Feb. 17th, 2016 07:04 am
randy_byers: (obama)
'Elena is respected and admired not just for her intellect and record of achievement, but also for her temperament -- her openness to a broad array of viewpoints; her habit, to borrow a phrase from Justice Stevens, “of understanding before disagreeing”; her fair-mindedness and skill as a consensus-builder.' (Obama on his nomination of Elena Kagan to the US Supreme Court in 2010, emphasis my own)
randy_byers: (obama)
I'm not sure why I feel the need to post this. Probably it's because so many of my friends are Bernie-supporters that I feel compelled to say that I'm no longer part of the club. That is, I've been saying since the campaign began nine hundred years ago, or whenever it was, that I would vote for Bernie in the primary and Hillary in the general election, because I didn't think Bernie had a prayer of becoming the Democratic nominee. I still don't, but as push has come to shove and people have started making passionate arguments for and against the two candidates, I find that I have changed my mind and decided to vote for Hillary in the primary too.

The reason for my change of mind has been the realization that many, if not most of, Bernie's supporters, including very much Bernie himself, are the left-liberals who have found Obama weak, disappointing, and basically a closet Republican. I feel, and have always felt, that this is pure horseshit. For me, Obama is the best president in my lifetime, which goes back to JFK. This is what a transformative, progressive presidency looks like in our age, unless, like FDR, you have 69-75 Democratic senators out of a total of 96 and 313-333 Democratic House members out of a total of 435. That's what total control of the government looks like, and that's what allows pretty radical changes to happen. Our system of checks and balances is otherwise rigged against rapid change, and even FDR was slowed down by the Supreme Court, much to his annoyance. If you are impatient with Obama, it's because you are impatient with the American political system, and obviously a lot of Bernie's supporters think the whole thing is hopelessly corrupt and needs to be swept away in a revolutionary tide and replaced with something more perfect.

I believe that's highly unlikely to happen, and that what's more likely is what we've seen under Obama: painfully slow and imperfect change against fierce, grinding opposition. Yet Obama embraces the system, and I think the results under his leadership of the Democratic party have been utterly remarkable. As for the idea that he's basically a moderate Republican, show me the moderate Republican (John McCain? Mitt Romney?) who would have stood up to the frothing reactionaries in his own party to kickstart the Green Energy Revolution by investing stimulus money in solar and wind power, or who would have massively expanded Medicaid (single payer insurance!) as in Obamacare, or passed the Dodd-Frank financial regulations, or who would have done away with Don't Ask Don't Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act, or who have negotiated a nuclear treaty with Iran, or normalized relations with Cuba, or regulated coal plant emissions with the EPA, or, leveraging the reduction of carbon emissions from that and the Green Energy Revolution, would have concluded a carbon emissions deal with China and India and all the major industrial nations, again in the teeth of raging right wing opposition. It's impossible to imagine any Republican doing any of that. Instead they would have cut taxes, further deregulated Wall Street, probably continued to cut back on social spending rather than increase it, and probably started a war with Iran instead of negotiating a treaty.

All of these accomplishments by the Democrats are BFDs, for those of us who believe in progressive change, and if you think it's not enough, you know, you're right! The system really is rigged for the haves and against the have-nots, and it's rigged to make it hard to unrig it. But if you think Bernie is going to completely transform the American political system, which by the way would require completely rewriting the Constitution, you are a dreamer. If you think that what has been accomplished in the past seven years is a disappointing failure by somebody in over his head, then we are not seeing the same world. If nothing else I have a number of good friends who now have health insurance because of the Medicaid expansion. It's not great health insurance, but they are getting treatment for pre-existing conditions, and that will very likely prolong their lives. That's real progress.

