Final Notes on Obama’s 2009

I was going to write a long and involved piece about President Obama’s 2009 and how contrary to most popular rumor it’s been among the most successful first years of any president of the last, oh, century, but it turns out Andrew Sullivan’s pretty much written what I would have written on that subject for his Times column, so I’ll just send you there, with the Internet standard “Yes. This,” notation.

That said, I will additionally note that Obama’s had a very successful year despite the fact that he’s getting hammered from both the right and the left. On the right, this isn’t a huge surprise, of course, since if Obama were on fire, the GOP would call fire departments a socialist plot. The folks losing it on the left, on the other hand, are being a bit petulant about both the actual human they elected to be president, and the practical constraints on his agenda. The man has monolithic, unified opposition in the Washington GOP, a fractious and fragile base in the diffuse Washington Democrats, and was handed two expensive, unpopular wars, a profoundly degraded political environment at home and abroad, and a national and global economy which were dual scorching pillars of oh shit we’re all going to die. That the man got anything substantive done, much less had what is objectively a politically remarkable first year, is impressive.

The day after Obama was elected I wrote a column which I entitled “Reality Check.” One of the things I wrote was this:

Your next president is going to disappoint you. Barack Obama does not fart cinnamon-scented rainbows. He is not trailed by angels and unicorns. Reality does not reshape itself to his wishes. Dude’s a human being, and a politician, and he’s going to have to work with other human beings who are also politicians. Per point 2, some things you want him to do he won’t be able to do, and some of the things you want him to do he won’t want to do, so they won’t get done. He will make mistakes. He will make errors. He will be caught flat-footed from time to time. He will be challenged by antagonists, foreign and domestic, who will have an interest in seeing him faceplant. He will piss most people off. His approval rating will drop below 50%. He is going to disappoint you. Get used to the idea.

And, well, guess what. I suppose I’m confused why more people don’t seem to get this.

Ironically, I suppose, this is also why I’m not personally disappointed in Obama. It’s not that I didn’t expect much out of him — I did, and do — but I didn’t expect it overnight, or contrary to the political realities in which the man has to work. To be sure, I get exasperated that he’s not doing all the things I want him to do when I want him to do them, and there are lots of things I wish he’d do differently, including stop being so goddamned conciliatory to a political right which so clearly wants to stab him through the eyeballs and then rush to Fox News (where the news crawl will say “OBAMA: Was he asking to be stabbed?”), to bleat about how they’re the victims in this whole unseemly stabbing incident. As much as I recognize a strategy there on the part of the administration, I think there’s only so long you act in good faith with people who have no intention of offering the same courtesy, ever. But I don’t confuse my exasperation with a sober assessment of what the man’s getting done in the environment in which he has to work.

I don’t expect the right to change their tactics regarding Obama, even if I think those tactics are stupid, hypocritical and malicious. At this moment in time the right doesn’t actually have a coherent intellectual framework for its politics, nor seems much interested in building one, so stupid, hypocritical and malicious is what they have to work with. Fair enough. I do wonder if folks on the left knee-jerking their anger at Obama are going to pull their heads out and acknowledge the reality of the man and his positions, the political realities of Washington, and the fact that if they’re ever going to get what they want, in the long-term the path to it goes through Obama rather than without him. And if they will ever recognize just how much the man’s managed to get done, in under a year, despite everything.

151 thoughts on “Final Notes on Obama’s 2009

  1. “I don’t expect the right to change their tactics regarding Obama, even if I think those tactics are stupid, hypocritical and malicious. ”

    I’m afraid that the Right has become a victim of its own tactics. Those being: Get the nutjobs all fired up to vote for them. Yet, now those same nutjobs are running the Right, commentating for the Right, and making up their own news for the Right. (and incidentally making scads of cash for the right: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ynews/ynews_ts1043 )

    And now, a little XKCD: http://xkcd.com/164/

  2. Well, granting you everything you wrote in the “Reality Check” post, I don’t agree that it somehow logically follows that although common sense and history ought to let you know well in advance the person you elected to office will at times disappoint you, that somehow it is “petulant” of you to point it out and (justifiably) be critical when it happens all the same.

    I hate analogies, but here goes: You and your spouse choose to be a parent. You have a baby, knowing full well in advance that there will be times when this child will misbehave, will backtalk, will throw tantrums, hell, might even get into drugs and all kinds of horrible stuff. But does that mean when it happens, a parent shrugs and says, “Oh well, we knew something like this might be coming, so I guess we’d be out of line doing any, you know, disciplining.” No, of course not.

    Mindful of the no-duh ways in which that is not the most perfect of analogies (no, the president is not the same as your kid), the point is that that of course you know your elected candidate will fall short at times, but you still get to call them on it when they do. The election is only part one of a very long process. Making sure your candidate doesn’t lose the script once they’re in, though diligent citizen involvement, is the rest of it.

    I’m glad I voted for Obama (the words Vice-President Palin are surely the second-most terrifying in the English language), but I’ve been disappointed how readily he’s turned into a right-leaning compromiser. You might say that’s politics. But when you run a whole platform on a campaign of “Change we can believe in,” only to abandon that principle in favor of status quo at every turn, people have a right to be “petulant” about it. The worst thing are these sham health care bills, both of which cravenly threw the public option under the bus the instant the GOP went into fearmongering/obstructionism mode. For Obama to then stand in front of TV cameras and say he never campaigned on a public option in the first place, when about seven seconds on Google will find you the videos showing him doing it, is a pretty dismaying indicator that Obama’s picking up Washington’s Art of the Self-Serving Lie all too quickly.

    Well, it’s only year one. Maybe he’ll get better. I’m just tired of my election choices only ever being Republican Crazy and Republican Lite, aka Democrat.

  3. The only time we have not had incremental change is when a concept has had overwhelming support. Even then it takes years of work.

    You can’t look at the current bills and say this is the end of the issue, it’s only the beginning.

  4. Thomas M. Wagner @4: The ubiquitous “Yes. This.”

    Though Scalzi is also correct, in that he has gotten a hell of a lot accomplished in his first year. But Obama has turned out to be dismayingly more corporatist than he appeared on the campaign trail, and to my mind has showed a serious lack of leadership on the healthcare issue. Yeah, it’s an issue fraught with political peril – way more the third-rail of politics than Social Security ever was – but he campaigned on it, made it a central issue for his opening days in office, then, over the summer, just kind of… disappeared on the issue. He let Reid take the ball, and look where that got us. Yeah, the health insurance reform bill that will eventually emerge from the Senate and House bills will probably be a positive first step – and, in historical terms, is something of a major accomplishment, maybe not quite on the level of Medicare passing but definitely up there – but Obama had the chance to do something historic. Something that had the potential to touch and positively change the lives of every single American. And in the critical moment, dude didn’t step up.

    Obama is an astute politician, so maybe the political calculus didn’t seem favorable for him keeping his job if he made his stand and tried to keep his schizophrenic caucus in the Senate in line. Don’t know. I just know that I’ve been hugely disappointed with his efforts on HCR and with his troop increase decision for Afghanistan (where he ultimately chose the boggy middle ground, sending enough troops to make it seem like he’s gunning for the win there, but not sending nearly enough to actually get the win – a classic Vietnam-era mistake that’s going to entangle us there for years to come).

    Ultimately, John’s right: the road for change does go through Obama. And he gets more right than wrong.

    So far.

  5. I’m going to say “Yes, this” to Wagner’s comment.

    I don’t disagree there has been some success in President Obama’s first term but it’s nothing compared to what he could have done had he been a stronger leader and more forceful presence. We got a stimulus, but only after he allowed it to be watered down with useless tax cuts to appease Republicans who voted against it. Yes, he did campaign on a public option no matter what he says now, yet at no point did he forcefully stand up to the members of his own party to get that public option. And his complete abandonment of gays and lesbians has been utterly Republican.

    As citizens, even if we voted for him, we have every right to stand up and say, “It’s not enough, Mr. President.” Why? Because he is capable of so much more if only he were a stronger leader.

  6. @9 Jimmy I disagree, He is dealing with an opposition party that has decided to vote No on absolutely everything and moderate Democrats that won’t get reelected if they vote yes.

  7. It seems to me that BHO has been studying under the cult of Coach Belichik.

    Every week, the Coach comes out, puts on his sad face and his Eeyore voice and says, “Oh, they’re a tough team; we have to do our best against them. They’re all professionals and despite their 0-14 record, we could lose to them if we aren’t careful. Records can be misleading.” And he manages it with no irony at all.

    When the young turk on the other team goes on national TV and says, “We gon’ whup yore ass, you half-baked Bean-eaters,” the entire 6 state region growls, and some ticked off Patriot makes a great play, saving the game. After the game, the Coach, says (cue sad face and Eeyore voice) “They played a tough game, and we made some mistakes, but our guys did come through; they’re all professionals. It was close there for a while, and don’t be fooled, it could have gone either way. Now we have to work on next week, because they’re a tough team…” thereby cutting the emotional legs out from under next week’s opposition.

    Yep, BHO has obviously watched himself some Belichik interviews. Ya’ll just keep on talkin’ Young Republican Turks, just keep on talkin’. If you ever get smart, you might call up Billy Weld and beg him to forgive you and run for something.

    Regards,
    Jack Tingle

  8. It’s hard to remember that he’s only been in office for about a year, what with everything that happened in that year.

  9. President Obama’s 2009 and how contrary to most popular rumor it’s been among the most successful first years of any president of the last, oh, century,

    [snork]

    Ran on a platform of fiscal responsibility, then tripled the deficit in one year.

    Ran on a platform of tax cuts, then signed bills containing dozens of new tax increases.

    Ran on a platform of ethics and “government transparency,” then hired tax cheats and assorted other criminals, stepped on legitimate investigations for political reasons, and has run perhaps the least transparent administration on record.

    Proposed and passed a gargantuan “economic stimulus” bill that hasn’t created any new jobs or economic activity.

    Ran against the Wall Street fat-cats and bankers, then instituted economic policies that benefit Wall Street bankers and fat cats at the expense of the rest of us.

    Nationalized the auto industry, in blatant contradiction of his own public statements and his constitutional powers.

    Wants to nationalize the entire medical field, in blatant contradiction of his own public statements and his constitutional powers.

    Every one of his foreign-policy initiatives has ended in complete failure.

    His signature piece of domestic legislation — the socialized-medicine bill — has a supermajority of the electorate against it. His second signature piece of domestic legislation, cap-and-trade, is dead, without even a planned vote on it in the Senate.

    And this you call a successful first year.

    Now I understand why you became a spec-fic writer, Scalzi. You live in a fantasy world full-time.

  10. I agree with all of this, but I would add: Presidents and members of Congress, being politicians, respond to political pressure, and people who find the Democrats’ actions too right-wing for their tastes have every right to exert some pressure from the left. There’s gotta be some happy medium between running around and crying “OMG I THOUGHT OBAMA WAS SO GREAT AND HE BETRAYED ME” and sitting back and grumbling, “well, the system is so broken that there’s no way he could do more than he’s already doing”.

  11. @15 Seth The 2010 elections will be interesting. If more Republicans loose their seats and the moderate Democrats races are close, things will probably start moving faster.

    Yes the party machines are tough to beat; but if you are passionate about an issue you need to get involved on a local level.

  12. Wolfwalker:

    Glad to have given you one last chance to use your Right Wing Talking Points With Extra Added Distorted And Egregiously Incorrect Information ™. Come back when you actually have a thought in your head that wasn’t given to you off a list.

    Jimmy:

    “As citizens, even if we voted for him, we have every right to stand up and say, ‘It’s not enough, Mr. President.’ Why? Because he is capable of so much more if only he were a stronger leader.”

    Well, you are certainly capable of saying ‘It’s not enough.’ But I rather strongly suspect you’re wrong about him capable of so much more, given the specific challenges he has, which is also why I think saying to him ‘it’s not enough’ is unrealistic and grounded in a lack of appreciation for the aforementioned challenges he’s faced. Naturally, you are free to disagree.

    Thomas M. Wager:

    “The worst thing are these sham health care bills, both of which cravenly threw the public option under the bus the instant the GOP went into fearmongering/obstructionism mode”

    You have a rather more pessimistic view of the bill than I do, and I’m on record with not being particularly concerned about a public option being in the final mix, so clearly we have a difference of opinion there. But the point of fact is that sticking to the public option would have killed the bill in the Senate, and at the end of the day I strongly suspect that Obama recognizes the significant act of this bill is getting into law the idea that health care here covers everyone, or a large enough portion of everyone that everyone takes the concept for granted. So he took what he could get, which is still really rather significant. And yes, that is politics.

    The point of the excerpt was not to tell people to shut up and just follow the president, but to temper their aggravations and disappointments with the reminder that campaigning is one thing, actually doing work is another. Expecting campaign promises to survive the first day of the administration is like expecting a battle plan to survive the first encounter with the actual enemy. In both cases one can hold the leaders accountable for reaching their goals (or not), but if that assessment doesn’t include factoring in the real-world situation, then yeah, it’s unrealistic.

  13. Sullivan’s point about liberals wanting revenge is a good one. I’m kind of a lukewarm progressive, and I’ve fallen in that pit a few times myself. For people who are really passionate about liberal issues, the temptation must be overwhelming.

