Andrew Sullivan Posits a Hypothesis To Make Everyone Of Every Political Stripe Hate Him

Which is that everyone who is foamy about Obama, on the right and on the left, is hopelessly and dishonestly obtuse, and that eventually Obama is going to rope-a-dope everyone with his masterful mastery and long-term planning. Oh, Andrew. No hugs for you, my friend.

That said, I think Sullivan isn’t wrong, at least on the point that the right has willfully mischaracterized Obama and his policies at every possible opportunity, and that the left often acts in a pouty, foot-stompy Veruca Salt fashion toward Obama and wants its nut-husking squirrel now without regard to the political reality that Obama’s had to deal with, not the least of which, remember, is a right which has portrayed him unremittingly as a weakling socialist traitor since roughly 12:01pm, January 20, 2009.

I’m not nearly as convinced as Sullivan is that Obama has a long game as such; what I do think Obama has is a pragmatic streak, the ability to be patient, and a willingness to take half a loaf under the idea that getting one half of the loaf makes the second half easier to get later — and if not, you still have half a loaf. In short, he’s intelligently opportunistic, which from the outside looks like a long game, at least to Sullivan. This is not to say that Obama doesn’t have long-term goals — dude does, obviously. I’m just not 100% convinced that he’s working on them in anyway that can be said to be actually systematic. This has as much to do with the political realities Obama works within as anything else.

At this point I don’t expect the right to do anything regarding Obama other than what it does; it’s got all its chips on the “socialist traitor” square and has to ride it until the ball drops. I do wonder when the foamier elements of the left are going to pull their heads out and recognize that the path to a political reality they actually want has to go through Obama, or it’s not going to happen at all. I’m rather more politically aligned with the left in the US than with the right, but the one thing I don’t think the left has shown itself as capable of doing is anything approaching long term-thinking, which is one reason it managed to piss away control of the legislative branch in 2010. I find the American left exasperating, to be blunt about it.

Which is of course my problem, not the left’s; it’s not here on the planet to please me. That said, I do wonder what those on the left irritated with Obama and his failures think is going to happen if Romney gets into office, since what the left sees as Obama’s failures are what the right sees as laudable goals for Romney. If they decide to stay home, I wonder what they think they’re going to gain, and whether they think whatever Democratic candidate they will get after four or eight years of additional Republican rule is going to somehow be to the left of Obama, or, given the track records of the last couple of Republican presidents, will find the country in any less of a jam than Obama has.

In any event, an interesting article from Sullivan; check it out.

207 thoughts on “Andrew Sullivan Posits a Hypothesis To Make Everyone Of Every Political Stripe Hate Him

  1. Hear, hear. About the only point I disagree on is this:

    “I’m rather more politically aligned with the left in the US than with the right, but the one thing I don’t think the left has shown itself as capable of doing is anything approaching long term-thinking, which is one reason it managed to piss away control of the legislative branch.”

    I don’t think the left ever had control; I’d say the 2006 “wave” was center-right politicians with R’s after their names being eliminated in favor of center-right politicians with D’s after their names. Lots of new Blue Dogs…

  2. Actually, I figure if you’re making the True Believers on both sides of the aisle hate you, you’re probably doing something right. Point, Obama. Point, Sullivan.

  3. I’m going to have to disagree a little. Using the excuse (and it is an excuse) of the “political reality that Obama’s had to deal with” allows the president to easily escape responsibility for a whole host of poor, if not outright bad, decision making. Sure, he didn’t have an easy time of it, but is being President supposed to be easy? He came into office with a clear majority of Americans voting for him and what he stood for during the election and yet he squandered it away by not standing up to Republican obstructionism when he had the American people behind them.

    All that being said, you’re right, the “left” — whatever that may be — has to find a way to work with the president, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be held accountable. As American we have a responsibility to hold our elected officials accountable and expect them to do what’s good for the country, not for a small group of well-money individuals and groups. We have given up this responsibility and that’s our fault, not the president’s.

  4. C’mon Unholyguy. Obama has not stood up like we would have liked on Gitmo, but I think it’s a pretty far step to say he’s trashed Habeas Corpus. Would Romney be better?

  5. Oh, absolutely, Obama should be held accountable. I wanted JFK choosing to go to the moon. I got Rutherford Hayes and his self-loathing party facing a bat-shit insane opposition. (Go look it up. The similarities are eerie, and with a Bush-like electoral college victory to boot. Kookie.)

    But I expected the GOP to be obstructionist. They got nothing in the tank, so saying the opponent is a baby-eater is mainly the filler in the Republican Party’s lackluster follow-up to their Dark Side of the Moon. (Bad analogy. They sucked in the 2000′s, and Floyd is only capable of interesting train wrecks at worst.) The Democrats, on the other hand, could have had all 535 seats in Congress and still not find enough votes to pass anything meaningful to field a decent softball team.

  6. The real problem is this:

    The European left of the 1920s has not found its way to these shores; it has never been here. And that’s the real problem: There is no “the” Left in America. In 1920s Europe, there were three, or maybe four, distinct versions of organized leftist politics. In the US, what has passed for the organized left has never had fewer than a dozen factions, and they’ve always been much more evenly matched than the European “Labour is half the Left and everybody else fights over the remaining half” meme. The irony that the Right over here resembles the 1920s European Left in structure, while it has long been extraordinarily fragmented in Europe (as much on ancestral disdain as anything else), seems to have escaped Mr Sullivan…

    As Leo McGarry told Jed Bartlet before the 1998 campaign, “I’m tired of voting for the lesser of ‘Who cares?’” That’s what Obama is to me: The lesser of the evils, as a slightly right moderate versus the right-wing nutcases from the Heffalump Party. It’s all within the margins of error — the errors of who the political parties are allowing us to choose from.

  7. The Democrats, on the other hand, could have had all 535 seats in Congress and still not find enough votes to pass anything meaningful to field a decent softball team.

    Oh, baloney. You can recognize that Obama could have been more aggressive without making silly noises like that. The Republicans had a veto over anything the D’s wanted to do once Kennedy died. Asking Obama to be more “forceful” is not somehow going to change that.

    If “Indefinite detention without trial” does not mean trashing Habeas Corpus then what does?

    You do understand that Senator Feinstein’s amendment explicitly says that nothing in the act is supposed to “expand or limit” the President’s authority in this matter? I.E. the bill changes nothing that didn’t already exist.

  8. The problem I have with Obama is that he takes the loaf, cuts it in half and then implies that its his starting point, which by the end of the negotiations with the Republicans meant we had 1/4 to an 1/8 of a loaf left. See exhibit A” The so-called Stimulus bill that wasn’t.

    He also seems to forget sometimes that he’s the head of the democratic party, which in turn means getting Harry Reid to look at the big picture instead of local politics (such as Reid killing the bipartisan agreement on dealing with climate change so that he could shore up support in Nevada, knowing that this would be the outcome).

  9. Paul, I don’t think that Barack Obama is secretly Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Although that’s more believable than some of the stuff the right comes up with about him.

  10. “You can recognize that Obama could have been more aggressive without making silly noises like that. The Republicans had a veto over anything the D’s wanted to do once Kennedy died. Asking Obama to be more “forceful” is not somehow going to change that.”

    He could have put the heat on the Rs MUCH more than he did in the first year. Make them look like the batshit insane obstructionists. Show some spine. Paul is right, Obama gave away his statting point and negoitiated to the right from there. Consider that in his first 2 years he had both houses and an overwhelming majority in the Senate. Sure, he didn’t have 60+ in lockstep, but Jesus H Christ if you need that, you fail hard. Rs are going to filibuster? Fine, make sure that everyone knows they’re being No Birds. Push them. Show some spine.

    I vote for change. What I got was a center-right pol. I don’t mind intelligent compromise. What I dislike is spineless capitulation. Some of that, perhaps much of it, is the Ds in Congress but Obama didn’t seem to be leading. The hard part is that he’s accomplished a lot… but doesn’t get or take credit for it. And NDAA… is cowardly.

  11. He could have put the heat on the Rs MUCH more than he did in the first year

    That’s a lovely idea. Explain how it gets him the 60th vote in the Senate. Again, your comment is exactly what the most asinine parts of the left has been shrieking about: “show some spine” “stand up” “be angry.” That and $2.01 will get you Starbucks coffee in Manhattan. It won’t get you the 60th vote in the Senate and no matter how much you say “fail hard” it doesn’t change the fact that the GOP was going to say “no” to everything.

  12. Er, when has the mainstream “right” (politicians and mainstream media folks and not people on the internets) said that he’s a “traitor”?

    I can show you dozens of examples of Bush being called a “fascist” or “Nazi” by Olbermann, Dean etc. I can show you lots of examples of Dem politicians (Ferraro, Pelosi, Biden) calling the Tea Party and GOP legislators “Traitors”, “Treasonous”, “Terrorists” but I don’t know of anyone of note on the right ever calling Obama a “Traitor”.

    One I will give you is Palin did say he “Palled around with terrorist” BIll Ayers… which he actually did. But it is no where the same thing as calling him a “traitor”.

  13. And the mainstream has gone after Obama for the last few years for being a Keynesian. Even prompting a hilarious moment at a Tea Party where an Obama supporter accused a Tea Party protester or “racism” for holding a sign that called him a “Keynesian” which the supporter thought meant “Kenyan”.

    Of course, that’s ignoring the fact that Keynes would want nothing to do with modern Keynesians.

  14. JohnW,

    I don’t understand the source of your comment. Are you implying that “history was reset” in that we’re all expected to forget all the endless hysteria aimed at Bush and the GOP from 2000 – 2008 by the Left (and some of my “people”, Libertarians)?

  15. Scorpius:

    “Er, when has the mainstream ‘right’ (politicians and mainstream media folks and not people on the internets) said that he’s a ‘traitor’?”

    I’m curious as to why you seem to feel that the Internet doesn’t count, and why you seem to positing that the only people on the right that have credence to express an opinion would be politicians and mainstream media folks.

    That said, here’s Michael Savage calling Obama a traitor. I’m looking forward to hearing an explanation of how a man heard by 10 million listeners a week on “The Michael Savage Show” and syndicated across the U.S. in more than 300 market, and the author of 25 books, including four New York Times best-sellers, is not sufficiently mainstream for this purpose.

    Also, I believe John W. was largely agreeing with you. Here’s the reset button he was talking about.

  16. I can show you lots of examples of Dem politicians (Ferraro, Pelosi, Biden) calling the Tea Party and GOP legislators “Traitors”, “Treasonous”, “Terrorists”

    Okay, go ahead.

  17. “Oh, baloney. You can recognize that Obama could have been more aggressive without making silly noises like that.”

    True, Obama could stand to be more aggressive. I understand taking the low-key, consensus building approach, but the fact is the Democratic Party (I am a Republican-loathing independent, btw) is completely incapable of coming with anything resembling a consensus until some puts a gun to their head. I know it’s a big tent, but Jesus, figure out why you’re in the f***ing tent to begin with.

  18. David @2258: here’s your popcorn, I ‘spect we’ll be waiting a while.

    I have to agree with Paul that Obama’s negotiating style leaves a lot to be desired. Sure he was dealt a lousy hand, and he was elected with the understanding that he’d try to heal the partisan rift, but oy, he tried a little too hard without any attempt for the others to meet him halfway or indeed negotiate in good faith.

  19. “I’m curious as to why you seem to feel that the Internet doesn’t count, and why you seem to positing that the only people on the right that have credence to express an opinion would be politicians and mainstream media folks.”

    Because some lone wolf on the internet calling him a traitor (or Bush a “fascist”) has no influence on what the majority of the “right” or left think.

    As to Savage: he’s the “right”‘s version of “Adbusters” (you know, the antisemetic, left-wing magazine that claims start OWS?). Show me a media figure or politician with real influence over a majority of a political movement (like VP Biden has over Democrats) that’s called him a “traitor” and then I’ll accept your generalization that the “right which has portrayed him unremittingly as a weakling socialist traitor since roughly 12:01pm, January 20, 2009.”

  20. As someone on the right, I’m no fan of President Obama’s policies, but have always thought that he seems an intelligent person. That being said, I think he’s incredibly ignorant of history as he tried to repeat liberal initiatives that history has repeatedly proven to be failures. I’m sure those to my left would disagree.

    The greatest problem for me is the “They did it first” mentality that permeates Washington. Republicans are currently blocking all sorts of legislative appointments, not because they’re not qualified, but because Democrats did it during the Bush Administration. President Obama called out debt limit increases repeatedly as a senator to score cheap political points, now that he’s on the other side, he’s all for them and has increased our debt more in three years than President Bush did in eight. If you won’t let your political opponents govern when they’re in power, how do you expect to govern when you are.

    The point is that the people in power need to be able to legislate and get things done. Being president means being able to appoint people to government positions. As legislators, members of Congress should judge those appointments based on their skill and knowledge, not on their political philosophies. I don’t politically agree with Sonia Sotomayor and you may not agree with John Roberts, but if they have the knowledge and expertise to serve on the Supreme Court they should be judged by those merits.

  21. Scalzi: . I do wonder when the foamier elements of the left are going to pull their heads out and recognize that the path to a political reality they actually want has to go through Obama, or it’s not going to happen at all.

    As one of the foamier elements of the left, I call shenanigans.

    At this point, in an election between Obama and the likely republican nominee Romney, I and any lefty with half a brain will hold their nose and vote for Obama. Only because Obama is LESS EVIL than Romney. So, on that level, we understand oh so clearly how royally fucked we are, and how the closest candidate to our ideal is the missed-it-by-a-mile Obama.

    But to cast valid criticism of Obama as lefty head-up-our-asses ignorance, and to suggest that Obama is leading us to the lefty promised land, is, for lack of a better word, farking dingos kidneys.

    Via Glenn Greenwald today:

    http://www.salon.com/2012/01/16/who_are_the_victims_of_civil_liberties_assaults_and_endless_war/singleton/

    In The Washington Post yesterday, Law Professor Jonathan Turley has an Op-Ed in which he identifies ten major, ongoing assaults on core civil liberties in the U.S. Many of these abuses were accelerated during the Bush administration in the wake of 9/11, but all have been vigorously continued and/or expanded by President Obama. Turley points out that these powers have long been deemed (by the U.S.) as the hallmark of tyranny, and argues that their seizure by the U.S. Government has seriously called into question America’s status as a free nation: “They form a mosaic of powers under which our country could be considered, at least in part, authoritarian.” All ten of these powers are ones very familiar to readers here: Assassination of U.S. citizens; Indefinite detention; Arbitrary justice; Warrantless searches; Secret evidence; War crimes; Secret court; Immunity from judicial review; Continual monitoring of citizens; and Extraordinary renditions.

    Bush started many of these after 9/11. Obama has continued and in many cases expanded them.

    Obama is moving us AWAY from being a progressive nation by continuing to reinforce many of the things which are standard markers we use to measure how authoritarian any other nation other than us has become.

    Obama has not earned the right to portray himself as any sort of lefty, as any sort fo defender of progressive values, or as any sort of “political reality” that any left-of-center civilian would actually fight for. Obama is better than Romney, because Romney is further right than Obama’s just-right-of-center position. That’s it. Obama isn’t leading ME anywhere I want to go.

    Voting for Obama isn’t going to “lead” me anywhere I want to go other than to hell in a handbasket at a slightly slower rate than Romney.

    Most of us on the progressive-left are criticizing Obama for assassinating American citizens, for continuing the torture of prisoners, for defending the torture of prisoners, for preventing innocent people who were tortured from ever having their day in court, for continuing indefinite detention in Guantanamo, for expanding indefinite detention and arguing that habeus corpus does not apply at the new Guantanamo that is called Bagram, for continuing Secret Evidence, for continuing immunity from judicial review, for continuing the predator missile strikes that kill civilians on a regular, likely daily basis, for launching a secret war in Yemen, for launching a war in Libya, for continuing renditions, and for continuing warrantless searches and wiretaps of Americans.

    To take people on the left who are legitimately criticizing Obama for these VILE behaviors, and to twist it around and try and portray it as *us* being willfully *ignorant* of Obama’s genius, to twist this INFORMED criticism of Obama into having our heads up our asses, is about as gorram offensive as one can get.

    I’ll vote for Obama only because between him and Romney, Obama is *better than Romney*. But being *better than Romney* doesn’t mean Obama is going in any direction I want to go. And my criticisms of Obama are anything but uninformed or due to me having my head up my ass about what is going on in the world.

  22. David:
    OK!

    http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0811/60421.html

    Anonymous sources in a closed conference, and a formulation that Biden denied. Wow, that’s sure some crazy and unremitting attempts by main stream politicians to paint the right as terrorists. Biden was definitely out there on all the talk shows, making that terrorist point, over and over again:

    ““I did not use the terrorism word,” Biden told CBS Evening News anchor and managing editor Scott Pelley.”

    But surely his office pitched the message better, right?

    “Spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff said: “The word was used by several members of Congress. The vice president does not believe it’s an appropriate term in political discourse.””

    So, no, that’s hardly a Democratic politician standing up in front of the cameras and calling the tea partiers terrorists.

    Okay, that was your evidence–poor as it was–for Biden. How about Ferraro and Pelosi?

  23. Ehh, John, Michael Savage is a ranting blowhard who says crazy shit because he’s a crazy blowhard and it helps him sell ads on his radio show. I’m sure there are plenty of conservative politicians who say similar stuff for public soundbites about their liberal counterparts. They happen to get called on it more often by the mainstream media because they aren’t objective.

    Now, Nancy Pelosi can say wacky shit about the Tea Party and not get her hand slapped for aggravated overflowing of hyperbole and bullshit by the media. I’ll give you an example.

    http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2009/08/06/fear-loathing-democrats-raise-specter-swastikas-cancel-town-halls/

    Now, if you read the article, it seems she was referring to a guy holding a sign with a swastika crossed out over Obama’s name and a question mark. He wasn’t parading around with a swastika, but that’s what she tried to infer and the media never calls the Democrats on their public relations bullshit.

    In my opinion, Obama was elected because he was lucky enough to not be the guy in charge when the financial and housing markets went into the toilet. And he was smart enough to promise every little interest group on the left their own slice of the pie, ie closing Gitmo, regulating carbon, getting out of Iraq and promising that people would be able to stay in their overpriced, over leveraged houses and getting a shiny new government run health care plan that wouldn’t entail any loss of coverage or change in doctors.