My biggest problem with Hillary has always been her association with Bill, whom I hated while he was president. I never voted for him, voting for small third party candidates both times. But you know what, I was a lot more idealistic then, and I really had no clue how constrained presidents are within our system. I didn't really understand that he was signing bills that the Republican Congress wrote, at least during his second term, that's how ignorant I was. That said, I believe he really was an inferior president to Obama, because he didn't get much done while the Democrats had control of Congress in his first term. Partly that was because the Democrats still had a lot of conservative Dixiecrats (hello, Sam Nunn, hello, Don't Ask Don't Tell) in their ranks at the time, but partly it was because Clinton made a lot more rookie mistakes than Obama did, maybe because he was unwilling to use any of Carter's staff in his own, which left him with an inexperienced staff. Certainly Clinton muffed his own attempt at health care reform, and Obama was able to learn from that when his own time came and he staffed his administration with people from Clinton's.

In any event, I have no idea how good a president Hillary will be, if she wins the presidency, but I do know that she's embracing Obama's legacy, while Bernie is saying it ain't good enough. Bernie is right that it isn't good enough, but I believe it's the best the system will allow. Revolution isn't on the agenda, and it certainly isn't going to be fomented from above by a sitting president. So I'm voting for the woman who embraces incrementalism (What do we want? Change! When do we want it? Real Soon Now!), and my 25 year old self is shaking his head in sad disbelief. Sorry, 25 year old self, but I see things differently now. On the bright side, I see that some things are improving and that hope for even better is not lost. It will just come slowly, as it always has.
randy_byers: (small randy animal)
I hadn't known until last week that Obama's mother once took classes at the University of Washington. I didn't know until today that the fucking Birthers have been clamoring for her UW transcript, because she started taking classes a month after Obama was born. Googling the current Registrar's name takes you to this pathetic piece of "research" parsing an e-mail exchange with the Registrar that decisively proves that Obama's mother started classes at the UW in September 1961, not, as has widely been reported elsewhere, in August 1961. This is very important, because Obama was born in August 1961. I made the mistake of clicking through to the home page of this site, which is a sea of Birther sewage. "Live free or die," my fucking ass.

What's amazing about the paranoid mindset is how the profusion of "facts" just manages to confuse it even more, because the facts don't comport with the paranoia. So we must have more facts! Surely if we have more facts the truth we desire will emerge! The earnest attempts to piece together "what really happened" is almost heart-breaking in its intentional blindness.

Ultimately I think Birtherism is a distraction. They're not going to change anything with their beliefs. They're not going to force Obama out of office. They're not going to cause anybody who might vote for him to not vote for him. They will only appeal to the committed minority of True Believers. And yet it still infuriates me. And I think that might be my problem, not theirs. Let the nuts be nuts. They only do damage to their own ability to shape events.


Jan. 14th, 2011 10:21 am
randy_byers: (2010-08-15)
'Of course, if you want to walk the whole Christian mile, you'd have to tell the congregation to love Jared Loughner too. Not even Barack Obama could pull that one off. With the families still grieving, I'd hate to see anyone try.'

-- Andrew Sprung, "A theological speech? Yes. A Christian one? Not exactly"
randy_byers: (2010-08-15)
David Cole has a very interesting defense & critique of the Obama administration's record on national security, civil liberties, and counterterrorism. It's well worth reading the whole thing. He praises the administration for breaking with Dubya's worst flaunting of legal constraints on executive power while criticizing them on various issues of transparency and accountability (e.g., failure to prosecute torturers).

(Via Adam Serwer, who notes, while disagreeing with some of Cole's argument, that Cole is "a lawyer who represented torture victim Mahar Arar and fought the administration in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project".)
randy_byers: (2009-05-10)
I've stopped writing much about national politics, because I'm so sick and fucking tired of everybody's political opinions, including my own, that I could puke. And this tired NYTimes article by Sheryl Gay Stolberg, "Obama Pushes Agenda, Despite Political Risks," is a perfect example of what is so sick about the political press in this country. She spends the whole article talking about the political risks of Obama's policy agenda in the past two years without once trying to analyze whether in fact the policies are good for the country. She compares Obama's push for health care reform in the face of bad polling to Bush's defense of the occupation of Iraq in the face of bad polling: "It is an argument that sounds eerily similar to the one Mr. Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, made to justify an unpopular war in Iraq as he watched his own poll numbers sink lower. Mr. Bush and his aides often felt they could not catch a break; when the economy was humming along — or at least seemed to be humming along — the Bush White House never got credit for it, because the public was so upset about the war."

