March 4th, 2014

Playing to the cheap seats

Interesting article by David Weigel in Slate:

Romney was right. Why was Obama wrong? Because, I think, he was willfully blurring the distinction between “geopolitical” and other sorts of threats. He was playing to the cheap seats. Voters do not fear Russia, or particularly care about its movements in its sad, cold sphere of influence. They do care a lot about terrorism. And Obama would use any chance he had, in 2012, to remind voters that he was president when Osama Bin Laden was killed.

So you see the politics—they reveal Obama as the player of a cheap trick. Of course al-Qaida isn’t a “geopolitical threat” to the United States. It’s a terrorist organization, untethered to states or geography. Obama himself (like George W. Bush before him) repeatedly claimed that the organization was on the run. How could al-Qaida be the greatest threat to America and a pathetic coalition of losers? It couldn’t. Obama was spinning, hopefully faster than Romney could un-spin.

But I don’t want to spin for Obama. Romney really did maintain a more cynical long-run view of Russia than Obama did. Obama saw Russia as a declining power that he could do business with, as he did with the New START treaty. Romney, as he laid out in his pre-campaign book No Apology, saw Russia as a recovering power. Its “rediscovered ambition for superpower status,” he wrote, “is fueled by its massive energy reserves.” This wasn’t as sustainable as China’s free-enterprise empire strategy, but it was an empire strategy, and that was enough to get spooked about.

That’s almost the entire text of Weigel’s article. Why do I find it interesting? Well first of all, like a few others from current or former Obama-supporters (Weigel voted for him in 2008 and Kerry in 2004), it does concede an incontrovertible but very inconvenient truth: Romney was right, Obama wrong. That it concedes it at all is surprising.

But—like the other articles of its type that I’ve read—it treats that fact as though it exists in a vacuum. There are no larger conclusions drawn, and why would there be? To do that would be to concede far more than these authors could bear. To actually assimilate the information and try to integrate it into a world view might require that world view to change, and that (as we know) is very threatening and very hard, and can be very costly for a journalist (or even a regular person, as we also know).

Weigel might wonder how it was and why it was that Romney got it right and Obama wrong. Maybe Romney’s general outlook about the geopolitical world was actually more correct? Instead, Weigel assumed that Obama knew the truth but pretended he didn’t. However, if Obama was the “player of a cheap trick” in this regard, maybe that’s what he is: a bagful of cheap tricks, and a liar as well? Maybe that bag fooled Weigel and most of his illustrious colleagues? Maybe Obama’s not what he appeared to be at all?

[NOTE: Weigel himself is a strange bird politically; fairly liberal but with pockets of conservatism and especially libertarianism. He was a player on JournoList, which exposed his cover and made many think of him mainly as a liberal, but that's not exactly the case.

Weigel is also 32 years old. Like so many journalists today, he is not only achingly young, but inexperienced in all fields except journalism, a career he entered right after graduation from Northwestern's famed school of journalism, from which he received a BA.

Weigel did not vote for Obama in 2012---he went with the libertarian Johnson---but not because he really rejected Obama, he just thought him a "mediocre executive." That seems to be the sum total of the motivation for Weigel's turning away from Obama at the time. You can read his reasons here.]

25 Responses to “Playing to the cheap seats”

  1. G Joubert Says:

    You give Chauncy, I mean Obama way too much credit. He’s not that smart.

  2. Doom Says:

    It also suggests, as I have always stated, that they do know but choose not to see what they know. My guess is this author knew that, and much more, while choosing to ignore it in order to vote for things he already knew would never happen successfully. Knaves to a man.

    Basing willful ignorance on idealism or greed matters not.

  3. artfldgr Says:

    A people that no longer remembers has lost its history and its soul. -Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

    The temples of the gods are the most enduring works of man. -Christopher Dawson

    Christopher Dawson and the History We Are Not Told

    Mr. Dawson was frightening. Unlike most Englishmen of Oxford education, Mr. Dawson came to America with a number of illusions about American students: that they knew, as a matter of course, French, German and Latin, world history, the classics; that they were prepared to read three or four books a week for one course; and their term papers would be models of scholarly research.

    … It was my painful duty to insinuate that, as a matter of fact, nothing at all could be taken for granted about American students.

    And when I had a chance, I had to let the students, their faces blanched, know that if they read only eight hundred of the five thousand pages for the week, they could probably get by.

