Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Quote of the Day


"This is not to say that Obama couldn't have demonstrated more leadership. It's a fair criticism to argue that he too often allows his opponents to seize the initiative, and he hasn't been forceful enough in articulating his own vision. That's disappointing, but it's not betrayal -- it's not evidence that Obama is some kind of conservative mole, destroying what remains of liberal America from within. And it should not be confused with the notion that had he been more explicitly radical he would have achieved more -- that's simply not guaranteed at all.

-- Salon's Andrew Leonard in a well-thought-out column on Paul Krugman and the Disillusioned Left

One of the interesting things about the referenced article is that in it Krugman comes right out and says that he doesn't doubt Barack Obama's liberal beliefs. Contrast that with, once again, Glenn Greenwald, who can't stop writing about how naive it is for anyone to assume that Obama actually wants to see a progressive outcome from his policies.

One of my favorite things about Krugman is that, agree with his politics or not, he's both a brilliant and compassionate man; he's smart enough to give you a good argument for progressive policy and you truly believe that his reason for being liberal is that he feels that someone of conscience has no other choice. I respect this about him and always have. When I shrug off the often shrill and selfish criticism of Greenwald -- and it is selfish in the sense that, like it or not, it risks the greater good in the pursuit of perfection that he seems to demand on his personal pet issues -- it's because I don't feel that there's any real sense of conscience behind it. I've actually come around on the idea that Greenwald isn't simply interested in getting people to pay attention to him -- although I do believe he enjoys being able to think of himself a thorn in the side of the world -- and I now accept that he genuinely seeks to adhere to a very strict laundry list of political issues because he considers those issues important above all. The problem is, and always has been, that he'll sacrifice everything else -- burn down the whole village if he has to -- just to get his way on them. He believes that it's worth the short-term loss to go all Nader on the Democratic party if it means a sea change in American politics. From a logical perspective, this might be true. But once again, the difference between Krugman and Greenwald is one of conscience -- and anyone who's watching what Republican and Tea Party policy is doing right now in Wisconsin or Michigan, or federally with Paul Ryan's disastrous budget plan, can see that the choice of who leads the country and makes the laws in America isn't one made between equals.

It's easy to say that a sacrifice needs to be made to ostensibly teach a political party a lesson when you're not living in the country -- which Greenwald isn't, by the way -- that will look fundamentally different, and monumentally worse, in short order should the party that benefits from your act of insurrection come to power.

Glenn Greenwald isn't the one who would be doing the sacrificing here. The whole debate for him is strictly academic. And that's the problem.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

i don't always drink beer but when i do it is dos equis

Chez said...

Krugman's an economist. That means right off the bat that he's not the most interesting man in the world.

Steve said...

Yeah, somehow when I read about Greenwald's "Boy from Brazil" situation, I took him a lot less seriously. Not fair at all, I know, but Jesus, half his age? And more seriously, there is something about the nattering of an ex-pat that is just annoying.

ntx said...

What zealots of any stripe -- left or right -- have a hard time understanding is the difference between what should happen and what can happen. It is not cynical to acknowledge the difference; it is what living in the real world is all about. The Greenwalds and Hamshers of the world believe it may be possible to elect someone more liberal that the President. They are dreaming.

Marsupialus said...

We saw what going sea-change gave us in 2010 as Dems stayed home or decided to send a "message." Voting for the other guy or not voting doesn't send a message, it just lets the other guy get away with whatever shit he wants to get away with. See WI, FLA, MI and so on. I had plenty of relatives who voted Brown in MA for just that reason. Without much joy I ask them, how's that working out for you?

Chez said...

I couldn't agree more, Steve. I never really bothered to read up on Greenwald's personal history -- which technically shouldn't have a huge bearing on whether or not I appreciate his opinions anyway. But learning that he lives in Brazil because he feels "barred" from living in America -- which is such melodramatic horseshit -- made me look at him in a whole different way. It's easy to sit outside and throw rocks when you don't have to live in the house that's being damaged. He wants everyone to sacrifice for his beliefs when, as I said, the consequences for him personally would be academic and nothing more.

Chez said...

That's the problem: the short-term sacrifice is massive. Yeah, great, you'll teach the Democrats a lesson -- and you'll live without health care, pensions, Medicare, collective bargaining rights, rights over your own body, basically Wall Street will run roughshod over you and there won't be a damn thing you can do about it.

Nate said...

Chez, stop acting like those things aren't happening already under the Democrats. The health care reform bill does nothing to cut costs and very little to rein in Insurance industry abuses. The Democrats, led by the President, are showing a willingness to cut on Medicare and social security; have not fought back against the anti-abortion laws in tens of states which increase waiting periods and force doctors to distribute false information about abortion; have utterly abandoned the unions; have extracted exactly zero reform from Wall Street; have launched us into yet another foreign war, being financed on credit; are cutting science research budgets while increasing the defense budget; have done nothing to put Americans back to work over the past three years. And so I ask you: why is it a matter of conscience to vote for the, only marginally, better of two feckless, corrupt, and idiotic political parties?

Voja said...

I guess the question is, when is it acceptable to hold a political party's feet to the fire? I see this "pragmatic" argument quite a bit and there's no denying that the present surge of Republican radicalism makes you want to close ranks and not rock the boat, but what's the endgame? How exactly do we move the democratic party leftward if we're too scared to look farther than the next election cycle? That seems like a losing game and if that's what we're playing it's no wonder far-right ideas are running rampant. Republicans know how to play the long game. Democrats, frankly, don't have a clue.

Chez said...

