Monday, January 2, 2012

Praising Obama is Dangerous

(This post originally was first published at DailyKos, in response to this diary. There's a vigorous discussion going on in the comments of my DailyKos post (much more vigorous than anything you are likely to find here), if you're so inclined.)

Another writer has compared Obama to Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton and Bush? Somehow the suggestion is that a favorable comparison to them is worth something?

So the suggestion is that:

  • Obama is better than Ford, the President that pardoned Nixon and began a tradition of unaccountability for the wealthy, connected and privileged

  • Obama is better than Carter, who presided over the first "misery index," the protracted Iran hostage situation, and was demolished by a far-right wing ideologue in the 1980 elections, largely because he was seen as feckless, ineffective and incompetent

  • Obama is better than Reagan, who decimated the Fairness Doctrine, gave us supply side economics, ignored the AIDS crisis, put his boot to the throat of labor, sold off huge acreage of formerly protected national lands, and kicked off the revival of faith-based market-worshiping Rayndian economic policy

  • Obama is better than Bush, who continued Reagan's work, trumped up an unnecessary war in Iraq, and was otherwise corrupt, incompetent and slimy (remember the Iran-Contra pardons?)

  • Obama is better than Clinton (at least here you give us something to argue about), who deregulated the markets (repeal of Glass-Seagall) and telecom, and Sister Souljah'd the liberal base at every turn, while introducing the world to triangulation (and Dick Morris)

  • Obama is better than Bush the Younger. Uhm, yeah.

That diary, whether the author knew it or not, is a classic demonstration of damnation by faint praise. Moreover, in taking such an approach, the diary borders on being intellectually dishonest. I'm pretty certain that wasn't the intent, but what it does is praise a President that should be - and in fact has asked to be - held accountable. Unwarranted praise in lieu of warranted criticism is dishonest.

  • Praise while Obama continues wars of aggression is intellectually dishonest.

  • Praise while Obama rolls back women's reproductive rights is intellectually dishonest.

  • Praise while Obama rewards corrupt corporations by supporting retroactive immunity and citing the states secret privilege in order to frustrate the justice is intellectually dishonest.

  • Praise while Obama prosecutes whistleblowers with extreme and unwarranted prejudice is intellectually dishonest.

  • Praise while Obama cuddles up to corrupt bankers and the financial sector, even providing them with a defense (the "many of the immoral things they did were not illegal" argument he made), is intellectually dishonest.

I'm not saying that you shouldn't vote for Obama. I'm not saying that any of the previous holders of the office were any better, or any worse.

What I'm saying is that if you consider yourself a liberal or progressive, it's not your damned job to be a cheerleader. More is expected from you. Sure... Feel free to praise the actions he's taken that advance the liberal agenda. But if liberals and progressives are ever again going to be relevant to American politics, we can't stop being liberal or progressive because "our guy" happens to reside at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

The truth of the matter is that President Obama, in many, many ways, has advanced conservative policies. Moreover, for millions of Americans, especially young Americans that voted for him with every expectation that their hopes would be fulfilled and serious change (in the form of a break with his predecessor's policies) was imminent... Well... Even MTV had to change their slogan from "Choose or lose" because so many viewers told them that they had chosen, but they are still losing.

The truth of the matter is that President Obama had people dancing it the streets when we learned that he had been elected. No other President that I'm aware of ever had that kind of support. His inauguration brought millions of people to Washington DC. He had an incredible opportunity unlike any President before, at least since Roosevelt. And he squandered it.

A whole new generation of voters has likely become cynical: "It doesn't matter who I vote for. Wars go on, Wall Street gets bailed out while I get sold out, bankers continue to reap windfall bonuses (let alone salaries), nothing is done to curtail global warming or other major environmental problems (even the Coast Guard is used to chase documentary film makers off Gulf Coast beaches after the BP oil spill), and civil liberties... heh. How 'bout some pepper spray for that?"

The truth of the matter is that President Obama and his failings have done great harm to the progressive/liberal brand. He had a chance to demonstrate it's effectiveness; he instead chose to govern as a conservadem (at best). Today, I'm not sure if I know a single person who would say that their life is better today than it was when Obama took office. I know for sure that the number of people who would say the opposite is vastly larger. And he will be blamed. And because he is widely perceived to be liberal or progressive, liberals and progressives will carry that burden.

For that reason alone, it is critically important for liberals and progressives to distance themselves from this President. Do what you must in the voting booth, but let's not celebrate victories we know to be Pyrrhic.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Talk Radio Call of the Week

Caller Sam, talking to Rush Limbaugh fill-in Mark Davis, asks how Republicans are going to like having - for the first time - a homewrecker as First Lady (assuming Gingrich wins the White House).

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Grand Old Paranoids

Like the proverbial frog in a pot of heating water, the Republican Party has gradually unmoored itself from reality. Of course, the truth is that frogs are smart enough to jump out of water when it gets uncomfortable. Whether or not we'll ever again have a reasonably reality-based GOP is still an open question.

I was listening to Limbaugh again today. I'm surprised I hadn't come to this before now, but today it dawned on me... Do you realize how much of a paranoid conspiracist one needs to be to count yourself as a Republican?

I'm not even talking about the obvious stuff. There's a significant minority of Republicans (they call themselves the "responsible" ones) that don't subscribe to birther conspiracies or the "OMG! OMG! OMG! The United Nations is going to force us all to take vaccinations that will make it easier for them to herd us all into internment camps" garbage.

