Patterico's Pontifications

5/16/2009

Obama: Gives Them A Sense They’ve Been Heard

Filed under: Obama — DRJ @ 8:26 pm



[Guest post by DRJ]

There’s an interesting Newsweek Q&A of Barack Obama in which he continues to try to marginalize the GOP by painting it as impractical and its leaders as extreme, a theme he and his political advisers clearly like because they hit it every time they can.

However, I was struck by Obama’s description of how he approaches policy issues with people who don’t agree with him. Specifically, I was intrigued with this answer to whether there has been “… a moment when you’ve said something or mused out loud in a way that a senator or even a candidate could have done, but a president can’t do:”

“You know, precisely because I realized it pretty quickly, I think that I’ve been fairly careful about how you use the microphone. I’m sure I have made remarks that, in retrospect, I would have polished up a little bit more, and I’m sure that there’s more to come on the gaffe front.

But one of the things I’ve actually been encouraged by—and I learned during the campaign—was the American people, I think, not only have a toleration but also a hunger for explanation and complexity, and a willingness to acknowledge hard problems. I think one of the biggest mistakes that is made in Washington is this notion you have to dumb things down for the public. I’ve always been struck by the fact that, if you can get me in a room with a group of people, even who disagree with me violently on an issue, they’ll still take the time to listen. They might not, at the end of it, agree with me, but having seen how I’m thinking about a problem, having a sense of how I’m making decisions, that I understand their point of view, that I can actually make their argument for them, and that that’s part of the decision-making process, it gives them a sense, at least, that they’ve been heard, and I think clarifies—well, it pushes us away from the dogmas and caricatures that I think get in the way of good policymaking and a more civil tone in our politics.”

I doubt the Chrysler bondholders, GM’s former President, the AIG bonus recipients, and the health care leaders who met with Obama last week feel like he heard their concerns. Instead, I suspect they felt more like the Republican leaders who, in one of their first meetings with a newly inaugurated Obama, were matter-of-factly told “I won.”

— DRJ

55 Responses to “Obama: Gives Them A Sense They’ve Been Heard”

  1. I wonder if there are any criticisms of extremists on the Left- like those representatives who went to Cuba and came back singing praises of Fidel Castro.

    Michael Ejercito (7c44bf)

  2. Your highlighted text shows that the Emperor really has no clothes. He doesn’t get it, at all, does he?

    Gazzer (206e15)

  3. If it only gives them a sense that they have been listened to, does that not imply that they have not actually been listened to?

    JD (4249e2)

  4. He lost me at his “I won”.

    It’s always a bit jarring to see his massive ego on display. I suppose one could argue it’s confidence rather than ego, but tomato, tomatah

    Dana (4a6e8c)

  5. There are no delusions so powerful as those we create for ourselves. I have a left wing daughter who went to Cuba a few years ago. When she first got there, she was thrilled to see that socialism seemed to work. Unfortunately for her preconceptions, she is fluent in Spanish and quickly realized that all was not as it seemed. By the time she left, she knew it was a prison. It didn’t make her less of a leftist, but at least she is more realistic and that may be all it takes.

    Mike K (2cf494)

  6. Dana, there are massive egos, like those of MacArthur or Patton, that are based on accomplishment. Then there was FDR who, as Asst Secretary of the Navy in WWI, was an egotistical young man who had been “born on third base” as was said of Bush. He was the Democrat VP candidate in 1920 but I cannot see such a man being elected president. In 1932, he had been hardened by the polio plus his career as governor of NY.

    In the media culture of today, Obama can be elected with no more accomplishments than FDR in 1918, yet he considers himself to be his equal. Some of it is the race thing. Some is simply the self esteem he must have been coached in by his grandmother. The rest seems to have arisen from thin air.

    Mike K (2cf494)

  7. It hasn’t risen from thin air, Mike. It’s risen through the masses. Without followers, he would be just another pedestrian president. Instead he is a cult figure with believers that swoon and hang onto his every word. Infatuation eventually moves toward something more realistic but until common sense makes a comeback, we’re stuck. Or until he really steps in it and his handlers are unable to successfully deflect, obfuscate or bail him out.

