In his classic work "Rhetoric", Aristotle wrote "Persuasion is achieved by the speaker's personal character when the speech is so spoken as to make us think him credible. We believe good men more firmly and more readily than others; this is true generally whatever the question is, and absolutely true where exact certainty is impossible and opinions divided."
And then there is Barack Obama.
Judging by his ubiquity, it is safe to assert that no president in U.S. history has had more opportunities to persuade the American people that his program of fundamental societal transformation is the correct course. He pops up on our televisions during halftime of Super Bowls, Final Fours, and, as befits his self-image as first citizen of the world, will no doubt arrange to carry the Olympic torch into London this summer. He has been beamed into classrooms, inveighed against bullying on children's networks, and last weekend introduced the film version of "To Kill a Mockingbird" on the USA cable network. God forbid the Haverhill Police make an insensitive arrest because we'll hear from him on that, too.
Most significantly, Obama has had access to a largely compliant media who have pathetically devolved to such a degree as to be indistinguishable from stenographers. Wholly invested in his success in 2008, few in the traditional media are willing to call Obama or his flacks on the lies, dissembling, and misinformation that regularly spout from the White House. Jake Tapper of ABC News is the most notable exception to the insane clown posse known as the White House Press Corps (which Obama would pronounce "corpse" for those of you keeping score on the smartest-president-in-history).
Despite these built-in advantages — not to mention the weight of his office — Obama has only offered the rhetoric and tactics of the demagogue. He has made absolutely zero effort to draw skeptics or undecided citizens to his way of thinking.
Obama's April 2 remarks concerning the oral arguments about health care legislation in front of the Supreme Court were astonishing in their dishonesty and blatant disregard for the simply elegant system of checks and balances and judicial review that hang by a thread. Worse, Obama's warning to the justices was the mark of a megalomaniac in charge of a cheap banana republic. Rather than apologize to his solicitor general for sending him up the hill to defend the indefensible, Obama attempted to argue that striking down his patently obvious unconstitutional health care legislation would be unprecedented. One is tempted to say that such talk toward a sitting Supreme Court by a sitting president was unprecedented, but that is not the case.
Recall during his 2010 State of the Union speech when Obama, with most of the justices sitting and listening in the chamber of the House of Representatives, chastised the Court's decision in the case of Citizens United and deliberately mischaracterized their opinion in the case in an attempt to mislead the public. His claims were easily batted down and his credibility took another major hit. Yet Obama remains undaunted and unconvinced that he is required to make any sort of case based on the merits.
Consider also Obama's behavior during the run-up to his economic stimulus plans shortly after he took office. To Republican complaints concerning the amount of money being spent in the legislative package, Obama's devastating retort was "I won." That's it, end of discussion. It was the political equivalent of saying "Don't you know who I am?" There were no reasoned defenses of the program, nor a logical progression to demonstrate how such wild spending would improve the economy. "I won."
During the 2008 presidential campaign, candidate Obama made a point to tout his plans for the overhaul of health care insurance policy in the U.S. and pledged that all health care negotiations between the legislative and executive would be "televised by C-SPAN." When that 2,400-page monstrosity of legislation was being rammed through Congress so that we could, in the immortal words of then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi, find out what was actually in the bill, no hearings or negotiations were to be seen or heard on any of C-SPAN's cable channels or radio station. The pledge never amounted to anything.
That Obama outrage was such that even the stoic Brian Lamb, C-SPAN's founder, was moved to write a letter to the congressional Democratic leadership to remind them of Obama's promise. Lying to the point of drawing out Brian Lamb's frustration - another unprecedented achievement of the Obama presidency! Lamb, by the way, is still waiting on a response.
Now that capitalist Mitt Romney will be Obama's opponent in 2012, the president has already hit the trail with his faux-populism sloganeering. Just this past Tuesday he was in Florida touting the "Buffett rule" for taxation. People like Warren Buffett don't need a tax cut, Obama will say. He and Buffett are keen on paying taxes, paying their fair share. Except that a Buffett-owned private jet (!) company, NetJets, sued the Internal Revenue Service on April 9 in an attempt to recover $642.7 million in taxes. But merrily Obama will roll along, holding Buffett and himself as the guardians of our care and feeding, from whom all blessings flow.
Since his inauguration, Barack Obama has not deigned to put forth the effort to convince. He is emblematic of the postmodern pampered manchild, fancying that his endless, awkward declarations as reason enough to demolish the citizen's relationship to the government. He is petulant and wishes to steamroll dissent and transparency in word and deed. These are not attributes that Aristotle would have recognized as the characteristics of a credible man.
Because Barack Obama is incredible, he is incapable of persuading those who believe in ordered liberty and republican government that his cause is just.
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Matthew May is a contributor to The University Bookman and the American Thinker and is the author of the book "Restoration." He welcomes comments at email@example.com