It was of course Irving Kristol who first said that a neoconservative is someone who has been mugged by reality and it was some NYC police chief decades back who said that "A conservative is a liberal who got mugged last night"
So it comes as no surprise that two psychologists have just done some research which showed that people warmed to GWB and military spending after 9/11. The 9/11 events were a rather large lump of reality. And both GWB and military spending offered some prospect of coping with it.
The psychologists concerned explained their results by some babble about "motivated social cognition" but I think Irving Kristol's formulation is a lot simpler and clearer. I have in any case dealt with the "motivated social cognition" nonsense in psychology some time back.
The article is "Conservative Shift among Liberals and Conservatives Following 9/11/01" by Paul R. Nail & Ian McGregor. The journal abstract is below:
Political orientation and political attitudes were measured in two independent adult samples. One sample was taken several months before the terrorist attacks on 9/11/01; the other, shortly after. Liberal and conservative participants alike reported more conservative attitudes following 9/11/01 than before. This conservative shift was strongest on two items with the greatest relevance to 9/11/01: George W. Bush and Increasing Military Spending. Marginally significant conservative shifts were observed on two other items (Conservatives, Socialized Medicine), and the direction of change on eight of eight items was in a conservative direction. These results provide support for the motivated social cognition model of conservatism (Jost et al., 2003) over predictions derived from terror management theory (e.g., Greenberg et al., 1992).
The bowing Obama reflects a fading Obama
Last week, two points in an emerging pointillist picture of a White House leaking support-not the support of voters, though polls there show steady decline, but in two core constituencies, Washington's Democratic-journalistic establishment, and what might still be called the foreign-policy establishment.
From journalist Elizabeth Drew, a veteran and often sympathetic chronicler of Democratic figures, a fiery denunciation of-and warning for-the White House. In a piece in Politico on the firing of White House counsel Greg Craig, Ms. Drew reports that while the president was in Asia last week, "a critical mass of influential people who once held big hopes for his presidency began to wonder whether they had misjudged the man." They once held "an unromantically high opinion of Obama," and were key to his rise, but now they are concluding that the president isn't "the person of integrity and even classiness they had thought."
She scored "the Chicago crowd," which she characterized as "a distressingly insular and small-minded West Wing team." The White House, Ms. Drew says, needs adult supervision-"an older, wiser head, someone with a bit more detachment."
As I read Ms. Drew's piece, I was reminded of something I began noticing a few months ago in bipartisan crowds. I would ask Democrats how they thought the president was doing. In the past they would extol, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, his virtues. Increasingly, they would preface their answer with, "Well, I was for Hillary."
This in turn reminded me of a surprising thing I observe among loyal Democrats in informal settings and conversations: No one loves Barack Obama. Half the American people say they support him, and Democrats are still with him. But there were Bill Clinton supporters who really loved him. George W. Bush had people who loved him. A lot of people loved Jack Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. But no one seems to love Mr. Obama now; they're not dazzled and head over heels. That's gone away.
He himself seems a fairly chilly customer; perhaps in turn he inspires chilly support. But presidents need that rock-bottom 20% who, no matter what's happening-war, unemployment-adore their guy, have complete faith in him, and insist that you love him, too. They're the hard 20 a president always keeps. Nixon kept them! Obama probably has a hard 20 too, but whatever is keeping them close, it doesn't seem to be love.
Just as stinging as Elizabeth Drew on domestic matters was Leslie Gelb on Mr. Obama and foreign policy in the Daily Beast. Mr. Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations and fully plugged into the Democratic foreign-policy establishment, wrote this week that the president's Asia trip suggested "a disturbing amateurishness in managing America's power." The president's Afghanistan review has been "inexcusably clumsy," Mideast negotiations have been "fumbling." So unsuccessful was the trip that Mr. Gelb suggested Mr. Obama take responsibility for it "as President Kennedy did after the Bay of Pigs." He added that rather than bowing to emperors-Mr. Obama "seems to do this stuff spontaneously and inexplicably"-he should begin to bow to "the voices of experience" in Washington. When longtime political observers start calling for wise men, a president is in trouble.
It also raises a distressing question: Who are the wise men and women now? Who are the Robert Lovetts, Chip Bohlens and Robert Strausses who can came in to help a president in trouble right his ship? America seems short of wise men, or short on those who are universally agreed to be wise. I suppose Vietnam was the end of that, but establishments exist for a reason, and it is hard for a great nation to function without the presence of a group of "the oldest and wisest" who can not only give sound advice but help engineer how that advice will be reported and received.
