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Soubresaut's avatar

What happened to "you have to know the rules to break the rules"?

Asked by Soubresaut (13702points) February 6th, 2017

Sorry if this is long… see the bolded sections for the main question. The rest is context/example.

I know my example may be a bit moot at this point—DeVos’s confirmation vote is tomorrow—but she has a statement on her website’s FAQ that seems especially relevant:

Q: “What are your thoughts regarding specific education policies?”

A: “I am very excited to get to work and to talk about my thoughts and ideas on making American education great again. The status quo is not acceptable. I am committed to transforming our education system into the best in the world. However, out of respect for the United States Senate, it is most appropriate for me to defer expounding on specifics until they begin their confirmation process” (emphasis added).

Actual policies aside, how is it okay for someone planning to serve public office to say, “I’ll tell you later” or “I’ll tell you once I’m in” or “I’ll figure that out later [i.e., once I’m in, or not].”

And, secondly, how has ignorance of issues become evidence that someone is being a free-thinker or a leader of change or whatever you want to call it? Or at least, when did being a “free-thinker” and “leader of change” become an excuse for not knowing relevant issues?

(Again, look to DeVos’s confirmation hearing, where she demonstrated remarkable lack of awareness of various policies and issues in education, returning to transparently stock answers when she got stuck.)

Are these new phenomena? Or just ones that happen to have risen to recent prominence? Or just ones that I’m noticing more but have always been there?

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19 Answers

zenvelo's avatar

It is part of the dynamic of confirmation hearings. SCOTUS nominees get asked their opinion on issues, but generally duck answering by stating it would be inappropriate or premature to opine.

Cabinet members try to duck answering questions, save for their hearing. Quite frankly, I am wondering why she has a FAQ page on her website.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

how is it okay for someone planning to serve public office to say, “I’ll tell you later” or “I’ll tell you once I’m in” or “I’ll figure that out later [i.e., once I’m in, or not].”

It’s not a question of being right or true. It’s whether Republicans will vote her through.

The Democrats are working to get one more Republican to do the right thing and vote no and kill the nomination. Let’s hope.

rojo's avatar

Pretty much follows the Trump Election Plan. How many times did he give vague descriptives of and claim he would give details on once elected?

Zaku's avatar

I think the acceptance comes largely from two cultural sentiments in the USA.

The first is anti-intellectualism. There’s a sense of pride in not thinking much and going with feelings… though those feelings often come from fear, binary arguments, and tribalism.

The second is resentment of corruption in the form of mountains of official language, and overwhelm at the excess of information. Our politics and legal systems involve many cases of people spending their lives learning to play games and then sounding like they’re saying the right official things which add up to bad news, and in one form or another, people are sick of that. Simply in terms of that rather than issues, Obama is a good example of someone who was very smart and knowledgeable and well-spoken, who said a lot of good things, and then didn’t manage to back them up (despite what he said, he couldn’t help at Standing Rock, didn’t get us out of Bush’s wars, didn’t oppose fossil fuels much, didn’t stop government spying or drone use or unlabelled GMO food, etc).

But also, I’d say it comes from the continued decline of standards which I think both corrupt politicians and the media are responsible for, having steadily lowered the bar since at least the Ford administration, allowing our representatives and our news reporters to be corporate figureheads and to say unchecked bullshit and/or dumb shit at an ever worsening level… and now we’re at this level. At least Dan Rather is still kicking, and some independent media is starting to take over the vacuum left by mainstream corporate media.

YARNLADY's avatar

When there are so many, often arbitrary, rules, it is possible that by doing anything, we are breaking a rule. It isn’t necessary to “know” the rules in advance. In politics, as in every day life, the rules are whatever the person capable of enforcing it say they are.

stanleybmanly's avatar

The rise of folks like DeVos in preference to people of proven and established merit is consistent with the ongoing and accelerating dumbing down of our country. For the truth is that in spite of loud protestations to the contrary, an educated knowledgeable population does not serve the intersests nor aspirations of those who benefit most under the current setup. The dilemma inherent with a substantial portion of the population being well versed in the workings of the society it inhabits became rather clear with the explosion of progressive social movements in the 60s and 70s. And measures have been implemented to not only “mitigate” emphasis on social matters at all levels of formal education, there has come into force an all but systematic effort to denigrate intellectual considerations and those promulgating them. Nothing so defines the current state of affairs than the explanation from the right on the failure of the public schools
and the suppposed necessity to privatize the cornerstone of American education. And it should come as no surprise that the individual selected to head up the agency at the forefront of the nation’s educational outlook should be an individual whose sole qualifications are immense wealth acquired through a ponzi operation coupled with a dogged determination to dismantle public schools.

zenvelo's avatar

I’ve been thinking about this a lot since last night. The premise of “you have to know the rules to break the rules…” explains a lot about how the Administration is making so many mistakes.

