An Aspirational Quiz

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Ordinary Times. Relapsed Lawyer, admitted to practice law (under his real name) in California and Oregon. On Twitter, to his frequent regret, at @burtlikko. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.

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47 Responses

  1. Stillwater says:

    I got 30/10. Coulda been worse except for some very slight rhetorical tells. If not for those, it’d’ve been about 20/20.


  2. Tom Van Dyke says:

    Yeah, but they both lied.  The lies may represent “the American consensus,” however, which is helpful.  On the other hand, promising the unachievable is a yardstick with no markings and no end—it goes up and up and up until it reaches the pie in the sky.


  3. David says:

    This isn’t a response to this but since comments are closed below, I figure I will try to write a note since you don’t have a direct email option.

    From what I read in the closed-comment thread below, it seems the major bone of contention is between “scott” and another commenter who has had exceptionally bad experiences with police forces.

    It probably would not have gone any further had Jason Kuznicki not exercised his “police powers”, as it were, in the defense of only one side of the argument. I notice “Scott” making several favorite epithets used by the unintelligent majority of the right wing, as well as a false accusation that “Mike” was advocating violence.

    I’m sorry to see that comments were closed, and even sorrier that it closed up while I was trying to compose a response to the whole affair. And I am rather sad to see that, at least from appearances, Jason Kuznicki decided to behave in a lopsided manner with the use of his power.Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to David says:

      Dude – having just gone back and read the update where JK closes the thread, I’m puzzled.  Where are you getting that the thread was closed because one side was winning an argument, or that Jason did it to support one end of an argument, or whatever it is you’re getting at?

      I didn’t read the thread, but if the comment thread was highjacked by people that refused to respect the commenting policy and had no issues using new IP addresses to keep fishing up the site, then I see no reason why Jason can’t be allowed to close the thread.  In fact, since having one’s post conversations boarded up shortly after posting has got to be a painful thing to do, I’d like to thank Jason for not letting what everyone is describing from bleeding into the rest of the site.Report

      • David in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        First of all – “Scott”, and several other right wing commenters, make a number of needless insults and ad hominem attacks towards both the left wing in general and OWS and students in particular.

        Second of all, “Scott” makes a reference towards “keyboard commandos like Mike threatening violence…” I do not not, and did not in any of the posts which I saw that appear to now be deleted, see any call for violence from the other side. I did see several mentions of why Scott’s attitude shows that he is unsuitable to be a police officer, and I am not unsympathetic to this point given Scott’s clear lack of self-control and sound judgement regarding the use of force and power.

        Scott, in my view, was trolling very much like other right-wingers spend far too much time trolling the League. That he got the reaction he was looking for from one individual – and apparently due to police misconduct concerning spousal abuse, which I saw mentioned as a reason in a comment I can’t now find and assume was one of the ones deleted – does not excuse this, nor does it excuse Mr. Kuznicki’s failure to discipline Scott for trolling while disciplining the person who reacted. Scott’s behavior is a variant of the old “stop hitting yourself” bully tactic and he should not be condoned for it.

        Any reasonable person, from what I saw and the fact that it appears only one side’s posts were removed following a trolling incident, should have cause for concern over the unequal application of policy here.Report

        • Mark Thompson in reply to David says:

          There is a difference between making ad hominems at a general group and making personal attacks on another commenter or poster.Report

        • Rufus F. in reply to David says:

          Mike Schilling said: “If one of those sadistic motherfuckers ever hurts her, we’ll all find out if there’s blog commenting from prison.” and Scott said, “I think their answer would be quite a bit more interesting to hear then bunch of keyboard commandos like Mike threatening violence if his kids are ever peppered”. I fail to see how this is directly equivalent to flooding the thread with comment after comment about another commenter being a “fascist”, “subhuman”, “piece of shit”, “monster” and the original poster being a “fascist shitbag”.Report

        • Jason Kuznicki in reply to David says:

          Second of all, “Scott” makes a reference towards “keyboard commandos like Mike threatening violence…” I do not not, and did not in any of the posts which I saw that appear to now be deleted, see any call for violence from the other side. I did see several mentions of why Scott’s attitude shows that he is unsuitable to be a police officer, and I am not unsympathetic to this point given Scott’s clear lack of self-control and sound judgement regarding the use of force and power.