You know what, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, fuck you. Health care reform is going to make our country stronger. The Iraq debacle made our country weaker. One thing was worth the political risk, and the other wasn't. It's really not that difficult to see, is it? Yet all you want to look at is whether it's damaging to Obama's political career or not. Fuck you. Think about your fucking country, you fucking dimwit. Obama could go down in flames tomorrow, and we would still be better off because of what the White House and Congress have done in the past eighteen months. How eerily similar is that to Dubya, you fucking idiot?
randy_byers: (2009-05-10)
Marc Lynch has some sensible comments on recent news items: Moving past the GWOT ain't easy. Amongst other things, he talks about this week's revelation (via intentional leak?) that the Obama administration has targeted a US citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, for assassination.

I guess my take on this is that the national security state has been an excuse for bad executive branch behavior since at least the '60s, if not earlier, and I'm cynical about the prospects of putting the genie back in the bottle at this point. Who is going to contain the executive in this? Congress? The courts? Angry bloggers?

I've read that the Bush Jr administration was the first to claim the right to kill American citizens who have been designated terrorists. Was there any legal challenge to this finding? Have the courts ruled on it at all?

In short: What is to be done?
randy_byers: (2009-05-10)
Marc Lynch ponders Obama's long game strategy (as seen in health care reform) and how it might play out vis-a-vis Iran and Palestine. Snippet:

The "no strategy" perspective doesn't need much rehearsal, since we all know it quite well. In this version, Obama stumbled into a useless and losing battle with the Israeli government over settlements and has neither recovered the confidence of the Israelis nor satisfied Arabs or Palestinians. His administration has been overly focused on getting to negotiations for their own sake, with little conception of how those negotiations will produce the desired outcome of a two-state solution. Meanwhile, goes this argument, Obama has pursued engagement with Iran despite its limited prospects, pursuing talks for the sake of talks and ignoring calculated insults and historic opportunities to push for regime change. This is pretty much the Washington DC conventional wisdom (which is almost in itself a good reason to believe that it's wrong).

The "long game" version is that Obama has a signature method when tackling difficult, long-term objectives, whether health care, Israeli-Palestinian peace or Iran. Obama's method is to lay out an ambitious but realistic final status objective in stark terms and then to let political hardball unfold around those objectives. His most fervent opposition gets more and more outraged, raising the rhetorical pitch until they discredit themselves with key mainstream audiences who recoil from their overheated, apocalyptic and nutty words. And then, just as the Washington DC conventional wisdom declares his ambition dead, they suddenly wake up to the reality that he's won. How'd that happen? The final outcome isn't as pure as many would like, but it's nevertheless a substantial, major achievement against all expectations.
randy_byers: (2009-05-10)
For those who think Obama hasn't done a good job of wrangling Congress, here's an interesting story: a Congressional Quarterly study that dates back to 1953 finds that Obama "set a new record last year for getting Congress to vote his way, clinching 96.7 percent of the votes on which he had clearly staked a position," which was almost four points higher than the previous record set by the legendary Congress-wrangler, LBJ, in 1965. The story doesn't have a lot of details and doesn't explain much about the methodology of the study, but the attempt to quantify the issue is at least worth noting.


[Obama's] wins in his first year in office included votes for creating a massive economic stimulus package, bailing out the auto industry, allowing the Food and Drug Administration regulate tobacco and confirming Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

But they also included key moves toward overhauling the health care system, regulating financial services and reducing greenhouse gases which have not yet passed both chambers of Congress.

That unfinished work will be taken up in the second session, which begins Tuesday. Obama’s ultimate success will depend on how well his second year in office goes.

