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There Are Many Life And Death Issues

[ 203 ] September 27, 2012 |

Since I’m guessing that Glenn’s tweet is directed at me, I should clarify what I mean in my previous post.    When I said that the issues Friedersdorf focuses on are “pet issues,” I am certainly not suggesting that they are not important.  I certainly don’t believe that.   What I am saying is that the issues that he completely ignores are also extremely important issues.    Let’s be clear, shall we?  We’re not “just” talking about issues of justice and equity here.  The repeal of the ACA would mean that some people die and many others suffer unnecessarily.   Having a Republican-appointed head of the EPA means that people will die and suffer illness unnecessarily.   Having a median Supreme Court vote who has to turn to (most likely) his left to see Antonin Scalia will cause some people to die and many others to have their fundamental rights violated.   Just as a start, overruling Roe v. Wade will mean some women will die or be maimed and many others will have their lives shattered.     These are all life or death issues, and hand-waving about “dealbreakers” that ignores these lives entirely is not any kind of serious argument.  (This analysis obviously doesn’t apply to Jim Henley, who does appropriately consider them.)

And, of course, it’s worse than that.   We could argue about how to weight the relative evils if their was a choice between Obama and an opponent who would be better on some issues and worse on others.  But that’s not the actual choice.  Romney will almost certainly be far worse even with respect to the issues Friedersdorf emphasizes as well as the life-and-death issues he arbitrarily ignores.   Obama has been bad on any number of civil liberties issues.  But he ended the Iraq War,* stopped arbitrarily detaining and torturing people caught under the reach of American authorities, and didn’t invade Iran.  Is that enough?  Not even close.  Is that far better than someone who is likely to bomb Iran and get the torture regime re-started?  Obviously.   Does the fact that Romney makes no pretense of caring about civil liberties somehow make these future victims less dead?

Again, I understand why people who want to make a big show about how they can’t possibly sully themselves a vote for Obama want to muddy the waters.  But nobody’s saying you shouldn’t criticize Obama for his bad military and civil liberties policies, and nobody involved in this discussion would be criticizing him if that’s what he was doing.   People are being criticized for suggesting that progressives should be fundamentally indifferent about the outcome of the 2012 election.   I can understand why one would prefer to defend the former rather than the latter argument, but it’s the latter one that’s actually being criticized.  And it’s being criticized because it’s both irrational and immoral, and incidentally is unlikely to actually start a productive discussion about the underlying issues.

*And as for the argument that he didn’t really want to end the Iraq War but the United States has no choice but to adhere to treaties with its client states, pull the other one.  If you think John McCain would have pulled out of Iraq, I have several nice parcels at Glengarry Highlands to sell you.

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  1. Erik Loomis says:

    Greenwald was harassing me in various tweets earlier today. Until I asked him if he was saying we should vote for Gary Johnson. Then he did the most un-Greenwald thing imaginable–he left the conversation. He kept tweeting about my post. But he wouldn’t respond to me as to whether he supported Johnson or not.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      Yes, he always stops short of endorsing Romney or Johnson — but given what he repeatedly implies I’m not sure it’s a compliment. If that’s what you want to say, say it.

      • Erik Loomis says:

        Frankly, it’s an act of cowardice for him to be unwilling to state this.

        I don’t like using masculine terms like “cowardice” but given the amount of testosterone Greenwald puts into his internet persona, it’s appropriate here.

      • Joe says:

        He comes off as fake there. He has multiple posts on his old blog about Ron Paul (over some Dem leftie who is anti-war w/o his baggage) and when you call him on it as being a “supporter,” he gets all upset. Tiresome.

        The pettiness of that comment, the lack of context, is why I just stopped reading the guy. That and his “yes Glenn” commenters.

    • -Mona- says:

      Greenwald has never announced support for a candidate, not since he began blogging in ’05. You, Mr. Loomis, are not special in that regard.

      • Murc says:

        I’ll say it; that makes him, at the very least, incompetent. At worst, it makes him a weasel.

        Part of the job of professional opinion-makers, what they’re paid to do, is help people who have other jobs make sense of the political situation and provide recommendations.

        Failure to do so is a dereliction. When I’m asked to evaluate software packages at work, it’s implied that I would just natter on about them for months; people expect a recommendation at the end.

      • david mizner says:

        And he’s said several times that Obama’s better than Romney on important issues.

        It’s continually striking how LGM’s bloggers reserve their harshest words and purest outrage for the likes of relatively marginal figures like Greenwald and Friedersdorf marginal compared to the people who are, for example, killing Muslim children.)

        By comparison, their criticism of Obama is measured and polite. Why is that?

        • Malaclypse says:

          In the immortal words of Steven Brust, “I’m a leftist. I don’t argue with anyone unless they agree with me.”

          • david mizner says:

            OK, that’s pretty good.

          • Murc says:

            To be fair, Mal, Brust would almost certainly be much closer to Mizner on this than to you.

            I haven’t read his blog in awhile, but for a long time was linking every other day to WSWS claptrap and making statements along the lines of how liberals are always telling leftists that the lack of unity against conservatives is always THEIR fault while liberals merely want to march us into a bog more slowly. He endorsed Kerry in 2004 on the grounds that he wanted a Democrat in office to prove to his liberal friends that there really was no difference between any Democrat who could be nominated for President and Bush.

        • I can’t speak for anyone else, but I will happily heap scorn on “leftists” on the Greenwaldian ilk simply because a) they’re generally the ones to start lobbing intraparty stones and b) I’ve seen this play before. The Obamney types are just trotting out warmed over Naderism, and I have no inclination to tolerate that after, ya know, 2001-09 actually happened.

        • Bijan Parsia says:

          It’s continually striking how LGM’s bloggers reserve their harshest words and purest outrage for the likes of relatively marginal figures like Greenwald and Friedersdorf

          Did you mis-state? Surely even you must recognize the spread of invective thrown at Romney, Alito, right wing bloggers, scabs, Bush, Nader, Paterno, Rahm, etc.

          marginal compared to the people who are, for example, killing Muslim children.

          Ah, you mean that they are meaner to people you like than to Obama. Oh there it is explicitly!

