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Opinion

Opinion

Condescension marks Obama rhetoric

June 12, 2009

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— When President Obama returned from his first European trip, I observed that while over there he had been “acting the philosopher-king who hovers above the fray mediating” between America and the world. Now that Obama has returned from his “Muslim world” pilgrimage, even the left agrees. “Obama’s standing above the country, above — above the world. He’s sort of God,” Newsweek’s Evan Thomas said to a concurring Chris Matthews, reflecting on Obama’s lofty perception of himself as the great transcender.

Not that Obama considers himself divine. (He sees himself as merely messianic, or, at worst, apostolic.) But he does position himself as hovering above mere mortals, mere country, to gaze benignly upon the darkling plain beneath him where ignorant armies clash by night, blind to the common humanity that only he can see. Traveling the world, he brings the gospel of understanding and godly forbearance. We have all sinned against each other. We must now look beyond that and walk together to the sunny uplands of comity and understanding. He shall guide you. Thus:

(A) He told Iran that, on the one hand, America once helped overthrow an Iranian government, while on the other hand “Iran has played a role in acts of hostage-taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians.” (Played a role?!) We have both sinned; let us bury the past and begin anew.

(B) On religious tolerance, he gently referenced the Christians of Lebanon and Egypt, then lamented that the “divisions between Sunni and Shia have led to tragic violence” (note the use of the passive voice). He then criticized (in the active voice) Western religious intolerance for regulating the wearing of the hijab — after citing America for making it difficult for Muslims to give to charity.

(C) Obama offered Muslims a careful admonition about women’s rights, noting how denying women education impoverishes a country — balanced, of course, with “meanwhile, the struggle for women’s equality continues in many aspects of American life.”

Well, yes. On the one hand, there certainly is some American university where the women’s softball team has received insufficient Title IX funds — while, on the other hand, Saudi women showing ankle are beaten in the street, Afghan school girls have acid thrown in their faces, and Iranian women are publicly stoned to death for adultery. (Gays, as well — but then again we have Prop 8.) We all have our shortcomings, our national foibles. Who’s to judge?

That’s the problem with Obama’s transcultural evenhandedness. It gives the veneer of professorial sophistication to the most simple-minded observation: Of course there are rights and wrongs in all human affairs. Our species is a fallen one. But that doesn’t mean that these rights and wrongs are of equal weight.

A CIA rent-a-mob in a coup 56 years ago does not balance the hostage-takings, throat-slittings, terror bombings and wanton slaughters perpetrated for 30 years by a thug regime in Teheran (and its surrogates) that our own State Department calls the world’s “most active state sponsor of terrorism.”

True, France prohibits the wearing of the hijab in certain public places, in part to allow the force of law to protect Muslim women who might be coerced into wearing it by neighborhood fundamentalist gangs. But it borders on the obscene to compare this mild preference for secularization (seen in Muslim Turkey as well) to the violence that has been visited upon Copts, Maronites, Baha’i, Druze and other minorities in Muslim lands, and to the unspeakable cruelties perpetrated by Shiites and Sunnis upon each other.

Even on freedom of religion, Obama could not resist the compulsion to find fault with his own country: “For instance, in the United States, rules on charitable giving have made it harder for Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation” — disgracefully giving the impression to a foreign audience not versed in our laws that there is active discrimination against Muslims, when the only restriction, applied to all donors regardless of religion, is on funding charities that serve as fronts for terror.

Obama undoubtedly thinks he is demonstrating historical magnanimity with all these moral equivalencies and self-flagellating apologetics. On the contrary. He’s showing cheap condescension, an unseemly hunger for applause and a willingness to distort history for political effect.

Distorting history is not truth-telling, but the telling of soft lies. Creating false equivalencies is not moral leadership, but moral abdication. And hovering above it all, above country and history, is a sign not of transcendence but of a disturbing ambivalence toward one’s own country.

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.

Comments

Left_handed 5 years, 8 months ago

Maybe it is unravelling. Nancy Pelosi (no relation to Mr. Nancy Boy) already has approval ratings lower than even Dick Cheney. Harry Reid is facing serious opposition in his re-election bid. It's amazing that Dems in Congress are having difficulties yet the Teflon One still manages to command high approval ratings, of himself, if not of his policies.

