I will not be actively supporting Obama’s reelection next year. I will not donate money to his campaign. I will not even put a sign on my lawn. In the end I will vote for him, but only because to do otherwise would be to reward the Republicans for their appalling and unpatriotic behavior over the last four years. And if Obama loses next year to some Republican lunatic, I won’t be shedding any tears for him.

I am hardly the first liberal to notice that, after a few decent legislative accomplishments early in his term, it’s been one betrayal after another from our supposedly progressive President. While the Republicans make a fool out of him time and time again, the only ones for whom he and his flacks have any harsh words are “the professional left” and Paul Krugman. At a time when the Republicans are accelerating their plans for dismantling the meager social safety net we have and redistributing wealth upwards, Obama seems to have no interest at all in articulating an alternative vision for America’s future. He has been acting like the Republican caricature of a Democrat: spineless, lacking conviction, and sticking his finger in the political wind. I haven’t the faintest idea what he thinks should be done on much of anything.

In response to those of us who have noticed Obama’s inadequacies, a counter-meme has developed among certain left-leaning bloggers. Here’s the normally reliable Kevin Drum, for example:

Honest to God, Republicans must all be sitting in their back rooms and just cackling like hell right now. Think about it. They developed a strategy to hamstring the president completely — a strategy that’s bulletproof thanks to our country’s Constitution — knowing that it would rally their base but also hoping that it would cause moderates and lefties alike to become disgusted with Obama’s weakness even though we all know who’s really responsible for what’s going on. And it worked! In fact, it’s worked better than they could possibly have imagined. They can probably barely keep from spitting up their beers right now.

We are such chumps.

After the Democrats got creamed in the 1994 congressional elections, some Republicans were spreading the meme that then President Clinton had become irrelevant. Of course, Clinton proved them wrong by humiliating them in one conflict after another. To judge from Drum’s remark, Obama really is irrelevant. Frankly, if Obama really is as helpless as Drum suggests, and if you’re a chump for thinking that he deserves any measure of blame for the recent policy disasters the Republicans have successfully implemented, then maybe I should just vote for Republicans and be done with it.

The latest version of the meme comes from Jonathan Alter. Apparently those of us who think maybe Obama hasn’t lived up to his promise are simply confused. Actually he’s been a splendid President. Alter writes:

Tell me again why Barack Obama has been such a bad president? I’m not talking here about him as a tactician and communicator. We can agree that he has played some bad poker with Congress. And let’s stipulate that at the moment he’s falling short in the intangibles of leadership.

A remarkable opening. Playing poker with Congress and exhibiting strong leadership are not minor distractions from the real business of being President. They are actually central to the job, and by conceding that Obama is lousy at them I’d say Alter has answered his own question.

Skipping ahead, Alter writes:

Like everyone else, I’ve got my list of Obama mistakes, from failing to break up the banks in early 2009 to neglecting to force a vote on ending the Bush tax cuts when the Democrats still controlled Congress. He shouldn’t have raised hopes with “Recovery Summer” and “Winning the Future” until the economy was more durable. I could go on.

But do these miscalculations really mean it’s time for him to go?

That’s called moving the goalposts. We started with the question of why Obama has been a bad President. Alter is doing a good job of answering that question himself. But Obama is fortunate that his opponents are so openly contemptuous of anyone who isn’t a millionaire or a religious fanatic that his reelection can be justified on the grounds that, as incredible as it seems, the alternatives are even worse. That hardly means he hasn’tbeen a bad President.

Here’s another one:

From the left: “He should have pushed for a much bigger stimulus in 2009.”

That’s the view of New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, now gospel among liberals. It’s true economically but bears no relationship to the political truth of that period. Consider that in December 2008, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, a hardcore liberal Democrat, proposed a $165 billion stimulus and said he would be ecstatic if it went to $300 billion. President- elect Obama wanted to go over $1 trillion but was told by House Democrats that it absolutely wouldn’t pass. In exchange for the votes of three Republicans in the Senate he needed for passage, Obama reduced the stimulus to $787 billion, which was still almost five times Rendell’s number and the largest amount that was politically possible.

You would think that the economic truth of the assertion would count for something. At the least it should mean that people who raise this issue should not be dismissed snidely as blind followers of Paul Krugman. That’s all the more true when you consider that Krugman’s job is make sound economic arguments, and not to assess the political feasibility of implementing various policies.

But let’s grant, for the sake of argument, that Alter is right about the politics. In that case Obama should have said forthrightly that while the stimulus bill would do a lot of good it is not adequate to pull us out of the deep hole that we’re in. The evidence is now in, and it is pretty darn clear that the stimulus had a major, positive effect, precisely as standard economic theory predicted.

Instead he spent months telling us about green shoots and about how the economy was clearly on the road to recovery. And now that it’s completely obvious that the economy is not on the road to recovery Obama just looks foolish. The result is that the whole idea of stimulus has been discredited, to the point where it is now politically unthinkable to suggest such a thing. He handed the Republicans exactly what they wanted. They can now argue with renewed vigor that Democrats are just reckless spendthrifts, and that the only real solution to our economic problems is to make massive cuts to anything that benefits poor and middle class people. For his part, Obama has completely absorbed this message, and now apparently sees his job as making Republican-proposed budget cuts very slightly less draconian than they would otherwise be.

Of course, the big-ticket item right now is the debt deal. Truly it’s hard to imagine how Obama’s handling of the situation could have been more hapless. But here’s Alter:

Again, from all sides: “He looked weak during the debt- limit debate.”

Yep. And if you were president and a group of extremists was pointing a gun at the head of the American economy, what would you have done? Invoking the 14th Amendment sounded satisfying, but a constitutional crisis layered on top of a debt-limit crisis would have been a fiasco, and probably would have ensured default as world markets spent months wondering who in the U.S. had the authority to pay our bills.

What is wrong with Alter? Why the “yep”? Why the bemused tone, as though he’s reveling in Democratic helplessness? Why the implication that the only alternative to complete capitulation was invoking the 14th Amendment?

What should Obama have done? Well, he could have made raising the debt limit a priority back in December 2010 when the Democrats still controlled the Congress. Instead he said this:

Look, here’s my expectation — and I’ll take John Boehner at his word — that nobody, Democrat or Republican, is willing to see the full faith and credit of the United States government collapse, that that would not be a good thing to happen. And so I think that there will be significant discussions about the debt limit vote. That’s something that nobody ever likes to vote on. But once John Boehner is sworn in as Speaker, then he’s going to have responsibilities to govern. You can’t just stand on the sidelines and be a bomb thrower.

Who can read that today without crying?

Instead of spending months engaged in obviously pointless negotiations with Republicans, instead of waiting to the last minute and then giving one effete, ineffective, embarrassing speech after another about how we need a balanced approach and it would, you know, be a good idea to raise the debt limit, Obama could have gone on the offensive early. He could have made it a major talking point in every public appearance, scaring the crap out of everyone about what would happen if the country defaulted. He could have said early on that the only deal was a clean extension of the debt limit, and if the Republicans were determined to play chicken then he could have geared up for the blame game. He could have tried to bring some political pressure on the Tea Partiers, to make sure they paid a price for their recklessness and stupidity. In short, he could have explained over and over again, in clear, forceful prose, exactly what would happen if the country defaulted.

It has become fashionable to describe the Tea Partiers as terrorists. Now, I happen to be among those who believe that the English language lacks the resources to adequately describe how loathsome and immoral and unpatriotic and just flat stupid the Tea Partiers are. But for all of that let’s not lose sight of two simple facts. The first is that all they actually did was refuse to vote for something that did not reflect their interests. McConnell briefly threatened a filibuster, but for the most part they were not using procedural gimmicks to prevent a deal from coming to a vote. The second is that the effect of their intransigence was that they got nearly everything they wanted and the country didn’t default. There’s a reason you’re not supposed to negotiate with terrorists. They were not made to suffer in the slightest for their hostage-taking.

After the debt deal, John Boehner was crowing that he got ninety-eight percent of what he wanted. If the difference between Obama and, say, a President Perry is that other two percent then why should I sweat the difference? Right now it’s the worst of all worlds. We have Republican policies being implemented by a Democratic President.

And so it goes. The health care bill? Even leaving aside the fact that the Supreme Court will almost certainly find the bill unconstitutional, it could only be defended on the grounds that it was, at least, an improvement over the complete disaster we currently have, and might perhaps serve as the basis for future reforms. It was the product of horribly inept tactics on the part of the President, in which he spent months in his trademark pointless negotiations, allowed his opponents to frame the issue entirely in their terms, and made his opening position far to the right of where he should have been? The Dodd-Frank bill, meanwhile, has already been gutted to pointlessness.

