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Dec 21 2011

Democratic Blindness to Obama’s Faults

I had a brief but absurd exchange with someone on my Facebook friends list on Saturday. His name is Mike Jordan, but I don’t know him; I assumed he was on my friends list because he’s a blog reader. And he quoted George Clooney saying something about how he was disappointed in people who were disappointed in Obama. So I replied to that quote:

I like Clooney but he’s full of shit on this one. Obama hasn’t been a disappointment, he’s been a disaster.

I’ve laid out the reasons for that conclusion over the last three years in great detail and they are pretty much impossible to dispute, especially for someone who considers themselves a liberal Democrat. That led to someone else, someone named George Bingen, to leave two responses in a row:

“Ed, the disaster is the obstructionist Repugnican party that has destroyed our economy and our middle class.” …

“Consider the disaster that the Bush administration was and the pending disaster that the GOP is putting up for their selection of potential Presidential candidates.”

And I replied:

“Of course the GOP is terrible. That doesn’t make Obama any better. I don’t grade on a curve.”

At which point Jordan left this comment on my Facebook page:

“Regarding Obama…On my post you said: “Of course the GOP is terrible. That doesn’t make Obama any better. I don’t grade on a curve.” I now know who I’m dealing with…an Idiot Libertarian. Ed…Just like Ron Paul…Your Pathetic!”

And then deleted it and blocked me from seeing his page or the thread that I had commented on. I think I’ve died and gone to junior high.

But there’s a serious point to all of this beyond the juvenile behavior. These two are hardly alone in blindly following Obama no matter how appalling his behavior. I’ve had many conversations with Obama supporters just like that; you point out how bad Obama has been on a number of issues and they dismiss them by saying that the Republicans are worse. And they’re right. The Republicans are worse. But that does nothing at all to challenge the validity of my argument. It doesn’t even attempt to engage that argument.

They also say things like “you’re just mad because you didn’t get everything you wanted” or “you’re just mad because he didn’t make everything rainbows and lollipops.” That position is, quite frankly, idiotic. I’m not disappointed in Obama because he didn’t achieve everything he said he would achieve; some of those things have been blocked by Congress and that is inevitable when you have divided government. What I’m angry about, as I’ve explained many times, is that Obama has betrayed the most basic principles of fairness, justice and the rule of law — and this is an important component of the problem — on issues where he has full control of the government’s policy.

He didn’t have to assert the broadest imaginable version of the State Secrets Privilege; in fact, he explicitly said he was opposed to doing so even after his DOJ had already done it in multiple cases (and they’ve continued to do it in every single legal challenge to executive branch crimes committed in the name of stopping terrorism). He didn’t have to kill any investigation and prosecution of the war crimes of Bush administration officials, he chose to do so because he made the political calculation that the public wouldn’t like it. He has, like Bush, consistently played political games with the most basic and important constitutional and moral principles.

He has deliberately and actively prevented the enforcement of the Bill of Rights, federal statutory law and our most important treaty obligations when it comes to torture, data mining, warrantless wiretaps and every other aspect of the war on terror. He has deliberately and actively subverted the most basic safeguards against tyranny and destroyed the checks and balances and separation of powers built into our Constitutional structure.

The answer to those undeniable facts cannot be “but Bush did it too.” Because if it’s wrong when Bush did it, it’s wrong when Obama does it. But for many Democrats, especially in the party leadership and among the more partisan-minded rank and file, it was only bad when Bush did it. The moment Obama got into office, all their complaints about the expansion of executive power and the lawlessness of the government’s action fell silent.

Liberal intellectuals, by and large, have avoided this kind of absurd stance. The ACLU, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Center for Constitutional Rights and, yes, libertarian groups like Cato and Reason, have remained consistent; they criticized Bush for those things and they’ve continued to criticize Obama for them. That is intellectual consistency and honesty. And it appears to be entirely foreign to Mr. Jordan and Mr. Bingen.

56 comments

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  1. 1
    carlsonjok

    My rule of thumb is that when someone tries to be oh-so-clever by making an insult out a person or group’s name (like Rethuglican or Dumb-o-crat), you can be pretty sure that whatever follows isn’t worth the marginal cost of the 1s and 0s required to store it.

  2. 2
    Zeno

    Well, Ed, I do grade on a curve. I am dismayed at Obama’s willingness to protect and prolong the anti-civil-liberties policies of the Bush administration in the so-called “war on terror” (even if the president avoids that terminology and tries to assuage the left with measured advanced in gay rights). It’s more than a disappointment: it’s a betrayal of candidate Obama’s express positions during the 2008 campaign. I therefore contribute to candidates for the House and Senate who are more dedicated to human rights.

    Except for the little-known Gary Johnson (and, perhaps, Paul), who is about to abandon the GOP race in favor of a stab at the Libertarian Party nomination, every current Republican candidate is even worse than Obama on these issues. Sitting on my hands or throwing my vote away on a third- or fourth-party candidate may register a protest against the status quo, but in the reality of our zero-sum political system will end up favoring the GOP nominee and his cadre of extremist zealots (although, if it’s Romney, a lot of the zealots will be holding their noses). I don’t want any more Republican nominees on the Supreme Court. Sotomayor and Kagen were fine. Give me more. It’ll be ironic if Obama appointees end up holding the balance in striking down elements of the Patriot Act and the practice of open-ended detention, but Romney/Gingrich/Perry/Santorum/Bachmann appointees could be relied upon to stay the totalitarian course.