    Even though this year hasn’t delivered on my “Pundit/Politician X admits he’s wrong, weeps, begs for forgiveness, promises to make a substantive contribution in the future, then slips and falls into a mud puddle (preferably next to a pig)” fantasy, it’s been an encouraging year. I’m not 100% satisfied, but I’m eager to see where we go next.

    As an alienated former Republican, I’m also interested in his suggestion that the current round of craziness from the right wing is the precursor to a saner version conservative politics in America. He may be underestimating the motivating power (and the warm, reassuring comfort) of unfocused outrage, but it’s still encouraging. If they can stop counting their enemies and start looking for ways to contribute, we’ll all be better off.

    Thanks for pointing us to that article, John!

  14. Wolfwalker: [snork]

    Oh, here we go.

    Ran on a platform of fiscal responsibility, then tripled the deficit in one year.

    You’re blaming Obama for trying to fix Bush’s fuck ups. Bush cut taxes while starting two wars (and don’t get me started on whether we needed to go to war) that have lasted for the better part of the last decade. Don’t forget, Bush approved the budget for 2009, not Obama. The deficit increase is sound fiscal policy for ending a recession. Unfortunately, Bush (and the previous 10 or so presidents) haven’t been very good at reducing the deficit when times are good, which is what you are supposed to do; it’s the flip side of the deficit-spending coin. You go into the red to get the country through the bumpy parts, and then you reduce the deficit to zero when things get better.

    Ran on a platform of tax cuts, then signed bills containing dozens of new tax increases.

    Hmm, I’m pretty sure he ran on a platform of not increasing income tax. I might be wrong on that. Either way, we’re in the middle of two freaking wars. Bush made a huge fiscal error when he cut taxes for the rich while at the same time getting us mired in two different wars. We had our party time. Now the bill is here, and it’s time to cough up.

    Ran on a platform of ethics and “government transparency,” then hired tax cheats and assorted other criminals, stepped on legitimate investigations for political reasons, and has run perhaps the least transparent administration on record.

    I agree that I’m not all that excited by the cabinet Obama has put together so far. However, to call it the least transparent administration is well, stupid. We just came from 8 years of Bush and Cheney protecting themselves and their friends. Remember Scooter Libby? Remember Cheney refusing to testify before Congress? Apparently elected officials are above the law, provided of course if they’re Republicans.

    Proposed and passed a gargantuan “economic stimulus” bill that hasn’t created any new jobs or economic activity.

    Only 2/3 of the stimulus has been spent. I agree that the whole point of the stimulus was to spend money NOW, and that clearly hasn’t happened. However, part of why the Great Depression was so great is that the feds didn’t step up and try to fix the problem before it became too severe. I’m not all that impressed with the stimulus, but I’m also wondering just how terrible things would be if the stimulus hadn’t been passed. Things are actually picking up, and it seems there’s a light at the end of the recession tunnel. I’m certain that wouldn’t have happened without the stimulus, at least not yet.

    Ran against the Wall Street fat-cats and bankers, then instituted economic policies that benefit Wall Street bankers and fat cats at the expense of the rest of us.

    What are you on about now? Either Obama is a socialist or he’s a capitalist. Remember all that flack he got for limiting the salaries of executive managers? I guess you forgot that already.

    Nationalized the auto industry, in blatant contradiction of his own public statements and his constitutional powers.

    Oh, so he IS a socialist. Got it. And hey, it’s not like Bush had the opportunity to address the issues in the auto industry while he was still president. Oh wait. He did? And Cheney a couple months ago admitted they just put a bandaide on the problem and left it for Obama to fix, just like everything else? Well, crap. I guess if the GOP doesn’t want the Democrats to take drastic measures, perhapsy they should actually try to solve the problem themselves when they have the opportunity, in the way THEY see fit.

    Wants to nationalize the entire medical field, in blatant contradiction of his own public statements and his constitutional powers.

    What the fuck are you on about now? Obama has NEVER supported socialized medicine. You’re lying, and the GOP is lying, when they spout this particular talking point.

    Every one of his foreign-policy initiatives has ended in complete failure.

    What the fuck are you on about now? You’re not going to blather about him bowing or somesuch nonsense, are you?

    His signature piece of domestic legislation — the socialized-medicine bill — has a supermajority of the electorate against it. His second signature piece of domestic legislation, cap-and-trade, is dead, without even a planned vote on it in the Senate.

    You don’t know what socialized medicine is. Socialized medicine is what the UK has. The doctors and nurses and hospitals are employed and run by the UK government. They are literally government employees, much like the way our VA system works (they’re also all run and employed directly by the US government). So this “socialized-medicine bill” isn’t anything remotely resembling socialized medicine (unfortunately). The government isn’t taking over any portion of the health care industry, and sadly, they’re also not taking over any portion of the health insurance industry, either. Whatever it is, it’s definitely NOT socialist.

    And this you call a successful first year.

    Yes, because the recession is over, we have started fixing our health care system, and we’re moving our focus back to Afghanistan and away from Iraq. Also, McCain isn’t president, and Palin isn’t a heart attack away from being the most powerful person in the world. I call that a really good year.

    Now I understand why you became a spec-fic writer, Scalzi. You live in a fantasy world full-time.

    Now you’re just being a dick.

  15. Thanks, Scalzi, for saying what I’ve been thinking the last few months. Oddly enough, I like the fact that we have a grown-up in charge.

  16. From my point of view his first year hasn’t been terrible, yes I lost my job in the auto industry (a week prior to Obama’s swearing in) but thanks to the COBRA subsidy in the stimulus package I can still afford health insurance for my family. its not a full time job but its a great help.

  17. A well thought out post, but it loses alot in the end, when you have to prop up a Rightwing boogie man that does NOT exist.

    There will never be any honest resolution or conversation until this false straw man stops being used.

    thanks!

  18. Sorry, John, but this is something of a mischaracterization of the situation. It’s one thing to be understandably disappointed when campaign rhetoric clashes with reality. It’s quite another when these words turn out to have been deliberate lies. If we’re told that all the old wars will be wound down, and then wars are started with Bolivia, Madagascar and Hong Kong in the space of one year, I think it reasonable to be critical of the administration and question it’s good faith. In other words, you’ve got have some sort of line in the sand – established beforehand – and if it is crossed, call the ruling party on it. Note that there has to be an anticipatory or predictive component.

    For many people – myself included – that issue has been health care. And the prediction was not that little substantive reform would be achieved, albeit after a hard fight, but that Obama would actively go against what he said a year ago. Guess what? The people who made those predictions were right. The man has made secret deals, coddled supposed enemies and rode roughshod over supposed allies. Equally infuriating, he has deliberately mischaracterized rational, broad-based, mainstream opposition as the dissatisfaction of “the left” , the petulance of fringe outliers. Me, I’m not a particularly liberal guy. I voted for Bush way back in the day. I dislike it intensely when my considered objections are dismissed as “liberal talking points”. I want my criticisms to be addressed and answered in a rational adult way. That whole Platonic democracy thing. At what point would you consider criticism of this sitting president to be wholly justified?

  19. Shorter Thermo: This is nothing more than an attempt to dismiss any rational, substantive, mainstream criticism as the reflexive ravings of fringe groups, left and right alike.

  20. Bob @ 22,

    Which of the 535 people in Congress do you consider grownup?

    What successes Obama has had his first year, and there have been some, are quite tempered by his failures, of which there have been some as well.
    But I doubt you will find very few people who think he is currently being the president they were voting for. Maybe that will change in the next three years.

    Andrew

  21. Happy New Year to all from Canada!
    And congrats on your shiny new healthcare reform–if it actually happens–you poor buggers. IMO those of you who were not fighting tooth-and-nail for single payer missed the point. But, you’re different, I get that.
    Other than that I think Obama did rather an amazing job, all things considered. He’ll do even better, if y’all stand up and yell.
    Thank you, John Scalzi, for another year of good reads. I don’t always agree with you, but I always take your point and that is refreshing in these polarised times.
    Wolfwhatever, go Galt!!!!!!!!!1!1!!

  22. Scent of Violets:

    “This is nothing more than an attempt to dismiss any rational, substantive, mainstream criticism as the reflexive ravings of fringe groups, left and right alike.”

    Yeah, not really. It’s an attempt to suggest to people that they remember politics is a messy business and that at the end of the day it’s worth looking at what has been achieved and the context in which it’s been achieved.

    Also, and tangentially related, on the subject of heath care I’d like to see how it works when it’s implemented before casting it as a failure.

    Andrew:

    “I doubt you will find very few people who think he is currently being the president they were voting for.”

    As it happens, I think he’s the president I was voting for.

  23. Yes, Obama is dealing with an opposition party that votes no on everything. But if all democrats in the house and senate lined up to vote yes on something…what exactly could the Republicans do to stop them?

  24. I once again must reiterate: I think we’re in Stepheson’s “Anathem”-esque Causal Domain Shear territory between Right and Left.

    Those on my (Right) side of the aisle look at the same basic set of facts on the ground and reach a completely opposite set of conclusions as those on the opposite (Left) side on just about every major issue out there (hence, sides of the aisle, I guess).

    It’s quite a thing to see, though, as both sides stand by in astonishment at what the other takes from said facts.

    To one, “strong diplomacy”, to another, “inappropriate obeisance”. To one, “health care reform”, to another, “socializing medicine”. “Anthropogenic Global Warming” vs. “CRUel Hoax”. The list goes on.

    I guess this is why I’m so leery of those proposing radical changes in the way the Senate works — nuking the filibuster, etc. From the founding of the Nation, the gov’t was supposed to be slow to make dramatic changes. It’s a feature, not a bug, and those that are hollering for dramatic, nigh-instantaneous changes don’t seem to realize the old “he who is one step ahead of the others [here, voters] is a leader, two steps ahead, a martyr”. Sizable portions of the voting public don’t want dramatic change, they want to be left alone and be given a fair shake, be it by HyperGlobalMegaCorps or the Feds. I worry at some of our political leadership seemingly getting so far out ahead of the voting public as to effectively martyr themselves and, in the process, neuter our gov’t both domestically and abroad.

    And the biggest losers in all this seem to be common sense proposals (like: “We need cheap, clean, low-impact energy in abundance.” “Yes! I believe this plus plug-in hybrids will save us all!” “Then perhaps we should look to nuclear.” “NIMFBY, you war-monger!”).

    2010 and 2012 elections may well carry a significant slate of political martyrs.

  25. Adam:

    “But if all democrats in the house and senate lined up to vote yes on something…what exactly could the Republicans do to stop them?”

    But the Democrats don’t in fact line up to vote on something with the same ease as the GOP, which is a political reality I suspect rather strongly that people forget.

  26. I think a lot of the rumblings from the left are based on the fact that he’s failed to do a few things that should take no effort at all. He could end don’t-ask-don’t-tell and close Gitmo with the stroke of a pen.

  27. John:
    That’s my point exactly. People have been lamenting the fact that Obama has to deal with an opposition party that votes against everything he wants. But the fact is that all he has to do is convince everyone on his side. I suspect that the Republicans don’t even think about the issues anymore. It’s not as though their votes are actually needed for anything at this point.

  28. Andrew @ 27: Which of the 535 people in Congress do you consider grownup?

    I was referring to Obama. But you knew that, didn’t you?

    And, yes, he did turn out to be the president I voted for: a left-of-center moderate who would slowly steer our ship of state away from the rocks.

  29. “He could end don’t-ask-don’t-tell and close Gitmo with the stroke of a pen.”

    And the reason he doesn’t, particularly the latter, is that the real world consequences of doing so don’t end when he’s done with the pen strokes. Unless you think that, for example, closing Gitmo without having a rational plan regarding what to do with the people there (which, if it includes bringing them to the US, apparently involves Congress in some significant way) would be a smart thing for the man to do politically.

    I want DADT tossed out and Gitmo closed, personally, and sooner rather than later. But I also want them done intelligently rather precipitately. That said, I think DADT could be wrapped up anytime now, thank you very much, although for various political reasons I don’t see it being done before the 2010 elections, because why hand the right a talking point as Americans go into the voting booths.

    Adam:

    “But the fact is that all he has to do is convince everyone on his side.”

    Well, see. Doing so is a messy business, isn’t it, nor will people always be pleased with the results when he does. There were 60 votes for Heath Care in the Senate, which was what was required to overcome a certain Republican filibuster. Those 60 votes were gotten, but the result is pissing off a lot of people.

  30. John:
    Of course it’s a messy business. I’m not saying it should be easy for him to do what he wants to do. I’m saying that the primary reasons for it being difficult have little to do with the Republican opposition and everything to do with Democrats who are afraid of losing their jobs (as all politicians should be). Republicans won’t be capable of mounting any sort of effective opposition until they have more numbers behind them. And even then it won’t be a particularly intelligent opposition.

  31. He could end don’t-ask-don’t-tell and close Gitmo with the stroke of a pen.

    Actually, no, he can’t.

    Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is legislative law and has to be dealt with by Congress. And an executive order suspending execution of the law has several legal pitfalls (not the least of which is the legal status of servicepeople and their benefits if the law DOESN’T get overturned and the legal limbo they may be in during the interregnum even if the law DOES get overturned).

    Gitmo has been discussed.

    Basically, things are slightly more complicated than at first glance.