As for foreign policy, he got Bin Laden. I’m ecstatic, really. But he also doubled down in Afghanistan, which was pretty clearly the wrong decision. He briefly showed signs of trying to bring Israel, currently in thrall to its own version of the Tea Party, to its senses, but he backed down immediately as soon as he got some push back.

Unimpressive stuff, but ultimately none of that is the reason for the tendentious title of this post. Rather, it is Obama’s complete unwillingness to use the bully pulpit that makes him so ineffective. Unions are under attack like never before from Republican governors in states like Ohio and Wisconsin. The Republicans are supremely unpopular in these states as a result, but Obama can’t run away from the unions quickly enough. Preposterous regulations are being passed in state after state for the sole purpose of curtailing abortion rights. Is Obama troubled by this? If anyone asked him directly what he thinks of this trend do you think for one second he would give an unambiguously pro-choice response? Right now House Republicans are blocking emergency relief for states affected by Hurricane Irene on the grounds that such funding has to be offset by cuts elsewhere. Any response from Obama? Republicans have used procedural gimmicks to leave something like eighteen percent of all government positions unfilled. Have you ever heard Obama point that out to people?

For that matter, when was the last time you heard him say anything that wasn’t just standard boilerplate?

Let’s compare that quickly with two examples of what Republicans do. Earlier this year they came out with the Ryan Budget, which featured a plan to basically end Medicare. Every poll showed it was incredibly unpopular. It led to a Republican defeat in the special election in New York’s 26th district, a dark red district if ever there was one. But have the Republicans backed down? Did they whine about how politically unpopular it was and retreat to safer ground? Not at all. They’ve doubled down on the idea, to the point that Paul Ryan was seriously discussed as a possible Presidential candidate.

Or consider NJ Governor Chris Christie’s recent defense of Sohail Mohammed, a Muslim attorney he nominated for a judgeship. Responding to right-wing bloggers who made an issue of Mohammed’s religion, Christie said:

Sharia law has nothing to do with this at all. It’s crazy. It’s crazy. The guy’s an American citizen who has been an admitted lawyer to practice in the state of New Jersey, swearing an oath to uphold the laws of New Jersey, the constitution of the state of New Jersey, and the Constitution of the United States of America…this sharia law business is crap. It’s just crazy. And I’m tired of dealing with the crazies. It’s just unnecessary to be accusing this guy of things just because of his religious background.

Bravo. And when you consider that Christie might actually have ambitions for higher office, that actually took some courage given the environment in the Republican Party. Most of the time Christie is just a standard-issue right-winger, but with a few more statements like that he might just get me to vote for him. When was the last time Obama, or any other prominent Democrat, said something that clear and blunt?

Recently, psychologist Drew Westen published this lengthy essay in the New York Times, describing Obama’s failure in presenting a clear story to the American people. The essay is brilliant, and perfectly summarizes many of my own frustrations with Obama. Here’s an excerpt, but you should read the whole thing:

IN contrast, when faced with the greatest economic crisis, the greatest levels of economic inequality, and the greatest levels of corporate influence on politics since the Depression, Barack Obama stared into the eyes of history and chose to avert his gaze. Instead of indicting the people whose recklessness wrecked the economy, he put them in charge of it. He never explained that decision to the public — a failure in storytelling as extraordinary as the failure in judgment behind it. Had the president chosen to bend the arc of history, he would have told the public the story of the destruction wrought by the dismantling of the New Deal regulations that had protected them for more than half a century. He would have offered them a counternarrative of how to fix the problem other than the politics of appeasement, one that emphasized creating economic demand and consumer confidence by putting consumers back to work. He would have had to stare down those who had wrecked the economy, and he would have had to tolerate their hatred if not welcome it. But the arc of his temperament just didn’t bend that far.

Westen was widely pilloried for this in the blogosphere, mostly by the same people now trying to convince us that Obama’s apparent weakness and fecklessness is somehow a sign of his great political savvy. But Westen is right and his critics are wrong. Obama has failed utterly at reminding people that it was Republican policies that got us into this mess, and Republican intransigence that prevents us from doing anything serious about fixing our problems. His failure has been so complete that people have already forgotten the cataclysm of the Bush years, and he has now been reduced to implementing slightly watered-down forms of the same policies.

The whole thing reminds me of a memorable episode of the Batman television series from the 1960s, the one with Adam West and Burt Ward. In one episode Dr. Freeze crashes a party at stately Wayne manner. He forces the wealthy and powerful guests, including Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson, into a small wading pool and freezes the water so they can’t move. Then, in front of Gotham City’s most prominent citizens, actors pretending to be Batman and Robin show up. They have been hired by Dr. Freeze specifically to make Batman and Robin look foolish by being soundly defeated in a fight.

That’s how Obama looks to me. He’s like some Republican contrivance put in office specifically to make progressives look foolish. Republicans will be running against him for decades in precisely the same way they ran against Carter. If Obama is really as helpless in the face of Republican intransigence as people like Drum and Alter suggest, then why should I care if he gets reelected at all? And if people have already forgotten the disaster of the Bush years, then maybe they need a few more years of Republican rule to remind them.

Comments

  1. #1 Sascha Vongehr
    August 31, 2011

    Who cares whether you vote this or that party in a two party pseudo-democracy? You missed this post of the perhaps only science blogger who dares to actually take a scientific perspective on the 2012 election:
    http://www.science20.com/alpha_meme/2012_elections_crucial_science_and_secularism-81916

  2. #2 jt512
    August 31, 2011

    Jason Rosenhouse wrote:

    And if Obama loses next year to some Republican lunatic, I won’t be shedding any tears for him.

    I won’t be either, but I’ll be sure that my passport is current.

  3. #3 Tsintsadze
    August 31, 2011

    Well, yeah, there’s that. Plus all the mass murder. Don’t forget about that.

  4. #4 Miles
    August 31, 2011

    Loved the crack about English lacking the resources to describe the Tea Party. Hang on though – could that be a cunning ruse of theirs? If they do things stupid enough to be described they’ll get roasted. So they make they stay out of range by being more stupid, more venal, more mad than can be set out and analysed.

  5. #5 AbnormalWrench
    August 31, 2011

    “And if people have already forgotten the disaster of the Bush years, then maybe they need a few more years of Republican rule to remind them.”

    Since you already established the Obama administration has been supporting and extending most of Bush’s policies, I’m not sure if they’ll notice a difference when a Republican gets back in office. In fact, if Romney wins, I’d call that a swing to the left.

    “The health care bill? Even leaving aside the fact that the Supreme Court will almost certainly find the bill unconstitutional…”

    Really? What leads you to say that? All of the legal arguments I’ve heard say that would be extremely unlikely. (By legal arguments, I mean sane ones)

  6. #6 Ethan
    August 31, 2011

    As disappointing as Obama has been, his Supreme Court appointments have been sound. If anything, think of your vote making a difference in that, very important, regard.

  7. #7 Latka Gravas
    August 31, 2011

    I don’t suppose that running for President and actually being President could be two entirely different things, could they?

  8. #8 Wow
    August 31, 2011

    “In the end I will vote for him, but only because to do otherwise would be to reward the Republicans for their appalling and unpatriotic behavior over the last four years”

    So why should he care?

    In fact, since you aren’t putting personal money in, he now needs the money of the corporate interests even more.

    Don’t vote for him.

    Tell him and all his canvassers that you will not, since voting for the lesser evil is STILL voting for evil.

    If a significant proportion of the people who PROCLAIM that Obama is basically a republican and further right than Reagan tell Obama’s campaign this, they will either go honest and proclaim they’re basically rightwing and stop pretending to progressiveness, or decide that they could actually LOSE the election, go honest, and decide that the deal they make to gain power with the rightwing machine is not worth the cost in voters.

  9. #9 Wow
    August 31, 2011

    “Why the “yep”? Why the bemused tone, as though he’s reveling in Democratic helplessness? Why the implication that the only alternative to complete capitulation was invoking the 14th Amendment?”

    Because the Republicans are so extremely unelectable that he’s willing to vote for even the “moderately evil” and, to do so, must convince himself (and others) that this is not actually evil at all.

    It is how the Overton Window moves.

    TBH from my POV you and he aren’t that different, except that you at least refrain from deluding yourself that Obama’s actually any good.

    But you’ll still vote for him, so why should he (or his pals) change? They have you in their pocket until the Republicans start moving left.

    In effect, the republicans are still making your vote.

  10. #10 Wow
    August 31, 2011

    “When was the last time Obama, or any other prominent Democrat, said something that clear and blunt?”

    IIRC Al Franken does this a lot.

