Feb 24, 2012 06:16 PM
by James Bowman
Returning to the theme of an earlier post on the supposed stupidity of the electorate in the eyes of the media, I notice that today’s Washington Post has President Obama telling us that there are “no quick fixes” for high gas prices. Likewise “no silver bullet.” It is now ten years since the Senate rejected the request of President Bush and the House of Representatives to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, at least partly on the grounds that, so we were told at the time, it would take ten years for the oil to come on line. So, then. How about a slow fix? How about any fix? The “no quick fix” meme is both true and irrelevant, yet another of the straw men that the rhetorical President is so skilled at building up only to tear down. This is just how he chooses to tell us, in the words of the Post’s helpful gloss that it is “the White House’s belief that gasoline prices are subject to cyclical spikes due to forces largely outside its control, including the rise in Chinese and Indian oil demand.”
Of course, that is itself a straw-man argument. The fact that oil price rises are partly or even “largely” outside our control makes no case at all for inaction on those things that are in our control. The Post, like the President, must think we’re stupid. Indeed, according to the account of the same speech in Politico the latter thinks we are so stupid that we will believe him when he tells us that it is the advocates of drilling who think we are stupid. “The American people aren’t stupid,” he said, because they will understand that Republican pleas to drill for more domestic oil are “a bumper sticker” and “not a strategy to solve our energy challenges.” As David Burge’s iowahawk pointed out in a Tweet, that’s a bit rich coming from the guy who got himself elected on the bumper-sticker slogan of “hope and change.” At least “drill, baby, drill” has a precise and well-understood meaning.As for me, I think the jury is still out on just how stupid the American people are or aren’t, and even the election may not provide a final verdict. It may be that we are stupid enough to re-elect President Obama because we are incapable of seeing through his rhetorical legerdemain, or it may be that we see through it and resent being treated like fools but that we re-elect him anyway because of the unattractiveness of the alternative, or because the not-Obama also treats us like fools. On this subject, I like what Bill Kristol has to say, as reported by Jeffrey H. Anderson on The Weekly Standard blogs a propos of Governor Mitt Romney’s attacks on Senator Rick Santorum as someone who is supposedly not a fiscal conservative: The Romney campaign often gives the impression that it thinks Republican primary voters are really stupid — and it doesn’t do a very good job of hiding its contempt. The Obama administration clearly thinks the American people are really stupid — and it doesn’t do a very good job of hiding its contempt. It would be nice if the Republican nominee could contrast his respect for the American people with the Obama administration’s contempt. Nice, too, it would be if the GOP had the courage to nominate someone without this contempt so that at least we might have a better test case to determine just how stupid the American people are.
( AHR-mah wih-ROOM-kweh)
In the Aeneid, the Roman poet Virgil sang of "arms and a man" (Arma virumque cano). Month in and month out, The New Criterion expounds with great clarity and wit on the art, culture, and political controversies of our times. With postings of reviews, essays, links, recs, and news, Armavirumque seeks to continue this mission in accordance with the timetable of the digital age.
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