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False Dichotomy

[ 73 ] August 1, 2011 |

I’m not a generally a big fan of trying to determine what public officials “really want,” not least because there’s no way of extricating policy goals from political goals and perceptions of political viability. But I certainly agree in broad terms that Obama is a moderate Democrat of the Clinton school who cares inordinately about the deficit and would accept spending cuts to advance deficit cutting.

But it doesn’t follow from this that Obama didn’t blunder. After all, (as Glenn quietly concedes) he didn’t get much of a deficit-reduction bill; he got some spending cuts but not the revenue increases he wanted. The deal that he accepted addressed Republican priorities, not moderate Democratic priorities. It’s entirely possible to understand that Obama isn’t a left-winger and still think that he made negotiating mistakes that produced an even worse deal than was necessary.

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Comments (73)

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  1. NadePaulKuciGravMcKi says:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eiW_NI9stp8

    middle of the road
    What debt deal?
    911 deceptions
    the pretenders
    10 years after

  2. wengler says:

    He’s simply not very good at his job. I really do hope he thinks that Republican policies are awesome, because they are the ones that he will be running on in 2012.

    BTW I can’t wait for the hippie punching that will be going on in fall 2012. Fall into line and support austerity now you assholes! Or else the Republicans will win!

  3. jeer9 says:

    Whew! It’s a relief to see that Lemieux’s judgment of Obama remains appropriately level-headed. After all, our president says and does things which could be easily misinterpreted, there’s “plausible” deniability regarding his motives, and he’s only screwing around with people’s livelihoods in the final analysis, setting the stage for entitlements to be trimmed from the poor, the elderly, and the young. Now if he were a French philosopher defending a friend from a charge of alleged rape and using the worst sort of aristocratic/chauvinistic sophistry on that friend’s behalf, that would get his dander up! Lemieux’s a veritable tiger when he witnesses such dishonesty. … And to think some people believe everything’s political? Really. Where do intellectuals come up with this stuff?

    • Boudleaux says:

      You took Lemieux’s post as being an equivocating defense of Obama?

      Have someone help you read it next time.

    • dave3544 says:

      What if Obama is just trying to heighten the contradictions?

      Holy fuck, has anyone ever seen Obama and jeer9 in the same room at the same time? I haven’t!

      • jeer9 says:

        Then how ’bout Obama and the Dems come out and say “The far right fringe of this the Republican party held the nation hostage. We had to do whatever they said in order to avoid world economic collapse. This is a bad deal. It will make people suffer when they should not have to so that millionaire and billions can avoid a small increase in taxes. Moreover, it will hurt the economy. It will slow recovery, if not put us back in a recession. This is a Tea Party deal that will continue to haunt us for years.”

        You know, the truth.

        Instead, I have a video in my inbox wherein Obama is touting the bipartisan solution to the crisis that will remove all doubt about the economy and really get it moving again. I am also supposed to be celebrating deficit reduction during a recession, as if I had never heard of 1936.

        Reid’s out there talking about how now Americans will see that Dems are serious about deficit reduction, too! We’re just like the GOP America! Serious!

        Dave 3544,
        Try to make up your mind. Otherwise, get some medication for the schizophrenia.

        Lemieux: The deal that he accepted addressed Republican priorities, not moderate Democratic priorities. It’s entirely possible to understand that Obama isn’t a left-winger and still think that he made negotiating mistakes that produced an even worse deal than was necessary.

        But he’s still a moderate Democrat who blunders! As long as the policy is a negotiating mistake rather than an intentional strategy, I won’t have to take my head out of my ass.

  4. DrDick says:

    I would have to agree with this analysis. Like Clinton, he is a moderate and not a progressive and I think he has actually moved right on some issues since the election. He is not, however, as competent a politician as Clinton and seems to have a hard time dealing with the reality of the Republican Party, as opposed to the fairies and unicorns in his head. Worst negotiator EVER!

    • Joe says:

      competent a politician as Clinton and seems to have a hard time dealing with the reality of the Republican Party

      Yeah, just look at health care and gays. On both issues, Clinton has him beat!

      So tiring. Really. Who the heck knows how Clinton, who was such component he was impeached, would have handled a very different situation, one in part different because his own actions helped Bush get elected in ’00?

      Clinton, Mr. End Welfare as We Know It, would have been reamed by the same bunch that rails against Obama around here. Probably did in some forum in some cases.

