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The Wyoming Mystery Billboard
February 10, 2010 11:57 AM   Subscribe

Miss me yet? A mysterious billboard has cropped up on I-35 in Wyoming. Nobody knows who paid for it, and the media has picked up the story.

It's not clear whether the billboard is a criticism of Bush or a jab at Obama.
posted by mecran01 (99 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
How is it that nobody's spraypainted "NOT EVEN REMOTELY" across this thing? Is this billboard under police protection or something?
posted by boo_radley at 11:58 AM on February 10, 2010 [16 favorites]


It's Wyoming, Minnesota, not Wyoming, state of.
posted by Floydd at 11:59 AM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I thought this was going to be an anonymous lover trying to rekindling things with his/her beloved. Turned out to be much less exciting.
posted by milestogo at 12:00 PM on February 10, 2010 [2 favorites]




"Let's see, billions in deficit spending, tax cuts for the rich, two senseless wars, domestic wiretapping, unapologetic torture, alienation from the rest of the world, nearly total financial collapse, relentless lying, turning the Justice Department into a wing of the Republican National Committee, letting New Orleans drown while you dick around with a guitar, manipulating terror alert levels to help your re-election bid, fake reporters in the White House press pool. Uh, no, George, we don't miss you one bit. Go clear some damn brush."
posted by Floydd at 12:02 PM on February 10, 2010 [23 favorites]


I miss Bush. It was better then, when, even though the American government was spectacularly evil, the opposition held out more promise. Not to join the anti-Obama backlash, just that some hopes have clearly been disappointed (climate change, notably).
posted by imperium at 12:03 PM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's Wyoming, Minnesota, not Wyoming, state of.

Oh, phew, I thought for a second that all this time I'd been wrong about it being a state. I wouldn't put it past myself.
posted by sunshinesky at 12:03 PM on February 10, 2010


The chosen picture indicates to me that it must be a criticism of Bush. He looks soooo smarmy and repulsive. OH WAIT THAT'S HOW HE LOOKS ALL THE TIME

(znap)
posted by DU at 12:03 PM on February 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sorry to have put you in such a state, sunshinesky.
posted by Floydd at 12:05 PM on February 10, 2010


Nobody knows who paid for it...It's not clear whether the billboard is a criticism of Bush or a jab at Obama.

From the FPP's last link:
"Bev Master, office manager with Schubert & Hoey Outdoor Advertising, said the billboard -- which the firm owns -- was rented out by a 'group of small business owners and individuals who just felt like Washington was against them.'"
posted by ericb at 12:05 PM on February 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


I like how the photo looks like W is ducking, making the billboard look like it's promoting a game in which drivers are encouraged to fling something, perhaps shoes, at the sign while driving by.
posted by jamaro at 12:06 PM on February 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


Also, I'm wondering when people will stop pretending that there's a politician out there who will be able to fulfill all their election promises, particularly in their first term. Be realistic!
posted by sunshinesky at 12:06 PM on February 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


What SHOULD The Bush Billboard Read? HuffPost Comedy's Photoshop Contest
so awesome
posted by angrycat at 12:07 PM on February 10, 2010


Stolen from ericb's link: BILLBOARD ACCOMPLISHED
posted by Ron Thanagar at 12:08 PM on February 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'll just leave this here...
posted by mullingitover at 12:08 PM on February 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Fixed.
posted by orthogonality at 12:08 PM on February 10, 2010 [19 favorites]



Also, I'm wondering when people will stop pretending that there's a politician out there who will be able to fulfill all their election promises, particularly in their first term.


They heard the slogan, "Yes we can!" and mistook it for a Viagra commercial, and it was pretty much downhill from there...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 12:10 PM on February 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ha! no way Bushy! You stay gone. "Change"® is soooo much better. Teh crowning jewel of the current administration... ahem... "Cash for Clunkers" was an incredible success.
posted by LakesideOrion at 12:12 PM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


...sad to say: not even the GOP misses that guy.
posted by Postroad at 12:13 PM on February 10, 2010


Looking at that billboard reminded me that I shouldn't complain about Obama so much.

Yeah, sometimes the new person you're seeing leaves the seat up or forgets your mom's birthday, but the last guy got wasted, took a shit on your bed, stole your credit cards, and then traded your dog for nachos.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 12:15 PM on February 10, 2010 [90 favorites]


Obama hasn't turned out quite like I was expecting him to, and I have to admit that I have missed George W. Bush quite a bit.

Since he left office, I often close my eyes and hope that he is right there beneath me while I am sitting on the toilet. I am hoping to shit directly on his face. Unfortunately, I apparently keep missing him because I never see him in there when I stand back up.
posted by flarbuse at 12:17 PM on February 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


and they weren't even, like, fresh nachos. And there's no toppings, just chips and you're like, dude, seriously?
posted by boo_radley at 12:19 PM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I continue to be baffled that this counts as a news story. It's a billboard in Wyoming, MN. Unless this is how the secret junta has chosen to announce its intention to forcibly reinstall Bush to power, why would anyone care?
posted by Horace Rumpole at 12:20 PM on February 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


I know someone who missed Bush. And he had two tries.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 12:21 PM on February 10, 2010 [8 favorites]


I know someone who missed Bush. And he had two tries.