    Dana (4a6e8c)

  8. It seems to me that our President reads his own PR. That is something no leader dares do.

    Currently, he is given a free pass by the MSM (can you imagine how the press would have dealt with GWB saying such things in a Newsweek interview?). But this is a much bigger and complex world than he expected.

    I have said it before, and I will say it again: I hope the man is a quick learner.

    This is Jimmy Carter, all over again, with a more compliant press.

    Eric Blair (262ccd)

  9. If it only gives them a sense that they have been listened to, does that not imply that they have not actually been listened to?

    It’s also interesting that he never describes his critics’ positions in complex ways once he’s back out in public. They become cartoons who say some strawmannish thing.

    I love it that him listening to their position with no apparent plan to let it influence him somehow pushes back against dogma. It’s still dogma even though it’s yours, Obama.

    MayBee (c50b9d)

  10. Hello, MayBee !

    Apparently the definition of bipartisanship and being a unifier is to act like you listen to the other side, give them the sense that you are listening.

    JD (4249e2)

  11. “If you mouth back to someone, ‘I think this is what you are saying is your viewpoint,’ and then f*** them over by doing the exact policy opposite, they LIKE it because, golly, THEY’VE BEEN HEARD!”

    Mitch (57b83d)

  12. Ear Leader is a mendoucheous twatwaffle….

    what a scumbag.

    redc1c4 (9c4f4a)

  13. Between Michelle’s arms and Barry’s ridiculously high IQ lies the chosen narrative of the MSM. He’s not listening to anyone, he nods at the right point and then asks the speaker to bend over.

    It was funny to note Iman, David Bowie’s model wife, saying that Michelle isn’t beautiful. Iman said she’s “interesting to look at”. How hilarious that it takes a model married to a rock star to tell the MSM they’ve got it wrong. Michelle isn’t Quasimodo, but a great beauty she is not.

    Also, the Ear Leader’s abs and pecs aren’t all that either. But it all goes with the narrative.

    Vivian Louise (c0f830)

  14. This is the problem. Obama cleverly restates the oppositions view and projects sympathy for their position while holding firm to his own position.

    Dennis D (ae900a)

  15. 13 where do you get the ridiculously high IQ idea? I keep seeing ads that it is 130. Big whoop. That’s why the affirmative action magic negro never published squat at Harvard Law Review and his grades throughout his education are off limits?

    I thought Michelle got those “finely chiseled” arms from lifting her fat ass into chairs. It is un-pc to think she’s not gorgeous. I remember when Richard Williams was spewing venom about white tennis players being butt ugly. And I here I kept my own mouth shut about his “beautiful” Venus and Serena. Did Tiger Woods ever even date a black woman? Ok, enough of being a quidnunc. Black is beautiful, Islam is peaceful and bears don’t defecate in the woods.

    Yes, GOP needs to compromise some more with Obama by moving over to his positions. Specter and his Scottish law got it right.

    aoibhneas (c76819)

  16. This has been coming for almost a decade.

    For the last three elections there was nearly an even balance between conservatism and socialism.

    This time the balance has clearly decided on socialism.

    Now let them suffer the consequences of their own greed and shortsightedness.

    Have fun, suckers.

    Tailgunner (1b5037)

  17. This really seems like flailing on the part of DRJ and the commenters here. It would be simpler just to write “Obama sux!!!” I guess that’s what we have with comment #12. Primal-scream therapy.

    panorama (0f4c98)

  18. Funny, rather than the sense they’ve heard, I’ll bet more and more folks will get the sense they’ve been had

    Mandrews (43d0c7)

  19. Gee, BananaRama, you had to point to a grand total of…ONE comment that allegedly makes your wide – sweeping generalization. Try reading a few prior posts before commenting, you’ll appear much less foolish.

    As for Teh One, why are we surprised at the MSM’s refusal to ask him anything even remotely uncomfortable? When he claimed how bipartisan he was during the campaign, no one bothered to ask for actual examples, and then completely ignored the fact that he threw McCain under the bus regarding his prior pledge on campaign spending limits. All part of a wider pattern of never practicing what he preaches.

