In a recent column Michael Medved argues that it’s a mistake for conservatives to criticize Obama as “evil” rather than simply “wrong.”
Will it be easier to persuade people that Barack Obama is wrong on the issues or to try to convince them that he is outright evil?
That’s a crucial question facing conservatives as we gear up for fateful election battles in 2010 and 2012.
Based on human nature and political history, the answer to that question ought to be obvious: Americans have often felt that our leaders make mistakes or pursue destructive policies but we have rarely (if ever) believed that they did it deliberately to damage the country. In the last 80 years, Herbert Hoover, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush all got voted out of office by an angry electorate but a majority of the public never embraced the idea that these floundering presidents were actually bad guys. Only during President Nixon’s Watergate scandal did a substantial segment of the population come to believe that their president might well be evil or insane, and that belief led directly to the president’s resignation. The next impeachment crisis turned out very differently, of course: with GOP efforts to portray Bill Clinton as a dangerous ethical monster bringing the president the highest approval ratings of his career from a public that preferred to view him as a lovable (or at least forgivable) rogue.
On this Medved certainly has a point: most of us would rather give the President, whoever he is, the benefit of the doubt. We want to assume good faith is behind policies, no matter how wrongheaded the policies are. Interestingly, Medved’s arguments are entirely tactical: since conservatives are winning easily on the issues, why risk conforming to the Left’s stereotype of “conservative hater.”
If conservatives persist in characterizing the President of the United States as vicious and radical, insanely bent on the destruction of the Republic, we may find reassurance from the already like-minded but we’ll lose nearly everyone in the persuadable middle. As a result, we could spend the next decade or more as an increasingly impotent, irrelevant and angry opposition, howling in the political wilderness.
In the article Medved never speaks directly to the question of whether or not he personally believes Obama’s harsher critics are correct in their assessment of the President. That is, he doesn’t try to defend Obama against the criticism; he merely argues that such criticism will be riskier and (probably) ineffective. Perhaps he has been clearer on that point on his radio show. It’s a good article, though, and well-worth reading in full.
Warning: Sarcasm Follows
Does it matter what really is inside the Mind of Obama? It’s a good, conservative rule that one should never attribute to malice anything which can be explained by stupidity. I always try to remember that rule when talking with those on the far left, but it’s difficult to do when they’re droning on about how liberal and intelligent are practically synonyms and all conservatives are knuckle-dragging, teabagging Neanderthals.
It’s particularly hard for Obama to benefit from this rule, though, because we’ve all heard endlessly about how brilliant he is. Everyone says he’s such a deep thinker, wonkishly knowledgeable about all the details of every imaginable policy question, so nuanced, went to all the right schools, etc. He’s such a smart lawyer, it’s a shame he never managed to publish any law articles, but at least he managed to crank out two autobiographies exposing us to the wonder of his ways.
So from now on, to give him the benefit of the doubt, whenever I see him make a ridiculously bone-headed policy or decision that is sure to lead the country to disaster, I won’t assume that he is deliberately trying to cause disaster. I’ll just assume it’s because he can’t see how stupid he is being.
Now that I think about it, this is clearly the Right Thing to Do. For one thing he’s heard so much about how smart he is, he can’t comprehend being wrong. Besides, there’s actually quite a bit of evidence that he’s not all that bright after all. He did think there are 57 states, that surgeons make $40,000 for an amputation, and that our employers would all save 3000% on their health insurance costs under ObamaPelosiReidCare. But we already knew from his budgets that he didn’t get 800 on his math SAT. Even today he clearly has no idea how car insurance is supposed to work. Apparently, in 20 yrs of attending Jeremiah Wright’s church, Obama was never able to understand any of the sermons.
Please help with this project. When you see something the administration is doing that seems so stupid they must be trying to screw things up, just remember: Yes. They really can be that dumb.