It's them 'fighter pilot'™ reflexes
posted by Confess, Fletch at 12:23 PM on February 10, 2010


We may have to offer a News Cut coffee mug to smoke the owner out. Sadly, we don't have News Cut coffee mugs.

Someone really isn't embracing this new paradigm.
posted by jimmythefish at 12:24 PM on February 10, 2010


Driving through that part of Minnesota (which, let's be clear, is one of the stretches of ass that we use to separate the cool parts), I always see my favorite billboard: a handpainted John Birch Society one demanding that we get U.S. out of the UN NOW!

What you don't understand is that we need these people; without outstate morons, who would write indignant letters to the Minneapolis paper?
posted by COBRA! at 12:24 PM on February 10, 2010 [7 favorites]


Ah yes, I remember him. America's Kim Jong-Il, the Dear Leader of the GOP.

I was going to say "fu@k that guy and everybody who voted for him" but the jokes on them, because Dear Leader basically fu@ked them and this country beyond repair, and it's only going to go downhill from here.

Ironically, the more we decline, the more desperate people will become, and the more likely it will be that we'll elect another brain-dead, whack-job fundamentalist like Palin, which will only further accelerate the decline.

What's really frightening is that the GOP has such public and uniform contempt for the rule of law, the constitution, and procedural integrity (e.g. love of torture, their loathing of habeas corpus and the other constitutional requirements on due process for terrorists)... that kind of anti-democratic sadism will only get worse as this country continues to decline.

Miss that guy? No, I miss what America used to be and will never be again, thanks to that guy.
posted by Davenhill at 12:25 PM on February 10, 2010 [12 favorites]


Good viral marketing is so hard to come by these days.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:30 PM on February 10, 2010


AP: "Office manager Beverly Master of Schubert and Hoey (hoy) Outdoor Advertising in Minneapolis says the message was purchased by a group of small business owners and people from the Twin Cities area who want to remain anonymous."
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:37 PM on February 10, 2010


Where's your messiah now? /Chief Wiggum
posted by Babblesort at 12:37 PM on February 10, 2010


By and for Tea Baggers or prospective baggers.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:37 PM on February 10, 2010


Davenhill: "\What's really frightening is that the GOP has such public and uniform contempt for the rule of law, the constitution, and procedural integrity (e.g. love of torture, their loathing of habeas corpus and the other constitutional requirements on due process for terrorists)... that kind of anti-democratic sadism will only get worse as this country continues to decline.

Miss that guy? No, I miss what America used to be and will never be again, thanks to that guy.
"

Greenwald:

Even Obama's most loyal defenders often acknowledge that, as Michael Tomasky recently put it, "the civil liberties area has been [Obama's] worst. This is the one area in which the president's actions don't remotely match the candidate's promises." From indefinite detention and renditions to denial of habeas rights, from military commissions and secrecy obsessions to state secrets abuses, many of the defining Bush/Cheney policies continue unabated under its successor administration.


Who's more to blame for that fact that America has become a permanent human rights violator? The president who first began violating those rights? Or the one who made it bipartisan?
posted by Joe Beese at 12:39 PM on February 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


It's a definite improvement on 'Nigger, don't let the sun set on you in Wyoming, Minnesota.'
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:41 PM on February 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


Who's more to blame for that fact that America has become a permanent human rights violator? The president who first began violating those rights? Or the one who made it bipartisan?

Point taken, but wow, what a spectacularly depressing game to play that is.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:43 PM on February 10, 2010


Who's more to blame for that fact that America has become a permanent human rights violator? The president who first began violating those rights? Or the one who made it bipartisan?

The president who violated those rights, repeatedly, for 7-8 years. No doubt in my mind.

America is a beaten dog trained to bite and kill, and it suffered in Bush's hands for 8 years. Obama's in the unfortunate position of having to be the president that rescues this poor, abused dog of a nation, and you, Joe Beese, are hyperbolically calling for Obama to just let that rescue dog run around in the park without any chance to be re-trained or reformed.

Perfect analogy? Hardly. But you know that he wasn't going to be able to come into office a year ago and just single-handedly close down Guantanamo. But damn it's got to be fun trolling Metafilter repeatedly by pretending he could, right?
posted by explosion at 12:55 PM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


explosion: " But you know that he wasn't going to be able to come into office a year ago and just single-handedly close down Guantanamo."

I admit: It was stupid of me to believe him when he told me was going to do just that.
posted by Joe Beese at 12:58 PM on February 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


Guantanamo is hardly the issue.

But yes, there is plenty of blame for the normalization of torture and "extraordinary rendition" to go around. The "beaten dog trained to bite and kill" has been running amok in the neighbourhood for a lot longer than people have been paying attention. The people not being bitten, anyway.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:59 PM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can't we just agree to blame it all on Reagan?
posted by Burhanistan at 1:03 PM on February 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


ortho's version is rather elegant, both in response to this nonsense and as a stand-alone statement.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:05 PM on February 10, 2010


Also, I'm wondering when people will stop pretending that there's a politician out there who will be able to fulfill all their election promises, particularly in their first year of their first term.

