Thursday, July 15, 2010

Quote of the Day

"There's an attitude in some progressive circles suggesting that if we constantly hector the president about everything, it'll actually move some mountains. What's totally ignored in this approach are the political consequences -- the self-defeating aspect of demonizing the only president in decades who's more closely aligned with a progressive worldview. Which is why I've been shouting about "smart accountability" for more than a year now.

Smart accountability, if you're just joining us, is holding the president accountable in a way that doesn't undermine the movement by inadvertently weakening the president and enabling the Republicans. Unfortunately, constant badgering by some of the cool kids in the progressive blogosphere directed at anyone else who says something nice about the president appears to be the order of the day. Political consequences be damned. And now, anyone who points out the political consequences, like suggesting the potential of President Palin, is shouted down by the cool kids as well."

-- Bob Cesca

This is one of those themes I've also been repeating ad nauseam for longer than I care to remember -- that the indignant demand for the Great Progressive Utopia or Bust by some on the left amounts to little more than shooting yourself in the foot. No, it's not wise to let a president -- even one you happen to agree with on more than a few fundamental issues -- get away with anything he damn well pleases. But at the same time you have to accept that there may well be consequences -- extraordinarily negative ones -- to publicly beating him down for every little goddamned thing when he's already getting it in perpetuity from the other side. The other side, by the way, which has already proven how mind-numbingly good it is at standing together as one and backing a candidate or idea simply in the name of getting it thrust into a position of power. The other side that's just waiting in the wings, rubbing its collective hands together and salivating at the notion of this president's failure and its inevitable return to glory.


Pea said...

I know very little about who PolitiFact are or where they get there source material, but if you believe them, he's actually doing pretty well.

Chez said...

Politifact is excellent largely because it's completely non-partisan. That and the Annenberg Political Factcheck are the best two places to turn for the unadulterated truth on issues. Which is why, when the APF published Barack Obama's birth certificate -- when it said it had sent reporters to verify its authenticity and see it for themselves -- that should've been the end of the discussion for the morons still holding out after every other avenue had led to the same freaking place.

Captain Splendid said...

Disagree. This is why we got Bush for 8 years, yet the right gets to wash their hands of him. We're now going after progressives who actually give a shit about some accountability and campaign promises?

No, I'm not equating Bush to Obama, but Cesca's use of "Cool kids" says it all: an attempt to marginalize a group without actually responding to any of their arguments.

Last but not least, Obama's more than happy to reap the rewards of his hype without seeming to want to live up to any of it, because he doesn't want to rock the boat. That's his decision, but he's paying for it.

ntx said...

To Bob's point ... I don't care whether you're a raging pinko or a rabid tea bagger: When your sense of righteousness overtakes your sense of doing right, you've marginalized your cause and don't deserve to be taken seriously. The left is just as guilty of stupid, wretched excess as the right.

Chez said...

Once again, not saying he shouldn't be held accountable -- saying that his detractors on the left complain about every little goddamned thing at their own peril.

Captain Splendid said...

What, like complaining about huge majorities in congress behaving like scared little girls?

I think most progressives would be happy to take that hit if it means we can get rid of some of these spineless clowns for good.

It's worth noting that a lot of these people being castigated by Cesca are taking the long view: This isn't about the midterms or even 2012. it's about having at least one party that doesn't suck corporate cock.

Eric said...

I have to agree with Captain Splendid. Look, I'll do my best to be reasonable and patient, and I sure as hell won't be going third-party again for the foreseeable future, but progressives are between a rock and a hard place right now. No, we don't want President Palin. But we also don't want a return to the days of the DLC's ascendency when Democrats essentially said, "We'll ask for your money and take your votes but we won't listen to you--and if you won't suck it down, what are you going to do about it? Nothing, because we're the only game in town."

Perversely, I suspect one of the reasons progs feel emboldened to criticize the President on all these little things, as opposed to expressed indignation and then uselessly throwing our hands in the air, is because it's the first time in decades we thought there was a President who was at least receptive and sympathetic to progressive politics, regardless of whether he was actually willing or able to embrace them. And, to be fair, Obama worked hard to create that perception, so if it's hurting him it would be his own fault and not the Left's.

