We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Inside the bubble

“Aside from his mom jeans, tiny feet, and short-stride shuffle, Romney is a dream candidate. On paper, at least. He’s a good family man, a pillar of his community, and he has a résumé thick with business and political accomplishments. In the flesh, though, he appears to be missing the gene that makes someone interesting. Or engaging. Obama, on the other hand, comes across as a brainy, slightly aloof groovester. Like Romney, he is a good family man. Plus, he has one hell of a life narrative and, to the objective observer, a solid track record over the past four years. But for a man who so inspired hope in 2008, Obama has fallen short on selling himself and his achievements. He’s failed to do what the marketers advise all successful people to do these days—brand himself.”

Graydon Carter.

I love that line about “a solid track record”, which nicely overlooks the high unemployment (not fully reflected in the official data), Keystone, Solyndra, the healthcare “reforms”; Libya, the GM bailout, the mess of Dodd-Frank, “You didn’t build that”; Fast and Furious; the refusal to look seriously at the debt/deficit problem apart from talk about tax hikes….

Why do I bother looking at the thoughts of a person such as Carter? For a start, it is good to regularly check what such people think. Like it or not, these people reflect a powerful strand of opinion that exists in Big Media, in the academic world, among policymakers, and so forth. And he is sufficiently plausible to have a level of credibility: not all his views are daft. For instance, he is right, later in the article, to point out that the Obama administration has been pretty easy on the big banks.

A problem with publications such as VF and the people who read them is that they often get swept up in the whole “glamour” of power, just as they do with the glamour of actors, business tycoons, sportsfolk and so on. And for all that they claim to be cynical, cold-eyed observers of such people, frequently putting the boot in to certain targets, at core there is a remarkably starry-eyed belief that only if we are governed by very cool, supposedly clever, people such as us, that all will be well. It is a conceit that seems to take a long time to die.

Maybe Mr Carter should read Gene Healy’s book about the “Cult of the Presidency”.

And a question that such people should ask themselves is this: if Obama has such a “solid record”, how come there is a chance he is going to lose next week, and why is this supposed genius at connecting with the people not doing so today? Why has this combination of Cicero, Jesus and Jefferson failed to work the magic this time around? But to ask such a question, and deal with the answers, is probably a step too far for Graydon Carter.

35 comments to Inside the bubble

  • Dom

    “Obama, on the other hand, comes across as … brainy …”

    Why do so many people say this? This is the guy who gave us cash-for-clunkers and believes that auto-checkout in the supermarket has taken away jobs. When does the “brainy” start?

  • chuck

    comes across as a brainy, slightly aloof groovester.

    I always thought he came across as a bit dishonest an stupid. Which isn’t to say I don’t know plenty of people who live in the same reality as Carter. It is an odd phenomenon and I suspect it will persist in some quarters, not unlike religious sects that persist long after the world was supposed to have come to an end.

  • YogSothoth

    Yah, the “brainy” comment sticks out with me as well.
    I have a theory – the folks who think Obama is
    brilliant tend to be folks who are wordsmith types,
    they think Obama is clever because he is clever
    in the same way they are.

    I’ve never met a person with a math-oriented background who believed Obama was anything
    other than a pedestrian intellect. I’d wager Obama’s
    never passed any math even as rudimentary as
    trigonometry. I doubt he could solve this:

    A: If I give you one of my sheep, we’ll have the
    same number of sheep

    B: If I give you one of my sheep, you’ll have
    twice as many as I do

    So, how many sheep do A and B have?

    Wouldn’t it be delicious to observe Obama’s towering intellect at work as he puts it to work solving this puzzle?

  • llamas

    “a solid track record”, indeed, of

    – reneging on his solemn promises, both before and after his election, and
    – throwing his supporters under the bus, whenever necessary.

    Brainy, my ass. Only when he has a teleprompter – when, almost-by-definition, he is reading words that others have written for him. That’s like saying that Russell Crowe “appears” brainy because he played John Nash in a film.

