Great Challenges Make Great Presidents? Obama Not There Yet

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obamacamera.jpg
(photo credit: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
I wrote this article today for Salon.com reviewing President Obama’s performance over the past year.
I hope you’ll read the entire piece — but here’s the intro plus a bit more:
salon logo.jpg

Great Challenges Make Great Leaders
Yes, Obama inherited a presidency in bad shape. But he’s yet to deliver the “change” he promised
By Steven Clemons

Expectations of Barack Obama’s presidency perhaps have been unfair — expecting him to deliver to a better place an America that had seen its military, economic and moral preeminence badly shattered during the preceding tenure of George W. Bush.
But great challenges are actually what make up the stuff of great leaders, and regrettably, Barack Obama — though mesmerizing on many levels — has demonstrated thus far more of an ability to deliver policy outcomes generated by inertia and incrementalism rather than changing the laws of political gravity, which is what he must do if he is to succeed in office.
Barack Obama can’t be measured by the same stick as most American presidents. He must be better and do more. We are at a time of historical discontinuity in U.S. history — a point at which America’s global social contract with other of the world’s stakeholders must be renegotiated and when America must reinvent itself, its economy and its relationship with citizens on the domestic front. As Walter Russell Mead recently proclaimed at a New America Foundation event grading Obama’s performance, “Being president is really hard.”
Obama has failed to realize that the kind of “change” he promised during his campaign is actually the kind of change the nation needs. During the global financial crisis, he elected to ally himself with the architects of the previous financial order — Robert Rubin, Lawrence Summers and their followers. And these neoliberal practitioners delivered a financial recovery course that helped Wall Street and yet again sacrificed the interests of the American middle class, just as they did in the past.
When it has come to correcting the disaster of the national security portfolio he inherited from the Bush White House, Obama talked up a good vision of changing the way gravity was working in the Middle East — reaching out to problematic world leaders, establishing a workable course in Palestine-Israel relations, helping to create a credible vision of better opportunity for frustrated youth in the underdeveloped world. But when it came to action, his administration has been as paralyzed worse than the last.

Now I need to tune in to see what’s happening in Massachusetts. Perhaps by feeling the pain of this Senate race, Obama will get to changing up his team faster than he otherwise would have.
– Steve Clemons

Comments

115 comments on “Great Challenges Make Great Presidents? Obama Not There Yet

  1. nadine says:

    “Obama in his new populism is getting a little creepy. The attack on the Supreme Court decision is wrong-headed and populism unleashed is kind of ugly.” (questions)
    I think the word you are looking for is “desperate.” Obama really thinks he can save himself by getting in front of a wave of “popular anger”. Wrong on two counts: 1) Obama was not elected as a populist. He was elected as Mr. Cool, a pragmatic moderate. 2) Obama can’t get in front of this anger without changing course because the anger is directed at Obama. It’s absurd to claim that the citizens of Massachusetts (!) just elected a Republican to the Senate who promised to be the 41st vote against Obamacare because they are still mad at George W. Bush.
    Obama is committing that worst of all political sins: believing his own propaganda.

    Reply

  2. nadine says:

    questions, my polling data is quite correct – I’m getting it from the average of the latest polls at RealClearPolitics. You don’t get to cherry-pick this policy and that policy and “carefully explain” it. That might be useful for Nate Silver (whom I do read) to examine attitudes more carefully but it’s no substitute for having a popular bill. Obama had a year to do the explaining and he failed. He had both houses of Congress and a fawning media. If people have got the “wrong idea” it’s because what Obama was saying never made sense to people, so his critics made headway.
    I know about Massachusetts. Romneycare is bankrupting the state and has made premiums the highest in the country. Go check out what the projections were with what it actually costs.

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  3. questions says:

    And Nadine,
    Get your polling data correct! Obamacare, when carefully explained, is not unpopular! The problem is that people don’t get really good info from, umm, Fox News and its ilk.
    Read your daily Nate Silver! You’ll be a better blog-poster for it!
    (Remember that Massachusetts ALREADY has nearly-universal health insurance with mandates. Many didn’t want the Feds messing with their system….)

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  4. questions says:

    The 80% need to be very careful lest they lose their insurance through premium jack-ups, one very ill colleague, job loss from the recession, job loss from illness. COBRA isn’t fun.
    The problem is more that many people don’t put all of this stuff together without emotional appeals that really steer people in the wrong direction.
    Lakoff has another one of his framing pieces and as much as it makes some sense to worry about framing, it’s also a little creepy.
    Obama in his new populism is getting a little creepy. The attack on the Supreme Court decision is wrong-headed and populism unleashed is kind of ugly.
    The real problems are: people who FEEL secure in their health insurance are much less secure than they realize, so we are really all together in the need for some kind of affordable guaranteed issue.
    People who think the banksters are the enemy are only partly right. Our system puts the banksters in the center of a lot of stuff that benefits many many people even while costing them. Nail the banksters to punish the costs and you lose the benefits. Obama actually knows this, as does Geithner apparently. But the populist crap means that we may end up doing the punishing thing for vote-getting.
    Slow shifts in the concentration of wealth, slow changes in the general value of collecting insane amounts of wealth is far preferable to sudden populism. I don’t really want emotional connection with my politicians. I want wonky technocratic policy-oriented carefully thought out thousand-page bills everywhere. Legislation has to cover a lot of what-ifs and make a lot of trade-offs among constituents. If someone could explain that that’s how democracy works — explain it to all the people who think the “too many words” thing is a “good” “argument”, then I’d be happier. But since “too many words” shows up even around here, I don’t think this one is gonna fly.
    What Obama was trying to do his first year, I’m guessing, is to stop the insanity of the pendulum swing. The idea that the truth might be sufficient, that if you could say to people that health reform is wonky-hard, that lots of things go together (guaranteed issue (hooray) NEEDS mandates (boo)), that there’s good and bad together, then maybe people would go along with the program. It sounds good to me, but so does wonkiness. Emotionalism does not make good policy.
    Those who want SPEECHES seem to want the emotionalism, but incitement to emotion backfires eventually when people suddenly feel betrayed. Policy betrays everyone because it’s a compromise among competing demands. And that sense of betrayal will get worse if Obama keeps up with the emotionalism and populist crap.
    But then, if he does none of this emotionalism crap, he’ll lose re-election because somehow Republican politics will look “compassionate” in comparison. (See Andre Bauer’s latest comment on how feeding the animals only makes them breed, and animals are just like the poor, or the other way around. Now there’s some serious compassion in a conservative SC Republican. Maybe he, too, should go walk the Appalachian Trail…..)
    By the way, there are deep institutional causes for all that sausage. It has a beautiful logic to it!

    Reply

  5. nadine says:

    questions, of course Obama could have made the policy move; you can find many instances in the past where Presidents have successfully sold a policy through speeches in the past. And he certainly tried! But he failed, for four main reasons imo:
    1. Obama didn’t have a bill. When you sell something, it helps to have something to sell, not just vapor. If you keep repeating talking points about vapor for months, you wreck your own credibility.
    2. He endorsed a self-contradictory approach to health care reform, trying to persuade people that we can cover 30 million more people and save money without more doctors, medical rationing or tort reform. Plus the system could be completely reformed, but we could all keep our plans if we liked them. How? by attacking “waste fraud & abuse.” How dumb does he think we are? Ans: very.
    3. Obama can’t put together an argument to save his life. I don’t know why people ever thought he was brilliant; he only imitated brilliant. He’s as deep as a puddle. Either there’s a non sequitur every paragraph, or he just repeats sloppy cliches.
    4. While Obama talked and talked and talked, Congress made sausage…where we all could see it, bribes and special deals included. And the 80% of us who like the health care system we have began to get very scared that nobody had a clue what their 2000 page bill would actually do.
    Small wonder that the more Obama talked, the lower support for Obamacare went.

    Reply

  6. questions says:

    One more thing about the conspiracy note — the theme of the posting here seems to be that somehow Obama ALONE could speechify in some GREAT LEADER way to make policy move. But the great leader theory of historical causation is incomplete, weak, and not fully explanatory even as it is what we often gravitate towards.
    Conspiracy theory is an attempt to reduce complicated events to a single cause.
    The criticism of Obama here is an attempt to reduce complicated events to a single cause.
    When we reduce complicated events to a single cause, we end up not being very good analysts of events.
    But then, you’re not reading this either. There’s a funny kind of freedom in writing for no audience at all!
    By the way….
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/24/weekinreview/24kirkpatrick.html?scp=3&sq=david%20kirkpatrick&st=Search
    A piece on the Supreme Court decision that allows for some of the muddy water and unclear causal links between reform and money, money and politics, direction of causation and the like….

    Reply

  7. questions says:

    Speeches from a great leader are not the only mover of policy.
    Not all events are caused by single great actors.
    Sorry you didn’t understand that.
    I responded anyway, but I can say anything here because you’re not reading it!!!
    And clearly you don’t really read what I write because you didn’t respond to my 7:28 post.
    The conspiracy note is there basically to say the same thing — events don’t move just because of single great leaders.
    Speeches from on high have limited effects on senators from down low.
    If only 61% of us have the guaranteed issue issue down, then what the hell is a prime time Obama speech gonna do? The pre-existing condition issue has been EVERYWHERE.
    But of course, you’re not reading this as nothing I say ever makes any sense at all!
    Oh, and maybe I didn’t want to say anything interesting. Or maybe the point was implicit. If you and Nadine think Obama has made lots and lots of speeches, AND STILL only 61% of us know about the guaranteed issue, maybe there’s a structure in place outside of the Great Leader’s speechifying that might be relevant! And so a review of the speeches is less important than realizing that there are numerous other issues aside from the number of speeches or the quality of speeches.
    Thanks for not-reading!

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  8. MarkL says:

    Questions,
    Yes, I get that policy is complicated. I knew that long before you started writing variations on this observation 20 times or more a day—without ever putting any substance in, I might add.
    Your last comment didn’t address the topic and didn’t make sense.
    Why are you rambling about conspiracy theories?
    Along with POA’s comments, which may be interesting but are almost never on topic, I skim or skip your comments, anymore.
    No need to address anything to me, because I won’t read it.
    I only commented because I thought it was interesting Nadine wrote the same observation about Obama, which I have not seen elsewhere.
    If you had wanted to say something interesting in response, you could have given me polls about how Obama’s speeches affect people’s views on issues.

    Reply

  9. questions says:

    MarkL and Nadine,
    You’re not quite on the mark with your criticism. First, check out Nate Silver’s 538 charts on what voters like and what they think is in the bill. Many provisions are super popular but people don’t get the information they need about the bill.
    How is it that the bill has been distorted in people’s minds? Umm, is it because there’s just too much to know? Probably not. Is it because people are just too dumb? Nope. Could it be that there is a segment of the media that is uninterested in reporting what actually is in the bill? Hmmm, let me think about that…
    If only 61% of us know that guaranteed issue is part of the deal, how can we really trust the polls on the bill? That’s a lot of missing information. Silver has a whole list of these missing bits of information up.
    http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2010/01/health-care-polls-opinion-gap-or.html
    Give it a look-see. You might be surprised!
    So I wouldn’t really say it’s an Obama failure. I would say that our political system is happier with super-small increments (I actually thought that HCR was fairly incremental in that we’re pretty used to having governmental intervention in health care, the bill keeps all the insurance companies in place, the public option wouldn’t have been open to very many people, the cost containment was pretty popular as an idea, the subsidies would help a fair number of people and we’re certainly used to subsidizing all sorts of things….)
    Look more to structures in the government instead of to personalities. You’d be surprised what happens if you change your analytic model!
    We’re so used to history’s being told as a series of decisions by POWERFUL (white!) MEN who DO THINGS oh so seriously. Think of all the movies in school with the voice of scientific objectivity telling us about events and the people who make them happen. That’s what’s internalized here as our standard mode of interpretation.
    Note that all conspiracy theories assume that SOMEONE MADE IT HAPPEN.
    It’s an interpretive decision, not a complete story.
    If you haven’t read ch. 1 of Essence of Decision ever or in a long time, go back over it. Graham Allison, in explaining the Cuban missile crisis, goes over this stuff. It’s been fashionable in history for quite some time to pay attention to things other than kings and wars and wars and kings. Give it a try!

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  10. MarkL says:

    Wow, Nadine
    I made almost exactly the same comment about Obama on another blog earlier today.
    I have to agree with you again.
    Look, you ground your teeth listening to Bush speak, but he moved the debate on policy with his speeches.
    Obama writes speeches to raise his approval rating and/or save his ass.
    He can’t talk about a serious issue except to say , well, it’s difficult, and there are opposing sides, and it’s complicated.
    Obama wasn’t elected to be a bystander!
    He’s as detached, in his own way, as Nixon in summer 1974.

    Reply

  11. nadine says:

    “With his oratorical skills Obama should have dominated the debate. That was his trump card, and he didn’t play it.” (John Waring)
    SAY WHAT??!!
    How many speeches did Obama give on health care, 50? It seemed like more. The man was omnipresent. He had ABC tour the White House for health care. He addressed a Joint Session of Congress for health care. He gave a speech a week for health care. He pulled out all the stops for health care.
    Obama’s oratorical skills just aren’t what they were cracked up to be. Obama can only sell Obama; no other product.

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  12. John Waring says:

    Nadine,
    I’d agree with you that Obama over played his hand against Netanyahu. But I disagree with you on the domestic front. Obama failed to utilize the power of the presidency.
    With his oratorical skills Obama should have dominated the debate. That was his trump card, and he didn’t play it.
    In our political culture, you let yourself get tarred and feathered, don’t be surprised if you get run out of town on a rail.

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  13. nadine says:

    “Rahm had the momentum, Rahm had the power, and Rahm had the posse with the big guns at his back.” (John Waring)
    Rahm thought he was invincible and overplayed his hand. We don’t need no stinking Republicans, we’ll do this by ourselves!
    Oops.
    You guys seem to think that Rahm/Obama’s problem is not being ideological enough. They were plenty ideological. Their problem is, they are INCOMPETENT.
    Now they will be hated by the left as sell-outs, and hated by the center and right as socialists. And they’ll all be right!

