Dumbing Down the POTUS

This post is not about George W. Bush.  Really.  Although he had a role in my thesis.  This post is about our current president, Barack Obama.  I don’t want there to be any confusion about that.

It finally struck me yesterday what the GOP is up to regarding the November elections, after four events, three of which were unusual, filled the majority of my day.

They were, in this order:

  1. I watched two hours of Fox News shows at the behest of my friend, Dr. John Bogen, who is politically as conservatively moderate as I am liberally moderate.  Many of the themes I discuss below were the primary topics of those shows.  (If you are a regular reader of Extreme Thinkover, you will remember John’s very fine posts last fall on the H1N1 Pandemic, both regarding vaccinations and his advice how to understand H2N1 H1N1 (thanks, John!).
  2. I read an article about how the White House allowed President Obama’s passport–yes the President’s passport–to be photographed to counter the ongoing idiocy of the so-called “birthers” who obstinately cling to the totally false accusation that Obama was not born in the United States.  The issue of people believing the President is a Muslim is so far off the scale of absurdity it doesn’t even get its own separate number.
  3. While wandering around a big box electronics store I started experiencing chest pains and deciding to err on the side of caution and went to my hospital’s urgent care.  All my tests came out negative, fortunately, but with my family’s history of cardiac artery disease I’ve earned a ticket to be the main attraction in my second stress test.  Thinking about one’s mortality is a sobering moment for anyone.  I also have health insurance.
  4. After I got home, I got to watch my favorite NASCAR driver, Kyle Busch, set a NASCAR record at Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee by sweeping the three races of weekend.

It was during the race it hit me what the conservatives are doing to try to defeat the Democrats this fall and to discredit not only the president but the presidency in every way possible for their advantage. Why during the race?  Maybe it had to do with the vagaries of a car race, the strategies, and the ever-present reality that each driver and his car only has so much control over what is happening to them.  Someone else makes the smallest of mistakes and you can be out of the race with your car a pile of scrap metal in a fraction of a second.  Or maybe it was just dumb luck.

You will remember, quite painfully if you are a person with any capacity to carry on a civil conversation with someone you disagree with, the Cirque de Chaos we had to endure during the Congressional recess town hall meetings last August over the Tea Party and health care and carrying guns around in public like it was the Showdown in the O.K. Corral.  This year, there’s hardly been a whimper over this.  That’s because the new strategy is much more subtle and the Far Right learned one lesson: viewer fatigue.  By the end of August last year, the “scream at your politician” gambit had backfired; most Americans get fed up with toddler-type tantrums very quickly.  Simply put, the Far Right overplayed its hand.

The plan this summer is to make the president look dumb.  Also incompetent, if possible, but definitely dumb.

Why?  Because Barack Obama is probably one of the smartest presidents in the history of the nation in terms of sheer intellect.   So the way to attack him is to create, in this case, two exceptionally dumb fabrications about him: he wasn’t born in Hawaii, and he is Muslim, and then keep feeding those very stupid lies by constantly just hinting about them or have pundits “debate” the issue on TV and radio.

Dumbing Down the POTUS. Image Courtesy Motifake: http://www.motifake.com


This strategy works because there is no rational way to defend against it.  You can’t “put this one to bed” because there is no effective counter-strategy.  So the Republican leadership, now held hostage by the Far Right Wingnuts, can just keep the topic alive by continuing to feed their constituents who have bought into it.  And the way you do that is very simple: whenever the question is asked, you deny it, but ambiguously.

Last year, the Far Right tried shouting and threats of revolution.  It fell flat on its face.  This year they are trying lies and innuendo.  It’s a big gamble for the GOP because the Tea Party and other Far Right groups are much like a political multi-headed Hydra each with its own idea of who should be in control and what the outcomes should be.  But the Republicans lack a Hercules to control this beast.  Rep. John Boehner, Sen. Mitch McConnell, and RNCC Chair Michael Steele to a person lack the ability or imagination to keep these groups under control.  I suspect Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck are hoping they can throw meat at the monster without getting eaten themselves.

The question is can the Democrats find their equivalent of a Hercules to cut off the heads, politically speaking, of the Right’s Hydra?  President Obama, in my opinion, is more than capable, as we saw him campaign for the office, but now as Leader of the Free World, his focus should be on his job, not slaying dragons.  The same goes for Vice President Joe Biden.  Sen. Harry Reid, in addition to being in the fight of his career to keep his senate seat, is the epitome of milquetoast.  Rep. Nancy Pelosi has the fire, but in addition to being speaker of the House, is in her own campaign.  The DNC’s chair, Tom Kaine, is an excellent administrator, but has wisely kept out of the spotlight.