    Dmac (1ddf7e)

  20. I read this stuff and the words “Arrogant A#$%ole” were on my lips. Then I read the comment about The Anointed One being a mendoucheous twatwaffle and realized I had it all wrong.

    Mike Myers (674050)

  21. Try reading a few prior posts before commenting, you’ll appear much less foolish.

    It’s probably one of those banned trolls that just can’t live without Patterico.

    Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R. (0ea407)

  22. When Pres. Obama says things like “…it gives them a sense, at least, that they’ve been heard…” it should bring to mind what Charles de Gaulle said to the pieds noirs of Algeria during that war: “Je vous ai compris.”

    “I have understood you” didn’t mean what de Gaulle’s audience thought and wished that it meant.

    (Steve Sailer made this point back in 2007.)

    AMac (f46adf)

  23. Gotta love how the Obots seem quite oblivious to what they hold to be true about Ear Leader and what they should actually KNOW to be true, based om The One’s own actions. The irony of the cognitive dissonance blatanetly ignored by the likes of backwards mario, the condom and bananaramadingdong is laughable. What I see here in BJ’s for O Palm Beach county must be mass hypnosis as the O replicants march merrily along. Even the Joooos think Israel needs to treat the poor Palis better and understand the aggrieved Iranian Ayatollahs.

    aoibhneas (c76819)

  24. Sorta Blogless Sunday Pinup…

    Happy Sunday! Another fantastic day in America. This pinup is by Harry Ekman, with a wee bit of help from Chip and Dale.
    What is happening in ye olde blogosphere?

    Fausta asks why Queen Nancy lies
    Jules Crittenden is getting all Cheney
    The Sundries Sh…

    Pirate's Cove (6f92d7)

  25. Like you guys really have a pot to piss in on this issue. It wasn’t like there was a premium on understanding/hearing/acknowledging the existence of the policies of the opposition in the previous administration, making this more of the same old bullshit that politicians always pull… yet this is somehow different, because something. Socialism.

    At least I’m willing to admit that Obama and Bush are basically the same president (for all intensive purposes), and disrespect them both accordingly.

    One other thing, DRJ: I seem to remember a certain discussion between you and a commenter named Levi, wherein the importance of demonstrating an understanding of the other side’s argument by “actually making their argument for them” was paramount, to the point of being delineated in a set of rules. Has that mentality been so suddenly devalued?

    Leviticus (44cc37)

  26. And to be perfectly clear: I have no affection for Obama. Of course this is political BS. But it’s the same sort of political BS that we’re always being subjected to. What we should be talking about is how to stop the behavior, not complaining about certain instances of it in a highly selective manner.

    Leviticus (44cc37)

  27. Political hagiography is nothing new–and it is bipartisan, though more prevalent among Democrats than Republicans.

    John F. Kennedy was an average President–yet Kennedy veneration put the mildly qualified Robert and the otherwise unqualifed Ted into the Senate.

    For Republicans, Ronald Reagan has been canonized. I think he was a very successful President, but I do not look back on his Adminstration as some kind of template that can never be changed–and like Kennedy, had a major airport named after him for no apparent reason (though I like the irony given the PATCO strike).

    Obama is the new Kennedy for Democrats, and his acolytes are swaying with the same veneration previously reserved for JFK.

    Am I offended by the media’s reluctance to challenge him? Yes. Do I think he is proving himself to be a serial hypocrite on a variety of issues? Yes. Is he change I Believe in? Definitely not.

    Dave N (b8d5e9)

  28. I liked how Orzsag said on CNN, with a straight face, that national healthcare will be deficit neutral to begin with, and will reduce the deficit going forward.

    JD (a51115)

  29. Leviticus,

    I think you make a good point, especially that we shouldn’t complain “about certain instances of it in a highly selective manner.” I try to judge people by their words and deeds but I’m having a hard time getting a handle on who Obama really is. He has a liberal record but his actions are notoriously inconsistent, and his speeches are famous for being all things to all people. Thus, it’s helpful to highlight statements like this that I think are revealing.