          By comparison, their criticism of Obama is measured and polite. Why is that?

          (You might want to rewrite the first sentence, it’s quite garbled.)

          Bit late for me to prove you wrong again with data, but, c’mon. This is silly. The invective in this piece is hardly over the top and e.g., Erik unloads on the Democratic party (e.g., on education issues).

        • Darkrose says:

          Because as far as I know, Obama’s never said that someone who disagrees with his policies supports raping nuns.

        • When people on your side are wrong, it makes you feel misrepresented.

    • david mizner says:

      Did you actually just say he was harassing you with tweets?

    • MaxwellsDemon says:

      Maybe Glenn didn’t think the question deserved a response. Greenwald’s sin seems to be that he blogs about principles instead of personalities. That’s a transgression against – what? It seems clear you’re uncomfortable with that approach, but rather than owning up to that discomfort, you accuse him of equivocation. Mr. Lemieux, what is it that he “repeatedly implies” about Johnson, or (you seem to be suggesting) Romney? That a Romney win would be better than an Obama win? Really? I’d ask you to find an utterance of Glenns’s that implies that. Good luck.

  2. vacuumslayer says:

    Have fun with your fucking vanity votes, people. I’m a woman… and woman who cares about the poor, the middle class, women and their bodily autonomy and minorities HERE. So I cast my vote for Obummer a few days ago, and you can fuck yourself if you’ve got a problem with it.

    • WhatDragon says:

      This is one of the best comments that has been made on this discussion.

    • Well put vs!

      I haven’t been sure which of these several recent threads to post this on, but Rebecca Solnit had a very timely piece at TomDispatch today: http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175598/tomgram%3A_rebecca_solnit%2C_we_could_be_heroes/

    • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

      What is the marginal difference, for women, minorities, or anyone else, between a vote in Kansas for Obama and a vote in Kansas for Jill Stein?

      In most states all votes are vanity votes, in the sense that they simply cannot make any real difference in the outcome.

      (This is even true collectively: if every single person in a state like Kansas–or even a state like California–who would be tempted to vote for Jill Stein over Barack Obama voted for Jill Stein rather than Barack Obama it would make no difference in the outcome of this election.)

      • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

        This point obviously does not apply to battleground states, i.e. states in which a large majority of the voting population does not actually prefer one out of the two major party candidates.

      • vacuumslayer says:

        Is this a serious question?

        Look, you vote. You do your civic duty. You try to make a difference. You vote your conscience. At least that’s what I do. And I’ll do it whether I’m in a state that “matters” or doesn’t. Where, exactly, is the vanity there?

        • vacuumslayer says:

          Then again, “vanity vote” is a dumb way to phrase things. “Vote of privilege” would be a better way to put it. Since I’m guessing not a lot of poor people, minorities, and women won’t be voting for Stein and Johnson. Wonder why that is. The phrase “skin in the game” comes to mind.

          • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

            No progressive voter has any “skin in the game” when it comes to presidential voting in a state like Oklahoma or Kansas.

            The reason that minorities aren’t attracted to today’s third parties is that today’s third parties have done a terrible job appealing to minority voters, even relative to the terrible job they’ve done appealing to white voters. There’s a story about privilege here, I agree. But it’s a more contingent story than you admit.

            The Communist Party in the the middle of the 20th century, for example, was much more effective in mobilizing people of color (though I have to concede that it did so in an environment in which the difference between the two major parties on issues of racial justice were less clear than they are today).

            • Cody says:

              So if every Democrat in Massachusetts ,Delaware, Maine, Connecticut, New Jersey, New Hampshire, and California voted for Jill Stein instead of Obama, it’d be cool.

              I mean, they’re just vanity votes.

        • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

          Look, you vote. You do your civic duty. You try to make a difference. You vote your conscience. At least that’s what I do. And I’ll do it whether I’m in a state that “matters” or doesn’t. Where, exactly, is the vanity there?

          I actually agree with most of this, though I’d say my conscience would guide me in a different direction depending on where I vote: if I were in a battleground state, my conscience would guide me to vote tactically for Obama; in a very red state with Jill Stein on the ballot, my conscience would likely guide me to vote for Jill Stein; however, I’m in a very red state in which only Romney and Obama will appear on the ballot, so my conscience will guide me to vote for Obama.

        • arm says:

          You state voters should do their duty, try to make a difference and vote their consciences and yet you imply other voters who are doing the same are ‘vanity voters’ or privileged assholes.

          As a woman, your vote of conscience for Obama was certainly in your self interest as will my vote for him be in mine.

  3. Yup, Iran. Obama’s rhetoric worries me there, but not nearly as much as Romney’s. And Bibi Netanyahu wouldn’t risk the awful press and backlash (even from usual allies and cohorts–even the liberal Frank Rich has castigated him) in his hamfisted attempt to affect the election if he didn’t think there was a big, big difference between them. Successful politicians don’t typically take such huge risks unless they’re desperate.

    Anyway, while a choice between completely awful and somewhat awful isn’t going to move will.i.am to make a video about it, it’s a clear choice and there’s so much to lose with the wrong(er) one.

    P.S. This is sort of why I don’t read Greenwald. Often brings up good points, but his point of view is so often completely obscure by design (and skewed when it’s not) that I can’t really track where he’s coming from. That’s an important thing when building a relationship with a blogger.

    • Janastas359 says:

      I’m of the opinion that GG spends so much time going after the President, relentlessly, that I end up tuning him out. I have the feeling that he and I agree on many things, but he washes it out with his non-stop, everything is the President’s fault rhetoric that I just don’t want to hear it anymore. I remember earlier this year when the Supreme Court made their ruling about stop and frisk, and of all the posts I read, his was the only one to argue that really, we should all be blaming the President.

      Obama has done some things I disagreed with , but Glenn, not every single problem in the history of the country is his fault.

      • I think that’s accurate. The only thing I can remember recently that differed was that he said it was wrong to question Obama’s motives on announcing support for gay marriage, which stuck out because it was unusually charitable toward the Pres.

