“We Got Sold Out”

"We Got Sold Out"

Once thought the great liberal hope, captivating progressive audiences everywhere with promises of change, Obama has fallen largely out of favor with his left of center supporters.  There are lots of reasons for this, ranging from the President’s foreign policy to his seeming inability to enact large portions of the liberal agenda.  Some of the critiques are unfair, but most are accurate.  And though it is to the detriment of the Democratic Party that their supporters are a disorderly bunch, it is to their credit that they don’t often give their leaders a free pass. 

Jonathan Chait writes as much in his New York Magazine piece this week wherein he attempts to lecture the left on its long history of “unreasonable” dissatisfaction with the Presidents it elects.  Here is his explanation:

Liberals are dissatisfied with Obama because liberals, on the whole, are incapable of feeling satisfied with a Democratic president. They can be happy with the idea of a Democratic president—indeed, dancing-in-the-streets delirious—but not with the real thing. The various theories of disconsolate liberals all suffer from a failure to compare Obama with any plausible baseline. Instead they compare Obama with an imaginary president—either an imaginary Obama or a fantasy version of a past president.

While that last observation is accurate, liberals do have fantasy versions of past presidents and often bring them to bear when measuring the real performance of current administrations, the first part of Chait’s thesis deserves more scrutiny. 

His claim that the idea of a Democratic president can, for liberals, never live up to the real thing, may have some truth to it.  After all, most ideas rarely ever live up to their real world manifestations.  But that liberals so consistently find fault with their electoral offspring is not itself proof of their irrationality.  After spending the bulk of his piece attempting to disabuse liberals of the notion that Obama is any different from their past democratic idols, Chait spends only the tail end of the article actually defending the current president’s “gangsta” first-term achievements.

They include the Affordable Care Act, Dodd-Frank financial reform, and “second tier” accomplishments like the auto bailout, Race to the Top, reforming college loans, and equality for gays in the military among other things. 

In that same order, we have the passage of what was less than two decades ago the conservative answer to health care reform, regulation of the banking sector that has no real mechanisms for preventing future financial collapses, a bailout for corporations rather than support for workers, and education reform that is the equivalent of NCLB on steroids.  Allowing gays to serve openly in the military is commendable as is reforming college loans, but neither make up for the President’s failure to implement a litany of liberal policies, or more importantly, stand up for those positions no matter how implausible their enactment is. 

Rhetoric is important, and the more of it that is sacrificed in the name of minimalist compromises, like PPACA and Dodd-Frank, the more battles liberals win at the expense of the larger ideological war.  Credibility for initiatives like expanding health care coverage is gained by undermining deeper liberal principles.  Why anyone would think that ACA is a first step toward a public option, let alone nationalized health care, is beyond me.  What widespread support could there possibly be for actual socialized medicine when liberal leaders waste all of their political capital defending conservative positions, only to see the Republicans retreat further to the right in opposition?

By all meaningful measures Obama is a right of center President.  In theory he was liberal, hence why the idea of him so appealed to liberals, but in practice he has been anything but.  Conservatives’ antipathy toward his policies is only evidence of how far to the right they’ve gone.  Neo-liberalism has won, which is why technocrats, policy wonks, and pundits on the “left” like Chait can applaud the President for advocating a tax regime to the right of Bill Clinton, who was to the right of his own predecessors.  This isn’t the “progress” that progressives have been looking for, any more than they were during the rightward lurches that Chait is correct to note in Democratic presidents dating back to John F. Kennedy.  That liberals now fetishize these former presidents as paragons of the liberal world view is evidence only of our poor memory.

But holding any president, Democrat or not, accountable for domestic policy is problematic.  Presidential analysis is complicated by the Congressional politics that accompany every administration.  This is in part why it’s more important what the president says than what he is said to have accomplished via his allies and opponents in the House and Senate.  The President is not the “first branch of government,” and is not responsible for legislating new laws, despite voter expectations that he do so.

Instead, the President is responsible for executing government duties and acting as the nation’s united head of state in both war and peace, as well as the grey area in between that the country has inhabited for a decade now (if not longer).

And in this realm President Obama’s record is criminal, at least by conventional liberal standards.  His foreign policy is Bush Doctrine 2.0.  Drone attacks are up, civilian deaths are under-reported, and state secrets abound.  Troops will come home from Iraq only because Obama failed to convince that country to let us stay longer.  He claims that waterboarding is wrong, and that it is torture, but allows those who perpetrated it to go free, and in not holding them accountable, signals to the next group of would-be Jack Bauers that there will be no consequences.  The same lack of moral hazard in the private sphere of investment banking persists in the deepest recesses of publically funded shadow organizations like the CIA. 

An American citizen is killed without due process, his son as well, while the administration continues its chilling silence on the topic.  One only wonders now how much further Obama will plunge the nation into war, rather than extricating us from it.  His appointed Secretary of Defense is traveling the nation fear-mongering over potential cuts to defense.  And under his watch, the Department of Justice has scaled up the fruitless war on drugs and vigorously prosecuted whistle blowers rather than promoting an atmosphere of transparency. 

The President pays lip service to liberal populism even while filling his campaign war chest with donations from the rich and powerful.  He feels the nation’s pain even as he hesitates to definitively fight for policies that help the working class.  It’s not unreasonable to criticize the President for his myriad of illiberal policies.  If anything, what’s unreasonable, though fully predictable, is the degree to which liberals maintain their lukewarm satisfaction, or even celebrate Obama’s more hawkish achievements.  What’s actually ridiculous isn’t liberal displeasure, but that in the face of that disappointment there is no strong challenge from the left to hold Obama accountable.

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145 thoughts on ““We Got Sold Out”

  1. I think you might have missed the more salient part of Chait’s piece.  If you want more liberal policies, you will need to elect more liberals to the Senate and Congress.  As long as the best CA, MA and CT (not to mention ME or NH!) can manage are Feinstein, Brown and Lieberman, then you shouldn’t be surprised that you have Ben Nelson’s version of a health care bill or Lieberman’s Financial reform.  When only 15% of Americans self identify as Liberal, there are a LOT of people left to convince that Liberals are right.  There certainly aren’t enough liberals out there that a liberal president would have any sway over a Dem senator from LA, AK or NE.

