Obama Administration

Happy Festivus And 2013 Year In Review

Happy Festivus And 2013 Year In Review

Happy Festivus, Dear Reader

.

We ponder 2013′s biggest story:

  • Boston’s terror attack
  • Rightist congressional theatrics
  • Syria and Obama’s stumbling
  • Miley Cyrus twerking
  • Egypt and Arab Spring’s collapse
  • Obama’s passivity
  • Iran’s opening
  • L’Affaire Snowden
  • Snowden Wins No Surprise

    Neocons and their R2P fellow travelers get runner up for their urgent efforts to jump start yet another American Middle East war. Bandar’s bizarre lashing out at American last minute resistance to Sunni manipulation a Golden Globe-worthy turn.

    More

    Europe, Russia & Ukraine: Stumbling Waltz

    Europe, Russia & Ukraine: Stumbling Waltz

    Ukraine, much in the news, is essentially a failed (failing?) state. Yet everyone wants to have a dance with her. Who will be on the card?

    The EU still seeks an association agreement after Ukrainian President Yanukovich’s last minute rejection at the altar. He faced severe Russian coercion and is inherently pre-disposed to Moscow and Putin’s neo-Soviet “Customs Union”. After pro-EU riots broke out in Kiev, the Russians declared it all pre-planned foreign manipulation.

    Ukraine’s economy is a wreck. Its contraction during the 2008-09 global economic crisis the highest percent in the world. Its leading export is commodity steel. Yanukovich’s government has no love for economic reforms as demanded by the IMF as a precondition to financial support. Ukraine’s government is almost as dysfunctional as Washington. Yanukovich’s political position in parliament hangs by a thread. Demographically, Ukraine is also a quasi-basket case.

    More

    Passive Aggressive Rot Sets In

    Passive Aggressive Rot Sets In

    Obama’s troubles are ours now. We collectively identified Obama’s peculiarly militant brand of passive aggressiveness beginning in March 2009. Recall our frustration watching the Rightist initial fabrication of the Tea Party then go unchallenged. Or behold Obama’s White House spokesman joke in Summer 2010 they might even lose the House.


    Seeing This Car Wreck In 2007

    We could do little but share why the re-constituted Movement would quickly mutate into a demonstrably feral brand of anti-Enlightenment, anti-democratic emotive rejections. In the face of Obama and Democratic inaction, we argued ‘the fever’ would not quickly subside. Did we not — at the time in 2008-09 –declare Obama’s chief task to be seen doing one thing surpassingly well? To rebut Rightist narrative and restore faith in empirical government?

    Even before his 2008 victory, Obama’s congenital “Goldilocks Syndrome” of compromise in the face of extremes was obvious. Didn’t we predict with scary accuracy how it would work?

    Here’s our take from 2007 for new Readers. NPR’s “Spilled Bong Water” show assessed the Obama Campaign and his presidency like a seer.

    NPR Spilled Bong Water on 2007 Obama Campaign

    More

    NSA, Obama & Digital Vandals Shaping American Power

    NSA, Obama & Digital Vandals Shaping American Power

    One of NSA Director Keith Alexander’s cruelest feats? Forcing some of his fiercest critics (us) again to defend American self-interest and the role and purpose of intelligence. Despite NSA’s (and the Community’s) wanton, flagrant contempt for both. If Neocons were America’s malignant Id at her moment of apogee, then as Nemesis follows Hubris, they ushered in her over soon decline. NSA and the Community, engorged on national security self-entitlement, scuttled behind as ever-present shadow.

    We get no pleasure writing that. Nor seeing so much needless and perhaps irretrievable ruin in Snowden’s aftermath. Much of it gleefully celebrated by those who care nothing for American interests, privacy or otherwise. It takes a big man to bring down an epoch in American and global history, they say. So why are Alexander and Snowden perfectly, coevally so small?

