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Obama as stupid as Bush?

by Frank Schnittger Mon May 31st, 2010 at 09:38:05 PM EST

Also available in orange where it has really upset the locals. Perhaps that is no bad thing if it shocks them out of their complacent belief that Obama can do no wrong because he is the smartest guy on the planet.

I never thought I would hear myself say this, because I hate unnuanced bland generalised assertions.  There are so many ways in which the Obama administration is a quantum improvement on Bush - think stimulus, healthcare, financial regulation, don't ask don't tell, and two reasonable Supreme Court nominations.  But on foreign policy in general, and Israel/Palestine in particular, Obama is proving to be as stupid as Bush:

  1. He has failed to close Guantanamo detention centre or correct the gross violation of human rights it represents.

  2. He has escalated an unwinnable war in Afghanistan

  3. He has legitimised a military coup in Honduras

  4. He has caved in to Netanyahu on illegal settlement expansion several times and has allowed his Vice President to be humiliated on a visit to Israel

  5. He has capitulated to Chinese manipulation of the Dollar Yuan exchange rates despite numerous threats to confront the issue

  6. He has caved in to his Afghan counterpart, Hamid Karzai, having accused him of corruption and falsifying elections - and to to Karzai's brother, Ahmed Wali, having accused him of being a drug lord

  7. He has been repeatedly snubbed by the President of Brazil, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who has chaired meetings of 31 Latin American and Caribbean countries which excluded the United States, and actually got something constructive done by negotiating a deal with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for Iran to ship 1,200 kilograms of its low-enriched uranium to Turkey. Obama then ignored the deal and proposed tougher sanctions on Iran.

  8. He has done nothing on climate change and was all for expanding deep sea off shore drilling until BP pissed in his back garden.

  9. And now, to cap it all, he has blamed peace activists for getting themselves killed by an illegal act of war and opposed a UN investigation of the war crime.


Is there no end to his grovelling incompetence? Increasingly world leaders, large and small, are learning that Obama is a paper tiger who makes bullying noises, some fine speeches, and then capitulates at the first sign of opposition.

It must be the first time in history that the Nobel Peace prize has been awarded to coward who mistakes collaboration with racists, genocidal maniacs, drug lords, rapacious corporations, fascists and juntas for bipartisan compromise.

Hell, even Bush had more balls - even if he was stupider still. Bush may have been ignorant and wrong, but he had the courage of his convictions. Obama apparently has no courage and no convictions.  It is hard to tell which is the more dangerous combination. </end rant>

Display:
The problem with the Republican presidents since Nixon was their unceasing and overt licking of corporate asses. The Democrats were at least keeping appearances. But now BP is defecating heavily, and Obama is tongueing its behind... We have to re-elect him just to see how far will he go.
by das monde on Mon May 31st, 2010 at 09:43:20 PM EST
I had believed you unflappable.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Mon May 31st, 2010 at 09:44:23 PM EST
Well, the trolls at DKos don't bother him!

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Jun 1st, 2010 at 12:55:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Bush was more of a recreational drug user who knew he could get away with anything than a guy with convictions.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Mon May 31st, 2010 at 10:11:22 PM EST
Boy, you sure are stupid, Frank! Just ask the cossacks. Recommended, would have tipped had you bothered to leave a tip jar. Glad you gave the pot a good stir. Quite odoriferous.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon May 31st, 2010 at 11:32:04 PM EST
The tip jar and quite a lot of abusive comments seem to have disappeared....

Frank's Home Page and Diary Index
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Jun 1st, 2010 at 12:52:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The comment thread is Exhibit A as to why I have so little respect for DKos.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Jun 1st, 2010 at 12:54:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't read DKOS any more.  What's with all the cooking recipes in the comments?  I must admit to have been deliberately provocative.  I can't quite believe the cosy complacency over there that the world will wait until the centrist Democrats and Republicans get their cut and because that's the way it is everyone else should just sit back and applaud and thank Caeser for his kindness if and when he gets around to giving them some consideration - probably in a fine speech.

Frank's Home Page and Diary Index
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Jun 1st, 2010 at 01:03:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The cooking recipes are the standard dKos way of telling you you are a Troll.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Tue Jun 1st, 2010 at 01:10:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Following over 100 mostly abusive comments on DKos I have published the following responsive in the comments:

Some of you appear to have missed the question mark in my title and my conclusion that Bush was stupider still.  You also appear to have missed my praise for much of what Obama has achieved in my opening paragraph.  

My criticism is reserved for his foreign policy and here there has been no substantive rebuttal of any point I have made.  Sure, Congress also has a role, as does the Department of State.  I could have been just as critical of Hillary Clinton. But ultimately the buck stops with the President and it is Americans who suffer if the US Government follows a stupid line of foreign policy.  

I also know Americans aren't much given to worrying about what the rest of the world thinks about their foreign policy and if you don't care, so be it.  I just thought some of you might like to know that the almost universal admiration which Obama evoked on his election is slowly giving way to dismay.  The feeling abroad is that US foreign policy is now little better that that under Bush.

And there is one other vital difference.  Whereas before the US was the unrivalled world military, economic and political superpower which could attempt to do more or less what it wanted, now the US is being challenged both economically and politically.  What you could get away with before is often no longer possible.

So unless the US adopts a much smarter foreign policy than it has in the past it is destined for a much diminished role in world affairs.  Your choice.  I just thought I'd let you know.  And NO, I wouldn't prefer a world dominated by Hamas or any one other world power.

Frank's Home Page and Diary Index

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon May 31st, 2010 at 11:33:50 PM EST
I made some substantive and some critical comments in support, along with some ratings.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Jun 1st, 2010 at 12:57:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Got those and rated in return.  That was actually the only semi-sane and substantive (if ill-informed) subthread in the whole comments stream

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by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Jun 1st, 2010 at 01:34:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Frank, I think you're off base here, even if you're right about world opinion changing regarding Obama (as is domestic opinion). Because the American president has essentially presided over much of the entire world and the various political disputes and challenges among its many allies and foreign constituencies since WWII, you could make a similar list of anyone who has occupied that office -- all of the things that they have failed to do at a certain point in time without comparing it to accomplishments.  Only 2 years at the job, I think it would be hard to find a president since FDR (inclusive) that has actually accomplished as much internationally, as well as domestically, as Obama has, faults notwithstanding.  If not Obama, then who? What past American president has actually done more in a comparable amount of time?

But furthermore, this rationale that you provide is just not supported by any honest appraisal of world affairs today:

And there is one other vital difference.  Whereas before the US was the unrivalled world military, economic and political superpower which could attempt to do more or less what it wanted, now the US is being challenged both economically and politically.  What you could get away with before is often no longer possible.

Really? What world are you talking about? In what spectrum is America less dominant today than before the fall of the Soviet Union, for example? All that seems to be the case here is that, because of Bush's mistake of invading the wrong country, social discourse is now a bit more critical of America than it was at its low-water mark at the end of the Clinton administration. But that just means that it's more like it was in the 1980's than the 1990's.  Big deal. Especially since Obama opposed the invasion and is, so far, successfully extricating American forces from that country by his own timeline.  That's real power at work, so I just don't see the the evidence to back your thesis, and the street chatter, that Obama is an ineffective leader.  So, who, if not Obama, would you have for your emperor, given that the world apparently still feels it needs emperors?

by santiago on Thu Jun 3rd, 2010 at 01:25:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
santiago:
social discourse is now a bit more critical of America than it was at its low-water mark at the end of the Clinton administration

That was the high watermark in my opinion!  Clinton was actually quite popular world-wide, and he left the US economy in good shape.

You actually don't challenge any of the 9 points I have made except to say no other President has done more in less than 2 years.  

santiago:

Only 2 years at the job, I think it would be hard to find a president since FDR (inclusive) that has actually accomplished as much internationally

So what are his foreign policy successes?  (I gave him credit for his domestic successes at the top of the story).

  1. An as yet unratified nuclear arms reduction treaty

  2. Fine speeches in Cairo, Berlin and Oslo which raised expectations but have yet to be followed up with achievements

  3. Derailing the attempt to achieve a successor to Kyoto at Copenhagen

  4. Enraging world opinion by refusing to condemn Israel's act of war against a civilian humanitarian effort...

  5. Enraging Hispanic opinion by not addressing the immigration issue - thereby leaving the field open to Arizona to enact racist legislation

  6. Doing nothing to normalise relations with Cuba...

I can't think of any more.  Please help me out. In whose world are these "successes"?

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by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Jun 3rd, 2010 at 01:46:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Except for a few things that I address below, there's not much to challenge about your nine points, really. I'm as disappointed as you are, and should be, about them.  Obama needs, and asks even, to be held accountable by an angry public and civil society organized actions so that he has the credibility he needs to overcome the organized interests who oppose progressive policies.  (It's part of the Chicago school/Alinsky organizing method, actually, so fomenting/allowing people to get worked up about his lack of success in specific areas is a bigger part of the Obama White House strategy than we realize.  Creating "tension" around issues is the word from Alinsky that is relevent here, though I admit that the tension seems to get a bit too out of control too often.)  

However, what he hasn't yet done doesn't really say much because he has, in fact, done a lot of other things, such as:

  1. Getting out of Iraq. Obama's acceleration of withdrawal, over the objections of the key generals in charge of the policy and fierce political opposition from the right, is proving to be an extraordinary success by almost any measure.  This was a Herculean policy shift.

  2. Changing course on Polish ABM deployment.  Key move that immediately relieved the pressure on Moscow to look for ways to confront America.  Again, huge risks and lots of domestic and military opposition to the policy had to be overcome but in the end, he got the generals to buy in, resulting in ...

  3. The first major strategic arms reduction treaty in years. The ink is even dry yet, so claims that it hasn't been ratified are off base. The Senate has not rejected it, which means it is already US policy and represents a major shift in the way the US does business with Russia, repairing 8 years of Bush's damage to the relationship. Since conflict between the US and Russia still is the only one that is potentially world-ending, this is huge.  (In the US, arms control treaties can be policy without senate ratification because the policy is almost entirely dependent on the president for implementation, unlike trade and environmental treaties.  Only if the senate actually votes to reject ratification is the US commitment to the treaty really threatened, and senate ratification often takes years, so lack of ratification is not a big deal on this issue.  The key thing is that the whole military and foreign policy establishment already embraces it, due to Obama's actions.)

