Politics: Victor Davis Hanson on Obama the sophist

Published by: Dan Calabrese on Tuesday October 23rd, 2012

Dan Calabrese

By DAN CALABRESE - The know-it-all, do-nothing loudmouth we all remember.

After a night of watching President Obama show his annoyance that anyone would question his eminence - just because, you know, his record governing the nation is abysmal - Victor Davis Hanson really pegged the president in a new piece for Pajamas Media. Obama is that guy who likes to hear himself talk in political science class, but can't back it up with performance. To wit:

I had a lot of Obamas in class. They sat in the front of the room, posed long eloquent questions, mellifluously interrupted the lectures with clever refinements and qualifications, often self-referenced all that they had read and done — and then pow!: you grade their first test and there is simply nothing there: a D or F. It was quite stunning: how could a student be so confident in his rhetoric and so dismal in his performance?

Surely I thought this test must be some terrible mistake (did his mother just die? Had she came down with mononucleosis? Is this a fluke, a once-in-a-lifetime bad day?). And then he takes the midterm and then the final and then turns in the paper — each effort proves more pathetic than the last. Yet in class the next day, there he is again, raising his hand, pouring out clever phraseology and eloquent exempla, as if he has not just flunked his test and is getting an F.

Each time you encounter such a Starbuck the Rainmaker or The Music Man, the experience still is discomforting, given the vast abyss between the eloquent grandstanding rhetoric and actual achievement — and the deliberate way in which you, the instructor, were to be conned. And if such students are athletic, dapper, charismatic, and sharply dressed (and for some reason they so often are), the disconnect becomes ever more arresting. Sometimes the debacle even worsens when they come to office hours after the first bad grade, “shocked” that the professor might underappreciate their rhetorical gymnastics. Similar is the gulf between Obama’s teleprompted verbiage and his actual performance of governing since 2009.

I'll cop to having been a political science major, but hey, I've reformed myself into a productive and responsible citizen. And yes, I absolutely remember those people in class. I think anyone who took poly-sci does. They would wax on with great eloquence about whatever principle they were espousing, but they couldn't put it into practice to accomplish anything - either in their academic performance or in their own lives. They just liked to talk.

And when they were called to account for their lack of performance, their irritation was palpable. Couldn't you see how brilliant they were? How dare you make them prove it by successfully completing an assignment or otherwise achieving something?

As the semester rolled on, you'd get to the point where you'd roll your eyes any time that guy raised his hand, and the professor would be a little more selective about occasions to call on the guy. But you could sure envision the guy as a politician, even as you cringed at the thought of his actually having responsibility for important things.

Well, that guy has been president for the past four years, which explains a lot. Thanks to VDH for his usual spot-on observation.