A Study of Obama and The Republicans

paul and CruzPresident Barack Obama is becoming famous for issuing straw man arguments to represent his opponents’ positions, but how much of that is political posturing, and how much of it does he actually believe?  It’s quite possible, some have suggested after describing the relationship Obama has with those in his administration as one that resembles Elvis Presley’s Memphis Mafia, that Obama is so unused to true opposition that he truly believes the characterizations he puts forth regarding Republicans.

One of the most common straw man arguments Obama has issued, since he walked away from his first inauguration ball, is that no Republicans offer counterarguments to the positions he puts forth.  He depicts Republicans as simple contrarians with no beliefs of their own.  On his most ambitious piece of legislation, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) (AKA Obamacare,) Obama has said, many times, many ways: “If they have a plan, I’m all ears.”

He has recently started contradicting those early straw man arguments saying:

They used to say, ‘Well, we’re going to replace it with something better’.  There’s not even a pretense now that they’re going to replace it with something better. “They used to say they had a replacement.  That never actually arrived, right?  I mean, I’ve been hearing about this whole replacement thing for two years — now I just don’t hear about it, because basically they don’t have an agenda to provide health insurance to people at affordable rates.”{1}

For what some believe are purely political purposes, Obama neglects to mention that Representative Tom Price (Republican, Georgia) came up with an alternative plan, one-time presidential rival, John McCain (Republican, Arizona), came up with an alternative plan, and other Republicans have come up with alternative ideas.  Most of those latter ideas were devoted to assisting the private sector in cleaning up and bettering the system.  Those latter ideas did not involve a variation on government intrusion in the system, so all Democrats dismissed them as true alternatives to the big government plan of Obamacare.

The reason Obama is able to continually get away with this particular straw man argument is that Republicans don’t have an equally powerful bully pulpit from which to trumpet their alternative plans.  The president, of course, knows this, and he knows that few media organizations, that prize their White House access, will put the Republicans plans out in direct refutation of his argument.

Emboldened by the larger media’s abdication of their role as the fourth branch of government in this regard, Obama has put together another straw man argument to represent the Republican position on funding Obamacare.  In an August 23, 2013 interview, on CNN, he claimed that he privately asked Republicans to “Think less about politics and party and think more about what’s good for the country,” saying:

I’ve made this argument to my Republican friends privately, and, by the way, sometimes they say to me privately, ‘I agree with you, but I’m worried about a primary from, you know, somebody in The Tea Party back in my district’ or, ‘I’m worried about what Rush Limbaugh is going to say about me on radio.’” {2}

To say that some Republicans are against the Cruz/Rand plans of defunding Obamacare, can be irrefutably stated with some Republicans—such as John McCain and Lindsey Graham (Republican, South Carolina)—when the alternative is a government shutdown.  To suggest that these particular Republicans don’t agree with Obama more often, out of a fear of something Rush Limbaugh, or The Tea Party, would say, might cause McCain to invite you into a physical altercation.  To suggest, on the other hand, that a Ted Cruz (Republican, Texas), or a Rand Paul (Republican, Kentucky), believe what they believe for the sole purpose of remaining in good stead with Rush Limbaugh, or The Tea Party, is equally fatuous.

Some have suggested that this continued effort to portray Republicans as fearful of pressure from special interest groups is, in fact, Obama projecting his own weaknesses to special interest groups onto Republicans.  Whatever the case is, Obama wants the listener to walk away from one of his press conferences thinking that every representative in Congress, and the Senate, is just dying to vote for, and stand with Obama, but they’re just too darn weak to do so.  If George W. Bush had attempted a similar ploy, at a press conference, stating that Democrat Congressmen privately whispered similar things about ostensibly bowing to the Sierra Club, and Bill Maher, he would’ve been laughed out of the press conference.  Reporters would’ve asked, between guffaws, which Democrats whispered such these things to Bush, and they may not have even printed the Bush quote without some facts that revealed this as anything more than anecdotal evidence of the Democrat position to spruce up Bush’s position.

Obama gets away with it, however, because most of those in the media agree with Obama’s premise that no halfway intelligent individual could possibly believe what Rush Limbaugh, or The Tea Party, believes without undue pressure.  The underlying current of this belief is that if we could just diminish the influence a Rush Limbaugh, a Fox News, and The Tea Party have on these Republicans in office, we could relieve them of the pressure that blocks them from following their heart, and doing what they know is best for this country, by letting Obama have everything he wants.

It is very possible that Obama has spoken to some Republicans, and some of those Republicans have said some of these things to him, but how representative of the Republican position are these privately whispering Republicans?  And, more important to this conversation, how representative are they of Obama’s view of the opposition’s position?  Is Obama’s characterization of their position done for purely political reasons?  Is he lying, in other words, when he presents us with this anecdotal evidence, or is this how he truly remembers it?  Is he so dismissive of true contrarian opinions—that offer disconfirming evidence against his preconceived notions—that he simply dismisses them as nothing more than contrarians, and he forgets them soon after hearing them?  How seriously does he take any suggestions, questions, or disconfirming evidence that occur outside the Memphis Mafia style echo chamber of the White House?  How much effort has he, or anyone involved in writing the ACA legislation, put into seeking out evidence that is contrary their assumptions regarding how this bill should work? How much time have they spent considering any dissenting voices that they should, at the very least, attempt to defeat through a scientific method, before the ACA legislation completely rolls out?  If one listens to Obama define any opposition to Obamacare, there is no “considering”, or comprehensive evaluation, or effort put into listening to diverse voices. There are only those that are with us, and those that are against us.



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