Monday, January 16, 2012

Andrew Sullivan Brit-Slaps the Left

Maybe I've been in Britain too long - the land of "good things coming to those who wait" and "mustn't grumble." Or maybe it was my mother, who ingrained into me the idea that slow change is change that lasts.


Andrew Sullivan's got a brilliant feature about the President in this week's Newsweek. It's all about the stupidity of the President's critics, on both the Right and the Left, in not being able to understand his end game as a politician.

Well, of course, they wouldn't. They're American. Addicted to the 24/7 cable news cycle and digesting a daily diet being fed them, vicariously, by raving old white men, attractive sorority girls pretending to understand politics, soccer moms, social climbers, socialites, college dropouts and sportscasters.

Sullivan's not a part of all that. As I repeatedly say, sometimes it takes a Brit. (And, really, for me to say that is a major accomplishment, but they do understand politics and political strategy in a way that Americans don't, because their political commentators are ... well, political commentators.

You really should read Sullivan's article in its entirety. The Newsweek cover already has various members of the Limbaugh faction, as well as the Professional left, chewing nails and pissing rust.

The first part of the article is all about how the Right misconstrues what the President's objective is, but since I'm part of the pragmatic, or more practical, tranche of Progressivism (actually, I prefer the term liberal, myself), I feel that my ilk is fighting a two-front war - against the Republicans, of course, but also against people who are supposed to be on our side of the political equation, but who seem to be so deluded that they're moving so far to the Left, they're in serious danger of emerging into the darkness of Teabaggerland.

So I'll just sit back and let Sully give the Progressives what-for, in his own inimitable British style (any emphases are mine):-

While the left is less unhinged in its critique, it is just as likely to miss the screen for the pixels. From the start, liberals projected onto Obama absurd notions of what a president can actually do in a polarized country, where anything requires 60 Senate votes even to stand a chance of making it into law. They have described him as a hapless tool of Wall Street, a continuation of Bush in civil liberties, a cloistered elitist unable to grasp the populist moment that is his historic opportunity. They rail against his attempts to reach a Grand Bargain on entitlement reform. They decry his too-small stimulus, his too-weak financial reform, and his too-cautious approach to gay civil rights. They despair that he reacts to rabid Republican assaults with lofty appeals to unity and compromise.

They miss, it seems to me, two vital things. The first is the simple scale of what has been accomplished on issues liberals say they care about. A depression was averted. The bail-out of the auto industry was—amazingly—successful. Even the bank bailouts have been repaid to a great extent by a recovering banking sector. The Iraq War—the issue that made Obama the nominee—has been ended on time and, vitally, with no troops left behind. Defense is being cut steadily, even as Obama has moved his own party away from a Pelosi-style reflexive defense of all federal entitlements. Under Obama, support for marriage equality and marijuana legalization has crested to record levels. Under Obama, a crucial state, New York, made marriage equality for gays an irreversible fact of American life. Gays now openly serve in the military, and the Defense of Marriage Act is dying in the courts, undefended by the Obama Justice Department. Vast government money has been poured into noncarbon energy investments, via the stimulus. Fuel-emission standards have been drastically increased. Torture was ended. Two moderately liberal women replaced men on the Supreme Court. Oh, yes, and the liberal holy grail that eluded Johnson and Carter and Clinton, nearly universal health care, has been set into law. Politifact recently noted that of 508 specific promises, a third had been fulfilled and only two have not had some action taken on them. To have done all this while simultaneously battling an economic hurricane makes Obama about as honest a follow-through artist as anyone can expect from a politician.

What liberals have never understood about Obama is that he practices a show-don’t-tell, long-game form of domestic politics. What matters to him is what he can get done, not what he can immediately take credit for. And so I railed against him for the better part of two years for dragging his feet on gay issues. But what he was doing was getting his Republican defense secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs to move before he did. The man who made the case for repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” was, in the end, Adm. Mike Mullen. This took time—as did his painstaking change in the rule barring HIV-positive immigrants and tourists—but the slow and deliberate and unprovocative manner in which it was accomplished made the changes more durable. Not for the first time, I realized that to understand Obama, you have to take the long view. Because he does.