    Reply

  14. nadine says:

    Gaza will get no aid from their Egyptian “brothers” as relations with Hamas are going lower and lower. Not only is Egypt building an “iron wall,” now they demand Hamas shoot the snipers who killed an Egyptian soldier. Can you just imagine if Israel made such a demand? Golly, where are all the human rights organizations when you need them? And look, people are dying of flooding in Israel and the Sinai as well as Gaza. Did Israel open secret dams there too?
    Cairo turns screw on Hamas: Execute snipers who killed Egyptian soldier
    January 20, 2010, 11:30 PM (GMT+02:00)
    Egyptian soldier killed on Gaza guard tower
    Cairo has warned Hamas’ Damascus-based leader Khaled Meshaal in its toughest language ever that Egypt will have no more truck with his Palestinian extremist organization until the snipers who shot dead an Egyptian soldier on the Gaza-Sinai border on Jan. 6 are tried and executed, DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources report.
    Their names are known to Cairo.
    The Egyptian ultimatum was relayed through Saudi Arabia and Kuwait which are trying to patch up the quarrel between Cairo and Hamas.
    Meshal offered to come to Cairo and apologize formally for the Egyptian soldier’s death. He was brusquely snubbed: The Hamas leader had better not land in Cairo because he would not be let off the plane, he was told: “We have given Hamas-Gaza the names of the men who shot the Egyptian soldier and now Hamas must hang them.” Until then, the Hamas leader has no business in Egypt.
    Our sources add: Saudi security officers who interceded with Egyptian intelligence minister Gen. Omar Suleiman were told that the Palestinian group’s leaders had become too uppity and begun addressing Egypt as their equal. President Hosni Mubarak decided they needed cutting down to size and taught to respect the region’s real boss.
    DEBKAfile’s military sources report that Egypt has tightened its siege of the Gaza Strip, regardless of the torrential rains and flashfloods which swept Egypt and Israel this week. Some 12 Egyptians and tourists died and more are missing, while two Israelis were swept to their death by the raging waters which devastated roads and infrastructure in Sinai and the Negev.
    Nonetheless, dozens more military roadblocks went up on all the Sinai road links to Gaza’s smuggling tunnels at a distance of 60-80 km and Egyptian surveillance helicopters began passes, day and night, over the Bedouin smuggling routes.
    http://www.debka.com/headline.php?hid=6467

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  15. JamesL says:

    Hey Nadine, I’ve been reviewing some photos of Warsaw back in the Good War. Looks a lot like Gaza.

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  16. John Waring says:

    Questions,
    Obama had the face cards after the election. He had a better hand delt to him than any other democratic president since 1964. Of course deals have to be made, but Rahm did not need to give away the store. Rahm did not play the cards he had.
    Please keep this in mind. Corporate America had the president’s back on the issue of medical care cost containment. In every boardroom across the country, CFO’s are sick and tired of runaway insurance costs.
    Rahm had the momentum, Rahm had the power, and Rahm had the posse with the big guns at his back.
    Rahm simply did not do his job. Any fool could have gotten a better deal.

    Reply

  17. nadine says:

    JamesL, if anybody in Gaza so much as steps in dog poop, Israel is at once blamed.
    The Negev is getting heavy winter rains this year. When it rains in the desert, it floods because there is no topsoil or vegetation to absorb the water. That’s the nature of things.

    Reply

  18. JamesL says:

    POA, RE your 8:24 Jan 19 link on Gaza flooding, this seemed like a nasty story so I followed it up. Three days after the event there is a dearth of collaborating news stories. Most search hits are blogs and the articles are short and vague with some containing accusations and others not. UPI, BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera, and World News Network either have no story or vague stories with no cause listed. As of this time I cannot find a clear corroboration of any cause or causes, but the absence of news stories is striking.
    The following story is typical.
    About 400 Palestinians have been displaced and nine injured after a strip of waters in central Gaza Strip flooded, which Hamas rulers blamed on Israel for opening a dam into Gaza without notifying the authorities.
    The waters, started pouring seaward from Gaza-Israel borders in the east late Monday, inundated dozens of houses and farms on the two sides of the ditch that had nearly dried up as Israeli dams kept withholding rain waters for years.
    Many houses were affected since most of them were self-built huts and cottages.
    Hundreds of cattle and poultry drowned, as Hamas authorities said water reached more than three meters high. Some cement houses had their ground floors overwhelmed.
    Yousef Abu Hwaishel, the mayor of al-Mughraka community in central Gaza Strip, said a school was opened to the displaced families as a shelter.
    Yousef al-Zahar, the civil defense chief, said “what happened was a deliberate act by Israel.”
    Israel however denied opening a dam to clear extra water. Israel “considers Hamas’ accusations silly,” said Avichai Adraee, a spokesman for the Israeli army.
    Due to the natural descending, water goes down crossing for nine km into Gaza until reaching the Mediterranean in the west.
    http://english.cri.cn/6966/2010/01/19/2001s543733.htm
    ****************

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  19. questions says:

    John Waring,
    The pharma deal has been public for ages, as has been the buy off of Harry and Louise.
    Again, massive legislative packages that affect the finances of a huge chunk of the economy aren’t going to go through smoothly.
    Rahm is the politician and dirty dealer you want Obama to be.
    Or do you really think speaking sweet words on camera will get lawmakers to do things against their re-election interests?
    What was learned from the Clinton version of HCR was that Harry and Louise are more convincing to people than any president. Pay them to shut up and you can get a deal through. And let’s face it, both houses of Congress have actually passed something, and they might still get the rest of the way there.
    But imagine the other side — whatever field you work in, Congress decides you get paid too much and there’s a national movement to cut your income. Remember, no matter how outsized your income is, you’re used to having that much and any less you’ll feel. (We’re almost all of us RICH compared to, say, people in Haiti, so what are we complaining about with regard to any income hit?)
    The fact is, most of us will try to avoid paycuts, even if the cut benefits the rest of the world. It’s our money after all.
    So, yes, pharma and Tauzin work hard to keep their money. And doctors and hospitals work hard to keep their money. And taking away from them will cause some political problems for Congress and possible strikes and/or work slow downs that will impact everyone else.
    There are actual conflicts and the conflict resolution 101 is to try to find a middle ground. Hence Rahm’s dealings.
    What would you expect from politics? And why even the hint of surprise? “Cost control” or “bending the cost curve” simply means a pay cut for someone.

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  20. JamesL says:

    POA: “We no longer have a representative form of government…”
    Without doubt, for humans. Not true for corporations. SCOTUS campaign decision today is proof. How many $5 contributions does it take to equal one Monsantos or any of thousands of other corporations who now treat humans as slaves, corporations decreasingly constrained by anti-trust laws from poisoning and manipulatng humans, who romp across national borders at will while people have their underwear checked for bombs, giant comapnies that can hire legions of lawyers, report writers, “scientific” papers, university staffs, op ed writers, and media blowhards to not only inflence laws, but write them to enable ever more profit, ever more control, ever less liability? Economic slavery is still slavery.
    Alex Carey was absolutely correct in Taking The Risk Out of Democracy. The veil has carefully been erected and fine tuned now for nearly a century.

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  21. JohnH says:

    I agree. It’s a charade. The only question is whether Obama went into it intending to be a loser, or whether he was made an offer he couldn’t refuse…

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  22. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Presidents just don’t identify legislation as a top priority and then refuse to do anything to get it passed”
    They do if they are acting in a charade designed to garner popular support, yet NOT designed to threaten the momentum of global pursuits.
    Even here, where we see above average intelligence dissecting policy, it seems most of you simply don’t get it. We no longer have a representative form of government, and the rule of law has been cast aside to allow the pursuit of global agendas by an elitist ruling class that have no national loyalties.
    Obama is a puppet on a string. We have been sold out, and it is amazing to me that so many of you carry on the debate as if these people are somehow just inept, and if they would only get their acts together, they would act in our best interests. Thats bullshit. And it is obvious bullshit.
    Wake up. With Obama, you were sold a product that didn’t exist.

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  23. John Waring says:

    JohnH,
    Point well taken. Lead, follow, or get out of the way. If you’re going to quit, leave.

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  24. JohnH says:

    John Waring said that the Economist put its finger on the problem. Wrong! The Economist still doesn’t explain why Obama never organized popular support or actively campaigned for health care reform.
    I’ve been around this republic for more than a quarter of its history. I’ve watched more than 10 presidents. This situation is virtually unprecedented. Presidents just don’t identify legislation as a top priority and then refuse to do anything to get it passed.
    Obama’s path was for losers, not leaders. A total waste of his impressive skill set.

    Reply

  25. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Our Presidents now commit impeachable offenses as a matter of routine, and place people in the position of Attorney General whom they know will not enforce the law or respect their oaths of office. How is it we can call such a system “representative” or “democratic”?
    http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/01/19/guantanamo/index.html

    Reply

  26. PissedOffAmerican says:

    A JUSTICE DEPARTMENT ABOVE THE LAW. HOLDER AND OBAMA VIOLATE THEIR OATHS OF OFFICE AND MAKE A MOCKERY OF EVERYTHING WE STAND FOR.
    And the NAF “thinkers” want us to worry about what China is doing, while ignoring what is happening HERE.
    The latest from Scott Horton and Harpers.
    http://www.harpers.org/archive/2010/01/hbc-90006395

    Reply

  27. John Waring says:

    http://www.economist.com/world/unitedstates/displaystory.cfm?story_id=15270869
    JohnH and Questions,
    This week’s Economist puts its finger on the problem.
    “Mindful of the defeat of the Clintons’ health-reform effort of the 1990′s, the Obama team worked hard to buy off potential foes in advance. The pharmadeuticals business was promised that reform would not cost drugmakers more than $80 billion over the next decade. Hospital bosses were told that reform would shave their revenues by no more than $155 billion — mere coppers in light of their gargantuan profits. The health-insurance industry accepted the inevitability of tighter regulation — in return for scooping up millions of healthy new customers compelled to buy insurance on pain of a fine.
    “Backstage bsargains like these kept the plan afloat, but at the price of extinguishing some of the best ideas for reducing costs. The White House is unapologetic. ‘Let’s be honest,’ said Rahm Emanuel, Mr. Obama’s chief of staff: ‘The goal isn’t to see whether I can pass this through the executive board of the Brookings Institution. I’m passing it through the United States Congress with people who represent constitutents.’ That attitude, shot back Bill Galston, one of the slighted think-tank’s senior fellow, all but guaranteed that Congress would duck the hard issues.”
    There we have it. Rahm Emanuel threw away the game before the opening tip off. He squandered the president’s mandate, by discounting the president’s real power. The negotiations should have started with a blank sheet of paper, and Rahm should have tried to get the others fellows to surrender their eye teeth before he gave up one thin dime.
    Steve is right. Time to clean house.

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  28. John Waring says:

    http://www.economist.com/world/unitedstates/displaystory.cfm?story_id=15270869
    JohnH and Questions,
    This week’s Economist puts its finger on the problem.
    “Mindful of the defeat of the Clintons’ health-reform effort of the 1990′s, the Obama team worked hard to buy off potential foes in advance. The pharmadeuticals business was promised that reform would not cost drugmakers more than $80 billion over the next decade. Hospital bosses were told that reform would shave their revenues by no more than $155 billion — mere coppers in light of their gargantuan profits. The health-insurance industry accepted the inevitability of tighter regulation — in return for scooping up millions of healthy new customers compelled to buy insurance on pain of a fine.
    “Backstage bsargains like these kept the plan afloat, but at the price of extinguishing some of the best ideas for reducing costs. The White House is unapologetic. ‘Let’s be honest,’ said Rahm Emanuel, Mr. Obama’s chief of staff: ‘The goal isn’t to see whether I can pass this through the executive board of the Brookings Institution. I’m passing it through the United States Congress with people who represent constitutents.’ That attitude, shot back Bill Galston, one of the slighted think-tank’s senior fellow, all but guaranteed that Congress would duck the hard issues.”
    There we have it. Rahm Emanuel threw away the game before the opening tip off. He squandered the president’s mandate, by discounting the president’s real power. The negotiations should have started with a blank sheet of paper, and Rahm should have tried to get the others fellows to surrender their eye teeth before he gave up one thin dime.
    Steve is right. Time to clean house.

    Reply

  29. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “I actually almost signed “Pissed
    Off American” on a grocery receipt”
    That would be forgery, and I’d make sure I had the biggest bull dike Arizona state cop I could find to make the arrest.

    Reply

  30. Outraged American says:

    Dan types “people who…admired Brown from afar”-HAVE YOU
    SEEN BROWN’S COSMO CENTERFOLD? *FANS SELF* That man can
    get in my voting booth any day.
    That Brown man will be president someday (first Brown in office
    ; ) after he narrowly beats a Pitt/Jolie ticket with Aniston running
    on a third party platform energized by spurned women.
    This country. What a bunch of numbskulls.
    Wig, give it up -Zionists pushed for the publication of the
    Muhammad cartoons, under the guise of “free speech.”
    Again, I was all over this and interviewed many of the players,
    who were:
    Fleming (or was it Axl?) Rose; Michael Ledeen; Haim Saban;
    Saban’s “best friend” who was head of Axel Springer; the editor
    of the German paper Die Welt.
    I would have to dig through my notebooks to get some of the
    names, because I have done or booked thousands of interviews
    over the course of the last five years, so have forgotten a few
    names. Including my own — I actually almost signed “Pissed
    Off American” on a grocery receipt.
    But getting the names of the tools I interviewed would mean
    that I’d have to go out to the shed in the pouring rain (damn that
    California for sending its storms our way. That state is more
    trouble than its worth — drop into the ocean already) and dig
    through Halloween decorations and rat droppings to figure out
    which month’s notebook I was using at the time these assh*les
    were trying desperately to start WW III in one fell swoop by
    insulting an entire religion, one that wasn’t too happy with us to
    begin with.
    Although in general, people do take kindly to having bombs
    dropping out of the sky on their wedding celebrations/ tea
    parties/ their kids.
    But I was all over this controversy, including having prominent
    Muslims in academia, etc., give reactions as to why these
    cartoons kept being published over and over.
    I just looked it up: Roger Koeppel was the man I interviewed at
    Die Welt. I remember wondering at the time whether he was
    related to Ted. One of my friends was a producer for Ted and
    said he was a horse’s rear end. Roger tried to convince me that
    it was about “free speech” but he did not make a convincing case
    at all. And I’m all about free speech.
    Haim Saban very proudly admitted in a New York Times
    interview that he bought up chunks of European media to
    influence Europeans’ perception of Israel.
    The cartoon contretemps was yet another provocation on the
    part of Zionists to get Muslims riled up and do stupid things
    resulting in an excuse to expand the War on Terriers (TM
    Carroll) into YEMEN — where is Yemen? What is Yemen? Has
    Angelina heard of it and if so why haven’t we invaded it for the
    sake of the children?
    Or Nigeria, or Indonesia, or Bangladesh. Wait -forgot -
    Bangladesh doesn’t have anything UsRael might want, impossible
    as that might sound given UsRael’s endless greed. Allthough we
    could use Bangladeshis to test out UsRael’s newest, state-of-
    the-art-in -sinister weapons, because no one cares about them
    anyway and if we don’t kill them a cyclone will.
    Or…we’re running out of countries to strafe — finding new
    countries to decimate might well be Obama’s Greatest
    Challenge. Or he can leave it to Brown, who I’m sure is all fired
    up (by the looks of his Cosmo spread) and ready to go.

