Here's a fun fact from the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll: Bill Clinton is the most popular political figure in the country. The former president, who never won an outright majority of the popular vote and was impeached by Congress, enjoys a 55–23 favorable/unfavorable rating. Clinton left office with an approval rating of 68 percent according to the CBS poll at the time, so his continuing popularity is not surprising.
But here's the interesting contradiction: Clinton has not disappeared from the national scene since 2001. He has been active and vocal—not only on philanthropic efforts but in political activism. His annual Clinton Global Initiative addresses climate change, education, and women's rights, among other liberal priorities. Clinton is pushing a green-jobs agenda similar to that of erstwhile White House "green-jobs czar" Van Jones, who was dumped by the Obama administration when his radical past became a political liability.
Clinton's and Obama's policies are virtually identical. That is no coincidence: the bitter primary battle notwithstanding, the Obama administration is stocked with Clinton-era veterans and loyalists. Chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, economic adviser Larry Summers, Attorney General Eric Holder, and, of course, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are just a few former Clinton officials who have held prominent roles in the Obama campaign, transition team, or administration.
So why is Clinton's favorability so high while Obama is mired in a 46–49 approval/disapproval rating of his job performance? NBC offers a partial explanation, noting, "One of the main reasons for Clinton’s positive score is that he no longer remains a GOP target. In the survey, 47 percent of Republicans view the ex-president negatively, compared with 78 percent of them who view Obama negatively."
Certainly Clinton has been by replaced by Obama as the victim of the malicious rumors circulated on right-wing radio. And if Republicans take over Congress, they will surely seek to embarrass the administration through investigations in the same manner as they did to Clinton.
But if voters were rational, none of this would matter. NBC's insight about GOP attacks is actually just a symptom of the larger point: that the roughly one third to one half of voters who are not fully committed partisans are incredibly inconsistent and incoherent in their estimation of political figures. How else can you explain Ronald Reagan leaving office with the same approval rating as Bill Clinton, according to CBS, despite their wildly different policies? And how do you explain that George W. Bush left office with an abysmal 22 percent approval rating despite aping not only Reagan's policies but getting many of the same results, such as increased inequality and big budget deficits?
The answer is that presidential favorability ratings reflect a lot more than ideological agreement with the president's agenda. The strength of the economy, the proximity of a flag-rallying moment like the attacks of September 11, the president's charisma, and the effectiveness of his opposition's attacks are all factors. Most intriguingly, the successful shift in GOP animus from Clinton to Obama among Republicans suggests that a significant portion of Republicans can be whipped into a fervor against any Democrat when their leaders and news sources criticize him, even if they would be softer on him once the attacks subside and they can assess his record more rationally. (The reverse—that Republicans may be charmed by a Democrat whose policies they dislike—may also be true. Certainly Reagan's high approval numbers suggest as much with regard to Democrats.)
None of this proves that President Obama's agenda is, or isn't, popular on the merits. But it does suggest that a decline in his popularity should not be overinterpreted as a major rejection of his policies when the last president to articulate the same agenda is much more popular than he is.
Thursday, September 30, 2010
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Last Updated: 12:32 AM, September 29, 2010
Posted: 10:43 PM, September 28, 2010Comments: 9Moresports_story_lower sports_page quigo_lower 1482096 871776 440 225 * -->John Podhoretz
On Oct. 24, 1996, Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole got up at a campaign rally and promptly lost it: "I wonder sometimes what people are thinking about, or if people are thinking at all," he shouted. "Wake up, America!"
Those words -- an unmistakable harbinger of the humiliation Dole would experience by losing to Bill Clinton in a landslide 12 days later -- seemed to echo painfully like Taylor Swift singing without the benefit of an auto-tune machine in the bewildering comments made over the last couple of days by President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.sports_story_lower sports_page quigo_lower 1482096 871776 440 225 * -->AFP/Getty ImagesNot off the leash? Joe Biden's "stop whining" lecture to Democrats echoes the president's "inexcusable" comments to Rolling Stone.
It's odd, to put it mildly, that the veep chose to go to New Hampshire on Monday and declare that Democrats disappointed with the president should "buck up" and "stop whining."
Vice presidents are at times tasked with issuing direct broadsides against enemies while the top guy stays above the fray. But never before has a vice president served as an attack dog against his own party's voters.
One might have chalked up these wild words to Biden's propensity to speak incautiously. But then Rolling Stone released excerpts of an interview conducted 11 days ago with Obama in which the president said almost exactly the same thing: "People need to shake off this lethargy," he insisted. "People need to buck up."
He went on to offer a prospective denunciation of anyone who'd voted for him in 2008 but might fail to turn out to vote in congressional races in 2010: "It is inexcusable for any Democrat or progressive right now to stand on the sidelines in this midterm election."
Even worse, the president was promising he'd judge such "irresponsible" people harshly when it came to their seriousness of purpose: "If people now want to take their ball and go home, that tells me folks weren't serious in the first place."
Obama is talking to voters as though he is their boss, or their principal, or their father. He is not any of those things. He is their employee. And employers don't like it when their employees yell at them -- even if their employees have it right.
The thing is, from this conservative's perspective, the president is right, and on all counts.
Obama has seen to the passage of the most radical legislation in recent American history and so-called "progressives" should be thanking him for it -- even as many of the rest of us rear in horror from its implications.
He's right that if such people want more of the same, their only hope is to send politicians to Washington who will help him, or at least to create some kind of firebreak that will protect the liberal agenda from the mortal blow we conservatives wish to visit upon it on Nov. 2.
He's right that the complaints issued against him from the left -- the stimulus should've been twice as large, the health-care bill is a sellout, he should've attacked Wall Street even more than he has already -- suggest a level of political delusion that must truly be maddening. Obama has every reason to be proud of just how far he has pushed the debate to the left.
Even more interesting, he's right that if his voters fail to turn out in 35 days and hand his party the unprecedented defeat he fears, it'll show a fundamental lack of seriousness about their commitment to "change."
But here's the problem. Facts are facts. Things are bad. Voters, even Democratic voters, have scant confidence in the future, even the near future. Those who believe Obama and his party bear a large share of the responsibility for the national condition have profound reasons to go to the polls come hell or high water on Nov. 2.
For those who believe in the progressive agenda, these are dispiriting times. They can learn from the continuing doldrums that the Keynesian policies they have long sought don't work as they thought they would. Or they can blame Obama for not having implemented them properly.
That's a depressing choice. And it can't help to be threatened with the questionable judgment of the politician whose job is to work for you, not to scold you for your irresponsible, inexcusable, unserious lethargy.
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- Barack Obama
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- Bob Dole
- Bill Clinton
- Taylor Swift
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- Rolling Stone
Comments (9)Post Your Comment
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09/29/2010 9:44 AM
This behavior is most perfectly exemplified by university professors who design a grand scheme to explain some phenomenon. In order to have any credence, of course, they have to test the theory with real data. If the theory is confirmed everything is fine. If it isn’t, there are two possible responses:
(1) the realist says “Something is wrong with the theory, I need to work on it some more.”
(2) the pie-in-the-sky idiot says, “The theory is correct, the data is wrong, therefore I need to massage the data”, which, of course, he will do until the end of time, if necessary.
Two recent examples come to mind: second hand smoke and global warming. Both are complete hoaxes supported by no scientific theory, methodology, or facts whatsoever. And it is mainly liberals who believe this nonsense.
The problem is that liberalism is a pseudo-religion. The tenets of a real religion cannot be proven but is just accepted on faith alone. A pseudo-religion, no matter how many times it has been disproven by the facts, lives on in the minds of its adherents as if it were “established fact”, when it is actually well established fiction.
