The world will little note, nor long remember, the interview the liberal “explanatory” news site Vox conducted with President Barack Obama.
It was notable only for how perfectly it matched man and the medium. The president has had plenty of worshipful media coverage, certainly back when “hope and change” wasn’t so risible. But none has ever been so in keeping with his own self-image and pose as the dispassionate, above-it-all paragon of reasonableness.
The Obama of the Vox interview is the only rational guy in town. Vox Obama is a nonideological devotee of facts. Vox Obama speaks in dulcet tones. Vox Obama has data sliding beside his face to prove his points!
Vox called the video clips of its interviews “films.” They had dramatic cutaways and soothing music, as well as cute gizmos and other supporting material flashing on the screen to illustrate the wisdom and correctness of everything Obama said.
The videos could have been produced by a naïvely progressive Leni Riefenstahl, provided she believed in the totemic power of tables and graphs. “I’ve seen,” Jack Shafer observed in his assessment for Politico, “subtler Scientology recruitment films.”
The conceit of Vox Obama making his sagacious observations from an impossible height of data-driven Olympian purity is ridiculous.
President Obama is obviously — although word hasn’t reached him yet — a grubby politician like any other. The Vox interview landed as former Obama strategist David Axelrod’s memoir hit the shelves with the “news” that prior to coming clean in 2012, President Obama lied when he said that he opposed gay marriage.
Axelrod relates that after one “awkward” public exchange over his faux position, Obama complained, “I’m just not very good at bulls***ting.”
Don’t be so hard on yourself, buddy. Obama lied quite ably. His lines on marriage were as superficially reassuring and sincere as when he said that if you like your health-care plan you can keep your health-care plan, or any of the other dishonesties integral to the Obamacare debate.
Now, for someone paying very close attention, the president’s statements were never credible. He said he favored gay marriage on a 1996 questionnaire, and his administration soon did all it could to unravel the legal basis of traditional marriage, even while the president professed his devotion to it.
It’s quite rich to have Axelrod write a book titled Believer, wherein he reveals a deception by the man we’re all supposed to believe in. The president, Axelrod explained on Morning Joe the other day, was merely trying “to square” his real view with public opinion, and he was “frustrated” that he had to deceive. The implication is that the president’s lies are forgivable because it is so hard for Vox Obama to exist in a fallen political world.
Obama, after all, is a pragmatist who has to deal with the opposition of rank dogmatists. Back in 2009, Axelrod deemed Obama “a committed, practicing nonideologue.” Days before his first inaugural, Obama called for “a new Declaration of Independence,” to leave behind “ideology and small thinking.”
This from a man who was about to use every ounce of power afforded to him by unified Democratic control of Congress to pass the leftmost legislative agenda feasible. We are supposed to believe that more spending, taxes, and regulation is just what common sense dictates — always and forevermore.
The nonideologue pose is a longstanding part of progressivism’s intellectual marketing strategy. As Jonah Goldberg writes in his book The Tyranny of Clichés, “Pragmatism is the disguise progressive and other ideologues don when they want to demonize competing ideologies.”
Vox Obama loves the disguise. He professes his deep-held belief in nothing other than the facts, but he ignores ones that are inconvenient. He advertises his own reasonableness, yet considers the opposition almost by definition illegitimate. He assumes the mantle of pragmatism, although he has fixed philosophical beliefs that won’t give way no matter what.
For all his self-styled thoughtfulness, Vox Obama is closed-minded and small.
— Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. He can be reached via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. © 2015 King Features Syndicate