    Reply

  31. Dan Kervick says:

    Krugman’s column doesn’t make much sense. Voters in the bluest state in the Union just gave Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat to a Republican, apparently in large part because they disagree with the current state of the health care reform legislation. Does Krugman think that people hate the House bill, but love the Senate bill? Doesn’t he understand what the reaction would be if Obama simply attempts to ram through the current legislation, unchanged, in the face of this repudiation from, not Oklahoma or Texas, but Massachusetts? He has to change *something*, or else he will be charged, fairly, with being arrogant and obtuse, and seen as stubbornly unwilling to learn from experience or respond to the people’s desires.
    But it looks like Obama, unlike Krugman, is at least attempting to learn from experience, and is looking to zero in on those elements that their polling shows solid majorities strongly support.
    What Obama needs to do is rebuild the very broad coalition that elected him. Clearly his job is not to satisfy all of the people who voted for Scott Brown, or who admired Brown from afar. A lot of those people are right-wing Republicans who don’t want any positive change or government activism of any kind, and will continue to work to destroy Obama’s presidency no matter what he does. But there are many independents and Democrats who voted for Obama and other Democrats in 2008 who defected from Coakley. Post-election polling shows that the actions that have alienated them made them mad are not at all the same things that drive right-wing Republicans.

    Reply

  32. questions says:

    http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2010/01/scott-brown-is-more-liberal-than.html
    Scott Brown as the new pivot in the Senate — from 538 dot com. Recommended reading.

    Reply

  33. questions says:

    http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/2010/01/they_are_bush_republicans.php#more?ref=fpblg
    Interesting read on the structure of health care reform w/in the Dem coalition. A better spelling out of it than I have done.
    And a criticism of Obama’s failure to invoke “Bush” over and over again.

    Reply

  34. questions says:

    Nadine,
    A link on that leg-cutting thing? Gotta say, I never heard it!

    Reply

  35. questions says:

    JohnH,
    Happy to be of service. A little boggling can be good for the mind, especially if it gets you past conventional wisdom.
    At some level, OF COURSE Obama shouldn’t have tried for health care reform. It’s electorally risky, incredibly complex to do as an overarching reform, it’s hard to know the effects of any policy intervention, it’s a nightmare.
    And so what Obama did, smartly at some level, is to let Congress do the work. Of course, it’s actually Congress’s job TO LEAD THE COUNTRY — not the president’s — you seem to forget the Congress is charged with making laws. group effort, no tyranny and all.
    The most Constitutionally-correct way to deal with health care is through Congress. Bush gets lashed around here for his imperial take on the presidency, and Obama gets lashed for being removed from the process and overly REGAL because he’s not doing the king thing. Very strange in my view. It boggles my mind, come to think of it.
    You want a charismatic LEADER who can communicate to all and seemingly make them do what they don’t actually want to do. And then perhaps you, but certainly others around here, scream fascism. I don’t get it. I am kind of boggly-feeling.
    HCR is a huge undertaking with a lot of real differences in interests. Some sacrifice is called for and it won’t be willingly embraced by those who lose the most. For people to pretend that LEADERSHIP can overcome this deep divide and that OUR LEADER can make all our differences disappear long enough to get this through cleanly, for all the hue and cry over LEADERSHIP you’d think we don’t live in something like a participatory political system in which the will of the voters determines the actions of Congress which then writes legislation for the president to sign.
    I’m boggled, indeed.

    Reply

  36. Tahoe Editor says:

    PAUL KRUGMAN: He Wasn’t The One We’ve Been Waiting For; “a GAPING HOLE in White House LEADERSHIP”
    http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/01/20/he-wasnt-the-one-weve-been-waiting-for/

    Reply

  37. nadine says:

    “An example: Our fellow commenter Nadine seems to think that my recent statements that “I
    don’t like the Iranian regime” and “I don’t like Hamas” aren’t credible: they aren’t
    “passionate” enough to be credible. Ergo: I support both Hamas and Iran. ” (Paul Norheim)
    You say “I don’t like Iran” and “I don’t like Hamas” but you absolutely oppose all real-world efforts to sanction Iran or support the opposition. You actively demand that Hamas be rewarded for shelling Israel with further Israeli withdrawals. To the extent your attitude has any real world effects, it benefits the Iranian regime and Hamas.
    I’m making the same argument George Orwell made when he called pacifists “objectively pro-fascist.”

    Reply

  38. nadine says:

    “If you can’t sell your program, you don’t have a program. It’s as simple as that. He should have stayed home, which is exactly what he did. And IMHO his being missing in action is why his “top priority” suffered an ignominious defeat.
    But what real leaders do–and Obama has yet to show any presidential leadership–is to transcend issues. ” (JohnH)
    It’s hardly fair to say that Obama didn’t TRY to sell health-care; we certainly saw enough of him trying to sell it. He just made a very bad salesman for a case that didn’t make a great deal of sense to begin with, and got worse as it went along.
    Real leaders transcend issues not by some miraculous power of levitation, but by picking their fights very carefully. That takes experience, comprehension of the issues, and deep knowledge of his own coalition and the opposing forces. I suggest that Obama fell short on all of these grounds, which should be no surprise in a man of such limited experience with governance. The Presidency should be nobody’s first executive experience.
    Obama was vain enough to think his magic tongue would carry him through, as it had until then. He never even bothered to brief himself deeply on the health care case, to judge by his speeches; we heard the same sloppy (& often untrue) anecdotes over and over, e.g. doctors cutting off the legs of patients to collect $20,000 or $30,000. Even if doctors were ready to commit malpractice, they would hardly be tempted, as Medicare only pays $800 for an amputation. And what was Obama’s purpose in slandering the doctors whose support he needed?
    At the very point the American people needed to hear Obama tick off the benefits of the bill to be sold on it, he decided to wing it with these generalities, and not even accurate ones at that. Small wonder that the more he talked, the lower support for Obamacare became. (As an aside, has anyone else here noticed how badly Obama’s speeches are written? It’s as if he doesn’t think he really needs to bother with the text. Somebody hire him some new speechwriters.)
    Obama might have been saved by some wisdom in the Congressional leadership. But Pelosi and Reid are even more ideological than he is. Neither had the sense to tell him he absolutely had to propose a bill that would garner bipartisan support. Instead they tried to jam down a bill repulsive to conservatives and too liberal even for some of the Democratic caucus, so they had no margin whatsoever. And so here we are.

    Reply

  39. ... says:

    nadine quote “People who set out to be offended for political gain will not be deterred by deference or politeness; on the contrary, they(‘re) apt to read them as weakness to be taken advantage of with a great display of outrage…..”
    i could have sworn i’d witnessed this very same behaviour here at twn from some specific posters on a fairly regular basis…

    Reply

  40. nadine says:

    “And speaking of a clash of civilizations,
    it takes two to tango. Politeness, wisdom and respect doesn’t hurt, even when you
    firmly believe in certain principles.” (Paul Norheim)
    The objection to the cartoons did not arise in the Muslim world when they were first published. At that point, they were met with a collective shrug, even though some of them were published in an Egyptian paper. The objections/outrage/riots happened months later, when some imams set out to make an issue of the cartoons, passing them around with some really inflammatory ones added into the mix, since the actual published cartoons were relatively anodyne.
    This makes a different case. People who set out to be offended for political gain will not be deterred by deference or politeness; on the contrary, they apt to read them as weakness to be taken advantage of with a great display of outraged violence. At some point, wisdom involves remembering that that which gets rewarded, gets repeated.

    Reply

  41. ... says:

    wigwag that’s quite the far right news feed you’ve shared twice here tonight..
    Daniel Pipes… where have i heard that name before?

    Reply

  42. Paul Norheim says:

    “Personally I think the American newspapers were wise not to publish the cartoons,
    especially since they are widely available on the internet for anyone who wants to see
    them. I think it’s an entirely different matter for the Yale University Press to
    censor the cartoons in a scholarly publication.”
    I totally agree with that position, WigWag. And speaking of a clash of civilizations,
    it takes two to tango. Politeness, wisdom and respect doesn’t hurt, even when you
    firmly believe in certain principles.

    Reply

  43. WigWag says:

    OA, as far as I know, while the cartoons were published by newspapers all over Europe, there wasn’t a single major American newspaper that published the cartoons.
    The American newspapers agreed with Paul; they knew they could publish the cartoons but they concluded that it was more civil and courteous not to. Perhaps the greater respect for the role of religion in the United States as opposed to Europe had something to do with it.
    You say,
    The decision to publish and republish those cartoons had nothing to do with “freedom of speech” and everything to do with enraging the Islamic world.
    But your comment is a non sequitur.
    Freedom of speech is freedom of speech. The speaker’s motivation is irrelevant as is the veracity of the comment. Speech that the majority might conclude is outrageous is as protected as speech that the majority might conclude is mundane. Virtually all speech is protected because then no one has to place his/her trust in an arbiter of what speech is permitted and what speech is not permitted. Westegaard’s speech is protected so that OA can say whatever she wants to at the Washington Note and elsewhere.
    It is simply irrelevant to whether Westegaard’s cartoons are permissible that Muslims (or those who object to bad art) might be offended. Offensive comments are as permissible as innocuous comments. That’s why the word “free” precedes the word “speech.”
    Of course, just because Westegaard has a right to draw any cartoon that he wants to doesn’t mean that any particular periodical is obligated to publish it.
    Personally I think the American newspapers were wise not to publish the cartoons, especially since they are widely available on the internet for anyone who wants to see them. I think it’s an entirely different matter for the Yale University Press to censor the cartoons in a scholarly publication.
    Yale University and their advisor, Mr. Zakaria, covered themselves with dishonor by their behavior.

    Reply

  44. Outraged American says:

    Wig, I was right in the thick of the Prophet Muhammad cartoon
    controversy, and interviewed many of the major players.
    The decision to publish and republish those cartoons had nothing
    to do with “freedom of speech” and everything to do with enraging
    the Islamic world.
    Sit on it. Every time I think you’re remotely sane, you remind me
    that there are many people in this country who are sane and
    compassionate, EXCEPT WHEN IT COMES TO ISRAEL.

    Reply

  45. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “questions–your obtuseness boggles my mind”
    Perhaps. But not to the degree that it has obviously boggled HIS mind.

    Reply

  46. kotzabasis says:

    We are all doubting ‘Thomases’ now as there will be no resurrection for Obama. From the nodal foreboding point of Massachusetts Obama will be on the downslide to the end of his LAST term.

    Reply

  47. WigWag says:

    I shouldn’t imply, Paul that this is a problem exclusively in Europe; there are manifestations of it in the United States as well.
    I am not sure whether you are familiar with the debate going on at Yale University pertinent to a scholarly book on the Cartoon Controversy by Danish author and Brandeis University Professor, Jytte Klausen.
    The book, entitled “The Cartoons That Shook the World” is a scholarly treatise on the whole cartoon controversy. Yale University Press agreed to publish the book but shortly before the publication date the Yale University Press notified the author that they would be publishing the book without the cartoons included.
    Outrage at Yale University’s decision to censor the work was widespread and was so severe that many Yale donors revoked large pledges that they had made to support the University.
    Interestingly one of the major figures who urged President Levin of Yale to censor the cartoons was none other than CNN correspondent (and New America Foundation Board member) Fareed Zakaria.
    Amazingly, this outstanding journalist, whose work is critically dependant on freedom of the press, urged Yale to suppress publication of the actual cartoons because publication might incite violence. Zakaria, whose opinion on the subject was solicited by the Yale President, brought shame on himself and discredit to CNN. As far as I know, neither CNN nor the New America Foundation has censured Zakaria for his decision.
    I find it hard to imagine what motivated Zakaria because he is one of the finest journalists in the United States.
    In any case, the book was published sans cartoons; Yale University and Yale University Press brought dishonor on themselves and as a result of the well-publicized controversy, tens of thousands of people who would never have heard of the book went on-line to actually see the cartoons for the first time.
    My point is that this is a big issue in the United States, not just Europe as I may have implied.
    Another example of self-censorship is evidenced by the decision of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to take down several paintings in its Islamic Art section that depict the Prophet. Interestingly these paintings have been on display in the Museum for 75 years and all of the paintings were painted by Muslim artists living in the Islamic world (most are of Ottoman origin). Reportedly the museum decided to take down the paintings after receiving threats from Islamic extremist groups.
    It’s looking more and more that Samuel Huntington was right; a clash of civilizations may, unfortunately, be inevitable. What we are experiencing now might just be the opening skirmishes in a long and violent conflict.
    I wish I could be as optimistic as you are.
    By the way, for those who haven’t seen the cartoons but want to, here’s the link
    http://www.aina.org/releases/20060201143237.htm

    Reply

  48. JohnH says:

    questions–your obtuseness boggles my mind. If you believe what you’re saying, Obama should never have bothered to tackle health care–”if you sell to part of the coalition, you fracture another part.” So your point is that the battle was lost from the start. If you can’t sell your program, you don’t have a program. It’s as simple as that. He should have stayed home, which is exactly what he did. And IMHO his being missing in action is why his “top priority” suffered an ignominious defeat.
    But what real leaders do–and Obama has yet to show any presidential leadership–is to transcend issues. That’s what great leaders have always done. And that’s what Obama showed he could do during the campaign. Leaders usually succeed by motivating those who are not normally engaged–the American people. And you motivate them by appealing to shared values, trumpeting the need, and selling the benefits.
    Your attitude is just a rationalization for the status quo and a prescription for eternal failure. “No, we can’t”

    Reply

  49. Paul Norheim says:

    WigWag, I agree that Europe seems to be in a state of confusion right now. And most
    surprisingly, the change seems more dramatic in some of the countries admired for
    their tolerance through history, like Holland and Denmark – on many levels also
    France. My brother is married into a Danish family, and both of us (as well as the
    Danish part of his family) don’t recognize the Danish people we all thought we knew.
    One of the novel features in the new conflicts is that the secular, urban, modern
    front seems to be just as intolerant and militant and obsessive as their religious
    opponents, or as the ancien regimes and churches they fought centuries ago. However,
    I am an optimist. We’ll see, but I can`t believe that the outcome of 250 years of
    European-American Enlightenment will end in a caricature of the kind we`re seeing
    all over Europe right now.
    You said: “In fact, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the major fault
    line in the world today is between societies that honor the Enlightenment (however
    imperfectly) and societies that eschew the Enlightenment.”
    The main challenge is of course this: how to confront those who don’t honor the
    Enlightenment without becoming exactly as intolerant and dogmatic as those you
    oppose? On a personal level, as a grownup citizen, I know I can handle this dilemma
    reasonably well. But as a society, this is one of the biggest dilemmas of our times:
    How do you listen with your ears, and fight with your fists – simultaneously?

