What Fresh Hell Is This?

February 13, 2009

In The City Paper This Week

Grumblings from the left:

It was not the Democratic base, nor the centrists, nor even the center-left, who put Obama where he is today. The progressive movement rose from near death and kept Obama alive in the primary, eventually proving stubborn enough to carry him to victory over the establishment candidate. And then, in the general election, it was the progressives whose energy infected the nation, whose enthusiasm reminded longtime vote-the-ticket Dems that elections were about the future, and whose contributions, tiny as each individual one was, funded the revolution of Change that swept Obama into the Oval Office.

Now is the time to hold him accountable, because now that he's in office, he will be surrounded by the trappings of power, the machinery of state and the inertia of bureaucracy. If we are to reach him, we must act quickly. Though he has shown us that he's not who we thought he was (for the record, we did know he wasn't the Messiah), he has also, fortunately, shown us the way to keeping him -- and our country -- on the right track.

The writers then go on to describe the stuff they like (so far) about the Obama administration and the stuff they don't and the stuff they're still on hold about.

They don't like:
Obama's fall from progressive grace goes beyond the campaign-season disappointment of his support for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the warrantless-wiretapping law strongly opposed by liberal activists and civil libertarians.

Progressives have a variety of objections, largely relating to flip-flops (warrantless wiretapping), climb-downs (withdrawal from Iraq and taxing the ultra-rich) and betrayals (keeping Bushies like Robert Gates anywhere near the halls of power). Many also object to a return of Clintonites, who while certainly Democrats, were hardly progressives in many areas.

Can't say I disagree with any of this.

I am waiting day by day (oh, dear Lord) for news of war crimes investigations. For the sake of the integrity of the office, the crimes of the Bush Administration HAVE TO be investigated. If not some President down the road will be able to get away with worse.

Investigate the war crimes.

On the other hand, it's still February and there's that whole broken economy to deal with (another thing the GOP screwed up).


Maria said...

How many times did Obama need to talk about being post partisan, and bringing everyone together, and there being no red America, no blue America, etc. for the Prog Boys on the intertoobz to get that he never positioned himself as the great progressive hope in the first place?

I mean, DUH!

Of course anyone bringing this up during the primaries was roundly shouted down.

But, OH NOES! We was right.

So sorry folks that I'm getting exactly what I expected and you aren't.


Clyde Wynant said...

Most astute observers knew in their hearts that Obama was a centrist, so his governing from that position doesn't surprise me much.

What has stunned me, however, is the lack of boldness in governing. In some ways, he still seems to be campaigning, where flowery rhetoric works. DC is a bare-knuckles kinda place and he has come out in the first round rather bloodied and wobbling.

Here's hoping that we can all be his "corner men," and encourage the WH to "Pick itself up, dust itself off and start all over again." For the sake of our future, it has to happen...


Schultz said...

So sorry folks that I'm getting exactly what I expected and you aren't.

I left a comment on the CP website but I just wanted to add to Maria's statement. The people who actually read Obama's books and knew about his style of governing are not surprised by this. Obama has always been a pragmatist, he has always tried to find common ground on issues with those on the other side. But for progressives to be whining like they now, just 24 days into his first F'ing term, well, it's just pathetic. Some of these people need to get a grip.

Schultz said...

Clyde - the first round? Again - 3 weeks have gone by. "Flowery rhetoric?" Are you kidding me? He may have reached out to conservatives initially, but when he says to them "I WON" matter of factly, and he basically tells them they have to stop clinging to the failed policies of the past 8 years, that isn't exactly "flowery."

His campaigning and the townhall meetings has actually worked in building support for his agenda. The numbers for the support of the bill have improved because of his campaigning. Now, I'm not a big fan of the stimulus bill but Obama is stuck supporting it. He said "it's not perfect" and that he did not have a hand in authoring it. It sucks because Congress sucks. The bill should have been focused instead of it being spread so haphazardly. It could have been half the cost of the one that passed and it would probably create more jobs.

Most of the tax cuts in there are for middle class and low income families so when people bitch about those being in there - at least their not going to the rich!

