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This blog is the work of an educated civilian, not of an expert in the fields discussed.

Monday, January 12, 2009

"But It's So Hard!"

And Also: Some sneered about how much the Burris sideshow is concerning people as compared to other more important things. Suddenly, political gossip and the like, after thousands of years, is supposed to not be popular? Oh shut up. Anyways, the sworn testimony matters, and they pointed themselves in a corner. Still, Burris comes off as a boob, more concerned with himself than the good of the state/party. Charming replacement for Obama. BTW, the discretion to not seat the guy includes choosing to seat him. And, sorry, I still think they could have (rightly) delayed it until a new governor was in power. Bet Burris might have been re-appointed too. But, they hung everything on a triviality, and Burris is a crafty schmuck.

To expand my last remarks ...
I think most of us knew the "campaign rhetoric" would be the high point of the administration. It always is. The greatest accomplishment, in my opinion, is the fact that the campaign rhetoric actually won the election! That is real change. That means the American people actually want these changes, even if Obama can't deliver (which we should have known he couldn't to begin with). It is time to stop the worship and deification of Obama. The Rock Star Tour is over. He is a transitional and symbolic figure in progressive politics, but anyone with any understanding knows he only represents a small step in the right direction. He isn't big enough, experienced enough, or rich enough to fight the standing forces in our corrupted government. Don't get me wrong. I love him. He is our greatest achievement. But this is no shocker.

If we are serious about change, we have to begin a new generation of activism for a new set of circumstances, and just keep pushing.

-- JamesTX

This basic truth should not be lost. It too often is or appears to be as some try to argue Obama is basically just like the "old boss," or when he does something wrong, it is trivial, and how dare we criticize someone -- at least he's not Bush, or he's competent, or he will do x, y, and z. Tired as some of the top seeds looked last weekend. Obama et. al. are a serious change, they are seriously better than various alternatives, and we should be quite happy in various ways about the fact. But, we cannot ignore his limitations, personal or structural. Understanding why someone does something of a dubious nature is not the same thing as accepting it. And, the breadth of what is yet to be done, now that we have a better shot at doing it, is key as well.

Obama opens up a possibility that is not here yet. It will require a lot of pushing, especially as Digby notes, "consensus" is the fruit the snake that tempts many who count (those proverbial "villagers," use required to join the kewl progressive blogger clique), including Mr. Consensus himself, our new President next week. (Seriously.) Thus, the goal posts are moved, and compromising basic values are not only deemed unfortunately necessary, but probably the right path to go. We can provide Obama examples, of course, such as civil unions. He does not simply see them as compromises, but provides personal support for them. More to point (NYT article):
A new president doesn’t want to look vengeful,” said a former Bush White House lawyer, Bradford A. Berenson, who was a Harvard law classmate of Mr. Obama and has represented administration figures as a private lawyer, “and the last thing a new administration wants to do is spend its time and energy rehashing the perceived sins of the old one. ...

Mark Lowenthal, who was the assistant director for analysis and production at the C.I.A. from 2002 to 2005, said if agents were criminally investigated for doing something that top Bush administration officials asked them to do and that they were assured was legal, intelligence officers would be less willing to take risks to protect the country.

Ah. This might confuse some, since some might think Obama was elected (along with growing Democratic majorities in the Congress) to "change" the mind-set of the Bush Administration. IOW, why should the fact the people who lost oppose the path, think it "vengeful," f-ing matter? Oh wait, I'm being disagreeable. Note also the "I'm just following orders" defense.* The "if you prosecute it will threaten the country" line. This is the SAME BS we have been dealing with for years here. The rule of law is an extravagance we can simple not afford. Likewise, we will have to deal with people trying to make us feel stupid. This too is getting old:
It is more difficult than I think a lot of people realize,” Mr. Obama said, “and we are going to get it done. But part of the challenge that you have is that you have a bunch of folks that have been detained, many of whom who may be very dangerous, who have not been put on trial or have not gone through some adjudication.”

So, when Obama promised to close Gitmo within one hundred days or filibuster a FISA amendment with immunity against prosecution, he was talking out of turn. He didn't study the matter enough. Now, many who support closing Gitmo right away (personally, my concern is the rule of law -- the locale was not really the issue; some isolated location that followed the law made sense) or thought that immunity would block perhaps the only serious path to learning what happened and provide some justice just don't understand. They include well educated and practiced, in many cases more so than Obama (no offense implied, mind you), individuals. But, you just don't realize. It is really hard. Yeah, I know. Being President is hard. Just ask Bush.

