Thursday, June 17, 2010


The Democrats, and left leaning folk, at least those that get involved in politics, have a tendency to eat their young, or form a firing squad into a circle, or whatever cliched analogy or metaphor you want to use. And here we go again. The reactions to Obama's speech Tuesday night from Keith Olberman and others on MSNBC immediately afterward actually shocked me. Yeah, "shocked" is the word. I had just watched the entire speech myself, and though I thought it got off to a slow and stiff start—I could see Obama was taking too much time to warm up, he's not at his best alone before a camera, and from my performer's experience he actually looked nervous for a while—once he did warm up he came across to me as pretty candid about the problem(s) and focused on the solution(s).

Could he do better? Absolutely. Should he have done more by now and/or used this opportunity to push harder for measures to reduce our dependence on oil etc. Yep. (For an actually more productive and unique criticism of the speech see here.)

But—and it's a gigantic BUT—he's faced with some incredible obstacles that are real, not just intellectual exercises, and so far he's managed to make mostly good, and some great, decisions and take mostly good, and some great, actions to move us toward the "more perfect union" and the progressive future those of us who voted for him were hoping for.

The threats to his life, let alone his policies, are very real. It's easy for those of us watching the news to jump all over him when he doesn't make things perfect or perfectly reflect our intellectual conclusions about what'll make our world a better place etc. but this guy is daily getting more death threats than any president in my lifetime and probably in our history!

Add that to the opposition he's getting from a right that's more media savvy and media influential than anything coming from his own party, which is mostly the center, or from the left, and the increase in more dangerous elements on the right (hate groups have tripled, etc. etc.) and the many corporate-paid-for politicians in the Senate and House that he's got to convince to support his policies and decisions and he's treading a pretty thin line, and doing it very well.

He replaced the Bush/Cheney appointed oil shill that was heading the agency supposed to be looking out for safety in the oil rigs with an environmentalist! The left should have loved that or at least appreciate it. But she turned out to be ineffectual in the face of eight years of entrenched rightwing corporate lackeys working under her.

So he fired her and replaced her with someone tougher but equally environment friendly. He can't fire an entire agency, and even if he could it would be like FDR trying to "pack" the Supreme Court, an obvious power play that would offset any good it might do. If he had put the government in charge of the oil clean up immediately, he would have been criticized for "big government" takeover that the right could bludgeon him with, and he knew the government didn't have the expertise or equipment anyway!

Yes, I believe he should have done it even so, but it's easy for me to say. What if he had done that and we ended up in the same boat or better off but no one believed it because the "spill" (what an innocuous term for something so damaging and deadly, that's where Obama and his team and the Dems in general can use a lot of help, in framing the issues and situations and solutions in terms that better capture the reality from their perspective instead of always allowing the right to do that) continued.

(Like his critics can't see the depth of economic damage that may have been done if he hadn't taken the steps he took to limit the damage, i.e. the "stimulus" package, which his critics now beat him up for because it raised the debt and was framed by the right hypocritically as a bail out of "wall street" which actually occurred under the initial Bush bail out not the stimulus plan! etc.)

I believe all drilling and shipping of oil should stop, and all oil based products should stop being produced and "clean" energy and environmentally-friendly products should be used exclusively. But there's no such thing as entirely "clean" energy—yet—just "cleaner" and much of that generates other problems so unless I can perform a miracle and alter reality so much my ideals can be realized, I have to deal with what's real, which is what our president is doing as best he can.

Is he making mistakes? Of course. More than his predecessor? You kidding? He has accomplished more in his short time in office than any president in the last several decades. His decisions kept us from another Great Depression, greatly reduced the numbers of "American" casualties in Iraq and have led to our presence there being greatly reduced (I know I know it's not enough, but it's better than what Nixon did in Viet Nam or Eisenhower in Korea), he's giving Afghanistan one more try but I believe is ready to withdraw from there as well once the military have been given their chance to prove their "counterinsurgency" plans will work (or not), he's made healthcare more available and more affordable for more people than any president ever(!), he's reduced tensions in many places around the globe though his critics claim he's increased them in Iran, as though they've forgotten that Bush/Cheny and their followers were ready to INVADE it not that long ago (and now leftists are claiming that's still going to happen because the sanctions will make that more possible etc. but in fact the longer Obama can use dimplomacy (wow, that's a "typo" or post-brain-surgery "mistake" I have to leave—"dimplomacy" indeed) to ward off any military attacks on Iran the more possible a peaceful solution is, etc. etc.

