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December 03, 2013

Peggy Noonan: Obama Believes Words are Realities

Worth reading in full, I'm limited as to what I can excerpt.

I think part of the reason he wasn’t careful is because he sort of lives in words. That’s been his whole professional life—books, speeches. Say something and it magically exists as something said, and if it’s been said and publicized it must be real. He never had to push a lever, see the machine not respond, puzzle it out and fix it. It’s all been pretty abstract for him, not concrete....

Here I will say something harsh, and it’s connected to the thing about words but also images.

From what I have seen the administration is full of young people who’ve seen the movie but not read the book. They act bright, they know the reference, they’re credentialed. But they’ve only seen the movie about, say, the Cuban missile crisis, and then they get into a foreign-policy question and they’re seeing movies in their heads.... Grrr, grrr, good guys beat bad guys.

It’s as if history isn’t real to them. They run around tweeting, all of them, even those in substantial positions. “Darfur government inadequate. Genocide unacceptable.” They share their feelings – that happens to be one of the things they seem to think is real, what they feel. “Unjust treatment of women—scourge that hurts my heart.” This is the dialogue to the movies in their heads.

There’s a sense that they’re all freelancing, not really part of anything coherent.

For four years I have been told, by those who’ve worked in the administration and those who’ve visited it as volunteers or contractors, that the Obama White House isn’t organized. It’s just full of chatter. Meetings don’t begin on time, there’s no agenda, the list of those invited seems to expand and contract at somebody’s whim. There is a tendency to speak of how a problem will look and how its appearance should be handled, as opposed to what the problem is and should be done about it. People speak airily, without point. They scroll down, see a call that has to be returned, pop out and then in again.

It does not sound like a professional operation....

And when you apply this to the ObamaCare debacle, suddenly it seems to make sense. The White House is so unformed and chaotic that they probably didn’t ignore the problem, they probably held a million meetings on it. People probably said things like, “We’re experiencing some technological challenges but we’re sure we’ll be up by October,” and other people said, “Yes, it’s important we launch strong,” and others said, “The Republicans will have a field day if we’re not.” And then everyone went to their next meeting. And no one did anything. And the president went off and made speeches.

Because the doing isn’t that important, the talking is.

At the end of the piece, she suggests Obama's -- and his fellow Wordplay Acolytes' -- belief in the power of soothing words is essentially the primitives' belief in magic.

And on that, I'd recommend this old post I did about a military psychiatrists' diagnosis of members of his own class, the "wordsmith" class, as he termed them.

As a psychoanalyst I belong to a wordsmith profession, of course, and I have a close-up view of its practitioners. They are overwhelmingly left in their politics and tend to think words are the answer to all serious problems. Their faith in the power of words to resolve conflict is almost absolute.

Oh, Goody:

The Wordsmiths and Myth: This post got posted late-ish on a Friday, so people didn't see it, maybe. But it's pretty insightful. At least I think it is.


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posted by Ace at 07:01 PM

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