    Eventually these problems worked themselves out: the students read two hundred pages; I read two hundred and one; and Professor Dawson of course read all five thousand.

    Dawson and I are not good at brevity…

    If therefore we study a culture as a whole, we shall find there is an intimate relation between its religious faith and its social achievement. Even a religion which is explicitly other-worldly and appears to deny all the values and standards of human society may, nevertheless, exert a dynamic influence on culture and provide the driving forces in movements of social change. “Religion is the key of history,” said Lord Acton, and today, when we realize the tremendous influence of the unconscious on human behavior and the power of religion to bind and loose these hidden forces, Acton’s saying has acquired a wider meaning than he realized. Dawson

    Obama is at best an apostate, most likely, atheist

    Romney is not…

    the more you are away from god, the more fantabulous the world becomes and the more magic you believe and the less things work for you

    the more you are near god, the more real things are as you have the opitime of fantabuousity to compare to, and one becomes keen on what is real, for real must be worked with, and cant be ignored…

    Romney could percieve the reality of it
    while the socialists percieve the potential of it in a dream they wish to make real but do not know how, or evne that they cant

    utopos the place that can never be…

    The great civilizations of the world do not produce the great religions as a kind of cultural by-product; in a very real sense, the great religions are the foundations on which the great civilizations rest. A society which has lost its religion becomes sooner or later a society which has lost its culture.

    bringing us to the place where african americans are, and the russians outside a home they nver been to, refugees who wish to go back to something that isnt there and maybe never was, all the lost souls now wandering in the desert of the moral sahara…

    and so, this sums up romney and others who are religious vs the non religious cargo cult atheists who worship anything… as chesterton warned us

    The Christian thinker – and I mean the man who is trying consciously and conscientiously to explain to himself the sequence which culminates in faith rather than the public apologist -proceeds by rejection and elimination. He finds the world to be so and so; he finds its character inexplicable by any non-religious theory: among religions he finds Christianity, and Catholic Christianity, to account most satisfactorily for the world and especially for the moral world within; and thus by what Newman calls “powerful and concurrent” reasons, he finds himself inexorably committed to the doctrine of the lncarnation …. [The unbeliever] does not consider that if certain emotional states, certain developments of character, and what in the highest sense can be called “saintliness” are inherently good, then the satisfactory explanation of the world must be an explanation which will admit the ”reality” of these values.

    at least its something to think about
    since most have never heard of this man…


  4. artfldgr Says:

    “The farther a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it.” Orwell

    The ability to know the truth is what makes us human. It follows, therefore, that the ability to hear, discern, and accept the truth is critical in laying claim to our humanity, yet in the modern day our collective interest in hearing, discerning, and acting upon the truth has all but vanished.

    what happens when a peoples cant face reality?
    when reality scares them more than death?
    when they are dumbed down so much, and religion taken away, they are reduced to a scared supestitous lot, quick to angry, and ferally fearful like the tiny mammels we descended from…

    Man has drifted far, indeed. There is simply no place for the hard, objective truth in this world, and for those who insist upon speaking it regardless, little—if any—grace is afforded. In man’s abundance of sinful pride, he has come to believe himself to be infallible in thought and deed.

    To be proven wrong is to therefore be proven imperfect, thus contradicting his perceived infallibility. For this reason, every topic on the table of public discourse seems to lead not to rational, intentional, and thoughtful discourse, but rather to virulent, vitriolic, and hostile aggression. We walk on eggshells in our Lord of the Flies society, lest we step out of line and end up with our heads on pikes.

    we are stuck in the old battle once again…

    the battle between the philosopher kings who as priests of the people, defined reality for them, and had the power over them, including the kings…

    and the battle for science, facts, truth, and so on… the first round was won by gallileo against the jesuit priests teaching and wanting the money for such classes… for if they did not know how reality worke,d and that was not advantageous, what were the wealthy paying them for?

    but since they were dethroned, derided, and marginaliezed… they groused, argued, cried, whined, and went over and over.

    till marx and others, derida, cant, marcuse, staged an attack on the walls of science and reason. in communism they found the power that they thought would listen to them, and by force, take back what they lost by their own hubris (created by a lack of willingness to conform their ideas ot the reality they were birthed).

    so, what your seeing is the mating of the powerful without sympathy married to the confused thinkers, willing to abandon the rules and everythign they may have once stood for… as winning is everything…

    sociopaths brought substance to their cotton candy ideas… gave them power they have not tased since the days before science… post modern is post sciecne… post fact… post religion… post logic

