Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Clinton Compares Obama To Bush

From today's WP:

"We've seen the tragic result of having a president who had neither the experience nor the wisdom to manage our foreign policy and safeguard our national security," Clinton told students at George Washington University. "We cannot let that happen again. America has already taken that chance one time too many."

Obama, of course, is not Bush.

Whereas Bush is intellectually incurious, and views intellect and complexity with fear, masked by a reflexive and reductionistic contempt, Obama is intellectually curious, seeks out and embraces ideas, and is interested in their utility, rather than their conforming to a narrow and predetermined plan, and will bring this intellectual strength and ability to his policies.

Whereas Bush is inflexible to the point of parody--and tragedy--making a virtue of failing to reexamine assumptions even when it is clear they are not working-- because cognitive rigidity is, for him, equated with strength, as opposed to the "weakness" of making distinctions--Obama has both firm convictions and the ability to advance and adapt those beliefs to changing circumstances. He has the ability to adapt on the basis of effectiveness and utility, rather than to react impulsively, to stand stubbornly still without any substantive basis, or to fail to adapt, based on fear.

Whereas Bush begins from a point of defensiveness, viewing much of the world in terms of those who need to be taken down a peg from their know-it-all-stance--the hallmark of a life of earlier resentments, imposed on the world of foreign policy--Obama operates from a position of engagement with people and with ideas. He wants to know; is capable of objective evaluation, and seeks to bring new voices into his dialogue, rather than deflecting them.

Whereas Bush has used advisers as a circle of wagons and a complexity filter, keeping criticism, real-world intricacies, and cognitive dissonance to a minimum, Obama appears to welcome advice, using advisers as a resources rather than as a shield.

And, whereas Bush connects with the resentments of the angry everyday man, who feels unfairly downtrodden by those that, in their intellectual and emotional confidence and passion, remind them of their own flaws and fears, and who resents those who might receive help, when they feel they have received none, is unlike Obama--who connects with the willingness to aspire rather than to the fear of it; to the hope of devoting the best of oneself to a community and nation rather than self-protectively dividing it; and to the desire to replace the primacy of tactics and cronyism in favor of shared principle and truth.

-Dr. Alan J. Lipman

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Chronic Naderism, Severe, Acute Exacerbation

I am defining a new disorder: Naderism, the diagnostic criteria for which are listed below:

1) The delusional belief that your heroic intervention is needed by the nation, despite any evidence whatsoever to support it (see also delusions of grandeur, erotomanic delusions, narcissistic personality disorder);

2) The compulsive need to attempt to destroy the very outcome that you claim to seek by your intervention (rule out passive-aggressive personality disorder);

3) Verbal echolalia, i.e., the repeating of statements that bear no connection to reality, e.g. "The country needs me now more than ever";

4) Feelings of irrelevance, of being left out or isolated, which are compensated for by grandiose claims of relevance and necessity for one's actions;

5) Unconscious suicidal ideation, manifest in statements indicating suicidal behavior, e.g. "I have been collecting pills", or "I have decided to run for President";

6) Destructive behavior without awareness of the consequences of such behavior, e.g., spending sprees, reckless driving, running for national office;

Use the following codes to indicate the severity of the episode of Naderism:

Mild: Mutters at television during Obama rally: "That should be me";

Moderate: Begins making late night telephone calls asking "Shouldn't I really run for President? The people need me";

Severe: Announces campaign for president.

Note: Patient should be evaluated on presentation for whether he is a danger to self or others.

-Dr. Alan J. Lipman

Monday, February 18, 2008

Clinton, Obama, and "Lifted"

From today's WP:

Yesterday, key Clinton supporters accused Obama of "lifting" a passage of the rousing speech he delivered to a party gathering in Milwaukee on Saturday night from Massachusetts Gov. Deval L. Patrick, a longtime friend and supporter. Side-by-side YouTube videos distributed to reporters by the Clinton campaign show Obama repeating, almost verbatim, lines from a speech Patrick gave two years earlier.

As you may be aware, Obama's stump speech has a section that states that the phrases "I have a dream" and "We have nothing to fear but fear itself" were also "just words"--powerful words that mobilized a nation. This was similar to a section of a speech by Deval Patrick, Governor of Massachusetts and a close Obama friend and supporter.


From the Times:

In a telephone interview on Sunday, Mr. Patrick said that he and Mr. Obama first talked about the attacks from their respective rivals last summer, when Mrs. Clinton was raising questions about Mr. Obama’s experience, and that they discussed them again last week.

