November 23, 2008

"Is It Too Soon to Start Talking About the Failed Obama Presidency Just Because He Isn’t President Yet?"

Reputed title of a Weekly Standard piece by P. J. O’Rourke, according to this NYT article called "Irony Is Dead. Again. Yeah, Right."

What's the connection between the death of irony and Barack Obama? Joan Didion made the connection, saying people these days were into "naïveté, translated into 'hope.'"

The Times -- struggling mightily to develop its theme -- tried to get Didion to explain herself:
“Basically,” she said on the phone Tuesday, “I don’t like to talk about anything I’ve written or that I’m writing. What you write down, there it is and you’ve done it.”
Which means: Fuck you, I'm a wordsmith.

73 comments:

Palladian said...

God I love Joan Didion.

JSF said...

Talk about being ahead of the trends! I wrote about this very issue here: http://valley-of-the-shadow.blogspot.com/2008/07/why-president-obama-will-fail-look-at.html

And with the Screen Actors Guild (all Democrats threaten the economy of Los Angeles against the Producers (again, all Democrats), that leaves LA a third world city when filming moves out.

dualdiagnosis said...

You like interviews where they tell the interviewer to fuck off.

John Stodder said...

Didion writes for the NY Review of Books, but she must regularly upset her readers by not buying into the "amens" of the left. I was shocked at what she wrote about Terry Schiavo, and it must've inspired rage among many.

http://tinyurl.com/9s33p

Seven Machos said...

I like Joan Didion. Even if she says crazy stuff, she is a gifted writer.

And it's true. You put what you have to say out there, and it stands or fails on its own terms.

Seven Machos said...

P.S. The guy who was in charge of Schiavo's estate is a jerk, and hard cases make bad law.

Paddy O. said...

You put what you have to say out there, and it stands or fails on its own terms.

That certainly has been Bush's philosophy. With pretty disastrous consequences for what he was trying to say.

If you don't know how to talk about what you've written, communicating it in various forms to various ears and audiences, then you probably don't know what you written.

Just words then, not thoughts, not communication. Just little letter sculptures pasted together for an aesthetic effect.

Which is why I don't believe she believes what she said. She just doesn't feel like becoming a tool for the reporter to twist, and thus lose the power of her words.

Jesus said, "those who have ears, let them hear." Then, he added all kinds of other stuff to those he felt actually would truly listen. Editing of the audience is a fine art.

Seven Machos said...

And then Paddy O. starts harping about Bush. Ironic, isn't it?

Donald Douglas said...

F-bomb posts seem to be gaining in popularity here. What's next? Spencer Ackerman as an occasional contributor?

Paddy O. said...

I'm smiling at a distance.

Freeman Hunt said...

I don't see why Didion should have explained herself. There was nothing confusing about her words. She should refuse to explain them; it's a tactful way of saying, "Learn to read, please."

Kirby Olson said...

I don't think all the women writers that you write about are really using the F-word so gratuitously, or being quite so violently dismissive as you might indicate. Take it easy!

You can't translate everything into a phrase with the F-word. That word belongs in the film Taxi Driver or Mean Streets. It's not really so central to Joan Didion's imaginative world, or even to the world of Prozac Nation's writer (can't recall her name) as you suggest.

Try instead to translate what they're saying into something warm and traditionally feminine. "Golly gee, I am not so sure I can talk on the phone as well as I can write, so maybe I would just prefer to let my words stand on the page rather than reinterpret them, if you really don't mind, my dear..."

I mean, why is it that these delicate lyrical writers have to become so darned macho and blunt all of a sudden?

TMink said...

Neil Young said the same thing. Basically it was "I said what I needed to say in the song. If I talked about it I would not have had to write the song."

Trey

SteveR said...

That certainly has been Bush's philosophy. With pretty disastrous consequences for what he was trying to say.

Could you please explain what you mean?

Did you mean his inability to communicate well was the cause of his problems or did you mean that if he had communicated things better we would have understood what he meant to do and been more willing to forgive him?

