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June 23, 2009

"Small Acts of Intellectual Dishonesty"

The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who remain neutral in times of moral crisis.

- Dante Alighieri

In a moment of transcendent irony, one of Obama's supporters heaps praise on his political acumen:

Obama probably realizes that Muslims have played a marginal role in American life throughout most of its history. He also probably believes that the U.S. economy in the 1970s suffered primarily from oil shocks and irresponsible monetary policy rather than from the absence of a Reaganesque cheerleader for entrepreneurship. But Obama's method entails small acts of intellectual dishonesty in the pursuit of common ground.

Question for the ages: when a man repeatedly lies about easily verifiable details, what's to stop him from telling big lies that are far easier to get away with?

Liberals and conservatives in this country are not going to agree on major policy issues any time soon. We disagree for good reasons. We need not come to blows over our differences, but neither should we sweep them under the rug. Conflict, debate, and the ability to disagree openly and honestly, properly handled, are constructive rather than destructive qualities. They are profoundly American activities and in the final analysis this may be the most frightening thing about Barack Obama: his very likeability, because it is at the core dishonest. Obama is the perfect date; a social chameleon promising us smooth sailing; telling us exactly what we want to hear, but ultimately revealing far too little of himself and his plan for overcoming something which cannot be overcome: our fundamental disagreement on substantive policy issues.

Hope, if it is ever to be anything more than a huckster's trick, must be based on something real. It must be based on the truth, not on little white lies told to make us feel better about things we had rather not face. The kind of hope promised by Barack Obama is not empowering. On the contrary; it encourages us to avoid reality and duck confrontations, to purchase peace at the price of our principles.

What common interest, pray tell, do we share with terrorists man caused disaster facilitators who murder innocent children? These men find the moral straitjackets of their fellow cold blooded murderers too confining. What could we possibly offer that would convince men like this to embrace restraints they have long since rejected?

Seeking, no doubt, to reassure his fellow Obama supporters that the Boss knows what he's doing and questioning authority is the hallmark of dangerous extremists, Chait draws a startling parallel:

Democratic partisans think the enemy is vicious and must be met with uncompromising force. That's exactly how conservative foreign policy hawks feel about the world. Unsurprisingly, the right-wing foreign policy critique of Obama today sounds eerily like the partisan Democratic critique of Obama during the primary.

Chait's "small intellectual dishonesty" glosses over one crucial difference between these two constituencies: the "enemies" right wing foreign policy hawks oppose are brutal dictators who openly declare their goal is to force America to convert to Islam or destroy it altogether.

The sworn "enemies" of partisan Democrats, on the other hand, are other Americans who dare to disagree with them. That is their crime. Oddly, the existential threat posed by once-patriotic dissent now merits the application of uncompromising force - the same force these people find 'illegal and immoral' when applied to terrorists who consider the murder of children an appropriate policy tool.

It is precisely this sort of "small intellectual dishonesty" that gets glossed over every time Barack Obama indulges in yet another legendary feat of drive-by transparency. Once critical differences between our avowed enemies and our fellow Americans are conveniently cloaked in the language of petite malhonnêteté, underlying issues of morality and historical fact are easily dispensed with:

Iran, remember, has no such reluctance about meddling. It endorsed Bush in the 2004 presidential race — to the delight of the Kerry campaign. For six years, it has tried to murder Americans in Iraq and destabilize the Iraqi democracy. It has killed Americans in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, and done its best to thwart democratic government in Afghanistan, Lebanon, and Iraq. How odd that Iranian theocrats have no worries about violently overthrowing democracy abroad, while we are terrified of supporting democracy by words alone.

Worried? Don't be. The adults are back in charge; New Realists who will replace risky, ideologically driven foreign policy initiatives abroad with risky, ideologically driven domestic policy initiatives at home:

There is no simple solution, but one approach is close to what the government already does when it decides that some institutions are "too big to fail," and therefore must be saved - a strategy that, as we have seen recently, can cost hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars. As the Treasury Department's miscalculation over Lehman Brothers demonstrated, these judgments are difficult to make and also prone to errors. But the main problem - and the reason for their immense cost - is that they are made only after a crisis situation is reached, at which point only drastic actions are available.

An alternate approach is to deal with the problem before crises emerge. On a routine basis, regulators could review the largest and most connected firms in each industry, and ask themselves essentially the same question that crisis situations already force them to answer: "Would the sudden failure of this company generate intolerable knock-on effects for the wider economy?" If the answer is "yes," the firm could be required to downsize, or shed business lines in an orderly manner until regulators are satisfied that it no longer poses a serious systemic risk. Correspondingly, proposed mergers and acquisitions could be reviewed for their potential to create an entity that could not then be permitted to fail.

But won't creating a far larger, more complex, more tightly connected network of private enterprises under the control of the same government bureaucrats who failed to avert the last financial crisis spread, rather than minimize, systemic risk?

Not to worry - remember, the adults are in charge now. Besides, would Obama lie to you?

Posted by Cassandra at June 23, 2009 07:16 AM

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> An alternate approach is to deal with the problem before crises emerge.



Did I just hear the phrase "preemptive strike" reworded?


Posted by: Just Us Pigs at June 23, 2009 11:50 AM

sorry, that was me.

Posted by: Obloodyhell at June 23, 2009 11:50 AM

Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding!

A pre-emptive strike against our domestic enemies :p I *knew* someone would pick up on that :)

Perfect, ain't it?

Posted by: Cassandra at June 23, 2009 12:04 PM

Early on Cirroc's Neanderthal intuition picked up lips moving tell... But,

"A pre-emptive strike against our domestic enemies"
yikes! No wonder Cirroc concerned with brushing up on windage and elevation calculations...

Posted by: Cirroc the Subliminal, BitterClingyClutching, Rednecked, Flown-over, Neanderthal Caveman, ESQ. at June 23, 2009 12:17 PM

Posted by: Explosives-certified Right Wing Nutjob Retired Army Gun Nut at June 23, 2009 03:19 PM

Because you may succeed to excess and then fail, we must destroy you now! You'll thank us later.

Posted by: Texan99 at June 23, 2009 05:21 PM

For Pete's sake.
Whatever you do, don't go on vacation.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 23, 2009 05:23 PM

For Pete's sake.

Relax -- he hasn't stuck me in the bog yet.

Posted by: Kate Moss' Long-Lost Hubby, Pete at June 24, 2009 01:21 AM

A very thoughtful article. I think it reflects well on President Obama's skills as a "diplomat". True diplomacy, whether foreign or domestic, consists of defining your strategic goals, analyzing the other players, and tailoring your tactics accordingly to achieve the maximum achievable results.

Posted by: traubensilberkerze at January 10, 2010 06:17 AM