The fact that Obama brings a lot to compensate for such b.s. helps. Thus, opponents of his equivocation [for the moment, if "somebody has blatantly broken the law," they should be prosecuted; but, this applies to many who simply won't be ... so how seriously can we take it?] need not just latch on to things that the honest person would admit is sort of lame. Hey! He didn't completely say the matter was taken off the table or anything! Sure, he passed the buck to Eric Holder (who serves at the pleasure of the President, where the buck stops), etc. But ... Anyway, the opponents can not only point to various nice looking picks, but some (like for OLC head) who appear to be on record wanting more than Obama implies is his chosen path.

But, we only fool ourselves if we do not admit to the limitations of the Obama/Pelosi/Reid way. We can resign ourselves to the idea that it is the best we can do -- though I disagree, even given the resources available to us. We can hope that, really given we have more power now, our side will act much much better. Just wait and see! [So, Obama will do a 180 from the clear implications of his rhetoric? I guess, if he can do this on FISA, that might be possible. Not quite holding my breath, though.] Just like they did on their one sided support for Israel, only worsening the situation in the small way they could.

We will be sure to be admonished how "hard" it really is, how we don't have sixty votes, or how nasty Blue Dogs or filibustering Republicans must be taken into account. Don't eat the apple! Such things wasn't why assumed safe lib Senator Boxer genuflected in front of Lieberman in 2006, saying how great everyone thinks he is, and wondered why people were so upset about it. Or, how she, when over twenty minority House members asked ONE senator to join with them to challenge the 2000 election, at least providing a message that there was serious concerns not just about hanging chads but how black voters were treated, along with every other senator, ignored them. Did 2/3 of the Senate, including about half of the Democrats, have to toss Bush the keys to the car in 2002? Did Blue Dogs force their hand, or is that the actual sentiment that prevails?

Time and public pressure forced their hands somewhat. Boxer put forth a token effort in 2004, supporting an electoral challenge that had much less support. Congress' hand was forced, up to a point, on the war and other issues. Pressure groups are all over; it is up to our leaders to determine who counts. Bush insiders or supporters? Obama's dubious answer on investigations was raised because it was a popular question on his website. Our input is useful, if of limited importance. There are various paths to take, a true "middle way" might be not as strong as I would like, but possible, if we seriously tried. As the NYT piece on this matter notes:
There was no immediate reaction from Capitol Hill, where there has been a growing sense that Mr. Obama was not inclined to pursue these matters. In resisting pressure for a wider inquiry, he risks the ire of influential Democratic lawmakers on Congressional judiciary and intelligence committees and core constituencies who hoped his election would cast a spotlight on President Bush’s antiterrorism efforts.

We aren't just talking Mike Gravel here. Of course, if the POTUS suggests a certain path, the equation can very well change. The goal posts are moved. Cause/effect can be elusive. Obama sends a message, certain key groups/individuals hear it, and then Obama can point to their response. Hey, it's not me, it's them. My hands are tied! Two masters influence the pragmatic idealist. S/he will move in a certain path in part because of pressure from the relevant groups. This includes the people at large, his/her political base, relevant ideological and professional voices, and so forth. It is a continual practice, never-ending, and the battle will continue beyond any one person or term. And, it is one where perspective and principle is key.

Some are cynical about the immediate issue -- civil liberties and the like are not as important than economic well-being. But, not only is that too cynical for someone who truly claims to support the Obama side, the sentiment being attacked flows into that area too. Compromise here, and why not compromise on your benefits, health care, and rights as a worker. Or, is some bare minimum well being concern at issue here, a joyless fascist sentiment that should appall us. And, we cannot say "but he is not here yet." He will be here in matter of days, and it is rather naive to think he will turn on a dime, the rules suddenly changing after he takes his oath.

An oath not truly honored by some of the things he implies are the right path. We do ourselves no favors to ignore the fact just because he is as a whole the best choice, one we can be proud to call Mr. President. In this country, we try to fix the things worth fixing. Not just leave them be, since they aren't complete junk. If they are actually worth something, all the more.


* As Digby notes, looking the other way is a trap. As a CYA method, the dirty business will come out, so when you really try to clean up, your hands can be tied. You look like a total hypocrite.

This matter will also pop up in the international arena, as noted in the link provided in my last quickie entry. Do a half-hearted job, and you might leave yourself open to international investigation. Or, when you try to stop (even in a limited, Samantha Power soft power way) war crimes beyond your borders, some justified cynicism will arise. "But, this is different" will, sadly, not wash for some people. And, to the degree the borders of legitimacy can be hazy, you will not be given that additional benefit of the doubt the non-criminal might.