Why am I picking on Obama? Because We Need Him.

Let me say this - I don't think that George Bush is a bad man. I think he loves his country. I don't think this administration is full of stupid people - I think there are a lot of smart folks in there. The problem isn't that their philosophy isn't working the way it's supposed to - it's that it is. It's that it's doing exactly what it's supposed to do. - Senator Obama's stump speech

I got a bunch of flack for writing negatively about Barack Obama.  One of his staffers, a very nice guy, called me to let me know that he vehemently disagreed with my post, and pointed out an error that I have subsequently corrected.  Scott Shields thinks I was wrong, too.  So let me explain myself.

Peter Dauo wrote an awesomely insightful piece called THE TRIANGLE: Limits of Blog Power.  In it, he analyzed the power structure of the top-down media, the netroots, and the political establishment.  At the time he wrote the essay, there seemed to be an opportunity to showcase Bush as a failed President in the wake of Katrina.  When you think about it, the fact that Bush hasn't been sunk for allowing a major American port city to be destroyed on his watch, is remarkable.  In going back over Peter's essay, what struck me is how it seemed at the time inevitable that Bush would be known for Katrina.  Today, that idea seems musty, and kind of quaint.  

But it shouldn't be a surprise to us that this President keeps bouncing back.  What Dauo shows is that the conventional wisdom machine is structurally weighted against us, and while the netroots are hardy, we aren't nearly powerful enough to affect the David Gergen's or the Broder's of the world all by ourselves.  Changing the conventional wisdom requires the cooperation and unity of the Democratic Party leadership, combined with an aggressive and much more intelligent and effective netroots to target media figures who are adament right-wingers (such as Brian Williams, who I've been told is a freeper and Rush Limbaugh-fan).  It requires Nancy Pelosi pushing back at reporters, which she does, Harry Reid's pugnacity, and Jay Rockefeller's stolid resistance to being rolled.  It requires calls for impeachment from members who are in blue districts.  We are starting to see a different Democratic Party, but the Clintonian 'let's compromise with the other side' attitude is still a powerful undertow.  Witness Ed Kilgore, who I like very much, suggest that Americans will elect candidates who espouse competence on policy issues rather than partisanship (was he not watching 2000, 2002, or 2004?)

Josh Marshall and Mark Schmitt each predicted that the Social Security failure would haunt Bush, and crack Republican power.  That didn't happen.  I heard that the filibuster failure would cripple Frist.  Nope.  Delay's scandal would cause the House to descend into a 'Lord of Flies' style chamber.  No.  Lying to bring us to war, that would surely crumble his support.  Not really.  No weapons of mass destruction, come on, that's nuts, the American people wouldn't shrug that off.  They did.  Bribery in the prescription drug benefit.  Eh, boring.  The list is practically endless.  In fact, at various points, liberal netroots-savvy experienced pundits have predicted that Bush and the right-wing's power was at a critical turning point, and would crack any second now.  Reporters are really mad, they'd say, and will go after the President.  But it just hasn't happened.

Why not?  Many reasons.  Go back to Peter's report, and read it.  Powerful actors, like the top-down media, will not attack the President unless they think he's weak.  But to make the case that he is weak, he must be treated with contempt, and that cannot happen when party leaders like Barack Obama simply refuse to act creatively and risk driving up their disapproval ratings.  I ask, for instance, why in speeches is Obama saying that Bush is not a bad man?  Why is he saying that Bush loves his country?  How does that help us make the case that Bush is a liar and a fraud?  It doesn't.  It in fact undercuts our case, and the fact is, we are right and he is wrong, and it is important that our case base be made.  I know I'm going to get pushback in the comments, but let me ask you this.  What in the world is the difference between Tweety saying that "Everybody sort of likes the president, except for the real whack-jobs" and Senator Obama saying that Bush isn't a bad man and loves his country?  They are both echoes of the same conventional wisdom line that those who dislike the President are bitter angry vicious crazy partisans consumed by hatred, instead of Nobel prize winning scientists and professionals fed up with the systematic looting of the country by a gang of right-wing white collar criminals.  Politics is about character, and George W. Bush and the right-wingers who support him simply don't have much.  It's that, and not policy differences, that separates the two parties.

Senator Obama and I agree on something very important.  The American people deserve good government.  The problem is, there will not be good government, government by principle and character, until we look George W. Bush and the extreme right in the eye and say 'we cannot and will not do business with you'.  This is not a partisan issue.  You can do business with some Republicans, like John Sununu and Lincoln Chafee, and yes, John McCain.  Even Tom Coburn will vote against pork, though he's crazy.  To take an issue close to Obama's heart, consider genocide in Darfur, which a collection of right-wing Senators and progressives sought to stop by pushing through the Darfur Accountability Act.  Bush simply undercut it.  So it's not that he is a good man or a bad man, but that you cannot get anything done with him or his people in charge.  You cannot do business with George W. Bush and his ilk, and talking him up undercuts the goal that all of us, including Senator Obama, seek.  He is a figure to be demonized, because while it is not Bush alone it is Bush's fraud-riddled politics that are at the core of what is ruining what Senator Obama and all progressives want.

Tags: Ideology (all tags)

Comments

97 Comments

Why don't you just let Obama
be Obama? Last time I checked the people of Illinois happen to think he's doing a damm good job. He's not Sen. Barack Obama (D-MyDD).
by zt155 2005-12-20 04:00PM | 0 recs
He answered that in the title
Because we need him.  Obama entered his office amidst great - publicly great - expectations based on his obvious potential as a charismatic speaker with a great backstory.  If all he ever is is a great representative of the people of Illinois, that's fine, but he'll have to be a leader on a national level to live up to those expectations he was greeted with.  Being a senator gives you access to the power required for greatness.  Bringing home pork to you constituents is not greatness; providing national leadership at a time when it's sorely needed is.

Consider this anti-flack, Matt, I think  you were right on in calling out Obama.  We need a voice and he has the capital to spend.  So start spending.

by cerebrocrat 2005-12-20 04:13PM | 0 recs
Re: Why don't you just let Obama
Many people have projected unrealistic expectations  upon Senator Obama as if he's some "magical negro" who will save them in the end.  

He's nothin' but a man, and anyone who believes otherwise is being unfair to the good Senator and setting him or herself up for disappointment.

Let Obama be Obama.

by dramachick 2005-12-20 04:27PM | 0 recs
Is Honesty Too Much To Expect?
Apparently, it's some superhuman trait in your world.

I wouldn't want to live there.

by Paul Rosenberg 2005-12-20 04:44PM | 0 recs
Re: Is Honesty Too Much To Expect?
WTF?  Are you calling Senator Obama a liar?  Please provide some specifics.
by dramachick 2005-12-20 04:47PM | 0 recs
Characterizing Bush As Benign
is a lie. He is a sociopath.

All the nice things Obama says about him are lies.

by Paul Rosenberg 2005-12-20 05:41PM | 0 recs
You're the liar
Obama didn't characterize Bush as "benign" in the above quote.  He said the problem with Bush was that Bush truly believed in his policies, which aren't good for the American people.  Although Obama refused to label Bush a "bad man," he most certainly did not call him harmless.    
by dramachick 2005-12-20 05:57PM | 0 recs
That's Benign In My Book
And worse, he is acting as if Bush were far less dangerous than he really is.

But, really, you're the one who's introduced the word "liar" into this conversation. I never used it to describe Obama.  

What I was referring to was a sin of omission not commission.

Your knee-jerk reaction bespeaks an unseemly need for heroes at the same time that you're telling us "He's nothin' but a man."

Well, that makes him fair game for criticism. Which is what's going on here.  The only one personalizing it is you.

by Paul Rosenberg 2005-12-20 06:42PM | 0 recs
Re: Why don't you just let Obama
Yeah, Governor Bowers (D-MyDD) appointed Gary Boatwright (D-MyDD) to the Senate, but Boatwright might get challenged in the primary. Apparently Chuck Schumer is trying to get Bob Casey in the race.
by RBH 2005-12-20 04:43PM | 0 recs
Re: Have we slipped a cog RBH?
Or perhaps over indulging in intoxicating substances? Too much early Christmas cheer?
by Gary Boatwright 2005-12-20 10:06PM | 0 recs
Who else got this memo?
When did "Just let Obama be Obama" become a talking point?