Seriously. F these people, they would've put that exact same billboard up if Obama had been refilling the treasury by pooping gold and had drug Bin Laden out of the mountains of Pakistan himself.
posted by inigo2 at 1:07 PM on February 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


"yes, but my aim is improving."
posted by MillMan at 1:15 PM on February 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


I grew up in Forest Lake, just four miles south of Wyoming. We're the cutoff for the suburbs; Wyoming is the start of "the sticks" and most people there live on gigantic wooded lots that they drive their ATVs in. "Real America," in other words.

Trust me, it's definitely a jab at Obama.

Michele Bachmann? ...uhh yeah, that was us too, sorry about that
posted by castlebravo at 1:16 PM on February 10, 2010


Nope. Not gonna do it. Not gonna let myself get sucked into Beese-world again... Must... Stop... Dammit! The gravitational pull's too strong! (So now I'm in Beese-world again, where the bad guy is the one who orders Guantanamo closed and repeatedly calls on congress to support him in the push to close it, not the congress who continues to block funding for the closure or even the mayor of New York who refuses to put former inmates on trial there. No, the blame clearly lies most with the guy trying and failing to save the baby in the burning building, so obviously we should throw rocks at him instead of looking for ways to help douse the fire. In fact, it might help to pour some more kerosene on the fire so the guy really has no chance. Because that's just more morally satisfying. And Greenwald said so.)
posted by saulgoodman at 1:16 PM on February 10, 2010 [14 favorites]


The gravitational pull's too strong!

Hey now, this is MetaFilter. Making cracks about a user's Jobesity is not cool.
posted by explosion at 1:17 PM on February 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


Ack. I didn't even mean it that way.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:19 PM on February 10, 2010


i'm sorry joe beese.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:23 PM on February 10, 2010


I miss Santa Claus and the Easter bunny, but eventually you have to grow up.
posted by Camofrog at 1:41 PM on February 10, 2010


Camofrog: "I miss Santa Claus and the Easter bunny, but eventually you have to grow up."

I've always been fond of James Gould Cozzens' line that a cynic is someone who found out there was no Santa Claus and never got over it.
posted by Joe Beese at 1:51 PM on February 10, 2010


Let me answer that for you, mysterious billboard renter: No.

That is all.
posted by MuffinMan at 2:03 PM on February 10, 2010


"Miss me yet?"

Brian Johnson: I can answer that now, sir, that'd be no. No for me, sir
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 2:08 PM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


First off, to answer the question: not only no, but hell no.

The only way I can imagine ever missing Bush is if by some horrible mischance of fate Palin is elected.

saulgoodman Yeah, Obama did try to close Guantanamo, but he seems to think that the objection was to the specific camp, not to the deeper problem of the systemic violation of the US Constitution. I don't care about Guantanamo specifically, I care about people being "detained" forever, without charges, without trials, and Obama has said that he intends to do just that. He has declared that some Guantanamo detainees will be set free, some will be given real trials, some will be put in front of military kangaroo courts, and others will simply be imprisoned forever without trials, charges, or any other legal niceties.

Which means that closing Guantanamo is an empty gesture. The problem was never that the US had a prison camp in Cuba, that problem has always been that the US is violating its Constitution.

Hell, just last week Obama declared that as president he had the power and authority to order the CIA to assassinate US citizens, again no need for charges or trials, just the president declaring that they're "terrorists", and a CIA sniper taking them out.

I'm not an anti-Obama zealot. But it is a plain fact that our Constitutional scholar president has chosen to abandon all pretense of respect for the Constitution, and the very concept of human rights.

He's better than Cranky & Crazy. I'll vote for him again in 2012 because the alternative is going to be much worse than him. But after he decided to continue the anti-American practice of putting people in prison without charges, trails, or access to lawyers, he lost the ability to claim that he supports either the Constitution or human rights.
posted by sotonohito at 2:23 PM on February 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


This has been a meemee thing all over the right since last year some time. Usually it's an animated gif with him doing the royal wavey thing.

Silly season's off to an early start, looks like.
posted by lysdexic at 2:29 PM on February 10, 2010


"No, I miss what America used to be and will never be again, thanks to that guy."

I keep hearing this sentiment on metafilter. That the America they knew was a "better" America and we'll never see it again. America used to be a lot of things, but guess what? It changes for both better and worse. I am thankful that I live in a country that is anywhere near as good as it is. Even if it gets much worse I am still living in arguably the best time ever to live in history.
posted by SouthCNorthNY at 2:29 PM on February 10, 2010


I am thankful that I live in a country that is anywhere near as good as it is. Even if it gets much worse I am still living in arguably the best time ever to live in history.