I believe as many pundits have said that Obama may rely too heavily on Ivy League intellectuals for advice and for his own reasoning, and not enough on the examples of his mother and her parents and his in-laws etc. and the people he worked with as a community organizer in Chicago, but tactically, he's actually doing amazingly well considering the strength and influence of his opposition from friend and foe alike.

[PS: Before the comments come, I do believe he should have brought together more government resources and equipment and people to attack the "oil spill" more quickly, instead of relying on BP's assurances that their techniques were the best possible solution, but he did actually mobilize a lot of the federal government's resources once it was clear BP was just dithering with untried solutions etc. but his team should have made sure that was publicized better, all the boats and equipment and etc.]

[PPS: Reading over what I wrote above I would add that yes a better effort could have been made and can still be made to mobilize the world's resources to fight this gushing mile-below-the-sea broken oil pipe and wish he had and would do that more effectively. My post is more about the over-the-top angry commentary from fellow Dems and the left in general on Obama's speech (more so even than to his response to this crisis).]

[PPPS: Not to make this my longest post ever, but I also agree that he should have waited until he had the concession from BP or at least announced it in his speech more specifically (i.e. the actual 20 billion going into the escrow account for claims without being limited to that amount) for more political gain. But he still DID IT! He "kicked ass" as he said he would. Can you see Bush/Cheney making one of their cohort oil corporations pay more than a minimal fine etc.?]


Harryn Studios said...

it's complicated - as are all the problems he's encountered since picking up slack from the previous 'wayward administration' - and trying to navigate the resistance from the even more perverse right wing insurgency ...

damned if he does and damned if he don't - he's trying to apply simple, cost-effective solutions within the boundaries of legislative prudence - otherwise, the fickle bunch will accuse him of socialism, too much government, and spending too much ...

except for my love of seafood, ecology, and life, i don't have a personal stake in what's going on in the Gulf - but i am perturbed by BP's incompetence and frustrated by their lack of foresight [kind of like making your designated driver a drunk because he hasn't been in an accident YET] - but i'm really pissed at the left wing media's harsh criticism of Obama's strategy - as if they know anymore than the black billowing cloud effusing in the right hand corner of the screen - and forensics have proved that some of the tar washing up in Florida is not from the BP rig, but more likely from barges purging to go make a quick buck off the disaster ...

i think Obama holds himself more accountable than most of us are used to from our elected officials - and probably in a league of his own that defies reproach [hell, i wouldn't want to piss off Michele] ...
can you imagine if he would have employed the trigger happy behavior of his predecessor and made BP cough up without a timely plan - all the people whose lives and livelihoods would have been jeopardized BP's collapse in addition to the impact of the oil hemorrhage and the slow economic recovery - too complicated to fathom ...

i appreciate you sounding off on the topic Michael and wish that our friends in the media would have the presence of mind toward being more considerate - and even patriotic and supportive of to a president who is encountering unprecedented issues ...

Butch in Waukegan said...

"Oil rigs today generally don't cause spills. They are technologically very advanced.” — Obama, two weeks before the BP blowout.

Nice try shoehorning Obama’s BP troubles into the “heart of gold president forced by the big, bad, Republicans to make bad decisions” narrative.

The facts don’t support this story. Two articles that give a balanced assessment of Obama’s performance are the McClatchy article How Obama Blew His Critical Offshore Drilling Decision, and Rolling Stone’s The Spill, The Scandal and the President.

