Wearying of Obama bashing

July 10, 2009 by barbara

Cross-posted at Firedoglake.

barbara is experiencing cognitive dissonance, writ large.

Predictably, Republicans are sniping every hour of every day, boring new holes in Barack Obama’s body and body of work.

Less predictable, and even more disturbing, is the passel of progressives who are doing the same thing. Bloggers and commenters, mostly. A few columnists and commentators. And some just plain folks.

My afore-mentioned dissonance is rooted in my own growing concern about Obama’s decisions and actions (OMG, my third-choice candidate is not perfect), even as I am becoming increasingly snarly about the pitchfork attitude and tone of some liberals. If one were to read a compilation of derogatory comments about PBO and those with whom he has surrounded himself, I say you’d have a tough time IDing the source by party.

The smuggery is getting on my nerves. More.

I’m not well positioned to smug back. For starters, I’m not the brightest bulb in the pack about the intricacies of political maneuvering. I don’t fully understand how the game is played. (Does anyone?) And, to be fair, I know far less about issues than some of Obama’s detractors. So I do pay attention to what they’re saying. And I’m learning things, to the extent I can trust opinions perpetually presented in pissy prose.

There’s a fine line that separates civil discourse and constructive criticism from sniping and undermining. I’d be hard pressed to map that, but I know it when I see it. My tolerance for poo-flinging is reaching an unprecedented low-mark.

Here’s my current working theory about all of this. We spent eight years building up a wildly outspoken snark machine concerning the egregious misdeeds of GWB and company. We had to, went the reasoning, because the media were not doing their job. Most weren’t. Sometimes, we snarked reflexively. As time passed, snark was the default and civil discourse fell by the wayside.

I dunno about you, but I have been changed, likely forever, by the eight years as hostage of Bush and the Republics. My cynicism has grown by epic proportions. (It is possible you may have noted that here at the Clothesline, ahem.)

The growing number of blogs provided a place for us to vent our beleaguered spleens, either as posters or commenters or both. It became my habit to check in with a few of my favorite blogs several times a day, followed by forays to the likes of the NYTimes, WaPo, Salon, and yeah, even Faux News, etc.

Then, along came the most unlikely of candidates and, ultimately, our new POTUS. He speaks eloquently. He made a boatload of promises that even I knew would be difficult to keep. Even if he had the full backing of his party, which he doesn’t. There’s the matter of the fractious, barely Democratic Blue Dogs Americans voted into office in the interest of pandering to, well, to everyone. And good luck with that. You get what you vote for if you don’t vet your candidates thoroughly.

I don’t know from personal experience whether Barack Obama knows his butt from his elbow. But I have known all along the way that he’s definitely smarter about politics than I am, and likely smarter than the majority of his most outspoken critics. Critics who, for the most part, sit on their elbows much of the day, pounding out merciless attacks on pretty much anything that crosses their line of sight or can be heard.

I did my share of pounding during the Reign of Bush. More recently, about Alaska’s peculiar snow queen. And about Norm. Yup, mea culpa. And chances are good that won't stop. So yeah, I'm a hypocrite.

Just to be clear, I am not suggesting that Barack Obama is off-limits to us self-appointed know-it-alls (or, in my case, know-barely-enoughs). I am, however, remembering all kinds of fervent pledges to him from the people who elected him: “We’ve got your back, Obama!” That began to wither on November 5 and pretty much petered out as he left the dais on inauguration day.

Obama was in the crosshairs of his own party from the get-go. Admittedly, it didn’t help when he tapped Rahm Emanuel (arguably the most contentious, controversial, spiteful Dem in the pack) to be his chief advisor.

I do understand that it could be dangerous to let the leash play out too far, whatever that means. To “allow” the administration to do its thing, to see how it rolls. Who decides when to reel ‘em back in? And what should that look like? When do watch dogs need to become pit pulls? Or do they?

