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The Politics of Obama’s Audacious Cynicism

by | Jul 16, 2012

By Dave Andrusko

Prof. George Lakoff

I mentioned in “Obama Recycles old excuses in CBS News interviews” that I would delve into a related aspect of President Obama’s habit of talking in a manner that bares no connection to what actually has happened, that imputes to others behavior that he routinely indulges in but pretends otherwise.

NRL News Today and its forerunner Today’s News & Views has carried several stories about George Lakoff, a professor of linguistics and cognitive sciences. Lakoff surfaced in 2004 after Democrats took an electoral bath.

He and his devotees fancy Lakoff a guru whose principle contribution is the importance of “framing” issues in a manner that snookers the public into believing that the party believes something it transparently does NOT believe in. His appeal is not necessarily that it works but that I offers a built-in excuse.

When Democrats lose it is because they have not “framed” the issue right—aka they have failed to “reframe the terms of political debate to make a progressive moral vision more persuasive and influential”—not that the voters disagree.

And the best part is nothing substantive ever needs to change. Nice work, if you can get it. And Lakoff has.

Until someone forwarded me a link to a column by the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto, I had missed that Lakoff has a new book out with Elizabeth Wehling titled,  “The 10 Most Important Things Democrats Should Know.”

Taranto begins his column with the #1 most important piece of advice: “Don’t repeat conservative language or ideas, even when arguing against them.”

Obama fine-tunes that advice. He will occasionally acknowledge what his opponents say, not to engage them in an honest debate, but to feign confusion. Since Obama insists he is a 24/7 hunt for common ground (as part of his larger campaign “to change the atmosphere here in Washington”), the only explanation for gridlock is that his Republican opponents are insincere/politically motivated/care not a twit about the American people.

Obama simply attributes his own motivation/behavior to his opponents and then suggests if the electorate gives him a second term he might be able to civilize his Republican opponents. Again, if people buy into this, he never has to either talk about his own record or debate fairly the positions taken by his opponent’s—in this case, pro-life Mitt Romney.

And since his campaign—like his rhetoric—operates on multiple levels, Obama can profess that he seeking a nobler campaign even as his operatives attack and attack and accuse and accuse and malign and malign.

Obama is breathtakingly audacious, not in his “hope and change” which was always atmospherics, but in his cynicism. Our job is to help everyone see the truth about a man who is yet to be acquainted with it.

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Categories: Obama