Seriously. What, did he spend a day with his Constituent Services office, like fielding calls and writing replies until 3am at which point he threw up his hands and said, "Screw this. How long until I don't have to do this anymore?!"

And some staffer was like, "Um. Six years."

"Well, tell everybody to just let me be."

Thus was born the cowardly mantra? 'Cause it's garbage.

by dereau 2005-12-20 04:47PM | 0 recs
Sorry, Illinois is quite hip to Obama's disappoint
ment. We consider Durbin to be our leftwing Senator at this point.
by Jeff Wegerson 2005-12-20 06:26PM | 0 recs
Your post on Obama
I think you have written a very insightful take on Obama and many like him.  The go along to win the middle strategy is rendered meaningless when you enable your opponents to avoid responsibility and fallout for their policies and errors.  This is what Obama, Hillary and many other institutional democrats do.  It is a failed strategy that the DLC crowd just can't let go of--either out of interest in maintaining their dwindling piece of the pie, or simple pride.  Obama has clearly hitched his wagon to these folks and until he realizes that he's bet on the wrong horse, he'll be echoing what they say.  George Bush is the CEO of Crony Capitalism, Inc.  His suporters and friends are looting the U.S.A six ways to Sunday while working class people are blown to shit in Iraq.  That is what needs to be said.
by Fitzy2 2005-12-20 04:15PM | 0 recs
Re: Your post on Obama
To heap praise on Obama:

Obama isn't DLC.
They keep claiming
he's one of them, and he keeps asking to be removed from their list. And finally they do it.

But I think Matt is spot on. We need the Editor of Harvard Law Review, a Magna Cum Laude graduate of Harvard Law School, the first African-American President of the Harvard Law Review to cite some damn Case Law.

This man was not meant to just serve his district like some placeholder. Undoubtedly, he has potential for greatness. If he's just a placeholder in a time of national crisis, we should know.

I'm all for forcing his hand to see if Obama will use his celebrity status and his chops to help save the country, not just serve his district. Like it or not, he's a figure.

by dereau 2005-12-20 04:38PM | 0 recs
Stop being wishy washy
A flowery speech with high flying metaphors, chock full of religious symbolism and moral values is one thing. Doing something to put your money where your mouth is, is another.

Are we supposed to be like Republicans who support Bush because he gives a good speech once in a while? Brad's Blog has up a Daily Show snippet of Bush, because his words speak louder than his actions.

How long have the netroots been asking Democrat to start acting like an oppostion party? Why is it outrageous to ask the same thing of Barak Obama? What has he done to deserve a pass on speaking truth to power? Or speaking truth to the American people?

So far all Barak Obama has done is demonstrate that he has tremendous potential, and he sure hasn't been wasting any of it criticizing Bush or his policies.

by Gary Boatwright 2005-12-20 04:23PM | 0 recs
Re: Stop being wishy washy
Gary do you enjoy bad mouthing Democrats.

You have bad mouth every democrat including Progressives-liberals such as Fiengold and Obama.

Your Wishy Washy charge is basically an insult- It is a reason why I despise the Liberal voters in the Democratic Party.

You and other Liberal blogger make accusations that Democrats including Obama and Fiengold are unprincipled,wishy washy and sellouts.

Do you really believe in 100% ideological purity.

In the Democratic Party.
They are more centrist moderate voters in the Democratic Party than left wing liberal voters.

In Blue States- such as Illinois(Obama's home state)
43% Moderates
32% Conservative
21% Liberal

Obama needs to get at least 75% of the moderate votes in order to win re-election.

by CMBurns 2005-12-20 04:47PM | 0 recs
Meaningless Numbers
But self-identification numbers are virtually meaningless for electing Senators, along with much else in politics.

For example, the vast majority of self-identified conservatives support increased or at least stable social spending, as I have pointed out repeatedly here at MyDD, and elsewhere.

They also support environemntal protection, the International Criminal Court, and all sorts of other Commie pinko things.

by Paul Rosenberg 2005-12-20 05:50PM | 0 recs
Re: Stop being wishy washy
Conservative versus Liberal has nothing to do with it. Sam Ervin was conservative. Murtha is conservative. The issues are courage and marketing smarts. The Democrats endorse Bush's claims to be a nice guy, a patriot, and courageous, while he is calling them traitors and cowards. The implication is that they agree with him. If Barack Obama cannot find the courage to stand up in the US Senate and defy an archipelago of torture, abandonment of an American city, a war based on lies, and wholesale looting of the public treasury without telling the world how he admires George Bush, then he should go home and hide under the table and let some actual patriot take his place.
by flyoverperson 2005-12-20 09:17PM | 0 recs
Re: Stop being wishy washy
Actually, that isn't true.  Bush NEVER openly calls Democrats traitors and cowards.  That is what Limbaugh, Hannnity, and at times Cheney are for.  One would be wise to note that even Bush recognizes that it is not becoming for a leader to be perceived as slinging mud; let the minions do that.

Now, what I would like to see is Obama and other Democrats call Bush out on this.  Simply say the truth:  For the past ten years, the GOP has treated the Democratic party with contempt.  At times, the GOP seems for intent on defeating the Democrats than defeating Osama bin Laden or the insurgents in Iraq.  Bush has tacitly condoned this attitude, even while he has tried to portray himself as being above the fray.

While moderation in civil affairs, it is impossible when one side refuses to treat the other with respect.  Act resigned to opposing Bush and not giddy and the American people will have no problem with it.

by space 2005-12-21 07:15AM | 0 recs
Re: Stop being wishy washy
You sound ridiculous.  Sen. Obama has been one of the strongest critics of the federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina, the Iraq War, the torture of prisoners of war and any of the other myriad issues liberals/progressives care about.  The person who posted this criticism of Sen. Obama on the site and the others who agree with him should be ashamed.  Don't yall have better things to do to attack someone who agrees with you almost all the time?
by ColumbusAggie 2005-12-21 10:16AM | 0 recs
Re: Stop being wishy washy
You have bad mouth every democrat including Progressives-liberals such as Fiengold and Obama.

When did I bad mouth either Feingold or Obama? I am asking Obama to step up to the plate and get in the game. He has too much talent to be sitting on the bench.

The rest of your comment is just as ridiculous.

Reading Comprehension Tip of the day:

Only read the black parts of the page CMBurns. When you try to interpret the white parts of the page you get yourself in trouble.

by Gary Boatwright 2005-12-20 09:57PM | 0 recs
Re: Stop being wishy washy
I agree that it is destructive to try to guess at what writers infer rather than what they say. I'm sure all of us error in this regard to some extent, but second guessing the meanings of an articulate writer can really hurt communication. Donkeys have to have a much higher tolerance for divergent opinions.

Unlike the right wing, after all, our side of the aisle encompasses points of view ranging from socialism to (true) fiscal conservatism.

by JHGrimson 2005-12-21 05:35AM | 0 recs
the "middle" is really the right
I agree completely about Obama, who I thought would be the perfect candidate in '08 until he cratered on us. Yes, we need him, and he is failing us. I am in genuine despair about the Democratic Party, which is barely an opposition party at all. It's time to start marginalizing HR Clinton, Emmaneul, Bayh, Biden and Lieberman.

The Cult of Electability got us where we are now--down the crapper. Time for a Cult of Principle--genuine Democratic principles, not ideological purity.

I know this iis no nuanced analysis. But I am just so pissed!

by Revere 2005-12-20 04:34PM | 0 recs
Re: the "middle" is really the right
Who's your ideal Democrat? Probably someone whose principles are in line with yours, right? That's what everyone wants. Thus, to win, a candidate's principles (real or perceived) must be in line with the majority of the electorate. This means a centrist makes the best candidate. You can't win if the public thinks you're too far off to one side. The logical conclusion, then, is that the Democratic Party, in order to retake the White House, must nominate someone close to the middle, like Bayh, Warner, Richardson, or even Obama. If you want true ideological purity, there's always the Green Party.
by bluenc 2005-12-21 01:55PM | 0 recs
Re: the "middle" is really the right

I agree completely about Obama, who I thought would be the perfect candidate in '08 until he cratered on us.

