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Opinion

Opinion

First lady’s speech ‘brilliantly cynical’

September 8, 2012

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— Given the state of the economy, by any historical standard, Barack Obama should be 15 points behind Mitt Romney. Why is he tied? The empathy gap. On “caring about average people,” Obama wins by 22 points. Maintaining that gap was a principal goal of the Democratic convention. It’s the party’s only hope of winning in November.

George H.W. Bush, Romney-like in aloofness, was once famously handed a staff cue card that read: “Message: I care.” That was supposed to be speech guidance. Bush read the card. Out loud.

Not surprisingly, he lost to Bill Clinton, a man who lives to care, who feels your pain better than you do — or at least makes you think so. In politics, that’s a trivial distinction.

On Wednesday night, Clinton vouched for Obama as a man “who’s cool on the outside but who burns for America on the inside.” Nice phrase, but not terribly persuasive. The real job of Clintonizing Obama was left to Mrs. Obama. As she told it in the convention’s most brilliantly cynical speech, her husband is not just profoundly compassionate but near-Gandhiesque in feelings.

Others spoke about what Obama had done. Michelle’s job was to provide the why: because he cares. Her talk was a syllogism: Barack loves his wife, he loves his children, he loves his family — therefore, he loves you.

I have no doubt about the first three propositions, but the fourth is a complete non sequitur. We were assured, nonetheless, that the president is a saintly man, dispensing succor — health care (with free contraceptives), auto bailouts, fairness lawsuits — to his people. The flood of tears in the hall testified to the power of this spousal paean. Its brilliance lay in Michelle’s success in draining from Obama any hint of ideological or personal motivation.

The problem with swallowing the “he cares, therefore he does” line is that it so plainly contradicts what we’ve seen over the last four years. Barack Obama is a deeply committed social-democrat who laid out an unashamedly left-liberal agenda at the very beginning of his presidency and then proceeded to try to enact it.

Obama passed Obamacare, regulated Wall Street, subsidized Solyndra because that fits an ambitious left-wing agenda developed in his youth, now made possible by his power: redistributionist, government-centered, disdainful of success, suspicious of private enterprise, committed to his own vision of social justice.

Also missing from her speech was any hint of his outsized self-regard and personal ambition. Is he pursuing re-election because he cares? Or because it’s the ultimate vindication of the self-created man who came from nowhere to seize the prize? And whom defeat would turn into a historical parenthesis?

In 2008, Obama tellingly said that Ronald Reagan was historically consequential in a way that Bill Clinton was not. Obama clearly sees himself as the anti-Reagan, the man who reverses the 30-year conservative trajectory that Reagan launched (hence his consequentiality), and returns America to the 50-year liberal ascendancy that FDR began and Reagan terminated.

This makes you world-historical. This is what drives the man who kept inserting the phrase “New Foundation” in the major speeches he gave in the early months of his presidency. The slogan was meant to make him the rightful heir to the authors of the “New Deal” and “New Frontier.”

The phrase never took. But the ambition was unmistakable.

All this does not make Obama either bad or unique among presidents. But it does give lie to the lachrymose portrayal of him as the good family man writ large, presiding kindly over his flock.

His pledge in 2008 of “fundamentally transforming the United States of America” speaks to the largeness of both his ideology and his self-regard. That’s the far more plausible explanation of his drive to win, characterized by a ruthless single-mindedness that undid the Clintons in 2008 (and at times unhinged Bill) and that has so relentlessly demonized Romney in 2012.

The millions of dollars devoted to that demonization account for some of that 22-point “empathy gap.” Michelle’s soap-opera depiction of her husband as a man so infused with goodness that it spills over onto his grateful subjects was meant to maintain the other part of that gap.

I didn’t buy a word of it, but as a speech, Michelle’s was very effective. After all, what else do you say when you’re running for re-election in a land — as described so chillingly the next night by Elizabeth Warren — wracked with misery and despair?

— Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.

Comments

jayhawklawrence 1 year, 7 months ago

I am not sure if Krauthammer was ever that interesting but he never used to be this boring.

It is the same song over and over and over....

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Ken Lassman 1 year, 7 months ago

I'm so disappointed, but perhaps a little proud as well. I've been thinking all along that Krauthammer's oh-so-predictable columns have titles that are double entendres, reflecting not so much the content of his column so much as they are imaginative projections that reflect insights into his own character. This week's title is a classic example: "first lady's speech 'brilliantly cynical.'" It is a kind of Krauthammerish aspiration that he himself aspires to accomplish, i.e. being brilliantly cynical. Alas, as usual, he falls short, retreating into mere cynicism, but at least he tried, right?

