Contributor Post Created with Sketch. The Magnificent (and Unintentional) Hilarity of the New York Times

 

If you tried to write a parody of the New York Times, you simply couldn’t do better than this. From today’s book section, Patricia Cohen on James T. Kloppenberg’s study of the academic influences that shaped our current, flailing president.

When the Harvard historian James T. Kloppenberg decided to write about the influences that shaped President Obama’s view of the world, he interviewed the president’s former professors and classmates, combed through his books, essays, and speeches, and even read every article published during the three years Mr. Obama was involved with the Harvard Law Review (“a superb cure for insomnia,” Mr. Kloppenberg said). What he did not do was speak to President Obama.

“He would have had to deny every word,” Mr. Kloppenberg said with a smile. The reason, he explained, is his conclusion that President Obama is a true intellectual — a word that is frequently considered an epithet among populists with a robust suspicion of Ivy League elites.

So that’s why he’s such a lousy president. That’s why he has a hard time connecting with the American voter. He’s just too…wonderful. On the other hand, according to Patricia Cohen’s unintentionally hilarious essay, he’s in excellent company:

In New York City last week to give a standing-room-only lecture about his forthcoming intellectual biography, “Reading Obama: Dreams, Hopes, and the American Political Tradition,” Mr. Kloppenberg explained that he sees Mr. Obama as a kind of philosopher president, a rare breed that can be found only a handful of times in American history.

“There’s John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and John Quincy Adams, then Abraham Lincoln and in the 20th century just Woodrow Wilson,” he said.

Let’s forget, for a moment, that it’s nothing less than a blood insult to the memory of four great presidents — that’s Adams, Adams, Jefferson, and Lincoln, if you’re keeping score — to toss that repellent creep Wilson into the mix. Let’s focus on the idea that Barack Obama is a “philosopher president.” What a spectacular piece of delusional straw-grasping idiocy! How perfectly it encapsulates the unplugged, unhinged cocoon of the academic left.

It’s an analysis that has a delicious appeal, of course, to Barack Obama’s most loyal following. Here’s the punch line:

Those who heard Mr. Kloppenberg present his argument at a conference on intellectual history at the City University of New York’s Graduate Center responded with prolonged applause. “The way he traced Obama’s intellectual influences was fascinating for us, given that Obama’s academic background seems so similar to ours,” said Andrew Hartman, a historian at Illinois State University who helped organize the conference.

That’s really all you need to know, isn’t it, about our arrogant, out of touch, and hyper-vain president? He reminds that puffed-up, flatulent class of academic hoo-has of themselves! Applause, applause! He’s just like us! We, too, could be presidents. Well, philosopher presidents.

Obama, says Kloppenberg, is a “pragmatist.” (Which should come as news to actual pragmatists.) But he’s a “philosophical” (there’s that word again) pragmatist. Unlike, say, Bill Clinton, who was a “vulgar” pragmatist.

Obama, says Kloppenberg, has a “profound love of America.”

It gets worse and worse. And funnier and funnier. Read the whole thing. And the next time you’re tempted to complain about the liberal bias of the New York Times, stop yourself. Be grateful for life’s unexpected comedies.

There are 29 comments.

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  1. Scott R Member
    Scott R Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member
    Palaeologus
    Michael Tee: He is also much like Lincoln (the most overrated President in history?) in the consolidation of unprecedented centralized governmental power (see: the National Bank Act, suspension of habeas corpus, installation of tariffs, subsidization of railroads, etc.) and political gimmickry (The Emancipation Proclamation)

    He is a great deal unlike Lincoln in that he was unprovoked (see: the secession of 11 states). And Lincoln’s political gimmickry had a point (see: Brits don’t recognize rebs). · Oct 27 at 8:16pm

    Ensuring that government of the people, by the people, and for the people did not perish from the earth is nothing compared to the tariffs and the railroad stuff. The man was a RINO.