Or take the issue of the banks. Liberals have derided him as a captive of Wall Street, of being railroaded by Larry Summers and Tim Geithner into a too-passive response to the recklessness of the major U.S. banks. But it’s worth recalling that at the start of 2009, any responsible president’s priority would have been stabilization of the financial system, not the exacting of revenge. Obama was not elected, despite liberal fantasies, to be a left-wing crusader. He was elected as a pragmatic, unifying reformist who would be more responsible than Bush.

And what have we seen? A recurring pattern. To use the terms Obama first employed in his inaugural address: the president begins by extending a hand to his opponents; when they respond by raising a fist, he demonstrates that they are the source of the problem; then, finally, he moves to his preferred position of moderate liberalism and fights for it without being effectively tarred as an ideologue or a divider. This kind of strategy takes time. And it means there are long stretches when Obama seems incapable of defending himself, or willing to let others to define him, or simply weak. I remember those stretches during the campaign against Hillary Clinton. I also remember whose strategy won out in the end.

This is where the left is truly deluded. By misunderstanding Obama’s strategy and temperament and persistence, by grandstanding on one issue after another, by projecting unrealistic fantasies onto a candidate who never pledged a liberal revolution, they have failed to notice that from the very beginning, Obama was playing a long game. He did this with his own party over health-care reform. He has done it with the Republicans over the debt. He has done it with the Israeli government over stopping the settlements on the West Bank—and with the Iranian regime, by not playing into their hands during the Green Revolution, even as they gunned innocents down in the streets. Nothing in his first term—including the complicated multiyear rollout of universal health care—can be understood if you do not realize that Obama was always planning for eight years, not four. And if he is reelected, he will have won a battle more important than 2008: for it will be a mandate for an eight-year shift away from the excesses of inequality, overreach abroad, and reckless deficit spending of the last three decades. It will recapitalize him to entrench what he has done already and make it irreversible.

Yes, Obama has waged a war based on a reading of executive power that many civil libertarians, including myself, oppose. And he has signed into law the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens without trial (even as he pledged never to invoke this tyrannical power himself). But he has done the most important thing of all: excising the cancer of torture from military detention and military justice. If he is not reelected, that cancer may well return. Indeed, many on the right appear eager for it to return.


What I see in front of my nose is a president whose character, record, and promise remain as grotesquely underappreciated now as they were absurdly hyped in 2008. And I feel confident that sooner rather than later, the American people will come to see his first term from the same calm, sane perspective. And decide to finish what they started.

I wish I shared Andrew Sullivan's optimism and confidence. The President is being severely undermined, most especially, but the various celebrity talking heads who inhabit the realms of the Professional Left and who command a devoted coterie of sheepled disciples who allow these media whores to determine their own thought processes, in relation to recognising what the President is wont to do. So brain-washed are these children of instant gratification and white-privileged entitlement, that it's easier to believe an out-right lie that's pushed to extreme, than it is to believe the President himself.

Some are even deluded enough to think that a Romney Presidency would be sustainable for four years, time enough to allow Progressives to recoup and "convince" the entire country (or enough of the West and Northeast Coast) to garner enough electoral college votes to produce a Progressive Renaissance in American politics.

They don't understand that the election of 2012 is all about culture wars.


  1. These are the same types of dems that aided Reagan in his bid for the WH in 1980, and I'll probably go to my grave blaming their fecklessness for the downward spiral that the U.S. seems to be in. Just as they didn't realize that President Carter was the only thing protecting us from changing a democracy into a plutocracy, they don't understand that 31 years later PBO is the only thing preventing America from becoming a theocracy ruled by lying plutocrats.

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