A Gentleman’s C

That’s fair for Obama’s annual review. Average.

We don’t agree with Clive Cook’s panglossian look back. It’s trussed up typical Neocon tripe in part passed as international savoir faire – i.e., Obama did the right thing in Afghanistan but dawdled, wants to talk to people, and might force repeal of the Warlord’s fiscally irresponsible tax cuts. Cook gives Obama a “B” but infers Obama is the sort of bloke who might have been rude to an Astor and even let the second class and steerage passengers have a chance to jump ship on the Titantic. We do agree that Obama is a walking vacuum of leadership.

We are less generous. We think Obama is the empty suit, rhetoric without spine, balls or convictions. We understand the progressives’ disappointment with Obama. We lost some readers during 2008 with our emphasis on the Boy King and his likely equivocation and craving for status quo acceptance. Can’t make all readers happy. But we did warn. It’s a cold comfort. We secretly nursed hopes that Obama would be more than a transitional figure, that he had a core besides rhetorical intoxication. Not to be so far. To add insult to injury, Obama is not a very competent status quo politician; he shows no understanding of power or how to use it. His wasted Asia trip merely Exhibit ‘A’. Lunching with the plagarist Doris Kearns Goodwin on the glories of LBJ holding conversations in the Oval Office while taking a dump won’t help, either.

National Security State Alive And Thriving

On the issue we care about most, restoration of liberal democracy, Obama has done almost nothing. He arrested the acceleration into lawless bureaucratic tyranny but did not reverse it. His DoJ filed arguments on State Secrets that would have made Fredo Gonzales and his lawyers accredited from schools run by TV studios proud. The unnecessary and totally voluntary brief filed on behalf of John Yoo is Addington-esque. How repulsive to see German war criminal arguments regurgitated by an Obama DoJ. Obama is seeking preservation and even enhancement of the PATRIOT Act. Closing Gitmo in rhetoric is fine. To transfer detainees to Illinois is political window dressing. On torture, we hear not a pin drop. Perhaps Holder really is investigating and building a factual record for the future. But his lips move so we’re pretty sure he’s lying. But we leave that open for future review.

The Bureau’s staggeringly wanton abuse of national security letters? Other other alleged ‘powers’. Nada. No accounting for how DoD elements operated domestically outside congressional oversight. No accounting for the even more pervasive than realized NSA turn inwards against Americans. No one is accountable. ‘Mistakes were made’. Nothing to see, old news. Contacting reform? It’s to laugh.

We don’t give Obama’s F-22 cancellation a whole lot of credit (someone tell Rachel Maddow that politicized subcontracting for defense contracts is decades old. Or just yank her teeny bopper naive butt off the air, please). Sure there were program failures, but that’s common. Cost overruns, too. The F-22 was the first major victim of the inter service knife fight as we enter the procurement scissors crisis. We’ve talked about that looming problem at length here since 2005 or so. It’ll get worse. It’s tectonic military industrial politics.

Readers here know we called Goldilocks on Afghanistan months before he slopped from the middle bowl in public. Character is destiny they say. He couldn’t even get his withdrawal deadline to stick for more than three days before CENTCOM and Gates puked all over it. The recent bomb plot from Yemen proves that Al Qaeda has indeed metastasized making nation building in Afghanistan all the more insane. The flexible counter terrorism approach was and remains the realistic and sane option. Obama has no excuse – he’s rational, had time and chose to push the chips all in. And we believe he is not in full command of his military. That’s a scary notion.

Freshman Economics

Most of the Wall Street bailout happened under the Warlord. For good or for ill. Banks stabilized largely before Obama took office. The Obama stimulus package, however, was his. We agree with Krugman it was too small by all rational accounts. He gave Republicans massive and ineffective tax cuts there in return for . . . zero. In fact, Obama gives up alot to almost everyone in return for zero. He’s The Zero Kid. Kick him in the groin? No sweat, come on down and shoot hoops. (Obama’s not bad about kicking his supporters in the crotch, though. Just ask the gay and lesbian activists what his word is worth).

Financial reform? Too big to fail? Please. Liz Warren’s call for a something more substantial for consumer rights? Sure it inevitably will get captured by industry anyway as with regulatory agencies across the spectrum but it will do more good than nothing. Blah, blah, rhetoric and zero substance. It’s noteworthy how Wall Street CEOs view Obama now. Madoff reforms? Dead. When Obama intended to stamp his feet and gnash his teeth at Wall Street’s shocking bonus bonanza, CEOs begged off meeting him. Traffic. Manicurist appointment. Playing with their Blackberries. They took Obama’s measure. He puts the fear in no one.

His economic team is an appalling assemblage of those responsible for the greatest collapse since the Great Depression. Someone wrote recently how wrong Summers was in 1999 bragging about GAAP and transparency in American markets with oversight. Get with the program. Summers was proclaiming Japan invented a new form of capitalism in 1990-91. A full two years after its economy completely tanked and entered the Lost Decade. The crowd has a multi-decade record of being wrong. Besides the self-dealing and conflicts of interest. Obama gets a D.

Climate change? He couldn’t control the House. Didn’t try. Thus he’s stuck with a bogeyman of a bill that antagonizes almost everyone yet will die in the Senate. He’s arranged for the perfect lose lose. Genius. We all can hear the champagne corks zinging at Big Pharma et al. celebrating ‘health care reform’. More wealth transfer.

And Obama did the unimaginable. He resurrected the completely smashed Movement in 9 months. It’s inevitable given the demographic and socio-economic fissures in our dying democracy. We just didn’t think it would happen this fast. Obama actively didn’t help matters. One day it war against Limbaugh. Then not. War against Fox News then not. Some right wing obscure figure criticizes someone in his administration? They’re fired. The Movement thrives on sensing weakness and flinching.


It probably could have been worse. He’s not the Peanut Farmer. He may be Clinton 1993. But he also may prove to be less a transitional figure and more a solidifier of the Warlord’s America as bi-partisan ‘normal’. And that is unforgivable. Freshman slump? If he would just take a personal, backboned hands on stand for one thing and do it well. If only.


  1. tile says

    Golf is wasted on seriously uptight people, hypertensives. Played properly, it’s played barefoot, with scant attention to score, on dewy grass is superior reiki.

  2. Comment says

    Just a triffle – but that’s just one of those pseudo contrarian snark pieces that sort of sheds light on things. Golf is good exercise – just because W. Bush also hid his love for tennis as well golf is no reason to internalize that weak thinking. Cottle also makes some dumb errors – rural pols are not big golfers and Obama started playing much earlier. It’s a global sport – In a way, Cottles piece is as stupid as Stephen Moore pretending to hate soccer so as to seem more like a tough guy. A different kind of stupid, but related.

  3. Comment says

    Here’s a pretty stupid criticism of Obama – We note that lib bloggers like Digby and Somerby and kos and others oft lament the “village” liberals who are really masochists and are objectively (to use a neoconish term from the 30s) pro Republican. Cottle is sort of trying to become the next Dowd on that score. She recently wrote a puff piece about Boehnor – describing him as a man of matchless charm and charisma – two qualities that he seems to lack. Now there is this:

  4. Comment says

    Flynt Leverette is on c-span discussing Iran. Lets hope, for his own sake, he leaves the unimpressive sounding grand bargain via missing fax – off the table.

    Poor guy was just made to have to reply to Stephen Hayes.

  5. Comment says

    Ofcourse Hart made the quote worse – Sort of reminds us of how Kerry botched the Thomas Wolfe “go home” quote in his Dem acceptance speech – So as not to sound pompous, his allusion was inelegant.

  6. Comment says

    Gary Hart is sort of tragic politically – Smart guy and great potential and good writer, but his unnerving mimicing of JFK when he ran for President played into the whole Hartpence weirdness factor.