What was he trying to say that has had disasterous consequences?

Or does what you have to say stand or fail on its on terms?

Paddy O. said...

Could you please explain what you mean?

His unwillingness, rather than inability, to make a case for his positions opened the door for increasingly hardened and divisive politics. He let his opponents frame his justification, even as many agreed with the actual policies, as shown by the unwillingness to actually change them when given a chance.

By letting his few words, and lack of words, be intentionally skewed, he lost control of the national dialogue on extremely important issues.

If he had communicated better, it wouldn't have been about forgiving him. It would have meant a broad swath of non-partisans having a better understanding of his policies and decisions, and would have helped his policies in other directions.

His unwillingness to explain led to a demonizing of his motives, assumptions, and priorities.

That's why Obama will not hardly change any of Bush's policies, while being applauded for his changing towards the same.

Seven Machos said...

I love the word fuck and, as I have said in another thread, it adds zest and life to the written word when in the hands of a poet.

P.J. O'Rourke is just such a poet, as a matter of fact. One of his best lines: What the fuck? I mean, what the fucking fuck?

That's Shakespearean, man.

So, I am all for fuck, Althouse, and I applaud your use of it when necessary and proper.

Seven Machos said...

I agree with you, Paddy. i just think your sense of timing and place are all wrong.

SteveR said...

Thanks for your explanatiom but I don't think any amount of clarity would have changed anything.

SteveR said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ann Althouse said...

Kirby, you do your translation and I'll do mine.

I think the hostility belongs in the expression, because to ask for an explanation is to state that the words as originally written were inadequate. I think that pisses her off. You're welcome to think otherwise. I have my opinion.

Kirby Olson said...

OK, KO.

Meade said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Zeb Quinn said...

Neil Young said the same thing. Basically it was "I said what I needed to say in the song. If I talked about it I would not have had to write the song."

T.S. Eliot said it long before Neil Young. When asked what The Wasteland meant, Eliot said something to effect, "If I could have stated it more clearly I would have."

Dody Jane said...

God - I love her too... I think The Year of Magical Thinking should be required reading.

Maxine Weiss said...

Use of expletives won't get Drudge to link to you any time soon.

Profanity isn't helpful in getting you an agent, book deal or advance either.

Seven Machos said...

No one gets a book deal when they cuss.

ricpic said...

Crucified By California

Crucified by California,
Paralyzed between The Romance of The Garden
And a Santa Anna rattling salt rimed window panes,
Didion retreated into inscrutable equations
Which fooled no one, herself least of all.

Solution being there none
She crumpled herself into a tumbleweed
And blew away.

Brian Cubbison said...

Dave Barry wrote about "the failed Clinton presidency" before he took office: "What has he done? Nothing?"

Elmer Stoup said...

Don' appreciate the foul language. It's very unladylike. What's the point??

Seven Machos said...

The point of fuck is that it gets your point across. Also, unladylike is sexist. Perhaps this is sarcasm I didn't get.

And what's with the spam?

AJ Lynch said...

Obama has to come up with a neat name for his economic stimulus plan. You know like "Shock & Awe" or "The Surge".

PJ O'Rourke would probably call it something like ..............

"The Best Stimulus You Ever Had With Your Clothes On".

Rose said...

The death of IRONY? That doesn't concern me a bit.

It's the death of critical thinking, comprehension, discernment, the ability to see past the rhetoric that concerns me.

That so many could be so deluded, so easily duped, fooled to such an extent - that is truly mind-boggling.

AJ Lynch said...

I like how the NYT reporter described John McWhoter as a "semiconservative". Does that mean he has a CB Radio and is an over the road trucker?

Michael said...

Rose: "That so many could be so deluded, so easily duped, fooled to such an extent - that is truly mind-boggling."

You must be referring to our ill-conceived and illegal invasion of Iraq.

Right?

Seven Machos said...

Michael's very appearance in a thread about good writing is ironic.

AJ Lynch said...