Out of curiosity, though, I checked the Washington Post, the flagship paper for his column, and alas found a different title for today's column: "An empathy gap." Of course the Krauthammer projection holds for this title as well, since he quite succeeds at marching around showing his empathy gap for all to see (I daresay telling him to zip up would be wasted breath). You must realize the degree of disappointment when I realized that he was not responsible for the title we read over his column here in the LJW.

But pride returned when I re-read the column and found that "brilliantly cynical" statement right in the middle, and realized that some local LJW employee pulled out this obvious projection and placed it atop the column in the true spirit of the projection embodied in the title provided by the Washington Post! Kudos to that enterprising employee for matching, if not exceeding the double entendre qualities of the original! Particularly impressive since it uses Krauthammer's own language, revealing what I must conclude is his own deep desires projected onto the personalities that he attacks in his column on a regular basis.

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Trumbull 1 year, 7 months ago

"The real job of Clintonizing Obama was left to Mrs. Obama."

Give us a break Krauthammer. This is a bunch of phony stuff you are making up. I believe many in this country are now seeing what obstructionism is doing for us. Misinformation and junk like this is begining to anger people. Keep it up, you are only helping the Democrats.

Obstructionism was used by the Republicans in FDR's 2nd term. They reveresed many of the New Deal initiatives. Many argued that it created a double dip depresssion and extended it. It is important to not let this happen again. I thought more would have seen the true villanous motive of the R's during the debt ceiling crisis, but I think Bill Clinton's speech was remarkably effective in shining a light on this.

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thebcman 1 year, 7 months ago

I'm gonna have me a plate of warm, toasty, buttery biscuits. Then, I think I'll have a nice cold fruity popsicle.

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rockchalker52 1 year, 7 months ago

shhhht, (you don't mind if I call ya shhhht, do you?) what is the source of your vitriol? How do you stay so dedicated to your combative negativity? 'What's with the negative waves, man?" (source)

Once in a while, along with the insults, ya gotta toss an idea out there.

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tange 1 year, 7 months ago

shhhhtruggler shhhhays: "Why can't Missy O. properly enunciate an "s" sound? Maybe because she's got a lantern-like, undershot jaw."

We've seen that "lantern" jawed remark before, briefly, before it was removed, followed not long thereafter by removal of the commenter.

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riverdrifter 1 year, 7 months ago

Oh, gawd. Somebody's on here actually quoting a nutball comedian as what it says are facts.

Next.

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shhhhtruggler 1 year, 7 months ago

The rancor on the left, as demonstrated in the DNC dog-and-pony show, is unprecedented. Can you say, "panic"? Lizzy Warren and Wasserman-Schultz and Sandra Flake are now Dem keynoters. Hilarious.

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shhhhtruggler 1 year, 7 months ago

"On his Friday broadcast, conservative talker Rush Limbaugh reacted to what he suggested was a lackluster effort from President Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday night by pointing to signs the media and the left could be turning on him.

Limbaugh referred to reports in the media, a New York Times piece in particular, that critiqued the president harshly.

“Yesterday, I spent some time on the program detailing for you recent news stories from slavish state-controlled media that love Obama — New York Times and Politico,” Limbaugh said. “The Politico talked about how this guy hasn’t given a good speech in four years! The New York Times on Sunday ran a piece saying that everybody thinks the guy’s cocky and arrogant. I said, ‘What is this?’ and it’s as I told you.”

That according to Limbaugh is setting the president up to be thrown “overboard” if he looks to be headed toward an electoral loss in November in order to save liberalism as an ideology.

“If these people in the media and if other powerful Democrats think, if they get it in their heads that Obama’s going to lose, they will throw him overboard to save the ideology,” he said. “The ideology must be saved and will not be blamed, and that’s what they’re setting up. When they say before last night that Obama hasn’t given a good speech in four years — and, by the way, that’s still accurate. And that was Politico.”

“Obama hadn’t given a good speech in four years, The New York Times piece on Sunday,” he continued. “If they think things are going south, if they think they’re going to lose, they will start making sure that people understand it was Obama who blew it, not liberalism that was rejected. Not big government that was rejected, not spending that was rejected, not debt. Not all the things that equal liberalism. None of that was rejected. Nope, it was Obama. They’re going to have to, because the ideology comes first. Obama will become the latest passing personality.”

Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2012/09/07/limbaugh-media-liberals-will-throw-obama-overboard-to-save-the-ideology-video/#ixzz25vc86Z00

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shhhhtruggler 1 year, 7 months ago

We all know if the current Dem president (Obama) was white, with this level of total leadership failure, Romney would be leading by at least 10 points in the polls and it would be a Romney landslide.

Go vote with your hearts libs, because you sure don't vote with your brain----if you have a functioning brain that is.

