Obama’s Secret Identity Revealed!

I am facinated by Barak Obama. In part this is because I figure he is likely to be the next president, and in part because the combination of meteoric success and a limited public record has a tendency to make him into a kind of ink-blot test of people’s hopes and fears. The resulting discussions are often very revealing, even if they are not revealing about Obama himself. Also, unlike most national politicians, he seems to be a genuinely thoughtful and even curious person. Too often democracy seems to reward shallow narcicissits.

Still, my suspicion is that — stripped of the rhetoric — Obama is a rather conventional left of center pol, and not being a big fan of left of center pols, I’m inclined to enjoy his eloquence and put my political hopes elsewhere. (Or simply jettison political hope.)

Cass Sunstein, however, seems to be out to persuade people like me to support Obama. He has done a nice podcast on why conservatives should support Obama, and now he’s got an article in the New Republic explaining Obama’s pragmatism. Sunstein writes of him:

When he offers visionary approaches, he does so as a visionary minimalist–that is, as someone who attempts to accommodate, rather than to repudiate, the defining beliefs of most Americans. His reluctance to challenge people’s deepest commitments might turn out to be what makes ambitious plans possible–notwithstanding the hopes of the far left and the cartoons of the far right.

He goes on to insist, “Above all, Obama’s form of pragmatism is heavily empirical; he wants to know what will work.”

So it turns out that Obama is a minimalist empiricist who believes in market-based approaches for pursuing progressive ends. In short, Obama is…Cass Sunstein.

It’s a good brief, but I am still left feeling like Herod Agrippa. (Cf. Acts 26:28)

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25 Responses

  1. A.J. Sutter says:

    I’m more concerned about the reverse problem. I intend to vote for Obama not least because, despite his inexperience in government, I expect that he’d make judicial appointments I’d be happier with than those made by a Republican president. But after recently reading more of Cass Sunstein’s writings, and aware of his friendship with Obama, I’m increasingly apprehensive about his being one of those appointments.

  2. “market-based approaches for pursuing progressive ends”

    Such as increasing taxes on “the rich” to reduce taxes for the “middle class”, and fund government programs until we are all happy. He has said that he would increase taxes on the rich even if overall tax revenue would fall, out of a sense of fairness. This is not a market based approach, it is class envy and redistribution.

  3. Sean M. says:

    Would you want Cass Sunstein for president?

    I wouldn’t want Cass Sunstein for president.

  4. Brett Bellmore says:

    Could we arrange for him to be president of some other country? That could be cool…

    I find myself largely in agreement with Jim Lindgren, over at the Volokh Conspiracy. Obama may be eloquent, but the actual content of his proposals is deeply troubling.

    Alas, on a number of very important issues, (Illegal immigration, campaign censorship…) there’s very little space between Obama and McCain. I’m well into “Abandon all hope” territory at this point: My beloved nation is not going to exist in a recognizable form when my son is a grown man. Perhaps we’ll immigrate…

  5. BC says:

    This seems to be of a piece with Sunstein’s various other efforts at reality-warping, such as his bizarre project of rechristening what’s otherwise indistinguishable from traditional nanny statism as “libertarian paternalism”.

  6. Tim Shell says:

    President Sunstein aside, I’d like to know why you think Obama is “a genuinely thoughtful and even curious person”.

    I’ve come to an opposite conclusion – a person who speaks only in cliches and vague generalizations is usually a person who thinks only in cliches and vague generalizations.

  7. Mavis Bramston says:

    I don’t enjoy eloquence in a politician, in fact I dislike and distrust it. I have seen it used for malign purposes too many times. Eloquence is for the naive and gullible.

  8. jim says:

    I hope Obama is just a left of center pol. I still won’t vote for him, but at least then the damage he does will be, hopefully, recoverable. But his background does seem to be someone of the hard left who has learned to sell himself as moderate-seeming.

    What ever happened to the New Democrats of the 1990s? You know, the ones for welfare reform and NAFTA. I liked those guys. (In fact, I just might have voted for one.)

    I come from a Dem family (midwest Catholics), but live in a “progressive” college town. I like traditional midwest Dems. I endure “progressives” — who seem to be screechy, preachy, angry people filled with hate for those who disagree with their politics.

    That said, progressive college towns have great live music and lots of artsy shops and good theater and cute, single women. All things I like. I don’t really mind that many people here have wacky beliefs about politics or economics. I’m a live and let live kinda guy. I just wish they didn’t hate me so much. (My salsa instructor actually made the sign of the cross at me when he found out I was a Republican. Yeesh!) 🙂

    Strange world. The most pessimistic people I know tend to be the richest and best educated. They think the world’s going to hell. I’m like, we’re living in a paradise. There’s free live music almost every night. Cheap classes on anything you want to learn. Teaching hospital down the road. And all the fancy sandwiches you could want. Most people around the world would die to live here.

  9. K T Cat says:

    Obama is a pragmatist? What is that based on? His published scholarly works? His tremendous success as a community organizer? His full year in the Senate?

    The guy is a pipsqueak meeting moth from a corrupt city. Not exactly who you want as president.

  10. george says:

    Your funniest line is: “he is likely to be the next president.”

