Democrat Incompetence and Mendacity, in Nine Points

President Obama, during his first campaign, declared forcefully and clearly that he would close Guantanamo Bay prison within a year. There was no qualifications, no “ifs” and “buts;” it was a simple straightforward and forceful declaration of intention. It’s been more six years and the prison is still operative. It holds un-indicted prisoners, several captured under such dubious circumstances that it’s possible that some are shepherds or traveling salesmen caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Over the Memorial Day weekend, I had leisurely talks with five people in their late twenties about the topic of Guantanamo Bay Prison. Here are my accounts of these conversations.

One had never heard of Guantanamo Bay. She had voted for Mr Obama twice.

One had heard of Guantanamo Bay prison but he did not know whether it had been closed or not. He had voted for Mr Obama the first time and abstained the second time out of disinterest.

One knew Guantanamo Bay prison and he knew that it was still open. He had voted for Mr Obama once and deliberately abstained the second time. He now sports a bumper sticker proclaiming Obama to be a “dick.”

One had never voted for Mr Obama and she knew that the Guantanamo Bay prison was still open in spite of the president’s campaign promise.

The last person, an academically and professionally successful young woman, knew well about Guantanamo Bay prison and she knew it had not been closed. She is a forceful Obama supporter who was not able to vote for technical reasons. She argued that the president was unable to close the prison because of “Republican opposition.” She said that Republicans always stop him from doing anything good.

Now, her political position is interesting because the young woman was in good faith herself but her assertions were false. Guantanamo Bay case is an excellent test of the president’s own good faith and credibility. The President of the United States is the undisputed Commander in Chief of the armed forces, “undisputed.” A single one sentence order from him would start the process of closing the prison. Any opposition from any part of the political spectrum would be impotent to stop it. The president would have to take the political fallout of his order, of course, but that’s exactly why a politician should not make irresponsible promises.

There is a Chapter Two to the analysis of this clearly failed promise of the president. Even if he absolutely wanted political cover, he could have done it during the two years when his party had an absolute majority in Congress. And, by the more way, the president would have received considerable support from all sides had he had the courage to take the step explicitly contained in his campaign promise. There are plenty of conservatives like me who hate the idea of people detained indefinitely without charge. The legal technicality employed by Pres. Bush to put detainees in Guantanamo out of reach of American constitutional guarantees on the grounds that it’s not American soil was not his finest moment.

President Obama either lied or he spoke irresponsibly. It does not hurt him much with his followers. It seems, they like a good speech expressing generous sentiments above all. My side is not responding in a politically effective way to the reality of his appeal.

The Republican Party’s own political discourse is all over the place. It sounds like a cacophony where the only word emerging are: “Obama bad.” This lacks seriousness. Republican politicians have forgotten basic rules of good communication, rules about attention span, about clarity and about the value of repetition.

If it were my call, I would do the following:

Name three things that the president clearly promised to do and that were doable and that he did not do. (Stopping global warming isn’t tone.) That the president did not do them has to be easily verifiable. Closing Guantanamo Bay prison is a good example. Keep repeating slowly the three unkept promises.

Name three things that the president did that were done badly. The deployment of the health insurance exchange is a good example. Keep repeating them. Keep repeating that they were doable, that others would have done them well.

Name three things that he should have done and that he failed to do or did badly, irrespective of promises he might have made or not. The three things have to be actions that are within the bailiwick of every American president; they have to be part of the job. Reforming the Veterans’ Administration before he had to fire his own appointee to head it would be a good example.

Here, that’s nine things, not many but as many as my young interviewees of Memorial Day are able to understand, digest or retain durably. Maybe that’s even too many.

My communication plan deliberately stays away from foreign policy where Americans disagree strongly, especially when it comes to military intervention. It refrains deliberately from the common couplets presenting Mr Obama as the Devil himself, or even as “socialist” (a word devoid of meaning.) The plan highlights the fact that President Obama has been a very bad manager of American interests, that he did not take care of business anywhere near the level of competence and attention Americans ordinarily expect. Many independents and some liberals should come to the conclusion that Obama would be fired for simple non-performance if he were not protected by his office.

The objective is to make very difficult or impossible for a future candidate to anything to ride on the Obama wave. After a few months, there should be no Obama wave left at all. If Mrs Clinton should be the Democratic candidate for the presidency, for example, she should not be tempted and not be able to borrow Barack Obama’s likability without also putting on his cloth of gross incompetence. She should thus be forced to ride on her own likability which is very low, as everyone knows.

This is a plan to establish the fact , without unnecessary acrimony, without hysteria, that Democrats produce so-called  “leaders” who don’t do the job even minimally. It’s a constructive step toward making it difficult for the Democratic Party to saddle us with yet another non-doer, Hillary Clinton, for example. (She is a woman who has also done absolutely nothing except be loyal to a husband who deserved no loyalty.)

I am quite pessimistic. I think we are already in an advanced stage of fascism with a one-party system not far int the future. The ray of hope comes from today’s Peggy Noonan column , as it often does. She argues (WSJ 05/31/14 ) that Mr Obama inaction and bad actions are giving government a bad name. I hope she is right; I hope I am dead wrong.

