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September 15, 2008

Let Me Tell You Something!

To put what follows into perspective, please note that I'm neither an American citizen nor do I live in the USA. While American party politics means little to me, every person in the world is affected by who gets to be POTUS. For non-Americans, the two important issues are economics and foreign policy. In both I favor the approach of the Republican party so now you know my biases. Still, I'll try to be as objective as possible in my analysis.

I follow the American electoral campaign very loosely, content to read a headline here and there. I was basically resigned to an Obama presidency. Then Sarah Palin accepted the vice president's slot and that changed the odds considerably in favor of the Republicans. I watched some YouTube footage on Palin and went back to ignoring the campaign.

Today a friend called my attention to a Cheers episode that supposedly is the basis for Obama's "Change" campaign theme. Clearly this was meant as a joke but I decided to play the game. Cheers left me cold but I was amazed at the barrage of negativity directed towards Obama so I decided to investigate. I realize that party politics is 90% dirty pool so I'm seldom taken in by this nonsense. As I watched the various snippets on YouTube I discovered Michele Obama's gaffe on American pride and her efforts to extricate herself. And that is at the root of this story.

America is all agog about getting either a black president or a female VP. The rest of the world has gotten past those hurdles quite a while ago. Golda Meir, Indira Ghandi and Margaret Thatcher all did good work despite being female. David Ben Gurion did say that Golda was the best man in his cabinet. Smily laugh

In this setting, Michele Obama's gaffe is easy to understand. The issue is that she is not an unconditional American. She is a hyphenated American, an African-American. The Civil War still rages! In politics, where all is fair as in love and war, the Republicans pounced: America does not want or need an unpatriotic first lady, someone who is not proud of their country. Frankly there is nothing remarkable about a few low blows in a political campaign so I was ready to ignore the whole incident.

As I listened to Michele Obama defending herself and as I watched her body language, I was struck by a phrase she used not once but twice: "Let me tell you something!" I'll explain later why I find the phrase unusual in a political debate. I watched a few more videos and then I heard Barak himself use the expression. Now my interest was piqued. Clearly Michele Obama was under pressure while defending herself. I was curious to see how she comes across under friendly circumstances. I found a Larry King Live interview. It is difficult to find a more friendly interviewer than Larry King when the interviewee happens to be on the same political side as Larry. In this setting Michele Obama came across as friendly and poised, a very likable woman.

Dr. Eric Berne wrote a very interesting book about how people interact: Games People Play. The book is based on "Structural Analysis." Very briefly stated, all of us have three inner persons: the Child, the Adult and the Parent. Our words and actions depend on which of the three happens to be in control at any one time. Our interaction with other people depends on whether the conversation between these inner people is crossed or not. A diagram explains it best. In the illustration the adult to child conversation works without stress because they are not crossed while the other conversation, illustrated with red arrows, is crossed and causes conflict. By analyzing what is being said, how it is said, and by watching body language, it is possible to tell who is in control.

"Let Me Tell You Something!" is clearly the Parent talking. Two Parents talking to each other works fine and a Parent talking to a Child also works fine. But if the other party is trying to hold an Adult to Adult conversation, the messages are going to be crossed. In a political setting "Let Me Tell You Something!" will be well receivd by the unconditional supporters of the Obamas but it will rile those who are trying to hold an Adult to Adult conversation.

Why spend so much time and space writing about it? Because "Let Me Tell You Something!" is gaffe number two on top of the "lack of pride in America" gaffe number one. Under pressure people reveal themselves, they reveal their true selves, not the staged and made up actors you normally see on the podium or in a friendly Larry King Live interview.

The Vision of the Anointed by Thomas Sowell explains clearly what the left has to tell us. There is no need for me to cover this subject. I just want to add that probably Thomas Sowell does not consider himself a hyphenated American. Despite being black, he is wholly American.

Denny Schlesinger

Games People Play by Dr. Eric Berne, M. D.
The Vision of the Anointed by Thomas Sowell

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