    However, he’s attacked by the right, of course, but ALSO attacked by the left (or at least the self-proclaimed left) of the democratic party because he’s not building bridges.

    Think of you in the Franken position and Brayton in the democratic party position and couch it in atheist discussion terms.

    The fact that you asked the question when I, an outsider, know of Al Franken shows how the machine refuses to give time to someone who is inconvenient in their rhetoric to the monetary interests.

  11. #11 Kel
    August 31, 2011

    Tell him and all his canvassers that you will not, since voting for the lesser evil is STILL voting for evil.

    The problem with this is not voting is a vote for a greater evil. There’s no high ground to take in not voting.

  12. #12 Wow
    August 31, 2011

    “The problem with this is not voting is a vote for a greater evil.”

    No it isn’t.

    Someone else has to vote for evil, but that’s not you. Is not foiling a murder murder? No.

    Not voting for a lesser evil is solely not voting for a lesser evil. Nothing more, nothing less.

    Voting for a lesser evil is voting for a bigger evil to come.

  13. #13 IW
    August 31, 2011

    Congratulations! People who think like you have just elected creationist wack-jobs Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann. Ever heard the phrase ‘Better the devil you know’?

  14. #14 Don Moyer
    August 31, 2011

    Guess you don’t remember that we got Reagan because progressives were dissatisfied with Carter.

  15. #15 Jan
    August 31, 2011

    If Obama has your vote, no matter what. Why would he listen to your concerns?

  16. #16 Orac
    August 31, 2011

    And if Obama loses next year to some Republican lunatic, I won’t be shedding any tears for him.

    Neither will I, but I will shed tears for my country.

  17. #17 Orac
    August 31, 2011

    Guess you don’t remember that we got Reagan because progressives were dissatisfied with Carter.

    Well, Jason does strike me as a bit young to have clear memories of Carter. :-)

  18. #18 Wow
    August 31, 2011

    “Guess you don’t remember that we got Reagan because progressives were dissatisfied with Carter.”

    And now you have Obama, who is LESS progressive than Reagan.

    So can you see now how voting for the lesser evil is voting for a greater one next time?

    “Neither will I, but I will shed tears for my country.”

    Aye, it would be a shame. Tears were and should have been shed when the USA entered WW2 (and WW1). But that doesn’t mean a stand should NOT be taken.

    Trust me, it won’t be any better for the rest of the world when the nutcases win.

    However, that will NOT be because you didn’t vote Obama, it would be

    1) Obama would not stop being evil

    2) Others WANTED the greater evil in

    NEITHER of which is YOUR fault.

  19. #19 Wow
    August 31, 2011

    “Congratulations! People who think like you have just elected creationist wack-jobs Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann.”

    Nope, people who voted for creationist whack-jobs like Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann elected creationist whack-jobs like Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann.

    It’s really quite strange how people INSIST that just because someone isn’t willing to play along with the lesser evil is committing the greater evil than actually voting for that greater evil.

    It must be because they CANNOT let themselves be wrong, and therefore CANNOT let voting for Obama be wrong.

  20. #20 Wow
    August 31, 2011

    NOTE: As Jason says, you’re ALREADY getting the politics of the nutjobs.

    Tell me, if the republican political action is so wrong, why do you keep voting it in (by voting for Obama despite his instituting those republican policies)?

    Vote Obama: Republican nutjobs get their way.
    Vote Republican nutjob: Republican nutjobs get their way.
    NOT Vote Obama: ***MAYBE*** Republican nutjobs get their way.

    So why is the last option the worst of all?

  21. #21 ecologist
    August 31, 2011

    I agree with everything you have to say about Obama’s lack of leadership and (apparently) courage.

    I disagree completely with your conclusion. If you really think that there wouldn’t be much difference between Obama and a Republican administration, you are deluding yourself. Wake the fuck up.

  22. #22 Orac
    August 31, 2011

    I disagree completely with your conclusion. If you really think that there wouldn’t be much difference between Obama and a Republican administration, you are deluding yourself. Wake the fuck up.

    Indeed. It’s a massive non sequitur to conclude that, just because Obama isn’t “progressive” enough that there’d be no difference between a second Obama administration and, say, a Bachmann or Perry administration.

    Of course, the sad thing is, if Obama loses, chances are, the economy will finally start to recover in 2013 or 2014, and whichever Republican is the next President will get the credit.

  23. #23 Jason Rosenhouse
    August 31, 2011

    Orac (@16)

    Neither will I, but I will shed tears for my country.

    Yes, my phrasing, “And if Obama loses next year to some Republican lunatic, I won’t be shedding any tears for him,” was carefully chosen!

  24. #24 D. C. Sessions
    August 31, 2011

    What leads you to say that? All of the legal arguments I’ve heard say that would be extremely unlikely. (By legal arguments, I mean sane ones)

    Well, for one you have four Justices who won’t even listen to the legal arguments because their minds are already made up, plus one who kinda leans that way but sometimes surprises us.

    As for “sane” legal arguments, I present to you Justice Clarence Thomas — the most influential Justice on the Roberts Court.

  25. #25 Wow
    August 31, 2011

    “Of course, the sad thing is, if Obama loses, chances are, the economy will finally start to recover in 2013 or 2014, and whichever Republican is the next President will get the credit.”

    And if he wins, then he’ll see even less reason to be progressive.

    And, to ensure that their base doesn’t defect, the republicans will move further away too.

    There is also the two elements to consider:

    1) There is a recovery. Surely a good thing.

    2) The recovery is killed off because, frankly, the wingnuts couldn’t organise their underpants, and would ensure that the only recovery goes to the richest friends they have, in which case, the democrats won’t get the blame.

  26. #26 Wow
    August 31, 2011

    “It’s a massive non sequitur to conclude that, just because Obama isn’t “progressive” enough that there’d be no difference between a second Obama administration and, say, a Bachmann or Perry administration.”

    Can anyone point out anyone who has said that there would be no differences between then?

    Anyone?

  27. #27 Stephen
    August 31, 2011

    During a recent PASSWORD AUDIT by my bank, they found that I was using the following password:

    MickeyMinniePlutoHueyLouieDeweyDonaldGoofyDublin

    When they asked me why I had such a long password

    I replied
    ”Are you bloomin’ stupid? I was told that my password had to
    be at least 8 characters long and include one capital”

  28. #28 Mark Erickson
    August 31, 2011

    RE: West(en) and Bruce Wayne

    Westen isn’t right either. Just how does he think Obama can storytell his way out of employing the same bozos that got us into the financial mess? That’s rhetorical, he can’t. Obama didn’t want to bend the arc of history. As evidence for that, can you tell me what he was trying to bend it towards? Not rhetorical, I really don’t know.

    “He would have had to stare down those who had wrecked the economy, and he would have had to tolerate their hatred if not welcome it.” Well, he did call some bankers fat-cats once. On the other hand, he put those who wrecked the economy in government and on his campaign big donor list. And for goodness sakes, stop with the lack of temperament BS (or will, or whatever other psychological construct that is meaningless when compared to actions).

    In your Bruce Wayne frozen scenario, it applies to Obama if he had hired an actor to play Mr. Freeze and froze just a thin layer of ice at the top of the pool, so it looked like Obama was trapped. Sadly, progressives like Kevin Drum completely bought the stage act.

    Be principled. Withhold all of your consent, including your vote.

  29. #29 Bill
    August 31, 2011

    “Wake the fuck up.”
    Couldn’t say it any better myself. This is just sad. You really want Ranger Rick Perry in the White House. Spare me the “it doesn’t make any difference” crap. If you don’t vote for Obama and this anti-science moron takes over you are responsible. Sitting out makes you a coward. At least have the balls to vote for the Republican candidate, because if you sit it out and fail to support Obama because he is not pure enough for you you are just as bad as the idiots who voted for Nader in 2000 and put Bush in. If the economy improves the Republicans will take credit. If it worsens they will say that the country hasn’t veered far enough to the right yet and that God is still pissed at us. Maybe you are well off enough to weather out four to eight years of war on the middle and lower classes but I am not and I am as angry as hell at liberal elites who want to hand over the country to savages because Obama hurt their feelings.

  30. #30 Onkel Bob
    August 31, 2011

    While I could easily endure a Mitt Romney presidency, or even a John Huntsman presidency, the cling-ons that the coattails of those candidates would bring to office would be a horror show. Cantor and Ryan are insufferable now, imagine how insufferable they shall be when the tea-party caucus numbers 150+. Obama is a lost cause for the country, but believe it or not we can do worse. And we appear willing to do so!
    O/T- Fascinating that the same spam message appears here as appeared in the Time Lambert’s thread (characters and capital)

  31. #31 JimV
    August 31, 2011

    Terrific post – thanks.

