Friday, January 31, 2020

Rethinking Obama Because of Trump

I had plenty to disapprove of in Barack Obama because of his policies and his willingness to let others be vicious on his behalf.  Yet what I often said aloud during his years was how much I disliked his narcissism:  his unwillingness to listen to his own chosen advisors, such as on the drawdown of troops, and his declaration “I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m gonna think I’m a better political director than my political director.” The disdain he had for others was palpable.  He was the only intellectual in the room. This in the face of his supporter Richard Epstein's assessment “I like Obama but I reject the suggestion that he is an intellectual. He is an activist merely mimicking the mannerisms of an intellectual."

It just grated.  It was part of what I thought was wrong with his presidency.

But I'll have to drop that now.  You see, I don't much like Trump's manner and I think he's arrogant too.  Yet I have been telling people to ignore that and focusing on what he is doing instead.  Don't listen to what he says, watch what he does, I have said since his election. If I extend that grace to him, I have to do that retroactively for Obama as well.  Personality is not entirely separable from approach and strategy, but insofar as it is possible, I have to do that. I don't think I will find it easy, even with the supposed advantage that I disagree with Obama's philosophy strongly and have plenty of room to land that helicopter even without the added space of disliking him.

Because I see how difficult this is for myself, I sort of get it why people who have a visceral dislike for this president can't easily get around that either.  He made crude sexual remarks and that is therefore enough part of him that people can't forget it.  I will note that he hasn't been doing any of that the last ten years - unlike some presidents even while in office - and he deserves some credit for that.  Doesn't he?

Note: In my objection to Donald Trump I do recognise that he is not going for the same effect as Obama or other presidents. He is not trying to be Reagan or George H.W Bush and failing at it.  He is doing something different.  All presidents do, but DJT is farther from the usual.  I also know that I am mostly being shown the worst of him, even by his defenders who are trying to show that this comment or that is not as bad as portrayed.  When I have followed what he is actually tweeting, he spends a lot of energy praising people and encouraging them.  This gets missed.  Still, he does say what he says.


sykes.1 said...

Like the guy who writes the Glittering Eye, you focus on style and ignore substance. Trump has been infinitely more successful than Obama. If he is reelected (which seems certain) he will have appointed a majority of federal judges. He will have flipped the infamous 9th Circuit. He has spurned an economic boom by removing pointless regulations. He has prevented implementation of the AGW hoax. Unlike Obama, he does not incite racial hatred. Inciting racial conflict was Obama's main activity. But that is what radical blacks without any achievements do. Trump has also prevented another pointless war, despite the intense pressure by the Israelis and their neocon agents.

Trump's main failure is his inability to rein in the MIC and end their wars. The neocons/MIC thoroughly bitch-slapped him over Syria, although he did set in motion the end game.

I am old enough to remember Eisenhower. My dad served under him in Europe. Trump is easily the best President since Eisenhower. If he is reelected, he might actually become a great President.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

If you are going to be critical, you open yourself to the possibility of me defending myself. I was specifically only talking about style, which I think is clear from any reading of the above. Marking a clear division between my reactions to his (and Obama's) style and his substance was the point of the post. What did you think "Don't listen to what he says, watch what he does, I have said since his election" meant?

james said...

I disregarded Obama's claims about being smarter than everybody because, to first order, it didn't look like he was actually doing much on his own. IIRC Democrats got peeved with him because he wasn't helping push his signature health system reorganization.

Aggie said...

Compliments for arguing with your conscience and changing your mind.

The distinction for me is this: I have come to think Trump is brash as a necessary part of his business success. I think he has cultivated these aspects of his personality as a defensive cover to draw fire that he can then safely ignore, because they become ad hominem attacks. Hence, it is strategic. I think your comment about negative coverage - that we see all of the very worst, all of the time - is spot on, but I wonder if you have given it the credit it deserves for its mal-effects, as well as the unspoken benefits that Obama got for its opposite, the non-stop hagiographic coverage. The key difference between the two men is that Obama believes in his own superiority; he is the opposite of humble. I think a lot of what he did as President was gratifying to his ego to an uncomfortable degree. But I get a strong sense that Trump isn't doing it for his. This is part of what is wrong about Trump coverage in the media, IMHO: They are assuming he is doing it for ego gratification, and trying to attack that, in order to deprive him. I think that's part of why they are failing so badly. They can't cede any credit for altruism, although there is plenty of evidence for it.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Interesting take, that Trump's drawing fire to one location allows him to operate in others unmolested. Whether that is an intuitive or intentional strategy, it still might work.

Jonathan said...