    Crushed Like A Spent Can Of Diet Coke

    The seemingly ancient preceding post here about Obama’s first NSA-focused press conference reads quaintly now. We see in stark relief the cost of this Administration’s (typical) passivity. That’s not to excuse or diminish NSA’s stunning, profoundly stupid (and so totally unnecessary) transgressive acts. But we all should be clear about one distinction – intolerance for NSA’s transgressions is not embracing others’ attempt to exploit political fallout to see America diminished.

    More

    Obama On Intelligence Reform: Same As It Ever Was

    Obama On Intelligence Reform: Same As It Ever Was

    We’re not smart enough to appreciate Barrack Obama. To cut the story short, that’s his press conference on intelligence oversight this past Friday. He proposes no changes really to current intelligence practices.

    For those crediting Snowden and his odd travelogue for initiating this conversation? Here’s Obama’s ante so far: (a) a new Community website explaining that everything is constitutional; (b) a new someone called a ‘privacy officer’ at NSA with the immense power of an empty in box; (c) co-opting the Blumenthal-Udall-Wyden procedural bill proposing a special advocate to participate in select FISA proceedings to contest government representations; and (d) yet another outside group (joining President’s Intelligence Advisory Board and its Intelligence Oversight Board) to meet and do what?

    A bit underwhelming. Even as opening gambit.

    More

    A Day In Edward Snowden’s Moscow Life – The Secret History

    Cut to scene: Ed Snowden flees to Hong Kong, spending his 30th birthday there at the Russian consulate. Yet we are told his immediate run to Moscow was both unplanned and caught the Russian government completely by surprise. Some tabulate the cascading coincidences intertwining Snowden and Russian operatives or their known consorts. The sheer weight of incidents is non-trivial.

    As with all things, data by itself is not information. The key questions remain unanswered: (i) when did Snowden decide to be an adversary of the U.S. government?; (ii) how did he reach that decision – by himself or did Others recruit or encourage him?; (iii) carrying out his actions, did he have help and from whom?

    More

    The Amnesiatic Society And Institutions Of Permanent Memory

    L’Affaire Snowden is pretty much a Rorschach test. Except with consequences.

    We haven’t weighed in almost at all so far. Frankly, most of the froth — from allegedly scandalized American sans cullottes to the security Nomenklatura — have been acting according to pre-determined, pre-ordained scripts. It’s been a bore. And doesn’t change the status quo.

    Former NSA Director Michael Hayden conceded after Snowden’s debut that the Verizon order and the PRISM slides contained almost nothing not already in the public domain. NSA’s major concern? The release tidied everything up in one morsel for grokking by a Twitter-debauched, nanosecond mentality. Snowden’s initial leaks were that most dangerous of things: meme friendly.

    If there’s one thing America in the Age of Obama can do well, it’s consuming memes. Still, why would a society obsessed with forgetting yesterday in return for a transient dopamine fix today take a stand on privacy now? Some of it’s politics to be sure. A white God Emperor King presiding over socialist authoritarianism from 2001-2008 is an all too different kettle of fish to someone, er, half white. So the Movement’s reaction is pre-cooked. Then there’s the motley crew (note the e and w) of long time privacy activists, Mac Book Air anarchists, Twitter self promoters, Net Roots types and everyone else who long since sold their souls to Google, Amazon and Facebook. Who here thinks this assortment can create durable politics when the memes grow stale? To take on and prevail against Nomneklatura planning on global, decades-long scales? These are institutions of permanent memory.

    More

    Dealing With The Clueless Leading The Clueless

    Americans finally talk about the elephant in the room. Obama is infatuated with detachment and rhetoric. We called that one since 2007.

    Still, what took Progressives and Liberals — now 6 years after the fact — so long?

    Tout le monde now knowingly declare Obama’s signature trait when facing a manageable political situation is to do nothing. His political inaction empowers implausible Rightist narratives to coalesce and gain traction through sheer repetition. He transforms initially manageable circumstances into viable Rightist political narratives.

    Benghazi. IRS. AP surveillance. And so on. Each have differing fact patterns and political consequences. Each also easily telegraphed a warhead for Rightist narratives. Pro-active political engagement would meet and combat those narratives. Perhaps Obama the cynic may not care, knowing these memes really will mature in the 2016 campaign.