Via Booman, who also had a fascinating post over the weekend on Scattershot Ideas on the Political Landscape about how the Democrats have become the party of pretty much every element of the establishment in the face of the Republican collapse.
randy_byers: (2009-05-10)
Okay, here's an example of something that drives me mildly crazy. TPM mainpage headline: "Disappointed Open Gov't Experts: Obama Is Going Down Bush's Path". Click on the link, and the page it takes you to has a less incendiary headline: "CIA Stance On Torture Tape Docs Suggests Obama's New Open Government Era Won't Materialize". No mention of Bush at all. Read the article, and you get even more of a climb down:

Obama's approach to issues of secrecy on national security doesn't mimic Bush's alone, it appears. Rather, said Olmsted, it's broadly in keeping with "every other presidential administration" of modern times. But, she added, "it's disappointing, because President Obama promised a whole new era in government transparency, and here they go again concealing this information." (Emphasis mine.)

So the bottom line is that people are disappointed that Obama told some lies during his campaign. Fair enough, although I honestly think that's kind of no duh myself. But to go from that to "he's no different than Bush" seems like PTSD, doesn't it? I mean, I remember the Clinton administration fighting tooth and nail to prevent the most innocuous information from being released. They seemed to do it on reflex. Then again, I guess that's the other disappointed comparison I hear a lot of: Obama is just like Clinton (i.e., a servant of the corporations). Even that, I think, is a form of PTSD. Must we constantly relive the traumas of the past? Time for new trauma! Boycott Obama Motors!
randy_byers: (Default)
I continue to find Booman at Booman Tribune to be one of the better commentators on Obama. It's a strange blog, because most of his readers seem to be anti-Obama, while he is pro- and has always been so. I'm not sure why these people continue to read his blog, unless they just like to argue with him. (This in contrast to Al Giordano's The Field -- my other favorite pro-Obama blog -- where almost all the commenters are as pro-Obama as Giordano is.)

I continue to be very happy that Obama is my president. Booman has a good post today called "Obama's Co-Opting Strategy" that highlights one of the things I anticipated liking about Obama's presidency and that is working out just as I hoped: "For impatient and frustrated progressives, my advice is to keep things in perspective. FDR got a lot done with a Big Tent party, too. But his Big Tent included, as its biggest part, the segregationist South. Obama's Big Tent includes main street Republicans and foreign policy realists. I'll take that trade in a heartbeat, even if it means I have a less pure party than I might like."

To put it in a less regional way, I always thought that Obama's rhetoric about there being "no red states, no blue states, only the United States" was a way of isolating the wingnuts. It was a way of saying to moderate Republicans that we can work together and persuading them to stop giving cover to the lunatics in their own party. This is a big deal, to my mind. We basically saw those lunatics undermine Clinton's presidency and then drive the country off the cliff under Bush. Anything that lessens their power makes the world a better, safer place for everyone.

It started during the presidential campaign, but it has only gotten stronger during Obama's presidency: I find most of the critique of him coming from the left to be a bunch of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Which is to say, I suppose, that it has no strategic political value; it has nothing to say about how power is actually exercised effectively in the United States of America in the year 2009. I find that I trust his political instincts more than almost all of his critics'. This is in sharp contrast to how I felt about Bill Clinton, whom I despised as a DINO. Now I feel completely out of step with the leftist critique of Obama, and I can only assume that I have become more conservative in the past eight years. I don't think I'm a leftist any more. I think I have become a mere liberal. Ah well, I was raised in a liberal Republican household, so perhaps it was inevitable that I would backslide.
randy_byers: (Default)
It seems that Rush Limbaugh understands Obama's strategy better than some leftists do. I got these quotes from an Al Giordano post:

Here's Limbaugh, last Monday, January 26, in response to President Obama's calling him out:

