Free Markets, Free People
Marc Ambinder takes sophistry and spin to a new level in a post at the Atlantic entitled “How Obama Survived August”.
Of course, for most of us, it isn’t yet clear he has survived August. We’ll see how he does tomorrow night and what, if anything, that brings before deciding if he’s still among the living, politically speaking.
But Sir Marc drives on denying that anything that happened in August mattered very much and, discovering irony, throws this jewel out there:
Another irony: the public option debate helped. It helped by offering itself up as a sacrifice. The new Maginot line, drawn by advocates of a single payer system, turned out to be a bit of a feint because it was never the sine qua non of reform.
At best that’s whistling past the graveyard. But there was no “plan” to offer the public option up for sacrifice and Ambinder knows it. The fact that it is up for debate and perhaps exclusion has nothing – nothing- to do with Ambinder’s spin. It will most likely be dumped because Democrats missed the self-imposed August deadline to pass this in haste so they wouldn’t have to debate or defend the public option.
Their failure to do so gave people the opportunity to dig into the details of the bill passed by the House and spawned the August to remember. To pretend this was all part of a grand strategy, given the debacle that this debate has been for the Democrats, is simply laughable on its face.
Where Ambinder and I agree is where the Netroots crowd is going to end up in all of this:
Sen. Max Baucus’s health care plan has been derided by many liberal activists because it seems to be a compromise upon a compromise.
For these activists, the debate itself has been damaging because it exposed the administration’s willingness to give voice and legitimacy to sides in this debate that many liberal activists do not believe ought to be afforded those prerogatives, including Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee, PhRMA, and the insurers. The charge that Obama didn’t stand up for his principals is a hard one to rebut, but the White House would rather have the bill they’re probably going to get now and worry about Netroot anxiety later. From the start, the least convincing argument made to the White House about strategy starts with the premise that compromising with recalcitrant Republicans is inherently bad.
You have to laugh a bit at this too – Ambinder admits that the “dissent is the highest form of patriotism” crowd is adamant about excluding those they disagree with from the “debate”. Read Hamsher’s screed cited in the Van Jones article below if you doubt that.
But what is happening is inevitable in politics, regardless of which party we’re talking about. Where do the Netroots go if displeased with Obama? The same place conservatives went when displeased with McCain’s move toward the squishy center. Nowhere.
The Netroots may sit at home, or lessen their activism, realizing that their more radical dreams have no future, but they’re not going to the other side – of that Obama is certain. Democrats have exploited that little truism for decades with both the black and LGBT communities.
After that bit of reality, Ambinder heads back into sophistry:
After August, conservatives have exhausted their repertoire of arguments and many of their demagogic tricks. Public support for significant health care reform as something worth doing remains high.
As a matter of fact there is a kernel of truth in that bit of nonsense. Public support for health care reform does remain high. However public support for the Democratic version of health care reform couldn’t be lower. And that’s what is on the table for the moment.
And as with most of the left, Ambinder thinks the August outbursts were all orchestrated by “conservatives” and are waning. In fact, what continues to ebb is trust in both the president and Democrats. You’d have to thoroughly ignore the recent polls to believe that this is about “conservatives” and their “demagogic tricks”. You’d have to be willfully blind to insist this is all just about health care.
But Ambinder is convinced that it is indeed all about Democrats:
After August, Democrats have the momentum to pass the bill.
Only if they are able to do what Ambinder has successfully done – stick his head in a bucket and listen to the echo while ignoring the reality to be seen outside. Democrats have the power to pass the bill – there’s no question. But those who actually have positions at risk are very unlikely to be as glib as Ambinder when it comes to his badly flawed analysis. Momentum isn’t the word Democrats are going to be using when talking about a health care bill. “Risk” is the word they’ll be using.
I still think, as I’ve been saying, and as Ambinder contends, that something called “health care reform” will pass the Congress. I think there are enough Democrats who understand that this is indeed Obama’s presidential Waterloo and are determined to put him on the British side of things.
