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The Blogger Meeting With Obama

2010 October 29
by Ian Welsh

What Sean-Paul said, pretty much.  Overall the questions were less hard hitting than I would have liked, but I can understand why folks might be intimidated by the President of the US.  I expected nothing of Oliver Willis, and like Sean-Paul, I don’t read Kos.

However, I’ll say publicly what I’ve said privately: Obama reaches out to bloggers only when he’s in trouble.  During the election, the only time period we were seriously consulted was during the brief period when Obama was behind John McCain.  The second the numbers improved, they didn’t bother to even pretend they cared what we think.  I will believe that this meeting matters at all if such meetings continue and if Obama starts acting more progressive (this doesn’t mean talking more progressive once he loses the House and knows he has an even better excuse for not keeping his promises.)

A meeting just before the midterm means squat.

35 Responses
  1. October 29, 2010

    Hey, Obama is sending ’round flowers after he jilted us. The flowers are nice, but…

  2. October 29, 2010

    I haven’t posted at Kos in years, literally, and I’ve had long periods where I stopped reading it, but I’ve decided that when I avoided it totally I lost touch with what the bulk of the American liberal grassroots (ie, the large numbers of people who are still going to be voting for Democrats) thinks and why they think it, and I think that that is a mistake.

  3. October 29, 2010

    I also thought that the interview was relatively interesting particularly because of the quote I posted in the other thread. Obama took the opportunity specifically to emphasize that he is going to continue to attempt to find alleged common ground and be bipartisan and that it is fundamental to his approach. He surely knows that the bipartisanship fetish rubs the liberal blogosphere the wrong way, um. But he took the opportunity to rub it in and emphasize it—that even if the Democrats lose the house his approach will continue to be “bipartisan”.

  4. October 29, 2010

    “He surely knows that the bipartisanship fetish rubs the liberal blogosphere the wrong way”

    He also has to know it hasn’t worked, it isn’t working, and it will work even less after the Republicans get control of a house of Congress. And yet he insists on doing it anyway. Man, those reports about Obama being a spineless twerp who hates conflict really are true.

    He also seems to be a fundamentally dishonest person. I bet within hours of saying he would voluntarily hold his agenda hostage to Republican wishes, he was out there spreading his “the Rs drove us into the ditch, let’s not let them drive again” across the field. It’s impossible to take anything he says seriously.

  5. October 29, 2010

    He also has to know it hasn’t worked, it isn’t working, and it will work even less after the Republicans get control of a house of Congress. And yet he insists on doing it anyway. Man, those reports about Obama being a spineless twerp who hates conflict really are true.

    Yes, but this actually does reflect a lot of the American liberal electorate. I remember multiple conversations during the primaries (before it was absolutely clear that Obama had won) with Obama supporters, and they really did believe that the problem with American politics was its acrimony, and what America needed was someone who could unify the opposing sides under some common denominator of mutual interest. And that Obama was that person, or the person most likely to be able to do so.

    And this belief is a fundamental part of American mainstream liberal culture that Obama reflects. Sesame Street Morality: all conflict is a result of a mutual decision of both parties not to share. “If I share it with you, you’ll have some too,” goes the Raffi song. Teachers send the victim as well as the bully to detention.

  6. October 29, 2010

    Also, many of Obama’s opponents on the left side seem to share some version of that belief as well. ie, the belief that the Tea Partyists reflect some form of class anxiety that has a common economic denominator with the traditional bases of the Democratic party, and that a leader that appealed to that common economic denominator will unite these two halves of the American electorate. Put yet another way, if Obama embraced the working class instead of the finance class, the divided shards of the former would embrace him and turn on the Koch brothers—they will mutually share rather than fight over identity politics.

    Even though both current experience and experience during the Clinton years strongly suggests that the disgruntled grassroots rights really has to move first and abandon its form of identity politics before any such thing can happen, and that the identity politics aspect of this is any less important to the American right than class anxiety.

  7. October 29, 2010

    What struck me too is that Obama came across as fairly clueless, even answering softball questions. WtF?

  8. Bernard permalink
    October 29, 2010

    as if bipartisanship was what America needs at this time. Obama’s inability to see bipartisanship as failed and his desire to continue to push bipartisanship says it all.

    this is all about appearances. the haves and have mores still rule.

    nothing has changed. Obama is just in campaign mode, that’s all.

    otherwise. where was i?

    lol.

    fairly clueless is what i’d call people who’d vote for Obama, unless you are a Republican or a blue dog.