        Personally, I’ll admit that for a few months after the debt ceiling, my posts were overwhelmingly down on Obama. I thought it was a political catastrophe that would wreck his presidency (which it almost did) and would be a legitimate no-confidence moment in a parliamentary system (though, to be sure, if we had one of those we would never have gotten in that mess). But eventually I realized that this was pointless, nobody else is invested in the emotional bond (such as it is) between Obama and myself, and I went on writing about other stuff. Best decision I ever made. Getting stuck in a loop like that is a danger of this business we’ve chosen.

  4. Eric Martin says:

    If you think John McCain would have pulled out of Iraq, I have several nice parcels at Glengarry Highlands to sell you

    I think you mean Rio Rancho…

    • The people who claim that Obama had no choice but to leave Iraq spent the previous three years assuring us that he did have a choice, and was choosing to remain.

      Then again, we’re talking about “anti-imperialists” who argue that an occupying hyper-power can be compelled to leave a country against its will if the leadership of the occupied country takes a hard line in negotiations, so consistency isn’t exactly their calling card.

      • Janastas359 says:

        Easy rule of thumb: The President is always wrong, about everything, forever. Anyone who disagrees with this is a reactionary liberal Obot.

        Recently one of the political writers I follow claimed on Facebook that Obama deserved no credit for ending DADT, that he should have ended it via executive order on day one, and that the only reason he waited was for political cover, not for the chance to wipe it out once and for all. With some people, you just can’t win.

      • Walt says:

        Is “Obama had no choice but to leave Iraq” an actual real argument out there in the world? Today is the first I’ve heard of it.

    • Ronan says:

      Obama did try and keep some US troops in Iraq but Maliki wasn’t able to get a deal through the Iraqi parliament

      http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/10/16/us-iraq-usa-idUSTRE79F17720111016

      Why do people think McCain would have Succeeded ?

      • Hogan says:

        Succeeded at what? McCain didn’t give a rat’s ass what the Iraqi parliament wanted. If they wouldn’t make a deal and McCain told the troops to stay anyway (or sent more), what is the Iraqi parliament gonna do about it?

        • Ronan says:

          No, because you’re arguing a strawman above. There is a middle ground that gives the Iraqi’s some agency, and recognises that the political will might not have been there, even in a Republican admin. I am willing to be wrong on this, but it has to be more sophisticated than ‘McCain doesn’t give a rats ass’ or ‘see Walt’..

          • My comment above:

            Barack Obama was forced to leave Iraq against his will because Malaki refused to grant American troops immunity from Iraqi criminal law.

            Your comment:

            Obama did try and keep some US troops in Iraq but Maliki wasn’t able to get a deal through the Iraqi parliament

            I’m not seeing the strawman.

            Also, the word “agency” is not defined as “the ability to force a global superpower that wishes to stay in one’s country to leave, by refusing to sign a piece of paper they wanted.”

      • but Maliki wasn’t able to get a deal through the Iraqi parliament

        So, Maliki wanted them to stay – because why else would he try to get a deal allowing him to stay through Parliament – but doing so turned out to be politically impossible. To be more precise, he couldn’t get a deal providing American troops with immunity from Iraqi law through Parliament. That’s what you’re saying. There was a condition for American troops staying, and that condition was DOA, even with the Prime Minster of Iraq, the head of Iraq’s largest political coalition, behind it.

        So, remind me, where did that condition come from again? Oh, right – Barack Obama, who so desperately wanted to stay in Iraq, was the one who made the passage of immunity a dealbreaker.

        Why would he do that? He just must be really, really incompetent. What kind of President, intending to keep troops in a country, makes the adoption of a politically-impossible law a non-negotiable condition for keeping the troops in that country? What a goober.

        • Ronan says:

          “I’m not seeing the strawman.”

          Sorry, the strawman was the ‘anti-imperialist’ position you laid out

          Yes, Maliki was in favour of a presence, Obama was in favour of a presence, the Sadrists threatened to withdraw support for Maliki, so US troops left. An example of the limits of US power. What is the McCain alternative in this story..

          • The only evidence you have for the claim “Obama was in favour of a presence” was his position that he would consider extending their stay upon the adoption of a law that everyone on earth knows was never going to pass the Iraqi Parliament.

            When confronted with a request from Malaki, he “I’ll think about it, if you can bring me the moon.” And your conclusion – not just a conclusion, but an assertion you seem to consider beyond question – is that he genuinely wanted to extend the SOFA, despite the classic poison-pill maneuver.

            • Ronan says:

              Of course there’s room for different opinions on this until there’s more evidence available. I tend to look at the fact that he tried to keep a US presence as evidence that his admin wanted a US presence in Iraq. (And why wouldn’t they? – There’s special forces moving back in/contractors still there) How much they wanted this, I don’t know. I just think that ‘Obama ended the Iraq war’ is an empty slogan.

              • the fact that he tried to keep a US presence

                Not a fact. A belief, which lacks evidence supporting it. You are using your conclusion as an argument to support your conclusion.

                And why wouldn’t they?

                For all of the reasons he laid out between 2002 and December 2011.

                • Ronan says:

                  Okay, I’ll leave it there so. The fact is that a proposal was discussed and put to the Iraqi parliament

                • david mizner says:

                  Forget it, Ronan. For Joe, the only acceptable evidence that Obama tried to do something is if he actually succeeded. (And sometimes even that isn’t enough.)

                • Dan Nexon says:

                  This might be a semantic argument. The residual force the administration wanted was small and focused on training.

                • Ronan says:

                  Dan Nexon

                  Out of curiosity, how do you see a McCain presidency differing vis a vis Iraq

                • Ronan says:

                  Also wouldnt a small training force be consistent with an Obama policy that seems to rely on small groups of special forces rather than large concentrations of conventional forces? (Or am I making up stuff now?)

                • For Joe, the only acceptable evidence that Obama tried to do something is if he actually succeeded.

                  Say, David, remind me which one of us gives Obama credit for trying (and failing) to close Gitmo, and trying (and failing) to get KSM tried in the federal courts?

              • Daniel Nexon says:

                Ronan: I’m not sure how McCain could have stayed in. The path was pretty much set at the end of the Bush Administration and I can’t see any US president agreeing to the jurisdictional terms demanded by the Iraqi government as domestic political cover.

