The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

The Modern Collective-Blame Instinct


While today’s Jolt examines the media’s knee-jerk impulse towards collective responsibility, Jeff Dobbs recalls a couple of examples from our president, preferring to discuss abstract concepts like “cynicism” and “communities that are ignored” rather than the evil acts of individuals:

When Obama appeared at an AIPAC policy conference, he delivered this line:

“The biggest enemy I think we have in this whole process (and why I’m so glad to see a lot of young people here, young in spirit if not young in age) — the reason I think it’s so important, is because one of the enemies we have to fight — it’s not just terrorists, it’s not just Hezbollah, it’s not just Hamas — it’s also cynicism,”

When Obama gave a speech immediately after the Virginia Tech shooting, he delivered this:

There’s also another kind of violence though that we’re gonna have to think about. It’s not necessarily physical violence but that the violence that we perpetrate on each other in other ways. Last week, the big news, obviously, had to do with Imus and the verbal violence that was directed at young women who were role models for all of us, role models for my daughter. . . .

There’s the violence of men and women who have worked all their lives and suddenly have the rug pulled out from under ‘em because their job has moved to another country. . . .

There is the violence of children, whose voices are not heard, in communities that are ignored. Who don’t have access to a decent education, who are surrounded by drugs and crime and a lack of hope. . . .

When Obama gave a speech at the Detroit Economic Club, he delivered this line:

At the dawn of the twenty-first century, the country that faced down the tyranny of fascism and communism is now called to challenge the tyranny of oil.

Obama deals comfortably in the abstract. He moves seamlessly in comparing any level of wrong to the greatest examples of evil. He speaks in words where losing your job is as bad as being shot and killed; where cynicism is as bad as terrorists aiming rocket attacks at innocent civilians; where confronting our energy needs is as bad as Soviet gulags.

And of course, we all remember how the horrible acts of “textbook case of paranoid schizophrenia” Jared Loughner were attributed to a map on the web site of Sarah Palin and the rhetoric of the tea-party movement.

Now we see what “never waste a crisis” means: never let any horrific act go unattributed to your political foes.

Tags: Guns


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