  9. Pepe permalink
    October 29, 2010

    @Mandos

    When Obama claims he wants bipartisanship, he’s dissembling. Obama isn’t as at all lefty as even though Versailles (and his pet bloggers) likes to pretend he is.

  10. Pepe permalink
    October 29, 2010

    my html messed up, or wasn’t accepted which is why my comment looks weird. imagine strikethroughs to the “as”s

  11. October 29, 2010

    Pepe: Oh, no doubt. No one can be US President and be an actual leftist at the same time. He is telegraphing that the loss of the House, if it happens as appears likely depending on how well you believe the likely voter models, will not be interpreted as punishment by leftist voters, but as a signal to head further right—after all, he has a right-wing Congress to work with.

  12. S Brennan permalink
    October 29, 2010

    Off topic:

    Question to Barack Obama & Bill Clinton; How come the black Democrat has to drop out for a white Republican [Crist] when internal polling actually shows Meek beating Crist [page 2, last 4th to last paragraph] Meek is a rising star…and unlike other Democrats, he has reputation for intestinal fortitude, check his voting record out. Like many in the Black Caucus he may take money to get him elected, but he still votes for his constituency. Bill and Barack might want to take lessons from a dude who played decent defensive line in college. Though not 100%, if you lack physical courage, its a pretty good sign you lack moral courage. Payback, I’d like to see Kendrick primary Obama down.

    http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1010/44337_Page2.html

    While Josh wipes butt over at Toilet Paper Media [TPM] performing his hackster best for the Obamanation, going after Meeks with his “clever” and baseless innuendo.

  13. October 29, 2010

    I don’t want to get all Floyd on everybody’s glut, but niceties aside, the man is a torturer, aiding and abetting torture, an accessory after the fact by leading a torture cover-up (by directions to the DOJ in violation of the constitution, no less), and his preposterous kangaroo courts trying a child soldier for 2002 “war crimes” under a bogus law passed in 2006 and re-passed in 2009 might well be in itself a war crime of sorts. That doesn’t even begin to discuss armchair assassination by executive order, delegating to his DOJ Eichmanns and death squads in JSOC and CIA contractors the writing of the kill lists and the recreational executions that follow, all under the shroud of state secrets.

    I fully agree with Greenwald et.al about just how dishonest and disgusting the Obama WH conduct at large, and his personal conduct specifically have been and continue to be, but honestly, unconstitutional inquality for gay and lesbian citizens as well as government-funded foreclosure fraud isn’t exactly in the same league as illegal war, illegal occupation, torture, and – pace Horton – tyranny. The criticism of Obama’s questioners is just as parochial as the questions were. Stewart wasn’t any better, according to the transcripts (I can’t sit through the videos).

  14. Lori permalink
    October 29, 2010

    Obama is a not-terribly bright, not-terribly well-educated narcissistic sociopath. What narcissists want is to be perceived as the person who brings everyone together and whose wonderfulness binds us all. The thing we can all agree on is that Obama is brilliant and wonderful and that alone will bring people from both sides of the aisle together.

    I’ve read the guy’s books and I’ve listened to him talk. Without a teleprompter, he shows no awareness of literature, and no understanding of science or history. I don’t think the guy has ever read a book in his entire life. As for Harvard, that’s where his father earned his PhD. Obama is, no doubt, a legacy admission, just as George Bush is and that’s why he won’t show us his grades.

    Just look at the absolute chaos the guy is sowing in the Democratic party. That’s a sociopath with a wrecking ball, if I’ve ever seen one.

  15. Pepe permalink
    October 29, 2010

    @Lori

    Obama isn’t THE problem. Obama is a symptom, not the disease.

  16. Bartleby the Slacker permalink
    October 29, 2010

    Lori nails it.

    “Let them Eat Vichyssoise!” and “Hey, Look at my Ride!” about sums up this narcissistic, ‘it’s all about me’ one termer.

    As usual, in their sycophantic, wasted field trip to the Bighouse, the ‘A’ team totally squandered their dubious capital by demanding NADA of the president re: the bleeding of jobs and a mandated insurance lobby giveaway that will further displace millions of educated citizens. The number ONE issue say, Amato, could have pounded Obie with is the wholesale sell-out of U.S. jobs to cheap labor – but noooooo.

  17. jcapan permalink
    October 29, 2010

    Hmm, some liberal bloggers show they’re just like Obama, all talk and no action.

    And what Pepe said.

  18. October 29, 2010

    There should be a new term:

    narcissio-path: one who blithely does damage to others as long as they can be the center of attention.

    It fits obama becoz he has sold out 99% of the nation so that he can be the star on the world’s biggest stage.

    He’s a terrible human being and a very dangerous man.

    Z

  19. Ian Welsh permalink*
    October 30, 2010

    And this belief is a fundamental part of American mainstream liberal culture that Obama reflects. Sesame Street Morality: all conflict is a result of a mutual decision of both parties not to share. “If I share it with you, you’ll have some too,” goes the Raffi song. Teachers send the victim as well as the bully to detention.

    This is fundamental Boomer psychology, and Boomers make up a disproportionate part of online Dems (average age for political blog readers is in the 50s.) Arguably, of course, they also make up a disproportionate amount of Dems period, but that is fading. The Boomers are not healthy as a group.

  20. Ian Welsh permalink*
    October 30, 2010

    It is not clear to me that the working class abandoned the Dems before the Dems abandoned them. What stands out when you dig into the numbers is that working class union members are strongly Dem and liberal, which means that abandoning the union movement and letting it go into a multi-decade decline was the original sin.

  21. jcapan permalink
    October 30, 2010

    As Hedges’ put it last month:

    “The failure of liberals to defend the interests of working men and women as our manufacturing sector was dismantled, labor unions were destroyed and social services were slashed has proved to be a disastrous and fatal misjudgment. Liberals, who betrayed the working class, have no credibility. This is one of the principle reasons the anti-war movement cannot attract the families whose sons and daughters are fighting and dying in Iraq and Afghanistan. And liberal hypocrisy has opened the door for a virulent right wing. If we are to reconnect with the working class we will have to begin from zero. We will have to rebuild the ties with the poor and the working class which the liberal establishment severed. We will have to condemn the liberal class as vociferously as we condemn the right wing. And we will have to remain true to the moral imperative to foster the common good and the tangible needs of housing, health care, jobs, education and food.”

  22. Philly Boy permalink
    October 30, 2010

    I’d like to ask Obama which is more important: accomplishing something or bipartisanship. As an example, I’d point out that the abolitionists felt abolishing slavery was more important than achieving bipartisan consensus with those who wanted to preserve it, and that, if they hadn’t, he’d probably be working in a cotton field.

  23. S Brennan permalink
    October 30, 2010

    Ian,

    I think blaming whole generations is an extension of blaming you parents…and like all wild extrapolations, prone to error.

  24. Ian Welsh permalink*
    October 30, 2010

    My parents weren’t boomers. And if any generation had/has character, it is the Boomers.

  25. Jupiter Lander permalink
    October 30, 2010

    And this belief is a fundamental part of American mainstream liberal culture that Obama reflects. Sesame Street Morality: all conflict is a result of a mutual decision of both parties not to share. “If I share it with you, you’ll have some too,” goes the Raffi song.

    Raffi is Canadian.

    He dropped out of children’s singing for years when one of his concerts was used to promote a car company. Ha! Can you say POUT-RAGE? What does he think he is, some kind of firebagging PurityLeftist? But wait…it gets worse!

    Raffi advocates for a child’s right to live free of commercial exploitation and he has consistently refused all commercial endorsement offers. Raffi’s company has never directly advertised nor marketed to children. In 2005, he sent an open letter to Ted Rogers of Rogers Wireless, urging them to stop marketing cell phones to children. He has also turned down a film proposal for “Baby Beluga” because of the nature of the funding, which was based on exploitative advertising and marketing.

    Almost sounds like he thinks ruthless and greedy media companies are somehow evil or something. Doesn’t he know that we just need to reach out to self-aggrandizing mega-corporations so that together we can build a better world for everyone?

  26. dugsdale permalink
    October 30, 2010

    “And this belief is a fundamental part of American mainstream liberal culture that Obama reflects. Sesame Street Morality: all conflict is a result of a mutual decision of both parties not to share. “If I share it with you, you’ll have some too,” goes the Raffi song. Teachers send the victim as well as the bully to detention.”

    This quotation plus Ian’s comment seem to me right on the money re: the infuriating lack of effective Dem/Lib response to the R’s slash-and-burn tactics. Almost as if, you’d rather let yourself get shoved and insulted by a Republican bully than take off your beautifully pressed sportcoat and pound the s* out of him.

    There used to be a corollary notion in this genteel Boomer world that once the gentleman was pushed too far, the sportcoat came off and the gentleman became a warrior. (That’s what Obama posed as in the campaign, a warrior. What he is, unfortunately, is one of the Eloi.)

    I think it used to be a conceit among Libs that good ideas spoke for themselves, and that some sort of misplaced noblesse required one to let ranting lunatics froth and fume, without seriously engaging them, and even permit them a faint condescending nod as if some of their less preposterous ideas might have merit. And why not–one was surrounded, in baby-boom days, by thriving labor unions and the intact machinery of the New Deal, which supplied a sort of bedrock for the idea that right wing crackpots were ephemeral and inconsequential, but the nation stayed on some kind of middle course all the same.

    Failing to change that conceptual framework to apprehend today’s reality–where neither labor unions, New Deal machinery, or good will for average Americans exist–is a charge boomers like myself richly deserve, and something like that failure of vision must exist like a narcotic fog on Capitol Hill too.

    And I LOVE “Narcisso-path.”

  27. S Brennan permalink
    October 30, 2010

    Ian,

    The boomers rejected Obama’s duplicity:

    http://www.correntewire.com/obamas_other_forgotten_demographic_older_voters

  28. October 31, 2010

    Raven: “What struck me too is that Obama came across as fairly clueless, even answering softball questions. WtF?”

    As Obama got more involved in national politics, he became stupider. This seems to be normal in the business. There’s a noticeable change in his rhetoric between Dreams of My Father and the introduction he wrote for the campaign-edition reprint — more gaseous, less substantial. And once you get into the White House, you’re cut off from the real world. Everything must be filtered through flacks, chewed up and predigested for the morning briefings by other people. He doesn’t have time to inform himself, though of course we may doubt how hard he’d try even if he could. He still can rub elbows with the rich and powerful, plays golf with them for hours and so on. There’s no time for hanging out with people aren’t rich and powerful; why bother? His comportment at his bogus Town Meetings gets worse as time goes on. But it’s also clear from Dreams of My Father, and his own account of his days as a “community organizer,” that he never related well to ordinary people, never knew how to talk or listen to them. Maybe he learned a little during his early days in Chicago, but that’s long forgotten now. He doesn’t have to listen to them; he does need to know how to talk to the big money people, and other people in the upper reaches of government. I suspect, though, that he doesn’t do even that very well, but he does know how to listen to them and do what they want.

    There’s an old myth that the President knows more than most people. I recall an interview with Lyndon Johnson when he shot it down in connection with the Vietnam War, admitting that he knew a little more than the general population (let alone the anti-war movement), but nothing all that important. I think that the President, like most people at the tops of hierarchies, knows less than people outside the corridors of power who bother to inform themselves. It goes with the job.

    On the bloggers’ meeting with Obama, does anyone else remember the time, it must have been on or near election day 2000, when Amy Goodman got to interview Bill Clinton? He was doing calls to radio stations around the country to try to help Gore in the final moments of the campaign, and I guess his people either 1) didn’t realize who Goodman is or 2) didn’t imagine she’d seize the opportunity to ask him some hard questions. Either way, she asked him some hard questions, he floundered, blustered, and protested that this wasn’t in their (nonexistent) agreement about the interview — and to his credit, he didn’t hang up on her after 30 seconds. I wonder what Obama would do in that situation? It would be lovely to find out.

  29. November 1, 2010

    Quoth Ian,

    This is fundamental Boomer psychology, and Boomers make up a disproportionate part of online Dems (average age for political blog readers is in the 50s.) Arguably, of course, they also make up a disproportionate amount of Dems period, but that is fading. The Boomers are not healthy as a group.

    I don’t get that impression from the Boomers I know in real life, at least the American ones. Yes, they sometimes have a disillusioned-hippie yearnings for giving peace a chance and all that—which may have been mistranslated by their offspring as below—but they don’t preclude the very thought of a confrontational political idealism, and the Boomers I know, at least, are the ones most likely to be disappointed that Obama didn’t bring the fight, as it were.