However, it is ludicrous to believe that a) this has all gone according to some sort of plan and b) that at this point Obama has survived it. He may get a bill that is so watered down and irrelevant that he becomes just as irrelevant. And in the world of politics that’s the equivalent of being “dead”.
It’s a little early to be singing about Obama or the Democrats having survived anything at this point.
A little reminder for those on the left who sniff at those uncomfortable about a politician addressing school children. It’s also handy for those who like to like to recall George H.W. Bush’s address to school kids and pretend like the left wasn’t bothered by that:
But when President George H.W. Bush delivered a similar speech on October 1, 1991, from Alice Deal Junior High School in Washington DC, the controversy was just beginning. Democrats, then the majority party in Congress, not only denounced Bush’s speech — they also ordered the General Accounting Office to investigate its production and later summoned top Bush administration officials to Capitol Hill for an extensive hearing on the issue.
Of course that won’t happen in this case. Nor will this:
The National Education Association denounced the speech, saying it “cannot endorse a president who spends $26,000 of taxpayers’ money on a staged media event at Alice Deal Junior High School in Washington, D.C. — while cutting school lunch funds for our neediest youngsters.”
And you certainly won’t hear Democratic politicans saying anything like this either:
“The Department of Education should not be producing paid political advertising for the president, it should be helping us to produce smarter students,” said Richard Gephardt, then the House Majority Leader. “And the president should be doing more about education than saying, ‘Lights, camera, action.’”
But you know, this is all a new bit of right-wing paranoia, isn’t it?
One of the more entertaining things to do is watch partisan political columnists adjust their outlook and opinion based on who is in power at the moment. The convolutions, contortions and outright memory lapses are something to behold. Bob Herbert is no exception to the rule as he demonstrates today. Apparently he’s upset with the right-wing crazies out there and is sure their dyspeptic mood and demonstrations signal the demise of our once great nation:
Maybe the economic stress has been too much. Looking back at the past few months, it’s fair to wonder if the country isn’t going through a nervous breakdown.
The political debate has been poisoned by birthers, deathers and wackos who smile proudly while carrying signs comparing the president to the Nazis.
Of course that wasn’t the case in good old says of 2007 when the anti-war protests were in full bloom and Herbert was sure that they signaled a new and wonderful resurgence of public activism that he felt, at least at the time, was so refreshing and so badly needed:
You can say what you want about the people opposed to this wretched war in Iraq, try to stereotype them any way you can. But you couldn’t walk among them for more than a few minutes on Saturday without realizing that they love their country as much as anyone ever has. They love it enough to try to save it.
You can be sure that’s not the case with the present crew who Herbert gladly stereotypes. They obviously can’t at all love this country – especially if they’re carrying signs calling the president a Nazi. Of course for Herbert to have missed the abundance of signs calling the then president a Nazi on the “beautiful, sunlit day” in January of 2007, then his blinders were surely well in place.
The goal of the crowd was to get the attention of Congress and persuade it to move vigorously to reverse the Bush war policies. But the thought that kept returning as I watched the earnestly smiling faces, so many of them no longer young, was the way these protesters had somehow managed to keep the faith. They still believed, after all the years and all the lies, that they could make a difference. They still believed their government would listen to them and respond.
Yet apparently the goal of the “birthers, deathers and wackos” Herbert denigrates in his latest couldn’t at all be that they too believe they have a right to petition Congress or that “their government would listen to them and respond”. Nope, they’re completely different than the smiling, expletive shouting anti-war crowd which made signs calling the president a Nazi a cottage industry. Obviously, unlike the anti-war/anti-Bush crowds of 2007, the “birthers, deathers and wackos” hate their country- right Mr. Herbert?
The rise and fall of Van Jones has been a rather interesting situation to watch for a number of reasons.