Obama and Trump grate on me for different reasons. I don't think any of that matters. What matters to me is that Obama seemed to be acting against the country's interests while Trump seems to be acting for them, and that Trump gets things done while Obama was too inept to get much done even on his own terms.

Dan Kurt said...

A Black perspective on Obama:

I expect a Trumpslide in November.

Dan Kurt

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Dan, you may be right. How Trump would fare against a generic Democrat is irrelevant,though "news sources" frequently rely on that. A generic candidate contains all the aspirations and none of the negatives of the possible Democratic voter. But Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders are individuals, and while they are each beloved by a sector of Democrats, each has deal-breakers for at least some of the others. Once a candidate is nominated, all their vulnerabilities come to the fore. Yes, plenty of Democrats who don't like them will switch over instantly because they cannot abide Trump. Yet others will just stay home, and a few will even switch over.

RichardJohnson said...

A Black perspective on Obama:

Of the few I saw, they were a collection of Obama gaffes with commentary by a black person. Such as his "57 states." There are at least several ways of looking at Obama gaffes.

1)When not tied to a teleprompter, his ignorance is revealed. One I remember was his 2008 claim that tuneups and inflating tires would save the equivalent of oil that would be found by increased drilling. That claim didn't look good in 2008- at least to those who had minimal knowledge of the oil and gas industry- and looks even worse today. NOr is this the only example where Obama reveals his gross ignorance of the oil and gas industry.

2) Anyone who is recorded for hundreds or thousands of hours is going to make some gaffes.

I would say that Obama gaffes are a combination of the two possibilities.

I suspect that Trump is a better off-the-cuff speaker than Obama.

It is good to see that at least some blacks are aware of Pbama's gaffes.

GraniteDad said...

Aggie: what evidence have you seen that Trump’s actions are not undertaken for ego gratification? In this way, I think he and Obama were very similar- very driven by ego and expecting laud and honor from people.

GraniteDad said...

Sykes: your post seems largely at odds with reality.
Judges- kudos to him for his Supreme Court nominations, for sure. He definitely deserves credit there. But Mitch is doing the heavy lifting on other judges. Swapping Trump for any generic R yields the same result.
Regulations: a mixed bag. Again, some solid steps in the first 90 days of his presidency. But his inability to put qualified people in the bureaucracy has resulted in losing some critical cases, especially in the EPA. That’s on him- The president’s job is to put people in the executive branch that can carry forward his vision.
Racial hatred- he’s certainly no better than Obama here.
War- sorry, which pointless war is he preventing? Also, when talking Israel’s “neocon” agents, you might as well just say “Jews” so people know what you mean.

GraniteDad said...

AVI: I hadn’t put those two presidents together in that way. I think it’s a great way of looking at things. You can give both a pass on their words and demeanor or neither, but not just one.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I don't think racial hatred is the same. I admit I am not sure that polls are the best measure.

I think that the people who were angry before are spitting angry now, so maybe there is a an equivalence in that sense. Muslims are likely angrier, but I don't think Hispanics, Caucasians, and African-Americans are.

Remember the danger of that word "certainly."

Aggie said...


Well, first of all, what does Trump do with his Presidential salary? Take a look at the different causes he has supported by doing this. And it's something I have not heard him discuss, much less boast about - hence I conclude it is altruistic.

Second, look at the number of unpopular directives or Executive Orders he has issued. In this environment, all of them are criticized, some of them quite shrilly by panels of 'experts'. The re-direction of troop assets in the M.E. is one example. Although bitterly condemned, they have for now turned out to be (a) against conventional wisdom and (b) largely successful at accomplishing the objectives that the 'experts' held were impossible.

Third, and I'm not sure this can be called 'proof' because I'm not an expert on the subtleties of ego gratification dynamics - but he has weathered heaping abuse for his entire term, and vitriolic opposition on virtually every issue, and yet he has delivered on many of his promises. For example, the economy is extremely healthy by most measures and certainly is doing better than the rest of the world's - against predictions. Same for the tax reform. Illegal border immigration is down; defeated on completing his wall, still a good bit of it is under construction and there has been a successful diplomatic end run, getting Mexico to commit more effectively on interdiction. I would argue that weathering non-stop abuse and opposition is not ego-gratifying. That Trump has withstood this, and accomplished many of his economic and foreign policy goals, indicates to me that he has a higher purpose than stroking his ego.

Put it this way: Compare what Trump has done for our country, against what Obama did to our country. Trump is squared off against the administrative bureaucracy and is its antagonist. Obama did everything possible to enlarge the bureaucracy that was under his control, and weaponize it. Those efforts are still bearing their bitter fruit.

Aggie said...

Thought I would just stick this in here: This person captures what I'm trying to say in a better way: