Posts Tagged ‘BarackObama’

Okay, mainstream media, I’ve had it. You have frightening power to shape public opinion and, by extension, national politics. You are owned by a diminishing handful of corporations and serve their agendas and their shareholders above all else. And, to be sure, we’re seeing how well that’s working out via the Murdoch debacle. You can take us in and out of wars, recessions, scares, and all manner of crises, real and manufactured.

And most of us aren’t even half-listening. We hear you on the fly, going from room to room, channel-surfing, in-between work (provided we have jobs), school (provided we can afford it), family, sports, reality TV and just getting through the day. So much of your message is received uncritically, taken at face value. You know that—and you exploit it to create whatever “truth” you choose to market for that particular day.

And yet, despite the corrupting profit motive, there are many, many journalists in your employ who are attempting to do the right thing. And it is to those ink-stained wretches, et. al., that I make this plea.


Throughout the manufactured-by-the-Right debt ceiling crisis you are continuing to perpetuate the myth that “both sides are equally at fault” and that “the intransigent extremes on both ends of the spectrum” may sabotage any deal, the full faith and credit of blah, blah, blah etc, etc.  Just as with the issue of hate speech and any number of other issues, you fall back on the “everybody’s equally guilty” fantasy.

No. Seriously. This is wrong. There are many thoughtful, sincerely patriotic conservatives, yes. There is, indeed, an entire body of conservative political and economic theory, dating back centuries, practiced by men and women of good will (however wrongheaded). But at this moment in our history the GOP—perhaps the entire government, even the global economy—has been hijacked by lunatic, fanatical extremists—known loosely as the Tea Party caucus—dwelling in a reality of their own invention with the glassy-eyed zeal of cult members. They are more than willing to take the country down, either to serve their hysterical Ayn Randian ideology, a belief that the world is only 6,000 years old and that he moon landing was staged, or—and perhaps above all— simply because they figure that President Obama will go down in the wreckage and that we’ll have a white president in heaven.

I’m sorry, but Dennis Kucinich on his loopiest day can’t even approach this sort of fevered wingnuttery. They lie, they fantasize, they hate-monger—all with the endorsement of corporate powers like the Kochs, and hacks like Grover Norquist, the folks who sign their checks.

Or, they’re being enabled by the likes of Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, old-school pols who know better—who know damn well that if a Republican were in the White House, they’d simply rubber-stamp the debt ceiling increase just as they did all the gazillion times it was raised under previous administrations.

And yet, you sit there and act all judicious in the interest of being “fair and balanced.” You lend the Tea Party nihilists legitimacy. They are a fringe movement and have always deserved to be treated as such. They should be a sideshow. There is no one on the Left in national government who remotely compares.

I’m sorry. It’s got to stop. Sometimes one side is flat out, dangerously bathshit nuts—or just willfully dangerous, out of sheer political opportunism—and this time the wack jobs and the economic saboteurs are on the Right. Whether motivated by purist ideology or political cynicism, they are united in one goal: To tank the economy and inflate unemployment so that, ultimately, President Obama gets blamed—and goes down in flames.

Media—by which I mean non-Fox, legitimate media—it’s time you called them out.


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One of the reasons 67 or so million of us voted for Barack Obama in 2008 was his cool, intelligent, rational demeanor, a welcome change from years of GOP saber-rattling, fear-mongering, bumper-sticker politicking and faux-patriotic bombast. Obama’s Zen focus and “no drama” credo contrasted sharply with John McCain’s erratic truculence; the McCain-Palin ticket promised an itchy finger on the button, with a grinning, winking idiot in the wings.

But at this time of crises, upheavals and catastrophes, domestic and foreign, the President and his political handlers seem to have missed something crucial in his job description. And I say this as a strong supporter, who thinks he’s done an excellent job substantively, and would rather have him in the White House than any Republican, with the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln. In an interview with Matt Lauer during last year’s BP oil disaster, POTUS said the presidency “is not theater” and that he “doesn’t always have time to perform for the benefit of cable news shows.”

There is something admirable in that, I suppose. But I think President Obama has it wrong. Look back over the past 90 years, since electronic media brought the presidency into America’s living rooms. Who were the most successful chief executives, electorally and in terms of achieving their goals?

Franklin D. Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan.

