TWN’s Cartoonist: Grating Obama

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Jonathan Guyer Washington Note Obama End of Semester Grating.jpg
(Jonathan Guyer for The Washington Note)
— The Washington Note

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21 comments on “TWN’s Cartoonist: Grating Obama

  1. nadine says:

    Paul, which party demands change depends on how the staus quo is aligned. The labels always convey information only within context. Left and Right historically have quite different connotations in European politics than in American.

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  2. Paul Norheim says:

    Correction (from the last paragraph): “On the other hand, the biggest RIGHT
    WING populist party here represents radical change -…”

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  3. Paul Norheim says:

    Carroll,
    you’re probably right. Let me add that when I read commenters on this blog (and many of
    them I have followed for years), I don’t regard most commenters as 100% on the left or
    the right. Some commenters have typical “leftist” points of view on certain issues, and
    seem to be more to the right on other issues – so it’ s a pretty mixed picture. With
    perhaps a handful of notable exceptions (from Kervick to Nadine), I usually don’t think
    of regular posters here as “right wing” or “leftists” while reading them.
    As an example, the extreme fundamental hostility against “government” that is typical
    for the right, is here often found among people with lots of leftist views in foreign
    policy issues. On the other hand, a commenter like WigWag is often very “rightwing” and
    hawkish on foreign policy issues, and a more progressive Dem. on a lot of domestic
    issues. Of course this partly reflects a more common schizophrenia among progressive
    American Jews. On the other hand, Outraged strikes me as very leftist on FP in general,
    and a rightwing libertarian on certain fundamental issues in the domestic area –
    probably also a reflection of a more common American paradox. So the picture is rather
    complex, as I see it from abroad.
    But the meaning of these labels, as well as “socialist” versus “conservative” has
    changed a lot also here in Europe in the last couple of decades. As an example, members
    of the Socialist party in Norway are in general more inclined to defend status quo than
    the conservative party; socialists are really struggling to find issues where their
    views may imply a more drastic change. On the other hand, the biggest populist party
    here represent radical change – perhaps in the wrong direction, but that’s beside the
    point. I have always viewed these old labels with a certain amount of scepticism.

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  4. Carroll says:

    Posted by Paul Norheim, Jan 21 2010, 12:14PM – Link >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Well you are right in that the dems majority results are more center right. Dems talk left, act more right.
    But here’s the thing….if you look at politics mostly from the net and posters comments you would think almost everyone is either right or left, repub or dem. Or if you follow cable TV you would think the same because that’s how the talking heads portray it…a left-right fight.
    On the other hand if you actually talk to people in real life about politics like I do all the time you would find a growing majority of them are neither…or don’t think of themselves as right-right or left-left.
    I would say that since 40% of registered voters are now registered independent and the remaining 60% split between the liberals and conseratives..of whom not all of those 30%’ers are flaming liberal or flaming conseratives….that the left right labels belong only to the party fanatics.
    But of course the uninformed and the idiots ‘accept’, and others with agendas for whatever, ‘pretend’ everything is about left-right….now they have even added center left and center right and so forth. The terms and labels are basically meaningless except for political operatives, politicans and those who are die hard “party” followers.

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  5. nadine says:

    “Put another way, how did this 40% conservative populace convincingly elect this supposed 30- yard line ‘liberal’ Obama.”
    Simple. False advertising. He ran as a moderate. Presidential candidates usually do. Remember how GW Bush ran as a “compassionate conservative”? Do you remember how David Brooks and Peggy Noonan were cooing over Obama’s brilliant intellect and first-rate temperament? Do you suppose he indicated to them that he intended for the Federal government to spend about $5 Trillion, half of it borrowed, in his first budget? Of course not. Moderates voted for Obama because they thought he was a sober centrist. He made them think that.
    “Your ‘rightist’ orientation, Nadine, seems to have affected your ‘leftist’ view of Obama by about 30-35 yards.”
    You think Obama is right of center? Really? Did you ever see the map of the USA that appeared on the cover of the New Yorker, where New York and its suburbs took up 80% of the space? Your mental map of the political spectrum is very similar.
    “No. Labels construe very little substantively, but they evoke emotional identification. The same guy or gal could present ‘dynamite’ ideas that don’t track with their nominal left/right label and most of their supporters would say right on.”
    So, you guys in the progressive wing are cool with Obama abandoning the public option due to your emotional attachment to him? No? It doesn’t work that way, because there’s more than emotional attachment going on.
    Labels are shorthand for camps of opinion: libertarian/small government on the right vs welfare state/big government on the left. Social conservatives on the right vs. Social liberals on the left, etc. So “bring back Glass-Steagal” is more on the left, because the left is pro more regulation. If labels had no meaning, they would cease to be used.