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09/29/2010 9:40 AM
Nothing is free. The gov't doesn't earn money; it collects taxes. Can anyone sustain their household budget the way the gov't runs their own? Of course, they didn't even bother to pass a budget this year.
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09/29/2010 9:40 AM
Obama does not consider himself anyone's employee. His election victory was tantamount to a coronation, and he's livid that anyone challenge his imperial authority.
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09/29/2010 9:13 AM
Tim Buck -- Kerry's sentiments are no different from the rest of the radical left, and that includes the corrupt leftwing media, which plays the "voters were ignorant/clueless/uninformed/fooled" card every time a Democrat loses an election.
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Tim Buck II
09/29/2010 8:52 AM
"We have an electorate that doesn’t always pay that much attention to what’s going on so people are influenced by a simple slogan rather than the facts or the truth or what’s happening."
This insight is from Senator John "Clueless" Kerry.
You see, it's the voter's fault - we're stupid. Otherwise, we'd appreciate all they have done for us commoners.
How do we know it's not Senator Kerry who fails to pay attention. Did he notice at all that a Republican now occupies the senate seat once occupied by Ted Kennedy? Did that change convey any information at all to Kerry or does he believe that all the voters in his own state are stupid too?
Could it be that Kerry is the one who is stupid or that he may be the one who is not paying attention?
Kerry's comment demonstrates a complete disconnect from the voters - even the voters in his own state and is symptomatic of a ruling "elite" that is utterly out of touch with the voters/taxpayers/people.
In 34 days, we should throw these bums out.
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09/29/2010 7:38 AM
Isn't "lethargy" a synonym for "malaise"? Wow, Obama's similarity to Jimmy Carter is becoming eerie!
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09/29/2010 6:26 AM
I constantly disapointed by both parties candidates. We're the most powerful nation on earth and in the last election we had to choose between Biden and an Alaskan soccer-mom who dressed up like a biker chick to be one heartbeat away from the presidency. Given the choices it's not a big surprise that Obama won.
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09/29/2010 5:54 AM
Things are bad. Voters, even Democratic voters, have scant confidence in the future, even the near future
deomcratic voters? dem voters are either union workers, or welfare hand outs and both are making out like bandits
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
By Jann S. WennerSep 28, 2010 7:00 AM EDT
The following is an article from the October 15, 2010 issue of Rolling Stone.
We arrived at the southwest gate of the white house a little after one o'clock on the afternoon of September 17th. It was a warm fall day, but the capital felt quiet and half-empty, as it does on Fridays at the end of summer, with Congress still in recess. Rolling Stone had interviewed Barack Obama twice before, both times aboard his campaign plane — first in June 2008, a few days after he won the Democratic nomination, and again that October, a month before his election. This time executive editor Eric Bates and I sat down with the president in the Oval Office, flanked by busts of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. The conversation stretched on for nearly an hour and a quarter. The president began by complimenting my multi-colored striped socks. "If I wasn't president," he laughed, "I could wear socks like that."
When you came into office, you felt you would be able to work with the other side. When did you realize that the Republicans had abandoned any real effort to work with you and create bipartisan policy?
Well, I'll tell you that given the state of the economy during my transition, between my election and being sworn in, our working assumption was that everybody was going to want to pull together, because there was a sizable chance that we could have a financial meltdown and the entire country could plunge into a depression. So we had to work very rapidly to try to create a combination of measures that would stop the free-fall and cauterize the job loss.
The recovery package we shaped was put together on the theory that we shouldn't exclude any ideas on the basis of ideological predispositions, and so a third of the Recovery Act were tax cuts. Now, they happened to be the most progressive tax cuts in history, very much geared toward middle-class families. There was not only a fairness rationale to that, but also an economic rationale — those were the folks who were most likely to spend the money and, hence, prop up demand at a time when the economy was really freezing up.
I still remember going over to the Republican caucus to meet with them and present our ideas, and to solicit ideas from them before we presented the final package. And on the way over, the caucus essentially released a statement that said, "We're going to all vote 'No' as a caucus." And this was before we'd even had the conversation. At that point, we realized that we weren't going to get the kind of cooperation we'd anticipated. The strategy the Republicans were going to pursue was one of sitting on the sidelines, trying to gum up the works, based on the assumption that given the scope and size of the recovery, the economy probably wouldn't be very good, even in 2010, and that they were better off being able to assign the blame to us than work with us to try to solve the problem.
How do you feel about the fact that day after day, there's this really destructive attack on whatever you propose? Does that bother you? Has it shocked you?
I don't think it's a shock. I had served in the United States Senate; I had seen how the filibuster had become a routine tool to slow things down, as opposed to what it used to be, which was a selective tool — although often a very destructive one, because it was typically targeted at civil rights and the aspirations of African-Americans who were trying to be freed up from Jim Crow. But I'd been in the Senate long enough to know that the machinery there was breaking down.
What I was surprised somewhat by, and disappointed by, although I've got to give some grudging admiration for just how effective it's been, was the degree to which [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell was able to keep his caucus together on a lot of issues. Eventually, we were able to wear them down, so that we were able to finally get really important laws passed, some of which haven't gotten a lot of attention — the credit-card reform bill, or the anti-tobacco legislation, or preventing housing and mortgage fraud. We'd be able to pick off two or three Republicans who wanted to do the right thing.
But the delays, the cloture votes, the unprecedented obstruction that has taken place in the Senate took its toll. Even if you eventually got something done, it would take so long and it would be so contentious, that it sent a message to the public that "Gosh, Obama said he was going to come in and change Washington, and it's exactly the same, it's more contentious than ever." Everything just seems to drag on — even what should be routine activities, like appointments, aren't happening. So it created an atmosphere in which a public that is already very skeptical of government, but was maybe feeling hopeful right after my election, felt deflated and sort of felt, "We're just seeing more of the same."
What do you think the Republican Party stands for today?
Well, on the economic front, their only agenda seems to be tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. If you ask their leadership what their agenda will be going into next year to bring about growth and improve the job numbers out there, what they will say is, "We just want these tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, which will cost us $700 billion and which we're not going to pay for."
Now what they'll also say is, "We're going to control spending." But of course, when you say you're going to borrow $700 billion to give an average $100,000-a-year tax break to people making a million dollars a year, or more, and you're not going to pay for it; when Mitch McConnell's overall tax package that he just announced recently was priced at about $4 trillion; when you, as a caucus, reject a bipartisan idea for a fiscal commission that originated from Judd Gregg, Republican budget chair, and Kent Conrad, Democratic budget chair, so that I had to end up putting the thing together administratively because we couldn't get any support — you don't get a sense that they're actually serious on the deficit side.
What do you think of the Tea Party and the people behind it?
I think the Tea Party is an amalgam, a mixed bag of a lot of different strains in American politics that have been there for a long time. There are some strong and sincere libertarians who are in the Tea Party who generally don't believe in government intervention in the market or socially. There are some social conservatives in the Tea Party who are rejecting me the same way they rejected Bill Clinton, the same way they would reject any Democratic president as being too liberal or too progressive. There are strains in the Tea Party that are troubled by what they saw as a series of instances in which the middle-class and working-class people have been abused or hurt by special interests and Washington, but their anger is misdirected.
And then there are probably some aspects of the Tea Party that are a little darker, that have to do with anti-immigrant sentiment or are troubled by what I represent as the president. So I think it's hard to characterize the Tea Party as a whole, and I think it's still defining itself.
Do you think that it's being manipulated?