      • Joe says:

        That could have used a bit more editing.

      • DrDick says:

        I said that they were generally similar, but Obama seems not to be able to stand up to the lunatic Republicans and has been pushed steadily to the right. Clinton (best Republican president in 40 years IMHO) at least knew how to fight back instead of rolling over and playing dead.

        • Joe says:

          Obama who had a lot more to deal with is clearly no match to Clinton. He didn’t sign DADT, he just helped get rid of it. He didn’t have a health plan stopped, he just watched his party pass one even after a great liberal lion died and the 60th vote was lost. He wasn’t impeached yet either. Of course, it helps just to ignore all that he managed to do and instead say he “played dead.” Also, don’t know where he was “pushed” exactly.

          • Also, Clinton signed all sorts of legislation deregulating the financial industry, and actively supported much of it.

            Obama spent a great deal of political capital passing the most extensive financial regulation in 70 years.

            • witless chum says:

              And he’s not going to get much credit for that because it seemed like he should have been able to get more, given what the bankers just did to our economy. And he hasn’t been stridently anti-Wall Street and he’s appointed a bunch of insiders to his treasury department. Going all populist against bankers would have been good politics for Democrats after they got tarred with passing TARP.

              • “Seemed” being the operative word. It is frustrating that the scope of achievement are judged by how close they come to an ideal state, rather than how much they surpass what came before.

                Sure, Marris hit 61 home runs. Why didn’t he hit 80? I wanted 80.

                Going all populist against bankers would have been good politics for Democrats after they got tarred with passing TARP.

                Barack Obama once made a statement to the effect that politicking is for campaigns, and governing is different from politicking. A noble sentiment, but it can be taken too far.

                • witless chum says:

                  I know who I voted for and I can’t turn him into Denny Kucinich by wiggling my ears or grumbling, but I’d just like the guy to be good at advancing Democratic political interests. That’s the baseline I really want from the Democrats, is that they be reasonably good at keeping the Republicans out of office.

              • DocAmazing says:

                And Dodd-Frank is as full of holes as a lace curtain, but hey, it’s extensive.

        • Ed says:

          Whatever else you may think about him, Clinton has an appetite for such battles. Obama doesn’t. That gave some of us pause years ago, but I believe we were assured, not least by Obama himself, that this was a feature not a bug and with him in office we need have no fear about a return to “the divisiveness of the Nineties,” which Obama liked to hint was equally the fault of both sides.

        • Clinton wasn’t pushed steadily to the right during his term?

          Clinton, who came into office passing a tax increase and the assault weapons ban, and who tried to get rid of the ban on “gays in the military” (you young’uns, that’s actually the language that people used. People who supported ending the discrimination – “gays in the military”), and ended up with school uniforms and financial deregulation?

  5. TT says:

    This strikes me as exactly right. A president who surrounds himself with Rubinites as opposed to Krugmanites or Stiglitzites does so because he more than likely agrees with that particular camp over the latter two. Economically speaking, the Rubinites of the 1990s believed fervently that balancing the budget was a key component in igniting the prosperity of that decade. Politically speaking, they worked amidst divided government for six out of eight years, and were likewise used to getting around 20% to 40% of what they wanted out of Congress as opposed. (They also believed that excessive liberalism contributed to Clinton’s crushing defeat in the ’94 midterms.)

    Suffice to say, Obama began his career in the 1990s and was most likely studying Democratic political strategy and economic policy at the national level. My sense is that this informed, and continues to inform, much of his thinking on political economy. It follows that he would naturally gravitate toward architects of those policies such as Summers and Geithner. How that has worked out for him depends entirely on where you sit.

  6. Brad P. says:

    I can’t believe how angry some are with a deal that basically guarantees revenue increases or back-loaded and defense heavy cuts.

    This whole thing is such a joke. Congressional republicans going apeshit over the deficit and compromising for tiny deficit reduction and still $6T more in debt over the next ten years. And democrats dropping the T-Word and republicanesque shit like “Satan Sandwich” and “Satan Fries” when entitlements are barely going to be touched.

    Its a damned soap opera, and a lot of campaign coffers got lined.

    • The most important thing to Protest People is their self-image as Protest People.

      If they aren’t yelling and screaming, what are they?

      • DocAmazing says:

        Libertarians?

