Cruel DeVos



TRUE STORY. MY WIFE teaches grade school. In addition to the stories I can tell, and the ones my many friends who teach or are married to teachers can tell, during the school year, I hear a new one practically every day.

Here’s one: several teachers noticed that three siblings (third grade and younger) were digging through the garbage at school. Turns out they were looking for food to take home for the weekend since there would not otherwise be enough.

Here’s another: one of my wife’s fifth grade students broke down in class one day, and explained she was having trouble studying for the standardized test—a whole other topic—because she hadn’t eaten and was hungry. A few teachers pitched in to get her fed, and take some snacks home. Turns out her family was homeless and living in a motel.

My wife, a veteran with more than a decade’s experience in public schools, is not easily upset: it’s been her practice for years to keep extra non-perishables in her desk for the kids who can’t concentrate on empty stomachs.

This is not Appalachia, or even the most desperate inner city; it’s a county less than thirty minutes from the nation’s capital (the state of which is itself a never-ending metaphor for all we need know when it comes to equality, opportunity and our collective genius at hurting the most innocent and vulnerable amongst us).

Another story. Several years ago, she noticed one her students hoarding ketchup packets from the cafeteria. He was bringing them home in case there was nothing to eat.

(The Swiftian irony of this last anecdote is one that surely would have Reagan smirking in his grave.)

The worst one? For me, it’s the story of the student who claimed he wasn’t hungry at lunch time. Because he was embarrassed. He didn’t want to admit he had no money. My wife could literally hear his stomach rumbling as he pretended he wasn’t famished the same way Republicans pretend they care about people.


Never mind Trump. One need look no further than Betsy DeVos to understand the true depravity of the contemporary state of all-things GOP.

(Yes, Trump is the oozing pus from the Id of America’s underbelly, but if there’s any silver lining, it’s that light does expose the rot. Our Toddler-in-Chief has emboldened an element of our society we thought had either fizzled out or at least was content to spew its spleen safely—and anonymously—online. The smart money says this is not a fad or a trend; it’s a virus that’s required centuries to fester and one megalomaniacal half-fascist to bring to a feverish boil. It will, nevertheless, be flushed out and retired to the sewers of our lower frequencies, hopefully forever and sooner than later. Or, even more optimistically, Trump continues to do damage to the “brand” we figured George W. Bush had so indelibly done, and our next contender can do what Obama never had the heart or stomach to bother with: making a compelling case for Democratic politics with a heavy side dish of populism. As we know, first the Tea Party, and then The Donald wormed into the post-2008 vacuum and stole all the oxygen, which halfway explains why we’re where we are, today.)

But to fully understand the next-level sociopathy of our present administration, we must look at DeVos. Unqualified? Duh. Ignorant? Yes. Not only wealthy, but married to the King of Pyramid schemes that prey upon the poor and gullible? Even Dickens at his most heavy-handed would throw this away as clichéd opportunism. But there it is; only in America can we have and know so much and insist on making it worse for everyone but the .01%


Did you catch any footage of DeVos’s hearing? If you have a strong stomach, you should, especially if you think the criticism of her has been over the top.

How about the footage of her speed-walking away from a group of protestors?

These fanatics have been insulated by their money and blissful ignorance so long they’re flummoxed (and genuinely frightened) by the slightest resistance. And all of them (look at ongoing embarrassment of Republicans scurrying away from their own town halls, or The King of the Cowardly Cretins, Mitch McConnell, doing everything possible to avoid any public scrutiny of his healthcare bill) have no means to debate or defend themselves when challenged. Classic bullies.

Take DeVos’s brief confrontation with some citizens who dared oppose her, on principle. What an opportunity: she was on camera and could have totally owned the moment, engaged these people in conversation and made them look unreasonable if they shouted her down. Instead, she retreated like the rat she is. (By the way, this isn’t just normal political resistance from one party to another; that Trump even appointed her—and she accepted the gig—is an act of aggression, a calculated outrage to dismantle the very department she’s long had her sights on, and intended to demoralize opponents.)


How is any of this different from the way Republicans have rolled since the day Reagan declared government our enemy? It’s pretty much the same, only more so. And that’s where things have crossed all lines of normalcy and decency. Circa 2017, it’s no longer sufficient to merely reinforce the wealthiest and most powerful; the GOP, with virtually no internal dissension, is on the public record (with votes, statements and, importantly, no comments to the contrary) advocating policy that literally takes away the (drastically underfunded) funds from those with the least, and disguise it as “choice”. Indeed, in another moment that Dickens, Orwell and Kafka, tag-teaming with three typewriters and ten bottles of tequila, couldn’t muster the imagination to invent, DeVos invoked segregated schools as a testament to the empowering benefits of “choice”. (No, seriously.)

Extolling the alleged virtues of the free market, no matter what contrary evidence accrued, mostly worked wonders for the Republican party these last few decades. We now are at a point where they’re acting, in concert, to raid the already paltry provisions of the disenfranchised. And to what end? Funding infrastructure or some national emergency? Of course not. Exactly what they’re after is simple, and truly staggering: to ensure that those born with every advantage will have still more opportunity and money. Revolting in the extreme.

But therein lies an opportunity. Audacity of this level is so breathtaking it’s negligent to become cynical; unacceptable to be indifferent. We’re at a threshold moment, where otherwise apathetic spectators must determine if they are, at long last, disgusted with the direction we’re headed. Doing nothing, at this point, is abetting evil. (And this includes not just going toe-to-toe with the True Believers across the aisle—many of whom, of course, stand to be most drastically impacted by all these reverse Robin Hood policies—but the pampered and recalcitrant nitwits who still insist Hillary Clinton was, at best, the lesser of two evils, or remain third party or bust when we see, daily, the disparity between what Democrats and Republicans do, when in power.) Advice: frame an argument, for once, that puts liberals on the right side of Scripture (what a concept!) and put the stakes in stark relief: it’s no longer a shell game, no more talk of trickle down; this is straight-up thievery, taking from those with the least. I think Jesus said a thing or two about this.

Finally, it’s tempting, even irresistible, to catalog the myriad flaws, hypocrisies, moral failures and rank opportunism that has virtually defined DeVos’s existence. But it’s more effective to look at her as the caricature she is. She represents the faceless figure epitomizing the worst Republican impulses, all untethered by our incurious, incompetent Tweeter-in-Chief. Never mind him, or her, and remember it’s not who she is, but what she represents. DeVos, and her merry band of nihilists, are the boot in the face Orwell warned us about. That is what must be resisted, mocked, defeated.

A final story. One of my wife’s friends, who teaches high school, had a student who was arrested for shoplifting. It turns out he had been doing this from a young age. He was stealing food. To eat.