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shhhhtruggler 1 year, 7 months ago

Why can't Missy O. properly enunciate an "s" sound? Maybe because she's got a lantern-like, undershot jaw.

"After all, what else do you say when you’re running for re-election in a land — as described so chillingly the next night by Elizabeth Warren — wracked with misery and despair?" -CK

Dems don't even know when they step on their own tails. Idiots.

BTW, why is Todd Akin running neck-and-neck with Claire McCaskill after the big rape gaffe?

I think Dems are in for a big, big surprise in two months.

God bless.

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jonas_opines 1 year, 7 months ago

Speaking entirely in talking points is fun, isn't it?

"We are farther in debt"

We've been further in debt every year (with a couple years exception during the 90s), every year for the last 30 or 40 years.

"Worse unemployment"

No argument, but trying to say that this is the result Only of the current administration, without sharing blame around to Congress, the previous Administration, the rise of internationalization of production, and American wage requirements, is simplistic, at best, and again strikes me as blaming the king for a lack of rain.

"Ridiculous health care bill"

The entire state of our current health care system is ridiculous. This bill, though, certainly won't do anything to actually fix it.

"Class warfare is at an all time high"

I doubt this even comes close to the early part of the 20th century. But if you look at how wages amongst economic demographics have skewed in the last several decades, it's hard to not see some degree of class warfare in existence for most of that time. Perhaps your problem is that now the low rungs are starting to get agitated about it.

You'll see whatever you want, of course. But it's pretty clear that your perception of the "American Mentality" (over-simplification alert), comes through a distorted lens.

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commonsenseanyone 1 year, 7 months ago

I'm referring to our country as a whole not per individual. We are farther in debt, worse unemployment, a rediculous health care bill, and class warfare is at an all time high in recent history. Somehow, if you are rich and successful you should be ashamed and are greedy, if you are poor you should get rich people's money for no apparent reason other then you are entitled to it because the rich just don't need that much. The American mentality over the last 4 years seems to be taking the "community organizer" approach.

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commonsenseanyone 1 year, 7 months ago

You lefties are pathetic and gullible. We are worse off then 4 years ago and yet you still hang by every word obama and Clinton say. Hey Michelle, I would be up there making wonderful speeches too if I could take the lavish vacations you do. Wake up people, Obama doesn't care if he gets reelected or not....he's already on the gravy train from here out.

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jonas_opines 1 year, 7 months ago

If only it had been coming from a Republican, Charles would have been told to like it. Then we would have had a different article.

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WristTwister 1 year, 7 months ago

'Obama passed Obamacare, regulated Wall Street, subsidized Solyndra because that fits an ambitious left-wing agenda developed in his youth, now made possible by his power: redistributionist, government-centered, disdainful of success, suspicious of private enterprise, committed to his own vision of social justice."

Why doesn't the media just state it plainly so there is no mistaking Obama's ideology? Mr. Obama was mentored and nurtured by his surrogate father figure Frank Marshall Davis from ages 9 to 18. Mr. Davis was a card carrying Communist who hated America. Is this why Obama continues to surround himself with a motley crew of Socialists and Communists to this very day? Is this why his college transcripts remain sealed? What is he hiding? Inquiring minds want to know. I submit that it is not necessary to carry a card for others to identify this President's ideology. Look at those who have helped to mold Obama and observe his political behavior. If it looks like a duck, acts like a duck, quacks and has webbed feet ...

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rockchalk1977 1 year, 7 months ago

Gallup Organization emails show David Axelrod attempted to intimidate the polling firm when its numbers were unfavorable to Obama. After Gallup declined to change its polling methodology, the DOJ hit it with a lawsuit alleging it had defrauded the government. Weeks after announcing its lawsuit, the ever incompetent Eric Holder has yet to officially serve Gallup. More Chicago union thug tactics by the divider-in-chief Obama. Let's end the nightmare in 58 days.

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voevoda 1 year, 7 months ago

Krauthammer's best evidence of Obama's "social-democratic" leanings is a government subsidy to a private company to develop alternative energy? Governments have been subsidizing industries that are key to national security ever since there have been governments. If such funding is okay for farmers and defense industries and oil companies, why not Solyndra? The only thing wrong with Solyndra is that the company went bust--as companies so often do. If helping Solyndra was really part of a "redistributionist, government-centered, disdainful of success, suspicious of private enterprise, committed to his [Obama's] own vision of social justice" plan, why would Obama have allowed it to fail in the way capitalists do? The fact of the matter is this: Obama isn't a "redistributionist;" he just thinks that people ought to contribute to society proportionally with their assets. That's a Biblical principle. ("There is no question of relieving others at the cost of hardship to yourselves; it is a question of equality. At the moment your surplus meets their need, but one day your need may be met from their surplus. The aim is equality." 2 Corinthians 8:13-14) He's not suspicious of private enterprise and he doesn't advocate government taking over the economy; that's why his innovations have involved working through private companies. Obama is certainly not disdainful of success; he is successful himself and has honored successful people. He just doesn't confuse wealth with success. As for his vision of social justice, it's Biblical, too. I should hope that Krauthammer shares it.