There's no doubt that the infrastructure and the financing of the Tea Party come from some very traditional, very powerful, special-interest lobbies. I don't think this is a secret. Dick Armey and FreedomWorks, which was one of the first organizational mechanisms to bring Tea Party folks together, are financed by very conservative industries and forces that are opposed to enforcement of environmental laws, that are opposed to an energy policy that would be different than the fossil-fuel-based approach we've been taking, that don't believe in regulations that protect workers from safety violations in the workplace, that want to make sure that we are not regulating the financial industries in ways that we have.
There's no doubt that there is genuine anger, frustration and anxiety in the public at large about the worst financial crisis we've experienced since the Great Depression. Part of what we have to keep in mind here is this recession is worse than the Ronald Reagan recession of the Eighties, the 1990-91 recession, and the 2001 recession combined. The depths of it have been profound. This body politic took a big hit in the gut, and that always roils up our politics, and can make people angry. But because of the ability of a lot of very well-funded groups to point that anger — I think misdirect that anger — it is translating into a relevant political force in this election.
What do you think of Fox News? Do you think it's a good institution for America and for democracy?
[Laughs] Look, as president, I swore to uphold the Constitution, and part of that Constitution is a free press. We've got a tradition in this country of a press that oftentimes is opinionated. The golden age of an objective press was a pretty narrow span of time in our history. Before that, you had folks like Hearst who used their newspapers very intentionally to promote their viewpoints. I think Fox is part of that tradition — it is part of the tradition that has a very clear, undeniable point of view. It's a point of view that I disagree with. It's a point of view that I think is ultimately destructive for the long-term growth of a country that has a vibrant middle class and is competitive in the world. But as an economic enterprise, it's been wildly successful. And I suspect that if you ask Mr. Murdoch what his number-one concern is, it's that Fox is very successful.
You've passed more progressive legislation than any president since Lyndon Johnson. Yet your base does not seem nearly as fired up as the opposition, and you don't seem to be getting the credit for those legislative victories. There was talk that you were going to mobilize your grass-roots volunteers and use them to pressure Congress, but you decided for whatever reason not to involve the public directly and not to force a filibuster on issues like health care. What do you say to those people who have developed a sense of frustration — your base — who feel that you need to fight harder?
That's a bunch of different questions, so let me see if I can kind of knock them out one by one.
One of the healthy things about the Democratic Party is that it is diverse and opinionated. We have big arguments within the party because we got a big tent, and that tent grew during my election and in the midterm election previously. So making everybody happy within the Democratic Party is always going to be tough.
Some of it, also, has to do with — and I joke about it — that there's a turn of mind among Democrats and progressives where a lot of times we see the glass as half-empty. It's like, "Well, gosh, we've got this historic health care legislation that we've been trying to get for 100 years, but it didn't have every bell and whistle that we wanted right now, so let's focus on what we didn't get instead of what we got." That self-critical element of the progressive mind is probably a healthy thing, but it can also be debilitating.
When I talk to Democrats around the country, I tell them, "Guys, wake up here. We have accomplished an incredible amount in the most adverse circumstances imaginable." I came in and had to prevent a Great Depression, restore the financial system so that it functions, and manage two wars. In the midst of all that, I ended one of those wars, at least in terms of combat operations. We passed historic health care legislation, historic financial regulatory reform and a huge number of legislative victories that people don't even notice. We wrestled away billions of dollars of profit that were going to the banks and middlemen through the student-loan program, and now we have tens of billions of dollars that are going directly to students to help them pay for college. We expanded national service more than we ever have before.
The Recovery Act alone represented the largest investment in research and development in our history, the largest investment in infrastructure since Dwight Eisenhower, the largest investment in education — and that was combined, by the way, with the kind of education reform that we hadn't seen in this country in 30 years — and the largest investment in clean energy in our history.
You look at all this, and you say, "Folks, that's what you elected me to do." I keep in my pocket a checklist of the promises I made during the campaign, and here I am, halfway through my first term, and we've probably accomplished 70 percent of the things that we said we were going to do — and by the way, I've got two years left to finish the rest of the list, at minimum. So I think that it is very important for Democrats to take pride in what we've accomplished.
All that has taken place against a backdrop in which, because of the financial crisis, we've seen an increase in poverty, and an increase in unemployment, and people's wages and incomes have stagnated. So it's not surprising that a lot of folks out there don't feel like these victories have had an impact. What is also true is our two biggest pieces of legislation, health care and financial regulatory reform, won't take effect right away, so ordinary folks won't see the impact of a lot of these things for another couple of years. It is very important for progressives to understand that just on the domestic side, we've accomplished a huge amount.
When you look at what we've been able to do internationally — resetting our relations with Russia and potentially having a new START treaty by the end of the year, reinvigorating the Middle East peace talks, ending the combat mission in Iraq, promoting a G-20 structure that has drained away a lot of the sense of north versus south, east versus west, so that now the whole world looks to America for leadership, and changing world opinion in terms of how we operate on issues like human rights and torture around the world — all those things have had an impact as well.
What is true, and this is part of what can frustrate folks, is that over the past 20 months, we made a series of decisions that were focused on governance, and sometimes there was a conflict between governance and politics. So there were some areas where we could have picked a fight with Republicans that might have gotten our base feeling good, but would have resulted in us not getting legislation done.
I could have had a knock-down, drag-out fight on the public option that might have energized you and The Huffington Post, and we would not have health care legislation now. I could have taken certain positions on aspects of the financial regulatory bill, where we got 90 percent of what we set out to get, and I could have held out for that last 10 percent, and we wouldn't have a bill. You've got to make a set of decisions in terms of "What are we trying to do here? Are we trying to just keep everybody ginned up for the next election, or at some point do you try to win elections because you're actually trying to govern?" I made a decision early on in my presidency that if I had an opportunity to do things that would make a difference for years to come, I'm going to go ahead and take it.
I just made the announcement about Elizabeth Warren setting up our Consumer Finance Protection Bureau out in the Rose Garden, right before you came in. Here's an agency that has the potential to save consumers billions of dollars over the next 20 to 30 years — simple stuff like making sure that folks don't jack up your credit cards without you knowing about it, making sure that mortgage companies don't steer you to higher-rate mortgages because they're getting a kickback, making sure that payday loans aren't preying on poor people in ways that these folks don't understand. And you know what? That's what we say we stand for as progressives. If we can't take pleasure and satisfaction in concretely helping middle-class families and working-class families save money, get a college education, get health care — if that's not what we're about, then we shouldn't be in the business of politics. Then we're no better than the other side, because all we're thinking about is whether or not we're in power.
Let me ask you about financial reform. Despite all the things like consumer protection that you did get accomplished, the regulation of Wall Street — especially the closing down of all the derivatives trading that was really at the heart of the financial meltdown — seems to have been eviscerated.
I've got to disagree with that. If you take a look at it, what we've essentially said is that the vast majority of derivatives are now going to be sold through a clearinghouse. And if you ask the experts what was the best way to make sure the derivative markets didn't bring down the economy again, it's transparency, so that everybody understands who the counterparties are, everybody understands what the deal is, what the risks are — it's all aboveboard, it's all in the light of day.
People have legitimate concerns that if the rules drafted by all these various agencies in charge of implementing financial reform wind up with exceptions that are so big you can drive a truck through them, and suddenly you can have these specially tailored derivatives that are sold outside of the clearinghouse, then you could end up with an inadequate regulatory structure.
But if the rules are written properly — and I have confidence that the people I appointed to these agencies intend to apply them properly — it’s going to make a difference. Is it going to solve every potential problem in Wall Street in a multi-trillion-dollar, worldwide, capital market? Probably not. There could end up being new schemes, new loopholes that folks are going to try to exploit. The special interests are already ginning up to try to influence the rulemaking process in all these issues, so we have to remain vigilant. But to say that we did not significantly improve oversight of the derivatives market, it just isn’t true.