    As I look back (all the way to Nixon), the lesson for me is that all the politicians who managed to claw their ways to the presidency during my voting-age years were lacking in some (or all) of the characteristics of good leaders. I think Carter was the least corrupt, by a long shot over Reagan in second place (I’m not counting Ford among the clawers), but they both had other short-comings. I observed many of the same problems with my engineering managers. Only two or three out of more than a dozen were good; some actively got in the way of my productivity, and there was a strong correlation between that aspect and how badly they wanted the job.

    If only there were some way to pick presidents and managers based on how well they could do the job, rather than on how good they are at campaigning for it.

    I expect I’ll have to hold my nose and vote for Obama, because it doesn’t look like there will be a decent third-party candidate to waste my vote on. As bad as Obama has been, there are the Supreme Court nominees, and the work on legalizing gays in the military, and a few other things, which I put on the positive side of his ledger; and there is a chance he has learned something and will get better.

    Arm-chair psychology department: I wonder if being the first African-American president is one reason he has bent over backwards not to seem partisan, i.e. “uppity”?

  32. #32 CHART
    August 31, 2011

    That’s some powerful stupid in this post. Powerful, powerful stupid.

  33. #33 dbrewing
    August 31, 2011

    The English language has not the words to explain how stupid this blog is. Can I have my five minutes back?

  34. #34 Wow
    August 31, 2011

    “Can I have my five minutes back?”

    Since you willingly spent both them AND wasted more time posting that, no.

    “I expect I’ll have to hold my nose and vote for Obama, because it doesn’t look like there will be a decent third-party candidate to waste my vote on”

    So why should Obama care what you think in elections and their aftermath?

    The Democratic party will therefore be chasing the rightwing. And you don’t do that by going MORE progressive.

    “Obama is a lost cause for the country, but believe it or not we can do worse. And we appear willing to do so!”

    So if you aren’t going to vote for Obama, you’ll be voting for, say, Bachmann? And that you know (or believe) everyone else will too?

    Or is it that there are SOME willing to do so, and they’ll do so despite what Obama does, or whether he is voted for or not?

    Why should THEIR actions drive YOURS? Are you not a human being and adultly independent of thought?

  35. #35 Wow
    August 31, 2011

    “and there is a chance he has learned something and will get better.”

    Why would he learn anything, except that as long as the republicans are further right than he is, you’ll vote for him no matter how much he abandons you?

    All he has to do is go MORE rightwing, then he’ll not only have your vote (nose held or otherwise), but he’ll get some republican voters too!

    THAT is what he learns from you: you don’t matter.

  36. #36 Wow
    August 31, 2011

    “You really want Ranger Rick Perry in the White House.”

    Um, they’re not voting for Obama. Not voting for Rick Perry.

    Really, how many times do you need to be told? Or is it that you will not hear?

    “Spare me the “it doesn’t make any difference” crap”

    WHAT doesn’t make any difference?

    The whole point is that NOT voting for Obama WILL make a difference.

    “Cantor and Ryan are insufferable now, imagine how insufferable they shall be when the tea-party caucus numbers 150+.”

    Just as insufferable as they are now: with all the power and none of the responsibility.

    And why is it that Obama, after being told “we’re not voting the lesser evil” doesn’t do a damn thing? Are you saying that Obama WANTS to be a republican, just a little less of a nutjob than Perry?

    Or maybe you’re saying Obama doesn’t WANT to win the presidency unless he gets to ignore progressives. A bit childish of him, isn’t it?

    “At least have the balls to vote for the Republican candidate”

    Ah, so YOU demand that someone NOT voting for Obama HAS to vote for Perry!

    This does rather make your prediction self-fulfilling.

    Or you want to lambast anyone who DARES not vote for Obama and therefore have to cover both eventualities:

    1) Not vote for Obama: you are scum putting the teabaggers in power!

    2) Not vote for the teabaggers: you are scum for not having the balls to vote the teabaggers into power!

    You don’t seem to want any way other than your way.

    Rather republican of you, really.

  37. #37 Onkel Bob
    August 31, 2011

    Since you excerpted my quote, I guess I need to clarify my position.
    I do not vote for gangsters. I believe the Republican and Democratic parties willingly and knowingly engage in fraud, blackmail, extortion, and color of authority. These are felonies, and commission of multiple felonies to further a criminal enterprise is punishable under RICO statutes As such these parties are gangs, and the members thereof are gangsters. My comment was an observation that it is inevitable that the scum will win.
    I voted for Clinton back in 1992, but since that date I did not and will not vote for any person with a (D) or (R) affiliation.
    Truth is, I don’t care any longer. I served the country with 10 years active military service. Afterward, I did time as volunteer in National Parks, worked briefly in public school, and I am now in scientific research (in a malaria lab no less, not something that the US needs to worry about). I did, and continue to do, my part. Nonetheless, I simply will not vote this go around. Why? For the simple reasons it’s a lost cause. The scum have won, and I have lost. I have no children, and so I can afford to watch the country sink into developing-world medieval living standards. Worse comes to worst, I’ll join my study cohort in backwater Peru or Uganda and never return.
    I wish it could get better, but as the DI screamed in my ears on many an occasion: wish in one hand and take a dump in the other then tell me which weighs more.

  38. #38 Wow
    August 31, 2011

    “(in a malaria lab no less, not something that the US needs to worry about).”

    Don’t be so sure.

    There’s the bacteria in the UK Thames Valley, but the mozzies can’t distribute malaria because it’s too cold.

    Guess what global warming does…

    The USA will have the same sort of scenario, to a greater or lesser extent.

    You could vote for whatever candidate DID closest align with your conscience, bob.

    The rise of single-issue parties (most notably the Pirate Party) in Europe is because it is possible to vote for one thing to get that one thing changed. The major parties will still kick the ball between them, but they’ll see the votes going to the “fringe” party and want that to either solidify their position or to gain power.

    It seems like your earlier rant was rhetoric. It takes balls NOT to vote. Voting against your wishes takes a lack of spine, and the evidence of ball-ness isn’t made by voting republican.

    Vote third party.

    Heck, stand for a single issue. If it gets 10,000 votes, your voice will be heard.

    It worked for the teabaggers.

  39. #39 JimV
    August 31, 2011

    This is an evolution blog. Evolution does not produce perfect creatures, but it makes progress by tending to select the least-bad choices among a population for survival and reproduction. If I see Obama as the least-bad choice (which versus the Republicans I do), I will emulate evolution and vote for him. I have other ways of making my voice heard regarding specific policies which I disagree with. We got “W” in large part because some people would not hold their noses and vote for Gore. I’ll bet a lot of them would like to have that opportunity to do over. (I know some who would.)

  40. #40 Mike
    August 31, 2011

    In regards to the debt ceiling, I felt sorry for Obama. There was no way he could forcefully claim that debt ceiling should be raised because he had not only voted no on raising the ceiling a few years ago, but spoken out about how bad it was to raise the ceiling.

  41. #41 Omer
    August 31, 2011

    I have to say that this is a typical left wing thing; Why do we keep attacking our leaders? I remember back in 2000, when good Liberals were making jokes like “Gush” and “Bore”, and saying that there was no difference between them. Than America moved from being a prosperous nation at peace, led by highly competent leaders, to a nearly bankrupt and highly polarized nation led by a group of extremist religious people. And the irony is, those leaders look tame and responsible compared with the leaders of the present GOP.

    Obama is far from a perfect president, and he has made many mistakes, but his record is nonetheless impressive:

    A Stimulus, which was probably not large enough to make the economy bounce back, and was poorly designed, but nonetheless prevented the current crisis from deteriorating into a second great depression.

    The Affordable Care Act, without a question the most important social legislation scheme since LBJ’s Great Society, and one that will bring medical insurance to some 30 million previously uninsured people.

    (Yes, it is possible that the Supreme Court will declare the act to be unconstitutional, but all the Justices who would do that long predate Obama, so is that his fault, too?)

    The repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, which gives basic equallity and dignity to homosexuals.

    The refusal to defend the Defence of Marriage Act, which increases the chances that it would be ruled unconstitutional.

    Replacing an EPA director who was a thrull to business interests (http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v452/n7183/full/452002a.html), with a person committed to actually protecting the environment.

    Appointing two solid, moderate-liberal Supreme Court Justices, who would help maintain Civil Rights in America for decades to come.

    And, of course, killing Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks, who had evaded the Bush administration for almost ten years. Obama took a huge risk in authorizing the mission, which might have ended badly for America, instead of ordering an air raid, which would’ve killed innocent people, prevented the caputring of useful intelligent, and would not have been as conclusive as to the elimination of the mass murderer.

