Just words

Thursday, May 21st, 2009 · 23 Comments »

I read my Google news feed today with a snort. Several snorts, actually. Snorts of derision, of disgust, of various other things (but no controlled substances, alas). The media twits are atwitter about Obama’s Best Speech Ever! on national security and “restoring American values.” At the same time, the Obama administration has rolled out several shewbread initiatives for “government transparency,” which are also being reported with uncritical enthusiasm. It’s fookin’ hilarious.

This is the same president who has already granted amnesty to torturers, refused to release evidence of American war crimes, expanded the Bush policies on government wiretapping and secrecy, enunciated a bold doctrine of government immunity from prosecution, and declined to restore habeas corpus.

The Obama M.O. is clear: say one thing — and say it really loudly and with lots of pretty rhetoric that makes the media and the devout believers swoon — and do something entirely different.

I got tired last year of hearing myself yammer on and on about what it would mean if Obama succeeded in his takeover of the Democratic Party, about what it would mean if his uncritical fan base of deluded followers became the new voting bloc. And the thought of firing up the yammer engine to write this post today made me queasy and miserable. Fortunately, Glenn Greenwald is on the case and has already said everything I need to say.

Here’s Glenn:

Ultimately, what I find most harmful about his embrace of things like preventive detention, concealment of torture evidence, opposition to investigations and the like is that these policies are now no longer just right-wing dogma but also the ideas that many defenders of his — Democrats, liberals, progressives — will defend as well. Even if it’s due to perceived political necessity, the more Obama embraces core Bush terrorism policies and assumptions — we’re fighting a “war on terror”; Presidents have the power to indefinitely and “preventatively” imprison people with no charges; we can create new due-process-abridging tribunals when it suits us; the “Battlefield” is everywhere; we should conceal evidence when it will make us look bad — the more those premises are transformed from right-wing dogma into the prongs of bipartisan consensus, no longer just advocated by Bush followers but by many Obama defenders as well. The fact that it’s all wrapped up in eloquent rhetoric about the rule of law, our Constitution and our “timeless values” — and the fact that his understanding of those values is more evident than his predecessor’s — only heightens the concern.

So now, we’re going to have huge numbers of people who spent the last eight years vehemently opposing such ideas running around arguing that we’re waging a War against Terrorism, a “War President” must have the power to indefinitely lock people away who allegedly pose a “threat to Americans” but haven’t violated any laws, our normal court system can’t be trusted to decide who is guilty, Terrorists don’t deserve the same rights as Americans, the primary obligation of the President is to “keep us safe,” and — most of all — anyone who objects to or disagrees with any of that is a leftist purist ideologue who doesn’t really care about national security. In other words, arguments and rhetoric that were once confined to Fox News/Bush-following precincts will now become mainstream Democratic argumentation in service of defending what Obama is doing. That’s the most harmful part of this — it trains the other half of the citizenry to now become fervent admirers and defenders of some rather extreme presidential “war powers.”

Insert here a cartoon of the Overton window — way, way, way to the right, almost scrolling off your screen — and the entire Democratic party jumping through it.

I need alpacas.

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23 Responses to “Just words”

  1. Anna Belle says:

    I’m sorry, I don’t care of Greenwald is now telling the truth. He had suspicions he refused to voice last year, or tip-toed around, and he refused to listen to the people who were bleating this information into the world with a very loud clarion call, and he did that because that message came from women and he hates women. He couldn’t take the message seriously because it was a feminine message, easily discounted. He could see the writing on the wall and he had a moral obligation to tell the truth then. He refused to. He doesn’t get forgiveness from me just because now, 11 hours after the fact, he’s got standards.

    My 2 cents. I do agree with everything else you say.