Think of this kid, and all the other ones, especially the ones with increasingly fewer advocates who can defend or assist them.

Rage against this Machine.


The Democratic Fault Line

So, fake tan is the new black?

How do I feel about the idiot winds that blew this astroturf tsunami over our land?


Certainly, it sucks to see a party whose signal accomplishment of the last 24 months was to act petulant and say no like a talking point rendered Reductio ad absurdum. Way to go, guys (and gals), you got exactly what you hoped for and other than the collateral damage to your bought-and-sold souls, this won’t be anything but swell for you all (until it comes time to actually govern to the types of people you’ve attracted, who want to eat whatever they wish and not get fat, drink as much as they can and not get drunk, and earn as little as they can and still be…proud Americans, damit!).

Nobody likes a poor sport (that’s why I don’t like Republicans), so I’m content to let these nihilistic blowhards savor their smackdown. As always, you have to hand it to them: they said what they wanted to do, they predicted what they were going to do, and against all (well, not all, but all reasonable) probability, it worked. How it worked is the moral of this particular passion play –of which more shortly. And because we expect less than little from the intransigent GOP, how can you resent them for having the cowardice of their convictions? Particularly when the profiles in cowardice displayed by their political opposition is so…typical.

Yes, I come not to castigate conservatives, or take pot-shots at the tea partiers (it’s been done, and that market will remain bullish, not to mention bullshit-ish, for the foreseeable future). My concern is –and has been for some time– the ways in which the Democrats are congenitally incapable of articulating their achievements, and crafting a message that is either succinct, compelling or consistent. The shame of it is, all they have to do is tell the truth and it would set them (and the rest of us) free.

The lines are already, and predictably, being drawn in the sand. The sycophantic, supine and sensationalistic mainstream media can’t get to the scene of the crime quickly enough: Obama governed too far to the left (because moderate conservatism is the new far-Left)!

I see a lot of passion and animosity on both sides of this Democratic fault line, but whose fault is it?

First off, to echo the likes of the always reliable and amusing Mark Morford, any Dems who sat this one out, “on principle”, should feel very satisified and smug about their audacity of Nope. You really showed them this time, you clever little hipsters! It’s like 2000 only without Nader. If the polling data is remotely correct and a significant number of young voters simply didn’t show, that’s a disgrace: these spoiled brats should have thought long and hard about the difference between mediocrity & mendacity (Democrat TM) and incompetence & imperialism (that new and unimproved Republican Brand). For those of you coming off your parents’ health care plans in the next two years or no longer receiving allowance or beginning to grapple with those student loans, have fun with that. Also: enjoy that job search! Helpful hint: there are a lot of hungry tea-baggers and yes, they would like fries with that.

That said, the onus of this clusterfuck is, sadly but undeniably, squarely on Obama and his uninspired, uninformed and generally underwhelming team of super geniuses. For them to try and pin this one on the progressive base (as they began doing months ago, a harbinger of what was to come as well as an ugly insight into their almost-empty book of ideas), the same base that put in the time to get Obama elected (remember that slightly favored alternative, Hillary Clinton?), goes beyond disingenuous and approaches being outright despicable.

Let’s make it as clear as it can possibly be stated: Obama blew it.

(This doesn’t mean his presidency is over, or that yesterday’s results doom his prospects for re-election; indeed they may improve them in the long –and possibly the short– run; it simply means that what has happened thus far, and what it led to, begins and ends with him and the people he chose to surround himself with.)

For starters, let’s address the dreaded enthusiasm gap: after the fiasco in 2008, was there anyone (not on the GOP payroll) who felt warm and fuzzy about Wall Street or insurance companies? Yet those are the first two entities Obama got in bed with, and his uninspired, uninspiring “reforms” were the inevitable and unecessarily compromised outcomes of that grotesque alliance. Look at the video tapes: Obama has been more harsh with the progressive base, in word and deed, than he ever has been to Big Oil, Big Insurance, The Wizards of Wall St. or the weasels across the aisle, all of whom have used virtually every waking moment to malign and cripple him and his agenda. If you look at the accounts, each time public opinion was practically to the left of where Obama began his negotiations –not where the legislation ended up after the pork-fests and pocket-lining inside the sausage factory. As many others have pointed out, you can’t run as a progressive (we are the change we were waiting for?) and then govern to the right of Richard Nixon. (That said, just because Obama is one thousand times the man for the job McCain would have been, and his policies are a million times better than what the Republicans would want, is no reason to expect sentient, tax-paying voters to applaud this temerity. Guantanamo? Don’t Ask Don’t Tell? Afghanistan? These aren’t the pipedreams of DailyKos disciples, these are the things Obama campaigned on.)

But let’s get to the real issue at hand. There is no question, none, that Obama had a once-in-a-century opportunity to harness all the uncertainty, anger and energy circa 2008 into doing something significant, and striking a lasting blow for the good. All it would have required was using this ultimate “teaching moment” to prove (and the proof existed anywhere he would have pointed) that deregulation, tax cuts for the wealthiest percentile, fighting unfunded (and, ahem, unpopular) wars and a steadily increasing chasm between the obscenely rich and the working poor put us precisely in the ditch we found ourselves trying to dig out of. That these anti-government obsessions (which, incidentally, unravelled during the Clinton era and should have been permanently put to bed, and probably could have been if Gore had won; thanks again young rebels!) are, in fact, the opposite of patriotic, they are in fact bad policy and utterly inconsistent with the blonde-haired and blue-eyed Jesus the religulous right ostensibly worships. That as FDR showed, government can be, and often is, a force for good, taxes pay for things we actually use, and putting people to work (not to mention avoiding additional and catastrophic layoffs) was the primary impetus of the (weakened, half-assed) stimulus. Oh, and Obama didn’t raise taxes: he cut taxes! Did you get sick of being reminded about that? I didn’t, because I wasn’t.

It’s not that difficult to imagine: one speech, early in ’09, wherein Obama declared: “not only am I going to fund these projects, no American who wants to work will go without on my watch. I’m going to spend this money, because it is an investment on people, and you will be able to measure the results immediately. This is an investment on behalf of our well-being, and if you want to judge me in four years, I will take those odds. And if I’m wrong, the worst case scenario will be an early retirement where I can drive across this great nation over new roads and rebuilt bridges, and take advantage of the radically improved infrastructure that these projects made possible. I’ll walk away from the Oval Office happy and proud, because I’ll know we made a difference, and that is what I was elected to do.”