    So I think this is not a bad record, not perfect, but given the great difficulty of the job, nothing to look down at.

    And if you think Obama is not forthright enough in his speeches…well… how often do you listen to them? how often does anyone?

    Regards

    Omer

  42. #42 Juice
    August 31, 2011

    In the end I will vote for him

    SUCKER

  43. #43 Area Man
    August 31, 2011

    Jason, while I agree with most of the criticisms of Obama (not all, but most), lines like this set my teeth on edge:

    If Obama is really as helpless in the face of Republican intransigence as people like Drum and Alter suggest, then why should I care if he gets reelected at all? And if people have already forgotten the disaster of the Bush years, then maybe they need a few more years of Republican rule to remind them.

    The first line (and others like it scattered throughout) is just a variation on the “there’s no real difference between the Republicans and Democrats” theme. It’s a ridiculous belief to maintain in the face of Republican radicalism. The second line, ironically, is that maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if Republicans get elected because then everyone will see how horrible they are (which is another way of saying that people should care who gets elected). This is the proverbial cutting off your nose to spite your face. When Republicans gain power, the damage they do is long-term and manages to tilt this country further in the direction they want. Our budget picture was looking beautiful until they came along and pissed it away on tax cuts for the rich and foolish wars. This was deliberate. Destroying the budget is their long-term plan for eliminating the welfare state, since they can’t actually do it by convincing the voters. The Democrats can’t simply hop into a time machine and undo the damage.

    Speaking of Paul Krugman, there was something he said awhile ago that I think is right. Paraphrasing: If you put too much faith in any one person, you’re bound to be disappointed. There are no heroes or saints. But there are villains, and they must be fought.

  44. #44 Deepak Shetty
    August 31, 2011

    After the debt deal, John Boehner was crowing that he got ninety-eight percent of what he wanted. If the difference between Obama and, say, a President Perry is that other two percent then why should I sweat the difference?
    I don’t think this reasoning holds. if you had a republican majority in the senate and president , the demands would have been different as would the percentages. You don’t have a choice, come election time you are going to have to get off your butt – you know it as well as I do. But hey, great post anyway, as usual.

  45. #45 Jason F.
    August 31, 2011

    Jason Rosenhouse,

    While I too am somewhat disappointed in the Obama administration to date, I also do sympathize with the plight he faces. For all the criticisms I read from liberals now, I often wonder exactly what they expect he should have done. For example, you state regarding the stimulus:

    But let’s grant, for the sake of argument, that Alter is right about the politics. In that case Obama should have said forthrightly that while the stimulus bill would do a lot of good it is not adequate to pull us out of the deep hole that we’re in. The evidence is now in, and it is pretty darn clear that the stimulus had a major, positive effect, precisely as standard economic theory predicted.

    Instead he spent months telling us about green shoots and about how the economy was clearly on the road to recovery.

    I agree that a larger stimulus would have been more effective, but as you seem to agree, that just wasn’t going to happen. The GOP was not going to allow anything larger, so Obama passed what he could. The subsequent messaging was also fairly accurate at the time. The Recovery Act created/saved millions of jobs and likely helped stop further slide into a depression. And looking at the economic indicators at the time, it did appear the economy was turning around. Remember where we were at at then? GDP was dropping and the economy was shedding hundreds of thousands of jobs a month, adding more new people to the ranks of the “unemployed”. As the Recovery Act kicked in, GDP stopped its slide and began to rise, the hemmorhaging of jobs slowed and the recession ended. The complaints then shifted to “it’s not recovering fast enough”, which were valid. But the point is, what else should have Obama done? He had direct ownership of the Recovery Act, so he couldn’t go around saying “It’s kind of a half-assed stimulus, so expect half-assed results”. Given the role of consumer confidence, I thought it was prudent to sell it as best he could.

    Next, regarding the debt ceiling you state,

    What should Obama have done? Well, he could have made raising the debt limit a priority back in December 2010 when the Democrats still controlled the Congress.

    What reason was there back then to tackle the issue at that time? Yes, I agree that Obama miscalculated by thinking that Boehner and House would at least negotiate somewhat in good faith, but honestly, who the heck was thinking in December that the GOP was going to be this insane?

    He could have said early on that the only deal was a clean extension of the debt limit, and if the Republicans were determined to play chicken then he could have geared up for the blame game. He could have tried to bring some political pressure on the Tea Partiers, to make sure they paid a price for their recklessness and stupidity. In short, he could have explained over and over again, in clear, forceful prose, exactly what would happen if the country defaulted.

    But that’s exactly what he did (albeit only after the negotiations started). The speeches you describe as “ineffective” specifically described what would happen in a default and blamed the tea baggers for their brinkmanship. What else could Obama do? When every potential deal that came out was met with “Hell no” by the House, you really only have two options. Either come up with a different deal or allow the country to default. And you and I both know that had the country defaulted, things would be much, much worse right now and Obama would definitely be a one-term president. Also, your call for Obama to “make the tea partiers pay for their recklessness” is far too vague. How exactly do you “make them pay”?

    the effect of their intransigence was that they got nearly everything they wanted and the country didn’t default. There’s a reason you’re not supposed to negotiate with terrorists. They were not made to suffer in the slightest for their hostage-taking.

    Again, what options were there? You either deal with them or allow the country to go into default. And to say the tea baggers haven’t suffered is simply wrong. Have you seen the subsequent polling? However, the only way the tea baggers will be made to pay is if they are voted out. The only way they got in in the first place was because of “Democrat malaise” or “Democrats aren’t feeling energized” in 2010. Had the same electorate showed up as in 2008, we wouldn’t even be talking about the “tea party”. But that’s what happens when the sane, rational folks stay home; the crazies fill the void because they at the very least, they vote. So on one hand you say you want the tea baggers to “suffer”, yet you perpetuate the sort of strategy that ensures they stay in office.

    The health care bill? Even leaving aside the fact that the Supreme Court will almost certainly find the bill unconstitutional, it could only be defended on the grounds that it was, at least, an improvement over the complete disaster we currently have, and might perhaps serve as the basis for future reforms. It was the product of horribly inept tactics on the part of the President, in which he spent months in his trademark pointless negotiations, allowed his opponents to frame the issue entirely in their terms, and made his opening position far to the right of where he should have been?

    Same thing. The Republicans in the Senate threatened to filibuster everything that was proposed. The only way anything was going to get passed was to craft a bill that could garner the 60 votes necessary to overcome a GOP filibuster. Anything with a public option or resembling single payer wasn’t going anywhere. So again, Obama was faced with two options. Either craft a filibuster proof deal or get nothing.

    Unimpressive stuff, but ultimately none of that is the reason for the tendentious title of this post. Rather, it is Obama’s complete unwillingness to use the bully pulpit that makes him so ineffective.

    But Obama didn’t run on a platform of “I’m going to Washington to kick ass!!” He ran on “ending the partisan divide” and “reaching across the aisle”. Now that he’s doing so, you say you’re disappointed?

    Unions are under attack like never before from Republican governors in states like Ohio and Wisconsin. The Republicans are supremely unpopular in these states as a result, but Obama can’t run away from the unions quickly enough. Preposterous regulations are being passed in state after state for the sole purpose of curtailing abortion rights. Is Obama troubled by this? If anyone asked him directly what he thinks of this trend do you think for one second he would give an unambiguously pro-choice response?

    Um…what? You expect the President of the United States to use the “bully pulpit” to inject himself into state collective bargaining and abortion issues? To what end? So Obama gives a few fiery speeches about unions and reproductive rights…then what? Plus, I believe while those things were going on Obama was a otherwise occupied with the issues you mentioned earlier.

    In sum (summarizing because this is long enough), I gather that you would prefer Obama to 1) call the GOP on their brinkmanship, 2) give lots of aggressive, partisan speeches, and 3) be the flip side of the coin to the tea baggers (i.e. play all-or-none politics).

    What exactly do you think the results of that would be? No health care reform at all, no stimulus package at all, no financial reform at all, a country in financial default…but at least we would hear lots of really impassioned speeches?

    It sounds to me like you want a liberal Sarah Palin or Michelle Bachmann. Someone who doesn’t “play politics” in the sense that they never compromise, never deal, hold out for everything they want and are willing to do anything to get it, including sending the country down the toilet. As I said, I’m somewhat disappointed in Obama as well, but I honestly never expected anything like the GOP he’s currently forced to work with.

  46. #46 Kel
    August 31, 2011

    “Someone else has to vote for evil, but that’s not you. Is not foiling a murder murder? No.”
    To extend the analogy, if you had the opportunity and the means to foil a murder but didn’t, what does that make you?