  4. Saved the world from ruin in the financial crisis/great recession.  As controversial as it was, here like everywhere else, TARP proved to be an unmitigated success, and Obama's commitment to the policy that was actually started by Bush saved the financial industry and prevented the developed world from falling into the episodes of deprivation and political violence that prevailed in and followed the Great Depression. While it's too early to say we're out of harm's way yet, it's clear that the vast majority of banks were able to provide loans and save deposits for people, and thus avoiding the human calamity that was the Great Depression the last time this stuff happened when the opinions of people who think like Angela Merkel carried the day and failed to deliver on fiscal stimulus and monetary expansion when the world most needed it.  This success for American leadership at a critical time to quickly extinguish the fire that was threatening to overwhelm an international economic system that is largely of America's own creation ranks Obama as a superhero in international policy accomplishments alone, if we are going to make honest comparisons of his work with other world leaders past and present.
by santiago on Thu Jun 3rd, 2010 at 05:30:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Your points:

  1. Bush also had a timetable for withdrawal.  If Obama does succeed in implementing his, it will be a major success, but at present the Jury is still out.

  2. Reversing the most idiotic of Bush's ideas was a success, I grant you - although how anyone was to believe the shield was directed at Iran is beyond me.  Obama would have run into serious problems with his NATO allies if he had tried to implement the policy in any case.  Don't forget Bush got nowhere near actually doing anything on this, and perhaps (if we are to attribute a glimmer of intelligence) it was all intended as a means to force Russia into a more accommodating stance on other issues.  I.e. it was negotiating foreplay and never intended to be implemented anyway.

  3. I also mentioned above.  However if it is rejected by the Senate it may count for nothing if Russia withdraws in response.  Obama's credibility, stature, and ability to negotiate will be undermined if he is shown to be someone who can't deliver on deals reached.  With the Dems likely to lose 4/5 senate seats this fall, he doesn't have much time left to get it ratified.

  4. I gave Obama credit for under his domestic achievements in my opening paragraph although obviously it had an impact on the world economy as well.  Don't underestimate the impact of the BRIC countries on world recovery. Also Don't forget that my basic thesis was that Obama hadn't changed foreign policy all that much from the Bush regime.  TARP, as you point out, was also a continuation of Bush policy... albeit a more positive one.

Overall I don't deny Obama makes better speeches and has better intentions - a more multi-lateral and less bellicose approach - although it can be argued he had no choice but to change due to the spectacular failure of the neo-cons/Bush regime.

His record of actual achievement is very thin to date however, and it's much to early to say whether he will achieve much in the rest of his term.  His habit of not really leading from the front - until he absolutely has to - means that the speed of progress will be determined by a few centrist dems/republicans and the MIC and much of his early momentum/capital has been squandered at this stage.  

His impact has been much less than hoped for by the rest of the world, and his effective endorsement of Israel's act of war against humanitarian civilians was the last straw for me.  Don't forget that this will have profound implications for how others will deal with America. Effectively the US has now lost the boost to its prestige it received with his election.  In terms of international influence the USA is back to a Bush level of influence.

Frank's Home Page and Diary Index

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Jun 3rd, 2010 at 06:40:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You'd have a better response at Docudharma.  Not as many people would read it, tho'.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Tue Jun 1st, 2010 at 01:08:31 AM EST
Thanks.  I'll sleep on it and perhaps draft a longer and more nuanced piece in due course.  As a fishing expedition its been very informative about attitudes in the US, but I have learned virtually nothing new about the actual conduct of US foreign policy.  Do they not teach that in DKOS school?

Frank's Home Page and Diary Index
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Jun 1st, 2010 at 01:44:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Foreign Policy is an arcane subject for most US citizens.  We tend to talk about it with little knowledge but strong opinions.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Tue Jun 1st, 2010 at 11:04:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As you know, I'm fairly sympathetic to your view. But.. given your closing paragraphs you almost seem to be suggesting that you'd rather Obama's USA was more assertive in the world.

Or would you prefer it be assertive in some ways, with the I/P situation and less assertive, in the Middle East generally ? It does look a little scattergun and inconsistent.

However much the US likes to don the white hat of moral righteousness as it justifies its acts of world interference, history shows that the US is no different from any other country: It is only concerned with its own interests such as resource control and internal security. Foreign policy is NOT about making the world better, or at least it hasn't since Roosevelt; it's about ensuring that the administration looks good to significant parts of the US electorate. Latterly that has degenerated into persuading significant donors that their corporate interests are best ensured with the current party in power.

We may consider that Obama looks weak in foreign policy, but that's because we aren't seeing it as he does. He's inherited a country whose power and reach have been seriously compromised by his immediate predecessor, so he feels obliged to continue the rhetorical bluster of recent history, but must tack, gracefully or otherwise, to reality.

We want him to do the right thing, always. However, I've come to doubt that our views of the "right" thing and his even coincide to any significant part. He is a centre-left consensualist, which in European terms makes him quite right wing. He only appears liberal in comparison to republicans.

If you wanted somebody who'd do the "right" thing in european terms, we'd have Kucinich, Gravel or Sanders. But such a candidate is absolutely unelectable in USA. As Rumsfeldt nearly said "the world must work with the President we have, not the one we want".