  32. Anthonyx @24

    The stuff about eyeball-stabbing was certainly a colorful exaggeration, and in a dark room it might look very slightly like a straw man. But that was hardly the extent of John’s observations. In the interest of “honest resolution” and “conversation” be careful that you aren’t accidentally creating a straw man of your own.

    John’s point about acting in good faith is largely accurate. There may be Republican leaders and conservative pundits who are genuinely interested in good governance, but they’re obscured behind the birthers, death panel activists and fatuous comparisons between health care reforms and war crimes.

    To an outsider, it looks like they’re more interested in hurting their enemies than they are in leading the country. It’s a testament to the president’s patience and political savvy that he hasn’t sunk to the same level. Even though I hoped he would do more, I am very impressed with the way he deals with his opponents. In time, I hope the Republican party will follow his example even as they disagree with his policies.

  33. He can not end DADT with the stroke of a pen without becoming just like the previous President. Remember Pres. Obama is, besides a politician, a constitutional professor. DADT is currently the Law of the Land by an Act of Congress. To simply order the executive branch to ignore that law…

  34. Well, you are certainly capable of saying ‘It’s not enough.’ But I rather strongly suspect you’re wrong about him capable of so much more, given the specific challenges he has, which is also why I think saying to him ‘it’s not enough’ is unrealistic and grounded in a lack of appreciation for the aforementioned challenges he’s faced. Naturally, you are free to disagree.

    Actually, I think it’s quite useful to say to him “It’s not enough”. And then press him to do more. And press targetted Congress critters to do more. To create a mandate he can use to counteract pushback from reactionary elements.

  35. Adam:

    “I’m saying that the primary reasons for it being difficult have little to do with the Republican opposition and everything to do with Democrats who are afraid of losing their jobs (as all politicians should be).”

    Well, no. For example, in the Senate the Republicans can and do make it difficult for Obama via the filibuster, and by placing legislative holds on his appointments, and so on. Even with just 40 senators they can still do quite a bit to make things difficult, and do, and that qualifies as a “primary reason.” Fractious Democrats are also a primary reason, but unless one really wants to be fussy about Latin word roots here, there can be more than one primary reason.

    gwangung:

    “Actually, I think it’s quite useful to say to him ‘It’s not enough’. And then press him to do more. And press targetted Congress critters to do more. To create a mandate he can use to counteract pushback from reactionary elements.”

    I certainly agree that if one is saying “it’s not enough, and we’ve got your back to get to enough,” then that’s a fine thing. What I see a lot of is “it’s not enough, now we hate you and you’ve betrayed us,” which I don’t think is particularly useful.

  36. And the democrats have all the numbers they need to defeat a filibuster

    Sure. And that and $3.50 will get you a latte. John’s already agreed with you that fractious Democrats are an issue as well. But his post wasn’t about the Democrats, it was about Obama. So repeating your point about 60 votes is, well, kind of pointless.

  37. I certainly agree that if one is saying “it’s not enough, and we’ve got your back to get to enough,” then that’s a fine thing. What I see a lot of is “it’s not enough, now we hate you and you’ve betrayed us,” which I don’t think is particularly useful.

    Yuppers to both.

    What I’m quite for is continued engagement. Keep your hand in and keep pressing for what you want. Maybe minorities have more practice at this than most; blacks, hispanics, Asians, etc. have been at it for the last couple centuries and still have further to go…

  38. All of you hollering that the Republicans march in lock step either have very poor memories or are speaking in bad faith. The GOP has had plenty of internal struggle, even back during the “united” Bush years.

    To wit: John McCain and Lindsey “Goober” “Maverick-wanna-be” Graham on immigration amnesty, Jumpin’ Jim Jeffords and Snarlin’ Arlen “Benedict” Specter, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe on just about every issue out there. Bush on immigration reform, Bush on Harriet Myers, Bush on Ted Kennedy’s education reforms (No Child Left Behind), Club For Growth, etc. versus the Congressional GOPers and their spend thriftiness. Bush’s complete unwillingness to operate his veto pen in support of “conservative” governance.

    There are factions on both sides of the aisle. Democrats have Blue Dogs (who appear to be headed the way of the former Northeastern Republicans [can I call them “Blue Noses”?]) who are being thorny at the moment, just as Snowe, Collins, Specter, et al. were thorns in the GOP’s side during their ascendancy.

    It’s like a mashup of Kevin Nealon in Happy Gilmore and the Book of Ecclesiastes: “It’s a carousel. Round and round. Up and down. Circular. This too is meaningless.”

  39. Doug Stewart:

    “All of you hollering that the Republicans march in lock step either have very poor memories or are speaking in bad faith.”

    Alternately, they’re talking about since Obama came into office; the votes on major issues have been pretty lockstep. Unless you wish to suggest a single GOP for health care reform out of both the House and Senate is evidence of a lot of variability within the party on the matter.

  40. I suppose the rational liberal thing to do would be to feel disappointed with HCR as it stands, but glad there’s some mechanism for people who’re unable to get insurance to finally be insured at a reasonable cost, either subsidized or out of pocket.

    And that’s pretty much how I feel. But there is a lot of dissatisfaction over how much catering and caving in there was to the center-right wing of the party, and how much pure spiteful shitting on was given to the left when they dared complain.

    A lot of this is brought into focus by how the further right wing of the GOP is essentially the main voice of the party at this point, and can say almost anything with no repercussions. When people on the left of the democratic party complain, they get threatened by the party enforcers.

  41. John (#50):
    You’ve left out the Stimulus (known as “Porkulus” in some corners) and the Waxman-Markey carbon bill, both of which garnered a few GOP votes. Two of the Admin’s signature issues, IIRC.

  42. Ralph Nader cost the presidency and ended us with Bush Jr. because far lefties voted for him as a protest vote instead of for Gore. So we got eight years of disaster, including the environment and economy being completely trashed. So no, they aren’t going to pull their heads out of their asses.

    But that’s not entirely a bad thing right now. Because their protests, complaints, activists actions, etc., help to counter some of the far right’s screed and ground gained. They give Obama leverage by taking potshots at him. They say the things that he can’t, with his constrained agenda, say. And while they complain about him, it undermines the far right’s ability — with the general media if not their base — to argue that Obama is a far left socialist communist, which helps with centerist swing voters and centerist politicians who don’t want to deal with the far left, and to argue that the country is really all conservative, which it is not. The far left’s actions and complaints help advance things like gay civil rights and environmental reform, nittering away at blockages like water digging into stone. The far left is the gadfly of the Democrats, and in the current climate, is needed if annoying and unrealistic.

  43. Dismissing the Republican bloc for the moment, even trying to get the Democrats moving in one direction is like herding cats. Or perhaps running a dogsled team; all the dogs are supposed to go in the same direction, but without a firm hand can just as easily fall apart into little dogfights amongst themselves as pull the sled in the right direction. I’m not sure if anyone could actually take on the role of ‘musher’ for the Democratic Party.

  44. #54 TML:
    Senate Democrats need a firmer hand than Harry Reid who seemingly has 1) passive-aggressiveness and 2) taxpayer-funded buy-offs as his only semi-compelling weapons to ride herd on his caucus.

    Pelosi is a mean so-and-so who apparently isn’t above dishing dirt on her fellow Congresscritters and thus I think you see a stronger hand out of her. She pisses off her marginal players and the other side consistently, though.

    I think that if the Dems retain a (reduced) lead in the next Congress, you may well see their caucus dump Pelosi for someone like Hoyer who will be able to offer a more moderate posture and thus peel off more of the marginal GOPers.

  45. Senate Democrats need a firmer hand than Harry Reid who seemingly has 1) passive-aggressiveness and 2) taxpayer-funded buy-offs as his only semi-compelling weapons to ride herd on his caucus.

    Pelosi is a mean so-and-so who apparently isn’t above dishing dirt on her fellow Congresscritters and thus I think you see a stronger hand out of her. She pisses off her marginal players and the other side consistently, though.

    What is possible in the House is much less possible in the Senate. Ben Nelson can say “No” to Reid without much in the way of retribution possible. So–as we have discovered–can Joe Lieberman.

  46. silbey:
    Granted. However, if you’re trying for statesmanship, Reid’s whining and bribing seem to be a losing proposition for both parties: the badgered/bribed (see Nelson’s polling in NE) and the one doing the badgering/bribing (see Reid’s polling in NV).

    You could see the Senate lose a second Democratic Majority Leader in under a decade, hoisted on his own petard by his homestate voters.

  47. Success? No, Obama = failure so far.
    Unemployment at historic levels.
    Unable to keep any campaign promises.
    Approval rate at lower level than many others at this same point.
    Economy still sputtering, it will recover at some point but clearly not a result of anything he has attempted.
    Homeland security is a mess and almost caught us in the butt.
    Still no meaningful support of the gay community, he still is against gay marriage.

    Obama is a gimmic and will be. The SNL parody nailed it really well.

  48. Obama’s first year in office has convinced the conservatives and the libertarian-types (including me) that he is everything we feared. This group will oppose him in 2010 and 2012. Which should generate a “so what” reaction from Obama and the Dems as the right would have opposed him anyway. The only real “new” concern is that the conservatives and the libertarians are becoming fired up, energized.

    Those on the left either accept his pragmatic actions or don’t. Either way, he’s their best hope of obtaining the “Change” they voted for. They will stick with him, in the end. The question is whether they are fired up, energized in 2010 and 2012. It is looks as if they will not be, which will yield an advantage to the conservatives and the libertarian-types.

    Just looking to just those two groups, it is highly likely that some “Blue Dog” Dems will lose their Senate and House seats in 2010 as they are in conservative seats. The net effect is that ‘Change’ will come to a screeching halt as of the end of 2010.

    That doesn’t necessarily mean Obama and the Dems lose in a landslide. That depends on how a third group, the independents, view Obama and the Dems. Obama had about 53% of the vote in 2010. Only about 1/3 of the electorate is ‘liberal’ so the balance of about 20% was from independents/moderates. If he loses too much of the middle of the road voters, and indications are that is currently happening, it will be a Republican landslide come 2010.

    I’m not sure whether that should matter from Obama’s perspective, if he is a true believer in the progressive movement (as opposed to seeing that movement as means to power). If he loses 3-4 Senate seats, and the GOP can block everything if it then chooses, why would he be concerned if he loses more than 3-4? Even if the Republicans retook the House and Senate (unlikely even if a landslide), it does not give them the government. The stalemate would still exist regardless of the amount of the swing from Dems and Repubs. Change is every bit as dead if metaphorically killed with a single shot from a .22 as opposed to being nuked.

    Which is where the Dems character test over the next year comes to play. They have a year of absolute control. After the next year, they will lose control. That’s a near certainty. If they are truly committed to progressive change, they only have this year to do it in. They can’t be stopped, if they stick together. If they are, on the other hand, individually committed to holding as much personal power as possible, then they’ll back off fast. They’ll act like rats leaving a sinking ship, each hoping to be the one to make it and to heck with their fellow rats.

    On that point, health care reform has not “passed”. It has only gotten over some hurdles. There are some Democratic politicians who will be reading the tea leaves, who will worry about the middle of the roaders, and I’m beating that they’ll put their re-election prospects ahead of progressive change. And then it will be too late, as the Republicans will only need a few seats to block it completely.

    My personal prediction is that health care reform won’t make it this next year. Obama and the Dems will be left with attempting to sell their base on the idea that it was a noble effort and they should get points for trying. Its up to the base to decide whether they accept that or not. Either way, it points to further depression of the left for the 2012 presidential election and Obama doesn’t have a lot of wiggle room on that issue.

    Back to his year one report card, I disagree with John Scalzi and Andrew Sullivan. Obama gets, in my book, a D+/C-, depending on the issue. If I were Obama, I would be pushing for same sex marriage (as I would personally do on this one issue, anyway), opening up the military to gays, getting rid of the bulk of the Patriot Act, shutting down Gitmo as of today and winding down Iraq and unapologetically push for true health care reform, including the public option. He should not have compromised those issues, even if it meant losing big. He would have fired up his base and countered the conservative energy.

    To keep the middle of the roaders, he should go for overwhelming military victory (give McChrystal more than what he asked for) and pushed for reduced spending (i.e. I’m doing what Bush and the Repubs didn’t)- even if that meant no Copenhagen treaty (which he didn’t get anyway), no “pork-stimulis” bill, push for nuclear power, etc…

    Instead, he’s blown it on all fronts. He’s depressed the left, energized the right and he’s losing the moderates/independents. His supporters haven’t gotten “Change”. They’ve gotten more (much more) of the same. Inept is the word I would use to describe Obama.

  49. @53 KatG Yes the Nader vote cost the country a lot, however it forced the Democratic party to pivot on environmental issues.

    Pretty much since the Civil War the two party system has been entrenched. Anytime a 3rd party gets big enough to influence the presidential election one of the two major parties adopts it’s major theme in an effort to draw voters back to it’s side. In recent history it happened with both Perot and Nader.

    @59 Raynre, if you want your party back you will have to fight for it. Realistically I don’t think you will be able to do it. The band names of Republican and Democrat have too much capitol to be abandoned. The right wing would be foolish to surrender control.

  50. “That the man got anything substantive done, much less had what is objectively a politically remarkable first year, is impressive.”