That's quite a principled stand, nuanced or not. I'm curious, however: when and in what respect did Obama "crater" on us? Was it when he failed to heal the lame and give sight to the blind in the wake of his keynote?

For Christ's sake, the man is a freshman Senator not even a year into his first 6-year term and you're "bailing" on him already. Why anyone honestly expected him to be the candidate in 2008 in first place, I don't know, considering the fact that his term expires in 2011. But the Good Senator is not even 45, folks. He has time.

But, on to Stoller's original post...

He writes:

When you think about it, the fact that Bush hasn't been sunk for allowing a major American port city to be destroyed on his watch, is remarkable. In going back over Peter's essay, what struck me is how it seemed at the time inevitable that Bush would be known for Katrina. Today, that idea seems musty, and kind of quaint.

But it shouldn't be a surprise to us that this President keeps bouncing back.

When, exactly, has Bush "bounced back." And in whose eyes? Judging from the poll numbers, the only bounces Bush has seen in his entire presidency are: 9/11, the start of Shock & Awe, Saddam's capture and the 2004 election, inclusive. And each event saw an increasingly smaller bump: cf, here, here and here.

I can understand (and share) the frustration that the nation hasn't been able to simply awaken in an instant and realize the truth of the matter. Still, laying this at the feet of a freshman Senator seems a bit much, no? (All outsize, post-convention expectations aside—as, even Matt must've crossed that bridge (so to speak), if only briefly.) And, while I, for one, certainly think it's time to consider impeachment (undermine the Constitution much?), that particular ball remains in the House's court at this point.

I realize that Stoller's probably just focusing in on Obama as emblematic of the Democrats' often lamentable tendency to play "honest broker" and lose because of it. But the man has leveled strong criticism at Bush and his adminstration on a number of fronts.

Which brings me to my second point...

From the brief excerpt of his stump speech above, which I can't seem to find via Google, it's hard to judge the context, but it looks to me like he's simply framing a coming criticism as being a substantial rebuke of the Bushies' governing philosophy rather than an ad hominem that places the utmost importance on the question of whether the President is a Good Witch or a Bad Witch.

Stoller objects, though, merely because Obama couches his criticism in terms of collegiality. But when he qualifies his words thusly...

I don't think that George Bush is a bad man... I don't think this administration is full of stupid people... The problem isn't that their philosophy isn't working the way it's supposed to—it's that it is. It's that it's doing exactly what it's supposed to do.

... I'm not convinced (though, again, I don't have the context) that it's all that substantially different from qualifying a criticism this-wise:

So it's not that he is a good man or a bad man, but that you cannot get anything done with him or his people in charge... while it is not Bush alone it is Bush's fraud-riddled politics that are at the core of what is ruining what Senator Obama and all progressives want.

Notwithstanding a difference in critical focus, either way you cut it, you're essentially saying: whether Bush is or isn't a "bad man" doesn't matter all that much—he's simply wrong for America.

by Mutus Liber 2005-12-22 06:49AM | 0 recs
DING!! DING!! DING!! DING!! DING!! DING!!
DING!! DING!! DING!! DING!!

YOU WIN THE PRIZE!!!!

Its about time someone said this.

As long as he has been on this planet, George Bush has earned nothing.  Nothing that is, but our contempt.

I begrudge him everything, that contemptible piece of shit.  I do not begrudge him my contempt, nor should any of us begrudge him ours.

by jfrankesq 2005-12-20 04:41PM | 0 recs
Bush Loves His Country... But It's Nazi Germany!
They look the same, tho, once they poke your eyes out.  Which, of course, explains their whole poltiical strategy.

And Barak Obama, I'm sad to say, has been a terrible disappointment.

This is flawless analysis.

by Paul Rosenberg 2005-12-20 04:41PM | 0 recs
You broke Godwin's Law
for no good reason. This thread is about Obama.

Reductio ad Hitlerum. Minus ten points.

by dereau 2005-12-20 04:56PM | 0 recs
Bush Revoked Godwin's Law
I guess you hadn't heard.

9/11 changed everything, remember?

by Paul Rosenberg 2005-12-20 05:33PM | 0 recs
Re: Bush Revoked Godwin's Law
Clever clever.
by teknofyl 2005-12-20 05:38PM | 0 recs
I Had It Up My Sleave The Whole Time!
Actually, I was going to write "Saudi Arabia" at first.

But then, what with Maryscott's post from They Thought They Were Free: The Germans 1933 - 1945 smokin' up the boards at MLW and Dkos, I figured, what the hell. Now's the time.  I knew what my comeback line would be.

by Paul Rosenberg 2005-12-20 05:45PM | 0 recs
Re: Bush Loves His Country... But It's Nazi German
If you metric for success was an impeachment of Bush, then yes.  If not, then no, he hasn't.  You don't just stroll into the Senate and own it.
by pberry 2005-12-20 06:30PM | 0 recs
Asking a different question
Let's look at the statement from Obama that you quoted at the top of this piece:
Let me say this - I don't think that George Bush is a bad man. I think he loves his country. I don't think this administration is full of stupid people - I think there are a lot of smart folks in there. The problem isn't that their philosophy isn't working the way it's supposed to - it's that it is. It's that it's doing exactly what it's supposed to do. - Senator Obama's stump speech

You and I can certainly agree on one thing - Senator Obama should not be calling George Bush a good man who loves his country.

What I would like to know is whether we should be arguing that the country is going down the crapper because Bushco and the Republicans are incompetent/corrupt, or whether we should argue (as Obama does at the end of his above statement) that the country is going down the crapper because their philosophy is working as they want it to, and their philosophy is absolutely wrong and destroying our country?

If you ask me, in terms of the future, it's better for us to convince people that the Conservative political philosophy just doesn't work, rather than saying "well, we just have a bunch of incompetent crooks in office now so we can just replace them with other, more competent Republicans."

by Fran for Dean 2005-12-20 04:55PM | 0 recs
Re: Asking a different question
Reagan's first inaugural address fed Americans the notion that Government is the enemy and the people agreed.

Why? They were desperate to find somebody/something TO BLAME for the growing chasm between the American Dream and reality in America. We want to blame our unhappiness on something. Reagan said blame Government. Okay, the reply since then.

Americans rightfully believe that Government is out of control... in that they sense, correctly, that real people aren't in control anymore. Which is why Dean's rally: "You have the Power" resonated so well across the spectrum.

But you're not going to boost Party enrollment with ads blasting Grover Norquist's bathtub comment.

And electorally, running on a good government or effective government platform will not get the win that a personal attack will.

Saying "I believe in good, open, effective government" is not the same as saying, "Jim Clownsky is corrupt, secretive and criminally incompetent."

The latter wins big. The former might win after a recount.

by dereau 2005-12-20 05:15PM | 0 recs
Re: Asking a different question
You and I can certainly agree on one thing - Senator Obama should not be calling George Bush a good man who loves his country.

Obama is getting this line straight from Biden. Talk like that is why Bush's poll numbers keep recovering, in spite of being the most incompetent President and CinC in history. Democrats refuse to blame Bush for his own mistakes and lack of character.

by Gary Boatwright 2005-12-20 10:09PM | 0 recs
Re: Asking a different question
I agree with you--when Obama says "George Bush is not a bad man", I think what he is trying to say is that SUPPORTERS of Bush are not necessarily bad.  Then he attacks the Republican philosophy, which otherwise would be left unscarred.  By doing so, he closes the window of opportunity for McCain and other "good" Repugs.