I'm less worried about things getting worse than I am about a population that will go to any lengths to either deny it or find somebody else to blame.
posted by troybob at 2:48 PM on February 10, 2010


Watching people bash Obama when a year has barely passed is like watching a kid get angry at his single mom when his dad is the one who bailed on him years back. It's convenient to unload your disappointment on the prominent figurehead, but it's not really very accurate, realistic or deserved.

Do I miss Bush? Hell no. I could do with Tony Blair's name being erased from my memory while we're at it. I'm grateful to the American people that I got to emigrate a few weeks after Obama was sworn in. It's sad and frustrating seeing so many people lose the optimism I associate with American culture, just because they tricked themselves into thinking the world would magically heal overnight after he took office.
posted by saturnine at 2:49 PM on February 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


Who's more to blame for that fact that America has become a permanent human rights violator? The president who first began violating those rights? Or the one who made it bipartisan?
More to blame? Really? What kind of brain damage and amorality does it require for this to even seem like a reasonable question?

It's the "stop hitting yourself" school of blame: who is more to blame, the people who caused the problem and continue to do everything they can to prevent it from being fixed, or the people who are struggling but often failing to fix it?

This question illustrates why this country is so broken and so screwed. It takes a moral black and white (Bush/Cheney violated the constitution and committed war crimes) and turns it into the wishy-washy gray or moral relativism (Obama has reversed some but not all of the abuses, so... uh... less than evil is still evil, in which case it's more evil than the original evil? Yeah, that's the ticket!).

Sadly it's easier to spread confusion, hate, and fear than it is to counter it with facts and reasoned argumentation. The GOP is very good at the former, and the Democrats are very bad at the latter. It's almost too frightening to think of where this could lead, if the trend continues unabated.

Who is more to blame?

Obviously the people who deliberately, willfully, and contemptuously violated the constitution, the Geneva convention, who corrupted and broke the system, who show contempt for habeas corpus and civilian courts, etc. are to blame for their crimes, and for creating these abominable precedents. Period. Full stop.

Who is to blame for Obama not doing more? In the "buck stops here (but only for Democrats)" world of political responsibility, Obama is responsible for what he does and does not do. Fair enough.

But the political reality is that the very same people who continue not only to defend but also to champion torture et al. are also the same people who demonize their opponents as 'un-American' and 'terrorist-sympathizers'. They created a political environment of fear and hatred so pervasive that reform is politically untenable.

The Cheney family alone spent the first year of Obama's presidency saying that Obama's discontinuation of torture would lead to terrorist attacks. So the stage has been set for Republicans to react to another major terrorist attack on the US not in shock, horror, or unity... but as a political opportunity to blame Obama for it. And the crazy thing is, most people are so brainwashed and numbed by political extremism and political double think that they don't even blink at this kind of insane, caustic rhetoric. Benedict Arnold has nothing on the Cheneys.

Certainly people are free to blame Obama for not doing more. However without the aforementioned context of the political environment, the accusation has a very disingenuous "stop hitting yourself" hollowness to it. But under no circumstances is it morally or factually reasonable to equate the Obama administration (thus far) to the Bush administration, when it comes to torture et al.

As someone else analogized, blaming Obama for not being able to return to the status quo ante after just one year is a little like an arsonist blaming firefighters for the water damage afterwards.
posted by Davenhill at 2:50 PM on February 10, 2010 [6 favorites]


I keep hearing this sentiment on metafilter. That the America they knew was a "better" America and we'll never see it again. America used to be a lot of things, but guess what? It changes for both better and worse. I am thankful that I live in a country that is anywhere near as good as it is. Even if it gets much worse I am still living in arguably the best time ever to live in history.
I'm specifically referring to qualities of the American government that the Bush administration damaged or destroyed.

America used to be the world's champion of human rights. Now countries like North Korea, China, and terrorist groups like al Qaida condescend to the US as moral superiors because of Bush's torture policies.

How many generations will it take to erase that stain from our reputation, especially when half our our political establishment continues to champion torture as part of their platform?

The Republican party is another thing the Bush/Cheney crowd of Republicans destroyed. For whatever varied and many political and ideological disagreements people may have had with the Reagan brand of conservatism, it had significantly more internal consistency and sanity than today's religious freak-show populism, greed, fear, hate and sadism that drives the party now.

Take the issue of terrorism and the rule of law. From the same Greenwald article linked above:
The express policies of the right-wing Ronald Reagan — “applying the rule of law to terrorists”; delegitimizing Terrorists by treating them as “criminals”; and compelling the criminal prosecution of those who authorize torture — are now considered on the Leftist fringe. Merely advocating what Reagan explicitly adopted as his policy — “to use democracy’s most potent tool, the rule of law against” Terrorists — is now the exclusive province of civil liberties extremists. In those rare cases when Obama does what Reagan’s policy demanded in all instances and what even Bush did at times — namely, trials and due process for accused Terrorists — he is attacked as being “Soft on Terror” by Democrats and Republicans alike. And the mere notion that we should prosecute torturers (as Reagan bound the U.S. to do) — or even hold them accountable in ways short of criminal proceedings — is now the hallmark of a Far Leftist Purist.
Add to that the debt Bush piled on this country (MSN money puts it at $11.5 trillion).