    I think Chait rightly wonders if liberals are familiar with the legislating process.   Climate change legislation, be it it Carbon Credits or a Carbon tax, was always going to require a coalition of Dems and Reps from non-coal states to pass, and there are zero Rep votes for anything. (see also: Immigration reform and Border States) So, once again, the same question about familiarity with process is begging an answer.  And just to finish the thought, of all the items you mentioned, do you really think that Obama would have vetoed any of them?

    As for the conduct of the War in Afghanistan and actions in Pakistan and Libya, the man is doing exactly what he said he was going to do during the campaign.  I wasn’t in favor of it, either, but he has done exactly what he said he would.

    My own guess as to why liberals become disenchanted is that  the left  is more invested in policy specifics, while the right seems to be placated with symbolic gestures.

    Anyway, my 2 cents.

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    • On saying he was going to do these things before taking office, I’m with you.  I think many liberals hoped (naively) that this was centrist pandering.  But Chait is making the point that they should be happy to support him and pleased with his accomplishments.  Which is far different from saying, yea, he was a center right guy all along, you guys just weren’t paying attention.

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      • So you’re going to ignore the rest of the points made in this rebuttal? The system of government we have combined with the current politicians in the House and Senate insures right of center legislation. If you want left of center results you need to spend more time advocating for your positions and not wait on a Super President who through the use of the bully pulpit raises the self id of liberals over 15%.

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        • I’m specifically critiquing this President (not the system in which he works) and those who would defend his record to liberals as one worth voting for a second time.

          I’ve listed several things the President is directly responsible, and all the ways in which, by conventional liberal standards, he has fallen short.

          I’m not sure what else you’re looking for.

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          • Well lets not go overboard Ethan. The stinking fact of the matter is that Obama has only one concrete arguement to make to liberals: “If you can’t bring yourself to vote for me then please acquaint yourselves with my potential replacements.” Any liberal who doesn’t find that miserable arguement dispositive is too far out of touch with reality to be worth seeking the vote from.

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              • Oddly enough I would unhappily say that is technically a true statement. Rooting through garbage and starving is objectively worse off than working over a sewing machine for 12 hours a day for only enough money to buy a few bowls of rice. This is a brutal unhappy fact.

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                • It falsely implies either/or.

                  Obama still needs to be nominated.  Liberals decided to support another candidate. 

                  And a third party candidate like Ron Paul as POTUS would probably lead to more liberal outcomes than the current Prez.

                  No, he wouldn’t advocate liberal positions on domestic policy, but neither would he be able to cement them into law via Congress.  And on foreign policy matters, the day light between him and Obama would be bright enough.

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                  •  

                    My own, admissibly limited, understanding of the US presidential political dynamics and the history of the Presidential races of the past leads me to believe that it is, unhappily, an either or position. That true blue liberals have enough clout to get Ron Paul nominated on the GOP ticket seems somewhat of a stretch to me (though goodness knows I’d love it, that kind of cooperation between left liberals and libertarians might create the dialogues and warmth needed to birth a liberaltarian movement).

                    In the absence of Ron Paul the record appears to be that Presidents challenged in their re-election from their base flank are not replaced but often then lose to their rivals in the actual election. To wit, liberals are not capable of replacing Obama with a more liberal person nor are they capable of making the GOP candidate more liberal. They are, however, capable of electing whoever the GOP chooses as Obama’s opponent.

                    Which leaves us with the original highly distasteful either/or predicament.

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                  • I’m not saying RP would be nominated, only that a third party run on his part would be something worth supporting over the status quo, even for liberals.

                    In the end, representative democracy only works if people vote for who they think is best to hold that office.  All of these hedges, calculations, etc, while sensical on an individual basis perhaps, become self-defeating if done in aggregate. 

                     

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                    • Given Duverger’s law the choice in electoral politics is to get behind Obama or watch a Republican inauguration in 2013; the options are as stark as North and MaxL lay out. No progressive knight is riding to the rescue, whatever polls say when disaggregating the liberal message. Voters need to vote for a candidate. That candidate needs money, organization, volunteers, etc. Looking around for one, Ron Paul is an odd choice. A newsletter published under his name for years with antisemitic, racist, and conspiratorial sentiments, an opponent of reproductive rights, an isolationist who wants to cut all foreign aid? The liberals are supposed to get behind that? In place of hoping for third party success (incredibly difficult in a first-past-the-post system), those frustrated with Obama being insufficiently liberal are better off investing efforts in less sexy long-term political infrastructure building: candidate recruitment and more liberal members of Congress where possible (e.g. Massachusetts), strengthening the liberal think tank ecosystem that feeds the executive branch appointments system and presses liberal policy ideas, and ensuring liberal kingmakers have deliverables for candidates who come calling (aforementioned volunteers, organization, and election day ground day help). Gaining influence within the Democrat’s tent is a worthy project, it means influence in governance. Liberals leaving that coalition is the road to ruin.

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                    • We’re supposed to vote for Ron Paul as liberals because he won’t bomb countries, torture people, or raid medical marijuana dispensaries. Even if I agree with that, the CIA and NSA would happily continue to do whatever the fuck it wanted under a Paul Presidency. We’re supposed to ignore the part where a Paul Presidency and a GOP Congress would voucherize Medicare and privatize Social Security at _best._

                      But yeah, you want a more liberal President. Elect the most liberal electable President, then elect the most liberal electable Senator’s and Congresspeople. It’s not that difficult.

                       

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                    • Creon Critic says it perfectly.  The fix starts at the bottom.  Take over school boards, then city councils, then state legislatures, then Congress.  Don’t skip to the end of the progression, it will only end in ruin.

                      Now if your argument was “liberals shouldn’t give money or time to Obama; instead, they should spend that time and money on a lower-ticket race or primary challenge” I’d be with you 100%.  But when it comes to whom to vote for in the general, there’s no contest.

                      It’s also worth noting that putting Ron Paul in charge of nominations to the Fed board would basically be a disaster.  You’d be playing with another recession at the worst possible time–hardly a progressive outcome.

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      • I guess I’d still like to hear which liberal policy folks think that Obama the “centrist” would veto.

        Cap and Trade?  Immigration reform?  Closing Gitmo?  He proposed all of those. How about a payroll tax rebated Carbon Tax? Repeal of DOMA? A Medicare buy-in, even single payer?  Do you think he would have vetoed Card Check or a clean Volcker Rule?   I am pretty sure he would have signed any of them. None of those are centrist policy in the US, especially after 2008.

