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Today In Green Lanternism


Via Chait, who engages in some entertaining mockery of the embarrassing bad faith summit between Frank and West, we can see a somewhat more measured argument in the same vein from Michael Kazin. To be clear, it’s not nearly as bad as Frank’s Salon hackwork. Nonetheless, my jaw remained on the floor for some time after reading this:

Why has Barack Obama—one of the most eloquent and thoughtful of recent presidents—become such a terrible politician? Midway through his sixth year in office, his ineptitude is pretty clear. He frustrated and demobilized the huge base he built during his campaigns and, unless the polls turn around quickly, will be watching from the White House as the GOP takes full control of Congress this fall. On Tuesday, the Times offered some new evidence in an article about his frosty relationship with Senate Democrats.


But it also helped him win the 2008 Democratic primary, and then boosted minority and young voter turnout to give him an easy victory in the general election. And if Obama is indeed as arrogant some say he is, then so were some of the more consequential chief executives who preceded him—Andrew Jackson, Woodrow Wilson, Lyndon Johnson, and Ronald Reagan.

Each of those four presidents—as well as greater ones like Lincoln and FDR—built loyal followings and retained them for nearly their entire time in office.

Yes, I’m afraid that as an example of someone who was (unlike Barack Obama) able to retain the strong support of his party, Kazin is citing…Lyndon Johnson. You know, the sitting president presiding over a party so united he did not seek a nomination for which he was eligible. If only Barack Obama had that kind of unifying force. (That “nearly” is sure doing a lot of work.)

In addition, it’s worth noting that in the 1938 midterm elections, the Democrats lost 7 seats in the Senate and 72 seats in the House.  And, perhaps even more to the point, these elections marked a point at which Congress was controlled not so much by the nominal Democratic majorities as by a coalition of Republicans and conservative Democrats.  If FDR had some kind of magic formula that allowed Democrats to maintain support in midterm congressional elections, he apparently declined to use it.

Midterm elections tend to be bad for the party that controls the White House, and this is a particular problem for Democrats, whose less affluent constituencies generally have lower vote turnout. This isn’t a trend caused by Barack Obama being a “terrible politician.”

For a comic conclusion, Maureen Dowd has still “learned” far too much about politics from Aaron Sorkin. And is she in on the ultra-hacky “Obama, unlike any other president ever, plays golf!” trend? I think you know the answer to that.

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  • mark f

    I’m afraid that as an example of someone who was (unlike Barack Obama) able to retain the strong support of his party, Kazin is citing…Lyndon Johnson — the sitting president presiding over a party so united he did not seek a nomination for which he was eligible

    Not only that, but LBJ didn’t even have a united party for his signature first-term achievement.

    • Hogan

      See also 1966 midterms.

      When all was said and done, the GOP gained 47 House seats, three Senate seats, eight governorships, and 557 state legislative seats. Republican governors controlled 25 states, the most since the early 1950s. Republicans actually won a majority of the aggregated national vote for U.S. Senate. Of the 38 House districts where Democrats had replaced Republicans in 1964, only 14 remained in Democratic hands in 1966.

      • Davis X. Machina

        The GOP were full of bomb-tossing radicals like Ed Brooke, and Jacob Javits, and Chuck Percy, and Mark Hatfield….

    • rea

      Also that Woodrow Wilson–his last few years in office were sure successful . . .

      • AlanInSF

        I still fondly remember the chant we all enjoyed so much back when we were happily united behind Lyndon Johnson, “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many pieces of progressive legislation are you going to pass today?”

  • Pat

    Obama has the strong support of his party.

    So I’m thinking these guys don’t understand how to use Google to find these things out?

    • drkrick

      They have no interest in finding these things out.

      • Gwen


        You have to be in full-on reality denial mode to say that Obama has lost his party.

        Oh sure, there are some people who are a little disappointed, but (1) they’re still behind Barry, if only because the Republicans are so horrible; and (2) they’re disappointed for different reasons.

        I myself am a little bummed out that Obama seems weak on foreign affairs. I’m a little miffed with Hillary right now for airing that in public though (not to mention her inability to address the Ferguson incident — I can understand why Obama might have a muted response given that every time he opens his mouth, the racists go nuts — but I have serious doubts about Hillary’s ability to lead with moral gravity).

        Prediction: Hillary will have a lot more problems holding the Democratic Party together if she is elected than Obama has had, if only because Obama just flat-out does empathy better.

        • Davis X. Machina

          I myself am a little bummed out that Obama seems weak on foreign affairs.

          I too yearn for the old days when we just picked a military strongman, backed him to the hilt, sold him guns, trained his secret police, and looked the other way…

          No one in this country appreciates tradition any more.

          • Gwen

            Don’t get me wrong: given the choice between stupid and weak, I’d pick weak.

            But I really do have Clinton nostalgia when it comes to matters related to national security.

            SCIENCE FACT: Big Stick diplomacy without big sticks, is just diplomacy.

            • Gregor Sansa

              The horror.

              I mean, have you ever played Diplomacy? The US isn’t even on the board. And that’s obviously because the US is too good for that game.

            • rhino

              All diplomacy is big stick diplomacy.

              If you don’t have a stick, nobody cares what you think.

              The key thing to remember is that it doesn’t have to be your own stick… For examples see Taiwan, South Korea, and Israel.

            • Hogan

              That was before the Decider broke the stick and buried the pieces.

        • tsam

          Except that he’s not weak. A weakling would do the sabre rattling bullshit and expect some sort of miracle. News flash for hawkish assholes out there: Nobody is really afraid of us anymore.

          Thing is, everyone talks about how Obama is weak on foreign policy, but they don’t have anything sane to present by way of alternatives. Hillary was talking about arming moderates in Syria. Ok, who the fuck were these moderates? The moderates don’t know who the moderates are and throwing weaponry at a civil war isn’t good policy.

          For the most part, Obama has done a pretty good job on foreign policy.

          ISIS in Iraq was a forgone conclusion in 2003. It was that or another bloodthirsty, ruthless tyrant like the one we deposed.

          • Warren Terra

            I don’t think ISIS in Iraq was completely foregone in 2003 – but once we failed to effectively intervene to stop Maliki’s increasing injustices in pursuit of sectarianism and factionalism, ISIS was going to get the support it needed from Iraqi Sunnis. And having (rightly!) withdrawn our forces, we had little leverage to stop Maliki’s destructive behavior.

            • tsam

              I don’t see how there was ever a way that we start that war and leave behind a republic that is functional and safe.

              We couldn’t do much to intervene anyway–the whole premise of excuse 245 for invading Iraq was to leave behind a democratic government that could elect its leaders. I don’t know how this could really have turned out much differently–a Sunni PM might have done the same thing. The Kurds never wanted any part of this, and when you destabilize and fail to secure a country for 8 years, you end up with lots of disillusioned, disenfranchised young males with nothing to lose.

              Even with our forces in Iraq, I don’t know how we could have made Maliki act like anything other than the buckethead he proved himself to be from the beginning.

            • joe from Lowell

              There was one possibility – Obama could have acceded to Malaki’s request to extend the troop presence, but made meaningful political change a condition of the deal.

              But that would have opened up a whole other can of worms – all of the people who would go back to fighting the government and the foreign occupiers.

          • rhino

            Everyone is afraid of America because you guys are thrashing around in your death throes lashing out with huge power and no apparent sense of responsibility.

            • joe from Lowell

              thrashing around in your death throes

              Wishful thinking.

              And backwards. It wasn’t “death throes” that resulted in the “thrashing around” in Iraq, but the Iraq War that weakened our standing.

              And even with that damage, the United States is still the sole global superpower.