And of course, the political and public discourse has become so caustic and polarized as to be almost useless. Bush didn't start it, but he and his party certainly helped perfect it in its current state and make it the established norm. (e.g. it wasn't long after 9/11 that Karen Hughes was comparing pro-choice supporters to 'the people who flew planes into buildings on 9/11'). Bravo.
posted by Davenhill at 3:23 PM on February 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


Can we all agree that Joe Beese is disappointed with Obama, perhaps correctly and perhaps incorrectly but probably somewhere in the middle, and move on? We don't need to address this issue every time he brings it up. Really. You're not going to change his mind.
posted by muddgirl at 3:24 PM on February 10, 2010


Can we all agree that Joe Beese is disappointed with Obama, perhaps correctly and perhaps incorrectly but probably somewhere in the middle, and move on?

Word. Dozens of people here post repetitious arguments and it doesn't draw attention. Let the text scroll. It will be ok.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:27 PM on February 10, 2010


I think the fact that no one can tell if this is a jab at Bush or Obama is a perfect metaphor for how much Bush divided, polarized and utterly destroyed any sense of unity that Americans once had.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:27 PM on February 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


America used to be the world's champion of human rights.

When, exactly, was this championing taking place? The country was founded by slave owners and it's been profits first, human rights somewhere down around tenth place ever since.
posted by Camofrog at 3:31 PM on February 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


Wow, I never realized how far to the left this website has shifted. I'm still waiting for the day when Americans wake up and realize that both parties are controlled by their banking masters. Bush didn't want to play ball so they hammered NYC and he tucked his tail between his legs for the next 7 years. Obama has gone to bat for the banking industry since day one. Bush and Obama are the same person and it's just sad to see how we've allowed these gangsters to divide us. Do I miss Bush? Hell no. Do I think the Billboard is hilarious? Absolutely. I do my best to stand right in the middle both parties, I can look at this and laugh my heart out. Until this country sees the end of the federal reserve, you can expect this crap to continue forever. Cue the 'conspiracy theory' and 'Ron Paul' rants in 3...2...1...
posted by GrooveJedi at 3:34 PM on February 10, 2010


Obviously you're not a golfer.
posted by muddgirl at 3:53 PM on February 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


When, exactly, was this championing taking place? The country was founded by slave owners and it's been profits first, human rights somewhere down around tenth place ever since.
Slavery? That can't be right. I'm pretty sure Jesus freed the slaves when he preached the gospel to the natives in the new world.

But this just reinforces the point about the quality of political discourse, and why it's so rare to hear a politician say anything that isn't either an angry attack or bland to the point of meaningless: it's hard to say anything without setting someone off.

You know, my posts are already annoyingly long as it is, without having to put the number of concessive clauses and qualifying footnotes it would take to avoid comments like this. And people wonder why the warranties on, say, a toaster are eight pages of 3pt. script.

Yes America has done, and continues to do bad and horrible things*.

But no I didn't mean "champion" as in someone who won a competition as to who has the best record on human rights but rather "champion" as in someone who actively defended and supported human rights. And when I use the past tense, I don't mean for all time, but rather within the time period implied by the context of the discussion, which was what was on balance more or less accepted to be the case prior to the Bush administration (going back as far as Reagan, as also contextualized in my comment) that was changed during the Bush administration.

And when I said the "world's champion" I meant the loudest voice by virtue of our status as a super power, not necessarily the most morally pure speaker. And when I say super power...

* for a nearly comprehensive list of all crimes committed by America, its government, citizens, allies, agents, and covert operatives that I accede to, I incorporate by reference the entire contents of wikipedia
posted by Davenhill at 4:02 PM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Um, are there any other photos of this billboard? There's one guy who 'saw' it and one guy who photographed it... and three newspapers who are using the latters photo.

Photoshop?
posted by tmcw at 4:16 PM on February 10, 2010


GrooveJedi: "I do my best to stand right in the middle both parties, I can look at this and laugh my heart out. "

Just a reminder, of course, but right in the middle is actually astoundingly far to the right. So please don't try to hold that up as if you're the voice of profound reason.
posted by graventy at 4:37 PM on February 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


it's hard to say anything without setting someone off

I didn't misunderstand you. The notion that this country has ever been a champion of human rights is pure fiction. Every single right not formerly held solely by rich white guys has been won only through blood, sweat, and tears. We're still arguing about gays in the military and rewriting constitutions to ban gay marriage, for crying out loud. We love to pretend we're the shining city on the hill, but it just ain't so and never has been. I hardly think I was nitpicking.
posted by Camofrog at 4:38 PM on February 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yes, I miss you, George W. Bush.

Do you miss me?
posted by swift at 5:45 PM on February 10, 2010


Davenhill wrote As someone else analogized, blaming Obama for not being able to return to the status quo ante after just one year is a little like an arsonist blaming firefighters for the water damage afterwards.

I agree completely that anyone voicing that that opinion is being more than somewhat silly.