The essence of perception management, called propaganda in less polite circles, is leaving the impression you are doing one thing while in reality doing the opposite. Sometimes facts overwhelm manufactured impressions, as with the BP disaster. Obama’s political problem is he is losing the support of independents and rank-and-file Democrats, leaving only the true believers.

Obama’s carefully crafted image is falling apart. Just today the Huffington Post has this article that shows “Obama as foe of oligarchy” persona is a sham:

The White House is intervening at the last minute to come to the defense of multinational corporations in the unfolding conference committee negotiations over Wall Street reform.

A measure that had been generally agreed to by both the House and Senate, which would have affirmed the SEC's authority to allow investors to have proxy access to the corporate decision-making process, was stripped by the Senate in conference committee votes on Wednesday and Thursday. Five sources with knowledge of the situation said the White House pushed for the measure to be stripped at the behest of the Business Roundtable. The sources -- congressional aides as well as outside advocates -- requested anonymity for fear of White House reprisal.


Advocates said that the corporations fought the issue primarily over executive compensation concerns. Given proxy access, investors could rein in executive salaries. The Business Roundtable is a lobby of corporate CEOs.

The cliché “actions speak louder than words” pretty much sums it up.

Robert G. Zuckerman said...

From day one, and even before, President Obama has been a target, head on the chopping block, the scapegoat and the one held responsible for not making things perfect the instant he took office. We stood by tolerantly, lamely, giving the benefit of the doubt to his predecessor, who put us in the shitter, a nightmare unfolding before our eyes. Obama's head and heart are in the right place. I support my President and put my faith in him. Y'all should try this, instead of being an armchair critic, but still wanting/enjoying/taking-for-granted all the benefits of our culture/society

Lally said...

Butch, I use a lot of the same sources you do (or at least the ones you often cite). One of the best news organizations in terms of investigative reporting is The McClatchy outfit. I laugh when John Stewart uses humor to expose the president as much as when he does it for anyone else. But you're missing my point. I'm not an "apologist" for Obama. I'm a realist about how much he can accomplish and who he is and what seems to be influencing him. I don't like some of his team and think they're doing a disservice to him and at times the country. And I think he could have handled the gulf oil tragedy better. BUT and again it's a big BUT, holding his feet to the fire and trying to influence government policy to be more left leaning than it already is under this administration is laudatory, only if there is an understanding of what Obama and his administration are up against and what the alternatives are. The alternatives are not running the country according to more left leaning Dems wishes, as much as I'd like to see that. Maybe Obama's administration is too business friendly, too influenced by those with ties to major corporations, but without those ties and those business leaders, Obama wouldn't have a chance of changing anything for the better. The alternative, in case you weren't paying attention, was Bush/Cheney being replaced by McCain/Palin. If you think they would have been more to your liking then you are misrepresenting yourself and your beliefs. If you think think someone like Dennis Kucinich is electable in this country at this time, if ever, you are misrepresenting your intelligence. I wish all my dreams about my life had come true, but they didn't. Or they did in ways I wasn't expecting, or could foresee. That's called reality, and it's what Obama is doing his best to work with. Not perfectly, not even according to my desires and ideals, but according to his capacity intellectually, politically and feasibly. Let's pressure him to do better, but let's not hold him to some ideal standard that if he falls short of we attack him as if he was no better than Bush/Cheney. That's an obvious and outright lie which sometimes your selective quotes and citations (and the part of my posts you choose to respond to) seem to be propagating.

Butch in Waukegan said...

If you think they would have been more to your liking then you are misrepresenting yourself and your beliefs. If you think think someone like Dennis Kucinich is electable in this country at this time, if ever, you are misrepresenting your intelligence.

I guess I haven’t made myself clear. I stipulate again that Democrats might be marginally better than Republicans on some issues, at least rhetorically. But on the big problems of war and peace, our oligarchic economy, and the devolution of our industrial base and the loss of good paying jobs, there is very little difference. [The Democrats refusal to pass an extension of unemployment benefits means there is a bipartisan consensus that we should and will accept long-term high unemployment. Contrast this with Obama’s protection of high CEO compensation cited above.]