        • jeer9 says:

          Doc,
          The only political observers who really care about people are the party hacks working hard each day to toe the line and the VSP like Lemieux who worry over the re-election of Obama and thus temper their “indignation” in the passive tense using weasel words like blunder and negotiating mistakes.

          In this particular blog post, he prefaces his mild criticism of Obama (tinged with a bit of compassion, if disappointment) by stating:

          I’m not a generally a big fan of trying to determine what public officials “really want,” not least because there’s no way of extricating policy goals from political goals and perceptions of political viability.

          However, when it comes to reactionaries, he has no problem intuitively grasping their motivation; to wit:

          Alas, today the Supreme Court’s Republican appointees made it clear that their real motivation in consistently ruling for big money in politics had more to do with protecting plutocracy than with concerns about free speech. In a 5-to-4 opinion [ pdf], Chief Justice Roberts found that “Arizona’s matching funds scheme substantially burdens protected political speech without serving a compelling state interest and therefore violates the First Amendment.”

          The latter he of course finds infuriating. Obama’s decision-making: not so much.

          Which of course leaves those of us appalled by Obama’s gleeful relief at this deal to wallow in our anti-political narcissism and self-absorbed navel-gazing. If only we could care about people as much as they do. But then physicians and teachers are just in it for the dough. What do we really know about supposed cuts to medical providers or education? It’s all good and was probably the only viable deal – and even necessary at that.

    • Ben says:

      Can you go through how the deal “basically guarantees revenue increases or back-loaded and defense heavy cuts”?

      You’ve got to be talking about that effing ridiculous 12-member super-committee, right, since the stuff that gets put into action now doesn’t include revenue.

      So you’re saying that super-committee will recommend revenue increases? The House Republicassheads will vote it down. Plus Boehner already said he’s not appointing anybody to it that will accept revenue increases.

      Are you saying “be glad about the automatic cuts that will kick in if the super-committee’s recommendation isn’t passed”? Half those cuts are in the military, but the other half are Medicare providers, right? Not exactly something to cheer for. That’s the reason they were put in there.

      I’m kind of confused as to where you’re finding this silver lining of guaranteed revenue increases or back-heavy defense cuts.

  7. binyamin says:

    Moderate Democrat is a bit of a euphemism at this point. We’re talking neoliberal, no? Obama’s cabinet is neoliberal. Obama’s economic and foreign policies are neoliberal. Unfortunately, he is terribly misinformed about reality. This may or may not be related to the people in his cabinet.

    President Obama asserted:

    “For the last decade, we have spent more money than we take in. In the year 2000, the government had a budget surplus. But instead of using it to pay off our debt, the money was spent on trillions of dollars in new tax cuts, while two wars and an expensive prescription drug program were simply added to our nation’s credit card.

    As a result, the deficit was on track to top $1 trillion the year I took office.”

    This is seriously mistaken.

    The Congressional Budget Office’s projections from January of 2008, the last ones made before it recognized the housing bubble and the implications of its collapse, showed a deficit of just $198 billion for 2009, the year President Obama took office. In other words, the deficit was absolutely not “on track to top $1 trillion.”

    This is what is known as a “gaffe” of enormous proportions. It indicates that President Obama does not have the most basic understanding of the nature of the budget problems the country faces. He apparently believes that there was a huge deficit on an ongoing basis as a result of the policies in place prior to the downturn. In fact, the deficits were relatively modest. The huge deficits came about entirely as a result of the economic downturn brought about by the collapse of the housing bubble. This misunderstanding of the origins of the budget deficit could explain President Obama’s willingness to make large cuts to core social welfare programs, like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

    It is incredible that no major news outlet noted this enormous gaffe on the fundamentals of the most important issue facing the country today.

    http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/beat-the-press/president-obama-doesnt-understand-the-origins-of-the-deficit

    • from January of 2008

      Gee, can anyone think of anything that happened in 2008 that would cause the deficit to be higher than it was projected in January of that year?

      • Ben says:

        You really misread that, man. Read it again. I’m generally onboard with you doing battle against people who call Obama a sellout (if not the sheer volume of your comments) but you really overreached with this one.

        Obama didn’t include the meltdown when listing reasons for the deficit. He was wrong.

        As to the actual point, I agree his cabinet’s neoliberal but I don’t know if his economic policy is completely neoliberal. Didn’t Obama initiate Dodd-Frank, and aren’t there parts of that that go against neoliberal doctrine? Also Paul Volcker kinda throws a kink in the “neoliberal” works.

