The Logic of a Law Professor

Missed it by that much, again.

I won't go through an apology, but I will say I needed some time off of politics - both for family reasons and because of how ugly the news has turned. But I have been watching the news. I have been reading. But after a hiatus, I needed some time to catch up.

And this is the catch-up I come back to: Chris Cillizza using Leon Panetta's interview on MSNBC as a launching pad to inflate his own egotistical criticism of the president. Quoting Panetta, Cillizza writes:

“Too often in my view the President relies on the logic of the law professor rather than the passion of a leader,” said Panetta.

That simple sentence encapsulates much of the criticism that I’ve heard from Congressional Democrats (as well as many in the activist community) about President Obama for years.
— Chris Cillizza

Don't be modest, Chris. You have been key to manufacturing that criticism of the president, not just 'heard' it.

But for better or worse, this is how the media narrative about the president has been defined in the past six years. What used to be "No drama Obama" has become the "logic of a law professor."

Although, one may be forgiven for asking - given the job description of the President as the executive, meaning that he is to enforce the laws of the land - just what is wrong with a president that looks at his job with the logic of a law professor. One may also note that the logic of a law professor has lead this country to: making health care a social responsibility for the first time, the nation's first-of-its-kind independent federal agency dedicated to consumer financial protection, the longest stretch of private sector job creation in history, and most recently, a 5.9% unemployment rate after a Great Recession high of near 10%.

If this is the logic of a law professor, the logic is almost flawless.

Cillizza's logic though? Not so flawless. Explaining why the 2010 loss of Democrats was all Obamacare's fault, Cillizza writes:

Take the Affordable Care Act. Once it — finally — passed, Congressional Democrats kept waiting (and waiting) for President Obama to take the message reins and sell the hell out of it around the country. While Obama did do some barnstorming in support of the law, it was never to the extent — or with the intensity — that Democrats on the ballot in 2010 thought it should be. The losses they incurred — especially losing control of the House — were laid at the feet of Obama by many of the people who lost their seats and those Members of Congress they left behind.

Except, Chris, the vast majority of Democrats who voted for the Affordable Care Act were re-elected in 2010, and a good majority of those who didn't (and ran for re-election) lost their races. But hey, that's just logic. And we don't do things by logic in the upper echelons of the Washington Post's newsrooms.

Here's another kind of logic, though. See if it makes sense. Leon Panetta has written a book that he would like to sell. Chris Cilizza writes a column he wishes more people bought. So why not, instead of pointing out the flaws in Panetta's penmanship, bash logic itself? After all, bashing logic is how people get rich. Just look at Rush Limbaugh.

But just bashing logic isn't enough. You must cloak it under your love for "passion". And because you have abandoned any affinity for logic, you do not need to see that without this president's passion and persistence, health care reform never gets passed. You do not need to see that without the passion of a leader, the American auto industry does not make a comeback. You do not need to see that without this president's passion and unwavering commitment to making things better for the little guy, the American economy does not stand on the edge of the greatest expanse it has ever known.

You certainly do not need to see that without President Obama's passion and grit, Russia doesn't get driven back, and a middle eastern madman does not get disarmed without a single shot being fired.

Because you see, that is looking at passion logically. And I think Cillizza, in his infinite wisdom has already established that the passion of a leader is mutually exclusive from the logic of a law professor.

Long ago, Al Gore penned a book titled "The Assault on Reason." In it, Gore mostly focused on the media's sad state of affairs that allowed an administration to lead the country to war based solely on trumped up passions and unquestioned lies. Today, even the people claiming to be critics of the Iraq war cannot resist the temptation of writing fluff pieces directly attacking logic. The assault on reason has been completed.

Logic unignited by passion is cold and dead. But passion untamed by logic is destructive. The likes of Cillizza understand neither logic nor passion. Passion is not about pounding a podium - it's about doing something that changes lives without having to pound the podium. Logic is not about dreaming up the right policies but about affecting good ones under the circumstances. Logic tells you how to thread the needle, and passion gives you the determination to finish the job.

I think Cillizza is confusion passion with showmanship.

I, for one, will take the logic of the law professor to the polls next month.



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