Mr Obama is in a hard place. Health care hangs over him, and if he is lucky he will lose a close vote in the Senate. The common wisdom that he can't afford to lose is exactly wrong-he can't afford to win with such a poor piece of legislation. He needs to get the issue behind him, vow to fight another day, and move on.
Afghanistan hangs over him, threatening the unity of his own Democratic congressional base. There is the growing perception of incompetence, of the inability to run the machine of government. This, with Americans, is worse than Mr. Obama's rebranding as a leader who governs from the left. Americans demand baseline competence. If he comes to be seen as Jimmy Carter was, that the job was bigger than the man, that will be the end. Which gets us back to the bow.
In a presidency, a picture or photograph becomes iconic only when it seems to express something people already think. When Gerald Ford was spoofed for being physically clumsy, it took off. The picture of Ford losing his footing and tumbling as he came down the steps of Air Force One became a symbol. There was a reason, and it wasn't that he was physically clumsy. He was not only coordinated but graceful. He'd been a football star at the University of Michigan and was offered contracts by the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers. But the picture took off because it expressed the growing public view that Ford's policies were bumbling and stumbling. The picture was iconic of a growing political perception.
The Obama bowing pictures are becoming iconic, and they would not be if they weren't playing off a growing perception. If the pictures had been accompanied by headlines from Asia saying "Tough Talks Yield Big Progress" or "Obama Shows Muscle in China," the bowing pictures might be understood this way: "He Stoops to Conquer: Canny Obama shows elaborate deference while he subtly, toughly, quietly advances his nation's interests." But that's not how the pictures were received or will be remembered.
It is true that Mr. Obama often seems not to have a firm grasp of -or respect for- protocol, of what has been done before and why, and of what divergence from the traditional might imply. And it is true that his political timing was unfortunate. When a great nation is feeling confident and strong, a surprising presidential bow might seem gracious. When it is feeling anxious, a bow will seem obsequious.
The Obama bowing pictures are becoming iconic not for those reasons, however, but because they express a growing political perception, and that is that there is something amateurish about this presidency, something too ad hoc and highly personalized about it, something . . . incompetent, at least in its first year.
It is hard to be president, and White Houses under pressure take refuge in thoughts that become mantras. When the previous White House came under mounting criticism from 2005 through '08, they comforted themselves by thinking, They criticized Lincoln, too. You could see their minds whirring: Lincoln was criticized, Lincoln was great, ergo we are great. But of course just because they say you're stupid doesn't mean you're Lincoln.
One senses the Obama people are doing the Lincoln too, and adding to it the consoling thought that this is only the first year, we've got three years to go, we can change perceptions, don't worry. But they should worry. You can get tagged, typed and pegged your first year. Gerald Ford did, and Ronald Reagan too, more happily. The first year is when indelible impressions are made and iconic photos emerge.
Obama as a one-trick pony
The Democrats are getting what they asked for. In 2004, they tried a trick. If we nominate a man who won the Purple Heart in Vietnam, they thought, we will win. Never mind that John Kerry disgraced himself in the aftermath of his service in Vietnam, making unjust charges against his brothers-in-arms and resolutely thereafter refusing to apologize to those whom he had slandered. Never mind that he had no executive experience. Never mind that, as a US Senator, he was -- to say the least -- undistinguished. They wanted to win; and they gave not a thought to what sort of President he might be.
In 2008, the Democrats did the same thing. They had on their hands an inexperienced, recently minted US Senator from Illinois who was -- as Joe Biden put it in a candid remark that typifies his propensity for speaking his mind without first thinking about the consequences -- "the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy." Never mind, they thought, Obama's long-standing connections with William Ayers, the unrepentant mastermind of a domestic terrorist bombing campaign in the 1970s. Never mind Obama's close association with the racist demagogue Jeremiah Wright. Never mind his lack of executive experience, his unfamiliarity with the private sector, and his ignorance of the ways of Washington. With the help of the pliable press, he could be sold -- and Americans would congratulate themselves on their lack of racial prejudice if they voted for him.
Now comes the reckoning. For Barack Obama seems to be a one-trick pony. He is very good at delivering a speech if he has a teleprompter at hand, and the first and even the second time that you hear him, you will be impressed. If you bother later to read and re-read the speech you will perceive its emptiness. But few will do that, and by the time that they do, it will be too late.