    No, the Sesame Street Morality people are the 25-45 demographic, ie, the people who really were likely to have been raised on Sesame Street. The flip side of Sesame Street Morality is South Park Cynicism—these selfsame people grew up to be South Park’s core demographic. And what is South Park’s stock-in-trade, what made it most famous and controversial? Mocking rejection of the very possibility of an idealistic politics: the reason why nothing gets done is because people argue over principles. Therefore, they must both be wrong, all of them hypocrites, etc, etc.

    In that light, Obama slogans that sound so silly to committed leftists—”the fierce urgency of now”, “audacity of hope”, I mean, colourless green ideas FCOL—make perfect sense. To people who have been trained, perhaps also unintentionally by their Boomer parents, to reject the relevance of an aggressively-defended, idealistic politics, we need to come together and do something and not fight over who stole Bush v. Gore, who is a war criminal, etc, etc. Bipartisanship is not a means, but an end.

    So, in that sense, Obama has indeed tried to deliver to his base. What his critics from the left must confront is the possibility that much of his base isn’t failing to turn out because he isn’t sufficiently aggressively leftist, but actually that he—and the Democrats—weren’t sufficiently bipartisan. If you can’t bring together the legislature in Unity and Hope, then why pay attention to the legislature? It’s clearly not interested in the “fierce urgency of now.”

  30. November 1, 2010

    Being a Canuck, I’m well aware that Raffi is Canadian. I quoted his song not as a comment on Raffi, but in terms of what his audience is actually absorbing from the endless songs of peace and sharing that people of Raffi’s generation probably thought were educating their children to be happy, hippy peaceniks, instead of disarming their ability to confront.

  31. Ian Welsh permalink*
    November 1, 2010

    Not my understanding of Xer psychology from the books I’ve read on generational dynamics.

  32. November 1, 2010

    obama was never that smart-sounding or wise in action. it was always completely obvious that he was a cynical, arrogant, and selfish politician. it was always a matter of being willing to see him for what he was, and far too many just didn’t want to do that. it is the critique of liberals that Hedges makes and i agree with him. any political movement that changes things will be built by the working class; which, shortly, will be a whole lot bigger than it used to be. Legacy party liberalism has failed, and i don’t think anybody can deny that anymore. but obama always dripped of privilege and elitism, and the willful ignorance that goes with that. the fact that people call themselves liberals and won’t admit what this guy and his party are really doing is as strong an indictment of modern american liberalism as can be made.

  33. S Brennan permalink
    November 1, 2010

    I agree with Chicago Dyke’s comment. More often than not I agree with Chicago Dyke, she wrote a good piece on elites that pass themselves off as “liberals” the other day. Good stuff, that matches my experience to a tee.

    Something to consider:

    Every minority group seems to be represented in the media by the upper income group of that particular demographic. Their thoughts far too often reflect less of what an average person within a minority would think and more about what would be good for the elite of that minority.

    Why does the first President with African blood, fight for the policies of his predecessor who was of white privileged background?

  34. November 1, 2010

    Chicago dyke said:

    but obama always dripped of privilege and elitism, and the willful ignorance that goes with that. the fact that people call themselves liberals and won’t admit what this guy and his party are really doing is as strong an indictment of modern american liberalism as can be made.

    Amen. Despite his disillusionment over the complete wreck of the Health Whatever Bill, my liberal father still “bitterly clings” to the idea that Obama is an economic liberal, that he believes in the philosophy of FDR and the social safety net but he’s screwing up because “no one knows how to create jobs any more.” Oh Gawd, give me a freaking break. WPA anyone? And before someone jumps in with that “The WPA didn’t end unemployment!!111!!!,” I think we could make an even better one than FDR did 70 years ago, since we have a lot more infrastructure now than we did then, as well as computers to make things easier and faster.

    Ya know, if Obama’s endless giveaways to corporate America and feeding of the war machine, not to mention his constant stomping on everyone who isn’t white, male, straight and rich, are what true liberalism means, then call me a socialist Democrat and have done with it. I’d rather keep the term “liberal” and let Obama be called something else, though.

    Maybe someday “liberals” will have the cojones and ovaries to stand up and say “This guy isn’t one of us.”

  35. November 1, 2010

    Not my understanding of Xer psychology from the books I’ve read on generational dynamics.

    I haven’t read any books on generational dynamics so I will bow to your greater expertise on the subject. All I know is what these people watched on TV, and how I’ve seen them behave.

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