    DRJ (f55947)

  30. In other words, Leviticus, it’s interesting to me that Obama acknowledges people “still take the time to listen” to him while he “gives them a sense, at least, that they’ve been heard.” That’s a disconnect for me. Why not say we listen to each other? Words matter to this President so I notice what he says, and these words tell me he cares more about making people think he hears them than about really listening.

    DRJ (f55947)

  31. “I’m having a hard time getting a handle on who Obama really is. He has a liberal record but his actions are notoriously inconsistent, and his speeches are famous for being all things to all people.”

    – DRJ

    Making him a politician in a broken two-party system. That’s not really an unknown quantity, even it’s frustrating (and it is – no argument there).

    Leviticus (358cc7)

  32. Leviticus,

    The political system isn’t as broken as you and some people think. We know where politicians stand on many issues. The real question is why are you willing to cite a broken system as a reason to protect Obama?

    DRJ (f55947)

  33. the American people, I think, not only have a toleration but also a hunger for explanation and complexity, and a willingness to acknowledge hard problems.

    I wonder what his reaction will be if a majority (certainly a large one) of the electorate of California votes against a variety of ballot propositions this Tuesday?

    While the antipathy to those measures is generally non-partisan, or coming from both the left and right, I’d say that a larger number of Democrats and some squishy Republicans favor the idea of at least most of the propositions being approved rather than not.

    Since almost all the ballot measures (except one–which polling indicates is the only part of the ballot that will receive a big amount of support) allow a lot of business-as-usual spending and tax increases to remain intact, my suspicion is that the guy now in the White House probably will be smiling and claiming the voters of the “Golden State” have exhibited “a hunger for explanation and complexity, and a willingness to acknowledge hard problems” if they mark their ballots with “YES!!”

    If they don’t, I can easily envision our current president muttering under his breath: “Those damn selfish, mindless people of California! When push comes to shove, they don’t display enough desire for complexity, a willingness to accept hard problems!

    They’re too lazy and cheap to tax themselves higher and higher!! They’re cruel to government employees — and their unions — who now will have to be laid off!”

    Mark (411533)

  34. when you’re in an argument with another person and they persist in saying, ‘i hear ya, i hear ya’ the one thing you know is that they haven’t heard you. they are trying to shut you up. that’s what obama is doing.

    he keeps doing this with everybody – even those crackpots already in his pocket. ‘i hear ya i hear ya’. they’re gonna start blowing him off and seeing him for what he really is – a fake.

    when that happens and it eill, i for one will laugh.

    ktr (9277d5)

  35. John F. Kennedy was an average President–yet Kennedy veneration put the mildly qualified Robert and the otherwise unqualifed Ted into the Senate.

    I tend to think the martyrdom of Kennedy’s assassination propelled the rest of his family to continue their ascent into politics – but that’s the interesting thing about history; the what – ifs are always compelling to speculate on.

    Dmac (1ddf7e)

  36. So Obama lets the other side vent while he doesn’t move an inch to accomodate the views of the other side. The other side must understand where Obama’s coming from and that his word is law, and once they accept that, they can go on with their lives happier for knowing that the One met with them, rejected their ideas and kicked them to the curb. And also look at the Obama’s sentence construction, the people who violently disagree with ME. Could it be a case that Obama disagrees with the others? No.
    They disagree with the wise jedi Obama, and once he hears their arguments, he repeats the arguments before he rejects them, because the opposition points are not part of liberal dogma.

    eaglewingz08 (e40a12)

  37. 34 politically incorrect to say it but at least
    America was spared more of the Kennedy dynasty due to “unfortunate” hand of fate. Is there any doubt Fat Teddy would have been dem potus standard bearer otherwise? Or the incandescently “talented” John john? Not so nice that cynical people nixed dear Princess Caroline for US Senate.
    No comment from Mary Jo Kopechne as usual, nor JFK junior’s wife and sister-in-law.
    And this current whole line of Presidential succession is another horror show.

    aoibhneas (c76819)

  38. And also look at the Obama’s sentence construction, the people who violently disagree with ME.

    That’s nothing—notice the part of his comment in boldface below.