    My belief is he never intended to fulfill all of those promises because, as a very intelligent guy, he knew that he couldn’t, not without political hell to pay, even with his moderate/liberal Democratic base.

  24. I think he’s incredibly ignorant of history as he tried to repeat liberal initiatives that history has repeatedly proven to be failures.

    I’ll bite. Which ones are you thinking of? Most of his agenda is pretty conservative, in my opinion. He’s certainly operating to the functional right of the British Conservative party which is probably the most right leaning administration in Britain in 15 years. His health care agenda was mainstream Republican policy 15 years ago, and is, frankly, at odds with all the global examples of social healthcare that works and is cheaper.

    He didn’t do remotely enough stimulus for the economic situation we’re currently in. When he actually did something economically left leaning, i.e. the US car industry, it worked pretty well.

    Apart from those two, I’m struggling to think of any initiative he has that isn’t out of the conventional center-right play book of the 1990s.

    Unless we’re now in a world where what were center-right conservative policies 15 years ago, are now hopelessly liberal. In which case, I have to go and lie down in a corner with a damp towel over my head.

  25. Now, Nancy Pelosi can say wacky shit about the Tea Party and not get her hand slapped for aggravated overflowing of hyperbole and bullshit by the media. I’ll give you an example.

    Wait, you mean she said that Tea Party people were bringing signs with swastikas on them to town hall meetings referring to a Tea Party guy who was carrying a sign with a swastika at a town hall meeting? Yeah, that’s some powerful mendacity right there, that is.

  26. Scorpius: I can show you lots of examples of Dem politicians (Ferraro, Pelosi, Biden) calling the Tea Party and GOP legislators “Traitors”, “Treasonous”, “Terrorists”

    Scorpius: OK! http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0811/60421.html

    Oh get over yourself.

    The Tea Party has a history of its members committing violence to try and terrorize people they don’t agree with politically. Hence, terrorist.

    http://www.warhw.com/2011/01/10/violent-rhetoric/

    A pair of Tea party members posted what they thought was the address of Congressman Perriello’s address, encouraging tea party members to “drop by”. The Congressman’s gas line was severed after that.

    Tea Party candidate Sharron Angle discussing “second ammendment remedies” and “taking Harry Reid out”

    Rep Steve Cohen during an interview says Tea Party is violent and dangerous. To prove him wrong, he recieves a number of death threats from Tea Party defenders.

    “We hate the United States! Get out of our lives! Get off our backs!” — Larry Kilgore (running for governor of Texas)

    “We are aware that stepping off into seccession may in fact be a bloody war. We are aware. We understand that the tree of freedom is occaissionally watered with the blood of tyrants and patriots.” — Debra Medina (running for governor of Texas)

    During Obama’s health care town hall in Portsmouth, N.H., a man carrying a sign reading “It is time to water the tree of liberty” stood outside with a pistol strapped to his leg.

    a Department of Homeland Security report suggested that right-wing extremism may be on rise.

    ::: Michelle Malkin whined that “it’s no small coincidence that Napolitano’s agency disseminated the assessment just a week before the nationwide April 15 Tax Day Tea Party protests.” and that the report was specifically and politically motivated to “demonize” the tea-bagging tax protests.

    ::: RNC chair Michael Steele said that the report was intended “to segment out Americans who dissent from this administration, to segment out conservatives in this country who have a different philosophy or view from this administration, and labeling them as terrorists”

    Cause nothing says “We wish to work within the system of representational constitutional democracy” like carrying a gun to a political rally and talking about how we need to water the tree of liberty with the blood of people we disagree with.

  27. I do wonder when the foamier elements of the left are going to pull their heads out and recognize that the path to a political reality they actually want has to go through Obama, or it’s not going to happen at all.

    It’s true that some people on the left refuse to learn about the political process of government. It’s also true that some people on the left know perfectly well what the political process consists of, and still consider it their role, as the left, to hold the President accountable to the left-hand part of the national conversation. A politician is negotiating not just with his opponents, but with his supporters, to see what they want and give them as much of that as he politically can. The best-intentioned politician in the world mostly bows to external pressure; that’s pretty much their job, and that’s what gives them the leverage to act.

    Obama’s probably a pretty well-intentioned person in private life. He knows, though, that politically he doesn’t have to negotiate with his supporters. He’s got them over a barrel, because he’s the only game in town. Not voting for him just helps Romney, and there’s little useful to do on the left except vote. This is mostly because, as said above, there is no organized Left, and so there is no way to bring rhetorical pressure on the political process, the way the Right does. That’s hardly Obama’s fault, but Obama does benefit politically from it. Obama’s White House has been instructing the left to shut up and take it for some time now. Emmanuel used to do it in so many words. You can think that Obama is actually doing (some) things, and still think there’s no reason why the left shouldn’t want him to do more.

  28. I’m somewhat bemused by your use of the term “the American left”, since in my opinion (and, I suspect, from the point of view of most of the rest of the western world) the American left is only “left” in the sense that it’s left of the American right. Most of the Democrats are centrists or center-right. There are a few true lefties, but not very many.

    As the old joke goes, the Democrats and the Republicans are the left and right wings of the Business Party.

    Still, your overall point is why I continue to vote Democratic. Well, that and that I hope the party of FDR will wake the hell up at some point. (Not that the party of Lincoln seems likely to wake the hell up any time soon.) The last few years have certainly made me think about it, though; who’d have thought Obama would be a step down from Clinton?

    (In all fairness, though, I wonder what Obama’s Presidency would have been like if he hadn’t inherited the Bush Economy.)

  29. When I voted for Obama, I wasn’t expecting great things to happen. I expected that he would do what he could to make things a bit better than they were, and I think he’s delivered. And that’s basically all I hope for from any candidate I vote for. I just want to see things get a little bit better, year by year, decade by decade. And that’s why I’ll vote for him again. (Not that it will do much good, being in Texas.)

    I think the thing we have to remember about leadership is that there’s more to it than just having a leader. For it to function, there has to be a degree of deference. And that’s just not in very big supply these days. The idea that all Obama had to do was just hang tough and everyone would fall in line is, quite simply, laughable.

    And that’s one good reason not to fall in love with politicians.

  30. If Obama is the path the left has to go through, than the reality is that there is no path. Only an obstruction to some of the more crazy ideas of the right. I think it is perfectly possible to say that the Obama administration has been a failure when comes to the policies that the left actually wants, while acknowledging that McCain in the past or Romney et al now, are worse choices.

    The foamier elements of the left might actually know this. I can personally acknowledge a belief that things will get bad more slowly under Obama than the quicker road outlined by the Republicans. But I will not accept that this means I should believe in anyway that Obama is heading in the right direction.

    I am also not so sure that through supporting the Corporate Candidates we might be actually empowering a corrupt system to continue. Ie, that maybe support in this sense leads to just more of the same. It is also interesting that a large part of the losses in 2010 were Blue dog democrats in traditionally Republican districts- Congresspeople that in no way supported the things that the foamy left wanted like a Single payer healthcare system, a public option or even the right of the Government to use its large purchasing powers to negotiate with Drug companies. These were among the same NIMBY legislators that wouldn’t have terrorists in their prisons leading to Guantanamo still being open. Maybe it is by not holding more closely to liberal values that the Democrats end up having no direction, and horribly ineffectual leadership.

    Sometimes withdrawing support from one Candidate forces the party to move more in that direction in the future. One only has to look at the Republican party to see how holding ones ground can lead to a party that supports the views of a wing of its membership. When the Republicans lost in 2008 they did not go to the political center.

    I do however remember 2000 when many said there was no difference between the parties. The sad thing is that I find Republicans a highly credible threat. I find the Democratic party having a Mafia like protection racket that is sadly valid. But I don’t have to smile about it.

  31. Scorpius@10:32: but I don’t know of anyone of note on the right ever calling Obama a “Traitor”.

    Are you fracking high?

    The Barack-Michelle fist bump? Fox News called it a “terrorist fist jab”.

    Michael Savage called Obama a traitor and said “I guess they didn’t teach him that in the madrassas in Indonedia”.

    Bill O’Reilley had Michael Scheuer on his show and Scheuer called Obama a traitor.

    Limbaugh said Obama had a “visceral hate” for the US military.

    And then there’s Cheney.

    Bias much?

  32. Scorpius, Christopher Schaffer:

    Eh right back. As noted, when you speak to 10 million people and put books on the New York Times best seller list, it’s difficult to suggest you’re not within the spectrum of mainstream discourse on the right and not taken seriously by a non-trivial segment of the right. I agree Savage’s an intemperate blowhard, but guess what? The right has a lot of intemperate blowhards in it at the moment. This one called Obama a traitor to 10 million listeners. I’m going to lay long odds that those listeners are not tea-sipping liberals. I’ll also point out that 10 million listeners is more than the number of people who are watching Fox News at any one time during the day, and I’m willing to bet for the purposes of this argument that Fox News counts as a “mainstream” outlet. I realize it’s inconvenient for your argument that Mr. Savage is as popular as he is, but there it is.

    “Show me a media figure or politician with real influence over a majority of a political movement…”

    i.e., “Accede to my continually narrowing definition of what counts as mainstream in this case.” Yeah, Scorpius, no. As I said, I’m not surprised you would try to find a way to discount the example, but just because you want to pick up the goalposts and move them around doesn’t mean I’m obliged to humor you. Michael Savage is legitimately on the right, he’s legitimately working in the mainstream media, and he’s legitimately reaching millions of people with his message. And he called Obama a “traitor.”

    “Because some lone wolf on the internet calling him a traitor (or Bush a ‘fascist’) has no influence on what the majority of the ‘right’ or left think.”

    And? You seem to be under the impression that when I’m discussing the right and the left here that I’m only discussing thought leaders. I’m not. I’m discussing the right and the left generally, which includes common schmoes on either side of the spectrum, including the ones on the Internet. I do suggest you go back and read the article more carefully; at no point do I suggest that I’m confining my generalizations to a specific tranche of A-level commentators and/or politicians. That’s something you’re bringing into the discussion.

  33. Edward@11:53: I can personally acknowledge a belief that things will get bad more slowly under Obama than the quicker road outlined by the Republicans.

    Obama: To hell in a handbasket more slowly than Romney

  34. Also, guys, I think we’ve established that people both left and right say foamy things. Let’s move on from that particular point unless we actually have something new and substantive to say on the matter.

  35. “That said, I do wonder what those on the left irritated with Obama and his failures think is going to happen if Romney gets into office, since what the left sees as Obama’s failures are what the right sees as laudable goals for Romney.”

    The liberals in America remember Bush and have no illusions about what would happen with another Republican president at this point in time. However, I think the left takes the approach of trying to make America a more left leaning country. The left wants to put pressure on Obama so that he has to try. The Republicans freak out about trying to please their fringe base, but you often see the Democrats deliberating trying to prove that they’re not catering to their base. The left needs to make it acceptable for the Democrats to support them. This is why liberals criticize Obama. It doesn’t mean they won’t vote for him, but as a liberal myself, I want to see him be a better president. I want to see him able to do his job.

  36. Ah crap, is it “Obama: to hell in a handbasket *more* *slowly* than romney” or “to hell in a handbasket *slower* than romney”

    I think its “more slowly” because wouldn’t it be an adverb modifying the implied verb of “going” to hell? And “more slowly” would be the adverb form?

    Now that I’m reading it though, it just doesn’t look right.

  37. Let’s face it. The ‘left,’ foamy or otherwise, will vote for Obama. The ‘right’, foamy or otherwise will vote for the R nominee. The question becomes what those undecided folks in the middle will do. Personally, I don’t quite understand the undecideds, but hey, I’m a foamy rightie so what do I know? Do they just pick the person they like the look of? What motivates an undecided voter? Seriously, anybody out there? I’d like to know.

    While we’re griping, I just have to say to my fellow foamy righties out there, Romney, really? WTF? Why are we putting up a guy who is like the lovechild of Bob Dole and John McCain with all the charisma of a wet paper bag up against Obama??

  38. One of these days a critical mass of people are going to figure out we don’t have to vote for one of the two bad choices. That there are other options. Then things will get interesting. Not this election, or the even, but soon I think

  39. For the record, I don’t think Obama is evil, nor is he a traitor. I just think he’s in over his head, and informed by the wrong ideas when it comes to economics and the federal government’s role in American life. One may argue (somewhat successfully) that he’s not going down any roads Bush didn’t pave for him, but Obama’s got a whole highway crew at his disposal now, and they’re adding to the Big Fed freeway, mile after mile.

    It’s also fascinating to see complaints that there is no true Left in America. Because this is very often the complaint from the other side: the true Right was sold out by the neo-cons, and now there’s no stopping Big Fed men (on either side) from doing whatever they want. Because there is no viable, principled opposition capable of stopping them.

    I do hope very much that somebody figures out that the debt and deficit cannot expand endlessly, forever, without there being a sign that says DEFAULT in giant letters, beyond which the freeway ends in a cliff. I also hope very much that we voters can collectively coerce our two political monstrosities (“parties?!”) into putting on the brakes before we find out what’s at the bottom of Beggars Canyon. It certianly won’t be womp rats.

  40. and informed by the wrong ideas when it comes to economics

    And again, I must ask, specifically which are these? He’s following the free-market, right of center play book, maybe not quite as well as Britain, but still far too well for my liking.

    He’s also shrunk federal government by more than Reagan had at this point in his presidency, so seriously, why are people saying things like this when they’re not actually factually true.

    Be annoyed with him for being not liberal, but I honestly can’t see how any informed Conservative who’s done any research sees anything other than a fellow traveler… ok, maybe one from 1993 but even so.

  41. Andrew Sullivan? Normally I’m a big fan of primary sources, but I’m much happier to read a Scalzi summary on this issue. I wouldn’t trust Sullivan to accurately explain the directions on a box of cereal.

  42. Doubling the national debt while engaging in fantastic spendthrift outlays is hardly right-of-center, nor is it free market. Of course, understanding this means also understanding that Republican and conservative are not necessarily synonyms, in the same fashion that Democrat and liberal are not necessarily synonyms. Both parties display a flagrant disregard for sensible federal spending, to say nothing of coherent, long term federal financial strategy. (see my early comment, RE: “monstrosities.”)

  43. There’s some interesting discussion to be had here, but Andrew Sullivan, who spent most of Oct. 2008 through 2009 obsessed with a conspiracy theory about Sarah Palin’s uterus, is certainly the wrong person to lead it.

    The problem with Andrew’s point on substance is that it’s hard to see where Obama played his political hand intelligently; he’s in this position because he set expectations ridiculously high for his supporters. Most notably, his economic projections on the stimulus–his original numbers suggested that the “no stimulus” unemployment would peak at about 8%, and the stimulus would reduce that peak to 7%. Now, largely through a lot of dropping out of the workforce, unemployment’s back down to about 8.5% from a peak around 10%. Sullivan may want to claim that shows an economic success, but based on Obama’s own set of expectations, it’s not, and only the most deluded Obama-philes consider it a success.

    Now, the partisan bickering will proceed as normal–lefties claim it was because Obama couldn’t get through all the stimulus he wanted, righties blame it on the stimulus and Obamacare. But that doesn’t show any particular political skill from Obama; there’s no way for him to spin the economy as successful. The best he can do is blame Republicans as obstructionist, but that doesn’t really work when the GOP couldn’t even filibuster until Kennedy died. So…not seeing genius level politicking here.

  44. Brian:

    Sullivan does address the unemployment issue specifically in the course of the article, actually, and in particular discusses the numbers you’re putting up. It doesn’t appear that you’d read the article in question.

    I’m going to go ahead and say that, in a general sense, if you haven’t read the article, you shouldn’t try to explain why it’s not good.

    As to Sullivan himself, I would agree that his obsession with Palin’s uterus was uncomfortably silly. On other subjects he’s a perfectly cogent observer, especially when he has data to illuminate his points.

  45. John,

    Sullivan explains away the numbers (in a pretty evidence-less way), but doesn’t deal with the expectation problem. Presidents don’t get credit for “making things better than they might have been” unless the public is sure of “what might have been.”. They get credit or blame for surpassing or failing to meet expectations, and Obama set expectations too high to get credit for “presiding over a recession that at least stopped getting worse.”

    It’s the same reason Bush doesn’t get credit for winning Iraq by 2009–because the expectation was winning by 2004. Sure, no one thought Iraq’s insurgents could maintain a fight years after Saddam’s capture, but we don’t credit it as an honest mistake and give Bush credit for winning in the end. Sullivan’s explanation comes off much like a right winger spinning Iraq. And a one paragraph blurb without reference to any sources comes across as obvious spin.

  46. Brian:

    “Sullivan explains away the numbers (in a pretty evidence-less way), but doesn’t deal with the expectation problem.”

    I believe Sullivan’s argument is that grown-ups should be able to understand that initial assumptions rarely survive their first encounter with the real world, and then ultimately judge performance based on real-world conditions.

    “It’s the same reason Bush doesn’t get credit for winning Iraq by 2009″

    Well, no. Bush doesn’t get credit for winning Iraq by 2009 because among other things we didn’t leave Iraq until December 31, 2011; on January 20, 2009, American servicepeople were still being deployed and still dying in combat on Iraqi soil. This does go back to issues of “real world” performance and being judged by them.

    That said, I don’t think you need to worry about anyone saying that it was Obama who won Iraq, either.

  47. Doubling the national debt while engaging in fantastic spendthrift outlays is hardly right-of-center, nor is it free market.

    And almost all of that is due to policies started before his time and where his repeals were blocked by Congress, namely the 2003 Bush tax cuts and the Iraq/Afghanistan wars, which are responsible for well over half both our debt and budget deficits. And just to cut your inevitable argument about jobs off at the knees, most of the net job losses (which is what Romney claims is Obama’s fault) were from before Obama even took office, and within 2 months that trend had been slowed, and by 2010 reversed.

    It’s the same reason Bush doesn’t get credit for winning Iraq by 2009–because the expectation was winning by 2004. Sure, no one thought Iraq’s insurgents could maintain a fight years after Saddam’s capture, but we don’t credit it as an honest mistake and give Bush credit for winning in the end.

    Considering that almost no one outside the Bush DOD, nor a lot of them inside it, believed that to be the case, I don’t think it’s the same spin at all.

