I think it’s possible that Victor Davis Hanson has written his best column ever. Every word he writes is a gem, as he analyzes the way Obama speaks endlessly, usually about himself, but always manages to distance himself from responsibility. It’s really a tour de force — both the column and, frankly, Obama’s masterful sophistry. Here’s a taste, but you’re cheating yourself if you don’t read the whole thing:
He excels especially in the expression of dramatic anguish. His attorney general is “upset” that he had to resort to tapping the phone records of reporters. Barack Obama is torn because his drones sometime kill those beyond the four thousand intended. Obama is so bothered that his subordinates have gone after journalists that he wants Congress to stop him from himself, by passing a law to prevent his own team from doing what he finds politically advantageous. It is outrageous, Obama thunders, that the IRS is monitoring his political enemies — and so outrageous that the person who oversaw the illegal program had to be promoted to enforce the fiscal protocols of Obamacare. Benghazi really was a terrorist act, because the president right after the killings jailed a filmmaker for it, blamed the attack on spontaneous demonstrations — and yet in passing said he opposed generic terrorist acts. Presto — he could post facto claim that he meant all the time that Benghazi was just one of those preplanned acts of terror.
Sophists tip their hand in jest — and none better than Barack Obama. Beware when he jokes that he will send the IRS after you, or that Predators will guard his daughters. And be even more vigilant of the preemptory denial. Barack Obama can brag ad nauseam about killing Osama bin Laden, because he first swore that he would never “spike the ball” by referencing the hit.
To get things done, first-person pronouns breed to show both concern and control where there is often neither: I just appointed my new team that reports to me about my concerns that I share with advisors of mine. In the world of rhetoric, the more “I,” “me,” “my,” and “mine” appear in the abstract, the more we suspect that the over-referenced speaker has been usually absent in the concrete. There is no “us” or “we” or “our” in Washington these days — although lots of “they” and “them,” the existential enemies of “I” and “me.”
Barack Obama has used executive orders for everything — amnesties, dismissal of the Defense of Marriage Act, recess appointments, the shutting down of coal plants — except the closure of Guantanamo Bay. After five years, we appreciate that Obama really, really does not wish this Bush artifact left open, and yet really, really cannot close it. “They” (fill in the blanks: the right wing, the Republican Congress, the neo-cons) won’t let him. Ditto renditions, tribunals, drones, preventive detentions: Bush did it, and Obama really wants to undo it. The problem is that he just can’t: he’s not a king, tyrant, or dictator, after all — as he reminds his more zealous supporters who, he infers [implies] to the rest of us, demand him to be just that. He is our modern-day Caesar who must majestically defer when the people thrust the crown in his hands.
Shakespeare wrote of words that were full of sound and fury, but signified nothing. Obama’s variation is speeches full of pronouns and whines, but that still signify nothing.