    When the magic screens are not present, as in the debates, he quickly shows himself to be a petty and petulant little snot who looks to others to bolster his positions. “Read the transcript!”, he commanded, and the moderator just happened to have read the exact transcript he was referring to. “It’s just not true”, he declaimed, as though his saying something simply Makes It So. That’s not “brainy” – that’s arrogance, and that’s exactly the way it comes across.

    If he’s so brainy, why are we all so screwed?

    I’ll take Romney, even if he does lack the gene that makes someone ‘interesting’. We’ve had enough ‘interesting’ President to last us for a very long time. We may never be able to pay for all of the ‘interesting’ we got.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Alisa

    Had to use paper – damn my old brain…:-(

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Obama has never struck me as having an IQ much above 120/125 – bright enough to awe journalists, in other words; but beyond that, ‘glib’ or ‘facile’ seems more descriptive.

  • Scooby

    if Obama has such a “solid record”, how come there is a chance he is going to lose next week, and why is this supposed genius at connecting with the people not doing so today?

    Duh, the answer to this is obviously racism. Haven’t you been paying attention to the narrative for the last 3.75 years?

  • Gareth

    Obama, on the other hand, comes across as a brainy, slightly aloof groovester.

    Only when the teleprompter is on.

  • Laird

    I think PfP has it exactly right.

    And Alisa, I did, too. Good ol’ algegra!

  • Alisa

    Yeah Laird, but did you have 3 years of engineers’ math? I am a sad, sad case, I am.

  • YogSothoth;

    [President Obama] confessed that he isn’t competent to help Malia with her math homework.

    “The math stuff was fine up until about seventh grade,” Obama said. “Malia is now a freshman in high school. I’m pretty lost.”

    source

    Yes, I have never understood the “smart” descriptor for Obama, even for wordsmith types because it’s all teleprompter. They believe it because they want to believe it. Why they want that is the question – it could be just because that’s The Narrative – conservatives are stupid and tranzis are smart, axiomatically.

  • RRS

    For the life of me, I don’t understand why we have not heard:

    After four years of the of the results from “Hope and Change,” we now must have “Change to restore Hope.”

  • Alisa

    Sorry, but just because someone has no inclination towards math or had lousy math teachers doesn’t make them stupid. Obama is certainly less than ‘brainy’, but there’s plenty of evidence for that other than his mathematical (dis)abilities.

  • RRS

    To go with PfP’s judgment of the “impressed:”

    Joe Namath was being hectored by interviewing journalists about his academic work at U of A, with jibes like, “Did you take basket-weaving?” His off the cuff response: “Well I started Basket Weaving, but it was a little too tough, and required too much time. So, they let me switch to journalism.”

  • bobby b

    ” . . . and, to the objective observer, a solid track record over the past four years.”

    This is how the Obamas of the world succeed.

    If you push Carter to define his terms, an “objective observer” means someone who isn’t completely clouded by racial hatred, I would imagine.

    I had a college friend who now strikes me has having been very much like Obama. He could orate beautifully. He could sound inspiring in his causes, and brilliant in his theses. He could convince you that progressivism would rid humanity of its ills.

    That is, until you had heard him speak over the entire school year, and you realized that he was mostly just barfing out strings of keywords and phrases that he had memorized, over and over, in different orders. Like Obama, he was convinced that his intellect towered over his listeners’, and so he always overestimated how long it would take for each of his listeners to one day gaze off in the distance for a second, and then shake their head a bit and say “hang on, that’s all just facile bullshit!”.

    The Carters of the world know all about this, I suspect, but they realize that, as long as they stand at the ready, with their shouts of “racism!” poised to ring out, they can keep the listeners from making their “it’s facile bullshit!” announcement out loud, thus keeping more of Obama’s listeners in the pre-realization stage.

    Thus, we get Carter’s “to the objective observer” facile bullshit. Problem is, almost half of the original listeners have already realized what Obama is, and what Carter is, and have wandered away in disgust.