Both men had anticipated that Mr. Obama’s rhetorical strength would provide a point of criticism. Mr. Patrick said he told Mr. Obama that he should respond to the criticism, and he shared language from his campaign with Mr. Obama’s speechwriters.

Mr. Patrick said he did not believe Mr. Obama should give him credit.

“Who knows who I am? The point is more important than whose argument it is,” said Mr. Patrick, who telephoned The New York Times at the request of the Obama campaign. “It’s a transcendent argument.”

"Lifted" is a word with powerful psychological resonance. "The pickpocket lifted the wallet from the passenger", say; or " The reporter lifted the phrase from another article."

To use a word such as "lifted" here--where the information was given from one close friend to another, is simply false. Would the Clinton camp say that a candidate "lifted" phrases from a speechwriter who offered words for the campaign?

-Dr. Alan J. Lipman

Words have power. When discussing Obama's, the Clinton campaign should also give equal careful consideration to their own.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Shift is Beginning

The shift in the storyline is beginning. You can feel it.

As of the Sunday shows, the storyline will begin to be the "Clinton comeback". Journalists will begin to move from the story of Obama momentum to be the among the first to begin to emphasize this new narrative. The issue of the superdelegates, of Michigan and Florida, and of Obama "falling short" will begin to be the lede.

You heard it here first.

-Dr. Alan J. Lipman

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Forecasting the Swift Boating and Preparing A Response

A line that you are certain to hear repeatedly, voiced in the hushed, insinuating tone of negative advertising, in the days to come:

"The most liberal voting record in the Senate".

The Obama team has been deft and adept at countering such attacks. They should begin working on a response to this line now, given the visceral guilt/fear response that many still have to the word "liberal".

My suggestion: attach the response to the Bush record while redefining Obama's own stance in the very terms that have led to such enthusiasm, e.g.:

"I'd rather have someone who is actually concerned about providing health care for all who need it, to protecting those who work hard each day to have real job security, to have someone who will look out for you rather than my cousin Dick Cheney's friends in Washington, someone who won't bog our fine troops down in a senseless war in Iraq rather than fighting the real war on terror. We've seen what these guys have done. I'm proud of what I've done, proud of the stands that I've taken on Iraq when others would not. And I am ready to make the changes that we all know, we all have seen, need to be made."

That's a start.

-Dr. Alan J. Lipman

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Signaling and Tempting

Hillary's speech tonight was notable in several respects--calm, psychologically adept, delivered to shape viewer perceptions of Clinton as a presumptive winner, and especially interesting in one respect: providing a signal to, and about, Obama.

The speech repeatedly juxtaposed symbolic appeals to the civil rights struggle--which constantly referenced Obama's campaign in the listener's mind--without once mentioning Obama--until the end. At the point, she briefly referenced Obama--and then spoke of continuing "our" campaign, of uniting in "our" work.

In so doing, she deftly, and for the first time effectively, outflanked Obama on the civil rights issue, and then invited--in fact tempted--Obama to join with her in her work. This was clear enough to be a signal to Obama--and to also signal the electorate that she was providing a victor's invitation to Obama--while remaining subtle enough to be changed should contingencies require it.

Psychologically sophisticated and smart. Now let's see what California brings.

-Dr. Alan J. Lipman

Monday, February 04, 2008

Double Malapropism

Jim Acosta on CNN re: Obama:

"He's pretty much been campaigning mano a mano with Ted Kennedy and Carolyn Kennedy..."

-Dr. Alan J. Lipman

Nota Bene: AP: "Santorum Questions McCain's 'Temperament'"

Santorum questioning one's temperament is like Bill Bennett questioning one's affinity for gambling.

-Dr. Alan J. Lipman

"Sound Bites On A Plane": A 'Hippocratic Oath' Between Candidates and Journalists?

Jim Rutenberg, in today's "Sound Bites On A Plane" from the NYT Caucus Blog:

On the Clinton plane, the issue arose Saturday when a group of reporters– including Patrick Healy of The New York Times - told her press staff that they no longer felt comfortable allowing Mrs. Clinton to wander back and speak with them on an off-the-record basis.

The issue came up again in the evening, when campaign aides offered to bring Chelsea Clinton back to speak with reporters – an unusual offer of access to the once-cloistered, former first daughter – but only if they agreed not to report about her visit. (After lengthy debate, the wee hours, the Chelsea Clinton interview would not come to be).

