In the August 31 New York Times editor Lawrence Downes blogged the following smackdown of Clint Eastwood’s improvisational monologue at the Republican convention the night before. He used Eastwood’s remarks as representative of what he imagines to be a Republican portrait of President Obama:
Imaginary Barack was invented in Hawaii, sneaked into the Oval Office, and has no legitimate claim on the presidency. As for the real tall black guy posing in Washington, go ahead and treat him any way you want. You can jab your finger in his face, shout him down, call him a Muslim, a Kenyan, an illegal alien, you can invent all kinds of lies about him and then you can tell him – get out of that chair.
In reality, the president is a more-or-less mainstream, smarter-than-average pol, left-of-center on some things, to the right on others, like guns, disturbingly hawkish on ordering the killing of American citizens suspected of terrorism, on national security, executive secrecy and immigration. He is, too, an inveterate compromiser who used to bend over backward to make deals — sometimes in advance! — with Republicans.
But that guy is not as scary as Imaginary Barack.
I admit I admire Downes’s rhetorical audacity as he caricatures Republican opinion of the president, then presents his own fanciful depiction of the commander-in-chief as “reality.” It’s not that I think Downes is dead wrong in what he says about the president–and I do–it’s his juxtaposition of accusing the Republicans of lying about President Obama followed by easily disproved lies of his own.
One big lie, of course, is the claim that the president is “smarter-the-average.” Two autobiographies do not an intellectual make. There is no paper trail of law review articles or briefs to document the president’s smarts. There is a video record of oral gaffes so cringe-inducing that “not-so-smart” doesn’t begin to explain them.
But the biggest whopper is the notion that the president “bends over backwards” to compromise with his political opponents. President Obama set the tone for his idea of “compromise” when he announced shortly after his inauguration that “elections have consequences.” The fact that the United States has been without a budget since he took office tells those of mere average intelligence that the chief executive is either not interested in compromise or unable to negotiate compromise.
There’s lies, damn lies, and a blog by Lawrence Downes.