        Its important to remember that presidents have a lot to lose when the fight is entirely inside their own party.  And for the entire15 or so  weeks at the end of 2009 when there were enough Dem votes to break a filibuster, every policy was entirely an intra-party fight for the Dems.  And the votes were never there.

         

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  2. Obama was misunderstood to be a liberal from the beginning. He was always a pragmatic centrist willing to compromise on almost all issues if it meant getting things done. That he has run into virulent (and occasionally racist) opposition from people deadset against policies that they themselves advocated for is no fault of his. That he was misunderstood by some of his most ardent supporters is no fault of his either.

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    • Right, so the point is that liberals were self-deluded fools, not that they should continue to support him.

      Hence why I’d like to see someone call him out from the left, and at least force him to defend his positions to liberal voters on the primary campaign trail.

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  3. Leaving aside his serial gross generalizations, Chait’s pompous lecturing boils down to a simple calculus; love Obamism because that’s the best you’re going to get.

    Hear that, girls?  Just lie still and fake an orgasm, otherwise your man will leave you.

    Really, Chait, just STFU.  At least when we hear this sermon from Obama we know it’s coming from a cynical politician who has comprehensible reasons for doing it, coming from a gasbag pundit like you it’s just a waste of everybody’s time.

     

     

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  4. I’d kvetch but I was actually concerned when he was elected that Obama actually believed his campaign schtick and that he’d be a nieve naif. So the realization that he was actually a relatively average politician with a large streak of pragmatism and a certain penchant for stingyness with his political capital was actually a bit of a relief.

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  5. The question to ask is what would have Obama helped pass if there were no opposition from the Right and Blue Dog Democrats. There are a lot of interests fighting for and against every change proposed, but if the Democrats had had a super majority during the past 3 years, what would have Obama helped pass?

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      • Who knows.  A public option maybe?  More infrastructure stimulus spending?  Some kind of Cap’n Trade bill? 

        Perhaps not, since Congress is full of lots of people who aren’t the President, who have their own constituencies, and will do as they will.  Which is why I’m less concerned with what he would have accomplished than with the ideological tone he has set and his performance in the realm of foreign policy.

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    • I’m constantly amused that everybody on the Left is disappointed by Obama for not doing the things they want, and everybody on the Right is terrified by Obama, for not having done any of the things liberals want, but really, in his heart of hearts, really, really wanting to.

      If your biggest objection to Obama is what might happen if he ever gets something that he will never have, I think you can probably write him off as ineffectual.  I mean, c’mon, man, if a President, a House majority and a Senate 59+1 isn’t good enough, the liberal agenda is never going to happen and you might as well relax about it.

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  6. You don’t have to lie there and fake your love, but perhaps you can explain how you’d get a more liberal politician than Obama elected POTUS.

    Max’s point that you need more liberal Senators and Representatives to get more liberal policies is an important point, but you also need a more liberal electorate to elect a more liberal President.  If you recall, in 2008, Kucinich went nowhere.  Even though the massive skeletons were still in his closet, Edwards went nowhere as well.  Clinton was (and is) more center-right than Obama.

    I get that you’re pissed, but can you name even one strong leftist alternative that could viably challenge Obama in a primary?  They’re ALL bought. It is baked into our system. It is a question of degree and until there is fundamental campaign finance reform, our choices will remain only about the degree to which the politician is bought.

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    • meh. lamont and webb didn’t take no calls. And who the hell would bother buying bernie, anywhoo? They ain’t all bought, just the important ones.

      [geez, it’s like you’re saying every football program is like penn state’s. isn’t at all the case. not that there aren’t others that are widely known about… just not all of them.]

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    • “You don’t have to lie there and fake your love, but perhaps you can explain how you’d get a more liberal politician than Obama elected POTUS.”

      I don’t care.  That’s the job of the soulless hacks who get politicians elected.  My task is to advocate for preferred policy.  The hacks look at the totality of this advocacy and nudge the empty suits in a given direction.  Whatever happens after that, happens.

       

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  7. The upshot of things like is realization that the real engine of unemployment and poor growth in America is the lib-Left base. The Demo establishment is bad enough, but they also have a pragmatic streak. To really fubar things, put the lib base in charge.

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    • Not to get too deep into the kool-aid but can you name a couple specific occasions in the last thirty or even sixty years when the liberal base of the Democratic party was in charge and what policy changes they enacted during that time of empowerment?

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            • Therefore libs are to blame for all adverse health care outcomes from 2009 till the end of time

              You keep thinking that, and libs can go on thinking that conservatives are to blame for all adverse foreign policy outcomes from 2000 until the end of time, and I’ll sit here call all ya’ll a bunch of silly persons.

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                • Is this our standard, Koz?

                  Is this your measure by which we shall discuss which party carries “blame”?  Or will this change in 6 years?

                  I’m asking, because I still have a hard time getting you to plant any measurable anything anywhere near a stable position.  This seems measurable.  It’s not *entirely* unreasonable.  I’ll provisionally accept it.

                  But I bet I can find a whole bunch of counterfactuals that will make you very uncomfortable and require you to start doing all sorts of rhetorical dancing if we adopt it.

                  Fair warning!

                  Still want to go with vote counts?

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                  • “I’m asking, because I still have a hard time getting you to plant any measurable anything anywhere near a stable position. This seems measurable. It’s not *entirely* unreasonable. I’ll provisionally accept it.”

                    I hope you’ll add some more context because I’m not tracking you here. I don’t find your correlation-based budget argument to be credible if that has something to do with it.

                    Suffice to say the Demos are completely to blame for the failures of PPACA, all adverse health care outcomes flowing from PPACA, and all adverse health care outcomes flowing from the failure to do something else in lieu of PPACA.

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        • … PPACA is the product of the liberal left wing base being in charge and it was their desired policy? Koz, not to pile on with the others but surely you realize what kind of lunacy that is? I mean I wasn’t expecting much, but I was expecting more than that.

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          • North, all the lib-Left complaints about how it wasn’t really want they wanted have absolute zero Kelvins of credibility. I don’t know of anything in the world that’s been more conclusively demonstrated than that.

            If the lib-Left really didn’t want Obamacare, nobody forced them to bludgeon the Demo political establishment until they got it.

