The first rule of American political discourse is that you cannot mention the inanity of American political discourse. Here is Obama:
"Part of the reason that our politics seems so tough right now and facts and science and argument does not seem to be winning the day all the time is because we're hardwired not to always think clearly when we're scared,” Obama said Saturday evening in remarks at a small Democratic fundraiser Saturday evening. “And the country's scared.”
A thousand examples come to mind. Just for fun, however, I clicked a link right to the left of this Politico story. Near the top of the page, this is what it said:
Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh on Monday rolled out a new attack on Barack Obama, charging that the president looks "demonic."
Pointing to a recent picture of the president highlighted by the conservative Drudge Report, Limbaugh improbably declared during his show Monday that there are no other photos of "an American president with facial expressions like this."
"These pictures, they look demonic," Limbaugh said, in comments later posted on his website.
"It is strange that these pictures would be released," Limbaugh said of the images, which were taken by a wire service. "It's very, very, very strange."
"An American president has never had facial expressions like this," the conservative insisted. "At least, we've never seen photos of an American president with facial expressions like this."
Facts and science and argument. Anyway, Here's Michael Gerson's take on Obama's remarks:
Let's unpack these remarks.
Obama clearly believes that his brand of politics represents "facts and science and argument." His opponents, in disturbing contrast, are using the more fearful, primitive portion of their brains. Obama views himself as the neocortical leader — the defender, not just of the stimulus package and health-care reform but also of cognitive reasoning. His critics rely on their lizard brains — the location of reptilian ritual and aggression. Some, presumably Democrats, rise above their evolutionary hard-wiring in times of social stress; others, sadly, do not.
There is a principle in argument, called the principle of charity, which has it that in the absence of the object of one's criticism, one ought to be nice. This is not nice. And it's obviously false. Obama is talking about the state of our political discourse–the discourse where whether he looks like the devil constitutes a noteworthy intervention.
But don't let me tell you. Listen to Gerson (a few paragraphs down the page):
There have been several recent attempts to explain Obama's worldview as the result of his post-colonial father or his early socialist mentors — Gnostic attempts to produce the hidden key that unlocks the man. The reality is simpler. In April 2008, Obama described small-town voters to wealthy donors in San Francisco: "It's not surprising, then, they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them." Now, to wealthy donors in Massachusetts, opponents are "hard-wired not to always think clearly." Interpreting Obama does not require psychoanalysis or the reading of mystic Chicago runes. He is an intellectual snob.
Not only does this reference the kind of off-the-wall crap that constitutes political analysis in certain quarters, but in engages in the kind of silly discourse Obama is criticizing. Rather than consider Obama's fairly moderate point–I mean seriously, death panels–Gerson turns the discussion to the person. Perhaps Obama ought to have said: "rather than have a discussion about reality, some, such as Michael Gerson, would like to talk about what a snob I am to make such a demand."