    Reply

  50. questions says:

    JohnH,
    Again my point is that if you sell to part of the coalition, you fracture another part.
    Those who benefit from low costs and those who benefit from high costs are in the same camp. (Patients want cheap care, doctors and hospitals and researchers and pharma all want decent money. Insurance calls reimbursement “medical loss”) What do you emphasize?
    Those who would benefit from more care are in the same camp as those who want restrictions on the amount of care handed out (all the panic about too many patients and too few doctors, waiting lines, shortages….)
    Selling people hamburgers makes them happy. Selling people widgets and gizmos can make their lives amazingly better. Selling people high cost they can’t afford, low cost they can’t tolerate — it doesn’t work well.
    And this failure is exactly what the Repubs capitalized on. The fact is that there are huge cracks in the foundation, diametrically opposed desires and needs — and it shows in the structure of the legislation.
    How do you explain the importance of the mandate? It’s an actuarial necessity, but a huge burden on those who have to pay. FDL and kos people went crazy on this one.
    Single payer sounds great, but then it has some major problems too.
    All these problems would be picked up by the opposition and screamed out on Fox day and night after any Obama speech or sales job. And there’s enough of a disparate interest that indeed Fox would actually be speaking for some of its viewers.
    So, no, in my view, salesmanship isn’t the issue. Much more fundamentally, we have to get to a point where getting for ourselves is less important than giving to others, but I don’t see its happening any time soon.

    Reply

  51. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Paul, reading a Zionist’s comments about “freedom of speech” is comical, considering Israel’s treatment of journalists, protesters, and common citizens critical of Israeli policies.
    Even as we “speak”, Israel is arresting peaceful protestors, and barring journalists from reporting the truth. Wig-wag could care less about “free speech”. The only play “free speech” gets in Wig-wag’s synaptic process is that that works in Israel’s favor.

    Reply

  52. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Stop compromising with the devil. The 100+ dead bodies associated with Cheney’s torture program must be investigated and prosecuted. The rule of law must be restored”
    Watch tonight’s Olberman. It clearly reveals that this piece of shit Holder has NO INTENTION of fulfilling his duties, obligations, and Oath Of Office as Attorney General.
    He should be fired, and Obama should be impeached.
    NO ONE SHOULD BE ABOVE THE LAW.
    But of course, the truth is these sacks of shit DO hold themselves above the law, and it makes a mockery of everything this nation purports itself to be.

    Reply

  53. WigWag says:

    Paul, I agree with you that there is a big difference between what should be legally permissible and what is wise. No decent person insults another person’s religion; doing that is uncivilized. With that said, the problem is that tolerance of religious differences is an Enlightenment value that is rarely honored in majority Muslim societies. In fact, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the major fault line in the world today is between societies that honor the Enlightenment (however imperfectly) and societies that eschew the Enlightenment.
    My guess is that the current hostility in Europe between native born Europeans and Islamic immigrants is bound to get much worse and to eventually explode. While many focus on the conflict between the United States and the Muslim world, my guess is that this is a temporary phenomenon that will abate. I believe hostility between Europe and the Muslim world is going to get much worse.
    As an American I am literally shocked at the schizophrenic approach that Europeans take to Muslim immigrants. It’s far worse than the problematic relations that Americans have with Mexican immigrants whether legal or illegal.
    On the same day (January 20) that the Dutch Government began its prosecution (or should I say persecution) of Geert Wilders, this is what else was happening in Europe:
    (1) The Danish Prime Minister was calling for the burka and the niqab to be banned throughout Denmark.
    ”The Danish government is waiting for proposals on how to stop the use of the burka and niqab. The Danish government and the majority of the Danish population do not approve of seeing women in the streets wearing the Muslim burka or niqab. Nor, according to Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen (Lib), is the dress code welcome in Danish schools. Prime Minister Løkke Rasmussen told his weekly news conference that he is awaiting a report on how to avoid students, teachers and other public servants wearing the niqab or burka.* Then there can be a discussion about how to rip the burka or niqab off women. Do we do it through legislation or by signaling our attitudes? Or do we do it by backing the leaders out in our institutions so that they take up the battle* Løkke Rasmussen asked. *The important issue is that the view of women that this clothing represents is something that is anathema to us*” (Politiken.DK)
    (2) German police were raiding mosques to seize outlawed books.
    “Police raided 30 mosques in Germany on Wednesday to seize all copies of a Saudi book which encourages wife-beating. In the southern city of Stuttgart police said Germany’s national office for checking harmful books had objected to the German translation from Arabic of the book, entitled *Women under the Protection of Islam.* Under German law, its chapter on corporal punishment of women was both discriminatory to women and an incitement to assault, a police spokesman said. Police all over the country, including the capital Berlin, raided mosques and Islamic community offices to seize the book and also took away computers and discs as part of an inquiry.” (M&C German News)
    (3) In Sweden a recent wave of attacks on Muslim Houses of Worship continued.
    “Sweden: Pigs Head Drawn on Mosque
    The Sabirin mosque in Eskilstuna, Sweden, was attacked Monday. There have been several attacks against the community recently, and community representatives hope that the police will finally begin an investigation. On Monday somebody drew a pig’s head on the door to the Sabirin mosque; under the pig’s head the perpetrator wrote *The Prophet Mohammed.* Last year the community was subjected to two attacks. In April windows were broken around the place and at the end of December their mailbox was torn down. Somebody wrote “no Muslims” on the door.” (SR-Sweden)
    To me, all this seems crazy, Paul. Why not just let people say what they want; read what they want; wear what they want and pray where they want? Wouldn’t it be better for Europeans to stop criminalizing speech, stop banning books (no matter how offensive they happen to be) and stop telling people how to dress? Instead of prosecuting Wilders for what he says wouldn’t it be better to start investigating desecration of Mosques?
    By the way, if Wilders is guilty of defaming Islam aren’t the Danish Prime Minister and President Sarkozy of France equally guilty?
    It may sound provocative Paul, but on the issue of its Muslims, I think Europe has lost its collective mind.

    Reply

  54. JohnH says:

    questions–you obviously know little about selling.
    You sell the need and the benefits. You don’t go into wonky details, particularly ones that parts of his coalition might like.
    Politicians are experts at marketing to diverse groups. He is surrounded by PR people expert at formulating messages.
    Saying that selling health care is “too difficult” is just crap. It’s a cop out. I suppose you think that Obama’s sitting on his a** was preferable to trying to find a way to sell his top domestic priority.
    You want difficult? Try selling the nuclear test ban treaty with the Soviets to a nation that was paranoid of communism and to a Congress that was at the beck and call of the military-industrial complex. Guess what? JFK did it. But only because he tried. Obama hasn’t tried. He retired as soon as he got to the White House.

    Reply

  55. questions says:

    JohnH, Re “Give me a break”– the problem with Obama’s making really great speeches about health care issues is that he would be forced to split his almost untenable coalition.
    If he talks up the mandate, he’s in trouble. If he talks up the Cadillac tax, he’s in trouble. If he talks up cost control, he’s in trouble. If he talks up our duty to provide for one another, he’s in trouble. If he talks up limits on abortion funding, he’s in trouble…..
    No matter what aspect of health care he talks up, someone will get pissed and the coalition will fracture a bit more. The speeches fade as soon as a blogger or a health care economist starts talking. Overly emotional nonsense about what could be if only, or overly technical boring stuff about what needs to be there — the speech would be useless.
    The only thing large numbers of people seem to want is low cost but really comprehensive care. We can’t entirely get that, and so there’s not a lot to say.
    ‘Ladies and gentlemen, American citizens, I am here to tell you that I can provide you really great insurance and health care, but I’m jacking up your taxes and limiting your procedures….’
    Can’t you just hear that!?!
    The fact is that health care reform is a massive compromise from everyone’s fantasy because there are endless desires and conflicts over health issues. Not the stuff of speeches or populism, it actually is utterly technocratic. Boring, long-winded, confusing to outsiders, a mess of compromise that no one can escape. Even single-payer would be a mess — what gets paid for? Do we cover acupuncture? Homeopathy? Plastic surgery? Hundred thousand dollar a dose experimental treatments? Single payer isn’t simple payer or simply paid.
    I really don’t think there could have been a clean and easy way through this mess.
    Barney Frank is now changing his rhetoric according to TPM. So here we go again…. Gotta love the Dems’ message machine!

    Reply

  56. Paul Norheim says:

    Greetings WigWag,
    As to my blog suggestion, it’s a shame that even technical obstacles would prevent it from
    materializing. It could have been a rather entertaining enterprise.
    Providing links to your comments is easier than you think, WigWag. I was completely
    internet-illiterate myself when I got a laptop in 2005. Before that, I used a MacIntosh
    produced in 1993 as a typewriter, and it’s still working perfectly – 17 years later! I
    wrote almost three books on that machine. Five years later, I`m still confused, but I’ve
    learned a couple of basic, and very useful tricks. To easily get a link into your TWN
    comment, you do the following:
    Just copy the web address you want to link to, and paste it directly into the text you’re
    writing. Voila! Automatically TWN creates a link. I always create a new, blank line for
    the link. Occasionally the link is longer than the line, resulting in that readers can’t
    just click on it. But don’t bother – it`s easy for the reader to copy your link, and paste
    it into her/his browser.
    As an experiment, to check that it works, click on my link to
    http://www.itoldyouso.com/
    then copy it from the web address at the top of your browser, and paste it into a comment
    in this blog. Waterproof.
    ————————————————————
    As to your suggestions for hypothetical topics on your and POA’s hypothetical blog (the
    cartoons), I basically agree with you regarding freedom of speech.
    You said: “The Danes and the Swedes seem to be moving decisively to the right on this
    issue while Norwegians seem to be much more ambivalent.” I think this is correct. However,
    the most important recent development in Norway regarding the cartoons, is that a
    classical conservative Norwegian magazine (think Edmund Burke, not Ayn Rand), just after
    the attack on Westergaard, published some of the cartoons as a political statement, and
    challenged other publishers to do the same. This prompted the biggest conservative
    newspaper “Aftenposten”, and it’s local variant where I live, “Bergens Tidende”, among
    others, to publish some of the cartoons – resulting in protests in Pakistan.
    As you may imagine, Norwegian conservatives (like conservatives all over Europe) were
    generally more in favor of censuring speech or text before, several decades ago, when some
    publisher distributed “blasphemous” (read: against Christianity) or “pornographic” (read:
    Henry Miller) content. At that time, i would say until the 1980′s, progressives defended
    free speech. Within the new religious-political context, the conservatives (as well as
    right wing populists, and some new progressive groups, like militant feminists etc.) have
    become fervent free speech advocates, while many progressives have taken the former
    censuring attitude of the conservatives. It’s indeed a paradoxical development in Europe -
    perhaps somewhat different from recent developments in America? “Left” and “right”,
    conservative and progressive, is obviously not the same as before. With the change “on the
    ground”, some political groups have also changed in paradoxical ways, often respectively
    resembling their old enemies.
    However, I think it`s crucial to distinguish between freedom of speech on one hand, and
    wise behavior on the other hand. I think neither you nor I, WigWag, are particularly
    religious. However, I would assume that you, like me, feel that it would be stupid, and
    morally wrong, to offend a Hindu, a Jew, a Muslim, or a Christian, because of their
    religious belief. The trouble is when the distinction between religion and politics are
    blurred, as they often have been, and still are, in most of these religions. Today this is
    very much the case with certain Muslim groups – even nations, like Iran – but also some
    influential Evangelical Christians in America, Africa and Asia, Orthodox Jews in Israel,
    and Hindus in India. Where do you draw the line between religious beliefs and politics?
    As to freedom of speech, the issue is rather clear. As to offending someone – insulting
    the beliefs of millions, or hundreds of millions, when you disagree with the political
    convictions of some of their brethren – the issue is far more complex.
    And then you have to contemplate the political effects of your statements, and try to
    distinguish between foreign policy on one hand, and private passions, experiences and
    convictions on the other hand.
    An example: Our fellow commenter Nadine seems to think that my recent statements that “I
    don’t like the Iranian regime” and “I don’t like Hamas” aren’t credible: they aren’t
    “passionate” enough to be credible. Ergo: I support both Hamas and Iran.
    I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I was raised up in a strict, highly conservative
    puritan environment, where the distinctions between human affairs, rules, the authorities
    of parents, teachers, and all adults on one hand, and God, theology and the Bible on the
    other hand, were blurred. On many levels I felt like living in a prison. Some other
    commenters here may have a similar background – regardless of being Christian, Jewish,
    Hindu or Muslim. I hated it, and eventually revolted against it in rather dramatic ways.
    When I read about Hamas, and about the theocracy in Iran, I’m of course reminded of my
    upbringing. But that’s a personal association. I try to both learn lessons from my private
    experiences, and on the other hand make a distinction between those experiences, and my
    judgements or opinions in a political context – with implications that are much bigger in
    their impact, and of a different nature. I think I would be an immature asshole if I
    approached Iran, the orthodox settlers, or Hamas, in the same way as I fought teachers,
    spiritual leaders, and my parents as a teenager.
    We all have different private experiences, and should think twice before we transfer the
    lessons and approaches related to these experiences directly to the political and
    ideological sphere.
    WigWag, you said: “The trial [in Holland] is so emblematic of everything wrong with
    Western Europe. The idea that someone can be accused of a criminal offence because of what
    they say is plainly absurd and a clear sign of how degenerate Europe has become.”
    I think you`re saying this partly to be provocative. But you should be familiar with my
    position here: I think the American answer to the issues concerning freedom of speech and
    religious freedom is more consistent and wise than the European (or to be more specific:
    the French) answer. The American approach is to respects both freedom of speech, and
    wearing burkas – and I think this is an admirable approach.

    Reply

  57. JohnH says:

    John Waring gave a good summary of the impressive sales and marketing skills Obama brought to the campaign.
    Since Obama won, he has used his impressive talent only in making the occasional speech.
    Basically, Obama retired.

    Reply

  58. JohnH says:

    questions–give me a break: “As for Obama’s watching from on high, I’m not entirely sure what he should be doing.”
    He should be selling his programs. Get off his a**. Go out and sell. That’s what Presidents do. Salesman in Chief. It’s what got him elected. And he should be calling on his supporters, giving them talking points, and helping them to organize. After all, he was supposedly a “community organizer” (I have my doubts!)
    So enough of the hand wringing and whining, “what’s a President to do?” How many times did he go to Connecticut to put pressure on Joe Lieberman? How many times did he go to Nebraska to put pressure on Ben Nelson? Zero. That’s how many.
    The least Obama could do is to make an effort. But as I said, the man only gets motivated when he’s trying to sell himself.