          • Malaclypse says:

            What is the McCain alternative in this story

            Mohammad Mosaddegh, Salvador Allende, Ngo Dinh Diem, and Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán would all like a word with you.

            • Ronan says:

              Maybe, but I don’t see it to be honest. The context of Iraq in 2011, after years of civil war, wouldn’t have made it feasible

              • Malaclypse says:

                You think a coup in Iraq in 2011 would not have been feasible???

                • Ronan says:

                  A coup wasn’t necessary. Maliki was reasonably favourable towards the US. The problem is dealing with the Islamist and nationalist opposition. The context surrounding Mossadegh was completely different, there was popular opposition that the CIA took advantage of. What exactly is your plan for a coup in 2011 Iraq?

                • Ronan says:

                  Putting it another way, there are always other options, but I don’t think McCain would have risked the backlash by pursuing them

          • Walt says:

            For the McCain alternative, I suggest what happened to Ngo Dinh Diem as an instructive example.

          • It might also be worth considering that Barack Obama, who allegedly wanted and tried to keep American troops in Iraq, did absolutely no work to prepare the American electorate for such a dramatic about face, and in fact, spent years in the run-up to the final withdrawal loudly trumpeting the ongoing withdrawal as a defining achievement of his term, and promising that it would happen.

            • Ronan says:

              The American electorate don’t vote on foreign policy. A continued presence in Iraq could quite easily be spun

              • The American electorate don’t vote on foreign policy.

                They sure did in 2006 and 2008.

                A continued presence in Iraq could quite easily be spun

                Sure it could have. And if it was being seriously contemplated, they would have started spinning it months before the announcement was made. I’m saying, it is very notable that they didn’t. They didn’t even try.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  Ronan 1:

                  Putting it another way, there are always other options, but I don’t think McCain would have risked the backlash by pursuing them

                  Roman 2:

                  The American electorate don’t vote on foreign policy.

                  So McCain would not risk backlash, over an area Americans don’t care about.

                  JFL:

                  They sure did in 2006 and 2008.

                  Dude, I love you, but 2006 was Katrina, and 2008 was the world economic collapse. Not foreign policy.

                • Mal, if foreign policy was unimportant, why isn’t HIllary president?

                  Absent her AUMF vote, that primary isn’t even close.
                  Here is some interesting data from 2006. Most important problem: Situation/War in Iraq wins by 10 points.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  why isn’t HIllary president?

                  Because Obama built on damn impressive ground game. Plus, Democratic primary voters care about different issues than the general electorate.

                  But I’ll admit it is not as clearcut as I claimed.

                • Ronan says:

                  I love you to Mal! But I meant (violent) backlash from Iraqi Islamists and nationalists, not domestic

                • Ronan says:

                  Oh sh*t, that I love you wasnt meant for me..anyway I’ll leave mine stand

            • david mizner says:

              He still would have called it withdrawal (and so would have all the O-bots.) The residual force would’ve only been about 3 to 5 thousand troops. Same way he’s “ending the war” in Afghanistan.

              • He announced years ago that he was keeping a few thousand troops in Afghanistan. He said that right from the beginning in 2009, when he announced his policy.

                Thanks for bringing this example up, because that is exactly what he did not do with Iraq. The language he used throughout for Iraq was quite different than that he used for Afghanistan.

          • mark f says:

            “Fuck you, they’re staying. And if the Sadrists have a problem with it we’ll bomb those fuckers.”?

      • david mizner says:

        People underestimate the extent to which the U.S. withdrawal was driven by Iraqis — a victory over American imperialism. The Iraqis forced Bush to accept the SOFA and forced Obama to abide by it on Iraqi terms.

        As has been well documented, Obama wanted to keep a smallish force there but not if, as Iraqis insisted, US troops were subject to Iraqi law, which could’ve meant for example, that American could be executed.

        The key factor here wasn’t the Iraqi parliament but Al-Sadr who promised renewed attacks if American troops stayed. That’s now to say that McCain or someone else might not have stayed anyway, so Obama deserves some credit, as does Wikileaks and Bradly Manning:

        The negotiations were strained following WikiLeaks’ release of a diplomatic cable that alleged Iraqi civilians, including children, were killed in a 2006 raid by American troops rather than in an airstrike as the U.S. military initially reported.

        http://edition.cnn.com/2011/10/21/world/meast/iraq-us-troops/

  5. Malaclypse says:

    Romney will almost certainly be far worse even with respect to the issues Friedersdorf emphasizes as well as the life-and-death issues he arbitrarily ignores.

    This is the part that always baffles me – if we lived in a world where Republicans had a civilized foreign policy, then weighing poor people abroad versus poor people here would be a genuine quandary. But Republicans crossed the line from simple villainy to cartoon supervillainy in 1994 and have piled on the crazy ever since. I can’t think of a single issue where the Republican party is not demonstrably worse than the Democrats. How is “vote for the only viable candidate that is not the Republican” not the default sane position (leaving aside the issue of safe states for purposes of this question)?

    • Walt says:

      This is what I find completely bizarre about the Friedersdorf argument. Maybe if Romney had said nothing about foreign policy, you could imagine that somehow he’d be better than Obama. But Romney has gone out of his way to align himself with the very worst faction of Republican foreign policy thinking.

    • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

      Totally agree with the quoted passage.

      But, not to sound like a broken record, in many states there is only one viable candidate, often the Republican.

      My default position: Vote for your preferred candidate, except where doing so might realistically advantage the Republican. In such cases, vote for the candidate with the best chance to defeat the Republican.

  6. Has anyone else noticed the three-card-monty involved in defining “drones” or “the drone war” as an issue?

    Remember when we all hated the term “War on Terror?” You can’t fight a war against a tactic, silly, and talking about that complex set of overlapping issues (al Qaeda, Iraq, Afghanistan, military, intelligence, law enforcement, public relations, etc.) under one rubric was just an attempt to steal bases in the argument by making unlike things appear to be related, while using an emotionally-laden term designed to provoke a pre-rational reaction.