And on the Obama plane, it was the candidate himself who tried to wander back for some unscripted, off-the-record schmoozing on Saturday.

As reported in this dispatch from the Chicago Tribune, Mr. Obama walked back to say “hello” to one of the elder statesmen of the political press corps, Dan Balz of The Washington Post. When the inevitable scrum gathered around the two, the assembled reporters – including Jeff Zeleny of The New York Times — overcame Mr. Obama’s protestations that he had not come back with the intention of being quoted.

No one can begrudge candidates their attempts to gain advantage, by "flying under the radar" to nudge, flatter, and otherwise influence journalists in this way, particularly when, as California tightens and Tuesday nears, every softened barb, each slightly kinder adjective may count. And one could understand the desire of a reporter to gain professional advantage, or at least a moment of personal favor, by quoting an off-the-record contact--or by demanding an on-the-record one.

A reverse commitment of the doctor's pledge to confidentiality also exists here--the fundamental job of a a reporter is exactly that--to report. Candidates should not be able to tactically define the reality of what is "reportable" any more than journalists should selectively report that reality based upon the seductions professional or personal advantage.

Although the motives of journalist demands for on-the-record access many not always be so noble--pure on-the-record access makes a slip, a novel lede, and, ultimately, a met deadline more likely, one can also understand that reporters would not want to be massaged and manipulated in this manner, allowing candidates to have it both ways. The doctor-patient relationship requires confidentiality and trust--a compact, inherent in the commitment to "do no harm", that what is said between them will go unreported. In the candidate-journalist relationship, the candidate cannot expect to be able to attempt to prod, shape and create the news--without the journalist naming its source.

-Dr. Alan J. Lipman

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Liveblogging Hillary : Sunday's Interview on "This Week"

Exhausted. On the brink of tears. No doubt the national polls, the California numbers, and the sheer grind take their inevitable toll. The heart of it, however, is frustration, breaking through at what she regards as misstatements.

The anger when she says "...misstates what I have said." Now having to face George under these circumstances. Looks almost punch drunk from exhaustion.

When she says "I'm always a little amused" the tears almost break through. Angry frustration. "I really hope that Senator Obama will stop deliberately misstating what I said". She's furious about this.

George then rolls the "will you garnish their wages" Obama clip from the health care section of the Kodak debate.

She's a bit more confident here, rolls more easily, feels that this position has been less distorted than others, knows her position, hits her mark more surely, although still obviously covering rage. Some of the tightest smiles I have seen.

This really raises the question of how can a woman show anger as a political candidate. The simple answer: just show it. But we know how this will be regarded. How much of this is gender stereotyping--be genuine, but don't be genuine if it abrades our role expectations--and how much a reflection of her own limitations--her battle between expression of belief and tactical adjustment?

It surely raises the question of how to express anger for her in this interview. You can see that she is frustrated, angry, barely controlled, between feeling that it is fully justified to be outraged, to blast what she regards as Obama's mischaracterizations, and knowing--believing- that she has to appear unconcerned, unperturbed, smiling in the face of anger, well aware of what would follow from a genuine outburst of rage.

This struggle--the manifest fact of what, for her, are Obama's mischaracterizations, and the manifest inability to fully address it as she would like--is palpable.

She really looks ready to scream and storm out of the room. I have seen this before.

The exhaustion and frustration are underneath throughout the interview--she looks ready to throw up her hands in frustration and exhaustion.

Illegal immigration. Her voice is almost ready to crack. "It's not a fair statement". This is the message of this interview--her rage and frustration at the mischaracterizations.

Why would she be outraged? This is someone who has spent her entire adult life in politics--Arkansan politics, White House battles, the most extreme and delusional attacks from the far right. Again, knocked off of her typical stance of the reformer, and then being mischaracterized by what she must regard as the pretender to this position must seem to be a particularly frustrating dilemma.

The genuine smile and relief on the Ann Coulter support question. After this, she finds energy and strength for the closing statement--some genuine amusement mixed in with the obvious rage and pain.

-Dr. Alan J. Lipman

Authenticity Betrayed

Notice the look in Clinton's eyes during the Kodak Theatre debate as she listens to Obama challenge her on the Use of Force resolution.

Watch carefully.