Sherry said...

i'm pretty much with shultz on this one.

he made the effort to be bi-partisan and had the door slammed in his face and according to maddow he ended up with pretty much what he wanted in the bill.

i'd say he did pretty good for the small amout of time he's been in and he did it looking and acting like an adult.

i will be watching him tho. that's what citizens should do with any administration.

Fillippelli the (Wannabe) Cook said...

My complaint would be this: this pragmatism that everyone speaks of has, according to many leading economists, watered down the big stimulus bill to make it much less, well, stimulating. They also seem to be saying that while a little stimulus is fine, what's really needed if we are going to turn this thing around is A LOT of stimulus. So, in that regard, he may very well have failed his first, and most likely his largest, test.

Truth be told, I know nothing about economics. Literally zero. So all I can do is go on what others say. And in that regard, I'm not very confident.

I applaud Obama for a good bit of what he has done to date, and one has to wonder whether any other Democrat, under these same circumstances, could have achieved the same in such a short time. But on the most important matter, this little economic crisis, pragmatism may very well have served our new president very poorly. Only time will tell, of course, but I am not very optimistic.

PointPark04 said...

Obama is just another cog in the corporatist machine. Take a look at his largest dollar contributors on OpenSecrets.org and find out what I mean. Hint: You won't find Ma and Pa JoeSixpack on that list.

His administration is pulling the same tricks as did GWBs, including well-timed news releases aimed at goosing the stock markets and ramming incredibly large bills through congress, such as the now 1000-plus-page "stimuseless" bill.

The GDP number is still cooked, as are jobless claim and unemployment numbers. You think unemployment is only 7.6%? Then do yourself a favor and find out what "U-6" means.

As for the old meme that "It's all the GOP's fault," it was Bill Clinton's administration that changed the way all of the above economic numbers were compiled, and in all cases, the changes were made to make them all look better than they actually are. Think Soviet Russia and Tass, because that's what our government and major media have become.

It's the bureaucracy, stupid. Changing presidents, and changing political parties in control of the presidency, means squat if the system stays the same.

Clyde Wynant said...

Schultz -

Flowery rhetoric was perhaps not the best term, but Obama (despite the "I won" comment) speaks in an intelligent, measured and hopeful way; lacking bombast. But also, at times, lacking the kick which I think will be necessary.

How you can't see this as the "first round," I don't know. Other than appointments and reversals of some Bush-era executive orders, this IS the first major push for his administration. The bell has now rung for Round Two...and he'd better come out fighting!

Obama needs to slash and burn the GOP. He has no other choice. The Republicans are without power, but not without a voice, and in DC (and with the complicity of the Media) that is almost as good. All that the McCain's of the world are intent upon doing is retaking power; they care not for the real problems of the world, so they will use every opportunity to hang Obama by his own partisan petard.

To circle back, this all gets around to my theory (call it whacked, if you will..) that the Palin debacle was just a way for the GOP to hand the Dems the WH on a silver platter....so that they could retake it 4 years later, when the nation has slid, inevitably, into Depression 2.0....and they can "ride to the rescue." Clearly they seen too many Ronald Reagan movies...


Schultz said...

Obama needs to slash and burn the GOP. He has no other choice.

Well, maybe the olive branch thing at the beginning was all just part of his strategy. If they accept, and they work with him, then it's a win. If they mock him, like they did, then Obama can say "I WON YOU FUCKERS", pretty much like he did, and then proceed to mop the floor with him. One Lindsay Graham and them started to mock him, Obama changed his tone and started talking tough. Guess some of you missed that.

A commenter up above mentioned that Obama's pragmatism is what got us the crappy stimulus bill. Not so. The crappy Congress brought us the crappy bill. Obama should have had more of a hand in authoring the bill but I guess he forgot how ridiculously low Congress's approval ratings were, otherwise he wouldn't have trusted them to do their jobs - which is to draft and pass legislation that, in the words of Mayor Blagostahl, moves this country forward.

Clyde Wynant said...

No, we didn't miss the fact that President O started talking tough...it's just that some of us think he should have played that position right from the start.

I will admit that we are all probably being WAY too impatient. Perhaps it's a hangover from the eight year Bush headache. We are so anxious for change...and yes, to punish the GOP, that any appearance of backsliding on Obama's part is met with howls of protest....

