Sunday, May 15

From a 2004 interview with Obama; leading to "Stupid, or incompetent?"

In 2004 Cathleen Falsani--a friendly reporter writing for a very pro-Democrat rag--interviewed the emperor after he'd just clinched the Democrat nomination for the U.S. senate.  The interview got almost no attention at the time, but blogger Richard Fernandez rediscovered it.  In hindsight the following exchange explains a lot:

Falsani:  What is sin?
Future emperor Barack Obama: 
 Being out of alignment with my values.

Not "being out of alignment with God's values," but with the emperor's values.

Yeah, that would explain so much.  But of course to our liberal friends the notion that God has any voice whatsoever in questions of morality or values--or even the notion that there IS a God--is solely the province of  knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing neanderthals.

Explains so much.

And that's a great intro for Fernandez's article about it, an edited version of which is below.  But do read the original.
The New York Times has an article describing how Ben Rhodes, President Obama’s deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, sold fiction as truth in communicating the president's foreign policy.

Rhodes regarded the deception as a clever way to success. Like an engineering student who has found a way to cheat on his final exam, or a man astonished to find himself with a medical license by mistake, Rhodes appears to think he's actually accomplished something positive. He has no clue he's set up a disaster that is only waiting to happen.

Thomas Ricks, writing in Foreign Policy, calls the article "a stunning profile of Ben Rhodes, the asshole who is the president’s foreign policy guru."  But it is also a profile of the president. As David Samuels wrote in the interview, Rhodes saw himself as a reflection of the president.

Obama is the originating image. Rhodes is just a flunky who transcribes what the president dictates.

Still, Samuels' interview, by printing Rhodes's admission [of having willfully deceived congress and the public on the Iran nuclear non-treaty treaty], provides crucial insight into the fascinating subject of whether Barack Obama -- if you believe he is a failure -- is incompetent or malevolent.

Which is it?

At first glance the admission that the administration lied to the public seems a slam-dunk case for malevolence. But there's more to it than that. There is a perception that political incompetence--presumably due to stupidity--is less harmful than malice.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the anti-Nazi activist, disagreed.

While in prison waiting to be executed, Bonhoeffer reflected that "Against stupidity we are defenseless," because imbeciles never feel a qualm. Against the stupid "reasons fall on deaf ears; facts that contradict ... simply do not need to be believed ... and when facts are irrefutable they are just pushed aside as inconsequential, as incidental. In all this, the stupid person, in contrast to the malicious one, is utterly self-satisfied."
 
Clueless yet self-righteous would describe Ben Rhodes to a T.  And when Obama described himself as a blank screen on which anyone was free to project his fantasies, the public should have listened. What makes the present absurd situation possible is that a critical mass of voters have agreed to go along with the make-believe.

Bonhoeffer in his prison letters says what he means by "stupid" is the passivity born of a feeling of learned helplessness akin to an audience passively watching a play.
Under the overwhelming impact of rising power, humans are deprived of their inner independence and, more or less consciously, give up establishing an autonomous position toward the emerging circumstances.
To Bonhoeffer the German people in 1938 had become an audience watching a madman on stage.

A functioning republic requires thinking voters; tyranny just needs groupies.  Graphic artist Shepard Fairey understood the fundamentally bogus nature of Obama when he crafted his iconic poster, "Hope."  Faced with overwhelming threats, most people are passive.  We sit around and hope.
Fiction
In a now-forgotten interview with Cathleen Falsani on the subject of his religious beliefs, Obama defined sin as the state of being in disagreement with himself:
Falsani: 
Do you believe in sin?
Obama: 
Yes.
Falsani: What is sin?
Obama:
 Being out of alignment with my values.
That's all there is--and it's terrifying.  People who got close enough to either the Nazis or Communists found that they were worse than evil--they were nothing.  Bonhoeffer anticipated Hannah Arendt's discovery of the banality of evil when he observed that true stupidity -- real emptiness -- is the most destructive condition of all.  They're people who will pull the wings off a butterfly without even understanding that they're hurting something.
In conversation with [the stupid man] one virtually feels that one is not dealing not at all with him as a person, but with slogans, catchwords and the like that have taken possession of him. ... Having thus become a mindless tool, the stupid person will also become capable of any evil and at the same time incapable of seeing that it is evil. This is where the danger of diabolical misuse lurks, for it is this that can once and for all destroy human beings.
The fundamental mistake of the policy establishment (which Ben Rhodes derisively calls "the blob") was to take the Obama administration seriously, to think that terms like "grand bargain" and "regional realignment" were serious concepts, and to spend hours pondering their meaning.  Instead we now know they were just phrases that Obama and his inner circle made up as they went along.  Thus a White House that should have been instantly destroyed by contempt was instead preserved by the wariness of people who thought they were facing a Professor Moriarty instead of Bluto from Animal House.
Perhaps the only person who guessed the truth -- besides Clint Eastwood -- was Vladimir Putin.  Some instinct told the Russian that inside the suit was...nothing. He's treated Obama accordingly and that's been the secret to his success ever since.

Malice or incompetence?  The Washington policy establishment has to believe Obama is a brilliant, cunning master-schemer.  Otherwise they'll never live it down.
 Fernandez has seen communism up close.  He knows it well, and he's definitely not a fan.

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