Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Slice and Dice

CNN today published a story headlined 'Obama goes on tirade against Trump over 'dangerous' Muslim ban, 'radical Islam.' The two men credited with writing the story were apparently beside themselves with ill-concealed admiration for our president, because their piece was filled with lines like "The commander-in-chief's fury, which seethed out of him in a stunning soliloquy on live television, amounted to a moment of historic significance."

There are several things wrong with that string of assertions. First, President Obama's "fury" was delivered in the same bloodless lecture style he always uses. Second, his soliloquy would be more aptly described as "petty" than "stunning." And third, I'm not prepared to regard improvised sneering at critics as "historically significant."

That said, I did also watch what CNN had suggested was an epic tirade. I don't know what the CNN reporters thought they saw, because President Obama's remarks were a poorly-conceived hash of misdirection, straw man, and playground insult.

Let's roll the tape, shall we?

POTUS: "For awhile now, the main contribution some of my friends on the other side of the aisle have made in the fight against ISIL is to criticize this administration, and me, for not using the phrase, 'radical Islam.' That's the key, they tell us."

Me: "ISIL" is a poker tell, and one of the things to which critics rightly object, seeing as how people who don't accept or legitimize grandiose dreams of a restored caliphate that includes parts of Israel say 'ISIS' instead. Beyond that, nobody's said that identifying the problem properly is "the key" to beating ISIS. What many people have said is that proper identification would be a good start, and far better than pretending that ISIS is "un-Islamic," as the administration wants us to do.

POTUS: "What exactly would using this label [radical Islam] accomplish?"

Me: He meant that as a rhetorical question, but naming things rightly would make it easier for the machinery of American foreign policy to stop wasting time fighting generic "hate" or falsely conflating "extremists" of many different religions with the jihadists who alone have been waging open war against everyone else for more than two generations now.

POTUS: "Calling a threat by a different name does not make it go away."

Me: Straw Man! The point of proper labeling is not to treat labels as though they were magic spells, but to make offense and defense more efficient, and to more easily fortify the argument for hearts and minds that must be won because it is a prerequisite for any lasting victory over people who hate (or maybe just despise) all that the West stands for, and think we're all "infidels." There is irony here, also, because ignoring a threat does not make it go away, either.

POTUS: "Since before I've been president, I've been clear about how extremist groups have perverted Islam to justify terrorism."

Me: How do you know that those groups have "perverted" Islam? Are you more of an authority on Islam than the imams and the mullahs who say to anyone who will listen that ISIS is well within mainstream Muslim thought? Are you suggesting that "extremists" are misquoting the Koran?

POTUS: "Not once has an adviser of mine said, 'Man, if we really use that phrase, we're gonna turn this whole thing around."

Me: Straw Man! It's good to know that your advisers don't believe in pixie dust, but we also know that your advisers include Ben "Mind Meld" Rhodes and Valerie Jarrett, neither of whom has ever ventured out of the ideological corral that you like so much. Hillary Clinton was an adviser of yours, also.

The president's tirade goes on in the same easily-refutable vein for several more minutes. Everything I commented on above came from the first 1:20, but life's too short to fisk the whole peevish exercise in arrogant self-justification.

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