  2. Violet says:

    Really? I thought Glenn Greenwald had always been one of the few on the left who were thoughtfully critical of Obama. For example, here’s his column from last year (June 2008) about Obama’s bullshit move on FISA:


    And a lovely graf from that piece:

    It’s either that he “chickened out” or — as Yale Law Professor Jack Balkin asserts and Digby wonders — Obama believes he will be President and wants these extreme powers for himself, no doubt, he believes, because he’ll exercise them magnanimously, for our Own Good. Whatever the motives — and I don’t know (or much care) what they are — Obama has embraced a bill that is not only redolent of many of the excesses of Bush’s executive power theories and surveillance state expansions, but worse, has done so by embracing the underlying rationale of “Be-scared-and-give-up-your-rights.” Note that the very first line of Obama’s statement warns us that we face what he calls “grave threats,” and that therefore, we must accept that our Leader needs more unlimited power, and the best we can do is trust that he will use it for our Good.

  3. Anna Belle says:

    Yes, that’s tip toeing. He never once came out and said that Obama wasn’t worth voting for over it, and he wasn’t. The FISA vote was the first big thing that printed the word BUSH all over Obama’s big ass forehead (we saw it earlier, of course), and it happened well before the general election. In June if I recall. Greenwald, if you’ll recall, was just going to keep an eye on that for us, all the way past the election to the point that it wouldn’t matter. It was always in the context of him still voting for Obama because it was so critical to get a Democrat, any Democrat elected. That was bullshit then and it’s bullshit now.

    Everybody likes to think of Greenwald as this fount of truth and reason, and he occasionally is. But he isn’t paying anywhere near close enough attention to what is really happening, what we’re talking about on our blogs, where women don’t get ahead in politics because of the smackdown they face anytime they try. He also hates Palin. He can suck it forever for that.

    Read between his lines daily for a few months. I think you’ll see he’s a closet misogynist.

  4. Anna Belle says:

    Any Democrat who didn’t have a vagina, I mean. He never said a word about what happened to Hillary Clinton, and he piled on some last winter (2008) too.

  5. Cate says:

    I used to hang out at Salon, TPM and Talk Left. When they morphed into total Obots, Greenwald was the one most of the prog blogs pointed to when they wanted to make their case to vote for Obama and against Hillary. I guess, reading this graf, he *tried* to be balanced – but he never made it in my opinion. I know I used to like his posts pre-primary – although wordy – but by the time the primary came to its bone-crushing finish, I hated him.

    Maybe he perceives that the tide is turning and like so many others, he just wants to be on the side that’s winning?

  6. Rachel says:

    What is so wrong about disliking Palin? Good grief, she’s a female version of Bush.

  7. Kat says:

    My dear Violet, maybe it made you queasy to contemplating saying it, but I’m glad you did. (Or quoted Greenwald saying it.) It needs to be said for those of us out here increasingly feeling like we’re living in a zombie movie.

    I am so tired of his endless, empty, meaningless speeches and you know what? I feel like the only one who doesn’t even think his speeches are very good. Content or delivery. I must be missing some brain receptor for them…

    That is all.

  8. Jean Louise says:

    Palin isn’t a version of Bush. Obama is a version of Bush and Palin is a version of Obama.

  9. propertius says:

    Anna Belle, in a somewhat later post than Violet cites (http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2008/07/09/fisa_vote/index.html), Greenwald had somewhat harsher words for Obama:

    The Senators then voted for “cloture” on the underlying FISA bill — the procedure that allows the Senate to overcome any filibusters — and it passed by a vote of 72-26. Obama voted along with all Republicans for cloture. Hillary Clinton voted with 25 other Democrats against cloture (strangely, Clinton originally voted AYE on cloture, and then changed her vote to NAY; I’m trying to find out what explains that).

    With cloture approved, the bill itself then proceeded to pass by a vote of 69-28 (roll call vote here), thereby immunizing telecoms and legalizing warrantless eavesdropping. Again, while Obama voted with all Republicans to pass the bill, Sen. Clinton voted against it.

    Obama’s vote in favor of cloture, in particular, cemented the complete betrayal of the commitment he made back in October when seeking the Democratic nomination. Back then, Obama’s spokesman — in response to demands for a clear statement of Obama’s views on the spying controversy after he had previously given a vague and noncommittal statement — issued this emphatic vow:

    To be clear: Barack will support a filibuster of any bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies.