    This neglect of truth is done to our own peril, and it is because of our unwillingness to accept the truth that modern society finds itself in its present state. The catalyst for all social and cultural degradation lies not in flawed policy, but in flawed self-perception, rejection of truth-as-absolute regardless of preference, and equally so in an inability to accept criticism from others when our imperfection is laid bare. Just as the confession of sin is critical in the reception of salvation from Christ, so too is acknowledgement of imperfection brought to light by uncomfortable truth necessary for a healthy society.

    put simly “A man has to know his limitations”…

    “…the truth is seldom pleasant; it is almost invariably bitter”
    “…it comes not from an adversary, but from a friend.”

    the man who agrees with you is not your friend
    the man who argues with you, is your friend – Russian saying

    It is no great wonder why man suffers so greatly when he hears the truth. The reason is that so much of the world we have built for ourselves has come as a result of a sham materialist dream. We have equated the possession of “things” as equitable to happiness and, in the process, have grown more disconnected with our individual and collective souls. The truth is the language of the soul and, much in line with the Orwellian contention of our drifting from the truth, the more disconnected we are from our soul, the less we will understand its language. As we increasingly seek fulfillment in the temporal things of the world—possessions and acclaim among our neighbors—we will only continue our drift from our true selves.

    We must all of us remember that truth exists not for our detriment, but for our benefit. No man who pursued, discovered, and adhered to eternal truth was ever led to ruin. Understanding the truth and accepting it when it presents itself to us requires humility. We are likely only made aware of a truth when it is in contradiction to our own understanding the world around us. We know the truth because we stood against it and found our cup was filled.

    Just think of the pain necessary to be so rational
    then think of how irrational the common are, unwilling to bow to the truth they fail to correct their ideas when hearing it… they fail to adjust their reality when its broached… they ply onwards like a tank with a dead driver…

    but eventually, they will hurt enough that rationality will come back… to be so rational, requires hell on earth, or has not one noticed this requirement we create by our disservice?

    here is an example…
    we believe things are demographically ok, and that with a bit of waking up, we can change whats happening…

    but the truth:
    in 1965 the “white” population from 100 different places including spain was 85%, today its imagined its one race (with spain excized and) sits at less than 65%, its slated to drop to under 50% in less than 13 years, becoming a minority… from near 100% to under 45 % in ONE LIFETIME… and feminism is a social goodness…

    exterminated people dont recover… even less likely if they are too dumb to realize that they have been exterminated…

  5. artfldgr Says:

    Silence in the Face of Evil

    In keeping silent about evil, in burying it so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface, we are implanting it, and it will rise up a thousand fold in the future. When we neither punish nor reproach evildoers, we are not simply protecting their trivial old age, we are thereby ripping the foundations of justice from beneath new generations. — The Gulag Archipelago

    “I am a product [...of] endless books. My father bought all the books he read and never got rid of any of them. There were books in the study, books in the drawing room, books in the cloakroom, books (two deep) in the great bookcase on the landing, books in a bedroom, books piled as high as my shoulder in the cistern attic, books of all kinds reflecting every transient stage of my parents’ interest, books readable and unreadable, books suitable for a child and books most emphatically not. Nothing was forbidden me. In the seemingly endless rainy afternoons I took volume after volume from the shelves. I had always the same certainty of finding a book that was new to me as a man who walks into a field has of finding a new blade of grass.”
    ―C.S. Lewis

    you will find that the people you quote and admire, have long tracts and have read copiously…

    those you complain about…
    not so much

    which would/should be flattered with imitation?

  6. Bill West Says:

    Weigel is 32. Ezra Klein is 29. Chris Hayes, the veteran among them, is 35.

    It is sad to watch guys like Klein (BA political science) and Hayes (BA philosophy) discuss the willful ignorance of Science among Republicans.

    I’d love to see Richard Lindzen of MIT take them to school.

  7. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    David Weigel is young and time will tell whether he’s another David Mamet transitioning from a liberal to a conservative. If he does not, it will indeed be because he was unwilling to challenge the liberal world view that he’s embraced.

    Once again Churchill, that fountain of astute, substantive quotes had an appropriate observation; “Most people, sometime in their lives, stumble across the truth. Most jump up, brush themselves off, and hurry on about their business as if nothing had happened.”

    It seems probable that Weigel will ‘brush himself off and hurry along’, as long as reality allows.