  8. bay of arizona says:

    Completely OT, but reader rabbit was good times. I loved math bluster too.

  9. The question is whether the people who read this blog are going to go along with what the troll wants them to believe, or think for themselves.

    It’s clear he has an agenda, and it’s clear what it is.

  10. MikeJake says:

    Obama playing HOI3, eh? Why do I picture him playing as France and not garrisoning the Maginot Line, because surely he could trust the promises of the Germans not to advance through the most direct route to Paris?

  11. dms says:

    What? To be a better Republican than Bill Clinton?

  12. dave3544 says:

    Jesus, Joe. I can’t claim to be aware of all internet traditions, but I’m pretty sure that one of the main signifiers of a troll is someone who derails a thread and moves it off topic. This thread, like so many others this past week, is about you. Some guy took a shot at you and here we are twenty comments later with you talking largely to yourself about what appears to be your favorite topic, i.e., how mean everyone is to you.

    You don’t think Obama got rolled. Somehow we all knew that even before you posted, but a post or two providing a few facts, knocking down some whoopers, all well and good. But any time you’re responding to one comment three times in a row, that’s time to take a step back.

    The word “unhinged” comes to mind.

  13. It’s clear the troll has an agenda.

  14. Everybody who thinks this is a good-faith expression of support for Glenn Greenwald, made to advance an argument the troll actually believes, raise your hand.

    You are being played. It’s up to you whether it works.

  15. dms says:

    Give me a break Joe. You’re only mad because the 11-dimensional chess routine (or in this case, Hearts of Iron III) is what you’ve been spewing us for the last two months.

    Oh, don’t you rubes understand? He only offered cuts to entitlements because he knew they wouldn’t be accepted, ad infinitum. Obama’s a brilliant tactician. You guys just don’t get it.

    Now that everyone knows the “deal” is a sh$%t sandwich, you’re rather cautious about praising Obama’s tactical skills.

    And because the “troll” is making fun of voices like yours, you suddenly change the subject–oh, look over there; white woman missing–and instruct us to think for ourselves, after telling us for weeks that we couldn’t think.

    Well, I can think for myself, and I think you’re a pretty poor prognosticator. You got snowed, and you can’t believe it.

  16. He only offered cuts to entitlements because he knew they wouldn’t be accepted, ad infinitum. Obama’s a brilliant tactician. You guys just don’t get it.

    So, we’ve got a deal. Seen any cuts in Social Security, Medicare benefits, or Medicaid?

    Oh, wait – the only mention of them in the deal is that they are exempt from the mandatory cuts in the trigger.

    I’ve been proven right about his strategy. Those offers were never genuine.

  17. But regardless of that, you’re now defending the troll and insisting that he’s not actually trying to play you…why? Because you have a grudge against me?

    THINK! Why is he writing these comments? What is he doing? What appeal is he making, and for what purpose?

    Try to get beyond your feelings about me. He is trying to play you. He is using language you are inclined to find sympathetic, making an argument you are inclined to put your faith in…why?

  18. And because the “troll”

    Scare quotes? Really?

    He’s not a troll, he’s a “troll?”

    What a pigeon.

  19. cer says:

    To be annoying, mostly. Repetition of a joke that wasn’t really all that funny to begin with.

  20. No.

    Look at his comments on this thread.

    Look at his comments on the last three threads.

    They are very much different from what he has been writing for weeks. There is an actual argument being made now.

    What is it? Look at what he has written today, and make up your own mind.

    Why is he making that point, now?

    What is the idea he is trying to make? What ideas is he trying to discredit?

    Why is he doing this? Why isn’t he simply writing “Psshhhht, Miller Time” like dangermouse, over and over again, as he was for days before this deal?

  21. cer says:

    I think you’re giving the troll too much credit (and attention). I think he’s just trying to annoy you and cause in-fighting.

  22. He’s been trying to cause in-fighting and annoy me personally for weeks.

    Why are hid comments different?

  23. dms says:

    Whoa!!! Three responses to one little comment. Touch a nerve?

    But regardless of that, you’re now defending the troll and insisting that he’s not actually trying to play you…why? Because you have a grudge against me?

