Monday, November 28, 2011

Liberal gloom

Just about everyone I know who voted for Obama is disappointed with him.  He should have held out for a bigger stimulus package.  He shouldn’t have bailed out the banks.  He’s going too easy on Wall Street.  He should have supported Simpson-Bowles.  He hasn’t done enough for the environment.  He should never have taken on health care reform.  He should have been focusing on jobs, jobs, jobs from day one.

I hear these disappointments everywhere, and the more I hear it, the more “true” it seems to become.  After all, “everyone” is saying it.

So I found Jonathan Chaitt’s recent article in The New Yorker “When Did Liberals Become So Unreasonable?” really interesting. 

The subtitle of the article is “If every Democratic president disappoints, maybe there’s something wrong with our expectations. Tough love from a fellow traveler.”

Chaitt proposes that:

Liberals are dissatisfied with Obama because liberals, on the whole, are incapable of feeling satisfied with a Democratic president. They can be happy with the idea of a Democratic president — indeed, dancing-in-the-streets delirious — but not with the real thing. The various theories of disconsolate liberals all suffer from a failure to compare Obama with any plausible baseline. Instead they compare Obama with an imaginary president—either an imaginary Obama or a fantasy version of a past president.

To explore his hypothesis, Chaitt asks, “So, what if we compare Obama with a real alternative? Not to Republicans — that’s too easy — but to Democratic presidents as they lived and breathed?”

He then goes on to examine how liberals of the times were reacting to the presidencies of Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Lyndon Johnson, John Kennedy, Harry Truman and FDR.   And he concludes that they’ve never been satisfied: 

For almost all of the past 60 years, liberals have been in a near-constant emotional state of despair, punctuated only by brief moments of euphoria and occasional rage. When they’re not in charge, things are so bleak they threaten to move to Canada; it’s almost more excruciating when they do win elections, and their presidents fail in essentially the same ways: He is too accommodating, too timid, too unwilling or unable to inspire the populace. (Except for Johnson, who was a bloodthirsty warmonger.)

And he pointedly asks:

Is it really likely that all these presidents have suffered from the same character flaws? Suppose you’re trying to find dates online, and everybody you meet turns out to be too ugly. Might it be possible that the problem isn’t the attractiveness of the single people in your town but rather your standards?

He then compares liberals to conservatives:

While they are certainly capable of expressing frustration with Republican presidents, conservative disappointment is neither as incessant nor as pervasively depressed as the liberal variety.... Why? Because conservatives are not like liberals. They think differently.

Some of my disappointed friends like Tom Friedman’s idea of a “a viable, centrist, third presidential ticket, elected by an Internet convention.”   Chaitt scoffs:

What, by contrast, are we to make of third-party activists like Thomas L. Friedman or Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz? They have a president who supports virtually everything they want -- short-term stimulus, long-term deficit reduction through a mix of taxes and entitlement cuts, clean energy, education reform, and social liberalism. Yet they are agitating for a third party in order to carry out an agenda that is virtually identical to Obama’s. In a column touting the third-party Americans Elect, the closest Friedman comes to explaining why we should have a third party, rather than reelect the politician who already represents their values, is to say that such a party “would have offered a grand bargain on the deficit two years ago, not on the eve of a Treasury default.” He agrees with Obama’s plan, in other words, but proposes to form a new party because he disagrees with his legislative sequencing.

As political analysis, this is pure derangement. It’s the Judean People’s Front for the Aspen Institute crowd. But these sorts of anti-political fantasies arise whenever liberals are forced to confront the crushing ordinariness of governing.

(As one who loves the Aspen Institute, and who has actually seen Tom Friedman there several times, I really get that line!)

Chaitt continues:

Is it understandable to believe that [Obama’s] administration has been a disappointment to date? Of course. On the other hand, maybe there is something to learn from the frequent (anguished) comparisons liberals make between Obama and FDR. Part of the reason Roosevelt’s record looms so large from a distance is because historians measure these things differently from political activists. Activists measure progress against the standard of perfection, or at least the most perfect possible choice. Historians gauge progress against what came before it.

By that standard, Obama’s first term would indeed seem to qualify as gangsta shit.

Chaitt then reviews Obama’s accomplishments:

His single largest policy accomplishment, the Affordable Care Act, combines two sweeping goals — providing coverage to the uninsured and taming runaway medical-cost inflation — that Democrats have tried and failed to achieve for decades. Likewise, the Recovery Act contained both short-term stimulative measures and increased public investment in infrastructure, green energy, and the like. The Dodd-Frank financial reform, while failing to end the financial industry as we know it, is certainly far from toothless, as measured by the almost fanatical determination of Wall Street and Republicans in Congress to roll it back.

Beneath these headline measures is a second tier of accomplishments carrying considerable historic weight. A bailout and deep restructuring of the auto industry that is rapidly being repaid, leaving behind a reinvigorated sector in the place of a devastated Midwest. Race to the Top, which leveraged a small amount of federal seed money into a sweeping national wave of education experiments, arguably the most significant reform of public schooling in the history of the United States. A reform of college loans, saving hundreds of billions of dollars by cutting out private middlemen and redirecting some of the savings toward expanded Pell Grants. Historically large new investments in green energy and the beginning of regulation of greenhouse gases. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act for women. Elimination of several wasteful defense programs, equality for gays in the military, and consumer-friendly regulation of food safety, tobacco, and credit cards.

Of the postwar presidents, only Johnson exceeds Obama’s domestic record, and Johnson’s successes must be measured against a crushing defeat in Vietnam. Obama, by contrast, has enjoyed a string of foreign-policy successes — expanding targeted strikes against Al Qaeda (including one that killed Osama bin Laden), ending the war in Iraq, and helping to orchestrate an apparently successful international campaign to rescue Libyan dissidents and then topple a brutal kleptocratic regime.