  • bloke in spain

    No Ailsa, I think I know what YogSothoth means with his riddle. You can treat it as a math problem. or you can treat it as an exercise in ‘smarts’. No math required whatsoever, or made up as you go along. It’s just deduction. Lot of the self considered ‘clever’ wordy types can’t hack that sort of thing. The eyes glaze over.
    Watched that scribbler in short trousers from the Indy (Owen somebody?) making a total tit of himself on Sky, one night. His thesis was: Osborn reducing tax at the top end would give million a year earners 40 grand a year. Cameron’s worth a million. Ergo Cameron cops £40k. Watching him trying to absorb the difference between income & wealth was a hoot.

  • bgates

    The first time the phrase “mom jeans” was ever used in the political arena was when Barack Obama showed up to the 2009 Major League Baseball All-Star game in a pair to throw the ceremonial first pitch.

    And what the hell does “life narrative” have to do with choosing a Chief Executive of the federal government?

  • YogSothoth

    Yah, I didn’t mean to disparage folks who are more
    verbally oriented (I’m actually slightly more that way myself).

    It’s more that I wanted to show that Obama’s
    intellect is overrated by providing a not-too-hard
    problem that I think he’d actually struggle to solve.
    (Annoying Old Guy’s comment about Obama’s math
    skills stopping at 7th grade also suggests I might not be
    too far off base here ;-)

  • I think Obama is like Julia Gillard, street smart and lavatory rat cunning but otherwise both are as thick as two short planks.

  • William Newman

    You write “If I give you one of my sheep, you’ll have twice as many as I do.”

    Is that supposed to be synonymous with “you’ll have twice as many as I do now” or with “you’ll have twice as many as I’ll have”? (To me the second possible meaning seems more idiomatic: I doubt many native speakers who intended the first possible meaning would structure the sentence the way you did without adding a phrase or word like “now” for emphasis. But the first possible meaning seems to be the literal meaning of the verb tense used.)

    (Ah, for the vanishing of constructions like. “If … you would have as twice as many as I would have.”)

  • Alisa

    William: the first meaning is the only one that is physically possible.

  • Mike:

    Did you really mean to call Gillard a “lavatory rat” instead of a “laboratory rat”? :-)

  • Renminbi

    James Joyce has The Citizen call Leopold Bloom “Cute as a shithouse rat”. The trouble is there’s nothing cute about Obama.

  • James Strong

    1) Obama is blessed with a great voice for reading speeches. That’s about it; he’s an autocue-reader.

    2) Obama was elected by racists. A lot of angst-riddled ‘liberals’ voted for him bolstered by the desire to ‘prove’ to themselves that they weren’t racist because they were voting for a black candidate. In fact Obama is half-white but it wouldn’t be cool to say that;these ‘anti-racists’ are certainly not colour blind.

    3)We are nowhere near achieving Martin Luther King’s dream of the content of the character being more important than the colour of the skin.

  • Paul Marks

    What is the point of reading this man’s words?

    He tries to smear Romney – “on paper” he is good family man (and so on), yet produces no specific claims (other than Mr Romney supposedly wears his, DEAD, mother’s jeans and has “tiny feet”?).

    As for Comrade Barack Obama.

    I agree that he has “one hell of a life narrative” – a lifetime of Marxist political activity is certainly odd in a President of the United States. Communist activity from the time his mother gave him three hour per day indoctrination sessions before he was even old enough to go to school. Then there was the trainging from Frank Marshall Davis (as much time as they could spare from the drugs), then the Communist activity at Occidental and Columbia (Marxist conference after Marxist conference) then DECADES of work with the Comrades in Chicago.

    But perhaps the writer does not mean Mr Obama’s political work – perhaps he means his private school in Hawaii, or the strings that were pulled to get this lazy person into Occidental, Columbia and Harvard (his grades indicated he should have been cleaning toilets somewhere – indeed that is an insult to cleaners, many of whom are not drug abusing scum like Barack Obama).