    But the bill today does include retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies. Nonetheless, Obama voted for cloture on the bill — the exact opposition of supporting a filibuster — and then voted for the bill itself. A more complete abandonment of an unambiguous campaign promise is difficult to imagine. I wrote extensively about Obama’s support for the FISA bill, and what it means, earlier today.

    With their vote today, the Democratic-led Congress has covered-up years of deliberate surveillance crimes by the Bush administration and the telecom industry, and has dramatically advanced a full-scale attack on the rule of law in this country.

    I think that’s a pretty damning indictment of the Lightbearer (or “Lucifer”, as we ancient Romans would say).

  10. propertius says:

    Actually, the first thing I saw that printed BUSH all over O’s forehead was in one of the early debates, when he said he wanted to make sure that corporations “had a seat at the table”. That pegged my Bushometer on the spot (where it stayed for the rest of the campaign – I thought the damned thing was going to blow a fuse). As a result, FISA didn’t surprise me in the least – by the time that happened I half-expected the Republicans to nominate him, too (thereby saving us months of tiresome campaign ads).

  11. Lori says:

    He first got a Bush pinned to his forehead in my eyes when he gave his bullshit speech to some religious group a few months after he took office, and talked about how some Democrats shy away from talking about religion – fuck you, Obama. I saw him on the Daily Show and he made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.


    Well, I don’t have alpacas but the new collection of clothing at Gypsy Moon is up and that’s always a real treat.

  12. Nina M. says:

    I’m like Kat – Obama’s speeches are like nails on chalkboard to me. I can’t stand them, mostly because they are so overrated. I don’t understand what people think is so special – he’s got a team that works on his speeches, and he’s very disciplined about sticking to the teleprompter. That is all.

    I guess the brilliance of Obama + Axelrod was in their cross-application of the marketing principle that consumers by the package, not the product.

  13. Sandra S. says:

    On the contrary, Palin in the Republican version of Bill Clinton.

    Yeah, sure, she has some appalling policy positions. What did you expect? For her to be a shining example of liberalism deep in the heart of the Republican party?

    No, she’s a republican (comparatively moderate, actually), but that’s no more appalling in her than it is in McCain or any other moderate conservative. The problem is that she’s folksy, and beloved and an actual outsider (and in her case, she is also and primarily boned by sexism). Like Bill Clinton, she’s unappealing to the Washington insiders because she’s a hick and an outsider, and they hate that people like her despite that.

    She’s a classic Peter Pumpkinhead figure. She went into politics to do good (not that I agree with how she wants to do it), and she’s hated for her honesty and inability to work with a corrupt system. Also, her vagina was a pretty big damn stumbling block, too.

    I don’t mean to downplay the role of sexism. I just want to say that she has a lot of parallels to Bill Clinton.

  14. sister of ye says:

    Palin like Bush and Obama? How? She’s someone who actually had to work for her education and everything else she achieved. Unlike Bush Jr. or Obama, she’s actually managing something, and doing a good job, judging from her popularity in her state.

    You can disagree with Palin’s positions – I do with many if not most – but she’s not a “pretend to be one of the little people” poseur like Obama and Bush, whose condescension toward anyone not of their hoped-for or current social/economic class managed to leak thru two of the best PR image machines in American politics.

    The personal antipathy and vindictiveness toward Palin shown in the media and on many left blogs goes way past disagreement with a pretty run-of-the-mill Republican conservative. And I’ve yet to hear of someone hanging, say, Rick Perry in effigy.

  15. Anna Belle says:

    Trust me on this: Neither Obama or Bush would ever have the balls to appoint a pro-choice justice to the Supreme Court, but that’s just what Palin did (Alaskan Supreme Court). That’s just one difference between her and the likes of those two.

    That said, I saw it early after Obama was elected too–it began with my suspicions about his defense of the indefensible godbags.

    I want to add: Greenwald sure did backpedal and fast in the linked article. By the end of it he’s practically saying Obama had just made a few rhetorical errors.