After Obama has left office, O'Rourke could describe his presidency as "The best fucking you ever had with your clothes on".

Meade said...

"Also, unladylike is sexist. "

No it isn't. It means vulgar and inelegant. Like ungentlemanly. It may be archaic but it isn't sexist.

Seven Machos said...

Meade -- Why two words for one concept if not to suggest that there are different standards for men and for women? If it's the same standard for everybody, let's use one word. Let's be pragmatic about it. The English language is nothing if not pragmatic.

dualdiagnosis said...

Would McWhorter call himself a "semi" conservative, or any kind of conservative? I don't think so.

AJ Lynch said...

Certain names are archaic.

No one is named Stanley or Alfred or Alvin anymore. Boys now are named Bradley or Trevor or Casey.

AJ Lynch said...

McWhorter is a conservative and would call himself a conservative. But he did support Obama Obama Obama.

I don't know if has a CB radio.

AJ Lynch said...

Where is everyone tonight?

wael said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Meade said...

1. You're right, Seven - one word for both sexes. Very unladylike of you to keep bringing it up the way you do.

2. Neocons out, Semicons in. And then you have your Excons- Kathleen Parker, Christopher Buckley...

Seven Machos said...

AJ -- I don't know. I started trying to sell some computer products and everybody left. ;]

Meade said...

Decons: Chris Dodds and Barney Franks rats who make rules but don't follow rules.

Meade said...

And then you have your Spamcons.

Seven Machos said...

Meade -- Fret not. In 2010, you'll see recons. They'll be voters.

Rose said...

No, Michael - it's the pending invasion of Pah-kistahn, and EEran - the irony of which will be you will approve of those. It will be the reconstitution of the draft, with formerly anti-war types singing the praises... it's those who cried about the Patriot Act saying nothing about the use of official channels to get Joe the Plumber... ah, maybe it is the ironies which I should be worried about after all.

Rose said...

Recons - I like it!

Meade said...

"No one is named Stanley or Alfred or Alvin anymore."

Aj: No one ever was named Stanley or Alfred or Alvin. That was a myth.

"Recons" I like it. After reconnoitering, the Recons retake Con. Gress.

John Stodder said...

I just turned on 24 Redemption. Jack Bauer just broke some guy's neck. Wasn't that supposed to stop after the election? I mean, yeah, the guy was torturing him and planning to kill some children, but he's got constitutional rights. Even in Africa.

I actually can't figure the story out yet.

Catharine said...

George W. Bush perhaps belongs to the modern-day minority of people who believe in the adage, "Never complain. Never explain.'

Catharine said...

Barack Obama might and may also belong to that minority. Four to eight years ought, shall and most likely will tell.

Daryl said...

O'Rourke is also pushing back against the hero-worship of Barack Obama, such as naming a school after him, before he has even done anything.

Catharine said...

I mean, why is it that these delicate lyrical writers have to become so darned macho and blunt all of a sudden?

Because they always were?

dualdiagnosis said...

McWhorter is seen as a conservative only because he has Bill Cosby views on racism, the left vilifies him for it, but that doesn't make him a conservative. He did not vote for Bush in 2000 or 2004, and he voted for Obama.

dan said...

Way,way too soon. O, whose gotten this incredibly far, deserves his chance. But, methinks there are
major market corrections and lots
of hardship coming that we've not
being prepped for. Think I see economic depression ahead, worse than the 30's.

Revenant said...

P.J. O'Rourke is just such a poet, as a matter of fact. One of his best lines: What the fuck? I mean, what the fucking fuck?

IIRC, that's from Parliament of Whores -- an imagined American response to finding out what their share of the national debt is?

Did I get it right? It has been 16 years since I read the book, but I liked that bit. :)

3D said...

Time is overestimated. It is not too soon!

An Edjamikated Redneck said...

I actually already have my "IMPEACH OBAMA" sign ready for January 21.

On the 20th I'm flying my flag upside down.

Yeah, I know it's cliche and gauche, but what else can an unreformed redneck do, while I still can?

bearbee said...

