Washington ate Obama's homework.

In Ancient Greece and Rome, political orators mastered techniques of manipulation and “demagogia” meaning control of people. From Cleon to Gaius Flaminius, the contrivers were sating their hunger for power by tampering with prejudices, emotions, and hopes of cheering crowds. Unscrupulous persuasion led to corruption: “And hence when by their foolish thirst for reputation they have created among the masses an apetite for gifts and the habit of receiving them, democracy in its turn is abolished and changes into a rule of force and violence”(Polybius).

Allegations of venality and mutual accusations turned political debates into a massive blame-storming. Blame-shifting became a weapon in political duels, even if its use, just like in modern times, wasn’t always fair:”For in oligarchies it is not he who wishes,but he who is in authority,that addresses the people;whereas in democracies he speaks who chooses,and whenever it seems to him good” (Aeschines).

Even if modern forms of social manipulation invariably stem from the belief that individuals can be molded into subservient masses, speeches of our present- day politicos are less daedal. After all, years of painstaking efforts have already been invested in ad nauseam slogans, rationalization of lies, and normalisation of unethical practices. Unfortunately for the idle and self-satisfied reciters, even if “the crowd” will classify a statement such as “politicians lie” as “usual," not everyone will accept it as “normal." Whenever leaders promote abnegation, the most fervent of their followers will develop an ideological denialism, turning away from reality in favor of a more comfortable lie. Individuals who demand empirically verifiable reality will not fit in the cheering crowd, and can be politically diagnosed with some oppositional defiance disorders.

Passing the buck became such a popular technique, because it does not require much effort, aims to turn attention from own inaction and to attribute responsibility for our own disastrous results to someone else.  Barack Obama’s cacoethes carpendi has undoubtedly earned him a top place in the pantheon of blame-shifters. In his unique rhetoric, Obama inundates the audience with “ethos” (appealing to his own authority), showers us with “pathos” (appealing to the audience’s emotions), but completely skips “logos” (logical appeal to real facts and figures).

Even if children part with their imaginary friends at an early age, a politician may keep an abstract scapegoat forever. In case of President Obama, the mythical entity is called “Washington." In 2006, in his speech on the debt limit Obama criticized the obstinacy of the culprit:  “Every dollar we pay in interest is a dollar that is not going to investment in America’s priorities. Instead, interest payments are a significant tax on all Americans — a debt tax that Washington doesn’t want to talk about." After gainining power and potential to elevate the economy, Obama couldn’t help but notice that after all: “you can’t change Washington from inside, only from the outside” (2012, University of Miami).The nastiness of the villain had to be underlined in a speech at Illinois' Knox College (2013): "With an endless parade of distractions, political posturing and phony scandals, Washington has taken its eye off the ball.”In 2014 (9th of July, Cheesman Park, Colorado), the head of government seems still comfortably oblivious to his position and accountability: “As screwed up as Washington is, I want people to understand there’s still progress to be made.”

In his farewell speech to American (January, 1953), President Truman said:”The President-whoever he is-has to decide. He can’t pass the buck to anybody. No one else can do the deciding for him. That’s his job”. President Truman kept a sign “The Buck Stops Here” on his desk in White House. On the reverse side, the sign has the words: “I’m from Missouri”, (You’ve got to show me…).”What emblem should figure on the desk of Obama? “Blame my electors”? “Blame my employers”? ”Bush is on his lunch break”? ”Washington ate my homework?” Well, at least we can be sure about the reverse side:”I’m from Hawaii. (I won’t show you my birth certificate).”


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