8 thoughts on “Democrat Incompetence and Mendacity, in Nine Points

    • I saw this. Very nice, still too complicated for my young voters. It serves no purpose to be intelligent and to lose over and over again because the other guy’s message is easy to understand.

    • I disagree vehemently with your vulgar utilitarianism Dr J.

      Your post and your response to Warren’s link represents a worldview that I want to elaborate upon for a moment. It’s a worldview that I find to be particularly brutal and currently out of fashion (thanks in large part to the foreign policy of the GOP, which I will expand upon further down in this comment).

      First: How is Gladstonian liberalism (“libertarianism”) “too complicated” for younger voters? Is it possible that your alternatives are too dull? Are younger voters less intelligent than the people who brought us the Great Society welfare state? How does asking questions about a politician’s broken promises contribute to a more libertarian world? Why would you oppose speaking frankly with the American people, and instead advocate policies and tactics that assume young people are not intelligent?

      There are going to be die-hard supporters of political parties no matter how bad the party is. However, these die-hards tend to be a very small fraction of the population. The American people are tired of President Obama. They would be tired of him no matter how good he was, much less how bad he is (which is less bad than GW Bush, by the way; much less worse).

      Second: The American people are more intelligent, individually, than you give them credit for. What they need is an alternative that is both socially liberal and fiscally conservative. Starting (starting) wars in the Middle East is not fiscally conservative nor socially liberal. The apologists for the Iraq War have yet to wrap their heads around this. Instead of acknowledging their huge mistake, they propose that young people ask their peers about why President Obama has broken so many of his campaign promises. This brings me to my third observation:

      In your initial post you deliberately avoid discussing foreign policy, but foreign policy is the one thing that the executive branch has almost sole control over. Why avoid talking about the US’s failures over the past three decades, especially if President Obama is in charge at the moment?

      Lastly: Do you still believe the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq was “the right thing to do”? If so, why should anybody take you seriously?

  1. Brandon: he current political discourse on both sides has, I think, no traction with young voters except “inequality” and the “war on women.” This is a a judgment call, of course. The Republican political discourse is inaudible except for a kind of crude xenophobia. My nine points are a thought experiment on how to reach young people from a Republican standpoint; it’s a party document.

    It seems we don’t know the same young people. Mine are absorbed by the problem of making a living. They are not lacking in intelligence; they are only moderately interested,even fatalistic.When I voted yesterday at 5 pm, downtown Santa Cruz, I almost received a standing ovation because the poll workers were so lonely. That’s in a university town.

    Mine could be a very bad sample; yours too.

    I don’t oppose speaking “frankly” to young people. I think their minds are elsewhere, not on the Gladstonian experience.

    As usual, the Libertarian voice is nowhere. Rand Paul’s libertarianism is vanishing within the Republican Party. It was a flash in the pan. Right now, as I see it (another judgment call), after eight years of inept statist Obama government, we are facing four or eight years of inept and thoroughly corrupt Clinton government.

    I believe that there are enough female voters who think “it’s women’s turn now” to elect Mrs Clinton. Obviously, I hope I am wrong.

    • I hope you’re wrong on another Clinton presidency, too.

      I think your estimate of young voters and the dismal state of the GOP is spot on, too. I came of age politically during the Bush presidency, and as a result I have an almost automatic revulsion to the Republican Party.

      I can think like a typical young voter (Democrat, disillusioned Obama supporter) and there is just no way that bringing up the Obama administration’s failures will be enough to convince us that the GOP is a better alternative. What we need is an alternative platform that appeals to our socially liberal sensibilities and our growing realization that the welfare state is unsustainable.

      The girls at UC Santa Cruz (whom I miss immensely) can be brought to understand the importance of balanced budgets, smarter immigration reforms, and a cautious foreign policy (fiscal conservatism), but they (rightly) cannot.tolerate political and legal assaults on their rights as individuals. The GOP needs to get its own house in order before it can challenge the populism of the Democrats. Moving in a more libertarian direction, especially in the realm of foreign policy, would do wonders for the Republicans.

  2. “… we are facing four or eight years of inept and thoroughly corrupt Clinton government.”

    Like the proverbial broken clock, even Jacques is sometimes right. A depressing prospect but I think his prognostication is accurate. It would help if the Republicans could generate candidates that weren’t arrogant plutocrats or idiots that can’t remember more than 2 things at once. Yesterday I saw an interview with Dr. Ben Carson. The first time I’ve ever seen or heard him. He is an incredibly impressive person. I disagree with most everything he said. But wow. I think even Jacques & his ilk would have trouble dismissing him as an ‘affirmative action’ candidate.

    I’m not sure this [2016] is the right election, but he would be a very formidable candidate.

    “As usual, the Libertarian voice is nowhere. Rand Paul’s libertarianism is vanishing within the Republican Party. It was a flash in the pan.”

    Why is this? Is the Libertarian portion of the Republicans just dormant during the midterm elections?

    • Why is this? Is the Libertarian portion of the Republicans just dormant during the midterm elections?

      I don’t think so. The reality, I think, is that libertarianism is just not something the GOP is interested in. The GOP is institutionally beholden to big business and social conservatives, and those two factions have no love for fiscal conservatism and a socially liberal culture.

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