April 4, 2013

Re: Barack Obama: King of Rhetoric and Effort

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My fellow blogger, Kyle Ezzedine, wrote a blog post exposing the mediocre presidency of Barack Obama. If you haven’t read it yet, I thoroughly recommend doing so, as Kyle’s critiques are well within the mainstream conservative criticism of the President.

The problem with Kyle’s blog was that the evidence Kyle offers simply does not substantiate his conclusions. Instead, he is blinded by ideology and what appears to be a strong personal dislike of the president.

In fact, Kyle quotes about as many Simpsons characters as he does the people he professes to be critiquing.

The first problem I see with his piece, as a whole, is that Kyle incorrectly takes for granted the bias of the media in the president’s favor.

It would have been nice if he had provided more evidence for media bias than the fact that Michelle Obama presented an award at the Oscars (is this really that big of a deal?), that the media did not address the Benghazi scandal to Kyle’s satisfaction (a search of “Benghazi Attack” yields 206 results on the New York Times’ website), and that Obama becomes “flustered or offended when non-Fox News reporters attempt to question him” (a hyperbolic charge which goes completely unsubstantiated).

I think what Kyle is doing here is projecting his own conclusions about the President, and is frustrated that the media is not reporting enough stories to that effect.

(To me, the complaints Kyle raises are nothing compared to the media’s failure to properly vet the Bush Administration’s statements leading up to the war in Iraq … but that’s just me.)

The rest of Kyle’s post is essentially arguing that the lack of progress in America is the President’s fault, and Kyle is sick an tired of people blaming the Republicans for stalling legislation.

Now I could rattle off quotes from Republicans willfully admitting that their agenda was about defeating the president, not working with him, (Mitch McConnell: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president”), but I won’t do that.

Instead, I would like to point out that I’d happily entertain an argument about who is more to blame for the lack of progress in Washington, but saying that it’s all Obama’s fault, or all the Congressional Republicans’ fault is sophomoric. Both sides need the other to achieve anything. Obama is far from perfect, but evidence that the current Republican party is at least moderately opposed to compromise is not hard to find. After all, Political Scientists have actually concluded that today’s Congressional Republicans are the most conservative they’ve been in 100 years.

Moving on, Kyle tells us “it feels like almost nothing has changed between 2008 and 2013.”  Kyle, your own writing indicates that you’ve at least heard about Obamacare, but what about the stimulus, Dodd-Frank, ending the War in Iraq, student-loan reform, saving the auto industry or tax increases on the wealthiest Americans? Does that really amount to “almost nothing?”

If you really think it does amount to nothing, then prove it, don’t just say it!

Kyle argues that bipartisanship is on the rise in Washington, because people have stopped working with the President. He cites the fact that Democrats and Republicans are “independently writing immigration reform without Obama’s influence.” Kyle writes about this like it’s a new thing, it isn’t. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus led a group of bipartisan senators in writing a health care reform bill in 2009. Senators work together all the time, it’s voting together that’s the problem.

Kyle provides two examples of proposed legislation, and fact that a handful of Democrats support an oil pipeline, as evidence that “Clearly, for progress to be made in Washington, it seems that Barack Obama must be relegated to the sidelines, for even his own party is beginning to see him as incapable of bringing change to America.” Here again, Kyle is making broad unsubstantiated concusions.

Kyle also tells us how Bill Clinton was willing to work with the GOP to accomplish things in the 90s, unlike our current President. But couldn’t I just as easily make the argument that it was because Republicans back then were more willing to compromise than they are now? After all, it was only after Obama was elected that Republican use of the filibuster “skyrockets.”

Furthermore, Obama has been willing to work with Republicans; to pretend that he hasn’t is silly.

Kyle’s blog ends with a mocking reference to Obama’s Nobel Peace prize, which he says was awarded “for giving a speech in Cairo and promising to stop climate change and nuclear proliferation.”

Obama never promised to stop climate change and nuclear proliferation! I even agree with Kyle that Obama shouldn’t have gotten the Noble (but my complaints are more related to Obama’s desire to command an army of flying killer robots), but my rationale is based in reality not fiction.

The problem with writing like Kyle’s is that it prevents us from having a rational debate on the merits of the President’s performance. His is not a reasoned criticism based in facts and logic, it is the writing of a Cornellian who feels very strongly about our “sacrosanct president” and is very upset that many of us have not reached the same conclusion.

Here is my challenge to you, Kyle. Pick one or two of the issues you write about (Benghazi, Obamacare, Michelle at the Oscars, etc.), cast off your assertions of prima facie veracity and make a reasoned argument. Give us facts and figures. Then we can have a debate that appeals to people who are looking for information, not just rhetoric.

Original Author: Noah Karr-Kaitin