  47. #47 SLC
    August 31, 2011

    1. Relative to the stimulus package, even conservative economists like Martin Feldstein, President
    Reagan’s chairman of the council of economic advisers, said it was too small and that a second stimulus package would probably be needed. Rots of ruck with getting that past the tea baggers in the House.

    2. Those who say that dumping Obama and allowing a Rethuglican to become president will teach the Democrats a lesson have failed to learn anything from history. Anybody remember Hubert Humphrey in 1968 and Al
    Gore in 2000? The result of those “lessons” was the appointments of Rehnquist, Alito, and Roberts to the Supreme Court. Some lesson! Sitting back and allowing a Dominionist nutcase like Rick Perry to become president is tantamount to lunacy.

    3 Just think where we would be if Senator McCain had been elected and had been in position to appoint the successors to Souter and Stevens. Anybody who thinks that someone like Kennedy would be appointed by McCain is living in a dream world. It would have been another Alito/Roberts and goodby Roe vs Wade, goodby the rulings against teaching creationism in the public schools, etc.

    4. The problem here that the liberals have failed for generations to comprehend is that this country is basically conservatively oriented compared with Western Europe, just as it is more religiously oriented then Western Europe. People identifying themselves as conservatives greatly outnumber people identifying themselves as liberals in every poll for the last 40 years; in addition, those identifying themselves as moderates actually lean somewhat conservative. The political spectrum in the US is well to the right of the political spectrum in Western Europe (Cameron, Sarkozy, and Merkel, who are the heads of conservative parties, are probably slightly left of Obama).

    5. Consider the Democrats who won the presidency: Carter, Clinton, and Obama, all slightly right of the Democratic Party. Consider the Democrats who lost: McGovern, Mondale, and Dukakis, all perceived as liberals.

  48. #48 Julian
    August 31, 2011

    Jason: “That’s how Obama looks to me. He’s like some Republican contrivance put in office specifically to make progressives look foolish.

    I came to that conclusion a couple of years ago.

  49. #49 Pierce R. Butler
    August 31, 2011

    As a progressive living in a razor’s-edge swing state, I feel compelled to vote, maybe even work, for Obama in ’12. Yes Virginia, things can get a lot worse!

    I may even make a bumper-sticker: “Obama 2012: Sucks Less than _____”

    But I really really really hope you guys in states whose electoral votes are easily predictable will take advantage of that maneuvering room and do the work to create a serious non-corrupt political organization that actually doesn’t suck.

  50. #50 Gerry L
    September 1, 2011

    The Obama election campaign wants 3 things from me: my money, my time and my vote. They will only get one of those. The first two will go to helping candidates for other offices get elected. But I think I’ll have a T-shirt printed up that says “Yes, things really could be worse. If you don’t think so, go ahead and vote Republican.”

  51. #51 Wow
    September 1, 2011

    Again with the “You either vote for Obama or the Republicans”.

    Look, just because YOU don’t want to take the blame for the shithole that the USA has become and want to feel better about voting for the lesser evil, doesn’t mean that you have to vote Republican if you’re not voting for Obama.

    That’s the sort of brain-dead idiocy that has cause Obama not only to not give a shit about progressives, but to actually slam and denigrate them in public. Why the hell should HE care about you? He’s got your vote.

    You’re as wedded to Democrat votes as the nuttiest republican rightwingnutjob. And absolutely no better.

  52. #52 Wow
    September 1, 2011

    “I may even make a bumper-sticker: “Obama 2012: Sucks Less than _____””

    How about “Obama 2012: He still sucks, others suck even more. Tell them all to naff off”?

  53. #53 Wow
    September 1, 2011

    “Sitting back and allowing a Dominionist nutcase like Rick Perry to become president is tantamount to lunacy.”

    So EVERYONE ELSE is an idiot and will vote a dominionist nutcase like Rick Perry in to become president, just YOU are the only one who has the moral fibre to note that he’s a nutcase, everyone else is just too damn stupid to notice?

    And, lets say he gets in.

    There are others in the houses too, you know. So lets say Rick puts a paper forward to have Dominionism pushed as the State Religion.

    Are you saying that EVERY SINGLE REPRESENTATIVE is so spineless that they’ll accede? OR that they’re so STUPID that they won’t notice that this is a bad idea?

    Similarly with the stupidities that this idiot (even given the remote chance he’s president) will propose. Not only are the other republicans unwilling or too dumb to notice how stupid they are, but EVERY SINGLE DEMOCRAT too!

    Look how well Obama has managed to get what he wants in. And look at the methods used to thwart him.

    Are you telling me that there are NO senators or representatives that will filibuster the shit out of a nutjob’s insanities?

    Either they are all as evil as each other, in which case your vote is voting the EXACT SAME EVIL, not LESSER, SAME, or they’re all completely spineless.

    Sorry, I don’t think I’m the only intelligent person on this planet, unlike you.

  54. #54 Wow
    September 1, 2011

    “if you had the opportunity and the means to foil a murder but didn’t, what does that make you?”

    A bystander.

    AFAIK, still not a murderer.

  55. #55 Wow
    September 1, 2011

    “Anybody who thinks that someone like Kennedy would be appointed by McCain is living in a dream world.”

    And would a RIAA lawyer be in charge of prosecutions as Obama did?

  56. #56 Wow
    September 1, 2011

    “Again, what options were there? You either deal with them or allow the country to go into default.”

    Shrub had no problems just signing what he wanted as an executive order.

  57. #57 Wow
    September 1, 2011

    “I have to say that this is a typical left wing thing; Why do we keep attacking our leaders? ”

    Obama isn’t a leader of the leftwing.

    He and the people he promotes to office have frequently called the left into a heap.

    And you’re doing it too now.

    And by even considering not voting party lines, you’re being guilt-tripped into obeying orders with the spectre of teabaggers getting in power.

    Pathetic.

  58. #58 Wow
    September 1, 2011

    “Evolution does not produce perfect creatures, but it makes progress by tending to select the least-bad choices among a population for survival and reproduction.”

    Intelligence isn’t evolution.

    We evolved intelligence, so lets damn well use it.

    PS you’re NOT selecting the least-bad choices, because you’re immediately forgetting one: not selecting one. It’s still a selection.

    Selecting third-party. Several more choices you’re neglecting.

    You’re also selecting a dead-end. Cf the creodont/ruminant arms race that ends with both species dying off.

  59. #59 Jason Rosenhouse
    September 1, 2011

    Wow —

    Please take it easy with the excessive commenting. I don’t like seeing my New Comments bar filled up with just one name. I’d appreciate it if you limited your commenting to no more than one every twelve hours or so. Thanks.

  60. #60 Wow
    September 1, 2011

    Can we see a cessation in the same arguments, then?

    You know “The teabaggers will be getting in” and so on?

    Ta.

  61. #61 mgr
    September 1, 2011

    @ 45 “I agree that a larger stimulus would have been more effective, but as you seem to agree, that just wasn’t going to happen. The GOP was not going to allow anything larger, …. Given the role of consumer confidence, I thought it was prudent to sell it as best he could. ”

    That is probably not the reason ARRA was undersold. Recent statements from the administration regarding the term ‘shovel ready’ and not fully understanding what it meant are a clue. What is suggests that ARRA was seen in the Senate as a one time effort to advance infrastructure projects that completed NEPA, and took into consideration that the authorizing legislation had been shorted by the amounts actually appropriated (Goes back to Bush). What should have gone with it was a full appropriation for the original legislation as there were fewer projects being scoped or undergoing environmental assessment because of uncertain federal funding. Ideally, these projects could have been ready for ARRA II. The only resolution now would be to suspend NEPA in order to get more projects underway in the project development stage–not an outcome liberals desire.

    Secondly, the issue at hand is not one of consumer confidence (I think you are confusing it with investor confidence, as the term applies to inflationary conditions, not deflationary) but of lack of discretionary income to drive demand.

    Mike

  62. #62 kermit
    September 1, 2011

    I am seriously considering voting Green Party. I know they won’t win, and I know that it increases the chances of an insane Dominionist taking the wheel, but we don’t have time to waste. Three years so far of Obama and we have record oil wells approved, fracking, a record year for US GW induced damage, and a president who won’t say the phrases “global warming” or “climate change” in public (as well as lesser issues like campaign contributions considered legally protected “speech”, two wars still going on, and prisoners still in Guantanimo). I’ve voted for every Democratic presidential candidate since 1972, but we’re running out of time. The Democratic party *must take Progressive positions, especially on reality, seriously.

    We humans are facing our greatest threat in 60,000 years, and our president won’t even discuss it.

  63. #63 Wow
    September 1, 2011

    Look, you ARE ALLOWED to vote for Obama.