I'm also not entirely sure Cesca's right about the actual as opposed to potential harm. Sure, if the FiredogLakers and Kosites Naderize Obama in 2012, then we're looking at some ugly consequences for the country and it will be the Left's own damn fault again. But I suspect that after eight years of Bush and facing the possibility of a Huckabee or Gingrich or (shudder) Palin, what's going to happen is that most of Obama's harshist critics from the Left are going to suck it up and rally 'round the flag. I could be wrong; hope I'm not.

The only other harm I can contemplate, really, would be that Obama embraces a liberal critique and loses centrist votes for it--e.g. he actually closes Gitmo and centrists decide to vote for a Republican as a result. There's only two things about that; first, that I'm not sure it's actually all that plausible that Obama could actually alienate those center-right voters enough that they'd vote for somebody they voted against in 2008. I.e. there were lifelong Republicans who voted for Obama in 2008 primarily out of disgust with their own party, and I'm not sure what Obama and the GOP could do to swing that back around. (Obama outs himself as a Marxist and the Republicans use Dark Arts to resurrect Barry Goldwater, maybe?) Second, even if Obama did something progs want that alienated much of the country, if it was the right thing to do then maybe you just pay the price and grit your teeth.

The great f'r'instance is LBJ signing the '64 Civil Rights Act. Johnson knew damn well he was losing the South and might well be giving the country to Republicans for a generation, and he was right. But there's no getting around the fact that the CRA was necessary, overdue, morally unimpeachable, that the timing for passage was as good as it would get and that it wasn't something that could or should be delayed Yet Again out of political exigency. Was the price the country paid for the CRA high? Yes, the price we paid was Nixon and Reagan and GWB was possibly an adjustable interest increase on the cost of the original purchase. So do we conclude LBJ was wrong? Hell no.

There may be no issues that Obama faces that have quite the same gravity, but are nonetheless of moral import and require action. I don't know that we bite our tongues just because the final cost will probably be painful and unlubricated.

Chez said...

I do understand the anger and concern. Really. I also happen to think -- and both Cesca and I have mentioned this on more than one occasion -- that one of the most aggravating realities of the Obama presidency is his belief that somehow he'll ever get through to his political enemies. That they're rational, thinking human beings who put country before party. The fact that no matter what he does, they'll stand against it -- no matter how contradictory it is to their own stated beliefs -- should put him in the most liberated position imaginable. Just do what he thinks is right, since those clowns are going to bitch and moan regardless. Unfortunately, he's constantly trying to reach across the aisle and, given all we've seen, I think that it more than anything else shows a certain amount of political naivete.

ntx said...

Choose one or more of the following clich├ęs:

a. Be careful what you wish for.
b. You reap what you sow.
c. People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.
d. Don't let perfect be the enemy of good.
e. Buncha trustafarian assholes.

Captain Splendid said...

Unfortunately, he's constantly trying to reach across the aisle and, given all we've seen, I think that it more than anything else shows a certain amount of political naivete.

Spot on. And I'll even go as far as to say that's probably the number one culprit for this behaviour you and Bob are lamenting.

Obama's schtick about trying to bring back the goode olden days of civilized politics might have worked great during the election, but when it comes down to the actual job, it's counter-productive.

I even think that Obama acting a little tougher would actually bring him more centrist and soft conservative votes. If there's anything I've learned in the last two decades about politics, it's that Americans hate losers.

Tuba Terry said...

Some arguments aren't worth responding to. Similar to the way "If man evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?" deserves nothing more than directions to the nearest 6th grade science class, so do the blogosphere's "cool kids" deserve no direct response.

I read similar elsewhere, so I'll paraphrase: What good is scoring tiny moral points if you're still losing? Sure, you've still got your Queen, but your King is in checkmate and you've just lost the game.

Yes, don't let him get away with bullshit, but you're defeating yourselves by letting absolutely nothing go.

The Bacon said...


I think the reason the opposition stands against Obama is because....they don't agree with him.

It isn't because they hate America, hate Obama, can't put country before party or are irrational non-thinkers.

They represent a great portion of America that, polls show, opposes much of what Obama and congress have done over the last two years.

It would be irrational to expect Dennis Kucinich to support a tax cut. It would be irrational to expect Barney Frank to support ban on same sex marriage.

