Why do conservatives so hate America?

“Reputation of power,” says Hobbes, “is power; because it draweth with it the adherence of those that need protection.”  And, he might have added, the cooperation of those who fear what the supposedly powerful person might do to them if they fail to cooperate.

That is Neustadt’s central teaching about the American Presidency:  since the President’s enumerated powers are far too limited to allow him to govern effectively, a successful President is one who convinces the other players in the system that their interests, as they see them, will be better served by cooperating with the President than by defying him.   That can mean either that they think he will help them accomplish what they want, or that they fear that he can damage them if defied.

It is also the teaching of Xenophon’s Cyrus, and the basis of Napoleon’s military maxim:  “If you set out to take Vienna, take Vienna.”  A general who never loses has enthusiastic troops and terrified opponents.

Therefore a President should avoid seeming impotent, even in small ways.    Although I had no objection to Barack Obama’s attempt to bring the Olympics to his hometown, it should not have been attempted unless it was reasonably certain to succeed.  Of course Obama should have supported Chicago’s bid, just as George W. Bush did.  But flying to Copenhagen reflected a different level of commitment.  The Daley machine ought to have had a better whip-count of the IOC before asking the President to put his prestige on the line.

As usual, though, Obama is fortunate in his opponents.  Instead of letting his failure in this tiny venture just sit there in mute criticism of his performance, the wingnuts insisted on celebrating this defeat – a small defeat, granted, but still a defeat – for their country.   All they care about is that Obama should be seen as losing. Obama-hatred is now at the level of what Orwell called a “negative nationalism,” like anti-Semitism, in which all events in the world are evaluated in terms whether they can be seen as damaging the object of hatred.

Obama’s error was minor, and it can be hoped that he and his advisors will learn from it.  His opponents’ error is major: moral as well as tactical, a crime as well as a blunder.   And it fits into the larger picture of Republican attempts to frustrate the foreign policy of the United States.

Thank you, wingnuts.

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

16 thoughts on “Why do conservatives so hate America?”

  1. Except if Obama doesn't go, Chicago doesn't get the bid and now you have Republicans saying Obama unwillingness to stick up for the US internationally (Hating America! if you will)cost them an Olympics. Between those two choices, going and failing is much better then not going and failing.

  2. I have to question the value of trying to appear to have power, as opposed to actually having it. Obama's decision to go to Copenhagen signals that he's sufficiently confident that he doesn't feel the need to fool people into thinking he has more power than he actually does. The alternative of not going might leave people believing that Obama had the power to bring the Olympics to Chicago but chose not to do so. But as Rob points out, that is not necessarily good for Obama, and assumes that people aren't able to figure out why Obama didn't go to Copenhagen.

    To take a more important issue, when Bush said, "I truly am not that concerned about him [bin Laden]," did that obscure Bush's inability to capture bin Laden, or did it simply reinforce bin Laden's message that the United States was a paper tiger without the will to fight?

  3. The opposition to President Obama’s bid for Chicago-based Olympics is primarily opposition to the bid itself. It would be costly to taxpayers, and profitable only to a few Tony Rezko types in Chicago. If it were foreign policy, it would be very bad policy.

    The concept that “what's good for Tony Rezko is good for America” is not convincing. The failure of a bad idea is not a “defeat … for the country,” just a defeat for the few people who would profit from the implementation. This applies to Chicago developers and the Olympic bid just as much as to much more substantial bad policies.

    As a conservative I would prefer that the country hadn't bid for the Olympics in the first place. But if President Obama wants to beg foreign crooks to take my money so they can give some of it back to Tony Rezko types, and the foreign crooks say no, then sure, I'll laugh at him. But seriously, my guess is that some Olympic voters took bribes to vote for Chicago, giving the Chicago team enough confidence that they would win the bid to involve the President… and then the IOC voted for someone else anyway, because the real world doesn't work like Chicago.

  4. This episode reminds me of when Jimmy Carter began a marathon but was forced to quit.

    The obsession of the "wingnuts" with Obama appalls the objective mind.

