Patterico's Pontifications

4/7/2012

President Barack Rumson

Filed under: 2012 Election — Karl @ 9:45 am

[Posted by Karl]

Jay Cost has a piece up essentially agreeing with my take on Pres. Obama’s “grim warrior” campaign, but with extra twists worth exploring:

If Obama is reelected with such terrible feelings about the national condition, it will be unprecedented in the history of public opinion polling. Obviously, that would be no little feat, so what this president is doing is a classic case of misdirection.

The country needs a bad guy to blame for its problems, so day in and day out Obama is providing them with a smorgasbord of villains from which to choose: Wall Street, Big Oil, the Tea Party, Paul Ryan, Rush Limbaugh, the Supreme Court, the Catholic Church, and so on. In fact, virtually everything that comes out of this president’s mouth is about redirecting blame onto some straw man.

I am reminded of Pres. Andrew Shepherd’s rant about his opponent at the end of The American President:

I’ve known Bob Rumson for years, and I’ve been operating under the assumption that the reason Bob devotes so much time and energy to shouting at the rain was that he simply didn’t get it. Well, I was wrong. Bob’s problem isn’t that he doesn’t get it. Bob’s problem is that he can’t sell it! We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you, Bob Rumson is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things and two things only: making you afraid of it and telling you who’s to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections.

This is what screenwriter Aaron Sorkin thought (and likely thinks) conservatives do, but it is what the real president now does, chiefly picking various conservatives as his preferred objects of fear.  Indeed, while liberals like Sorkin are fond of painting conservatives as unduly preying on nostalgia for a better time (the Golden Age fallacy), progressives like Obama reflexively defend what Walter Russell Mead calls the Blue Social Model — a 20th century approach to (and cause of) 21st century problems.

There is also the question of whether this is “how you win elections.”  Historically, the answer is “no.”  Jay casts his eye back to Truman’s 1948 campaign.  In the past, Brendan Nyhan has suggested that the economic growth in Q2 of 1948 (and I would say Q4 of 1947 through Q2 of 1948) had more to do with Truman’s reelection than the conventional wisdom of that campaign suggests.  Jay Cost (relying on Michael Barone) argues the slowdown in Q3 of 1948 was key.  Based on the current economic forecasts, Pres. Obama seemingly has a lot riding on this rather academic argument.

–Karl

40 Comments

  1. Ding.

    Comment by Karl (6f7ecd) — 4/7/2012 @ 9:45 am

  2. barack 0bama
    positions government as
    center of our lives

    Comment by Colonel Haiku (94eafc) — 4/7/2012 @ 9:49 am

  3. Oh Moses… Moses
    you… you… you stubborn, splendid
    adorable fool!

    Comment by Colonel Haiku (94eafc) — 4/7/2012 @ 9:52 am

  4. Col.,

    Are you following me on Twitter? I just commented on exactly that.

    Comment by Karl (6f7ecd) — 4/7/2012 @ 10:01 am

  5. nope, only place I look at twitter is at Nat’l Review.

    Comment by Colonel Haiku (94eafc) — 4/7/2012 @ 10:04 am

  6. Col.,

    Here.

    Comment by Karl (6f7ecd) — 4/7/2012 @ 10:05 am

  7. The “Obama wants government positioned at center of our lives” is from Romney.

    Comment by Colonel Haiku (94eafc) — 4/7/2012 @ 10:06 am

  8. lol… edward G. is da Man!

    Comment by Colonel Haiku (94eafc) — 4/7/2012 @ 10:07 am

  9. In fact, virtually everything that comes out of this president’s mouth is about redirecting blame onto some straw man.

    Set up a straw man and then attack was always the one’s fundamental plan, at least during the time period that I was paying attention to what he said. I suppose one could make a point by turning it into a game, what will the straw man be this time, and how many seconds will it take him to get to it.

    Comment by MD in Philly (3d3f72) — 4/7/2012 @ 10:17 am

  10. Excellent post, Karl.

    Comment by DRJ (a83b8b) — 4/7/2012 @ 10:38 am

  11. Gotta love President Uniter playing the Mediscare Card, named Politifact’s “Lie of the Year”, at the same time he has never responded to the reports of the Boards of Trustees of Medicare indicating pending insolvency, which:

    As required by law, the President must submit to Congress proposed legislation to respond to the warning within 15 days after the date of the Budget submission for the succeeding year.

    Not a partisan point, a legal requirement with no enforcement mechanism, that needs to get thrown in the media’s face constantly in the face of Mediscare tactics.

    Comment by daleyrocks (bf33e9) — 4/7/2012 @ 10:42 am

  12. Cost forgot Fukushima, Arab Spring, tonsil grabbers, toe wranglers, banks that wouldn’t extend credit, people that get paid too much (not necessarily the 1%), companies that move jobs offshore, companies that keep profits offshore, structural racism, typical white people, bitter clingers, people who want to poison our air and water, and I’m sure more that will come to me over the course of the day.

