Friday, March 9, 2012

Resolute vs. Feckless

Today is, in part, about adjectives. I was entertained a couple of days ago listening to Hugh Hewitt’s radio show. He noted that Phillip Rucker andDavid Farenthold had written a news piece (not an opinion piece) for the Washington Post in which they referred to the “famously genial” Mitt Romney. That means that the description is so widely accepted as to be considered fact rather than opinion.

It’s a positive term, and reinforces the theory that the most cheerful candidate is likely to get elected. Hewitt went on to conduct an exercise, to see what word(s) would be so widely accepted as to be considered fact about Obama. Callers contributed a number of suggestions, mostly negative about Obama, and also mostly very unlikely to pass the editorial rules of the Washington Post. The closest to being generally accepted was “thin skinned.” I would add (as some callers did) “narcissistic,” “arrogant,” and “condescending,” regardless of any editorial board. But then I came across another I think is fitting: “feckless.”
The word is used in an editorial in Monday’s Washington Post by Mitt Romney, in reference to President Jimmy Carter during the time when “U.S. diplomats were held hostage by Iranian Islamic revolutionaries for 444 days while America’s feckless president, Jimmy Carter, fretted in the White House.” Romney reminds us that a new president made a big difference: “On Jan. 20, 1981, in the hour that Reagan was sworn into office, Iran released the hostages. The Iranians well understood that Reagan was serious about turning words into action in a way that Jimmy Carter never was.”
The editorial looks at the similar, but possibly more dire, situation concerning Iran today. The response now, as ever, is to be strong and resolute:
The same Islamic fanatics who took our diplomats hostage are racing to build a nuclear bomb. Barack Obama, America’s most feckless president since Carter, has declared such an outcome unacceptable, but his rhetoric has not been matched by an effective policy. While Obama frets in the White House, the Iranians are making rapid progress toward obtaining the most destructive weapons in the history of the world.
Romney then lays out a “peace through strength” policy. It’s nicely done. But there’s even more about this piece that indicates some brilliance. This was the day before the Super Tuesday vote, but it was written for a  Washington plus national audience, not one of the target states. And it didn’t at all follow the narrative Obama had been prescribing for the past week or two: “those evil Republicans want to take birth control away from women,” which is absurd on its face, untrue to the nth degree, but a surprisingly effective reframing of the actual issue: coercion against religious freedom. Romney simply doesn’t let Obama decide on the narrative.
Obama had two speeches this week, one of which was on Israel (and so peripherally about Iran policy as well), which was exactly what you’d expect from either Carter or Obama: rhetoric, excuses, obfuscating. Nothing convincingly strong. But you can decide for yourself.
I agree with Romney’s assessment:We can’t afford to wait much longer, and we certainly can’t afford to wait through four more years of an Obama administration. By then it will be far too late.”

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