    But now, many of the same people who made that very legitimate argument about “War on Terror” behave as though there is a meaningful conversation to be had about “the drone war.”

    • But it’s exactly the opposite.

      Drones are a tactical choice, as is terrorism. While we may not be able to wage a meaningful “war on terror”, terrorists certainly can have a meaningful discussion about whether their tactics are effective, ethical, or popular.

      Similarly, we can have a meaningful discussion about whether drones are ethical, effective, or popular weapons in any theater of operations.

      We are the ones waging the war; we always have the option to stop.

      • rea says:

        No, you’ve got that wrong. The drones are being used in at least two ways:

        (1) the famous program targeting individuals like al-Alwaki.

        (2) in support of US or allied troops.

        Most of the civilian casualtes, and most of the drone use in Pakistan, occurs in the course of (2) rather than (1). Obama does not personally control all drone use, only (1).

        The failure to distinguish between the two causes some confusion in the analysis of the moral issues. Whether drones pose some unique risk of collateral civilian casulaties is not the same quetion as whether it is acceptable to target individuals.

        • Thank you.

          “Drones” are not “a tactical choice.” They are a tool, which are being used in a variety of tactical situations.

          Their use in Afghanistan is different than their use in Pakistan which is different from Somalia/Yemen which is different from Libya.

        • sheenyglass says:

          It is inaccurate to say drone strikes in Pakistan are outside of the President’s control because there are two kinds of drone strikes:

          (1) those personally authorized by the President; and

          (2) those which are authorized by people subject to the President’s authority (as the Commander in Chief).

          Also, since we don’t have an official military presence in Pakistan, its kind of stretch to say these drones are used to support the troops.

  7. “But he ended the Iraq War,* stopped arbitrarily detaining and torturing people caught under the reach of American authorities, and didn’t invade Iran.”

    That last part is crucial. We have no chance of getting Guantanamo closed or stopping the Drone Wars until American troops are no longer at war abroad. Making the case that Yemeni or Pakistani civilians should not be killed will never fly in our political discourse so long as the strikes are part of a wider war in which American troops are still fighting and dying. If we get into a war with Iran, which is much *much* *MUCH* more likely with Mittens (given his complete ignorance of foreign policy and total reliance on war happy neocons), all the efforts to wind down American military involvement elsewhere get downgraded and pushed back.

    If Obama can get us out of Afghanistan in his second term, we can end the drone wars with the next president. That doesn’t help the dead in the interim, but it is progress, and Romney is all too likely to reverse it.

  8. david mizner says:

    In other words, you were wrong to use the term “pet issues,” because no one — not Friedersdorf or anyone else — is arguing there aren’t other “extremely important issues.”

    • Malaclypse says:

      Which of them does Romney come out less bad than Obama on?

    • Usually, when you consider something unimportant, you don’t write a thousand words on why it is unimportant. You just ignore it, and leave it out of your thinking, argument, and behavior entirely.

      Sort of like what Freisdorf does with everything except the limited set of issues he’s decided to base his voting behavior on.

    • Janastas359 says:

      The way he presented the argument was “Anyone who REALLY LOOKS at politics can see that Obama hasn’t met my ideal on this one issue, and therefore, not only is he not getting my vote, it should be impossible for anyone to enthusiastically support him.”

      The issues he describes are one of many in this race, and if it’s the most important to you, so be it. But acting as though it is the only issue, the one issue that should be the deciding factor for any voter, and that anyone who disagrees is lying to themselves, makes it a “pet issue.” Notice that CF never tried to claim that there might be other reasons to protest vote, or vote Romney.

      I don’t understand how it can be anything else.

    • Bijan Parsia says:

      I really don’t see what you’re saying.

      If there are a set of life and death issues in play and Obama is on the significantly better side of (say) all of them, then it’s exactly to have a pet issue to privilege one of them to the point where you’ll sacrifice the others.

      Since he’s better on all of them, it’s even more bizarre. But let’s pretend that on killing Muslim babies, Romney would do better, so that it makes sense, if that’s your dealbreaker, to not support Obama or to support Romney. (This is, of course, a ridiculous counterfactual.) But then to decide on this alone is to ignore all the other ones. Which is to make it a pet issue. What’s the problem with that? That it’s a pet doesn’t make it serious.

  9. djw says:

    Sometimes when I see a trailer for what looks like a spectacularly awful dud of a movie, a sort of serene calmness comes over me. As annoying as this trailer is, I can reasonably be quite confident that there are is no meaningful chance that I’ll have to watch this awful movie, and there’s comfort in that.

    I get a similar feeling when I see people try to engage Glenn Greenwald.

    • Pinko Punko says:

      I feel the zen of these words.

      But I think the trailer is for a film that features an out of control train but stars George Costanza and not Denzel Washington.

      Unrelated: I think the very large discussion of this topic the last few days suggests a lot of people struggle with these questions and they think about these issues. That at least is a reasonable positive. I don’t see it as a bunch of people need to grow the F up, I see it as being incredibly frustrated with the menu and the disconnect between the constant rhetoric of American exceptionalism and deserving of the gold medal of FREEDOM and the reality of horribleness and the soaking in privilege that comes with living in and receiving benefits from a first world country.

  10. jon says:

    Yup, Obama has been a disappointment on many subjects. If re-elected he’ll likely continue to disappoint. Should we have elected McCain instead?

    You know who else fell short of their promise? Clinton, Carter, JFK Truman and FDR.

    I’m not so narcissistic as to think that Obama will magically fulfill all of his campaign promises and the sparkly unicorn of the party platform. But what does concern me about who to vote for, is what terrain will that leave for the next candidate to succeed at being more progressive? Not being a Trotskyite who thinks that you have to make conditions terrible so that revolution becomes inevitable, I have to think that the least-worst viable candidate provides the best overall opportunities.

    • CaptBackslap says:

      It’s not like it’s just the Democrats, either. Both Bushes (particularly GHWB) woefully disappointed many of their supporters on several fronts, and even St. Ronnie himself faced a lot of criticism from conservatives on foreign policy. I saw a quote from some conservative in the mid-80′s saying that it wasn’t “too late for Reagan to put a classically Reaganite stamp on his administration’s foreign policy,” which indicates that the right wing had already begun separating the ideal from the actual Ronald Reagan while he was still President.

