The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Monday, November 08, 2010

What we’ve got here …

In the classic 1967 movie, Cool Hand Luke, there’s a memorable scene described in Wikipedia:
The context of the line [of dialogue], as it is first delivered in the film, is a young prisoner, Luke, refusing to sacrifice his dignity under the instruction of the brutal prison captain. Having just been captured and returned to the chain gang after a clever and daring but all too brief escape, Luke mocks the despotic affectations of benevolence on the part of the Captain. The outraged Captain lashes out and strikes Luke, who then falls and rolls down the hill. While Luke remains slumped in the culvert beside them on the roadway, the frustrated Captain recovers his composure and delivers the line, pronouncing his summary judgment of the problem: that it can be nothing more than a matter of Luke failing to understand the one-way nature of the communication that is incumbent on his present demotion in social status. “

The Captain says:
"What we've got here is (a) failure to communicate."

In examining dozens of discussions about the historic defeat of Congressional Democrats in last week’s election, there seems to be a consistent refrain among Democratic leaders. As if programmed with a single talking point, each suggests in his/her own way: "What we've got here is (a) failure to communicate."

If only President Obama had done a better job of communicating the benefits of a gargantuan health care bill that is neither deficit neutral nor particularly effective at improving health care in the United States; if only Nancy Pelosi had done a better job of communicating the success of a pork barrel “stimulus” that raised the deficit without creating jobs; if only Harry Reid explained the advantages of the touted financial regulatory legislation that does almost nothing to avoid another economic debacle down the road; if only the progressives as a group could have done a better job of convincing Americans that bigger government would lead to a better life for all or that higher taxes would correct the social injustices that they purport to care so much about while at the same time creating “or saving” millions of jobs… the Dems would have suffered far, far fewer losses. Yeah, it was a failure to communicate.

On CBS’ 60 Minutes yesterday, the President reinforced the notion that communication and selling were all that were lacking. He said:
“I think that, over the course of two years we were so busy and so focused on getting a bunch of stuff done that, we stopped paying attention to the fact that leadership isn’t just legislation. That it’s a matter of persuading people. And giving them confidence and bringing them together. And setting a tone.”

The President gave well over 400 speeches—a record for a sitting President—during his first 18 months in office. But apparently, that wasn’t good enough to “sell” his programs.

An editorial in the Pittsburg Tribune is representative of many that express dismay at the Democratic perception of the meaning of this election:
It was fright and ignorance that led the electorate to deliver the most stinging rebuke of House Democrats in 72 years, President Obama seemed to say the morning after Tuesday's historic election. Mr. Obama's only real contrition or concession or excuse was that he didn't do a good enough job of selling the sizzle of a meatless steak.

Deposed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was frighteningly worse. It's not that voters rejected the progressives' socialism; it was that voters rejected the slow pace of socialism's implementation. And, don't you know, it was that voters, stupid lot that they are, were overtly influenced by all that money that those obscene outside conservative groups spent to influence the election. Never mind that liberals spent more.

This is like Baghdad Bob, Iraq's propaganda minister, arguing in 2003 that invading coalition forces were just a figment of someone's imagination.

So … communication was the problem. That’s all.

But wait, it’s my understanding that communication is a process that normally works in two directions. President Obama and his ardent followers may have failed to communicate, but at the other end of the communication pipeline, the American people, using the November 2010 election, did not fail to communicate—in fact, they communicated just fine.