    • #1
    • October 28, 2010, at 5:05 AM PDT
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  2. The Mugwump Inactive

    I made the point on Dr. Rahe’s “Proposition 19” thread that dope smokers suffer from arrested psychological development. David Solway this morning at PJM makes the same case for liberals in general. If you wan to read a true conservative intellectual, read his article “What makes the Left Tick.” Maybe someone can provide a link.

    • #2
    • October 28, 2010, at 5:47 AM PDT
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  3. Songwriter Member
    Songwriter Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member
    Rob Long: Aaron Miller: Sorry, Rob. Funny it may be, but you’re still feeding the enemy if you’re subscribing to the NYT. I have to, Aaron. For the material. And also because I’m addicted to their food section on Wednesdays. · Oct 27 at 11:01pm

    If you subscribe for the material, hopefully you are taking the expense as an itemized deduction on your Schedule C??? Eases the burden a bit.

    • #3
    • October 28, 2010, at 6:26 AM PDT
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  4. Profile Photo Member

    “The common people, on the whole, are still living in the world of absolute good and evil from which intellectuals have long escaped.” — George Orwell. That is as good an explanation as I’ve seen of Obama’s “bitter clinger” characterization of Americans in flyover land. It also explains why there is no such thing as a War on Terror anymore. First it was “Overseas Contingency Operations” and now is the equally anodyne “Countering Violent Extremism,” shortened to CVE. This was slipped into the bureaucratic lexicon without fanfare in May. “Jihad” does not appear on any official documents and cannot be said aloud. Jihadists, formerly “enemy combatants,” are now known in legal parlance as “persons” whom the president “has the authority to detain.” Intellectuals, as Orwell observed, do not like plain language; it was one way in which intellectuals cut themselves off from common decency. The further language can be removed from concrete images — I give you academic prose — the more people can be fooled. Pretentiousness is political in that it is an anesthetic. Convoluted prose does not shock the conscience because it does not call up vivid mental pictures that would shock the conscience.

    • #4
    • October 28, 2010, at 6:56 AM PDT
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  5. Patrick Shanahan Inactive

    Wow.

    I have no doubt that President Obama is a highly intelligent person. But he is, as the British like to say, “too clever by half”.

    His intellectualism is that of the pseudo-practitioner: a mile wide and an inch deep. He has learned attitudes, poses, fashions, and – especially – methods to leverage others to do his dirty work. He’d be great on Wall Street.

    We should be very careful not to disparage intellectual pursuits, or even elitism. But the phony, credential-driven attitudinal rot that currently masquerades as academic intellectualism must be called out for the self-serving dangerous, un-American, nonsense that it is.

    • #5
    • October 28, 2010, at 7:31 AM PDT
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  6. Michael Tee Inactive

    I would agree that President Obama is like Adams in the Alien and Sedition Acts and his histrionics, and vacations. He is also much like Lincoln (the most overrated President in history?) in the consolidation of unprecedented centralized governmental power (see: the National Bank Act, suspension of habeas corpus, installation of tariffs, subsidization of railroads, etc.) and political gimmickry (The Emancipation Proclamation) and he is a lot like Wilson and his assault on the U.S. Constitution.

    • #6
    • October 28, 2010, at 7:35 AM PDT
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  7. MJL Inactive
    MJL

    The obsequious Kloppenberg neglected to mention Obama’s mathematical and economic influences, a minor oversight I am sure.

    • #7
    • October 28, 2010, at 7:38 AM PDT
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  8. Scott R Member
    Scott R Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Reading every article in the law review was “a superb cure for insomnia,” Mr. Kloppenberg said.

    Funny stuff.

    If I had to sit through a conference like that the gun would be in my mouth after five minutes.

    • #8
    • October 28, 2010, at 7:51 AM PDT
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  9. Frozen Chosen Inactive

    Obama demonstrates perfectly how knowledge and wisdom are two completely different things. Many intellectuals, especially on the Left, have the common sense of your average 12 yr old Lady Gaga fan.