  48. One of these days a critical mass of people are going to figure out we don’t have to vote for one of the two bad choices. That there are other options. Then things will get interesting. Not this election, or the even, but soon I think

    I’ve been hearing some variation of this for the last thirty years. And when it’s happened (Perot, Nader) the effect has been to hand the election to the guy furthest away ideologically from the third party candidate. “interesting” is one word for it, I suppose.

  49. The eleventy-dimension chess theory of Obama’s behavior is so 2009.

    Also too, the idea that pissing off “both sides” means that someone is in some magically-correct “middle ground” is lazy pundit talk. If one side says that 2+2=6 and the other side says that 2+2=22, does that mean the correct answer is 14?

  50. JD Rhoades:

    In 2000, roughly 97,000 people in Florida voted for Nader. Roughly 200,000 Florida *Democrats* voted for *Bush*. Over 2,000,000 registered Florida Democrats didn’t bother voting for anybody. Blaming Nader voters for Bush is accepted wisdom and a convenient whip for the Democratic Party, but it doesn’t bear up to any scrutiny.

    It’s also worth noting that the current voting methods are not unchangeable laws of the universe.

  51. From the other side of the pond here in the UK, I do wonder exactly what ‘left’ it is that John is writing about. I’m sure we can all agree that ‘the right’ covers a wide range of libertarians through to conservative evangelicals, tea partyists and corporate interests and conservatives (although I get the impression the more intelligent ones are having second thoughts), all associated with the Republican party.
    ‘The left’ is similarly complex, and probably it is my own fault for not reading this blog often enough to have seen previous definitions, but what ‘left’ does he mean? I know Americans online who never expected Obama to do very much of what they wanted, and were not disabused of that notion, because they are more towards the socialist end of the spectrum. But I’ve seen plenty of people who seem to be everyday liberal sorts left utterly confused by Obama’s negotiating tactics, and generally feeling left out of the political processes and unable to work out how to pressurise him and more importantly the Democrats in the different houses, who seem to tend towards the right more than their electorate.
    John’s “Obama’s way or the highway” type endnote seems to me to be both simplistic and assuming that Obama actually does want some of the fluffier lefty type things to get done, whereas plenty of people more capable and observant than I, make arguments that he doesn’t. Maybe John needs a nice blog war with some of these foamier people so we can see how everything stacks up.*

    *This is meant in a tongue in cheek way, rather than a demand upon your time.

  52. From the other side of the pond here in the UK, I do wonder exactly what ‘left’ it is that John is writing about

    And in the United States, we wonder about what “right” the British are talking about, as the Conservatives are really a slightly left of center party. Or they would be, if there was some absolute spectrum to measure on. But there isn’t, so can we stop with the dumb political analysis based on that idea?

    In 2000, roughly 97,000 people in Florida voted for Nader. Roughly 200,000 Florida *Democrats* voted for *Bush*. Over 2,000,000 registered Florida Democrats didn’t bother voting for anybody. Blaming Nader voters for Bush is accepted wisdom and a convenient whip for the Democratic Party, but it doesn’t bear up to any scrutiny.

    And if those 97,000 voters hadn’t voted for Nader, then Bush wouldn’t have gotten elected. I’m going to stick with the accepted wisdom, thanks.

  53. @Bearpaw:

    Can anyone look at the razor thin margin of victory in the pivotal state of Florida and say with a straight face that all of the 97,000 Nader voters you mention would have stayed home or voted for Bush over Al Gore?

    Sorry, Nader handed the election to Bush. And the country’s been suffering for it ever since.

  54. I think my fellow left-wingers who are disappointed by Obama now are people who, during the 2008 campaign, projected their own image of the ideal Presidential candidate onto Obama, rather than looking at such trivialities as his statements and his record. His Senate votes and his campaign behavior revealed him to have a middle-of-the-Democratic-Party ideology and a play-nice-with-others personality, and that’s exactly how he’s governed (or at least, how he’s tried to govern).

    As I’ve said before, I wish we had a Democratic President with more fire in his belly, but Howard Dean ran as just such a Democrat eight years ago, and he lost. (To be fair to Dean, he did a great job after that as chairman of the Democratic National Committee.)

  55. unholyguy@12:57: One of these days a critical mass of people are going to figure out we don’t have to vote for one of the two bad choices. That there are other options

    If that critical mass figures it out and changes the voting procedures in this country to instant runoff ballot and jettison the electoral college, then yeah, that would fix it. If they try to convince themselves that they can just vote for a third party without changing the system by which the votes are counted, then no.

    Voting for a third party presidential candidate in America right now is like a gambler at a casino suddenly realizing the math behind roulette stacks the odds against him with every bet, so he decides to bet on “double-zero”. Knowing the game is stacked against you isn’t enough. “Not playing” isn’t an answer. The only real solution is to change the rules of the game itself.

    Brad@1:10: I do hope very much that somebody figures out that the debt and deficit cannot expand endlessly, forever

    Oh, if only righties would worry so much about this when they’re planning on launching a war that was predicted to last ten years, cost trillions, and require half a million troops. But, for some reason, the “price tag” of things doesn’t concern Republicans when it involves war.

    Apparently, waging war is a free move.

    While we’re berating fantasy worldviews, how is it that a party who always tries to portray itself as being the “sensible” party about economics invokes magical thinking whenever it comes time to PAY for shit that the government buys? It’s called “taxes” people. Deal with it. That the right would argue that the Iraq war would “pay for itself” is as fucking absurd as invoking the tooth fairy. That the right *still* argues that the best way for the govenment to raise money to pay for stuff is to *cut* taxes, and gets taken seriously, is ludicrous.

  56. The clearest possible indicator that neither side has any sense of strategy AT ALL is that they continue to fight so vigorously for control over what is obviously a decaying situation. I was saying loud enough for people in the next building over to hear all during 2008 (not that I claim that I was the first or only person) that whoever won was going to take the blame for all the crap that was about to fall on our heads, and if either candidate had a lick of sense they would have conceded the election early. Like in July.

    Since they’ve managed to keep things decaying with their endless squabbling, the same holds this year, IMO. Let the other side win. Let them either let things get REALLY bad, or make the hard choices that are necessary to fix things. Either way, I suspect in four more years there’ll still be plenty to blame them for and you will have (relatively speaking) clean hands to shovel blame with. (Blame sticks to dirty hands. Well-known fact.)

  57. All this talk about “least bad” choices reminds me of (shields up!) an element of L. Neil Smith’s _The Probability Broach,_ wherein we learn that in the alternate-universe Libertopia version of the United States, at least one Presidential term (might be more, can’t remember) was filled by “None of the Above.”

    I sometimes draft model legislation for fun (even when it’s part of my job, which it is, it’s still fun.) I’ve played around with a draft Constitutional amendment that requires that all elections in the United States must list “None of the Above” on every ballot for every elected office, and if that selection gets a plurality of the votes, not only does the election have to be held again, but none of the listed candidates can run next time*. _I_ think it would be fun.

    *It’s actually quite a bit more complex than this and has a pretty strong algorithm for preventing people from finessing their way back into the office. It would certainly be the longest Constitutional amendment to date, although I can fit it onto one sheet of paper at a readable size no problem.

  58. It’s hard to take Sullivan seriously when he cranks out sentences like this one: “Under Bush, new policies on taxes and spending cost the taxpayer a total of $5.07 trillion.” OK… so “new policies on taxes” — namely, the Bush tax cuts, cost the taxpayer? Tax cuts do not cost taxpayers; it is the reverse.

    Of course I know what Sullivan is saying. The Bush tax cuts cost USG something. (Specifically, some of the income of some of its subjects.) But it does not make me trust the man when he is so clearly pro-government that he writes this way. Conservative, he is not.

  59. Leonard:

    Basic economics. The tax cuts are going to cost us because of the extra interest we’re incurring, because of the increased debt without cutting spending at the same time.

    You may not like the idea of taxing and spending, but borrowing and spending is much worse, especially when the tax cutters haven’t got the moral courage to keep things in balance as a condition of their cuts.

    PS: it’s hard to take you seriously when you refer to us as “subjects” and someone you disagree with as “pro-government” (though at least you didn’t pull out “state worshiper” as I’ve seen others do) to make some kind of political point.

  60. serh@9:03: no. We heard Obama’s statements. We actually liked his statements. The problem is he completely reversed his position on nearly every statement he said once he became president. If you compare Candidate Obama statements to President Obama actions, the phrase “evil twin” will probably waft through your mind at some point. In fact, you can find quite a few progressive people who criticize President Obama simply by quoting Candidate Obama because some of the things Candidate Obama criticized about Bush and the reasons why he said Bush was bad, exactly apply to why it is bad that President Obama is doing the same thing Bush was doing.

  61. As to Sullivan himself, I would agree that his obsession with Palin’s uterus was uncomfortably silly. On other subjects he’s a perfectly cogent observer, especially when he has data to illuminate his points

    John, I wasn’t even thinking of Palin’s uterus (it’s something I try not to think about in general) but on subjects such as his scolding the LGBT community for not being in Nice Committed Relationships while happily plying bathhouses himself, his fascination with The Bell Curve and his disingenuous arguments about Ron Paul. That said, obviously this is a thread about the subject of the article rather than about what a douchecanoe Sullivan is, so I will leave it at that.

  62. The problem is he completely reversed his position on nearly every statement he said once he became president.

    I’d love to see evidence of this.

  63. Scalzi in the original post:

    I find the American left exasperating, to be blunt about it.

    I consider myself part of the left, and I feel this at times, too. I thought one of the most perceptive things I read about the outcome of the 2010 midterms was what you wrote.

    Scalzi @ 8:59 a.m.:

    It’s not on point and it’s also four presidential election cycles ago.

    That just made me feel really old. :-)

    Greg @ 9:05 am:

    But, for some reason, the “price tag” of things doesn’t concern Republicans when it involves war.

    I agree! The Bush tax cuts should have been repealed the moment we invaded Iraq.

    The majority of Americans supported the invasion of Iraq, and they ratified that decision by voting for Bush in ’04. Since a large portion of the debt is the result of that decision, I think everyone–not just the rich–should be held financially accountable. When the economy recovers, taxes should go up for everyone, not just the rich, to pay down the debt incurred in Iraq.

  64. I disagree with the statement “the American left isn’t on the planet to please me” (to paraphrase a tiny bit). You, being aligned more with the left than the right, are EXACTLY who the political left should be aiming to please, being their constituent and all. And the fact that they’re not is precisely the problem (or at least part of the problem… I think the screaming heads that make up what passes for cable news are a bigger part though)

  65. Mr. Williams @10:34: It is the spending that will cost us in the future, not the tax cuts. I’m not saying the tax cuts were a good idea: they weren’t. (One sign of a lapsed libertarian like me is that I *have* met tax cuts I didn’t like.) But if we hadn’t spent the money, it would be irrelevant where the money we didn’t spend would have come from. We do not have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem. Increasing your revenue is always a good idea to consider when you have a spending problem, but if you simply increase your spending to match the increased revenue you will not get anywhere. This is the inevitable fate of any increased revenues generated by any non-cataclysmic tax increases in the foreseeable future.

    Obama renewed the tax cuts (or, logically speaking, refused to increase taxes.) He now owns them, lock, stock, and barrel with suspenders. Example number #127 as to why he is basically George Bush’s third term.

  66. Quoth Greg @ 10:36 AM, “The problem is he completely reversed his position on nearly every statement he said once he became president.”

    Well, not really. According to Politifact’s Obamameter, he’s broken 56 out of 508, or 11%. He’s kept 160, or 34%, and compromised on 50, or 10%. The rest are either “Stalled”, “In the works”, or “Not yet rated.”

    Even if you consider compromising to be “completely reversing his position” (and I thought only the Tea Partiers made that equivalence), that’s 20% “reversed” and 34% “kept”.

  67. t is the spending that will cost us in the future, not the tax cut

    The Republicans are fond of using household analogies about spending, so I’ll try one here: if I quit my job and get rid of all my income, and then buy food and essentials on credit, it’s not the spending that’s the problem.

    (And, no, unless the GOP is willing to cut the defense budget, then the spending is not on things they believe irrelevant.)

    You can handwave all you want, but Sullivan’s point is a good one: excessive tax-cutting is just as mendacious as is excessive spending.

  68. And almost all of that is due to policies started before his time and where his repeals were blocked by Congress, namely the 2003 Bush tax cuts and the Iraq/Afghanistan wars, which are responsible for well over half both our debt and budget deficits. And just to cut your inevitable argument about jobs off at the knees, most of the net job losses (which is what Romney claims is Obama’s fault) were from before Obama even took office, and within 2 months that trend had been slowed, and by 2010 reversed.

    jesse,

    Obama’s stimulus packages are responsible for nearly doubling the debt, not Bush’s tax cuts. The stimulus was not a foregone conclusion nor was it inevitable as a result of the Bush years. It was a deliberate choice by Obama and the Senate and the House together to bail out the economy, using money that does not exist. As for jobs, the unemployment spike peaked and continued from 2008 through 2010, and if it shows any signs of lessening (cringe) that’s because so many people have been out of work for so long, they’re not longer getting unemployment benefits and therefore aren’t showing up on the rolls of the unemployed, or they’ve simply stopped looking for work altogether and therefore don’t register on unemployment surveys. When you’ve ceased looking for work you’re no longer considered an official part of the labor pool. Ergo, you’re “marginal” to the labor force.

    As I’ve stated before, “Blame Bush!” is a non-starter for Obama, and Obama’s supporters. Obama came into office as a “fixer” and has spent the last 4 years being an exacerbator instead. The 111th Congress had Democratic majorities in both the House and the Senate. The 112th Congress still gives Obama a majority in the Senate, albeit slim. “Blame Republicans!” is undoubtedly going to be the hallmark of Obama’s campaign, but there’s precious little Obama can do to make a case for himself in that regard. If it really is all Republicans’ fault, then Obama admits that he’s impotent in the current political climate — he cannot sway votes to his cause, and cannot overcome obstacles and get effective legislation accomplished. If he admits that he’s exacerbated the problem, kudos to him, but then he’s essentially saying, “I fucked up for the last 4 years, but I’m going to ask the American people for another chance. Please?”

    Obama inherited a terrible economy, no question about it. But part of being a true leader is being able to inherit problems, and make a positive difference. Obama’s not made a positive difference in this economy. He’s worsened it. All other issues have become secondary to The Great Recession, and Obama is going to be held accountable for his part. He can blame Bush, he can blame Republicans, he can try to Hope’n’Change his way through the election with smiles and an appeal to the core Democratic base. But he’s going to get called on the carpet, and the only question is: which Republican will he face in November and will this Republican project enough confidence as a “fixer” to woo moderates and Blue Dogs who are sick of profligate Federal spending and a dreadful job market?

  69. “if I quit my job and get rid of all my income, and then buy food and essentials on credit, it’s not the spending that’s the problem.”

    Yes, it is. If you haven’t any money, you can’t spend without going into debt. In that case, the analogy is either you starve, or more realistically, you accept either private or public charity.

    I’m not saying deficit spending is inherently bad. It’s not. I’m saying that the way you get into trouble is spending beyond your means, not having insufficient means. If you borrow money to go to college, that’s potentially very wise deficit spending because in the long run it will increase your means to the point where your spending including spending to service the debt is quite sustainable. But if you borrow $300,000 to get a degree in Grievance Studies from an Ivy League college and it turns out the demand for people with said degree is between slim and none, the problem is NOT that somebody should just automatically have to pay you to practice interpretive grievance (i.e. you do not have a revenue problem.) The problem is that you spent too much money on a nonproductive asset.

    And hey, that happens too. That’s what bankruptcy is for, although of course thanks to a bunch of smartass doctors we’re not allowed to discharge actual student loans in bankruptcy. But in principle malinvestment isn’t the end of the world, you just have to purge it periodically. The problems we are experiencing are almost entirely related to an unwillingness to purge societal-level malinvestments. Obama is just the latest in a long, long chain of Presidents and other politicians who evince such unwillingness, but he’s certainly demonstrated a natural aptitude for it which hasn’t been seen for decades at this level.

  70. Re Obama breaking campaign promises–Obama’s campaign rhetoric was working on two fronts. One consisted of carefully context-free “movement” speech–”yes, we can hope for change!”–and the other made specific claims about what he was going to do. The first front got all the attention, but if you actually listened to his promises, he was only promising to be a reasonable moderate who would have some minor accomplishments within the context of what’s possible. At least, within the context of what a born negotiator-for-compromise thinks of as possible. In the words of I forget what observer, he was a machine politician running as a movement politician–or rather, he was allowing the “movement” feeling to happen out there, while carefully not giving it all that much specific backing. If nothing else, Obama has always been very smart about not exposing himself politically.

    The air between the two fronts made some people feel cynical, and it’s making some people now feel betrayed, but Obama isn’t being all that inconsistent with his actual statements at the time. The problem is that this is a kind of lawyerly, debate-team consistency in which you constantly have to explain to people how self-contradictory you’re not being, and not everybody goes for that, even if they already understood it.

  71. “Obama’s stimulus packages are responsible for nearly doubling the debt, not Bush’s tax cuts.”

    I don’t think I agree with this. There’s plenty of responsibility to go around. Both The stimulus packages and the tax cuts (which accompanied a pair of very expensive wars) involved a lot of money and both of them contributed to the debt. You can argue that one or the other was more worthwhile, but I don’t think you can ignore their costs in an honest discussion of the national debt.

  72. Yes, it is. If you haven’t any money, you can’t spend without going into debt. In that case, the analogy is either you starve, or more realistically, you accept either private or public charity.

    No, it isn’t. It’s the quitting the job that was the problem. The spending needed to happen, one way or another (see your point about starvation), but I deliberately got rid of all of my income.

    How about this: I quit my job, give away all my money and possessions, and then buy food on credit. Is the problem with the spending or the destroying my income?

  73. Sign Ahead,

    The key here is doubling. I’m not saying Obama arrived and messed up a balanced situation. He arrived in the midst of significant imbalance, and instead of working to correct it, he simply doubled down: more spending via borrowing. So much spending, in fact, that he did more debt damage in two and a half years than Bush did in 8. Which is really saying something, considering Bush’s lump-headed Big Government Conservativism. Historical perspective will doubtless show both Obama and Bush as being culpable in The Great Recession. Neither man gets a pass. The asterisk Bush will get is footnotes about 9/11 and the geopolitical fallout from it. I am not sure Obama gets an asterisk. Especially since Obama roared into office on an insanely high wave of popular approval, constructed out of wishful thinking and CH4.

