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Obama the Formulaic

Part of President Obama’s great promise was always in his (still essentially unproven) ability to translate his charisma into major policy achievements. But, at this point, his rhetoric isn’t only formulaic -- it’s becoming obviously so.

Consider the president’s speech this morning at a U.N. climate change summit. He began, of course, with the Alarming Warning: Unless the world confronts climate change, “we risk consigning future generations to an irreversible catastrophe.”

He continued with the Unrealistic, Rhetorically Jarring Qualification:

Yet, we can reverse it. John F. Kennedy once observed that ‘Our problems are man-made, therefore they may be solved by man.’

Except, of course, when they become “irreversible.”

Next, the Touting of Baldly Inadequate “Progress” Already Made:

I am proud to say that the United States has done more to promote clean energy and reduce carbon pollution in the last eight months than at any other time in our history…
Most importantly, the House of Representatives passed an energy and climate bill in June that would finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy for American businesses and dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. One committee has already acted on this bill in the Senate and I look forward to engaging with others as we move forward.

Then, the Recapitulation of How Difficult Actually Solving the Problem Is:

As we head towards Copenhagen, there should be no illusions that the hardest part of our journey is in front of us. We seek sweeping but necessary change in the midst of a global recession, where every nation's most immediate priority is reviving their economy and putting their people back to work.

And, finally, The Signature Obama Moment:

We also cannot allow the old divisions that have characterized the climate debate for so many years to block our progress....
We cannot meet this challenge unless all the largest emitters of greenhouse gas pollution act together. There's no other way.

As when he extols the virtues of bipartisanship, Obama is right about the need for collective effort. And in his drive to achieve that, he walks back and forth across the line between reality and hope, a rhetorical strategy that he has used for years. But, as we have seen over the last couple of weeks, he is exploring the extreme limits of thusly employed rhetoric and charisma to advance his causes.

Indeed, in the realm of climate change, hope and reality seem awfully far apart. Without more on the table from the U.S., the chances that this formulation will convince developing countries to reduce their foot-dragging on climate change are slimmer than those of convincing Mitch McConnell to vote for a Democratic health-reform bill (pretty slim). In fact, in the transactional world of international politics, it’s unlikely he can even convince developed countries to get on board with much tougher curbs when already compromised climate-change legislation is stalled in the Senate awaiting further dilution.

By Stephen Stromberg  | September 22, 2009; 1:31 PM ET
Categories:  Stromberg  | Tags:  Stephen Stromberg  
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Next: Obama's 'Man-Cession'

Comments

Essentially, Scientists have given up on the "quaint" notion there there is political capability and will to actually address the climate change that is occurring! Now, science is looking to esoteric Terra-Forming technologies, of science-fiction fame used by story book heroes to transform planets hostile to human life into potential residences for ever expanding human kind throughout the Universe!
Now we have to consider using such actions to keep the only known planet where humans can survive from becoming something else. It is interesting to note that Earth's 6 Billion years of existence has been pretty hostile to life and completely impossible for human life as we know it! Now we appear to need to tinker with our Earth as we actually continue to live in it; rather like remodeling your home in the dead of winter or the infernal heat of the desert while forced to live in it as you go! What, me worry?

Posted by: Chaotician | September 22, 2009 4:57 PM | Report abuse

Hey Washington Post,

Do the overwhelmingly democrat, progressive and liberal voting american jews a favor and quit stacking your opinion pages with zionists who parse, lie, mislead and do a disservice to a group of hyphenated americans who brought us the ACLU and NAACP.

Every damn time I click on one of these traitorous Israel-firsters I know to expect inane and asinine tripe from hacks who lack and who, predictably, have nothing but vitriolic screeds for a popular, intelligent, majority elected president, no matter the subject.

I know I'm not the only one who is sick of it.

Posted by: mot2win | September 22, 2009 8:03 PM | Report abuse

The fears and hopes about climate change is about the same as forced religious believes some 500 years ago. Then the rules were: If you don't believe we burn you, if you say the world is not the center of the Universe we will kill you, if you don't want to discuss how many angels are at the point of a needle we will rape your wife, etc. Climate change is a natural phenomena and we need at least another 100 years to really see the direction it is taking. Obama knows that but is just playing the game (he loves his wife).

Posted by: ridagana | September 22, 2009 8:15 PM | Report abuse

Question--are all the people who deny global warming employees or owners of automotive and oil companies? Or just 99% of them?

Posted by: lowercaselarry | September 22, 2009 9:01 PM | Report abuse

'Do the overwhelmingly democrat, progressive and liberal voting american jews a favor and quit stacking your opinion pages with zionists who parse, lie, mislead and do a disservice to a group of hyphenated americans who brought us the ACLU and NAACP.

Every damn time I click on one of these traitorous Israel-firsters I know to expect inane and asinine tripe from hacks who lack and who, predictably, have nothing but vitriolic screeds for a popular, intelligent, majority elected president, no matter the subject"

Well, mot2win, why don't you tell us how you really feel? I did not even know you read the WaPo, President Akminajad.

Posted by: dnjames1940 | September 22, 2009 9:16 PM | Report abuse

Question--are all the people who deny global warming employees or owners of automotive and oil companies? Or just 99% of them?

Posted by: lowercaselarry | September 22, 2009 9:01 PM | Report abuse
___________________________________________

Look, we can argue all day, hurl insults and call each other names all to no avail. One of the biggest problems we face is NO MONEY! Have you ever had to tell your household that? I sure would hope so. Well, that's where we're at as a nation. And soon this administration will work to impose more huges taxes (healthcare and cap & tax) upon this majorly stressed out nation. Why? In Obama's own words "We are going to fundamentally change these United States of America." He is on the verge of destroying of our free market in exchange for Socialism (at best). Get ready America, they're here.

Posted by: ssol4569 | September 22, 2009 10:23 PM | Report abuse

Interesting observations. I had a boss who once told me "if the only tool you have is a hammer, you will see every problem as a nail."

I think this president is running into his very slim tool box and finding it isn't working like he thought it would.

So he bangs the problem again and again with his rhetorical hammer. I don't know about most of you, but the more he talks, the less I listen.

Posted by: goodspkr | September 23, 2009 10:32 AM | Report abuse

When Mr. Stromberg addresses formulaic rhetoric, he knows what he is talking about: just read what he writes.

Posted by: mikehike | September 23, 2009 4:49 PM | Report abuse

I posted this to my FB page in June, when I saw the pattern develop:

Yes, you too can speak like Obama, even without a TelePromter! Just use this easy-cheesy Obama formula!

1) Invoke a problem - "global warming! We're all gonna DIE!;"
2) Blame the last guy - "this wasn't our doing, we inherited it from the shirker before us;"
3) Invoke a straw man - "some people say we can't fix this, that it's too hasty/expensive/draconian/etc.;"
4) Baldly espouse optimistic drivel - "but the time for naysaying is past. Yes, we can! We can and we must!'
5) Play Brer Rabbit: "Now, I don't want to nationalize/socialize/regulate/confiscate this thing. I don't want to run a car/oil/power/lending/banking/finance/whatever company;"
6) Repeat the mantra: "But the time to act is now;"
7) Call for Congress to enact exactly the hard-left solution you just said you don't want to do. Take over the energy sector, raise the biggest energy tax of all time, nationalize banks, car companies, finance houses, insurance companies, and more, but hide it by claiming that you're "only taking a stake in the company," or enacting "moderate policies to fix our environment."

Voila, you too can be a master orator!

Posted by: envirodoc | September 24, 2009 9:43 AM | Report abuse

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