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  6. DonS says:

    Put another way, how did this 40% conservative populace convincingly elect this supposed 30- yard line ‘liberal’ Obama.
    No. Labels construe very little substantively, but they evoke emotional identification. The same guy or gal could present ‘dynamite’ ideas that don’t track with their nominal left/right label and most of their supporters would say right on.
    Bring back Glass-Stegall? Liberal or conservative? Labels have little, and constantly shifting meaning.

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  7. DonS says:

    Your ‘rightist’ orientation, Nadine, seems to have affected your ‘leftist’ view of Obama by about 30-35 yards.
    Or are you just trying to ‘influence’ opinion?

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  8. nadine says:

    DonS, of course “left”, “center” and “right” are shorthand labels. That doesn’t mean they have no commonly understood meanings, aside from somebody’s efforts to “manipulate opinion.”
    “Manipulating opinion” or less malignly put, “influencing opinion,” isn’t the private preserve of some cabal, but is wide open to all comers, due to the notion of “free speech” that is enshrined in our Constitution.
    Come on, are you really trying to say that if I say you are on the political left and I am on the political right, these labels convey no information to you whatsoever? Labels stay in use when they convey information.
    If you don’t want to believe that twice as many people call themselves “conservative” when asked as call themselves “liberal”, okay, you don’t have to believe it. You will just be surprised by what happens next election.
    It’s been said that American politics takes place between the 40 yard lines. Obama tried to run to the left 30 yard line, and will now be hauled back to the center, whether he likes it or not.
    You’re sitting in the end zone, crying, “Obama never got close to me, the corporate stooge” and “All these stupid lines on the field are just constructs created to manipulate us.”

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  9. DonS says:

    Nadine. left, right and center, are constructs use to manipulate opinion. Unfortunately they are used to manipulate votes as well. Instead of looking at the substance and implications of a position, or potential action or law, or regulation, folks are fed shorthand labels. They are really blunt tools,
    That said, I am not so far into the theoretical and impractical that I don’t recognize the importance of engaging the concepts for some purposes. Some poll can confirm any position you want to confirm, and at any slice in time, you can certainly find one to support a view. That’s not very impressive.
    Being in the ‘center’ these days seems to equate with not having an opinion. Actually, claiming the ‘center’ is a metaphor for claiming in legitimacy in our poll driven, immature and money perverted politics.
    Except of course, in foreign affairs and ‘national security’ matters, where you can never be faulted for proudly identifying with the ‘right’. They’re the patriots of course. And fine lot of jack booted thugs, no nothing toadies, and trembling-like-jello flag wavers they are.

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  10. nadine says:

    No, DonS, I am quite sincere, and I have the Pew polls and the reaction of the American people to a year of Obama to back me up. You are looking at the American political spectrum from a far-left perch, and thinking that 90% of it is “far right”. Tain’t so. If you understand how far you are from the center, you will be less surprised by what happens next.

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  11. DonS says:

    Nadine, you’re reading of Obama’s “lurch to the left” is so wrongly skewed, as well as saying he governs “from the left”. I have to wonder if your belief is really so skewed or you’re just trying to influence those reading by the sheer certainty of your presentation.

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  12. nadine says:

    “Gingrich, rather than tacking towards the center, rewarded his base with the Contract stuff. So as the whole country drifted rightward, all the dems could do is follow suit.”
    questions, a recent Pew poll asked people to classify themselves as liberal, moderate or conservate. The answers were roughly 20% liberal, 40% moderate, 40% conservative (from memory).
    Gingrich succeeded because his “base” wasn’t just a narrow fringe, it was half the country, or even more.
    Obama’s problem is that he has been appealing to his own base as if it too represented half the country or even more. But it doesn’t. He has 30% or 40% at best, and the poll numbers reflect that.

