Sunday, December 13, 2009

Criticizing Obama: The Debate Continues

Look at our President--he's bowing AGAIN! This time it's to SANTA CLAUS, no less, on the cover of the New Yorker! How obsequious can you get? Obama, some people think, is making America look weak and deferential in the eyes of the world. Well, the eyes sure ARE funny things. If you follow my point for a bit, you'll see just how funny they are.

It seems that my recent post "Why I'm Not a Liberal Anymore" hit some kind of national nerve--a shot that reverberated round the world, in this case, the digital world, which throbs with news night and day. The locusts have moved on to other things, but the firestorm that broke out over the far Left's unrelenting assaults on Obama in the blogisphere, in tandem with the far Right's bludgeoning attacks, is a hot issue for many people. The discussion about whether or not this criticism is justified and necessary, or is mean-spirited and counterproductive, and where to draw the line, continues to rage on. Not only did my original post (thanks to Andrew Sullivan's link) spark off a number of responses from other bloggers, it also became the theme for a discussion on live radio in San Francisco [the Angie Coiro Show at].

So, "If you could see a large-animal trainer mauled in the middle of his or her show, perhaps even killed, would you prefer to see the mauling done by a lion, a tiger, or a bear?" (Multiple-choice question.) "Have you ever been not disappointed by a banana split?" (Answer, yes or no.)
[Hat tip for the questions to "The Interrogative Mind: A Novel" by Padgett Powell]

A good friend in Blacksburg, Bob Walker, who is a writer and photographer, but no friend to Obama, sent me this e-missile after catching up with my blog:

"Obama has never disappointed me, simply because I never expected anything from him. I never expected him to act with genuine integrity, sincerity or honesty. I never expected his actions to be different in any way from the odious G. W. Bush, except in the eloquence with which he bamboozled what ‘s called The Left in America, the dupes, the starry-eyed believers, who are suddenly oh so disappointed to discover that Obama is but one more politician on the make. He’s a lean and handsome, charismatic killer. A warmonger. A man who colludes with financiers to rob the citizens. A man who condones torture in his own administration and refuses to bring to justice the torturers of the Bush regime. Or to stand up to the Wall Street miscreants who looted America. A man whose weak leadership as well as his failure to act with diligence to insure the health of every citizen, allows his party to hand over 40 million new insurees to the health care industry. Smarmy.

"I expected Obama to use the machinery of power to satisfy the financial and corporate interests that own and run the United States of America. I'm not cynical. No man or woman becomes a contender for the White House without first being vetted by the ruling class. The president’s “loyalty rating”, should it ever fall below AAA, gets him one term in office—or a bullet in the head. It’s a system that benefits the few at the top. Obama is only the president, a figurehead....

"Those who claim Obama acts out of fear of appearing weak, or to forestall Republican attacks, are simply clueless. The ruling class is bi-partisan. Obama’s agenda is the agenda of the plutocrats. He’s got his priorities straight and it’s a short list and the needs of the average man and woman are not on that list, though well-timed spin might make it seem otherwise. While studiously ignoring the liberals, Obama acts in the interests of those who put him in power and who will maintain him in power as long as the two know they can be of mutual benefit to one another....

"Obama’s vaunted promises are lies and double-talk. He’s not getting out of Iraq and he’s doubling-up on Pipelineistan because that’s where the money is. Oil and gas reserves in the region are purportedly worth five trillion dollars. If that prospect doesn’t explain to the liberals why we’re in Central Asia, then consider the pluperfect demolition derby called “fighting terrorism” that guarantees obscene profits to the military-industrial complex through never-ending war. Andrew Sullivan’s use of Chuang Tze to validate Obama’s decision-making and thus justify the continuing slaughter in Af-Pak is simply beneath contempt. I've been to the left of the liberals all my life. I'm not leaving."

Move over, make room, Arianna: Bob is here! Venom is alive and well in my sweet home town!

Questions: When does criticism mutate into rancor, and antipathy into malevolent animosity? How does the wooden Buddha walk through fire?

Having given my friend Bob his say, I also want to share some thoughts here that come from a couple of other bloggers, brought to my attention courtesy of Google Alerts. Although neither of these individuals has actually read the commentary above, their remarks felt to me, when I read them, like some kind of synchronistic response. I always love it when the universe puts my blogs together in some brilliant fashion of its own, and the Tao tells me exactly how to go.

"Most of [these critics], let's call them the anti-Obama left, have a few specific and general complaints. Foremost among these is Afghanistan. As many correctly point out, Obama made it fairly clear that he was in favor of continued action in Afghanistan during the campaign...[but] a lot of voters project their own desires and dreams on to Obama, and I think the whole 'peace movement' did this in particular, seeing Obama as some kind of uber-dove candidate....Another complaint...involves corporate power, the two-party system, and Obama being a Republican or some such....

"Most of the objection to the two party system comes from this idea that corporations control both parties through and through. While corporations do have undue influence that needs to be curbed, and probably harshly penalized, I think there is considerable naivete about how they exert influence and to what extent, so much so that the typical account from the anti-Obama left has more in common with a conspiracy theory than with anything resembling reality....There is plenty to be critical about when it comes to corporations, their environmental record, the effects of globalization, and the limits of specific models of capitalism, specifically the free-market fundamentalist model that ruined the economy. But reasonable objections are often overlooked in the annals of article comments and discussion forums in favor of vague, misanthropic tirades against the aesthetic crimes of the modern world." [Full post for this blogger can be found at]

"I just don’t have much patience for people on the left who seem to believe that Obama is a sellout to interests they don’t agree with. All of these arguments seem to have the same form: 'President Obama will not do this thing because he is afraid to stand up to this group.' He is not pushing for the public option because he’s afraid to stand up to Joe Lieberman. He is not ending the war in Afghanistan because he’s afraid Republicans will attack him for it. He didn’t nationalize the big banks because he was afraid of Wall Street. He has not passed financial reform because he’s afraid of Wall Street. The list goes on.
All of those things could be true, but there are other equally plausible explanations for each of them. Take the public option.... Obama detractors argue that had President Obama drawn a line in the sand and refused to accept a bill without a strong public option, a strong public option would be there, but I believe that the Obama administration has a better sense of Congress than the average blogger for the Huffington Post. The probability that a hard public stand for a strong public option would have killed health care reform entirely is greater than zero.

"I am in complete support of criticism of the White House for policies you disagree with. There are plenty of things the White House is doing that I find unsatisfying. A few are infuriating. But I don’t assume that because President Obama is choosing a course that does not match my ideal, he therefore does not share my goals, or that he has abandoned the principles that he espoused during the campaign. People can say what they like, but I’ve pretty much stopped listening to those who go that route." [Full post for this blogger can be found at]

Like I said earlier, eyes are funny things, and calibrating how several people, looking at the same thing, inevitably see something quite different, is one of the primary impulses that drives this blog of mine. I find this phenomenon endlessly fascinating and intriguing. In the meantime, I asked a couple of friends who were visiting me this weekend what they thought about the New Yorker cover. "Oh, it looks like Obama's smiling at Santa Claus and giving him a hearty welcome," one of them said. "Probably because his arrival signals the consumer economy is back in business again."

1 comment:

Hank said...

Thinking through this further...not only is it relief that the economy is moving, but maybe a relief for some level of distraction provided by the holidays. Also, it appears obvious that the setting is the White House with Santa coming down the chimney. As we all know, Santa only visits us who have been good and done well. The relief could also be "whoo, at least Santa thought I was good this year, and still loves me!"