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            •  

              As far as I’m aware most liberals are keenly aware that PPACA was crafted as a naive pre-emptive concession by Obama while he was still hopped up on his unifier bipartisan campaign shtick and that by the time he actually copped to reality and realized that his concessions had netted him exactly zero GOP votes it was too late for him or his liberal supporters to start over. Given the choice between something and nothing (with electoral Armageddon coupled with that) every democrat concerned settled for something.

              What’s annoying about all this is that you are obviously bright enough to be well aware of all of this so the disingenuousness is puzzling. Do you honestly believe that when liberals laid their heads down dreaming happily of health care reform under the newly elected Obama that visions of the GOP 1994 proposal was what floated in their heads? Seriously?

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              • “As far as I’m aware most liberals are keenly aware that PPACA was crafted as a naive pre-emptive concession by Obama while he was still hopped up on his unifier bipartisan campaign shtick and that by the time he actually copped to reality and realized that his concessions had netted him exactly zero GOP votes it was too late for him or his liberal supporters to start over.”

                This is a bunch of speculation that’s probably not true (and most importantly) doesn’t make any difference at all if it is. That’s the point.

                “Given the choice between something and nothing (with electoral Armageddon coupled with that) every democrat concerned settled for something.”

                (Most) every Demo settled for PPACA because the lib-Left base absolutely insisted on it as strongly as they could possibly muster. The Demo establishment would have let it die. It’s the libs’ problem that they wanted something that wasn’t feasible.

                Therefore the lib-Left base is responsible for all adverse health care outcomes from now till the end of time.

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  8. I should probably re-stress this part:

    But holding any president, Democrat or not, accountable for domestic policy is problematic.  Presidential analysis is complicated by the Congressional politics that accompany every administration.  This is in part why it’s more important what the president says than what he is said to have accomplished via his allies and opponents in the House and Senate.  The President is not the “first branch of government,” and is not responsible for legislating new laws, despite voter expectations that he do so.

    Instead, the President is responsible for executing government duties and acting as the nation’s united head of state in both war and peace, as well as the grey area in between that the country has inhabited for a decade now (if not longer).

    Whether or not his policies as head of the executive have been conservative or not, they have certainly been iliberal.  And we don’t need to ask hypotheticals here, because short of getting votes on his appointments, how these duties are discharged is completely up to him.

    I think, had Obama toured the liberal heartland during 2008 saying, “If I become President, drones will be my primary means for indiscrimnatly killing residents of the Middle Eastern countries where we are currently engaged.  I will fight to keep the troops in Iraq, and put as many more in Afghanistan as the “Generals” tell me to, and will urge little in the way of reforming America’s largest banks,” the applause would not have been as enthusiastically glossy-eyed.

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    • Ethan –

      What liberal heartland? Granted Obama would have received less enthusiastic applause from progressives if he’d said these things, but it is just as likely that he would have gotten more centrist votes. Had progressives abandoned him, do you think President McCain would be delivering executive actions more to your liking?

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      • “but it is just as likely that he would have gotten more centrist votes.”

        This is actually most unlikely.  There is not some wellspring of centerist votes sitting in the middle.  Recall that many thought his being to the right of Hillary would hurt him with disaffected liberals (for the record I don’t think she would have been any more liberal).

        As for McCain.  Obama pushed Congress to enact his rival’s health care plan, while capitulating to McCain-sians on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

        In fact, with a President McCain right now, I think liberal Congress men and women would have much more rigorously opposed the consistant escalation of hostilities in that part of the world.

        At the very least, it would have been not worse.  Thought we would be minus to SCOTUS appointments. 

        Still, blackmailing liberals into voting for the “lesser of two evils” is hardly evidence that they are being unreasonably dissappointed.

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        • I’d point out there is a small subset of liberal voters who’d still vote to reelect Obama if he had bombed Iran and made the Bush tax cuts permanent. Because we see how old Scalia and Thomas are. Of course, that subset might be only me. :)

           

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      • I don’t want to be repetitive, but it looks like we were writing replies at the same time:

        It’s not just about process, it’s also plain ol’ ugly democracy. Presidents have the most to lose when a fight is entirely inside their own party. And for the 15 or so weeks at the end of 2009 when there were enough Dem votes to break a filibuster, every policy was an intra-party fight for the Dems. It looked awful to every non-Democrat. And the votes were never there for any liberal policy outcome, just the endless bickering and watering down. Followed by the great shellacking.

        I agree that Obama’s civil liberties record is abysmal. Dems have zero spine when it comes to this. My own Senator Feinstien is a terrified old lady and the worst sort of sellout when it comes to rights vs “security”

        That said, its good to remember that the Dems folded on Obama regarding Gitmo and public criminal trials for terror suspects. There just weren’t enough liberals to move the policy forward. That severely limits the options if you don’t want to be crucified with the blame when, god forbid, there is a successful attack. I really can’t think of a better example of liberals failing to get their point across while Obama took his lumps. It surely looks like Americans just wants to see the end of Al Qaida, and aren’t all that interested in how it happens.

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    • I think, had Obama toured the liberal heartland during 2008 saying,

      But, as had been said (even by you I think) Obama basically *did* say all that in the 2008 campaign (except for Iraq) – he just said it in a marketable  way.  People either heard what they wanted to here, or though he was just playing to the rubes.

      (and conversely and similarly, when he said something about having a problem with NAFTA, he had Austin Goolsbee go up to Canada to say ‘but we don’t mean *you* guys when we say we have a problem with NAFTA’)

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  9. Great post.

    I’ve come to find that Obama’s most ardent defenders are usually former Republicans who got chased out of their party by the crazies (John Cole, etc.) or current Republicans who are horrified by their party (Andrew Sullivan)

    A quote from racist scumbag Andrew Sullivan’s infrequent dissenter posts sums up my feelings about these defenders.

    “That you, a conservative, are supportive of a milquetoast, right-of-center Democrat who is all-too-willing to sell out his progressive base in the name of achieving goals that are hardly progressive is no surprise.”

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    • Cheer up, chum!

      Big tent, and repeat it till you believe it.

      There’s room in the party for folks like Obama –and don’t forget that his base is half-black — and they tend to be conservative dems (the rest is professionals, and they tend to be liberal/libertarian.)

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        • truth is far stranger than fiction, friend.

          What continues to amuse me is that the most libertarian person I know is a diehard liberal.

