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Wednesday, September 07, 2011


You've got your eye on the prize. I trust your judgment. In fact, it seems so simple to predict Obama's actions when one assumes that Obama has the motivations you assume him to have, so I really appreciate the fact you take the time to spell out the obvious.

It is maddening when the mainstream political world refuses to see what is clearly before them.

And most partisan liberals, like Digby for instance, will begrudgingly recognize that you were right. But these 'special liberals' will refuse to trust your judgment in the future and will instead hold out "hope" that Obama will do the right thing (I'm not going to link to her, but suffice it to say this is her standard post: she complains about Obama and the Democrats and assumes they won't listen to her and then "hopes" against all hope that they do).

Clearly, people like Digby don't want to see because it is not in their financial interest to do so.

One thing I'm not so sure about: I think it's an accepted idea around here that liberals consistently care more about the liberal things Obama says than the conservative things that Obama does. I mean, the guy made a lot of campaign promises that would have been great had he acted on them. Obviously, it's reasonable to ignore them because they are campaign promises. If we are to ignore his pandering to liberals, why do you cite his pandering to AIPAC, his speeches, his scholarly writings, his pledges?

I don't think it's defensible to have expected Obama not to suck. I do think it's defensible to have thought it POSSIBLE that he might have been telling certain special interest groups what he needed to to get elected, rather than telling liberals what he needed to to get elected. He was lying to somebody. In other words, if a really liberal guy wanted to get elected, he might have to pretend to like AIPAC and Goldman on his way to the White House. Of course, as soon as he began to surround himself with various douchebags, the jig was up.

I just don't get why you cite evidence of Obama's pledges as slamdunk proof of how right you were.

And watch what you say about the incomparable Glenn, fool.


Since many of us figured out Obama was a conservative early on we looked at his rhetoric differently depending on what the issue was. In other words, if Obama was using rhetoric to promise liberal results then we we assumed he was lying. If Obama was using rhetoric to justify right-wing policy that didn't comport with traditional liberalism, then he was using rhetoric not to deceive but to provide support for these right-wing policies. When Obama comes out in favor of tax cuts, or expanding wars (or focusing on the "good war" in Afghanistan), or openly admitting to using drones in Pakistan (when McCain wanted to keep it slightly more secret), one could look at the use of this rhetoric as a way of building support for conservative policies, not lying to conservatives about his intentions. It's not that all Obama rhetoric is meant to deceive--some is, some isn't.

On some issues, Obama uses both forms of rhetoric--like tax policy. On the one hand Obama claims to be trying to reverse the Bush/Obama tax cuts for the rich and claims that he is trying to tax the rich. By using this rhetoric he is deceiving not only liberals but the majority of Americans that want to tax the rich. On the other hand, Obama proposes tax cuts as stimulative government policy and argues that liberals should support tax cuts in a broader deal. In that case, Obama is using rhetoric to justify right-wing policy (Obama is trying to be more conservative than the conservatives). So the proper way of looking at it is to realize that Obama is a conservative and has the same agenda as the Republicans. He uses rhetoric in a different way than the conservatives, even though he shares their agenda. Knowing this, I can now predict the future:

Obama will support the GOP idea of a tax system that is more like a flat tax system, and will lower the top rate to around 28% or so, DESPITE the fact he is using rhetoric about raising taxes on the rich. We should listen to his rhetoric where he loves him some tax cuts.

Are the Democrats really scared by the recent spate of polling - so much so that they have "outsiders" like Digby calling for progressive "pressure" from the "left" and the same time as the party hacks double down on an "Evil Republicans" theme?

It doesn't make sense. A couple of dead Injuns/Jerries/Bolshies/Ayrabs should do the trick, around August of next year. Or maybe, if they're up against someone unwishy, like Perry, they could release one or two people from Gitmo and have their apparatchiks go on endlessly about how Perry would violate civil rights and sign off on the execution of innocent people...

What I don't get is why someone would ask for clarification, but then call his host a fool. I think that means his question is not genuine. See how that works, LSDB? When your words don't match your actions, we can draw conclusions and make predictions. You have waited-and-seen, it is now the bitter end, and yet you still think ("obviously", no less) that "it's reasonable to ignore them because they are campaign promises". The focus is not Obama, the focus is you. Until you figure this out, you will keep electing Obamas (or Hillaries).

Lorenzo: If we are to ignore his pandering to liberals, why do you cite his pandering to AIPAC, his speeches, his scholarly writings, his pledges??

His pandering to liberals never included anything other than slavish devotion to Israel, actually, so the question is moot. And the "etc etc ad nauseum" included his pro-Israel votes in Congress--not that that provides much additional evidence beyond the rest of what I cited.

On the broader question of how to decide what to believe and what not to believe, the principle for those on the left--which generalizes--is that you should put the most credence in the things you least want to hear and the least in the things you most want to hear. And that's especially true when the things that get your hopes up are confined to substance-free campaign rhetoric, whereas the counterevidence takes the form of detailed policy speeches and articles, votes, and so on. Obama himself admitted in June of 2008 that "Sometimes during campaigns the rhetoric gets overheated and amplified. ... Politicians are always guilty of that, and I don't exempt myself." If people choose to ignore that basic level of caution and instead give overheated campaign rhetoric the same weight as concrete counterevidence--including, not least of all, decades of consistent US policy under both Republicans and Democrats--they can expect to be wrong.

