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January 25, 2013

Rich Lowry: Rush Limbaugh Was Right About Obama

I usually won't link Politico but it's a good piece.

There should have been something for everyone in President Barack Obama’s second inaugural address. For liberals, a full-throated call to arms. For conservatives, vindication.

Obama settled once and for all the debate over his place on the political spectrum and his political designs. He’s an unabashed liberal determined to shift our politics and our country irrevocably to the left. In other words, Obama’s foes — if you put aside the birthers and sundry other lunatics — always had him pegged correctly.
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If you listened to Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham, you got a better appreciation of Obama’s core than by reading the president’s friends and sophisticated interpreters, for whom he was either a moderate or a puzzle yet to be fully worked out.

Rush, et al., doubted that Obama could have emerged from the left-wing milieu of Hyde Park, become in short order the most liberal U.S. senator, run to Hillary Clinton’s left in the 2008 primaries and yet have been a misunderstood centrist all along. They heeded his record and his boast in 2008 about “fundamentally transforming the United States of America,” and discounted the unifying tone of his rhetoric as transparent salesmanship.

They got him right, even as he duped the Obamacons, played the press and fooled his sympathizers. David Brooks, the brilliant and winsome New York Times columnist, has been promising the arrival of the true, pragmatic Obama for years now. In his column praising the second inaugural address, he appeared finally to give up. “Now he is liberated,” Brooks wrote. “Now he has picked a team and put his liberalism on full display.”

The whole column is good, and notes, of course, that those who got Obama wrong (or got him right, but publicly lied about, a much larger caucus) will continue to congratulate themselves for having gotten it wrong, and will continue attacking those who got it right.

The situation seems to me to fall under the rules of etiquette and tact. Now, if you're thinking I'm going to say Limbaugh is "tactless," and yell at me for that -- hold on. That's not what I'm saying at all. Let me get there.

In any Polite Dinner Conversation we will have the rules of Tact imposed upon us. The rules of Tact state that certain Truths must not be uttered. Furthermore, we should note that the rules of Tact are not innocent and are not organic -- they are created by people for their own purposes. Some of those purposes may be benign (we want to have light dinner chatter) and some exist to enforce an existing social order (we pretend we don't care about matters of money, and react with hostility to anyone who brings the matter up, because pretending to not care about money is an aristocratic conceit by which aristocrats differentiate themselves from the ruder lower classes and rich-but-unmannered parvenu class).

"Tact" is the enemy of truth. Sometimes it's useful to have the truth contained, a little, to the proper time and place-- we don't want an unhappily married couple openly demonstrating their hatred of each other at a light dinner party. Tact requires they put on pretenses about this.

But very often tact is simply used to suppress the truth because those who create the rules of tact dislike the truth.

And the important thing is that, by the usual operation of tact, the more true something is, the more upsetting it is for those who enforce tact, and the more aggressively they attempt to shut up the person they've deemed tactless.

Example: Your son walks up to your obese uncle and says, "You're fat like a moose!" Your son's transgression is speaking too much truth. (And try to explain this to him later, that there's such a thing as "too much truth.") The entire table hisses at him, "Reginald!" (Yes, you named your son Reginald.) Reginald feels the heat of social scorn upon him, or he would if he was sensitive to the power of social scorn. Luckily, he's too young to be conditioned to be hurt by that, and so instead just giggles.

But my point is that the remark is Socially Unwelcome not because it's false but rather precisely because it's true.

Truth is the most painful insult and truth is the most awkward embarrassment.

Statements which are untrue rarely elicit powerful responses. They get an emotion-free dismissal -- the eyeroll, the arched brow -- or, more commonly, are simply ignored.

Now, we may abide the rules of tact (and approve of them) in the correct situation -- sure, at a party, at a dinner, and at other such functions in which Truth is not a particularly important matter, we can accept that Tact restrains us from speaking truth.

But this rule should never be applied to important matters of politics, should it?

Well, no, of course not; a society that insists of repressing the most important truths about politics rapidly becomes a dysfunctional system in which people only speak in euphemism and lies, a system in which nothing can actually change because people aren't free to express their actual preferences.

What Limbaugh said about Obama -- and what Levin said, and Hannity, and so on -- was completely true.

It was completely true, but the enforcers of Tact at the Great National Conversation decided that the truth that Obama was a left-liberal stewed his entire life in fashionably radical politics (and keep in mind the radical years in which he came of age) Should Not Ever Be Spoken.

And then Sarah Palin, for example, committed the faux pas of stating the truth -- Obama did in fact "pal around with terrorists."

Sarah Palin was attacked on this point, with emotion and vehemence, not because she'd said something untrue but because she said something very true indeed, but that truth was categorized by the Masters of Tact as declasse. And they categorized it as such precisely because it was true, and it embarrassed them, and it compromised their ability to get what they wanted.

Now even liberals are saying Obama gave a liberal speech, and has outed himself as a liberal. But where, then, are the apologies for attacking Limbaugh?

They won't be forthcoming, of course, because in their minds, the liberals behaved properly throughout the miserably long five year dinner party -- they suppressed the truth when it was socially favored to suppress it (that is to say, when they themselves decided it was socially favored to suppress it) and then the giddily expressed the long-suppressed truth when it was socially acceptable to do so (that is to say, when they themselves agreed mutually that it was now socially acceptable to express it).

On the other hand, Palin, Limbaugh, Levin and the rest just behaved abomidably, what with their rude statements of obvious truths which all good-mannered people were furiously attempting to ignore or hide.

No class, no class. Classy people know when it's okay to lie -- because "classy people" are privileged with the power of making up the rules as to when it's okay to lie.

As they set the rules -- to benefit themselves and to protect and extend their own socially-privileged positions -- they can never be disadvantaged by their rules. If they sense a personal disadvantage flowing from the rules they've made up, they just change the rules to grant themselves an advantage again.

And who are you to complain? They're your betters, you know.


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posted by Ace at 02:28 PM

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