Obama Derangement Syndrome

By Their Creator

During a speech last week (link), President Obama ad-libbed a bit (departed from the prepared text of the speech) to quote the Declaration of Independence and (presumably inadvertently) omitted the words "endowed by their Creator".  Obama spoke:

We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, endowed with certain inalienable rights: life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Never mind that Obama ended the speech by saying...

God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.

...many conservatives (e.g. The Weekly Standard) have pounced and questioned whether or not Obama believes that our rights come from our Creator (Nature’s God” and “the Supreme Judge of the World”, as the Declaration says).

Sadly the epidemic of Obama Derangement Syndrome is now so rampant that the White House had to release this pitiful statement today (link):

“The President is in full agreement with the Declaration of Independence.  Any suggestion to the contrary is just silly.”(Josh Earnest, Deputy White House Press Secretary)

Imagine if, during the presidency of George W. Bush, I had a habit of highlighting every time President Bush didn't get a quote or statement exactly right in one of his speeches or press conferences.  How petty would that have been?  You'd have considered such nitpicking, coming from  me at least, to be low and unseemly.  You'd have been right.

This reminds me of P.Z. Myers recent criticism of "conspiracy theories" regarding Obama's religion and politics (link):

Please, fellow godless folk, stop trying to claim Obama as one of us. He isn't. He goes to church sometimes, he has a religious history, he's happy to use Christian metaphors, he hasn't claimed to be so much as an agnostic. He's a liberal Christian who is not obsessed with religion. Take his words at face value; I find it annoying when people look for signs that he's a hidden member of our little clan. It is so conspiracy-theory...

Obama is not a socialist or a communist or a Luo tribesman. He is a centrist politician from Chicago who believes in improving peoples lives incrementally by working step by step through political compromise. He pisses off the liberal, progressive wing of the Democratic party because we want him to be bold and aggressive, and he's not, and because he's also comfortable with the military-industrial status quo. He really  annoys the wingnut right because he wants to move the country away from their dreams of a Reaganesque/Randian capitalist paradise, and he is…slowly and tentatively.

That's really all you need to know to comprehend what Obama is doing and how he works. It's sufficient to explain everything. We don't have to postulate that he's a reincarnated Mau Mau chieftain or that he's a secret communist plant. He's just a traditional middle-of-the-road politician from the Midwest.

(I knew that many of Obama's conservative critics want to believe that he is an atheist but hadn't realized that many atheists want to believe the same thing).

This also reminds me of a cartoon: link.

About that Anti-Business President

After highlighting the many pro-business aspects of the economy-boosting moves that the Obama admin has proposed this week, Ezra Klein writes (insightfully IMHO):

...it's worth thinking harder about the idea -- propagated by many on the right and some in the business community -- that this president is somehow anti-business. The health-care reform bill bends over backward to preserve each and every private industry currently overcharging us for our care. The Obama campaign publicly supported the bank bailout and then repelled the populist measures to really hammer banker pay when they got into office. The financial reform bill didn't break up the banks, set leverage requirements in statute or do any of a number of other things that would've really hurt the financial industry. The auto bailout was designed to preserve the existence of America's auto industry, and even the Economist has admitted that the Obama administration did everything in its power to "restore both firms to health and then get out as quickly as possible." The various stimulus measures have been designed to directly support businesses or indirectly support the people who those businesses rely on.

The point isn't that all of these policies were good. Some of them weren't. The point is that the constant accusation that this White House is somehow anti-business, or deaf to the corporate community's concerns, is a fiction of the Wall Street Journal editorial page. There's a good argument to be made, I think, that this White House is too focused on business, but it's annoying to have to frame it as a boldly counterintuitive point, rather than as an obvious conclusion based on their raft of policy initiatives meant to save, help or otherwise improve the position of corporate America.

The State of the American Right

Greg Sargent invites you to view the following screengrab from Drudge that "...neatly encapsulates the state of the American right."

drudgegrab2

What All the Fuss is About

In response to my claim that the government isn't taking over health care, I was recently asked what's all the fuss about, then?

My answer: politics

(most of what follows is h/t Ezra Klein)

As Maggie Mertens recently pointed out (link) and summarized with the table at the end of this post, the current senate health care bill is remarkably similar to the bill proposed in 1993 by a moderate Republican senator (John Chafee), 19 other Republican senators, and 2 Democrats - considered the major GOP proposal at the time.  Naturally, therefore, the Republicans are celebrating that the Dems some 17 years later are pushing a GOP health care bill.  Not so much.

Instead, here's a sampling of what we get...

We get this from the Republican National Committee (link):

PH2010030303718

and we get commentary like this by conservative pundit Mark Steyn from the National Review (link):

I’ve been bandying comparisons with Britain and France but that hardly begins to convey the scale of it. Obamacare represents the government annexation of “one-sixth of the U.S. economy” — i.e., the equivalent of the entire British or French economy, or the entire Indian economy twice over. Nobody has ever attempted this level of centralized planning for an advanced society of 300 million people. Even the control freaks of the European Union have never tried to impose a unitary “comprehensive” health-care system from Galway to Greece. The Soviet Union did, of course, and we know how that worked out.

Annexation of 1/6 of the economy?  Ezra Klein rebuts (link):

Putting aside the question of whether government regulations are the same as "annexation" (in which case, the apple I'm eating is federally annexed, and I never knew socialism could be this crisp and delicious), the regulations in question are limited to insurance being offered on the exchanges.

Why does that matter? Because the exchanges, as you can see on Page 20 of this CBO analysis, are expected to serve 25 million people by 2019. That is to say, these regulations will be limited to less than 10 percent of the market. And that 10 percent of the market will be primarily composed of the uninsured.

Why would conservatives be freaking out so extravagantly about a health bill nearly identical to their own from 17 years ago?  Did the GOP propose a socialist health care bill in 1993?  Were they plotting an unprecedented expansion of government, an annexation of 1/6 of the economy?  No.  Then what is all the fuss about?

The fuss is all about politics (Waterloo).

From Kaiser Health News (link):

Major Provisions Senate Bill 2009 Sen. Chafee (R) Bill 1993 Rep. Boehner (R) Bill 2009

Require Individuals To Purchase Health Insurance
(Includes Religious and/or Hardship Exemption)

Yes

Yes

No (individuals without
coverage would be taxed)

Requires Employers To Offer Health Insurance To Employees

Yes (above 50 employees, must help pay for insurance costs to workers receiving tax credits
for insurance)

Yes (but no requirement to contribute to premium cost)

No

Standard Benefits Package

Yes

Yes

No

Bans Denying Medical Coverage For Pre-existing Conditions

Yes

Yes

No (establishes high risk pools)

Establish State-based Exchanges/Purchasing Groups

Yes

Yes

No

Offers Subsidies For Low-Income People To Buy Insurance

Yes

Yes

No

Long Term Care Insurance

Yes (sets up a voluntary insurance plan)

Yes (sets standards for insurance)

No

Makes Efforts To Create More Efficient Health Care System

Yes

Yes

Yes

Medicaid Expansion

Yes

No

No

Reduces Growth In Medicare Spending

Yes

Yes

No

Medical Malpractice Reform

No

Yes

Yes

Controls High Cost Health Plans

Yes (taxes on plans over $8,500 for single coverage to $23,000 for family plan)

Yes (caps tax exemption for employer-sponsored plans)

No

Prohibits Insurance Company From Cancelling Coverage

Yes

Yes

Yes

Prohibits Insurers From Setting Lifetime Spending Caps

Yes

No

Yes

Equalize Tax Treatment For Insurance Of Self-Employed

No

Yes

No

Extends Coverage To Dependents

Yes (up to age 26)

No

Yes (up to age 25)

Cost

$871 billion over 10 years

No CBO estimate

$8 billion over 10 years

Impact On Deficit

Reduces by $132 billion over 10 years

No CBO estimate

Reduces by $68 billion over 10 years

Percentage Of Americans Covered

94% by 2019

92-94% by 2005

82% by 2019

Teleprompter Derangement Syndrome

Oh ye of the teleprompter derangement syndrome.  You who love to ridicule the president for his reliance on teleprompters...implying that it means he's not really much of a speaker...or doesn't really believe what he says...or that he's not actually all that bright...or whatever it is that you think makes it worthy of ridicule.  First of all, go back and read Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson's article from last March about Obama and his teleprompter (link).  It's not as if Gerson doesn't write some rich stuff (a Bush speechwriter criticizing a president for not sufficiently owning up to his mistakes? please!: link), but I thought he was right on with his analysis back in March and still do.  An excerpt:

This derision is based on the belief that the teleprompter exaggerates the gap between image and reality -- that it involves a kind of deception. It is true that there is often a distinction between a president on and off his script. With a teleprompter, Obama can be ambitiously eloquent; without it, he tends to be soberly professorial. Ronald Reagan with a script was masterful; during news conferences he caused much wincing and cringing. It is the rare politician, such as Tony Blair, who speaks off the cuff in beautifully crafted paragraphs.

But it is a mistake to argue that the uncrafted is somehow more authentic. Those writers and commentators who prefer the unscripted, who use "rhetoric" as an epithet, who see the teleprompter as a linguistic push-up bra, do not understand the nature of presidential leadership or the importance of writing to the process of thought.

Governing is a craft, not merely a talent. It involves the careful sorting of ideas and priorities. And the discipline of writing -- expressing ideas clearly and putting them in proper order -- is essential to governing. For this reason, the greatest leaders have taken great pains with rhetoric. Lincoln continually edited and revised his speeches. Churchill practiced to the point of memorization. Such leaders would not have been improved by being "unplugged." When it comes to rhetoric, winging it is often shoddy and self-indulgent -- practiced by politicians who hear Mozart in their own voices while others perceive random cymbals and kazoos. Leaders who prefer to speak from the top of their heads are not more authentic, they are often more shallow -- not more "real," but more undisciplined.

Now watch the video below.  Obama spoke at the House Republican retreat in Baltimore today and then spent over an hour in a Q&A session with the House Republicans.  You'll notice that teleprompter technology has come a long way since Obama took office.  These days they are apparently invisible and able to respond to impromptu questions within seconds with knowledge and insight.

Oh no he didn't.  That must have been a fluke (just like the BA from Columbia and graduating magna cum laude from Harvard Law were).   I know he didn't just show (again) that he's able to talk intelligently and extensively about policy with or without a teleprompter.  Anyway, here is the speech that preceded the Q&A:

Stewart Skewers Olbermann and Colbert Discusses Adolf Carter

Here are a couple videos from last night...First, Stewart laments what Olbermann has become:

Then, Colbert discusses how Obama is apparently "Adolf Carter": somehow "both an iron-fisted autocrat and a laughably incompetent waffler":

Maddow on Politicizing Abdulmutallab’s Attack

In this embedded video segment Maddow examines the Republican response to the Christmas Bomber.

Examples:

  • Criticizing allowing Abdulmutallab to “lawyer up” even though “shoe bomber” Richard Reid and 9/11 co-conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui were treated the same under Cheney
  • Criticizing how long it took Obama to comment despite the fact that Bush waited much longer before commenting about Richard Reid

James Taranto on Authoritarian Impulses

From his Wall Street Journal column (link):

We still find all of this [rhetoric from the Obama administration that to some seems authoritarian] far from alarming. American institutions are strong enough, and the country’s culture of freedom deep-seated enough, to thwart any authoritarian impulses Obama and his men may have.

James Taranto on Calling Someone a Nazi

The conservative columnist for The Wall Street Journal had this to say about calling your political opponent a Nazi (link):

…we disapprove, on both rhetorical and moral grounds, of comparisons between Obama and Hitler or ObamaCare and Nazism. (It should go without saying that such expression is fully protected by the First Amendment.) One should never in earnest liken a political opponent to the Nazis if that opponent does not practice or advocate genocide or totalitarianism.

To do so is a rhetorical error because it calls attention away from the speaker’s message and toward his lack of perspective. It is a moral error because of that lack of perspective. There may be plausible arguments that ObamaCare is evil in intent or would be evil in effect, but it is insane to equate it to the singular evil of Nazism. The easy recourse to Nazi analogies--far more common on the left than the right--debases the currency of moral outrage and can only diminish moral clarity.

Miscellany 6 May 2009

» Who ever said America was on the road to perdition?  Surely we've got things turned around now that we're getting tough on "fleeting expletives!"

» If you make a big deal about transparency regarding the ~$800 billion stimulus and about how every dime will be track-able at recovery.gov, you really ought to deliver...and if you don't, at least have the sense not to blame your failure on inadequate data storage capacity.  This is 2009! (h/t WSJ)

» "Obama takes Jesus' advice: "when you pray, go into your room, close the door & pray to your Father, who is unseen"" Surely no one will take a dig at him for that, right? (link) (h/t Jimmy Shaw)

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