The Administration seems to have the belief they can act alone without understanding the legal implications of their actions and how the Constitution is set up to provide checks on power.

rojo's avatar

@zenvelo doesn’t that imply that the present administration is not breaking any rules because they don’t know them?

zenvelo's avatar

@rojo, No, it just means they are ignorant.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

Betsy Devos confirmed, Pence voted to break the tie.


Tropical_Willie's avatar

You be able to get (BUY) your diploma for high school or PhD (Piled higher & Deeper) from Cheeto University.

Soubresaut's avatar

@zenvelo—I guess I can understand the ducking more for a SCOTUS, who in theory only makes decisions on issues after careful analysis of the situation and careful application of the constitution, but I imagine they should still be able to discuss how they interpret the constitution at the very least… But they don’t duck questions about basic constitutional knowledge, do they? As for her page, I don’t understand it much, either. It only had three questions and none of them said much of anything.

@zenvelo again—that’s what I’ve been wondering, though you’ve phrased it better and more completely!

@Call_Me_Jay—what frustrates me is the Republicans didn’t have to vote her in, did they? They’ve got the votes to confirm whoever they want… I get that DeVos’s “it’s for the states” answer was right along Republican sentiments, but why wouldn’t they push for Trump to nominate an official that both supported their ideas and had an adequate understanding of the public school system and the federal department of education? They can’t really think she knows what she’s doing.

@Call_Me_Jay again—yeah.

@rojo—Yes, I remember. It drove me crazy then, too. If his policy ideas were so good, he could have talked about them during the campaign instead of just insisting we “believe him.”

@rojo again—what zen said. A different phrasing I’ve heard for the same idea is “you have to know the rules well to break them effectively.” Maybe that phrasing is clearer—the one I used is the one I’ve heard more. Someone can always plow right through the rules, but that almost certainly doesn’t lead anywhere good…

Oops, short on time…

@Zaku—How do we counteract those two cultural sentiments? Or do we/can we?

@YARNLADY—Yeah, I guess so. I’m just frustrated especially that someone who has made no apparent attempts at knowing more than the average joe about the complexity to various issues is now stepping into a position of power and influence—especially when their decisions will have real consequences on educational opportunities for youth.

@stanleybmanly—that’s what it feels like… From what DeVos has indicated she wants to do—which basically amounts to various ways of taking funding away from public education institutions—it’s just going to perpetuate the class/wealth disparities in educational access….

@Tropical_Willie—haha—as long as I can afford it!

Zaku's avatar

@Soubresaut I would suggest, though good communication, particularly outside your usual circle of people who agree with you. People who are aware of those existing recurring conversations can develop understanding for what the actual complaint and request is, and then invent and engage with new conversations that don’t just repeat or resist those same conversations, but acknowledge the actual complaints and instead of directly arguing against them, listen, acknowledge, and re-cast them with the actual requests, and suggest something new and constructive.

In the case of corruption, that’s pretty easy. The request is not really for stupid leadership and stupid actions. It’s more about dishonesty hiding behind complexity and condescension and deception and excuses, so you can acknowledge those for what they are and not have it be about being intelligent, and suggest actual solutions that don’t use the usual excuses why not.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

@Soubresaut I don’t think all the vouchers will go to the Republican Senators for their son and daughters to go to private schools.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

The vouchers will be used to shovel taxpayer money into “Christian” schools.

Betsy Devos is the prime mover in the charter school looting scheme the GOP foisted on Michigan.

The charter schools will be just one area where private companies are given public property for peanuts, and the taxpayers have to rent it back at above-market rates.

Hope you all like toll roads and KOA National Parks.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Well she made it.

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