Rich Lowry writes about Obama’s recent speech on “torture”:
Put Barack Obama in front of a teleprompter and one thing is certain — he’ll make himself appear the most reasonable person in the room.
Rhetorically, he is in the middle of any debate, perpetually surrounded by finger-pointing extremists who can’t get over their reflexive combativeness and ideological fixations to acknowledge his surpassing thoughtfulness and grace.
But beneath its surface, the speech — given heavy play in the press as an implicit debate with former Vice President Dick Cheney, who spoke on the same topic at a different venue immediately afterward — revealed something else: a president who has great difficulty admitting error, who can’t discuss the position of his opponents without resorting to rank caricature, and who adopts an off-putting pose of above-it-all self-righteousness.
If any president has gone to such lengths to attack his White House predecessor as Obama did today, I don’t recall it. True, presidents have blamed the prior administration for problems they inherit, but I can’t think of a president who did so as aggressively and with such moral preening as Obama.
In other words, he delivered a partisan attack speech that would delight the Kossacks, while pretending to rise above it all. The pretense is the essence of Obama. Obama lies. The most important thing to understand about the man is that he is not reality-oriented. He does not focus on the facts of reality, but on what other people think. His words are not intended to relate to any existing reality, but to create the political reality he wants. Ayn Rand called this social metaphysics.
If Obama can make 51% of Americans think A is non-A, and the mainstream media go along with the narrative (as they will), then he has succeeded. The facts of reality are irrelevant to our postmodern president.
Let me remind you of a telling moment in Obama’s public life:
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – Barack Obama, caught up in the fervor of a campaign speech Tuesday, drastically overstated the Kansas tornadoes death toll, saying 10,000 had died.
The death toll was 12.
“In case you missed it, this week, there was a tragedy in Kansas. Ten thousand people died—an entire town destroyed,” the Democratic presidential candidate said in a speech to 500 people packed into a sweltering Richmond art studio for a fundraiser.
I submit that this is no ordinary exaggeration. It’s not your average gaffe (see Joe Biden any day of the week for those). Only a mind habitually unconcerned with the facts of reality — a mind whose primary concern is what other people think is true, not what is actually true — could make up a story of 10,000 deaths.
It scares the bejesus out of me to think we have such a man in the Oval Office. A pragmatist-minded man who treats reality as some goop he can shape with his words into whatever he needs that day, this is the man whose “finger is on the button.” This is the man who receives the phone call at 3am, and dictates policy in an emergency. This is the man who has stated his purpose as fundamentally changing America.
America has had pragmatist presidents before and survived. Nixon’s worst moments — wage and price controls, destroying the last link to a gold standard, and going to China — were all the fruit of his pragmatism. George Herbert Walker Bush was such a pragmatist that he dismissed ideas and philosophy as “the vision thing.”
But at least we knew from his biography that Bush was, like so many of his generation, a pro-American patriot. Obama’s biography is the most damning thing about him. It’s the story of a man who all his life has been surrounded by anti-American radicals such as Jeremiah Wright and the unrepentant terrorist William Ayers. It’s the story of a man who taught Saul Alinski’s radical philosophy of power by any means necessary. Obama is as much a product of the ’60s and ’70s as Bush was of his time.
In Obama we have a pragmatist epistemology serving a leftist political agenda. It’s altruism-statism-collectivism dressed up as business as usual.
One of the more interesting stories to watch in the next few years will be the status of Obama’s pretense. Will he continue to get away with it? My impression is that roughly two-thirds of America have already made up their minds: the third on the left will support Obama no matter what, because they too believe that any lie is justified in the pursuit of power; the third on the right are already protesting Obama’s big government with the Tea Party movement. The third in the middle, the independent or swing voters, are the ones to watch. These people tend to be slower than the more ideological voters because they care less about politics. Some of them get their political news from Jay Leno as much as from anything else. If Obama loses Jon Stewart, that’s a bad sign for him.