    They might not, at the end of it, agree with me, but having seen how I’m thinking about a problem, having a sense of how I’m making decisions, that I understand their point of view, that I can actually make their argument for them

    Oh, so, you — our dear and noble leader — are so wise and wonderful that you (you! YOU!) can make the argument, can create the argument, for the people who disagree with you!

    Talk about chutzpah and bloated ego.

    Speaking of which, those are the two traits that apparently persuaded JFK’s daughter to toss out her reputation, built up through the years, as a rather low-key and generally honorable (or appropriately humble) person. Because she didn’t follow her mother’s track record — of refusing to do interviews and insert herself in the middle of other publicity-driven routines — she ended up with egg all over her face.

    Mark (411533)

  39. “The political system isn’t as broken as you and some people think. We know where politicians stand on many issues. The real question is why are you willing to cite a broken system as a reason to protect Obama?”

    – DRJ

    We may know where they stand, but we aren’t the ones deciding where they stand, and that’s the problem. I’m not trying to protect Obama – I harbor no illusions about the man, and couldn’t care less if he was a one term president (because I think he is symptom of a broken system, and I want that system to change)… but what am I gonna do in this system? Vote Republican?

    Leviticus (f0b73a)

  40. Leviticus,

    I really hate to play the “I’m older than you are” card … but I am and, believe me, what you’ve expressed isn’t a new feeling. My first Presidential vote was for Richard Nixon and while I’d still vote for Nixon over McGovern, it’s not the favorite moment in my voting history.

    The answer to your concerns isn’t a new system, it’s in getting new and better people involved in the system. We do that by finding and supporting good people at the local level who can work their way up the political leadership ladder. We also do that my listening to what candidates say, supporting with our time and money the ones who say what we believe in, and by reminding them of their promises and watching to make sure they keep them.

    It’s not rocket science but it does take time, energy and dedication, something many of us aren’t willing to sacrifice in our daily lives. We have bountiful, permissive, and leisure-full lives in America so it’s not surprising that we might take for granted what makes our system work. As a result, we can end up with leaders and decisions we regret.

    DRJ (f55947)

  41. I just found and approved a comment from Leviticus (5/17/09 @ 9:14 am) in the filter so readers may want to scroll back and read the whole thing. From the comment:

    One other thing, DRJ: I seem to remember a certain discussion between you and a commenter named Levi, wherein the importance of demonstrating an understanding of the other side’s argument by “actually making their argument for them” was paramount, to the point of being delineated in a set of rules. Has that mentality been so suddenly devalued?

    I agree that the point of listening is to understand the other person’s argument, and I applaud Obama’s ability to grasp other viewpoints. However, the jury is still out on whether Obama has an open mind and is willing to fairly consider other positions, or if his goal is to demonstrate empathy while ignoring content. The statement I quoted above suggests the latter instead of the former.

    DRJ (f55947)

  42. I believe the primary reason why we’re getting such crummy politicos on both sides is that the good ones would never subject themselves to the political process as it now stands. You basically have to fundraise 24/7, even during the year after you’ve won election, but before that happens you subject yourself and your family to unrelenting scutiny regarding your personal lives, and often must deal with the worst kind of smears and fraudulent claims, many of which you cannot defend against because the news cycle is so speeded up. I’m thinking specifically of Governor Palin in this instance, but there are so many others of note.

    Dmac (1ddf7e)

  43. Dmac,

    I agree but one benefit of the economic downturn is that it will motivate people to move into other occupations, including politics. I know I’ve worked at jobs that weren’t my favorites when I needed the paycheck.

    DRJ (f55947)

  44. Dmac, I agree to some extent, but Obama was one of the least scrutinized candidates we’ve had in the past few decades.

    MayBee (c50b9d)

  45. Yeah, I’ve expressed a somewhat oxymoron in cases like his and many other prominent Dems (hello, John Edwards), but I think the overall point is still valid – particularly for Republicans, of course.