I realize he has to govern the entire nation, not just those of us on the Left. I appreciate his intelligence and thoughtful approach to problems. And maybe you and others are correct. Perhaps this was really just a shell game, in which the end was obvious (a Stimulus was going to pass, we all knew that...) but which left the GOP looking like obstructionists. It that's the case (and I'm not convinced) then it could still have been handled more adroitly.


Schultz said...

No, we didn't miss the fact that President O started talking tough...it's just that some of us think he should have played that position right from the start.

But then he would have been a hypocrite since his campaign was all about bringing people together, being about unity rather than division, no?

Look, the stimulus bill is disappointing but I think some of us are overlooking some of the great things that have happened and are slated to happen in the Obama administration. Pay particular attention to US energy, environmental and climate change policies. According to the UN's Climate Chief there has already been "Night-to-Day Change" in our approach, which is at least a decade behind the EU. And speaking of energy, did you see the NY Times story on Obama's Energy Secretary? It's about time we have a scientist dictating energy policy instead of some energy industry hack.

Speaking of the great things that his administration has already accomplished - what about the Fair Pay Act? He signed this two weeks ago. How quickly we forget. A big problem is the mainstream media. They are not covering all of these things because covering the stimulus battle between the partisan Democrats and Republicans is juicy than anything Obama does to improve our EPA or repair foreign relations. It's better TV.

Schultz said...

And Maria - "But, OH NOES! We was right.

So you are concluding that you were right after less than a month? That is silly.

And how exactly were you "right" ? Because you argued that Obama wasn't progressive enough? And your candidate, Clinton, was? If anything she is at a minimum, slightly to the right of Obama. Of course, now she is our SOS, so I think she rocks. lol

Maria said...

I am concluding that I am right not after a month, but after a year of actually listening to what he said. Too many people HOPEd that Obama was the great progressive that he himself never claimed to be.

This does not mean that I in any way regret having voted for him. It just means that I thought he was a decent Democratic candidate with -- call it what you will -- centrist/pragmatic inclinations.

My problem is that over the last few years the center has moved to the right.

Moreover, the Right is constantly practicing pushback.

I believe that the Left must constantly push as well.

That does not mean that the Left should declare that the Obama presidency is a failure or to give up on the man or to treat him as an enemy.

But it does mean that the Left should constantly push for what we want even if we're pushing a Democrat.

From Greenwald:

"But Krugman's larger point is correct: Republican groups demand from politicians support for their beliefs. By contrast, as Judis describes, Democratic groups -- including (perhaps especially) liberal activist groups -- now (with some exceptions) lend their allegiance to the party and its leader regardless of how faithful the party leadership is to their beliefs. That disparity means that there is often great popular agitation and political pressure exerted from the Right, but almost none from the Left (I'm using the terms "Left" and "Right" here in their conventional sense: "Right" being the core of the GOP and "Left" being those who most consistently and vigorously opposed Bush's foreign and domestic policies)."

As to where Hillary vs. Barack fall on the political spectrum, I have to break it down by issues. I believe that Hillary was more progressive when it came to things like choice, healthcare and even the economy and that Barack was more progressive on foreign policy which makes it kind of ironic (or pragmatic) of Obama to put her at State.

I will also be somewhat of a cynic by noting that I think the first serious woman candidate had to make sure they came off as tough as nails on defense to counteract stereotypes of women as weak, emotional creatures and that the first serious African American candidate had to make sure they came off as being as center friendly as possible to counteract stereotypes of black males as the wild, dangerous 'other.'

EdHeath said...

My understanding is that Obama wanted and actually expected some level of Republican support for the Stimulus bill. It started as 40% tax cuts, and increased from there. I honestly don't know where it ended up. But what I can say is that no Republicans voting for the stimulus in the house and only three voting for it in the Senate means to me that the battle lines have been drawn.

I try to stay away from absolute partisanship and look at politicians based on how well they are doing their job (in my opinion). This bill shows (to me) that every action in Congress is going to be a battle, that there is going to be none of this you help me and I'll help you kind of thing across party lines. I hope the Democrats don’t totally shut out the Republicans, but I fear they will.

This was a new Congress and there is a new President, so it was reasonable for Obama to test the waters. But now we see what's what, so the real test is how Obama proceeds from here (and I have no prediction).