Monday, April 5, 2010

Frank Rich Again

As I still have much research and thought to go on social movements, I have a short thought or two on Frank Rich' column this past weekend.

It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Obama!

...Remnick returns repeatedly to the notion that Obama is a “shape-shifter,” with a remarkable ability to come across differently to disparate constituencies. Some of that reflects his agility at shifting rhetorical gears...

Let us face facts. We have a President who is excellent at “shifting rhetorical gears”. I enjoy it.
And there may be some “racism” from the left:
He (a friend of Mr. Rich) theorized that race also plays a role in “the often angry and intemperate talk” he has been hearing from “left-liberal friends for the past many months about what a failure and a disappointment” the president has been. In his view, “Obama never said anything, while running, to give anyone the idea” that he was other than a “deliberate, compromise-seeking bipartisan moderate.” My friend wondered if white liberals who voted for Obama expected a “sweeping Republicans-be-damned kind of agenda” in part — and he emphasized “in part!” — because “they expect a black guy to be intemperate, impetuous, impatient” rather than “measured, deliberate, patient.”

Probably not as indicated here though race may have played a partial roll in President Obama's election. I believe Some white Democrats and Independents voted for him to show the world the nation would elect a black President.

As far back as 2004 — when Obama was still in the Illinois Senate — a writer at The Chicago Tribune, Don Terry, framed what remains the prevailing Obama takeaway to this day. “He’s a Rorschach test,” Terry wrote. “What you see is what you want to see.”

As for this far left but pragmatic Socialist Democrat, I see what I expected to see as this President works-a very pragmatic person. He is like his “health reform” law-the best we can get. He is much more centrist than I would like to see but he is certainly better than the other offerings. And even though I am very far left of center I am pragmatic.
I do admire his new found energy and almost always enjoy listening to him whether in an interview or giving a speech. Of course after what we had in the White House, just having one “rhetorical gear” is something to behold.

And not a moment too soon. The speed with which Obama navigates out of the recession, as measured by new jobs and serious financial reform, remains by far the most determinative factor in how he, his party and, most of all, the country will fare in the fractious year of 2010. If he succeeds in that all-important challenge — or, for that matter, if he fails — the enigmatic, Rorschach-test phase of Obama’s still young relationship to the American people may rapidly draw to a close. It will be the moment of clarity that allows us to at last judge him, as we should all presidents, on what he’s actually done rather than on who we imagine he is.

As far as his ability to produce jobs, I hope he can. But I do not expect miracles.


  1. ..deliberate, compromise-seeking bipartisan moderate, pragmatic, rational, thoughtful, non-ideological ...

    Totally consistent since Harvard Law School - No surprises in Obama unless you get your propaganda from Fox and hate radio.

    I'm pragmatically pleased!

  2. Kanna: The whole debate over "shape shifting" is silly. The only change that I've seen was Obama caught some fire in his belly and came out fighting for health care the few weeks before it passed and has used that momentum to get in front of crowds and try to fire them up for the tasks still left to be done.

    I got a chuckle at your pointing out that this silly argument is really about Obama being good at "shifting rhetorical gears".

    Seems that his opponents want him to stand still to make an easier target.

    It is pretty clear to me that when letting the Congress "lead" on health care wasn't working, then Obama stepped in. I classify this as "shape shifting" in the same sense as the famous quote by John Maynard Keynes: "When the facts change, I change my opinion. What do you do, Sir?"

    The Left is angry with Obama for not being as progressive as they hoped. The Right is angry that he is more liberal than they like. The reality is that he's been pretty consistent. He is a centre-left Democrat made of the same mold as Bill Clinton (but hopefully without the uncontrolled sexual impulses). The only shifting he has done is when the plan isn't working and he has to adapt to the changed situation.

    As for presenting "different personas" before different crowds. I don't know any politician who doesn't do that. You don't pull out your speech for the town business leaders when you are meeting with volunteers at the rape crisis centre. You tailor your speech to your audience. That isn't "shape shifting".

  3. Both commenters are right.
    The reality is that Pres. Obama has not changed.
    I think more people saw in him what they wanted to see when he was running for office but not as many do now.
    As far as mainstream media, forget that. You will get snippets of coverage and anything, no matter how small, that is "controversial".
    The President is always adept at speaking and that is one thing I really enjoy. I must not be alone or the administration would not keep sending him to so many venues.
    Thanks for the comments.

  4. RY,
    I have been thinking about the Canadian system, so many parties.
    I can't imagine it in the U.S.-we can't deal with two. The money that flows to the parties here would have to be stretched further and that would be tough on many of our politicians.
    Do notice I said "many". There are probably a few politicians that don't partake as much.
    The US really needs to do something about campaign finance but...

  5. Hi Kanna;

    Great post! I read some of the article.. It caught my interest because of a conversation with a loved one earlier that day and I started to post a little on that conversation and Rich's article..

    The conversation started with a joke:

    Do you know what a recession is? Answer; when your neighbor loses his job. Do you know what a depression is? Answer; when you lose your job. Do you know what recovery is? Answer; when Obama loses his job.

    Then the conversation turned to someone else in the family saying something about people who think of Obama as savior. I grew even more irritated and wondered who thinks of him as a savior and said that I didn't know of anyone who thinks of him that way. I don't know what all else I said, but needless to say I am careful to be respectful to the person I was talking to since I love her very much, but I think that the messiah or savior thing comes from talking heads more specifically; Hannity and others in his class. It is a way to drive more animosity into his listeners. I do know that even those who support Obama are quick to criticize if he isn't doing what they think he should; far from any worship of him.

    Anyway I agree with your post and the comments here. We all tone our speech to our audience or if we are smart, we do. You will get mowed down by the angry mob if you don't know how to talk to them or not talk to them... Obama is a great speaker and a courageous one some of the time, too.

  6. Thomas,
    I can't remember exactly who started the "savior" thing. I believe it was Fox or there was this in Jan. 08 and The Baptist Board blog back in Feb of 2008. then this one maybe /02/farrakhan_praises_obama_savior.html Maybe it started as simply as the last one and away we go. It just started and then the Mainstream media picked it up made a bigger deal of it. Then they got fearful of bending too far left so they went overboard the other way for a while.
    I think it all goes back to fear.
    Sorry about the links. Having trouble with them here.