the lead journalist for Democracy
Now!, has been traveling around the country, giving talks, and
promoting her book Standing
Up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times.
This (standing up to the madness) is inherently difficult.
The photo shows her discussing a video of her
arrest in St. Paul, while covering the Republican convention in
Goodman happens to be one of our more important journalists: not only
has she won the Izzy
Award, she has been mentioned ~30 times here on
One of the themes that Ms. Goodman develops is that of social
justice. In her talk, she focused on the relationship between
unencumbered media and social justice. She provided numerous
examples of how mass media have become encumbered; most prominently, by
government influences. Police repression is one. This is
part of the broader canvas that includes fear, terror, and
Not surprisingly, she’s critical of Obama’s stance on torture.
Yes, he is closing Gitmo. Yes, he released the torture
memos. Yes, he is pulling some of our troops out of Iraq.
But he has not pursued prosecution of the torture perpetrators, even
though his failure to do so is probably a
violation of international law.
Yet, Ms. Goodman is not dismissive of Obama. Indeed, throughout
her talk, she expressed respect for him. In part, this was an
expression of the care that journalists ought to take, to separate the
issues from the persons involved.
It is notable that Ms. Goodman refrains from overt criticism of
Obama. It would be simple — even tempting — for her to engage
this in the way that Olbermann did:
She does not really explain this, but offers a clue. The clue
comes in her telling an anecdote about an exchange between Obama and
some supporters at a pre-election fundraiser. The supporters were
telling him to adopt a certain position with regard to the Middle
East. As Goodman reported in a prior
article, told again at the talk:
…Continuing the story, Belafonte recounted what FDR
replied upon hearing Randolph’s remarks: “You know, Mr. Randolph, I’ve
heard everything you’ve said tonight, and I couldn’t agree with you
more. I agree with everything that you’ve said, including my capacity
to be able to right many of these wrongs and to use my power and the
bully pulpit. … But I would ask one thing of you, Mr. Randolph, and
that is go out and make me do it.”
This story was retold by Obama at a campaign fundraiser in Montclair,
N.J., more than a year ago. It was in response to a person asking Obama
about finding a just solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
After recounting the Randolph story, Obama said he was just one person,
that he couldn’t do it alone. Obama’s final answer: “Make me do it.”
That’s the challenge.
So is Ms. Goodman telling us that Obama has his heart in the right
place, that he wants to do the right thing, but he needs some political
pressure to do so?
That is the implication. She’s a journalist, she does not really
know what Obama wants to do, and she knows that she doesn’t really know
what is going on inside his head. But she does know that this is
a possibility. Obama may believe that it would not be politically
feasible for him to step up and press for prosecution. But if he
does so in response to political pressure, perhaps he would have a
better chance of success. This is high-level political
gamesmanship. There is no way for ordinary folks to know the
rules, much less the finer points of strategy.
If she is correct, then this is the challenge: we have to make him do
it. Perhaps this is the audacity of hope. Although we can
hope, we cannot sit around and wait for him to do the right