    That any one would take such a job voluntarily is a sign that he is *batshit insane*. ;-)

  51. However, if you’re trying for statesmanship, Reid’s whining and bribing seem to be a losing proposition for both parties

    I suspect he was trying to pass a bill. Statesmanship is for memoirs.

    Obama’s first year in office has convinced the conservatives and the libertarian-types (including me) that he is everything we feared

    You know, that’s the most heartening thing I think I’ve heard recently.

  52. That any one would take such a job voluntarily is a sign that he is *batshit insane*. ;-)

    I think Douglas Adams summed that one up better than any of us.

    I think John pretty much covers my feels. He’s done what he can in the circumstances, especially given the boiling mess he inherited.

    One of the things I don’t get, given some of the comments here, is how record unemployment is Obama’s mistake but the previous record, under Reagan, was, apparently, Carter’s fault…

    There’s some selective analysis of the data going on.

  53. The unemployment rate is entirely Bush and Cheney’s fault. The bailout, with no restrictions, led to massive layoffs and the banks refusing to extend credit — which was the whole point of the bailout — which led businesses to more layoffs and bankruptcies. Businesses starting to recover hired workers on a temporary basis, so they wouldn’t have to deal with benefits. Once Obama’s administration and a Democratic Congress started to attempt restrictions, weak as they were, the banks frantically started trying to repay their loans so that they could avoid fair employment practices and having to give up capital to extend credit. So the recovery in jobs has been slow. The stimulus has actually created jobs, despite the obstacles put in the way of its distribution. But a lot of those jobs are for the government, because the banks won’t extend credit, especially to small businesses, to get the economy really up and running again.

  54. I agree wholeheartedly that, all things considered, Obama has done a pretty decent job in the office of president.

    John’s reality check from a year ago was spot on. I think we have to come to an understanding of what it really means to be president in these very divisive times. While it appears he waffled on a few things, we have to remember that even while he was a senator, he was not privy to the vast amounts of information that he was likely bombarded with on his first month in office. That kinda thing has gotta change a man deep in his soul. Really.

    I can imagine that Obama had to completely rework his entire outlook on how the country is really run once he got into office. Most powerful person on the planet? Sure, but he’s not the dictator of a small third-world country. He’s the leader of a democratic republic. He can’t, as much as we’d all like him too, snap his fingers and make all the foul ups from the past two hundred years go away, or even just the past eight years.

    I think Obama is a very smart guy. I don’t think so highly of our congress folk. Seems to be blame for what’s gone wrong is being aimed at the wrong people.

  55. John@29:

    Scent of Violets:

    “This is nothing more than an attempt to dismiss any rational, substantive, mainstream criticism as the reflexive ravings of fringe groups, left and right alike.”

    Yeah, not really. It’s an attempt to suggest to people that they remember politics is a messy business and that at the end of the day it’s worth looking at what has been achieved and the context in which it’s been achieved.

    Sigh. Yes, really. Gee, isn’t argument by assertion fun? Now, I will ask again: what are the substantive criticisms one may make of Obama at this date? What would you consider to be a sign that he really has misrepresented his views and intentions and that he is nothing more than a corporatist rep?

    My suspicion, since you refused to be forthright the first time[1], is that the answers are respectively “none” and “nothing”. At which point, you really aren’t having a rational discussion. Now, you may disagree with what some other people would consider to be the definitive signs of what such a sellout would be. But at least they are making some sort of attempt to be scientific, and you aren’t even trying.

    [1]There is also the fact that you seem to insist on misrepresenting a rather mainstream view. Yes, John, we get that politics is messy and complicated and fraught with stomach-turning compromises. And we didn’t need you to tell us that, in fact find your comment that “I suppose I’m confused why more people don’t seem to get this.” more than a little patronizing(does anyone doubt that Mr. Scalzi would find any statements of this nature directed his way more than a little patronizing?) I repeat, the people who seem the most upset with Obama right now are upset for reasons other than what you seem to be positing as a straw man.

  56. Yes, John, we get that politics is messy and complicated and fraught with stomach-turning compromises.

    You do not behave in a way that suggests you understand anything of the sort.

  57. silbey@70:

    Yes, John, we get that politics is messy and complicated and fraught with stomach-turning compromises.

    You do not behave in a way that suggests you understand anything of the sort.

    Sigh. And it’s so obvious of course, that you didn’t bother to quote anything I wrote and then demonstrate why it was wrong.

    Or is it that if I agree that politics is messy, I am not allowed to have the opinions I’ve been expressing?[1] Really, you need to read a little better than you have been. My comments are more meta than otherwise and are addressing the actual paucity of content and the incredibly sloppy thinking it illustrates.

    [1]Let’s try this again, since you didn’t get it the first or second time: if Obama makes federal tapping of private phones a de facto legal action, if his administration presides over one tenth of the population being jailed, if he starts having American citizens executed on a regular basis for “treason”, is criticism of these practices substantive, or are they just the ravings of the fringes on the left and right who don’t get that governing is hard? At what point does this very standard tactic to dismiss criticism lose currency? You won’t say . . . and neither will John. So his entire post doesn’t really have much to say – it’s completely vacuous.

  58. Thank you for reposting that link to your “Reality Check”. I’m going to send it to everyone I know who has been complaining how disappointed they are in Obama. I think he is doing just fine.

  59. @73: When my points are that obvious and people stubbornly refuse to understand them? Not at all. You do think they’re obvious, right?

  60. I should add that while I voted for Obama, I’m not disappointed in him at all. But that’s probably because that was my way of voting against the old guy with a history of cancer and his very odd sidekick who had a non negligible probability of holding the nuclear football. Don’t even try to pin any sort of hippy stardust labels on me.

  61. Sigh

    The put-upon sighs are, indeed, quite precious. You claim to understand the messiness of the political process, but show no evidence of it, preferring instead to lament Obama’s negligence at great length. The reality of the messiness is, of course, that Obama’s leverage in the Senate extends only as far as the price of the 55th-60th votes. To get something through the Senate ultimately is held hostage by the representative of a state that went for McCain 57-42. That price–in the health care debate–consisted of the death of the public option and quite a bit of Medicare money for Nebraska.

    I suspect we’ll stop being patronizing when you stop acting like a child.

  62. Sigh

    The put-upon sighs are, indeed, quite precious. You claim to understand the messiness of the political process, but show no evidence of it, preferring instead to lament Obama’s negligence at great length.

    Sigh. Yes. Sigh. Why don’t you actually quote what I’ve posted, specifically, and make specific criticisms of those quotes?

    You can’t. That’s why you’re resorting vague generalities and stale insinuations while actually saying nothing at all. And isn’t this just tewwibly, tewwibly precious:

    I suspect we’ll stop being patronizing when you stop acting like a child.

    Gee, I wonder who said this, and said it first before anyone could possibly have had an opportunity to comment:

    I suppose I’m confused why more people don’t seem to get this.

    Oh my stars and garters!?!?! Could it be . . . an incredibly lame and patronizing statement?

    At this point, you can admit the above is quite patronizing, and then you can actually specifically quote words of mine that you take exception to and specifically rebut them.

    Otherwise, I shall – rightly – dismiss you as someone completely negligible. Us detail-oriented, scientific, rather pragmatic types tend to see through your brand of bull quite quickly.

  63. Sigh. Yes. Sigh. Why don’t you actually quote what I’ve posted, specifically, and make specific criticisms of those quotes?

    There’s nothing substantial there to quote; instead your posts have been the scuffing of a child’s feet as they complain about the unfairness of it all. You agree to the difficulty of politics, but somehow feel that criticism that ignores that difficulty (which is what John Scalzi’s point was, originally) is somehow justified. That’s not “meta”, that’s adolescent, at best.

  64. Silbey, you’ve just stated that Obama could have death squads roaming the streets, and you would still dismiss any criticism as the mere product of malcontents on the fringes. At this point, you have – by your own actions and no others – discounted yourself into irrelevance.

    PLONK!

    And to anyone else who tries to pull the “politics are hard” ploy(obviously the product of thousands of hours of cogitation by Very Serious People) without making very specific comments about very specific incidents, proposals, etc? I’ll happily hang this specimen around your collective necks. No need to make vague assertions along the lines of “there are those who . . .” Welcome to him.

  65. Let’s. But you haven’t answered my questions. I’ll try one more time before going to bed: say that one year from now, unemployment is at 30%. The U.S. is at war with Afghanistan, Iran, Madagascar, Hong Kong, and Tunisia. Over 5% of the adult population is incarcerated, while the government routinely and randomly taps private communications. Meanwhile, the Banksters award themselves $50 million bonuses after being bailed out en masse for a second time by the taxpayers and are still not held to any account or regulatory authority.

    Do you criticize Obama then, and does it count as “substantive criticism”? Or is any criticism of the president and the situation to be dismissed as the whining of purists who don’t understand that politics is “hard” and “complicated”? You know, like what you’re doing with people who are criticizing the current situation?

    If you still refuse to criticize and complain in the scenario I presented, God help you. If you do criticize, what’s different? And why are your criticisms relevant, while other people are relegated to the left or right, regardless of where they are politically(in fact, you said “losing it on the left” and “being a bit petulant”)?

    The point is, your comments and Sullivan’s are extremely vague and thus so broadly applicable that at best they are content-free perorations, and at worst merely a way to bash those who disagree with you as not being as smart, realistic, informed, etc as you are.

  66. There are issues on which Obama actually does have a relatively free hand, and I’m not convinced he’s making the right call. These mostly have to do with war and human rights and secrecy regarding same.

    I especially do not like the Justice Department’s continued stonewalling on appeals by terrorism detainees claiming mistreatment; that is an odd sort of continuity with one of the worst aspects of the Bush administration and seems to have even surprised the judges involved. It’s possible that there are issues I don’t know about that are forcing Obama’s hand, but having heard the same thing from Bush I’m not inclined to take such claims uncritically.

    It’s certain that Obama would incur a political cost from doing the right thing on terrorism detainees, but, you know, I don’t really care. It seems to me our job is to try to make sure there’s a cost associated with doing the wrong thing as well.

    To put it starkly, there are some guys who are probably actual terrorists who should nevertheless be set free for moral and constitutional reasons–just as we’d have to set free any other kind of accused criminal who had, say, been convicted on the basis of a torture session, regardless of whether he really did the crime. If we’re too afraid of terrorism to countenance that–if it’s politically impossible to do it–maybe there’s something wrong with us.

    On the other hand–I just lost my job, and count me as another guy who is mighty glad about the stimulus bill’s COBRA subsidy. It’s going to make it a lot easier for me to look for a job without going broke to pay for my family’s health care. I’m perfectly happy to pay more taxes while I’m employed in order to get that peace of mind. And here’s hoping that, even with all the compromises, we get good enough health care reform to do something about this for the longer term.

  67. I’m glad I voted for Obama (the words Vice-President Palin are surely the second-most terrifying in the English language), but I’ve been disappointed how readily he’s turned into a right-leaning compromiser.

    Um, why the hell did that surprise you? The usual suspects expended an enormous amount of hot air trying to brand Obama is some extreme left-wing (nay, positively Marxist!) Manchurian candidate, and that didn’t work for a reason.

    You may beg to differ, but when a politician is infuriating both the rabid right and the loony left he (or she) is well inside my comfort zone.

  68. I especially do not like the Justice Department’s continued stonewalling on appeals by terrorism detainees claiming mistreatment; that is an odd sort of continuity with one of the worst aspects of the Bush administration and seems to have even surprised the judges involved. It’s possible that there are issues I don’t know about that are forcing Obama’s hand, but having heard the same thing from Bush I’m not inclined to take such claims uncritically.

    BINGO! One can always make the claim that Obama is constrained in ways we mere proles are not aware of or at least are not competent to judge, whether it’s not fighting for an ambitious enough stimulus package or randomly tapping the communications of average citizens. And since this argument applies in every situation, it’s the same as making no argument at all.

    On the other hand–I just lost my job, and count me as another guy who is mighty glad about the stimulus bill’s COBRA subsidy

    I’m sorry to hear that. I thought you were a government scientist, or employed by a public university. Do you by chance live in California, the Bellwether State?

  69. Violets: “say that one year from now, unemployment is at 30%. The U.S. is at war with Afghanistan, Iran, Madagascar, Hong Kong, and Tunisia. Over 5% of the adult population is incarcerated, while the government routinely and randomly taps private communications. Meanwhile, the Banksters award themselves $50 million bonuses after being bailed out en masse for a second time by the taxpayers and are still not held to any account or regulatory authority.”

    Or, say, that one year from now, aliens land and offer us a new energy source made from cheese curds and cows become the most valuable resources on the planet while the U.S. becomes the first country to employ telepathic communication networks and bankers give all their profits to orphans. It’s just about as likely a scenario as the one you described.

    I don’t quite understand the obsession with Madagascar, Hong Kong and Tunisia, but the likelihood of us going to war with any of them is nil. The likelihood of us going to war with Iran is nearly nil, unless they start lobbing nuclear missiles at other countries. Which given the civil unrest, does not seem to be happening anytime soon.

    Criticism of Obama on more realistic scenarios:

    1) If he doesn’t get some form of health care bill passed, I will not be happy. But odds are he will and it will be an awful bill. It will be improved slowly over the next few years, now that the Republicans have had their parade. It will improve conditions for millions of Americans, but not all.