Oh, and about this:

Of course, as soon as he began to surround himself with various douchebags, the jig was up.

Not for Glenn Greenwald, as you could see from the article of his I linked to:

Some argue that Obama has filled key positions with politicians who have a history of virtually absolute support for Israeli actions -- Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Rahm Emanuel -- because Obama intends to continue, more or less, the Bush policy of blind support for Israel. Others argue the opposite: that those appointments are necessary to vest the Obama administration with the credibility to take a more active role in pushing the Israelis to a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians [...]. I personally find the latter theory marginally more persuasive, but there is simply no way to know until Obama is inaugurated.

The fact is that Obama was by no stretch of the imagination a tabula rasa (whether Greenwald or anyone else thought he was), and the belief that he was going to suddenly emerge from his neoliberal chrysalis after the inauguration was not only mistaken but painfully naive.

Thanks for responding. In the spirit of D. Schecter, I must confess my wrongs of supporting the man. I have no excuse.

I just wanted to say that the main lesson I learned from the whole thing is: don't listen to what pols say, look at what they do. And you were pointing to what he said.

I do like the metaphor from your last sentence though. It's such addenda that keep me reading the comments here.

I just wanted to say that the main lesson I learned from the whole thing is: don't listen to what pols say, look at what they do.

That's good to hear (and along those lines, you might want to take a look at this posting and this one).

And you were pointing to what he said.

I mentioned his cabinet appointments as well, actually, but what politicians say is in fact in large part what they do; the key is knowing which part of it to ignore. And (as I said in the first of those two linked postings) the safest bet is to take every positive thing they say as a lie and every negative thing they say as an understatement.

Watch/Listen: Obama Nation Part 2

You've got the years of showing up at AIPAC and doing the kowtow thing there. You've got the speech at the 2004 convention in which Obama touts the Kerry Iraq-surge-before-it-was-called-such (this alone for me had me seeing what a nasty piece of work he was SEVEN YEARS AGO). You've got his Senate "mentor" being Joe Lieberman. There was the wiretapping reversal, the multiple Senate votes for war funding, the broken campaign promise on public funding and a record amount of corporate money in the coffers. Oh and the dumping of Rev. Wright. That's all BEFORE the election.

Then AFTER the election the guy promises he's going to send more troops into Afghanistan, he keeps Bush's Sec. of Defense and names an IDF officer his Chief of Staff. Although working feverishly on handling out TARP money (which he told us all weeks before the election he agreed with Bush and McCain on), while Gaza is attacked suddenly there can be only "one president at a time."

And people STILL think there was a chance of him being anything other than a grade A douchebag?

I often think that hardcore lefties are simply a little sharper in some areas than other people. It sounds egotistical but I'm not talking about being geniuses, I'm talking about having a solid recall of facts, a correct timeline of events, and the ability to link cause and effect. Lefties I think are pretty good with narrative structure and mental modeling of relationships. And we never forget - I still hold grudges against Kissinger for things that happened to my father before I was born... well-deserved grudges.

Softer liberals (or "liberals") seem to be really bad at a lot of this and seem to be manipulated by an emotional charting of a narrative pretty easily. Facts that are dischordant with the emotional narrative get ignored. From an activist perspective I wonder what if anything can be done about this... fairly depressing, doesn't bode well for organization nor action.

Whoops... Obama was of course promising more troops in Afghanistan before the election too.

Ironic given my claim of getting these things right! In my defense I typed a list of these enormities and parsed them into before/after sentences later and missed moving that one phrase.

Geenwald, as it turned out, was being naive. But it is also worth noting that no journalist with a sizable following has regularly hammered with remotely similar intensity on Obama's disappointing, subsequent actions.

Yeah, I do give (and have given) Greenwald a lot of credit for being willing to follow the facts about Obama where they lead instead of rationalizing away each new atrocity as so many other Obama voters have done. But to be clear, he wasn't just being naive back then; he was actively dismissing left criticism of Obama (and misrepresenting it as being as reflexive and irrational as right-wing raving at Obama), and--much worse--defending Obama when it was reported that he was adopting Bush-like policies rather than treating that reporting seriously. Specifically, he savaged the L.A. Times for reporting just after the inauguration that Obama planned to continue the Bushian use of rendition, contemptuously dismissing the article as the "wildly exaggerated" output of an "uninformed, gullible reporter." Truly a disappointing and damaging performance on his part, and one that (to my knowledge) he never retracted--despite the fact that he now regularly slams Obama for having exactly the Bush-style rendition policies that the L.A. Times was so gullible to report about in those critical early days.

In short, Greenwald was acting there as an Obama advocate and defender, not as an objective observer. So while he did turn the corner fairly soon afterward, I don't give him a pass for having been either just naive or understandably mistaken at the start; like 99.9999% of all other Obama voters, his choice colored his perceptions and his judgment.

Be excellent to each other. Party on, dudes!

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