          Tell me you do something on the outside (not-net) that actually makes a difference — Jesus! I sound like Jaybird. But, truly, it’s how I feel.

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          • It took me a long time to get to the point where my opinion on a person’s character isn’t a reflection of my personal feelings but a true reflection of their words and actions.

            I no longer care that “once you get to meet him” Andrew Sullivan may be a nice person, I no longer care that he went to Oxford and can “turn a phrase”, I no longer care that he has a British accent and sounds reasonable and posh.

            I do care that he published excerpts from the The Bell Curve and to this day continues to speak approvingly of its research and argument: “the book… still holds up as one of the most insightful and careful of the last decade.

            Others may give him the benefit of the doubt, I don’t, my opinion of him is based on his words and actions and by those words and actions Andrew Sullivan is a racist.

            As to why I call him a scumbag, there is a lot to choose from, but as a veteran who was and is anti-Iraq war and who also lives on the east coast I usually start with the reason provided by this quote.

            “The middle part of the country—the great red zone that voted for Bush—is clearly ready for war. The decadent Left in its enclaves on the coasts is not dead—and may well mount what amounts to a fifth column”.

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            • Has the Bell Curve been refuted by scientific study? I’m unaware that Sullivan ever advocated policy changes be enacted to deal with alleged inherent differences in the various races. A book isn’t racist for asking things we don’t like (and I don’t like the things the book asks or suggests) inquiry isn’t racist for inquiring so long as it’s done in good faith. Your attitude in this smacks of the Catholics when dealing with Galileo and far more dangerously it waters down the meaning of the pejorative “racist” which indirectly enables and strengthens genuine racists and bigots. I’d strongly suggest you reconsider.

              As for the Iraq war; Sullivan was undeniably wrong and his rhetoric, in typical Sullivan style, was as overwrought and hysterical as it was wrong. Were he your standard neocon, unapologetic, unrepentant and backing up his assertions to the hilt to this day I’d say an argument could be made in favor of the scumbag pejorative. But Sullivan has publicly and painfully recanted, apologized and become an ardent foe of his former allies on that subject. If being wrong on anything anytime regardless of behavior after that error makes one a scumbag then we are living in a scumbag world and you’re hurtling rocks from within a fortress of glass.

              I’d suggest again that you really reconsider. With the former assertion it seems to me like you’re lowering yourself to the level of a very close minded Catholic and with the second you’re reducing yourself beneath that level since even conservative Catholics claim to value forgiveness where you are espousing none.

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              • Has the Bell Curve been refuted by scientific study?

                American Psychological Association‘s Board of Scientific Affairs established a special task force to publish an investigative report on the research presented in the book.

                APA task force report: Intelligence: Knowns and Unknowns

                Regarding Murray and Herrnstein’s claims about racial differences and genetics, the APA task force stated:

                There is certainly no such support for a genetic interpretation… . It is sometimes suggested that the Black/ White differential in psychometric intelligence is partly due to genetic differences (Jensen, 1972). There is not much direct evidence on this point, but what little there is fails to support the genetic hypothesis.

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              • A book isn’t racist for asking things we don’t like (and I don’t like the things the book asks or suggests) inquiry isn’t racist for inquiring so long as it’s done in good faith.

                The evidence I provide above while prominent is just one of many such papers challenging The Bell Curve. The challengers not only attack the authors findings, but also attack their methodology, and their twisting of test results to reach their conclusion.

                Google The Bell Curve  and you’ll see the consistent challenge is that the authors used misleading data and cherry picked test results to achieve the desired results.

                So knowing this, why should I assume the book was done in good faith?

                And just as important, why do you assume the book was done in good faith?

                Also, why should I give someone like Andrew Sullivan the benefit of the doubt; he has been told repeatedly that the books findings are incorrect and biased. He has been given the academic papers that refute the book in detail. Yet he continues to support and praise the results.

                Believe me these two gentlemen are not Galileo.

                 

                 

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                  • When does being wrong become racism?

                    My threshold is usually when the person denying facts in evidence cannot justify their case without reference to culture (i.e. thats the way things have always been done). Read the rebuttals of The Bell Curve.

                    The liberal use of the term racist doesn’t empower “real racist”, the reluctance to use the word is what empowers them.

                    David Duke showed racist how to put a veneer on racism when running for office; wear a suit and make you case in soft well spoken terms. You can cry nigger, but don’t raise your voice and use it in a complete sentence, in other words don’t chant it loudly for the cameras. The most important lesson he taught racist; when accused of racism, immediately accuse your attacker of being the real racist, make them afraid to use the word.

                    Sullivan is just the same veneer in the pundit arena. If I’m wrong about Sullivan, I’ll apologize and ask for forgiveness. I’m sure you’ll see yourself clear to do so.

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                    • Well we’ll have to disagree about the racist term. I am a comparative youngster myself but having watched how the term racist has declined precipitously in efficiency even in my own politically conscious lifetime (in the early 90’s it stung considerably, by the late 90’s it was generally responded to with a shrug and now a days it most often provokes an eye roll) I feel this is considerable evidence that the term is being overused, frequently misapplied and is rapidly turning toothless.

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              • As for the Iraq war; Sullivan was undeniably wrong and his rhetoric, in typical Sullivan style, was as overwrought and hysterical as it was wrong. Were he your standard neocon, unapologetic, unrepentant and backing up his assertions to the hilt to this day I’d say an argument could be made in favor of the scumbag pejorative.

                You know one of the most important things I trying to teach my 10 year old son is; don’t put yourself in the position to where you have to repeatedly apologize.

                In other words everyone makes mistakes and if you make a mistake apologize, however if it becomes a habit then consideration has to be made that you’re doing it intentionally and your apologies are not sincere.

                I didn’t jump to my use of the pejorative scumbag lightly. I did my research and found that Sullivan has made a habit of using overwrought, hysterical and vile language in attacking his opponents. He then apologizes and his fans forgive him and they move on until the next incident.

                Well, I’m not so forgiving and I don’t believe his apologies are sincere, he is a scumbag who uses his way with words and some Americans fascination with the British accent to imply vile and dangerous thoughts on his opponents. When challenged, he dissembles for as long as possible, then offers an apology while well spoken seems to pretty rote. If this is not epitome of a scumbag then give me a pejorativeyou would use.

