Thursday, November 13, 2008


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.


Anonymous said...

The empty suit is writing a history with all empty promises. Unfortunately we have to watch it with our heads shaking all the time. Thanks Marc as always! You are a wise man and know how to put my thoughts in words precisely.


Anonymous said...

I would hope by now that anyone with even a moderate grasp of American presidential history would recognize that the amount of higher education a president has bears NO relevance to his effectiveness (for the good) as president.

One of our most well-educated, well-read, highest IQ presidents was John Quincy Adams, who is routinely listed among the lower rank of presidents. Even James Madison (whom I regard very highly for his role in establishing our Constitution and Bill of Rights) was not a very effective president. High IQs and post-graduate degrees are NO guarantee a person will be a good or even effective president.

Obama may very well have a high IQ and an advanced degree but, so far, he has put NEITHER to use on behalf of anyone but himself ... NOR has he initiated any programs that solved problems that pertained to anything but his own political rise.

He had political clout in Illinois yet allowed eleven of slumlord Tony Rezko's rehabbed buildings to remain un-heated, un-safe, rat-infested, without water, and un-inhabitable -- even tho those buildings were in his own senate district.

Obama speaks -- purposely, I am certain -- in a way that SOUNDS good on first hearing but when one examines what he has said, he has said NOTHING. Or he stakes out opposing positions on the same issue, so he can later say he was "for" or "against" whatever it is later fashionable to be "for" or "against."

Even so, educated people write to me and forward things to me that, if I didn't know better, I would think originated with the Wizard of Oz. The only things these "sweet people" refrain from believing Obama can, and will, do are: (1) walk on water, and (2) part the seas.

It is disheartening to learn that so-called smart people -- who have done NO homework on their own but, apparently, believe the swill they have been fed by the media goons -- believe Obama is, if not the actual Messiah, a person who bears all the hallmarks of seeming to be a Messiah (to them).


Anonymous said...

Thanks Marc for ongoing clarity.

We need places like this for the abomination we are about to enter. We need watch dogs on this guy.

Someone needs to keep tabs on the rhetoric.

I for one have planned for a depression because I really don't know how Obama is going to get us out of this crisis.

And the powers that be in the congress- (Pelosi et al) are setting up a very dangerous slippery slope.

If we are not in a full blown depression by min-09 then we will be in a corporate run serfdom with King Obama presiding.

Pay off any debt you may have, quickly lower your living standards and bunker in for the long haul. Hopefully we can avoid bread lines.

Anonymous said...

Here's an idea. Why don't we let Obama actually get into the White House & start implementing some of his ideas before you go bashing his "administration". Right now it's still Georgie boy's show so at least give Barack a chance before you get all wound up & need your oxygen.

Marc Rubin said...

"Here's an idea. Why don't we let Obama actually get into the White House & start implementing some of his ideas before you go bashing his "administration".

Why dont you tell us what some of these "ideas" are? So far no one knows because he doesnt have any. The only thing he's tried to do so far is try and push Bush into bailing out the Big 3 car makers now so if it works he can take the credit and if it doesnt he can blame Bush. Its unheard for a President-elect to tell even a dunce like Bush as a sitting or semi-sitting President what to do.

The other thing that you seem to be in denial about is that Obama has a 12 year history of doing absolutely nothing, as in zero, so its not like there isnt a track record of unaccomplishment. Does that mean he is going to fail? Not neccessarily and no one hopes he will fail and everyone hopes he will find people who know what they are doing to take up the slack. But so far ( thats what the title of the article said, remember? "So far"?) he is laying an egg. What he ought to do is just keep quiet if he can manage it until he gets into the White House and then start implementing these "ideas".

Anonymous said...

Obama has studied the Reagan Presidency and indeed wants to set himself up as a "symbol". I never figured out why Reagan was ever considered to be a symbol in any positive sense.

I am not sure we can stop this economic train wreck. My biggest fear at the moment is that China will sell off our dollars to fund their economic stimulus package. It would make better sense for China to fund it in this manner. This would have disastrous results for us, but probably not so much for China in the long term. Secretary Paulson is waking up to the horror of our personal credit card problem and still hasn't even touched the escalating mortgage foreclosures by helping people stay in their homes. Banks have been injected with capital but are just sitting on it. PNC used the money to buy National City instead of providing loans.

Shainzona said...


Ha Ha Ha!

I read someplace else the other day that this is the new Kool-aid talking point, almost word for word.

I just never thought I would actually see someone use it so stupidly!

When are you people going to use some original thinking?

(Forget I asked..I know that answer....NEVER!)

Anonymous said...