  8. Lizzy Says:

    Obama is just like Global Warming:
    - There’s no weather or meteorological/environmental event that can’t be blamed on Global Warming.

    - No matter what Obama says or does he’s never wrong; it is always the case that we fail to recognize his brilliant 3D chess-like strategy, or simply that we’ve failed him.

    Weigel and his “juicebox mafia” will never recognize Obama’s failures.

  9. JuliB Says:

    How can someone who voted several elections turn around and vote Libertarian? I vote Libt on occasion, but that’s because their main outlook is similar to mine overall. Are there really any Libts in the Dem party? Greens, yes. Libertarians? I find that hard to believe.

  10. expat Says:

    Why do I have the feeling that many of these “smart” young people were raised in bubbles? Maybe they have read a bit and can toss around the names of importants thinkers, but I doubt that many have had their ideologies tested by contact with any form of real life outside outside that of schoolmates of like socioeconomic background. They can slide from one observation to the next because nothing they say has any importance to anyone.

  11. n.n Says:

    The Russian bear still scares little boys and girls. While the American eagle is aborted at the end of a scalpel.

    Anyway, Obama was sent crying to his Hawaiian manor, when the Russian bear arose, and the American eagle strained with the last of its strength, to prevent a double abortion in the Mediterranean. The Ukraine is merely the latest consequence of Obama’s temper tantrum. If the Ass is blocked in Ukraine, then he will assuredly return to America and make all the little eaglets cower under the weight of a progressive constitution.

  12. s graham Says:

    artfldgr,I appreciate you.You educate me.

  13. Matt_SE Says:

    The excuses/evasions are flying, but this can’t be comfortable for Obama’s supporters.

  14. West Says:

    a “mediocre executive.”

    Well, that’s enough reason at the time, and considering his aching youth, I applaud him for being even that perceptive.

    I agree with your broader point, though, even the most “honest” liberal acknowledges the fact that Romney was right on this matter only as an outlier, without giving any added weight to the idea that Mitt may have been correct on so many other issues as well.

  15. West Says:

    P.S. I have noticed that when you have reduced a liberal to “A pox on both their houses!” kind of statements, that’s when they don’t feel that they have a leg to stand as regards defending their party of choice, but their entire worldview disallows them the ability to acknowledge that the ‘Other’ may be correct.

  16. Nick Says:

    You’re right, West. The liberal position can be proven wrong on n issues in a row, and the average liberal will still defend it on (n+1)th issue. Be shocked that someone would question them on issue (n+1).

  17. gpc31 Says:

    artfldgr, thanks for the Christopher Dawson link.

  18. Eric Says:

    The Republican approach starts with [issue], and then claim the GOP has a better approach to [issue] than the Dems. While the GOP is partisan, for the GOP, [issue] is still the origin point.

    However, the Democrat approach originates with opposing the GOP, and [issue] is approached primarily in the frame of the partisan contest.

    Which makes the Dems better at winning office and worse at actual governance.

    The “playing to the cheap seats” observation of Obama’s foreign affairs has been made before.

    For example, :

    These critics are not coming from conservative think thanks. They’re coming from former Obama administration officials.


    For instance, Vali Nasr, who served as senior adviser to Richard Holbrooke when he was ambassador to Pakistan and Afghanistan, said this of Obama’s Afghan policies: “Their primary concern was how any action in Afghanistan or the Middle East would play on the nightly news, or which talking point it would give the Republicans. The Obama administration’s reputation for competence on foreign policy has less to do with its accomplishments in Afghanistan or the Middle East than with how U.S. actions in that region have been reshaped to accommodate partisan political concerns.”

    Anne-Marie Slaughter, director of policy planning at the State Department from 2009 to 2011, said this about Obama’s Syria policy: “Obama must realize the tremendous damage he will do to the United States and to his legacy if he fails to act. He should understand the deep and lasting damage done when the gap between words and deeds becomes too great to ignore, when those who wield power are exposed as not saying what they mean or meaning what they say.”

    And Rosa Brookes, a former senior adviser at the Pentagon, attacked Obama for his failure to outline a broad, sweeping foreign policy strategy. “The Obama administration initially waffled over the Arab Spring, unable to decide whether and when to support the status quo and when to support the protesters. The United States used military force to help oust Libya’s Muammar al-Qaddafi, but insisted at first that this wasn’t the purpose of the airstrikes — and without any clear rationale being articulated, the use of force in seemingly parallel situations seems to have been ruled out.”