          I deleted the comments that threatened violence.  They did not come from either of the two people who usually go by “Mike” around here.  Scott is correct that they were way out of line.

          Trolling is not in itself a cause for discipline at the League, because it’s very, very hard to define.  If Scott actually did threaten personal violence toward anyone, or if he resorted to racism or other personal abuse, please bring it to my attention.  Otherwise, I’d place his views in the category of “repellent, but allowed” here at the League.Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to David says:

      Wow. I go over to a friend’s house to watch one game of football and look what happens.Report

  4. Plinko says:


    I didn’t get to comment on Tod’s thread, but I do agree with whoever made the comment that all this is evidence that in the general election both party candidates are spinning their way to median voter appeal, having already shored up their bases in winning a primary.Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to Plinko says:

      The most obvious sort of flaw with an exercise like this is the complaint that a nominating speech is not really reflective of what the parties want to do. Of course, neither are their platforms. What other medium of comparing and contrasting policy preferences might we use than these?Report

      • Kolohe in reply to Burt Likko says:

        I think someone on another thread (greginak?) was right on when he said you look a things like judicial appointments and selections to be the Assistant Deputy Undersecretary of the Department of “x”

        (but even then, as someone else (b-psycho?) said, the most irritating stuff is the most irritating because the two major political parties are in agreement)Report

        • Plinko in reply to Kolohe says:

          I agree here, But, as far as presidential politics goes, we have to accept that this means, in essence, it’s all and only party affiliation that matters.

          Now, I do happen to agree with that. This kind of speech sameness reminds me of hotel advertising. Every hotel is selling comfort and convenience and cleanliness at great prices – no one advertises that they skimp on the sheets because you’d go somewhere else for $5 less per night.

          Almost no one in the nation has a record to run on that’s remotely applicable to holding the presidency (and if they do, nearly all voters are not in a position to really judge their records fairly), so one has to base their vote on expectations for generic Democrat and generic Republican. The particulars of the person on the ticket are only so much advertising. It should not surprise us that the messaging is based on not alienating the minimum number of likely voters.


          • b-psycho in reply to Plinko says:

            I agree it shouldn’t be a surprise. That what is supposed to be a public service position is pursued in a way people can compare to advertising, IMO, further exposes the self-interest inherent in those that want it in conflict with the public they claim to want to serve.

            Considering the power being sought, the ideal candidate field IMO would be one where everyone competing lays bare exactly what they think, what they plan on attempting if elected, and how they reach their conclusions with no weasel words, no platitudes, no smoothing off of any rough edges. Straight-up “this is my agenda, if you agree with it then vote for me, if you don’t then vote for somebody else” — in other words, people running for office that frankly don’t give a fish whether they win or not.Report

      • Tod Kelly in reply to Burt Likko says:

        And I’d go one step further, Burt.  Take education.  I’ll bet that in an election, Rs would support elimination of big give getting in the way and Ds would support educating the poor, and they’d go round and round over that.

        But if you talk to any one of them asking should fed money help, should the govt subsidize lower income kids in education, is choice good, is testing for accountability good, etc, you’d find that there are very strong consensuses.  It’s putting theses issues in a R vs. D that gets everybody all wiggy.Report

  5. b-psycho says:

    25. Plus what Tom said about the BS behind the statements.Report

    • Tom Van Dyke in reply to b-psycho says:

      Y’know, I don’t even remember what the 2000 election was about.  It was a peace-and-prosperity election; both candidates had promised a prescription drug benefit for seniors.  What were the contentious issues?

