Little things say a lot because little things usually reveal big truths. And nowhere has that proved to be more true than with Obama's speeches and his use of language.
For much of the campaign Obama used speeches and phrases designed to sound good but upon closer examination was saying nothing. In the words of Gertrude Stein there was "no there there". A lot of people were taken in by it and a lot of people weren't.
But given the economic crisis anything that Obama has to say now means a great deal whether he like it or not. And so far what he has had to say has been as empty and nonsensical as his campaign speeches.
For those who think that Obama's use of oxymorons and language which is designed to sound thoughtful but is really nonsense, is just semantics and that this is nitpicking lets hope for all concerned that none of you are airline mechanics. Or detectives.
Detectives usually solve crimes by noticing small things, not big things. Sometimes things too small to be seen by the naked eye or something that to an untrained eye doesn't mean much but can lead a detective to solving the crime. That's why they are called clues. And that's why so far Obama seems to be without one.
The other day Obama issued a statement about the economy and how he plans to address it and once again, as he has throughout his political life, he used phrases that were designed to sound thoughtful but were nonsense. And one has to take into account the thought process that goes into such use of language.
With people wanting to hear from him regarding the economic crisis, he told people that his administration would apporach the economic crisis and act with "deliberate haste". "Deliberate haste" is pure Obama. That is the kind of Through the Looking Glass nonsense that sounds like its important and meaningful when it means absolutely nothing. Its the kind of thing that should come out of the mouth of the Queen of Hearts or the hookah-smoking caterpillar not a President -elect. But it's the kind of phraseology he's always used to make people think he knew what he was talking about when he didn't.
In plain English he was actually saying was that he is going to take his time hurrying up. Or he was going to hurry up but take his time. Maybe he meant he was going to employ something new -- fast deliberation -- you know, kind of like Wendy's or McDonald's. Maybe bail out GM from the $30 billion value meal menu. Even Yogi Berra didnt know what he was talking about.
I don't know if Obama has a speech writer in charge of oxymorons or if he writes them himself.My guess is he writes them himself. And why not? They've worked before. Not on the floor of the US Senate. And not on the floor of the Illinois State Senate. But they worked on the floors of newsrooms around the country and in TV studios inhabited by Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews as well as other campaign venues but the time for that is over.
Some people, especially those who supported Obama from the beginning will think this is all hairsplitting . Obviously these wont be airline mechanics or artists or writers or detectives or people who are used to paying close attention to things. which also eliminates journalists. Because speeches, especially Presidential speeches are usually carefully thought out, with words parsed and meanings and shades of meanings and subtleties discussed at length. Obviously not in Obama's case.
The fact is that everyone in the room thought "deliberate haste" sounded good. Which doesn't say much for everyone in the room because not one of them said, "what does that mean?" When you surround yourself with people who are more afraid of looking stupid ( because maybe they think they are) than asking an honest question, it doesn't bode well for effective problem solving.
But Obama now has to actually do something. People justifiably fed up with the havoc the Republicans caused ( and this economic crisis is directly related to Republican ideology regarding regulation and a Republican fox guarding the chicken coop chairman of the SEC) have turned to the Democrats who have historically handled economic issues better than the Republicans.
So Obama has to make good on the reason he was elected. The reason Montana voted for him. The reason Ohio and Michigan and Florida voted for him. The reason 8 states that voted Republican in 2004 voted for him. To fix the economy.And the reason that little things mean so much is that 70% of the GNP is consumer spending. And one of the biggest factors in consumer spending is confidence.
If Obama can't inspire confidence, which is the fastest thing a leader can do and what Roosevelt did in 1932, and has the quickest effect because it can be instantaneous, then it makes the job twice as hard because if people don't have confidence then they will want to see proof before they lift a finger and realistically any economic program has to have at least two years to work through the system.
So far given the 400+ drop in the market yesterday and the more than 1000 pt drop since he was elected, Obama hasn't inspired confidence. The day after the election a friend sent me a headline that said, "Biggest Post Election Drop in History". I wrote back asking if this was about the stock market or Obama's IQ.
Hopefully Obama will approach these problems with some concrete ideas that won't be motivated by politics. But whatever he does, he's going to have to be done with a lot more than deliberate haste.
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