          • joe from Lowell

            Hillary was talking about arming moderates in Syria. Ok, who the fuck were these moderates?

            Exactly. Obama tried that, but he wasn’t stupid enough to just hand out arms to just anyone.

            Ambassador Powers was on MSNBC yesterday, talking about how carefully they vet the recipients of lethal aid. That’s great, they should – but it isn’t exactly a million-man army that you’re left with in Syria after you eliminate everyone who doesn’t pass the test.

        • joe from Lowell

          I myself am a little bummed out that Obama seems weak on foreign affairs.

          It isn’t Obama. What you’re picking up on is a larger development related to the relative decline of American power. We’ve declined from a hyper power, all the way back to a mere superpower.

          I’m glad that Obama is recognizing these limits instead of betting heavy on immoral follies.

          • rea

            Not sure we’ve really declined from a hyperpower–we were never in a position to do whatever the hell we felt like, and that became quite clear the first time we tried it.

        • joe from Lowell

          And Gwen?

          Calling an adult black man you don’t personally know by a childhood-diminutive form of his first name, when that’s not the name he calls himself, kinda comes with some baggage.

          • rea

            And calling him “Barry” makes you sound like a birther.

  • Nobdy

    Lincoln is in some ways an even stranger choice. If the states that voted against Obama went into open rebellion against the United States AND the U.S. had to fight an incredibly bloody war to try to stay together I’d say that Obama would do very well indeed in an election in the states that remained in the union.

    You can’t really compare Lincoln to any other president for several reasons, but I think it’s fair to say that whatever his merits and his opponents’ vices, his strength was not really in being a uniter.

    • Rob in CT

      Anyone who argues Obama needs to be a uniter like Lincoln should immediately qualify for services. They need help.

      Obama is a thoughtful, articulate guy with moderate tendencies. In that, he’s has some similarity to Lincoln. And his election brought out some things that also call back to Lincoln’s day. Unfortunately, the neoconfederates learned something from the original conderates. The Rebels shot themselves in the foot by taking themselves out of the government. They could’ve used their seats in the Senate to block damn near anything Lincoln wanted to do, but the idiots wanted to fight things out instead.

      • tsam

        I tell myself that his moderate tendencies are based on a firm grasp on reality. I would guess that if you got Barack hammered and asked him if he thought we should have single payer health care here like the rest of the world, he’d probably say yes, and then explain to you why that wasn’t possible and that the ACA is a hard push in the right direction, despite the flaws it has.

        tl;dr: Maybe more pragmatic than moderate. We’re talking about a guy trying to get elected to the Senate and then president.

        • Gregor Sansa

          That’s as may be, on a lot of the stuff people beat him up on. Certainly on single payer.

          But there are plenty of times when he really “doesn’t. even. try.” for progressive results. A larger stimulus; I mean, he probably wouldn’t have gotten it anyway, but if he’d really known why it was important, he wouldn’t have overpromised results for the stimulus he got. Civil rights and surveillance; he seems basically content with the hypertrophied security state. And … well, on foreign policy, OK, he’s one of the saner and more pragmatic people in Washington, and yes he has tried to stand up to Israel more tham most, but when something like the Honduras coup happens he is disappointing.

          So yeah, the “pragmatic” explanation is usually part of the story, but I don’t think you can really argue that he isn’t also a moderate at heart.

          • Warren Terra

            he wouldn’t have overpromised results for the stimulus he got

            This is hard to assess. Results were projected relative to the economy everyone we thought we had; the economy we actually had was much, much worse.

            • tsam

              It’s also hard to point dollars spent to actual jobs created, since it went to so many different places. I know my business did two substantial Recovery Act projects that helped us through ’09 and ’10.

          • tsam

            But his stimulus number–is that what he really believed he could get out of Congress (knowing that there was still a decent sized contingent of blue dogs), or was it because of his Harvard/Columbia education that frowns upon government handouts…? Who knows.

            I have plenty of issues with Obama, no doubt about it. The domestic spying, the indiscriminate warfare (drone bombings), going on TV and beating his chest about assassinating an enemy…there’s more, but it’s pointless to list it all.

            Of course I WANT him to be a socialist and do everything he can to rebuild the middle class and get fucking health insurance of my business’ balance sheets, but I knew I wouldn’t get all that when he got elected–especially considering how much more insane the Republicans got when he was elected.

            • sharonT

              No, it’s what his advisors thought he could get out of Congress. I put the too small stimulus blunder in Larry Summers’ basket of bad ideas.

              In a lot of ways, this is another place where the Congressional Democrats screwed up. They had no plan B if the stimulus wasn’t enough to kick start the economy. I also blame them and the campaign committees for blowing 2010 midterms, They ran on nothing. They couldn’t rouse themselves to craft a tax cut to replace the expiring Bush cuts if that’s what they needed to do to protect the Blue Dogs.

          • Pat

            The stimulus was small only in hindsight. At the time they proposed it, it was the biggest, fastest outlay of money that they had ever proposed to do. And it didn’t even include the bailout of GM and Co, that had to be done separately.

            The whole “he should have known that the stimulus was too small at the time” meme should die a painful death.

    • IM

      Wasn’t Lincolns even coalition of radical republicans, moderate republicans and war democrats not somewhat fragile and needed some management

      • The Dark Avenger

        Yes, he used the ability to appoint people to win allies over to his side. One of the things his assassination has obscured is that he was a very canny, shrewd politician, as much a horse trader as any of his political contemporaries of the time.

      • Sly

        The most ardent supporters of the Wade-Davis Bill tried to nominate John C. Fremont to replace Lincoln in 1864, after Lincoln vetoed it. They failed rather miserably; the campaign ended about a month after it began, its supporters lost a lot of power and credibility in the coalition (Davis himself was tossed out of office), and the only thing the they got for their trouble was Lincoln agreeing to fire the Postmaster General, Montgomery Blair, who the radicals hated (Blair was the son of Preston Blair, the influential Republican power-broker who Hal Holbrook played in the film Lincoln).

        The impeachment effort against Andrew Johnson was predicated on many of the same rationalizations behind the attempt to nominate Fremont, and was not quite the piping hot mess of failure, so I think its fair to say that while Lincoln was a controversial leader of the coalition, at the end of the day enough Republicans knew who their leader was.

  • joe from Lowell

    Isn’t Lyndon Johnson the guy who sent the largest, most powerful faction of the Democratic coalition packing off to the Republicans?

    • IM

      He promised for one generation.

      Typical election promise.

      We should primary him!

      • Snarki, child of Loki

        Well, I’m not going to vote for him again!

    • Bitter Scribe

      Give LBJ credit. Through the force of his personality (or the weakness of Hubert Humphrey’s), he managed to fuck up the 1968 election by demanding Humphrey’s loyalty to the Vietnam policies that had already cost him his own presidency.

      • IM

        Didn’t the majority of the democratic party still support these policies?

        • drkrick

          If that had been true, LBJ could have been renominated. The problem wasn’t disagreements about tariffs.

          • IM

            They didn’t nominate McCarty or McGovern either, though.

            Of course that was in the pre primary era.

            • John Casey

              They didn’t nominate Bobby Kennedy either; they were deprived of that chance.

              1968 really was a terrible, terrible year.

          • rea

            It’s not at all clear that LBJ wouldn’t have been renominated if he’d been willing to fight for it.

            • Manny Kant

              He *beat* McCarthy in New Hampshire, we should remember, without campaigning at all.

      • LeeEsq

        Nixon only beat Humphrey slightly, by the standards of a country with 200 million citizens at the time, in the popular vote. He really wacked Humphrey in the electoral vote. Even by a dent of good luck that Wallace doesn’t run and Humphrey picks up all of Wallace’s states out of residual loyalty to the Democractic Party, Humphrey still looses the general election. Humphrey actually managed to win nearly all of the liberal states in the 1968 election.

        Even if Humphrey was allowed to dissent from LBJ on Vietnam, I can’t see a situation where Humphrey could win. He is going to need some Wallace voting states and some middle American states to win and these states voted against Humphrey because they hated civil rights, hippies, or both.

        • Manny Kant

          a) Humphrey was getting killed in the popular vote until he started putting distance between himself and LBJ on Vietnam. It’s when he, much too late, started to do that that he was finally able to gain some traction and come close to winning the election.

          b) Wallace helped Humphrey more than he hurt him, at least in the south. The Deep South was not going to vote for Hubert “Civil Rights Plank” Humphrey no matter what. All those Wallace electoral votes were taken from Nixon, not Humphrey. What’s less clear is the effect that Wallace had outside the South. In much of the Midwest, in particular, Wallace’s votes came from blue collar Democrats of the type we’d later designate “Reagan Democrats.” Whether they’d have voted for Humphrey or Nixon had Wallace been out of the race is an open question but here I’d again think that Wallace hurt Nixon more than he hurt Humphrey.

          That being said, even though Humphrey had a solid loss in the electoral college, it was based on a few pretty close states. He lost Missouri by 1.13%, New Jersey by 2.13%, Ohio by 2.32%, Alaska by 2.63%, Illinois by 2.93%, California by 3.08%. a 3% uniform swing would be enough to give Humphrey an outright win.

  • sibusisodan

    My Google-fu is weak, but the only comment I can find from MoDo on a certain other President who had a problem with the golfs is here.

    I can’t tell what tone she’s directly taking re: Bush’s ‘watch this drive’ – I’ll be charitable and assume that “spoke with such sensitivity” is ironic – but I can tell that the important thing is that Al Gore was wrong and elitist.

  • joe from Lowell

    A world where Cornel West could govern without any constraints would look very different from a world where Obama could govern without constraints. In that one sense, the left’s mistrust of Obama has a fully rational basis.

    But West, and much of the American left, doesn’t merely believe that. It also believes that a world where Obama can govern without constraints is the actual world we live in, or, at least, a reasonable approximation thereof. More inspiring speeches, harder fighting, or some other unspecified application of willpower is all it would take to have forced Olympia Snowe to vote for a larger stimulus or Scott Brown to go along with tougher financial regulation. Because they cannot conceive of any limits to Obama’s power, betrayal and haplessness are the only causes they can imagine for their distress.

    At this point, it’s worth wondering if the actual substance of Cornell West’s leftism is the same thing as his deluded understanding of how the office of the President works.

    Perhaps it’s not just the “how do I get more of the policy and politics I want” part of politics that West doesn’t understand. Perhaps the actual “what I want” part is equally marinated in a deluded concept of what policy can accomplish.

    Isn’t somebody who has an implausible understanding of Presidential power, which doesn’t take into account the complicated factors that work against it and the need to incorporate political pragmatism, also likely to have a similarly implausible understanding of government power?

    • Rob in CT

      I think this is true of a lot (most?) of people, whether Right, Left or Center. What most people seem to want is to WIN, and then the LOSERS shut up or magically disappear (or, perhaps, are converted).

    • Bruce B.

      Joe, every so often I read something that makes me sit up and think “Of course! I hadn’t put that thought into words, but it makes sense the moment I see it, and explains thing I’ve been muddling about.”

      This is one of those. Thanks.

      • joe from Lowell


  • NewishLawyer

    As I’ve said before, extremists on both ends of the political spectrum have an attraction towards utopianism and are largely of a romantic bent. This utopianism requires them to adopt a stance of the perfect is the enemy of the good.

    We should probably start differentiating between grudging Democratic voters like West and Frank (if they vote Democratic) and people like Chait who are probably more or less happy and proud to be Democratic Party supporters, voters, etc. I’m not saying that Chait is a hack but he probably has more love for the Democratic Party and identifying as a Democratic voter/party member than Frank or West or anyone else at Salon.com ever did.