There’s also a concern when it comes to financial reform that your economic team is closely identified with Wall Street and the deregulation that caused the collapse. These are the folks who were supposed to have had oversight of Wall Street, and many of them worked for or were close to banks like Goldman Sachs.
Let me first of all say this. . . .
You used to work for Goldman Sachs!
[Laughs] Exactly. I read some of the articles that Tim Dickinson and others have produced in Rolling Stone. I understand the point of view that they're bringing. But look: Tim Geithner never worked for Goldman; Larry Summers didn't work for Goldman. There is no doubt that I brought in a bunch of folks who understand the financial markets, the same way, by the way, that FDR brought in a lot of folks who understood the financial markets after the crash, including Joe Kennedy, because my number-one job at that point was making sure that we did not have a full-fledged financial meltdown.
The reason that was so important was not because I was concerned about making sure that the folks who had been making hundreds of millions of dollars were keeping their bonuses for the next year. The reason was because we were seeing 750,000 jobs a month being lost when I was sworn in. The consequence to Main Street, to ordinary folks, was catastrophic, and we had to make sure that we stopped the bleeding. We managed to stabilize the financial markets at a cost that is much less to taxpayers than anybody had anticipated. The truth of the matter is that TARP will end up costing probably less than $100 billion, when all is said and done. Which I promise you, two years ago, you could have asked any economist and any financial expert out there, and they would have said, "We'll take that deal."
One of the things that you realize when you're in my seat is that, typically, the issues that come to my desk — there are no simple answers to them. Usually what I'm doing is operating on the basis of a bunch of probabilities: I'm looking at the best options available based on the fact that there are no easy choices. If there were easy choices, somebody else would have solved it, and it wouldn't have come to my desk.
That's true for financial regulatory reform, that's true on Afghanistan, that's true on how we deal with the terrorist threat. On all these issues, you've got a huge number of complex factors involved. When you're sitting outside and watching, you think, "Well, that sounds simple," and you can afford to operate on the basis of your ideological predispositions. What I'm trying to do — and certainly what we've tried to do in our economic team — is to keep a North Star out there: What are the core principles we're abiding by? In the economic sphere, my core principle is that America works best when you've got a growing middle class, and you've got ladders so that people who aren't yet in the middle class can aspire to the middle class, and if that broad base is rolling, then the country does well.
How do you personally feel about hedge-fund managers who are making $200 million a year and paying a 15 percent tax rate? Or the guy who made $700 million one year and compared you to Hitler for trying to raise his taxes above 15 percent — does that gall you?
I've gotta say that I have been surprised by some of the rhetoric in the business press, in which we are accused of being anti-business. I know a lot of these guys who started hedge funds. They are making large profits, taking home large incomes, but because of a rule called "carried interest," they are paying lower tax rates than their secretaries, or the janitor that cleans up the building. Or folks who are out there as police officers and teachers and small-business people. So all we've said is that it makes sense for them to pay taxes on it like on ordinary income.
I understand why folks might disagree with that. I've yet to meet a broad base of people who are anxious to pay higher taxes. But the point you're making, which is exactly right, is that what should be a pretty straightforward policy argument ends up generating the kind of rhetoric we've been seeing: where I'm anti-business, I'm socialist, our administration is trying to destroy capitalism. That, I think, is over-the-top.
The average American out there who is my primary concern and is making 60 grand a year and paying taxes on all that income and trying to send their kids through school, and partly as a consequence of bad decisions on Wall Street, feels that their job is insecure and has seen their 401(k) decline by 30 percent, and has seen the value of their home decline — I don't think they're that sympathetic to these guys, and neither am I.
Let's talk about the war in Afghanistan. Where were you when you first heard about the comments made by Gen. Stanley McChrystal and his staff, and how did you feel as you read them for yourself?
I was in my office in the residence, in the Treaty Room. Joe Biden called me — he was the first one who heard about it. I think it was Sunday night, and I had one of the staff here send me up a copy, and I read through the article. I will say at the outset that I think Gen. McChrystal is a fine man, an outstanding soldier, and has served this country very well. I do not think that he meant those comments maliciously. I think some of those comments were from his staff, and so he was poorly served. And it pained me to have to make the decision I did. Having said that, he showed bad judgment. When I put somebody in charge of the lives of 100,000 young men and women in a very hazardous situation, they've got to conduct themselves at the highest standards, and he didn't meet those standards.
But it couldn't have just been those remarks, which were casual and forgivable. The whole article was pretty damning.
The remarks themselves, I think, showed poor judgment. The rest of the article had to do with a series of very difficult, complex choices on the ground in Afghanistan, in which, as I said before, there are no easy answers. So Gen. McChrystal, in response to a very serious and legitimate concern about civilian casualties in Afghanistan, put out orders that have significantly reduced civilian casualties. The flip side of it is that it frustrates our troops, who feel that they may not be able to go on the offense as effectively, and it may put them in danger. That's a profound strategic, tactical debate that takes place in the military. That's not unique to Gen. McChrystal — that's a debate that Gen. Petraeus is having to work his way through, that's a debate that I have to work my way through as commander in chief.
To broaden the issue for a second, you were asking about the sources of frustration in the progressive community; clearly, Afghanistan has to be near the top of the list, maybe at the top of the list. I always try to point out, number one, that this shouldn't have come as any surprise. When I was campaigning, I was very specific. I said, "We are going to end the war in Iraq, that was a mistake," and I have done that. What I also said was that we need to plus up what we're doing in Afghanistan, because that was where the original terrorist threat emanated, and we need to finish the job. That's what we're doing.
Now, I think that a lot of progressive supporters thought that maybe it would be easier than it has proven to be to try to bring Afghanistan to a place where we can see an end in sight. The fact of the matter is, when we came in, what we learned was that the neglect of Afghanistan had been more profound than we expected. Just simple examples: The Afghan National Army, the Afghan security forces, oftentimes were recruited, given a uniform, given a rifle, and that was it — they weren't getting trained. As a functional matter, there was no way that they were going to start taking the place of U.S. troops.
What we've had to do after an extensive review that I engaged in was to say to our commanders on the ground, "You guys have to have a strategy in which we are training Afghan security forces, we're going to break the Taliban momentum, but I am going to establish a date at which we start transitioning down and we start turning these security functions over to a newly trained Afghan security force." That is what we're in the process of doing.
It is exacting a terrible cost. Whenever I go over to Walter Reed or Bethesda, or when I was in Afghanistan, and I meet kids who lost their legs or were otherwise badly injured, I am reminded of that cost. Nobody wants more than me to be able to bring that war to a close in a way that makes sure that region is not used as a base for terrorist attacks against the United States. But what we have to do is see this process through. Starting July of 2011, we will begin a transition process, and if the strategy we're engaged in isn't working, we're going to keep on re-examining it until we make sure that we've got a strategy that does work.
But by every index we know of, there seems to be no part of the Afghanistan strategy that is working. The Taliban control more of the country than ever. The Karzai regime is incredibly corrupt and has lost the trust of its own people. The program to buy the loyalty of Taliban soldiers, which was used with the Awakening during the surge in Iraq, can't find enough takers for the $250 million that was allocated to it. The McChrystal offensive in Kandahar also failed. Afghanistan has been called the "graveyard of empires." In view of the fact that Great Britain failed there, the Soviet Union with millions of troops right on the border failed there — what makes you think we are going to succeed?