  19. KLSmith Says:

    Geoffrey: great Churchill quote. Take a gander at Weigel’s tweets sometime. So cynical, jaded, and smug. Dave mostly cares about being seen as cool.
    I saw him sniffing around a tea party rally in DC once (one of the last ones before the Supremes health care decision). Almost felt sorry for him. He’s probably given up even trying to find a date and has settled into a happy relationship with his computer.

  20. Gringo Says:

    I knew I remembered the name. I Googled dave wiegel phony conservative and got what I had vaguely remembered – his getting booted from the WaPo:Blogger loses job; Post loses standing among conservatives

    Post blogger Dave Weigel, who wrote about the conservative movement, resigned amid controversy today following disclosure of disparaging e-mails he’d written about some of the very people he was hired to cover.

    Weigel bears responsibility for sarcastic and scornful comments he made in e-mails leaked from a supposedly private listserv called “Journolist,” started in 2007 by fellow Post blogger and friend Ezra Klein. Weigel’s e-mails showed strikingly poor judgment and revealed a bias that only underscored existing complaints from conservatives that he couldn’t impartially cover them.

    But his departure also raises questions about whether The Post has adequately defined the role of bloggers like Weigel. Are they neutral reporters or ideologues?

    And, given the disdainful comments in his e-mails, there is the separate question of whether he was miscast from the outset when he was hired earlier this year.

    Raju Narisetti, the managing editor who oversees The Post’s Web site, said Weigel called him last night and offered to resign after Fishbowl D.C. initially revealed some damaging e-mails. Narisetti said Weigel alerted him that another Web site, the conservative Daily Caller, planned to disclose more e-mails today.

    “This morning, after reading them, I accepted his resignation,” Narisetti said. Contacted by e-mail, Weigel replied: “I no longer work for the Post.”

    The e-mails made negative comments about Pat Buchanan, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, and conservative radio commentator Rush Limbaugh, among others. One suggested it “would be a vastly better world” if Webmeister Matt Drudge “decided to handle his emotional problems more responsibly, and set himself on fire.”

    Weigel apologized online yesterday, but the damage was too severe to save his job.

    “I don’t think you need to be a conservative to cover the conservative movement,” Narisetti told me late today. “But you do need to be impartial… in your views.”

    I wouldn’t take Dave Wiegel’s writings very seriously.

  21. Ymarsakar Says:

    Weigel= another monkey that thinks it can tell us what reality and illusion are.

  22. Eric Says:

    expat: “They can slide from one observation to the next because nothing they say has any importance to anyone.”

    I agree with the 1st part and disagree with the 2nd part.

    On the 2nd part, what they say forms the narrative and zeitgeist. Although their particular writings quickly slide out of memory as new words replace day-old words, the residual imprints they leave make lasting impressions on the collective consciousness.

    On the 1st part (related to the 2nd part), it is a problem when pundits who shape public opinion reverse themselves rather than take mature ownership of their position when real-world hardships are encountered. They’re like the person in the crowd who riles up a brawl and runs away from it.

    To your point of the callowness of sheltered pundits, I commented on my blog:

    What can be made of the phenomenon of smart sophisticated prognosticators who strongly supported the goals of the Iraq mission while acknowledging it would be a long difficult process, but then withdrew their support of the Iraq mission and abandoned its goals once it became in reality a long difficult process? I think their temperament may lag behind their unbounded imaginations. The theoretical constructions of professional thinkers may not be robust enough to endure the blunt psycho-social and economic drag of real life. Or, the world is moved by primitive forces that are incompatible with their finely evolved minds. The same prognosticators may also underestimate, over-simplify, or skip over potential obstacles while bridging various points of their overarching theories.

  23. Ymarsakar Says:

    Most pundits will crack under interrogation and psychological warfare. Won’t even need torture. They’ll submit just via the verbal tools.

  24. expat Says:

    You are right about the effect of the sliders. They re-enforce the public’s tendency to avoid any cognitive dissonance by pretending that yesterday didn’t happen. How many people remember that Obama first bowed to Putin WRT the missile defence systems in Poland and the Czech Republic or the unbelievaby undiplomatic way in which this was done? That’s down the memory hole. It’s far easier to blame Bush that critically evaluate Obama’s decisions. After all they all know Bush was bad.

  25. Ymarsakar Says:

    They know Bush did “nothing” in Georgia against Russia, before they voted in Hussein messiah.

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