So, if Obama is the most successful liberal president since Roosevelt, that would make him a pretty great president, right?

If you know someone who suffers from this “liberal malaise,” please share this post with them.  Over the less-than-12-months to Election Day, we liberals need to get our enthusiasm back!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Have you expressed your outrage?

It’s almost certain the Super Committee will not come up with a plan to achieve the minimum $1.2 trillion in savings by tonight’s de facto deadline.  Every one I talk to is disgusted.  I sure am.

This morning I realized: I haven’t written my senators and congressmen lately to tell them.  If they aren’t hearing from us, for sure they’ll just vote their party’s line.  (They may do so anyway, but we can’t control that – at least in the short run.)

So this is the email I sent to Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio and Congressman Connie Mack this morning:

Topic: Budget
Subject: I urge you to compromise

Governing is the art of compromise, and Washington, D.C., is failing.  As your constituent, and as an American voter, I urge you to compromise on an agreement to avoid the automatic spending cuts and – more importantly – to avoid worldwide ridicule. 


You can contact your Congressman and your two U.S. Senators from this one link:  

Please – take a minute and express your outrage.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Obama, friend of Israel

Some Republicans say that Obama has not been a good (or good-enough) friend of Israel.  I’ve heard this quite often, but there was a lot of it in September around the time of the U.N. Security Council meeting. 

Here’s what was said on the CNN Opinion Page at that time:

Gov. Rick Perry unleashed an onslaught against President Obama's Israel policy Tuesday in New York, calling it "moral equivalency," "appeasement," "naive and arrogant, misguided and dangerous." ... deepening the narrative that Obama is hell-bent on alienating our closest allies, secretly sides with Muslims in the Middle East and has broken with decades of U.S. policy to do so. On cue, a second spin-driven news-cycle appeared: "Will Obama lose the Jewish vote in 2012?"

The Christian Science Monitor called Perry’s speech “a pitch for Jewish votes.”  After quoting at length from Perry’s remarks, the Monitor went on:

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, running in second place for the GOP nomination, also blamed Obama for the Palestinian bid for recognition at the UN.

“What we are watching unfold at the United Nations is an unmitigated diplomatic disaster,” Mr. Romney said in a statement. “It is the culmination of President Obama’s repeated efforts over three years to throw Israel under the bus and undermine its negotiating position.”

Have you noticed that when people hear the same thing over and over again, they come to think it’s the truth?  That’s what’s happened with the Obama-enemy-of-Israel storyline.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak was interviewed on Charlie Rose Tuesday night.  It was a fascinating interview in many respects, but Barak’s unsolicited and passionate defense of the Obama Administration really struck me.  I urge you to watch (or listen) but here’s the excerpt I’m referring to:

CHARLIE ROSE: Let me switch to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Where is that? You had this effort to get statehood going through the Security Council. There is some speculation that they cannot get nine votes and the United States will have to veto it. Is that your reading of where they are?

EHUD BARAK: Yes. I think that the attempt to which the U.N. Security Council failed, it failed as a result of American huge diplomatic effort. And the fact that this Administration as some people question their commitment to Israel, I think the opposite showed the readiness and signaled the readiness to veto it if the necessary. And that’s something which I would not have taken for granted and we highly appreciate it.

CHARLIE ROSE: So you’re saying that the Obama Administration contrary to the opinion of some people in the American-Jewish community that this Administration has not been pro-Israel, that they have been very pro-Israel and very helpful to Israel at important moments. And that you -- underlying -- you are not saying that or you are saying that?

EHUD BARAK: I’m saying very clearly that this Administration in regard to Israel’s security and we’re traditionally supported by any American -- each and every American president throughout the generation. But this, under this Administration we went even further into a clear, deep, deep commitment to the security of Israel and beyond. I see them ready, the Administration is ready to veto steps which somewhat go against or perceived by us being against the interest of Israel.

And I still remember very vividly, weekend night, quite dramatic one in Cairo and hundreds of demonstrators entered into the embassy. It was, we went in many channels but one of them was the Administration. I called Panetta --

CHARLIE ROSE: You called Leon Panetta?

EHUD BARAK: Yes. He called --

CHARLIE ROSE: Defense minister to defense minister?

EHUD BARAK: Yes. And he called President Obama. And the American administration put its weight to the utmost extent in order to make sure that it will end up properly which really it did. So I would not under estimate the commitment not to Israel, not to the struggle against (INAUDIBLE).

I should remind you that for those who think that this Administration has been -- go and ask Osama bin Laden, go and ask the Haqqanis. Go ask a dozen of other kind of quite pretentious leaders whom you cannot contact today because of the readiness of this Administration to take action. Not just to talk but at the right moment to take action.

And I spent my lifetime in uniform not in TV interviews but doing things with my own hands. I know to appreciate this.

The transcript doesn’t come close to conveying the passion in Barak’s voice.  And notice – Rose didn’t ask him about Perry’s specific comment, or even raise the issue.  Barak raised it himself, and then went on at length to defend the Obama Administration.

If you are one of my readers whose friends complain that Obama isn’t enough of a friend to Israel, please share the Barak/Rose interview.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Not disappointed (again)

For those who were unable to access the video clip from the email with the embedded link, please click here:


Not disappointed by President Obama

My friend John just shared a video clip with me.  It's called "I am NOT disappointed by President Obama," and it is incredibly compelling. 

Here's the clip.

If you agree with what Mr. Lamar is saying (as I do), please forward this to every Democrat, Progressive, and Liberal person you know.  We need EACH of them to help re-elect President Obama on November 6, 2012.

And if you live in Collier County and want to help me with the re-election campaign, let me know.