That wouldn't make them unthinking haters. It would make them rational people who oppose policies because....well...they don't agree with them.

toastie said...

I try to cut Obama some slack. But then I read Cesca quoting Obama as having said, for the umpteenth time, that the government needs to tighten its belt just like households are doing. As a really smart guy and good speaker, I feel like Obama ought to be saying, "As households tighten their belts, the government must loosen its belt, because someone needs to spend in order to create jobs and grow the economy." It's maddening to me. But I do get your point, Chez. Beating up on Obama just won't help.

ntx said...

And just because they happen to be wrong doesn't mean they can be ignored. The White House would be flat out crazy to push a more left-leaning agenda right now. There simply aren't the votes for it, either in Congress or the electorate at large.

Chez said...

Completely agree that Obama needs to stop being frightened of the shrieking from the right and just say what needs to be said: "Screw worrying about the deficit right now; the only way to get out of this situation is to spend money that will benefit average Americans." (As opposed to, you know, agreeing to billions in corporate welfare -- which a lot of the Republicans are for.)

VOTAR said...


I don't think it's too unreasonable to offer a slight adjustment to your point:

They represent a great portion of America that, polls show, DON'T UNDERSTAND much of what Obama and congress have done over the last two years.

More than ever before, we live in an era where the most access to information is available, yet we as a culture demonstrate the weakest drive to seek out information.

A great portion of America couldn't be bothered to educate themselves and instead rely on Beck, Hannity, Limbaugh, Palin, and Bachman for easily digested but provably false bumper sticker slogans as their only source of understanding about their government. How else could so many people still believe in non-existent "death panels," or that our President is (take your pick) a Muslim, illegal alien, socialist, marxist, terrorist, will take our guns away, etc.

Obama's greatest strength -- what moved me to vote for him -- is that he is the smart guy. His greatest weakness, so far, seems to be that he has yet to find his Voice, and he better get to it, because there are a lot more dumb people out there, and they shout very loud.

Le Penseur said...

The hope that Obama will one day be able to get through to the guys across the aisle isn't audacious, it's delusional.

Mas Triste said...


My take:

1. You are witnessing overblown expectations being beaten into submission by reality. We expect too much from the President, any President. They actually have much less power than most people believe. The bully pulpit is one of the stronger tools and “this one” cashed those chips in some time ago.

2. The GOP has no new ideas, they just want to be back in power. Funny thing though, I could be saying the same thing about the Dems in 2006.

3. I don’t know the answer to our current economic problems, but spending like drunken sailors will get us nowhere, whoever is in charge. If you can show me what government agency is running at 100% efficiency and still needs money I would endorse a tax hike.

4. We the people love to blame everyone else but we encourage the crap in Washington. We bitch and moan but there is no real accountability.

Rivalen said...

Sitting out here in "Average American Land", getting bombarded by TV pundits as I try to get my Casey Anthony updates, I'm only really hearing one message, no matter if it is the pretty blondes, the slick-gray-haireds or the folks with dark rim glasses: Obama is failing.

Sure, none of them quite agree on what he is failing at, but the message being sent out, from Right and Left, is that Obama isn't that great. Sometimes they mention this place called "Congress" and how they aren't accomplishing anything, but apparently that is Obama's fault too.

The point that I take from Cesca and Chez is that we should indeed, as good Americans, criticize our President, but let's not let the media's (or perhaps it is the populace's?) need for definitive statements lead us to painting a picture of him as completely ineffective.

Maybe I was listening to different speeches, but what I heard in all those pre-election talks was a man, despite his personal beliefs falling to the Left, being devoted to trying to work it down the middle, because that is what America is about, and that is the only way to make some progress between two heavily combative parties. I think he is sticking to that, and I agree, perhaps to a fault. Stretch your hand across the aisle, yes, but when they slap it away, backhand them and let 'em know they better play ball.

If they don't swing at the first two strikes, you don't walk them just to be nice. But, as my extended metaphor takes a turn, we the people are the ones who field that team. If we have a Congress that can't do anything, with or without Obama talking them through it as some seem to suggest it should be, then we kick them off the team.

Not as much is happening as
a lot of us would like, agreed, but personally, I think this pitcher would be a lot more willing to zip one under the opposition's chin if he had a better team backing him up.

ntx said...

