Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Will Benghazi Bury President Obama?

Gov. Mike Huckabee recently predicted that the ever-widening scandal surrounding what occurred in Benghazi, Libya will prematurely end the presidency of Barack Obama. Others have opined that the press is so ridiculously pro-Obama that it simply will not report the defamatory news, and the president will emerge from the scandal unscathed. Furthermore, Hillary Clinton, a very major part of those incriminating events, will escape censure as well, and her march to the presidency in 2016 will continue unimpeded.

I would like to inject another angle into the debate, based on the ideas of the ancient Talmud. If this were a book or article, I would cite sources. But because it is a blog I will say only that in Talmudic thinking, there is such a thing as “thought habituation.” Continued repetition causes people to develop habits such as getting angry upon certain provocations, succumbing to certain bodily temptations, eating a certain amount of food, rising at a certain time of the day, etc. So, too, people who repeatedly think a certain way, form a “thought habit” that imbeds itself in the brain and leads one to always think about that topic in an identical manner. In the case of physical habits, even when factors conspire to alter the behavior, the habituation exerts a powerful influence that prevents change. Similarly, once an idea or impression becomes one’s established thought pattern, it becomes very difficult to think differently, even when there are glaring reasons for doing so.

An everyday example of this psychodynamic is how people view the problems looming from the ever-growing ever-unmanageable federal deficits. This cannot go on forever, and if present patterns continue, the federal debt will almost certainly sabotage the country’s economy and the U.S. dollar (heaven forbid). However, people do not seem to even be worried about this in a meaningful way. They do not recognize and confront this reality, for they are accustomed to thinking that somehow, the U.S. will always be able to meet its financial obligations. They somehow imagine that just like the U.S. managed to pay its bills in the past, it will always be capable of doing so... no matter what.

People are accustomed to thinking that Obama is a good and honorable president who places the interest of the country above all else. They also think he has done great things for the economy, notwithstanding so many indications to the contrary. They have also formed the habit of believing that Hillary Clinton was an outstanding Secretary of State even though this, too, is clearly not the case. Has anything significant on the international scene gotten better because of her four years of service? For sure, much has gotten a lot worse. North Korea is now openly threating to nuke the U.S., the mighty countries, Russia and China, have both become far more adversarial. Syria has become a blood-soaked disaster where poison gas is being used; and the highly touted Arab Spring brought other dictators into power rather than anything resembling individual freedom. In Egypt, the most populous of Arab states, a pro-U.S. dictator was exchanged for one who is anti-U.S. Yet, the widespread conviction endures that the two of them have been among the United States' greatest public servants ever.

Let us now revisit Mr. Huckabee’s prediction. Based on the Talmud, my best guess is that most of the U.S. public will continue its habit of worshipfully viewing its president and former Secretary of State, regardless of any damning facts that may emerge. But, then again, no one can predict the future.

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