Kirk Larson 5 years, 8 months ago

Oh, please. What the President is doing is talking to the world like a grown-up. It's much better than the conservative line that "Everything America does is right even if we are lying ourselves into a war, wiretapping without warrants, or torturing detainees". I know it's hard sometimes, but adult behavior often means you have to examine your own wrongdoings and admit to them. It makes others around you more willing to admit to their problems as well. Otherwise, everyone just locks down and stubbornly refuses to deal with problems until everyone is miserable and adversarial. Grow up America. The first step in solving your problems is admitting you have them.

sandersen 5 years, 8 months ago

I prefer an intelligent leader/speaker to a northeastern dunce. It is much easier not to misunderestimate him.

canyon_wren 5 years, 8 months ago

barrypenders--you HAVE to be joking, right?

It seems likely that the Obama supporters will refuse to EVER acknowledge his fraudulence even when their noses are rubbed in it. We are in it for the long haul, I'm afraid, and must just hope things can hold together for four years. Personally, I expect someone as narcissistic as Obama to resign from his position before then, once it finally dawns on him that he has been "found out."

feeble 5 years, 8 months ago

TV Announcer: Previously on Condescension. Johnny: Helen, there's an educated black man on my TV screen. Helen: It's Condescension Johnny. Johnny: But what about his repudiation of unilateral foreign policy? Helen: It's not repudiation Johnny, it too is called Condescension. Johnny: Con-des-cen-sion-sion-sion-sion-sion

canyon_wren 5 years, 8 months ago

I don't really blame the Democratic voters for this horrendous mistake, as the choice was so awful, in general. I would never have voted for the McCain that was finally offered to us, though I did admire him at one time. The blame belongs solely on those at the Democratic Convention who were duped by Obama. There HAD to be some good other candidates out there (that were never suggested to the public at large) who had statesmen qualities. Race was not the issue for me; the only GOOD thing about Obama's election was that he was black, and gave the black people of America some reason to hope. I believe that they are going to be betrayed along with the rest of us.

canyon_wren 5 years, 8 months ago

Tom, I'm not in a dither YET, but will be by the end of the day, I'm sure, if I check this very often! But I don't think Barry is capable of doing that to me.

I'm headed out to weed now, so will give it a rest.

jaywalker 5 years, 8 months ago

"It is much easier not to misunderestimate him."

That's a horrible thing to do to the english language.

jayhawklawrence 5 years, 8 months ago

Krauthammer continues to insult the vast majority of the American people with his type of journalism.

The fact that the Lawrence Journal World continues to publish this disgusting attempt at journalism says much about the management of the newspaper.

This is the type of rhetoric that makes our young people lose respect for their country and it's leaders.

Then we wonder what happened to love of country.

MyName 5 years, 8 months ago

LOL @ jaywalker:

umm... regardless of what you think of our former President's politics, you'd have to admit he did that much or worse to the English language.

Kirk Larson 5 years, 8 months ago

Just look at Iran. Even if Amadinejad wins, still a big reform movement has sprung up, largely due to recognizing that America is no longer run by a warmongering, semi-literate rube so that their young people don't want to be led by loud mouthed provocateur.

Alia Ahmed 5 years, 8 months ago

Krauthammer's code word translation. Condescending=Uppity

How dare the POTUS draw upon skills and education to try to make a point! Doesn't he know his place?

jaywalker 5 years, 8 months ago

MyName,

Without question. Listening to W give an address made me cringe just like I do when watching Michael's socially inept escapades on 'The Office'. I've always thought a can't miss skit for SNL would be a faux W and Mike Tyson trying to have a conversation. "I'll knock him to Bolivian!"

Alia Ahmed 5 years, 8 months ago

Mr_Nancy_Boy_To_You (Tom Shewmon) says…

The last time an “uppity” black man tried to get into a powerful position, things got a little hairy, if you know what I mean.

Tom, I don't know what you mean. Can you explain?

Leslie Swearingen 5 years, 8 months ago

I agree with everything that President Obama said. He is not illegitimate and he is not a Kenyan! He never was a Kenyan! Why on earth would anyone think these things? The man eats at Five Guys, and several other places I can't think of off hand which would explain all that exercising. He keeps bowls of M and M's around the White House for the staff. Sounds like a pretty normal guy to me. I still don't understand why the French president is comfortable with everyone seeing photos of his naked wife in bed, but made a law against wearing a head scarf. I would much rather see the latter.

Shane Garrett 5 years, 8 months ago

Anyone have any information on the latest Euro elections?

Mixolydian 5 years, 8 months ago

Logan72 (Alia Ahmed) says… Krauthammer's code word translation. Condescending=Uppity

How dare the POTUS draw upon skills and education to try to make a point! Doesn't he know his place?

I have absolutely no doubt.....none whatsoever, that Krauthammer meant "condenscending" to be read with its accepted literal meaning, i.e., "To deal with people in a patronizingly superior manner."

Racism and Krauthammer...BS.

Does any criticism of Obama imply that the critic believes Obama to be "Uppity" in the racist meaning of the word?

