Deconstructing straw men arguments about the way conservatives view Obama

Paul Brandus decided he’d had enough of the innumerable lies about Obama floating through the blogosphere, so he did some research and came up with a post:  “Deconstructing the 5 most ridiculous myths about Barack Obama.”  Unfortunately for him, he forgot the cardinal rule of attacking your enemy:  Know your enemy.  Without that knowledge, Brandus managed to construct a series of straw men, which he then heroically destroyed.

The first straw man Brandus destroyed was the myth that Obama has played more golf than any president in history.  He proudly points out that Eisenhower played more than 800 rounds in eight years, while Obama has played only 100 rounds in four years.

That would be a very good deconstruction if Obama’s historic golf-playing habits were the issue.  But that’s not the issue.  Had Brandus had been paying attention to the opposition, instead of making up straw men, he would have known that the reason conservatives focused on obama’s golf was the fact that the MSM obsessed relentlessly about George W. Bush’s golf playing habits.  Before Bush came along, I doubt anyone cared about presidential R&R.  But the press just couldn’t get enough of the stereotype of the out-of-touch, stupid, rich conservative out on the links hitting balls.  It was for this reason, and this reason alone that, when Obama took office, conservatives liked to point out that Obama played much more golf in four years than the media-beleaguered Bush did in eight.

Brandus’ next straw man was his challenge tp the myth that Obama has taken more vacation time than any other president in history.  I’ll give Brandus this — he’s thorough.  He’s tracked presidential vacation times all the way back through John Adams (who took time off to care for his sick wife, which really doesn’t constitute a vacation).

Once again, though, Brandus completely missed the point.  Conservatives’ major grievance isn’t with Obama’s vacations, probably because conservatives understand, as Brandus pedantically pointed out, that president’s don’t leave the job, they just change location.  What conservatives decry is Mrs. Obama’s frequent and very, very expensive vacations.  She doesn’t just head off to Camp David or a family ranch in order to get a break from Washington (something that conservatives, being nice people, would understand).  Instead, she jets all over the world at enormous taxpayer expense.  That would be bad enough at the best of times, but it really irks people that she’s living the high life on the public dime, even as we go through the worst economic times since the Great Depression.  I notice that Brandus didn’t address the history of First Lady vacations.

You’d think that, having built up and then knocked down two straw men, Brandus would have been exhausted and abandon the effort.  You clearly underestimate his stamina.  Straw man number three:  Obama shows his true colors by not going to Arlington cemetery.  Once again, Brandus dug out the statistics, showing how Eisenhower practically never went there, right through GWB, who often went there.

The point that Brandus missed (and that he would understand if he pulled a David Mamet and actually read information from the other side) is that conservatives view Obama’s visits to Arlington as proxy statements for his commitment to the military.  No one doubted Eisenhower’s commitment to the military.  Not only was he career military, but he was the Allies’ highest military commander during WWII.  In addition, Eisenhower was president during peace time.  Obama, however, is (a) a wartime president, with troops dying under his command and (b) he’s shown remarkable ignorance about and hostility to the American military.  Conservatives haven’t forgotten how he accused our military of being baby killers while he was a candidate.  They paid attention when he talked about “corpse” men.  They notice when he couldn’t keep his heroes straight.  And just recently, they paid a whole lot of attention to the fact that he made no effort to rescue besieged Americans in Benghazi.  It is against this intellectual backdrop that conservatives read additional meaning into Obama’s avoiding Arlington even once.

For the Arlington “myth,” I’ll concede the facts to Brandus (he correctly listed the number of times various presidents went to Arlington).  He still failed on this one, though, because he does not understand what Arlington means, and why it matters with this president more than it did with the others.

When it comes to the “visiting” Israel myth, Brandus showed precisely the same conceptual problem he did with Arlington visits.  The myth he debunked is that “Obama has never visited Israel as president, which shows he doesn’t give a damn about it.” Brandus had to admit that Obama hasn’t visited Israel, but pointed out that other presidents never visited it either during their presidency. (His research on this is so thorough, I almost though he’d list those presidents going back to George Washington who haven’t visited Israel.)

What Brandus didn’t do, though, is debunk the fact that, when it comes to Israel, Obama “doesn’t give a damn about it.” As with visits to Arlington, Obama’s failure to visit Israel is symbolic of a presidency that’s shown enormous disdain for the Jewish state. To his credit, Obama hasn’t reneged on Bush era promises to sell arms to Israel. Other than that, though, he spent the first three years of his presidency picking fights with and publicly demeaning Israel. I won’t give the whole laundry list, but it includes insulting Netanyahu on open mike, picking a fight about developments within the Jewish part of Jerusalem, setting the pre-1967 borders as the starting point for a negotiation, having his Secretary of State spend 45 minutes screaming at Israel’s prime minister, making more extreme demands about Jerusalem’s status than any other president, etc. Against this backdrop of manifest hostility to Israel, it’s no surprise that Israel’s friends see his failure to visit the Jewish state (especially when that’s contrasted with his visits to the Arab world) as just the most visible drop in the anti-Israel bucket.

So, as with Arlington, Brandus’ mastery of the facts (this president went there X times and the other went there Y times) completely missed the point: Obama treats Israel badly, so his failure to visit is added to the list of insults.

And finally, Brandus tackled the tax myth, which he characterizes as “taxes under Obama are at an all time high.”  How dumb does Brandus think conservatives are?  We know that’s not true.  We know that the top marginal tax rate in the 1950s was higher — and we think that was a bad thing.

Conservatives believe that limited government is a virtue, and that keeping as much money in the private sector as possible is the best way to enrich everyone in the nation by raising the overall standard of living.  The quarrel right now isn’t about taxes, it’s about spending.  Obama has outspent all other presidents in history put together.  To pay for this spending binge, Obama and the Democrats have said that we must raise taxes.  What conservatives say is we must decrease spending and we must get money back into the private sector so that it can create the wealth necessary to pay for the debt burden that Obama has placed upon this country.  Raising taxes on producers and creators — which is what’s going to happen come January — will decrease their ability to produce and create.  This in turn will decrease wealth in the private sector, thereby making it more difficult for the government to raise the money it needs just to break even on debt payments.

Think of it this way:  if the government has an 80% tax rate, but people only have $100, the government gets only $80 and the people are left with too little to create even another $100 in wealth the next year.  On the other hand, if the government has a 30% tax rate, which allows people to create $1000, the government gets $300, while the people are left with a substantially $700 to create newer and greater wealth in the next year.  And yes, I made up those numbers, but I do believe in the Laffer curve, which is a more sophisticated take on my simplistic example.  There’s a sweet spot out there, where the government gets enough in taxes to function in an appropriately limited, but still efficient, way, and taxes are still low enough to encourage the wealth creators.  Obama, with his Big Government ideology, doesn’t believe in that sweet spot.  He believes that government does things best, so that the best way to govern is to fund government.

Brandus is five for five:  five failures to understand conservative thinking led him to debunk five straw men.  What a waste of his intellectual energy and time.

Cross-posted at Brutally Honest