  5. Dom, you'll have to explain to us how Tony Rezko got GWB to back the bid you say was so bad for the country, and why none of the pseudo-conservatives now celebrating the defeat had a word to say against Bush for doing so.

  6. G. W. Bush made money on shady sports venue deals in Arlington, Texas, long before he ran for president.

    I don't know what you mean about “backing the bid” for the Chicago 2016 Olympics: he apparently met with the local organizing committee once, and had his press office make polite noises about the meeting. That's less than what President Obama did for the Luther Forest Technology Campus (whatever that is) recently.

    John McCain is on record understanding and opposing International Olympic Committee corruption.

  7. The glee among (too many) conservatives is pretty gross alright. The denial by some liberals that this was a mistake isn't gross; but it's awfully foolish and in its own way also pathetic.

    I genuinely am at a loss to understand how the administration could have made this error. For the first time the criticism that Obama puts too much faith in his persuasive and oratorical powers and doesn't pay enough attention to fundamental interests and power realities, has some bite with me.

  8. The opposition to President Obama’s bid for Chicago-based Olympics is primarily opposition to the bid itself.

    Yeah, sure it is, Dom. Sure it is.

    We all believe you because none of us have seen the Republicans doing their end zone dance like they just won the Super Bowl.

  9. Sure, it would have been a coup for Obama to get the Olympics for his adopted hometown. And I suppose going there and not getting the Games made him look less than invulnerable. But surely not being seen willing to spend a day in Copenhagen for his city and his country would have looked even worse, especially with all the other bidders' heads of states being there.

    As someone who's not a fan of the Olympics, and especially not a fan of the wasteful projects involved in having the Olympics venue move every four years, I think we got the best of both worlds: Obama was seen to stand up for Chicago, and Chicago won't have to spend the next six years desperately trying to locate funding for disastrous unnecessary stadium projects that would inevitably, and justly, attract criticism for their locations, their designs, and their blown construction budgets and deadlines.

    On the funding side, apparently Chicago offered to raise $5 billion from private sponsors, somehow; Brazil, in addition to the emotional factor of their representing a continent that had never hosted the Olympics, offered to spend more than twice that in taxpayers' money. Ponder what we'd be hearing today if Obama had secured the Olympics by matching that bid.

  10. Seems like applying for anything (job, school, store lease…). You put on your good suit, arrive on time, shake hands, make small talk, fill out the application, take the test, explain your plan/quaifications and if you don't get selected you thank everyone for their time, congratulate the winner and go on with your life.

    Or you could just not apply for anything that isn't a slam dunk in which case you would be unlikely to be say, the President of the United States.

  11. Since the other 3 had their leaders in Copenhagen, Obama had to go or he would put the US at a disadvantage.

    The mistake was in not explaining this in advance and lowering expectations to realistic levels.

  12. snoey is correct that the lack of expectations management is part of the problem here.

    However, the President of the United States is not the President of Brazil. I don't care if it would have put us at a disadvantage. The prestige of the Presidency internationally is not Obama's personal political asset, it is a state asset, and it needs to be spent prudently.

  13. Since winning is losing in this game–there's no benefit to the US in yet again hosting the summer olympics, and it's expensive and wasteful to boot–I'm not sure why anyone would need to view this defeat as a defeat for the US.

    This place seems to have some odd rules. I had a comment deleted last week for suggesting that, for Mark's friends, the fact that a politician hated the US wasn't a disqualifier. Trolling, Mark said. Which makes me wonder what Mark would call this post, if it were left in the comments. Obviously, this is Mark's place, and we play by the host's rules. I just wish I could understand them.

  14. If Napoleon sets out to take Vienna, and takes Vienna, nobody will mind the little incident in the village of IOC where the Emperor got out in front of his troops and encountered some enemy cavalry, forcing him and his personal guard to flee for their lives. If anything, the guys whom the Emperor was out in front of will feel guilty for not advancing boldly enough.

    In this case, if Obama comes up with a good healthcare bill, the Olympics becomes the sort of thing that right-wingers and presstitutes like to talk about, but which sane, honest people don't care about.

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