.

  21. blert Says:

    Quite some time back I speculated that the nerve gas victims would turn out to be trucked in Alawites or Shi’ites or Christians, anyone but Sunnis.

    This story needs to be pursued.

    It may entirely vindicate Putin’s assertions.

  22. Ymarsakar Says:

    If a Democrat wants a primer on false flag operations, have them check out Fast and Furious. Sell weapons to drug dealers so you can justify producing more human gun control for those weapon dealers you forced to sell the weapons over the border.

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