    Reply

  59. John Waring says:

    In the 2008 election I saw a black man beat the Clinton dynastic machine. I saw him use new technology to bring in a new generation of voters. I did not see a neophyte. I saw real political skill, for example, his speech in Philadelphia on race. I saw his shrewd understanding of the of the nomination process in which caucus state victories could create momentum and build a formidable lead. Then I saw him roll up McCain, whose national security credibility proved to be to no avail. Obama took the ball to the hoop in the last election. He might not have been the utterly dominating center I had hoped he would be, but he definitely had the package of a power forward. I saw real promise.
    No. This guy has some skills. He can handle the ball, and he jammed the ball down some throats when he had to. That was Hilary’s gift to him. She forced him to be at the very top of his game. She forced him to reach, to get better. What’s got me infuriated is he dropped the damn ball. He stopped communicating. If he thought for a skinny minute the “sweethearts” attending the Palin events were going to fade into the woodwork once the election was over, he took leave of his senses. I grew up in central Pennsylvania. Believe me, the battle just started after the election was over. A black man in the WHITE House during an economic near depression was bound to bring out the paranoid streak in American politics, and it has with a vengeance. Obama permitted his opponents to wrap themselves up in mom, apple pie, and the girl next door. He let himself get boxed out. He let his political enemies frame the debate.
    The president has to grab the ball back and take control of the game. As our sole nationally elected official the president gets to say what’s best for the country, and he has to fight for what best for the country. Here are my personal favorites.
    Set the legislative agenda. Tell the mob called democratic party what you must have. Fight for your core convictions.
    Stop compromising with the devil. The 100+ dead bodies associated with Cheney’s torture program must be investigated and prosecuted. The rule of law must be restored. Cheneyism must be destroyed root and branch.
    With great wealth must come great responsibility. Take the ideas of Joe Stiglitz ideas and implement them. The financial sector needs to cut back to 12% of GDP.
    Stop playing bean bag and get tough. Stop acting the sap by rewarding the Liebermans of the world a committee chair. Make your enemies, foreign and domestic, pay a real price for opposing the mandate you undoubtedly received.
    You can’t win against the heath insurance industry? Give me a break. You are not even trying.
    Don’t just twist arms. BREAK THEM. Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.

    Reply

  60. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Heres an interesting article that dissects one of Obama’s so-called “great challenges”….
    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/LA16Df02.html
    An excerpt……
    Founded in 1988, bin Laden’s al-Qaeda formally issued a “declaration of war” on the United States in 1996, primarily over the US military presence in the Middle East. While Washington has been hunting bin Laden and al-Qaeda since the mid-1990s, a post-9/11 congressional resolution authorized the president to use force against that group and the Taliban. Ever since, the Pentagon has been waging one of the most ineffective campaigns of modern times in an effort to destroy it.
    During these years, Bush declared himself a “war president” heading a country “at war” and living in “war time”. In a milder way, President Barack Obama has repeatedly declared the US to be “at war” and, as in his surge speech at the West Point military academy in December, has identified the main enemy in that war as al-Qaeda. In the process, the US military has unleashed tremendous destructive power on parts of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen and Somalia, causing the deaths of al-Qaeda fighters, non-al-Qaeda militants and innocent civilians. Thousands of its own troops have died and tens of thousands have been wounded in the process, not to mention the losses to allied forces.
    In these years, new al-Qaeda “affiliates” like al-Qaeda in Iraq/Mesopotamia have nonetheless sprung to life regularly and, as in Yemen, have even been officially crushed, only to be reborn. These groups have often made up their own “al-Qaeda” membership requirements, and focused on their own chosen targets. Meanwhile, al-Qaeda wannabes and look-alikes have proliferated and the organization (or those sympathetic to it or praising it) has reportedly spurred further attacks in the US and encouraged men from New York to California, Nigeria to Jordan, to join the movement, and then work, fight, kill and die for it, sometimes in attacks on Americans.
    Al-Qaeda has no tanks, Humvees, nuclear submarines, or aircraft carriers, no fleets of attack helicopters or fighter jets. Al-Qaeda has never launched a spy satellite and isn’t developing advanced drone technology (although it may be hacking into US video feeds). Al-Qaeda specializes in low-budget operations ranging from the incredibly deadly to the incredibly ineffectual – from murderous car bombs and airplanes-used-as-missiles to faulty shoe- and underwear-explosives.
    Comparisons of the strengths of the US military and al-Qaeda “at war” would be absurd, if it weren’t for the fact that the United States actually went to war against such a group. It was a decision about as effective as firing a machine gun at a swarm of gnats. Some may die, but the process is visibly self-defeating.

    Reply

  61. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Just got Bev Harris’ latest email. Its interesting. Seems Brown lost in the locations that had hand counts, but won in the locations that had machine counts. Doesn’t prove anything. But its also interesting that the gay marraige vote had no such anomoly between hand counts and machine counts.
    Bev Harris has kinda slipped under the radar these days, which is unfortunate, as she has done great work trying to inform the public how easily, and often, our voice can be stolen.
    If you weanna get the shit scared out of you, sign up for her emails. Its possible that not only are our politicians not listening to our voices, they may in fact be erasing them.
    Read about the hand/machine disparities here…
    http://www.bbvforums.org/forums/messages/8/80830.html
    Excerpt…
    According to preliminary media results by municipality, Democrat Martha Coakley won Massachusetts overall in its hand counted locations,* with 51.12% of the vote (32,247 hand counted votes) to Brown’s 30,136, which garnered him 47.77% of hand counted votes. Margin: 3.35% lead for Coakley.
    Massachusetts has 71 hand count locations, 91 ES&S locations, and 187 Diebold locations, with two I call the mystery municipalities (Northbridge and Milton) apparently using optical scanners, not sure what kind.
    Another excerpt…..
    Yes, I know they’re supposed to be called Premier machines now, and ES&S bought the company so it’s now all one big monopoly family, and then the whole kit and kaboodle in New England — Premier and ES&S — is programmed by the juicy little LHS Associates guys. But I like to just call them Diebold, that familiar name which we all know and love.
    Twenty-four of Diebold’s 187 locations wandered in late, smoking cigarettes and wearing a bathrobe. That’s 12.83% of all its locations. Apparently it was faster to hand count 8,497 ballots, as they did promptly in Newburyport, or 7,339 ballots, as they hand counted in public for all to see in Milton, than to push a button and wait five minutes for the machine to spit out a Diebold results report in Pelham where they had 725 votes. East Brookfield’s 899 Diebold votes must have run out of gas somewhere; they weren’t reported for hours.
    All in all, a total of 170,594 Diebold votes took a long time to stumble in the door, These votes — surprise! — favored Coakley. She got 86,214 of them, for 50.54%, and Brown got 82,911 tardy Diebold votes, for 48.60%, putting Coakley on the plus side of the late arrivers by a 1.94% margin, for a net gain of 3,303 slow-moving votes.
    They’d called the election by the time the 170,594 tardy Diebold votes showed up. Coakley had conceded. And of course, there are many ways to look at this if you don’t trust voting machines, and why should you? It’s hard to know who was fooling around, or if anybody was.

    Reply

  62. ... says:

    there has never been any choice when it comes right down to it… you vote for wall st and corporatism/militarism either directly and consciously or you entertain the naive belief that their is something different… obama sold himself on the belief he was different… he isn’t…

    Reply

  63. ... says:

    3 choices – obama, clinton or mccain… someone who was in favour of either clinton or mccain tell me how it would be any better with them instead… everyone knows it would be business as usual and/or much worse… some posters here have a reputation for being very dishonest…

    Reply

  64. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “I find it interesting how so many people at the Washington Note and elsewhere who now think Obama is a disaster were his biggest advocates just a few short months ago”
    I gotta scream bullshit(!) from this corner. I called this one from the beginning.
    The thing is, had Hillary got in, we would STILL have the status quo, and there wouldn’t have even been insincere posturing about any settlement freezes or “concessions” from Israel. She woulda just continued the practice of placing ALL the blame on the Palestinians. At least Obama’s insincere posturing has underscored Netanyahu’s arrogance and lack of appreciation for our billions in aid. Plus, Hillary would have probably already either attacked Iran, or set in motion extreme sanctions that would only harm the Iranian people.
    Yes, Obama is a fraud, a coward, and just as disrespectful of the law as GWB, but Hillary is no better, and in some respects, would have been worse.

    Reply

  65. Paul Norheim says:

    Those were the days… WigWag supporting Hillary, and after she lost, struggling loudly,
    month after month, with the dilemma of voting for the inexperienced, effete, caffe latte
    drinking Obama, or the senile McCain — Sarah Palin a 72 year old heartbeat away…
    Kotzabasis also happens to be in the “I-told-you-so” camp. He once said that selecting
    Palin as VP candidate was a political stroke of genius. (I may agree on the “stroke”
    part.)
    In general, I think being a Cassandra is 90 % a question of luck and position, and not
    judgement. A historical example (of course not meant as a comparison with the issue at
    hand): A homosexual Jew and member of the communist party would be in a much better
    position to discover Hitler’s real intentions very early, than a catholic businessman
    with no “Jewish blood” – regardless of their general ability to analyze a situation. On
    the other hand, that same loyal communist may not realize or admit the horrors of
    Stalinism – until perhaps decades later.
    This is not to say that WigWag, or POA, for that matter, lack judgement – far from it -
    but speaking of Tahoe and Kotz, I need more evidence than the fact that they warned
    against Obama, to regard them as modern day Cassandra’s.
    BTW, I agree with JohnH that Bush père is a much more appropriate comparison right now
    than Bush fils. But my impression is that Obama once dreamt of becoming sort of the
    Reagan of the Democratic party. Unfortunately (AND fortunately), he cares more about the
    details and the complexities than Reagan did. Personally, I think it’s too early to draw
    definite conclusions regarding Obama’s performance. I didn’t have very high
    expectations. The McCain/Palin option was, however, much worse. If I had been an
    American, I wouldn’t hesitate to vote for Obama – even with what I know today. Due to
    low expectations, the disappointment is not overwhelming. As to his AfPak strategy, this
    was not surprising at all if you listened to his campaign promises. (The big exception:
    Obama’s duels with Netanyahu were shockingly amateurish.)
    In any case, I’m still curious as to how this develops.
    PS
    This is written before I saw WigWag’s and Questions’ last comments addressed to me. I’ll
    read them now, and perhaps reply.

    Reply

  66. questions says:

    WW,
    I’m not in the “disaster” camp yet! Actually, I think the disaster is that health care is both in desperate need of reform and unreformable all at the same time. And with the intransigent Republicans, I don’t think much can be done at all except in the most incremental way. And that very incrementalism will drive Krugman and many on the left really crazy. The dem coalition will split.
    I don’t think HRC could have done any better on this issue, and the really fringe candidates would have been even worse.
    We may, as a country, be ungovernable for now. It’s a thing to think through. Populism is a worrisome thing at times.
    I think people should be thinking about the few things that could be done in health care that will cost no money, make people feel all better, and be usable sound bites in the next election! Someone once remarked that the radon scare was a perfect Ronald Reagan issue. It was cheap to test for, required private action, was left to the homeowner to deal with, and required nothing of the government other than a warning.
    So what are the really free things we could do to reform health care? We could have volunteer blood pressure clinics, we could run public service ads on TV suggesting people exercise, we could name Schwarzenegger the Presidential Physical Fitness guy again! Voila, health care reform for the masses!
    It’s a policy and political nightmare only if we actually want to do something. So let’s stop wanting real solutions, and then we can move on to something easier — like advertising that we should use less electricity and recommending that we be careful when we borrow money!
    Obama will look like he’s involved hands on doing things that need to be done! No more throne. He’s on TV telling us to unplug our flat screen TVs at night. No messy or complex policy deals here!

    Reply

  67. questions says:

    Paul,
    I’m not going to bother with the whole complexity critique issue. It’s not serious enough or well-thought out enough….
    If one tries to make policy without the process/procedure in place, one simply fails. The fact is that the US Senate currently has a rule in place that there is unlimited debate in most circumstances unless there’s a vote to close off debate. That vote requires 60 ayes. That procedure, that process cannot be avoided except under narrow circumstances. You can’t get legislation through the Senate without 60 votes. And since the Republicans are sticking together for now, that means that legislation doesn’t move unless all 60 dems agree (or soon, 59 and a Republican defector.) I don’t know what’s overly process-oriented about this point. Whichever senator is the 60th vote has enormous power. Again, it’s just basic US politics, nothing that takes much effort to understand.
    Obama has to deal with the fact that the Senate works this way, and so he’s got to deal with the process end of legislation. Giving speeches is insufficient for dealing with the way the Senate functions.
    This move towards the populist stuff has a good chance of backfiring big time, with one possible way out. The backfiring will come because it’s a mixture of left and right populism — one side will be satisfied only with more services and the other only with fewer taxes. Something this incoherent cannot, simply cannot, deliver on policy without a budgetary fantasy of epic proportions (which of course we’ve been doing for quite some time).
    The one possible way out of this mess that I see is that there’s some hope to turn Brown into #60. He’s from MA, he’s taking a legacy Senate seat, he’s supported MA’s health care, he is insanely ambitious, he’s a little awkward and could maybe benefit from a certain amount of support. Maybe the Dems can co-opt him? It’s the only way out I see so far.
    But this populism thing, otherwise, is likely to backfire.
    And as for Obama’s watching from on high, I’m not entirely sure what he should be doing. Remember that his coalition is on the incoherent side. The more he pushes, say, for something progressive, the more he loses some other part. The right kept its coalition going for a pretty long time because the religion people got little bits and pieces of things, while the banksters got all kinds of goodies. On the dem side, what do you give the single payer crowd to keep them going, while still keeping the pharma people or the well-insured, or the seniors panicked about Medicare changes, or the middle class that might have to fork over some money?
    Because these coalitions are really tenuously held together, the pres has to be careful about selecting sides. And because the dem coalition is mutually incompatible with itself, it’s even harder to keep together.
    You can’t get health costs down significantly, insure all the uninsured, treat all the untreated, pay doctors and hospitals… all at the same time. And I don’t think anyone claims this in any overarching way. So the speechifying on the issue has to be drawn carefully. And then it looks like Obama sits on a throne or something.
    On the other side of the aisle, the Repubs just have to promise some prayers, some abortion restrictions, capital gains tax cuts, inheritance tax cuts, lack of regulation in the derivatives market…. No internal conflicts at all.
    In the end, we’re left with a disconnect between how our political system is really set up and how people fantasize about it. We want kings and autocrats to do just the things we want and never overstep the boundaries we set. But then, we all set the boundaries in different places and we get pissed when our great leader doesn’t lead greatly. But the system is really not designed for there to be a great leader. All the calls for LEADERSHIP are what should be making us nervous. We have diffuse power, many sources for action, many places for action to be slowed.
    To dump this set up for a great leader is exactly what Plato describes as the movement from democracy into tyranny — democracy is one small step above tyranny and we ought not to be calling for a more autocratic charismatic ruler who can lead us all to the promised land. I can’t recommend highly enough the reading or reading-reading of Book VIII of the Republic on this point. The downfall is really something to behold.
    ****
    I think we should keep an eye on Brown and see what he decides about his role in the Senate and on the national scene. Will Obama and the Dems play a funky kind of kingmaker game such that the junior senator from MA is the new pivot in the Senate and he gets to rule us all? Or will we end up in a kind of weird happy gridlock where the Senate can do nothing at all and the left is relieved NOT to have THIS health care bill and the right is relieved not to have any health care bill at all?
    Where oh where will the populist outrage go at that point? Clearly the dems want it to land on the Republicans, but that doesn’t mean that they can have their wish come true.
    It’s a risky venture to rile up crowds. They don’t always unrile the way you want them to. Just look at Afghanistan.