  74. NDAA was the final straw for me. I haven’t decided yet who I’ll vote for, but it won’t be the President, and it won’t be the Republican nominee. I just can’t, in good conscience, do it.

  75. “How about this: I quit my job, give away all my money and possessions, and then buy food on credit. Is the problem with the spending or the destroying my income?”

    It’s with the spending. There are other ways to get food than buying it, but there are no other ways to go into debt without spending money you don’t have.

    This is getting pretty circular, so let me concede at least to this degree: there’s no question that a government which had NO revenues would not be workable and it would be quite reasonable in the ordinary sense to say that it had a revenue problem. However, I have not seen any credible proposals to reduce all taxes and fees collected by the USG to zero or even to levels which in the fairly recent past would not have supported all essential functions of government. I have likewise seen no credible proposals to increase revenues to anything like the level which would be required to support projected spending. I therefore stipulate the validity of your household spending analogy while politely declining to stipulate its relevance. It may be possible to have a revenue problem but WE, as a country, do not have one.

  76. Obama’s stimulus packages are responsible for nearly doubling the debt, not Bush’s tax cuts.

    Uh, dude, your link seems to pretty much completely disagree with you:

    The sharp rise in debt stems partly from lower tax revenues and higher federal spending related to the recent severe recession. However, the growing debt also reflects an imbalance between spending and revenues that predated the recession.

    “Under this scenario, the expiration of the tax cuts enacted since 2001 and most recently extended in 2010, the growing reach of the alternative minimum tax, the tax provisions of the recent health care legislation, and the way in which the tax system interacts with economic growth would result in steadily higher revenues relative to GDP. Revenues would reach 23 percent of GDP by 2035—much higher than has typically been seen in recent decades—and would grow to larger percentages thereafter.”

    “The budget outlook is much bleaker under the alternative fiscal scenario, which incorporates several changes to current law that are widely expected to occur or that would modify some provisions of law that might be difficult to sustain for a long period. Most important are the assumptions about revenues: that the tax cuts enacted since 2001 and extended most recently in 2010 will be extended; that the reach of the alternative minimum tax will be restrained to stay close to its historical extent; and that over the longer run, tax law will evolve further so that revenues remain near their historical average of 18 percent of GDP. This scenario also incorporates assumptions that Medicare’s payment rates for physicians will remain at current levels (rather than declining by about a third, as under current law) and that some policies enacted in the March 2010 health care legislation to restrain growth in federal health care spending will not continue in effect after 2021.”

    The stimulus was not a foregone conclusion nor was it inevitable as a result of the Bush years. It was a deliberate choice by Obama and the Senate and the House together to bail out the economy, using money that does not exist.

    Are you really arguing that the stimulus was not a result of the Bush years while simultaneously arguing it was paid for out of money that doesn’t exist precisely because of the lack of surplus brought about by the Bush years? Hilarious!

    As for jobs, the unemployment spike peaked and continued from 2008 through 2010

    Technically, it spiked in January 2009 (before Obama was was in power), and fell drastically through 2010. But thanks for bolstering my argument that the job situation improved under Obama.

    and if it shows any signs of lessening (cringe) that’s because so many people have been out of work for so long, they’re not longer getting unemployment benefits and therefore aren’t showing up on the rolls of the unemployed, or they’ve simply stopped looking for work altogether and therefore don’t register on unemployment surveys. When you’ve ceased looking for work you’re no longer considered an official part of the labor pool. Ergo, you’re “marginal” to the labor force.

    That’s only partly the reason, although still valid. The labor pool is still adding net jobs every month, at an increasing rate. But of course, this is again a trend started before Obama.

    As I’ve stated before, “Blame Bush!” is a non-starter for Obama, and Obama’s supporters. Obama came into office as a “fixer” and has spent the last 4 years being an exacerbator instead.

    Yeah, wrong. See above.

    The 111th Congress had Democratic majorities in both the House and the Senate. The 112th Congress still gives Obama a majority in the Senate, albeit slim.

    Okay, so you either know so little of Senate rules, particularly the filibuster, or are trying to claim they don’t exist. Either way, that makes your argument about it highly suspect.

    “Blame Republicans!” is undoubtedly going to be the hallmark of Obama’s campaign, but there’s precious little Obama can do to make a case for himself in that regard. If it really is all Republicans’ fault, then Obama admits that he’s impotent in the current political climate — he cannot sway votes to his cause, and cannot overcome obstacles and get effective legislation accomplished. If he admits that he’s exacerbated the problem, kudos to him, but then he’s essentially saying, “I fucked up for the last 4 years, but I’m going to ask the American people for another chance. Please?”

    There’s evidence it’s working, FWIW. The question is if that argument continues to gain traction, which there is also evidence for.

    Obama inherited a terrible economy, no question about it. But part of being a true leader is being able to inherit problems, and make a positive difference. Obama’s not made a positive difference in this economy. He’s worsened it.

    Again, see above as to where this is either ignorance or willful misreading of the numbers on your part.

  77. @Marc Whipple

    So you would advocate for eliminating the military and Medicare? Because that’s pretty much the only way to cut spending enough to balance the budget without raising taxes. We really do have a revenue problem.

  78. The key here is doubling. I’m not saying Obama arrived and messed up a balanced situation. He arrived in the midst of significant imbalance, and instead of working to correct it, he simply doubled down: more spending via borrowing. So much spending, in fact, that he did more debt damage in two and a half years than Bush did in 8.

    I’m not sure what’s more worrying: that you don’t know that debt went from ~6 trillion to ~12 trillion under Bush, or that you you over-estimated the additional debt under Obama (it’s about ~$3 trillion) by about 300%.

  79. This where I pop in with a general reminder – not for what’s been said, but for what might be said — to remain civil with each other at all times, even while discussing contentious points.

  80. Oh, this is going to feel like a long, long, long election cycle.

    And there’s no chance at all I can sit it out because I’m glbt and have a graduate degree with a focus in climatology.

    Didn’t even have to ask who I’ll most likely end up voting for, did you?

  81. Erik @12:26:

    “The Military” is not a line-item in the budget. It is nonsensical to say that we have to get rid of something as large as “the Military” or “Social Security” to balance the budget. For that matter the closest thing to an indivisible line-item in the budget is “interest on the national debt,” which is still something we could decide to pay or not pay in chunks (“We’ll pay T-bills, but all you guys with savings bonds can go jump in the lake.”) but if we don’t pay any part of it, we’re in default, whereas if we were to eliminate, say, the Air Force, we’d still have a military. (Not that I am advocating eliminating the Air Force.)

    And I repeat, while I do think we should increase revenues for a variety of reasons some practical and some quite esoterically econ-wonkish, in the end we CANNOT increase revenues enough to address our projected levels of spending without destroying the economy. Not don’t want to, not shouldn’t, CAN’T. We have a spending problem. Obama has demonstrated exactly the same response to this problem that his predecessors dating back decades have: misdirection. That’s not Change. Changing what you spend the money ON while continuing to increase how much you spend brings to mind a metaphor involving deck chairs and a particularly famous steamship.

  82. And I repeat, while I do think we should increase revenues for a variety of reasons some practical and some quite esoterically econ-wonkish, in the end we CANNOT increase revenues enough to address our projected levels of spending without destroying the economy. Not don’t want to, not shouldn’t, CAN’T. We have a spending problem. Obama has demonstrated exactly the same response to this problem that his predecessors dating back decades have: misdirection. That’s not Change. Changing what you spend the money ON while continuing to increase how much you spend brings to mind a metaphor involving deck chairs and a particularly famous steamship.

    Not sure why this is entirely Obama’s problem. Every time he proposes either a revenue increase (TAXES=OPPRESSION!), cuts to an unnecessarily large Defense budget (HE HATES OUR TROOPS!), or reform of entitlement programs like Medicare (HE HATES OLD PEOPLE!), he gets grief. Only the last one is even close to being bipartisan in terms of complaints, the rest are almost entirely Republicans in Congress. And even the Medicare complaints are for completely different reasons, which mainly make no sense on the Republican side (i.e., don’t take away my government-provided single-payer health care, but Obamacare is facist). Not saying he’s always got good ideas or never has bad ones, far from it. But to claim that it’s all his responsibility is erroneous.

  83. And we could cut the ENTIRE federal government, and still have a massive deficit without significant cuts to both the military and medicare.

  84. Jesse, your argument essentially boils down to “it’s all Bush’s fault” and “raise taxes.” If that’s the platform Obama wants to run on he can knock himself out. Do you really think that a majority of voters will go for a “raise taxes” platform in these economic times? While government spending is at record heights? Nothing would further deepen the Recession than a tax hike combined with continued stimulus and/or Federal outlays. And “Blame Bush!” four years after Bush is out of office simply isn’t going to work with voters — beyond the core progressives and Democrats, which might net 35% of the vote at best. The other 65% is going to be staring at high unemployment, high Federal spending, astronomically high debt and deficit numbers, and there’s simply no way to put enough liptstick on that pig. Truly. Obama’s only choice would be to reverse course and suddenly run as a Little Man’s President: low taxes, slashed Federal spending. Which means he’ll be emulating Romney in the Fall. And guess which politician has a better track record of actually doing these things? Hint: it’s not Obama. Not that I expect this to make a lick of difference in your personal calculus.

  85. I don’t know what to think of Andrew Sullivan, anymore. I’ve never understood why he calls himself a conservative, in America; a British conservative, perhaps, but in the US he’s a raving pinko; you can’t cross the streams, man! Or the Pond. It just doesn’t work.

    I still read The Dish, and I did read this article, last night, which demonstrated that Sully himself grows ever more silly. His “endorsement” of Ron Paul was my camel-rending straw. I am now convinced that Sullivan needs a periscope to see outside his own asshole. Perhaps that what the View From Your Window is for…

    In any case, Sullivan has said, more than once, that he is less about any particular beliefs than about stirring folks up. Thus his support of Paul, his vague Catholicism, his ongoing “questions” in re race-based intelligence, his near-deification of Christopher Hitchens, etc., etc., ad nauseum. So, despite his protestations to the contrary, I tend to think the Newsweek essay is designed primarily to draw attention to “Andrew Sullivan, Iconoclast! TA-DA!!!” but, unfortunately, without being the least bit original. When has politics ever been about facts? Not since some wit scrawled “Caesar Flavius is a buggering leper!” in the forum.

  86. It’s with the spending. There are other ways to get food than buying it, but there are no other ways to go into debt without spending money you don’t have.

    Oh Good Lord. It’s not circular, you’re just being ridiculous. The idea that somebody who has stopped earning anything at all, deliberately, has a “spending” problem is being so blindly loyal to an idea that you lose all concept of reality.

    Jesse, your argument essentially boils down to “it’s all Bush’s fault” and “raise taxes.” If that’s the platform Obama wants to run on he can knock himself out.

    Having been caught out when someone actually looked and spotted that his evidence actually demonstrates much the opposite of his assertion, you’re now turning to strawmanning your opponents argument.

  87. Actually the budget deficit is neither Bush not Obama’s fault, or if it is, it is their fault as leaders of their prospective party’s not as President

    Budget belongs to the Legislative Branch, the Executive Branch does not have direct authority over it.

  88. Brad @ 12:55 wrote–”Jesse, your argument essentially boils down to “it’s all Bush’s fault” and “raise taxes.” If that’s the platform Obama wants to run on he can knock himself out. Do you really think that a majority of voters will go for a “raise taxes” platform in these economic times?”

    I’m just popping in here, well into the discourse of ideas, but I have to say that I think Brad is misrepresenting Jesse’s point. I think what Jesse was posting is better summarized as: “It’s all the GOP’s fault, both under Bush and as opposition to Obama’s attempted policies.”

    Moreover, I think I speak for many in what’s left of the middle class when I say I can live with my taxes being increased a bit in order to help address the USA’s current fiscal problems. I’m not particularly well-off as the sole bread-winner of a family of four–but fortunately we’re making ends meet. We can do a little more to help out. And I believe other Americans will also be willing to help out.

  89. David,

    jesse cherry-picked. He ignored the spending and focused on the tax cuts — choosing to blame the debt entirely on the tax cuts alone. I on the other hand allowed for the Bush spending which was out of line with revenue but pointed out that Obama had added more to the debt in shorter time than Bush, and did not have the events of 9/11 to offset his culpability. I don’t excuse Bush and blame Obama, I blame Bush for Bush, and I blame Obama for Obama. In our current election cycle, Obama must answer for Obama, and if this amounts to “blame Bush” I think Obama will be out of work by February 2013.

    Jesse seems impervious to any argument which does not forgive Obama his part in the debt and deficit crisis. I don’t think that’s going to work too well with centrists. It certainly won’t work with conservatives.

    November will be the test, and I’d bet money on Obama falling short. Not by much. Lots of people still hate Republicans more than they dislike Obama, or a shitty economy. But Obama’s dug his own grave too deeply with profligate spending which cannot be hand-waved into the distance via a “Blame Bush!” or “Blame Republicans!” dogma. Again: blaming Bush is an admission that Obama is powerless and impotent. Admitting responsibility is the correct path, but also implicates and refutes Obama’s spend-and-spend course to economic correction. His only choice is to run as a Republican would run: low taxes, cut spending. And Romney will have the better record in this regard.

  90. Jesse, your argument essentially boils down to “it’s all Bush’s fault” and “raise taxes.” If that’s the platform Obama wants to run on he can knock himself out. Do you really think that a majority of voters will go for a “raise taxes” platform in these economic times?

    First of all: what, no word on the CBO link which refuted the point you were trying to make, and that your fundamental misreading of debt and deficit was perhaps ill-advised? Anyway, my position is more nuanced than that, something you should well know from our previous outings, so you can drop the misrepresentation. Do I believe there should be an across-the-board rise in taxes? No, never said anything like that. But I have mentioned previously, that in times where we had good levels of revenue, we had much much higher rates of marginal tax rates. In the post-war years, it was somewhere in the vicinity of 85%-95%, and the country’s economy boomed. It fell as the country (among other things) pushed for expansion of the middle class, but even under Nixon, it was around 70%. Under Reagan and Bush I, it dropped under 30% (a time of several recessions, which both presidents had fix by raising taxes later), but then rose to almost 40% under Clinton (another period of relative prosperity). Under W, it fell back to about 30% (which resulted in another recession–noticing a pattern here?). Obama has had to fight tooth and nail just to try to get it to Clinton-era levels, and he gets accused of facism, socialism, and massive expansion of, well everything.

    So, do I believe a “raise taxes” platform would work well? No, but that’s not my position, nor is it Obama’s, which I would be gobsmacked if you didn’t know. Now, a “raise tax rates on the top earners” platform, which would come from raising the marginal tax rate? That already has support from a large majority of voters.

    While government spending is at record heights? Nothing would further deepen the Recession than a tax hike combined with continued stimulus and/or Federal outlays.

    There is almost no reputable economist not currently employed by conservative think tanks that actually believes this. Those periods of high growth mentioned above? They were also paired with large stimulus programs. You might know them as our highway system, commuter rail, the expansion of the suburbs, increased urbanization, and increased manufacturing output. Of course you call them bailouts and government takeovers now.

    And “Blame Bush!” four years after Bush is out of office simply isn’t going to work with voters — beyond the core progressives and Democrats, which might net 35% of the vote at best. The other 65% is going to be staring at high unemployment, high Federal spending, astronomically high debt and deficit numbers, and there’s simply no way to put enough liptstick on that pig. Truly.

    Meh, it’s not the most persuasive argument, but (a) at the risk of repeating myself, it’s not the one he’s making, despite your best efforts to characterize it otherwise; and (b) it has way more traction than you claim.

    Obama’s only choice would be to reverse course and suddenly run as a Little Man’s President: low taxes, slashed Federal spending. Which means he’ll be emulating Romney in the Fall. And guess which politician has a better track record of actually doing these things? Hint: it’s not Obama. Not that I expect this to make a lick of difference in your personal calculus.

    Wait, what? Mitt RomneyCare has a track record of lowering taxes and slashed Federal spending? This is rich. I mean, here you are going after Obama for his profligate spending, likely due to his health care bill, and your rebuttal is to claim that the guy who created it’s model by working with Ted Kennedy is the guy with the record of cutting spending. Brilliant!

    Also, FWIW, the per capita taxes for a resident of Massachusetts went from 9.8% in 2002 to 10.5% in 2006. And assuming you actually knew that Romney has never held a Federal executive position, most of the surplus he had when started his term came from an increase in capital gains taxes. Y’know, the kind that he wants to lower, but it’s totally just a coincedence that that’s why he earn millions of dollars every year but pays less taxes than the average American? Which, by they way, he admitted to the press this morning. So, win-win for Romney, eh?

  91. I think Obama has done much to prove his inability solve our problems and has failed to provide the “change” he lead everyone to believe would happen. It is unfortunate the our first black President has turned out to be so worthless.

  92. Erik, I believe the debt and deficit cannot be erased in a single Presidential term.

    My solutuon? I personally would favor a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, with perhaps 10% extra erring on the income side — dedicated solely to paring down and paying back both the debt and the deficit until both are at zero. Thus it would probably take decades.

    Naturally, a balanced budget amendment cannot be effected without many government programs being cut back or even eliminated, including military spending. Most modern politicians seem to think the debt and deficit can just keep expandiong forever, no harm and no foul. But as Europe is learning, sooner or later the piper comes calling. Like I said in this thread earlier, there is a big sign that says DEFAULT right before we get to the cliff edge at the end of the spend-and-spend Big Fed freeway. I don’t want to know what’s at the bottom of Beggars Canyon. I don’t think anyone else here does, either.

    Some consider a balanced budget amendment to be a pipe dream, and they might be right. Maybe it never comes to pass. Just as a flat tax amendment may never come to pass. These are both options which “realists” seem convinced are impractical to impossible. But I suspect this is just a fancy way of saying, “The debt and deficit are too big, too unreal, and too scary for us to handle,” so we put off permanent fixes in favor of another two to four years of recycled election rhetoric and blame-shifting. I cite both parties as perpetrators.

    What seems to be happening now is that we’re stuck in a perpetual state of borrowing to pay for what we want today, without there being any consideration for tomorrow. Ergo, these funds literally do not exist, and the expanded debt and deficit awaits our children and their children and their children after them. Maybe 50 years ago we could shell-game our way through it, but I suspect the era of shell-gaming is just about over. Whether the politicians and the Big Two parties realize it or not.