    Or the strings that were pulled to give Barack Obama his jobs in Chicago – where he sat with his feet on the desk trying to write “Dreams From My Father” – before giving up and getting the terrorist Comrade Bill Ayers to finish off for him.

    As for his “solid record”.

    Comrade Barack Obama has run a deficit of one TRILLION Dollars per year every year of his Administration.

    Contrary to the subhuman vermin of the “Financial Times” newspaper (Wolfman and so on) it is Obama who has “doubled down” on the “pre crises policies”.

    Bush was a wild government spender – and Obama is even more of a wild government spending.

  • Paul Marks

    What is the point of reading this man’s words?

    He tries to smear Romney – “on paper” he is good family man (and so on), yet produces no specific claims (other than Mr Romney supposedly wears his, DEAD, mother’s jeans and has “tiny feet”?).

    As for Comrade Barack Obama.

    I agree that he has “one hell of a life narrative” – a lifetime of Marxist political activity is certainly odd in a President of the United States. Communist activity from the time his mother gave him three hour per day indoctrination sessions before he was even old enough to go to school. Then there was the trainging from Frank Marshall Davis (as much time as they could spare from the drugs), then the Communist activity at Occidental and Columbia (Marxist conference after Marxist conference) then DECADES of work with the Comrades in Chicago.

    But perhaps the writer does not mean Mr Obama’s political work – perhaps he means his private school in Hawaii, or the strings that were pulled to get this lazy person into Occidental, Columbia and Harvard (his grades indicated he should have been cleaning toilets somewhere – indeed that is an insult to cleaners, many of whom are not drug abusing scum like Barack Obama).

    Or the strings that were pulled to give Barack Obama his jobs in Chicago – where he sat with his feet on the desk trying to write “Dreams From My Father” – before giving up and getting the terrorist Comrade Bill Ayers to finish off for him.

    As for his “solid record”.

    Comrade Barack Obama has run a deficit of one TRILLION Dollars per year every year of his Administration.

    Contrary to the subhuman vermin of the “Financial Times” newspaper (Wolfman and so on) it is Obama who has “doubled down” on the “pre crises policies”.

    Bush was a wild government spender – and Obama is even more of a wild government spender.

  • RRS

    Paul –

    I would guess that your remarks about Bush 2 really infer that he did not impede (even encourgaed) spending. But, there is a tendency to charge each executive administration with the sins of Congress.

    It is the Congress and only the Congress that spends; and has even sued (successfully) the President to prevent sequestration (holding up outlays).

    That is the “price” of dispersed responsibility in our U S non-parliamentary system.

    The critical differentiation has been in the use of executive authority; the agencies, czars, regulators, non-enforcements, selective prosecutions, etc., etc.

    Much as people natter on about “unsustainable”, it will not be the spending that rips our fabric, but the devolution of legislative power to administrative authority (see, proposed REINS Act). Congress no longer legislates; it proposes “objectives” and leaves the rest to executive action.

  • JohnB

    You left out Benghazi-gate, possibly the most serious.

  • Jacob

    The Obama hatred here reaches almost BDD dimensions.
    Obama is, really, just an empty chair. Clint Eastwood got it right. He is not worse than many other US presidents.

    He isn’t responsible for the deficit, for the recession that started under Bush, for Berannke’s money printing, for the deficit that he cannot reduce (not that he tried too hard), for Dodd-Frank.
    Actually, presidents can’t do very much about the economy (except talk).

    The one thing he did right, Libya, is also mentioned as a failure. Why? It was a very good thing to get rid of a murderous and crazy tyrant. It wasn’t Obama’s idea, it was Bernard Henry-Levi’s, sold to Obama via Sarkozy and Hillary Clinton, but he bought it and it was a good move.

    I will be very pleased if Obama looses the election, but he isn’t worse than any other Democrat president. Carter? Clinton? Johnson? (Johnson was a catastrophe, maybe the biggest so far).