    • Visitor says:

      standing ovation! ! !

  11. Bijan Parsia says:

    I, of course, agree with every word of this post!

    ;)

  12. Dirk Gently says:

    In fairness to Greenwald, he really is often one of the few prominent progressives to spend most of his time criticizing the mis-steps on “his side” instead of going after the jackassery on the “other side”, especially when we’re talking about the blogosphere. And that’s a-okay, in my book.

    His problem is that he thinks that makes him better than everyone else, and when challenged, refuses to see the difference between strategic alliance and aiding and abetting.

    Glenn would have had the U.S. and U.K. refuse to provide materiel to the USSR in WWII, and might even have recommended air dropping leaflets on the Red Army telling them not to fight because Stalin was a mass murderer—right before they got crushed by some panzers.

    • Dirk Gently says:

      Actually, that’s not fair. Glenn would have advocated the U.S. to stay out of the war altogether, because we did after all massacre all those Panamanians, so what would they have gotten from us that they weren’t going to get from the Japanese?

      • Paula says:

        Gimme a break, man. GG supported going into Iraq, as late as 2005 even. A grown-ass pundit believed the horseshit coming out the Bush administration. How come no one ever f***ing mentions that?

        • John says:

          Should we really believe that, though? Isn’t the only evidence that Greenwald supported the Iraq War his own contention that he did? It seems like this contention was in the service of some kind of rhetorical strategy of himself as the last honest man, a naïf who trusted his government and was betrayed, and then learned what everything was all about.

          I’m not sure I really believe that he actually supported the Iraq War.

      • rea says:

        When (before WWII) did we massacre a bunch of Panamanians?

    • Bijan Parsia says:

      In fairness to Greenwald, he really is often one of the few prominent progressives to spend most of his time criticizing the mis-steps on “his side” instead of going after the jackassery on the “other side”, especially when we’re talking about the blogosphere. And that’s a-okay, in my book.

      Well, the problem is that he doesn’t just go after the mis-steps, but he lunges after imagined mis-steps. That’s not so helpful.

      And frankly, his go to analysis of the mis-steps (TRIBALISM) is rarely accurate and even more rarely useful. It’s a bit like Chomksy. It can be helpful to think that way a bit, but you need to think a bit harder about real psychology and social structures.

      • Random says:

        This. The last time I tried to read a GG article it was so factually-inaccurate I just had to stop. Obama tried to close Gitmo, repeatedly. Moving the detainment facility to US soil does give the detainees a much friendlier legal argument. Currently he’s processing about 1/3 of the inmates for release. GG goes far out of his way to avoid mentioning any of it. Same thing for the NDAA, Obama had a choice between leaving the military unfunded for a year or signing something he disagreed with. He made the same choice I would have made.

    • I thought Greenwald didn’t have a side?

      • Dirk Gently says:

        Indeed. The whole problem: he’s either a moral scold who ends up standing nowhere, or he is incapable of being tactical. In my heart of hearts, I’m an anarcho-syndicalist who’s big on “big think” projects for science (especially space and climate change). I don’t see anyone like that on my ballot (unless and until we convince Neil DeGrasse Tyson to run, with Bill Nye as his veep).

        So, I happily vote Democrat every fucking time, for lack of my super perfect option, because politics ain’t Sugar Dumpling Land, where wishes and tantrums forge policy.

  13. bob mcmanus says:

    Well, I am finally convinced.

    I will not vote for Romney.

  14. anniecat45 says:

    There are a lot of people who seem to think their views on issues are of World Historical Importance.

    Most of them are wrong.

  15. Rand Careaga says:

    Over at Balloon Juice someone has picked up and repurposed, contra Friedsdorf, this 2008 gem from TBogg:

    ****

    Let me see if I can explain it this way:

    Every year in Happy Gumdrop Fairy-Tale Land all of the sprites and elves and woodland creatures gather together to pick the Rainbow Sunshine Queen. Everyone is there: the Lollipop Guild, the Star-Twinkle Toddlers, the Sparkly Unicorns, the Cookie Baking Apple-cheeked Grandmothers, the Fluffy Bunny Bund, the Rumbly-Tumbly Pupperoos, the Snowflake Princesses, the Baby Duckies All-In-A-Row, the Laughing Babies, and the Dykes on Bikes. They have a big picnic with cupcakes and gumdrops and pudding pops, stopping only to cast their votes by throwing Magic Wishing Rocks into the Well of Laughter, Comity, and Good Intentions. Afterward they spend the rest of the night dancing and singing and waving glow sticks until dawn when they tumble sleepy-eyed into beds made of the purest and whitest goose down where they dream of angels and clouds of spun sugar.

    You don’t live there.

    Grow the fuck up.

  16. Jim Lynch says:

    It’s the same fucking Lesser of Two Evils argument that occurs every 4 years.

    I refused to vote for Obama in 2008 because of his FISA double-cross. Unlike my vote for Kerry in 2004, I’ve never regretted it. I nowadays accord the democratic party the faintest respect possible, short of turning my back on it altogether.

    That said, and although I live in a state (Ca.) whose electoral votes will be blue in any event (as was the in 2008), I will still cast my vote for Obama this November. The GOP has distilled itself over the past 30 years, to the point where it can fairly be described as the American Fascist Party. I despise it with every bone in my body, which is why I will once again vote democratic in a presidential election. In fact, that’s the only reason.

  17. brad says:

    It’s sad to see GG reduced to trolling like this, and even sadder that I hope he’s just trolling and not so far gone as to mean this. He’s theoretically smarter than this, I’ve seen evidence of it.

    • Lit3Bolt says:

      GG can’t purity troll the internet if he actually comes out and sullies himself by participating in democracy. Like Chomsky and Ron Paul, he’s busy building an iconoclast imagery around himself that he nurses like an anemic waif, and is very concerned about his image because he wants to be above the two-party system of the US which is almost as old as the Constitution.