                 

                have

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                  • You may consider the following statement hyperbolic, but to me it’s a vile attack on my patriotism, my character and an affront to my service. Being accused of possibly traitorous actions against the country I’ve fought for is not something I’ll easily forget or forgive. But I guess when you’re not the subject of the attack it is easy to forget and forgive.

                    “The middle part of the country—the great red zone that voted for Bush—is clearly ready for war. The decadent Left in its enclaves on the coasts is not dead—and may well mount what amounts to a fifth column”.

                     

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                    • Since the site won’t let me respond directly to your post I’ll respond here.

                      ———

                      Read again my comment from above and then maybe you can understand why I continue to kvetch.

                      In other words everyone makes mistakes and if you make a mistake apologize, however if it becomes a habit then consideration has to be made that you’re doing it intentionally and your apologies are not sincere.

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              • With the former assertion it seems to me like you’re lowering yourself to the level of a very close minded Catholic and with the second you’re reducing yourself beneath that level since even conservative Catholics claim to value forgiveness where you are espousing none.

                Forgiveness must be earned.

                Instead of traveling to Providence next summer for a month, why doesn’t Sullivan volunteer at his local VA hospital and help some the veterans his vile language helped put in harms way.

                Or

                On one of the multiple times during the year when he takes a week to recharge, why doesn’t he go to his local food pantry and help recharge their inventory that his disdain for American social welfare has helped destroy.

                Your standards for forgiveness differ from mine, my standards are based on the level of harmed caused. Sullivan and his fellow riders may or may not have seen the light, but when I look around at the state of our country, I can say with all my heart, in my opinion they sure the hell haven’t earned the right to be forgiven

                 

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                • Big tents are how we’ll help roll this kind of damage back. Leave the narrow visions to the conservatives I say. Also, Sullivan is an opinion blogger. If bloggers had to prostrate himself and stop to do good works every time they said something wrong there wouldn’t be any bloggers, just a lot of youtube videos of fat guys in pajamas whipping themselves.

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                  • If bloggers had to prostrate himself and stop to do good works every time they said something wrong there wouldn’t be any bloggers, just a lot of youtube videos of fat guys in pajamas whipping themselves.

                    Nice strawman, pretty good example of the take it to extreme version.

                    Also, nice of you make light of my point that Sullivan through his advocating for the war has a great deal of harm to many families, but you got your chuckle.

                    I guess asking for accountability and simple reflection for harm caused is now anathema to big tent democrats.

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                  • Relax old boy, if someone’s wrong on the internet it’s far from the end of the world and certainly nothing to get your blood pressure up over. In as much as Sullivan’s advocacy for war has harmed families it seems fair to assume his advocacy against other wars (Iran for instance) have done commesurate good.

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                  •  Nope.

                    I incorrectly stated that I was a Christian, what I meant to say was that while I was raised a Christian I currently follow no organized religion and that all organized religions are a scam.

                    I have faith, which is enough for me and my God.

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                  • Your arguement style reminds me strongly of a true believer conservative so I thought pointing it out might provoke some thought.

                    Wow, the big tent democrats have really lost their moral compass, to them:

                    • Calling out and refusing to pander to those that use vile rhetoric to slander their opponents is now an example of true believer conservatism.
                    • Pointing out that the publication and continued support of debunked racist materials is a form of racism is now an example of true believer conservatism.

                    I thought both of those things were examples of Democratic ideals.

                    Whatever happened to the Democratic Party that stood for certain ideals and welcomed all comers who believed in those ideals? We didn’t want true believers we just wanted believers, what we got instead was accommodators, those willing to trade Democratic ideals for “political wins”.

                     

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                    • Reading comprehension fail here old shoe. I observed that your shrill inflexible pearl clutching reminded me of the prissy argument style that some of the more crusty right wing Christians indulge in. Just because you’re imitating their failed argument styles doesn’t make you one their belief group, it just makes you a bad debater.

                      Sullivan was called out and not pandered to when he did his over the top raving during the dark days of the beginning of the Iraq fiasco. That’s part of the reason he has repeatedly recanted.

                      The book in question may have some counter arguements against it but the idea that a carefully written is equivalent to some ku klux scrawl written on a billboard in the south is pathetic. Materials like The Bell Curve should be refuted with counter arguements, facts and empirical research. Not be screaming “that’s racist” and then covering one’s ears.

                      The Democratic party, in my eyes, is doing tolerably well. I can understand your frustration; I feel it in a way. I mean here I have an elder, a fellow lefty and a compatriot with whom I share no doubt many a principal screeching around like some brittle easily incensed schoolmarm (apologies to all school marms out there) over a doughy (and no little bit fey) immigrant Brit and a rather academically written if controversial book and making all of us left wingers look the fool.

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                    • Since the site won’t let me respond directly to your post I’ll respond here.

                      ———-

                      Sullivan was called out and not pandered to when he did his over the top raving during the dark days of the beginning of the Iraq fiasco. That’s part of the reason he has repeatedly recanted.

                       I guess you believe his repeated apologizes, I don’t.

                      I’ve given you my reason above as to why I don’t believe his apologizes. Additionally, I also believe that the first opportunity he gets to slander future opponents with similar language he will do so. He is not a friend of the Democratic Party, he doesn’t believe in our ideals, so I’m kind of wondering why you are expending the energy defending him?

                      ———-

                      The book in question may have some counter arguements against it but the idea that a carefully written is equivalent to some ku klux scrawl written on a billboard in the south is pathetic. Materials like The Bell Curve should be refuted with counter arguements, facts and empirical research. Not be screaming “that’s racist” and then covering one’s ears.

                      The book in question has been refuted with counter arguments, facts and empirical research in multiple academic papers by scientist from multiple disciplines, yet you seem to bending over backwards to give it the benefit of the doubt. Again, I’m kind of wondering why you are expending the energy to defend this book?

                      ———-

                      I mean here I have an elder, a fellow lefty and a compatriot with whom I share no doubt many a principal screeching around like some brittle easily incensed schoolmarm (apologies to all school marms out there) over a doughy (and no little bit fey) immigrant Brit and a rather academically written if controversial book and making all of us left wingers look the fool.

                      Wow, a lot of sly insulting going on in this statement; I’ll refrain from responding in kind and only respond to the actual facts of your comment.

                      The book is not “controversial”, it’s a racist hit job in an academic cover, this a fact confirmed by numerous peer reviewed scientific papers, of course it should be shouted down. Why is this so difficult for you to accept?