Number one, this is very hard stuff. I knew it was hard a year ago, and I suspect a year from now, I will conclude that it's still hard, and it's messy. Number two, when you tick off these metrics that have quote-unquote "failed" — well, they haven't failed yet. They haven't succeeded yet. We've made progress in terms of creating a line of security around Kandahar, but there's no doubt that Kandahar is not yet a secure place any more than Mosul or Fallujah were secure in certain phases of the Iraq War.
I will also agree that Afghanistan is harder than Iraq. This is the second-poorest country in the world. You've got no tradition of a civil service or bureaucracy that is effective countrywide. We have been very successful in taking out the middle ranks of the Taliban. We have been very successful in recruiting and beginning to train Afghan security forces. There are elements that are working, and there are elements that are not working.
Keep in mind that the decision I have to make is always, "If we're not doing this, then what does that mean? What are the consequences?" I don't know anybody who has examined the region who thinks that if we completely pulled out of Afghanistan, the Karzai regime collapsed, Kabul was overrun once again by the Taliban, and Sharia law was imposed throughout the country, that we would be safer, or the Afghan people would be better off, or Pakistan would be better off, or India would be better off, or that we would see a reduction in potential terrorist attacks around the world. You can't make that argument.
Some have argued that what we can do is have a smaller footprint in Afghanistan, focus on counterterrorism activities, but have less boots on the ground. We examined every option that's out there. I assure you: With all the problems we've got here at home, and the fact that I have to sign letters to the family members of every soldier who is killed in Afghanistan, if I can find a way of reducing the costs to the American taxpayer, and more profoundly, to our young men and women in uniform, while making sure that we are not rendered much more vulnerable to a terrorist attack in the future, that's going to be the option that I choose. But no matter what your ultimate belief is in terms of what will succeed in Afghanistan, it's going to take us several years to work through this issue.
Ideally, what would have happened was that we didn't go into Iraq. Right after our victory in 2001, if we had focused on rebuilding Afghanistan, and had been in much more direct day-to-day interaction with Karzai and his government, then we wouldn't find ourselves in this circumstance.
But you know what: I have to play the cards that I'm dealt. In an ideal world, I wouldn't have inherited a $1.3 trillion deficit and the worst recession since the Great Depression. But you work with what's before you.
Let me ask you about the Gulf oil spill. British Petroleum fired Tony Hayward, so my question is: Why does Interior Secretary Ken Salazar still have his job? The corruption at Minerals Management Service was widely known at the time he came into office, as was reported several times in Rolling Stone and other places, and that's what helped the Gulf disaster to happen.
When Ken Salazar came in, he said to me, "One of my top priorities is cleaning up MMS." It was no secret. You had seen the kind of behavior in that office that was just over-the-top, and Ken did reform the agency to eliminate those core ethical lapses — the drugs, the other malfeasance that was reported there. What Ken would admit, and I would admit, and what we both have to take responsibility for, is that we did not fully change the institutional conflicts that were inherent in that office. If you ask why did we not get that done, the very simple answer is that this is a big government with a lot of people, and changing bureaucracies and agencies is a time-consuming process. We just didn't get to it fast enough.
Having said that, the person who was put in charge of MMS was fired. We brought in Michael Bromwich, who by every account is somebody who is serious about cleaning up that agency. We are committed to making sure that that place works the way it is supposed to. But when I have somebody like Ken Salazar, who has been an outstanding public servant, who takes this stuff seriously, who bleeds when he sees what was happening in the Gulf, and had started on a path of reform but just didn't get there as fast on every aspect of it as needed to be, I had to just let him know, "You're accountable, you're responsible, I expect you to change it." I have confidence that he can change it, and I think he's in the process of doing so.
James Hansen, the NASA scientist who is perhaps the most respected authority on global warming, says that climate change is the predominant moral issue of the 21st century, comparable to slavery faced by Lincoln and the response to Nazism faced by Churchill. Do you agree with that statement?
What I would agree with is that climate change has the potential to have devastating effects on people around the globe, and we've got to do something about it. In order to do something about it, we're going to have to mobilize domestically, and we're going to have to mobilize internationally.
During the past two years, we've not made as much progress as I wanted to make when I was sworn into office. It is very hard to make progress on these issues in the midst of a huge economic crisis, because the natural inclination around the world is to say, "You know what? That may be a huge problem, but right now what's a really big problem is 10 percent unemployment," or "What's a really big problem is that our businesses can't get loans." That diverted attention from what I consider to be an urgent priority. The House of Representatives made an attempt to deal with the issue in a serious way. It wasn't perfect, but it was serious. We could not get 60 votes for a comparable approach in the Senate.
One of my top priorities next year is to have an energy policy that begins to address all facets of our overreliance on fossil fuels. We may end up having to do it in chunks, as opposed to some sort of comprehensive omnibus legislation. But we're going to stay on this because it is good for our economy, it's good for our national security, and, ultimately, it's good for our environment.
Understand, though, that even in the absence of legislation, we took steps over the past two years that have made a significant difference. I will give you one example, and this is an example where sometimes I think the progressive community just pockets whatever we do, takes it for granted, and then asks, "Well, why didn't you get this done?"
We instituted the first increase in fuel-efficiency standards in this country in 30 years. It used to be that California would have some very rigorous rule, and then other states would have much weaker ones. Now we've got one rule. Not only that, it used to be that trucks weren't covered, and there were all kinds of loopholes — that's how SUVs were out there getting eight miles a gallon. Now everybody's regulated — not only cars, but trucks. We did this with the agreement of the auto industry, which had never agreed to it before, we did it with the auto workers, who had never agreed to it before. We are taking the equivalent of millions of cars off the road, when it comes to the amount of greenhouse gases that are produced.
Is it enough? Absolutely not. The progress that we're making on renewable energy, the progress that we're making on retrofitting buildings and making sure that we are reducing electricity use — all those things, cumulatively, if we stay on it over the next several years, will allow us to meet the target that I set, which would be around a 17 percent reduction in our greenhouse gases.
But we're going to have to do a lot more than that. When I talk to [Energy Secretary] Steven Chu, who, by the way, was an unsung hero in the Gulf oil spill — this guy went down and helped design the way to plug that hole with BP engineers — nobody's a bigger champion for the cause of reducing climate change than he is. When I ask him how we are going to solve this problem internationally, what he'll tell you is that we can get about a third of this done through efficiencies and existing technologies, we can get an additional chunk through some sort of pricing in carbon, but ultimately we're going to need some technological breakthroughs. So the investments we're making in research and development around clean energy are also going to be important if we're going to be able to get all the way there. Am I satisfied with what we've gotten done? Absolutely not.
Do you see a point at which you're going to throw the whole weight of the presidency behind this, like you did on health care or financial reform?
Yes. Not only can I foresee it, but I am committed to making sure that we get an energy policy that makes sense for the country and that helps us grow at the same time as it deals with climate change in a serious way. I am just as committed to getting immigration reform done.
I've been here two years, guys. And one of the things that I just try to remember is that if we have accomplished 70 percent of what we committed to in the campaign, historic legislation, and we've got 30 percent of it undone — well, that's what the next two years is for, or maybe the next six.
Understandably, everybody has a great sense of urgency about these issues. But one of the things that I constantly want to counsel my friends is to keep the long view in mind. On social issues, something like "don't ask, don't tell." Here, I've got the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff both committed to changing the policy. That's a big deal.
You get credit for that.
Now, I am also the commander in chief of an armed forces that is in the midst of one war and wrapping up another one. So I don't think it's too much to ask, to say "Let's do this in an orderly way" — to ensure, by the way, that gays and lesbians who are serving honorably in our armed forces aren't subject to harassment and bullying and a whole bunch of other stuff once we implement the policy. I use that as an example because on each of these areas, even those where we did not get some grand legislative victory, we have made progress. We have moved in the right direction.