    Many felt shock seeing an aged Clinton masterfully demonstrate the joy of political combat this past season. Politics is about engagement. Triangulation and other sins aside, Clinton engaged and neutralized Rightist resurgence. The country he turned over in 2000 was far more stable and available for purposeful, constructive non-Rightist politics than in 1994. What will Obama bequeath us?

    But it’s not all Obama’s fault, even if mainly so. The ‘Commentariat’ and permanent government are transactional. If diagnosis is easy, what to do about it?

    That’s our challenge. We’ve all predicted the political incompetence. We may be galled that professional or self-promotionally visible Liberal voices come to party only now. But he still has 3 years to go.

    State of Play Spring 2013

    Enough time has passed since the election for us to ask “What precisely has been learned?”

    Unsurprisingly and unfortunately, “Not much”.

    Our politics remain inert and non-enrolling because there aren’t any, aside from the febrile paroxysms within the Movement. We remain isolated and suspended, our very expression of self denied by the suffocating paralysis of Obama and the Democrats’ admonition “At least we are not Them”. Their impotence is imposed upon us.

    Witness the Commentariat. What to make of self-identified progressives and liberals [sic] trolling CPAC in 2013? Old 6 years ago. How little understanding still. One well known ‘liberal’ commentator asked “Why do Republicans allow CPAC to happen?” And so on. Decrying Politico’s transactional information culture misses that’s always been DC.

    More damningly, the same Commentariat continuously is surprised by events. After their ‘reporting’ these last years purporting to explain Movements, political and economic histories. Do they not read their own words? Demonstrating that the last 20 years taught them nothing. Leaving us further stifled.

    The Post November Hangover

    It’s Just Something In The Eye

    Cheney et al. re-taught the world the basic lesson: process is not politics. Process can serve political purposes, can illuminate and clarify values and goals, but by itself is a nullity. Yet for the last five years, non-radicalized political space in America has been wholly subsumed by nothing other than process and related commentary. We remain stupefied, distracted from concrete engagement by empty rhetorical ephemera and Tweets.

    Nothing has changed.

    That’s not to say, for example, that real choices aren’t being made. They are. But as defensive reaction to a fraction of a minority’s submersion in ritual role-play as self-identity. So we are dosed with ‘victories’ permanently enshrining 99% of Cheney’s tax cuts. Surely, you have another favorite.

    Perhaps you are thinking health care? Recall health care largely began in the House. With the Senate trailing. A disaster in the making because the other Branch remained bizarrely mute at times – after the infamous Tauzin meeting. Many times the entire enterprise careened into near failure needlessly (from the Ds point of view). Labeling the legislation Obamacare later does not make it so. These words have profound meaning.

    As one example, Andy Pincus, former General Counsel at the Clinton Commerce Department, largely on his own initiative and tardily dominated a Republican controlled conference successfully on a major bill that affects your very ability to read this. The EOP wasn’t even really paying attention. Pincus manipulated the appearance of EOP interest to sow discord among Republican factions.

    Don’t take our word for it. Committee staffers for a once powerful ex-senator from Texas railed in the press about the Republican debacle. Among others who blamed Lott, etc.

    That’s just example when a departmental lawyer can have an impact on a frozen, tectonic situation. The level of toxicity then only seems less with time. Knowing when and how to engage is crucial. Or being lucky. It’s possible Pincus never planned or even knew how Republicans perceived his role. But he acted even if as Quixote.

    So back to today. Dinners are nice. Phone calls, too. But if not wed to an expression of goals transcending serving process they’re ultimately nihilism. All of us here have long prepared for accepting calamity by disengaged default in lieu of catastrophe. Long before others, our hearty band here diagnosed the Disengagement Disease (AKA as Goldilocks Syndrome – ed.). November’s sweet escape from Movement’s grasp turns sour quickly.

    If only so-called progressives, etc. mocking CPAC, for example, could husband that energy building real, tangible post-2016 politics. All of us in our hearts feel their lack. Perhaps the 2008-2012 crowd took our measure correctly. And dreams of escaping our marginalization become merely recursive. One thing we do control: our hope.