                      If this fey immigrant fop was as inconsequential as you seem to  suggest this conversation would never had begun, so since we’re two days into this discussion I guess that kind of refutes your point.

                      The only leftist fools I see are those willing to accept the repeated apologies of their acknowledged opponent. You’re Charlie Brown to Sullivan’s Lucy, I’m Linus. Who’s the fool in that scenario; Charlie Brow for believing Lucy will let him kick the football or Linus for telling Charlie Brown not to believe Lucy.

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                    •  

                      If you don’t believe his apologies, well that’s the end of it for you but it’s far from dispositive to me or anyone else. It’s your opinion, not a fact, and I find it deeply unpersuasive. If Sullvan has apologized (he has, repeatedly) then I will take that at face value and move on; I’m a liberal, not an inquisitor. If you have the power to read peoples souls over the internet then your powers should be used for more important good than throwing names at Sullivan. I expend energy defending Sullivan (and to a lesser degree The Bell Curve)because I disagree with your conclusion, I disagree with your reasoning, I disagree with your methodology and I disagree with your tone. I think it harms our communal cause, fails to persuade (and indeed turns against us) those who are undecided and weakens our ability to argue against our opponents. I also disagree with your selection of opponents. Sullivan is not much of a liberal but he sure ain’t a movement conservative (more specifically he’s a movement conservative apostate). He makes much more salient criticisms of conservatives than many of the more reliably left wing writers I read, therefore he’s an ally and a valuable one at that.

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  10. Obama’s a right-winger?  If you paint midfield at the 30-yard line.  There’s not much for anyone outside the lefty bubble to comment on here.  Basically, his presidency has been dilatory: he did a handful of things when his party controlled congress, then has spent his time complaining after he lost it.

    Barack Obama is a left-winger, his own Congress more center-left [which is why he couldn’t get more done, thank God], the GOP center-right to right.  That’s if you paint the 50-yard line at America’s 50-yard line.

    As for those polls that support the Dem-left agenda, most any benefit will win if the costs aren’t mentioned.  When the whole picture is presented

    A new poll shows that most voters want the Supreme Court to overturn President Obama’s health care law, with opposition and support falling largely along party lines.

    Overall, voters oppose the law by 48%-40%, according to the Quinnipiac University survey. Democrats support the Obama health care effort by 70%-19%, while Republicans oppose it by 86%-8%.

    The Quinnipiac survey found independent voters opposed to the law by 45%-38%.

    http://content.usatoday.com/communities/theoval/post/2011/11/poll-voters-want-court-to-kill-obama-health-care-law/1

    Them’s the facts, Jack.

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  11. Mr. Gach, you wrote: “By all meaningful measures Obama is a right of center President.  In theory he was liberal, hence why the idea of him so appealed to liberals, but in practice he has been anything but.”

    If I took rhetorical license, it was very very little.

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    • Name one economic or foreign policy proposed by Obama that is more liberal than LBJ, Nixon, or Carter.

      Health Care? Obama is more market oriented;

      Social Safety Net? Obama is more restrictive;

      Corporate regulation? Obama is more lassiez-faire;

      Taxes? Obama has proposed lower tax rates than any of the three I mentioned.

      Foreign policy? Obama could only be more hawkish if he sat astride a missile and yeehaawed his way to Armageddon.

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      • The question is what BHO would have done if his leadership weren’t dilatory.  We would have single-payer; he would have closed Gitmo; we would have much higher taxes on the rich than the Clinton rates.

        • He has already blown the negotiations with the Iraqi government leading to an expiration of our troop presence.
        • He has killed hundreds of thousands of jobs in the energy sector with his enviro-regulatory delaying tactics.
        • He killed DADT and declines to defend DOMA.
        • He embraced the Arab Spring without any consideration of the unintended consequences.
        • He has done nothing about Iran’s nukes, and declined to support their dissidents.
        • He hung the Czechs out to dry on the missile shield.
        • He wants to cut the military budget, against the protest of Leon Panetta, his own Sec of Defense.
        • He single-mindedly agitates for raising taxes on the rich.
        • He has left the ballooning entitlement red ink completely unaddressed.
        • He semi-nationalized the auto industry and dispossesed bondholders and stockholders. [See also AIG and Maurice Greenberg’s lawsuit.]

        This is only a partial list.  Barack Obama has done enough damage to make any reasonable liberal happy.  Were he not incompetent and lazy while he held Congress [incl 60 votes in the Senate], I do concede liberals could be even happier.  But enough of this ‘right-of-center” business, achieved only by cherry-picking the issues.

         

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        • So Tom, let’s consider your list. You have him:

          • Following his Republican predecessors time table in Iraq.
          • Doing things he didn’t really do related to environmental regulation.
          • Doing something actually liberal.
          • Promoting democracy in the Middle East, something his predecessor focused on extensively.
          • Not doing things he’s actually done (see recent news about sanctions). He hasn’t started another war, to be sure, but hey, Libya!
          • Is still going forward with missile defense, despite its almost universally acknowledged uselessness and the way it’s really pissing off the Russians.
          • Cutting the military budget nominally
          • Wants to raise taxes on the rich from historically low levels (even Saint Regan talked about the problem of undertaxing the rich).
          • Hasn’t addressed bureaucracy, unlike the only president in recent history to do so, Clinton.
          • Successfully revived the American auto industry, saving tens of thousands of jobs.

          So, you have him doing 1 liberal thing, a bunch of things that could easily have been done by Republicans, though you’ve framed them almost cleverly to make them sound like they must be liberal, because icky! Yeah, you’ve got Obama’s number, Tom! Apparently, however, you’ve never met an actual liberal.

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        • Going by that list, most of America is “left” then. Large majorities support us leaving Iraq, raising taxes on the rich, and repealing DADT.

          Also, what Chris said. Now, do I think Obama is more liberal than the bills he has signed? Of course. But look at the things in foreign policy, which Congress has little control over. He hasn’t acted like Barbara Lee or Dennis Kucinich.

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          • Oh, America wants Obama destroying jobs with his eco-agenda? Everything Obama was able to do on his own without the approval of Congress is very left.

            Does America agree? We’ll see.  The point is that he did many things for the left to be happy about.

            As for Kucinich and Barbara Lee, that would be “far left.”  BHO is not far left, but it would be interesting to see how close he could get to those two.

