Facts and science and argument

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."

6 thoughts on “Facts and science and argument”

  1. I think people want politicians to be responsible for their actions. Obama's remarks are absolutely true: "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."
    The other big part is their incompetence and irresponsibility.

  2. I believe Obama is wise in terms of politics and he stands everything he says. About his devilish photographs, i don't think he looks like a devil on it.  He just showed he is serious of what he is saying.

  3. This reminds me of Andrew Card's claim that Obama was the only President to be photographed in shirtsleeves in the Oval Office. Bam! Moments later blogs everywhere posted pictures of the sacred Raygun, in shirtsleeves, in the Oval Office, along with other Republican Presidents. Time to dig up some demonic pictures of Raygun, etc…

  4. If Obama believes in fact and science, then why would he have his FDA declare that Canadian drugs are too dangerous to re-import?  The science simply doesn't back that up. 

  5. Focusing on the arguments instead of the people seems like a good idea.  Let's use the intellectual part of our brains.  Let's stop speculating on what Obama is thinking and focus on the policies he proposes.  Let's also stop highlighting that one inane statement (such as people clininging to their guns) and using it to dismiss everything that person proposes.  Let's stop finding that one crazy Deomcrat with some wild exaggerated proposal (such as nationalizing the oil industry) and using it as an excuse to dismiss all Democratic proposals in one fell swoop.
    But let's keep "using the more fearful, primitive portion of [our] brains" whenever we think about the Tea Party, or about anyone loosely associated with it.  Because it's so much fun.

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