After more than a year of hearing President Obama address the nation on subjects ranging from health care to Afghanistan to, recently, the “Ground Zero Mosque”, I am more convinced than ever that the man is not really married.
Let me clarify. Obama is clearly married in the legal sense. Very happily, from all indications. But he is clearly not married in the way I understand “being married” to be, mainly because he believes that he can win an argument by, well arguing.
Obama is a lawyer at heart (he’s a former editor of the Harvard Law Review) and, like all lawyers, believes in the power of the Well-Constructed Argument, and, byextension, the sacred Unassailable Position. That’s because there are no stupid people, just unenlightened, unconvinced. Who have been operating under a false premise, or acting on faulty logic.
The task, then, is to tweak the faults, illuminate the dark recesses of their ignorance, hit them with your Well-Constructed Argument (or, for the recalcitrant, your Unassailable Position) . Do that, and the problem will solve itself. But despite close to two years of WCAs and UAs from the Obama camp, often delivered with the President’s trademark eloquence, more than a quarter ofAmericans think he’s a foreigner, another percentage thinks he’s a Socialist, untold millions believe that Islam – which mentions a ‘great prophet’ called Jesus 25 times – is intolerant of other cultures, and hordes of Medicare recipients are fighting to keep the government out of health care.
The problem, I think, lies in Obama’s debate-team approach to politics, which hinges on the notion that people are, at heart, rational beings. And here is where I start to wonder if the man is married. That’s because marriage – which brings two people in contact with each other’s innermost selves – teaches you the exact opposite – that people are irrational, emotional beings at heart, whose main use for critical thinking to justify something they did, support or feel.
That’s why a carefully constructed household budget never seems to apply to things like Pay-Per-View sporting events, hairdos, visiting relatives, stereo equipment or crackhead BFFs. It’s why a man’s answer to the female query “how do I look in this?” is always “great, honey’. It’s why a woman’s answer to her man’s assertion that he isn’t driving in circles in a hailstorm, and actually knows where he’s going is “I know you do, dear.”
It’s also why a married person should never, under any circumstances, allow him or herself to actually win an argument. No matter how unassailable their position, how well-constructed their points, a husband or wife wants what they want. Giving them a point-by-point explanation of their faulty reasons for wanting what they want won’t cause them to raise their eyebrow, say “hmmm..” and then politely concede to your superior logic. It only make them mad. Because not only have you told them that they shouldn’t have their way, you’ve kind of called them, well, not smart. Which means that they will likely only appear to concede to your superior logic, while secretly plotting to shove it back down your throat somewhere down the road, along with some statement about how dumb you were to think that anything in marriage could be solved by logic. People’s desires aren’t about intelligence or logic. They’re about affirmation, gratification, satisfaction. Things central to the emotional well-being of everyone from inbreds to doctoral candidates. All of whom vote. And when they do, they usually follow that peculiar kind of logic that always seems to get them what they want, justify a peculiar belief or prejudice, or help them hold on to what they already have. Even if it contradicts what they say they believe.
Married people understand this situation almost intuitively. You never take your spouse at his or her word. Ask all the men who thought their wife wanted an honest answer when she asked “honestly, do I look fat?” When your spouse walks in with an armful of groceries and says “don’t bother helping”, you don’t say “okay” and go back to what you were doing. When he or she says “don’t bother my stuff” he doesn’t mean for you to ignore the multicolored flame coming from the turkey fryer, or the plugged-in hair dryer dangling over the bathtub. Your job is to know what they mean when they say these things. Some couples master this skill right away, others take a little longer. Still others never master it, and wind up in divorce court, or on the evening news.
For a while, during and immediately after the 2008 election, Obama seemed to have it down pat. Soon, however, his love of logical discourse began its insidious work, causing him to frame issues according to what voters say they want, rather than they really want. When a member of the voting public claims that you’re, say, violating his Constitutional Rights, you don’t quote the Constitution to him. That’s not the Constitution he’s talking about – he’s talking about the one that guarantees him the right to expect a balanced budget and wartime tax cuts. To expect extended unemployment benefits and infrastructure improvement, and less government spending. To a government that doesn’t invade his privacy, and knows how to find him when his homemade energy source blows up his living room.
A tall order, sure, but then again, the I wouldn’t count Obama out just yet. The President is a pretty smart guy; with a bit of adjustment, he’ll likely pick up voterspeak in a flash. Just ask Michelle.