"This is a political play and a lot of people I think are misunderstanding this. ‘He's frightened of Limbaugh.' I don't think he's afraid of anybody. He's the president of the United States. This is a political play to marginalize me so that Republicans are afraid to associate with my ideas or any of us. He wants conservatism, mainstream conservatism to be thought of the way you and I think of communism. He wants it thought of as the most foreign, the most offensive, the most extreme manner of belief possible. There are no elected Republicans who are espousing conservatism today, so he's gotta find somebody who is. I happen to be the most prominent voice, but there are many others, so he focuses on me. This is a Saul Alinsky radical rule number 13: Pick the target, me, isolate it, polarize it. It's almost like Colin Powell. We'll kill it, we'll isolate it, we'll cut its head off. That's what's happening here. This is a purposeful effort to get rid of conservatism as a mainstream way of thinking forever in this country, make no mistake about it."

Later on Monday, in response to a caller, Limbaugh elaborated:

"I don't think that's what this is about all. Remember, now, Barack Obama comes from the Saul Alinsky Rules for Radicals school. The Obama way is to get rid of opposition. Not a fair playing field, you clear it. You get rid of your opponents as quickly and as rapidly as you can. What he's trying to do, as I said in the last hour, is marginalize me to the point that Republicans are afraid to mention my name, that they wouldn't dare do this primarily because he wants conservatism to be thought of the same way you and I think of communism. He wants conservatism to be thought of as the most extreme kooky, wacky thing, and that anybody who publicly espouses it is insane or what have you. There is a method here, and it's not a mistake. The guy did this on purpose. The Drive-Bys are running around talking about whether this was wise to focus on me and build me up and so forth. Believe me, he's gotta compliant GOP already. The GOP, they're all out there saying, ‘Well, we hope he succeeds.'"

Game on.

Guess Limbaugh isn't a big fat idiot after all. He actually knows how the game is played.
randy_byers: (Default)
I guess I don't have anything analytical to say about the transition from Bush to Obama that occurred yesterday. I didn't watch the inauguration, but I read the text of the speech as soon as it was available. Later, I saw most of it on TV, but mostly in snippets here and there, out of order. Whenever I listened to live coverage of the event, on the radio before I left for work, on TV after I got home, I was nearly overpowered by emotion. It was particularly hard to listen to the interviews with people who had come to the mall to be part of history. This morning on NPR there was an interview with a woman who drove from southern Georgia via Tennessee, where she picked up her nephew. Her joy, her awe, made me burst into tears again, just as I had when I listened to Obama address the Youth Inaugural Ball the night before, listening to those young voices screaming with excitement and passion and intensity. Like a Beatles concert, I suppose, except he was asking them to serve their country.

When I was twelve or thirteen, I was body-surfing in Hawai'i when a big wave picked me up, spun me head over heels, and slammed me into the ground, knocking the breath out of me. I thought I was going to drown. I will always remember the feeling of the power of that wave over me. That's what yesterday felt like. Thus it's probably wise to remember that the wave also tore away my inflatable body-board and carried it out to sea, where an islander retrieved it and kept it for himself. Those Hawai'ian kids didn't think much of haole tourists, man.
randy_byers: (Default)
On the walk to work this morning I saw a guy in what looked like a dune buggy or a kit dragster. Big American flag as a tapestry behind him, he was wearing red goggles and a red, white, and blue jester's cap. The patriotic freaks are out in full force today.


Jan. 16th, 2009 10:55 am
randy_byers: (Default)
From the comments on a Ta-Nehisi Coates post on (sort of) the Cheney Regency:

Who could have predicted that surrounding an incompetent boob of a figurehead president with Machiavellian shitheads would end poorly?

Posted by ed | January 16, 2009 9:39 AM

Have you read Machiavelli?

Cheney et. al. thought they could get away with cliff-notes Machiavellianism. Fox's 24 is not the best guide to The Prince or The Discourses.

To be frank, I support Obama partially because he has read Machiavelli, and digested him partially in Niebuhr's company.