When people start being concerned about, "You haven't closed Guantánamo yet," I say, listen, that's something I wanted to get done by now, and I haven't gotten done because of recalcitrance from the other side. Frankly, it's an easy issue to demagogue. But what I have been able to do is to ban torture. I have been able to make sure that our intelligence agencies and our military operate under a core set of principles and rules that are true to our traditions of due process. People will say, "I don't know — you've got your Justice Department out there that's still using the state-secrets doctrine to defend against some of these previous actions." Well, I gave very specific instructions to the Department of Justice. What I've said is that we are not going to use a shroud of secrecy to excuse illegal behavior on our part. On the other hand, there are occasions where I've got to protect operatives in the field, their sources and their methods, because if those were revealed in open court, they could be subject to very great danger. There are going to be circumstances in which, yes, I can't have every operation that we're engaged in to deal with a very real terrorist threat published in Rolling Stone.
These things don't happen overnight. But we're moving in the right direction, and that's what people have to keep in mind.
What has surprised you the most about these first two years in office? What advice would you give your successor about the first two years?
Over the past two years, what I probably anticipated but you don't fully appreciate until you're in the job, is something I said earlier, which is if a problem is easy, it doesn't hit my desk. If there's an obvious solution, it never arrives here — somebody else has solved it a long time ago. The issues that cross my desk are hard and complicated, and oftentimes involve the clash not of right and wrong, but of two rights. And you're having to balance and reconcile against competing values that are equally legitimate.
What I'm very proud of is that we have, as an administration, kept our moral compass, even as we've worked through these very difficult issues. Doesn't mean we haven't made mistakes, but I think we've moved the country in a profoundly better direction just in the past two years.
What music have you been listening to lately? What have you discovered, what speaks to you these days?
My iPod now has about 2,000 songs, and it is a source of great pleasure to me. I am probably still more heavily weighted toward the music of my childhood than I am the new stuff. There's still a lot of Stevie Wonder, a lot of Bob Dylan, a lot of Rolling Stones, a lot of R&B, a lot of Miles Davis and John Coltrane. Those are the old standards.
A lot of classical music. I'm not a big opera buff in terms of going to opera, but there are days where Maria Callas is exactly what I need.
Thanks to Reggie [Love, the president's personal aide], my rap palate has greatly improved. Jay-Z used to be sort of what predominated, but now I've got a little Nas and a little Lil Wayne and some other stuff, but I would not claim to be an expert. Malia and Sasha are now getting old enough to where they start hipping me to things. Music is still a great source of joy and occasional solace in the midst of what can be some difficult days.
You had Bob Dylan here. How did that go?
Here's what I love about Dylan: He was exactly as you'd expect he would be. He wouldn't come to the rehearsal; usually, all these guys are practicing before the set in the evening. He didn't want to take a picture with me; usually all the talent is dying to take a picture with me and Michelle before the show, but he didn't show up to that. He came in and played "The Times They Are A-Changin'." A beautiful rendition. The guy is so steeped in this stuff that he can just come up with some new arrangement, and the song sounds completely different. Finishes the song, steps off the stage — I'm sitting right in the front row — comes up, shakes my hand, sort of tips his head, gives me just a little grin, and then leaves. And that was it — then he left. That was our only interaction with him. And I thought: That's how you want Bob Dylan, right? You don't want him to be all cheesin' and grinnin' with you. You want him to be a little skeptical about the whole enterprise. So that was a real treat.
Having Paul McCartney here was also incredible. He's just a very gracious guy. When he was up there singing "Michelle" to Michelle, I was thinking to myself, "Imagine when Michelle was growing up, this little girl on the South Side of Chicago, from a working-class family." The notion that someday one of the Beatles would be singing his song to her in the White House — you couldn't imagine something like that.
Did you cry?
Whenever I think about my wife, she can choke me up. My wife and my kids, they'll get to me.
[Signaled by his aides, the president brings the interview to a close and leaves the Oval Office. A moment later, however, he returns to the office and says that he has one more thing to add. He speaks with intensity and passion, repeatedly stabbing the air with his finger.]
One closing remark that I want to make: It is inexcusable for any Democrat or progressive right now to stand on the sidelines in this midterm election. There may be complaints about us not having gotten certain things done, not fast enough, making certain legislative compromises. But right now, we've got a choice between a Republican Party that has moved to the right of George Bush and is looking to lock in the same policies that got us into these disasters in the first place, versus an administration that, with some admitted warts, has been the most successful administration in a generation in moving progressive agendas forward.
The idea that we've got a lack of enthusiasm in the Democratic base, that people are sitting on their hands complaining, is just irresponsible.
Everybody out there has to be thinking about what's at stake in this election and if they want to move forward over the next two years or six years or 10 years on key issues like climate change, key issues like how we restore a sense of equity and optimism to middle-class families who have seen their incomes decline by five percent over the last decade. If we want the kind of country that respects civil rights and civil liberties, we'd better fight in this election. And right now, we are getting outspent eight to one by these 527s that the Roberts court says can spend with impunity without disclosing where their money's coming from. In every single one of these congressional districts, you are seeing these independent organizations outspend political parties and the candidates by, as I said, factors of four to one, five to one, eight to one, 10 to one.
We have to get folks off the sidelines. People need to shake off this lethargy, people need to buck up. Bringing about change is hard — that's what I said during the campaign. It has been hard, and we've got some lumps to show for it. But if people now want to take their ball and go home, that tells me folks weren't serious in the first place.
If you're serious, now's exactly the time that people have to step up.
The is an article from the October 15, 2010 issue of Rolling Stone, available on newsstands on October 1, 2010.
One of the small ironies of the Bishop Eddie Long scandal is the preacher's self-pitying complaint, in a Sunday sermon vetted by his lawyers, that he feels "like David against Goliath."
Really? Let's see, on one side we have one of the most prominent and influential clerics in the country, the pastor of a suburban Atlanta megachurch that claims 25,000 members. On the other, we have four young men who claim in lawsuits that Long abused his clerical authority to lure and coerce them into having sex with him. Unlike the bishop, as far as I know, none of the accusers is driven around in a Bentley. Or is constantly attended by a retinue of aides and bodyguards. Or cultivates and maintains first-name relationships with famous politicians, athletes and entertainers.
I'm pretty sure the preacher has that whole David-Goliath thing backward.
A much bigger irony, of course, is that Long has been a vehement crusader against same-sex marriage -- and against homosexuality in general. And the biggest irony of all is that his very public travails may force the African American church to finally confront its long history of homophobic hypocrisy.
Starting in 1987 with just 300 members, Long built the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church into one of the nation's two or three biggest and most important black congregations. The 240-acre church complex is in DeKalb County, one of the wealthiest majority-black jurisdictions in the country. The church is popular among Atlanta's black celebrities, and its success has made Long a celebrity, too.
In 2004, Long led a march to Martin Luther King Jr.'s grave site in support of a Georgia constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Two years later, when it was decided that Coretta Scott King's funeral would be held at New Birth -- the Kings' daughter Bernice is one of the ministers there -- veteran civil rights activist Julian Bond was outraged. "I knew her attitude toward gay and lesbian rights," he said of Coretta Scott King. "I just couldn't imagine that she'd want to be in that church with a minister who was a raving homophobe."
The black church in America has long mixed political activism with a deep social conservatism. But while polls show that the nation has become much more understanding and tolerant of homosexuality, the black church has been painfully slow to change. I wrote a column several years ago suggesting that black preachers come down from the pulpit and get to know their parishioners -- and I still think that would be a good start.