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Jun 1st, 2010 at 05:55:16 AM EST
The piece was a bit of a rant, so I'm not surprised it's open to misunderstanding.  However my argument is not that I'd like a European style left of centre President.  

My argument is that Obama isn't serving the US's real interests and is thus contributing to, and perhaps hastening the US's decline in influence in world affairs.  Most of that decline is being driven by the US's relative economic decline (vis a vis Asia, Iran, Latin America etc.).  But some of it is also caused by a foreign policy which is only a little less delusionary that Bush's in effect, if not in intention.  

My case is that so far, little has changed in US foreign policy.  Better speeches, sure; a declared intent to be more multi-lateral in his approach, sure; lip service to the UN or EU, sure.

He has signed a new nuclear Treaty but hasn't yet persuaded the Senate to ratify it, I grant you. He hasn't yet started a new war although he is trying hard in Israel if he miscalculates how other states could respond.

Do I care if the US loses influence?  Only if the slack is taken up by even less enlightened powers. As always in International relations, progress is relative.

Frank's Home Page and Diary Index

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Jun 1st, 2010 at 06:20:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
My argument is that Obama isn't serving the US's real interests and is thus contributing to, and perhaps hastening the US's decline in influence in world affairs.  Most of that decline is being driven by the US's relative economic decline (vis a vis Asia, Iran, Latin America etc.).  But some of it is also caused by a foreign policy which is only a little less delusional that Bush's in effect, if not in intention.

Yes, but firstly I would re-state my view that our idea of what is in the long term interests of the US and theirs is probably larger than we imgine.

Equally, politics is the art of the possible. To illustrate Obama's dilemma, let's use the I/P situation. We might argue that arranging policy to arrive at a two-state solution is in Israel's long term interest. However, the reality of the coalitions within Israeli politics are such that either they don't agree that this is a long term solution or the short term appeasements make this long term issue more distant or even unachievable without outside imposition.

Given the voting arrangement of the Senate and the various special interests that must be appeased (eg Aipac), the gap between what is possible and what is, even in their terms, the US' actual long term interests is colossal. there will always be a majority for war, but for anything else, particularly anything that could be painted by Obama's political enemies as making america weak (ie anything that isn't a military solution) there will only be resistance.

Now we could argue that Obama is good at the emotional vision thing, the Hope and the Change, but he's never created a narrative of what Hope and Change are intended to achieve. That was probably a deliberate campaign decision, specifics are bad on the trail, but when you arrive in office you'd better know what you're there for, what your actual bottom lines are, where you're heading. It's this where Obama seems to almost flail around looking for a cause on which to hang his hat.

For example, he wanted "health care" as a campaign phrase, but at no point did he grab hold of the policy by the scruff of the neck and push it through. He has slogans, but he doesn't really have a narrative or a vision for the future of America. That's where the incoherence comes in. He has a destroyed economy and numerous domestic problems, even before BP threw a spanner in his energy policy, his is a presidency of damage limitation. Foreign policy is just a version of "carry on as before". And before was Bush.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Jun 1st, 2010 at 06:50:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for this Helen.  My response to Edwin below more or less also applied to your post.  I don't think we actually disagree very much...

Frank's Home Page and Diary Index
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Jun 1st, 2010 at 08:12:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't read orange regularly. It is an organ of the Democratic Party - and not surprisingly, it supports the democrat party. It likes to think of itself as left wing, and it actually is, but the bottom line is that it supports the democratic party. The democratic party is not left wing - except in relation to the republican party - and on a few issues it is not left of the Republican party either. As a coalition party, it does contain a massive political range - easily going far into the left wing. Occasionally it looks left wing. Perhaps that should be on rare occasions...

Obama is a victory for the left over more right wing contenders. (Scary thought that is. It was even kind of frightening at the time.)

I had originally pegged Obama as right wing. With his program of assassinations (http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/04/07/assassinations) of American citizens whom he does not like - I was wrong. Hell - if I was voting in US elections, I would have voted for him. Unfortunately, he crossed a line with his program on assassinations, and it looks like Orange is reluctantly willing to cross it too.

My gut feeling is that there is more loyalty than I would expect in other countries from those who are at the very edge politically of their chosen party.  I think that this is a "feature" of the US system. For a true test, perhaps a detailed comparison of Britain and the US would work - just how much opposition was there to Tony Blair within Labour.

The US political system seems to be truly messed up.  It is highly resilient to change, and it co-opts people - including presidents - a true melting pot. I cringe when I hear the word bipartisan, and think "one party state".

If I understand correctly, the bottom line for the difference in the US between Obama and others is domestic policy and the supreme court. I can't help but feel that it is only on point 8 that you manage to say something that directly criticizes Obama's policies , as opposed to the political system in general. It would be nice if Obama had what it takes to offer a different foreign policy than the republican party, and he did run on that platform... He even delivered - the western world is no longer slowly isolating the US. I'm not at all sure that this is a bonus for the western world, but it probably is a bonus for US establishment. Maybe it also makes members of Orange feel better.

The US is on the way down (along with a lot of other countries I suspect). Now is the time for the US to set the stage that it will in the future have to live and work in. Later will be too late. Unfortunately, Obama is not up to the task, and even Orange appears to be unwilling to confront the policies of their leader.

Orange seems to be following the maxim "My country right or wrong". "My party right or wrong". "My leader right or wrong."