Obama can keep making oxymoronic speeches and statements until the cows come home, but at some point he has to stop trying to have it both ways and make decisions.

He will have to appoint people to positions in his administration. He will have to submit a budget proposal.

He doesn't have to submit proposed legislation but he will have to either sign or veto bills passed by Congress.

Each time he does make a decision, somebody will be unhappy.

There is nothing wrong with sending him a message ahead of time what decisions will make us unhappy.

glennmcgahee said...

I don't really know hat he is saying but I do feel a tingling in my leg.

DancingOpossum said...

So far his appointments all seem to be the worst elements of the Clinton era like Rahm Emanuel, the disinterred corpse of Paul Volcker, and Bush retreads like John "I Love Torture" Brennan. So, so far, even his appointments look bad.

And the Sec of State sop to Hillary is just a cover for his pants-wetting terror of her; he wants to neutralize her politically and get her far, far, away from HOLC and healthcare--which, in typical Obama fashion, he no doubt plans to steal, erm, "borrow" for himself and put his name on. But Hillary isn't Emil Jones and he knows that won't fly with her.

He resigned his Senate seat so he can avoid voting on anything that might come up between now and the Most Historicalest Inauguration EVAH. Nice "work" if you can get it, eh?

Unknown said...

Obama's speech is fascinating to me because it's often described as "lofty" and "sublime", but there is a stark simplicity to the words he chooses, which tend to be completely void of lyricism and imagery. There is something so stunningly flat and unimaginative in his words, and maybe it is this lack that provides an opening for people to imbue his words with their own emotional material.

Great post Marc.

democraticjack said...

Hmmm. I have to give that deliberate haste some thoughtful consideration.

Anonymous said...

Good News! Obama recognizes that we are indeed in a crisis situation and has decided to take a historic stand and do the job he was elected for as the Senator of Illinois (not to mention that he is now the most important Democrat in the USA with the most influence).

Alas - the US Senate does not have a yellow "Present Button", so poor Obama simply has no choice ... he will resign his Senate seat on this Sunday ("whew, they can't blame me for anything that happens") - more important things to attend to than a US/World economic crisis - have to pick just the perfect school for those precious little girls.

I love it - honestly, who is surprised by any of this? What in the world is he going to do when there is no more "yellow/present button"????

katiebird said...

If "deliberate haste" means anything like "deliberate speed" it's probably not any good for us.

I wonder if it was supposed to be a lawyerly joke?

Unknown said...

He's probably thinking of Gilbert and Sullivan's "Festina lente": Make haste slowly.

Anonymous said...

This business about Hillary being SOS- the same Hillary that voted for the war??

Oh, I forgot- the VP also voted for the war.

Oh, wait, I forgot again, the president-elect didn't even vote because HE WAS NOT A SENATOR at the time the bill went to congress.

But now, MR EMPTY SUIT is considering HRC for SOS??? WTF???

Suffice it to say Mr Hologram has never DONE anything, much less represented anything to even be considered REMOTELY seriously.

Let's wait and see. Unfortunately, I think Hillary is opportunistic enough to accept whatever bone the chose one throws to her. I just wish she would tell him to shove it.

democraticjack said...

Could someone tell me why it would be a bad thing if Hillary were Secy. of State? We do still want the best for our country, don't we?

Anonymous said...

I hope Clinton is SOS for my children's and my country's sake. Obama hasn't a clue as to foreign policy (not that I am holding my breath for any plan from him regarding the economic disaster either), and while Biden does have extensive foreign policy cred, he is obviously suffering from advanced foot in mouth disease. It's also nice to think of it as one big SPITBALL in the eye of richardson.

As for getting into the white house and implementing his "ideas", other than those of Hillary Clinton, there have been no "ideas" coming from ex Senator Obama. But phew, glad he doesn't have to vote on anything important before he gets out of the Senate. Wouldn't want to spoil his track record!

Anonymous said...

Thank you from the people of Illinois. We are finally getting rid of the empty suit!!! Maybe they will put in his place someone who actually cares about something. I am hoping it is Tammy Duckworth, a veteran of Iraq who is a double amputee, an honest politician and loving American. Please don't let it be Emil Jones, who is on the list I hear. Glad we are not paying Obama's salary any more. I am sorry for America though. Now you will all be given a taste of what we here in Illinois have put up with since Obama became our senator: nothing, nothing, nothing. He couldn't bother to show up for anything, and when he did, he refused to take sides about anything, vote on anything, call a meeting on anything, and used Illinois taxpayer dollars to fly to Kenya (probably more than once) to help his cousin Odinga steal the election there. More politics as usual in Obama-land.