Instead, he surrounded himself with the exact same charlatans who oversaw the Wall Street (and housing) implosion and ignored economists like Paul Krugman whose chief fault is that he has been right, about everything, all along. It wasn’t so much that he didn’t do the right thing, it’s that he wouldn’t do the right thing. The question still remains: could he do the right thing? Just because Democratic policies make sense, it doesn’t mean the politicians we elect are sensible. On what planet would you put Larry Summers and Tim Geithner, who still had blood and feathers on their face, in charge of the fiscal hen-house? That was an early sign that the best and the brightest were, in an Obama administration, about to become the unseen and the silenced. If you are late to the party, I can’t recommend the heavy lifting that Matt Taibbi has been doing the last two years highly enough: read him and weep.

Obama was either too clueless or (worse) arrogant to believe he actually needed to make a case, and be ready to fight back against the full-scale war the GOP declared on him the second he was elected. (His refusal to bother himself getting involved in the health care brawls all summer of 2009 is the second largest blunder of his presidency: he not only allowed the do-nothing Repubs to define the narrative (wrongly), he let the Tea Party lunatics get a foothold and, with the lack of any consistent, intelligible message, determine that opposing the government was the correct, and patriotic thing to do. By the time he saw the gramatically-challenged writing on the signs, it was arguably too late. Worse, he apparently considered the battle won once the (weak and watered down) health care bill squeaked through last Spring. That was when he (and the mostly useless, or at least unused Biden) should have been making the stops, explaining why it was good (or at least better than Nothing) and what he would continue to do. Instead, he refused to get in “campaign mode”. Meanwhile, against all probability, the masses with their pitchforks and flames, had –for lack of a tangible target for the ire– latched on to the Fox-spewed propaganda filling the inexplicable vaccum of what passes for political discourse.

Put another way: for all his wasted potential and self-inflicted peccadilloes, do you think Slick Willy would have fumbled this one? Are you shitting me? He probably had a recurring fantasy, while in office, that he could have walked into a crisis like the one Obama inherited in order to impose his will. He probably dreamt of getting all up in that sumbitch and working the change from the inside, crawling out of the rotten carcass with grime in his hair and a shit-eating smirk on his face. That rascal would have remained on message and ensured that his people were hammering home the Truth every day. It still astonishes me that Obama (and a great many of the feckless, scared-of-their-shadow Dems) didn’t begin every sentence these past 24 months with the observation “Well, it’s a challenge, but remember: the Republicans had almost unfettered control for the last eight years and this is what happened; we hope nobody ever forgets it.”

Even today, in his uninspired (and, for true believers, truly frightening) news conference, Obama just can’t bring himself to invoke FDR. Remember “I welcome their hatred”? What part of that does he not understand? Did you see Obama on Jon Stewart last week? “Yes we can, but…” Wow. Ill-considered decisions and mistakes aside, day truly is night if the one thing Obama could count on –his rhetorical majesty– has so utterly deserted him. And whether or not you believe a more provocative, even confrontational commander-in-chief could have yielded better results (I did, and do), if you think some (many?) of the on-the-fence moderates (the same sorts who voted for George W. Bush because he was the kind of guy they could enjoy a (near) beer with) would not have appreciated some decisive rhetoric (or decisiveness, period), particularly if it was spoken with a modicum of authenticity, you are either irretrievably cynical or hopelessly naive.

This is the rub: does Obama have it in him? Does he really care? Does he, as late as today, even get it?

Would a more progressive acumen have made a difference? We’ll never know. But it seems sufficiently clear that the (mostly welcome) fate of the craven Blue Dogs underscores, once again (will they never learn?) that being Republican-Lite is not the answer. Indeed, it is the proven recipe for disaster and will continue to be in our increasingly debased political culture. It’s hard enough to fight against these fuckwads; it certainly doesn’t do you any favors when you do their work for them.


Tea Party, Redux (and Ridic)

(h/t to the ingenious monkeys working around the clocks on the Internets, restoring sanity one satirical second at a time…)


Hey Glenn Beck: What Color Is Your Soul?

First, a confession.

I have to admit, when I took the clownish charlatan Glenn Beck in my sights more than a year ago, I frankly underestimated his influence and staying power (or, to put a finer point on it, the unfathomable gullibility of the many million who follow him).

I couldn’t put it any better than the good doctor (MLK, that is) did: Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.

So if I am a bit surprised to see Beck’s cult of personality disorder grow, it remains entirely too simple to trace his dubious lineage:

Think of phony purveyors of moral outrage ranging from Morton Downey Jr. to Jerry Springer, and the whole concept of infotainment to the hastening-of-the-apocalypse proliferation of Reality TV. Stage it and they will come is now the (un)official mantra of media’s M.O. And, in the end, it’s all pretty much a tempest in a teapot. Or, a tempest in a tea party. Which brings us to the unbelievable Glenn Beck. Of course, fabricated indignation has been good business in America since Jonathan Edwards first perfected the formula with Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God back in 1741, shortly before the advent of cable television.

Capitalizing on the nervous consciences of the faithful created steady work well into the 20th Century, and Sinclair Lewis codified the archetypal character in Elmer Gantry (1926). That pernicious tradition was carried on faithfully by Confidence Men like Pat Roberston, Jerry Falwell, Benny Hinn and Rick Warren. But of course this act has always been too tempting for politicians not to embrace with every inauthentic bone in their bodies. The only hucksters that can outhustle the pols are the preening simpletons who rile up the credulous citizens who dial in each day for another dose of bad medicine. At the appointed hour, the idiot box transfigures into a burning bush and these rapt minions who otherwise behold Christ in their breakfast food (or, proving how crafy and omnipotent the Lord can be, at  lunchtime too), get their Godhead on in the form of a third-rate carnival barker.

As incendiary, and insufferable, as Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly are, you tend to appreciate how they sometimes can’t keep a straight face as they shovel the horseshit, whipping simpletons into a righteous lather for a steady paycheck. Yes, they are contemptible and yes, they wield their petty power over the powerless in incredibly irresponsible fashion. But with them you know to expect less than little in terms of originality, integrity or intellectual rigor. Thus, you have to remain content, in a free country, to let them hold sway over a semi-retarded audience who would crawl over molten coals for them. And to be certain, Glenn Beck’s senseless sensibility makes those two blowhards look like oracular paragons. He is an empty suit with an empty mind, offering regurgitated jeremiads and faux populism to a genuinely distressed viewership looking for answers but disinclined to trust the dirty Socialists currently in power. His histrionics are comprised of two primary objectives: to position himself as a voice of reason in these troubling times, and to use a time of crisis as the impetus for his own existence. If Beck was capable of experiencing even an infinitesimal measure of shame, he would combust quicker than a drummer from Spinal Tap.

More from that piece, here.

I’ve spent more time than might seem sensible trying to understand or explain (or, more often, excoriate) the prevailing sentiment from the types of people who would actually drive great distances to attend this past weekend’s “rally” here, here, here and here.

