Barack Obama and the Narrative of Naivete

Barack Obama on the Primary
Image by jurvetson via Flickr

President Barack Hussein Obama was called naive almost from the very instant he came onto the national political scene. He was called naive by his national election campaign opponents Hillary Clinton and John McCain. As president, he was called naive for his foreign policy views by various thinkers and politicians, including diplomats like former U.N. ambassador John Bolton, former Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife Liz Cheney, former Vice Presidential candidate Joseph Lieberman, former presidential adviser Ben Stein, Florida Senatorial candidate Marco Rubio, media mogul Rupert Murdoch, prominent commentator Charles Krauthammer, and others on issues ranging from Iran, to Israel, to Pakistan, to Russia, to terrorism, to abolishing nuclear weapons, to sanctions, to appeasing Muslims, to his Middle East policy, to Guantanamo Bay, for his approach to national security in general, and for his Cairo speech, his UN speech, his Berlin speech, and numerous other speeches. He was called naive for his domestic policy by former Clinton adviser James Carville, who slammed him for his handling of the BP oil spill, by Paul Krugman, and by countless other pundits on issues ranging from healthcare, the medical industry, on corporate power and influence, the economy, the budget deficit, bipartisanship, and for various other reasons (seeing as it was a key Republican strategy to paint Obama “naive” as such). The British newspaper The Telegraph even called Obama “the most naive president in U.S. history” and cited ten reasons why.

But who is really being naive here?

Obama was raised by radicals. Obama admits he chose his friends carefully and hung out with radicals. As a presidential candidate, he endorsed the quintessentially socialist policy of wealth redistribution. Upon being elected president, he appointed the most extreme radicals imaginable as Czars, that way they would not be accountable to the Senate for public confirmation. Obama appointed radical Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan to the highest court in the land. Obama shook hands and rubbed elbows with world renowned socialist dictators. Obama was cautiously endorsed by the Communist Party of the United States. Obama promised to fundamentally transform the United States, presumably from a capitalist system based on individual liberty to a more fascistic or socialist one (according to some socialist theories, fascism is the stage a capitalist society goes through during its “death throes”). As a legal scholar, he called the Constitution a flawed document. Since being elected, Obama has caused massive disruption to America’s capitalist economy and foreign relations. Are we to believe he is so “naive” that he doesn’t know that his patently radical agenda would conflict with America the way it was founded and how it has more or less operated for over 200 years? That his agenda would cause disruption and chaos? The narrative of naivete gives unwarranted points for good intentions to Obama based on assumptions whose proofs reside only in Obama’s mind.

So why does the narrative of naivete persist?

Presumably since Obama is a black man, people are hesitant to condemn him publicly for fear of being branded a racist. Those who have played the ‘racism card’ against Obama’s critics include politicians like former president Jimmy Carter, former president Bill Clinton, former presidential candidate Walter Mondale, House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi and several others of the Democrat leadership, fairly respected journalists like New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, New Yorker editor David Remnick, network news anchors Charles Gibson and Brian Williams, and less seriously, pundits like Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, and ironically, Chris Matthews, as well as “entertainers” like Janeane Garofalo, Dave Matthews, and Joy Behar, among countless others. Due to the mainstream media’s constant, preemptive, instantaneous (see debunked), and occasionally comical insistence that any critics of President Obama are inherently racist, including those of the broad-based conservative opposition movement known as the tea party, one can only rationally conclude that playing the race card is an intentional strategy meant to defuse criticism of the president in general. It is political correctness being used as a cudgel to silence middle America. At times, pundits have even made a direct linkage, claiming that those who call Obama a “socialist” (an ideology) are by definition racist (which is based on an ascriptive criterion). The culture is so mucked up with such rhetoric, that out of social fear, hope that the nation’s first black president will be successful, or simply a lack of clear thinking, many people refuse to admit that Obama is anything but naive. Many call him brilliant, a masterful campaigner, and Machiavellian, yet he remains to some the perpetually wet-behind-the-ears politician.

The primary rival to the narrative of naivete is the insistence that Obama is “incompetent.” The espousers of this point of view are about as many as those that believe Obama is naive, and the sets often overlap. Although naivete and incompetence are two separate contentions, they are both related in that their invocation are mental dodges of giving Obama credit for knowing exactly what he is doing. While the narrative of naivete contends that Obama is inexperienced, unpolished, and unacquainted with how politics works in practice, and as such a product of his ivory tower education and community organizer work experience, the insistence of incompetence holds that the chaos and disruption that Obama has caused is due to the president’s inability to measure up to the demands of the office, such as reigning in the bureaucracy and showing proper decorum while abroad.