      Until Gore started acting like a goon [stalking Bush around the stage in a debate], acting like a loon [campaigning himself bleary-eyed until the last moment while Bush went to bed] and agitating with divisive Two Americas nonsense, it was a slam-dunk election that shouldn’t have been anywhere near close.  Bush wasn’t even a sparkling candidate like Bill Clinton was in 1992, another mostly peace-and-prosperity election. [The data later said that that mild recession was already over.]

      In Congress, the GOP kept its majority and actually lost 2 House seats and 4 in the Senate, but those are rather tame figures.

      I think Tod’s point about the American consensus holds for times of peace and prosperity, but when the spit hits the fan, and action rather than stewardship is called for, well here we are.Report

  6. Dan Miller says:

    31.  And I don’t think this proves much–all it shows is that, in situations where they have every incentive to appeal to the median voter, both major presidential candidates can do so.  It doesn’t say a thing about what problems they’ll pay attention to once in office, nor does it address the impact of dealing with a Congress controlled by their party.Report

  7. Mike Schilling says:


    And God bless the United States of America is easy for Fallows readers.  It’s as big a pet peeve for him as the boiling frog.  And what Stillwater sad about rhetorical tropes is absolutely true.  Add minor differences of emphasis, and at least 30 could be either of them.Report

  8. Creon Critic says:

    Put it this way, most Supreme Court decisions are not 5:4 splits. In fact there have been runs of quite a bit of unanimous decision making. But it is precisely those 5:4 splits where some extremely significant disputes are being settled. As I alluded to in the other thread, appointments with life tenure matter, I’d predict with a high degree of confidence that Roberts and Alito will find themselves on the opposite side of Sotomayor and Kagan in many (though not all) of those 5:4 splits. As with Supreme Court nominees seeking confirmation (since Bork), all the hard edges are shorn off for polite public presentation at a certain stage. Politicians saying they love their moms and apple pie is all well and good, but that has little to do with the shape of public policies that ultimately result.

    A more telling comparison would be looking at what politicians do when they have a freer hand, not to look at what politicians say since everyone promises double rainbows and unicorns. Say, the first hundred days in office of the W. Bush administration and the first 100 days in office of the Obama administration – that’s a time where true priorities are on display. Or another time when they’re free to pursue their priorities with little consequence, the last month of the Clinton administration and the last month of the W. Bush administration.

    Btw, I got 16 wrong out of the 40.Report

  9. Randy Harris says:


  10. Burt Likko says:

    The results are all coming in about the same here. Allow me to suggest that this means that there are identifiable and meaningful differences between the parties — with the acknowledgement that rhetorical style (as an analogue for personality) plays a large factor in addition to substantive policy preferences.Report

  11. Scott says:


    Sorry but what relevance do aspirations in speeches really have?  I only care about what candidates and parties actually do not what their pie in the sky please elect me speeches say.  Barry ran on hope and change but has America really gotten either?Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to Scott says:

      That’s a great point. The problem with looking at actions rather than aspirations is threefold, although you’re right that actions do speak louder than words.

      First, actions are difficult to assign to a collective when dissent is tolerated. It’s rare that there are party-line votes in Congress (for instance) and when there are, it’s not clear that the partisan discipline truly represents a unity of opinion so much as a recognition of political imperative.

      Second, actions are difficult to articulate in a way that are intellectually honest. This is particularly difficult when characterizing things with which you disagree — the test of whether you have described someone else’s actions in an honest way is when the proponent of that action affirms that your description was accurate. Democrats would not affirm that Obamacare was an ‘unconstitutional power grab’ and Republicans would not affirm that private school vouchers are a ‘subsidy to churches.’

      Third, it’s not always clear when an action is outside of the fold of general partisan thought. Only rarely do the parties have clearly-identifiable leaders; even now it is not apparent to me that a majority of Democrats accept Barack Obama’s leadership of their party. So when Congressman “R” introduces Bill “X” into Congress, it’s a murky question at best as to whether we can say “All Republicans want policy X.”

      So why look at aspirational statements? Because they’re easier, if imperfect, tools to work with.Report