      Thus he feels he is morally unassailable, a sort of journalistic White Knight, who can condemn politics while remaining above it, and he so concerned about his beliefs and convictions that he is willing to write books and appear on Cable TV to spread his pontificate his moral outrage. His daily beat consists of reading BBC World and reflexively condemning Israeli and US foreign policy. He is the outsider of the system who can still make money off the system. He is willing to condemn everyone who doesn’t believe as he does, refuses to participate in democracy in the US, but is unwilling to put his own life at risk or kill others in order to end the current system which is so morally repugnant to him.

      In other words, he and his followers are full of shit and are just looking to make a buck off the path of corpses that is US hegemony, the same as any neoconservative. They just have a different strategy of doing so.

      • Jim Lynch says:

        “Thus he feels he is morally unassailable, a sort of journalistic White Knight..”.

        You do realize you’re describing at least 90% of every blogger on the planet, right?

      • brad says:

        I look at Chomsky and see Leary, really, down to there being files somewhere that will give some fanbois a serious sad. I have no specific reason to say this, but I just don’t trust him.

        I disagree in the sense that I don’t think GG is an opportunist so much as…. a diva, which I suppose was your main point, so it’s a mild disagreement. He’s bought into his own hype, and lost his internal editors and critics. What he says is right, and what those who disagree say is wrong, at a damn near metaphysical level. When he hit that point he ceased being an effective advocate and became a choir leader, because there’s no possibility of engagement and discussion, there’s agreement or being trolled. And his choir will save his ego from ever having to face the fact that he’s trolling. It’s sad. There was a time when I thought of him as up there with Digby at the head of the table.
        Only the good die young, and etc.

      • Joe says:

        I recall Chomsky or someone saying the national government is so strong that even small differences are important when it comes to who is President. Did a search and found:
        Noam Chomsky has said, “I’m not a great enthusiast for Obama, as you know, from way back, but at least he’s somewhere in the real world.”

        Read more: http://digitaljournal.com/article/317710#ixzz27iLq75fw

  18. djangermous says:

    When I said that the issues Friedersdorf focuses on are “pet issues,” I am certainly not suggesting that they are not important.

    Lol, of course you are, that’s the entire reason people use the phrase “pet issues”.

    Next time someone calls you out for being a huge and obvious shithead, try apologizing instead of denial.

    • Bijan Parsia says:

      Lol, of course you are, that’s the entire reason people use the phrase “pet issues”.

      I was trying to figure out if this were true. “Pet peeve” certainly suggests that, but that seems to be more due to the “peeve”. “Pet”, in this context, just means “favorite” or “cherished” or “indulged” (perhaps “overly indulged”.

      And that’s the point.

      It’s definitely a bit contemptuous of CF, but I think he’s worthy of that contempt.

      • Pinko Punko says:

        Once again I would say that this kind of reaction could be easily sidestepped by not loading up the hot buttons. Oy.

        • Bijan Parsia says:

          Well, maybe?

          “Pet issues” doesn’t seem all that over the top.

          I meant, CF starts the whole thing by building up a dialectic where we’re moral scum, essentially.

          • Pinko Punko says:

            CF is a cobag, but anyone that has similar issues as CF bu is not CF could be annoyed as hell at “pet issues” because it has a belittling connotation, even if it was not meant in the loaded way. But also, once hackles are up, you will usually see someone go for the opening of being offended. The internet, where the same things happen over and over again and sometimes it seems like no one notices.

            • Bijan Parsia says:

              I don’t think this one was as nearly bomb throwingy than, say, Erik’s face off with Greenwald.

              In the end, if you are more upset about a misunderstanding “pet issue” as implying that your pet issue isn’t important than about the fact that you were accused of (or are plausibly) ignoring issues which should weigh similarly to your pet issue/dealbreaker, then I rather suspect there’s no saving you.

              Morese, it’s weird if your schtick is accusing other people of not being Very Serious about your pet issue.

              I *like* pet issue! I have pet issues…ones that I poor more effort and thought into and hit my harder. The problem isn’t having a focus, it’s not having perspective as well.

    • Cody says:

      “Pet Issue” means your favorite issue.

      I thought everyone agreed on this? I didn’t know pets were unimportant, I love my old cat (Tesla) very much…

  19. Thers says:

    The difference I see between Friesendorf and Greenwald is that I could imagine progressive purity preening having an effect on an important election. That happened once, after all.

    I can’t picture a scenario where whatever libertarians do, it matters.

    • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

      Why not? Nader’s vote in Florida in 2000 was quite small. What made it possible for him to affect the outcome was that the election was so close. In fact, Harry Browne, the Libertarian candidate for President that year, received 16,415 votes in Florida, over thirty times Bush’s (miscounted) margin of victory.

  20. rea says:

    Even if I thought somehow, magically, Romney would turn out much the same as Obama or better on most policy matters I’d still have to vote for Obama, and here’s why. The Republican party spent the last 4 years deliberately trashing the economy and obstructing policies they previously supported (health care, cap-and-trade, stimulus), for no better reason than they wanted to win this election. This party-before-country bullshit is not the way the opposition party traditionally has behaved in American politics, and it’s vital to the futre of the Republic that the Republicans not be rewarded for such behavior with a victory.

    • Cody says:

      This.

      It’s something people seem to have missed. Everyone points out when there were Democratic Congresses in Bush’s term. There are a lot of differences here!

      The Democrats aren’t a solid block like Republicans, but more importantly they didn’t stonewall Republicans. If the Democrats had acted like the Republicans do now, the media would be screaming bloody murder during the Bush years. The minority party did not generally try to inflict it’s will upon the majority, but attempted to simply mitigate the other party’s advances so there wouldn’t be a gridlock.

      Now, even the most Conservative freggin bill is filibustered by a minority that would’ve supported it, and it’s aye okay.

  21. Incontinentia Buttocks says:

    Two side points:

    1) Thanks for the Jim Henley link in the OP, Scott! My views on these things are closer to his than, e.g., Erik’s.