There are things that have and haven't happened since Obama took office -- particularly when it comes to the lack of action against an even embrace of the Wall Street criminals -- but like it or not the alternative to the Democrats right now, at this very moment is much, much worse. I realize this is an awful reality to have to accept, and I'm all for pushing hard to demand smart accountability from the White House and the Democrats in Congress, believe me. But a fact is a fact and if you look at what the Republicans and the Tea Partiers are doing right now and what they're trying to achieve -- the unapologetically Randian, dystopian vision they have for America -- allowing them to come to power is simply unacceptable. Sorry, the Dems may be the lesser of two evils -- but the greater evil is monumentally greater.

Chez said...

I get it, Voja, I really do. But the Republicans as infected by the Tea Party gaining complete control of the government would be disastrous. It's too much to risk right now. That doesn't mean that it'll be that way forever; I actually do think that once America gets a taste of what these people want to see this country turned into, they'll back away quickly. But until then I think there's has to be support but serious accountability.

Anonymous said...

So Chez...the continued systematic torture in Gitmo is okay...along with screwing over his entire base of supports...just so long as we don't have a republican in the White House?

Your assuming a Tea Party candidate could win the primary and then the general. Those are two huge assumptions and they sure as shit does not give the current President carte blanc to violate human rights and all the other crap he is doing under the threat that Republicans are so dangerous. This is the same fucked up logic system that Bush II used in allowing torture in the first place as Al-Queda was so damn dangerous that protecting our freedom meant shitting all over the constitution.

You are advocating the same immoral, disgusting behavior as say any fucking Tea Party member...the ends justify the means. As long as "my" guy wins, who gives a shit because the other dude represents the fucking anti-Christ. Don't get me wrong...your smart and you can express yourself much better than the average, toothless tea party moron...but your using the same logic.

I say fuck it...we collectively vote into office the most unqualified, insane bastard possible (I am thinking Bachmann). The office of the President doesn't really matter that much anyway. Kennedy took one to the head...the world didn't end. Nixon was a speed freak, Reagan's rotted brain had him thinking he was living through revelations, Clinton wore beer goggles the entire time, Bush II was clinically retarded...This office means nothing today...so lets put the last nail in the coffin and prescribe the appropriate level of attention and respect for hte office...that of a drunk circus clown at a state fair.

Jesus I am bitter...

ntx said...

Voja, it's easy to move the Democratic Party leftward. Just adopt the most left-leaning platform you can think of. Then the party will be way left! Unfortunately, voters won't follow.

It's exactly the same thing the Tea Baggers are experiencing on the right.

Pragmatism isn't a betrayal of conscience if the alternative is something far worse.

Chez said...

Anon, that's a hell of a long -- and appropriately, to some extent, articulate -- diatribe for someone to not attach his or her name to.

Listen, I can say this until I'm blue in the face and I'm willing to bet it won't change anyone's mind. This is why I occasionally stop writing about politics altogether: it's a fucking losing proposition, verbal masturbation. Gitmo is incredibly unfortunate, but you know something? Talk to me about the petrified children in Congress who wet their pants at the idea of al Qaeda prisoners being moved to the U.S. for trial and you'll understand that no matter how easy it sounds to just shutter Gitmo, it' only sounds that way.

One more time for the cheap seats: Whether you choose to accept it or not there's a gargantuan difference between Obama and those who are almost literally making themselves fucking insane trying to paint him as some socialist, Kenyan, Muslim, constitutional usurper (or who adopt one or two of these as a politically expedient platform). The damage these people would do to the country if left unchecked is indescribable. I'm not saying to allow Obama to get away with anything he damn well pleases -- and for fuck's sake, the left hasn't. I'm saying push hard and even push back but do not shoot yourselves in the foot -- and this country in the face. I don't care one bit whether you think it's illogical or unfortunate or sickening or whatever-the-fuck -- it's reality and you have to deal with it.

Ducky said...

You know,I'm currently enjoying a couple of history classes in college right now, and we just covered the Nazi Germany and the Bolshevic Russia: how the came into exsistence and how they obtained power in perticular. In both cases, it was a small minority seizing power over a large and largely divided majority. Great stuff, if you have the urge. They talk of how Lenin and Hitler never would have gained power if it hadn't been the unusual, turbulent times they lived in. The unfortunate part about this is, now every time I look at the Tea Party in this country, the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

Anonymous said...

Chez as much as I would like to make an identity and express my views, that brings up too much risk to my employment. Sorry but as much as I enjoy conversing with you, its not worth dealing with repeated security screenings.

I would agree that both parties pretty much made it known that closing Gitmo was no-go from the beginning. The problem is, President Obama knew that as well when he made that BS campaign promise. Maybe I am jaded or because I was in the military at the time, but the whole concept of closing Gitmo so quickly was so obviously an outright fable, I was horrified that people believed him. What damns him in my eyes is that the information leaked off of SIPR was readily available to everyone with a SECRET security clearance. Obama missed a prime opportunity, not only to close down Gitmo, but effectively establish that the excesses of the Bush II White House would never be tolerated again. Had this information come directly from the White House, within six months of him taking office, vice NPR via wiki-leaks, there was no way in hell any member of Congress could have effectively defended the operation of Gitmo. Furthermore, it would establish in the world's community that the US was serious about human rights. But again, there was never a goal of fulfilling the actual promise.

This is really no different the issue of giving human rights to gays. Obama never meant to actually take a stand on the issue of marriage so he did the single most convenient thing for him...he punted by saying the DOJ would no longer defend DOMA.

So basically...he ends up shooting himself in both feet by essentially half asses his promises and pretty much infuriating his supporters, while still pissing off his enemies, and appearing incredible weak and amoral at the same time.

Pretty much the only thing that will ensure he is re-elected (which is pretty much assured) is despite as mess up and disappointing his white house has been, its completely outshines anything the GOP can offer. Not sure if that is suppose to be uplifting or soul crushing...