  3. 3
    carollynn

    I too am disappointed with how the presidency is playing out for Obama. I was hoping for better things. But what’s the alternative? Hiding and not voting at all? Tossing my vote away on a write in? Voting for Romney/Newt/Cain/Bachmann/Perry? Emigrating to Mars?

  4. 4
    anandine

    I agree with you about Obama’s record on civil liberties. I will still vote for him over any Republican running, because they are as bad as he is on civil liberties and worse on pretty much everything else.

  5. 5
    gshelley

    IF we look at Obama’s campaign promises, he has managed to carry out a surprising number of them, so the argument that people are annoyed because he hasn’t done the things he said he would do doesn’t even make sense on that level.

  6. 6
    Zeno

    carlsonjok: …when someone tries to be oh-so-clever by making an insult out a person or group’s name…

    Yeah, that has always bugged me. It smacks of the grade-school sandbox, where mangling someone’s name is the wittiest of insults. Grownups should refrain.

  7. 7
    Aquaria

    My rule of thumb is that when someone tries to be oh-so-clever by making an insult out a person or group’s name (like Rethuglican or Dumb-o-crat), you can be pretty sure that whatever follows isn’t worth the marginal cost of the 1s and 0s required to store it.

    That’s just as ignorant as rejecting things just because a D or R says it, because style doesn’t trump substance.

    Sheesh.

  8. 8
    Who Knows?

    Zeno @ 2, I agree.

  9. 9
    Rev. BigDumbChimp

    Good post Ed. I get in to these argument way too frequently these days with family and friends. And unfortunately many of my more conservative friends take it as some sign of approval of their antics. Seems many have a hard time being critical of their own side. Democrats are blind to their party’s failures and Republicans don’t care as long as they’re winning.

  10. 10
    Aquaria

    And Obama does suck on a lot of things he absolutely shouldn’t suck at–all the things Ed mentions.

    He’s not above criticism just because he’s a D.

  11. 11
    d cwilson

    I’m not blind to Obama’s faults. There is a lot of things that he’s done that I don’t agree with. I’m not a registered democrat, but I will be voting for Obama next year. The reason for that is just that every other alternative on the table right now is ten times worse.

  12. 12
    michaelraymer

    I’m a liberal democrat, and a supporter of Obama, so I guess I’m just like those guys on Facebook, except… I don’t freak out when I run across an opposing viewpoint. I like to have my beliefs and views challenged, and look at it as an intellectual exercise. It also helps me examine where my own biases are. But I really have to echo what the others are saying here. In the 2012 election, there will likely be no ideal candidates. So what should we do? Vote 3rd party or write-in? Or follow George Carlin’s advice and stay home on election day? I feel like voting for the lesser of two evils is preferable to not voting at all, but maybe I’m wrong there. I don’t know what the most rational course of action is, or if there even is one at this point. Sometimes, American politics makes me feel like moving up to Canada. I’m already pretty far north so the climate would be essentially the same. Though I’ve heard the current Canadian government is disturbingly religious and conservative, so I guess I can just put a pin in that idea. I don’t have any solutions. I’m disappointed in Obama about some things, I guess the main thing being going back on his promise to close GITMO. But I just don’t see him as a disaster, and I fully admit it could be my loyal Democrat blindness preventing me from seeing the clearest picture. But if I am wrong and you’re right, I still don’t know where we go from there.

  13. 13
    Randomfactor

    SCOTUS, SCOTUS, SCOTUS.

  14. 14
    magistramarla

    President Obama has managed to do many of the things that he set out to do, despite all of the obstructionism. As a liberal, I would like to see more. Consider the alternative. If the GOP gains control, we would be much worse off.
    Because of that, I am contributing to the president’s reelection campaign (using some of the money that I just inherited from my uber-religious, tea-party loving stepmother).
    Perhaps if we all strongly support the president and every progressive Democrat at all levels, we can make our wishes and our disappointments known. I think that Obama will act like more of a liberal if he has a liberal congress supporting him.

  15. 15
    Zeno

    gshelley: IF we look at Obama’s campaign promises, he has managed to carry out a surprising number of them

    In the 2008 campaign flier The War We Need to Win, under the “Restoring Our Values” article, Obama pledged to “eliminate warrantless wiretaps.” As president, he has certainly turned his back on that promise. And not because anyone forced him to (such as congressional resistance, which is an excuse that gives him a modicum of cover on the non-closure of Guantanamo). I guess he just changed his mind.

  16. 16
    Ed Brayton

    As I said, I agree with the argument that the Republicans would be even worse, primarily for the reason Zeno offered. Given the age of the conservatives on the Supreme Court and the fact that at least one of the next two justices, and possibly both, to leave the court will likely be from the liberal side of the court, having a Republican in the White House to name their replacements would cause incalculable damage for the next several decades. But that is not terribly relevant to the issue at hand. The decision on who to vote for is almost always going to be graded on a curve; the decision on whether to criticize a president’s policies should never be. The fact that the Republicans would be worse has nothing to do with whether one should be disappointed — or in my case, appalled and enraged — in Obama. You can be disappointed, even enraged, and still make the decision to vote for him. I doubt I will do that, but I can understand why others would.