I’ve heard more than one pundit and politician say the Democrats are disorganized and not responding effectively to the attacks from the right.  That may or may not be true.  It may be the Democratic strategy is to let the Far Right, with all their fractures run their course, and when they begin to collapse, pounce with the equivalent with a sledge hammer against a glass window pane.  In reality it would not take much for the Republican Party to implode upon itself.  The GOP’s structure is much more precarious than they are letting on.

In the meantime they are going to attempt to make the president look dumb, out of touch, incompetent, a threat to the American Way of Life.  He is none of those things, so eventually the truth will out.  I continue to read the polls with a huge grain of salt.  Now I know what I’m looking for, I’ll be able to tell more clearly what is happening below the surface.  November 2, 2010 is still going to be a very interesting election day.

What You Should Call Me?

Just One Bad Word

Dr. Laura, Courtesy: DrLauraBlog.com

Dr. Laura Schlessinger, syndicated radio host and popular author on relationships, has apparently stirred up the hornets’ nest of what different ethnic groups want their group to be called–both what names are acceptable and what are offensive.  It is a narrow twisty trail to negotiate with an almost unlimited number of ways to get into trouble.  It  is not a difficult thing to do, and regardless of how you perceive your ethnicity and the importance you attach to that perception, the person standing next to you likely has no idea what either of those are.

Is that a bad thing?  It all depends on how you perceive it.  It depends on how important it is to you.  Now, I’m not writing this post to defend or criticize Dr. Laura.  In one respect it makes not one bit of difference which offensive word she used or how often she used it (as reported she used the “n******” word eleven times) have never listened to her show or read any of her books.  What I’m interested is the response.  It made the national news.  The Grio, an affiliate of MSNBC, led with the headline: “Dr. Laura’s n-word rant reflects trend of intolerance.”  Ronda Racha Penrise, writing for The Grio, states,

Many African-Americans have either directly witnessed or heard family members and friends mention how emboldened some of their white co-workers have become in expressing their racist views since Obama’s election. The rationale seems to be that, since there’s a black man leading the nation, it’s okay to say almost anything. On black-oriented radio shows like The Tom Joyner Morning Show and Rev. Al Sharpton’s Keeping It Real, African-American callers feel the disrespect President Obama receives from the Tea Party, conservatives in Congress and on the Internet is tied to his race and not his politics.

Respect, disrespect. Respect, disrespect.  The motivation of the speaker and the interpretation of the hearer, and vice verse,  are practically impossible to discern.  On the other hand,  in a culture that has a history such as one would think that over the course of five hundred years we might have picked up a clue, maybe even two, on the issue.  But it also appears that we haven’t gotten there yet.  So that raises the question: What should you call me?

A Lesson in Archaeology and Words

I’m not kidding, nor am I attempting to belittle or criticize those who have suffered untold offenses, some to the point of death, simply for the color of their skin or the place from which they or their ancestors came, or religious beliefs, or sexual desires.  But I do contend it is a legitimate question to ask, because I also contend that as humans have evolved, despite the growing sophistication of our brains and intellect, like an archaeological dig, the deeper down you go, the further back in time you go.

Irish Ogham Consonant Secret Alphabet; Wikipedia/PD

In this analogy, our cultural identity is one of the oldest layers in the dig.  Perhaps we should be calling this group or tribal identification.  I took enough sociology and anthropology in college to know that people groups, not only have a sense of collective cohesion, but have a sense of language cohesion as well.  Certain words belong exclusively to the tribe and are never spoken in the presence of strangers.  Strangers who discover these totem words can be ostracized, hunted or even killed.  Certain other words are considered “fighting words” a term we’ve all heard, but in our culture, they have disappeared over time.  Only in the past twenty years as we have found ourselves confronting cultures that have retained much different senses of place and language, have we discovered that “fighting words” is a concept that can be alive and well, and we use them at our risk.

What should you call me?

By definition of the United States Census Bureau, I am a White American, often referred to as Caucasian, Europid or Europoid.  To be honest, I have never heard of the latter two terms, although the term European is now being  used as a designation of origin not of race.

The Caucuacus Region: Source of "Caucasian Race"

But to the best of my knowledge, not one of my family ever lived near the Caucasus Mountains, even it it does have the highest peak in Europe, Mt. Elbrus at 18,510 feet (5642 meters).  Sitting between Russia to the north and Turkey and Iran to the south, its largest current nation is Georgia.  A quick look at my personal genealogy shows that on my mother’s side, I have Bohemian (Czech) and Scottish, and on my Father’s side I have Dutch and German.  I can claim to be a Europid, but frankly find the term is not all that appealing.  So do I like being called a “White” American any more than the others.  Well, no.

What should you call me?  You’ll have to guess.  It’s my totem word.  To me it has meaning, and you not only have to guess, but decide if calling me the term will be more offensive if you say it to my face, or should I say, write it in a comment?