I hate Bush with a passion that is nuclear in its intensity--but I'm not sure that Obama's approach isn't more politically effective in the long run.  After all, Bush is a lame duck now.

by paul minot 2005-12-21 04:12AM | 0 recs
Right on!
You said it.  Obama's a good man, and he shouldn't sit still for Bush's garbage.  Neither should any D, for that matter, but if Obama wants to be the voice of the new Democratic party he ought to get his act together.
by kilb 2005-12-20 05:02PM | 0 recs
Obama and the Dems
We need to keep making the points Matt makes, so Obama and the rest of the Democratic Party leadership hears them.   I believe whole-heartedly that George W. Bush is the worst President we have ever had and I dread the America my daughters will live in if his policies continue.   But I can understand Obama's comment about Bush loving his country.  You cannot lose sight of the fact that Bush is not being disingenuous - he believes the stuff he says.  In some ways it makes all the more frightening because it is so divorced from the facts.   We need to keep pointing out the facts, hammering on them continuingly, and demand that the Democratic leadership do the same.  The truth will set us free.  The second thing we need to tell the leadership not to attack fellow Democrats who do that.  Do not repeat Republican talking points.  The rule should be if a Republican says it, it almost always is a lie.  Tell the truth, don't repeat lies.
by Joe Scordato 2005-12-20 05:02PM | 0 recs
Wrong
You cannot lose sight of the fact that Bush is not being disingenuous

Why would he call a program that allows coal plants to pollute more "The Healthy Skies Initiative" when he knows it does the exact opposite?

It's because he knows it that "Increased Mercury Levels in our Air Act" lacks a certain j'ne sais quoi. Such is his disingenuousness.

And the list goes on and on. And if you can't riff for 10 minutes with more examples, then you're not paying close enough attention.

But you probably are playing closer attention than the average bear. You're just giving Bush the benefit of the doubt... which is exactly what we shouldn't do anymore. Not until 2009 and he's in jail.

by dereau 2005-12-20 05:26PM | 0 recs
Stop! You're Both Right!
Bush knowingly lies. And then he genuinely believes the lies he tells.  Or at least he genuinely gets angry if anyone points out that they are lies.

This is one sick motherfucker we're talking about people.

It's been said of the universe in light of modern physics, it's not just stranger than you imagine, it's stranger than you can imagine. There's an analogous situation with Bush: He's not just sicker than you imagine. He's sicker than you can imagine.

Although, watching Criminal Minds can help.

by Paul Rosenberg 2005-12-20 05:39PM | 0 recs
Re: Stop! You're Both Right!
Bush is an egomaniac with an inferiority complex.
by Gary Boatwright 2005-12-20 09:59PM | 0 recs
Re: Stop! You're Both Right!
Or longer version, courtesy of Brad Delong

The Bush administration is not only worse than you imagine even after taking account of the fact that it is worse than you imagine, it is worse than you can conceivably imagine.
by Fifi 2005-12-21 12:50PM | 0 recs
The trouble with Obama
The trouble with Obama and the better part of the whole crew in Congress is they don't understand who their opposition is. They act as if we can all find a way to get along. The Bush regime is different from Repugs of the past. They *are* "bad" people, either because they are sociopathic like Bush, or because they are so ideologically driven that the rest of the beings who inhabit the planet are so much cardboard. The  message of "bipartisanship" might play well in some quarters but you can't get along with people who want to annihilate you and what you stand for.

"Bad" or "evil" is even an understated description for someone who would lie a nation into a war of invasion and occupation that didn't need to be fought, resulting in the deaths and maiming of many thousands, probably hundreds of thousands (according to Johns Hopkins U.) of mostly non combatants. And such a person doesn't have a second of regret or remorse. And his band of thugs would do more of it if they had the wherewithal to do it.  

The people of America don't respect the democratic party because it doesn't stand for anything and it won't fight for what it does believe in. So I don't want to hear anything from Obama or the rest of those who claim to represent democrats about "getting along." We have to fight the bastards that have effectively dismissed the rule of law and the constitution, who have now publicly declared a coup d'etat and are establishing a totalitarian police state, with no accountability to anyone.
Bill R.

by cmpnwtr 2005-12-20 05:27PM | 0 recs
Re: The trouble with Obama
Bipartisanship is another name for date rape.

Grover Norquist
by Fifi 2005-12-21 12:53PM | 0 recs
Totally correct
Your comments are totally correct. We can't win with the Dems doing what they have done in the past. The playing the "nice game" has gotten us nowhere and will continue to do so. Call the bastard a bastard.
by chadworthsmore 2005-12-20 05:32PM | 0 recs
bingo
by dereau 2005-12-20 05:33PM | 0 recs
Not the Guy for the Job You Want
I am a huge fan of Obama, so take this with a grain of salt. But I just don't think the guy can be what Matt wants him to be. His keynote speech, his book, his back-and-forth over at dKos earlier this year - all of them scream to me that he's a consensus builder. That he's gonna be cautious and try and conquer you with kindness. And that's what makes him, well, him. He's the guy who can connect with people on the other side of the ideological fence, who can try and breach the red/blue divide. I think it's a fundamental aspect of who he is, and a fundamental aspect of what the voters in Illinois connected to. And he can't do that if he's taking the no-holds-barred approach.

I'm not saying Democrats don't need folks to take the no-holds-barred approach. I just think that that's not the role that Obama is going to play now, if in fact he ever does.

by Dave Thomer 2005-12-20 05:41PM | 0 recs
Re: Not the Guy for the Job You Want
People with a head on thier shoulders don't want him to become Denny Kucinich. What I want of him is to be the legal expert he is. To say, "Yup. Illegal."
"A good man doesn't break the law."

Is that so much? Or must I let Obama be Obama and enjoy his working retirement?

Sorry, I'm hung up on this "Let Obama be Obama" thing. Is it a riff on the Red Sox' "Manny Being Manny" thing? Lazily jogging down the line on an infield hit is poor play.

by dereau 2005-12-20 06:16PM | 0 recs
More "Who Did You Think He Was?"
Putting aside the point that "good" men can break all sorts of laws for all sorts of reasons, the quote listed in Matt's earlier update sounds like Obama wants to figure out exactly what happened and why and then make his decisions from there. That type of cautiousness and deliberation fits perfectly well with the guy's MO and expertise.

I'm not saying "Let Obama Be Obama." I'm saying 'Who did you think Obama was?" I think the space he's carving out for himself so far is a space that fits who he is and what I'd expect of him. And I think folks who are disappointed that he's not occupying a different space may have been projecting idealizations on him. I don't think he ever accepted the job you think he's retired from.

by Dave Thomer 2005-12-20 06:57PM | 0 recs
Remember What Lemons Taste Like?
Dave Thomer said:

He's the guy who can connect with people on the other side of the ideological fence, who can try and breach the red/blue divide.

Now, folks, this is pure 100% USDA bullshit. I spend a lot of tile looking at conservative blogs, and what is crystal-clear is that they regard him as just about the wartiest ogre that ever came down the damn pike. As I type, there are bible toting conservatives in small towns in places like Montana who are starting to regard GWB as the Anti-Christ.

Conservatism is merely a very complicated, very baroque, linguistic dialect. And GWB may mimic that dialect, but about 70% of it's constituents are now aware of the fact that GWB is not one of them.

Only the fascistic neocons and the bedrock devotes of radical ignorance now support him. And even the dirt-dumb ignorant are starting to learn the lesson.

Any person who has strayed within one mile of a library in the last ten years, and who still supports GWB, deserves to be spat upon by vast multitudes. And I would be the first to begin thinking about lemons in the presence of such a scumbag.

by blues 2005-12-20 09:09PM | 0 recs
Re: Remember What Lemons Taste Like?
I'm talking about something that goes beyond liking or not liking Bush. I'm talking about the ability, now and down the road, to talk about a progressive agenda and progressive ideals in a way that connects with a large segment of the country.

I remember when some conservative pundits tried to take credit for Obama's keynote by saying he sounded like a conservative. I remember Obama being able to appeal to independent and Republican voters. (Granted, he was running against Keyes - but Keyes ran because no one else wanted to.) I remember talking to a close friend of mine who volunteered with the New York Republican Party in 2004 saying that there was something about the way Obama framed things that she found appealing.