    From what I know of Obama’s history, he is the classic lazy intellectual. He’s had others do the heavy lifting while he’s skated by on charm and a favorable ethnicity. Intellectualism, at least Obama’s brand, is highly overrated…

    • #9
    • October 28, 2010, at 7:56 AM PDT
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  10. Profile Photo Member

    I get it now!

    He’s the black Adlai Stevenson.

    America never deserved Adlai.

    • #10
    • October 28, 2010, at 7:59 AM PDT
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  11. Palaeologus Inactive
    Michael Tee: He is also much like Lincoln (the most overrated President in history?) in the consolidation of unprecedented centralized governmental power (see: the National Bank Act, suspension of habeas corpus, installation of tariffs, subsidization of railroads, etc.) and political gimmickry (The Emancipation Proclamation)

    He is a great deal unlike Lincoln in that he was unprovoked (see: the secession of 11 states). And Lincoln’s political gimmickry had a point (see: Brits don’t recognize rebs).

    • #11
    • October 28, 2010, at 8:16 AM PDT
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  12. Profile Photo Member

    This is like if The New York Times regularly carried stories cooing over the grace of Communist China or complaining about America’s insufficient love for Keynesian economics!

    Wait…

    • #12
    • October 28, 2010, at 8:20 AM PDT
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  13. Kofola Inactive

    The “Obama as pragamatist” theory has been hopping around intellectual history circles for a while now. I first came across it over a year ago through someone in tune with such things. I don’t know whether Kloppenberg was the original source or whether he just jumped on the idea and ran with it. At the time my impression was that it was simply an effort to make him appear “moderate” and “reasonable” in light of the socialization of health care. It’s interesting to see that it’s now devolved to just plain ole’ hagiography.

    I find the criticisms at the end even more amusing though (“he’s not a pragmatist he’s a VULGAR pragmatist!” — who comes up with these distinctions?). The American left has become so far out of touch, the Democratic Party would have to trot a resuscitated Lenin out of his tomb in Red Square to make them happy.

    Even then, they’d probably catch word of the NEP and disown him as a unreconstructed centrist.

    • #13
    • October 28, 2010, at 8:21 AM PDT
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  14. outstripp Inactive

    My guess is that Obama’s verbal IQ is pretty high. We don’t know his grades but probably they weren’t impressive (and perhaps mediocre), given his tendency to get bored quickly. He probably got into Columbia and Harvard on his standardized test scores, which were likely exceptionally good for a person they classify as “black.”

    With his high verbal IQ, he can talk a good game, and being good with words is important to intellectuals. That’s how they judge people.

    • #14
    • October 28, 2010, at 8:21 AM PDT
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  15. flownover Member

    Gosh he is up against world series game #1. Some kind of Greco-roman temple , just saw another Senator running away. Think it was Caligula’s horse ?

    • #15
    • October 28, 2010, at 8:28 AM PDT
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  16. ManBearPig Member
    ManBearPig Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    barf… It’s articles like that that make me proud to be a college drop out.

    • #16
    • October 28, 2010, at 8:33 AM PDT
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  17. Kofola Inactive
    Rob Long: Obama, says Kloppenberg, is a “pragmatist.” (Which should come as news to actual pragmatists.) But he’s a “philosophical” (there’s that word again) pragmatist. Unlike, say, Bill Clinton, who was a “vulgar” pragmatist.

    Just to translate for you, Rob, when they say “pragmatist,” they’re referring to a difficult to tie down philosophical movement connected to late 19th century figures such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, William James, and Oliver Wendell Holmes that has since been labeled “pragmatism”.

    Since they stole a perfectly good word, they replaced it with this “vulgar pragmatism” nonsense, which basically just means “pragmatism” of the definition your average person would recognize.

    • #17
    • October 28, 2010, at 8:36 AM PDT
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  18. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Sorry, Rob. Funny it may be, but you’re still feeding the enemy if you’re subscribing to the NYT.