    But this glib notion that people are only disappointed in Obama because we didn’t get “everything we wanted,” as though we were children who didn’t get an XBox on Christmas like we wanted, is simply absurd. Obama takes this criticism because he deserves it. And anyone who criticized Bush for the same thing and withhold such criticism from Obama are partisan hypocrites.

  17. 17
    monochromeeye

    Ed
    I agree 100% and I am in the same boat as carollynn. Who else to vote for. We need something like the instant run off ballot. That way I could vote for a third party but have the second choice be a Dem.

  18. 18
    carlsonjok

    That’s just as ignorant as rejecting things just because a D or R says it, because style doesn’t trump substance.

    I didn’t say I don’t read those comments, but I do find that the immaturity exhibited by mangling a name into an insult tends to be a thread running through the entire comment.

    Sort of like how people think it is the height of hilarity that Rick Perry wore a belt with a silver buckle because, you know who else wore silver belt buckles? That’s right. Nazis!

  19. 19
    Area Man

    While I sympathize with your argument Ed, it comes down to a handful of civil liberties issues that most people know nothing about (how many people know what the State Secrets Privilege is? I’m not even sure that I do, and I read this blog everyday). And those particular issues are of great importance to you as a staunch civil libertarian. But most people, even liberal Democrats, are kind of “meh” when it comes to the intersection of civil liberties with matters of security. They trust that Obama won’t abuse those powers, which they really shouldn’t (if nothing else, Republican definitely will abuse them when they get the chance), so it’s not something they get worked up about the way you do. Maybe they should, but you have to realize that most people are coming at this from a much different perspective.

    The biggest civil liberties issue for most liberals is gay rights. Obama has been very good, if somewhat short of perfect, on that issue. But economic issues clearly trump civil liberties, again, even for liberal Democrats. And this is where people are mostly disappointed in Obama, but it’s also where George Clooney’s point is entirely valid.

  20. 20
    reedcartwright

    I hate cliffhangers. “Your Pathetic” what? I wished Jordan had finished his sentence and not left me hanging. I guess I’ll wait until next season.

  21. 21
    Rev. BigDumbChimp

    While I sympathize with your argument Ed, it comes down to a handful of civil liberties issues that most people know nothing about

    You’re not paying attention. There’s a host of things out side of Obama’s need to fill the “new boss same as the old boss” adage when it comes to civil liberties. He’s let the GOP run roughshod over his economic policies, caving when the republicans mount any kind of pushback. He’s been horrible environmentally. He’s kowtowed to the religious at nearly every chance he can and treats the non believing crowd as some group he knows is there but would rather not exert too much effort to bring into the fold. The only thing he’s shown real resolve on is foreign policy. Whether it’s a good one or not is yet to be fully known.

    The biggest civil liberties issue for most liberals is gay rights. Obama has been very good, if somewhat short of perfect, on that issue

    HUUHWHA?? You can’t be serious.

  22. 22
    Michael Heath

    Ed writes:

    I’ve laid out the reasons for that conclusion [Obama's presidency is a disaster] over the last three years in great detail and they are pretty much impossible to dispute.

    I don’t think Barack Obama has been as a disaster and find your conclusion, “it’s nearly impossible to dispute”, both absurd and beneath your talent. In fact I think President Obama’s doing a damn fine job though not great*. I instead think compelling arguments exist for a broad continuum of conclusions on his performance, including “potential disaster” but not that we can reasonably, currently, and confidently determine his record to be a “disaster”. I won’t defend my assertion he’s doing fine below but instead criticize your position which you frame as, “pretty much impossible to dispute” whereas I find it fairly easy to dispute.

    I think the enormous defect in your argument is two-fold. First, you aren’t even remotely and sufficiently weighing the totality of his responsibilities and efforts but instead seem to be disproportionately weighing certain issues important to you (and me as well, otherwise I wouldn’t hang out here). Second, you seem solely depend on an implicit presumption Obama’s policies as played-out in the federal courts or in his Administration will be ultimately ruinous in the future where we don’t know that, at least yet.

    On your latter presumption, his failure to defend the Constitution in some areas though not all, it’d be like claiming FDR was a disaster as president at the point just after his atrocious decision to intern Japanese-Americans in camps (by coupling that to other contemporaneous violations of the Constitution which FDR promoted to show a pattern like we see from Obama). If in hindsight that internment policy were a turning point in a dramatic change in how we treated “out groups”, than the hindsight view would rightly note that was the juncture where a leader turned the corner on our principles and FDR was therefore a disaster. But that’s not what occurred, it didn’t lead us down a slippery slope where FDR also excelled in many areas to the point I think he is our country’s greatest president – with no close seconds.

    We could also look to how FDR attempted to effectively take over the Supreme Court by stacking it. By applying your standard, even when conflating his internment of Japanese-Americans and other atrocious actions FDR took, we’d still arrive at the same absurd conclusion if we claimed these were sufficient evidence FDR was a disaster. In fact we have not substantially suffered yet from decisions by Obama that allow your assertion to [yet] resonate, especially in terms of avoiding the gauging of Obama’s performance on all the other issues you rarely write about Ed. That’s in spite of those issues consuming the vast majority of a president’s time and energy which you seem to ignore and which results in how historians gauge a performance (I only wish we all weighed constitutional matters far more heavily). Responsibilities like the president being a primary actor in the federal government’s role in the both the national and global economy, along with his duties as Commander in Chief [The latter being those activities beyond his failures you write about in this forum.]