            As for Chris cleverly rewriting my list, even if we stipulate it, it falls far short of “right of center.” Which was the point, Chris.  Focus, man, focus.

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        • Tom:

          Nutshell, I agree, he’s not right-of-center.  He is, however, only a tad left-of-center.

          • He has already blown the negotiations with the Iraqi government leading to an expiration of our troop presence.

          Isn’t that the expiration date that was put into place before he took office?  Are you suggesting that we should stay longer?

          • He has killed hundreds of thousands of jobs in the energy sector with his enviro-regulatory delaying tactics.

          Hundreds of thousands?  Citation need, you’re usually not that lazy :)

          • He killed DADT and declines to defend DOMA.

          Point.  Both of these are socially liberal causes.

          • He embraced the Arab Spring without any consideration of the unintended consequences.

          I’m not sure that’s entirely fair.  Isn’t the Arab Spring (theoretically, ex-post) exactly what Bush was aiming for in the invasion of Iraq?  Granted that there will be consequences, what route is the “more conservative” route to take?

          • He has done nothing about Iran’s nukes, and declined to support their dissidents.

          Iran has no nukes.  I will grant you a point that he has declined to support their dissidents.  This has been a problem since 1971, a pox on both parties.

          • He hung the Czechs out to dry on the missile shield.

          The missile shield is practically non-feasible at the present time.  It may be bad politics dealing with the Czechs, as they might feel abandoned, but it might also be good politics dealing with the Russkies.  In any event, the missile shield is vaporware.  Hm, I’ll add that to the list of posts about Nukes.  Which reminds me, I owe a post about Nukes.

          • He wants to cut the military budget, against the protest of Leon Panetta, his own Sec of Defense.

          Even a good number of fiscally responsible conservatives want to cut the military budget.  As do libertarians, liberals, and socialists.  I don’t know that this data point tells us anything other than “Obama is not an interventionist hawk”, which is itself != conservative, so “not being an interventionist hawk” also != “must be a librul”.

          • He single-mindedly agitates for raising taxes on the rich.

          56% of the country agrees with raising taxes on the rich.  This might be a point for “Obama has OCD about rich people”, or “Obama’s pandering to populists”, but I don’t see “raising taxes to still be less than Reagan had them” as particularly far left of center.

          • He has left the ballooning entitlement red ink completely unaddressed.

          Point.  There are two ways of dealing with red ink: raise revenue, cut expenses.  Most people support a mix of both.  One party is refusing the raise revenue part.  Again, this shows that Obama isn’t particularly a Rightie, but it still puts him in the wheelhouse of “left-of or right-of” center.

          • He semi-nationalized the auto industry and dispossesed bondholders and stockholders. [See also AIG and Maurice Greenberg’s lawsuit.]

          I’ll agree with the first half, the second half is only arguably relevant since bankruptcy probably would have zeroed ’em out anyway.  Certainly, though, this is an intervention that would not have gone through if he was fairly right-of-center.

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        • * Good, troops should leave anyway.
          * Considering the disasters we’ve seen recently, more scrutiny is understandable.  Of course, I’d rather we stop subsidizing ANY form of energy and replace the regulatory mess with a simple resource usage fee & the revocation of liability limits, but I’m nuts & we get what we get.
          * Good, government has no legitimate reason to care anyway.
          * On this I agree with you.  The only support we should’ve given was the zeroing out of aid and relations with the oppressing regimes in question.
          * If Iran wants nukes, it’s because they think without them we will invade them.  As for their dissidents, U.S. support would just get them killed faster.
          * 9/11 should’ve killed off any talk of the worth of a missile shield.
          * Good, it needs to be cut even harder actually.  What we have is an offense, not defense.
          * He’s talking out of both sides of his mouth on this by continuing the favors the FIRE sector gets.  There’s argument that if those favors are going to continue then compensation for them is justified, but the way you do that is a financial transaction tax, not by Clinton rates on income.
          * On this you’re completely correct.
          * You have a point, but Greenberg’s lawsuit is bullshrimp.  How the hell do you complain that the terms of a bailout you never should’ve gotten in the first place were too harsh?  AIG should’ve burned.

           

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            • Attorneys are basically whores, at least those in private practice. They may serve a valuable public purpose, and be the proverbial “whore with a heart of gold” but David Boies private convictions, assuming he has any, are no more relevant than Ken Starr’s successful defense of gay rights as opposed to his obsessive pursuit of the Clenis. One assumes the client checks cashed either way.

              Apparently Boies calender was clear enough to take on a big dollar client. BFD.

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  12. “Apart from that how did you like the play Mrs Lincoln?”

    I am of the generation of progressives who grew up chanting ‘L, L, LBJ how many kids did you kill today?’ Yet in retrospect he delivered a huge part of what economic and social justice we achieved in the last 50 years. And Nixon might as well have his face carved on a future Environmental Mt Rushmore compared to his successors in either party.

    It wasn’t supposed to be this way, LBJ and Nixon were practically the definition of reaction, how the fuck did they retrospectively become the face of liberalism? I still believe Obama has good intentions but he is the Woodrow Wilson of our century, a man who endorsed the liberal project even as in practice putting in place a repressive national security state. We may have never been less free as a people than under ‘liberal’ Wilson’s sedition acts. As the premier philosophical genius of the last century once explained “déjà vu all over again”. And in more recent years: “Cash. Almost as good as money” Yogi. smarter than the average catcher. Then again traditionally the catcher’s mask and vest were dubbed “the tools of ignorance” so there you go.

    Which gets us back to Obama and Chait. It is like the New Deal and the Great Society never happened. Somehow progress got thrown in retrograde, a literal contradiction in terms. Never in my wildest nightmares did I picture LBJ as representing Peak Liberalism. Are ya kidding me?

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  13. Some people tell me Obama is a raving leftist liberal.

    Some people (as you do here) tell me he is a right of center traitor to his cause.

    I am forced to conclude that language no longer means anything.  The center cannot hold.

    Seriously, if people can say both these things with a straight face, the words liberal and conservative, left and right, are functionally useless. Discourse, political or otherwise, is no longer possible, because the words we used don’t mean a damn thing.

    The bowels of our language have been wholly evacuated of meaning by that ungodly laxative, the politics of emotion.  The sphincter of reason has quivered and failed; it can no longer hold back the tide.

    The tide is crap.  That’s the metaphor.

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