However, I haven't actually seen anyone voice that opinion.

My objection to Obama is that in many areas he seems not merely disinterested in returning us to to the way things were before, but actively engaged in making things worse.

I do not say Obama is the same as Bush, of course he isn't. He's vastly better in many ways.

But unfortunately in many other, often extremely important ways, he seems to be in complete agreement with Bush. Obama doesn't want to restore habeas corpus. The problem is not that he has tried and not done enough, or that he simply hasn't tried, but that Obama has actively worked against habeas corpus and other essential restorations of the Constitution. The problem is not that Obama has been insufficiently successful in closing Guantanamo, but that he has stated explicitly that it is his intention to continue the anti-American and unconstitutional policies that make Guantanamo objectionable.

Yes, he tried to close the physical facility. How does that matter when he says that he fully intends to continue to carry out the policy of Guantanamo elsewhere?

Per Obama's own speeches he intends to continue with the Bush era insanity of a three tiered system of "justice" under which some detainees get real trials, some get military kangaroo courts, and some are simply held in a gulag without being charged, tried, or given access to lawyers.

If the only problem with Obama was merely that he hasn't done enough good, I'd not be objecting. The problem is that in many highly important areas he is actively doing evil.

Again, I'm not saying that Obama is evil, that he's the same as Bush, or any of that nonsense. I am saying that in the most important parts of his presidency he has chosen to continue down Bush's path of evil, and his good works are lessened by that.

He has done many good things, yes. I certainly don't deny that. But I do argue that he has actively and willingly aided and abetted in the further dismantling of the Constitution.
posted by sotonohito at 6:13 PM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh god that billboard is going to give me nightmares tonight.

it's like something straight out of a formulaic horror movie... breath a giant sigh of relief, horror is over, life looks hopeful, cue tranquil music and then WHAM MISS ME YET
posted by stagewhisper at 6:42 PM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


If the only problem with Obama was merely that he hasn't done enough good, I'd not be objecting. The problem is that in many highly important areas he is actively doing evil.

I think the most interesting questions coming out of this center on why his actions (or non-actions) are what they are. I'm not big on micromanaging Obama; I think we tend to have (with the help of the media) exaggerated expectations and misconceptions of what is possible with Presidential power and how quickly can be determined the effects of its use. My thing with Obama is that i was happy to vote for somebody with his intelligence and his stated intentions; I don't expect to know how well he's doing until way down the line, and I don't think we're given anywhere near the full picture of what factors are at play in policy decisions to sufficiently judge their correctness in context of what options are available.

I don't have a reason to doubt Obama's intelligence, and his knowledge and grasp of policy from all its angles is kind of renowned. (I heard this most recently from David Brooks in his interview with Charlie Rose yesterday, whose assessment, to paraphrase, was that Obama pretty much knows and has considered the intricacies of the counterargument you are going to make before you make it). I also don't have a reason to doubt Obama's intentions and that they were sincerely stated; does anyone, other than the crazies who are searching for any shred of some fault?

But then so the interesting questions to me are (1) what does he know that we do not about the policies he is supporting or continuing; (2) in what ways are his options limited that we do not see and he did not foresee; and (3) what larger strategic purpose is served by his decisions and their timing?

But superimposed on this is an opposition that has stated pretty clearly its intent that he be able to accomplish absolutely nothing in any realm they can influence, and who can successfully do so even from a position of ethical bankruptcy and intellectual dishonesty mired in desperation (not to mention the depressing fact that huge chunks of people buy into it). I know that dealing with this is part of his job, and he seems to fight it pretty well, as in the past couple weeks, when he can get people to assess the conflict from a more logical perspective.

I don't think Obama is perfect, and I expect he will have some big failures; he admitted so from the beginning, in terms of wanting to make the effort to try things that might or might not work. But I think he knows more about what he is doing than most who criticize him; even an expert--say, the dreamy Krugman--can criticize him on economics, but to what extent can Krugman speak to his decisions within the context of the other non-economic issues Obama has to balance? Plus, the media have embraced (or likely are just cashing in on) the ridiculous notion that Palin's opinions on Obama's policies are in some way authoritative, as if one would seek a second opinion on a cancer diagnosis from a homeless dude smoking in the parking lot.

So I'm doing pretty much the only practical thing at this point, which is to kind of trust that I voted for the Obama he said he was and let him get to it. I'm not going for the ridiculous notion that he secretly was or has become some closet Cheney. I'm more worried that in all practicality, the vision he had and that many of us were optimistic about is something that is not possible for anyone to achieve given the political and logistic realities and the ever more broken system set up around them, in which case his particular talents might be wasted on us in the here and now. I'm more pessimistic at this point that Obama can do what I thought he was starting to hint at later in the campaign and earlier in his term, which is to become the leader that is inevitably going to have to tell us that it is time for us to control a set of expectations, impulses, and consumption that cannot be sustained--essentially, that he had the charisma and weight to see us through accepting that the party is over before this reality is more painfully forced upon us. The depressing latter point all but buries all optimism I have about what he can accomplish, but I'm at least satisfied that he's the best we've got in terms of leadership to get us there.
posted by troybob at 8:07 PM on February 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


It has to be a birthday present to Dubya from Dick Cheney. What else could it be?
posted by Oyéah at 8:55 PM on February 10, 2010


Yes, someone missed you (with Iraqi shoes).
posted by HyperBlue at 9:01 PM on February 10, 2010


nope.
posted by sexyrobot at 9:23 PM on February 10, 2010


How can we miss him when he won't go away?
posted by Soliloquy at 9:36 PM on February 10, 2010


sotonohito: However, I haven't actually seen anyone voice that opinion.