  93. As presidents go, especially 1st term outsider presidents Obama was better then most. He didn’t fix much, but he did not break much either.

    if it wasn’t for the NDAA I would still be a lukewarm supporter, however that is a deal breaker to me

  94. jesse cherry-picked. He ignored the spending and focused on the tax cuts — choosing to blame the debt entirely on the tax cuts alone.

    I’ve done nothing of the sort, so stop putting words into my mouth. I’ve pointed out multiple times in multiple threads that it was most of the debt, often in response to you or an ally claiming, wholly unsubstantiated, that the stimulus and ACA was responsible.

    I on the other hand allowed for the Bush spending which was out of line with revenue but pointed out that Obama had added more to the debt in shorter time than Bush, and did not have the events of 9/11 to offset his culpability.

    Which, of course was pointed out here and in previous threads to be at best a fundamental misunderstanding of the entire concept of the debt, as well as being completely false.

    I don’t excuse Bush and blame Obama, I blame Bush for Bush, and I blame Obama for Obama. In our current election cycle, Obama must answer for Obama, and if this amounts to “blame Bush” I think Obama will be out of work by February 2013.

    Again, not what anyone but you is saying.

    Jesse seems impervious to any argument which does not forgive Obama his part in the debt and deficit crisis.

    It’s not that the arguments don’t convince me, it’s that they’re both false and unsubstantiated. The one time you’ve ever tried to back it up with a source, it completely refuted your argument. I’m sorry that reality apparently has a liberal bias to you, but that’s not my problem.

    I don’t think that’s going to work too well with centrists. It certainly won’t work with conservatives.

    Obviously it won’t work with conservatives, apparently because their only arguments have almost nothing to back them up. Centrists, however, seem to be warming to the idea.

    Admitting responsibility is the correct path, but also implicates and refutes Obama’s spend-and-spend course to economic correction. His only choice is to run as a Republican would run: low taxes, cut spending. And Romney will have the better record in this regard.

    For the last time: No, he doesn’t. If you have evidence to the contrary, you’re welcome to present it, but otherwise you’re just wasting our time.

  95. DGL@11:27, Really? The defense lawyers defense of Obama is to argue the numbers and ignore the principles?

    Of the top 25 promises, it looks like 10 of them are red:

    http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/promises/obameter/subjects/politifacts-top-promises/?page=1

    You know what? In the list of “promises kept”, it says “change standards for determining broadband access”. You want to just play the numbers of “kept” versus “broken” and tell me broadband access should be counted on par with, habeus corpus, closing gitmo, protecting whistleblowers, unilateral warmaking, and *assasinating* american citizens?

  96. “Budget belongs to the Legislative Branch, the Executive Branch does not have direct authority over it.”

    I beg to differ. The President does not have to sign the law which enacts the budget. If he doesn’t, the budget doesn’t happen. Unless he is overridden, but if you say that means he has no authority, that means nobody has any authority, since any individual Congressperson can be outvoted.

    I’m always amazed by the things people blame/credit the President for over which he has little or no power *cough*economy*cough* and the things they don’t blame him for which he has tremendous power over. For instance, every single person sitting in a Federal prison is sitting there because the President wants them to be there, and there are certainly more than a few people sitting in such prisons who no rational person, after examining the totality of the circumstances, would consider to be a threat to society and deserving of same. But the only time you ever hear about it is at the end of a term when the President pardons a bunch of rich guys/former terrorists (not that those are exclusive categories.) They never seem to pardon the poor schmoe who inadvertently violated some non-mens-rea-requiring drug or weapons law and regarding whom neither the prosecutor nor the jury had the moral courage to just say, “Oh, fiddlesticks. This guy doesn’t belong in jail.”

  97. Well, jesse, you’d best open up a campaign web site and begin edumacating the rest of us. Clearly Obama’s permanently-below-50-percent approval rating indicates a massive knowledge deficit on our part. We’re too lacking in depth to realize how good Obama really is. That ought to be on a bumper sticker. OBAMA IN 2012: YOU’D THINK HE WERE AWESOME, IF YOU WEREN’T SO DUMB.

  98. “In the post-war years, it was somewhere in the vicinity of 85%-95%, and the country’s economy boomed.”

    If we passed a 1000% tax on income derived from harvesting werewolf pelts, it might literally be true to say that the top marginal tax rate was 1000%, but I suspect not many people would feel its dread impact.

    Jesse, you may not be aware of the rule which states that anybody who cites the top marginal tax rates of this period as any way relevant to the modern tax system essentially created in 1984 is disqualified from further discussion on the topic, so I’m inclined to offer you a waiver. But the determination of income and allowable deduction structures were so different that it’s really kind of pathetic to do that. Seriously. That’s misleading to the point of being this/close to a lie.

  99. Brad @1:59

    Naturally, a balanced budget amendment cannot be effected without many government programs being cut back or even eliminated, including military spending.

    Okay, this is a start. Which government programs? Also, how much of the military, and which parts? I’m not trying to be snarky, I really would like to know which parts of the government you think provide no value to taxpayers.

  100. Real mature there, Brad. There are better ways of saying you don’t have anything to back up what you say that don’t involve faking motivations of those who refute you.

  101. “You want to just play the numbers of “kept” versus “broken” and tell me broadband access should be counted on par with, habeus corpus, closing gitmo, protecting whistleblowers, unilateral warmaking, and *assasinating* american citizens?”

    I think you meant “prosecuting whistleblowers,” but otherwise, this.

  102. A little off topic, but – Boy do I miss Paul Wellstone. Over time his death has become even more of a tragedy. It’s as if civil discourse, compromise,and the idea of a politician doing what is best for the country went down on the plane with him and his family.

  103. If we passed a 1000% tax on income derived from harvesting werewolf pelts, it might literally be true to say that the top marginal tax rate was 1000%, but I suspect not many people would feel its dread impact.

    Jesse, you may not be aware of the rule which states that anybody who cites the top marginal tax rates of this period as any way relevant to the modern tax system essentially created in 1984 is disqualified from further discussion on the topic, so I’m inclined to offer you a waiver.

    What, there were no rich people before 1984? And who came up with this rule, Grover Norquist?

    But the determination of income and allowable deduction structures were so different that it’s really kind of pathetic to do that. Seriously. That’s misleading to the point of being this/close to a lie.

    Then please educate us on why exactly it’s misleading. I’d love to hear this, combined with the inevitable full-throated defense of how only the rich deserve to be able to take advantage of tax loopholes and only those that can afford large investments deserve to taxed less on them than those that don’t.

  104. Greg @ 2:02 PM: Look, your original claim was that Obama “reversed his position on nearly every statement” he made in his campaign.

    He didn’t.

    “Nearly every” is a claim about numbers; the numbers don’t support it. If you want to claim that he failed to uphold what you believe are the most important promises he made and principles he claimed to stand for, fine. But the hyperbole undercuts your case.

  105. Every time I get frustrated with Obama, I remember John’s article from January 2009 reminding us that things won’t change automatically. I believe the phrase “farting cinnamon scented rainbows” was used. It will take time and by my eyes, things are getting better.

    My frustration with the American Left is the same as with the American Right. Neither of them seem to have basic reading comprehension skills. Both sides hear something out of context and RUN like Forrest Gump with a football.

    Every time I hear someone beat the drum over NDAA and “ZOMG indefinite detentions!” I ask if they’ve read the specific ammendment that says “this doesn’t apply to Americans.”

    Every time I hear someone jump up and down about “assassinating Americans without due process” (Anwar Al-Alwaki) – I mention the George Washington Brigade (a division of the Waffen SS composed of American citizens who fought for Germany in WWII) and ask if they would suggest stopping combat to try the soldiers in question.

    And every time I read that “pretty soon people will realize they don’t have to vote for one of two candidates” I think of…. four presidential election cycles ago. :-)

    I’m with you, John. The things the left wants have a log-scale greater chance of happening under Obama than they do under Romney, Gingrich, et al.

  106. jesse cherry-picked. He ignored the spending and focused on the tax cuts — choosing to blame the debt entirely on the tax cuts alone.

    You stated very clearly that Obama’s spending was responsible for doubling the deficit, “not Bush’s taxes cuts.” That’s a categorical statement. The evidence you provided said, no, that both spending and tax cuts were responsible. Jesse called you on that. You can change your argument if you wish, but you should admit that you were wrong in the initial assertion.

  107. Jesse: The whole point of the 1984 tax reform was that what most people, to this day, think of as “tax loopholes” were mostly wiped out. Had we kept the same marginal rates with the new calculation of income structure we’d have increased actual extraction rates by a factor of 50% or more. Now, you may think that that would have been a good thing in hindsight, but the idea at the time was to keep the actual taxation paid more or less the same while simplifying the process and doing exactly what it seems like you’d approve of: making it harder for higher-income people to get out of paying taxes by performing esoteric financial maneuvers. It mostly worked, too. And I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I strongly approve of this kind of thing. Generally speaking, if it walks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck, I think it should pay duck taxes.

    Since that time Congress has of course fiddled with the law to the point where esoteric financial maneuvers are again quite lucrative, taxwise, but it’s still NOWHERE close to the way it was back in the Forties. More importantly, if you look at the taxation numbers as a simple ratio of “how much of the economy the government extracts for government purposes,” it’s remarkably steady, outside of REAL national emergencies like say WWII, no matter what the actual top marginal tax rates are. “Oh, when we had 90% tax rates the economy boomed, the weather was better, and children were more respectful to their elders,” may be true, but correlation does not imply causation. In this case it doesn’t even imply causation, since a 90% tax rate under an income calculation scheme where, just for one tiny example, ALL INTEREST IS TAX DEDUCTIBLE, is not comparable to a 90% tax rate under the income calculation scheme we have now.

  108. If you want a balanced budget — or at least one where it’s closer to balance — then you don’t need a constitutional amendment. Just pass a law that ties congressional salaries to the budget. If the budget is 20% over spending, then next year’s salary is cut 20%. If they balance it, no change. If revenues exceed spending, they get a bonus.

  109. “Every time I hear someone beat the drum over NDAA and “ZOMG indefinite detentions!” I ask if they’ve read the specific ammendment that says “this doesn’t apply to Americans.””

    An excellent point, except that Obama is on record as saying he already had the authority to indefinitely detain American citizens on American soil for terror-related suspicions. Since the bill “neither expanded nor restricted” his ability and he already thought he had it, that’s still all you need to know about his position on the matter.

  110. @A Different Daniel Careful: the amendment you mention was proposed by Senator Feinstein, but shot down. The next amendment she tried (and succeeded) essentially said that the NDAA should not be construed as changing current law with regards to the detention of American citizens. Since the view of that law is unsettled it remains an open issue.

    Oh, and the George Washington Brigade didn’t exist: http://www.axishistory.com/index.php?id=310

    The whole point of the 1984 tax reform

    It was the 1986tax reform act.

  111. @Marc Whipple:
    An excellent point, except that Obama is on record as saying he already had the authority to indefinitely detain American citizens on American soil for terror-related suspicions

    Strange, then, that the NDAA signing statement includes this:

    “Moreover, I want to clarify that my Administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens. Indeed, I believe that doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a Nation. My Administration will interpret section 1021 in a manner that ensures that any detention it authorizes complies with the Constitution, the laws of war, and all other applicable law.”

    http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=98513&st=&st1=#ixzz1jkKecdQ8

  112. Brad R. Torgersen:

    “Well, jesse, you’d best open up a campaign web site and begin edumacating the rest of us.”

    Brad, in case you were wondering, this is where you lost the argument, because you’ve shifted from having a discussion about facts and assertions to an ad hominem strategy. You’re going to have to work harder on backing out of arguments you no longer want to participate in without engaging a disaffected flounce like this; it undercuts everything else you’ve said to this point in the discussion and overall lowers your status as someone who is worth engaging with in discussions like this.

    In the future, it’s probably best to disengage politely, either by saying “we disagree” and moving on, or just walking away from the thread.

  113. “Just pass a law that ties congressional salaries to the budget. ”

    I agree with this in spirit, but so many Congresspeople are independently wealthy that in practice I don’t think this would have any effect whatsoever. (See: Mitt Romney’s throwaway observation that he had donated the proceeds of his book to charity, when that income alone would have put him in the top 2% of earners.)

  114. Different Daniel:

    Without wading into the muck of this thread (I’m frankly not in the mood today to do so without a tactical nuke), I just wanted to let you know that you aren’t alone in your exasperation.

  115. The whole point of the 1984 tax reform was that what most people, to this day, think of as “tax loopholes” were mostly wiped out…Since that time Congress has of course fiddled with the law to the point where esoteric financial maneuvers are again quite lucrative, taxwise, but it’s still NOWHERE close to the way it was back in the Forties.

    I’ll admit that focusing entirely on the marginal tax rates may have been off. However, considering that a lot of the fiddling via Congress, and especially via the Bush tax cuts, restored a lot of the tax inequality that not only has been very advantageous to Romney, which Brad has somehow taken to mean that he’s somehow more representative of sound fiscal and tax policy than Obama. In that respect, it doesn’t absolve Brad’s excuses re:taxes and the stimulus much, if at all.

  116. “Moreover, I want to clarify that my Administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens. Indeed, I believe that doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a Nation. My Administration will interpret section 1021 in a manner that ensures that any detention it authorizes complies with the Constitution, the laws of war, and all other applicable law.”

    Unlike many of his detractors I do not make the mistake for a moment that the President is a stupid man. If you parse that carefully, with your lawyer hat on, you will find that it does not in any way contradict what I said.

    Also, and this is a separate issue, “indefinitely” is an ambiguous term. See: the Constitution’s provision that patents and copyrights should be issued “for a limited time.” Technically, “forever minus one day” is a limited time.

  117. Kevin Williams: basic economics does not imply that “the tax cuts are going to cost us because of the extra interest we’re incurring”. No — basic economics merely says that tax cuts will cost somebody, eventually. But who? (And when?) Yes, in the very unlikely scenario where Americans will accept higher taxes and lower spending for the decades of austerity it will take to unwind USG’s national debt, it could be only taxpayers. Very unlikely. More likely that than is USG stiffs its creditors, for some or all of the debt. More likely than that is that USG attempts to inflate away the debt — that is, it prints money (in reality, it flips bits in a computer) to repay creditors. Ben B, standing by!

    Most likely, in my estimation is (a) substantial, actual cutbacks in the military, which is the least popular big-government boondoggle, including a retreat from our invade-the-world stance; (b) some token gestures at austerity (that is, slightly higher taxes, mostly on “the rich”, and slightly lower spending on the popular social programs); and (c) massive inflation. In democracy, will people vote to stiff the citizens or to stiff a mixture of citizens and non-citizens? The answer seems obvious to me.

    So again, I stick with my point. Debt now does not mean taxes later. Debt now means TBD later. I agree with you in that debt now is bad, and almost certainly worse than … whatever USG will blunder into, later. I opposed Bush’s wars and other spending increases, just as I opposed Obama’s war against Libya, Obamacare, etc.

    In any case, even if you think that lowering taxes now can only mean higher taxes later, it is still ridiculous to write, in effect, “lowering taxes cost the taxpayers money”, at least without explaining further what you mean. They are, at minimum, two different sets of taxpayers, and that matters.

    As for my word-choices, well, obviously you took me seriously enough to argue with. I don’t see how you could possibly read Sullivan’s piece as anti-government — he endorses Obamacare, for goodness sake, including the individual mandate!

  118. @David, what Marc Whipple just said. I’m not an expert, but are those two statements inconsistent? Obama’s got the authority to detain citizens without habeas corpus, it’s just that he would never use that authority, because that would be bad. Which is fine, as long as Obama remains a nice guy and nobody else ever gets elected. His signing statement doesn’t include what the next Administration’s interpretation would be.

    And my impression of the line you summarize as “this doesn’t apply to Americans” was that it actually says, “this doesn’t apply to Americans any more than it already did.” Plus, of course, even if it only applies to foreigners, it’s still a fundamental rewriting of the understanding of how rights work. We have rights because we’re human, not because we’re American citizens, and American law has historically reflected that.

  119. Unlike many of his detractors I do not make the mistake for a moment that the President is a stupid man. If you parse that carefully, with your lawyer hat on, you will find that it does not in any way contradict what I said.

    Since we are parsing so carefully–all of us law professors–the implication of “complies with the Constitution” in his statement implies that not complying would be unconstitutional and thus illegal. It comes down to whether you think that the Constitution allows indefinite detention of American citizens without trial. If it does, then his statement about detentions complying with the Constitution suggest that he agrees. I don’t think it does, and neither does the Supreme Court (http://www.salon.com/2008/06/12/boumediene/ ).

  120. David – Thank you for the correction. The link you provided says, and I will conceed, that the GW Brigade -as such- did not exist. It goes on to list at least ten Americans who -did- fight on that side. (two by name and eight confirmed dead). The net result is while they may not have been under that particular division, they were still on that side, in a theatre of combat. But that, as John will soon lovingly correct me, is outside the scope of this.

  121. Re: Obama and the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2012, here’s what he said when he signed the Act into law:

    Section 1021 affirms the executive branch’s authority to detain persons covered by the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) (Public Law 107-40; 50 U.S.C. 1541 note). This section breaks no new ground and is unnecessary. The authority it describes was included in the 2001 AUMF, as recognized by the Supreme Court and confirmed through lower court decisions since then. Two critical limitations in section 1021 confirm that it solely codifies established authorities. First, under section 1021(d), the bill does not “limit or expand the authority of the President or the scope of the Authorization for Use of Military Force.” Second, under section 1021(e), the bill may not be construed to affect any “existing law or authorities relating to the detention of United States citizens, lawful resident aliens of the United States, or any other persons who are captured or arrested in the United States.” My Administration strongly supported the inclusion of these limitations in order to make clear beyond doubt that the legislation does nothing more than confirm authorities that the Federal courts have recognized as lawful under the 2001 AUMF. Moreover, I want to clarify that my Administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens. Indeed, I believe that doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a Nation. My Administration will interpret section 1021 in a manner that ensures that any detention it authorizes complies with the Constitution, the laws of war, and all other applicable law.

    A couple of points to consider:

    1. The NDAA is an annual Bill. It’s written by Congress with input from the Dept. of Defense as well as lots and lots of lobbyists. It’s not a unique event, by any means.