    Comment by daleyrocks (bf33e9) — 4/7/2012 @ 10:55 am

  13. Pigs wearing lipstick

    Comment by daleyrocks (bf33e9) — 4/7/2012 @ 10:55 am

  14. I’ve long wondered why people think that you can reinvigorate a market economy by smothering in an extra layer of lawyers and bureaucrats.

    Surely, if this plan fails it’s those evil people over there to blame.

    Comment by Kevin M (bf8ad7) — 4/7/2012 @ 11:12 am

  15. …and don’t call me Shirley.

    Comment by Kevin M (bf8ad7) — 4/7/2012 @ 11:14 am

  16. I don’t see how you could disagree that demonizing one’s opponent plays a part (and in my view, a huge part) in ‘how you win elections’. Every election features a combination of ‘I’m great’ and ‘the other guy is terrible, out of touch, inept, etc.’. I can’t think of a single candidate – winning or losing – who ran solely on a positive track without trashing his opponent to at least some degree.

    Comment by steve (254463) — 4/7/2012 @ 11:25 am

  17. Leave it to steve to mischaracterize or misunderstand Karl’s actual position. Hint, nobody disagrees that some demoniziation of the opponent goes on. But savaging that straw man argument must have made you feel good, got to get one of your both sides do it diatribes off your chest. Brava.

    Comment by JD (cffda0) — 4/7/2012 @ 11:33 am

  18. Straw man fever: Catch it!

    Comment by Karl (6f7ecd) — 4/7/2012 @ 11:36 am

  19. I don’t think the market has priced in next year’s boisterous Obama tax increases yet

    he’s like an economic Harry Potter, that one

    Comment by happyfeet (3c92a1) — 4/7/2012 @ 11:38 am

  20. “I don’t see how you could disagree that demonizing one’s opponent plays a part”

    steve – Use Venn diagrams. Who is left after all of President O’Blameless’s demonizing?

    Comment by daleyrocks (bf33e9) — 4/7/2012 @ 11:50 am

  21. “Straw man fever: Catch it!”

    Okey doke:

    We can have clean air and water and avoid poisoning our children in the future or we can follow the Republican vision and have tax cuts for millionaires!

    This sh*t is easy!

    Comment by daleyrocks (bf33e9) — 4/7/2012 @ 11:56 am

  22. An all too charitable view of what Obama think, remember ‘bitter clingers’ he wants to crush that
    average American, and then make him dependent on
    the gruel, he offers, Remember the world cannot afford America, to run their thermostats at 78 degrees.

    Comment by narciso (132802) — 4/7/2012 @ 12:10 pm

  23. JD – Peeps in the microwave tomorrow!

    Comment by daleyrocks (bf33e9) — 4/7/2012 @ 12:32 pm

  24. a smorgasbord of villains from which to choose: Wall Street, Big Oil, the Tea Party, Paul Ryan, Rush Limbaugh, the Supreme Court, the Catholic Church, and so on. In fact, virtually everything that comes out of this president’s mouth is about redirecting blame onto some straw man.

    He’s trying to throw America under the bus, to see who gets run over.

    Comment by IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States (8e2a3d) — 4/7/2012 @ 12:46 pm

  25. Reprinted below is what I thought is a key observation from Cost in his piece that Karl linked. It left a powerful impact on me along with a sinking feeling:

    This strategy might get him reelected, but for what greater purpose? Barack Obama intends to break the country into fragments by shamelessly playing one group off another, in the hope that by November his share of the pieces will be just a touch larger than the opposition’s. But how can he possibly put those pieces back together again, should he be victorious?

    Perhaps I’m being naive but I think most Americans (whether they were born here or are naturalized citizens) still relate to the idea of an American oneness–that all together we are greater than the sum of our parts. Some of us were taught to see our country like delicious soup in a melting pot, which over generations smoothly absorbs the ever changing flavors and ingredients to update the stock already in the recipe. Others may prefer the imagery of a lovely ever-growing American patchwork quilt–containing distinct pieces with many colors and textures of fabric, yet firmly stitched together with knots to make it solid and whole.

    Jay Cost is right that Barack Obama is playing a very dangerous game. Once the melting pot has been tipped over and the quilt has been ripped to shreds what remains? Will any politician or leader be able to put the pieces back together?

    Comment by elissa (65d3dc) — 4/7/2012 @ 12:51 pm

  26. Regarding 1948: the biggest key is the low turnout that year. If one graphs total Presidential voting from 1928 to 1964, all of the elections except 1944 and 1948 fall very close to a linear trendline.

    1944 was depressed because of all the people away from home during the war. 1948 was also depressed (by about 14% – 7M votes), and most analysts believe the stay-at-homes were predominantly overconfident Republicans. 5.3M Republican votes were cast in CA, IL, and OH; only 65,000 more votes would have flipped those states and the election.