I think you spoke at Orange instead of to Orange.

aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Tue Jun 1st, 2010 at 06:50:03 AM EST
Thanks for this perceptive response all of which I agree with - so it must be perceptive!

My take is that Obama is a very strictly disciplined and prioritised political operative.  I suspect his priorities are:

  1. Keep the US militarily secure and keep on the right side of the military industrial complex.  He doesn't want to be the next Kennedy.
  2. Get the economy moving again.
  3. Do something to improve health care coverage.
  4. Rein in the banks as much as his donors will allow
  5. Jobs
  6. Prevent the Supreme Court going fundamentalist
  7. Keep on the right side of Likud/AIPAC/Donors/Democratic party grandees
  8. promote a Green economy
  9. Reverse the worst ill-effects of Bush's foreign policy
  10. Develop a foreign policy more in line with the US's real long term interests.

Foreign policy can lose you a lot of votes in the US, but even a good record rarely wins you elections.  Its about the economy, stupid.  It's even more about what the donors and competing corporate centres of power will allow.

Normally I write from a pragmatic perspective respecting the realities of what is possible given the interests of the elites and the structures of power.

That is why some around here consider me a moderate or even a conservative.  Sometime I see things getting so dysfunctional that there is a serious risk of things going seriously awry - e.g. a serious escalation towards war in the middle east.

Then I throw out the pragmatism and gradualism and argue the case for a serious bit of change and say to hell with the establishment if it becomes more dangerous to maintain the status quo than contemplate the risks of radical change.

Then people think I'm getting a little unhinged.

So be it.  The price of being prepared to say the truth as I see it.  It has got me into trouble many times before but at this stage I don't care any more.

The privilege of age.

Frank's Home Page and Diary Index

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Jun 1st, 2010 at 08:07:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"My take is that Obama is a very strictly disciplined and prioritised political operative." Of course he is, the important question is this: who is he working for? Answer: it ain't you and me, or the best interests of the people of the US.
by US Blues on Tue Jun 1st, 2010 at 08:48:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Whos he working for ? Same boss every President since Johnston works for these days; as I wrote in my post above

Foreign policy is NOT about making the world better, or at least it hasn't since Roosevelt; it's about ensuring that the administration looks good to significant parts of the US electorate. Latterly that has degenerated into persuading significant donors that their corporate interests are best ensured with the current party in power.

The electorate simply get to choose which corporate representative is in the White House while the media ensure that anyone who isn't a corporate whore isn't electable.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Jun 1st, 2010 at 09:26:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sometimes life throws you a real curve.

e.g. a serious escalation towards war in the middle east.

Nothing new in a serious escalation towards war. Just not expecting one (nuclear?) with Turkey.


aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Tue Jun 1st, 2010 at 09:14:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, I'd agree that those are Obama's priorities. I'd suggest that practically any President we could imagine would have those priorities, the differences between them would be in terms of how they tackle them.

Can I be boastful and remind you of what I wrote nearly 3 years ago when discussing Obama's policies ?

It was Matt Taibbi who first identified the real problem with Barack Obama, that he is a largely self-satisfied exponent of the status quo. Jerome's recent (and necessary) evisceration of his foreign policy statements only underlines the fact that, should Obama become US President, nothing much will change. Not on the foreign policy front, and, especially, not on the domestic front.
[....]
But it's different for Obama, they believe in him: And he can't deliver on those expectations; nobody really could, but he won't even try.

We knew back then that Obama was the second most centrist of the Primary candidates and it should be no surprise to us that, by and large, he's not really changing Bush's policies. For one thing, he's too busy fixing the emergencies he's been saddled with. For another, he's got a hostile Senate who wouldn't allow him to do too much anyway. But finally, he's not somebody who would want to do "radical" policy shifts in the first place; he really is the consensus guy who wants everybody to get on and do the thing they'd already agreed upon and take credit for it.

It's tough that this is not a time of consensus, but we deal with the President they got......

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Jun 1st, 2010 at 09:21:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I like your comment about Obama being very strictly disciplined and prioritized - I tend to think of him as unorganized and flailing, but that is because I am a radical in some respects, and he is not a radical.

Normally I write from a pragmatic perspective respecting the realities of what is possible given the interests of the elites and the structures of power.

That is why some around here consider me a moderate or even a conservative.  Sometime I see things getting so dysfunctional that there is a serious risk of things going seriously awry - e.g. a serious escalation towards war in the middle east.

Traditionally conservative and right wing have been linked. I think that has been a mistake. I would see Noam Chompsky as a conservative. There are a whole lot of radicals on the left who do not like him, I suspect because of it. Angry Arab had a nasty comment about him (I felt out of context) recently.

[Conservatism] is a political and social philosophy that says that traditional institutions work best and society should minimize change. Some conservatives seek to preserve things as they are, emphasizing stability and continuity, while others oppose modernism and seek a return to the way things were.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conservatism

The first part I agree with, the second part I disagree with. A left-wing conservative would seek gradual change towards a particular left-wing type of system.

There's a lot to be said for gradual change as opposed to revolution. (That's not to say that revolutionary change is never desirable.) I believe that the parliamentary system is better than the checks and balances system. The Parliamentary system evolved over time, and I believe actually provides better checks and balances than the US system where there is no clear chain of who is responsible. I remember cringing as the Soviet Union broke up with how it appeared that the US was encouraging things to happen as fast as possible.