    2. The annual NDAA always contains many upon many provisions. Sections 1021 and 1022 are but two of them. Other provisions are necessary for managing the Dept. of Defense or for assisting military servicemembers.

    3. As President, Obama can sign or not sign or veto. He cannot pick and choose which Sections he will sign and which ones he won’t.

    4. While I disagree in principle with Section 1021 of the 2012 NDAA, I am somewhat comforted by President Obama’s pledge (quoted above) that he will not authorize the indefinite military detention of American citizens without trial. I realize that many will be cynical about that pledge, but I will take him at his word until his actions prove different than his promise.

  122. As President, Obama can sign or not sign or veto. He cannot pick and choose which Sections he will sign and which ones he won’t.

    It’s important to note here that the NDAA was already veto-proof (with a buffer of about 20 votes) by the time it got to his desk

  123. Doubling the national debt while engaging in fantastic spendthrift outlays

    If he had done this then yes. The facts remain that he hasn’t. Most of the increase in debt was inherited due to the last lot, who, if memory serves, were right of center republicans? The largest percentage rise in the debt in recent history was by Ronald Reagan, who, again, if memory serves was also right of center.

    If you’re going to attack the guy, attack for things he’s done not things you think he’s done!

    Tax cuts do not cost taxpayers; it is the reverse.

    Er… if Tax cuts mean the government has to borrow money to cover the difference between what people want, or even don’t want (wars, medicare, social security, unemployment benefits) and the like, then tax cuts cost the tax payer. The biggest lie sold to the American people was that the surplus in 2000 was “tax payer” money that they should have back, rather than an opportunity to pay down the debt that apparently is only a problem when a democrat is in the White House.

    And the alternative was? The US was haemoraging 750,000 jobs a month prior to the stimulus, that stopped and reversed. Without the, frankly, inadequate stimulus there was, unemployment (and the costs associated with it like increased government payouts and lower tax receipts) would be MUCH higher. People in lots of debt (as US households are) hit with a credit crunch can’t spend money, they have to pay down debts – demand goes down and things get worse. Without somebody picking up the slack, you end up in a spiral. Britain has followed what you think would work and it’s now in a double dip recession with increasing job losses.

    The reality is the US economy has a complex set of problems brought about by an out of control financial sector which is still sitting on unfunded liabilities that are IN EXCESS OF GLOBAL GDP (sorry, thought that was worth capitals). Part of the solution is revenue, going back to Clinton era tax levels quite obviously supportable then, part is cutting some spending (especially defense) but a lot of the problem is self correcting when the economy improves as unemployment payments go down and tax receipts go up.

    None of this is all that hard, nor controversial and people introducing mis-leading data as facts don’t help.

    The US economy was thrown over a cliff in 2008 and this may not even be fixed in 3 terms, let alone 1!

  124. @Nick from the OC : Jeez, dude, give me some credit for quoting and linking to exactly the same signing statement well before you did.

  125. I have no idea who else here is or is not a law professor: I am not. (I am, however, a lawyer, and that yields a certain familiarity with law professors.)

    What is important to remember, though, is that the *President* is a law professor. (A professor, in fact, of Constitutional law.) And while I am willing to believe he doesn’t really support torture of human beings, for reasonable definitions of torture, you don’t *get* to be a law professor unless you not only believe in, but actively enjoy, torturing the English language as it applies to legal activity. Nothing posted so far and attributed to the President, or any other statements known by me to be made by him, unambiguously states that he does not believe that he has the authority to detain American citizens, whether or not captured on American soil, indefinitely as, to generalize, an extension of his lawful war powers. He is more than capable of being unambiguous about it: if he isn’t, it’s because he chooses not to be.

  126. Brad T writes:

    What seems to be happening now is that we’re stuck in a perpetual state of borrowing to pay for what we want today, without there being any consideration for tomorrow.

    The objective of the stimulus program was to ultimately pay for itself by setting the economy up for better growth and faster exit from the recession. Absent that, the borrowing this term hasn’t been “that bad” in recent context. Sullivan and plenty of others have seen and shown that by deeper, less arbitrary standards the stimulus worked (not to the PR targets, but to underlying trends and shortening the duration).

    While I don’t believe any one set of economists have it all right, regarding the downturn and stimuli I am pretty much in the saltwater camp. The freshwater economists and Tea Party / post-Bush Republican stance appears to simply not track reality either in politics or governance or economics (observed OR theoretical…). Particularly salient is Krugman’s tack about current borrowing interest rates being below or at inflation rate. Right now, we ARE borrowing money “for free”. It needs to get paid back, but if we grow faster over time (one would hope) we’d ultimately have paid a negative real interest rate over the life of the bonds.

    There are measures by which debt should be measured which stand long-term inspection; Total public debt to GDP ratios, annual repayments compared to government revenues for the year, etc. Those are not trending great, but at current interest rates they’re manageable.

    You (I think) also said upthread that Obama didn’t even have 9/11 to blame for the spending. This is frankly barking mad. Everything Bush set geopolitimiltarily in motion post-9/11 that was still running, which includes Iran and Afghanistan at least, is ascribable to 9/11. There’s a lot of money over the last 3 years in the expanded defense spend / operations etc. Obama has been clearly moving to back out of both places, and his opponents arguing against it; if anyone’s taking fiscal responsibility regarding those issues it’s Obama at the moment. Not that retreating before stability necessarily is the best geopolitical decision, but that’s what we’re doing, and it has US fiscal spend impact.

  127. Nothing posted so far and attributed to the President, or any other statements known by me to be made by him, unambiguously states that he does not believe that he has the authority to detain American citizens, whether or not captured on American soil, indefinitely as, to generalize, an extension of his lawful war powers.

    If you choose not to believe what the man’s actually said, or to parse it to death, then sure, that’ll be the conclusion you reach.

  128. To add to George’s comment. The key with the Stimulus is to recognise short term spending that will impact the deficit but should be eliminated from the stuff that will add to it year in, year out. As he says, the goal of the stimulus was to stop job losses, which it did – sadly, the rate of loss of jobs from when it was conceived to being implemented was significantly higher than the worst case scenario. With unemployment down, government spending on unemployment insurance decreases and tax goes up.

    It, ultimately, should be revenue neutral over the medium term and while you can borrow money for free, you should do it.

    The elephant in the room are the unfunded tax cuts from 2000 (and I think we must accept that includes all of them), the Medicare Part D “gift” to older republican voters and the enormous spending on various wars and related activities. Those 3 are the bulk of the current deficit, which itself was built upon the work of the Reagan administration… go conservative fiscal responsibility! Yay!

    If only there was a modern, developed country, which was trying the full Tea Party prescription which we could look at to see if things were getting better or worse… (Hint: Google UK economy)

  129. The fact that parsing things to death is pretty much what law professors do was kind of the point of my comment. If you’re saying I should take him at face value, I’ll just point out that taking politicians at face value has not been a winning strategy since, I dunno, ever.

    If he were to say, “I don’t believe that officials of the United States Government have the authority to detain American citizens indefinitely under any circumstances,” that would be one thing. (It would also be technically incorrect, but this would be a mistake I’d easily forgive him.) But he won’t say that. He hems and he haws and he qualifies and he leaves things out and he puts in ambiguous terms because that’s what politicians who are also law professors who don’t want to say things plainly DO.

    Just as one example, I invite you to refer to the Habeas Corpus clause of the US Constitution, which clearly stipulates that HC does not necessarily apply in case of “rebellion or invasion.” Two of our President’s past role models interpreted this, with the approval of the Supreme Court, to mean that they could indefinitely detain American citizens in such circumstances even if the citizens in question hadn’t been shown to be part of the invasion or rebellion. The AUMF, arguably, makes anybody connected to terrorism a rebel and/or invader, and that isn’t even necessary for the HC exception to imply. I’ll grant you that that view took a hit in BOUMEDIENE, but anybody who thinks that that single case was dispositive enough to satisfy a Con Law professor that the general principle is totally inapplicable has not taken Con Law.

  130. Adding to David @ 3:55pm

    To put it another way: If I say, “The sky is blue”, are you going to turn to your neighbor and say, “Y’know, he never said ‘The sky is not red.’ I can’t, in good conscience, agree with a man who, for all I know, thinks the sky is red.”

  131. Saying the sky is blue means that the sky is not red, because red and blue are different. Saying that detaining people indefinitely is bad and against American values is not different from saying that detaining people indefinitely is unlawful. Lots of things which are bad and against American values are perfectly lawful.

    He’s never ambiguous about the fact that he thinks it’s bad. I honestly believe he thinks it’s bad. I don’t necessarily believe that he thinks he’s not allowed to do it, and nothing he’s ever said, that I’ve seen attributed to him, indicates that he does think he’s not allowed to do it.

    If you want to see an unrelated example of how Con Law professors think, note that the current administration believes that the Senate can simultaneously be in recess (and thus the President can make recess appointments) and in session (and therefore pass bills which the President can sign and make into law.) Simultaneously. They will assert this with straight faces and noble hearts.

  132. @Marc Generally, if your case is based on coming up with increasingly strained and implausible readings of something, it means you’ve lost. (for example, arguing away a Supreme Court case which explicitly denies your interpretation of the law with some handwaving about how the President wouldn’t be “satisfied” with it.)

    But I like Doc. Rocketscience’s answer better than mine, so I’ll just go with his.

    (BTW, not to intrude on a lovely foamy performance from Brad, but I should note that he carefully didn’t talk about TARP, which was 700 billion dollars of goodness headed straight into the maw of the bankers, signed by President Bush, and which did a major part in blowing the deficit wide open).

  133. Also, Marc, there’s such a thing as positive evidence. It would help your case if you could come up with something where the President unambiguously argues that he has the authority to detain American citizens. That would save you from the whole Ouija board approach.

  134. TARP, which was 700 billion dollars of goodness headed straight into the maw of the bankers, signed by President Bush, and which did a major part in blowing the deficit wide open

    Hmm… sorry, but actually, even thought I think very little of GW Bush, TARP actually was pretty damn near neutral on the deficit. I think the latest accounting is it may have cost $30BN which out of the general scheme of things is very little. There’s actually still some assets that may yet make it profitable. Likewise the car “bailout” looks likely to have turned a profit. It’s also worth remember that of the “massive” stimulus package, there were a lot of tax cuts in there and a bunch of stuff that hasn’t really been spent yet properly.

    The 2000 tax cuts, medicare part D and the expansion in the military blew the budget wide open, and the refusal to let the tax cuts sunset just made things worse. It’s amazing what happens to the numbers if you sunset those tax cuts.

  135. Daveon: granted, though you’re actually confusing the deficit and the debt. TARP blew the deficit wide open because the Treasury had to account for the spending authority (though interestingly Treasury and the CBO differed on how to treat it, and so put out different deficit numbers).

  136. Well, as the two seem to be interchangable to a certain element in US political discourse I thought I’d return the favour. :)

    That’s why any discussion of Obama and the “stimulus” is a complete red herring – any more than me running an overdraft against future cashflow or expansion is a problem for my business. What tends to be left out is that most US businesses would be all over loans they could get for their business at effective zero percent interest, especially if you had massive excess capacity and a lot of faith that you would be getting more business in.

    The long term problems are unfunded tax “cuts”, medical spending and defense spending. Fix one of those with a return to pre-2000 levels; the other with proper healthcare and the third… well… can’t think of a decent answer to that one which doesn’t involve getting rid of some toys.

  137. Back on original topic -

    I for one do not hate Sullivan for this piece. I don’t think he’s entirely right; I think Obama stumbled into a bunch of what he’s now doing rather than planning it, and he gets some details wrong. But he’s not WRONG, and challenging both the left and right dogmas is a healthy intellectual exercise.

  138. Sadly, in some ways I feel that the discussion is a microcosm of what I find so frustrating about American politics right now.

    I have some basic philosphical disagreements with Obama. That doesn’t mean that I hate him, or that I think that everything about his presidency has been bad. I’m not one to judge, but I’ll hope that the fact that he and I disagree on some things doesn’t mean that I’m stupid.

    Parhelion said on 12.31 pm on Jan. 17 that his/her description of self made their expected vote obvious. But not to me; not when I have a friend who was the first openly gay Republican candidate for a county commissioner seat in a rural Georgia county. Why are we all looking to things to define people as “other”? Why can’t we look for what unites rather than what divides?

    I wish we – all of we, left, right, centrist – could move past the “I’m Republican, I’m Democrat, I’m…whatever the hell I am” labels to have some real discussion. That would apparently put us way ahead of the idiots in DC, and ahead of some of Sullivan’s arguments. And maybe put all of us in a better place.

  139. David@4:41: Also, Marc, there’s such a thing as positive evidence. It would help your case if you could come up with something where the President unambiguously argues that he has the authority to detain American citizens. That would save you from the whole Ouija board approach

    Yes, and unless the Emporer unambiguously admits that he is strutting around naked, how could we possibly argue otherwise? I mean, really, it’s all just Ouija board smoke and mirror, amiright? amiright?

    Well, a quick google produced this link: http://www.prisonplanet.com/journalist-sues-obama-over-indefinite-detention-law.html

    And this excerpt: “Although President Obama indicated in a signing statement attached to the bill that he would not use it to indefinitely detain American citizens without trial, it was the Obama administration itself which requested that the provision be worded so it would *apply* to US citizens. … As the bill’s co-sponsor Senator Carl Levin said during a speech on the floor last month, it was the Obama administration that demanded the removal of language that would have precluded Americans from being subject to indefinite detention.”

    Unless you’re suggesting that the *positive* evidence from Senator Carl Levin, Democrat from Michigan, is simply more Oija Board nonsense, I think this will suffice. Maybe Obama has sense enough not to get in front of a TV and come out and flatly say “I want the power to imprison American citizens, yet according to Levin, Obama fought to win exactly that legal power. Lets move the goal posts around some more now, and say Obama can only be guilty of wanting this power grab if he floats when bound by ropes and is innocent if he sinks.

    When it comes to politicians, I think it healthy to give their words some skepticism and pay much more attention to what they say with their hands and feet. Actions, in short, speak louder than words. And Obama’s actions are as good as any confession that you demand before proclaiming guilt.

  140. Oh my god. Prisonplanet? Really? I thought we were having a serious discussion. Why not just hop over to a vaccine thread on Science Blogs and link to whale.to while we’re at it.

  141. Yes, and unless the Emporer unambiguously admits that he is strutting around naked, how could we possibly argue otherwise? I mean, really, it’s all just Ouija board smoke and mirror, amiright? amiright?

    Well, a quick google produced this link: http://www.prisonplanet.com/journalist-sues-obama-over-indefinite-detention-law.html

    Excellent! That’s good evidence for people named Chris Hedges. For people named Barack Obama, not so much.

    And forgive me if I don’t trust a source that also has a laudatory article about Ron Paul.

    What I’m looking for is a statement by the President of the United States or his representative asserting the right you claim he thinks he has. That’s all. If the President believes he has that right, shouldn’t he be out there claiming it.

    Oh, and by the way, there is a certain ridiculousness in your argument. Obama wants indefinite detention but has pledged not to use it? What, is he saving it for private life? Saving it for the next President? Exactly what is he doing, in his cunning 11 dimensional chess way? “I don’t want that power, but I want to preserve it for Mitt Romney!” You are in the position of arguing that Obama is subtly angling to get a power that he has explicitly said he won’t use. That’s a really contorted argument and exactly the kind of foaminess I took John Scalzi to be referring to in his post.

    The Right: He’s a socialist!
    The Left: No, he’s a closet Republican!
    Right & Left (in unision): Socialist! Republican! Socialist! Republican!

  142. christy @7:28:

    Humans are broken that way; tribalism is in our nature and it can be difficult to overcome.

    Would that it were different.

  143. Doc@7:52: Oh my god. Prisonplanet? Really? I thought we were having a serious discussion.

    David@7:59: And forgive me if I don’t trust a source that also has a laudatory article about Ron Paul.

    If you two weren’t already biased to dismiss any condemnation of Obama, perhaps you would have perused through the article to look for original sources, such as this link embedded in the article.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jHaJrnlqCgo&feature=player_embedded

    It is video of Senator Carl Levin saying that the original bill did NOT allow indefinite detention be applied to American citizens and that the Obama administration pushed to have it expanded to ALLOW the indefinite imprisonment of American citizens without trial.

    If the President believes he has that right, shouldn’t he be out there claiming it.

    Do you seriously want to argue that if Bush and Cheney believe they have the right to invent bullshit intelligence (stovepiping was what the CIA called it) and cook the books to justify a war of aggression, that they would actually announce it? And if they don’t announce it on some public media, then, gee willikers, it must not be true???

    You want to play Opey to the Mayberry Machavellis, go right ahead. Just don’t expect informed people to follow you

    On the other hand, if you were perfectly willing to condemn the intentions of Bush and Cheney, without inventing bullshit arbitrary hurdles to prove their guilt, like Bush appearing on TV and saying “We are cooking the books as we speak. Right now, we are inventing intel out of complete bullshit.” then why do you raise the bar for proving guilt when it’s Obama instead of Bush? Cause if your principles aren’t applied equally to everyone, then they’re not principles. They’re rules of tribalism.

    Ya know, when it comes down to it, the problem with America isn’t the two party system or the electoral college or the majority-vote-wins rules for presidential elections. The problem is that there are massive numbers of Democrat voters who would defend a Democrat president if he committed murder[*], and there are massive numbers of Republican voters who would defend a Republican president if he committed murder[*]. And yet both of those groups of voters would call for the president to be hauled into court if you swapped (R) for (D) and (D) for (R), but the president’s behavior was unchanged.

    It’s a fucked up, totally dysfunctional, tribalistic bunch of bullshit that a lot of voters (Democrat and Republican) pull in America, and it gives us the fucked up, totally dysfunctional, tribalistic bunch of bullshit that is the American government we have today.

  144. Greg, I’m not “biased to dismiss any condemnation of Obama” just because you say I am. That shtick is getting really old.

    I will, however, cop to not even wasting my time clicking through to prison planet, cause that dude is batshit insane. He’s an NWO-fearing truther wackaloon. And just because a stopped clock is right twice a day doesn’t mean I’m inclined to not throw it out the window.

    Do yourself a favor. If you’re going to insist on reading pathological bullshit like prisonplanet (and, to a lesser extent, Greenwald), then just skip to linking to the “primary sources”. It’d make you look a lot less credulous and foamy-mouthed.