    2) If we still have massive tent cities in the U.S. in a year, I will not be happy. If the stimulus program is abandoned, I will not be happy, but again, this is unlikely. The bigger question is whether they can wrestle the gain from the bailout into doing more stimulus without the Republicans blocking it.

    3) Poverty equals crime. If the economy improves, crime drops. What I want to see is less money spent on sweetheart district projects building prisons we don’t need and standing empty and the money instead going into roads, schools, and other projects. I’m more worried about Google wire-tapping than I am about the Obama administration. Especially since the intelligence agencies are not efficient enough and cooperate enough to keep a terrorist off a plane.

    4) There will be more regulation of finance and less bailout money, but it’s not going to be what you want. Obama has to work with these international conglomerates and I want him to work with them because it’s the only way Main Street will ever reap any benefit. But I’m okay with leftists shouting about these companies because it does things like make Wells Fargo give up its executive bonuses for 2009. Luckily, with this administration and bailout, the finance companies are beginning to be less attracted to government bailouts, at least U.S. ones. Britain’s hard stance helped Obama scare the shit out of the banks, leading to more and sooner pay-backs.

    5) If the economy gets better by summer, I will be upset if Obama doesn’t push a little harder on environmental issues. He couldn’t do much this year, except to reposition the U.S. a bit, and it’s going to be constant clashes with China and complaints from Africa. The stimulus has an environmental focus, which is good, but it has to be kept up. Cap and trade, clean coal, etc. are not great policies and are money-making schemes for business, but that’s okay because it moves them forward to a more environmental stance instead of just digging in their heels against it all. Obama knows that the best way to get environmental reform with less loss of jobs is to make it look profitable, so hopefully they’ll continue with that.

    6) If Obama doesn’t do more for education next year, I’ll be unhappy. Unfortunately, the Republicans have seized on Obama’s association with education as a way to cause uproar from those who find the existence of public schools they can’t control full of non-white children to be suspicious and threatening — which makes an excellent fund-raising source for Republicans. So anything he tries to do in education will be endlessly assaulted and decried as socialism, more than some other efforts. But the guy’s tough, so I expect him to make attempts.

    7) If Obama and the Dems don’t try to oust and cut the legs off of Lieberman, I’ll be disappointed. Obama has to be careful about it. He had the chance to sink Lieberman, but it would have cost him political capital if he did it, so Lieberman was given a pass in return for stopping his flirtation with the Republicans. But he and his wife make a lot of money from the health insurance industry, so he renegged on the deal. Obama still can’t outright punish him, but parts of Congress can, and I’ll be disappointed if 2010 doesn’t include the effort to rid ourselves of this idiot.

  70. Thank you for reprinting that little blurb. I do think that you understand politicians and how the world really works better than many, many people. Reality folks. It hurts. At least I don’t feel like the world is going to blow up any time soon, like I did not long ago.

  71. If he doesn’t get some form of health care bill passed, I will not be happy. But odds are he will and it will be an awful bill. It will be improved slowly over the next few years, now that the Republicans have had their parade. It will improve conditions for millions of Americans, but not all.

    So, what’s the preferred option — nothing happens and conditions improve for nobody? I guess there’s plenty of pundits, Beltway insiders and political hacks on both sides of the aisle who’d be quite happy to see that happen. But it’s funny how often the most vocal ideologues never have to live with — or pay for — the consequences for their moral self-congratulation.

  72. Obama deserves an F because he completely failed at the only two things that actually mattered in his first year, the economy and the foreign military occupations. And attempting to blame the economy on Bush (who merits an F- for his two terms) demonstrates near-complete economic ignorance. This is not to say the Bush administration does not deserve its share of the blame, but it no more caused the problem than the Obama administration did.

    The most serious problem the nation is facing is this: all of the economic growth that has taken place since 1973 is the result of increased debt. The BEA reports average annual growth of 3% since then, but total commercial bank loans have increased at an annual rate of 8.4% over the same period. In the fall of 2008, the US hit the limits of debt-demand, which is why 2009 saw commercial bank loans fall 7% this year.

    Instead of rejecting the Fed’s desire to extend and pretend, the Obama followed Summer and Geithner in attempting to kick-start the debt-growth cycle. It hasn’t worked; it will not work because it cannot work. Every “stimulus” program is not designed to help homeowners keep their homes or sell more autos, but to create debt. The fact that credit is contracting despite all of these desperate efforts tells us what is going to happen and explains why Obama has seemed strangely detached from the everyday political struggles; the last big economic Hail Mary measure is being prepared.

    SuperTARP has already passed the House; it’s a $4 trillion version of the failed $700 billion Paulson plan. (Yes, the big banks repaid their loans, but only so they could pay bonuses this year; they are still insolvent.) Obama cannot be blamed for Bush’s mistake in signing TARP, but he bears the blame for all of the failed credit creation plans as well as the economic devastation that will follow the inevitable failure of SuperTARP.

    The situation is absolutely not of Obama’s making, but he is 100% responsible for a) making it worse, and b) refusing to do anything that could make it better instead of worse. It is as if if the nation has cancer, but instead of chemo and surgery, Obama is providing morphine and cigarettes. He’s not to blame for the cancer, only for his malpractice-worthy treatment of it.

    My contention is that if you’re still thinking about US politics in terms of Republicans and Democrats at this point, you’re not paying sufficient attention. That’s merely a sideshow as we are rapidly approaching a post-partisan crisis that will pit Wall Street and the political elite of both parties against a large majority that includes everyone from the Kossacks to the Mises Institute. And neither Bush nor Obama are on the side of the latter.

    That being said, John was dead-on with his pre-inaugural advice to fellow Obama suppporters not to get their hopes up; I suspect that they have not yet seriously begun to be disappointed. I should also note that every major mainstream economist disagrees with me and believes that we recently completed the second straight quarter of economic recovery. Who is correct should become increasingly apparent to everyone over the next nine months and I would not at all mind being proved incorrect.

  73. ScentOfViolets: Thanks; I’m not a scientist, I just got the degree. I’ve been writing embedded software since 1997.

    My office closed down and my job got relocated. I’d have been able to keep it by moving to Seattle, but, among other reasons not to move, I own a home and I have more faith in the Boston-area job market than the Boston-area real-estate market. That’s one element of the downturn that was hard to appreciate until it happened: the way the real-estate slump keeps labor from moving around to where the demand is.

  74. KATG: “Or, say, that one year from now, aliens land and offer us a new energy source made from cheese curds and cows become the most valuable resources on the planet while the U.S. becomes the first country to employ telepathic communication networks and bankers give all their profits to orphans. It’s just about as likely a scenario as the one you described.”

    Since U-6 went from 11% to 17.5% in the first wave, it’s not unthinkable that it will be approaching 30% in the third one, although that will likely extend into 2011 and possibly 2012 as well. More military conflict is probable now that Obama has increased his bet in Afghanistan, although I would expect military conflict with Pakistan, North Korea, and Yemen rather than Madagascar, Iran, and China. And, as I mentioned in the previous comment, the next bank bailout is already being prepared and there will be no increased regulation of the banks except by increased regulatory powers given to the Federal Reserve, which will accomplish precisely the opposite of what banking regulation is theoretically supposed to accomplish.

    Unless Obama shocks us all by supporting Ron Paul’s quixotic efforts to audit the Fed, his economic actions will be generally predictable by looking at what Bernanke is recommending. This has proved a reliable guide to date.

  75. you’ve just stated that Obama could have death squads roaming the streets, and you would still dismiss any criticism as the mere product of malcontents on the fringe

    Oh, Good Lord. That one really does deserve a “Sigh!”

    Coming up with increasingly crazy hypotheticals isn’t discussion or debate, it’s philosophical wankery.

    “If Obama launched all the nuclear weapons, would you…”

    “If Obama held satanic rituals in the West Wing, would you…”

    Scalzi made a specific point; no one in the thread is required to join with you in a bug-eyed loony response to it.

  76. VD @88

    Who is correct should become increasingly apparent to everyone over the next nine months and I would not at all mind being proved incorrect.

    Bingo.

    While I am very much hoping that your (our) evaluation is incorrect, I am prepared for the Zombie Apocalypse.

    I’m probably being optimistic by giving it a 50/50 chance. But hey, I’m an optimist by nature.

    But a cautious one…

  77. If John or anyone else happens to be interested in a graphic snapshot of the present situation, I’ve posted a chart which explains it here.

    In summary, the reason things don’t look so bad yet is because the Bush and Obama administrations took on $1.734 billion in new debt to counteract the $1.117 billion contraction in household and financial sector debt. However, as a glance at the chart will show, the Federal government can neither continue increasing its outstanding debts at a pace of 30% per year nor expect to be able to make up another year of contracting household/financial/corporate debt.

    The reported “recovery” is nothing more than an artifact of that massive increase in Federal debt, since G is a major component of GDP. If housing prices fall and defaults continue to increase, then you will know that the Fed and the White House lost their big gamble before the news shows up in the usual macroeconomic statistics.

  78. Similarly, the “recovery” after World War II, leading into the conservatives’ halcyon days of the 1950s, was nothing but an artifact of the amazingly huge federal debt taken on as a result of the war, and, to a lesser extent, the New Deal programs. But people were doing pretty well for a while there despite the fact that, to deal with the war debt, the government had to raise income taxes that by today’s standards were amazingly confiscatory at the high end.

    Now, I think we could do a lot better than to just spend that kind of money on war. But it seems to me that growth from spending isn’t exclusive to the post-1973 era.

  79. Matt McIrvin

    But people were doing pretty well for a while there despite the fact that, to deal with the war debt, the government had to raise income taxes that by today’s standards were amazingly confiscatory at the high end.

    This is mostly true, but do not forget that the “halcyon days” were not in the 1950’s but rather the 1960’s when Kennedy advocated, and subsequently got from Congress a reduction in the marginal tax rate. At the time the tax rate on the wealthiest folks was at 94% and he proposed cutting that to 65%. He got 70%.

    “The largest single barrier to full employment of our manpower and resources and to a higher rate of economic growth is the unrealistically heavy drag of federal income taxes on private purchasing power, initiative and incentive.”

    – John F. Kennedy, Jan. 24, 1963, special message to Congress on tax reduction and reform

    I would further point out that Reagan’s stimulus program did a much better job at creating jobs and boosting the economy: he increased military spending.

    Reagans program not only strengthened our national security posture (while driving the Soviets into bankrupcy) but it also created lots and lots of high paying jobs from engineers to shipbuilders which supported thousands of non-defense buisnesses due to secondary economic activity (restaurants, retail stores, automotive industry, etc.)

    The current stimulus is mostly made up of pork projects distributed in a political way with no real sensitivity to places that needed it most.

    The Mercatus Center analysis also found that Democratic congressional districts received on average almost double the funding of Republican congressional districts. Republican congressional districts received on average $232 million in stimulus funds while Democratic districts received $439 million on average.

    Now the reason for this is quite obvious: Democrats wrote the bill and subsequently the pork benefitted their districts.

  80. VD: “More military conflict is probable now that Obama has increased his bet in Afghanistan, although I would expect military conflict with Pakistan, North Korea, and Yemen rather than Madagascar, Iran, and China.”

    The idea that the U.S. has unlimited money and men to go to war with everyone is idiotic and completely counter to Obama’s foreign policy efforts. What Obama did was use Afghanistan — the legitimate conflict — as a way to get us out, slowly and with a remaining presence as we did in Eastern Europe, of Iraq, the illegitimate and massively bungled conflict. Afghanistan was a legitimate conflict that we accomplished haphazardly and ineffectively, and then abandoned in its recovery efforts for Iraq. We had to send troops there — we were supposed to do it long ago — and Obama chose the middle number of troops to send. We will probably continue to have a troop presence in Afghanistan for a long time, but over time, we’ll free up the forces. Right now, it’s more a war on corruption and to achieve stability than a military engagement.

    We are not going to war with China — they are our bankers, our equipment suppliers, and they’ve got way more troops than we do. We are not going to war with Iran unless they become suicidal. We could care less about Madagascar and we’re not going to clean up Darfur. We are not going to war with Pakistan or Yemen. We will have military conflict within Pakistan and Yemen as we work with those countries’ governments against Al Quaida and the Taliban, if we can keep Pakistan from pointlessly obsessing about India. Nobody is going to war with North Korea. Obama’s message in all those speeches has quite clearly stated policy — clean up your own messes because the U.S. is not going to come in and try to fix it for you. We can’t afford it. It is not the situation it was in World War II — the world has changed and the global economy is very different. Obama negotiates; he doesn’t rattle sabers.

    VD, I agree with the economists who think you’re wrong, and I think Ron Paul is an idiot. I think it’s going to be a long time before the unemployment rate gets better, but it’s not going to be 30% next year. And I totally disagree about Bush having no responsibility for the current economy. To start with, he spent the surplus he was handed, enormous sums of cash went missing in Iraq as well as spent there, and he continued the deregulation of business to such an extent — gutting regulatory agencies, cutting taxes on big business and individuals — that what should have been a bubble-burst regular recession became nearly a depression.