By temperament, I would probably like to be on the conservative end of things... Maybe that's why I like reading your posts. I want to be a far left radical conservative.

aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Tue Jun 1st, 2010 at 09:42:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's the official definition of conservatism, but I don't think it's accurate - or at least it's w hite wash job that doesn't truly explain conservatve psychology.

In practice conservatives:

  1. Value war and violence, and promote and identify with narratives of personal, familial and national omnipotence.

  2. Approve of strict social and racial hierarchies and are indifferent to - or favour - abuse and segregation of those they consider alien, different or inferior.

  3. As a corollary to 1. and 2., conservatives actively seek personal privilege and do not accept the rule of law for themselves.

  4. Conservatives approve of law for others when the law is used as in 2.

  5. Conservatives approve of 'competition' as long as it is supported by privilege. Conservatives do not support truly open, free competition.

In short, for a conservative to win, someone else must lose - and they must be seen to lose. Publicly. Preferably in a ritualised game whose outcome is rigged.

Conspicuously absent from this list is rational strategy. Conservatives are capable of calculation, but not of prediction. Most of their responses are reactions, not innovations.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Jun 1st, 2010 at 10:37:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
in my mind, conservative and conservationist should be synonyms, and your position is totally logical.

as long as conservative continues to mean the opposite, in the sense of right wing pols being bought by polluting industries, and liberal means laissez-faire milton friedman 'straussian economics', language has become so perverted that up is down...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Jun 1st, 2010 at 11:43:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, the Peace Price has been a joke for decades.

He's failed to close other things as well.

-----
sapere aude

by Number 6 on Tue Jun 1st, 2010 at 08:48:14 AM EST
Glad you posted this at Daily Kos. It's a site totally unwilling to hear any criticism of Obama, especially that which compares Obama to Bush in a way that suggests they may not be so different, and that's why it's valuable that you made the effort to have a real conversation. I tipped and rec'd your diary, and am unsurprised at the unwelcome reaction.

My take is that Obama is failing as badly as Bush did, but for very different reasons. Bush really believed in unilateralism, in American imperialism. He used America's position in the world to try and impose the neocons' will on the rest of the globe, regardless of the conditions or consequences. And so he failed.

Obama's approach is different. It's not at all a rejection of Bushism - after all, Obama has doubled down in Afghanistan and refuses to close Guantanamo Bay or Bagram. Instead Obama tends to shy away from confrontation. Not out of any ideological choice, but out of an odd personal unwillingness to challenge or confront anyone. With Honduras, Israel, and the stolen Iranian election, we saw a common thread of Obama being totally unwilling to stand up for democracy and fair treatment.

Unfortunately we see exactly the same thing in his domestic policy. For example, Obama would not fight for the repeal of the military's ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military. When it became clear Congress had the votes to fully repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Obama hesitated and showed himself reluctant to anger some in the military by supporting repeal. So he demanded and won a watering down of the repeal, all so he could avoid having a public confrontation with the military. Of course, it was perfectly OK for him to confront the progressive activists demanding repeal.

The consistent thread appears to be that Obama, like many Americans of his generation, has internalized the notion that conservatives and corporations are extremely powerful, that it is wrong and foolish to try and oppose them, so all you can realistically and sensibly do is just accommodate them. He holds that belief whether it's in domestic or in foreign policy.

The overall thread is that Obama is simply unwilling to lead - on almost anything. He is a very reactive president, and that does not serve US interests even when you define them in a non-imperial, progressive fashion.

And the world will live as one

by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Tue Jun 1st, 2010 at 11:42:01 AM EST
It's a site totally unwilling to hear any criticism of Obama, especially that which compares Obama to Bush in a way that suggests they may not be so different, and that's why it's valuable that you made the effort to have a real conversation.

He's wasting his time over there. I'll note for the umpteenth time on this site that dkos is not a forum for free flow discussion of liberal ideas - it is a forum to get Democrats elected to office in the US and keep them there. The site was cultivated with this in mind from the beginning, and the user base behaves accordingly. Given the kill or be killed environment of electoral politics in the US, there is no room for introspection of any sort. Stop trying to make that site into something it isn't.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Tue Jun 1st, 2010 at 01:51:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Long ago, as time is measured in politics today, I did a diary called "The Quiet Coup", which looked back to the Ford administration and traced the emergence of parallel power structures that, taken together, helped illustrate the capture of government by a power structure largely external to the traditional narrative of administration as actor, political field as the space of play. The Dick and Don show was a big part of it.
I was right.
Obama is not even a major player. He discovered this, I think, shortly after he took office, probably the first time he tried to walk over the line of permissible behavior and got slapped down by the real players. Who are the "real players"? My God, everyone from Glenn Greenwald to Naomi Kline has published everything but their DNA profiles.
Frank has detailed a fair selection of the areas in which his stated beliefs and objectives, pre-election, and the policies (or lack thereof) that emerged from his administration clash horribly.  
However,I disagree with the entire premise that it is useful to ask what Obama would wish to do, or what his administration could do, had he "taken charge". He's just not in charge, and never has been.
I believe him. I believe that his campaign rhetoric represented his point of view fairly if somewhat vaguely, and described  a position of general principle.
The problem is the size of the space in which Obama is allowed to play. It's pretty small.