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  13. nadine says:

    Paul,
    America is a center-right country. That’s not new. Obama ran as a moderate Democrat, a centrist or center-leftist, depending which audience he spoke to. He’s governing as a leftist.
    What you are seeing is the reaction from the majority of the country to an attempted lurch to the left. It’s a real populist movement. Americans don’t want a government that consumes half of GDP and doubles the federal debt in 10 years, which the course Obama has set. That’s why independent voters have just swung massively back to the Republicans, though the GOP as a whole has done little to deserve it.

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  14. questions says:

    Paul,
    Read up on what Newt Gingrich and Reagan did in terms of moving the entire country towards the right over the course of a couple of decades. No one before Reagan gave a damn about deficits, but Reagan started this folksy nonsense about how people have to balance their budgets so the government must also (never mind mortgages and student loans and revolving payments and the like). Suddenly the whole country was panicked about deficits. But it was largely a non-issue that was used more than anything else to change where the money went.
    Gingrich, rather than tacking towards the center, rewarded his base with the Contract stuff. So as the whole country drifted rightward, all the dems could do is follow suit.
    Anything left of low taxes, no inheritance tax, no mandates for anything, poor school funding and the like is COMMUNIST or SOCIALIST.
    And that is our political system for now.
    It’s more comfortable for wealthy people, and for people who are pretty convinced that one day they, too, will be wealthy. There’s a worry about fairness underneath — as in, it’s fair to keep what you make. (Of course, that sentiment ignores the context in which anything is ever made.)
    So, yes, there’s a rightward drift that occasionally breaks when people realize that they are on the victim-end of things. (We see this with all those white formerly well-housed people who are now using food pantries and who are shocked, shocked that they have become needy. As soon as the recovery hits deep enough, these people will likely end up on the right again, feeling that THEY aren’t the lazy ones….)
    American political culture can be a really depressing thing to think through sometimes.

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  15. JamesL says:

    Paul Norheim 12:14–agreed. Excepting that blogs are soon to be regulated by content providers, and mined in the interim for key names that will be eventually used politically–that trend seems inexorable.
    This is probably one intermediate future for Americans:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/16/technology/internet/16vpn.html?adxnnl=1&partner=rss&emc=rss&adxnnlx=1263567647-BIR1zA8LqVZ9aPUWr7FtdA

    Reply

  16. Paul Norheim says:

    To me it looks more or less like the Democratic party in America has been transformed
    into a center-right party, while the leftists don’t have a party. On the other side of
    the spectrum, a new party is taking shape right now – still called the GOP, but actually
    an entirely new creation, consisting of rightwing extremists, religious nuts and
    populist activists.
    In the future, it’s not unlikely that former moderate GOP’s and paleo-conservatives
    (prominent current examples could be figures like Powell and Bush senior) will jump over
    to the Dems, consolidating the center-right profile of the party, while the “GOP” itself
    may become even more extreme. Both will be very elitist, but the new GOP will present
    itself with a convincing populist face. This will isolate the left even more. The blogs
    (and perhaps the streets) may be the only forums available for them in the coming years.

    Reply

  17. DonS says:

    POA, and others,
    It is a measure of how marginalized folks like Greewald — let’s just call him a “progressive”, or maybe a fearless progressive — can churn out compellingly breath taking pieces day after day, and generate nary a ripple in the wider world.
    When it comes to foreign affairs, I can almost discern a mechanism by which this is possible: the folks in power simply crank up the patriotism machine, which propaganda the majority of sheeple have no problem endorsing. Unless of course there is a populist equation of foreign adventures with domestic, individual economic pain. But the GWOT has pretty much nullified sensible opposition in any case. As for moral, legal, and ethical considerations, forget it.
    But when it comes to domestic affairs I am more stumped as to why progressive ideas and analysis garner little attention at best and, more usually, contempt.
    The degree to which the ‘right’ has become the ‘center’, and the ‘left’ dropped off the spectrum is stunning. And as others here have made the point, we seem to have only one party thinking, or if two, both disdainful of the ‘left’. What we may have, if two parties, is a pugnacious, brazen, all-rhetoric republican; and a confused, dispersed, apologetic and insecure democratic.