    About his being a Marxist – he sure is, a Marxist light, but mainly talking.

  • Laird

    To some extent I agree with you, Jacob: Obama has been described (somewhat accurately) as Bush III. (Indeed, what else could one have expected of a president entering office with absolutely no experience in anything relevant?) Yes, the current recession started under Bush (and has its roots much deeper than that), but he is responsible for the fact that it has continued for so long and shows so few signs of easing. He is responsible for Dodd-Frank (he pushed for it, and could have vetoed it); he is responsible for all the new regulations being churned out at an unbelievable pace by the toadies he appointed to cabinet positions and regulatory agencies; and he most certainly is responsible for Obamacare, his “signature” accomplishment in which he was so uninvolved that he outsourced its drafting in toto to the Democrats in Congress. All of these are directly responsible for the slow pace of the “recovery” (if there even is a recovery, which is highly debatable) and the persistent high rate of unemployment. A president with even a modicum of interest in the wellbeing of the nation would have made economic recovery his top priority; this president did nothing of the sort.

    And he certainly has made no effort to slow the rate of government growth or to cut back its spending, so he does bear much of the responsibility for Bernanke’s money printing. He could have reined in Congress in its wild spending orgy but chose not only not to do so, but in fact to actively encourage it. (In fact, Bernanke himself bears little culpability for all the money printing; what else could he do, given the lack of other sources of cash to fund the government? China has stopped buying our bonds, so printing money is the only available option since Bernanke has exactly zero effect on spending.)

    Libya I put down as a neutral. I don’t think we had any business getting militarily involved there at all, but the fact that he avoided sending in troops is a plus. But the rest of his foreign policy has been an unappealing hash of the continuation of Bush’s policies and general incompetence when dealing with the Muslim world.

    He may not be the worst president in US history (that’s a pretty subjective judgment; I think I’d put Woodrow Wilson at the top of that list, but others might disagree), but he’s been a pretty awful one. At this point I think he’s been worse than Jimmy Carter, and that’s saying something. It’s pretty sad to find oneself reminiscing wistfully about Clinton!

  • Paul Marks

    RRS – as Senator Jim Demint points out in his “In Defence of Freedom”, Bush pushed the spending (and pushed it hard – No Child Left Behind, Medicare Part D….)

    People were told they should not oppose a Republican President – it would be disloyal.

    Congress was no good.

    But, however good a Governor of Texas he may have been, George Walker Bush was not a good President of the United States.

  • Jacob

    We have to thank GWB for two things: 1. for saving us from an Al Gore presidency, 2. for saving us from a Kerry presidency.

    About Obama, I agree with Laird, except one point – Obama was very little involved in passing Obamacare, it was all the work of the Democratic congress. Obama, of course, supported everything they did, and even encouraged it enthusiastically – that’s par for the course, for a Democrat president. The Democrats have been trying to pass a healthcare law since forever.
    Maybe Obama’s biggest harm was done when he helped to get a Democratic majority into congress, in 2008.

  • RRS

    Medicare – Part D:

    Not in defense of GWB, but-

    The benefit so often labeled as “unpaid for,” actually pays for itself.

    Each one dollar in pharmaceutical expenditure has resulted in $1.37 reduction in costs that would otherwise have been incurred.

    A medication regimen such as pills with telephone or N.P. follow ups and monitoring offsetting periodic hospitalizations or other extended M D interventions.

    This is particularly true with chronic conditions.

    Studies of the protocols, with stats, have been published.

    They are just ignored for political purposes.

    Probably because of the way the Bill was ram-rodded through.

  • Laird

    RRS, I have no reason to dispute the facts you presented, but I think you’re overlooking an important point: Even granting that aggregate costs of medicines were reduced as a consequence of Medicare Part D, the burden of those costs has been shifted substantially. Some individuals benefitted; others were harned. You’re accepting a collectivist (or, at best, communitarian) rationale to justify this policy, which I reject.