    If you’re pissed off at how he’s not supporting you, however, wouldn’t it be better to do something positive, rather than dejected?

    I.e. instead of “Teabaggers will get in!” fear or “There’s no other bugger to vote for” despondency, how about “I don’t see an alternative this year, so I’ll vote for him unless someone else turns up better, and THIS is what I’ll do to change my choices next time…”?

    The first two ways just drags you further away from democracy and has no end.

    The latter one is how you hope to fix that and HAS an end.

  64. #64 SLC
    September 1, 2011

    Re Wow

    I have no objection to someone living in a deep red state like Texas or Utah voting for a third party candidate as a protest vote since no Democrat has a chance of carrying those states. However, for someone to vote third party in a swing state like Florida or New Hampshire if the Rethuglican candidate is a nutcase like Rick Perry is, IMHO, the height of irresponsibility. President Obama is as evil as Perry only in the fevered imagination of delusional people.

  65. #65 TylerD
    September 1, 2011

    “The problem here that the liberals have failed for generations to comprehend is that this country is basically conservatively oriented compared with Western Europe, just as it is more religiously oriented then Western Europe.”

    I hate to say it, but I really think the inevitable conclusion here is that the American people will ultimately vote for the government that they want. Maybe people will reconsider when America is permanently reduced to the status of a third-rate banana republic and China is the preeminent world power, but by then they’ll pretty much be powerless to change it at all.

    Time to expatriate.

  66. #66 Raymond Dickey
    September 1, 2011

    The only positive thing I can think to do is to champion an actual progressive to challenge Obama in the primary.

    It’s true that most progressives would vote for Obama if he’s nominated, but who says he should be the nominee?

  67. #67 Jason F.
    September 1, 2011

    Mike,

    I understand your comment, but it doesn’t address the point I was making to Jason Rosenhouse, i.e. what specifically do you think Obama should have done differently?

    The impression I get from many of the posters here is that they want a liberal version of Sarah Palin; someone who has a firm, inflexible ideology, never compromises, and engages in all-or-none politics. IOW, the other side of the coin to the House GOP…someone who figures it’s better to get absolutely nothing done and blame the GOP than to do the best you can with the Congress the American public gave you.

    Obama didn’t run as anything like that. To expect him to suddenly become a fire-breathing ideologue is ridiculous.

  68. #68 Wow
    September 2, 2011

    “what specifically do you think Obama should have done differently?”

    In all cases: STOP GIVING GROUND BEFORE YOU START NEGOTIATING.

    That’s kind of key to all the other craptastic actions Obama has managed to fail to do.

    He can, as he did with the democrat members’ revolt, enforce his decision on the members, which he hasn’t done ONCE unless it’s been to defend a republican-led decision.

    He should have pushed through either the entire original bill for universal health.

    He should not have doubled-down on Afghanistan (Jason already told you this one, ferchrissakes).

    He should have instigated impeachment of the previous government for their illegal actions.

    He SHOULD NOT HAVE continued those illegal actions.

    He SHOULD NOT HAVE extended those illegal actions to new and more illicit areas.

    Just a few of the top 10000 things Obama should have done different.

    “Obama didn’t run as anything like that. To expect him to suddenly become a fire-breathing ideologue is ridiculous. ”

    You’re kidding me, right?

    Go back and look at Obama’s campaign speeches.

    You’re revising history to cover up your own cowardice.

  69. #69 Wow
    September 2, 2011

    “However, for someone to vote third party in a swing state like Florida or New Hampshire if the Rethuglican candidate is a nutcase like Rick Perry is, IMHO, the height of irresponsibility.”

    And your opinion is wrong.

    Voting democrat over fear of rethuglicans ensures that some few voting attempts further on you now have rethuglican or doubled-down rethuglican to choose from.

    THAT is both irresponsible AND cowardly.

    Tyler: “I hate to say it, but I really think the inevitable conclusion here is that the American people will ultimately vote for the government that they want.”

    Nope, as you can see from SLC and all the “OBAMA OR NOTHING!!!!” crowd, they’ll vote for the government they don’t want. Because they’re afraid “the wrong lizard will win”.

  70. #70 Collin Brendemuehl
    September 2, 2011

    What really bothers the conservative is the armed men invading Gibson and telling them that it will all go away if the move the facility to Madagascar.

    That is statism at its worst. And it represents today’s Democratic Party.

  71. #71 ObsessiveMathsFreak
    September 2, 2011

    You cannot discount the effect of the “Town Hall” debates on the healthcare bill on Obama’s presidency. My opinion is that these meetings and the surrounding hysteria shattered the confidence of the entire Obama administration, putting them on the back foot where they have stayed for three years. The president probably felt he had lost public opinion and confidence and his policies became markedly less decisive after that point.

    But the primary issue is that Barak Obama does not understand the purpose of the presidency. He believes it is an office of grave duty and responsibility, beholden to the constitution and in service to the American people. It is no such thing. The presidency is a bully pulpit, from which the owner from 4 to 8 years to ram though whatever policies he sees fit, to affect whatever changes he pleases, no matter what the consequences. The office was designed to replicate that of the English monarch, and has been treated as such by all successful presidents.

    The last US president ran the entire country into the ground. This was no accident, but a designed feature of the office. Barak Obama failed to realise that he held the helm of the nation, and so did not grasp the tiller.

  72. #72 Wow
    September 2, 2011

    “Barak Obama failed to realise that he held the helm of the nation, and so did not grasp the tiller.”

    False.

    He failed to grasp the tiller, so those who wanted control more took hold.

    Just because you don’t use power doesn’t mean you can leave it lying around.

  73. #73 Jason F.
    September 2, 2011

    Wow,

    In all cases: STOP GIVING GROUND BEFORE YOU START NEGOTIATING.

    I agree. As I said in my first comment, I too am somewhat disappointed in Obama. Giving ground prior to negotiations is my chief complaint.

    He can, as he did with the democrat members’ revolt, enforce his decision on the members, which he hasn’t done ONCE unless it’s been to defend a republican-led decision.

    What do you mean “enforce his decision on the members”? Be specific (e.g. what specific members, on what issue, and by what means).

    He should have pushed through either the entire original bill for universal health.

    How? The republican senators filibustered everything. The only way anything was going to get through the Senate was if enough republicans broke party ranks and ended the filibuster. So exactly what do you mean by “pushed through”?

    He should not have doubled-down on Afghanistan (Jason already told you this one, ferchrissakes).

    But he campaigned on the notion that Iraq distracted us from the war we rightly started and should have stayed focused on. His policies have reflected that.

    He should have instigated impeachment of the previous government for their illegal actions.

    Impeachment? They weren’t in office.

    He SHOULD NOT HAVE continued those illegal actions.

    He SHOULD NOT HAVE extended those illegal actions to new and more illicit areas.

    Agreed.

    You’re kidding me, right?

    Go back and look at Obama’s campaign speeches.

    You’re revising history to cover up your own cowardice.

    First, I did go back and look at Obama’s campaign material. Where do you think the phrases “ending the partisan divide” and “reaching across the aisle” came from? His campaign was rife with calls to “work together” and “putting our differences aside for the good of the country”.

    Second, if you are unable to discuss this without the name calling, please say so and we can stop now.

  74. #74 Collin Brendemuehl
    September 2, 2011

    Obama got OBL?
    Jason, you have turned into a political waterboy.
    First he inherited this war, regarding which he campaigned
    around a rapid exit. Hillary was going to make a slow exit.
    Now 3 years later the troops remain and he adds troops for Lybia.

    America has beeen taken down by multiple interests.
    Simple partisan answers are naive and inadequate
    and not worthy of your position.

  75. #75 BaldApe
    September 2, 2011

    Let the Republicans have complete control. At least they will have nobody else to blame for the disaster.

    As for me, I’m very seriously considering not paying any of my bills, and hiding the money.

  76. #76 dogmatichaos
    September 2, 2011

    I had a discussion with someone the other day. Basically, we were discussing Obama (he was a mild Conservative), and the topic of whether or not I was “disappointed” with him came up. As I pointed out, I was disappointed, but not for the reasons conservatives traditionally think I should be disappointed with him for. Not closing Guantanamo, taking so long to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Iraq and Afghanistan still marching on, not standing his ground on gay marriage, and other things of that nature are where I find my disappointment.

  77. #77 TylerD
    September 3, 2011

    The risk that the Republicans will be able to take credit for a recovery that happens under their watch is pretty much near zero. We’re currently in a deflationary depression, of which the closest recent parallel is Japan. Japan still hasn’t experienced a significant recovery and an entire generation has had to deal with economic stagnation due to the ineptitude of the government.

