Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Politics and Reality

On occasion I feel the need to do a follow up piece to a post. Generally it's because someone makes a comment that makes me go, "That's not what I meant at all." I received such a comment on my last post on another blog for where I also publish, The Swash Zone. An anonymous comment dismissed my  post, Pragmatism, the Presidency, and Activism as being another piece comparing Obama to Lincoln, a topic which he or she is tired of hearing.

Thanks for the comments from others who have pointed out that I didn't write a piece comparing Obama to Lincoln. I still find anonymous' comment way off target and bearing no logical relationship to my actual post.

My focus was on the mythologizing that time tends to bring to our remembrances of the past. The Obama and Lincoln comparison, as well as the FDR and Obama comparisons have been unfavorably made for some time. Primarily the comparisons are used to depict Obama as weak and ineffective when compared to Lincoln and FDR. My analysis of Lincoln was to contrast the factual reality with the mythology that we've built around Lincoln. The abolitionists criticized Lincoln as weak and ineffective. They questioned his commitment to ending slavery. Lincoln's primary goal was not to end slavery it was to do whatever was necessary to preserve the Union. He compromised a great deal as did Roosevelt. I'll save that stroll down history lane another day. Interestingly, the group sold out the most significantly by FDR was African-Americans. (African-Americans and the New Deal)

Compromise is the cornerstone of legislation. No one ever gets all that he or she wants in a bill. Republican and Democrat doesn't really mean a great deal behind closed doors when bills are in their infancy; everyone compromises to give birth to a bill and curries favor so that when their side is presenting a bill they can call in those favors. The horror of this new crowd of inexperienced legislators is that they don't understand how the system works and they draw lines in the sand. All that they create are impasses. 

Obama's efforts at transparency have resulted in more public disclosure of the process and everyone believes that this is a significant change when this game is as old as politics themselves. Those same politicians in Congress who make great speeches condemning the opposition's position on an issue, go out afterwards and share a bottle of scotch. A great many politicians are lawyers. One of the first things that you learn as a litigator is that nothing in the courtroom is personal. To zealously represent your client, you're perfectly willing to suggest that opposing counsel is hiding some dirty secret, dishonest, and robs babies and the elderly for sport. During recess, it's possible that you will have lunch with the opposing counsel. Ex parte communications apply to lawyer/judge exchanges outside the presence of the other counsel but there are no rules that prohibit opposing counsel from sharing a drink or a meal. My point is that the moment the adversarial stuff is over, most everyone reverts to being just folks. Democrats and Republicans for the most part keep government functioning through the art of compromise.

The Tea Party Republicans elected in 2010 are for the most part a very inexperienced lot. Some of them have never held any public  office until they landed in the U.S. Congress. They are a different breed as demonstrated in the recent debt ceiling crisis. From 1981 to 2010, presidents from Reagan to Obama had no difficulties getting Congress to pass legislation increasing the debt ceiling regardless of the party in power in Congress. It was rational and logical that the President, nor most of Congress would anticipate the ridiculous holding hostage of the debt ceiling that took place in 2011.
The graph indicates which president and which political party controlled Congress each year.
My point is that all of the dramatic declarations that Obama has sold out the American people are hyperbole. That the role models to which he is unfavorably compared were not the darlings of their time either and were subject to the same criticisms regarding being week, unfocused, ineffective, a sellout etc. I also want to clarify that it is not criticism to accuse the President of the United States of being a traitor the the people and his country. A great many people appear to be unable to distinguish between criticism and character assassination. If you understand that distinction, then we don't have an issue.

It makes a lot of difference. If you state that the President should have held out for a public option in the health care bill, that's criticism. If you assert that the reason that he didn't push for a public option was because he was in cahoots with big pharma and offer as evidence of the conspiracy that there were meetings at the White House with big pharma, that provides fodder for those who are desperately looking for grounds to impeach the president. It's also naive. Of course pharmaceutical companies and hospitals and physician's groups were interested in exactly what affordable health care would mean to their business interests. They were provided opportunities for input. This is not a new thing. 

The critique of the President's actions is legitimate criticism. I don't support that point of view but it's certainly anyone's right to object to the actions of any elected official. However, the attribution of motives to the President involving a conspiracy with big pharma is character assassination. You can't then turn around as election day approaches and state with any credibility that you were just holding the president accountable but now plan to campaign to encourage people to vote to re-elect him. What kind of fool would vote for a dishonest scalawag who has betrayed the public intentionally?