    So yes, we’re massively in debt and we’re going to stay that way for awhile. The global economy runs on debt. But nobody wants to foreclose on the U.S. because if the U.S. goes under — as we saw in the crash — the rest of the world gets sunk too. Business will continue to blackmail us — business always does. But Obama has so far managed to turn some of that blackmail to general advantage, clean up some of the errors of Bush’s bailout, and stem some of the bleeding.

    He’s done okay for the first year. He kept the lifeboat afloat even though it is leaking in dozens of places. And no, he’s not going to do a radical overhaul of the financial industry and the debt system. No president could actually do that. But he’s gotten very good at balancing forces against one another and making deals. Essentially, we’re building the Grand Canyon with trickles of water. To expect it to be a grand rapids is unrealistic.

  81. John Scalzi, Your article on Obama and the entire thread following it makes me want to cry for the human race. It amazes me how so many intelligant people can look at the same thing and after they process the information through their ingrained set of political filters reach radically different interpretations of what they are seeing. When you see the republicans screaming about health care legislation, you automatically assume that they hate Obama and would like to, at least metaphorically stab him in the eyeballs. The republicans see someone who surrounds himself with progressive big government academics who have never had to meet a payroll trying to get goverment control of virtually everything, and they are afraid. You think that they are all mindlessly following right-wing talking points and bombastic blowhards like Rush Limbaugh. No, they actually believe that the government will take an already flawed system and make it far worse. Most of them are sick to death of their own representatives in Washington. The conservatives love and respect Rush Limbaugh because he is saying what they are thinking, not telling them what to think or say. Please, please listen to me, this is not a bunch of bullshit. It is obvious from your comments and so many of the others posted here by talented, intelligent people that you have no idea what the vast majority of “right-wingers” actually believe. I know for a fact that both sides misjudge the other. I wanted so badly to believe that Obama was the real deal that I voted for him in the primary and even represented him as a delegate at the state convention. What I saw there, much like this debate, made me realize that the democrats had no idea what the republicans really believed or why they believed it. In fact, they completely discard any notion that the republicans have a genuine interest in anything other than their own profit. Let me tell you from personal experience that is not true. The republicans also hate war. Most republicans don’t give two shits about gay marriage. There are no more racists in the republican party than the democrat party. Most republicans would give anything to support a black candidate just so the other side would quit calling them racists every time they disagree on policy. The health care debate is not about Obama to the republicans, it is about more government control of their lives. Republicans are amazed that free-speech, free-love, free-everything liberals are so willing to give up personal freedoms for more government control of health care, wall street or anything else. Every time a republican questions an idea from the left, the knee-jerk response is “you hate us.” And really, there should be an internet rule that the first time someone brings up Dick Cheney the thread has to stop. Enough already with the Darth Cheney comments for god’s sake.

  82. KatG@85:

    I don’t quite understand the obsession with Madagascar, Hong Kong and Tunisia, but the likelihood of us going to war with any of them is nil. The likelihood of us going to war with Iran is nearly nil, unless they start lobbing nuclear missiles at other countries. Which given the civil unrest, does not seem to be happening anytime soon.

    I can say it again: my point is that even under the most dystopic scenarios, the argument can be made(and will) that this is all just so much sausage-making, that people’s expectations for what Obama can realistically accomplish are too high, etc. The best one can hope to do along these lines is to decide in advance what would constitute an unacceptable breach of trust. Many people, people who really do get what a messy, complicated business politics as opposed to policy really is came up with those personal guidelines many months ago and are formulating those criticisms based upon subsequent events. One such marker was how the President handled health care “reform”. In that case(wrt people I trust to know what they’re talking about), the issue wasn’t what ultimately emerged from the aft end of the grinder, it was how the administration behaved in the interim, namely that so-called “progessives” (actually, the majority of the American public) would be bullied and threatened, that the Blue Dogs would be catered to with absolutely zero strong-arming, that the public option, itself adopted as a compromise, would be dropped with little expenditure of political capitol to keep it, etc.

    Those people happened to be entirely right, and their criticisms pertain more to the President’s behaviour, not so much to the results(or lack of them.) This is also where I am a bit piqued with Mr. Scalzi for what I see as a misrepresentation of the critics: yes, doubtless “there are those” out there for his criticism is valid. But then, there always are(“There are those” who believe that the Moon landings were faked, for example. What are their actual numbers, as a percentage of the population?) In practice – in my experience – they are heavily, heavily outnumbered by the people I describe, those who are focused less on the results and more on the process.

    Criticism of Obama on more realistic scenarios:

    Finally; examples of what I was asking for in my very first post:

    [snip of points 1) through 6), all legitimate]

    7) If Obama and the Dems don’t try to oust and cut the legs off of Lieberman, I’ll be disappointed. Obama has to be careful about it. He had the chance to sink Lieberman, but it would have cost him political capital if he did it, so Lieberman was given a pass in return for stopping his flirtation with the Republicans. But he and his wife make a lot of money from the health insurance industry, so he renegged on the deal. Obama still can’t outright punish him, but parts of Congress can, and I’ll be disappointed if 2010 doesn’t include the effort to rid ourselves of this idiot.

    This was another one of those defining moments for some people. Everyone who had a lick of sense and/or the slightest glimmer of political acumen predicted this months and months ago; everyone knows what a spiteful snake Joe is and how he rolls. That Obama couldn’t – or wouldn’t – see this speaks volumes about his competence. Either that, or this was a situation where Jomentom is installed to do the Administration’s dirty work and he has no intention of actually running and winning yet another term in office.

    In which case, look to see him similarly and spectacularly self-destruct in the coming months and years – although it’s not as if he hasn’t already. Let me say this one last time – certain people had theories of realpolitik, and on the basis of those theories, made specific predictions.

    They turned out to be right. So they get my respect and attention. Those who refuse to make predictions, who engage only in partisan Monday morning quarterbacking? Not so much.

  83. John Scalzi,

    Yeah, kinda got on a roll and it just spewed out.

    Sorry about that.

    I normally just lurk on comment boards but the political chasm between well-intentioned people in this country drives me crazy.

    Love your work.

  84. VD@88:

    That being said, John was dead-on with his pre-inaugural advice to fellow Obama suppporters not to get their hopes up; I suspect that they have not yet seriously begun to be disappointed.

    The problem here is what does a representative Obama supporter look like. Yeah, I’m sure “there are those” who thought that with the death of the Evil Emperor and the ascension of The One, the Empire would fall, the Republic restored, and blessings of peace and prosperity would be upon us all, everyone.

    The question is, how representative are they? Most of the people I know voted against McCain/Palin, not for Obama, reasoning that the former represented a continuation of Bush policies and in any case were just plain scary. Obama was seen simply as someone who wouldn’t be doing the same thing, not the Savior of America.

  85. KatG: “VD, I agree with the economists who think you’re wrong, and I think Ron Paul is an idiot.”

    Well, you are certainly in the vast majority there. But you may wish to keep in mind that I nailed the 2008 housing price decline to within $300 while the mainstream forecasters were off by $43,000. We’ll find out soon enough.

    As for Ron Paul, I would merely note that Paul Volcker, Alan Greenspan, and Ben Bernanke would all very much disagree with you. They’re not at all keen on Paul, but they do respect him. If you haven’t read his book, End the Fed, you really owe it to yourself to do so. Americans managed to get rid of the three previous central banks, four if you count the Bank of England, so there’s no reason we have to tolerate the Fed’s monetary misrule.

  86. John et al, happy new 2010!
    Re Obama – I voted for him. Am I happy? Well, I think I can say I was one of those who expected him to actually fart rose-smelling rainbows, at least temporarily. I am still waiting. Which is OK.

    So, consider. You get a job offer. You want a 100k salary, but they give you only a half.
    You sure are pissed off and you want to flip them off. But then you think – it took you 8 friggin years to find this job. You flip it, and chances are, you will go another 8 years just as before, and you are not getting any younger.
    So, you take it. And your family thanks you. And they are correct – because they see something you don’t – you are NOT getting any younger.

    Same with Obama. I’ll get what I can. And say thank you. Never stopping to strive for the better. And that is my right, isn’t it?

    FYI, I am not a lefty. I am an immigrant from USSR, 16 years in this country. I never thought that – paraphrasing Jerry from Tom and Jerry – in America all streets were paved with cheese and all cats have gone to Mars. Indeed, it wasn’t the case. Still – immigration experience is not something I would like to repeat. But I was fully prepared to go live elsewhere – again, if Palin would have come to be #2 (and very potentially #1). Busheviks have done a thorough job of driving this country into the ground. Yet another ideologically driven administration would have wrapped us around a lamppost so well, that recession of 2009 would be like nothing to talk about. I am serious. I’ve seen this done before. It was not fun.

    So, again, happy 2010 to all. Just take it and stop farting out ethyl mercaptan just because Obama does not fart out roses.

  87. Bil: “The republicans see someone who surrounds himself with progressive big government academics who have never had to meet a payroll trying to get goverment control of virtually everything,”

    Then the republicans don’t know shit what they are talking about because that isn’t what’s going on at all. Obama surrounds himself with pragmatist centerists who piss off the progressives and they don’t want government control of business — it was fricking forced on them. But republican politicians do find it useful for fund raising to paint the illusionary picture of Obama as a dreamy impractical liberal academic and you keep drinking the koolaid. So did many leftists, which is why they are annoyed now.

    “The republicans also hate war. Most republicans don’t give two shits about gay marriage. There are no more racists in the republican party than the democrat party.”

    Unfortunately, no. Republicans advocate for war and vote in politicians who advocate for war. The Republican party is firmly for more war in the Middle East, including a faction who would like to go into Iran because they are batshit crazy. And the Republicans have consistently fought against gay marriage and their base is adamantly, vocally and religiously against gay marriage. And the Republican party has routinely harbored politicians who are segregationists, anti-Latino, etc., or have strong ties to those who are. Republican politicians have now become so openly racist in their speech that it’s embarrassing. These problems exist in the party and with Republican voters.

    “The health care debate is not about Obama to the republicans, it is about more government control of their lives.”

    Bullshit, utter bullshit. Republican politicians have publicly admitted that they are out to bring down Obama any way they can, including reversing their previous positions on Medicare spending. This is entirely about getting back seats and thwarting Obama as they did Clinton. There is no government control of lives going on, and if you want to play McCarthy, I’ve got no interest in continuing the conversation.

  88. Violet: “the best one can hope to do along these lines is to decide in advance what would constitute an unacceptable breach of trust”

    Or you can just deal with the real situations we’ve got.

    “it was how the administration behaved in the interim, namely that so-called “progressives” (actually, the majority of the American public) would be bullied and threatened, that the Blue Dogs would be catered to with absolutely zero strong-arming, that the public option, itself adopted as a compromise, would be dropped with little expenditure of political capitol to keep it, etc.”

    Which is why the bill is going to get passed, because that’s politics (although the Blue Dogs were strong-armed.) The public option hasn’t been dropped. It’s been dropped by the Senate. And it wasn’t a compromise, it was one of the few realistic options that had a chance of making it through. The bill will be hashed out by House and Senate, the public option may survive it or not. What matters is getting the bill passed. That’s why it’s messy. I spent a long time talking about why the public option is a good idea in previous discussions here, but the important thing is that a reform bill passes through. And Obama has been very smart to realize that if the White House tries to strongarm things through the Congress, he’ll lose what leverage he has. He’s let them fight, because that’s the best shot at getting it through.

    “That Obama couldn’t – or wouldn’t – see this speaks volumes about his competence.”

    No, you didn’t get what I said. It’s not that Obama didn’t see that Lieberman would turn, it’s that Obama faced difficult choices in dealing with Lieberman. If he ousted him from committees, etc., he lost political capital on a relatively small matter. So instead he made Lieberman dependent on his largess. And then he let Lieberman hang himself. I just want him to continue through on the hanging. But he probably won’t be doing it himself, because again, that’s not the best method. The best method is let Congress hang him.

    Everybody keeps expecting Obama to act like Clint Eastwood, but he’s not going to do that because it would be stupid and he’d lose and not get any of his agenda through. He leaves the screaming to others. And his agenda is not to have the government take over the country either, nor is it to usher in a new dawn of progressiveness.

    For me, Obama turned out to be smarter than I thought he was initially. That doesn’t mean he won’t have screw-ups. The Justice Department needs work, for instance. But overall, everything is inching forward.

  89. Kat@108:

    Violet: “the best one can hope to do along these lines is to decide in advance what would constitute an unacceptable breach of trust”

    Or you can just deal with the real situations we’ve got.

    Sigh. You have just made it quite clear that either you didn’t read what I wrote, or you are making a practice of quoting snippets and deliberately misinterpreting them.

    Now, here’s the deal: you can either go back and reread what I wrote, and then admit that your response is way off base . . . or I simply discount you as someone with anything relevant to say[1]. I’ll repeat myself five times. Not six. Especially since you come across as looking for a fight.

    [1]It’s pretty obvious from the rest of your post that you’re not up to snuff on the current political landscape(or for that matter – and perhaps more importantly – it’s history); it was impossible to oust Lieberman from any committee positions he held because he automatically lost his seniority and position as a Democrat to be privy to such perks, for example. Dems Da Rules.