    Obama’s Inauguration 2013: Sometimes A Little Is Enough

    Watching Obama move through ritual and choreographed set pieces yesterday, one couldn’t help but imagine it had things gone otherwise in November. That mercy alone validates another 4 years of tactical placeholding.

    That’s not to say Obama’s post-November actions reek of the same political ineptitude and disengagement that marked his tepid first term. He’s beginning to show glimmers that he finally grasps his role is inherently political. That it is OK to win and be seen winning. His decision to spin off his electoral database/network into a 501(c)(4) for future political deployment is likewise encouraging. Could Goldilocks be a thing of the past?

    Obama On The New, New Frontier

    Obama On The New, New Frontier

    Yet it’s still remarkable how feeble these steps are after the last 12 (30) years. Democratic triumphalism now is particularly disturbing. The underlying political incompetence of the Democratic party has not changed. Assuming temporary Movement narrative disarray will be permanent just an example. More damning, the sophomoric gloating of a permanent future majority on birthrates alone is utterly dubious.

    Malthusian extrapolation of future generations based on 2012 demographic voting blocks is simply not professionally defensible. True, Republicans debate whether Obama represents a tectonic shift or a personality-led (read ‘black’ but not on their powerpoint slides) phenomenon. But to assume blithely that Latinos, etc. will bestow offspring genetically committed to Democrats is to squat on sand. Beyond a turnout machine, what have the Democrats or Obama really built?

    Let Obama Be Reagan . . .

    Sadly, not much. People too young actually to remember Reagan tell us Obama was ‘Reagan-esque’. Albeit of the so-called progressive bent. Those ‘progressive’ cable bloviators who do remember Reagan utter banal delusions that we should return to the Reagan era’s collegiately and bi-partisanship. That Reagan was a kindly grandfather who just had a fixation about the Soviets. Ignoring Iran-Contra, the Sandanistas, Bork, Zero Option and SDI.

    All nonsense. First, Reagan’s election (and inaugural addresses) culminated the Movement’s first massive co-opting of the Republican Party. Not the converse like Obama. Aside from shared sentiment, there is little to suggest the Democratic Party as an institution is configured for such a political campaign.

    Second, Obama has it backward. The Movement was already solidly entrenched, coordinated and linked by infrastructure before Reagan’s election. The Movement hit the ground running. For example, when Heritage published ‘Mandate for Leadership’, Morton Blackwell and many others had already placed key personnel on the Hill and provided troops to sweep into the Executive Branch. Case in point? Gary Bauer, who toiled over at the Education Department at an obscure junior level, believe it or not. And so on across the Administration.

    Finally, the Movement as a coherent (if amorphous) collection of ideological strands was already a real local and state presence before Reagan won in 1980. The Movement’s strands may have bickered internally but all sure as hell knew the enemy, and all were dedicated to its destruction. And when they began in the 1970s, they were willing to work for a future triumph knowing it might be far off.

    The differences with the Democratic Party 2013 or Obama’s GOTV apparatus clear. MSNBC, Twitter, etc. might compress the time required for replicating the Movement’s meme distribution ala Reagan. But cadre development and building institutions take time regardless. Certainly more than the year (year and a half?) available to Obama before 2016 overshadows all.

    Obama’s campaign database might be a useful first step in that direction. A long term political realignment requires a more robust infrastructure intellectually and physically than one election’s volunteer mobilization and GOTV.

    To seek a Reagan-like political alignment, Obama (note not the Democratic Party) would be bizarrely trying to do on the fly, upside down. It’s a shame because we urged the Democratic Party and ‘progressives’ to start this effort since 2005. Had that happened, much that happened yesterday would have profound and real impact. Today it’s just, well, hope.

    Can Obama build a durable political transformation now, when he is already a lame duck walking? It’ll be interesting to watch a man so utterly disdainful of political engagement try.

    Still, how pleasant to write this instead of witnessing November’s alternative lurching to life.