Reading Obama's book, it seemed to me that building connections between groups and communities was very high on his priority list. So even when he was being confrontational, he was trying to be diplomatic. It seems to me like he's taking a similar approach here. Call for hearings, say there's a problem, get the facts, then try and build a consensus or coalition for some kind of action.

by Dave Thomer 2005-12-20 09:36PM | 0 recs
Re: Remember What Lemons Taste Like?
Just as in the case of those of us who shoulder the "liberal" label, the folks who bear the "conservative" label (and tend to depend on the mindset associated with it) come in many "shapes and sizes." (And of course, there are the neocons who are always ready to pretend to be either liberal or conservative, depending on whichever way the wind is blowing.) Look at the real conservatives and you will find a rather large group of people who have been compromised, or more often, outright co-opted on a regular repetitive basis. Quite often, however, many of them have somehow sensed the existence of the massively funded propaganda network that has repeatedly sold them down a river. And so they have repeatedly staged populist revolts against their -- well -- corporate masters.

The only ones who going to be politically reachable are obviously going to be the ones who have been willing to engage in such revolts. And I can guarantee you something -- those particular folks will not be fooled by any disingenuous "liberals" who pretend to be moderates. On the other hand, it seems fairly clear that they would be quite willing to vote for uncompromising liberals.

No, Virginia, principle and strategy are not mutually exclusive.

by blues 2005-12-21 07:12AM | 0 recs
Re: Remember What Lemons Taste Like?
I think we may be starting to talk past each other at this point. But I don't think there's anything disingenuous about Obama. Which is kind of my point. And I don't think that "consensus-builder" and "principled" are mutually exclusive, either.
by Dave Thomer 2005-12-21 07:59AM | 0 recs
Re: Not the Guy for the Job You Want
Mr. Thomer is correct. Obama campaigned on compromise and consensus building, and so he shouldn't be seen as failing his promises.

For those of you not from Illinois, you may not understand how much of a dark horse Obama was. He was not supposed to win the Dem primary. The Chicago politicans hoisted up their business-as-usual machine politics candidate but, one by one, voters said that business as usual was a losing proposition.

I too want to see an end to Dem compromise with the vicious criminals of the right wing. But don't confuse what we want Obama to be with what he said he would try to be.

by JHGrimson 2005-12-21 06:02AM | 0 recs
I do agree
While I can understand the "wha?" some people probably had, including myself, when I saw your first post, upon reading this latest one I do agree with you.

I have always been a bit...I don't know...irritated whenever I hear Sen. Obama talk about the Republicans as being generally good people with whom we have policy disagreements. I would like to agree with him. But unfortunately, the facts don't allow me to.

Bush is bad. Most of the current Republican politicians are bad. And conservativism is bad. Republican politicians have no problem strongly and directly criticizing Democratic politicians, the Democratic party, liberals, and liberalism itself. Why Democratic politicians can't do the same thing to the opposition, whatever that reason may be, is the primary reasons we continue to lose this country.

by LiberalFromPA 2005-12-20 06:03PM | 0 recs
Chicken/egg
I think the issue here regarding Obama is essentially a "chicken or the egg" situation, the nature of which is highlighted in this post. Is Obama obliviously "echoing" a convential wisdom, or is he positioning himself in reaction to an already existing CW? If Tweety's statement is the CW, then doing what is suggested here potentially brands him as a "whack job," at which point he's worse off than when he started. Essentially he's damned if he does and damned if he doesn't (as this post illustrates).

Beyond that: his underlying point (that GWB's policies are working, which is the problem) is a hundred times better than, for example, the Biden/Hillary flexing we're seeing (talk about reinforcing a false conventional wisdom!). Also, the guy's a money machine for the Democratic party. On balance, this criticism seems like a relatively minor nit to be picking.

by Dr Cb 2005-12-20 06:05PM | 0 recs
The egg came first.
All chickens come from eggs but not all eggs come from chickens.

But the underlying evolutionary wisdom does apply here. Obama may yet evolve into a full-blown progressive, but that's the key point evolve. We shouldn't expect him to spring full blown as if from some creationists' mind.

But in the meantime, we are quite reasonable in our disappointment in Obama's current version. We have had high hopes and I think the point of Matt's piece here is that we still have high hopes for Obama.

by Jeff Wegerson 2005-12-20 06:35PM | 0 recs
am i being naive here?
or does honesty need to take precedence over talking points? at least in the longterm.

Consider for a moment that Barack actually believes, for real, that GWB is a good man.

Consider for a moment that GWB actually believes, for real, through all his vicious powermongering and paranoia, that he's doing the best he can for America.

A strong progressive movement needs to be built on truth. We need to build new principles, not just tear down old ones.

If the best we can do is take out GWB to clear the road for McCain, then we've failed.

The important point is not that GWB and McCain are bad people. It's that they're wrong.

by Tones 2005-12-20 06:22PM | 0 recs
exactly n/t
by arenwin 2005-12-20 06:55PM | 0 recs
Re: am i being naive here?
Thanks. That's what I tried to say above, except you said it better.
by Fran for Dean 2005-12-20 08:08PM | 0 recs
Re: Yes. You are being naive.
By your reasoning, as long as Charles Manson believed in what he was doing it was all right.

Bush and McCain are both bad people and they both have bad character. They are also wrong about almost everything.

by Gary Boatwright 2005-12-20 10:03PM | 0 recs
No, actually I'm not.
Because I don't have a problem with Charles Manson believing in what he's doing.

I have a problem with Charles Manson KILLING PEOPLE.

by Tones 2005-12-21 06:05AM | 0 recs
Ridiculous
Is nothing good enough for the bloggers?  Barack Obama could single handedly lead the impeachment of Bush and Cheney, and still there would be bloggers claiming he's "soft on the GOP" or "he's a huge disappointment."

We complain so much about the special interests in Washington that has a strangle hold on the politicians, but did you ever realize that blogs like this may be a special interest?  Let our Senators fight for what THEY believe in, and stop subjecting them to some sort of imaginary moral crusade we all believe they should be on.

An early post said "Let Obama be Obama" I say "Let Democrats be Democrats."

by jkfp2004 2005-12-20 06:46PM | 0 recs
Re: Ridiculous
Barack Obama could single handedly lead the impeachment of Bush

If he does that I promise I'll shut up.

by tgeraghty 2005-12-20 07:08PM | 0 recs
Re: Ridiculous
stop subjecting them to some sort of imaginary moral crusade we all believe they should be on.

Is winning back Congess and the White House an imaginary moral crusade?

by Gary Boatwright 2005-12-20 10:12PM | 0 recs
Re: Ridiculous
I agree with your statement 100%.

Individual Democratic Senators should make public policy decisions based on their personal conscience- even if their personal beliefs go against the views of their political base.

The liberal bloggers need to stop complaining about Obama being to wishy washy.
According to Progressive Punch. Barack Obama(IL)is the 7th most Progressive member of the US Senate. He has a 92.7% Progressive Score. Obama(IL)and Hillary Clinton(NY)whose Progressive Score is at 92.03% are both more progressive than Russell Fiengold(WI) whose progressive score is at 89.34%.
I will grade the 45 Democratic US Senators based on their progressive score.

17/45 Democratic Senators(38%) have a progressive score of 90% and better which I believe is Ex-cel-lent
1)Jack Reed(RI)=A
2)Paul Sarbanes(MD)=A
3)Ted Kennedy(MA)=A
4)Barbara Boxer(CA)=A
5)Richard Durbin(IL)=A-
6)Carl Levin(MI)=A-
7)Barack Obama(IL)=A-
8)Frank Lautenberg(NJ)=A-
9)Hillary Clinton(NY)=A-
10)Debbie Stabenow(MI)=A-
11)Daniel Akaka(HI)=A-
12)Tom Harkin(IA)=A-
13)Mark Dayton(MN)=A-
14)Charles Schumer(NY)=A-
15)Patrick Leahy(VT)=A-
16)Jon Corzine(NJ)=A-
17)Patty Murray(WA)A-

16/45 Democratic US Senators(36%) have a progressive score between 80-90%. which I believe is satisfactory.
1)Barbara Mikulski(MD)=B
2)Russell Fiengold(WI)=B
3)Maria Cantwell(WA)=B
4)Ron Wyden(OR)=B
5)John Rockefeller(WV)=B
6)Chris Dodd(CT)=B
7)John Kerry(MA)=B
8)Joseph Biden(DE)=B-
9)Diane Fienstien(CA)=B-
10)Byron Dorgan(ND)=B-
11)Bill Nelson(FL)=B-
12)Tim Johnson(SD)=B-
13)Herb Kohl(WI)=B-
14)Daniel Inouye(HI)=B-
15)Jeff Bingaman(NM)=B-
16)Harry Reid(NV)=B-

10/45 Democratic US Senators(22%) have a progressive score between 70- 80%.which I believe is Good.
1)Ken Salazar(CO)=C
2)Kent Conrad(ND)=C
3)Evan Bayh(IN)=C
4)Robert Byrd(WV)=C
5)Mark Pryor(AR)=C
6)Joseph Lieberman(CT)=C
7)Tom Carper(DE)=C
8)Mary Landreiu(LA)=C-
9)Blanche Lincoln(AR)=C-
10)Max Baucus(MT)=C-

2 Democratic US Senators have a progressive score under 70% which is terrible
1)Jim Jeffords(VT)=F
2)Ben Nelson(NE)=F

If those 45 Democratic US Senators were at a progressive university. 40 out of 45 Democratic Senators will get at least a 2.0 GPA.

