The Closing of the Barackian Mind

At the end of Jonah Goldberg’s latest essay, there’s this:

Obama describes the Bush years as a libertarian dystopia of “‘you’re on your own’ economics,” when we ignored vital spending on things like education and poverty programs. This is Obama’s favorite straw man, and he’s a kung fu master when it comes to defeating it.

He leaves out that Europe already has his preferred policies and is about to go under.

More significantly, Obama leaves out that under “compassionate conservatism,” Bush was the first president to spend more than 3 percent of GDP on anti-poverty programs. Under Bush, federal spending on education grew 58 percent faster than inflation. Obama forgets that Bush fought for the biggest expansion of entitlements since the Great Society (Medicare Part D). He airbrushes away Sarbanes-Oxley, a new cabinet agency, faith-based initiatives, etc.

“Some billionaires have a tax rate as low as 1 percent,” Obama barked. “That is the height of unfairness.” Except, when the Washington Post asked the White House for evidence to support the claim, an official confessed they “had no actual data to back up the president’s assertion.”

That’s okay. Who cares about the facts when you’re fighting to make America safe for cynicism again?


And that’s followed today by this classic leftwing malapropism by the president that there are more jobs in jobless benefits than the Keystone pipeline:

As Obama called for passage of those bills, he also responded to a recent Republican push to require him to approve the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada. “However many jobs might be generated by a Keystone pipeline,” he said, “they’re going to be a lot fewer than the jobs that are created by extending the payroll tax cut and extending unemployment insurance.”

The latter of which leaves Ace to ask, “Is Obama’s mind epistemically closed?” — if you’re unfamiliar with the left’s favorite buzzword for 15 minutes back in the spring of 2010, Ace has a quick definition to bring you up to speed, before writing:

Obama is supposedly a learned man. We are told he is a rara avis, in Chris Buckley’s dribblings, a true intellectual.

When was the last time Obama actually learned something about the world?

Did he, as the book’s title might have it, Learn Everything He Needed To Know By Second Semester Sophomore Year?

When was the last time Obama was actually confronted by new information and new experience and actually adapted his beliefs to fit the new fact-pattern, rather than consistently adapting the new fact-pattern to fit his old beliefs?

For, we were told, anyone who does not do this is is “epistemically closed.”

So when has Obama done it? I’m sure that book Bill Ayers wrote for him contains moments of realization, but those are of course set deep in Bill Ayers’ past.

One question the media loves asking Republicans is “What have you learned in office?” By which they really are asking: “Which hidebound conservative beliefs are you finally ready to jettison?”

They fret when a Republican dodges the question, saying something bullshitty about learning about the greatness of the American Voting Public, and cry “unteachable!”

Very well.

What has Obama learned in office? Which of his pre-existing beliefs has he learned to is wrong?

Don’t say gay marriage; he’s still “evolving” on that, so he is not ready to discard that old stance against gay marriage (not until January 2013, at least).

What has Obama learned?


Hey, he learned there’s no such thing as shovel-ready jobs by last year — making the president possibly the last man in an EPA/OSHA/trial lawyer-dominated America to divine this knowledge.

Tangentially related to the above — but it take a couple of minutes to get there, Jack Cashill’s latest American Thinker article posits a distinct similarity in writing styles between the last third of Dreams of My Father and Kuki Gallmannn’s I Dreamed of Africa, later turned into a Kim Basinger movie. Cashill spots plenty of similar terminology in the two books, before noting an item that I missed last year:

On the flora front, the shared references are just as compelling: roadside palms, yellow grass, red bougainvillaea, pink bougainvillaea, fig trees, shady mango trees, thornbrush, banana leaves, Baobab trees, liana vines, tomatoes.  The landscape, occasionally “barren,” is rich in “undulating hills” whose “grazing lands” are dotted with the occasional “watering hole.”

The “mud and dung” houses feature “thatched roofs” “verandas,” and “vegetable gardens.”  People seem to be carrying “straw mats” everywhere.  The stars “glint” and people “waltz” underneath them.  Eyes “glimmer” in the light of “campfires.”  Children sing in “high-pitched” rhythms, and girls endure “barbaric” circumcisions.  Obama, like Gallmannn, travels to the Great Rift Valley and stands at its edge.  Both visit the small trading town of Narok.

Karl Rove tells of running into “the best writer to occupy the White House since Lincoln” soon after the latter’s second book, Audacity of Hope, was published.  “Hey, I understand you got me in your book,” said Rove.  “I don’t think so,” Obama replied.  Rove continued, “I think you got me in your book saying, ‘we’re a Christian nation.'”  Said Obama, “Where’d I say that?”  Rove showed him.

I suspect if someone asked Obama what a shamba was or a shuka, the inquirer would get an equally dumb answer.


Here’s the video of Rove’s appearance on Sean Hannity’s show, where he discusses Obama not knowing what’s in his own book:

Assuming Rove isn’t telling a tall tale, how does a writer not remember what’s in his own book?

Finally, one more related item, this time from Michael Barone, which went up as I was writing the post:

Democrats like to think of themselves as the party of smart people. And over the last four years we have heard countless encomiums, and not just from Democrats, of the intellect and perceptiveness of Barack Obama. But a reading of the text of Obama’s December 6 speech at Osawatomie, Kansas, billed as one of his big speeches of the year, shows him to be something like the opposite.

Even by the standards of campaign rhetoric, this is a shockingly shoddy piece of work. You can start with his intellectually indefensible caricature of Republican philosophy: “We are better off when everybody is left to fend for themselves and play by their own rules.” Or his simple factual inaccuracy: “The wealthiest Americans are paying the lowest taxes in over half a century.” Or his infantile economic analysis, blaming job losses on the invention of the automated teller machine (they’ve been around for more than four decades, Mr. President, and we’ve had lots of job growth during that time) and the Internet.


As Barone concludes:

What we have here, it seems a president who has no serious interest in public policy. He has spent nearly half his 15 years in public office running for other public office. The only difference now is that, having run out of higher offices to run for, he is just running for reelection instead. Those who pride themselves on belonging to the party of smart people should be embarrassed.

Being “liberal” means never having to be embarrassed by one of your own — especially when you’ve got so much emotionally (and ultimately financially) invested in him — something that Jim Geraghty dubs the ‘Sunken Costs’ theory of presidential politics.


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