    Defending? Insisting? I don’t think I did either. I thought the troll’s (certainly don’t want to use scare quotes; oh, by the way, sometimes quotation marks are used to, you know, quote someone, which I was doing; your better choice for scare quotes was my use of them for “deal”)remark was rather innocuous and, I thought, funny, since that’s all we’ve been hearing from your ilk since the inauguration.

    Play me? How? To convince me that Obama’s negotiating skills are somewhat lacking? I think that’s patently obvious. You have evidence to the contrary? State it.

    Grudge against you? Why would I have that, and why would you immediately assume that? I mean, other than the fact that you’ve high-jacked the threads for the last two weeks, I have nothing against you. And, if you honestly think your comments have no agenda attached to them, you’re only fooling yourself.

    And, “pigeon” (oh, damn, those scare quotes again). Your frequent use of ad hominem is just too precious for words.

  24. dms says:

    So why did you call me a pigeon? Oh, that’s right, just a personal insult. Did I insult you?

    THINK! Why is he writing these comments? What is he doing? What appeal is he making, and for what purpose?

    Try to get beyond your feelings about me. He is trying to play you. He is using language you are inclined to find sympathetic, making an argument you are inclined to put your faith in…why?

    No, no. Joe from Lowell has no agenda.

  25. “Touch a nerve” is the lamest of internet poses, above even the forced-laughter thingy.

    I replied to the comment because I wanted to make my point: where are the cuts that Obama “put on the table?” Why are they specifically exempted from the triggered cuts?

    Play me? How?

    To sell the deal as a bad one, to make liberals hate the party.

    Grudge against you? Why would I have that, and why would you immediately assume that?

    Because you responded to my comment about the troll by bringing up old business involving me that you clearly wanted to vent about.

    Your frequent use of ad hominem is just too precious for words.

    OK, pet peeve of mine: “ad hominem” is a fallacious argument about a point being wrong. “Argument X is wrong because the person making it is bad.” It is not a fancy word for “personal insult.”

  26. dms says:

    So, I guess this comment you made in a thread entitled “QOTH” (damn, those quotation marks again and again) on 7/29/2011 was the height of brilliance:

    Guilty conscience?

    Guilty conscience: brilliant::Touch a nerve: lame.

    Got it.

    You really do have to bring me over to your obviously superior side. I like learning.

  27. So, I guess this comment you made in a thread entitled “QOTH”…

    This would be a better, more interesting blog if people like you would limit your urge to make every thread about me, and dredge up your old grievances about me, and if you must respond to my comments, actually respond to the points I make.

    I can’t help but notice, for instance, that the oh-so-trifling point I made about the utter and complete absence of any of the cuts Obama “put on the table” has gone completely unanswered.

    But you have a quote from an old comment that has nothing to do with anything.

    Thank you for your contribution, all of your contributions, to the discussion about the issues raised by recent political developments. It sure has given me food for thought.

  28. I don’t know what you’re talking about. I haven’t written anything about me.

    I wrote about what the troll is trying to do, and I wrote about the debt ceiling deal.

    Your comment reads like a pre-packaged opinion you were waiting to spring. Try to reply to what’s written.

  29. jeer9 says:

    Think Bill Murray’s OCD-afflicted character in What About Bob?

    “You think he’s gone?!” The psychiatrist shouts to his family. “Bob’s not gone. He’s never going to be gone!” (Opens the cottage door, maniacally giggling, to reveal Bill Murray’s face with a goofy, lapdog expression peering from behind the screen.

  30. dms says:

    My wife’s a psychiatrist. Let me send you her card.

  31. dms says:

    He’s been trying to cause in-fighting and annoy me personally for weeks.

    Of course, it’s not all about you.

  32. My wife is a chemical engineer who curbs pollution.

    Can I have your home address?

  33. Yeah, good luck with that, champ.

  34. DocAmazing says:

    You’re already pretty well-fed, it appears.

  35. Far more than you.

    Consistently.

    Anyway, why are you talking about me? Is this what you have to add to a thread about the debt ceiling debate?

    Five bucks says you respond with another comment about me.

  36. DocAmazing says:

    Actually, the comment is about jeer9. Not a troll. has been posting here for quite some time. Adds quite a bit to the conversation.

    Feed jeer9 to your heart’s content.

  37. DNFJFL

    You’re (joe) already pretty well-fed, it appears.

    Actually, the comment is about jeer9.

    Always such constructive contributions you have. Kindly don’t write about me anymore.

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