    Reply

  68. WigWag says:

    Greetings, Paul.
    I don’t think I’ll be publishing a blog with POA any time soon. It’s not just that we don’t agree on anything; it’s that he’s still using dial-up and I’m so dumb and internet-illiterate that I don’t even know how to add a link to one of my comments. Half the time I can’t even read the *captcha* and have to e-mail my comments to one of my children or grandchildren and ask them to post my comment for me. If POA had to share a blog with me, I’m afraid we would get along even more poorly than we already do.
    If I did have a blog I think what I’d be writing about today are two things: the response in Scandinavia to the recent attempted attack on the Danish cartoonist Westergaard. I think the reaction to all of this in your country has been particularly interesting.
    I’ve read about a group of secular Muslims in Norway who have demonstrated in favor of Westergaard and a group of so called leftist Norwegians (apparently of the Stalinist sort) who think Westergaard deserves anything that happens to him.
    I find the way that Swedes, Danes and Norwegians reacted to the whole cartoon incident and the recent attempted murder of Westergaard very interesting. The Danes and the Swedes seem to be moving decisively to the right on this issue while Norwegians seem to be much more ambivalent. I recently saw a political cartoon by a Norwegian cartoonist named Karikatur ridiculing Westergaard. Amazing, don’t you think; a cartoonist who depends on free speech for his livelihood ridiculing another cartoonist for exercising his free speech prerogatives? I wonder what the resident Washington Note cartoonist, Jonathan Guyer thinks about all of this.
    My second entry in itoldyouso.com/ would be about the opening today of the Geert Wilders trial in Amsterdam. The charges against Wilders include insulting Muslims, discrimination against Muslims, and incitement to hatred.
    The trial is so emblematic of everything wrong with Western Europe. The idea that someone can be accused of a criminal offence because of what they say is plainly absurd and a clear sign of how degenerate Europe has become. It’s no wonder that the European left is so sympathetic with Islamic extremism; they embrace some of the same tactics; both the European left and the radical Islamists believe that free speech should be stifled and that some speech should be subject to criminal sanction.
    If that were the law in the United States, half the comments in the Washington Note comment section would be actionable.
    I wonder what will happen to Wilders if he’s convicted. Do you think he will be lashed or have an arm cut off? Maybe the Dutch Courts will sentence him to have his lips sewed together or maybe he will be beheaded. I guess we will have to wait to find out.
    By the way, I find it equally amusing and absurd that holocaust deniers like David Irving are sentenced to jail. It just shows that the British are as backwards as their European brethren.
    See; aren’t you glad that I don’t have a blog after all?

    Reply

  69. JohnH says:

    Actually, Wigwag, Obama is turning into George H W Bush–aloof and out of touch, simply watching from on high as things go bad.
    Yes, it’s fair to rub it in. You warned us. But who was your candidate? Hillary? If you think she would have been better, you’re delusional. Corrupt Clintons! Been there, done that. At least Obama offered some promise, something none of the others offered.
    PS–my candidate would have really shaken things up, but the media discarded him as an outcast from the outset.

    Reply

  70. Paul Norheim says:

    Posted by questions, Jan 20 2010, 6:22AM – Link
    ———————-
    Questions, I think the main problem with your advices is that if the White House had
    listened to them, the President would become even more vague than he is right now. He
    would simply disappear behind the processes!
    It may be in accordance with your taste, and also with the complexity of issues and
    processes, the inherent difficulty to detect where the real power resides etc. A leader
    with a complex mind, reflecting the complexities of what he is dealing with – perhaps that
    could be seen as a good thing. But it constitutes a problem in a democracy. As a leader,
    you have to be visible, provide some clarity and direction, and very often simplify
    complex issues. If not, the opposition will immediately fill in the vacuum with their
    simplifications and distortions.
    You said in your last post: “[The NYT's] read is in line with Dan K’s it looks like –
    that Obama has lost touch with the populist outrage that put him in office.
    Of course, the problem with this view is that populist rage is incoherent. (…) It
    doesn’t fit together at all.”
    But we’ve always known that, haven’t we? People are not hyper-rational, they are
    inconsistent. And one of Obama’s great talents during his campaign was to connect with the
    ambivalences and incoherences and complexities, and express views and positions that were
    clear, and often forward thinking, but also showed that he understood these ambivalences
    and conflicting feelings.
    I think your suggestions would only make things worse. Problem number one may be that
    Obama doesn’t keep his promises. Problem number two is that the change of “optics” that
    Steve Clemons often refers to, basically happened BEFORE he was elected (and not during
    2009, as Rahm Emmanuel promised to Steve at a Maureen Dowd party, if I remember
    correctly).
    Obama had already changed the optics during the campaign. And if you ask me about the
    photo at the top of this post, my guess is that it`s the POTUS with a brand new Canon
    camera (EOS 7D?) and a new lens (50 mm f/1.2?), struggling to focus on that vague figure
    in the mirror.

    Reply

  71. Paul Norheim says:

    Dear WigWag and POA,
    if you should ever consider creating a blog together (wouldn’t that
    be fantastic?), allow me to suggest an appropriate (and apparently
    available) web address:
    http://www.itoldyouso.com/

    Reply

  72. questions says:

    NY Times has Obama saying that we’re all waiting for Brown to be seated before we move ahead on health care. He, too, will be part of the process. This move suggests that health care is going to be taken apart and made passed in piecemeal fashion. I wonder which pieces will end up passed.
    Their read is in line with Dan K’s it looks like — that Obama has lost touch with the populist outrage that put him in office.
    Of course, the problem with this view is that populist rage is incoherent. The government must do more but cannot collect more money; budgets must be balanced, but I want service; prices must stay low (international trade) but I want my job protected (protectionism) and so on. It doesn’t fit together at all. So I’m not quite sure how this tone change is going to be workable. My guess is, it won’t.
    Note that Bush, a patrician, pushed populist tax breaks that helped rich people, a populist war that killed poorer people, and a populist drug benefit bill that helps pharma. Obama, son of a single mom, pushes health care reform so that lower income people have something like health care and something like populist rage takes away the dems’ 60th vote. The contradictions are not being resolved in a workable way.
    I get the feeling this won’t play in Peoria.

    Reply

  73. WigWag says:

    Thanks for the interesting link TE!
    I don’t agree with everything Zuckerman said but I do agree with Zuckerman’s basic premise: Obama is turing into the Democratic George W. Bush.
    I find it interesting how so many people at the Washington Note and elsewhere who now think Obama is a disaster were his biggest advocates just a few short months ago.
    It’s not like you didn’t try to warn them.

    Reply

  74. questions says:

    What interesting contradictions this poll finds!
    “A full 95 percent said the economy was important or very important when it came to deciding their vote.
    In a somewhat paradoxical finding, a plurality of voters who switched to the Republican — 37 percent — said that Democrats were not being “hard enough” in challenging Republican policies.
    It would be hard to find a clearer indication, it seems, that Tuesday’s vote was cast in protest.
    The poll also upends the conventional understanding of health care’s role in the election. A plurality of people who switched — 48 — and didn’t vote — 43 — said that they opposed the Senate health care bill. But the poll dug deeper and asked people why they opposed it. Among Brown voters, 23 percent thought it went “too far” — but 36 percent thought it didn’t go far enough; 41 percent said they weren’t sure why they opposed it.
    For voters who stayed home and opposed health care, a full 53 percent said they opposed the Senate health care bill because it didn’t go far enough; 39 percent weren’t sure and only eight percent thought it didn’t go far enough.
    The firm Research 2000 conducted the post-election survey Tuesday night on behalf of three progressive organizations — the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Democracy for America and MoveOn.org.
    The firm discovered that 18 percent of Obama backers who voted in the Senate race ended up casting ballots for Brown.
    Taken from interviews of 500 Obama backers who voted in the Senate election and 500 Obama backers who sat out the election, the results suggest that supporters of the president are more committed to comprehensive health care legislation than to any particular political party — although the willingness of public option proponents to support a Brown candidacy suggests that health care may in the end not have been a determining factor. ”
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/01/20/obama-backers-more-commit_n_429673.html
    So, they want more health care and they decide to vote for the Republican??
    They want the dems to fight the Repubs, so they vote for the Repub??
    41% weren’t sure why they opposed the HCR bill??
    The lack of coherence in people’s understanding of the legislation, the bizarre nature of the response to that lack of understanding, the completely stupid reaction of supporting a Republican as the pivot-point in the Senate when what you want is lefty-dem policies…. How could anyone take a national read of this and come to a single conclusion?
    What kind of “messaging” could possibly get through the fog of these people’s thinking? They undermine their own preferences without seeming to see that that’s what they were doing.
    I don’t see how anyone picks up a national trend here though Fox will push this narrative til it becomes just that.
    The dems are far better off getting this legislative thing done and out of the way. They need to fix it in pieces as they can. And they need to purchase a new senator #60 however they can while pushing #59, 58, 57, and 56 that what will cost them is not the support of lefty-dem things, but rather obstructing publicly all the lefty-dem things. Keep you mouth shut, vote quietly to get things done, ignore Fox News, and vote lefty-dem on social legislation. What’ll come back to haunt you is getting on Fox to say how you need more time to consider the issue or how you need to have your amendment pass….
    (And by the way, parenthetically and as an aside, TPM has up a thing about McCain’s still buying into the Christmas Bomber meme about the one-way ticket and the significance of paying in cash… Ugh. Do these people know nothing at all? It was a round trip ticket and it’s normal to pay in cash when you’re from a cash economy where something like only 1 or 2% of transactions are in cash (if I recall from googling a few keywords to pull up a site detailing the info.))

    Reply

  75. Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi says:

    The Steve Clemence reformist-cum-evolutionary provocations/precepts seem to have better served the Obama’s administration’s allegiance to bring about a change-yet can President Obama take some bold initiatives that may opt out him from the ongoing entanglement of the rt.wings establishment elements’ influence_is really the most burning question of the day?

    Reply

  76. Outraged American says:

    I had no idea that Scott Brown was a Cosmo centerfold since I don’t
    give a F what either branch of the Uni-Party do because no matter
    who’s in office we’re F-ed.
    But this Brown guy is hot. No wonder he won. Maybe next he’ll
    pose with a copy of the Bill of Rights covering his crotch, right after
    he’s urinated on it like almost every other member of the Uni-
    Party.
    Ladies (and Steve) enjoy. The stupidity of the American people, and
    the hypocrisy of the GOP “right”, it burns.
    http://tinyurl.com/ycvzc6e

    Reply

  77. DonS says:

    Well, we’re all pretty good at seeing where Obama has gone wrong, if he ever intended to go right.
    The only question, as to his election, is where on the sliding scale one comes down: from Manchurian candidate for the rich and powerful to naive neophyte propelled on the wave of America’s celebrity fixation and attention span of 30 second sounbites. Or somewhere in between; and all catapulted on popular reaction to a venal and illicit administration that preceded, two times!
    As to his governance, from day one, it was clear. The hopeful counterpoint to those venal and despised Republicans, and the milquetoast toady Democrats turn out to be a cipher. Faced with the huge opportunity to capitalize on the demonstrable hatred of Bush and his gang, administrative and congressional, Obama proclaims, basically, “I want to be your friend”. The mildest rebuke, in the inaugural address, to the those who had shattered the nations’ well being, was followed by bows on the world stage, and turning over the reins to Rahm and the corporate template.
    I don’t know what propels this “style” of governance, even given the reserved personality it is attached to. Whether weakness, arrogance, or hubris, or some other. The result, however, seems clear. Whether true belief hidden behind lofty but disconnected rhetoric; or misguided conception of coaxing ‘bipartisanship’ and alliances with the enemies of the people, like the young guidance counselor who thinks he can encourage good behavior from the meanest of schoolyard bullies. The result has been continuous abandonment of ideals.
    And not even soaring “new” ideals; but simply the concept of restoring some healthy direction to the nation which had been the basis of the, now betrayed, expectation the people gave in a huge electoral victory.
    We know the record of accomplishments, or lack thereof, since then. From LGBT to Af/Pk; from big banks to big pharma; from Havana to Tel Aviv; from no accountability for crimes to perpetuating the process that generates civil rights-destroying actions. Nada.
    So now it’s immeasurably harder. If Obama is even inclined to do the work of playing catch up.

    Reply

  78. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Obama’s lost senate seat is a victory for Netanyahu
    By Aluf Benn, Haaretz Correspondent
    The Republican upset in the race for the U.S. Senate seat held for nearly half a century by liberal Edward M. Kennedy reflects a huge victory for opponents of U.S. President Barack Obama – and also for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
    Scott Brown defeated once-favored Martha Coakley for the Massachusetts seat even after U.S. President Barack Obama rushed to Boston on Sunday to try to save her candidacy.
    Over the past nine months, Netanyahu has managed to curb pressure from Obama, who enjoys a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress. Now, however, Obama will be more dependent on the support of his Republican rivals, the supporters and friends of Netanyahu.
    No Israeli politician matches his steps to the political goings-on in the U.S. as much as Netanyahu. He dragged out negotiations over the settlement freeze and then decided it would last for 10 months and end in September – just in time for U.S. Congressional elections in which Democrats are expected to suffer heavy losses.
    Netanyahu understood he must withstand the pressure until his right-wing supporters recapture a position of power on Capitol Hill and work to rein in the White House’s political activities. The election in Massachusetts, one of the most liberal states in America, will from this moment on be a burden for Obama.
    Continues…….
    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1143891.html

    Reply

  79. MarkL says:

    Calling Republicans “teabaggers” is the silliest thing I have seen in ages.
    When a Republican calls a Democrat a name, he says the opponent “hates America”, or “is a traitor..”, etc.
    The “teabagger” epithet is very weak tea indeed.
    Obama has no guts. That’s the problem, more than policy, per se. If he sees his 2012 reelection on the line NOW, he may be energized enough to take an actual stand. Otherwise, he’s useless.