    Comment by Rich Rostrom (6bd309) — 4/7/2012 @ 12:52 pm

  27. I don’t think it’s all patchworky and granular Elissa… it’s very broadbrush really: Barack Obama hates America, and his voters despise it too

    Mr. Governor Romney, on the other hand, he likes America, and the people what vote for him also like America

    it really is a popularity contest, but it has to do more with how popular America is than how popular these lame candidates are

    what’s worrisome is that Barack Obama has a lot of ability and power and media connections to make America appear vile loathsome and pathetic, and he’s put a lot of work into this

    whereas it’s up to Romney and Ryan and the very very (very) few effective voices what Team R has to make America appear dignified, respectable, and, most of all, salvageable

    good luck with that guys

    Comment by happyfeet (3c92a1) — 4/7/2012 @ 1:10 pm

  28. straw man? I’m quoting Karl.

    .

    JD: do you ever offer anything of substance? Or is your contribution limited to insulting me (and others) who take positions you don’t like? It’s fine if that’s the case. Some can contribute, some can’t.

    Daley: I’m not saying that Obama isn’t running a almost totally negative campaign. I took issue with Karl’s “… the answer is “no”. (again, cut / paste). He didn’t hedge, he said ‘no’, a pretty clear no ifs ands or buts about it declaration. I think the answer is more muddied than that. I don’t think Bush II would have won without trashing (through surrogates) Kerry. Reagan did a pretty good job of making Carter out to be a fool. Dole tried, but failed, to portray Clinton as not being worthy (he wasn’t, but Dole failed to make the case).

    Comment by steve (254463) — 4/7/2012 @ 1:10 pm

  29. Steve – any response to you bears seriousness in direct proportion to the seriousness in the nonsense I am responding to. Do we now define substance as constant mewling about appeals to the middle, and both parties do it nonsense? Nobody compels you to read my substance-less comments.

    Even Karl thought you were slaughtering strawmen.

    Comment by JD (34d969) — 4/7/2012 @ 1:16 pm

  30. JD contributes like a banshee Mr. steve

    I think what’s mostest important to note is that the little president man is running a vastly different campaign than he ran in 2008

    fear and hate, hate and fear: these are the Obama 2012 currency

    Comment by happyfeet (3c92a1) — 4/7/2012 @ 1:17 pm

  31. #12 – daleyrocks

    Don’t forget the “pink slime” scare. Just what we need, another food panic when prices are already going up!

    Comment by Dianna (f12db5) — 4/7/2012 @ 1:31 pm

  32. “Daley: I’m not saying that Obama isn’t running a almost totally negative campaign. I took issue with Karl’s “… the answer is “no”.”

    steve – If the question is whether you win campaigns by running a totally negative campaign, I agree with Karl’s “no”, rather than your strawman answer.

    Comment by daleyrocks (bf33e9) — 4/7/2012 @ 1:31 pm

  33. steve,

    Apparently, I need to be blindingly pedantic here. “Historically, the answer is ‘no’ ” refers back to how the fictional Andrew Shepherd thinks the also fictional Bob Rumsons of the fictional movie world win elections, i.e. by running entirely negative, fear-and-nosltalgia-based campaigns. Has that approach worked much in actual American history? I’m sticking with “no.”

    Comment by Karl (6f7ecd) — 4/7/2012 @ 1:34 pm

  34. ‘Rumson’ is Sorkin’s standin for Nixon, George HW,
    et al, of course we see now much a projection this is with Jackson and now Obama.

    Comment by narciso (132802) — 4/7/2012 @ 2:26 pm

  35. Oh, by the way, that GSA overspending debacle–the lavish conference in Vegas– was BOOOOsh’s fault. But you probably could have guessed that, right?

    Comment by elissa (65d3dc) — 4/7/2012 @ 6:20 pm

  36. Sorkin may have been more wrung out on cocaine than usual. This is the image of a president you get from a cocaine addict.

    Comment by Mike K (326cba) — 4/7/2012 @ 6:46 pm

  37. President Bartlett was the same condescending character, burning ‘strawmen’ with great abandon,
    one might say he was Obama 1.0, although Patrick
    really deserves that honor.

    Comment by narciso (132802) — 4/7/2012 @ 6:59 pm

  38. Pigs wearing lipstick

    Nancy Pelosi? Barbara Boxer? Maxine Waters?

    Comment by IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States (8e2a3d) — 4/8/2012 @ 10:00 am

  39. Cost here is being a little bit naive. Yes, a reelection of Obama would be unprecedented, but how would that at all be surprising? Obama’s entire presidency is unprecedented. A pure academic with Marxist and anti-American roots, and not a shred either of executive experience nor military service, ascending to the presidency? A winning campaign based entirely upon identity politics and demographic schisms along lines of race, age and income? Not exactly a common occurrence.

    Comment by Tsar Nicholas II (89a442) — 4/8/2012 @ 10:07 am

  40. One thing about 1948.

    The thing that the “do-nothing” Congress was doing nothing about was…

    ….inflation.

    But then the inflation abruptly came to an end in October 1948.

    Comment by Sammy Finkelman (82409c) — 4/9/2012 @ 11:19 am

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