Having followed this phenomenon since Obama took office, I’m distressed to conclude that it’s going to get worse before it gets better (and even more depressing: it’s likely to never get better again; we are in a unique –and uniquely awful– place in many ways as a country right now, and while we remain at a crossroads of sorts, economically speaking, it is appalling to conclude that an entire political party is unwavering in its dedication to do everything possible to stymie growth and awareness, and stoke the flames of resentment and ignorance amongst its base).

But I’m more certain than ever that while the G.O.P. eagerly eyes up the cynically won votes it is certain to garner in November, beyond power and money, the primary motivation behind this carefully orchestrated (and generously bankrolled) “movement” is to render more and more people frustrated and indifferent.

Not sure I have any updates on a few of these observations I’ve made during the past year or so:

An ostensibly rhetorical question I read (and get asked) quite often these days is “Why bother?”

Why bother getting invested in politics?

Why bother reading all those papers and blogs and magazines?

Why bother wasting time since they are all the same?

Why bother voting?

Well, there are lots of good reasons, some of which are immediately evident to anyone who takes the time to be moderately informed and is aware of not-so-complicated concepts like cause and effect. That the policies of our former administration (and, more importantly, the power-to-the-powerful ideology that informs those policies) bankrupted our nation and –this is the toughest one to grasp– made us less safe is not a matter of opinion; it’s not debatable and there is no room for any possible nuance.

Also, there is only one type of Socialism being practiced in America today and it has been in effect for longer than one year. It’s Corporate Socialism. For evidence to support this claim, I submit every action taken by every Republican politician since 1980. Case closed, your honor.

To the haters, I certainly feel your pain, to a point. Yes, watching the Democrats try to govern is an often painful and occasionally pitiful spectacle (it’s amusing: Harry Reid is at once a man who should never, under any circumstances, have gotten involved in politics, yet he is, in the final analysis, the prototypical politician). Of course, in their defense, a reasonable person understands that actually attempting to govern is messy, difficult and frustrating. Particularly, as people like Andrew Sullivan regularly point out, our nation has become increasingly ignorant, self-absorbed and childish: we don’t want any government interference, we don’t want to pay taxes and we demand to see all of these pesky problems go away and take care of themselves. (Or even better, the stance of the Ayn Rand worshipping Libertarian-leaning bozos: just leave us alone and the world will govern itself, but if my house catches fire or a burglar breaks in or the roads need to be plowed or the country is attacked some non-tax funded enterprise better be at the ready to protect me!)

We have become a country of children who want to skip the main course and go directly to dessert, every meal, and then complain that we’ve gotten fat. And that in itself is a problem: that allows the Republicans to continue to frame the idea of shared accountability and responsibility as an inherently negative or intrusive notion. Let me be clear: that is, upon cursory inspection, a decidedly anti-American sentiment. The idea that paying taxes and supporting regulation of the food we eat and air we breathe is some type of burden implemented by a leering Big Brother is beyond moronic and borders on offensive. The idea that we can have no taxes, no regulation, no government involvement, unfunded wars and private interests in charge of everything  is exactly the intelligence-insulting ideology that landed us where we are now. And, for the last time, and as Thomas “What’s The Matter With Kansas” Frank elucidated, vigorously endorsing the notion that the wealthiest .01% of the population should not pay any taxes is going to put exactly zero cents in your pocket and create precisely zero jobs.

As anyone with a sliver of sociopolitical awarness can attest, many of these Tea Party puppets have genuine and understandable gripes. The dilemma, as anyone with a modicum of historical awareness (and proximity to reality) understands, it’s precisely the policies and obsessions of the GOP that took us from boom to bust in unprecedented and appalling haste. Less than a year ago, one of the only redeeming aftershocks of the Great Collapse was that, at long last, the “free market” farce of voodoo economics, which had reached its unfettered and full flowering during the Bush years had crashed and burned so spectacularly and unmistakably, at least, finally, we had black and white cause and effect for those misguided, irresponsible and demonstrably immoral policies. Ah, but how quickly those least-served by these policies forget! As usual, as ever, it was the taxpayers (!!) who got stuck with the tab, and now we are waist-deep in a massive recession and jobs crisis.

Suddenly, fiscal restraint is the operative priority, and these same charlatans who borrowed and spent like there was no tomorrow are decrying the same stimulus they initially supported (that same stimulus that may have kept unemployment from growing to 25% and causing a genuine Depression with a capital D). Rome is burning and the right-wing spin-pigs are not just fiddling, they are actively promoting disinformation and stoking the aforementioned fear and loathing. Not that the idiots foaming at the mouth at these tea parties understand the ways 2+2 =4, in part because they can’t count to four.

The GOP, led by the Tea Party Queen who, displaying her ceaseless loyalty to the “real” Americans whose pain she is profiting from, continues to enjoy those hefty speaking fees, presumably just to keep it real. And if she’s not whipping up the lunatic fringe into a lather over the manufactured controversy at Ground Zero, she is articulating the ways policies extending  unemployment benefits are part of a big government takeover by the Socialist president. And it works. Put us in charge again so we can kill some more jobs and bankrupt the rest of your 401-k and after that, get busy privatizing social security. It’s real America, all right. Real dumb America.

(If you find yourself discussing these matters with a Republican friend who claims to be appalled with the way Obama the Socialist is saddling future generations with mountains of debt, feel free to refer to this (taken from a must-read article by David Leonhardt article):

The story of today’s deficits starts in January 2001, as President Bill Clinton was leaving office. The Congressional Budget Office estimated then that the government would run an average annual surplus of more than $800 billion a year from 2009 to 2012. Today, the government is expected to run a $1.2 trillion annual deficit in those years.

You can think of that roughly $2 trillion swing as coming from four broad categories: the business cycle, President George W. Bush’s policies, policies from the Bush years that are scheduled to expire but that Mr. Obama has chosen to extend, and new policies proposed by Mr. Obama.

The first category — the business cycle — accounts for 37 percent of the $2 trillion swing. It’s a reflection of the fact that both the 2001 recession and the current one reduced tax revenue, required more spending on safety-net programs and changed economists’ assumptions about how much in taxes the government would collect in future years.

About 33 percent of the swing stems from new legislation signed by Mr. Bush. That legislation, like his tax cuts and the Medicare prescription drug benefit, not only continue to cost the government but have also increased interest payments on the national debt.

Mr. Obama’s main contribution to the deficit is his extension of several Bush policies, like the Iraq war and tax cuts for households making less than $250,000. Such policies — together with the Wall Street bailout, which was signed by Mr. Bush and supported by Mr. Obama — account for 20 percent of the swing.

About 7 percent comes from the stimulus bill that Mr. Obama signed in February. And only 3 percent comes from Mr. Obama’s agenda on health care, education, energy and other areas.)