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fiddleback 1 year, 7 months ago

Truly like a rusty hammer smeared with rancid sauerkraut.

So what else did Charles think was Michelle going to talk about? Vegetables? Fine, he wishes such emotional leveraging didn't enter the equation, but there's no better example of blind partisanship than an attempt to indict her heartwarming blather about family as "brilliantly cynical." Kraut blithely talks out of both sides of that cruel beak, having "no doubt" that Obama loves his wife and children, but insisting that there's no way that he loves his countrymen. Yes, the socialist Boogie man has no actual feelings; in fact he's most likely a Marxist cyborg sent back from the future to dominate us...so says the tinman of rightwing pundits.

But like Michelle's emotional speech, Kraut's anti-emotional rebuttal is utterly predictable; he's so crustified that he clearly doesn't know any other mode but spewing more rusty bile at strawmen.

In fact, he's such a quintessential curmudgeon, I can easily believe that he loves his opinions, but the proposition that he might love anything outside of that is a complete non-sequitur.

http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/418749/september-05-2012/the-2012-people-s-party-congress-of-charlotte---michelle-obama---tammy-duckworth

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tomatogrower 1 year, 7 months ago

And who forgot to give Romney the cue card to talk about the war and our troops? Oops.

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tomatogrower 1 year, 7 months ago

Dear Charles, Obama didn't need a cue card to remember to say "I care".

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verity 1 year, 7 months ago

Oh, my. Where to begin?

"I didn’t buy a word of it, but as a speech, Michelle’s was very effective." ? ? ?

". . . Bill Clinton, a man who lives to care, who feels your pain better than you do — or at least makes you think so." Ever heard of empathy, Mr. Krauthammer? Somehow I doubt that you know what that word means.

"Barack Obama is a deeply committed social-democrat who laid out an unashamedly left-liberal agenda at the very beginning of his presidency and then proceeded to try to enact it." I only wish.

This whole screed has the sound of abject desperation.

4

rockchalker52 1 year, 7 months ago

"Also missing from her speech was any hint of his outsized self-regard and personal ambition. Is he pursuing re-election because he cares? Or because it’s the ultimate vindication of the self-created man who came from nowhere to seize the prize? And whom defeat would turn into a historical parenthesis?" CK

Charles, you are listening, but you do not hear. Self-regard & personal ambition? Prize seizing? You kidding me? Your insinuations are petty & hypocritical. In other words, they're on par with most of the current republican mindsets.

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Steven Gaudreau 1 year, 7 months ago

Who cares what the First Lady has to say? When did the presidents wife even become topicsl? When Jackie O became a fashion icon? It is irrellevant and grab for female votes. Vote on the issues at hand.

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pace 1 year, 7 months ago

The nuts are all complaining the Democrat''s speeches didn't make nut head repulsian points. I guess if the chair isn't empty it answers back.

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FalseHopeNoChange 1 year, 7 months ago

It's pretty simple, really. When New America is "collapsed" because of 'white devils', people with absolutely zero business experience, except for community organizing, is 'perfect' to keep New America "collapsed." Besides, It'll help the complex, remain complex.

"Given the state of the economy, by any historical standard, Barack Obama should be 15 points behind Mitt Romney."

Kraut is 'forgetting' the Harry Reid voiced 'characteristic' that supersedes 'all' other "standards" for The One.

The Intellectually complex, do have their priorities you know.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 7 months ago

"Given the state of the economy, by any historical standard, Barack Obama should be 15 points behind Mitt Romney."

It's pretty simple, really. A large number of voters know that the collapse of the economy is a result of the failed policies of President Bush, and that the slow recovery is because of the severity of that collapse and the preference of Republicans to hinder that recovery as much as they can because they think it'll help their electoral outcomes. And what does Romney have to offer? More of the same policies that created the economic collapse in the first place.

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Paul R Getto 1 year, 7 months ago

This piece is like watching paint dry.

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jafs 1 year, 7 months ago

Obviously Obama, like all politicians, is a mixed bag.

But, many of his policies do seem to me that they're driven by caring and trying to do the right thing.

Is he also interested in power and his legacy as a leader? Almost certainly, as all Presidents have been.

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