    DRJ, I hope your assumption is correct, but after viewing what Palin went through you have to wonder who’s willing to step up to the plate in order to become the next rising star of the GOP to be slimed and misrepresented repeatedly by the MSM. Bobby Jindal was next after Palin to be thrown into their shredder, and all he did was give one national speech.

    Dmac (1ddf7e)

  46. DRJ, Dmac, Leviticus, MayBee – I agree that there seems to be an uneven level of scrutiny towards candidates, and would argue that it’s not simply a Republican issue. That Palin ran on a platform of anti-corruption seems to me to be the far greater threat to the status-quo, thus necessitating the larger hailstorm of real and imagined ‘scrutiny’.

    There can be no argument that Palin was vilified in a way that made the anti-Bush operation pale by comparison, and the reason for this was that she had one thing that the other candidates did not. Although a politician, she was a true ‘outsider’, coming from Alaska, with a record of warring against her own party.

    We aren’t getting the ‘good’ politicians because, as was painfully obvious in the past election, Obama had a better political machine than the Clintons. (And less baggage) – And you need a machine to keep the attacks away.

    I agree with Leviticus – the two party system is broken, because the fix is in no matter which direction one votes. Can anyone name a serious candidate (>25%) of late that didn’t have the backing of some sort of political machine? Bush (I & II), Clinton, Gore, Obama, McCain all have been in the system for decades (many times familial), or in the case of Obama, from a powerful political operation that took advantage of much bad blood linked to the Clinton machine.

    Obama was sold as the outsider, the one who would clean up the mess and vanquish the artificial and corrupt pork-a-thon. Lots of emphasis on his birth certificate and Muslim background, and very little on Chicago politics. It should be obvious to the rubes who voted for him by now that he was always ‘more of the same’.

    Without a viable third party, that’s all we’re going to get.

    Apogee (e2dc9b)

  47. Repeating your own position back to you is Obama’s trick. It doesn’t mean he’s changed his thinking, or that he acknowledges the validity of your position in any way. It’s just how he tricks you into being polite.

    luagha (c03f69)

  48. I want my political candidates to claw their way through the mud. Some of them may end up dirty but, just as it is for those of us in the business world, they will be tougher and wiser from the experience.

    DRJ (f55947)

  49. laugha,

    Sadly, I fear you are correct.

    DRJ (f55947)

  50. DRJ – I want my political candidates to claw their way through the mud.

    Agreed – I want my political candidates to be able to claw their way through the mud.

    I would argue that what we have now is a group of ‘the chosen’ arriving via private jet and limousine, walking to hair and make-up, getting wired and then sitting under flattering soft lights and receiving softballs.

    A little clawing is exactly what I’m asking for, but, like the television news studio, only the ‘pre-approved’ get air time.

    Apogee (e2dc9b)

  51. Well, since Barcky has lived a life of privilege, I suspect that DRJ is not his #1 fan 😉

    JD (8d3f8f)

  52. Bradley – That link and the comments are great.

    daleyrocks (5d22c0)

  53. “It should be obvious to the rubes who voted for [Obama] by now that he was always ‘more of the same’.

    Without a viable third party, that’s all we’re going to get.”

    – Apogee

    Yep (although some of us voted for him with full knowledge that he was more of the same, simply thinking him to be less horrible than the other guy).

    I absolutely agree that without a viable third (fourth, fifth) party, “more of the same” is all we’re ever going to get. That’s why I think it’s crucial to begin discussing structural reforms that facilitate the formation of new parties in this country.

    Leviticus (c55c49)

  54. Leviticus – When I was in Prague in ’92, they were in the middle of an election. There were 39 Federal political parties and 21 Czech republic parties – including ‘friends of beer’ and ‘friends of sex’, implying that a vote for each would guarantee a large supply of either available to all.

    I would say that when there are too many (and that number is debatable) parties, then divisive rifts are created in which political minority groups are not pressured into modifying some beliefs in order to become effective. What you can get in these situations are clubs that feed off of single issues for profit, and not actual parties.

    I think there should be equal concern for a free-for-all that doesn’t actually respond politically as there should be to the current fixed game that this country has now.

    Apogee (e2dc9b)


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