    Anyway – look how he begins his New Years piece in HuffPo – Maybe Teddy estate is flattered:

    “There is something very human, and certainly very American, about wanting to start anew. Hope still lives, idealism will not be crushed, the dream of a better America will not die.”

  7. Comment says

    Count us as dissenters to the merry band – we grade Obama at B+/A- and think he has done better than we expected. In light of the disaster that McCain would have brought – especially. There are a whole set of issues that we would be wallowing in.
    Hey, its all a matter of opinion, but we think Obama’s health legislation is far better than the Clinton plan and even better than what we expected thus far.
    But we credit him most with bringing dignity to Oval Office – illustrated by the loathsome burps from Cheney and his clique of criminals. Their reaction is confirmation enough to us of a job well done in a short time.

  8. DBake says

    A bit surprised, mainly because so much of Obama’s cash seemed to be coming from online donations. I figured this would mean a move, even if only a very tiny one, away from institutional powers up till now. Obama would have to serve one more master, and this master would push him a little leftward. But it didn’t go that way, it seems.

  9. acting like i'm not naive says

    the six slash and two hyphen movement no existe, wishful thinking. Not going to say it was entirely in my mind; I think some agree there’s a few of us here and there, proud isolated and staving off disgust… Apologies in advance for this conceit: ”The many are bad, the good are few.” (heraclitus) I don’t interpret that statement as an eternal property of the universe, but there is (currently) certainly a lot of molderot in the spheres, & it done taken root in the brains and hearts of many-many.
    Extricat from the tedious mythopoetics, how about Europe? Was I off base? Well, I must say I’m happy about your predictions. I haven’t been to Europe, think of escaping there on cloudy days, with such fantasies pestered by a malicious demon telling me it’s the same jello as here but squeeged into different shapes. My life here in America is realistically simulating a corporatist technocratic dystopia with comically outsized corruption. It’s just not all that much fun, and I say that quite seriously, beyond the just being a spectator, but as a function of my personal situation.., sorry to say, not much fun at all.
    Now Europe:
    ”[…]growing liberal democratic nationalism, i.e. proud, liberal, free, and undeniably racist[…]”
    Racist: This is a time-consuming tangent which I’ll decline to dive to, but I’m comfortable with it(some variant of ‘racism’) provided one able to form functors(conceptions) of ‘race’ advanced beyond the constraints of Victorian-era Natural Science. As per them and their thing, I’m a pluralist when it comes to America, but I wouldn’t ever in a million years presume to lobby it upon the Japanese or French, although the French have a bit of a thread there, but won’t go into it. Here it’s a matter of space, we have the geography for an excellent and overwhelmingly powerful (and beautiful) pluralism. The tragedy of its destruction here is not trivial. To speak of race is to affirm and recognize differentiation and variability in existential qualities, physiological or psycho-spiritual. The rest is evaluation, the right to make qualitative and geneaological evaluations. That’s an arrow to the heart of PC, but I’m no apologist for morons; just demarcating space for free expression, thought.

    I’m trying to figure out what was off base. The heavy footnoting in my text doesn’t help, but if I read myself correctly, I essentially inquired as to the contest between authoritarian vs. Liberal forces there, with the implication of a dichotomy in potential future states between 1984-style surveillance&control society and something more free and intelligent. Britain’s got the surveillance, control, and corporatist market state thing going pretty strong,.. (”netherworld”).
    I don’t know the Gini coeff. I think the technologies supportive of surveillance/command/control are quite mature circa 2010. So I would think that variations on TotalInfoAwareness(TM) with FriendlyEnforcement by unnacountable bureau-complexes are realistic possibility globally, though I am eager to believe you that there are places in Europe where this is not likely, because the population wouldn’t have it -a function of what I call ‘esthetic orientation’.