Good commentary Rivalen. I would say that the White House could do a little better job of backing up the House too. They've done a lot of the heavy lifting over the last 18 months -- pushing hard for progressive stimulus, health care reform, financial reform and cap-and-trade legislation -- only to see the White House quiver at the prospect of a 59-41 vote in the Senate and promptly fold like (to use your metaphor) Little Leaguers. House Democrats have gained precious little that they can take back to voters this fall.

Deacon Blue said...

@ Bacon,

The GOP has shown time and again that it will actually oppose things that Obama stands for even if they have stood for such things in the past.

That is what is so pathological.

Cap-and-trade? The left hated that concept for years and most still do. The right put that concept forward. But as soon as Obama embraces it, it's "bad"

Ditto on trying terrorists in civilian court. Bush & Co. got more success and harsher sentences by letting the normal justice system take care of things, and worse result with military tribunals, and yet when Obama touts civilian justice system for terrorists, he is "soft."

The GOP DOES hate least the right-wing elements, and they whip the more moderated elements into line with peer pressure and threats to toe the line. The Republicans opposed Obama simply for the sake of derailing him and making him look bad, in the hopes of turning America against him in the next election.

The GOP is willing to sacrifice every U.S. citizen to that end, and has shown this time and again over the past two years.

It isn't about simple differences in's about a "burn everything down" to get the enemy approach.

kanye said...


Try and think of Republican opposition to ideas that they once supported not as pathological behavior or crass hypocrisy, but rather ideological oppportunity.

It's their chance to pull up that ideological stake in the ground that defines the political spectrum and plant it even further rightward than it currently is.

Of course, when the Republicans do that, the Dems won't be able to fill that newly created void quickly enough, and in doing so, redefine what it means to be "Left". It's exactly what the Right wants.

Old news really...FDR started it.

Eric said...

I'm ambivalent about Glenn Greenwald these days, but I think he has a point here, namely that a good chunk of the criticism of Obama from the Left shows consistency. Rather than the kind of political opportunism and hypocrisy we've seen a lot of lately from certain Republicans and the teabaggers, a lot of lefties are criticizing the President for the same things they hammered Bush for.

Anyway, I mainly wanted to pass along the link, in case anyone's interested.

Tabi said...

As has already been noted here, the problem lies in Obama's constant efforts to compromise between the right and the left. He tries way too hard to make everyone happy, in hopes of bringing the parties together.

As Lincoln said: "A house divided can not stand." We are witnessing the gap become wider and wider as Obama's presidency continues, and this statement is as relevant now as it was in the Civil War in Lincoln's day. Though bickering has (and will) always occur, it isn't always so extreme, and there have been few times in our nation's history that have seen that statement become so true. The left and right are as fiercely divided now as they were back when Lincoln called for the war.

I hate to spell it out, but I truly feel that race plays a huge part in this. Granted, I'm fairly young, and hadn't paid much attention to politics pre-Bush era, but I don't recall such a fuss being made over every little thing the POTS does in the past. It's bullshit and ignorant. The Republicans are worried about their system being torn down, resulting in their pockets becoming a bit lighter. As Votar pointed out, the "Average Joe" tea partier allows him/herself to be so influenced by the inexplicable crap they allow on so-called news channels that they yell and scream about the things that would actually help them. I can't help but think that if Obama were 100% Caucasian, the tea party would not exist, and he wouldn't have to put up such a fight to improve the condition of our deteriorating country. Sad, but true.

It is true that the right will fight anything Obama does just to uphold their stance against him in hopes of "taking back" the White House. Really, even the things that have been passed through are so distorted from their original drafts, that they can almost no longer be traced back to Obama's intent. The right twists and modifies the bills, passes them, then points the finger at Obama when the public bitching begins.

All in all, unless he toughens up and stops trying to be a mediator Obama will never accomplish anything.

Anonymous said...

Well I hope the Left/Liberals/Pinko-commies/Whatever - MoveOn.Org, maybe - don't get too cozy with him. That could mess him up with people like me, who are probably the ones Politifact is picking up. I always vote for the guy who pisses the Conservative and the Liberal nitwits off equally. I figure that guy is pretty centered, not a nitwit, and has a big, brass . . . willpower.