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Hello?… (Hello?… Hello?… Hello?…) Echo?… (Echo?… Echo?… Echo?…)

September 1, 2010

It’s said that presidents live in echo chambers, that they’re surrounded by people who confirm their own ideas and prejudices instead of informing them on what’s really going on. Because a president usually does have some degree of a mandate and because he normally thinks and feels about policies the way many other Americans do, that’s not necessarily a big problem. A Democrat president will do the Democrat stuff, a Republican president will do the Republican stuff; both types of president will spontaneously make decisions that a large group, if not a majority, of Americans will agree with. Well, unless he is Barack Obama, that is.

The term “being out of touch” gets thrown around a lot in politics, so it’s kind of overused. But nothing describes Obama’s administration better than these four words. (OK, maybe “arrogant” would be an even better description. Or “ignorant elitism”? “Wanna-be socialist”?) It’s not only that President Obama is politically more to the left than at least two thirds of Americans, but that he’s also so pumped up with prejudices against his own fellow Americans that he can’t even act as if he understood them when he’s trying to.

Consider Obama’s answer to the question of what he makes of the Glenn Beck rally at the Lincoln Memorial:

I — I do think that it’s important for us to recognize that right now, the country’s going through a very difficult time, as a consequence of years of neglect in a whole range of areas. Our schools not working the way they need to, so we’ve slipped in terms of the number of college graduates, you know?

A financial system that was not, you know, operating in a way that maintained integrity and assured that the people who were investing or who were buying a home or were using a credit card weren’t getting in some way cheated. We had a health care system that was broken and that was bankrupting families and businesses. All those issues are big, tough, difficult issues. And those are just our domestic issues. That’s before we get to policy issues in two wars. And a continuing battle against terrorists who want to do us harm.

So, given all those anxieties — and given the fact that, you know, in none of these situations are you going to be fix things overnight. It’s not surprising that somebody like a Mr. Beck is able to stir up a certain portion of the country. That’s been true throughout our history.

So Obama’s trying to say that the people who had come to the Beck rally were there because 1) they’re uneducated, 2) they’ve been cheated by the evil fat cats (presumably because they’re uneducated), 3) ObamaCare hadn’t come fast enough, 5) Bush’s wars, and 4) anti-Muslim hatred. All of these points, though, can be summarised in one: it’s all a big Bushdidit.

Apart from the not-so-subtle allusion that Beck’s followers are benighted yahoos, it’s intriguing that Obama lists problems with the education system first. Education was something Obama wanted to make the big topic for a long time now, but the nation wasn’t really interested. Sure, the education system is a catastrophe. But it’s hardly what people consider a national crisis the way Obama would like it.

What’s more, Obama’s solution to the problem is feeding the root cause of all, or almost all, the education troubles: the teachers’ unions. If Obama succeeded in highlighting the education system on Americans’ radar, he’d only draw attention to his policy “solutions” in that area and therewith would add just another item of disagreement he has with a majority of the electorate. So, in that regard, if Obama were smart, he’d shut up about education. (In fact, also his cabinet members should avoid the term “education” entirely for the next months or years.)

Beck insists that his Washington Mall gathering was not political. And factually he and his featured speakers avoided political topics and instead focused on rather abstract themes: honour and faith — what’s not to like? Frankly, because Glenn Beck is a political commentator (leaning towards the philosophical), it’s no surprise the event is considered in a political framework. It’s also true, though, that media reaction has completely ignored the explicit message of the speakers in favour of focussing on how the “predominantly white crowd” is affecting the Obama administration.

What Obama should’ve been answering in the MSNBC interview is that Beck and his followers are emphasising worthy values — honour and faith — and that he, the president, is all in favour of those. This way he would take Beck by his word, that the gathering isn’t political, and piggy-back on the high notions of honour and faith. For a guy who won an election on “Hope” and “Change” and who is used to saying one thing while doing the opposite, this should come natural.

But Obama chose to go with the leftwing media meme, that the people on August 28 on the Washington Mall are as unkown and mysterious a species like gorillas in the mist that, quite like animals, are too dumb to be spoken to directly — except in the most simple terms — and that speaking about them in a derogatory way is OK because they’re too dull to get that anyway.

So, instead of entering into a dialog with the large number of Americans who are beginning to wonder about the alien in the White House, Obama keeps up the “different species” point of view:

The predominantly white crowd has anxieties. I gave them ObamaCare. — The gorillas are nervous. I tossed them some bananas.

As of now, the French Cowboy finds it impossible to imagine Obama ever getting a different message than the one that’s hovering around in his echo chamber. And maybe the most impenetrable echo chamber is Obama’s head.

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