Monday, November 21, 2011

For Some on the Left "Unreasonable" Is a Euphemism (Nudge Nudge Wink Wink)

Since portions of the Left, those who chose to be led by the short and curlies by certain vociferous voices dubbed the "Professional Left," have spent the past three years nit-picking everything our current President hasn't done to your impossibly high standards, and since the whining and moaning and the accusatory fingers are about to be pointed at the President again, with the failure of the Super Committee, I just thought I'd give y'all a little bit of a modern history lesson.

You see, all y'all talk about the Right re-writing history along the lines that their current Teabagging heroes see it - you know, Paul Revere ringing those bells about the Second Amendment as he rode off to warn the British or John Quincy Adams being a Founding Father whilst he was still in his diapers or the Civil War not being about slavery - when we on the Left cut a fine hand in re-writing history the way we want to perceive it.

For example, we bought into the myth of George Bush's imperial Presidency hook, line and sinker. Bush got everything he wanted, simply by pushing it through Congress. Yep, ol'Dubya really mowed'em down. Duhhh ... are you forgetting Harriet Miers and Immigration Reform?

Another popular myth is the longing for a Clinton in the White House. Hillary, an extension to Bill, would give you, at best, Billary controlling things and stepping on Republicans in the White House now (sigh) or, at worst, it would be a national version of George and Lurleen Wallace.

The divine Jonathan Chait wrote a splediferous essay, appearing in the latest New York Magazine, tracing the history of liberals being unreasonable and inadvertantly trying to tear down any President coming from their side of the political spectrum. It's a great essay and well worth reading the entire thing, but I need to concentrate on Chait's initial observations and his attention to the Clinton years, as obviously, all of a sudden EmoProgs and pals are rewriting both Clintons as bona fide Progressives.

Chait writes:-

The cultural enthusiasm sparked by Obama’s candidacy drained away almost immediately after his election. All the passion now lies with the critics, and it is hard to find a liberal willing to muster any stronger support than halfhearted murmuring about the tough situation Obama inherited, or vague hope that maybe in a second term he can really start doing things.

He notes that the negativity from some tranches of the Progressive world began almost immediately - from 34 days into his Presidency, slightly more than a third of the way into the fabled One Hundred Days. The charge was led by Queen Ratfucker Omnipotent of Medialand, herself, Arianna Huffington - if, indeed, anyone ever really believed her Damascene conversion from raving neocon Newt babe to purring Progressive in the space of 24 hours. No surprise, she's admitted now that she won't vote for Obama in 2012 and will probably vote Republican. (Hint: that's a subtle call for "let's do all we can, dahlinks, to make sure Ron Paul gets the nomination.")

Chait asks why liberals (please: I prefer the word "Progressive" - liberals achieve, Progressives whine) are so disillusioned with the President, and comes to a remarkable conclusion, the first of the sensible PragProg writers to put this assertion in print. Pay close attention to the first paragraph; you'll see that even the most trusted of pundits sometimes really don't have a clue about what they're discussing. Bold print is mine:-

There are any number of arguments about things Obama did wrong. Some of them are completely misplaced, like blaming Obama for compromises that senators forced him to make. Many of them demand Obama do something he can’t do, like Maddow’s urging the administration to pass an energy bill through a special process called budget reconciliation—a great-sounding idea except for the fact that it’s against the rules of the Senate. Others castigate Obama for doing something he did not actually do at all (i.e., Drew Westen’s attention-grabbing, anguished New York Times essay assailing Obama for signing a budget deal with cuts to Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid that were not actually in the budget in question).

I spend a lot of time rebutting these arguments, and their proponents spend a lot of time calling me an Obama apologist.

Some of the complaints are right, and despite being an Obama apologist, I’ve made quite a few of them myself. (The debt-ceiling hostage negotiations drove me to distraction.) But I don’t think any of the complaints—right, wrong, or ­otherwise—really explain why liberals are so depressed.

Here is my explanation: Liberals are dissatisfied with Obama because liberals, on the whole, are incapable of feeling satisfied with a Democratic president. They can be happy with the idea of a Democratic president—indeed, dancing-in-the-streets delirious—but not with the real thing. The various theories of disconsolate liberals all suffer from a failure to compare Obama with any plausible baseline. Instead they compare Obama with an imaginary president—either an imaginary Obama or a fantasy version of a past president.

So there you have it. First of all, that bastion of all-things-liberal-and-sensible, Rachel Maddow, actually doesn't really understand how the Senate works and the rules under which it functions, but that doesn't stop her from making an irresponsible remark like the one above, which many people take as ver batim truth. She went to Oxford, you know.

And, secondly, EmoProgs are comparing the current President with some unicorn fantasy of a Super President, one who is or was able to leap recalcitrant Congresses in a single bound, one who is or was more powerful than corrupt Supreme Court justice or faster than a filibustering Senator.

Thing is ... I don't ever remember disgruntled Democrats pining after Kennedy or Roosevelt during the Clinton years or even during the Carter years. In fact, only during Barack Obama's Administration, can I say I've heard otherwise intelligent people on the Left moan longingly for a President who was a third-way triangulator and brand him a real Progressive, rather than give any sort of credit to the President who is, probably, the most liberal Executive since Franklin Roosevelt.