The median Progressive Score is a 84.5% Any Senator whose Progressive score is at least 84.5% should get no complaints from liberal bloggers.

by CMBurns 2005-12-21 07:13AM | 0 recs
For the record...
I didn't think that Matt was wrong, per se. I had two issues with what the post....

  1. Sending out holiday greetings and strongly criticizing the President aren't mutually exclusive. I just thought it was weird to tie the two together.

  2. I wanted to see more specific examples of what Obama should be doing. Even I wrote that "he could certainly speak up a little louder on certain issues." And I think this post did a nice job of answering the question.

Personally, I'm holding out hope that Obama will get more vocal in his criticisms, but I obviously have no proof of that. He is still in his first year. While it still remains to be seen, if he doesn't speak up more in his second year in office, then I'll start to worry.
by Scott Shields 2005-12-20 06:56PM | 0 recs
Here we go again . . .
Somebody needs to send Kevin Drum a Christmas card:

WARTIME....

George Bush may have the best intentions in the world -- and in this case he probably did have the best intentions in the world -- but that still doesn't mean he has the kind of plenary power Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt exercised during their wars.

Yup, best intentions in the world . . .

by tgeraghty 2005-12-20 07:10PM | 0 recs
You're still wrong
It may feel good to insult Dubya, but talk that can't be supported by action, such as the call for impeachment, is a losing strategy.
by EvanstonDem 2005-12-20 07:30PM | 0 recs
Re: You're still wrong
There really do happen to be reasons to speak the truth that go beyond a need to "feel good." But if you think we should just shut the hell up merely because our "talk cannot be supported by action," then maybe you should just heed your own crummy advice. 'CAUSE WE ARE GONNA KEEP RIGHT THE FUCK ON TALKIN!!!
by blues 2005-12-20 09:25PM | 0 recs
Seeming reasonable isn't enough to win...
and that's where Obama is wrong. He needs his base to get fired up first, then it's time to appear reasonable to the middle.

Especially right after his first election, it was time for him to carve out a little piece of the liberal base pie in actual floor votes. So much for that. What is he preparing for? A reasonable run for the presidency in '12? He'll have no one behind him if he keeps this up.

This may be who he is, but I was expecting a real exciting Senator. He has the clout, but will he work to grow it or just mosie along?

by IsaacGol 2005-12-20 08:12PM | 0 recs
interesting
I'm not sure I agree with you...but I have to say, Americans are too busy working to support the home, the SUV, the wide screen tv to worry about levels of discourse....there's a connection between our consumerism, inflation, and fear.  I'm just not articulate enough to come up with a catchphrase.

The point is that Americans no longer digest information.  They react to news on a visceral level and they fear.  Bush's cadre capitalize on this beautifully and politicos like Obama think they can get elected and attain power by not offending the mindless.  I don't find it a particularly brave stance, but I can't argue with the guy's popularity.  Neither, I suppose, does the DLC.

by ksh 2005-12-20 08:45PM | 0 recs
We need a radical attitude adjustment ...
I agree with you, especially the next to the last sentence in your post. "You cannot do business with George W. Bush and his ilk, and talking him up undercuts the goal that all of us, including Senator Obama, seek.  He is a figure to be demonized, ..."

Until the high media realizes that their job is to call a dishonest man a dishonest man, a cheat a cheat, and a liar a liar, until they do their job it will be hard to change public attitudes.

And the coming decades we will need a talent for honesty and integrity to confront the challenges of world change.  Any politician that can see honesty and truth as an asset rather than compromise and accomodation as inevitable will get my vote.

by Keone Michaels 2005-12-20 09:00PM | 0 recs
Most people are "conflict averse"
Have you ever been inside a really important struggle about the direction of a small institution like a nonprofit, or a union, or even a small business? One of the most depressing realizations one can come to is that most people, even in these very manageable-size settings, even if their own jobs, or projects, or friendships are at stake, are simply "conflict averse." They will try to "just get along" long after the taking of sides and the efforts to win of the engaged few make getting along impossible.

People who deal in government as good policy seem to be among the conflict averse. They think there is something wrong if they have to fight for their prescriptions. Too many Democratic politicians fall into this category, I think. Their unwillingness to fight is something they think is a virtue, while it looks to us like asking to be doormats.

Looks like Obama may simply be normal, a "most people" kind of guy. Fascists crush these kind of people.

by janinsanfran 2005-12-20 09:17PM | 0 recs
Seriously everyone lets pick a new battle
If you read what Obama is saying, "The problem isn't that their philosophy isn't working the way it's supposed to - it's that it is. It's that it's doing exactly what it's supposed to do. - "

Smart people who care about their country can be criminals and be damaging to the country! His implication is that even though they have 'good' intentions and they 'love' their country, the policies are misguided and the results of which are what this administration hoped for. This is so much more dangerous than saying that Bush is an idiot. You can get all caught up in what 'good man' means, but he is not endorsing Bush, does not endorse Bush, and has a very liberal record going back through his state senate days. Remember this comment was said in a stump speech over a year ago and most of you are missing the overall context.

Why are we getting so worked up about this now and giving him the Lieberman treatment?

He made his statement against the warrantless wire-taps, what else do you want?

by Paranoid Humanoid 2005-12-20 10:24PM | 0 recs
Re: Seriously everyone lets pick a new battle
The view that Democrats can successfully argue "Bush is a good man" but his political philosophy is bad for the country is a naive view.  The first problem with this approach is that philosophy is a 4 syllable word.  The average American quits listening when anyone uses a 4 syllable word.  The second problem is that even if we dumb down the language, the average American voter does not care whether their leader's philosophies or even policies are good for them.  

There is a reason why Republicans always attack Democrats or even fellow Republicans in a primary contest primarily as bad people.  It's much more effective than a boring argument about policies.  Kerry had his faults, mostly being boring and using those multi-syllable words, but the primary attacks against him by the Republican machine were 1) that he obtained military honors he didn't deserve, hallmark of a "bad" person, 2) that he wanted to capitulate to terrorists, shows he's weak and has no resolve 3) that he was immoral because be did not want to amend the constitution to ban marriage equality.  If Democrats are arguing about policy but taking the high road on the personal qualities of the other side, this is a recipe for failure as the Republicans can always be counted to attack the character of their opponents and we are left with a Democrat of questionable character since he or she has been attacked and a Republican of undisputed good character.

I also have to disagree with the statement that "Bush is a good man"  If Obama believes this, I really have to question his judgement.  Good men do not manufacture evidence of a threat to get authorization to invade other countries.  Good men do not stay on vacation and go to photo ops while a major American city is destroyed.  Good men do not decide they are above the law and conduct illegal surveillance on American citizens.

by Monkey In Chief 2005-12-21 08:11AM | 0 recs
Re: Seriously everyone lets pick a new battle
Remember, Obama's statement was made in a stump speech when running for the Senate. Many of your statements of why the president is not a good man happened after his comment. Could you find a more recent statement in which he says 'Bush is a good man'

Which Democrats in the last few weeks have been arguing that Bush is a good man?

by Paranoid Humanoid 2005-12-21 07:57PM | 0 recs
Matt You're Absolutely Correct
I agree with you regarding this diary and your previous diary, too.