    In order to find your ‘disaster’ claim at least arguable, I’d have to see compelling arguments on a much broader context consistent with a president’s responsibilities or encounter a convincing argument those issues don’t matter. Unless you want to claim all or nearly all presidents are disasters.

    *I’d argue “great performance” requires a leader to change the paradigm within which they and others operate in order to achieve success and then also effect positive change. Mikhail Gorbechev was one who succeeded in getting the Soviets to confront reality and how their system was incapable of governance without radical reform. President Carter laudably tried and failed on energy policy while Reagan (and Gorbechev) laudably tried and succeeded on ‘mutually assured destruction’. Both of the latter results reveal how much a role others where luck also plays into the outcome. Few are able to create improved paradigms; in Obama’s defense the impediments he’s faced appear to me to be far more substantial than I’ve observed any of his predecessors having faced going back to 1960.

  23. 23
    Stacey C.

    I can’t stand how people throw their hands up and say ‘well the other choice is worse, so meh’. I don’t have any good answers myself but there has got to be a better way. I wouldn’t vote for Obama even if I wasn’t from Massachusetts which will surely go to him. I don’t care that people think that’s throwing my vote away.

    I see it as refusing to feign support for someone who has broken most of his promises on civil liberties, the rule of law, and the war on Terror, who acts like an academic and not a leader, who populated his cabinet with Wall Street insiders, Bush holdovers, and other completely ineffectual people. Who hired Larry Summers for crying out loud! Who refused to hold anyone from the Bush administration accountable and who let Wall St. off with a giant handout and a slap on the wrist. I don’t think he’s done a hell of a lot even for gay rights.

  24. 24
    Ed Brayton

    Area Man wrote:

    While I sympathize with your argument Ed, it comes down to a handful of civil liberties issues that most people know nothing about (how many people know what the State Secrets Privilege is? I’m not even sure that I do, and I read this blog everyday). And those particular issues are of great importance to you as a staunch civil libertarian. But most people, even liberal Democrats, are kind of “meh” when it comes to the intersection of civil liberties with matters of security. They trust that Obama won’t abuse those powers, which they really shouldn’t (if nothing else, Republican definitely will abuse them when they get the chance), so it’s not something they get worked up about the way you do. Maybe they should, but you have to realize that most people are coming at this from a much different perspective.

    I don’t see why the ignorance and apathy of others should have any effect at all on what I say or think. I speak for myself, not for anyone else. If others don’t recognize the danger, that’s their problem; I will continue to call attention to it anyway.

  25. 25
    ehmm

    I’m seeing a pattern developing here.

    What-they-said plus, I have to concede some level of, maybe not cognitive dissonance, maybe something else, at Obama’s record; specifically in areas where the current administration just picked up where Bush & co left off. Also for the Obama justice department’s failure to prosecute people for torture. This is the first time I’ve been able to bring myself to comment on an Obama story on this blog. “Diappointed” might be the right word. “Betrayed” maybe.

    I’m not so silly as to think that Obama was going to fulfill all his campaign promises, and I am pleased with much of what he’s done, but there are other times where I just have to shake my head.

    However, like other commenters, There is no way I’d rather see any of the candidates from the other side of the aisle occupy that office, especially with the legislative branch composed the way it currently is. Not only becasue of the candidates themselves, but because of the people and interests they’d bring with them.

  26. 26
    Who Knows?

    Stacey, there is a saying. The devil you know is probably better than the devil you don’t. Faced with the choice of President Obama and whatever lunatic the GOP offers. I’m sticking with the devil I know.

  27. 27
    felicis

    First – I saw that same thing on FB recently. Since it was actually a friend I didn’t respond exactly as you did, but I did point out that Obama’s faults were not something we should overlook because of some marginal victories re: health care and DADT. (And those ‘victories’ are pretty marginal – we ended up with a health care reform act that was entirely what the Republicans wanted 20 years ago – sure, it’s better than nothing, but as I told her – if I wanted Republican policy, I would vote Republican.) I think I may have also included a link to your blog for further reading.

    Second – Zeno:
    “…throwing my vote away on a third- or fourth-party candidate…”

    The only way to ‘throw your vote away’ is to not vote. Following your idea, voting for any candidate that loses is ‘throwing your vote away’. Or – to put it another way – what if we *all* voted for a candidate from other than the two major parties? Would we all still be throwing our votes away?

  28. 28
    slc1

    Re Michael Heath @ #22

    I would have to disagree with Heath on FDR being our greatest president. Harry Truman thought that Washington was our greatest president. I disagree with both Truman and Heath; IMHO, our greatest president was Abraham Lincoln who faced the greatest crisis in American history and emerged victorious when a lesser man would have packed it in after the defeats on the Peninsula, 1st Bull Run, 2nd Bull Run, Chancellorsville, and Fredericksburg. Lincoln, a man with no military experience or training was a great war leader (J.F.C. Fuller) and a superb military strategist (T. Harry Williams, Colin Ballard) who had a better grasp of subject then did any of the generals on either side.

