Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The False Equivalency Blues

Everybody's getting all bent out of shape from the latest eruption of false equivalency. In the wake of the Mitt Romney odium, conservatives like Ross Douthat can't resist tying Mitt's remarks to those of then-candidate Obama at a San Francisco fundraiser in 2008.  Rust Belt types of folks, Obama had been recorded saying, are bitter clingers to their guns and religion. The critics are right -- this particular comparison is false equivalency, because Obama tempered his remarks with a modicum of sympathy for the poor and downtrodden of Swing States, USA. Unlike Mitt. Well, we all know what a crass, clueless, "inelegant" guy he is.

For a better example of how both men hold the hoi polloi in utter contempt for the purposes of point-scoring with their wealthy donors, here's a gem from a 2010 $30,000-a-plate Obama fundraiser held at the home of banking and real estate tycoon Richard Richman in tony Greenwich, CT. Said the President:
Now, the second reason I'm telling you this is because Democrats, just congenitally, tend to get -- to see the glass as half empty. (Laughter.) If we get an historic health care bill passed -- oh, well, the public option wasn't there. If you get the financial reform bill passed -- then, well, I don't know about this particularly derivatives rule, I'm not sure that I'm satisfied with that. And gosh, we haven't yet brought about world peace and -- (laughter.) I thought that was going to happen quicker. (Laughter.) You know who you are. (Laughter.)
Those remarks, dissing his own base as genetically disenfranchised malcontents, were officially released by the White House! So I guess Romney doesn't hold exclusive title to cluelessness, after all. Of course, what Obama later individually told the VIPs at the fundraiser, we will never know. His minions make them check their recording devices at the door, just in case.

The point is that both Romney and Obama suck up to thin-skinned Richie Riches (literally.) They persuade them to open up their wallets by appealing to their snobbishness. Romney used the half of the population which receives some sort of government assistance to make the thin-skinned elites feel superior. Obama makes fun of his own uninsured, bank-victimized, anti-war supporters, making the coddled elites feel superior. The pragmatist kids are so much cooler than those purist nerds, dontcha know.

The true equivalency is in the pandering for elite weighted votes, and the snob appeal. These candidates are not really all that far apart. One of them just happens to be a lot more talented in charm offensive and tasteful contemptuousness. 


Roger G McCorkle said...

Dead right. They both cater to the oligarchs. Obama's big advantage is that he speaks "normal human." Mitt is so divorced from the lives of most people that he can't even comprehend how anything that he says will sound.

Kat said...

Well, actually Douthat did state that they weren't quite equivalent because Romney was willing to right off an entire class of individuals.
And really, who can argue with this statement from his column?:
But set aside the short-term politics for a moment. What does it say about our culture that the people funding presidential campaigns on both sides of the aisle seem to regard their downscale fellow countrymen as a kind of alien race, to be feared and condescended to in equal measure?

Karen Garcia said...

That part is true, but the column as a whole spawned valid false equivalency claims from the commentariat. Douthat had also erected his usual straw man when he said the Democrats are anti-religious types presiding over a moral breakdown of society. He and David Brooks are similarly slimy in that regard. First they hook you with a universal truth, then they proceed to veer off to the usual crazoid right wingery. They succeed in craftily changing the subject, thus evoking the ire of liberals who rush to the aid of Obama. His supporters are too busy defending him from the slander to pay much attention to his true transgressions.

Kat said...

I don't really read Douthat all that much so I will defer to your judgement, but it would be hard to top Brooks for world class dissembling.
Still, I found his bitter clingers quote highly offensive if mostly for lumping anti trade (at least he didn't call it "free") sentiment with "antipathy to people that aren't like them." Actually, what that quote did (along with his NAFTA gaffe in Canada) was confirm a gut feeling I had about the man.

Denis Neville said...

Does anyone really think Obama will treat us any better once he is re-elected? His second grand bargain with the Republicans will come at our expense.

Was Mittens set up to fail?