    Chait is not perfect. I don’t like his pro-Rhee stance on education but he also a rather pragmatic person. He is not going to have time for academic arguments like Frank’s about how corporations learn to make dissent and counter-culture and cool into profit making enterprises. Chait strikes me more as being a New Deal-Great Society liberal who thinks liberalism means creating a vast, strong, and secure middle class. Frank and West strike me as being part of the crowd that dissented and still dissent about that version of liberalism as being too bland and wanting some kind of anti-corporate and communal society.

    I would think Chait believes that liberalism requires that there is no and can be no set path towards the good life because people are different. Frank and West seem like they would disagree.

    • YRUasking

      Part of what’s going on, I think, is that Tom Frank seems to be trying to dumb his arguments down for the plebs who read things like Salon. Like, I think he figures the only way you can reach the kids these days is with specious listicles and table pounding but empty rhetoric.

      • Pat

        One of the things I like about the Democratic party is the tolerance of people who deviate from the mainstream in their views. Or maybe it’s one of the things I need from the Democratic community.

    • LeeEsq

      In a less condensed political system, Frank and Thomas would belong to a leftist rather than liberal political party. This party would be more electorally significant than leftists are in the United States but still a minor part of the political system because of an unwilingness to compromise on anything and the fact that Europeans aren’t as left as everybody in America thinks.

      • IM

        Yes. And each time this political party wants to joino a coalition or tolerate a minority government, Frank and West would call the leadership sell-outs, who are the worst negotiators in the world etc.

        Same problem, slightly different dressed.

        • LeeEsq

          Its why the Conservatives manage to dominate Canadian politics even though they only have a plurality of the votes. Many times more parties is not necessarily a good thing.

          • Davis X. Machina

            We have somewhere between four and six (Ted Halstead and Michael Lind) parties. We only have two labels. And thereby hangs a tail.

            In Europe, you fight the election, form the coalition, and govern.
            Here you form the coalition, fight the election, and govern.

            Which end of the stick do you want go get beaten by? Because you can’t duck the beating….

            • Manny Kant

              This isn’t really true, though. We don’t have between four and six parties. We have two parties that are broad inclusive coalitions of different ideological tendencies (although much less so than they used to be). Any contention that you can identify any clearly defined groupings beyond the two parties is pretty weak. Arguably the Southern Democrats used to be a distinct grouping within the Democrats, but even that is probably exaggerated – they tended to vote as a bloc on civil rights related issues, but had a fair amount of diversity on other issues. And even if that was true before, it hasn’t really been so since at least 1994.

          • Manny Kant

            The Liberals did dominate Canadian politics until less than 10 years ago (from 1921 to 2006, Liberals controlled the government for 64 of 85 years).

      • sharculese

        Frank … would belong to a leftist rather than liberal political party.

        Would he? As Scott has pointed out before, Frank’s argument depends on ignoring a whole bunch of areas where Obama has unarguably pushed liberal results through.

        I have trouble believing that Thomas Frank is to my left in any meaningful way.

        • Pat

          So then he would be a member of the Unrealistic Complainers Party?

  • IM

    (West: “What I hear is that, ‘[Obama] pimped us.’ I heard that a zillion times. ‘He pimped us, brother West.’”)

    I simply don’t believe that anybody would say that:

    ‘He pimped us, brother West

    Sounds like something out of Higher Education.

    • David Hunt

      I simply don’t believe that anybody would say that:

      I disagree. This sounds exactly like something that Cornel West would say.

      • IM

        He was talking to his mirror?

