Friday, April 23, 2010

Ben Stein's reality-check meter's day off

So Ben Stein has a column called "Dreemz" in the April edition of Newsmax the "Independent. American" magazine featuring the smiling faces of Victoria & Joel Osteen on the cover.

Ben Stein sees Obama audacity of hope as nothing more than a child who thinks he will get a pony because they want one for their birthday. Apparently the audacity of stating that we will double our exports is too much of a stretch for Mr. Stein to accept, therefore deserving of ridicule for even mentioning it in the State of the Union address.

Can't be done! Mr. Stein emphatically believes, Magical Thinking that Obama guy does. Now whether or not we can double exports in five years is not what I want to debate. If you want to see some well reasoned arguments on this goal check this or this or this out.

They, like Mr Stein, think it's too lofty a goal, only they, unlike Mr. Stein, offer something tangible in terms of a fix that could help the cause instead of Mr. Stein's it-never-has-happened-so-it-can't-happen-Obama-suffers-from-a-"psychological disorder" diatribe that seems to be the standard discourse offered by these conservative leaning venues.

Now Mr.Stein is welcome to spew his beliefs in any way he wants. I have done the same in my blog, and I regret it now. It's name calling, attaching a negative image to the person all the while ignoring the issue. Obama does not have a "physiological disorder" as Mr. Stein wants his readers to believe. Nor is the goal of doubling exports unattainable making it magical thinking. It's a goal - a direction - here is what we want to do, here is what we will change to make it happen. The counter to this, as Mr. Stein so eloquently leaves out, is to have no goal. Would he have had an issue if Mr. Obama had said we will raise exports by 10% in 5 years? Obtainable - yes, but not very can-doish (i.e American ingenuity and drive).

Note: that's the importance of hope - the idea that things can change if we have the "audacity" to believe they can, that putting energy into something can - will - make a difference. Why this bothers conservative commentators is beyond me and seems to conflict with the magazine's cover that "faith can help in hard times." But I digress......

What really troubled me was that Ben Stein - this smart guy - or at least I thought he was smart - can make statements that fail the smell test (i.e. logic and or factual data) or what he calls his "reality-check meter."

Statement one: [in the State of the Union Address] "he did not repeat the decades-long promises to help keep Israel alive."

OK. we can debate if that's an important goal of America - but now's not the time. Obama did not mention Israel - that's "Jarring" to Mr. Stein. Apparently this has been done for "decades." Now I am going to exclude looking at Clinton's SOTU speeches and focus on Regan, Bush I, and Bush II because they are seen as imperfect - but conservative - by these new Tea Party thinkers. Now Obama has given two SOTU addresses, his first did, but this latest one did not mention Israel and Mr. Stein now finds Mr. Obama scary because of this.

So has mentioning Israel really been repeated in SOTU addresses for decades?
  • Bush II did not mention Israel in 2002
  • Bush II did not mention Israel in 2004
  • Bush I did not mention Israel in 1990
  • Regan did not mention Israel in 1988
  • Regan did not mention Israel in 1984
So if not mentioning Israel in a SOTU address is "jarring," logically one would assume that Mr. Stein would find these other three president's SOTU address to be jarring as well.

Statement two: "He seemed to believe that he was presiding over a post-racial America when he won entirely by getting spectacular majorities of the black vote"

OMG! WTF? Did he really make this statement? Obama won because more people voted for him in states with the most Electorial college votes. If Black votes were the only thing that pushed him forward then he would have won in states that have the highest percentage of black voters (you know the South). But lets look at the numbers, shall we (Damn the data! It screws up what I want to belive!).
  • Obama got 43% of the white vote which was more than Kerry got in 2004.
  • Obama got 56% of the woman vote.
  • Obama got 66% of the Hispanic vote.
  • Obama got 66% of the votes from those that voted for the first time.
End of discussion on this. More people wanted Obama then just blacks. What an utterly stupid and ill-informed statement for Ben Stein to make.

Statement three: "He seemed to believe himself when he said he was going to read every line of the budget with its million of lines."

Here is what Obama said:
We will continue through the budget line by line, page by page to eliminate programs that we can't afford and don't work.
Now I don't think he meant he would "personally" read the budget, I think he meant he and his staff would. Kind of like reading assignments in college - you divvy up the work, meet, discuss, that kind of thing. Now Mr. Stein's point regarding how "he would know from reading a line for a dam in Idaho whether or not that money was spent wastefully" is a valid question, but the gist of the argument was it can't be done so don't even try and by saying that's what you plan to do - you know - get all fiscally with the budget - just makes you seem a "huckster" or a "self-deluder."

This isn't dreamland Obama is in, its a direction, a goal, a methodology. That's what leadership is all about - pointing the ship in a direction. The direction of increasing exports and removing wasteful spending from the budget is not magical thinking, require superhuman feats, or is living in dreamland, unless of course what you really want is the ship to stay in port and the nightmare for all us have-nots to continue. If you don't like the direction articulate a better direction and then state why.

Stick to selling credit score services - your "reality-check meter" has gone off prematurely making your writing seem a bit...well... Anyone?....Anyone?....Bueller?.....


Kevin said...

..seem ill informed. Sorry I havent been commenting as much. I havent really been able to play devils advocate as much latley..youve been quite spot on. But Mr. Stein seems as though hes part of the this new wave of conservative rhetoric that is all about us vs. them mentality. Furthermore it would be apparent that he is also apart of this renewed resurgence of celebrity and other famous figures latching on to this movement and rhetoric just to make sure no one forgets them (ie jon voigt, Stein and others). I must admit though that I am very pessimistic about all of this, especailly with that terrible piece of immigration law coming out of Arizona. How do you argue with someone that refuses to see your side or will allow to be open to change, let alone the rules of natural language arguments and tenants of logic. Blue October has it right in the sense that it is like having an argument with a tree. But in the end I know I can only take solace in the fact that I enjoy good discussion and im not conservative

Jeff said...

All I am asking is to have a discussion with some substance. State why, support it, done. There was nothing of substance in his commentary, just statements that were name calling or just incorrect. All sides must be considered when forming an opinion otherwise it's only ideological pablum.