    Reply

  18. PissedOffAmerican says:

    http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/01/19/guantanamo/index.html
    The crime of not “Looking Backward”
    By Glenn Greenwald
    In early December, a report from Seton Hall University cast serious doubt on the government’s claims regarding the alleged simultaneous “suicides” of three Guantanamo detainees in June, 2006. I wrote about that report here. Yesterday, Harper’s Scott Horton published an extraordinary new article casting even further doubt on the official version of events, compiling new, stomach-turning evidence (much of it from Guantanamo guards) strongly suggesting (without proving or concluding) that those detainees were tortured to death, and those acts then covered-up by making their deaths appear to be suicides. Scott’s article should be read in its entirety, though Andrew Sullivan has highlighted some of the critical revelations, including the motives of the whistle-blowing guards and the details of the torture to which these detainees were subjected.
    I want to note two points from all of this:
    (1) The single biggest lie in War on Terror revisionist history is that our torture was confined only to a handful of “high-value” prisoners. New credible reports of torture continuously emerge. That’s because America implemented and maintained a systematic torture regime spread throughout our worldwide, due-process-free detention system. There have been at least 100 deaths of detainees in American custody who died during or as the result of interrogation. Gen. Barry McCaffrey said: “We tortured people unmercifully. We probably murdered dozens of them during the course of that, both the armed forces and the C.I.A.” Gen. Antonio Taguba said after investigating the Abu Ghraib abuses and finding they were part and parcel of official policy sanctioned at the highest levels of the U.S. Government, and not the acts of a few “rogue” agents: “there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.”
    Despite all of this, our media persists in sustaining the lie that the torture controversy is about three cases of waterboarding and a few “high-value” detainees who were treated a bit harshly. That’s why Horton’s story received so little attention and was almost completely ignored by right-wing commentators: because it shatters the central myth that torture was used only in the most extreme cases — virtual Ticking Time Bomb scenarios — when there was simply no other choice. Leading American media outlets, as a matter of policy, won’t even use the word “torture.” This, despite the fact that the abuse was so brutal and inhumane that it led to the deaths of helpless captives — including run-of-the-mill detainees, almost certainly ones guilty of absolutely nothing — in numerous cases. These three detainee deaths — like so many other similar cases — illustrate how extreme is the myth that has taken root in order to obscure what was really done.
    (2) Incidents like this dramatically underscore what can only be called the grotesque immorality of the “Look Forward, Not Backwards” consensus which our political class — led by the President — has embraced. During the Bush years, the United States government committed some of the most egregious crimes a government can commit. They plainly violated domestic law, international law, and multiple treaties to which the U.S. has long been a party. Despite that, not only has President Obama insisted that these crimes not be prosecuted, and not only has his Justice Department made clear that — at most — they will pursue a handful of low-level scapegoats, but far worse, the Obama administration has used every weapon it possesses to keep these crimes concealed, prevent any accountability for them, and even venerated them as important “state secrets,” thus actively preserving the architecture of lawlessness and torture that gave rise to these crimes in the first place.
    Every Obama-justifying excuse for Looking Forward, Not Backwards has been exposed as a sham (recall, for instance, the claim that we couldn’t prosecute Bush war crimes because it would ruin bipartisanship and Republicans wouldn’t support health care reform). But even if those excuses had been factually accurate, it wouldn’t have mattered. There are no legitimate excuses for averting one’s eyes from crimes of this magnitude and permitting them to go unexamined and unpunished. The real reason why “Looking Forward, Not Backwards” is so attractive to our political and media elites is precisely because they don’t want to face what they enabled and supported. They want to continue to believe that it just involved the quick and necessary waterboarding of three detainees and a few slaps to a handful of the Worst of the Worst. Only a refusal to “Look Backwards” will enable the lies they have been telling (to the world and to themselves) to be sustained. But as Horton’s story illustrates, there are real victims and genuine American criminals — many of them — and anyone who wants to keep that concealed and protected is, by definition, complicit in those crimes, not only the ones that were committed in the past, but similar ones that almost certainly, as a result of Not Looking Backwards, will be committed in the future.

    Reply

  19. 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

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