Let's look at what Chait has to say about the fabled Clintons:-

One variant of liberal disappointment has taken the form of resurgent Clinton nostalgia. Hillary Clinton, removed from the undertow of partisan combat in her role as secretary of State, has enjoyed soaring approval ratings, while Bill has burnished his credentials with a book on fixing the economy. If Bill Clinton (or Hillary Clinton—admirers tend to blur their identities) were in charge, pine their devotees, they wouldn’t have rolled over on the economy. They’d have fought the Republicans on the stimulus and won. “If Hillary gave up one of her balls and gave it to Obama,” James Carville told a Christian Science Monitor breakfast last year, “he’d have two.” Clinton was known for his slogan “It’s the economy, stupid,” and has become one repository for frustrated Democrats who believe Obama failed to attack the economic crisis with enough vigor. “No one ever had to tell Hillary that,” a bitter Clinton primary supporter recently remarked to the Daily Beast.

It is odd that Bill Clinton’s imagined role as ass-kicking economic savior has become the object of such extensive liberal fantasy. We don’t have to speculate as to what Clinton would have done if Republicans had blocked his economic stimulus. It actually happened. Clinton had campaigned promising a stimulus bill to alleviate widespread economic pain, with unemployment at 7.5 percent at the start of his term. Like Obama, Clinton needed a handful of Republican senators to pass it (Obama needed two Republican votes to break a filibuster, Clinton three). Clinton’s proposed stimulus was $19.5 billion. Unable to break a Republican filibuster, Clinton offered to pare it down to $15.4 billion. Republicans killed it anyway, creating an image of a Clinton administration in disarray.

Certainly, the circumstances faced by Clinton were different. (For one thing, the recession was far less deep and passed its worst point shortly after he took office, making the case for stimulus less urgent.) Still, nothing in this episode suggests Clinton possessed any special communicative or legislative skill that would have enabled him or his wife, had either held office in 2009, to pass a larger stimulus than the $787 billion bill Obama signed.

Bill Clinton’s election, following a dozen years of Republican presidencies, ushered in buoyant hopes of renewal. But liberals experienced his presidency as immediate and almost continuous deflation and cynicism. Clinton did enjoy one major triumph in his first year, when he passed a budget bill that raised the top tax rate, expanded the earned-income tax credit, created a new national-service program for graduates, and reformed other parts of the budget. This was the progressive apogee of the Clinton administration. Liberals at the time viewed it as a sad half-measure. The focus was on deficit reduction, not public investment, and each iteration of the legislation that worked its way through the congressional machinery emerged less inspiring than the last. “The Senate’s machinations on President Clinton’s budget plan have left many Democratic House members feeling angry and betrayed,” noted a New York Times editorial.

The rest of Clinton’s first two years consisted of a demoralizing procession of debacles and retreats. A series of Clinton appointments—Lani Guinier, Zoe Baird—came under conservative fire and were withdrawn in a panic. He steered his agenda toward right-of-center goals, like the North American Free Trade Agreement and a crime bill, serving only to alienate his liberal allies without dampening hysterical attacks from conservatives and the business lobby. Health-care reform collapsed entirely, in part because liberals refused to support a compromise final measure. Six months into Clinton’s presidency, after he had abandoned his effort to integrate gays into the military, Bob Herbert summarized what had already settled as the liberal narrative: “The disappointment and disillusionment with President Clinton are widespread … He doesn’t seem to understand that much of the disappointment and disillusionment is because he tries so hard to be liked by everyone.” Hardly anybody contested that portrait.

After Republicans swept the midterm elections, Clinton moved further rightward. He famously declared that “the era of big government is over” and brought in reptilian operator Dick Morris—not yet the right-wing conspiracy-monger seen on Fox News these days, but distinctly right of center—as his chief political adviser. He signed a welfare-reform bill containing such Draconian provisions that several liberals resigned from his administration in protest.

So the earned income tax credit Joan Walsh is always so quick to emphasize in her continuous Clinton defence, was really only about the only thing liberal Bill Clinton achieved during his two terms. Anybody else remember Robert Reich, Secretary of Labor, sitting on his hands and saying nothing when Clinton negotiated and signed NAFTA? How about Ted Kennedy in the Senate and Saint Bernie Sanders, then in the House, voting for the biggest Social Security and Medicare cuts in the programs' history, when the Democrats held both Houses on the Hill? And now, now Sanders uses every opportunity possible to push the spin that the President is about to end, or at least, revamp, these programs beyond recognition?

There's the history lesson for all to see concerning the Clinton administration, the man white privilegist Chris Matthews calls "the President of the World." And then there's the eternal assessment of Clinton by the inimitable Miss Molly Ivins: "Only a fool or a Republican would ever think him a liberal."

Well, if the EmoProgs aren't Republicans, that only means this current crop could only be one thing and that they're looking fruitlessly for this ...

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