Writing about our fake election, Matt Stoller said, for Republicans winning the 2012 presidential election “isn’t as important as ensuring that the political class is protected from democracy. It’s not that they want to lose in 2012. The secondary goal is to win the election; the primary goal is to keep the public out of the deal-making. That is how elections operate in authoritarian America.”

Obama, the Manchurian candidate of the plutonomy?

"The world is dividing into two blocs - the Plutonomy and the ‘non-rich’ multitudinous many. In a plutonomy there is no such animal as ‘the U.S. consumer’ or ‘the UK consumer’, or indeed the ‘Russian consumer’. There are rich consumers, few in number, but disproportionate in the gigantic slice of income and consumption they take. There are the rest, the ‘non-rich’, the multitudinous many, but only accounting for surprisingly small bites of the national pie.” – Citigroup 2005 report to investors

Love in the Time of Cholesterol said...

How often has Romney blamed missteps on semantic difficulties? In responding to Rush Limbaugh's Sandra Fluke comments, his response "I wouldn't have used those words." The "47%"? Inelegant language.

You would think he doesn't need a new campaign staff or concrete ideas. What he needs is to be put on a tape delay
and have his mitterings parsed and corrected by a Clifton Fadimanish/Bennett Cerfish (I know I'm dating myself) lexicographer.

This would keep his official spokespeople from their constant "What he meant to say...".

James F Traynor said...

The brontosaurus in the room is the fact that both parties (and the Supremes) have apparently done away with habeas corpus. And no one seems to give a rat's ass. It's occasionally mentioned as a sort of side bar. But as a lumpen prole it scares the bejesus out of me. Glenn Greenwald does continually beat the drum on it, but then again he's a constitutional lawyer. So is, or was, Obama, and that really scares the hell out of me.

spreadoption said...

When it comes to watching the latest movies I'm typically way behind, even decades behind, but thanks to Netflix I'm catching up. Last night I saw "A Few Good Men" for the first time. Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, Demi Moore, Kevin Bacon. It's about standing up to power in a quest for the truth. By the end of the movie I was moved profoundly.

It reminded me about Obama... and about our decisions on how to vote. Here was the little guy, Harvard-educated, barely a year out of law school but already highly-regarded as the fast-burner in his legal department. He won his record number of cases, however, through quick settlements, never troubling himself to set foot in a courtroom and do the hard work of getting at the truth. Now he was being pushed by a colleague to risk his career by standing up to power in the form of a belligerent, single-minded Marine colonel - to take the hard road toward the truth.

Obama, the Harvard-educated Constitutional lawyer, wins his cases by going for quick settlements, giving up what would benefit the people in order to compromise with the Republicans and please Big Money. He gives up his client's well-being (that’s us); he gives up the Constitution; he gives up our economy; he gives up fairness; he gives up our nation's respect around the world; he gives up truth, wisdom, and morality. He takes the easy way every time so he can stick another feather in his own cap. What Obama consistently refuses to do is to stand up to power - the Republicans and Big Money.

But here's the key: is Obama merely weak and poorly advised, or is he doing exactly what he wants to do? The lawyer in the movie was a bright guy who preferred to play baseball. Did you see how relaxed, confident, and happy Obama was with David Letterman the other night? There's my answer.

So what about us? How are we going to vote, in just forty-some days? Do we take the easy route and settle for the lesser-evil? Or is this the right time to take a stand and go for the truth? Is this the right time to vote for real change, for what we truly need? Are we ready to stand up to power? What about losing more friends and relatives who think we’re foolhardy to vote for a third party? And what if the greater-evil wins? Are we still willing to fight for the greater-good?

Do I play it safe, go along with what is, for better or worse? I’ll be okay… I think… barely… I hope. Or do I go to trial and stand up for those of us too weak to stand up for themselves?

With Karen and her Sardonicky community is a good place to be, as we wrestle with the truth and how to get it.

Pearl said...

