07/13/2011 11:16 am ET Updated Sep 11, 2011

Stop Making Sense: Obama's Useless Appeals to Reason

When I speak to groups of recovering addicts I start with this: "The disease of addiction is like a parasite that can access every part of your brain. That means it can match you physiologically, mentally, and emotionally. That's why when it's just you against the disease, you have at best a 50-50 chance of winning.

"The only realm your disease does not have access to is the spiritual. Call it God, call it the universe, call it love -- it doesn't matter. It's the one element that can tip the battle in your favor, the one thing you can draw upon that your disease cannot."

Anyone who has suffered from addiction or is close to someone who has knows how immune to reason the disease is. Jobs can be threatened, relationships destroyed, health impaired, and yet the addict keeps on using. That's why 12-step programs place such on emphasis upon living along spiritual lines. Bill Wilson realized that only something as irrational as faith could hope to counterbalance something as irrational as alcoholism.

The right-wing zealots who have a stranglehold on the House of Representatives and the Republican party aren't rational people. They decry big government, yet won't touch the biggest government program of all -- defense spending. They denounce debt, but were instrumental in helping Bush turn surplus to deficit. They call climate change a hoax even as the arctic ice melts. Many still believe Obama was born in Kenya, and that Public Broadcasting gets 5% of the budget. They are about as in touch with reality as I was smoking 20 pipefuls of crystal meth a day.

And here we have a President who keeps trying to reason with them. Over and over he oozes good sense; marshals the most convincing of arguments. And over and over the opposition just takes another puff of a pathological ideology based on the quasi-religious notion that government is bad and taxes are demonic. These are mostly people who believe the Earth is 6000 years old and evolution is a liberal plot. On what basis does the President keep thinking suddenly facts will win them over?

Republicans in Congress got a whole lot of uninformed people to vote for them by making simplistic and emotional appeals to fear and fantasy. It worked. In their minds they have a mandate -- why should they compromise? There are only two things they fear: losing power and money. They need to be afraid to lose both if they are blamed for the economy heading south again.

The President's reluctance to use fear as a weapon is admirable. But he is trying to fight the irrational with the rational. Not only is it not working, it ignores how he himself came into office. He inspired with emotion, not policy proscriptions. He would rightly make the case that campaigning is distinct from governing, but not distinguishing between the two seems to be working okay for the Republicans. They can't even perceive the irony of running against the very government they are supposed to be running.

Obama is trying to meet in the middle when he's the only one building a bridge. Strange that someone so well-versed in American history hasn't noticed that it is strewn with the detritus of failed compromise. Compromise didn't work with slavery, the labor movement, fighting Nazism, or in the struggle for civil rights. It hasn't worked for Don't Ask, Don't Tell or in Afghanistan; it gutted the stimulus, and hopelessly watered down healthcare and financial reform. Extending the Bush tax cuts "for just two years" was disastrous: the debt ceiling crisis is upon us as the coffers run dry.

Obama keeps insisting that Americans want compromise, but he's wrong. Compromise is reasonable, and most voters don't respond to reason. If they did they'd be watching Rachel Maddow, not listening to Rush Limbaugh.

American respond to guts, courage and decisiveness--or at least their perception of it.. The President needs to retire his inner Jimmy Carter and bring out his F.D.R. He needs to stop being so reasonable.