Think back to the days of Ronald Reagan for a minute.
We talk today about the disaster wreaked upon the competence of government by the Reagan administration when they discovered they could not just discard social security and the rest of the commie entitlements so hated by the elite since the new deal. When they were unable to survive contact with the "third rail", they just staffed the agencies they wished to destroy with moles, embedded nitwits or saboteurs, and rendered them so incompetent that it was easy to make a case for the thesis that whatever the government touched turned to shit. Deja vue.
Yet it was a standing joke that the big Ron couldn't stay awake through a national security briefing.
So did this highly sucessful plan to sabotage government actually emerge from his alzeheimers' addled wit? Bah.
In fairness, I think old Ron actually snuck a couple through, but he was as much of a corporate shill as Obama has, of needs, become.

In the main, Ron agreed with his handlers.
Obama does not.
 Sadly, he searches for issues and policy areas that he will be allowed to move--and fails to shoot low enough.
Just tick off in your mind the number of times he has been ignored, countermanded, evaded, bypassed. Now, with DADT, after actually publicly announcing a policy change supported by a strong majority of the military officer corps, Admiral McMullen followed by a host of lesser chicken-salad-toting military asskissers just told the pres to buzz off.
A while ago, I also said it was time for Obama to take a gamble- to stake out some turf that he could and would defend, to draw some fire on a battlefield of his own choosing. He did not. He squandered the biggest pile of political capital ever amassed by any president in my lifetime. That is at least partly a result of his inability to confront, as has been pointed out, but-- his leash is too short, even if he would do so. And it's too late, anyway.

 

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Tue Jun 1st, 2010 at 03:49:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What I find so amazing about wingnut US political discourse is that they equate less Government with more freedom when it actually means the opposite: less democracy and more corporate rule.  Wingnuts seem to be "corporate blind" - they don't see any power centres other than the Government and fondly imagine "the market" will make them free is only the Government would get out of the way.  The reality is that what's left of the Government is the only thing still keeping them in the game.  Without Government they are just worker consumers with just about no rights or freedoms at all.

Frank's Home Page and Diary Index
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Jun 1st, 2010 at 04:29:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Wingnuts like corporate rule because they own the corporations that make the rules. They don't want more Government because more Government means more oversight and possibly less freedom to do what they want to do: i.e, run rip-shod over the public and make more money. Most wingnuts I've come across are strongly motivated by greed and for the most part could give a rat's ass about foreign policy or anything else that doesn't directly affect putting more money into their own pockets. They are not critical thinkers; thinking hurts too much. They are not compassionate, nor are they conservative in the sense of wanting to preserve anything of value for future generations. They care only about themselves and the here and now. And everyone must believe that America is incapable of wrongdoing, no matter the circumstances. You know the saying . . . "love it or leave it." Well, it was that stubborn American-style bullheadedness of these people that helped make my decision to leave much easier.

As for DKOS, I've lurked over there since the site's inception and believe its only goal is to get Dems elected. While some Kossacks continue to put a smile on my face with their wit and intellect,  those posters are few and far between. And many of the best have jumped ship by now. It's really much more satisfying to hang out here and follow y'all.

by sgr2 on Wed Jun 2nd, 2010 at 11:28:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well done on all points.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Wed Jun 2nd, 2010 at 11:33:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I can understand rich wingnuts who actually own companies wanting to get the Government out of the way of their profit maximisation.  The bit I don't understand is the poor wingnuts who don't own anything and are barely surviving spouting the same ideology even though they are being screwed by the rich wingnuts...

Frank's Home Page and Diary Index
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Jun 2nd, 2010 at 11:49:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I do. I've had a diary planned about this for over a year now, but haven't had time to write it.

It's based on an ideology of omnipotence and self-determination. Corporations are private individuals, they're private individuals, therefore they don't like government interference.

Of course it's quite mad, but there is an internal logic to it.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Jun 2nd, 2010 at 11:51:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wingnuts almost uniformly have an atavistic reverence for violence.

Not in the sense that they are themselves brutal thugs (though that too sometimes), but in the sense that they view violence as the only measure of power. Unless there is a man with a gun or a whip behind you, it is assumed that he cannot exercise power over you. And if no power is being exercised over you, your behaviour is assumed to be fully voluntary and completely your own to decide.

In other words, they skipped over all major advances in the social sciences for the last hundred years or so.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Jun 2nd, 2010 at 01:41:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I can understand why wingnuts reared in authoritarian (and violent) household see authority and a capability/propensity for violence as almost the same thing.  I can also understand their contempt for a political system which is complex, compromised based and seeks consensus rather than subjugation.  For them force is the solution: so now what's the problem?  

And the problem is usually the libruls who are too wussy to apply force at every opportunity to get their way. Obama's predilection for bipartisanship, consensus and compromise will elicit nothing but contempt from them.  It shows them he's weak and not a man of power.  It's almost a sexual thing - dominance and submission - which can also be found in fanatical religious organisations.

This carrying a gun is a psychological statement and requirement to demonstrates their power and dominance over others.  It demonstrates a contempt for the arts of persuasion and negotiation - something they are usually terrible at.  To me it all smacks of extreme emotional immaturity that I associate with repressive societies and sexual norms, male dominance, and reverence for AUTHORITY.