  145. The election is pretty much down to Romney’s choice of running-mate. Unless he screws up horribly, he’s got good odds of winning in November; he’s certainly much prettier than Obama. (To this day, I don’t understand why McCain chose Palin; the man seemed smarter than that. Sure, he needed to dangle some red meat in front of the radical religious right, but why pick a nobody he barely knew?)

    I’ll vote for Obama, or Buddy Roemer if he’s on the ballot. Unless, by some miracle, laws are changed before November and the Electoral College is forced to consider percentages instead of assigning ten votes out of ten to the winner in a 51%-49% contest, voting in a non-swing state is a joke. Clinton was the last (D) to get our backing, and he was a white Southerner.

    Obama’s been a major disappointment, but he beats the alternative.

  146. It is video of Senator Carl Levin saying that the original bill did NOT allow indefinite detention be applied to American citizens and that the Obama administration pushed to have it expanded to ALLOW the indefinite imprisonment of American citizens without trial.

    Excellent. That works for Carl Levin. Now, I’d like to have actual evidence of Obama, or his representative, saying that. Surely, if the President is advocating so strongly for this right, you have evidence of him–oh, I don’t know–ADVOCATING FOR THIS RIGHT?

    Do you seriously want to argue that if Bush and Cheney believe they have the right to invent bullshit intelligence (stovepiping was what the CIA called it) and cook the books to justify a war of aggression, that they would actually announce it?

    Uh, actually, they did, quite regularly assert exactly that. For example, in both the Hamdan and Boumedine cases, the President’s lawyers made exactly the same arguments for the right to hold someone indefinitely.

    No, if your best evidence is hearsay evidence then you have very little, especially since the signing statement for the NDAA explicitly disavowed the right. You can assert all you want, but the evidence ain’t backing you up. Come up with something explicit.

    And note, as JS pointed out above, you’ve moved from attacking the argument and the evidence to attacking the people. There’s no surer sign of losing than that shift.

  147. Also, while I don’t think Lahey is lying, I will say this (mostly cause I love this line and try to work it into everyday conversations): At this point, I wouldn’t trust that any Congressional Democrat would cross the street to piss on Obama if he was on fire.

  148. Doc@10:58pathological bullshit like prisonplanet (and, to a lesser extent, Greenwald

    Tell you what, you find me a *quote* of Glenn Greenwald confessing to “pathological bullshit” and we’ll talk. Cause it isn’t true unless the accused CONFESSES to doing it.

    I don’t think Lahey [Levin] is lying, … I wouldn’t trust that any Congressional Democrat would cross the street to piss on Obama if he was on fire.

    what was the point of that “poor Obama” homily other than to act as a red herring diversion from Levin’s statements being true having the immediate implication that Obama is responsible for this?

    David@11:08: Surely, if the President is advocating so strongly for this right, you have evidence of him–oh, I don’t know–ADVOCATING FOR THIS RIGHT?

    Senator Levin said the law excluded Americans until Obama PUSHED to have the law expanded to detain americans indefinitely adn without trial. Obama WANTED this right because he PUSHED for it to be added. That’s proof enough right there. Not only did Obama ADVOCATE for it, he actually CAUSED it. Unless you’re calling Levin a LIAR? And if you are, where is your evidence of Levin CONFESSING to being a liar? Because in your world, unless a man confesses to the thing others accuse him of, he is innocent. So, Levin can’t be lying unless he confesses to it. Amiright? Amiright?

    Bank robbers never robbed a bank unless they confess and plead guilty. Murders never murdered anyone unless they confess. Rapists never raped unless they confess. Obama never pushed for the indefinite detention of americans without trial unless he confesses. That’s just how it works.

    Why yes, the emporer’s new clothes are just splendid.

    It just becomes increasingly obvious that we have exactly the kind of shitty government that we deserve.

  149. Late to the party, but I want to return to the debt question.

    Brad, I believe that *you* have a legitimate concern about our national debt, and that those concerns are not unfounded. However, I believe that a lot of the members of the party you support do *not.* They don’t care. They didn’t care in 2006, and they will again not care in 2013 if a Republican President wins. It’s not about “Bush wasn’t a true conservative,” it’s that NOBODY who achieves a leadership position in the Republican party is a “true conservative” by your definition. Tom deLay certainly wasn’t. Hastert wasn’t. Trent Lott wasn’t. Dick Cheney wasn’t. Mitch McConnell wasn’t, and isn’t. And Cantor isn’t. I don’t think any of them give a darn about the deficit. I’d bet you a rather large sum of money you can’t find a single one of them who voted against, or spoke out against, any one of Bush’s debt-increasing policies between 2001 and 2006. Medicare Part D? They all lined up and voted for it. When Bruce Bartlett was fired for saying Iraq would cost $200 billion, did any of them spring to his defense? Did anyone argue with Dick Cheney when Cheney said in 2002, “Deficits don’t matter. Reagan proved that.”

    I don’t have a problem with someone who criticizes Bush’s increase to the debt. I do feel that when criticizing, Bush one should also criticize VP Cheney, Majority Leaders Trent Lott & Bill Frist, Speaker Dennis Hastert, and Majority Leader Tom deLay (arguably the most powerful of any of the above besides Cheney) for their roles. This then raises the question: Why do you think putting Republicans back in power will do anything about the deficit/debt at all? Once back in power, they will do exactly what Cheney did, say, “Defecits don’t matter. Reagan proved that”; they’ll do exactly what deLay did, and pass Medicare Part D. Everyone on Fox News will shut up about the debt, and put the word out that it doesn’t matter anymore. And lo and behold, it will cease to be an issue among the vast majority of the party faithful. *You* will still care about it, and write about it, and be frustrated with your leadership, and rightfully so… but don’t you think my scenario’s plausible? Because that’s exactly the way things went in 2001-06. Bush didn’t have a magic wand to make the House & Senate Republicans support him. They went along with everything he did.

    Paul Krugman has this to say about the debt: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/01/03/4158427/viewpoints-debt-continues-to-be.html

    I believe we are far more likely to achieve economically responsible policies under Obama than under Romney (Did you know Obama’s health care plan is estimated by the CBO to *save* 500 BILLION in Medicare costs over the first five years of implementation? If not, why not?)

    Second, to the point that Obama’s “blaming Bush,” and that somehow he should “take responsibility.”

    There is no magic reset button. Problems created by the previous President are problems created by the previous President. Obama didn’t take us to war in Iraq, and, in fact, he spoke out against Iraq at the time. *Everything related to Iraq*–the massive increase in the debt–falls on Bush. There’s no magic “Hey, it’s Jan 20, 2009–now EVERYTHING TO DO WITH IRAQ is Obama’s fault! Bush never existed.” And I have to be honest, it really feels like a lot of conservatives are doing that. Same with the disastrous Bush tax cuts of 2001 (and 2003), which added $1.6 trillion–double the entire stimulus package–to the debt.

    (This rule applies to Democrats as well–I’m more than happy for Clinton to be held responsible for problems he created that didn’t crop up until Bush II took office–though, given that Clinton left the country in a state of peace & prosperity, it is perhaps not as relevant.)

  150. Senator Levin said the law excluded Americans until Obama PUSHED to have the law expanded to detain americans indefinitely adn without trial. Obama WANTED this right because he PUSHED for it to be added. That’s proof enough right there

    That’s what Senator Levin claimed. It’s hearsay. I don’t know what the President said to him, or how accurately he’s reporting it on the floor, or how it’s getting shifted in translation.

    I’m asking for statements from Obama or his representatives. Statements arguing that the Presidency has this authority, in contrast to the NDAA signing statement which doesn’t have it. If Obama is so strongly in favor of this, why are you unable to provide such statements?

    (I would note that, just as resorting to ad homs is an indicator of where your argument is, so is using large numbers of all-caps. Emphasis doesn’t improve the argument, it just makes it louder)

  151. That’s what Senator Levin claimed. It’s hearsay. … I’m asking for statements from Obama

    Ya know, the moment I stopped taking you seriously? That was the moment you became hilariously entertaining.

    I know this will make absolutely no difference to you because you have made it abundantly clear that you have no idea what you’re talking about (explained below). But for others reading along, you don’t know what hearsay is. Hearsay is any statement that wasn’t made under oath.

    Levin says “Obama pushed for indefinite detention of Americans”. You say it is heresay therefore it doesn’t prove anything. And you say over and over again that the only thing that will prove that Obama pushed for this is if we can find a quote from Obama saying that’s what he wanted to do.

    Except any statement made by Obama to a reporter or outside of a courtroom would not be under oath either. Guess what? That means such a statement by Obama would be JUST AS MUCH HEARSAY as Levin’s statements about what Obama did.

    If it isn’t made under oath, it’s hearsay. You dismiss Levin’s statements as hearsay. But you say you would accept a confession by Obama. But that would also be hearsay. Therefore, you clearly have NO IDEA WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT.

    At which point, you became quite entertaining. I do not expect this demonstration that you have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about to actually stop you from continuing to make arbitrary rules for dismissing any criticism of Obama. I have no expectation of that whatsoever. But now that it is clear to me that you have no idea what you’re talking about, I do admit I look forward to further statements from you for their entertainment value.

    Senator Levin was reporting about an event that he was a participant in. What he reports is entirely consistent with Obama’s behavior since being elected. Obama has continued and expanded most of Bush’s authoritarian grabs for executive power. What Levin reports is entirely consistent with that behaviour.

  152. Except any statement made by Obama to a reporter or outside of a courtroom would not be under oath either. Guess what? That means such a statement by Obama would be JUST AS MUCH HEARSAY as Levin’s statements about what Obama did.

    Oh brother, you really don’t know what hearsay is, do you? Hint: it doesn’t have anything to do with being under oath.

    But, in any case, what I asking for is simple. I want the person who you claim to hold a certain position to assert that position. That’s all. You say President Obama believes he has the authority to hold American citizens indefinitely; I would like you to link to somewhere that President Obama asserted that position.

    Why is that so difficult?

  153. Greg, the correct response, when being asked to stop mischaracterizing another commenter’s position, is to a)apologize for the mischaracterization* and move on; or b)drop it and move on. The incorrect response is to further mischaracterize that commenter by attributing positions to that commenter to which he or she hasn’t even commented on.

    So, I’ll ask you again: stop telling me what I think about Barak Obama.

    what was the point of that “poor Obama” homily other than to act as a red herring diversion from Levin’s statements being true having the immediate implication that Obama is responsible for this?

    It is possible, you know, to disagree with the president’s positions, policies, and/or actions, and still be sympathetic to the political environment he finds himself in. I have this sympathy for any Democratic leader, to varying degrees, with Bill Clinton at the top of that list, Obama bit down from there, and even Reid and Pelosi. I am forever amazed at the lengths to which the American political left will go to eat their own. Often it is legitimate criticism, but often it’s pandering to… somebody. I’m never sure who.

    * Even a non-apology like “I’m sorry you feel like I’m mischaracterizing you”, followed by dropping it, would at least show tat you respect that other people are in fact aware of their own opinions and can recognize when they are being misquoted or worse.

  154. David, I gave you the definition of hearsay from a dictionary. but your humpty dumpty attempts at redefinig words is entertaining. please continue. Your definition would be good for a chuckle I am sure.

    As for the rest, the reason this is “difficult” as you say, is because you have invented arbitrary goalposts by which you accept an assessment ot Obama’s actions. You imply that the only way we can know something is if the person confesses to that thing. And thats just stupid.

    For whatever reason, you have declared that powers of observation are irrelevant. That we can know nothing by our own rationality and observations. And while studies in epistemologies can be interesting, what you are advocating is one step sideways from solopism. And solopism is moronic.

    Here’s a funny story for you. I was on jury duty a few years ago. Guy was charged with murder. There was a pittance of physical evidence. No video recordings. nothing like they show on CSI. the case came down to witness testimony. no one actually saw the accused pull the trigger. witnesses reported snippets of the events that they happened to see. The accused never took the stand. never said a single word during the entire trial. And after several horrendous, dark, tedious months, we the jury found the accused guilty of murder.

    So dont tell me what is and is not hearsay. Months on jury duty for a murder trial do not make me an expert on the subject, but it does inform me enough to know that whatever the hell definition you are using, aint got nothing to do with the real world. The other thing several months on jury duty did show me, is that we dont need a CONFESSION to render judgement of someone else’s actions. We took a lot of testimony and spent a long time hearing a lot of different pieces of the puzzle, but in the end, we were able to piece that puzzle together beyond a reasonable doubt to say the accused was guilty. So this NONSENSE of yours, trying to imply that we must have a confession from Obama to really know what he was doing, insults the entire judicial system, insults people with a handle on the powers and limitations of the senses and rationality, and is co.pletely DISCONNECTED from reality.

  155. I gave you the definition of hearsay from a dictionary

    That must be a really odd dictionary, as the word hearsay has nothing to do with being under oath. Link?

    is because you have invented arbitrary goalposts by which you accept an assessment ot Obama’s actions.

    Actually, I’ve been quite consistent in asking for a statement from Obama (or one of his representatives) asserting the right to hold Americans indefinitely. There’s been no movement at all in that request. So, again, how about a statement from Obama (or one of his representatives) that asserts that the administration has the right to detain Americans indefinitely?

    As to the rest, I will simply note that capital letters and (correct) punctuation are your friend.

  156. David, why yes you are repeating yourself asking for a confession from Obama. Please explain how the jury I was on was able to convict beyond any reasonable doubt with out a single word from the accused. Yes, you keep asking for a confeasion. What you fail to acknowlege is that you are the only person in the entire world who says that a confession is required to find someone guilty.

    For entertainment purposes, I would love to hear how you explain away a n entire judicial system as somehow invalid and that a confession is required to determine guilt. please, oh please, answer this one question: how is a jury able to convict a man who does not confess?

  157. Greg, I don’t know how the jury you were on was able to convict. I do know that the situations are not remotely analogous. A politician holding a particular position can be expected to assert that position, and not, as a defendant accused of a crime (through their lawyer), his or her innocence of that crime. So, again, have you got anything from Obama or his representatives that back up your argument?

    Have you looked? Searched the White House web site for speeches or policy statements? Looked at newspapers?

  158. David, I don’t know if you are an American, and if you are I am not sure how familiar you are with the American judicial system, so let me just give you an important tip: if a person pleads guilty, there is no need to have a jury trial to determine guilt. the judge just determines the sentence. That means that EVERY jury trial is done on cases where the accused not only did not confess but also pled ‘not guilty’. So it wasnt some weird phenomenom peculiar to the trial I was a jury member. Every time a jury finds someone guilty, they did so without a confession.

    Given this new information, how do you explain how kuries determine guilt without a confession? Because that is what juries do, EVERY TIME.

    “a politician holding a particular position can be expected to assert that position”

    Oh, that is pure comedic gold right there. Do say more. For example, if the position they hold is not exactly popular, should we still expect them to assert that position? If they believe they have the power to start a secret bombing campaign in southeast asia, should we expect them to assert said position
    ?

    If the politician keeps using “dog whistle” statements that are common to racists, kills programs that fight racism, kills programs that try to offset inequalities around race, should we expect that politician to come out and confess being a racist???? Is that your complete and total expectation? An d if there is no confession of racism, the correct response would be to demand anyone accusing that politician of racism to provide a confession?

    People are asserting things about Obama. Things that are not wholly popular. Right wingers might support the idea of being able to improson Americans without trial because they assume they will never be imprisoned. Lefties might have more of a problem with the idea. given ithe idea is likely split for how much support it has in the public, could you imagine any situation at all where a politician might hold a view and not express it?

    You really expect everyone in public office to speak without filtering their words and with complete honesty?

    That is pure comedic gold. Do say more.

  159. David, I don’t know if you are an American, and if you are I am not sure how familiar you are with the American judicial system, so let me just give you an important tip: if a person pleads guilty, there is no need to have a jury trial to determine guilt. the judge just determines the sentence. That means that EVERY jury trial is done on cases where the accused not only did not confess but also pled ‘not guilty’. So it wasnt some weird phenomenom peculiar to the trial I was a jury member. Every time a jury finds someone guilty, they did so without a confession.

    Sigh. Greg, the point was that the defendant is in a situation where he/she is denying something. A politician holding a particular position on an issue is not in that situation.

    And you’re just undercutting your own argument with all the references to “dog-whistle” politics. The politicians aren’t avoiding statements on particular issues–like the programs that they want to cut. They’re very clear about those. They’re simply denying the reasons behind those positions. The equivalent with Obama would be if he asserted that he had the authority to detain indefinitely American citizens but denied that it had anything to do with his desire to establish an authoritarian socialist state in America (insert favorite fevered right wing/Glenn Greenawald/Greg fantasy here). If I asked you to demonstrate what Newt Gingrich’s position on food stamps was, I’m betting you could come up with tons of direct evidence within minutes.

    You haven’t been able to do the same with Obama (though you’ve led us on quite an interesting if largely inaccurate tour of the American judicial system in the process). Again, I ask, have you even looked? I get that you don’t think you need to, that Levin’s enough, but surely you’re just itching to have that slam dunk smoking gun blitzkrieg piece of evidence to shut me up (yes, I know I mixed about four metaphors). Come on, Greg, tell us: have you looked? Yes or no?

    (By the way, I appreciate the improved spelling, capitalization, and punctuation)

  160. David, I led you on a “largely innaccurate tour” of the american judicial system? but hearsay has nothing to do with being under oath? You’re funny. thanks for another chuckle.

    The short of everything you are saying comes down to one insane premise, that all politicians can be expected to speak every position they hold, no matter what that position is, with out filtering it or witholding it. Therefore, if Obama doesnt confess something, your argument goes, he must not hold the position.

    And yet, apparently politicians lie. Since Obama did not confess, then Levin’s statements must ne a lie.

    which results in you holding the most convoluted and nonsensical set of rules about politician behavior that I have heard of in a while. politicians can be depended on to speak their positions with complete honesty and without filtering or withholding. At the same time, what Senator Levin said on the senate floor to the rest of the senate is a complete and bald faced lie.

    two mutually exclusive positions, an d yet they are the basis of *everything* you have said here.

    And it is hilariously entertaining to watch so
    eone argue those two mutually exclusive notions without exploding. do keep them coming.

    I dont need slam dunk smoking gun evidence of a confession to know Obama pushed to add this to the law. Pushed to be able to imprison americans without trial. Levins statements, combined with the fact that Obama hasnt called Levin a liar for what woukd be slander, combined with Obamas history of continuing and expanding Bush’s worat and most athoritative abuses of exective power, will lead anyone not biased to conclude that Levin is telling the truth.