My objection to Obama is that in many areas he seems not merely disinterested in returning us to to the way things were before, but actively engaged in making things worse
To make things worse, wouldn't Obama need to expand on some of Bush's abuses? I don't think that's going on so much as there are instances where Obama has continued some of Bush's former policies, such as the indefinite detention of about 50 of some 200 Guantanamo prisoners in a legal limbo (neither criminal defendants nor prisoners of war). But note that that each of these 50 detainees has the right to challenge their incarceration in habeas corpus proceedings in federal court.

I agree with you in no uncertain terms that this is unacceptable. Nor will I defend it. But neither will I heap the same amount of blame, yet alone more blame, on Obama than Bush. Also, the decision was not a top down decision by the Obama administration but rather a decision made by a task force comprised of officials from the departments of Defense, State, Homeland Security and Justice, as well as agencies such as the CIA and the FBI. It doesn't make the decision right, or relieve Obama of his ultimate responsibility for the actions of the executive branch, but it should temper the suggestions that Obama has jumped onto the torture bandwagon himself. At least for now.

I also suspect -- but am acutely aware I may end up being wrong -- that the decision was forced on task force by circumstances beyond their control (e.g. evidentiary screw ups by the previous administration*) rather than a deliberate policy preference where other more palatable options were available. I also sincerely hope that this is not the final word on those detainees.

* we have learned that the record keeping keeping on the prisoners at Guantanamo was very poor. In many instances files and information were scattered, poor, and sometimes even non-existent. If you have prisoners you believe to be dangerous, high-ranking terrorists, but the information at hand is currently inadmissible thanks to the sloppiness/arrogance/stupidity of the previous administration... or that more time is needed to collect and process the information against them before, a temporary legal limbo might make sense. (Personally it doesn't make sense to me if you can designate someone a prisoner of war and then later try them for crimes if new evidence arises... but I may be mistaken on that, and in any case thus far the forward progress, slow and awkward as it has been, is a huge improvement over the last administration. I think it's a bit too early to be condemning the Obama administration in this regard. Ask me again in 2 years).
posted by Davenhill at 11:12 PM on February 10, 2010


"But then so the interesting questions to me are (1) what does he know that we do not about the policies he is supporting or continuing; (2) in what ways are his options limited that we do not see and he did not foresee; and (3) what larger strategic purpose is served by his decisions and their timing?"

This argument baffles me the more I hear it. It somehow assumes that we're ignorant and foolish and Mr. Obama has knowledge and wisdom we can never have - and yet that his better knowledge and wisdom continues to result in a failure to act.

Surely Occam's Razor would indicate that things are exactly what they seem - that Mr. Obama really doesn't want to effect significant change and is doing exactly that?

Let's pick healthcare, an issue dear to my heart. The fact is that Mr. Obama has been a miserable negotiator in this issue up and down the line - it's as if he's not even pretending to do a good job.

Even a child knows that in negotiating you must start asking for things you know you can't get, and never give up anything without getting something in return. Yet Obama started by giving up single payer (which is the basically the only system that seems to work!), for free, without getting anything in return! Then he immediately made a secret deal with the pharmaceutical companies which apparently guarantees them the ability to double their profits over 10 years.

This was a bad start - but at this point Mr. Obama gave the bill to "a bipartisan committee" to write - which strikes me as close to insanity - we've seen 20 years of the Republicans refusing to cooperate on anything, no matter how rational, and in this specific case they had gone on record as saying that public health care was Socialism, evil, etc. etc.

How could any rational person possibly expect anything other than what actually happened - which was nothing at all?

And now - he's going to do it all over again! He's going to give it up for discussion again with the Republicans. Does anyone reading this really think this is going to work?

You're claiming that this is because of "strategic purposes", "what we do not know", "limited options". What could these purposes possible be? What hidden information could possibly justify this?

And actually, my primary issue isn't healthcare but the endless, undeclared wars run on credit. And after two budgets with back-to-back, hefty increases in "Defense" spending, with new wars in Yemen, Somalia, drone missile strikes in Pakistan almost literally from day one, yes, we know where Mr. Obama is on this one too.

And, no, I don't believe Mr. Obama has any particularly good information or insight into this matter either. It's 2010, our country is in crisis, we're broke and in two wars. We need to fix our economy, not shovel more money into Middle East wars that will never be resolved properly and result in more people hating Americans every day. Americans are addicted to war, and Mr. Obama represents that addiction.