Your previous posts haven't been so narrow minded and strident.

BigDog 5 years, 8 months ago

And the inspector general should never investigate President Obama's supporters .... that is if you want to keep your job.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090612/ap_on_go_pr_wh/us_national_service_inspector_general

Stuart Evans 5 years, 8 months ago

"It makes others around you more willing to admit to their problems as well."


that works with civilized nations with modern governments. theocracies & dictatorships tend to not really give much of a damn about what we think. Muslims aren't living for life, they're waiting for death. try to talk sense into that mindset.

Stuart Evans 5 years, 8 months ago

Irish (Irish Swearingen) says…

I agree with everything that President Obama said. He is not illegitimate and he is not a Kenyan! He never was a Kenyan! Why on earth would anyone think these things? The man eats at Five Guys, and several other places I can't think of off hand which would explain all that exercising. He keeps bowls of M and M's around the White House for the staff. Sounds like a pretty normal guy to me. I still don't understand why the French president is comfortable with everyone seeing photos of his naked wife in bed, but made a law against wearing a head scarf. I would much rather see the latter


shhhhhhh

Alia Ahmed 5 years, 8 months ago

Mix,

Sure, you know exactly the author's intent and the author's been shown to be so unbiased when it comes to this president. NOT!

Kirk Larson 5 years, 8 months ago

AreUNorml (Anonymous) says… that works with civilized nations with modern governments. theocracies & dictatorships tend to not really give much of a damn about what we think. Muslims aren't living for life, they're waiting for death. try to talk sense into that mindset.

AreUNorml, your comment is more than a little bigoted considering most Muslims around the world are not terrorists and would rather live in peace, but just like in America, the nutjobs make it difficult for the rest of us. Sure, nothing changes overnight, but now at least we are on the right track. By actually living up to our ideals and reaching out to partner with the reasonable people out there, even the nutjobs will have to pay attention. The other day thousands of Iranians linked arms in the streets demanding reform and even there, if the people lead, the leaders will follow.

Jaminrawk 5 years, 8 months ago

I dunno, isn't storming into someone's country and blowing it to high hell a little bit "Condescending" too? Maybe it's just me but occupying a country seems to show a bit of arrogance. You're telling me that talking heads like O'Reilly and Hannity aren't condescending? I for one think Dick Cheney was one of the most condescending politicians of all time.

Get over it conservatives, McCain didn't win. It's pretty funny that you all gave Bush EIGHT YEARS before you were ready to criticize him, but Obama gets blasted six months in.

Kyle Reed 5 years, 8 months ago

"The other day thousands of Iranians linked arms in the streets demanding reform and even there, if the people lead, the leaders will follow."

Are you kidding me? What pie in the sky planet do you live on? Oh...the people have all joined hands together. I guess we have to do what they want. Puhleeeease. You CAN'T be that naive.

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 5 years, 8 months ago

Con-descent-shun marks anti-Obama rhetoric

[ yawn ]

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 5 years, 8 months ago

Con/descent/shun marks anti-Obama rhetoric

[ zzzzzzzzzzz ]

Corey Williams 5 years, 8 months ago

If the hammer spent half the time he spends finding fault in every nuance that offends him doing something constructive like finding practical solutions to the problems we face as a nation or building ships in bottles, the world would be a much better place.

jaywalker 5 years, 8 months ago

Alia,

No doubt Krauthammer's got his agenda, but I gotta go with Mix on this. Things are bad enough, particularly with the PC police and supposed slights to Obama and his race for the most innocuous of comments. "Uppity" in place of "condescending" is ridiculous and nothing more than hyperbolic. That's fire-starting to a Cal Thomas/Lenny Pitts degree. Please don't.

sandersen 5 years, 8 months ago

Arumer-

Tell me you are not going there...

Crusades, anyone? Roman empire? How about Alexander the Great? William the Conqueror? The brutal raids of Attila the Hun?

No one credo/ideology/religion has the corner on kindness, morality or civility. We are all humans, and as such, all flawed. One can hope that we will evolve past the need to destroy one another, and that a more balanced world view will allow us to bond through the humanity that unites us, and grow through the richness of diversity in our world.

begin60 5 years, 8 months ago

I agree with Cappy that Obama respectfully assumes he is speaking to an audience of grownups; I suppose to people used to operating below this level this may sound condescending. Talk about holier-than-thou rhetoric: Charles Krauthammer himself quotes Matthew Arnold, hardly a populist poet. It sounds like Mr. Krauthhammer may favor an ethnocentric perspective and that Obama is sophisticated enough and aware enough of his audience to avoid this faux pas.

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