    • #18
    • October 28, 2010, at 8:37 AM PDT
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  19. John Marzan Inactive

    I don’t know about him being a pragmatist, but what he is not is “post-racial” and “post-partisan”

    Watch Krauthammer respond to Obama calling Latinos to “punish their enemies.”

    • #19
    • October 28, 2010, at 8:42 AM PDT
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  20. Confucius, the Œcumenical Vol… Inactive

    That’s just class solidarity on the part of the college-dipped pseuds we like to call Smart People® around Castle Gormogon.

    • #20
    • October 28, 2010, at 8:43 AM PDT
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  21. Profile Photo Member

    Obama probably is a philosopher president, but that doesn’t mean that he has good philosophy. History is littered with bad philosophers and their philosophies.

    • #21
    • October 28, 2010, at 9:08 AM PDT
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  22. dogsbody Inactive

    I’m in academia (mathematician), and I’m rolling my eyes at this idiotic NYT article. Sheesh. If Barack Obama is a “philosopher president” then I’m the reincarnation of Ludwig Wittgenstein.

    • #22
    • October 28, 2010, at 9:09 AM PDT
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  23. G.A. Dean Member

    Hmmm… A “true intellectual”? Well, perhaps, in the sense that he lives entirely within his own head, his intellect entirely unmarked by contact with reality, free from the influence of actual experience. He speaks and acts as if he is responding to an imagined world. There is good reason that this term, as Kloppenberg says, has become an “epithet”.

    • #23
    • October 28, 2010, at 9:58 AM PDT
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  24. Rob Long Founder
    Rob Long

    Aaron Miller: Sorry, Rob. Funny it may be, but you’re still feeding the enemy if you’re subscribing to the NYT. I have to, Aaron. For the material. And also because I’m addicted to their food section on Wednesdays.

    • #24
    • October 28, 2010, at 11:01 AM PDT
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  25. Ford Penney Inactive

    Hey, what’s a little narcissistic nihilism between friends?

    • #25
    • October 29, 2010, at 1:31 AM PDT
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  26. Johnny Dubya Inactive

    Reminds me of those hilarious North Korean news agency missives, ascribing superhuman abilities and feats to Kim Jong -Il. Does our Dear Leader also hit a hole in one on every hole during his golf rounds? But seriously, now, is there really any evidence that Barack (and Michelle), steeped in Ivy League anti-Americanism and unwilling to recognize American exceptionalism, has any “profound” love of this country?

    • #26
    • October 29, 2010, at 4:28 AM PDT
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  27. Tripedis Canis Member
    Tripedis Canis Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    “Philosopher President”? What is that, from Plato’s Democrat?

    • #27
    • October 29, 2010, at 7:44 AM PDT
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  28. Rob Long Founder
    Rob Long
    Songwriter
    Rob Long: Aaron Miller: Sorry, Rob. Funny it may be, but you’re still feeding the enemy if you’re subscribing to the NYT. I have to, Aaron. For the material. And also because I’m addicted to their food section on Wednesdays. · Oct 27 at 11:01pm
    If you subscribe for the material, hopefully you are taking the expense as an itemized deduction on your Schedule C??? Eases the burden a bit. · Oct 28 at 6:26am

    Sir, I make sure to take the proper deductions for all of my “research,” which includes newspapers, musical recordings, and taco trucks.

    • #28
    • October 29, 2010, at 8:28 AM PDT
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  29. Rob Long Founder
    Rob Long
    Kofola:

    I find the criticisms at the end even more amusing though (“he’s not a pragmatist he’s a VULGAR pragmatist!” — who comes up with these distinctions?). The American left has become so far out of touch, the Democratic Party would have to trot a resuscitated Lenin out of his tomb in Red Square to make them happy.

    Thanks. I confess that I bleep over most discussions of philosophy, no matter where they come from. My mind just doesn’t work that way. If it’s not a story, I just have a hard time figuring out what it means.

    • #29
    • October 29, 2010, at 8:32 AM PDT
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