Obama has to come up with a neat name for his economic stimulus plan.

Old New Deal or maybe New New Deal or Old Old Deal or New Old Deal.

dan said...

Think I see economic depression ahead, worse than the 30's

30 reasons for Great Depression 2 by 2011

Pray you are both wrong.

Darcy said...

Hey, thanks for the article link, John Stodder. Very interesting!

Pogo said...

When we start building Obamavilles, I call dibs on the White House lawn, just under the trees to the left.

AJ Lynch said...

Not me Pogo- I will be laying around at Hooterville!

Lem said...

If anything a first (black president) will be so froth with irony a caveman could do it.

10ksnooker said...

Let's wait until February, then by March we will have enough to start the "impeachment drums".

Reject Obamunism in all it's forms.

e said...

maybe I'm an idiot, but this article didn't flow very well the points were a little scattered. Is the leftist illuminati criticizing Obama? That might actually be a first.

dbp said...

I think it is too early to "Start Talking About the Failed Obama Presidency", but opinions vary. Last week on the way up to Nashua, I saw a pickup (of course) with an "Impeach Obama" window sticker.

Ofc. Krupke said...

IIRC, that's from Parliament of Whores -- an imagined American response to finding out what their share of the national debt is?

I think it was an imagined American response to the S&L bailout. Summed it up pretty eloquently.

That Imagined-American must be reaching for the bourbon and Tums about now.

Henry said...

T.S. Eliot said it long before Neil Young. When asked what The Wasteland meant, Eliot said something to effect, "If I could have stated it more clearly I would have."

And before T.S., Sappho. When they asked her if ephemera was a way of undermining platonic authority, she just said, "Fuuuuuuuuck."

JM Hanes said...

"Which means: Fuck you, I'm a wordsmith."

OTOH, as Kirby suggests, Didion could actually have said what she meant, herself. In fact, that seems considerably more likely, coming on the heels of her assertion that she wrote what she meant, doesn't it?

Ironically, Ann either agrees with the Times that Didion needs translation or just thinks she could have said it better than Didion did. Unless she just gets a kick out of writing "Fuck you" which is entirely possible. Not being Ann, I can't pretend to know for sure, of course. Although I suppose I could give pretending to be Ann pretending to know what Ann meant a shot:

"Fuck you, I'm a wordsmith."

Which means: I don’t like to talk about anything I’ve written or that I’m writing.

Robert Cook said...

"When we start building Obamavilles, I call dibs on the White House lawn, just under the trees to the left."

They're already being built:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26776283/

and they would properly be called "Bushtowns" or, perhaps, "Republican Junctions." Our current disaster, as with the Great Depression, is the result of unregulated and corrupt financial practices that exemplify Republican philosophy of governance and belief in so-called "free markets," (sic), and which have been pushed relentlessly by Republican idealogues, working in collusion with lobbyists for the banking interests. (The truth is, there is no such thing anywhere as a "free market;" all markets are managed and regulated through one means or another, and to the advantage of one cohort or another. Ours has long been managed for the benefit of the entrenched monied interests, as is customary in human history.)

The Democrats have not acquitted themselves well, either, and the catastrophic repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act occurred under Clinton's administration. Clinton, it must be said, was a Republican in practice if not in drag, if a moderate one, which, to the frothing lunatics at the bleeding edge of the right means he was a socialist creep. Well, under such criteria, so would Nixon be considered were his policies replicated today. Obama may or may not be able to mitigate our not-so-slow-motion collapse, but, in any case, he is certainly no leftist, and scarcely even a liberal, the anti-Obama rhetoric of his haters and starry-eyed expectations of some of his more naive supporters notwithstanding. Nonetheless, whether one favors or loathes Obama, or are indifferent to him, (I am negatively indifferent at present), for the sake of our own continued financial viability, we all better hope that he can be successful to greater or lesser degree in arresting the financial cataclysm which is not potential, but which is occurring right now.