Obama’s Decision Making

Tom Maguire [via Instapundit] says:

Obama was wrong about the surge while McCain was right, but by and large I think the case could be made (but not by me!) that Obama is by far the more thoughtful and reflective of the two candidates and far more disposed to listen to a range of advice.  My guess is that he would have a broader and arguably better decision making proess than McCain. It’s only at the moment of decision that he worries me – I don’t know if he was trapped by lefty advisers, lefty instincts, or lefty pandering but he was wrong, wrong, wrong on the surge.[emp added]

I think Maguire is wrong. I think that Obama, like most leftist, exhibits a rigidly stereotyped decision making process. He may make a show of polling opinion but in reality, he has long before made up his mind. 

Leftists confuse public policy with individual morality and self-worth. They believe that intelligent and good people naturally support a specific, restricted range of policies and the only reason someone would not support those policies is because they are stupid and/or evil. Leftists cannot easily choose to deviate from the Left’s collective view of what policies define an intelligent and good person, without undermining their own sense of self-respect and self-worth. 

Obama opposed the Surge because he believed that intelligent and good people had to oppose the Surge. Choosing to support the Surge, or even to admit it might succeed, until the evidence proved overwhelming, simply imposed too high a psychic cost. He could not have done so without undermining his own sense of self-respect and self-worth. 

When faced with a similar problem in the future, Obama will make the same stereotyped response. He will choose the course of action laid down long before by leftist consensus. He will not deviate.

He doesn’t know how to.   

19 thoughts on “Obama’s Decision Making”

  1. when’s the last time a leftist (like obama) said something surprising, or proposed some unexpected policy? they are all living in the 1930’s.

    the key metric for obama’s career is 130.

  2. Boy, quoting Sullivan under the rubric as a conservative will not likely win any arguments here.

    As for real examples, there are several interviews and stories out there, mostly of those who knew him in his brief time at U of Chicago as a part time legal lecturer. These folks universally say that he showed no interest in getting involved in any kind of political discussion. (This is leaving out someone like John Lott, who some may find controversial, who states that he found that Obama went out of his way to avoid debating anything with those whom he disagreed with [other than telling Lott when they first met, “I don’t believe people should be allowed to own guns.”])

    The only example contra I’ve seen are those who deemed themselves conservative on the Harvard Law Review who said that he was thoughtful and listened to him. So, I don’t know, maybe he was radicalized after law school in the fever swamps of Chicago politics. He has a few advisers with whom I’m am happy, people like Goolsbee. However, believing that he’ll actually listen to them is a crap shoot. I have found no example of such in his history, outside of following the advice of political handlers.

    He seems to do his best thinking and strategizing when it comes to advancing his career.

  3. I agree that Obama has gotten his name onto many impressively titled pieces of paper, but what has he achieved in the real world? Neither Chicago nor Illinois nor the US Senate seem the better for his presence. Palin, operating in a hostile political environment, has gotten laws changed, corrupt pols punished, treaties negotiated, etc. She is also popular with voters, based on her results. To the extent Obama is popular it’s because of his words.

  4. I don’t think that listening to people is part of Obama’s decision making process. I think it is part of his political skill.

    We feel flattered when a high status person takes the time to listen to us when we speak. We seldom stop to ask whether they take us seriously or not. Carter and Clinton both had this little knack of listening to people and asking questions that led the people speaking to assume that they were taking the speakers side in the issue. In reality, both men had simply learned how to get people to like them.

    I see no evidence that Obama ever deviated from leftist orthodoxy or that he acts the opinions and experiences of people different from himself. I think he decides what he wants to do based on a decades old rigid ideology and then makes a show of listening to diverse opinions in order to divert criticism.

    Obama has not deviated from the leftmost 10% of the American political spectrum in his entire career. That to me provides strong evidence he does not actually cognitively process the wide range of opinion he ” listens” to.

  5. I think that’s right, and that some of Obama’s advisers and more-sophisticated supporters have not yet caught on to the possibility that he is ignoring their input as well as that of the rubes.

  6. “These folks universally say that he showed no interest in getting involved in any kind of political discussion”

    Obama creates cognitive dissonance because his personal style avoids the sort of rhetorical extremism and appetite for conflict we normally associate with ideologues and extremist intellectual theorists. While relatively rare, having a calm demeanor and a pragmatic desire to avoid needlessly making enemies are not qualities incompatible with holding profoundly radical beliefs.

    Obama’s reported lack of intellectual curiousity is another marker of someone whose thinking is fundamentally ideoogical.

  7. It benefits him as a politician, as others have pointed out, because it allows so many to project upon him their disparate beliefs. Soon enough, though, as President; he will have to take a stand and his past actions and associations clearly show which way he leans.

  8. “… having a calm demeanor and a pragmatic desire to avoid needlessly making enemies are not qualities incompatible with holding profoundly radical beliefs.”

    Stalin, in the early days. Koba was a good guy, quiet, imperturbable. He’d puff his pipe and listen to all the smart clever guys go off. But he was an ideological fanatic beyond what any oratory could ever match.

    “Obama’s reported lack of intellectual curiousity is another marker of someone whose thinking is fundamentally ideoogical.”

    Good point.

  9. Focus on “decision making process” is what lawyers and intellectuals do. Of course, it a complete waste of time and effort. The world is so much richer than any model that no process can guarantee that all of the relevant facts or rules will be captured or properly evaluated, nor can any process guarantee a good decision in any meaningful number of cases.

    Nor can process necessarily avoid its own pitfalls including GIGO, paralysis by analysis, and systematically bad decisions.

    Judges in the United States love process arguments because that is the only thing they know. They also know that if they drag out a process, maybe the parties will settle and go away.

    Good process does not create good decisions, but it can give people who are predisposed to waffling and temporizing cover for their weaknesses.

    What we really need in a President is good decisions, but that may be due to callidity and luck as much as judgment and process.

  10. “One Comment deleted as off topic”

    man… I wish I’d saved it. It really was brilliant.

    Also, I don’t know that Obama has ever actually made a decision.

  11. Not interested in opposing views, I see. Very neo-con/straussian of you.

    Your comment was off-topic and devoid of content except for some ridiculous hostile accusations. If you want to comment here you will have to respect our rules, which are clearly presented above the comment-posting window.

    I would ask the other commenters here to help us out by avoiding entering into public discussions about deleted comments. If we delete comments it’s usually because they are off-topic or abusive, in which case starting a discussion about them defeats the purpose of deleting them.

  12. Gregg,

    opposing views are fine. Insane rants are not… though yours WAS very entertaining. There are people who’d pay money for that kind of entertainment.

  13. Gregg,

    Not interested in opposing views, I see.

    We’re not interested in random shotgun opposing views. Your comments had nothing to do with the discussion at hand but were just an rant against your strawman view of what the entire blog represented.

    If you wish to discuss how whether or not Obama actually takes a wide range of views under consideration or not, feel free to pitch in. Otherwise, go write on your own blog.

Comments are closed.