"This is probably the most difficult time in my entire life," Long said in his sermon Sunday. "There have been allegations and attacks made on me. I have never in my life portrayed myself as a perfect man. But I am not the man that's being portrayed on television. That's not me. That is not me."
Then who is Eddie Long? The upstanding father of four who came to the pulpit hand-in-hand with his wife and denounced -- but did not deny -- the allegations against him? Or the manipulative sexual con artist who, according to his four accusers, does not remotely practice what he preaches?
The four men, in their civil lawsuits, tell remarkably similar stories. They say that Long took a special interest in some of the young men who attended his church in Atlanta and a satellite church in Charlotte. They say he took them separately on trips to such destinations as Kenya, South Africa and New Zealand when they were teenagers -- but above the age of consent in Georgia, which is 16.
The men say that Long bought them lavish gifts, including cars and jewelry, and led them gradually into sexual activity, citing biblical passages as justification. One of the men says that Long performed a religious "covenant" ceremony with him that sounds strikingly like an exchange of marriage vows.
I'm guessing that maybe Long has some questions of identity to grapple with. He might choose to seek and confront the answers, or he might not. But meanwhile, African American preachers and worshipers across the nation are watching -- and, one hopes, learning.
"That is not me," Long said. But what if it is?
Nothing he learns about himself can negate all the good works he has done in his ministry -- all the people whose lives he has changed with a message of faith and hope. Maybe he could forgive himself. Then maybe he could forgive all the gays and lesbians he so coldly condemns.
Monday, September 27, 2010
He's President, not a superhero: The left has been too quick to jump ship
Monday, September 27th 2010, 4:00 AM
Kristin Callahan/Everett Collection
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Obama's No Superman
Did hype around President Obama's election outshine what he could realistically accomplish?
- With Iowa and NH past, the role of race in politics takes center stage
- Bam blasts GOP's 'Pledge to America'
- Cohen: GOP succumbs to witchful thinking
- Most want tax cuts for America's wealthiest to expire: poll
- Schoen: In praise of Obamanomics 2.0
- Boehner: I'll go with Obama to extend tax cuts, if rich can get them, too
The atmosphere of pathos rose in a mist as Velma Hart explained to Barack Obama why she felt exhausted defending his administration. Hart admitted that she had mistaken the President for a superhero capable of knocking a hole in the brick wall stacked up by Republicans.
In later media appearances, Hart said that her faith in the President had diminished but was not gone. Hart considers him an inspirational leader whose health care bill, among other legislation, is proof of his being more about action than hot air.
Of course, Republican commercials will accuse Obama (above) of being so far removed from real American life that he is even losing - though this will not be explicit - his most faithful base: black people. Hart could not have done a better job for the elephants if GOP head Michael Steele had written her statement.
But while some say that Hart has put the handwriting on the political wall of reality, I do not agree.
Obama has two problems: The first is that he has to battle an opposition that has sold out to the extremes of its base in order to gain power, integrity be damned. No matter how mentally unbalanced the charges, the GOP will buy in if those charges draw enough followers. Responsible Republicans like Peggy Noonan, George Will and David Brooks have not been able to hold back the devil dogs foaming at the mouth.
No matter how bigoted complaints about the President have been, Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh will lift their pitchforks and torches in agreement. They are confident that their so-called facts will not be seriously questioned - but if they are, Fox News will give them plenty of screen time to make a defense.
The second problem is naiveté and cowardice on the other side of the aisle. The far left feels betrayed because Obama has not turned America into Eden in less than two years. They do not believe that Obama has put up a good fight against those opponents who find the truth less important than gaining legislative power that will make it easier to serve their masters: the wealthy, the big corporations and the lobbyists who serve them most faithfully.
Then there are the people whom Velma Hart represents - the black middle class that works hard, hasn't served time in prison and does its best to rear its children well. None of what they've already achieved stops these striving Americans from believing in a black superhero sent to right all of the wrongs against black people and remove remaining obstacles - of which there are still too many - from their path.
Hart admits that this is a simplistic belief, but it is common to Americans at large. It has been bred into us through Greek mythology, the Old Testament and Hollywood. Those all have good stories that should inspire when there is inspiration to be had.
But magical heroes like Hercules who create the illusion of morale that is necessary to stay the path in a tough fight are no replacement for sensible leaders who step down into the mess and get the job done. This is what Hart failed to understand.
It is time for all of us to grow up and face the fact that we just might be "the people we have been waiting for," as the President has said. If we thought we were electing a superhero, we were wrong. Obama never promised that.
But whether the change Obama did promise is possible can only be learned if we decide to stay the course and refuse to give in to fatigue and paralytic cynicism. There has never been a better time to fight than now. The opposition does not expect integrity or anything more than cowardice and bitchiness.
While acknowledging the frustration of people like Hart, we must keep at it and prove those loons on the right absolutely wrong. Republicans might then have the resolve to clean their house of spiritual vermin.
The left has
been too quick
to jump ship
Vice President Biden to Democratic Base: 'Stop Whining'
September 27, 2010 4:58 PMABCNews.com-->
At a fundraiser in Manchester, NH, today, Vice President Biden urged Democrats to "remind our base constituency to stop whining and get out there and look at the alternatives. This President has done an incredible job. He’s kept his promises."
The remarks, made to roughly 200 top Democratic activists and donors, recall comments President Obama made last week to “griping and groaning Democrats…Folks: wake up. This is not some academic exercise. As Joe Biden put it, Don’t compare us to the Almighty, compare us to the alternative.”
Today’s fundraiser was held at Stoneyfield Farm, a leading producer of organic yogurt, frozen yogurt and ice cream, for Rep. Paul Hodes, D-NH, who is running for Senate; Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-NH; and the New Hampshire Democratic Party Coordinated Campaign Committee.
The Vice President said that "every one of these (races) is winnable" if the candidates draw clear distinctions between themselves and their GOP opponents.
Acknowledging that voters are angry, the Veep said, "You take it out on those who are in office…They should be able to be angry with us. If we make this a referendum on the current state of affairs, we lose, and so that’s why we’ve got to make this a choice."
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If the Rebublicans gain control of the House and Obama then vetoes every initiative between 2011 and 2013, will Obama then be the "obstructionist"?
Posted by: LongT | Sep 27, 2010 8:05:40 PM
Ryan C. condescendingly suggested he had breaking news. Not sure anything intelligible actually was actually transmitted, however.
For the record, this has nothing to do with Nader. And if Ryan took a remedial course in reading, he might see that I was NOT suggesting the "one" of the two party options was a viable way out.
What I was doing is pointing to the need for a strategic decision. Obama probably can, for two years, veto the worst of what the Republicans will try to impose. In firing Summers and Emanuel, Obama is "playing" to his base, though he also knows he will continue to serve Wall Street rather than Main Street. The point is that nothing will change by reelecting Pelosi and Reid, and nothing will change if the Dems lose both chambers of Congress.
What is necessary is for the public to blame both parties equally in 2012, and for a vacuum to be created. Naomi Klein is no slouch on strategy, and no slouch on reality. She is calling for precisely the kind of VIABLE 3rd party that I refer to, one that could capture a plurality of votes in 2012.
It will probably be the only way to stop the Tea Party in 2012 since the wheels are already coming off the two party system.
Posted by: mdgr | Sep 27, 2010 8:04:02 PM
Rahm to Joe; "Damn Joe! I didn't mean for you to insult our base with a gross generalization like whiners! Barrack, what can we have Joe do between now and November that he won't screw up?"
