The Lonesome Rhodes Complex

Did you see Obama’s speech in Osawatomie, Kansas? He lies well. And some people seem to eat it up. They adore Obama. The support for Obama reminds me of a couple of the spoken lines in the song “Are You Lonesome Tonight”. “Honey, you lied when you said you loved me, and I had no cause to doubt you. And I’d rather go on hearing your lies, than to go on living without you.” They are so invested in Obama, they don’t care what lies he tells them.

Obama tries to paint himself as a man of the people. He wants us to believe he cares about us and that he is going to stick up for us. But he reminds me of Lonesome Rhodes. Who is Lonesome Rhodes? In the movie “A Face in the Crowd” Lonesome Rhodes is a character played by Andy Griffith. (If you only know Griffith from The Andy Griffith Show or Matlock, this role and his performance in this movie will surprise you.) Lonesome Rhodes is a country bumpkin type who is discovered by the producer of a radio program, and from there Rhodes rises to national fame. He is courted by politicians and the powerful to help influence public opinion. Why does Obama remind me of this character? What I am reminded of is not the origin of Lonesome Rhodes, but what Rhodes thinks about the people who listen to him. And I will call now on Lonesome Rhodes to reveal those thoughts. (Also, fair warning, spoilers ahead if you have not seen the film.)


This is what Obama and people like him think about the general populace. You’re all sheep who need him, need government to tell you what to think and do. And it’s not a liberal thing. There are plenty of conservative politicians and talking heads who think the same thing.

What makes me think this of Obama? Well, let’s go to the Osawatomie speech for an example.

But, Osawatomie, this is not just another political debate. This is the defining issue of our time. This is a make-or-break moment for the middle class, and for all those who are fighting to get into the middle class. Because what’s at stake is whether this will be a country where working people can earn enough to raise a family, build a modest savings, own a home, secure their retirement.

Now, in the midst of this debate, there are some who seem to be suffering from a kind of collective amnesia. After all that’s happened, after the worst economic crisis, the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, they want to return to the same practices that got us into this mess. In fact, they want to go back to the same policies that stacked the deck against middle-class Americans for way too many years. And their philosophy is simple: We are better off when everybody is left to fend for themselves and play by their own rules.

I am here to say they are wrong. I’m here in Kansas to reaffirm my deep conviction that we’re greater together than we are on our own. I believe that this country succeeds when everyone gets a fair shot, when everyone does their fair share, when everyone plays by the same rules. These aren’t Democratic values or Republican values. These aren’t 1 percent values or 99 percent values. They’re American values. And we have to reclaim them.

Sounds real good on the surface, doesn’t it? Reclaiming American values to rescue the middle class. Propaganda. His speech, as are most of his speeches, is the political equivalent of a snake oil pitch.

First, look at what he is saying. After trying to establish that the very future of the middle class is in dire peril, he says:

Now, in the midst of this debate, there are some who seem to be suffering from a kind of collective amnesia. After all that’s happened, after the worst economic crisis, the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, they want to return to the same practices that got us into this mess. In fact, they want to go back to the same policies that stacked the deck against middle-class Americans for way too many years. And their philosophy is simple: We are better off when everybody is left to fend for themselves and play by their own rules.

What Obama is doing here is call the straw man fallacy. Simply put, the straw man fallacy is to ignore the actual argument of an opponent, set up a false or distorted version of that argument, and then refute that false or distorted argument. One sets up a false image that can be easily knocked down, a straw man, and then one knocks that straw man down and claims to have defeated the opponent.

No one, I repeat, no one is arguing that we are better off when everyone is left to fend for themselves and play by their own rules. Not even the anarcho-capitalists are making the argument that everyone should be left to fend for themselves, and certainly none of the Republican politicians do. Obama is lying about what his opponents advocate, proudly proclaiming that he is “here to say they are wrong,” and expecting you to believe this makes his position righteous.

And it is not even a subtle straw man argument. He pretty much blatantly lies and expects you to accept it as the truth. But that is not all. The very next thing he does after knocking over a flimsy straw man, is to try to position himself as righteous advocate for the common man. Which leads to the need to point out what he is not saying.

I am here to say they are wrong. I’m here in Kansas to reaffirm my deep conviction that we’re greater together than we are on our own. I believe that this country succeeds when everyone gets a fair shot, when everyone does their fair share, when everyone plays by the same rules. These aren’t Democratic values or Republican values. These aren’t 1 percent values or 99 percent values. They’re American values. And we have to reclaim them.

I don’t usually advocate a lot of “reading between the lines” because making inferences based on what you think someone else secretly means is a good way to delude yourself. But in this case what Obama is saying here raises some questions. Who determines what is a fair share? Who gets to make the rules? The answers to these questions are what Obama is not saying. Though if you pay attention to this speech and many of his others, the who is him and those who agree with him. And there is something else he is not saying, but is implied by what he said. First he implies that his beliefs are somehow above politics. “These aren’t Democratic values or Republican values.” And then he implies that his beliefs, his decisions about what is a fair share and what the rules should be are American values. Pay attention to the progression. He starts with “my deep conviction,” and then “I believe,” and then transforms them into “values.” Not just his values, mind you, but American values.

And when that is coupled with other comments Obama has made, I get a distinct impression that Obama basically believes he is smarter than most of the rest of us, and that we need him and people who agree with him to decide things like what are the rules for society and what is a fair share. For example in his 2010 State of the Union Address, Obama claimed that the skepticism towards his health care plan was partly his fault “for not explaining it more clearly to the American people,” The comment implies that the only reason people oppose his health care plan is because they don’t yet understand it, as if there are no other reasons to oppose it.

The point being that Obama is selling himself, pardon, I mean campaigning as a cure-all. And he expects you to buy his snake oil because you’re too ignorant to know better. 

Of course, I could make similar arguments for Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum and most of the other Republican candidates for President. This is what seems to pass for political leadership these days. People eat this kind of populist pandering up like candy. Things are slowly changing though. People like Ron Paul are getting the word out. The ideas of liberty are spreading. The future is brightening, slowly and surely.

One Response to “The Lonesome Rhodes Complex”

  1. Just wanted to say HI. I found your blog a few days ago on Technorati and have been reading it over the past few days.

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