October 6, 2012

Obama’s Frown

Filed under: Uncategorized — robertviscusi @ 8:43 pm

The message of Obama’s frown on Tuesday was not that he was at too high an altitude, physically or emotionally. He was registering what many of his supporters were feeling. These contenders have used the following method:

1. Tor their followers, they are a traveling duet of dog-whistlers, freely performing every manner of subtle slight to women, to Latino/as, to African Americans, to sexually active singles and to nontraditional couples (to name only the largest groups whom they favor with scorn).

2. For the general audience, they take lines that work for their opponents, deny them, and turn them around. “We didn’t cut $ 716 billion from your Medicare,”  they say, but they did. The president cut $716 billion from insurance payments, a real step in the process of bringing insurance costs down.  Romney says service providers won’t accept Medicare patients on these terms. If some are resisting, who would be surprised? If they really can afford to hang on to such a position, they must be raking in even bigger profits from their clients than we imagine. The Republicans did not cut the money from the service providers, they cut it from your benefits. Not the same thing, even if they hide it by using the same number.

Listening to the contenders’  method of argument in action, rendered with Romney’s cheerleader zip and stratospheric blink-count, Obama was clearly displeased, as he had every reason to be, and he shared his feelings with everyone. After Romney had repeatedly denied all the details of the Republican tax proposals, much in the manner of Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane [Were you with the Galilean?  Who, Me?], Obama came back with this blunt rejoinder: “For 18 months, he’s been running on this tax plan, and now five weeks before the election, he’s saying that his big bold idea is ‘Never Mind.'”

The president was not the only one of us frowning that night.

October 5, 2012

Rope a Dope  …

Filed under: Uncategorized — robertviscusi @ 12:28 pm

Rope a Dope 


What was all that howling and weeping about Obama’s “poor” performance on Tuesday in the debate?

Obama played rope-a-dope with Romney, hanging back and letting him make a total ass of himself, giving the lie to everything Romney’s been saying ever since he decided to out-Santorum Santorum and out-Newt Newt. Obama did something similar in his first debate with Mc Cain. Mc Cain refused to refer to Senator Obama by name or title, even going so far as to refer to the younger man as “that one,” so Obama ostentatiously referred to his opponent as “Senator McCain” at every turn. This quiet irony gradually got under Mc Cain’s skin, so that by the end of the debate he stood there in the character of a grumpy old man chasing the kids off his lawn.

Obama’s latest exploit in the debating ring has landed him a fresh catch of Etch-a-Sketch moments he can use to enliven his speeches and give punch to his ads. Romney can look forward to some pretty bad moments in the next few weeks.

No need to cry for Obama, though you can be forgiven if your heart breaks a little for Big Bird. Even here, there is no need. Like anyone who has raised children by hand in the past forty-odd years, Obama can be counted on to fight for this friendly giant.



March 9, 2012

“Fear and Anger, Whatever”

Filed under: Uncategorized — robertviscusi @ 7:11 pm

Not everyone follows the commentaries of Mr. Rush Limbaugh on the American political scene, and this is not surprising, since not everyone belongs to the specific audience he has marked off as his own.  So it is worth repeating that the other night, he spoke of those politicians who actively give voice to the feelings of that audience, and he described these feelings as “fear and anger, whatever.”

Like many others who heard this description, I was struck by Mr. Limbaugh’s candor. I was  struck by the precision and accuracy of his formula ” fear and anger” and was equally struck by the quick qualification which he added in the form of “whatever.”  He meant the “whatever”, I thought, to smudge the lines a little, as if he had not been sure of what he had just said, or perhaps as if he had suddenly regretted admitting to his actual thoughts.

Fear and anger have been spinning so quickly in the conversation of Republican candidates for the presidency that it is hard to tell these two emotions from one another. The candidates profess to be afraid of certain global actors (Ahmadinejad, Obama), and this fear produces, by a familiar alchemy, an outburst of rage and a storm of threats.  One who gives vent to anger at powerful actors is likely to experience a backdraft of fear, which leads to more anger.

Nothing is surprising about any part of this vicious cycle of negative feelings, which tends to intensify with duration. One can see it operating in any schoolyard fistfight, in any barroom brawl.  As a substitute for political discourse, however, it is at best misleading and at worst dangerous.

Mr. Limbaugh and his followers like to call themselves “conservatives.”  This is clearly a misnomer. A conservative is a person who has identified the best things in life, a person who works calmly and methodically to protect those things. Protection does not exclude, of course, the possibility of “shots fired in anger.”  But surely even those shots must be fired according to principles calmly and methodically set forth and practiced.  Fear and anger are not for conservatives, though they may be allowed to the young and the helpless whom the conservatives are protecting.

One can hardly watch Mr. Limbaugh jumping up and down in his ample chair,  like a child throwing a tantrum, without thinking that both he and his audience are in need of protection by an adult –someone who, like Mr. Obama, steadily displays the virtues of the calm and the methodical.   Instead of speaking of terror and rage, he speaks of the economy, the environment, the education of children, the care of the elderly, and other areas where an adult can protect the people  he or she is leading.  When enemies are in question, this adult does not engage in threats. Mr. Obama engages in reason, and when reason fails, he acts. He does not warn the enemy.  Suddenly he appears on television, saying in a firm voice, “We have just killed Osama Bin Laden. God bless the United States of America”

This is the true conservative. He takes care of things and he does not lose his head. You can count on him.

January 12, 2012

What’s the Matter with Europe?

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — robertviscusi @ 6:35 pm

The Republicans are always inventing new insults. I’m old enough to remember when they moved “liberal” from the Praise Column to the Insult Column. This winter they have spent a lot of effort moving two words into the insult column.

The first new insult is “Europe. ” They like to accuse President of Obama of having “European” models and “European” ideals. This is supposed to be a bad thing. I wonder if when Mitt Romney spent a couple of years as a young man in Paris, he ever relaxed at a sidewalk cafe with a glass of lemonade and a slice of quiche and thought, “Wow, I’m in Paris. We could use some of these sidewalk cafes back in Provo.” I don’t know too many Americans who haven’t enjoyed sitting around and walking around in that city. But maybe he was thinking all the time, “What a terrible place! Look at all these people drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes!” Even then, it’s really hard to imagine how a salad with Roquefort cheese or the sunlight sparkling on the Seine could inspire him to use the word “Europe” as a sign of decay and damnation, which he has taken to doing.

The second new insult is “equality.” Republicans accuse the president of egalitarianism as if it were a communicable disease. They may recite the second verse of”America the Beautiful” but not the Declaration of Independence with its scary line “All men are created equal. ” “Equality” sounds to them like a threat to rich people. The Parisians, when they made their Revolution in 1789 used “Equality” right next to “Liberty” and “Brotherhood.” The Republicans never stop talking about “Liberty” as if you could really be free without Equality. “Brotherhood” is still in the wings. They haven’t moved it into the Insult Column. Not yet.

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Filed under: Uncategorized — robertviscusi @ 5:54 pm

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