I enjoyed Senator Obama's 2004 convention speech... it started off weak, but it built and closed strong.  But, since then, frankly, I've not fallen behind the Obama bandwagon, unlike many grassroots and establishment Democrats.  I understand the varied, sometimes subtle and complex reasons, why Senator Obama's stock has risen since his appearance on the national scene; some of the reasons for his quasi-celebrity status, of course, include: his pull-yourself-by-your-bootstraps biographical story, the particular history of race relations in this country, Senator Obama's educational pedigree and, I believe, the passing of the torch to the "new brand" of Democrat that he represents.  It seems to me, from the various appearances I've seen of Senator Obama, including: radio interviews, the Sunday talk show circuit, his Boston College lecture and, too, some blog posts (including on DailyKos), it seems that the Senator is more concerned with not tarnishing the "moderate" and "conciliatory" aura that he's nurtured since he got to DC, rather than on being a strong and vociferous opposition party member and leader.

Yes, it's a given that Senator Obama is the junior Senator of Illinois... Yes, it's a given that he's only one man... Yes, it's a given that setting one's hopes too high on one individual only leads to disappointment... All these excuses are given.  But these excuses do not prevent us from asking for and expecting more from our elected party representatives (in this case I'm referring to ideological representatives, not merely legislative representatives), no matter how junior nor how little a single legislator can do.  Speaking out now, specially considering the oath to serve and protect the constitution, is a matter of leadership and of conscious.  More pragmatically, speaking out now, for an opposition party, is a matter of going on the offensive and, thereby, altering the political climate to one's advantage.

Again, since Senator Obama first came on to the national scene, I've not seen him step up to the plate, get dirty and show us that he is a leader.  In stead, I see Senator Obama as being more concerned with keeping dirt off his aura of "moderation" and "conciliation."

by bedobe 2005-12-20 10:30PM | 0 recs
This post is 95% right
I'm a big fan of the Daou essay as well.  I think that 95% of what Matt wrote is correct.  It is imperative that Democratic leaders, particularly those with national stature, help shape conventional wisdom.  

That being said, I disagree that Obama's statement is a good example of a Democrat undermining the attempts to shape the CW, indeed it may be the opposite.

I don't see Obama validating the "Bush is a good guy meme", so much as he is generating credibility by appearing reasonable.  The sad fact is that, despite Bush's deplorable record, the often hysterical tone of some on the Left does turn moderates off.  By conceding that Bush isn't a "bad man", Obama makes people pay attention to the rest of what he says -- which is critical of Bush -- because people do not view him as a rabid partisan.

Republicans understand that you can be as aggressively critical as you want...so long as you appear principled in your criticism.  This is why Republicans ALWAYS spin Democratic criticism as "partisan, not principled, opposition".  Democrats usually don't spin back.

However, to Obama's defenders: Obama could stand to be quite a bit more critical of Bush.  It is a false dichotomy to say that Obama can be either a rabid, fire-breathing partisan or a spineless moderate.  As I said, Obama can be very critical, so long as he does not appear to be attacking Bush purely for his own narrow political gain.

by space 2005-12-20 10:46PM | 0 recs
Re: This post is 95% right
You are completely correct about how some liberals/progressives are marginalized as "crazy and unhinged" by moderates because they seem so vitriolic in their attacks on President Bush.  For example,if you want to win voters in the South and Great Plains you can't continue to call the man stupid.  Voters in those parts of the country take offense to that because they talk like President Bush and they know people like the President and they don't think of themselves or their friends/family as stupid.  Stop wasting time comparing him to Hitler, calling him a fascist or stupid it does much more harm than good.  Lord knows there are plenty of legitimate examples of President Bush's horrible policies to attack in a intelligent, thoughtful and reasonable manner.
by ColumbusAggie 2005-12-21 09:55AM | 0 recs
I must be really dense.
I have never seen the appeal of Obama.  The man has almost no track record, and the little record he has shows him as a not-terribly-brave triangulator.  

But he's a good speaker.  I guess that's all that matters.  

Sorry.  Not enough for me.  Give me somebody with some substance.

Matt's diary is probably going to offend some people who don't read it and get the point.

The problem with people saying things that are true, and moderate, and put things in the most reasonable light, is threefold:

  1. It's UNILATERAL DISARMAMENT.  
  2. It betrays the strong feelings of the base.
  3. And this is the biggie: It undercuts everybody else, to Barak's benefit, because he gets to play the calm rational figure while the people who do the hard work of exposing our fearless leader's failures are diminished.

An important thing to identify about this war between the shrill and the triangulators inside the Democratic Party.  It's not about how best to win anything.  That's the lie.  It's about pecking order inside the Democratic Party.  When somebody like Biden goes on Face the Nation and plays the lone, proud, hawk, he is positioning himself not against Republicans, but against others in the Party.  The proof of this is in the discipline of the Democratic Party Washington Establishment.  Biden and Hillary and Obama's lame words serve them, and not the ends of the party.

We should not become like the Republican party, but jeezy-weezy, I wish we could have just a little bit of their message discipline.  Just a little bit.

by Dumbo 2005-12-21 12:38AM | 0 recs
What we need
We need a new generation of Democrats.  A cohort of prtisan warriors. A group of fearless partisans who would stand with Murtha and echo his charges against Bush. (Why is it when one of ours speaks out s/he has to speak alone?) A group that knows how to push back against the media with a clear message and a relentless drive to to set the terms of the debate every day.

There is a place for Obama, after others have rhetorically put the conservatives on the defensive.  Obama can't do that.

by KDMfromPhila 2005-12-21 03:24AM | 0 recs
Actually...
...I rather like what Obama's done here.  He's managed to work in "George Bush" and "bad man" in the same sentence. To some it seems like pussyfooting around, but it's an important step towards changing the dialogue. Nowadays, the CW is so heavily tilted towards the right, that any outright declaration of "badness" is simply seen as a meaningless political attack, and is easily dismissed.

To be taken seriously, one has to first bring these two concepts ("Bush", "bad man") into close proximity. Until you've got people actually asking the question, "Is George W. Bush a good man?", and recognizing the question as valid, can you expect them to begin to formulate an answer. Anything else is simply innefectual, and only decreases the stature of the speaker.

Once the question is on the table, can you then proceed to connect the dots. But I think people who spend so much time in the left-wing echo chamber overestimate the validity of the question in the hearts of John and Jane Q. Public.

Matt is right, in general, but wrong to specifically target Obama. The junior senator from Illinois doesn't have a fraction of the clout with the American people that Matt ascribes to him, and thus, must chose his words wisely or risk being marginalized. Keep the pressure on young 'uns like Barak, but fully expect them to do some "triangulating" of their own.

-mt

by mtVessel 2005-12-21 03:28AM | 0 recs
Re: Actually...
I agree, Matt is right in general but targeting Obama seems strange (and based off of a christmas card?).

Maybe Obama has not been in the media, but his speeches and press statements and actions on behalf of the Senate this past year seem impressive to me. He had an excellent speech against Social Security, a strong voice post-Katrina, actually went overseas to look at nuclear disarmament sites.

I really am perplexed where all this negativity comes from. It seems like the community may be suffering from some group-think.

I am proud Obama is one of my Senators, just as I am about Durbin.

by Paranoid Humanoid 2005-12-21 06:27AM | 0 recs
Amen
Gary,

If you read this far down, I just wanted to say I agree with you 100%.

by Phil from New York 2005-12-21 05:47AM | 0 recs
I agree w/ Paraniod Humanoid-
Obama needs to appeal to moderates and I believe his statement nails this purpose perfectly.
Democrats can't pull off the kind of arrogant, dismissive hypocritical ad hominems that "conservatives" do. Sorry, but it just scares MOR mall people. IT SHOULDN'T but it DOES.
What is so clever about his statement is it disarms  one's tendency to to immediately dismiss his greater message, so he actually has a chance of connecting with a suspicious dumbass who would normally vote against his own interest erm, I mean a swing voter. And let's also take this year-old snippet in the context of a stump speech and not the current Eschalon NSA frenzy.
by Taters 2005-12-21 07:23AM | 0 recs
Re: I agree w/ Paraniod Humanoid-
Well, President Clinton has been saying much the same things as Obama about the Republicans for years now (and still says the same things about Bush; he apparently sincerely believes it). Fat lot of good it did him in '94.