One is the effect it has had on what David Sirotta calls “movement progressives”. Any one else would call them radical leftists. For those needing a definition, a “movement progressive” is one who comes from the grassroots of leftdom and has earned his or her way up through activism. That’s not to be confused with the “Team of Corporate Zombies”, per Sirota, with which Obama has surrounded himself. “Zombies” like Rahm Emanuel, Larry Summers and Tim Geithner.
So what was the value of Van Jones and his position? Per Sirota he was the only movement progressive in a real position to actually influence policy rather than being shuffled off into a “political/tactical job”. Sirota believes progressives have been badly dissed by the administration’s decision to throw Jones under the proverbial bus. And, of course, Sirota can’t imagine anything but racism being the motivator for those who went after Jones.
Jane Hamsher goes into it even further with a real “movement progressive” blast at the entire Obama administration. She’s of the opinion that the only groups under attack (and being compromised) right now by the White House are progressive groups. Likening them to a calf in a veal pen she writes:
And so the groups in the DC veal pen stay silent. They leadership gets gets bought off by cocktail parties at the White House while the interests of their members get sold out. How many have openly pushed back against the Administration on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell or DOMA? Well, not many. Most tried to satisfy their LGBT members by outsourcing activism to other organizations, or proving their bona fides by getting involved in the Prop 8 battle that is not directly toxic to the White House. It’s a chickensh*t sidestep that betrays their members in the interest of personal gain, which they justify with feeble self-serving palliatives about the importance of “maintaining a seat at the table.”
I think the phrase “not happy” is an understatement. And the Van Jones debacle just further aggravates the situation.
However not every voice from every liberal area is in synch with the “movement progressive” crowd. What I’m sure some of the grassroots liberals would consider to be the voice of the corporate media, papers like the San Francisco Chronicle still dutifully carry water for the administration and a little lecture for the Hamshers and Sirotas of the world:
For all those on the left who are expressing frustrations that the Obama administration did not choose to “fight” the forces who are determined to discredit Jones because of his past, we say: There was a time for that fight. It was before Jones assumed his high-level position in the administration.
Since Jones was never vetted publicly, that moment passed without note. And that, of course is the problem with such appointments. When finally vetted by public scrutiny, problems like Jones are bound to surface. Expect more.
The Chronicle also makes an interesting point about regional politics vs. national politics that seems to be lost on progressives:
Those of us who have observed Van Jones’ work over the years know him as a dedicated activist whose once polemic and confrontational style on matters such as police misconduct has been redirected and transformed into a more polished and inclusive advocacy of the environment. In the politics of the San Francisco Bay Area, a fiery radical past is almost a rite of passage.
On the national stage, it requires explanation, context and a touch of contrition – just as the past writings and statements of conservatives from other parts of the country seem so offensive and inexplicable here.
The fact that Jones’ activism, ideology and statements were obviously not acceptable on a national level should tell progressives something about why their ideology isn’t translating into what they expected when they signed on to the “hope and change” express.
The Wall Street Journal provides a little more insight for the progressives:
No President is responsible for all of the views of his appointees, but the rise and fall of Mr. Jones is one more warning that Mr. Obama can’t succeed on his current course of governing from the left. He is running into political trouble not because his own message is unclear, or because his opposition is better organized. Mr. Obama is falling in the polls because last year he didn’t tell the American people that the “change” they were asked to believe in included trillions of dollars in new spending, deferring to the most liberal Members of Congress, a government takeover of health care, and appointees with the views of Van Jones.
The “reality-based community” is having to face political reality for the first time and they don’t like it one bit.
Finally, any discussion of the Jones story has to include the shameful handling of it by much of the mainstream media. Or should I say the non-handling of it – for the most part, with obvious exceptions, they chose to ignore it. Consequently, when it broke, they were caught flatfooted and trying to catch up. They did their readers and viewers a great disservice and delivered yet another self-inflicted blow to their waning credibility.