“I am not an ideologue.”

Obamarama met with the House GOP members this afternoon in a kind of informal U.S.-style Question Period aimed at opening up the channels of communication, as reported in the Washington Post. I haven’t see it (it was shown on CSPAN), but apparently one of the things the president said to the Republicans was, “I am not an ideologue.” Which is sort of like Ghengis Khan saying, “I am not a Mongol.” Or like Norman Podhoretz saying, “I am not a neoconservative.”

Speaking of neoconservatives, Peter Wehner at the Commentary reacts to Obama’s remark:

Barack Obama’s claim to the GOP lawmakers today—“I am not an ideologue”—calls to mind Richard Nixon’s famous claim, “I am not a crook.” Unfortunately both Messrs. Obama and Nixon were what they claimed they were not. Now being a crook is much worse than being an ideologue; but being an ideologue, especially a liberal one, can have its own high costs, as our 44th president is discovering.

I rather doubt Obama considers himself an ideologue; he has probably convinced himself that he is what he wants to project: an empiricist, a pragmatist, and person who makes decisions based on evidence and reason instead of ideology. The fact that he has pursued an agenda blessed, in almost every instance, by Nancy Pelosi is the oddest of coincidences.

I happen to be glad that Obama met with House Republicans; and if this signals a new way of doing business, more power to him. We’ll see. He certainly deserves the chance to amend his ways. But because Obama is, himself, deeply ideological, I suspect he will be more resistant than most. Yet political reality and political defeats can quickly concentrate the minds of politicians.

I have heard sound bits of Obama in two post-State of the Union settings. There is an almost plaintive quality to the president’s words, at least at several points. He simply doesn’t seem able to process what is happening to him or to deal with the mounting problems he and his party face. For a man beginning his second year in office, he can’t understand why he is the most polarizing president we have seen. Or why his disapproval ratings are at a record high this soon into his presidency. Or why he has lost more support in his first year than any other president in our lifetime. Or why the public is rejecting his agenda almost across the board. Or why the public is rejecting his party in almost every possible case. Or why Democratic lawmakers, themselves, are beginning to break with him. (Hint: it has to do with the fact that the president is, at this stage at least, widely seen as a failure.)

One day, the president is defiant and petulant; the next day, he pleads to be understood and accepted. Barack Obama, a man of limitless self-regard, appears to be struggling with what to say and how to find his way out of the dark and deep woods he finds himself in. Such things can be almost poignant to watch.

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James P. writes:

The most freakishly extreme liberals of my acquaintance have, without exception, claimed that they are moderates and centrists, and always insist they are “independent” no matter how slavishly they adhere to the PC party line and how often they vote for Democrats. As far as I can tell, they sincerely believe this, and can’t understand why anyone considers them rigid ideologues. I have no doubt Obama thinks precisely the same way.

LA replies:

Yes, of course, but why is this so?

Because people such as Obama see themselves as people who are seeing reality—the one and only reality. So of course they’re not “ideologues” in their own mind. They are simply people who see reality, which those other, benighted, people out there don’t see. Their gnostic dream world is, for them, not a gnostic dream world, but the real world.

LA continues:

From which it follows that the more extreme a gnostic is, the more he will think his views are centrist.

Paul K. writes:

I did watch Obama’s meeting with the house Republicans. Peter Wehner doesn’t mention that when the president said,”I am not an ideologue,” the audience laughed, and he insisted, “I’m not.”

That aside, I have to give Obama credit for taking tough questions from a courteous but unsympathetic crowd. He handled himself very adroitly, and those who think he’s helpless without a teleprompter are going to have to reconsider. Granted, he told a number of blatant falsehoods, but that’s to be expected from him.

Also, I have to put in a word for Richard Nixon; I don’t think of him as a “crook,” exactly. Unlike the Clintons, I don’t think he had any interest in lining his pockets.

LA replies:

When President Nixon said, “I’m not a crook,” he didn’t mean that he didn’t steal money; he meant that he wasn’t breaking the law.

Paul K. replies:

I tend to think of a crook as a thief or a swindler, but I see the on-line dictionary defines it as “a dishonest person,” which I admit describes Nixon during Watergate. Not that in dishonesty he was any match for the incumbent, of course.

Rick U. writes:

You wrote:

Yes, of course, but why is this so?

Is this the result of becoming a purveyor and consumer of one’s own propaganda? Is it that extreme left-liberals like Obama so discount the validity of the opposite viewpoint, that they fantasize themselves as centrists or moderates, because they imagine a world of only left and center? [LA replies: Yes.] Like James P., I have friends and acquaintances who are uber liberals, but call themselves centrists as they spit out liberal talking points that would make Obama, Axelrod, and Pelosi take note.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at January 29, 2010 09:07 PM | Send

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