That’s my issue, I guess. Some progressives came off the blocks as pit bulls last fall and ramped up the rhetoric as the months passed. I’m all for accountability. But there are ways and there are ways. I realize that for some, civil discourse rankles. Sounds to them like backing down, making nice, playing dead. I don’t think that’s true. And I absolutely believe that perpetual attack mode undermines all of us. It’s not productive. Is, in fact, counter-productive.

Enough. Rip away. Or not. But please do it nicely.

Posted in


Poet (not verified) | July 10, 2009 - 11:31am

Okay Barbara--David Letterman style here are 5 reasons to be disappointed in the current occupanrr of the White House and his party (which controls both Houses of Congress).

1. BHO and the Dems were primarily given a majority ti stop the middle east wars of aggression. Instead they are expanding the war(s).

2. The ;public treasurey under Bush and Paulson was looted by a bunch of rich Wall Street financiers and bankers. So instead of cleaning up this mess, BHO hires Geithner and Summers--two more Wall Street foxes to guard the hen house of public monies.

3. Few things are more detestable to those who voted for change than to hear the newly elected President (and the leadership of the majority in both houses of Congress) babble on and on about "bipartisanship" to a pack of jasckals whose whole focus is to see if as a dwindling minority they can disrupt the opposition's plans as much as possible.

4. The President with Congressional consent has declared that Single-Payer Health coverage for all is "off the table" in the dsicussion of healthcare reform. This despite the fact that whereever single-payer has been implemented (most of the industrialized world) it has never been repealed and anything less than a popular way to pay for healthcare embraced by all political parties.

5. The President with congressional approval will retain Bush era policies on such matters as torture practices, mountaintop removal, and indefinate detention,

It is no exaggeration to say that this is not the change most who voted for BHO and the Dems believe in. In fact it is not change at all but a slightly milder form of Bushism. This reduces the current majority and its President to nothing more than a style statement.

Or we could all sit around and sing "Whistle a Happy Tune" and pretend that all is ok.

Whenever I feel afraid
I hold my head erect
And whistle a happy tune
So no one will suspect
I'm afraid.

While shivering in my shoes
I strike a careless pose
And whistle a happy tune
And no one ever knows
I'm afraid.

The result of this deception
Is very strange to tell
For when I fool the people
I fear I fool myself as well!

I whistle a happy tune
And ev'ry single time
The happiness in the tune
Convinces me that I'm not afraid.

Make believe you're brave
And the trick will take you far.
You may be as brave
As you make believe you are

You may be as brave
As you make believe you are


barbara says (not verified) | July 10, 2009 - 12:17pm

See? This kinda/sorta/gently illustrates my point. Your Letterman points are (probably) spot on. Good information, put out there as information, as opposed to smash-your-face invective. I was all yours, Poet, until I got to the "Whistle a Happy Tune" in toto.

That's not my position at all. I don't think everything is okay. Even a lightweight can see that. I am not being fooled. I am watching closely, trying to learn all I can (and thanks for your contribution to that) and then figure out what, if anything, I can do about it beyond bleating at the Clothesline.

I think we're relatively on the same track, you and I (she said cautiously). And really, you're way too gentle to be lumped in with the wolves. So I am guilty of escalation even as I write this response on moderation and civil discourse.


cron (not verified) | July 10, 2009 - 3:55pm

Traditional scholarship would suggest that Roosevelt's New Deal efforts were thwarted from doing more than they did by the right, which was concerned about the movement away from privatization and towards (god forbid) some kind of socialism or social democracy. But a number of scholars would offer that it was the increasing cry from the left for more government involvement in programs social and economic that doomed the New Deal from expanding any further. That our presumed liberal pick has proven thus far to be somewhat moderate is not too surprising, but after 8 years of "god's will" as envisioned by the cynical greedy folks who still think of Karl Rove as visionary, my response is to throw the full weight of the left in their faces: screw bipartisanship. I'd have appointed Larry Tribe to the Supremes. Watching Orrin Hatch try to match wits with Larry would be great fun. And Jeff Sessions? What a hoot! Okay, back to reality...


barbara says (not verified) | July 10, 2009 - 9:38pm

Okay, you had me there. I had to Google Larry Tribes. Wow! What a totally impressive man. I'm guessing there'd be some resistance to his taking the bench, both from the right and from the pesky Blue Dogs. Am I right? *g*

The problem with your vision (even in a dream) of throwing the full weight of the left at anything is precisely the problem here. The left is so fragmented (my guess is some of that is courtesy of the right's machinations), we don't know who the hell we are.

