Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Obama Arrangement Syndrome or why Kathleen Parker will always stand by her man

Neo-neocon poses one of the most interesting questions of our time:

Why is Obama Arrangement Syndrome so prevalent, and why are people so inclined to make excuses for him?

OAS is a newly discovered malady:

The syndrome requires that people interpret or ignore events in a manner that reinforces their preconceived, and rigid, notions about Obama.

Neo-neocon suggests several causes for this disorder. Some are rooted in Obama’s persona (youth, likeability, and attractiveness), while others spring from the psyche of the sufferer. Those afflicted may recover as they gain more information and overcome their own mental tics:

It takes quite a while to reach a tipping point, but then other perceptions, previously blocked, can be allowed to enter consciousness. After all, a mind is a difficult thing to change . But a mind is not an impossible thing to change.

This is probably true, especially for non-pundits. I have my doubts, though, about Parker, Brooks, and Frum. I do not expect any of them to write that they were wrong about candidate Obama.

I say this for several reasons.

First, it is difficult for any one to change their minds and admit a mistake. It is even harder for those, like MSM pundits, who stake out positions in public.

I discussed the MSM’s problem here during Rathergate:

A few months ago I wrote a review of Changing Minds by Howard Gardner for Strategy and Leadership.. He is especially pessimistic on our capacity to change our own minds. We do not, on the whole, accept new facts and revise our theories. Rather, we interpret or disregard the new information to make it fit our theories. This is not a matter of IQ or lack of education. He points out that intellectuals are "particularly susceptible" to removing cognitive dissonance by "reinterpreting" the facts.

Among the forces that exacerbate this tendency to lock-in a theory are emotional commitment, public commitment (pride makes it hard to climb down when everyone is watching), and an absolutist personality

I think this applicable to the Obamacons.

They dug themselves in even deeper during the 2008 campaign. They were not willing simply to extol Obama over McCain. They chose to castigate those who supported the Republic ticket as resentful,know-nothings who hated smart people.

Hence, their current problem. If they acknowledge that they were wrong about Obama, then they admit (at least tacitly) that the know-nothings were right. Parker, Brooks, and Frum baited Palin supporters for a year and reveled in their sense of superiority. They know, deep inside, that a forthright admission of of error comes with a large serving of crow.

Of course, it might be possible to engineer a careful, measured retreat. As Neo-neocon notes, Peggy Noonan is testing the waters. That might work, but I doubt that most Obamacons will go that route. They are held on the MSM reservation by both carrot and stick.

The stick is the knowledge that they are no longer popular with the majority of conservatives. (The underwhelming traffic at Frum’s site is clear evidence of this.)

The carrot is the usual mess of pottage doled out to resercons. Conservatives who support liberals are always welcome in the MSM. It creates perfect balance on the op-ed pages and at those journalist round tables.

Andrew Sullivan has blazed the path for the more adventurous. He is still labeled a conservative by journalists and editors no matter how many liberal positions he adopts. Only the right side of blogosphere seems to notice the contradictions between the Sullivan of 2009 and the Sullivan of 2003.

The Sullivan playbook will work perfectly for the Obamacons. When Sully veered left he justified his move by accusing Bush and Cheney of war crimes. Parker, Frum, and Brooks can do the same by obsessing about anti-intellectualism of the conservative base. They need never admit they were wrong about Obama as long as they bash Sarah Palin and her supporters.

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