So, in sum, yes it is discomfiting to watch the Dems go about their business. But then you look across the aisle and see the obstreperous opposition digging in with monomaniacal zeal to do nothing. (You have to hand it to them, though, stoking the “Tea Party” frustration, which is largely a result of the situation their actions put this country in. It is imperative to recognize, and point out as often as necessary, that the same sadists pulling the strings in the not-so-big GOP tent are mostly angry and embarrassed because they got beaten, that’s all. There has been nothing approximating a concerned or sober investigation of what went so dreadfully wrong as a result of bellicose foreign policy, the reckless (and expensive) launch of an unnecessary war, or the thoroughly debunked and shameful worship of free-market, voodoo economics.

Nonetheless, if Obama is half the man History is setting him up to be, he would do well to dedicate all of his energy and eloquence toward making good on the promises he already made. We can hope for more, but we should expect no less.

This is why you have to choose sides. This is why you can ill afford (literally and figuratively) to let these cackling, wealthy and well-insured weasels lull you into a state of impotent rage or, worse, apathy. Because aside from the ceaseless corporate welfare they will fight for, their ultimate ambition is to render the actually literate and sentient amongst us fed up and indifferent. Without awareness, and with no resistance, they can more easily continue their unchecked assault on our collective well-being.


A View To A Kill or, It’s The End of the World As We Knew It (And I Feel Fine)


Here’s how bad it’s gotten: David Frum, the dude who used to write speeches for the worst president we’ve ever endured, has written the most lacerating epitaph for The (Tea) Party of No, here. The entire thing is a must-read, and the closing paragraph demands to be quoted in full:

So today’s defeat for free-market economics and Republican values is a huge win for the conservative entertainment industry. Their listeners and viewers will now be even more enraged, even more frustrated, even more disappointed in everybody except the responsibility-free talkers on television and radio. For them, it’s mission accomplished. For the cause they purport to represent, it’s Waterloo all right: ours.

Here is the really ugly part: Frum is not Monday morning quarterbacking. He was practically pleading with anyone who would listen how (self) destructive this unified and unyielding obstruction would be in both the short and long term. In fairness, the G.O.P. had deluded itself into thinking that the fantasy they were spinning was gold, not shit. And there were plenty of cowards and co-opted folks in the media and inside the Democratic party who still hadn’t figured out how to stand up to bullies. (Instant update and mid-post edit: holy shit, look who just got “terminated” by AEI. You really can’t script this stuff better, and how made-to-order this full-scale Republican implosion is unfolding. Can you say MISSION ACCOMPLISHED? Holy shit.)

Of course this problem was exacerbated in no small measure by Obama himself being way too cool and detached on the sidelines as the Fox News and RNC fear factories spewed out their garbage and took control of the narrative (and I’ll never forget, or forgive the cynical and craven Rahm Emanuel for folding like a shanty house in a hurricane the second Scott Brown pulled off his big upset in Massachussetts). Finally, at almost the last possible second, Obama joined the fray, inspired more by the need for survival than anything else. But to his eternal credit, he rolled up his sleeves and went to work. As we saw, the results were immediately apparent and quite positive.

Can we now, at long last, acknowledge what many of us suspected all along: the bill was never “wildly unpopular” with the general public. Or, to put a finer point on it, more than a little of that disenchantment was actually coming from Democrats who (correctly) felt the bill was not strong enough. But, as many of us suspected all along, when push came to shove of course they would endorse even a rather weak and watered down bill for two primary reasons. One, virtually any bill was better than the alternative the G.O.P. was offering, which was nothing (well, more tax cuts). And two, the Republicans absolutely meant it when they bragged that killing health reform would kill Obama’s presidency. In hindsight, if only a handful of Republicans had crossed the aisle, it’s likely the bill would have failed. By doubling down on the obstinance they have practically patented at this point the Republicans essentially dared the Democrats to pull together and see this through. Without that total, and arrogant, defiance, I’m not at all certain the Dems, famous for their inability to do anything, would have gotten the ball across the goal line.

As always, the so-called Liberal Media was about as useless as usual (and their general incompetence increases in direct proportion to the overall degeneracy of our political discourse). Obsessed with the trivial horse-race aspects of who won the most recent news cycle, and handicapping the odds and chances of whether some bill (any bill) might pass, they did less than a little to help dispel the truly hysterical talking points and outright falsehoods the right wing noise machine was expelling into the air.

And here is what I said to a friend last week: “If/when this bill actually passes you are going to quickly see the shameless media transition from the Obama’s presidency is doomed! meme to the Obama back on track! and all of a sudden we would begin to once again hear the t-word (transformative) associated with his presidency. In fairness, both of those assumptions are more or less accurate: if the bill had failed, it would have emboldened the Republicans and further intimidated the feckless Democrats (and we likely would have seen increased –and detrimental– influence from that paper tiger Rahm Emanuel); on the other hand, with the bill passing, it allows Obama and his party to regain (and more importantly, articulate) the narrative. Both parties knew what was at stake, although it (typically) took the Dems about eight months too long to feel the necessary urgency. For this alone, the oft-ridiculed Harry Reid should get his moment in the sun and be properly lauded for hanging in there and doing a ton of heavy, often thankless lifting. Likewise, Nancy Pelosi has gone from being a controversial figure to an instant legend: she, like Obama, was overlooked and underestimated, and it came back to bite her opponents in a big way. And man must that bite sting.

Lo and behold, look what happened to those opinion polls, literally overnight. Kind of hard to say the “majority” of Americans hated this bill, huh? And more importantly, that was always a bogus formulation. It was pretty obvious to anyone not at a tea party or on the NRCC payroll that more than a little of that antipathy was coming from the left. These folks (quite understandably) believed the bill was not strong enough: they (we) knew that this same bill was arguably to the right of what Nixon advocated in the early ’70s (!) and it was certainly close, if not a tad milder than what Bob Dole endorsed less than two decades ago (!!). Regardless, we understood that when putsch came to shove, (something made infinitely easier courtesy of the Republicans’ very vocal and uninhibited declaration that their sole intention was to stand as one in obstruction to the bill, and Obama) many of them would unite in support of this initiative. And that’s pretty much what happened.

So what about the independent voters?

Well, this coveted and often capricious demographic generally makes or breaks a sitting president and his legislation. How bad will the mid-terms be for the Dems? I felt they never would have been nearly as bad as many were predicting last month (or last week for that matter); I feel the prospects are much better now. In part because today, as much as ever, perception is reality: Obama (and this bill) is a winner. Equally important, people do tend to appreciate a leader who can get things accomplished. That he hung in there and did something presidents have been attempting to achieve for almost a century is also a self-fulfilling historical narrative. Obama has injected life, meaning and import into his first term.