As far apart as they were ideologically, those two Presidents shared one common gift: They were masters of political theater, using their office not only as a “bully pulpit,” but as a stage. They grasped that a flair for the dramatic was an indispensable quality in a leader. As Jonathan Alter recounts in The Defining Moment, his excellent book on Roosevelt’s election and early presidency, FDR once said to Orson Welles, “Orson, you know, you and I are the two best actors in America.”  And Reagan, of course, actually was an actor.

Privately, both those men are said to have shied away from intimacy; there was something unknowable about them. But publicly both knew how to bond with the country, to be empathetic, to make Americans feel that they cared (Bill Clinton, another two-term President who remains a political rock star 10 years after leaving office, may be the grand master of empathy).

FDR’s speeches and “fireside chats” were tours de force that rallied the nation; not only did he try endless strategies to lift America out of the Great Depression he made sure Americans knew it—made sure it looked like he was doing something.

As for Reagan, he, was the Great Communicator—he, too, knew how to instill confidence. And his “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall” speech was so effective that some worshippers credit him with winning the Cold War single-handed.

Both presidents made missteps (as a liberal, of course, I’ll argue that Reagan made more of them). But in the minds of all but the ideologues on either end of the spectrum, they are remembered for their successes—and perceived successes.

With his disdain for political theater and public show, and apparent preference for behind-the-scenes problem-solving and negotiation, President Obama is dismissing the “making it look like you’re doing something” part of the job—and he’s missed several opportunities to do so. As Rahm Emanuel famously said, never let a crisis go to waste. The past two years have brought huge crises that cried out for the president to show some stage presence— something more than the occasional briefing to announce that he’s “monitoring the situation.”

The BP oil spill was a golden opportunity for President Obama to show that he’s not George W. Bush, to immediately say he would take control, to declare war on the disaster, to get down there, roll up his sleeves—and yes, do some photo ops. Instead, he took a couple of family vacations. And while a presidential vacation—especially in this communications age—is always a working one, you have to look like you’re engaged.

The pundits call it “optics.” The explosions in the Mideast and the Japanese catastrophe were two other recent instances that cried out for a show of passion. Instead, we saw President Obama offer up his college basketball picks and celebrate St. Paddy’s Day.

Domestically, the president has been less than Rooseveltian in conveying his impassioned determination to solve the jobs crisis—or look like he’s solving the jobs crisis.

As for the upheavals in the Midwest, where Republican governors like Scott Walker, John Kasich and Rick Snyder seem determined to crush the middle class under the weight of tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, I understand why President Obama has been laying back, not injecting himself into these state fights. It has allowed the blossoming of a huge movement that has energized the Democratic base, and pulled blue-collar and middle class “Reagan Democrats” away from the GOP.

But something like Snyder’s attempt to turn Michigan into a corporate monarchy seems to beg for some kind of comment or show of interest. Still, the jury’s still out—this may be one instance where the President’s detachment works, as GOP overreach makes the party toxic in the electorally critical heartland.

History may prove that on substance, President Obama has generally followed the right course. But in the short term, if purely out of political self –interest, he could learn a few things from Roosevelt and Ronnie about White House stagecraft.

Mr. President, tear down this wall—the wall between you and the rest of us.

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Events in America’s Midwest reveal starkly that the Republican party, for all its flag-waving, Bible-thumping, tax-cutting, Everyman pretensions, is merely a tool for a few hundred or so plutocrats—like the Koch brothers—to expand and consolidate their power.

To do so, though, requires manipulating enough of the “small people”—through Fox News, talk radio and other corporate media—into voting against their own interests.

They’re masters of the Big Lie. Here are some of the phony assertions the corporate Right uses to punk Glennbeckistan:

 1. We are the only true patriots who uphold American values and support our troops and lie about Obama as the Founding Fathers intended—well, because we say so.

Of course, people who constantly reiterate how patriotic they are remind me of closeted gay men who make extravagantly lascivious comments about women—but secretly keep copies of Modern Schlong next to their toilets. And go a lot. In any event, the GOP’s bumper sticker patriotism feeds its bumper sticker patriotic Teabagging base—the folks who memorize and parrot a few cherry-picked passages from the Constitution (or was that the Declaration of Independence? The “About” section of the John Bircher web site?), or write them in crayon on cardboard signs. Or wear Don’t Tread on Me tattoos and Old Glory bandanas. Or use Revolutionary War themed avatars on their Twitter pages.

