A President for grown-ups

Maureen Dowd wants a President who will treat us like children. I’m happy with the one we have.

One of the things I most like about Obama as President is that he treats us as grown-up fellow citizens, rather than acting as if we were – and trying to make us – a bunch of scared little children who need, and rely on, paternal reassurance that It Will Be All Right, Dear.

Maureen Dowd, by contrast, would rather be treated as a child.

This is the unusual case where a Dowd column actually provides some valuable insight, albeit inadvertently.   Her desire for a Daddy in the White House who will tell her scary bedtime stories and then reassure her that Daddy will keep her safe seems to be widely shared; the Republicans’ vaunted edge on “national security” is mostly about the “security” in the phrase “security blanket.”

I wish that Dowd’s explicit wish weren’t implicitly shared by so many other pundits.  Perhaps, by putting the desire into words, Dowd’s column will  make some of her readers see what a degraded and degrading desire it is, and alert them to the shabbiness of the political strategies that pander to it.

Those strategies aren’t the sole property of the Red team, of course.  Toxic-waste scare-mongering and vaccine scare-mongering operate on the same principle.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have a political process that helped us mature rather then encouraging us to regress to the crib?

Update Digby said it first. On the other hand, Jennifer Rubin wants a place in the crib next to Maureen Dowd.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

9 thoughts on “A President for grown-ups”

  1. Actually it was Digby's colleague tristero that said it first. Minor nit, but would you want to claim credit for something said by one of your colleagues here?

  2. It's not Dowd we're criticizing here as much as it is mainstream journalism, which intends to hold on to the tropes of 20 years ago– around the same time US drone software was last updated– to hold onto its slipping market share. And the White House plays along with the same arcane song: it's the independent voters that matter (now, then, tomorrow); it's about "how it plays in the sticks."

    Meanwhile terrorists in Al Qaeda, et al., are infiltrating and killing our highest-level CIA in the most sensitive region of the world in its most sensitive operation, and hacking into our drone software as effortlessly as they hack their way into US mainstream media's message. Their message, absolutely the same as the US: FEAR.

    One might wonder which side is doing the best job at "clinging to guns and religion"– perhaps that's what this war is about.

  3. I haven't read Dowd's column in years. It's just too embarrassing to see someone advertising their emotional problems like that.

  4. Yes, the past 9 years have demonstrated that Americans will pay any price and bear any burden in return for the illusion of safety. This is demonstrated not only by the widely-expressed willingness to have the government look at us naked in airports "as long as it keeps my family safe" (and what will you say when the government wants to shove its fingers up your @ss?) but by the outrage that accompanied a reasonable announcement that mammograms don't, after all, prevent breast cancer, and may do more harm than good in some cases. It's as though someone promised us that we would go through life unscathed, and we're demanding delivery on that promise.

  5. I think that's a great point, Kelly. And aside from our willingness to sacrifice for the illusion of safety, we are unwilling to sacrifice for the threat of Global Warming, the consequences of which are at least as bad as any terror attack we've yet witnessed – and yet entirely science-based. Who really hems and haws about the total cost of the war on terror?

    It must go back to our reptilian response to risk: we fear the things that scare us (rape, murder, kidnapping, vaccines), not the things that SHOULD scare us (heart disease, smoking, global warming, viruses). And thus we sacrifice for the things that scare us, not those that should?

  6. While I agree with some of your individual defenses of Obama, I am still absolutely furious with him. He clearly sabotaged health care reform. He could have pushed for reconciliation but he didn't. The result is that I, a healthy individual who never uses medical care except for a yearly physical, will have to pay 800/month for one person until at least 2014, or go naked and risk losing my house and savings. This is just one of Obama's grievous sins. When he hasn't been busy acting as a corporate lawyer for the corporations, and hiring full-time corporate crooks like Summers and Geithner, he's been acting as a criminal attorney for everyone in the Bush Adminstration, going well out of his way to stop anyone from being held accountable for their mountain of grievous assaults on the Constitution. On the international scene he's completely capitulated to Netanyahu.

    In the end, Obama has done one good thing: nominate Sonia Sotomayor. Beyond that, he's been to the right of Bill Clinton and we just can't afford 8 more years of that.

  7. Re: Obsessed

    He could have pushed for reconciliation but he didn’t.

    Leaving aside the somewhat unanswerable question of how much power Obama has over the Senate, this simply isn't true – or at least Ezra Klein, who is usually well-informed, has asserted that:

    (1) Reconciliation can be used to spend money, but not to regulate private business. So it couldn't be used to regulate insurance companies and get rules against pre-existing conditions or rescission, and it couldn't be used to get Community Rating.

    (2) Thus, Reconciliation could only achieve the goals of Health Care Reform (i.e., cover the uninsured and uninsurable) if it were used to create Single-Payer (it could legally be used to create a strong Public Option, but in the absence of insurance company regulation a strong Public Option would wind up insuring mostly people who the insurance companies don't want, especially those who are already sick, and the Public Option would therefore be too expensive and would fail).

    (3) Anyone who thinks there are fifty votes for Single Payer in the Senate (or 218 in the House) is on something. There aren't even that many votes for a genuinely strong Public Option.

    The rest of Obsessed's comments are more defensible but are still overwrought and overstated.

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