GLENDOWER: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
HOTSPUR:Why, so can I, or so can any man;
But will they come when you do call for them?
(Shakespeare, King Henry the Fourth)
Yesterday, Andrew Klavan put up a post titled Just Words?, in which he describes Obama in these terms:
The president, in short, has a problem with his mouth: words keep coming out of it that have nothing to do with the truth. He doesn’t even speak plainly. In matters that might be controversial or unpopular, he almost never calls anything by its proper name. He talks about “cutting spending in the tax code” when he means raising taxes; about “making investments” when he means more government spending. And the parts of what he says that can be clearly understood almost never describe his true intentions or his ultimate actions.
During Hillary Clinton’s losing nomination fight against Obama, the Clinton camp famously charged that while Obama’s speeches were impressive, his record was virtually non-existent. “When all is said and done, words aren’t action. They are just words,” the Clintonistas said.
Mr. Obama doesn’t seem to care what his words mean, only how they sound, only what they get him. The answer, then, is yes, when this president speaks, it really is just words.
As I’ve previously observed, a large and increasing proportion of Americans earn their living through the manipulation of words and images–lawyers, writers, entertainers, journalists, professors outside the hard sciences, certain types of consultants. For people in these professions, there is a constant temptation to over-value their own and related activities such that they wind up implicitly believing that nothing really matters but words/images and their deployment; that all other forms of human endeavor are trivial in comparison. Not all people in these fields fall prey to this fallacy (Klavan, after all, is himself a writer) but many do. Obama is the avatar of such people.
Indeed, Obama has never really previously been in a position in which he had individual and un-deflectable responsibility for action. He has always been able to deploy words to get him what he wants. Despite his reputation as an intellectual, there is nothing in him of the analyst and problem-solver; he is not the sort of man who thinks through practical situations deeply and creatively, and he has little experience with the complexity and intransigence of the real world. It is all about the fine phrases..like Glendower, he still believes that if he gets them just right, the spirits from the vasty deep will really appear. And he has been very careful to avoid having in his inner circle any Hotspurs who might tell him otherwise.