James: To add to your comment about so called constitutional lawyers ignoring habeus corpus let me add something else. The fifth amendment reads as follows:

"The Fifth Amendment is part of the Bill of Rights and it holds that individuals cannot be required to give the government information which may be used against them in criminal cases. ....If an individual is indicted and taken to trial by the government, he cannot be required to testify against himself. The government must have enough information before the indictment to convict the individual without his own testimony. The Fifth Amendment protections we all enjoy are thus extremely important to protect us against the government prosecution and PERSECUTION" (my own emphasis).

During the McCarthy years, anyone using this amendment to protect themselves was villified and denied jobs, etc. The House Unamerican Activities committee among others were prone to throw questions and force answers from political victims of the 'have you stopped beating your wife' variety. As a result, my husband was denied jobs in academia when he legally used the fifth amendment during interrogation by unqualified questioners.
We saw how constitutional law was twisted to fit the beliefs of extremists those years ago. Romney, Obama, George Bush all have law degrees from Harvard which receives huge donations from right wing interests to influence and prolong their belief systems. I doubt they want to boast that these 3 men were their graduates

Pearl said...

Sorry, Bush and Romney received business degrees from Harvard - doctor juris and advanced for Romney whatever that means. I mistakenly bestowed law degrees on them, not that it would have made any difference in their incompetence as demonstrated by Obama.

Kat said...

@Pearl-- Romney has both a law degree and MBA from Harvard.

Pearl said...

Thanks Kat. My reverence for Harvard has dropped another notch. He undoubtedly used his legal training to find the holes to slip through to avoid making money the old fashioned way.

Denis Neville said...

Three cheers to Karen for her response to Brooks!!! And her three cheers for peaceful resistance, and speaking truth to power!!!

“Every man is a king so long as he has someone to look down on.” - Sinclair Lewis

David Brooks, our nation’s self-appointed tin pot sociologist, interrupts our cultural moment about how to build the middle class and look askance at the top 1 percent, to point out that capitalism is an inherently elitist enterprise.

Brooks is so earnest about morality that I hate to think how essentially immoral he must be underneath.

“Today,” Brooks laments, “grandiosity is out of style. We’ve got an online and media culture that specializes in ridiculing grand people. But, if growth is ever going to rebound, the U.S. will need a grandiosity rebound and the policies that encourage rich people with brass. Most of all, there has to be a culture that gives two cheers to grandiosity.”

Brooks cheers “Aspergian billionaire entrepreneurs,” “Elon Musk is grandiose: a grand lifestyle, grand riches, grand vision and grand verbiage. Playing a computer game with a writer from ForbesLife, he let loose a characteristic burst of vast if vaporous ideas: ‘You can look at modern history where it’s not so much genetics going into battle as a battle of meme structures.’”


“’You are a middle-road liberal, and you haven't the slightest idea what you want. I, being a revolutionist, know exactly what I want - and what I want now is a drink.’” The cocktail filled him with a whirling exhilaration behind which he was aware of devastating desires - to rush places in fast motors, to kiss girls, to sing, to be witty. He perceived that he had gifts of profligacy which had been neglected.” - Sinclair Lewis, Babbitt

David Brooks, the booboisie, who consorts nightly with his sociological treatises and spends the day tracking down elite grandiosity - rich people with brass - for the New York Times.

Two Thumbs down!!

John in Lafayette said...

Yes, three cheers for Karen's response to Brooks. The Times has yet to see fit to publish mine, which went somethinglike this:

Awww, that's loveliest straw man you've ever concocted, Mr. Brooks. But nobody's unhappy with the Musks of the world. The creative entrepreneurs like Musk, Jobs, and Gates ARE celebrated.

The disdain, the contempt for the super-rich that many Americans feel does not rise from a contempt for these people. It rises from a contempt for those whose genius at making money is amoral and destructive. People whose only goal is to make money, and who have no desire, as Musk does, to transform and elevate society. People whose sense of noblesse includes no sense of oblige.

I think the majority of Americans know who those people are, and it's why a particular presidential candidacy is in full-blown panic mode.