Posted by Carrington Ward | January 16, 2009 10:16 AM

I would just add that one of Obama's appeals to me from the very beginning was the feeling I got that he was going to take apart the Republican coalition -- specifically, that he would pull enough of the moderates away from the wingnuts to leave the wingnuts powerless. That was the true meaning and intent of his post-partisanship and "there are no red states or blue states." It was an attempt to frame wingnut partisanship as anti-American, but in the guise of appealing to American greatness and unity. That's also how I perceive his invitation to Rick Warren to say a prayer at the Inauguration: it is an attempt to drive a wedge between one group of homophobic, misogynistic Christians and another (e.g., James Dobson) by favoring one group over the other. The goal is to weaken the Christian Right as a political movement, but in the guise of embracing some of them.

That, to me, is Obama's Machiavellianism.

Well, it's a theory anyway.
randy_byers: (Default)
E.J. Dionne makes the argument that the presidential election has become a referendum on trickle-down economics, with Obama making the case for progressive taxation and McCain calling that socialism. One of Obama's rhetorical tricks that I just love is his description of trickle-down as the theory that if you give more money to the wealthy, some of it will trickle down on the rest of us. To my ear, the usage "trickle down on" conjures an image of the wealthy pissing on the rest of us. I'm guessing that's the image it's intended to conjure.
randy_byers: (Default)
I'm with the brigade who hates Colin Powell for his despicable presentation before the UN in the lead-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, but this just in from my mother:

[Your father] held his nose and voted for Obama after listening to Colin Powell. He quickly mailed it before he could change his mind and had a bit of a problem walking upright for awhile. But he seems to have evened out again. Good he voted before Palin announced Obama is communistic.

This is in Oregon, where Obama was going to win anyway, but still. First Democratic candidate for President my father has voted for since LBJ in 1964. You connect the dots.
randy_byers: (Default)
I just voted, although I still have to put the ballot in the mail.

This is the first time I've voted *for* somebody for President rather than *against* somebody for President. Or against the whole concept of the two-party system, in a few cases.

I'm stoked!

ETA: In local races, I voted for Sam Reed, Republican, for Secretary of State, because I thought he handled the recount in the last gubernatorial race very well. Then I voted for Gregoire for governor, because just looking at Rossi makes my skin crawl. Also Yes on Proposition 1, of course. More trains!
randy_byers: (Default)
synchoresis: Conceding one point for the sake of another, or A concession made for the purpose of retorting with greater force.

This came up in a discussion on Obsidian Wings about Obama's tactic of agreeing with McCain during the debate in order to pivot to a disagreement. Commenter professordarkheart wrote, "John Cole makes the point that I would have about these 'points of agreement'; I'd only add that conceding an opponent's point in order to set up an argument against him has a name in rhetoric: synchoresis. It's kind of the rhetorical equivalent of the rope-a-dope, and it's singularly appropriate that Obama uses it. After all, he is the Muhammad Ali of American politics; maneuvering his opponent into beating him- (or her-)self up is his specialty, remember?"
randy_byers: (Default)
The Edge of the American West -- an excellent American-history-focused blog with one of the best, funniest group of commenters anywhere (see the recent post, "Pity the poor supremacists," for an excellent recent example), is offering a new bumpersticker:

get disappointed by
Obama '08

This is specifically in response to Obama's apparent capitulation to the Forces of Darkness on FISA (go, Sen. Dodd!), although it could just as easily be about his support for ethanol or "clean coal" or remarks to AIPAC about Jerusalem.

As the poster of this item says, "Look, this really is a pro-Obama bumper sticker. It’s just a realistic, not to say jaded, pro-Obama bumper sticker. And maybe it’s more than a little whiny. You really think you can win the presidency without courting or crafting constituencies that Good People don’t like? I don’t. Of course, I’m a notorious pain; to borrow from the great Michael Bérubé, the number of people whose politics I can wholly accept would fit comfortably in a phone booth."


randy_byers: (Default)

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