    The simple fact is Obama has already codified and made official the idea that the President has the power to execute an American citizen without trial and without them being on any battlefield. Obama has directed at least two Americans assassinatiins. Imprisoning them is par for the course if he already exercises the power to kill.

    but I confess, your bias to convolute simple observations and rudimentary logic leading to this obvious conclusion, and turn it into two mutually exclusive bits of nonsense is entertaining. So by alll means, keep at it.

    I dont need a smoking gun when observation and common sense are clear that Obama pushed for this. Plus if I provided a smoking gu that shut you up, then I would lose the entertainment that comes from watching you twist and turn and talk nonsense arguments. politicians dont filter their words is truly amazing. I wouldnt miss stuff like that for anything. Do please continue.

  161. Therefore, if Obama doesnt confess something, your argument goes, he must not hold the position.

    I expect that if someone says a politician holds a position that they would have more evidence than hearsay. If Obama holds a policy position, why are you so unable to come up with direct evidence of it (and when I’ve already cited direct evidence–the NDAA signing statement–that he doesn’t)?

    (And yes, hearsay has nothing to do with being under oath: instead, it is defined as “the basic rule that documents or witnesses which quote persons not in court are inadmissible.” http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/hearsay+rule Levin’s testimony about what Obama said was hearsay; your example of Obama testifying about what he said would NOT be hearsay, because he was in ‘court’ (so to speak) God, now I’m starting to worry about that person you convicted. You weren’t the foreman of the jury, were you?)

    Thank you for answering the question about whether you’ve looked for evidence with a “No.” So, your basic assertion is that you didn’t need proof of something to believe in it? Good to know.

    (By the way, you’re backsliding on the grammar and spelling thing.)

  162. David: If Obama holds a policy position, why are you so unable to come up with direct evidence of it

    direct evidence??? bwhah hahahah bwhah hah aha dfgjqpwegdffgv!!!

    Oh man, you’re like a one man Abbott and Costello doing the baseball skit. I haven’t laughed this hard in a while.

    From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Direct_evidence “For example: a witness who testifies that he saw the defendant shoot the victim gives direct evidence”

    Levin gives direct evidence, what he saw happen with the original bill and how Obama pushed and had it changed to include American citizens.

    And this demand for direct evidence, when that’s exactly what I supplied you, comes from the man who said I didn’t know what hearsay is, and who said I was leading you on a “largely inaccurate tour of the American judicial system”. Which just makes me giggle.

    hearsay has nothing to do with being under oath

    THIRD BASE! hehehehhhehehehehehh….. (snort) (Yes, I tend to snort when I really get laughing hard)

    From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hearsay_in_United_States_law#Theory_of_The_Hearsay_Rule

    “Three tests are calculated to expose possible weaknesses in a statement: [1] Assertions must be taken under oath [2] Assertions must be made in front of the tribunal (judge or jury) [3] Assertions must be subject to cross-examination.”

    In the section just below that: “A statement will be considered hearsay if it is: [A] An assertive statement [B] Made by an out-of-court declarant [C] Is being offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted therein.”

    That’s pretty much the exact opposite of what you said, again from the guy who told me *I* don’t know what hearsay is, and am inaccurate about the judicial system. That’s just comedic gold, man. Gold, I tell you.

    So, your basic assertion is that you didn’t need proof of something to believe in it?

    hehehehe…..

    No. If at all possible, I prefer direct evidence about an event to come to a judgement. Luckily, in this case, that’s what we have with Levin’s statements. And Obama’s publicly known behavior as being the first american president on record to assert the authority to assassinate American citizens without a trial, and he’s publicly acknowledged exercising this power with at least two citizens.

    So, luckily for me, we have direct evidence to support my point.

    Not so lucky for you.

    What was that again about me not knowing what hearsay meant and mangling the judicial system???

    Please say more.

    Maybe you could point out that Obama never confessed and pretend like it must mean something. Oh, wait, that’s your one and only point and you keep saying that every post. And nothing in the court system actually supports your requirement for a confession.

    Kind of weird, isn’t it?

    I’ve supplied direct evidence which you incorrectly dismiss as hearsay. And then you invent some non-existent rule that Obama must confess for him to be guilty, an imaginary goalpost you invented which exists no where in the real world judicial system or even in the more rudimentary areas of logical arguments. It doesn’t even exist in any of the stranger epistemological systems that I’m aware of.

    But don’t let that stop you.

  163. Levin gives direct evidence, what he saw happen with the original bill and how Obama pushed and had it changed to include American citizens.

    No, he gave hearsay, in that he was reporting what Obama told him.

    Again, you claim the President supports a certain position on a policy issue. You need to provide evidence from the President that he supports that position. You haven’t done so, instead resorting to a strained comparison to criminal law which has no connection in reality. You haven’t even bothered to look, which is a remarkable statement about how wedded you are to your belief, regardless of what position Obama actually holds.

    (Thanks for the wikipedia link, by the way. It’s interesting, because wikipedia entries actually have footnotes to the actual (in this case) law. So when we go to the link, we find the discussion of hearsay exactly as I reported it: “hearsay is evidence of a statement that was made other than by a witness while testifying at the hearing in question and that is offered to prove the truth of the matter stated. For example, Witness A in a murder trial claimed on the stand: “Witness B (the “declarant”) told me that the defendant killed the victim.” Nothing about being under oath. The point of hearsay is that the person making the reported statement is not available for the court to cross-examine and thus the testimony can’t be considered reliable.) If you spent as much time looking for evidence of Obama’s position on indefinite detention as you did on looking up legal concepts you should already understand, you’d probably be in much better shape.

    You were the foreman of the jury, weren’t you?

    (Grammar and spelling better; thanks)

  164. And Obama’s publicly known behavior as being the first american president on record to assert the authority to assassinate American citizens without a trial, and he’s publicly acknowledged exercising this power with at least two citizens.

    (Sorry, thought I had put this in the first post). So if you have that direct evidence–which Obama’s publicly acknowledge–then you should be able to find where he’s publicly acknowledge the right to detain American citizens directly, right? Come on, Greg, he publicly acknowledge the right to assassinate American citizens and yet your argument is that he won’t do it with detention? You need a better argument than that. Or evidence, evidence would be good.

  165. David: Again, you claim the President supports a certain position on a policy issue. You need to provide evidence from the President that he supports that position

    No. No I don’t.

    Repeating the same joke over and over does make it a bit tired. hence the short answer. but do try again.

    we find the discussion of hearsay exactly as I reported it: “hearsay is evidence of a statement that was made other than by a witness while testifying at the hearing in question and that is offered to prove the truth of the matter stated. For example, Witness A in a murder trial claimed on the stand: “Witness B (the “declarant”) told me that the defendant killed the victim.”

    Ah, well, there’s your problem. Levin isn’t saying “Obama TOLD ME he wants to detain americans without trial”. That would be hearsay. Levin is saying “I saw Obama change the law to include Americans”.

    It’s a subtle difference you’re missing here.

    If Alice is accused of murdering, and Bob testifies that he heard Alice say “I killed Charlie”, then that’s hearsay. Because Bob could have heard Alice out of context. Alice might have been talking trash. She might have been talking about killing Charlie in an online game. She might have been improving. She might have been working on some homework from her anger management therapist to visualize her anger being acted out rather than bottling it in. She might have been doing all manner of things without the seriousness that is associated with saying the statement under oath.

    If Levin said “Obama told me he wants to detain Americans”, that would be hearsay. Levin heard Obama say something not under oath, not in court, and then Levin reports what he heard.

    that is categorically different from Levin reporting that while he was working on the legislation as a Senator that he saw Obama force the language of the bill be changed to include Americans.

    That might be the root source of your misunderstanding here. Cause you really have it completely and absolutely wrong there.

    If you spent as much time looking for evidence

    Levin’s statement is direct evidence. The problem is you have hearsay (witness testifying about what another person SAID) conflated with direct evidence (witness testifying about what another person DID).

    About half of the murder trial I juried was witnesses testifying what they SAW the accused DO. the other half was police testifying about bullet matches, the coronor testifying about what he found during the autopsy, stuff like that. But without the witnesses testifying about what they saw the accused DO, we would not have convicted the accused.

    It’s called HEAR-say, not SEE-THEM-DO-SOMETHING-say

  166. Levin can give testimony that Obama said something to him; he just cannot give evidence of the truth of what Obama said. And since the act of drafting legislature is mainly discursive, the evidence of Obama’s verbal act directed at Levin in a context where Levin would be inclined to take Obama’s words seriously could be seen as evidence of the truth of Obama’s legislative actions and intentions. If someone representing Obama spoke to Levin instead of Obama himself, then it is hearsay as to the truth of Obama’s verbal action. However, considering that Levin then asserted this as Obama’s intentions in the Senate debate, you would think that Obama would quickly move to deny or qualify Levin’s representations of Obama’s opinions if Obama felt he had been misrepresented by Levin.

    For the record, I think Marc Whipple was perfectly clear. Obama has a lot of discursive tools open to him. As a legal scholar and a politician, if he chooses one and not others, it is probably intentional. He probably wants to be “good,” but he is leaving open the possibility to be “bad.” It’s kind of his job to keep the options of the Presidency as wide open as reasonably possible, but in this case, I do not like or agree with his substantive position.

  167. Nope, Greg, I’m sorry, I can’t get past the fact that you think that Obama would publicly declare that he has the right to assassinate American citizens but hide the fact that he thinks he has the authority to detain American citizens indefinitely. To use your court analogy, he’ll confess to murder but not kidnapping. Given which is the much worse crime, that’s a remarkably silly idea, and illustrates the ridiculousness of your position.

    I try to avoid arguing with people who think that the sun rotates around the earth, so I’ll be vacating this thread now. Enjoy.

  168. I said it was publicly acknowledged. No one denies the government killed anwar al-awlaki. If you listen to most of Obama’s speeches about anwar al-awlaki, he usually lists the accusations against anwar al-awlaki (accusations that never came to trial, and accusations that anwar al-awlaki never confessed to), and says his death is a blow to al queada. That’s not a confession. I haven’t seen footage of Obama coming out and directly saying “The government has the right to assassinate american citizens without trial”.

    But I suppose, now would be as good a time for you to flounce as any. You got “hearsay” completely wrong and thought direct evidence was the same thing as hearsay. You said I was mangling how the court system worked at the same time you invented your own personal rule that the accused must confess for there to be a conviction.

    My favorite is when you finally came out and said it directly: You need to provide evidence from the President that he supports that position. When it’s spoken as directly and as blatantly as that, it really broadcasts just how foolish an argument this is. And as I pointed out before, it brings with it the nonsense and extremely naive idea that we should expect politicians of all people to be completely honest and forthright about their positions.

    My second favorite bit was after you argued all politicians can be trusted to be honest and forthcoming but at the same time your argument relies on the assertion that Levin was making a bald-faced lie and cannot be trusted.

    I think that really highlights what’s going on here. Obama is infallibly perfect and anyone who says otherwise is a lying liar pants on fire meanie. In the end, that’s the basis for your entire participation in this thread. The whole thing about needing a confession from Obama was the goalpost you could create that would never be satisfied. Because politicians can’t be trusted to be completely honest and forthcoming with their positions. The absurdity of your goalpost that they ARE completely forthcoming never phased you. And I find that part fascinating.

    Reading your posts that twisted logic and mangled the meaning of basic words and invented arbitrary goalposts that no one else recognized as valid all in a Don Quixote effort to defend Obama definitely was interesting in a Miligram Experiment sort of way. It’s sad to see people so wrapped up in defending authority that they defend truly heinous behaviour. But, on the plus side, I have to admit you provided some really good chuckles there towards the end. So I thank you for that.

    I look forward to more defense-of-authoritarianism and political tribalism from you in the future.

    2012 is gonna be fun.

    Don’t forget folks:

    Vote Obama: To Hell in a Handbasket More Slowly than Romney!

    It occurred to me it comes down to a matter of perspective. If no matter what you do, you’re going to go to hell in a handbasket, why not enjoy the ride?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6TlNOwwQQJk

  169. Want to thank all of you, for your Powerfull stand against Oboma & His Corrupted political partners.

    But

    there is so much more we

    can do. Being aggressive and focusing on the facts and truth is only the first step.

    We musT follow Up with more details standing

    by our convictions and dont back down.

    Oboma has NOT brought CHANGE, In fact ~! ~ THE ONLY real THING needing CHANGE

    !….Was Barack Hussein Obama II.

    HIMSELF

    Barack Hussein Obama II ( Who hates American Values ) who is A ” SELF

    PROCLAIMED Enemy” ~of responsible, Morally Conscious HARD WORKING Americans.

    oBOMAS Irresponsible & DRUG MAFIA and

    reckless supporters KNOW~ that Barack Hussein Obama II, WILL FORCE YOU to paY THEM, out of your PockeT .{ FOR all of their

    UNCHECKED Vices and THRILLS/

    { All on YOU | /

    At your COST & Sacrifice

    …This UN~CHANGABLE fraud, has done His VERY BEST to

    Inspire VIOLENCE. For THESE ARE OBAMAS Very OWN WORDS.. saying ………To his supporters.

    Saying “Get ready for hand-to-hand

    combat with your Fellow Americans”

    – Obama has ALSO DECLARED to his Supporters….“I want all Americans to get in each others

    faces!– Obama demands !

    “You bring a knife to a fight pal, we’ll bring a gun” –

    THESE ARE OBAMAS OWN WORDS.. /and ANGER

    VIOLENCE and more taxes….. THIS IS OBAMAS Change for america

    /“Hit Back Twice As Hard”. He commands !*Obama on the

    private sector: ~~ “We talk to these folks…~ / so I know whose a*$ to KICK.“ OBOMA wants to KICK your a*$ /

    Shouting THAT

    Republican victory would mean ~ “hand to hand combat”

    HE IS EXPECTING people to be on Edge and BORDERLINE killing MODE,

    VIOLENT / and STAND up for their immoral CAUSES

    THIS IS WHAT HE LIVES FOR ./ ./ ./ THESE ARE OBAMAS OWN WORDS.. !

    *

    Obama Tells democrats: “ I’m itching for a fight.” !

    ….PLEASE…. go to reXes NEW WebsiTe ~ ! Oboma *( Just like Adolf Hitler~~

    \oBOMA~~~ Demands ! — [ THE FINAL SOLUTION – for Un~Wanted Children

    Barak Obama is A MURDERER .~Torturing

    UNWANTED babys on DEATH ROE

    CLICK HERE http://obomlnation.webstarts.com/index.html

    OBAMA TAKES a little NEW BORN

    innocent child. BORN. ALIVE sTabS it iN the head SUCKs ITS BRAINS OUT.

    This is just to wrong and horrible. Please stand for

    Loving Children and the USA

  170. I’d link to a couple things here – some counter-arguments, rather than more language parsing and semantics, that the Obama Administration’s actual stance on the controversial provisions may be in line with their official position.

    This is a press release from the Senate Armed Services Committee in re the changes made that Levin was referring to:
    http://armed-services.senate.gov/press/SASC%20NDAA%20Markup%2002%2011-15-11.pdf

    This is a Mother Analysis of the provisions, and what they think they mean:
    http://motherjones.com/mojo/2011/12/defense-bill-passed-so-what-does-it-do-ndaa

    I arrived at these links via http://www.politicususa.com/en/ndaa-breitbarted

    I don’t know if either of these prove anything, per se, but I think they’re better than the he-said/he-said this has devolved into.

  171. Poe’s law? Really?

    Has someone actually argued in seriousness that:

    “OBAMA TAKES a little NEW BORN innocent child. BORN. ALIVE sTabS it iN the head SUCKs ITS BRAINS OUT.”

    ? If so, there are some seriously messed up places on the internet that I haven’t seen and probably don’t want to see.

    I was guessing it was David under a pseudonym (cause he already declared he was taking his ball and going home) trying to take valid criticism of Obama and strawman it into “ZOMG! YOU THINK OBAMA EATS BABY BRAINS!”

    But I confess to being slightly cynical about that….

  172. Has someone actually argued in seriousness that:…

    Yes – which is why Mr. Scalzi really shouldn’t leave the key under the mat when he goes out of town. Now, don’t pay him no mind and he might stop smearing his own poop all over the coffee table.

  173. “oBOMAS Irresponsible & DRUG MAFIA and ”

    that was truly awesome, if it was satire it really nailed it, if it was intended to be serious, it was still satire and it really nailed it

  174. It’s sort of like found poetry, isn’t it?

    Also, re hearsay, as every law student can probably tell you if you wake them up at gunpoint at 3 am and order them to recite it, hearsay is an out-of-court statement offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted. (When YANAL on the Internets, Nolo is most recommended</a.) In lay terms, people generally use 'hearsay' to mean 'person A said that person B told them such and such, but aren't hearing that from person B.'

  175. http://www.salon.com/2012/01/23/western_justice_and_transparency

    Some objective evidence to show how insane David’s ‘they must confess for it to be true’ logic is. The Obama administration is planning on having a press conference to discuss, indiractly, the alwaki assassination. alwaki wont be mentioned by name though. Also no evidence against alwaki has ever been made public and no “confession” by the Obama administration has neen made explaining the legal theory they think gives them the power to assassinate a citizen without trial.

  176. Well, whether Obama “confesses” it to David’s satisfaction, Obama clearly *behaves* as someone who is about as anti transparent as one can get. (with apologies to Doc)

    http://www.salon.com/2012/01/24/rules_of_american_justice_a_tale_of_three_cases/singleton/

    “this is the “6th time under Obama someone is charged with Espionage for leaking to a journalist. Before Obama: only 3 cases in history.”

    So, Obama *says* he’s all for *transparency*, yet he behaves in entirely the opposite manner.

    Also in that link, the last Marine to be charged in the Haditha massacre was given, at most, 3 months of imprisonment. Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich ordered his men to “shoot first, ask questions later” and 24 unarmed civilians ended up dead. All the other marines charged in the case had their trials dismissed for various reasons.

    If you click on the Associated Press version of that story, one might get the impression that the article was written by Wuterich’s lawyer or something. When you get outside of American news sources, you get a slightly different flavor of reporting:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iraq/9037595/Haditha-residents-outraged-as-Marine-avoids-jail.html

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