31 May 2009

Time for Obama to Embrace the Irrational



Obama's administration faces a problem we've had 8 years to forget about: like many smart policy makers before them, they are at a loss about how to rebut the irrational argument.

Closing Guantanamo Bay is a perfect example. This matter of how to handle prisoners of war when you have no forecast cessation of the war and no enemy state is messy, but one most politicians have seemingly given up on explaining to constituents. There are lots of issues that could come up surrounding the closing of what has been a wonderful recruiting tool for terrorist. Obama's administration was ready for those arguments.

But of course, those are not the arguments that Republicans unveiled. Their argument? It is not safe to have these terrorists in our maximum security prisons. There is no way to rebut an argument that has neither facts nor logic behind it. Such an argument completely bypasses the frontal lobes and makes it way directly to the hypothalamus. It is all emotion and no reason.

Whether it is talking with enemies, dealing with climate change, or crafting financial bailouts, Obama has to confront emotional opposition that shows - not just ignorance of, but - disinterest in the systems involved. It is not enough to attempt understanding of these systems and then craft policy. Not in a democracy. One has to be mindful of keeping the support of people who don't understand these systems.

It seems to me that to sustain widespread support for his policies, Obama has got to be more sensitive to the need for crafting emotional arguments that depend little on reason. It is not enough to engage in reasoned dialogue around the table with peers; before unveiling a policy, the administration ought to first craft the purely emotional appeal.

It seems like the only rational thing would be for the Obama administration to embrace the irrational. I'm not sure there is any other way to sustain support once the nation's disgust with dubya fades. There continues to be a gap between what makes for good policy and what makes for good politics: the gap between emotional arguments and reason seems to account for most of this.

5 comments:

wheelsonthebus said...

It is so completely frustrating. We finally have a president who makes arguments based on reason (whether I agree or not) and he is unable to convince most people. It makes me wonder if this country really did get what it deserved for all those years.

wheelsonthebus said...

It is so completely frustrating. We finally have a president who makes arguments based on reason (whether I agree or not) and he is unable to convince most people. It makes me wonder if this country really did get what it deserved for all those years.

Big Al said...

wheelsonthebus: many people won't ever accept President Obama, no matter what he says, what he does, or how he attempts to reach out to explain. I give credit to Obama for staying true to himself and his values by being a Leader, not a Dictator.

Ron, regarding this so-called "war" we're in . . . what does victory look like? Maybe I'm too jaded by WWI and WWII where we had troops on the ground, in the air and on the seas fighting to defeat Germany in WWI and Germany/Japan in WWII. And help defeat those countries we did. What constitutes "winning" this so-called war on terror? By what measures of success can we claim Victory?

While I'm on the topic of the War on Terror, I would hope that some day somebody uses our toppling of Saddam Hussein as a perfect lesson on what happens when one doesn't engage in Scenario Planning. It seems as if the former administration had one goal and ONLY one goal in mind years ago: topple Saddam Hussein. Did no one ask the questions of Bush and Cheney, "What happens AFTER we overthrow Hussein? What do we do once Hussein is no longer in power? How do we help Iraq?" Or did insiders ask those questions only to be told to shut up? Or were insiders afraid to ask the questions for fear they'd be both fired and black-listed?

I sincerely hope the American people never forget how much our great country regressed during the 8 years of GW Bush as President.

Anonymous said...

Or that the American people never forget how much our great country is being destroyed in less than 6 months by Barack Hussein Obama as President and his tax cheats.

Big Al said...

Anonymous,

Can you please provide examples of how our country has been destroyed since President Obama took office?