Posted by: Rick | Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Wrath Of The Wonks

Jonathan Chait and Ezra Klein are jumping ugly on Drew Westen for his critique of Barack Obama’s limp and nebulous rhetoric.

Doesn’t this psychologist busybody know that policy is all that matters in Washington? That it was perfectly okay for the President to say his economic stimulus bill was just right when there was plenty of evidence that — thanks to conservative opposition — it wasn’t big enough? That Congressional Republicans may act like sociopaths, but it’s bad form to mention it? Here’s how Chait closes his attack:

The most inexcusable factual errors in Westen’s essay have been documented by Andrew Sprung, who points out some of the occasions Obama has used exactly the kind of rhetoric Westen accuses him of refusing to deploy. Westen is apparently unaware, to take one example, that Obama repeatedly and passionately argued for universal coverage. . . . If even a professional follower of political rhetoric like Westen never realized basic, repeated themes of Obama’s speeches and remarks, how could presidential rhetoric — sorry, “storytelling” — be anywhere near as important as he claims? The clear reality is that Americans pay hardly any attention to what presidents say, and what little they take in, they forget almost immediately. Even Drew Westen. [Emphasis added]

Who am I going to believe, Jonathan Chait or my lying ears? Obama didn’t emphasize the moral necessity and tangible benefits of universal health care. (He hasn’t done it to this day.) When he wasn’t deferring to the original, useless “Gang Of Six”, he was droning on about “bending the cost curve” and other such wonkery. Obama seemed afraid to make a meaningful distinction between Democrats and Republicans lest he offend the delicate sensibilities of his precious “independents”.

But it turns out it doesn’t matter anyway, because, according to Chait, “Americans pay hardly any attention to what presidents say, and what little they take in, they forget almost immediately”. Oh, really? I’d say that depends on what’s being said.

Who can remember a load of nothing?

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