    If the Republicans are betting on an immaculate recovery, they’re surely on pretty shaky ground.

  78. #78 TylerD
    September 3, 2011

    It’s also worth mentioning that deflationary stagnation is a much bigger problem for us than it even is for Japan. Japan hasn’t experienced any population growth, while our population has grown by ~91% since 2000. We need a higher rate of job growth just to keep pace with new workers entering the workforce, so a long term depression will wreak even more havoc on us than it did on Japan.

  79. #79 Seymour Brighton
    September 3, 2011

    This is all so laughable. You guys think there’s actually a way to prevent the all-glorious America from falling from the top of the pile? As if such an outcome were so bad?

    America is a cess-pool. No-one likes America. It can sink into the ocean for all the rest of the world cares. You can blow yourself to smithereens. Go into debt and not be able to pay it back.

    China WILL be the world ruler sooner than you think.

    The US isn’t some holy land that MUST be preserved. It’s a quagmire of decrepitude.

    I repeat: EVERYONE ELSE IN THE WORLD HATES YOU MOTHER-FUCKERS.

  80. #80 Modusoperandi
    September 3, 2011

    Seymour Brighton, false. I’m someone else in the world and I don’t hate Americans. Admittedly, some of them get on my nerves. Also, one of them keep peering in my bedroom window. I really should get some curtains. Or clothes. One of those. But I digress…

  81. #81 Jag Levak
    September 3, 2011

    During the 2008 election cycle, there was a lot of talk about the dire need to overhaul the election process in the U.S., with particular emphasis on equal access for all, having a vote record that is publicly accountable, and best of all, implementing something like instant runoff voting, so that voters would no longer be forced to decide between voting for the candidate they really wanted, and voting for the lesser evil.
    Then Obama won and all the urgency for election reform just seemed to evaporate. I’ve seen many polls that show that the American electorate is far to the left of the options which have any chance of actually being considered by Congress, and I don’t see that changing so long as it is money and zealotry which are the driving forces of public policy.
    I know election reform was never more than a minor part of Obama’s campaign, but his best chance of passing it was probably right at the beginning. Without it, his legacy as a Democrat when he leaves office will be nothing. The only accomplishments which won’t be quickly nullified are the ones which Republicans would have done themselves anyway.

  82. #82 FootFace
    September 5, 2011

    @29: Nader voters didn’t install Bush in 2000. The Supremes did.

  83. #83 eric
    September 6, 2011

    Jag @81: During the 2008 election cycle, there was a lot of talk about the dire need to overhaul the election process in the U.S., with particular emphasis on equal access for all, having a vote record that is publicly accountable, and best of all, implementing something like instant runoff voting, so that voters would no longer be forced to decide between voting for the candidate they really wanted, and voting for the lesser evil.

    I agree the first is a concern.

    The second is mostly already here – there’s public databases on how congresscritters vote on bills. And CSPAN if you want to watch them do it. You just have to have the desire to look it all up. Sure, the public record isn’t 100% coverage, but there’s a lot more information given to the public about voting than the public actually consumes, so the problem isn’t on the delivery end.

    The third is not a federal problem – in both senses of being not federal, and not a problem. First, the states can do that now; they just choose not to. Constitutionally, the states must appoint electors, but there’s a lot of latitude in how those electors may be chosen. Now while I’d agree with some changes to the way the states do things, the point is that this is not a problem with the US system of government. The system allows what you want already. Its the voting population that doesn’t seem to agree with you – or maybe they do, but don’t consider that change to be important enough to make an issue out of it. Second, the 12th amendment DOES have a runoff system already in place in the case where no one person gets >=50% of the elector’s votes. This runoff system allows votes to be reallocated. We’ve just never had to use it.

  84. #84 Wow
    September 7, 2011

    “Where do you think the phrases “ending the partisan divide” and “reaching across the aisle” came from?”

    Yeah, you’re revising history again, pal.

    There was a lot more than that to it. At best all you have is that he was openly a coward then.

  85. #85 Dan L.
    September 7, 2011

    I’m sick of sanctimonious jerks telling me that if I don’t vote Democrat I’m betraying something or another. What makes you think you’re so smart and special that you know better than I do what’s good for me, mine, and the country as a whole? Why is the conscious choice to opt out of a failing, undemocratic two-party system met with passive aggressive condescension and sarcastic refrains of “not pure enough for you?”

    This is the same kind of subtle bullying that’s put the republican party into ideological lockstep, and now the democratic rank and file want you to do it to — loyalty to the party first and foremost. Sorry, that’s not how I think about politics.

    Anyway, that’s to some of the commenters. Jason’s post was epic and awesome, and many of the comments were great too. Thanks everyone who isn’t a blind Democratic party partisan.

  86. #86 Dan L.
    September 7, 2011

    America is a cess-pool. No-one likes America. It can sink into the ocean for all the rest of the world cares. You can blow yourself to smithereens. Go into debt and not be able to pay it back.

    OK, usually I’m the one trying to tell my fellow Americans that our dear nation is not as great as they think it is and go on to point out specific areas in which we could improve, but really. I’m guessing from the name that you’re British. So what’s so frickin’ special about the UK? I know. You’re probably upset that one of your colonies ended up winning your big war for you and then dictating your foreign policy and much of your domestic policy for the next 70 years. Frustrating and probably a little insulting.

    But like Obi Wan asks, “Who’s the bigger fool? The fool or the fool that follows him?” At what point did the pols in the UK (or the people for that matter) stand up to the troglodytes wading in our “cess-pool” and say “enough, you ignoramuses aren’t fit to lifeguard a kiddie pool let alone run a global hegemony!” Never. As bad as the U.S. might have been (which is probably nowhere near as bad as you seem to think) neither you nor anyone you know nor anyone you’ve ever voted for bothered to take a stand against it. Silence is consent, buddy. The U.S. has only managed to run the game because everyone else pliantly played along. Google “banality of evil.” Don’t pretend the rest of the world is free from blame.

    China WILL be the world ruler sooner than you think.

    And you think that will be better than the U.S. being the hegemon? Ask Ai Weiwei about that. Ask the Tibetans or Taiwanese. Ask the Uighurs. You know the thing you’re using right now to slam the U.S.? It was invented by Americans in the U.S. as part of a U.S. government defense research program, and the infrastructure was built largely by U.S. corporations. Internet-related software development is centered in the U.S. however you want to slice it. The U.S. gave you the very tool you’re using to slam it. You know what the Chinese contribution to the internet is? The Great Firewall and clandestine cybersoldier hackers.

    The US isn’t some holy land that MUST be preserved. It’s a quagmire of decrepitude.

    Again, what’s so great about your locale? I look out the window and, while the weather is a little bad today, I see a living, flourishing city full of interesting people doing interesting things, not a “quagmire of decrepitude.” The U.S. has its problems — but every country has its problems. Overall, the U.S. is probably almost exactly like where you are, only with a little less social security and more risk-taking and innovation.

    I repeat: EVERYONE ELSE IN THE WORLD HATES YOU MOTHER-FUCKERS.

    Nothing will convince Americans that they neither need or want you or your approval more than this attitude right here. If you wanted to reinforce and cement American jingoism then let me tell you, you’ve found the formula.

  87. #87 BernardKMD
    September 8, 2011

    As bad as congress is, its the only thing left to hope for.

    President Obama? No. Obama is impotent and playing to his base (not the people who elected him, the people who are paying for his PAC money.)

    President Perry? No. Worse than even Obama. By a lot.

    President Romney? No. Worse than Obama, but unfortunately, not by a lot.

    The Supreme Court? (Are you kidding?)

    The Senate? Democrats will be lucky to hold their own in November 2012.

    The House of Representatives? The branch of government based upon relative population size? The only branch of government left.

    We have to get out and work like crazy for the representatives and hope that they will vote as their base wants them to. The senate is even more important because its not based upon population (Thank you, founding fathers).

    We would just have to hope that Obama wouldn’t veto environmental and economic laws that the country needs.

  88. #88 Wow
    September 14, 2011

    “This is the same kind of subtle bullying that’s put the republican party into ideological lockstep, and now the democratic rank and file want you to do it to — loyalty to the party first and foremost.”

    It’s also the party politics of Stalin, Saddam and Gadafi.

  89. #89 sofia vergara
    September 27, 2011

    very nice post admin one thing which Mr.Dan L. has mentioned above is cent percent correct ” Nothing will convince Americans that they neither need or want you or your approval more than this attitude right here. If you wanted to reinforce and cement American jingoism then let me tell you, you’ve found the formula.”

  90. #90 Karl
    November 2, 2011

    Fantastic post I very much enjoyed it, keep up the good work.

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