    2) Charlie Pierce (in occasional comments here and over at Esquire) has been a consistent voice of sanity on all these issues: criticizing the President’s handling of the continuing War on Terra, while nonetheless pointing out that Romney would be even worse (on civil liberties and war/peace issues), and remaining honest about what the electoral college means for voters in non-battleground states like Massachusetts and RI (in order to keep out of moderation, I’ve only linked to an example of the first, but the others are readily available). He deserves much more credit for all this.

  22. danah gaz says:

    My tweet to Greenwald: It must be nice not being a woman, and not being affected by US domestic policy. You should totally hook me up with some of that.

    • Ronan says:

      Greenwald lives in Brazil because his husband can’t move to the US. The fact that he chooses to spend his time lobbying for the one group that no one gives a damn about (western muslims) is too my mind a positive, even considering the hyperbole. His pet topics, civil liberties and the continuation of the war on terror, aren’t abstract theoretical arguments to everyone..

      • Joe says:

        Others “give a damn” about these people, as shown by various other blogs etc., blogs that also manage to realize a general assessment of his status on “civil liberties” includes other issues that the Obama Administration (unlike the Bush Administration that wanted to do things like amend the Constitution to give a fu to gays) have notably advanced.

        It is not like his blog is some cry in the wilderness. There are plenty of blogs talking about these issues. Oh, you know who is working for the reality of him being able to live here with his partner [didn't know he was married] with equal rights? One guess.

        • Ronan says:

          I wasn’t arguing for or against Obama, I was pointing out that the issues Greenwald highlights are important, and to write him of as a privileged elite shows a complete blindness to the hostility being directed towards Muslims (right across the West) Ironically it’s quite clearly a manifestation of privilege (and US parochialism)

          • Random says:

            We get that it’s a problem. What we don’t get is why this means GG has to consistently misrepresent Obama’s position on NDAA and Gitmo. Dude had done quite a bit of fighting on both of those issues and got his butt kicked by majority opinion and still come back to try to fight it. Currently he’s pushing for release of around 1/3 of the Gitmo detainees. I guarantee GG will never mention that or talk about it.

          • Joe says:

            Another comment that is mostly not responsive to what a person said. Again, he is not just a voice in the wilderness. Others manage to talk about “western Muslims” (curious phrasing) w/o all the baggage GG brings. And, yes, his lack of perspective can be challenged as a a manifestation of privilege.

            • Ronan says:

              Nope it’s not curious phrasing..the gist of this thread has been we can’t do anything about foreign policy, so I’m trying to explain the ‘war on terror’ is not Foreign policy, but built on criminsalising and scapegoating one community (the mass of people we now call Muslims) and that the left are entirely indifferent to this, both internationally and domestically..of course GG isn’t the only one..I’m saying most people here and within the respectable left don’t give a damn.

              • Cody says:

                Quite honestly I DON’T give a damn about Western Muslims. I also don’t give a damn about Christians, Mormons, Jews, or the wonderful Druze people.

                Why? Because I give a damn about poor people. I also give a damn about people who are abused by the US authority (foreign or domestic).

                I would argue most people fighting for any kind of Progressive policy movement care about these issues. And they include Muslims, without having to suddenly decide to stop caring about all the other groups of people in the same category.

              • Joe says:

                How this reply refutes or even actually addresses my comment that the term “western Muslims” is curious phrasing applied to say Pakistan civilians (is Pakistan the “west” now?) is unclear to me.

      • Bijan Parsia says:

        His pet topics, civil liberties and the continuation of the war on terror, aren’t abstract theoretical arguments to everyone

        But part of the point is that they aren’t typical abstract to lesser evilites. If being massively better on life and death issues were evenly switched between the candidates, then there might be a conundrum. But they aren’t. On just about any issue the Republican’s are hugely worse. So not voting for Obama is de facto support for bad even on one’s pet issue of life and death.

        But let’s say Obama and Romney are equibad on your pet life or death issue. And so you go “Fie! A pox upon both your houses!” That means you treat the other life and death issues as not significant.

        • Ronan says:

          I’m with you on the Obama/Romney thing..I just get of the wagon when people (and this isn’t directed at you or really anyone on this specific thread) imply that the work done to highlight abuses against Muslims is somehow irrelvant, or the result of privilege, or childish

          • Random says:

            The work done highlighting it is not at all a problem and a good thing. The lying to people about Obama’s history and positions on these issues is the main problem.

          • Bijan Parsia says:

            the work done to highlight abuses against Muslims is somehow irrelvant, or the result of privilege, or childish

            I certainly don’t think that. I have a direct person interest, for example, in Iranian issues (having family in Iran). So, people who highlight the nasty things the US does or the huge costs for almost certainly no gain of bombing Iran are, in those acts, doing good that I’m personally grateful for.

            Coupling that with posturing and analytical fail doesn’t do so much for me. A lot of that is, in fact, childish. Mizner’s use often is (although I do believe his is sincerely and honestly engaged in the issue).

            And…what Random said. I don’t want to minimise the bad Obama’s done (or even just the repellent…I always get a white hot flash of rage when I think of his correspondants’ dinner joke about drones; not quite as bad as Bush mocking Karla Faye Tucker, but really really horrid), but it’s important to recognize the better and to actually assess what’s going on.

            • Ronan says:

              I don’t neccessarily disagree with either of you.I just see this all as very..parcohial, and blinkered..it’s more the tone than anything..But as I’ve said above, I think there’s an oblivious on the part of the American left to all the outgroths of the WOT(as there was to the war on drugs when it began)and that is a result of your own privilege

  23. [...] Lemieux wheels the grownup’s chair over to the Lawyers, Guns & Money keyboard and tries to bank the fires started, bizarrely, by Conor [...]

  24. chris9059 says:

    “… he stopped arbitrarily detaining and torturing people caught under the reach of American authorities, and didn’t invade Iran”

    Ever hear of Bradley Manning?

  25. [...] You’re an Obama voter who wants there to be as many voters as possible. You believe politics is the art of the possible and that the perfect is the enemy of the good. You [...]

  26. […] nobody is saying otherwise. What people did argue against deBoer is that his argument that progressives should withdraw their support from the Democratic Party was foolish and immoral. Trying to conflate “criticism” with “advocating throwing elections to Republicans […]

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