    Reply

  80. questions says:

    One more small thing — health care did pass the Senate and may well make it through the House AND there still are 59 senators caucusing with the Dems. In most parts of the universe, that is a supermajority. So the takeaway with this election may well be less than the heavy hearts we are feeling right now.

    Reply

  81. questions says:

    And on the ‘show some disgust’ side of things, it’s worth remembering that there’s a deep tension running through our culture — populist anger at the banksters meets populist desire to be a bankster. And toss in bankster ability to, say, tighten up credit a bit more and toss the country deeper into recession.
    On the health care side, Obama’s courting of Pharma may well have been necessary. When huge swaths of the country get their information from TV commercials, Pharma has a lot of leverage. Keeping Harry and Louise off the TV was probably necessary if there was even a chance of getting legislation through. So they kept H and L off.
    I don’t think a few speeches with rolled-up sleeves or some populist rage or whatever is going to get major legislation through, nor am I convinced that this election was entirely anti-Obama.
    If I were to fault Obama et al for anything, probably it would be for being a little too non-incremental on the health care issue. Because health care reform is by its structure going to be contentious, because the every faction really does want/need something a little different, overarching systemic fixes may well be politically impossible under a 60-vote Senate.
    Everyone was campaigning on HCR, so the rhetoric got a little out of hand the way that rhetoric does in competitive situations. We ended up with something like an arms race or “Name that Tune” — I can provide THAT service in 15 dollar-a-month premiums or whatever — and everyone overpromised.
    What I think this might cash out to is insufficient technocratic-ness rather than too much technocratic-ness. Remember, Obama grew up on public aid for a time, with a single mom/raised by grandparents, was very much an outsider at various times, took out student loans for school…. This is not an inability to know what it’s like to be broke. (And Bush, far more the patrician, seemed to fake this stuff well, but in the end, he didn’t get all he wanted and he ended up disgraced.)
    What might be interesting at this point is if Olympia Snowe is promised a really cushy ambassadorship in a couple of years if she switches parties. Then Holy Joe can be 59 and Olympia HERSELF could be 60. Neither one is likely to win re-election.
    Also, kos notes that Brown is up for re-election in 2 years. Does he TeaBag or vote his state? It’ll be interesting to see.

    Reply

  82. questions says:

    Gotta say, not sure how you all think the Prez is a miracle-maker autonomous single actor on the political scene.
    The Senate’s rules empower the 60th vote. If the 60th vote is to the right of the rest of the country, but a millimeter to the left of the 61st vote, that almighty 60th determines what is possible in the Senate and therefore what is possible in the country.
    Lieberman and Nelson vie for the position of #60 and I don’t see how anyone can get past that.
    No amount of double-dealing, party-threats or the like is going to move these guys. And if you push too much somewhere, then someone else becomes #60. This is structural, not personality/unitary actor, king/leader stuff.
    So Dan, try to go back over your analysis of Obama’s personality and think “institutional limits” instead and see what you come up with.
    There are many many stories to be told apparently, including one I just read at kos about the political battles between Western Mass. and Boston — in-fighting among the dems made a huge difference. And apparently there’s a pattern of hunky (naked) guys beating less charismatic women.
    Again, lots of narratives to run through, each with its own place in the grand narrative of “what just happened.” Many of these stories have nothing to do with Obama’s personality. The leader’s personality is only one factor among many.

    Reply

  83. erichwwk says:

    M.L. King Addresses Barack Obama
    from after downing street
    http://www.afterdowningstreet.org/node/49402

    Reply

  84. kotzabasis says:

    Kervick, besides your philosophical credentials you are also a practitioner in psychological cleansing, projecting your OWN fears upon others.

    Reply

  85. TonyForesta says:

    I still have the sign in my garage proclaiming ‘Change’. Obama abandoned the people made him president! Obama needed courage! Real couraqe to facedown the fascist profiteers in the gop and redneck Amerika. Instead, Obama abandoned his principles and cowtowed to the fascists and theives and the den of vipers and thieves that have assaulted and commandeered America.
    “Gentlemen, I have had men watching you for a long time and I am convinced that you have used the funds of the bank to speculate in the breadstuffs of the country. When you won, you divided the profits amongst you, and when you lost, you charged it to the bank. You tell me that if I take the deposits from the bank and annul its charter, I shall ruin ten thousand families. That may be true, gentlemen, but that is your sin! Should I let you go on, you will ruin fifty thousand families, and that would be my sin! You are a den of vipers and thieves.
    You are a den of vipers and thieves. I intend to rout you out,
    and by the grace of the Eternal God, will rout you out.”
    Quote by: Andrew Jackson
    (1767-1845) 7th US President
    Source: upon evicting from the Oval Office a delegation of international bankers discussing the Bank Renewal Bill, 1832
    If only our leadership possessed such courage and resolve. Instead, we are victims to a leadership that will sell us out in a heartbeat.
    The people have no real representation and absolutely no say in the conduct of the government. We inhabit a Kleptocracy, NOT a democracy. We either inhabit a nation of laws and live and abide by the rule of law – or we don’t. If we do – then woe to us for we have abandoned our principles, the ruleoflaw, and that thing we call the Constitution. If not – then the predatorclass (the TBTF, defense, intelligence, oil and energy, and private defense, intelligence and oil and energy oligarchs are accountable!!!
    We, the people are being robbed and abused!!!
    In a world where there are no laws, – there are no laws for anyone predatorclass biiiiaaaattcchhes!!!

    Reply

  86. Franklin says:

    Fair write-up Steve. In reference to the Netanyahu-Krushev analogy my sense is that Obama’s position would be stronger on the foreign policy front if the domestic economy was in stronger shape. As things stand now, I suspect problems on the domestic front overshadow foreign policy maneuvering for the majority of voters — and pushing Netanyahu too hard will come at a price in terms of domestic politics in terms of single-issue voters.
    Dan Kervick — agreed with your comments. Part of the challenge is that Obama temperamentally is more a lover than a fighter. He seeks coalitions and common ground rather than pushing the proverbial Overton window.
    At a different time his skill set would probably be an asset (e.g. in an environment that was less polarized). Polarization though isn’t going away and it’s important to define the narrative. The party as a whole needs to improve its messaging and pound the h-ll out of the opposition for playing politics with American lives and the economic well-being of Americans.
    Obama also needs to take a serious look at his economic team. Its economic analysis not only was off-the-mark in the creation of the first stimulus, but its failure of analysis has also created a framing failure (e.g. if Obama’s people had understood that the first stimulus would not reverse job loses in 2009, they could have managed expectations, spelled out where the sticking points were, and established a narrative going into the 2009 cycle about uniform GOP obstruction). I’m sure that the GOP will give the Dems plenty of more opportunities in 2010 to highlight the GOP’s ongoing war with American workers — it’s important to call attention to these issues every time these issues come up.
    The upshot of the loss in MA tonight is that Obama gets his wake-up call early. For W. it didn’t really come until 2006 — and his presidency suffered for it (e.g. holding onto Rumsfeld well past his “sell by date” as well as other hacks who hurt his policy performance).
    In 1994 Clinton got his, and on balance, I think he quickly learned the lessons he needed to learn. His presidency probably ended up being better for the experience.

    Reply

  87. Linda says:

    When I moved to Atlanta halfway through 2005, I was surprised that many people still had Kerry signs in their yards. Yard signs period were seldom seen in my old hood in LA.
    So I decided to keep Obama sign up for one year. It came down this afternoon well before polls closed in MA.
    But as early as the stimulus package and then all those endless meetings of stakeholders in health care, I could see how he, like Clinton, but in his own different way, was going to mess up health care reform. It was pretty much all over for me in late spring/early summer when they made the deal with Big Pharma behind closed doors.
    With both Clinton and Obama, it was amazing (and upsetting) to watch how badly Democrats handled health care reform–working so long and so hard at it in the wrong way. Both were wonky when they should have been populist. Both times it was like watching a train wreck about to happen for months and months–wasted way too much time and political capital.
    Now I’m just curious about what Obama, Pelosi, and Reid are going to say and do to remove this wreck from the tracks.

    Reply

  88. Dan Kervick says:

    “If he did, he wouldn’t be the first President to try to alleviate his political difficulties by launching a military campaign.”
    Certainly a possibility. Clinton did the same during Monica-gate. Presidents can easily convince themselves that the needs of their own political careers are actually the callings of History and Destiny.
    Of course, if he could instead present Americans with a realistic strategic plan for breaking our national meth addiction to the Middle East and its oil, for extricating ourselves from the regions’ religious fanatics and religious wars, and for divesting ourselves from all the blowback-inducing engagements, expensive military outlays, blood offerings of young Americans, and payoffs-in-aid in that lousy neighborhood, then he would have a real winner.

    Reply

  89. WigWag says:

    “No, he’s not WigWag. But he wasn’t going to do that anyway, even before he lost Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat. So the Middle East picture hasn’t changed.” (Dan Kervick)
    You may or may not be right, Dan, but now we will never know. What is clear is that with the loss of the Senate seat in this reliably blue state, the Democratic Party is facing the prospect of monumental losses in the mid-term elections. All of this is made worse by the Vice Presidential and Cabinet selections Obama made. And lets not forget that Obama also took two popular Democratic Governors who could have competed for Senate seats held by Republicans (Sibelius and Napolitano) and put them in his cabinet as well.
    After African Americans, Jewish voters are more reliably Democratic than any other constituency. They also constitute an important fundraising source for Democrats. The loss in Massachusetts reduces the liklihood that Obama will antagonize this critical Democratic constituency by pressuring Israel to almost zero.
    I think you’re wrong to say that the Middle East picture hasn’t changed as a result of the Massachusetts debacle. As I mentioned, as a result of the election, Obama is likely to be more reticent to prod the Senate to water down the pending Iran sanctions bill.
    Nor do I think it’s silly to speculate that the loss in the Massachusetts Senate race might make an American attack on Iran more likely. Are you so sure that with his party’s election prospects weakening that Obama might not be inclined to “wag the dog?”
    If he did, he wouldn’t be the first President to try to alleviate his political difficulties by launching a military campaign.
    In fact, there may even be a few people working in his Administration who actually have some first hand experience with that.

    Reply

  90. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Maddow interviewed Wasserman, and Wasserman made the comment that this Brown win is NOT a harbinger.
    She better wise up, and do so quickly.

    Reply

  91. Dan Kervick says:

    “With the Democratic Party reeling (remember the Democrats also lost the governors races in Virginia and New Jersey), does anyone think President Obama is going to irritate Jewish voters by pushing Israel to make concessions?”
    No, he’s not WigWag. But he wasn’t going to do that anyway, even before he lost Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat. So the Middle East picture hasn’t changed.
    The best we can hope for now is that he and old Joementum don’t round up all our kids and ship them to the Middle East to fight for the privilege of enjoying Liebercare. Of course, it wouldn’t be surprising if Obama did that, since the M.O. so far is to serve special interests by sticking it to ordinary Americans.

    Reply

  92. Dan Kervick says:

    It’s not splitting hairs Kotz. You are clearly afraid of Steve, just like you’re afraid of everything else in this world, and are therefore unwilling to address him directly in a way that might invite a response. I’ll bet you can’t even look your dog in the eyes.

    Reply

  93. Carroll says:

    Excellent article Steve, well written and right on point.
    All of us can only make guesses on what makes Obama tick by observing his actions. I don’t see Obama as a “driven” by a passion for anything in particular…but maybe I am wrong.
    The thing is,.. Obama had that “magic time” early on when he could have put anything before the public and if congress fought him the public would have disappeared them in the next election.
    He could have said to us he wasn’t giving Israel another cent of hardworking US taxpayers money as long as they spit on US interest and international law and if congress didn’t like it they could go home and not bother sending him anymore bills to sign and the public would have cheered that kind of line in the sand.
    He could have said not one more cent of taxpayer money was to go to WS bonsus and he would seize their accounts and shut them down if necessary to prevent it.
    And then done it.
    People wanted and thought they were getting a Elliot Ness and they were ready to suffer through the hardships of getting that change if they had to…..now they see they only have the hardships and not a even a glimmer of the change.
    He’s got the biggest bully pulpit in the universe and he hasn’t used it to do the things he promised he would do.
    Some people abuse power once they get and it seems others don’t know how to use once it they get it so they become “managerial” instead of leading.
    He never seized the moment when he had the advantage so looks like he didn’t care about anything he promised.
    I don’t know, I have given up on all of them. I am just waiting like most I know to see what the next economic or foreign disaster will be from his unwillingness to swing a big stick and that groups of hacks he has around him.

    Reply

  94. kotzabasis says:

    Now, now Kervick, do I see signs of a rise in your blood pressure when you read my comments? No wonder that you feel “sick.” And how come you sqaundered so unwisely your philosophical equanimity? And why are you so obsessed in splitting hairs between the second and third person when the subject is named and not hidden in the third person?

    Reply

  95. JohnH says:

    Sadly, I must agree with Wigwag. Obama never proved he could do anything but campaign. He became an expert at selling himself.
    As Steve says, “But when it came to action, his administration has been as paralyzed worse than the last.” Of course, to meet the great problems Obama must first realize that he has to make an effort. So far he has not made an effort at anything but selling himself. Once he finally comes to the realization that selling solutions to problems requires every bit as much effort as selling oneself, then Obama might be able to meet the staggering challenges the nation faces.
    Unfortunately, Obama has given no indication he can make the transition. I don’t think the man has any fire in his belly except for self-promotion.

    Reply

  96. PissedOffAmerican says:

    On second thought, just prop the gun up. Then, after careful examination of your bi-pod, I’ll decide whether or not I want you to pull the trigger.

    Reply

  97. Outraged American says:

    POA, do you mind if I prop the gun up to shoot you between my
    jiggley bits?

    Reply

  98. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Uh oh, I might have found myself in the unenviable position of agreeing with 85% of a Wig-wag post.
    Shoot me.