 2. We are the party that upholds Judeo-Christian family values (especially the Christian part; Judeo, not so much), opposes abortion and same-sex marriage, remains skeptical of evolution (throw in climate change) and lies about Obama as the Founding Fathers intended—well, because we say so.

Of course, people who constantly reiterate how pious they are remind me of closeted gay men who wed clueless Stepford wives and have four beautiful children—but secretly meet rent boys or cruise bars called The Ramrod. By co-opting Jesus, the GOP lures its repressed Christian fundamentalist base—a particularly vulnerable group of folks who build their lives around unquestioning faith and often vote solely on the basis of the abortion issue. The Democrats? Well as Woody Allen characterized Middle America’s view of New York City, they’re “Left Wing, Communist, homosexual, Jewish pornographers.”

3. We want to keep government off your backs

Actually we just want to cut social programs and government regulations. In fact, we’re for very big government—we want to be the boss of your reproductive organs and practices. And as Scott Walker, Rick Snyder and others have demonstrated, if we get the chance, we want to rule by incontestable fiat.

4. We’ll cut your taxes. Honest.*

*That is, if you’re really, really wealthy.

5. We want to cut America’s deficit and debt for the sake of our children and grandchildren

Actually, we want to cut education and vital social programs (see #3) to make it look like we’re fiscally responsible while we’re giving hundreds of billions in tax breaks to  the really, really wealthy (see #4)—and their children and grandchildren.

6. We will keep you safe from Islamic terrorism

Actually we just want to keep the words “Islamic” and “terrorism” in the zeitgeist so that even subliminally, you’ll make the false connection to Barack Obama

7. We will keep you safe from voter fraud by requiring IDs and other hoops to jump through.

Actually, we invented voter fraud as a phony issue so we can keep away from the polls as many Democratic-voting minorities and young people as possible

8. We will keep you safe from bloodsucking public employee unions.

Actually, we just want to bust them because they’re a key organizing and fund raising mechanism for the Democratic Party, part of our grand strategy to defeat Barack Obama in 2012 and return America to its white, elitist roots. (Wisconsin’s GOP Senate leader Effin’ Scott Fitzgerald admitted as much on national TV.) Plus, by making it seem as if public school teachers, cops, sanitation workers, secretaries and firefighters drive up the deficit and live so much better than you do—when they do neither—we can cut their benefits to make room for tax cuts for corporations and the rich and eventually eliminate their jobs entirely to realize our wet dream of privatization.

Did we mention the part about beating Obama in 2012?

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Monday’s broadcast of The Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell featured a face-off over Health Care Reform between Democratic Rep. Joe Crowley of New York (for) and Tea Party Republican Congressman-elect Joe Walsh of Illinois (against).

Much of the interview focused on Walsh’s well-publicized decision to put his money—and evidently his wife’s health—where his mouth is by rejecting his Congressional medical plan. Walsh reiterated his total opposition to so-called “Obamacare,” including the provision that would bar insurance companies from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions. This even though his wife has such a condition.

The ideologically pure Mr. Walsh also repeated Tea Party talking points, stressing in particular that he and his fellow GOP frosh were sent to Washington chiefly to repeal HRC.

But one of the Congressman-elect’s comments leaped out at me. And not in a good way:

Walsh: “The American people are sick and tired of politicians who look and sound different than they do…”

“Politicians who look and sound different.” Now what did Mr. Walsh, who hails from Barack Obama’s home state, mean by that? Draw your own conclusions, but to me it’s frighteningly clear. The “sound” portion of his comment is obviously yet another swipe at the “elites”—anyone who speaks with a modicum of intelligence, instead of mouthing bumper-sticker demagoguery.

No surprise there. But what of those politicians who “look” different? I suspect Mr. Walsh isn’t speaking of height, weight, and attire here. No, this is Sarah Palin’s “real America” all over again. And it highlights the fundamental racism at the core of much of the Tea Party movement.

Lawrence let the comment pass—knowing how fiercely combative he can be, especially against the forces of ignorance, I imagine it was a timing issue (Walsh’s remark came at the end of the segment), or that he simply didn’t hear it in all the cross-talk (hosts and anchors constantly have control room folks talking into their earpieces).

But someone besides this obscure blogger should call out the Congressman-elect. Elections have consequences—some of them dangerously toxic.

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