Posted by: LongT | Sep 27, 2010 7:58:02 PM
Glad they included the Dem fundraiser at Stoneyfield Farm info.. no need to buy that anymore.
Posted by: Jimmy | Sep 27, 2010 7:54:20 PM
I am comparing you to the alternative Biden. Mickey Mouse is looking pretty good about now!
Posted by: Todd | Sep 27, 2010 7:19:39 PM
Looks as if the rats are jumping ship. All those promises from the annointed one, and he can't with a straight face say he accomplished a thing except to raise unemployment, raise the deficit, and pass money around to his union faithful. No wonder he has Biden telling his base that he has kept his promises. Biden will say anything.
Posted by: Todd | Sep 27, 2010 7:16:59 PM
"The writing's on the wall. If we want to give the nuclear access codes to someone like Palin, we'll vote Democrat in 2010.
Otherwise, we make a bank shot, hoping that things will favor the creation of a viable progressive/ independent party (Naomi Klein's call) in 2012."
Ahhhh the Nader principle in hoping things will be so bad one will become the only viable option.
Sorry to break it to you but the GOP just put that into action.
Posted by: Ryan C | Sep 27, 2010 7:12:12 PM
"Lesser of two evils" has ALWAYS been the two-party talking point, and Obama has been the most dramatic example yet not just on how it doesn't work, but of the fact that both parties are inextricably joined at the hip. "Biden is correct" only for those who wish to continue that codependent game. I, frankly, do not.
For those who say a third party can't be formed, review your history. This is not just an unprecedented time, but a major third party (Tea Party) just formed and is in some places displacing Republicans. Perot captured 19% of the vote previously. Finally, major voices such as Naomi Klein are calling for precisely that -- a monster third party of progressives, indies and disaffected Dems.
The Democratic Party is well funded, however, and it has been known to pay people to reiterate the same old talking points about the "goodness" of the lesser of two evils, and the notion that we need to keep playing the game because resistance is futile.
Obama, however, is a fraud. So is Pelosi (voted for every war budget Bush ever proposed) and Reid. The entire Democratic Party is, and it is collapsing. I have voted Dem all my life, but never again. If took Obama to irrevocably alienate its "whiny base," but in the end it occurred.
I still think a public bonfire of 1 million ballots on television would be very helpful in persuading progressive Democratic legislators to resign from that party, a la Bernie Sanders. It could be a media tour de force.
One could get duplicate ballots if they liked and still vote for a few initiatives that they cared about, etc. No one would be the wiser.
Posted by: mdgr | Sep 27, 2010 6:58:33 PM
He is calling for the young to come out and vote because a vast majority of them do not realize the mess we are in.
I personally think he snubbs American tradition every chance he gets.
Posted by: NanaS | Sep 27, 2010 6:45:14 PM
"mdgr"...Biden is correct. There are only two choices. The formation of a "third party" is a pipe dream and will never happen. And if you are a middle class person or moderate or educated independent...you have one and only one choice. The Democrats. Unless you want the GOP (lap dogs of the rich) or the tea partiers (lap dogs of the dumbed down base) taking control and sending us back to the failed policies of the past.
Posted by: CND FOX | Sep 27, 2010 6:35:03 PM
Don't burn your ballot. Write in "Public Option" or "DADT" or whichever policy the Dems failed on hurt you the worst for the federal offices. Don't punish the down-ticket state people, they tend to actually stand for their convictions.
Posted by: glarbl_blarbl | Sep 27, 2010 6:22:10 PM
. After the most disappointing president in several decades (I didn't say "worst," just disappointing), we are again being asked to pick the lesser of two evils.
If the Dems win in 2010, they will lose in 2012. By then, things will be much worse, and Obama will be unelectable. Moreover, no viable progressive/independent third party will have yet been formed. Think Weimar, 1932.
The writing's on the wall. If we want to give the nuclear access codes to someone like Palin, we'll vote Democrat in 2010.
Otherwise, we make a bank shot, hoping that things will favor the creation of a viable progressive/ independent party (Naomi Klein's call) in 2012.
Obama will veto the worst of any Republican legislation in the next two years.
I'd call for the burning of one million ballots from Biden's "whiny base." Let it occ ur on TV.
That would be an incontrovertible message to the Democratic Party and the lobbyist-owned DNC behind it.
Posted by: mdgr | Sep 27, 2010 5:58:55 PM
It's amusing to watch the administration turn on the professional left. They seem to be the last people to do so.
Posted by: TheLastBrainLeft | Sep 27, 2010 5:56:53 PM
Bast to Obama: **** ***!
Obama:" Health care is a right."
Posted by: bebe and boby | Sep 27, 2010 5:55:21 PM
Rahm to Joe; "Go out there and get those fence strattlers...here's your talking points." This is soooo obvious.
Posted by: LongT | Sep 27, 2010 5:53:11 PM
Promises? Not really. The bills passed did far too little, and caved to the special interests. He did nothing for most Americans, and absolutely nothing for the middle class.
Biden has demonstrated some absolutely poor behavior, for a Vice-President of the US. I consider him a total embarrassment.
Posted by: Rick McDaniel | Sep 27, 2010 5:52:52 PM
Posted by: Sick and Tired | Sep 27, 2010 5:44:31 PM
President Obama campaigned on increasing the war effort in Afghanistan.
Posted by: Stan | Sep 27, 2010 5:49:27 PM
"This President has done an incredible job. He’s kept his promises."
JOBS? Wasn’t that a “major focus”? How’s that “three-letter word” working out for you Biden?
How was your summer? Feeling the “recovery” yet?
I'm not sure why you're insisting on blowing smoke there, but it's really not doing anything for me Biden.
Posted by: Ertdfg | Sep 27, 2010 5:48:15 PM
I'm getting a bit tired of Biden knocking the base around. We've been defending them for months now and the latest slap in the face came with DADT! I mean Guantanamo Bay is STILL OPEN! Rendition expanded?! Afghan SURGE?! Patriot Act renewed?! I can't take much more of these broken promises. You know what Joe, I'll probably be staying home on election night. At least the wingnuts aren't being insulted by their leaders. Bring on Hillary for '12. Barack and Michelle will need a(nother) vacation.
Posted by: Sick and Tired | Sep 27, 2010 5:44:31 PM
Financial giveaway bailouts + little to no foreclosure aid, corporate health care giveaways, ABYSMAL civil liberties record, massive increases in military/intelligence spending, mercenary wars and permanent bases in Iraq/Afghanistan that endanger the American people, continued support of Israeli crimes(ditto), BP coverups, likely cuts in social security...
The "whiners" aren't shooting blanks here--these are serious issues of corrupt and inept governance. The groupthinkers just don't get it: people see what they are doing and don't like it. Thus they don't vote for you. Welcome to the real world, and get ready to start drawing unemployment like the rest of America.
Posted by: SB | Sep 27, 2010 5:31:53 PM
Remind me which promises Obama has kept with his base? Was it closing Gitmo, or passing the Public Option? No wait, it was bringing the troops home from Iraq (all but 50,000 of them, right?).
Meh, if this is what the Democrats can do with a supermajority.. I really don't see what benefit we get by voting for them.
Face it, with Rahm Emmanuel calling the shots we get called names while the Administration checks with Fox News before doing anything. I'm not impressed.
There is no one in this government speaking for the left wing of this country. Our choices, apparently, are nutjobs on the far right or corpratist center-right "Democrats".
PS, the individual mandate is the most insulting piece of *ahem* legislation I have ever had the displeasure of reading about -- much less anticipating having to comply with.
Posted by: glarbl_blarbl | Sep 27, 2010 5:25:50 PM
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