Sophists tip their hand in jest — and none better than Barack Obama. Beware when he jokes that he will send the IRS after you, or that Predators will guard his daughters. And be even more vigilant of the preemptory denial. Barack Obama can brag ad nauseam about killing Osama bin Laden, because he first swore that he would never “spike the ball” by referencing the hit.
To get things done, first-person pronouns breed to show both concern and control where there is often neither: I just appointed my new team that reports to me about my concerns that I share with advisors of mine. In the world of rhetoric, the more “I,” “me,” “my,” and “mine” appear in the abstract, the more we suspect that the over-referenced speaker has been usually absent in the concrete. There is no “us” or “we” or “our” in Washington these days — although lots of “they” and “them,” the existential enemies of “I” and “me.”
Barack Obama has used executive orders for everything — amnesties, dismissal of the Defense of Marriage Act, recess appointments, the shutting down of coal plants — except the closure of Guantanamo Bay. After five years, we appreciate that Obama really, really does not wish this Bush artifact left open, and yet really, really cannot close it. “They” (fill in the blanks: the right wing, the Republican Congress, the neo-cons) won’t let him. Ditto renditions, tribunals, drones, preventive detentions: Bush did it, and Obama really wants to undo it. The problem is that he just can’t: he’s not a king, tyrant, or dictator, after all — as he reminds his more zealous supporters who, he infers to the rest of us, demand him to be just that. He is our modern-day Caesar who must majestically defer when the people thrust the crown in his hands.
When bad things happen, they just happen. Like Henry II, he wants relief from the Tea Party and reactionary wingnuts; and like the English king, he cannot help it when overzealous knights occasionally and quite wrongly take him at his word, and go a bit overboard. Big government is wonderful as it hires the needy and serves the poor — and yet becomes so big that when bad things happen the president simply could not possibly monitor such an octopus. Federal workers are public servants when they disperse food stamps and disability insurance, only to become unbridled, overzealous clerks when your politics earn a letter from the IRS. Obama professes that he is merely competent and not ideological when he wishes to promote his ideological agenda from gay marriage to blanket amnesty; but he is incompetent and bullied for his ideology when the IRS, or the Justice Department, or the State Department on its own commits the most recent partisan outrage.
Lightning always strikes twice with Obama and his team. His opponent in a senatorial primary had his sealed divorce records leaked — and mysteriously the same thing happened again with his general election opponent. Eric Holder just once went after AP, and, lo and behold, he happened to go after Fox News too. A Cincinnati IRS office went rogue, and — guess what? — so did another one or two elsewhere. Harry Reid mentioned the private tax returns of Mitt Romney — and so did Austan Goolsbee inform us of the Koch Brothers’ 1040s, and so by chance did the IRS go after hundreds of other conservatives.
Obama in Zen-like fashion helped us reach record levels of gas and oil production — by so stopping such new development on public lands that he forced the private sector to work as never before in looking for energy on private lands. Apparently by subsidizing losing green solar and wind companies, Obama somehow made it possible to reach record levels of gas production. Gasoline use per driver is down and that is wonderful — but it has more to do with inflating our tires and getting “tune-ups” than near record level gas prices the last five years that curbed driving.