That is one problem. The other is that Obama's one trick cannot often be played. As we have seen over the last few months, as he has tried to play this trick over and over and over again, the more we see of him, the less we are impressed. Franklin Delano Roosevelt never held his fireside chats more than three times a year. How many times has Obama demanded airtime from the networks in the last ten months? I shudder to think.
There is a third problem. Once in office, presidents are judged more by what they do than by what they say and how well they say it, and Barack Obama is in the process of doing a great deal of harm. His "stimulus" bill was a transparent act of grand larceny, stealing from the future in order to enrich Democratic Party constituencies now. His unlawful handling of GM and Chrysler defrauded the bondholders, rewarded the intransigents in the UAW who were largely responsible for the auto-makers' decline, and made it harder for American corporations to borrow money.
And every version of the health care reform that he backs threatens to bankrupt the country and force us to raise taxes on a grand scale. If investors remain on the sidelines, if employers are reluctant to hire, and if, in consequence, the economic recover is anemic and virtually jobless, it is to a considerable extent Obama's fault.
The simple fact that he has done nothing to rein in a patronage-mad Democratic congress is a sign of his fecklessness as President. As David Ignatius points out in today's Washington Post, in 2010, there is going to be hell to pay -- especially in Democratic strongholds with especially high unemployment, such as Michigan, Nevada, Rhode Island, and California.
There is in this a lesson. In 2012, the Republicans should nominate for the presidency an individual with executive experience -- who has negotiated with legislators, and who has had to make decisions and take responsibility for the consequences. Among those available, they should choose a principled defender of constitutional government and a skilled manager who recognizes the ultimate dependence of the public sector on growth in the private sector of the economy and who thinks of himself in the international arena as the guardian of American interests.
Roundup from ICJS
Israel is Europe's blind spot
Carroll: Making Israel disappear
Hackers expose climate brawl
Another Vast Jewish Conspiracy
Collaborators in the War Against the Jews: Sara Roy
Israel feels tarnished as critics apply apartheid tag
Letter to ABC re John Safran
The Jihad Seminar of Major Nidal M. Hasan
The unreasoning fearmongers
The Jew Flu: The strange illness of Jewish anti-Semitism
Not the voice to sell our values
Abbas threatens to dismantle PA
Islamists impose sharia by stealth
Migration: the true story
Heh! Harvard ignored warnings about risky investments: "It happened at least once a year, every year. In a roomful of a dozen Harvard University financial officials, Jack Meyer, the hugely successful head of Harvard's endowment, and Lawrence Summers, then the school's president, would face off in a heated debate. The topic: cash and how the university was managing - or mismanaging - its basic operating funds. Through the first half of this decade, Meyer repeatedly warned Summers and other Harvard officials that the school was being too aggressive with billions of dollars in cash, according to people present for the discussions, investing almost all of it with the endowment's risky mix of stocks, bonds, hedge funds, and private equity. Meyer's successor, Mohamed El-Erian, would later sound the same warnings to Summers, and to Harvard financial staff and board members."
National ID is the ultimate victimless crime: "I am opposed to universal governmental ID, partly because such a system is inconceivable without mandatory enforcement and the punishment of those who commit no crime other than the created one of refusing to carry government papers. Declining to put a piece of paper in your wallet must be the ultimate `victimless crime' . after all, who is harmed by the absence of a paper on your person? Authorities will argue back: society is harmed because in order secure society's safety, they must know who you are. One objection to this argument is that it is a slippery slope. If it proves anything, then it proves far too much because there is no intrusion into privacy that cannot justify once you agree with principle that minding your own business endangers others."
Some old stuff was pretty good: "Retro clothes are not vintage clothes. Retro clothes are new-made garments designed to imitate or evoke the fashions of as bygone era - often, the 1940s, '50s or '60s. Vintage fashion is the real thing: sturdy garments well made in America (usually by union labor, if that matters to you) that remind us of an era when all the best stuff, from movies to muscle-cars, was `made in the U.S.A.' It's about nostalgia, yes, but in this unrelenting recession it's also about the `recessionistas' - that's what Alison Houtte calls her growing new customer base - realizing they can get not only a distinctive look but also a better-made garment by `going vintage,' at a fraction of the price they've been paying for toss-off foreign-made garments at the big name stores."
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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)