Saturday, May 28, 2005


Visualize Victory - Obama, pt 2


I think the aforementioned worry about Obama is misplaced, for the reasons I gave in the previous post. But that's not to say I don't understand the fear people have of the feckless and lumbering 'DNC machine'. Such a 'machine' does still exist, but what is it really? For lack of a better term, I'd call it the DNC 'Consultantocracy', in league with the 'old guard' pols - the people who've brought us defeat and decline. But I'd submit that, to the extent they matter now, this Blob is taking their cues from the new younger politicians like Obama, John Edwards and Howard Dean, and operatives like Simon Rosenberg, rather than the other way around. I'm sure this transformation isn't complete, but that is clearly the trend. If you want to worry about the 'old guard' and 'cogs in a machine', worry about Kerry - and, to some extent, Hillary Clinton - in '08, not Obama now.

As far as interpreting Obama's 'civility' and 'playing the game' goes, the key dynamic to understand here is assertion vs reaction. Democrats have been in 'reaction mode' for 25-30 years. Reacting is acceding to your opponent's agenda. Obama is being courteous, careful, respectful - by choice. He could easily have decided to be a "progressive's" wet dream, a firebrand, a loud, lonely voice, etc. But he's more sly than that. He chose not to be that. At this point, the real political power comes from deciding your own route, from saying: 'You Republicans don't ruffle me at all; I don't care about your provocations and your cheap theatre - hey, knock yourselves out! I/we are going to calmly, deliberately build a new agenda and make YOU react to US. In the long run, we're not worried about you at all, politically; we will take you apart piece by piece: keep your eye on us 'new guys', because you have no idea what we're going to do'.

Building a new agenda means being constructive and serious, compromising when you can (like the very Senate-ish courtesy votes on Rice and Negroponte - votes which don't affect the outcome anyway), and being firm when you can't (Gonzales; bankruptcy). Kill them with kindness and beat them with steely resolve. Most voters don't care about the old liberal/conservative tropes, and they're right not to: what do they mean anymore? Let the Republicans wallow in their aging construct: their brittle ideological castle will be their political hospice. Let them do that while truly new (not 'New') Democrats methodically build a different and much more relevant structure around them, which, BTW, will be a broad coalition, not a insurgent 'wing' of the Democratic party (sorry).

Don't worry about Senator Obama. Act, don't react.

[UPDATE: The reason this stuff sticks in my craw is that Mr Sirrota has done to Obama precisely what (qualitatively) Bush/Cheney/Rove did to Kerry. It's very easy to take Congressional votes out of context - most especially in the rarified world of the Senate - and make them seem to mean what you want. If you happened to skim Mr Sirrota's piece and not actually check on - contextualize - his charges, you could, in good faith, decide that Sen. Obama is selling out, somehow. Sirrota flings misleading charges at the Senator, and then quotes an unnamed 'political scientist' who speculates about cynical motives for these presumed 'offences'. This is a textbook hit piece, no different from one a Republican would write. The only difference is that this one is a 'friendly' hit piece. WTF?! Circular firing squad....]

[Cross-posted at Total Information Awareness ]

Friday, May 27, 2005


Circular Firing Squad, part 2,593 (this year)


Apropos TTN's post yesterday about political parties rationalizing internal dissent, we get, as if on cue, David Sirrota's "What Happened to Barack Obama"? Sirrota writes:

...his first six months in office have given progressives a reason to be worried that he will be just another cog in the Establishment's machine, throwing his significant political capital behind some of the worst initiatives to move through Congress.

The 'worst initiatives'? Really? Like what?

Despite his anti-war positions as a candidate in 2004, Obama's second vote as a U.S. Senator was in support of confirming Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State. He also voted to confirm John Negroponte as Director of National Intelligence, despite Negroponte's involvement in Iran-Contra and other situations that clearly raise questions about his ethics and discretion.