Maybe I should read The mass psychology of fascism...

Frank's Home Page and Diary Index

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Jun 2nd, 2010 at 02:00:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My point isn't so much about wingnuts being willing to apply violence to get power. My point is that most wingnuts I've met have a blind spot the size of a carrier task force when it comes to all the ways you can exercise power without the application of violence.

This leads them to the naive assumption that there is no power in private relationships, since the government holds the monopoly on the exercise of organised violence. Since there can be no power in private relationships, there can be no asymmetries of power, and thus there can be no oppression. Therefore, smaller government means less oppression, meaning more freedom.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Jun 2nd, 2010 at 02:38:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... fondly imagine "the market" will make them free is only the Government would get out of the way.

Most of them can't imagine anything.  They are simply repeating what they hear from Rush or on FOX.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.

by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Wed Jun 2nd, 2010 at 11:36:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I understand your rant because of Gaza flotilla fiasco when deficiences in American foreign policy stand exposed. There was indeed very little "change" in American foreign policy since Obama took office as I explained in my recent diary. I would argue however that some changes yet taking place.

As for Obamatrolls on DK which tried to tear your diary apart I think they were mostly attracted by its title, never reading your points. I remember there were many foolish comments like "No. Another question" - they read only question in the headline, answered (to it) and did not bother to read further.

I don't know how you feel about being attacked undeservedly by DK's "musclemen with zero IQ". Reaction to such bullying may depend on one's depth of conviction (and knowledge), whether one feels that nothing wrong with his (her) views and continues to express and defend them no matter what.

Internet blogging may be not enlightened internet democracy where everyone is tolerant to other's rants or flaps, but often degenerates into internet bullying like in schoolyard with difference that is not material, not physical. DK moderators do not seem to bother much about such permanent gallery on their forum, that is up to them, however they uprated your diary because of you past work.

by FarEasterner on Tue Jun 1st, 2010 at 02:14:52 PM EST
Another thing about Frank's diary on DKos that I noticed in the comment thread:  Of the folks who posted who I have ever heard of before, or that I tend to follow even in the slightest . . . they ALL posted positive, reasoned comments without exception. The bulk of the comments that were negative were posted by folks I've never heard of before, but are just those type of people who make that site no longer so interesting IMO.
by sgr2 on Wed Jun 2nd, 2010 at 11:42:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm really not sure what you expected from this administration.

I don't think it's all that bad and I'm not surprised at what has happened so far.

There also should be a lot less separation between domestic policy and foreign policy. Domestic policy has a huge impact on foreign policy.

Obama is dealing with a recalcitrant congress, and there's no way there is enough political conviction to get a total progressive agenda passed. But there are strategic decisions one might make to push the ball forward, and health care was one such decision. It will have far-reaching ramifications on American policies, both foreign and domestic. Of course, the Supreme Court's Citizen United decision will likely have even more far reaching implications.

I'm also not certain why you said American progressives have been cowed by conservatives and the corporate media elite into accepting their inferiority. It's clear that progressives in the USA are inferior.

Given the USA's electoral college and campaign finance laws, we have a flawed democracy. The system here is rigged from the start against progressives. Obama is operating under that system.

There also isn't any counterbalance to the USA in the world. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we saw European leadership that conflicted with US policy? But we don't.

by Upstate NY on Wed Jun 2nd, 2010 at 01:24:54 PM EST
Who can deny that our American world is in trouble?  Or that our troubles, like our wars, have a momentum of their own against which we generally no longer raise our voices in protest; that we have, in a sense, been disarmed as citizens?

You, the graduating class of 2010, are caught in a system; then again, so are our leaders.  In recent years, we’ve had two presidents, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, who could not be mistaken for one another.  In most obvious ways -- style, thinking, personality, politics, sensibility, impulses -- they couldn’t be more different, as have been the ways they have approached problems.  One was a true believer in the glories of American military and executive power, the other is a manager of a declining power and what passes for a political “pragmatist” in our world.  Yet, more times than is faintly comfortable, the two of them have ended up in approximately the same policy places -- whether on the abridgement of liberties, the expansion of the secret activities of military special operations forces across the Greater Middle East, the CIA drone war in the Pakistani borderlands and elsewhere, the treatment of prisoners, our expanding wars, Pentagon budgets, offshore oil drilling and nuclear power, or other topics which matter in our lives.

This should be more startling than it evidently is for most Americans.  If the policies of these two disparate figures often have a tweedledum-and-tweedledee-ish look to them, then what we face is not specific party politics or individual style, but a system with its own steamroller force, and its own set of narrow, repetitive “solutions” to our problems.  We also face an increasingly militarized, privatized government, its wheels greased by the funds of giant corporations, that now regularly seems to go about the business of creating new Katrinas.

TomDispatch

The Presidency is apparently window-dressing on the permanent (oligarch) government.  What any one person can do in that job (especially after all the favours taken and owed to get that far) is pretty limited.

Greetings America, you now have your very own Tony Blair:  slim, handsome, articulate (nay, glib even), educated, charming... and he still has to dance with them as brung 'im.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Wed Jun 2nd, 2010 at 03:41:56 PM EST


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