    Reply

  99. WigWag says:

    “During the election, I saw a man who – though obviously very well educated and polished – showed the ability to hang with, joke with and get with ordinary Americans in a very natural and unaffected way, and communicate both intellectual AND intuitive and affective understanding of the plight of everyday living in America. He was a self-made, non-money-hungry guy. He seemed like one of those rare politicians who was both intellectually AND emotionally intelligent, and carried his intelligence easily without being stuck up about it.” (Dan Kervick)
    It’s funny; that’s not what I saw.
    I saw a man who was self-absorbed, arrogant and effete. I saw a man who thought he was entitled to be President even though his resume was so thin that he was hardly qualified to hold the office he already had; United States Senator. I saw a man who was so disdainful of the voters in his State that he could barely hide his contempt for the job he was elected to; after all his Senate record was hardly distinguished.
    I saw a man who never accomplished anything (at least in politics) on the merits, but was handed the Presidency by a fawning media and a cadre of young voters so wet behind the ears that they couldn’t tell the difference between a Presidential candidate and an American Idol contestant. And lets not forget that all those faux-progressives who are so disillusioned with Obama now, were convinced less than two years ago that he was if not the second coming; the incarnation of FDR and Lincoln rolled into one.
    Dan Kervick is wrong; Obama hasn’t changed in either style or substance. To all but the obtuse, it was always apparent that he was at best an inexperienced neophyte and at worst, a contemptible mountebank.
    Americans are getting exactly what they voted for. Instead of criticizing Obama; those who supported him (especially during the Primary Campaign) should look at themselves in the mirror; they have no one to blame but themselves.
    Now that Coakley has lost the bluest of blue states (despite the penchant for Massachusetts voters to elect Republican Governors), it’s interesting to reflect on what the political and foreign policy implications are of Massachusetts voters replacing Ted Kennedy with a Republican.
    Obama selected three Democratic Senators to join his administration; Biden as Vice President and Clinton and Salazar as Cabinet members. Including Obama himself, four Democrats were removed from the Senate and every one of the states represented by those former Senators (Illinois, Delaware, New York and Colorado) is less Democratic than Massachusetts is. Peter King could win in New York; Mike Castle could win in Delaware; any number of Republicans could win in Illinois or Colorado. The arrogance shown by Obama in denuding the Senate of Democrats who could never have been defeated is truly stunning.
    On the foreign policy front, I wonder how the Massachusetts election will affect Obama’s inclination to push for a settlement in the Middle East. With the Democratic Party reeling (remember the Democrats also lost the governors races in Virginia and New Jersey), does anyone think President Obama is going to irritate Jewish voters by pushing Israel to make concessions? If you didn’t think he was inclined to do it before, how inclined will he be after watching Coakley go up in flames?
    The Obama Administration has been trying to get the Senate to soften its Iran sanctions bill despite the fact that the bill has 75 senate cosponsors (the House has already passed its version). Does anyone think the election debacle in Massachusetts is going to motivate Obama to find the mettle to oppose a harsh sanctions bill?
    If you feel bad about all of this and you supported Obama; here’s a little message:
    Talk to the hand!

    Reply

  100. DonS says:

    Now how long, exactly, do you think it will be before Barack has earned the sobriquet “uncle Tom”?
    Wake up WH!

    Reply

  101. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Observe, as these idiot Democrats, who have squandered a huge majority, continue their political suicide by acting like complete assholes and doing every dirty trick in the book to delay Brown’s seating.
    I even watched Maddow and Mathews arguing on MSNBC about trivia. Disjointed and ineffective, the so called “left” is jerking off while the right is firing up its base.
    I am working on a remodel right now that still has framers on the job. In the morning they listen to Limbaugh, and in the afternoon they listen to Hannity. You would be amazed at the amount of times, daily, one of these guys will say “Did you hear that?” and then repeat, verbatim, something Limbaugh or Hannity said, as if it is the absolute gospel. These people, 24/7, are being fired up, indoctrinated, brainwashed, and given an unhealthy dose of FEAR about what will happen to their jobs, their families, their freedoms, and their nation if these nasty liberal socialists are allowed to stay in power. And I GUARANTEE you these guys, and millions like them, cannot wait to get to the polls so they can be the “great Americans” that Sean Hannity constantly tells them they are.
    Obama and his party have already screwed the pooch for 2010, and there is NO DOUBT that Obama will be a one termer. They are completely and utterly fucking up.

    Reply

  102. Outraged American says:

    I was at Pomona when Obama was at Occidental. The schools
    were rivals in sports, but Oxy couldn’t, and never has, matched
    Pomona in academics.
    So whenever I hear that Obama is well-educated I have to roll
    my eyes. *ROLLS EYES*
    That being said, Oxy (Occidental) is a great school, and one of
    my interns from Oxy went on to write hugely successful movies
    and plays, while another went on to work for NASA. Both GIRLS,
    by the way.
    So, beyond that I truly loathe both major parties, this idea that
    Obama is Our Savior is just a joke. I do think that Obama is an
    intelligent man, a very intelligent man. But he inherited a mess,
    when he clearly wasn’t ready for it, and he whored himself out to
    inherit that mess. And the GOP threw the election, because they
    wanted Obama to inherit a mess.
    One would have thought that Rahm, the true power behind the
    throne, would have figured that out, except maybe Rahm just
    works for Israel (why did I just type “maybe”? Rahm “fixed
    brakes” for Israeil trucks during Iraq Invasion Part One) and
    wanted the Dems to go down because the Christian Zionists are
    GOP, and Rahm only cares about what Rahm cares about, which
    is money and Israel.
    Sad that one man, a ballet-dancing, finger-tip missing , brake
    fixing for Israel, man controls the world. Well actually, Rahm’s
    brother, Ari, controls a huge chunk of Hollywood/ world opinion
    (all Muslims need to die because they stand in the way of Israel
    Uber Alles) and the third Emanuel brother now has a say in our
    health care system.
    Mazel tov to the Emanuel brothers, whose father was a member
    of the Israeli terrorist group, Irgun.
    And L’ Chaim to the Emanuels, because if you don’t laugh, you
    cry. And I’m sure as hell not crying as much tonight as the
    people in the Gaza Strip, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen,
    and anyone else that UsRael has in her sights.

    Reply

  103. DonS says:

    Languish, smanguish.
    We, , are not interested in self aggrandizement.
    We are interested in the continuing effort to push the envelope. To energize Steve to advocate on the part of that in this country which is salvageable. Not Camelot. Just salvageable.
    Let the masses take care of the scum that have gotten us here.

    Reply

  104. Ben Rosengart says:

    Dan Kervick,
    Where is your blog? That’s some insightful stuff you’ve got there.
    It’d be a shame to let it languish in the comments section.

    Reply

  105. Dan Kervick says:

    Kotzabasis, you are such a yellow coward it makes me sick. If you have criticisms to make of Steve, why don’t you address them directly to him like a man, instead of hiding behind the third person, as you always do, and throwing out some snide little hit-and-run insult before running back into your cave.

    Reply

  106. Dan Kervick says:

    There is a very strong class component to what is going on here. It underlies much of the rising antipathy on both the left and the right.
    During the election, I saw a man who – though obviously very well educated and polished – showed the ability to hang with, joke with and git with ordinary Americans in a very natural and unaffected way, and communicate both intellectual AND intuitive and affective understanding of the plight of everyday living in America. He was a self-made, non-money-hungry guy. He seemed like one of those rare politicians who was both intellectually AND emotionally intelligent, and carried his intelligence easily without being stuck up about it.
    But since he was elected, Obama has created the appearance of hunkering down and bunkering in with the technocratic elite. He has hired a whole bunch of them and put them front and center in the administration. It’s all Cambridge and Wall Street all the time. Obama has gone Dukakis on us! What the hell?
    The out of touch, preternaturally safe and serenely secure seem to be running everything. And I don’t just mean they are comfortable themselves, but that they come from an ultra-comfortable environment. These are people who come from an environment where all their friends have tenure, or where their only anxiety is about not getting a big enough bonus to hang onto their boats and second homes.
    Sure, you need a lot of the academic technocrats and financial wizard-boys to run certain things. But they need to be stuck in some bureaucratic back room, and not be thrust out in the public eye all the time as the face of the administration. Americans try to figure out a lot of things about their presidents early on. But the chief thing they are working on is “Who are his people?”, “Where does this guy fit into the American scene?” You can have all the awesome policies you want, but if you get branded as “not one of us”, it’s the kiss of death.
    The need to connect viscerally and emotionally with ordinary Americans, not just purely intellectually, was especially the case following the multiple traumas of the past decade, with America’s trust of elites of every variety at a profoundly low ebb. But Obama retreated temperamentally after the election – in response to the economic collapse, I believe – became a cold and aloof fish, and groped reactively toward the safe and approved technocratic ruling class that people associate with the Democrats they don’t much like.
    I don’t know how he does it at this point, but Obama really needs to ditch the Camelot crap fast. Get more of the rough-n-uglies like Ray LaHood out there. Get pugnacious. Talk smack. Be funny. Make waves. Be aggressive. Give ‘em hell.
    This isn’t just a matter of “taking on Wall Street” with new crowd-pleasing policies. It’s not just that Obama doesn’t have the right policies toward Wall Street. It’s that he is not visibly *mad* at them. It’s that you can’t detect even a suppressed cringe when he shakes their hand, like someone who has just caught a whiff of a bad smell. But these are the people who stole our futures to pad their wallets! Americans can barely stand to look at their prissy, supercilious mugs when they see them on television. Why does Obama seem to get along with them so well?
    Obama gave several speeches during the years before the election that showed he had contempt for the people who are willing to sell everything, including their souls, for the main chance and the quick buck, and who just take and take and take. So I know the old anger and contempt is in their somewhere Barack. Let that good stuff out and stop being so uptight and “presidential”!
    I think even Steve gets this – despite the fact that Steve gets invited to gala openings with the Global Special Six-thou to toast the openings of robber-baron mega-towers.

    Reply

  107. Frank C. says:

    If Obama had 25 to 30 percent unemployment to contend with, and the pain that would deliver, all of the wishes of his progressive voters might have come true.
    Instead, we are left with an approximation that is unsatisfactory to them. But not to me; this is reality, a garden variety severe recession that doesn’t change the policy landscape that much. People are afraid of big change unless they see no alternatives. There are no bread lines, no healthcare related bankruptcies on every block, etc.
    To me, as long as healthcare reform, even in its current form, happens, then he is on a trajectory for a great deal of success.

    Reply

  108. kotzabasis says:

    Clemons is the Aladdin of the Arabian Nights who by the ‘challenge’ of rubbing the lamp he will make a “Great President” out of an already failed Obama.

    Reply

  109. J. Thomas Duffy says:

    Steve
    Read the Salon post … Good Stuff!
    Let’s hope (there’s that word again)that the Barack “Michael Jordan” Obama that shows up, isn’t the one that wants to take a two-year hiatus to play baseball …
    Peace
    JTD

    Reply

  110. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Obama is a fraud, Steve. He has no intention of being a great President. For Obama, being the first black President is enough. Brown’s apparent victory today is a harbinger of things to come.
    This is off topic, (but not really), but a few threads ago, I noted that Israel should be watched carefully as the world is distracted by Haiti. This article bears attention….
    http://desertpeace.wordpress.com/2010/01/19/israel-opens-dam-gates-in-gaza-causing-havoc/
    ISRAEL OPENS DAM GATES IN GAZA CAUSING HAVOC
    January 19, 2010
    Gaza flooded after Israel opens dam gates
    Israel has opened the floodgates of one of its dams in the eastern part of the Gaza Strip, flooding Palestinian houses and causing severe damage.
    The Israeli authorities opened the dam’s floodgates without any prior warning or coordination with local authorities in Gaza, stunning the residents of the area, the Press TV correspondent in Gaza reported late on Monday.
    There has been heavy rain in the region over the past 24 hours. It seems the Israeli authorities could not handle the huge amount of rainwater and decided to open the floodgates without prior warning.
    Because Gaza is located in a low-lying area and the elevation decreases on the way to the Mediterranean Sea, water gushed into the area, flooding two Palestinian villages and displacing a hundred Gazan families.
    The locals say Israel intentionally caused the floods, the Press TV correspondent said.
    The waters from the dam, called the Valley of Gaza, flooded houses in Johr al-Deek village, which is southeast of Gaza City, and Nusirat in the eastern part of the territory, where the Al-Nusirat refugee camp is also located.
    The Valley of Gaza is about 8 kilometers long. It starts on the eastern Gaza border with Israel and ends in the Mediterranean.
    The houses of many Palestinians have been flooded and a number of people are trapped inside or on their roofs, while many have also gone missing, the Press TV correspondent said.
    Rescue teams are using small boats to evacuate the trapped people.
    Hamas has condemned the act as a war crime and has called on all concerned parties to intervene and offer assistance to the locals.
    Continues, END EXCERPT..
    Truth is, this kind of action by Israel can, in a very large part, be DIRECTLY blamed on Harry Reid, Hoyer, (etc), and BARACK OBAMA. Obama has exhibited EXTREME political cowardice by failing to respond to Netanyahu’s arrogance and disrespect, and by failing to take a strong stand on the Goldstone Report. He has allowed Israel to make a jackass out of the President of the United States. And as Kervick has pointed out on a number of occassions, Obama’s choices in staffing have not paralleled his stated policy objectives. How Obama expected to change the Isr/Pal dynamic with Hillary Clinton spearheading the effort as SOS, and standing mutely by as Freeman was castrated, is inexplicable. One is forced to believe he is either remarkably stupid, or remarkably dishonest. And we all know he isn’t stupid. And I don’t believe he is naive. You don’t get by in Chicago politics by being naive.
    And now we have the Harpers article. I know, as a Washington think tanker, you will take the standard course that your poster “questions” takes, and try to paint Obama’s inaction in tones of gray. But his inaction IS NOT gray. It is wanton disregard for the rule of law, which IS BLACK AND WHITE. If he does not respond to these latest revelations about Gitmo, torture, and probable murder of prisoners under our care, than he should be immediately impeached. We both know this will not happen, but deep down, we both know it should.
    The simple fact, Steve, is that Obama has painted us a picture of how far our government has strayed from being a truly representative machine. And he has demonstrated, (as if we needed further demonstration after eight years of this war criminal and small minded asshole George W Bush), that our highest officials openly and arrogantly hold themselves above the law.
    I don’t envy you, Steve. You have surrounded yourself with the scum of the earth.

    Reply

  111. Steve Clemons says:

    thanks WigWag…the answer to your question is “not yet” in my view. best, steve

    Reply

  112. WigWag says:

    Steve doesn’t think Obama can be called a “great” President yet.
    I’m afraid Steve is asking the wrong question. The correct question is whether Obama can be called a “failed” President yet.

    Reply

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