  11. Dick Eagleson says:

    “Above all, Obama’s form of pragmatism is heavily empirical; he wants to know what will work.”

    Sure. Like, say, The Surge, for example. Gimme a break!

  12. matt says:

    how does one get to the age of 44/45 and candidacy of one of the two major parties without a solid record of achievement? Obama sems to have been made of whole cloth. A dab of community activism, a non-profit where the records are slim indeed, an inconsequential record as a one term state senator, and an inconsequential record as a United States Senator. A lot of sizzle, but no steak. All things to all people, and some very disturbing friends. One may wish to look beyond these facts, but we are judged by our achievements, not our promises.

  13. No one says:

    “visionary minimalist” ?

    That’s what? Doublespeak for an orator with nothing to back up his words?

  14. Tcobb says:

    I think you got it right when you said: Too often democracy seems to reward shallow narcicissits, but I cannot see how you can interpret Mr. Obama as NOT fitting this description. If anything his popularity seems to demonstrate that the initial observation is utterly true. He only seems to be a pragmatist in regards to what he needs to say (or thinks he needs to say) to get elected.

  15. Daryl Herbert says:

    So Cass Sunstein is just one more dupe who believes Obama thinks exactly like him.

    Everyone looks at Barack Obama and they see themselves. Supporting him is an act of vanity.

  16. Orion says:

    “A lot of sizzle, but little steak.”

    Obama seems to have been in training to be the “stealth candidate” for President for many years and that’s troubling.

    Do I believe a cabal of leftwingers got together in, say, 1995, after Bubba proved to be such a bust for the Socialist Cause and said, “Let’s manufacture our own candidate! Let’s find someone we can foster as a moderate or slightly left of center moderate but who once elected will swing the country hard left!”? I honestly can’t rule it out when I look at Obama. Up until just a few years ago he was NOTHING. A Chicago “community organizer” (Chicago politics codeword for “wardheeler”) whose only accomplishment was to funnel $100 Million dollars of taxpayer money into the coffers of Daley machine backers with little or no benefit to the community he was supposed to serve. He miraculously defeats a popular incumbent Senator and a mere 4 months later begins his quest for the White House, with the full backing and support of the Daley Machine. Do a google search on “Obama ACORN” and count the hits. A lot of the people backing Obama seem to be of the “elections are a mere formality” types who think it’s their DESTINY to seize control of the United States and change its direction to suit their ideological goals.

  17. bc says:

    My wife, who is never wrong in judging the character of people, hates Obama. He scares the crap out of her. We men have a blind spot in this area.

  18. whit says:

    I forgot how I got here but I like the site, Is it based on a WordPess template

  19. Sam says:

    AJ Sutter and others, if you vote for Obama you are not only betraying your contry you are condemning your descendants to living in a much diminished America. And down the line they will witness the fall of Western civilization itself because a weakened, socialist America will no longer be the nation capable or willing to defend it.

  20. WPZ says:

    The truly stunning aspect of the Obama phenomenon is the complete lack of understanding of the person behind the curtains.

    He’s a Cook County Machine product- Daley sent him. You folks really, really need to find out what that means.

    The Wright, Ayers, and other lefty stuff is bad, but Daley’s worse, and a political machine that operates like that should be cause for great trepidation.

    Study up, folks, because it isn’t what it seems.

    I reject any suggestion that Obama is possessed of some highly developed intellect; no one could issue the nonsensical stuff he broadcasts and be a thoughtful, deep person. He’s a completely self-absorbed- wait for it- narcissist, in the worst possible way.

  21. Jeff H says:

    Read “The Audacity of Hope.” Seriously. You may disagree with Obama’s positions, but you will be forced to agree that he’s a serious, pragmatic political thinker after reading that book. There’s a reason that one of McCain’s close advisors stuck to his pledge not to work against Obama after he read that book.

  22. Harvey S says:

    There is something very strange and unauthentic about Obama. I can’t really put it into words but it is very disturbing to me.

  23. A.J. Sutter says:

    1. To Sam: No one betrays his or her country by voting in an election. Period. The true diminution of America is the failure of its citizens to understand the meaning of its Constitution, which is in many ways the finest in the world. And which, if you are a lawyer, you have sworn to uphold, as I have.

    2. The question “how does one get to the age of 44/45 and candidacy of one of the two major parties without a solid record of achievement?” has an additional irony this morning. Given that McCain would be the oldest elected President if elected, the irony is non-trivial.

    3. That said, I too have reservations about Obama’s meteoric rise, and he wasn’t my candidate during the primaries. In many ways, this election is shaping up like the one 20 years ago (complete with its own Dan Quayle, press turning a blind eye to the marital pecadilloes of the Republican candidate, etc.), where neither nominee was what one might wish for. But when I approach the choice thinking about each candidate’s most durable legacy if elected — the judges each might choose — my hesitations disappear.

  24. Andy Freeman says:

    > To Sam: No one betrays his or her country by voting in an election.

    Really? How about a certain German election in the middle of the last century? How about the elections that kept Jim Crow Democrats in office?

    In other news, some dissent is not patriotic.

  25. Andy Freeman says:

    >Everyone looks at Barack Obama and they see themselves.

    I see Cyrus from “The Warriors”, a b-movie remake of The Odyssey, set in a distopian NYC.