To the victor go the spoils, history is written by the winners, etc. But it’s more (and less) than that: just as the fairly hysterical media coverage post-Brown did not paint an accurate portrayal of what was really going on, or what was likely to happen, the surprise passage of HCR is not going to transform moderates into liberals. It doesn’t need to. Unless the bill begins rescinding peoples’ coverage because of pre-existing conditions or bankrupting families who can’t pay their bills (oh wait, that’s what is already happening), it stands to reason that HCR will never be more unpopular than it was last Saturday. After Sunday, the bill can only get more popular in direct proportion to the number of people who realize it’s not only not the end of the world, but actually a pretty swell thing. This transformation is already underway(not just the big shift in public opinion in recent polls); each day that goes by without any of the more outrageous Republican predictions coming true is another opportunity for T&R (Truth and Reality) to vanquish the hysteria.

There was a good reason Karl Rove lost his shit on Sunday while David Plouffe toyed with him (and showed, about ten years too late, the most effective way to defuse this braying rodeo clown). Rove knew what everyone else on his team was figuring out: they threw everything they had, and everything they could possibly fabricate, in the monomaniacal pursuit of defeating HCR. And they still lost. The reason they wanted to beat it so badly was not because The Party Of No has the best interests of anyone at heart; it’s because they knew this would be political gold for Obama, and Dems for decades. Think about it for a second: if they even half-believed a fraction of the dire repercussions they were robotically shrieking about, they would have happily gotten out of the way and let Obama have his way. Because, if it was going to be so awful, and it was so clearly against the will of most Americans, the Dems would pay a very dear price for their assumptions. Of course, what is becoming increasingly clear, from the stimulus to HCR, is that during one of the worst years Americans have endured since The Big D, Democrats have scrambled and strategized to make things better while The Party Of No has held their breath, sucked their thumbs and egged on the worst elements of the lunatic fringe that now bolsters their base.

It’s a loaded term, particularly in light of the very recent outbreaks of violence, threats and manufactured outrage, but a day of reckoning is imminent. And it’s not for the party being targeted by this illiterate mob of mouth-breathing imbeciles; it will be for the party that has cynically, and eagerly, stoked the flames of this tea party silliness. These idiots were useful for the farcical “town hall meetings” (speaking of manufactured outrage, and an unhealthy dose of straight-up racism), and to provide flesh to bolster the dubious proclamations about how unpopular health care reform was/is. Now that the battle is over, and now that so many of these “real Americans” have exposed themselves for who they really are, it’s going to be difficult for the G.O.P. to disown them at the very moment that their association may finally be unwelcome.

But, as the song goes, breaking up is hard to do. It was truly disgusting to see the contemptible Eric Cantor go from expressing tepid disapproval at reports of violence and paranoid hostility to shifting the blame to Democrats. Look, one need only read this blog (filed under “Politics”) to see that I have few qualms calling out my own side for its inanity, incompetence and self-absorption whenever it’s warranted. But at this particular moment in time, there is no getting around the fact that one party alone is associated with this ugliness. That violence is being encouraged is a repugnant enough thing; that it’s underscored by explicit racist, homophobic, nationalistic rhetoric is another. That this racist, homophobic, nationalistic rhetoric is funneled out ’round the clock by a major propaganda machine disguised as a “news” network is yet another. That a major political party is applauding and abetting this sewage is still another. That it has been kicked up a notch by that party’s recent VP candidate finally begs the question: is there a bottom here? At what point does a semblance of shame or propriety or, when all else fails, the impetus for political survival override this insanity?

As always, only time will tell. In the meantime, it’s equal parts encouraging and appalling to see what’s left of the Republican Party doubling down on denial and the fake fury that is born out of fear. For the sake of all our moral and responsible citizens, let’s hope they continue racing furiously in the other direction while Democrats –and the future of progress they represent –leave them in this moribund fantasy land of their own making.


She’s Got Her Whole World In Her Hand

Sarah Palin has officially out-cliched cliche. You can no longer even use the lazy –if entirely accurate and appropriate– depictions like “jumped the shark” or “stranger than fiction” or “a new low” because her capacity for shamelessness and self-aggrandizement is literally limitless. There is, as she displayed once again this weekend, no bottom to where she will wallow in order to score cheap (and untrue) political points, all while ducking any questions of any kind from anyone besides Fox “News”, and eagerly stoking the ignorant, bigoted sentiments of her knuckle-dragging demographic.

But you have to hand it to her. No, really. Can you, under any circumstances, imagine a time when you’d compare anybody to George W. Bush and catch yourself thinking a thought that began with the words “Well, at least he wasn’t…” Wow. Does it get any better for Palin, who has yet to answer a real question from a real reporter (and no, Katie Couric does not count, and even in front of that lightweight with those softball questions –what fucking newspapers do you read?– she made an ass of herself) continuing to mock Obama for, among other things, using a teleprompter. You mean like the one you used for your own speeches? At least, so far as we know, when Obama doesn’t have his teleprompter handy, he doesn’t have to…um…write answers on his hand like a fifth grader during a math exam. Let me repeat: wow.


As anyone with a sliver of sociopolitical awarness can attest, many of these Tea Party puppets have genuine and understandable gripes. The dilemma, as anyone with a modicum of historical awareness (and proximity to reality) understands, it’s precisely the policies and obsessions of the GOP that took us from boom to bust in unprecedented and appalling haste. Less than a year ago, one of the only redeeming aftershocks of the Great Collapse was that, at long last, the “free market” farce of voodoo economics, which had reached its unfettered and full flowering during the Bush years had crashed and burned so spectacularly and unmistakably, at least, finally, we had black and white cause and effect for those misguided, irresponsible and demonstrably immoral policies. Ah, but how quickly those least-served by these policies forget! As usual, as ever, it was the taxpayers (!!) who got stuck with the tab, and now we are waist-deep in a massive recession and jobs crisis. Suddenly, fiscal restraint is the operative priority, and these same charlatans who borrowed and spent like there was no tomorrow are decrying the same stimulus they initially supported (that same stimulus that may have kept unemployment from growing to 25% and causing a genuine Depression with a capital D). Rome is burning and the right-wing spin-pigs are not just fiddling, they are actively promoting disinformation and stoking the aforementioned fear and loathing. Not that the idiots foaming at the mouth at these tea parties understand the ways 2+2 =4, in part because they can’t count to four. The GOP, led by the Tea Party Queen who, displaying her ceaseless loyalty to the “real” Americans whose pain she is profiting from, only charged $100k to speak this weekend, scoffs at the blue sky and calls for rain. They tear up the old playbook and throw a Hail Mary into the wind, telling these easily-led assholes the policies extending their unemployment benefits are part of a big government takeover by the Socialist president. And it works. Put us in charge again so we can kill some more jobs and bankrupt the rest of your 401-k and after that, get busy privatizing social security. It’s real America, all right. Real dumb America.)