Democrats can't pull off the kind of arrogant, dismissive hypocritical ad hominems that "conservatives" do.

I think you're making a common "moderate" mistake: confusing negativity with smearing. There is no need to smear Bush: his own record belies his fascist tendencies all too clearly. We don't have to lie, or engage in the "politics of personal destruction," to point that out.

by Mathwiz 2005-12-21 11:15AM | 0 recs
Attack the movement, sneer at the politician...
I agree Democrats should not be "fair and balanced" when it comes to this president.

But Obama is right in not personally attacking Bush.  It is much more effective to attack the Republican "brand."  That's what's been killing us in elections.  That, and F-R-A-U-D.  

When referring to Bush, scorn and derision is all he should warrant.

by notime4lies 2005-12-21 10:19AM | 0 recs
Now we've got him?
Bush thinks its OK to spy on terrorists contacting US citizens. Some think this exposes a totalitarian under-belly.

NOW WE GOT HIM!

Derangement: When a person believes a stronger demostration of an iron-willed committment to a topic is a good way to garner support.

There was a bit of a hubbub when we failed to connect the dots in 2001.... not sharing information... not watching obvious potential dangers...

THIS is the topic will bring the big sea change?

Where angels fear to tread... you are leading with your weakness, and the failure to realize the denseness of this light-brigade charge is stunning.

Um, Bring... It.... On?

by wizard61 2005-12-21 10:50AM | 0 recs
Thank you for talking about this.
I've been thinking along the same lines since Obama came into the national spotlight (even before his Dem. Convention speech last year). I kept hearing how Barack Obama was the future of the Democratic Party, a "true progressive" who could nevertheless reach out to swing voters, etc., etc., yada, yada. People were talking like he was Paul Wellstone reincarnated. Then he actually got elected to the Senate, and, well, he's OK, but get real - he's no Paul Wellstone.

Now I'm not one that requires a Democrat to toe the liberal line: I became a Dean supporter despite his heresies on guns, Pentagon spending, and many other issues. But I do think we need to be realistic about who we choose as our heroes. They all have feet of clay, after all.

Obama isn't an up-and-coming Wellstone; he's an up-and-coming Bill Clinton. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but another Bill Clinton isn't what we need to take America back from the radical Rethuglicans. Remember, Clinton lost Congress to the Rethuglicans in the first place! He's a survivor, but if we want to reverse the GOP onslaught, not merely survive it, we need to find our (sane) counterpart to Newt Gingrich, not another Bill Clinton.

by Mathwiz 2005-12-21 11:01AM | 0 recs
Agreed
I've been thinking the same thing as I hear Democratic Senator after Senator and Congressman after Congressman interviewed about the domestic spying story.

When thrown a simple softball like "do you think the President broke the law", why must they always answer with something like "well, from what I understand, and what based on my reading of the law, it appears, from what has been disclosed, that he may not have conformed to that particular statutory requirment".  Jesus H. Christ, why can't they just say "George Bush is an admitted criminal who's trying to put himself above the law."?!?

And I'm also sick of the caveat that "I know the President is just trying to protect national security, and I care about that to".  F that.  Even if it's true (and I'm not sure that it is), you don't have to say it for him.

by Esquire 2005-12-21 11:48AM | 0 recs
Again with the Obama thing?
I guess we'll have this discussion on our progressive blogs about Obama once every two months for the next 5 years.  This is how I see it.  Seems to me that Obama believes most of Americans are not on our extreme or the right-wing extreme as far as our level of interest in politics.  Most Americans are mildly interested or disinterested in politics, mostly trying to get through life.  But many of them still show to vote every two years and even more show up every four.  Last poll I checked, most Americans still don't believe Bush is evil.  They don't trust him, they disagree with his agenda.  But they think he's a good person.  Like it or not, it's true.  And they "Bush is evil" line, hasn't worked.  Face it, it simply hasn't convinced most of America.  Maybe they aren't paying that close attention.  Maybe they actually believe Bush thinks he's doing what's best for America and isn't trying to kill them in their beds.  Bush got millions of votes.  Those people don't and won't believe that he's evil.

What we need to win an election is not triangulation.  Obama is not triangulating.  Triangulating is to take a middle position between to two extremes.  Clinton triangulated.

Obama is taking the PROGRESSIVE position.  Except for two votes - a class action vote and confirming Rice - he has voted the way most people on this site would want every single time.

But his rhetoric is positive and moderate.  He's wants to connect to everyone and explain to them (even Republicans) why he thinks they should agree with him.  And to start off with "Bush is evil" is ineffective and, I think, intellectually lazy.  It saves you from having to make a real argument.

Get it?  Progressive votes, progressive policy positions.  Rhetoric that is not hostile and positive and inclusive.

Now, that won't win you a lot of fans on the blogs.  The blogs want to hear "Bush is evil."  But frankly, I don't give a damn about winning us over.  I know we're not voting Republican.  But to build a majority to actually win elections, we need to win over that middle of the electorate who are not firmly Republican.  And a negative, Bush is evil message turns them off.  That's what Obama believes, I think.

Obviously, I agree with him.  Maybe you don't, but please don't mischaracterize his positions as not-progressive, or DLC, or triangulation.  It only helps the right-wingers who are looking for ways to bring him down.

Have fun.

by ssmike 2005-12-21 12:04PM | 0 recs
My first time posting to ANY blog... so be gentle
So yeah, I also have a problem with him saying the ten words "I don't think that George Bush is a bad person", (I remember reading or hearing him say that somewhere else and feeling like I was gonna throw up in my mouth.)  That said, I think that the lines that better sums up the point that (I hope) he's been trying to make lately are when he says, "The problem isn't that their philosophy isn't working the way it's supposed to - it's that it is. It's that it's doing exactly what it's supposed to do..."  (Perhaps a better way to say that would be something like, "while it is not Bush alone it is Bush's fraud-riddled politics that are at the core of what is ruining what Senator Obama and all progressives want." :)

I think that it's important that somebody shows that progressives are willing to work with Republicans and yes, even George Bush if they think that a program or policy that Bush and company suggests is... and I will crap myself if this ever happens... positive, and won't just dismiss it simply because HE is suggesting it.  That's one of the reasons why we can't get simple shit like national health care passed- all the Right has to do is say the word "liberal" or "socialist" or hell even "Michael Moore" and people's brains shut off.

And to respond to some other people's comments, there is a big difference between trying to work with the other party and being a shameless, vote-humping, political machine like Bill Clinton was for most of his presidency.  I think it's too early to tell what kind of Senator Obama is going to be (since he's been in office for what, a year), but for now it seems like Obama is suggesting dialogue and not compromise, and to say that even talking to Bush is a compromise (which is basically what Dean is doing every time he gets on TV and calls the Republicans names) is well... dumb (especially if like Dean you can't give a straight answer to Jon Stewart's question asking what the democrats would be doing differently in Iraq.)  

by mighty85 2005-12-21 12:42PM | 0 recs
Re: My first time posting to ANY blog... so be gen
So welcome!

Welcome to the machine!!!

by blues 2005-12-21 03:01PM | 0 recs
Same reason I'm against torture
We're better than them. We don't have to call Bush evil because his record speaks for itself. He may call our patriotism into question, but we won't do the same because we have morals! I don't know GWB, so I can't say whether or not he's a bad man. He's a horrible President, but I can't judge him as a person. Another point: as a Democrat, I want to see our ideas win. But I'm an American first, and I want to see our country healed. We cannot begin to heal the serious partisan wounds in this nation until we stop attacking politicians' personal character. It's the right thing to do. Honestly, just because someone is not willing to crucify every conservative Republican they encounter does not mean they have "betrayed" the party or "sold out". Jesus, McGovern was good friends with Goldwater.
by bluenc 2005-12-21 01:48PM | 0 recs
The Senate
is going to ruin Obama.
by greyhair 2005-12-22 12:52PM | 0 recs
Re: Hello People

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by posco 2006-04-26 10:26AM | 0 recs

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