Condoleezza may be an 'intellectual tart' , and Negroponte certainly does have an odious past, but this is the Senate, folks. You have to choose your battles. Senators traditionally confirm most of a president's nominees for anything, unless they are truly beyond the pale, like now-AG Gonzales, whose nomination Obama voted NOT to confirm, eloquently explaining why at the time.

Obama also voted for a bill to limit citizens rights to seek legal redress against abusive corporations.

This was the class-action lawsuit bill. Honorable people can disagree about this one. I'll leave it to the legal scholars to argue the merits, but it's hardly among the 'worst' initiatives to move through congress lately. I notice Sirrota doesn't bother to argue the merits. Knee-jerk is so much easier.

During the bankruptcy debate, he helped vote down a Democratic amendment to cap the abusive interest rates credit card companies could charge.

Obama (and Kerry) voted against this amendment because it would've overridden state laws limiting interest rates. Of course, Obama voted against the heinous Bankruptcy Bill itself.

And now, Obama cast a key procedural vote in support of President Bush's right-wing judges.

This was a 'key' vote? Nice wordplay, David. This was a fait accompli. Obama voted to avoid the nuclear option - voted to live to fight another day (SCOTUS-time).

Obama was supposed to be different - he was supposed to be a real progressive champion.

Projection anyone? Obama is exactly what he seemed to be. He never mislead anyone into thinking he was going to be Bernie Sanders. If people mislead themselves, that's not Barack's fault.

Senator Obama's record so far (six months) - both his votes and his statements - is very very good. He is one of the brightest lights of the Democratic party, and will probably be a national leader one of these days - if ideologues from his own party don't strangle him in his crib first.

Nothing 'happened' to Barack Obama. Let go of your pickle, David.

[Cross-posted at Total Information Awareness ]

Sunday, May 08, 2005


'The Cold War' For Dummies

A central insight of Harry Frankfurt's essay 'On Bullshit' is that the bullshitter is dangerous in a way different from the liar because the liar, as such, must at least know what the truth is, whereas the bullshitter needn't know or even care. To rephrase Nadezhda , perception may be reality, but facts aren't even facts. Bush the Lesser has bewitched his critics by simply keeping them guessing - is he stupid? ignorant? visionary? It's an innovation Bush will be remembered for: the strategic seasickness of the first throughly post modernist presidency. He will literally say anything. (What are 'words' anyway? Just sounds arranged into patterns, really.) However you credit all the Trotskiana/Straussissimo intellectual pretentions of this gang, Bush himself really is a cipher, and in a more complete way than any other modern, including Saint Ronnie. Welcome to the Peter Principle Stage of empire.

George and the Beanstalk, Chapter Umteen

What did Bush get for his oblivious, ahistorical, pointless, straight-out-of-1950s-Reader's Digest smear of FDR and Churchill on Saturday?

Bush said the agreement in 1945 at Yalta among President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Soviet leader Josef Stalin and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill ''followed in the unjust tradition of Munich and the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact."

What did he get in return for his mock-profound revision? For (yet again) rhetorically cracking America's united face to the world? For attempting to make the world itself 'partisan'? 1.) a little red meat for his freeper/neocon constituency; 2.) a little self-aggrandizing Reagan identification; 3.) the appearance (and it could be more than that) of supporting democracy in Belarus and standing up to Putin (however contingent on what kind of government would eventually be elected there); and 4.) a chance to bolster some of the few remaining members of his 'coalition of the willing' (Belarus, Georgia and Latvia, who've 'collectively' contributed a full 280 soldiers to the fight). Such a deal.

We can never know what young Dubya would've done in FDR's place - with Poland already fully occupied by the Soviets, with a 12 million man Red Army in Europe, and the Russians already in the suburbs of Berlin; and with an unfinished war in the Pacific. Perhaps he would've looked into Stalin's eyes, and found a good soul.

It's very sad that, likely, few take what the American president says very seriously anymore. But for all that, one's also thankful for it, in the present case.

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