  29. 29
    Modusoperandi

    Zeno “In the 2008 campaign flier The War We Need to Win, under the ‘Restoring Our Values’ article, Obama pledged to ‘eliminate warrantless wiretaps.’”
    He did. They’re wireless now.

  30. 30
    timberwoof

    The other day I read a thread in which someone claimed that the US is headed for a war with Iran. They claimed that Democrats, who were all against the Bush Wars against Iraq, will all fall dutifully into line and cheer Obama on as he leads the troops.

    No, I said, we will not! Indeed, as a Librul I happen to think that if your neighbors are being mean to you and spreading mean gossip about you, it does not make things better to keep poking them with sharp sticks. Or flying spy airplanes over their territory. Obama has been a disappointment, but since that ilk is the only other choice over Rethuglicans* like Newt Gingrich, I am compelled to support him.

    * So there!

  31. 31
    Stacey C.

    Oh crap…I forgot (or purposely pushed out of my mind) how awful he’s been about the environment as well…
    And he’s put out a challenge to colleges that asks them put together a plan for helping the community (awesome!) but had to include ‘interfaith activities’ as part of the deal (really?). I’m participating despite my deep annoyance at the need to interject religion into helping the community. I don’t need religion to make me a good person. And saying that ‘interfaith’ includes atheists and agnostics is a bullshit cop-out.

  32. 32
    Stacey C.

    @26 Who Knows

    That is precisely my point! So many people are cowed by that thought that we don’t make any difference! Talk about throwing your vote away. If you’re voting for the lesser of two evils then you are, effectively, throwing your vote away. Why not agitate people to *not* vote for the lesser of two evils but the person they actually feel is most qualified? To encourage people who are truly liberal and interested in the rule of law to run? Yes, you may think that’s pie in the sky thinking but it beats just going along to get along in my book.

  33. 33
    Michael Heath

    slc1,

    I of course agree there’s a case for Lincoln over FDR since it’s the one most experts make. However I tend to think like an economist and look to what a person can marginally change and the framework around which they work, along with their ability to change the paradigm in a way that significantly improves results.

    From this perspective I find the challenges FDR faced far more complex and more difficult to navigate. I think the marginal improvements he made in spite of these complex challenges to be immense. That’s not intended to diminish Lincoln’s accomplishments, but instead argue we should properly weigh the challenges FDR faced, the impediments before him, and the marginal improvement due to his presidency.

    This framework is why the earliest presidents don’t make my top tier, their tasks were far simpler. I do give a lot of attaboys to Washington in terms of setting the tone for the presidency that hasn’t changed all that much and has been the framework for how we’ve developed our laws and read into the Constitution. (While there’s no creeping Sharia we certainly have observed the Executive creeping into un-delegated powers over the entire course of our history since ratification.)

    I think Obama can reach greatness. One way would be to leverage his bully pulpit to effectively kill the denialist movement in the Republican party by exposing it. “Effectively” by getting Republicans to legislate in a manner that has them no longer denying the threat we face from climate change but instead sharing the urgency at the same level as we encounter from the climate science community. FDR’s challenges were the economy and the rise of authoritarianism. Obama’s challenge is climate change in a manner as or even more critical than what FDR faced from Hitler. So far he’s avoided making an effort to change the current paradigm on the climate.

  34. 34
    slc1

    Re Michael Heath @ #33

    I think that President Obama showed in the Libyan operation that, unlike the Krauthammers of the world, he is an adult. He had no problem taking a subordinate position, letting Sarkozy and Cameron carry the ball, for which the neocons have heavily criticized him. Hopefully, if the time comes when action has to be taken against Iran, Sarkozy and Cameron will be there for us.

  35. 35
    Area Man

    Ed writes:

    I don’t see why the ignorance and apathy of others should have any effect at all on what I say or think. I speak for myself, not for anyone else. If others don’t recognize the danger, that’s their problem; I will continue to call attention to it anyway.

    Fair enough. But when your argument is, “George Clooney is full of shit”, then how George Clooney and other liberals see the world very much matters.

  36. 36
    Jeffrey G Johnson

    There is no question that there are many reasons for the left to be disappointed with Obama. There are many areas that didn’t depend on the Congress where he left much to be desired. There is no sense in arguing over these details, because I’m making a larger point about political discipline.

    An important point: what was the cost of losing the House in 2010? Because that was the direct result of Democrats who supported Obama in 2008 becoming disillusioned and failing to show up at the polls.

    The result of abandoning your party and your candidate because things are not 100% perfectly the way you wish they were is very counter-productive politically.

    The more effective attitude is to acknowledge the mistakes and shortcomings, appreciate what is good about the political achievements, and then redouble the effort, fight harder to win more elections and to push your candidates and your party incrementally further to the left.

    This is what the Republicans have been doing with tremendous discipline for 30 years.

    The political struggle is kind of like a giant tug-of-war. In that contest, when you don’t achieve complete victory in the first minute, you don’t drop the rope and give up. You pull harder and keep struggling for every inch of progress.