        • Warren Terra

          The whole point of people like West or like Limbaugh is to talk to their mirrors. Sometimes it’s the bathroom mirror, sometimes the mirror is an uncritical listener adopting for themselves the orator’s rhetoric, but it’s a mirror just the same. Just as Rush has his sheep who proclaim “megadittos” and use his catchphrases, I’m sure West does as well. Indeed, these days probably most people willing to talk to West have already accepted his ideas and act as his mirrors.

  • IM

    “We saw the coronation of the bona fide house negro of the Barack Obama plantation, our dear brother Al Sharpton.”

    Al Sharpton: House negro and race hustler.

    Has anybody else started to like Sharpton in the last decade?

    • The Dark Avenger

      He’s referring to Sharptons’ pledge not to criticize Obama, which was made a while back.

      IMHO, uncritical support is never a wise decision, left, right, or center, just ask Jennifer Rubin.

      • Keaaukane

        Did Ms. Rubin suffer any consequences from her uncritical support of Romney? I can’t recall any, unless she hurt her back lifting a check with all those zeros on it.

        • The Dark Avenger

          Conservatives can never fail, they can only be failed by others.

    • Gwen

      For a person who I am told (by the conventional wisdom) is not to be trusted, Al Sharpton does seem to make sense quite often.

    • tsam

      I don’t like him much, but I’m not exactly sure why. I think it’s because he’s annoying.

      • Warren Terra

        Well, he has a thoroughly disqualifying history, which makes it really frustrating it’s him who’s making sense and saying important things these days, rather than someone else who doesn’t come pre-discredited.

        • tsam

          Yeah–I get that same dynamic from Bill Clinton. Essentially a decent guy, but NAFTA and signing Phil Gramm’s ultimate payday legislation just as he was leaving office really burns me. I love hearing the man give a speech, but I’m still mad at him.

        • tsam

          Actually I do know why. Baptist minister. I have a reflexive wariness and disdain for clergy. Fair or not, it’s there and I’m not ashamed of it. I’m right in not trusting those fuckers in 99 of 100 examples.

    • Bruce B.

      I have. I was first impressed with his weight loss and his really first-rate advocacy for healthier eating and living, speaking to people who don’t hear about that from many authority figure they feel any respect for. And he’s gone on to do well at a lot of moment of public need like Ferguson right now. His history isn’t retroactively de-skeevied but right now he seem to me a genuine force for good in American society.

      • muddy

        I agree. It seemed to me that when he got control of his weight he kind of got control of himself in general. Even controlled the hair!

  • DrS

    Nothin racist at all in the Obama plays golf meme. Nope, not even a little bit.

    • Warren Terra

      You do sort-of wish Obama’s recreation of choice was ice hockey, just for the heads that would explode. Back when the news stories were about his basketball matches, it was too easy for the racists.

  • LeeEsq

    Reading Cornell West and Thomas Frank wrangle about Obama is like living in an alternative universe where Pauline Kael was being sincere rather than self-reflective about her limited social circle when she made her comment about Nixon’s 1972 landslide victory.

    • Scott Lemieux

      I thought the same thing.

      That interview is an amazing document. It’s not just that the substantive views are dumb, but that it’s such a self-satisfied circle-jerk. Chait captures the tone perfectly: “a conversation so deeply marinated in shared assumptions that, at one point, both interviewer and interviewee agree that nobody disagrees with them.” Frank is capable of very good work but this column reminds me of the days when Salon was trying to sell subscriptions with Camille Paglia and David Horowitz.

      • LeeEsq

        My favorite Chait snark was about how just maybe the 61 million or so Americans that voted for Romney might think Obama is too liberal.

        A lot of Green Lanternism is driven by a lack of comprehension that in a nation of 300 million people there are bound to be differences of opinion. Both the Far Right and Obama’s critics to the Left imagine that everybody secretly agrees with them and its only a few, easily toppled with the right amount of pressure, villains that believe differently. Its hard enough to get friends that really like each other to decide what restaurant to go to for dinner. Why would people think bigger issues are going to have more agreement?

        • Davis X. Machina

          Some day they’ll have a vaccine against false consciousness, and everything will get better, really, really fast…..