  90. a fractious and fragile base in the diffuse Washington Democrats

    This is a misdirection from the actual problem. The fragility of the Democrat vote in Congress is a side-effect of the root cause: the unpopularity of the major legislative initiatives promoted by Obama and the majority party. Every single issue promoted to Prime Time status by Obama either further detracts from an already gloomy economic forecast, further increases job insecurity, or both. Neither of these effects are ever going to be popular even in good economic times, and as we all knew even in November, 2008, in good economic times we weren’t.

    This is a fundamental misreading of the electorate’s mindset, and severely undercuts any claim that Obama will have had a successful first year in office. Congressional Democrats are not fractious because it’s “in their nature”, but because they know they will pay the price for passing unpopular bills with their credibility and political careers. (Note well that Bush was able to pass force authorizations and military spending bills by overwhelming numbers even after losing ground in the Senate, and losing the House majority completely, in 2006. Though we complain about the details, the US still likes to win. A lot.)

    If Obama had championed solutions to health care, the economy, the environment, or anything else which guaranteed fewer taxes and created jobs, he would have all the votes he needed — and from the Republicans, as well. He didn’t, and is increasingly looking like he won’t — until they are imposed upon him after this year’s election.

  91. Bil @99, if in fact most Republicans don’t give a shit about ‘gay marriage’, they might want to have a little chat with the leadership of their party, since the party’s official platform has this to say on the subject: Because our children’s future is best preserved within the traditional understanding of marriage, we call for a constitutional amendment that fully protects marriage as a union of a man and a woman, so that judges cannot make other arrangements equivalent to it.

  92. Violet: “Especially since you come across as looking for a fight.”

    Not really, just tired of screeds in the new year, like gerrymander saying the electorate doesn’t want the health care reform that 60% of the electorate says it wants.

    I understood what you were doing. I just don’t think musing about whether we’d criticize Obama if the world blows up on his watch and we inexplicably invade Madagascar is a particularly useful exercise at present. Plus, it may cause a number of people to believe that invading Madagascar is now on Obama’s agenda. If that starts showing up on the far right websites, it’s on your head, Violet. :)

    Bill: “The “leadership” of the party is out of touch. They don’t lead and they don’t listen.”

    They’re listening — they’re just not listening to your part of the party. If you want to change it, work on the part of the Republican electorate that thinks the leadership of the party hasn’t gone far enough and should make gay sex illegal again. Vote for Democrats until the Republican party sponsors some sane candidates. Vote for the few sane Republican candidates and campaign for them. If you want to claim that the majority of Republicans feel the way that you do, Bill, then all of you need to take back your party from the minority you don’t like. It would help if you dropped the screed that Obama is pursuing rampant socialism, which is just another re-packaging of McCarthy communist witch-hunting and gives the far right part of your party more power.

    Right now, there’s a civil war going on in the Republican party and it’s going to get worse. Democrats aren’t going to fight it for you. But if you do have the majority in the Republican electorate that you say you do, you should be able to win that civil war eventually.

  93. KatG@114:

    I understood what you were doing. I just don’t think musing about whether we’d criticize Obama if the world blows up on his watch and we inexplicably invade Madagascar is a particularly useful exercise at present.

    Really? Then why don’t you paraphrase my points, using your own words. Because you sure don’t sound as if you do. And no, that doesn’t excuse your tactics in any event. Finally, for someone criticizing someone elses “facts” (you happen to be right about the 60% favorability rating for the public option), it would behoove you to admit you were wrong about “ousting” Lieberman; if you think that what I wrote “is the same thing”, then you have once again, demonstrated a certain lack of political acumen. The equivalent of saying that letting tax cuts expire on schedule and voting for a tax increase “is the same thing”.

  94. John@116: What can I do with someone who deliberately misconstrues what I say? Since I’ve explained myself at least five times now, I find this sort of nonsense a little wearing, especially since the points I am making are not hard to understand. Frankly, they seem sort of elementary.

  95. “What can I do with someone who deliberately misconstrues what I say?”

    a) Entertain that you may also be misconstruing what that person is saying to you or at the very least talking at cross purposes and politely work to understand the nature of the disconnect, or failing that (or coming to the conclusion that no future discussion is possible)

    b) Disengage and stop talking to that person on this particular thread.

  96. John@118: That is precisely why I asked KatG to paraphrase the points I was trying to make. So far, no response. Do you understand what I am saying? Do you have any difficulties parsing my words? There may indeed be some misunderstanding present, but I don’t see how at this point, and unless this person obliges, I don’t see how it can be cleared up. And if this person refuses to try to clear up any “misunderstandings” . . .

  97. KatG @ 114: “Not really, just tired of screeds in the new year, like gerrymander saying the electorate doesn’t want the health care reform that 60% of the electorate says it wants.”

    That’s not what I said. What I did say was that the electorate is currently and overwhelmingly looking to the economic bottom line and their own employment prospects first and foremost; recent polls confirm this.

    I’m sure the electorate would be happy to support health care reform which didn’t cost them or their employers more money. There are even ways to do that, but Obama and Congressional Democrats have instead chosen the tax and spend (and spend and spend) route. (But me no buts about OMB scores. Anyone running a household budget knows that paying ten years to get service for six is not a good deal, and not financially sustainable.) Hence the unpopularity among the electorate.

  98. What can I do with someone who deliberately misconstrues what I say? Since I’ve explained myself at least five times now, I find this sort of nonsense a little wearing, especially since the points I am making are not hard to understand. Frankly, they seem sort of elementary

    Since you seem to be having problems with multiple people in the thread, perhaps you should look to the common link.

  99. Scent of Violet: If you’re going to freak out every time someone misunderstands what you are saying and throw a snit-fit critique of their responses, Scalzi’s blog conversations are maybe not where you want to hang out. As it happens, I would argue that you are misunderstanding my second response to your hypothetical musings. I was saying you could do hypothetical musings that won’t happen or you could deal with real things happening now. I don’t need to paraphrase you to say that.

    As for Senator Lieberman, no, he does not automatically lose his seniority and perks by switching from Democrat to Independent. Nor is there a rule or Congressional law that seniority prevents you from being ousted from a committee or chairship. It is a convention of the Congress that seniority is honored, but it is also the convention and the reality that the party in the majority of Congress can disregard seniority and move those of their choice into a committee position. Which is why Lieberman went begging to the Democrats. The Democrats wanted mostly to oust him, but Obama did not want to expend political capital at the time by looking partisan, and indeed, it would have been a mess. This is in keeping with Obama’s steadfast focus on a centrist position, not a leftist one. I truly do not know what Lieberman’s plan is right now — the guy’s a nutball — but he’s vulnerable and reprehensible, and I, like many Democrats and Republicans, want him gone. But I believe Obama will continue to take the centerist position and leave it to the Democratic party to take him out.

    As for my political acumen, you’re entitled to think what you like about it. I’m married to a political science professor, for what it’s worth, and so my viewpoint may be a little different from some other folk in the discussion.

    Gerrymander — that the electorate polls that they are most worried about their jobs and getting jobs, and then next worried about health care does not mean that the current health care reform is unpopular. You’re building a non-existent correlation based on your own views of the bill. Support for health care reform has been consistent and in the majority. It is also in the majority for doctors. About the only ones who don’t support it are insurance companies and those politicians taking large sums of money from them, like Lieberman, and even the insurance companies are cutting back deals because they know the bill will be passed eventually.

  100. KatG@122:

    Scent of Violet: If you’re going to freak out every time someone misunderstands what you are saying and throw a snit-fit critique of their responses, Scalzi’s blog conversations are maybe not where you want to hang out. As it happens, I would argue that you are misunderstanding my second response to your hypothetical musings. I was saying you could do hypothetical musings that won’t happen or you could deal with real things happening now. I don’t need to paraphrase you to say that.

    But you quoted me as saying this:

    Violet: “the best one can hope to do along these lines is to decide in advance what would constitute an unacceptable breach of trust”

    And then replied:

    Or you can just deal with the real situations we’ve got.

    So your explanation does not follow from those bits of mine you quoted. At all. If that is what you really meant. So why did you quote me then if your response has nothing to do with what I wrote? (I might also point out that nothing I said was “hypothetical”; if-then conditionals never are, only their antecedents. But I get the impression that you don’t stick with standard definitions.) In fact, I’ve pointed out repeatedly that those situations of crossing the line have already happened. You can argue against them as specific cases, but not as expressions of a general case – that is, as I’ve pointed out numerous times , completely vacuous.

  101. KatG@122:

    And by the way, this isn’t true either:

    As for Senator Lieberman, no, he does not automatically lose his seniority and perks by switching from Democrat to Independent. Nor is there a rule or Congressional law that seniority prevents you from being ousted from a committee or chairship. It is a convention of the Congress that seniority is honored, but it is also the convention and the reality that the party in the majority of Congress can disregard seniority and move those of their choice into a committee position.

    This is again misquoting what I said, but let that pass – the point is that in these situations, the voting is on the subject of whether or not the person under consideration retains his perks, not whether or not they should be stripped of them. Big difference. Here is one such article:

    The Senate Democrats are hedging their bets, apparently promising Joe Lieberman he will retain his seniority if he’s re-elected as an Independent and joins their caucus.

    Sen. Joe Lieberman, the longtime Democratic senator from Connecticut running for re-election as an independent, says the party leadership has assured him he would keep his seniority if he returns to Congress. Local Democrats are responding with irritation, political opponents voice disbelief, and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) denies making a decision.

    But the strongest response is likely to come from Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) who views Lieberman’s independent status as an opportunity to press Democratic leaders to restore seniority he lost four years ago. If Lautenberg retrieves seniority accrued during 18 years of Senate service before retiring in 2000, he could leapfrog Lieberman to lead the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee or the Environment and Public Works Committee.

    So, your mischaracterization of what I said aside, ipso facto you can’t “oust” someone in Lieberman’s position of several months ago. The question is whether or not he retains his status, not whether or not he is stripped of it. I can’t believe you’re really arguing that if Lieberman ran as a Republican and won there would have to be a vote to “oust” him as Chairman of Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Words and their definitions matter.

  102. As one of the most successful politicians ever, I think it will take some time (say until November 2010) to differentiate between Obama who excelled in campaigning and President Obama who failed in the politics of governing. And, further, to be judged as one of the worst presidents ever.

    Please bear with me, I don’t say this to start a flame war. I say this as someone who supported Obama and found the direction of the US and the Republicans extremely scary. I thought there was nothing more important than to end Republican rule and would have been supportive of almost any Democrat. I even thought that Obama might be a risk to that goal given racial politics in the US, so that Hilary might have been the safer choice. But support him I did and it was because he often said he’d change the politics of Washington where “good ideas go to die.”

    Now, I know nothing plays as well in American politics as playing the outsider to Washington card, but so much of what he said supported that, and, along with his background, it made it believable. I think he won, not just because Americans had come to hate the Republicans, but because Obama reignited Americans faith in politics. This was a Jimmy Stewart moment.

    Now, I hate to use this language considering American history, but it follows from the above: it seems to me, and it seems to be a common Democratic base assessment, that Washington is a place where the hope of Obama went to die. And to a large degree I think it is Obama’s fault. He acts as if politics ended with his inauguration instead of just starting. What we have found out is that he is not an FDR with ideas to go along with a mandate, but he is not a Johnston to arm twist when necessary to further his agenda.

    I think his epic failure will be seen as NOT continuing his campaign on differentiating himself from Republicans and their policies. And that his coddling of Republicans and his cozying up to their policies will shift the political center further right and make a return to Republican rule more likely.

    And after the national disaster of eight years of George Bush and Dick Cheney, a return to the crazies of the American right within a a two to eight year time span is cause enough in my books to label anyone an epic failure.

    Hope I’m wrong.

    Mr. Scalzi: love your books, hope your muse never deserts you.

  103. KatG @ 122: “that the electorate polls that they are most worried about their jobs and getting jobs, and then next worried about health care does not mean that the current health care reform is unpopular.”

    What those polls indicate is that health care is considered less important than the economy by a 1-to-3 or -4 margin. It should be no surprise that any health care initiatives which detract from the economic picture would therefore be unpopular.

    “Support for health care reform has been consistent and in the majority.”

    It is not. Nationwide support for Obama’s healthcare reform currently averages at -12 across the major polling organizations — and a significant number of those number the opposition greater than 50% — in other words, the majority. The popularity of health care reform has decreased steadily over the past year.

  104. gerrymander@126:

    “Support for health care reform has been consistent and in the majority.”

    It is not. Nationwide support for Obama’s healthcare reform currently averages at -12 across the major polling organizations — and a significant number of those number the opposition greater than 50% — in other words, the majority.

    You’re not making any sense with this one – you disagree with the poster about generic HCR, but then you produce statistics for another and much more specific question: support for Obama’s health care “reform”. The two are not the same, and so you have not supported your statement with any evidence. There is considerable support for having a public option, for example, something in the neighborhood of 60%. So no, you’re wrong on this one, or at least haven’t backed up your initial denial.

  105. Violet: “So your explanation does not follow from those bits of mine you quoted. At all. If that is what you really meant. So why did you quote me then if your response has nothing to do with what I wrote? (I might also point out that nothing I said was “hypothetical”; if-then conditionals never are, only their antecedents. But I get the impression that you don’t stick with standard definitions.) In fact, I’ve pointed out repeatedly that those situations of crossing the line have already happened. You can argue against them as specific cases, but not as expressions of a general case – that is, as I’ve pointed out numerous times , completely vacuous.”