If I am correct it follows that elections, particularly at a national level, are a trick bag. On these big issues not much changes, no matter who is elected. I believe Democrats taking control of congress in 2006, followed by Obama’s victory in 2008, proves my point. In this case “the perfect being the enemy of the good” is a tired and false cliché. I’ld settle for good, but there hasn’t been much good. Obama supporters have dropped “hope and change” for “faith and it could have been worse.”

You are probably correct that we read a lot of the same sources. It comes down to how one interprets the facts we are presented. For instance I just read Ken Silverstein’s blog at Harper’s where he quotes a Post article about how oil companies have continued pumping lobbying money into congress.

I am going to be presumptuous and assume that you, and many of your readers, would pick the last paragraph as the most important. It is clear that Republican conduct is egregious.

For me, though, the 2nd paragraph clearly illustrates the problem we face. The Podesta Group (one of whose founders, John Podesta, helped chair Obama’s transition team) is a Democratic oriented lobby firm with many large corporate clients, including BP.

This is how the “people’s business” is conducted. However one describes Washington DC — Versailles on the Potomac, the Swamp, etc. — it is clear that money is the important factor, not whether you’re a Republican or Democrat.

After an election the real power steps forward. We have to figure out how to around this.

Lally said...

Okay, this is my last comment and then I'm done with this thread Butch. But I have to say now you're just being disingenuous or deliberately dim. We agree on many things including wanting to see changes based on ideals that make sense, and we agree that we may even read the same things, but the disconnect is when you do this trifling thing about Dems maybe being "marginally better" than the Pubs. Please spare me, and all those who have suffered destruction and death because of that "marginal" difference! And again, you do not offer a realistic political way of doing away with the influence of big money on government which, by the way, has been the case since the Founding Fathers! Do you watch Fox News or even CNN or the network news? Did you see where the Economist accuses Obama of being "anti-business" because of the attempts he's made, and some successes, in reigning in corporate power? Et-endlessly-cetera. The man ain't perfect as either politician or president, but he's light years—not marginally— better than the alternatives who had and have a chance of being president now or in the next election.

Butch in Waukegan said...

I'll follow your lead and make this my last comment too. From McClatchy this afternoon, Obama Administration Still Approving Flawed Gulf Drilling Plans:

WASHINGTON — Despite President Barack Obama's promises of better safeguards for offshore drilling, federal regulators continue to approve plans for oil companies to drill in the Gulf of Mexico with minimal or no environmental analysis.

The Department of Interior's Minerals Management Service has signed off on at least five new offshore drilling projects since June 2, when the agency's acting director announced tougher safety regulations for drilling in the Gulf, a McClatchy review of public records has discovered.

Three of the projects were approved with waivers exempting them from detailed studies of their environmental impact — the same waiver the MMS granted to BP for the ill-fated well that's been fouling the Gulf with crude for two months.

Isn't this just the kind of thing we would expect from Bush and McCain? In this case Obama is not even marginally better than those two.

Is this change? Is this not perfect, but good?

Anonymous said...

Obama tries to govern by committee as any Senator would be accustomed to doing.

The three ring circus of senators in the two tickets made an obvious point that only one person (Palin) had previous executive experience. As a governor she did not have the luxury of calling for a study or cabinent meeting before any decision she made. She made decisions based on her character and knowledge of the situation.

Obama made promises and more promises how the world will be a nicer place and everyone will say grace if he is elected. He lied. He knew that the many promises could never be kept but he continued to make them as any politician would running for the presidency of a republic.

People are wishing Bush and Cheney were still in office as Obama adds to annual defecits and the national debt.

He has been held in the balance and he has been found wanting.

Lally said...

This last comment is a perfect example of why this country' educational system is in so much trouble. If
anonymous" received a public education in U.S. schools, he/she "wuz robbed"—there is almost no historical statistic that can be used to measure successful governance that the Bush/Cheney administration doesn't score at or near the bottom. Anyone who would consciously desire that is either completely ill-informed, masochistic, or incapable of logical reasoning.