Obama, Translated
Whenever the president talks about himself, flip it so he’s saying the opposite.

(Chip Somodevilla/Getty)


Jonah Goldberg

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays.

Dear Reader (but not including those of you who merely pretend to read this “news”letter. Like the president, I’m not interested in photo-ops.),

Obama, Translated

I think I’ve stumbled onto a handy heuristic — or, if that word makes you want to smash my guitar on the Delta House wall, rule of thumb — for listening to Obama. Whenever he talks about himself, immediately flip it around so he’s saying the opposite. Think about it. “I’m not interested in photo-ops.” Boom. Translation: “I think photo-ops are really, really important. And that’s why I’m not going to have my picture taken with a bunch kids at the border.”

Now, sometimes, a literal reversal of meaning doesn’t work. But the key is to look at any statement he offers about others as an insight into his own mental state.

When Obama denounces cynicism, he’s actually being cynical. What he’s doing is expressing his frustration with people who are justifiably cynical about him. Why can’t you people fall for what I am saying!?

When he says he doesn’t care about “politics,” just problem-solving, what he’s really saying is he wants his political agenda to go unchallenged by other political agendas.

And — as I wrote about at great length here — whenever he says ideology and ideologues are a problem, what he’s actually saying is that competing ideologues and ideologies are the problem. That is, unless, you’re the sort of person who actually thinks Obama isn’t an ideologue, which is just adorable.

It’s not so much that he’s lying. Though if he were a Game of Thrones character, “Obama the Deceiver, First of His Name” would be a pretty apt formal title. No, he’s projecting. It’s an ego thing. I am fond of pointing out Obama’s insufficiently famous confession, “I actually believe my own bullsh*t.” What I like about it is that’s it’s like a verbal Escher drawing. He believes his own b.s. but by calling it b.s. he acknowledges it’s not believable. It’s like sarcastically insisting that you’re being serious. It’s earnest irony or ironic earnestness. If you take the statement too seriously, you could end up like android #1 in “I, Mudd.”

(Speaking of earnestness and deceit, am I the only one to find the White House press secretary’s name mildly amusing? Josh Earnest? “To josh” means to playfully kid with someone, “I’m just joshing ya!” Earnest means to be overly sincere and deadpan serious. The official voice of the White House is living up to both the verb and the adjective; he’s saying humorously unbelievable things in an overly serious way. He’s a poor man’s Steven Wright. Or maybe I’m overthinking things again. As Steven Wright himself said, a “conclusion is just the place where you get tired of thinking.”).

Anyway, I don’t take psychoanalysis, too seriously (“If you did, what would happen to me?” — The Couch). But I think Obama’s penchant for deriding his opponents as cynics and opportunists stems from the fact that he sees the world through precisely those sorts of prisms. But he tells himself he’s different because he does it for good purposes and besides, he’s so awesome his b.s. is true. No one knows if God can make a rock so heavy He can’t lift it, but Obama can sling such exquisite b.s. even he can believe. And because he believes it, he can’t tolerate the idea that others don’t.

Where Hysterics Fear to Go

Speaking of b.s., I think the rape scare raging across the country is mostly a feminist fraud. That’s not to say that there are no sexual assaults or that rape isn’t a very serious crime (I would be open to making some rapes a capital offense). But the simple fact is forcible rape is declining in the United States, while the definition of rape is expanding. And before you tell me that women are afraid to come forward so the official statistics don’t capture the full scope of the problem, let me cut you off and say, “I agree.” I am sure there are women who don’t come forward and tell the truth, and that is terrible (I am also sure there are women who come forward who aren’t telling the truth, and that is terrible too). But I am also pretty confident that the share of victims who don’t come forward is lower today than at pretty much any other time in the past. It’s un-provable, of course. But surely the stigma against rape victims is nothing like what it was a generation ago, never mind three or four generations ago. There has never been a more supportive climate for disclosure about such things — particularly on elite campuses where the panic is most acute — and there has never been a time when blaming the victim was less socially acceptable. And yet, the notion that “rape is as American as apple pie” gains more and more traction among feminists eager to update “The Crucible” (See this excellent summary by my intrepid research assistant at AEI Caroline Kitchens).

Anyway, I bring this up because I think it’s rather fascinating how there’s so much irrationality — or, if you prefer, passion — about the issue and yet it cannot break through the Clinton force-field. Todd Akin said something stupid about “legitimate rape” a few years ago, and Democrats still talk about it the way Russians talk about World War II; like it happened yesterday. Harvard has announced it will abandon the reasonable-doubt standard in favor of a “preponderance of the evidence.” A whole new New Class subspecialty has been created to find jobs for Rape Inquisitors.

And yet the news that Hillary Clinton attacked a twelve-year-old rape victim — whom Clinton knew had been raped! – as a deranged liar sits out in plain view and the hysterics and inquisitors simply, albeit awkwardly, glide around it like zombies making room for Brad Pitt at the end of World War Z.