But notice that the main criticisms of Obama are unrelated to his capacity to perform his job as Americans expect it, but rather that he is demonstrably unwilling to do it, and when afforded the opportunity, he carries out the polar opposite of what Americans believe to be successful policy. Is it “incompetent” to repeatedly bow to foreign dictators? Is it “incompetent” to apologize for America over and over again? Is it “incompetent” to alienate America’s staunchest allies and embrace her traditional enemies? Is it “incompetent” to appoint radicals for office at every opportunity? Is it “incompetent” to continue pushing unsuccessful economic policies, such as “stimulus” packages, environmental regulations, and tax hikes, particularly when they have failed during one’s own administration? What, specifically, is “incompetent” about Obama’s behavior? Even the BP oil spill does not show an inability to manage the situation, but rather an unwillingness.

The murkiness regarding the settlement of the argument of whether Obama’s actions are naive or incompetent or intentionally radical lay in the fact that all alternative explanations result in disruption and chaos in America (and especially since the government is becoming increasingly centralized). But nothing about Obama’s actions suggests naivete or incompetence. A repeated pattern of disruptive and destructive economic, domestic, and foreign policies suggests an ideological bent that systematically disposes an actor to choose options that are anathema to the functioning of the system in place. It may be the case that the actor believes that he is helping the country “change” to a better, more just system, or that he is targeting the institutional bases that support the current system because he believes that they are unjust, or both. In any case, the fundamental reason that his ideological base (which predictably denies that Obama is a radical, a socialist, or Marxist, as scripted by Alinsky) will support the president regardless of how destructive his policies are is that, in their own point of view, anything is better than the shame and humiliation that America endured under the unpolished neoconservative George W. Bush. And the primary reason that African-Americans will support Obama regardless of what he does is the double reason that they are staunch and unwavering Democrat supporters and they have a psychical reason for the first black president to succeed, as it supposedly accrues to their own success or failure. The collectivist notion that one can accrue infamy or glory according to the coincidence of one roughly sharing the same skin color as another human being is so ingrained and airtight in the mindset of the public, it is virtually unassailable without instant and irrational ridicule and charges of racism.

There is another permutation, and one that a few have recently picked up on: That Obama is an incompetent radical. But this is a bit like trying to untie a Gordian knot. Since it is the object of the radical to cause chaos and even “crisis,” how does one know if a radical’s “incompetence” is intentional or otherwise? What if “incompetence” is merely a cover for intentionally destructive policies and a lack of concerted remedial action? We get into the realm of mind-reading with such allegations, but certainly we have far more evidence that Obama is a hostile radical than we have that he agrees with capitalism and Constitutional government and simply does not know what he is doing.

In my humble opinion, much of the mental conflict in Americans’ minds appears to be a related to a Christian aversion to metaphysical judgment (“judge not lest ye be judged“) and the belief that it is only fair to give a person the benefit of the doubt that he is innocent until proven guilty. Unfortunately, the evidence that would prove people wrong about Obama, that he is neither naive nor incompetent, but rather a radical intent on transforming America, presently resides only in Obama’s “soul.” An equally mystical point of view prevails among some untrained minds that the result of Obama’s transformative program could potentially be beneficial to Americans and their way of life, if only Obama were given a chance by his critics (this view is a product of ignorance about history, the reasons America was founded as it was, and how the rest of the world works). Others take so narrow a view on what constitutes a socialist, that not even Trotsky or Lenin, let alone Obama, could live up to their own crafted definitions. Thus Obama is an “anything but” – neither a socialist, nor a fascist, nor a communist, perhaps not even a “radical,” simply an “other” – an “alien in the White House.”

Some, but far too few, have been fearless and wise enough to reconcile a rational assessment of Obama’s record with present reality, have concluded that the destruction that Obama and the Democrats have caused to America as we know it is too systematic to be unintentional, and predictably, they have been publicly condemned for openly stating as such. It is time for more Americans to put aside their fear of others’ judgment and their mystical deliberation on whether or not Obama is naive or incompetent and realize that he is what he says he is: A radical agent of “change” intent on fundamentally transforming this nation. Could the implementation of a radical agenda of equality in the freest, most prosperous, most successful nation in the history of the world result in anything other than the unrelentingly destructive mess we see all around?

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