  37. 37
    artymart

    I share your disappointment with his stand on civil liberties – frankly I’m surprised about this. I really would have liked him to pursue the miss-leaders in the Bush Administration that got us into a needless war but what, really, would it have accomplished – just more of a divide between democrats and republicans. On the other hand he said he’d get us out of Iraq – and he did….he promised to get us out of Afghanistan – albeit slower…..and that I think will happen. He killed Bin Laden and crippled Al Queda, he passed about as good of a health plan possible given the opposition. So – we have half a glass. Of course the most important question is – who’s around that has a chance of winning next year against whatever the Republicans put up….the answer of course is no one other than Obama – so there we stand and he has my vote.

  38. 38
    Amphiox

    The way I see it, Ed, right now, for 2012, support for Obama is not a question of ideology, it’s a question of cold, hard realpolitick practicality.

    It isn’t just that all the Republican alternatives to Obama are so much worse. It’s also that the Republican party, from the point of view of rational practical politics, and the very future of democracy in America itself, MUST BE STOPPED.

    It’s not that the party has been hijacked by far right extremist ideologies, since ideological debate is part of any healthy democracy, it’s the fact that the party has currently adopted crass obstructionism as a calculated political strategy.

    And this strategy cannot, cannot, be allowed to be vindicated at polls.

    Because vindicated political strategies are invariably emulated, and if obstructionism is vindicated by an Obama defeat, or even a narrow Obama victory in 2012, that will be the end of bipartisan cooperation on anything in the United States of America for at least a generation. EVERY president will henceforth face filibusters on EVERYTHING they want to do. NO PARTY can be said to control the senate unless they have 60+, not 50+ seats. Every minority party will be making “one term president” their primary and only legislative goal. For at least the next 20 years.

    It will be the end of functional democracy in the United States as we know it.

    And that is why Obama MUST win in 2012, and not only must he win, he must win by LANDSLIDE. He must win by a margin BIGGER than the margin he won by in 2008. And the Democrats need to take back the House and Senate by huge margins. Filibuster-proof margins. The Republican party has to be destroyed, utterly, from top to bottom. Every Republican leader MUST lose his seat. Republican obstructionism must be REPUDIATED in the clearest manner imaginable. The American people need to do to the Republicans what the Canadian people did to Brian Mulroney’s Progressive Conservatives in 1993.

    This in my view is just about the only way that the United States will be able to salvage a functional federal government (or for that matter state government, because everything that happens at the federal level filters down).

    And so any criticism of Obama from the Progressive Left, at this moment in history, at this time, that undermines this necessary goal, is politically inadvisable and self-defeating.

    It’s basically a question of triage. You have to eliminate the mortal threat first before turning your attention to lesser concerns, even if in doing so you have to temporarily ignore or even magnify one of these lesser concerns. It isn’t about Obama being a good candidate. It’s about Obama being the ONLY candidate that doesn’t lead to complete destruction.

    Only after 2012 is safely won, and the Tea Party corpse has safely decomposed, is it safe or wise to turn our guns on Obama. Hopefully in that event he will have a very big progressive contingent in his own party among incumbent legislators that he will have to answer to. At this point, only after the Tea Party threat is definitively eliminated, can we safely turn out attention to shifting the Overton window back to the saner end of the spectrum.

    We could perhaps take a page from the Tea Party strategy book, and start “primarying” insufficiently liberal Democrats, and we can start looking for a true progressive liberal to take Obama’s place as president in 2016 (and this of course means that the Republicans need to be beaten so badly in 2012 that they are not a threat to retake the White House in 2016).

    But it is a two-step process at the very least. And the first step is Obama in 2012.

    Because any and every other alternative in 2012 is oblivion.

  39. 39
    Ed Brayton

    Jeffrey G. Johnson wrote:

    The result of abandoning your party and your candidate because things are not 100% perfectly the way you wish they were is very counter-productive politically.

    Perhaps that is where the disconnect is. I don’t have a party. I am not a Democrat. I care about issues, not political parties or even politicians. And my commentary is about those issues, not about the horse race of politics. When a politician or party does something that is good on an issue, I say so; when they do something that is bad on an issue, I say so. And the last thing I’m going to do is silence that criticism because it may be bad for a politician that has betrayed the most basic and important principles I hold to.

  40. 40
    Area Man

    I agree with #38. The Republican Party has become so dangerously insane over the last few years that they have imperiled the very ability of our democracy to function. Allowing them free reign over the federal government would be like putting an arsonist in charge of the fire department. The only way to get them to regain any semblance of sanity is for them to go down to ignominious defeat.

    Under these circumstances, I find liberal anti-Obama wankfests like this simply mind-boggling. Priorities, people.

  41. 41
    heironymous

    So Ed – Who’s your ideal candidate? Which president do you feel most strongly reflected your views and ideals?
    I laughed when I saw the gPe posts above about Lincoln, who instituted the draft, suspended habeas corpus and used military tribunals (I googled it and went it linked me to heritage – ick!)

    Do you make allowances for unknown information? As in, the President presumably has been briefed on far more than you or I know. I understand your issues and I agree in a vacuum, but I don’t necessarily know the full circumstances. I also know that many an executive and legislative branch have passed unconstitutional laws, an it’s up to the judicial to strike them down.

  42. 42
    Troy Britain

    #38 & #40: Yes, because if we could only have one party rule by the Democrats then everything would be great…

    Bwahahahaha!!!

    It is not until politicians of both (all) parties have real fear of losing their seats on the gravy train that they will start looking out for the interests of the people they’re supposed to represent.