  10. Tbilisi says

    acting like i’m not naive:

    Is it really surprising that Obama, even if he had wanted to, was not able to be a frontman for an ‘opposition’ movement that in your own description takes six slashes and two hyphens to articulate?

    Kudos to the Good Doctor for calling out the Boy King early, but the Stiftung earned its stripes when it really mattered. I knew this was coming too, and I didn’t even bother to vote for Obama (wrote in Mark Warner). I say this just to welcome you to the valley of gesture without motion, a hollowing place.

    I think your question about Europe is off base. I think the realistic futures boil down to either: a) a reinvigorated EU utopia marching towards a super-state (unlikely for geopolitical reasons), or b) growing liberal democratic nationalism, i.e. proud, liberal, free, and undeniably racist Denmark and the Netherlands, tweaked for Gallic and Latin needs. New Europe is a bigger question mark, for me at least. The UK will continue in its stagnant netherworld until it gets its Gini coefficient down. I have lived in several old, new, and wannabe European countries over the past 6 years and these are my predictions.

  11. acting like i'm not naive says

    As one of those readers a bit put off by the –obscenely prescient, in hindsight– 2008-era-Doc-Strauss irreverence wrt the Crown-Prince/Boy-King, I feel obligated to confirm the record as you tell it. We were wrong.
    I will say in my defence that I was never as shoulder deep in the Hope/Change kool-aid as many of my compadres. I was in a different sort of kool-aid: entirely proprietary and maybe specific to myself. I basically convinced myself that Obama was a cipher/frontman for some kind of libertarian/progressive/scientific/Liberal/Realist/intellectual/relatively-sane-people movement, as was BushCo a front/cipher for the ‘Movement’ of neocons and assorted satelites. After all the President’s primary job and fixation is PR, no time left to actually govern, Cheney’s conclusion also I presume.
    So, as it turns out Obama was a frontman, but not for the clique I wanted. But anyway, no matter what clique(s), the only player that matters is the Pentagon, maybe GS when the moon is waning. In the day-to-day squabbling people can pretend otherwise(ie that their perambulationary histrionics have power to influence), but it’s strictly kabuki and recreation. Policy is made off the air:
    “[…] inevitable given the demographic and socio-economic fissures in our dying democracy[…]”
    I was wondering your opinion: Are the dominant subcutaneous poli-psych trends in the European body-politik authoritarian or Liberal? (seems the most meaningful dichot for the moment) I see potential for a superficially social-democratic(‘l’iberal) schema overcoded by a transcendent authoritarian bureau organism; it could in theory be on relatively friendly terms with a more-or-less fascist American Hope/Movement syncretism in a kind of North-Atlantic Oceania type thing. The technology is there, (the cell-phone will be seen a kind of heavenly gift for any aspiring dictatorial regime, given the veto trump of propriety network control, out of purview. (The cell-phone is what makes networked counter-intel-society feasible because everyone has one and no one has to walk around with walkie-talkies; (Google ”gang-stalking”, contracter Stasi operations in the USA)) (I mean it’s operationally feasible, and in many ways seems well underway–I mean in the psychological preparation of the general population for an existence you’ve described as ”Stasi-state” or ”Counter-intelligence society,” where everyone has a cover and then a role as mole; hence total corruption of the signifiers; that’s what we mean by transcendent overcoding. Ring a bell with the Catholic/Reactionary fixation on mystifying figurations…) I’m wondering about the will though. The esthetic orientations of the Euro body-politik, under the surface as it were. (I’m clearly rooting for the OpenSource (libertarian&Liberal) counterforce to that. Open source ultimately has little to do with computational architecture and everything to do with the architecture of civil-society in the institutions especially of justice, media(intelligence), education, and enterprise business. )
    Was thinking that if Europe goes that’s it, but Liberal trends in Asia might be underestimated and under-reported. Heavy filtration in the data set… Close on: It’s an interesting and exciting world at any rate, which is to say I’m not complaining.

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