When it comes to the farce that is Sarah Palin, Andrew Sullivan has done virtually all the heavy lifting, since the MSM has predictably reacted in two ways to the Palin phenomenon: dismissed it altogether (which is irresponsible) or else treated it with the both-sides-of-the-story stenography which has increasingly become their most notable M.O.. I’ve long held the opinion that if/when Palin ever, however improbably (though at this point it seems a hell of a lot less improbable than it did one year ago when she uncermoniously quit her post in Alaska, a circumstance that would have absolutely anihilated all further chances for any other politician in the world) she manages to slime her way to the nomination in 2012, the media will finally, at long last, have no choice but to lift the rather large rock that conceals her sordid and embarrassing (even for a politician) personal life. The inconsistencies, the outright lies, and especially the myriad deficiencies that make her a non-starter as presidential material and a natural leader of the Tea Party mob of half-wits and bigots.

If you truly have no clue what I’m referring to, just visit Sully over at The Daily Dish and, if you have an hour or two, catch up on (some of) what you’ve been missing. One almost hopes Palin gets that far just so the rest of us have the opportunity, finally, to see her actually have to answer an unscripted question. Again, it is to the MSM’s eternal shame that they let this inarticulate piece of bacteria fester and mutate into the media monster she has become. It’s all in the name of ratings and (I reckon?) the ostensible aim of being impartial that they have so cynically stood by, not even bothering to pretend being journalists. But while I know enough to not casually brush off the possibility of her rise to real power, I also am relatively confident that, as happened (albeit way too late in the game) with McCain, the supine media finally takes off its blinders and, (gasp) inquires about the unavoidable gaps and distortions in the carefully crafted mythology.

Speaking of McCain, what a contemptible swine. Good grief, despite the fact that his whole maverick shtick was calculated, insincere and frivolous, there was at least some redeeming value in the man (above and beyond the fact that he courageously served his country, which is an inviolable subject that I’ve never heard a respectable person take issue with). Ever since he sold the ragged remnants of what was left of his old, arid soul to win the nomination in 2008, he has been on a warp speed mission to become the quintessential fake politician –and that is saying a lot considering the competition for that odious crown.

There he goes: the handful of things he actually accomplished, for the good, he’s happily disassociated himself from, in the name of (unlikely) political expediency. it will be fun watching him run for his life in the suddenly too-close-for-comfort race in Arizona (and talk about the chickenshits coming home to roost: he is being out-reactionaried by a genuinely revolting troglodyte). Despite the typical, and farcical shenanigans we have practically come to expect from our pols, the one thing no one could take away from McCain was his eloquence on the matter of torture, he having had some considerable experience on that front. It was genuinely pathetic to see the man, for nakedly obvious (and oblivious) political reasons, actually go all Orwell and doublespeak about the exact same methods that were used against him, claiming they were not, actually, torture (Note: he never was honest, if crazy, enough to say he himself was not tortured, but that the same practices, when used by the U.S.A., do not qualify. If that is not the literal definition of cowardice, I’m not sure what is.)

As if that were not lame enough, his attempt (clearly prompted by the aforementioned threat to what he considered was he emeritus status as senator of Arizona, which has obliged him to lean further rightward) to cling to the old party line on gays in the military, hanging by his shriveled, gnarled and splintering old fingernails to the ugly side of soon-to-be-history should be a case study for future politicians on how not to succeed. Here’s the thing: a remotely intelligent person watches this desperate spectacle and thinks “But how can he kid himself? Also, what about what he is doing to his legacy, how will history not expose his shamelessness?” And the answer, regrettably, is that for a man with no soul and interested solely in extending his ever-weakening, sluggish hold on some semblance of power, legacy and history are luxuries he can’t afford. He has no time for reflection because the shadow behind him keeps getting darker and larger, and he knows better than anyone it will be sooner than later that his craven, corrupted ass will be snuffed out.

And, lest we ever forget, McCain may ultimately be (if he is not already) best known for his most ignoble achievement, which was foisting this talking point with boobs on an unsuspecting country.

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It’s (Still) Not Only About Obama


The Nobel Peace Prize –and the general sense of optimism and expectation– is not only about Obama. This was true before the election and it’s true now.

In addition to an overdue but thorough repudiation of Republican incompetence, Obama’s landslide was more about the majority than the man. This belabors the obvious, today, but it’s instructive to recall the folks (and there were lots of them) who were convinced of two things back in ’08: one, that Hillary Clinton represented the best chance for Democratic victory; and two, Obama had no chance to win. That he did was not only historic on multiple fronts, but tempted many in the country to reach the optimistic, if premature conclusion that race relations had turned the corner. While it’s obvious that a fair chunk of the population would diametrically oppose Obama no matter what, it only takes a cursory examination of the tactics and tenor of their resistance to understand the bile simmering centimeters beneath the surface. Nevertheless, what some people ascertained early in the Obama/Clinton face-off was that Hillary had the unenviable prospects of having about half the country hate her, before she even took office. At least it’s taken Obama a few months of not miraculously resuscitating the economy he inherited (even Superman, for all his unparalleled powers, was not able to create jobs) to earn some skepticism. But his ability to appeal to the moderates and middle-of-the-roaders was the key ingredient of his electoral success. And that possibility, beyond the charisma and the eloquence, was what propelled the audacity to hope.

Naturally, news of Obama’s Nobel Prize is going to explode the empty heads of the haters, but it will also give the mouth-breathers a new outrage to rally around. Let’s stop and pause at the irony: for the better part of eight years Dems worked themselves into a lather with every new Bush embarrassment; for the past eight months each Obama accolade is treated like an act of treason. Actually, there is not much irony there at all –the same idiots who held their breath like infants during the Clinton years (years that look better and better in hindsight) and marched lockstep with every Bush decision that set the country back, now throwing tea-party tantrums while Obama tries to clean up the playpen he inherited.


To be fair, whoever was willing (much less able) to tackle the myriad obstacles Bush & Co. left in the way is worthy of an award. But let there be no mistake: Obama’s honor is very much a repudiation of Bush’s hideous legacy. And if this is seen by the howling twits on the Right as a big “F You” from the rest of the world, it’s small recompense for the eight year “F You” the previous administration offered the world, to everyone’s detriment. (Speaking of those twits, enough can’t be said about how eagerly they seek to place our foreign and domestic disasters at Obama’s feet even though they vocally endorsed the decisions that led to this state of affairs.)