Nor am I talking about the Trilateral Commission, Bilderbergers, 9/11 Truther, Skull and Bones, or Bohemian Grove stuff either. That stuff crosses party lines.

No... I'm talking about virtually every "main-stream" Republican issue position...

To be a Republican in good standing, you are required to believe:

  • The world's economy was destroyed by irresponsible minorities that cheated bankers by taking on unaffordable mortgages. Barney Frank and Chris Dodd made them do it. And Democrats, by passing undue regulation in the form of the Community Reinvestment Act in the late 1970's, forced bankers to give minority borrowers whatever they wanted. (Of course, not a single banker has come forward to make that case... nobody has produced a single example of a CRA-mandated bad loan...)

  • Thousands of scientists have conspired with the media and power-hungry bureaucrats in government to manufacture climate science

  • The NTSB made up data about the dangers of cell phone use while driving in an effort to increase the reach of government

  • Scientists, the media and Democratic politicians conspired to manufacture "science," and distribute the produced fiction all so that Barbara Boxer could go to the Senate floor and attack polluting fossil-fuel burning power plants

  • Notwithstanding research that demonstrates otherwise, sexual orientation is a choice. Anyone that says different is trying to turn your kids gay. Of course, public schools (and teachers) are a big part of this initiative - that's what all this tolerance and anti-bullying stuff is all about.

  • Democratic politicians want the economy to fail so that more people are dependent on government. It makes perfect sense, you see... If you can't find a job, you have to collect unemployment, and/or welfare, and/or food stamps. And if you are on the dole, you'll vote for your sugar-daddies.

  • If ACORN hadn't stolen teh election, there's no way Obama would have taken the White House. Restrictive voter-ID laws are required.

  • The stimulus - which was 1/3 tax cuts (as a sop to Republicans) and 1/3 aid to the states (another Republican idea) - was actually a well-designed money-laundering operation. The portion of the stimulus that went to the states preserved... wait for it... municipal union jobs. And of course, these unions, coffers flush with dues, returned that tax-payer money to the Democratic Party.

  • Notwithstanding all evidence to the contrary - including the last decade of Bush tax cuts - the path to a balanced budget and a sound economy involves reducing the tax burden on millionaires and billionaires.

These are just a few of the things that constitute "common knowledge" among Republicans. This isn't fringe: attend any Republican townhall and listen to the Q&A. You're sure to hear constituents expressing these exact concerns and their elected Republican leaders legitimizing (exploiting) their anxieties.

Look: 9/11 Truthers, Kennedy buffs, UFO researchers, and all the assorted "conspiracists" are mostly greeted with eye-rolls, sniggers and contempt.

But these fantastic Republican conspiracies are at least as contorted and ridiculous as anything you hear on late-night radio. What's more, they are transparently self-serving.

So why does anyone take them seriously?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Prager, 12/12/2011

When I first tuned in, Prager was taking issue with an article he found, authored by an African-American woman. I didn't catch the beginning of the discussion, but I gathered that he was disturbed by the writer's take on race.

A few minutes later, he took a call from a woman because he said it proved his point. The caller was a white woman that had been married to a black man for 10 years, had a couple of children with him, but was forced into divorce because of his drug addiction. Evidently, at some point during the divorce proceedings, the husband accused her of racism.

Reviewing: a man on drugs said something stupid in the midst of a difficult and emotional divorce.

Worthy of broadcast to millions, right? Ironclad proof of everything conservatives have ever said about the African-American mindset, right?

After that, Prager briefly lamented a common "regret" among conservatives and Republicans. You hear it all the time on talk radio: black Americans only vote Democrat because they've been duped about one of two things. Either they've been lied to about true nature of conservativism (MLK would have been a Republican today, donchyaknow?), or they've been mislead into believing that Democrats care about their issues (the reality is, of course, that Democrats are the true racists).

They've been duped. According to right-wing talk radio (and plenty of Republican politicians), well over 90% of African-Americans are easily fooled suckers. You might even say they are stupid.

Oh, wait? Did I say might?

From earlier today, here's Dennis Prager telling me black Americans are angry, emotional and stupid (before you dismiss this, realize that Prager is a top-10 right-wing talk show host, with a listening audience that measures well into the 7 digits):

Friday, December 9, 2011

Limbaugh , 12-9-2011

Emanuel Cleaver is an African American pastor and the Democratic Congressman that represents a large chunk of Kansas City. He's never been particularly fond of Barack Obama (I don't think he ever bought the hype: he endorsed Hilary Clinton in the 2007 Democratic presidential primaries), and in my dealings with him, he's never been timid about expressing his disappointment in the President.

The idea that he's ever been particularly beholden to Barack Obama is pretty far-fetched to anyone that's ever covered him.

Yesterday (12/9/11), Cleaver was on Joe Scarborough's morning show and mentioned that the President may compromise with Republicans and commit to fast-tracking a decision with regards to whether or not an environmentally devastating pipeline could be built. Hours later, Cleaver's spokesperson issued a statement that said the Congressman had misspoken.

That gave Limbaugh all the excuse he needed to delve into his bag of racially inflammatory rhetoric. Obama, according to Limbaugh, had revoked Cleaver's "day pass" that authorized him to "leave the plantation".