          • IM

            We have to guard against compromisers like you giving out the wrong vaccine, though.

          • LeeEsq

            Its the basic reason why what I call High Ideologies, that is all comprehensive political-social cosmologies, don’t work. They depend on everybody believing the same thing and working together to meet the goal of a particular High Ideology. This is never going to happen outside of very small groups and even than its not going to happen. Every working system needs to assume that there going to be millions of people that see the world differently.

        • Lee Rudolph

          One of the most spot-on definitions from Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary:

          PRESIDENT, n. The leading figure in a small group of men of whom — and of whom only — it is positively known that immense numbers of their countrymen did not want any of them for President.

  • gar5358

    I’ll vote for any Democrat Obama, HRC, Joe, or whomever because the other major party is clearly crazy. I wish I had a choice but I don’t so while I am not happy with some things Democratic Presidents do Welfare Reform or domestic Spying, I can’t vote for a Republican. It is that simple.

    • John Revolta

      Personally, when I go to a car dealership, I generally walk in and say, “Well, I’m pretty much going to pay whatever price you ask for. It’s that simple”. ;-)

      • M31

        Well, there are only two dealerships in town, and one of them only sells cars with the radio stuck on a Christian Rock channel you can’t turn off, so I go to the other one.

        • Gregor Sansa

          Right. And the “Less R. Reavel” dealership knows that the other one sells cars that are stuck on Christian Rock (and that sometimes explode, run over women and non-straight-white-men, and cost billions). Telling Mr. Reavel that the other guys are offering you a Tesla for $10K is useless, because he knows you’re lying.

          The actual productive thing to do would be to repeal the two-dealerships-per-town law. That is to say: start using approval voting.

          • Manny Kant

            Because multi-party systems are much more democratically responsive? Coalition building is at least as frustrating as the Democratic Party. In Germany, if you don’t like the too-centrist-and-neoliberal SPD, you get to vote for either a party that everyone else refuses to have anything to do with and has no measurable impact on public policy, or a party that’s not really big enough to form a majority coalition with the SPD! Good stuff!!!

            The reason progressive change is hard is because progressive change is hard, not because of structural problems with the electoral system. And the structural problems in American government have much more to do with the Senate’s inherent small state bias and terrible traditions; and with the way the uneven distribution of population gives Republicans an advantage in the House; than it does with having two parties.

      • Bruce B.

        When the alternative is a dealership where they cut off a random limb, poison your pets, and then sell you cars that don’t work, and use their profits to bomb random neighborhoods with nerve gases and to dump carcinogens into the reservoirs…yeah. I’ll still try to get a sales person who will listen to what I’m looking for and aim for the best deal I can get, but they do have an advantage in the competition being evil and deranged.

      • UserGoogol

        I think looking at voting as a bargaining process is a deeply misleading way of looking at politics. Certainly, to some extent candidates try to skew their policies and make promises in order to get votes. But to the extent that they skew their policies to get power, it’s about much more than just votes, but the whole structure of the party system. (Primaries in particular are kind of an obvious factor.)

        But also, looking at it as a bargaining process makes it seem more zero-sum. It’s in the interest of a car dealership to charge a higher price if they can. But politicians don’t have an inherent reason to screw over the public. If you write politicians a blank check, (and I don’t recommend going that far per se) they’ll be more corrupt than they should, but they won’t automatically screw people.

        Elections aren’t about bargaining with power to get what you want, it’s about trying to get people who support the policies you want into power.

  • j_kay

    Didn’t we all miss something important? Cornel West was desperate enough he had resort to GOP-hackland WSN.

    Gwen, you miss the only Evil Emperors in party history for foreign policy? Empires are oppressive, unliberal, and unDemocratic. I know because I grew up one of the spots the Clintons restored empire to.

    But ALL the Presidents but Obama have perfect Gods, especially Shrub.

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