And that is the most disgraceful development: I’ve yet to hear many condemnations of the demonstrably failed policies of the Bush years. That is because there have been very few of them. Most of the post-mortems have appraised the political failures. And therein lies the rub: Bush stopped being popular and more importantly, Bush stopped winning, therefore his legacy is tarnished in the fickle, always opportunistic eyes of those who once ardently endorsed him. The actual recklessness and depravity of the policies have not been reevaluated or disowned; indeed, their supporters have doubled down on them (see last year’s election).

To be certain, the hardcore right-wing offered tepid support for McCain not only because he was such a woefully inadequate candidate (that is the sane view; the insider GOP view was that he had no chance to win, therefore his embrace by the powers-that-be was never more than lukewarm) but also that he wasn’t a real Republican. He sought compromise and he was viewed as too often too willing to work with the other party to get things accomplished. This shows you the diminishing returns of bipartisanship, circa Y2K: McCain’s scarcely heroic public stance against torture or his reluctance to offer full-throated support to the cretinous scaremongering that passes for Republican discourse on immigration hardly made him a moderate. But in today’s GOP, it does. And that is why Obama was elected, and why –despite the predictable and appalling fecklessness of so many elected Democrats — the Republican brand is at a nadir of sorts (don’t mistake the millions of citizens disgusted by the Wall Street shenanigans or the unemployment numbers –directly brought about by Bush’s domestic policies — as any sort of endorsement of a return to Republican rule).


It is imperative to recognize, and point out as often as necessary, that the same sadists pulling the strings in the not-so-big GOP tent are mostly angry and embarrassed because they got beaten last November. There has been nothing approximating a concerned or sober investigation of what went so dreadfully wrong as a result of bellicose foreign policy, the reckless (and expensive) launch of an unnecessary war, or the thoroughly debunked and shameful worship of free-market, voodoo economics. In this regard what passes for the Republican intelligentsia is quite identical to the flat-earth imbeciles who insist, even as the evidence otherwise piles up all around them, that Jesus was white and dinosaurs ambled about the Garden of Eden and the world is only a few thousand years old.

Even now, as unemployment numbers rise alongside escalating health care costs, you have right-wing scribes advocating tax cuts for the wealthiest half-percent and an intolerance for reform that undercuts the very principle of free market economics (Is it not a self-defeating argument that the same party who clamors for the inviolable advantages of competition suddenly opposes it in this one instance? Is it not more than a little revealing that the same big government they ridicule suddenly poses such a menacing threat to the insurance industry?) This is the one argument that reveals the hollow core of the Republican machinery: if any of these folks actually believed in the economic principles they espouse, they would reluctantly have no choice but to acknowledge that the public option epitomizes the theory of market competition in practice. But, naturally, the ideology can be adjusted as necessary (just like the anti-deficit hawks made no noise when the Iraq debacle and the immoral tax cut policy put the entire country deep into the red), and this brazen hypocrisy makes it impossible to ever take these people seriously, if anyone ever did.

In regards to foreign policy –and it is in this capacity that Obama is inspiring the world community, and the impetus behind his Nobel Prize– it is tempting to simply propose that any developments that rankle the rogues gallery below is inherently worthwhile.

Cheney   bolton   krauthammer  

Look at those faces again, and remember what they wrought. Just getting these sociopaths out of positions of power and influence is a substantial accomplishment.

On the other hand:

guantanamo   us_war_deaths_coffins_DoD   don't ask

Those images are a sobering reminder of where we’ve been, and where we still are.

The most patient (and/or gullible) Obama endorsers keep reminding us that the president has a lot on his plate, and this much-vaunted change will take time. Okay, so how much time does he need? This is the same man who vowed to shut down Guantanamo on Day One, and end the farce known as “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”. The fierce urgency of now quickly became the urgent ferocity of political ass-covering. And it would be one thing if the people Obama was inclined to infuriate (and they will be infuriated) represented anything approximating a majority, or anything more than a small minority. As it is, he’s avoiding making easy, sane and moral decisions to…appease the same lunatics who are already calling him a traitor and a socialist? It makes about as much sense as Michelle Bachmann.

And it is because of his extreme caution, and his infuriating equivocations on such no-brainers as gay marriage that the concern about Obama’s Nobel Prize is warranted. Not the superficial and trumped up consternation from the Right; but rather, the creeping skepticism on those from the Left (those who just today were dismissed by a typically anonymous chickenshit inside the administration as the “fringe left”). Talk about biting the hands that pulled the lever for you! I understand –somewhat– Obama’s foot-dragging on Guantanamo (perhaps once the health care debate is mostly sorted out it will be time to fight that battle, albeit way too late), but his cowardice on equal rights for all citizens is unconscionable and indefensible. It would be lame enough if this was a demographically polarizing issue (as it was during Clinton’s first term) but the fact that a majority of the people are behind this long overdue action makes Obama’s sluggishness a disgrace.


And there are some of us who are mortified by the prospect that Obama is now standing on the shoulders of his most loyal supporters to fortify his bulwark of prudent calculation. That is not what he was elected for, and it will be an unacceptable turn of events if, not a year into his first term, he is already more worried about his second term than the promises he made to get him in office. It’s almost enough to make one wish for the tooth and nail trench warfare we might have expected from a Hillary Clinton one-and-done term in office (because don’t kid yourself, Hillary would never have a chance at re-election, in part because she would exhaust all of her political capital just staying afloat, yet that 24/7 offensive might provide the required ferocity to affect some meaningful change). Put another way, I’d much rather have a bruising and contentious four year term that actually yielded some change we can believe in than eight years of triangulated calculation, unfulfilled promise and sweet but ultimately empty rhetoric.

Perhaps a wake-up call is necessary: Obama, by all evidence, is a moderate, and he has said and done little to convince anyone otherwise. And if this is the best we can expect, it’s unfortunate but far from the end of the world (again, always keep in mind the alternatives the other party had on offer, and by all accounts is still offering). I’m still mostly content to hang back and reserve judgment and consider both the man and his presidency a work in progress. Concern is, to my mind, entirely warranted and a good measure of healthy skepticism is required. And yet. Considering, once again, the almost inconceivable cataclysm he walked into, and the fact that we are –by any mature measure– much better off than we could (or would) have been, there’s no need for the Dems to eat their own, as usual. Not yet. We have the luxury of keeping Obama accountable in part because he didn’t let us fall off the cliff this year. And that is quite worth keeping front and center in the year(s) ahead. Also, for all we know, events that are underway and  far from fruition could turn out to be both historic and heroic, in hindsight. We’ll see. My bet is that the president will more than earn this premature encomium in the hard years ahead.

Nonetheless, if Obama is half the man History is setting him up to be, he is right to be humbled and he would do well to dedicate all of his energy and eloquence toward making good on the promises he already made. We can hope for more, but we should expect no less.

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