All of these dramatic positions attacking the President's character from some progressives will affect his ability to run a successful re-election campaign. Protestations that Obama is a good guy and I'm just critiquing his flaws is bull. Recovering from criticism is a standard part of being a public official; recovering from character assassination seldom happens. Remember John Kerry?

13 comments:

belaymylast said...

And that's precisely why I've chosen to come down--NOW--on the President's side and stay there (barring the unforeseen and always reserving the right to change this thing I call a mind).

I went to school on the Republicans this past year and I know what happens when you elect to drive a wedge within your own party. My efforts will be to help pull us together behind the man who wants to keep government functioning.

Nance said...

Shared computer while traveling! That last comment was from me, but it turns up in my husband's name because we're getting too old to learn new tricks.

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

If only we would have implemented a war tax to pay for our two wars, we would have been so much better off. Sigh...

Jose Jiminez said...

If it thinks like a black, votes like a black, walks like a black, smells like a black, if they have multiple sex partners like a black, speaks in ebonics like a black. sits around all day, like a black, then they must love Barack Obama.

Bill Meeker said...

"A great many people appear to be unable to distinguish between criticism and character assassination."

A critical point well said. It seems to me that one of the basic differences between the current political parties is that while Dem.s will generally limit their statements concerning the worthiness of a Republican idea to criticisms, the Repub.s barely acknowledge a Democrat's proposal with a logical critical statement and go straight to character assassination.
PS: This comment IS from Belay (who is now logging out of Facebook, as requested).

Mark said...

I love what I've been hearing from the President in the past few days. It the sort of rhetoric I've been urging for over a year - I just hope it's not too late for it to work.

Highvoltage, said...

Get over it already, this is 2011 and American has a Black President, how long are you going to bitch and moan about something that happened 200 years ago?

Sheria said...

I debated whether to simply reject highvoltage's comment, but then I decided that it might amuse others as much as it did me. It's about the dumbest comment that I've ever had on any post in this blog. I can only assume that highvoltage has serious reading comprehension problems.

Sheria said...

I think that it's important to remember that there are people out there who revel in their own ignorance. That's why I decided to publish Jose Jiminez' comment. Nice pen name, Jose.

Nance said...

And I thought Belaymylast and I were IQ challenged because we can't figure out how to share a travel laptop and make blog comments in our own names!

You're smart to leave the two ugly-dumb comments to illustrate the worst negative examples. We really do get trash like this on blogs, and I'd never have believed it if I hadn't seen it myself.

Leslie Parsley said...

Sorry I'm late to the party but I hit a roadblock on the way. Such a well stated article, which I've come to respect from you but have never taken for granted. One article here is as astute, enlightening and refreshing as all the previous ones.

This sums it up better than I would ever be able to:

"...all of the dramatic declarations that Obama has sold out the American people are hyperbole. That the role models to which he is unfavorably compared were not the darlings of their time either and were subject to the same criticisms regarding being week, unfocused, ineffective, a sellout etc. I also want to clarify that it is not criticism to accuse the President of the United States of being a traitor the the people and his country. A great many people appear to be unable to distinguish between criticism and character assassination."

I've given up on trying to reason with the ignorant as they actually seem to bask in it as if it were a banner of pride. I applaud you for letting their comments ride.

Sarcastic Bastard said...

Sheria,
I am mostly trying to keep off the subject of politics these days. It all just makes me angry to no avail.

I wanted you to know that I am thinking of you and worrying about the coming hurricane. I hope you will stay safe.

Much love,

SB

John Myste said...

Recovering from criticism is a standard part of being a public official; recovering from character assassination seldom happens.

I think he will recover from character assassination if the democrats take back Congress next year.

Obama is not in control of his destiny at this point. I don't think Perry can beat him and I don't know if Romney can.

He ran on a platform of change, yet too many things Americans care deeply about still have conservative footprints all over them. He did not change them. He continued making war and continued tax cuts for the wealthiest of Americans. He did not continue to denounce the use of torture to extract information the way he should have.

He was in a bad situation, probably a no win situation. Keeping his promise for change was not fully possible, so he ran many things the only way he knew how: by continuing many of Bush’s policies in place.

I know if the democrats get Congress for the next four years with Obama in office, the Tea Party will lose its ability to take American hostage in order to further its insane agenda; and if that happens, Obama will have his first chance to be judged on his own merits.