And the thing I hoped most from Obama was that he would be not only the charismatic leader but the charismatic leader who could/would get things done, or at least point himself in that direction.

I've not given up hope yet, but with the pounding by the left and the body blows from the right, all accompanied by an immense amount of NOISE, it will take nothing less than a miracle of the sea parting sort to stifle the rabble. Little things are, well, just little things. Flick!

Right now, the full weight seems like a sackful of disparate feathers. Wait, wait! What is called for here is Forrest Gump!


Jean T (not verified) | July 11, 2009 - 1:34am

Well, this issue brings out my training in political science viz. that "politics is the art of the possible." Peoples' expectations are off the chart. Nothing like right wing money and their unbelievable out of date positions coupled with far left wing "do it all my way and now" to point out the difficulties in Washington. Add the congress and their twin aims of just local interests and keep the eyes on reelection concerns and now you have a real mess. I too am almost always at odds with the Blue Dogs.

We all - me included - want HUGE change. And I think we all want the "ideal person at the top." But I suggest it is the hearts and minds of the American people we need to change, not Obama's. The President has to have the backing of the American people on the issues of the environment (my hot button issue), health care, peace, and other issues. I think he is trying to lead but let's face it, we are a very divided nation in values and views. My old mentor talked a few decades ago that the growing division in values was going to become a huge issue in the future. Well the future is now and that has come to pass.

I think Obama is doing his part in educating the American populace. But let's face it, a lot of people are somehow stuck in very self-centered thinking in this country. Would we could bring back (if we ever had it) a conception of the common good.

Personally I think we should be pouring huge resources into cleaning up the climate, into empowering and providing for the poor, and in doing peacemaking rather than continuing wars. While I am the perennial idealist, I am also a realist.
Politics is the art of the possible. And clearly this is not a left wing country even if we wish it were. The Prez has to deal with that. I don't frankly know, given the realities of Washington and the country and world, how we could find a better person for that office. Or do any of us think we would personally do a better job given the parameters I have described?

Thanks, Barb, for raising an issue that clearly needs to be aired.

Jeanie T


Anne Gibert (not verified) | July 11, 2009 - 10:49am

You are right. He's been president 6 months, and everyone seems to expect health care reform and prosperity to have arrived. I think he's smart and capable, but not a magician


barbara says (not verified) | July 13, 2009 - 11:25am

Jeannie T. and Anne ~

He's not a wizard, and he never claimed he was or would be. Blink of an eye, presto, change-o stuff isn't possible for all the reasons noted above.

I think there are two major things at work here. We have conditioned ourselves to be fiercely outspoken from the comfort of our keyboards over the past eight years. Outspoken and no small amount snarky. (Raises hand, turns self in.) And that mode transferred seamlessly in some quarters with the change in administrations. Snipe hunt takes on new meaning.

The other thing is our societal shift to the desire for instant gratification. Enabled in part by technology. Type, click, NOW. Email. Texting. Twitter. The immediacy is stunning. And we have become hugely impatient with anything that takes time. (Raises hand again; oh, let's not always see the same hand.) Busy, busy, hurry, hurry, get it done NOW.

Some things take time. They do. Some timelines are relatively predictable. Babies in nine months, give or take. Public education, 13 years, give or take.

I don't think we can apply that demand for immediacy across the board. And nowhere is that more evident than in the convoluted world of politics.

Jeannie T, I know who you are, I think. And I know you are a nationally recognized expert on systems in organizations. If you get back here on this thread, would you ponder out loud what you might do as a first step to break this toxic stew that's brewing?