Thursday, March 26, 2009

Take the Training Wheels Off Please!

At this point in the Obama administration I have actually had a few dark moments wondering whether Obama really thought there are 58 states in the union. Given the astounding ignorance the powerline boys have documented so well, I find myself wondering...

Here's why. You can forgive some offhand failures: 58 states, mispronouncing Orion, and stuff like that. Even though at some point you do look at little gaffes and make conclusions. But the president has gone far beyond simple verbal ticks and made some impossibly stupid and illiterate comments. For example, no one thinks the Kennedy Kruschev meetings were successful. Historians rarely agree, but there is no debate on this. Kennedy knew it was a failure and historians don't debate this one. Yet Obama went beyond a goofy slip of the tongue and made a substantial argument based on his..."belief"?... that the meetings were a success. This goes far beyond the everyday misstatements we all make. It is substantial and real. Similarly, Obama justified his position on giving terrorists civilian trials by saying that we basically did the same thing at Nuremberg. Again, he could not be more wrong. No competent lawyer with any knowledge of the Nuremberg trials would make such a claim. Because those trials were not civilian trials. They were international military tribunals. This goes way beyond mistaking oranges for apples, or cats for dogs. It is more like saying a cat is a fish, or even an orange is a fish. Only someone with colossal ignorance would make such a claim. There is far more evidence for his ignorance as well. Add that to his weekly blunders, and teleprompt addiction and it seems reasonable to start asking questions we never thought we would ask the Elegant One.

For me there are other more personal reasons to question his intellectual depth. I too am a minority in academia. I have read both Obama's books, and I know the sum of his education. The thinkers and intellectuals he refers to identify his intellectual foundations very clearly: a faithful postmodern leftist. Now this is where we start wandering from clear factual evidence building into more speculation. I know from experience that at least half of the grad students who simply believe what they are told by the establishment (and Obama is one of these) are blissfully ignorant of history and ideologies that were not part of the assigned reading. Academic leftists have turned academia into activism and diluted the intellectualism. This is why unqualified people like Ward Churchill become chairs of major departments at prestigious universities with only an MA, no Phd. This is why the most prestigious award in the discipline of American history was rescinded for the first time in its history at Columbia. Bellesile made the establishment argument and the Bancroft panel was very uncritical in reading his hopelessly fallacious book. This is why Duke lacrosse happened. This is why Sokal got his hilarious satire, "Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity" published as a serious work. This is why my best friend got his fictitious story published in the school newspaper. I actually had to explain to an award winning Stanford professor whose expertise was the Enlightenment what basic and nonbasic beliefs were in epistemology! This is like a basketball player or pundit not knowing who Michael Jordan is. I could go on, but the examples are legion and well documented elsewhere. The point is that intellectualism takes a backseat to partisanship, activism, and laziness.

How does this relate to Obama? Well, if the amazing failures above slid through without ever being caught, how many grad students are inadvertently encouraged to intellectual laziness? Another Mexican and myself experimented with this over and over, getting more and more daring every time, because we consistently found that if we simply said something acceptable to the leftwing establishment you get an automatic B+. A's were not that much more difficult. Now many students were willing to find alternative voices, but even if they tried it was hard to find, because academia has become such a vacuum. Black Americans and Native Americans are the worst victims of this bizarre situation. They can skate through any school and come out as ignorant and less capable of critical thinking than when they entered.

Which is why I find myself wondering about the president. He probably never took an astronomy class and may never have heard of Orion. And the history he learned was postmodern. Strong on theory, which we know from his bios he loved, but very weak on facts and classical historicism. So he may have never encountered simple facts like the number of states enough times for it to become part of his basic knowledge. Obama's ignorance is not all that shocking in light of a report by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. He truly is the president of the youth vote! Obama's academic career was full of ethnic studies types of academia, which are the weakest of all disciplines, and even though he still gets called a "constitutional scholar" he has never produced the publications or depth that typically goes with that accolade. The only class he taught, as far as I can tell, was, not surprisingly, Race and Gender in the Constitution- or something along those lines. Again, another piece of circumstantial evidence that makes someone who understands just how bad academia has become wonder.

What can Obama do to prove himself? Take off the training wheels. Even his admirers are admitting he is the most teleprompt dependent president in history. We know this is because he tends to fall hard without the training wheels. His gaffes are growing at an exponential rate it seems. I remember when I was young and I would pretend I was Magic guiding the Lakers to glory on my local court. The beauty of such immature fantasies are that you can always find a way to win no matter how many bricks you throw up. Because you are in your fantasy land, and eventually you make a shot and that is the one that sets the crowd roaring. Unfortunately, Obama has lived in such a fantasy bubble his entire life, and now finds himself unable to make the shot even when there is no competition. Let's be perfectly honest here. How many presidents get such a perfect start? Control of Congress, astronomical approval ratings (higher than Ore-ee-on?), and a bumbling, demoralized, and completely routed opposition? To borrow a hockey analogy it's like every guy on the opposing team has five for fighting and yet Obama still can't get the puck in the goal. The media even tries moving the goal to catch his errant shots, but can't make it happen! This is because he is still playing teeball in the major league. Note to the president, you're out after three strikes, no more tee. No more training wheels. Prove yourself please.

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