    I have no idea what the fuck you’re talking about here, so consider me vacuous. You suggested a hypothetical situation. I said that situation is never going to happen, here’s what’s going on now that concerns me more. You said consider the hypothetical situation, and I said or you can consider the real situation on-going. If that’s a different conversation from the one you’re having, then I would suggest having that different conversation with somebody else.

    By oust, I mean work to stop Lieberman from getting re-elected to the Senate. Which may or may not work, but I’m hoping the attempt will be made.

    Gerrymander: Support for health care reform has been consistent. Support for the various versions of the bill — which is not actually Obama’s bill yet — have gone up and down. This is especially the case because a lot of Americans don’t understand that all the haggling over the bill is normal and they get nervous whenever there is screaming, and because the media get more ratings for reporting doom and gloom than logical analysis.

    The economy has to be Americans’ number one priority because that’s how they eat. So of course it’s got a larger share of concern. That doesn’t mean that the majority of Americans don’t want a health reform bill. I disagree with you about the bill’s effects, that it is a tax and spend bill. If you want to disregard the CBO’s figures as inaccurate, you can. But I’m not going to argue with you about it, because as I’ve learned from previous go-rounds about the bill, there is little point in doing so.

    I think I will take Mr. Scalzi’s advice on this matter.

  106. KatG@128:

    Violet: “So your explanation does not follow from those bits of mine you quoted. At all. If that is what you really meant. So why did you quote me then if your response has nothing to do with what I wrote?

    I have no idea what the fuck you’re talking about here, so consider me vacuous[1]. You suggested a hypothetical situation. I said that situation is never going to happen, here’s what’s going on now that concerns me more. You said consider the hypothetical situation, and I said or you can consider the real situation on-going. If that’s a different conversation from the one you’re having, then I would suggest having that different conversation with somebody else.

    Really? Let’s do the quote thing again. I said:

    I can say it again: my point is that even under the most dystopic scenarios, the argument can be made(and will) that this is all just so much sausage-making, that people’s expectations for what Obama can realistically accomplish are too high, etc. The best one can hope to do along these lines is to decide in advance what would constitute an unacceptable breach of trust.

    Which is everything in that post up to the one sentence, the last one, that you quoted. Where are the “hypotheticals”? I sure don’t see them. What I see is the explanation you’ve asked for and I’ve given several times now. You then replied:

    Violet: “the best one can hope to do along these lines is to decide in advance what would constitute an unacceptable breach of trust.”

    KatG: “Or you can just deal with the real situations we’ve got.”

    I repeat then: how does your response follow from this?

    This ought to be good.

    By oust, I mean work to stop Lieberman from getting re-elected to the Senate. Which may or may not work, but I’m hoping the attempt will be made.

    Oh? If by that you mean not lift one figure to help him – he’s not a Democrat, why give him any money or other support – and he’s polling in 30’s right now, then, yes, “not supporting” is the same thing as “ousting”. And if I have curable cancer but no money to pay for the treatment, hospitals are killing me.

    [1]If you don’t know basic terms and terminology, conditionals, contrapositives, antecedents, consequents, etc, maybe you shouldn’t be so quick to throw around words like “hypotheticals”. Iow, “If rain is forecast for tomorrow, I will carry an umbrella to work” is not a “hypothetical”. “Suppose it rains tomorrow” is.

  107. eastendleo at 125: Good analysis. I would take exception to one thing in your post. Obama is not losing support because he is “coddling Republicans”. Obama is losing because he is NOT making any concerted effort to lead his party. He is allowing Pelosi and Reid to set the path to ‘reform’ and they both simply lack the stature, the integrity and the vision to close the gaps between the competing Democratic factions.

    I didn’t vote for Obama. When he was elected, however, a small part of me wondered if he was actually going to be an idealist. A Mr. Smith Goes to Washington type. Even though I would have largely disagreed with his policies, I could have respected that idealism, that focus, that kind of clarity and honesty. Instead Obama has ushered in, via action or inaction (you decide) a level of corruption far above what the Bushites brought to Washington.

    And that is why I think Obama is losing the independents. Not that Republicans are ‘good’, but that he (and Reid and Pelosi) is steadily convincing the independents that Republicans are ‘less bad’ than Democrats.

  108. “Oh? If by that you mean not lift one figure to help him – he’s not a Democrat, why give him any money or other support – and he’s polling in 30’s right now, then, yes, “not supporting” is the same thing as “ousting”. And if I have curable cancer but no money to pay for the treatment, hospitals are killing me.”

    Um. No, it’s not the same thing. If you were dying of incurable cancer, it means that the cancer is killing you, not some medical facility that does not provide treatment to you for whatever reason. Unless said medical facility caused your cancer in the first place. And really, all any medical treatment can do, at best, is delay your death, not prevent it (unless you happen to be immortal, in which case the cancer would likely not kill you either). So failing to delay your death =/= killing you.

  109. uglyscot@131:

    Um, yes it is. The Democrats aren’t “ousting” Lieberman, the good people of CT are(this is KatG’s definition, remember.) Just like the hospitals aren’t killing me, the cancer is. That’s the point of the analogy: Saying that the Democrats are “ousting” Lieberman by refusing to help him in his (possible) bid for reelection is like saying hospitals are killing me by denying me treatment.

    Silly, isn’t it?

  110. KatG: “By oust, I mean work to stop Lieberman from getting re-elected to the Senate. Which may or may not work, but I’m hoping the attempt will be made.”

    ScentOfViolets: “Oh? If by that you mean not lift one figure to help him – he’s not a Democrat, why give him any money or other support – and he’s polling in 30’s right now, then, yes, “not supporting” is the same thing as “ousting”. And if I have curable cancer but no money to pay for the treatment, hospitals are killing me.”

    ScentOfViolets: “The Democrats aren’t “ousting” Lieberman, the good people of CT are(this is KatG’s definition, remember.)”

    ScentOfViolets, you are not making sense to me. And by ‘not making sense’, I mean you seem to take a person’s comment, apply your interpretation, and point at your interpretation as the original commenter’s own definition.

  111. Well, you’re free to tell me exactly where my interpretation differed from what she said.

    You didn’t. You also did not acknowledge your error wrt the analogy.

    ‘Nuff said.

  112. Well, you’re free to tell me exactly where my interpretation differed from what she said.

    She said “work to stop Lieberman from getting re-elected”; that’s actively working against him: giving money to his (primary) opponents, volunteering for opposition campaigns, and so on.

    You turned it into “not lift one figure [sic] to help him”, which is not the same thing, and then proceeded to attack her for that position.

  113. ScentOfViolets: “Well, you’re free to tell me exactly where my interpretation differed from what she said.”

    John Scalzi @ 118: “a) Entertain that you may also be misconstruing what that person is saying to you or at the very least talking at cross purposes and politely work to understand the nature of the disconnect, or failing that (or coming to the conclusion that no future discussion is possible)”

    ‘Nuff said.

  114. She said “work to stop Lieberman from getting re-elected”; that’s actively working against him: giving money to his (primary) opponents, volunteering for opposition campaigns, and so on.

    . . . And if you read a little more closely above (and know something about politics), you would know that Lieberman’s approval rating for the people that elected him is in the low 30’s right now, he has to run as an independent so that he has no primary challenger (and thus, the Democratic party can’t help the non-existant challenger), etc.

    So, no, the Democrats can’t work to “oust” Lieberman since they really don’t have the tools to do so, nor the need, since Lieberman will very likely not win another term. Otoh, they can work to help him – look what they did to Ned Lamont – and it’s possible that a concerted push by the party might put him back in for one more round. So the only way her definition works is to define “ousting” as “not helping”, or alternatively, helping the Democratic candidate for the Senate seat. And even then, it’s pretty silly.

    You _did_ know all of this before you posted, or if you didn’t, you’ll look it up now, right?

  115. “She said “work to stop Lieberman from getting re-elected”; that’s actively working against him: giving money to his (primary) opponents, volunteering for opposition campaigns, and so on.”

    . . . And if you read a little more closely above (and know something about politics), you would know that Lieberman’s approval rating for the people that elected him is in the low 30’s right now, he has to run as an independent so that he has no primary challenger (and thus, the Democratic party can’t help the non-existant challenger), etc.

    So, no, the Democrats can’t work to “oust” Lieberman since they really don’t have the tools to do so, nor the need, since Lieberman will very likely not win another term. Otoh, they can work to help him – look what they did to Ned Lamont – and it’s possible that a concerted push by the party might put him back in for one more round. So the only way her definition works is to define “ousting” as “not helping”, or alternatively, helping the Democratic candidate for the Senate seat. And even then, it’s pretty silly.

    You _did_ know all of this before you posted, or if you didn’t, you’ll look it up now, right?

    ScentOfViolets: If you had read a little more closely, you would know that KatG said nothing of the kind. You continue to conflate your interpretation of her words with what she actually said. The only way to equate her use of “ousting” with “not helping” is by applying your unfounded interpretation. And even then, it’s pretty silly.

    You _did_ know all of this before you posted, or if you didn’t, you’ll look it up now, right?

  116. ScentOfViolets: If you had read a little more closely, you would know that KatG said nothing of the kind. You continue to conflate your interpretation of her words with what she actually said. The only way to equate her use of “ousting” with “not helping” is by applying your unfounded interpretation. And even then, it’s pretty silly.

    Uh, okay, I’ll bite: to start with, who would primary against Lieberman? Just name a few people, who they are affiliated with, etc.

    Since you think the Democratic party can do things like fund his primary opponents, you can surely name some possibilities, right?

    Otoh, if you can’t . . .

  117. “Since you think the Democratic party can do things like fund his primary opponents, you can surely name some possibilities, right?”

    ScentOfViolets: Perhaps your moniker should be ScentofPoppies because there is nothing in what I’ve posted thus far that could possibly support your conjecture. You say “Since you think…” so very confidently. But you don’t. Know what I think, that is. At all. It is merely more (inaccurate) assertions of your interpretation.

  118. So are you saying then that the Democratic party could not work to “oust” Lieberman by funding his primary opponent?

    This isn’t a hard question. If the answer is yes, we can go with that. If the answer is no, we can take the other fork.

  119. ScentOfPoppies, hard question or not, I am not obliged to answer you. Really.

    You can take that fork and do with it whatever you want.

  120. I think we can officially say this is a whole lot of going nowhere and that folks should probably just give it a rest. That’s not a commandment, just a suggestion.

  121. Iow, you know damn well(now, at least, I imagine you did some googling first) that saying the Democratic party could “oust” Lieberman by funding his opponent in the primaries is complete nonsense.

    But because you want this to be personal, and because you can’t admit you made a mistake, you won’t come out and say so.

    I guess that’s one way I’m a conservative – I believe in personal responsibility.

  122. I think I’m out of here until certain people start acting responsibly.

    Yes, that does require that they admit they made mistakes, and an apology for their personal behaviour would be appropriate too(And no, I haven’t made any mistakes, and no I won’t admit to any “just to get along.” That’s part of what’s Wrong with America right now – people who talk through their hat but don’t want to own up when caught out. Hence the bizarre and often hostile turns of conversation.)

    But I doubt any sort of mature behaviour from these folks will be forthcoming any time soon.

  123. And if you read a little more closely above (and know something about politics), you would know that Lieberman’s approval rating for the people that elected him is in the low 30’s right now, he has to run as an independent so that he has no primary challenger (and thus, the Democratic party can’t help the non-existant challenger), etc

    So running a strong Democratic candidate against him wouldn’t help? Helping that Democratic candidate in the primaries wouldn’t help? Funding his (Democratic) opponent in the general wouldn’t help? Working for his (Democratic) opponent wouldn’t help?

    Which of these, specifically, wouldn’t help?

    I suppose that since you flounced out of here in #146, you’re not going to respond, but it’s been an odd conversation. You’ve been having an argument with positions that you’ve concocted for your opponents, rather than–say, just for kicks–the ones they actually hold.

  124. Cue the drive-by immaturity:

    “I think I’m out of here until certain people start acting responsibly…”

    Translated as:

    “I’m going to very strongly consider not reading, well not reading deeply, I’ll start skimming responses, maybe, if you don’t just stop and agree, you know, because I’m right, and also, well, you’re not and if you’re not going to play your game by my rules I might consider thinking about taking the board, you know, somewhere else. Probably. Because I say so. And, you guys are dumb.”

    Flouncing is an automatic DQ into irrelevance. The threat of flouncing is just silly. Hang on. The judges say threatening to flounce is also an automatic DQ into irrelevence.

    Neener neener neener neener.

    My favorite quote back in the 80s:

    “Silbey, you’ve just stated that Obama could have death squads roaming the streets, and you would still dismiss any criticism as the mere product of malcontents on the fringes.”

  125. And that is why I think Obama is losing the independents. Not that Republicans are ‘good’, but that he (and Reid and Pelosi) is steadily convincing the independents that Republicans are ‘less bad’ than Democrats.

    After having lived through the past decade, I’m not sure under what conceivable circumstances the Republicans could be considered ‘less bad’ than the Democrats, but the current circumstances certainly ain’t them.

  126. Rochrist at 149: As I have also lived through the past decade (and three plus more besides), I am willing to let the 2010 mid-term elections determine which of us is right on this particular issue.

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