    Right now they can enrich themselves with legal bribes from corporations and govt. unions without fear of consequences, as incumbents are overwhelmingly returned to office time and time again.

    Throw them all out.

  43. 43
    Chris from Europe

    I don’t necessarily know the full circumstances

    What kind of circumstances could exist that justify undermining important safeguards and protections of civil liberties? Even worst-case assumptions couldn’t justify his behavior.

    We will have to accept that quite a number of these measures are entirely worthless. Consider airport safety: Several security experts have called the measures worthless. Instead of refuting them, the kind of experts the media turns to are the salesmen for security products and services.

  44. 44
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    Obama is the single most dangerous president in living history. The reason is that he’s operating like a Republican while claiming to be a Democrat… and there are too many Democrats who will support his right-wing policies where they would have pushed back if the same policies had been presented by a Republican. He can give the republicans everything they want, and call it the “liberal” position, and then compromise even further right, and idiot Democrats will say that he created “centrist, bipartisan” policy.

  45. 45
    Amphiox

    #38 & #40: Yes, because if we could only have one party rule by the Democrats then everything would be great…

    Bwahahahaha!!!

    Like I said, it’s a two-part process. The SECOND part of the process is restoring a functional multi-party system, which would entail a revitalization of the Republican party into something more sane, or the establishment of a third (or second party, if the Republicans self-destruct).

    Basic principles of triage.

    Right now, one party rule by the Democrats is immeasurably superior to the dysfunctional gridlock America suffers from right now. The Democratic party is actually sane. And, as a surprising bonus, they’re also rather timid and craven. And a timid, craven dominant party in power temporarily without viable opposition is much better than a bold one tending to get drunk on power.

    It is not until politicians of both (all) parties have real fear of losing their seats on the gravy train that they will start looking out for the interests of the people they’re supposed to represent.

    Again. Triage.

    The Republicans are the existential threat to American democracy right now. They are the cancer that needs to be removed from the equation in 2012, in order for the patient to heal.

    We can wait until the 2014 midterms, or the 2016 cycle to start threatening the Democrats with primary or third party challenges to keep them in line.

    And do not think one cannot use the example of a Republican whitewash in 2012 as a club against Democrats who start entertaining notions of inappropriate grandeur.

  46. 46
    Amphiox

    Throw them all out.

    That is exactly the kind of attitude that produces vote-splitting that will allow the worst of the Republican extremists to ride to power on the back of a minority but dedicated extremist base vote, which would not have been enough to help them win in any other circumstance.

    That is exactly the kind of attitude that is self-destructive to one’s own interests.

    That is exactly the kind of attitude that the Republican strategy of obstructionism is designed to produce, and which the Republicans are banking on to help them win in 2012.

    Indeed that is EXACTLY the kind of attitude that allowed the Tea Party to make the gains it did make in 2010.

    Continue to think that way and advocate that way if you want Republican rule in America for the next 8 years. (Understand that the very first thing the Republicans will do if they get unfettered power in Washington is redraw the electoral map and alter voter requirements to give them an enormous unfair advantage in all future elections – they’ve already done it or are trying to do it in every state where they had the power to do it.)

    Continue to think that way and advocate that way, and you WILL have one party rule in America. One party REPUBLICAN rule.

  47. 47
    Amphiox

    Not to mention, the Democratic Party has traditionally been such a big tent that they not infrequently effectively serve as their own opposition.

    A hypothetical Democrat dominated Congress/White House would actually function pretty similarly to, not even a two party system, but a THREE party system (with the Blue Dog, Mainstream, and Progressive Democratic caucuses each basically acting as separate parties). Maybe a FOUR party system if you add in some remnant Republican rump into the equation.

  48. 48
    Jeffrey G Johnson

    Right. And 9/11 was a Bush administration operation too. Improbable indeed.

  49. 49
    Ed Brayton

    heironymous wrote:

    So Ed – Who’s your ideal candidate? Which president do you feel most strongly reflected your views and ideals?

    I can’t think of one that even came close, unfortunately. But when it comes to these constitutional issues that I think are the most important, Obama still ranks near the bottom (along with Bush, Lincoln and a few others).

    Do you make allowances for unknown information? As in, the President presumably has been briefed on far more than you or I know. I understand your issues and I agree in a vacuum, but I don’t necessarily know the full circumstances.

    I didn’t buy that excuse when Bush was in office and I won’t do so for Obama either. There are no circumstances whatsoever that would excuse destroying the separation of powers, ignoring the rule of law and denying even the possibility of justice to victims of the government’s abuse. We now have, for all practical purposes, an entirely unconstrained executive branch due to the actions of Bush and Obama. That was the whole purpose of the constitution, to prevent that situation. There can be no excuse for it. There is nothing to prevent the government from going after terrorists. We have already set up a secret court to handle surveillance requests, a court that has virtually never denied a request for a warrant, but even that unobtrusive safeguard is too much for the last two presidents.

  50. 50
    Ed Brayton

    Jeffrey Johnson wrote:

    Right. And 9/11 was a Bush administration operation too. Improbable indeed.

    I have no idea who that is directed to or what possible relationship it has to anything being discussed here.

  51. 51
    Jeffrey G Johnson

    “Right. And 9/11 was a Bush administration operation too. Improbable indeed.”

    I have no idea who that is directed to or what possible relationship it has to anything being discussed here.