Note how hard she is working hard to suppress admiration. First, there is the moment of clear recognition of his facility at jousting, fighting, parrying--the momentary shocked surprise, followed by professional appreciation, a moment of enjoyment, and quick upon this, the icy millisecond of fear--after which, you can see her work--responsibly, this must be covered--to put her serious, skeptical, no-nonsense pose back in place.

She is enjoying him--a genuine response--and she has to fight to repress it.

It's a kind of tragic irony: It is that Hillary--the one that flickers and submerges in that moment, behind the one that has now been twisted into place to frantically wave and bellow through Super Tuesday--who offers the genuineness of spirit, comfort in her own skin, and basis for generating an authentic spirit of change that is now offered by Obama, and that the electorate is responding to.

It is possible to be both genuine and tactical. What this requires is the courage of one's convictions and the stable and consistent belief in self and one's purpose--that one knows who they are and what they believe, providing the foundation for action. Tactics can issue from this--as they do from Obama--but they are mobilized in the service of this firm belief and from this knowledge of self.

Self, itself, cannot be tactical.

Now, this reminds me of many things--of a woman who, inevitably, as we saw in Bernstein's excellent "A Woman in Charge", must ultimately be drawn to the combatant; of someone who constantly seeks to be free of the armor of self even as she, once again, somewhat wearily places it on; of a father who always had a stronger answer, who she could never quite please, and enjoyment and attachment that a child develops to such experiences, even as they seek, often for the rest of their lives to both satisfy and overcome it.

But you are not a Georgetown doctor and you may want something less clinical. So let's propose the following:

In such moments, she betrays the ironic truth--the proud speaker of Wellesley, still very much present beneath the armor, would likely be a follower of Obama--if events in New Haven had turned out slightly differently.

-Dr. Alan J. Lipman

Michelle: The Secret Weapon

If you have not heard a speech by Michelle Obama, you should make it your next priority.

Utterly inspired. Genuine. Psychologically adept. Tough. Brilliant. Tenacious. I have never heard a speaker like her in my life. This woman can move elderly audiences in an Iowa meeting hall and urban audiences in a Chicago ballroom. She truly creates hope--more effectively than her husband actually, as she brings a pragmatic toughness, an understanding of delivering the truth of each moment to the listener that Barack's slightly more gauzy presentation lacks.

She accomplishes something very rare--she speaks tactically, but from a position of genuineness and truth. That is, she knows what she believes--there is no doubt--and uses every method of empathy to ensure that the listener fully understands the weight and import of what she has to say.

She knows she has something to say--and she is absolutely determined to ensure that it is heard. However, rather than reaching for a fearful imposture, a bellowing meant to sound inspirational, she thinks from moment to moment about the mind of the listener, and what would be most likely to leave this message within them.

She is adept, powerful, and accurate at this--her listeners feel the truth of her message as they identify with her effort to deliver truth, to cut through the various poses of the political game, and they are electrified by it.

If you look in her eyes, you don't see the slight self-congratulation that one sees in Bill Clinton's empathy, the self-regard at his own skill at the empathic touch; you don't see the fearful, confused reach for inspiration, covered over with a pose of strength, of her wife. You see determination--a recognition that a message needs to be delivered, and that she will work as hard as she can to ensure that it is heard and understood. It is sincere, genuine, eloquent, powerful, and, from what I have seen so far, the best of the season.

-Dr. Alan J. Lipman

Running Scared

Back after a long break working on the book. I've cleared out from the thicket of past posts all but the most relevant, concise or amusing to me.

In any event:

Fear is playing a role in this year Democratic contest--but not the role that it has played in the recent past.

Clinton has constructed her career as an accommodation between her genuine reformist impulses, and a gradual wearing away of these that is comprised of both the wisdom of experience, and political calculation. Thus far, she has managed to do so while still presenting herself as a reformer, with the main concern being moderating the (largely inaccurate) perception of her as a "radical" by the swift-boating far right.

Given this, I think that Clinton never anticipated a candidate who would grasp the mantle of reform more surely than she would.

As a result, she has no real way to construct a solid position--embrace experience, and you lose the power than change holds this season. Embrace change, and you appear to be an imitator. Do both, and it appears to be a clever attempt to have both--too clearly tactical. This results in the screaming, bellowing attempts to create motivation in her current speeches. Screaming is not inspiration.

The "Dirty Little Secret" of this part of the campaign is fear--not the well known issue of motivating the electorate by fear, but of fear motivating the potentially elected.