  16. julia says:

    I feel like writing a letter all the Obamabots in my town that says ‘Happy now? Look what we’ve got: they can put you in jail for life for no reason, we’re not leaving Iraq, the ‘closing’ of Guantanamo is a farce and they will still keep the innocent imprisoned, new mountains are having their tops cut off for coal, and the Bailout? Just wait till next year, when the # number of homeless people may double. And there will be no more social services, because they had to cut somewhere….

    This is the Hope and Change you were screaming for?

  17. Sweet Sue says:

    Bill Clinton is “folksy” because he can explain the most complicated issue in simple terms without talking down to you or me.
    He is also brilliant; one of the smartest four or five men (all men, alas!) to occupy the Office.
    Hillary is just as smart.
    Governor Palin, on her best day,in her best year, doesn’t come close.

  18. Sameol says:

    Maybe not, but neither does Obama or Biden or Kerry or Kennedy or Harry Reid or any other politician we can name. So?

    The grossly outsized level of outrage surrounding Palin is no different than the level surrounding Clinton–they are uniquely, unprescedentedly stupid/calculating/right wing/evil–even if they don’t really appear to be markedly inferior to all the other flawed politicians who don’t seem to be held to such lofty standards.

  19. Violet says:

    Governor Palin, on her best day,in her best year, doesn’t come close.

    Most people don’t. As Sameol says, Obama isn’t that smart either, nor are most politicians.

    Sarah Palin is easily smarter than George W. Bush, and I see no evidence that she’s less intelligent than Obama (though she is less well-educated). But unlike either of those men, she hasn’t been handed anything on a platter. She’s a working class person who went into politics and succeeded — with no help, no political machine, no family wealth.

    By the way, Elaine Lafferty traveled with Palin and says she is very bright, reads everything, soaks up info like a sponge. Elaine is no bullshitter.

    Obviously I disagree with Palin on virtually all of her political positions. But as a person, she reminds me very much of some of the Republican women in my family, can-do small-town types who move mountains.

    And I have to say this, because it can’t be said often enough: Joe Biden is a goddamn talking donkey.

  20. Sameol says:

    And now that I think about it, I recall quite a bit of chatter about how Hillary supposedly isn’t all that bright. She’s a plodder, you see, and has to put such a great deal of study into being so knowledgeable. Much better to be like Obama, who is so obviously and inarguably a natural genius, despite the fact that he appears to be about as well-informed as Bush.

    Well, so say the media types, Ivy League legacies in an era of grade inflation, who identify so strongly with Obama, anyway. I also hear that Biden is brilliant and a master debater.

  21. yttik says:

    “Obviously I disagree with Palin on virtually all of her political positions.”

    I always have to speak up when people say this. I suspect most of us really don’t disagree with Palin on virtually everything. For example, her pro-choice progressive supreme court appointment. Her veto of the bill that would have banned gay partnership benefits. Her funding of preschool and special needs education. Her taxing of the oil companies and sending the rebate to the people. Her work to take Alaska off the grid and make it energy independent thru wind, water, and solar. Her funding of children’s healthcare. Her continued outreach to Native Alaskans, including the coalition she built between private enterprise and government to see to it food and supplies are being delivered.

    I could go on and on, but my point being, Sarah Palin has actually delivered more so called “liberal” things to the state of Alaska then many of our most progressive Democrats.

  22. Unree says:

    Just to keep piling on Joe Biden: he enrolled in Syracuse law school because it was located near his father-in-law’s business interests. His career plan was to bask in reflected wealth and maybe go into politics in upstate NY. (The plan was ruined by the horrible, sad car accident that killed his wife.)

    At Syracuse he began his career as a plagiarist, getting punished for cheating in one of his first-year courses. Joe later claimed to have graduated in the top half of his class, but he was about seventh from the bottom in a group of 85 or so.

    Meanwhile Obama keeps coy about his grades and test scores. But Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin are dumb, inferior losers. Yeah.

  23. Anna Belle says:

    Oh, I see; if she meets a standard on one point, the standard will change to another. So what if she acted in support of abortion rights; she isn’t near as charming as Bill Clinton. No wonder the feminist movement sucks so bad; it’s full of idiots who don’t even know how to self-reflect or reason. My impatient two cents, of course.