    That was supposed to be a reply to #44, Improbable Joe. I just think it’s wild and paranoid exaggeration to call President Obama the most dangerous President in living history (however that may differ from just “history”), and also to imply that he is a Trojan Horse Republican, implementing a secret Republican agenda. This is nonsense.

    I was deceived by the “Reply” button on the email notification. Above the text box it said “Reply to Improbable Joe”, but it then appended it as an orphan at the end.

  52. 52
    dingojack

    heironymous’ question – ‘Do you make allowances for unknown information? As in, the President presumably has been briefed on far more than you or I know.’, makes me think of this peice of advice about the effect of security clearances:

    “First, you’ll be exhilarated by some of this new information, and by having it all — so much! incredible! — suddenly available to you. But second, almost as fast, you will feel like a fool for having studied, written, talked about these subjects, criticized and analyzed decisions made by presidents for years without having known of the existence of all this information, which presidents and others had and you didn’t, and which must have influenced their decisions in ways you couldn’t even guess. In particular, you’ll feel foolish for having literally rubbed shoulders for over a decade with some officials and consultants who did have access to all this information you didn’t know about and didn’t know they had, and you’ll be stunned that they kept that secret from you so well.
    You will feel like a fool, and that will last for about two weeks. Then, after you’ve started reading all this daily intelligence input and become used to using what amounts to whole libraries of hidden information, which is much more closely held than mere top secret data, you will forget there ever was a time when you didn’t have it, and you’ll be aware only of the fact that you have it now and most others don’t….and that all those other people are fools.”

    Exhiliration, embarassment, then arrogance (hubris?). I’d say thats a pretty good argument for greater transparency, wouldn’t you?
    Dingo
    —–
    PS: The quoted passage is Daniel Ellsberg advising Henry Kissenger.

  53. 53
    Freeman

    #38 Amphiox sounds like a mirror image of the lunatic right running around like Chicken Little saying the world will plunge into Socialism if Obama isn’t defeated. And he advocates using the same tactics as the party that MUST BE STOPPED to avoid OBLIVION. Funny how conflict corrupts us into becoming our enemy.

    Ed is 100% correct when he says “We now have, for all practical purposes, an entirely unconstrained executive branch due to the actions of Bush and Obama. That was the whole purpose of the constitution, to prevent that situation. There can be no excuse for it.

    Presidents of both major parties conspired to destroy what was left of our Constitution, and the majority of the voting public still thinks it’s not only a good idea, but vitally important that we vote for one of those parties after what they’ve done.

    I’m with Ed on this. I’ve never joined a political party and I would never think of voting along party lines. I vote the issues and I believe in adherence to Constitutional principles. I’ve been voting since the Nixon administration, and I’ve never voted for a Republican or a Democrat for President, because it is easy to see that Presidents from both parties have been leaving poop-stains on our Constitution for generations.

    I find it sadly ironic that people who voted for Obama because they were voting for “change” from the previous administration, are now worried about “wasting their vote” if they don’t vote for him again. Dude – your guy won. Did you get the “change” you voted for? No? Sounds to me like you wasted your vote last time.

  54. 54
    dingojack

    Freeman – What a brilliant plan! When it comes time to vote, hide under your bed. That’ll be sure to bring about the best possible government.
    Why hasn’t someone thought of that before?
    [/sarcasm]
    Dingo
    —–
    PS: “Did you get the “change” you voted for? No? Sounds to me like you wasted your vote last time“.
    Uh – Had you stuck your head from out from under the bed in 2008 you might have noticed these two characters called John McCain and Sarah Palin. If those idiots had won in 2008 then Americans would be queuing up right now for Greek Visas because of that country’s vastly superior economic position vis-a-vis the US under President McCain (or worse yet, President Palin). Obama was, by far, the ‘least worst’ choice.
    No politician is perfect, you choose the ‘least worst’ candidate and campaign to change their idiotic policies, or even start your own party (if you have the time and resources).
    In short, you either grow some brains or some balls, ideally both (hopefully connected by a spine).
    Curling up in the fetal position and hoping for the best isn’t really an option.

  55. 55
    Bronze Dog

    “If you keep voting for the lesser of two evils, the alternatives are only going to get more evil.”

    I can certainly understand wanting to minimize the potential Republican damage by voting for Obama, but my problem is that it’s a panic mentality. Yes, we’re clinging onto the edge of a rather high cliff. Simply holding onto the current position will only delay the fall. How do we get back onto solid ground?

    About all I can think to do is to keep expressing outrage about the abuses, like Ed’s been doing, and, in my case at least, since Texas’s electoral votes are most likely going to the Republican candidate even if I voted for Obama, my family and I can afford to vote for some third party pro-civil rights underdog we might stumble onto. At least that would send some message other than unspecified support for Democrats.

    I wish I could put down the reason I’m voting a certain way onto my ballot to inform the parties why I voted a particular way. If a lot of people could put down “lesser of two evils” as their reason for voting Obama, that’d at least give the Democrats a reason to pay attention.

  56. 56
    Tualha

    And let’s not forgot his flip-flopping on the subject of whistleblowers. Senator Obama: we should protect those who expose abuse of authority in government. President Obama: Stick that son-of-a-bitch Manning in a cell and leave him there, screw formal charges!

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