I wept with relief when Mr. Obama was elected. Now I'm bitter and disgusted that I was so fooled. It's been a year, there's no health plan, they're turning up the wars, Guantanamo is still open with no due date for closing and we know that many men will never get a trial or freedom, not one investment banker or Bush administration official went to jail, don't forget the incredible bungling of the Blackwater case!

I don't miss Bush. But at least with Bush we had some hope that we'd be able to undo some of the damage in the next administration. Now what do we have to hope for?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:52 PM on February 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


"If you have prisoners you believe to be dangerous, high-ranking terrorists, but the information at hand is currently inadmissible thanks to the sloppiness/arrogance/stupidity of the previous administration... or that more time is needed to collect and process the information against them before, a temporary legal limbo might make sense. "

No, this is the thinking of totalitarian, police state countries.

In a free country, if you have lost the evidence that someone is a criminal and cannot gather any more, you allow them to go free with an apology.

Perhaps in a tiny number of cases the person you are allowing to go free is in fact guilty and then goes on to commit more crimes - though considering that many the people in Guantanamo Bay have been tortured continually for over five years I'd be pretty surprised if they could even walk down the street without help, let alone be effective terrorists!

But we decided long ago that one of the core values of our society was a presumption of innocence - that the government is not allowed to imprison people without proving that they were guilty - and this decision was encoded into the Constitution as well as thousands of subsequent court decisions.

I should add that the number of Americans killed by terrorists is tiny compared to any other form of death - particularly compared with the number of innocent people killed by Americans. If those tiny number of deaths cause you to compromise your fundamental values, instantly and forever, why then you simply never meant them in the first place.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:00 AM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Lupus, I'm going to try and talk you down a bit, if you're amenable.

I share your frustration that the Democrats didn't start off the health care debate with single payer as their first choice. It would have been my first choice. But I think it was a non-starter even in the Democratic caucus, yet alone the Republican one. To have started with single-payer when you know it was DOA would have been risky at best, but most likely just foolish. It would have been defeated outright, and subsequent efforts would have lost valuable time, the president and Democrats valuable momentum and goodwill on the subject.

Or to put it another way, the Republicans are basically voting no as a block in the House, filibustering everything in the Senate. Thus reform is entirely dependent on coming up with a plan that can be sold to all Democrats (and now one Republican). Right now, they're struggling with the current plan. Now imagine the current effort had started off with less momentum and less public support. We wouldn't even be here.

As for Obama talking to the Republicans, listening to their ideas, 'starting from scratch' to listen to their concerns this week - it's all kabuki theater. Obama knows the Republicans aren't going to play ball, but he needs to play Charlie Brown to the Republican Lucy, over and over again, so the public can watch the Republicans continue to shaft the charismatic, smiling, likable president over and over again until it actually starts to hurt the GOP. And it's slowly starting to work. The Republicans wouldn't even bother showing up to these meetings if they didn't think it would play into the ever increasing perception that they're obstructionists. It's a rope-a-dope strategy, it's not fun to watch, it drags things out too long, but I'm still putting my money on Obama.

Yeah, I wish the Obama administration had tried prosecuted members of the Bush administration for torture et al. I don't know how easy or hard it would have been to have done so, but I doubt Holder passed on any slam dunk cases. The bad guys just win sometimes. Same with the bankers. But did they break any laws? Or was the real problem the laws? I'm guessing more of the latter than the former.

As for the wars, the US presence in Iraq is winding down. According to a recent BBC article, all US combat troops are still due to be pulled out by this September (2010) in preparation for a full military departure by the end of 2011. Fingers crossed.

As for Afghanistan, my hope is that what the Obama administration is really playing for is the capture or death of OBL. Kill or capture him, then you can stick a fork in that war. Otherwise, if we're really playing to stabilize Afghanistan for the long haul and/or actually defeat al Qaida in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, I don't see an end in sight. I'm really hoping for the former (and I think the huge increase in drone attacks suggest that is exactly what's going on - a massive push to decapitate al Qaida in Pakistan).

Finally, I think it's easy to overlook how much bureaucratic and institutional inertia exists in Washington. Cleaning house after 8 years of an administration is not something that can be done overnight. There are a lot of people, for example government attorneys, who were appointed by Bush who continued their work into the Obama administration. You may recall that the Bush administration got into a lot of trouble for firing government attorneys apparently because they didn't like the cases they were prosecuting (against Republicans) or failing to prosecute (against Democrats).

The new guy stepped into a gigantic organization that was stacked with 8 years of Bush appointees and people advanced by them. A lot of that is just going to carry over for a while. And remind yourself that our level of frustration was already maxed out on day one of Obama's administration due to the previous two terms of pent up outrage.

Just have a little patience and remind yourself how lucky we are to have this guy as our president. And I think people would be a lot more comfortable supporting and liking Obama were it not for the deliberate Republican campaign of mocking him as the messiah. (I suspect they were just projecting).

Obama's policies are moderate (which is to say left of America's center, with the understanding that America's center is now already somewhat to the right) he's intelligent, engaged, communicates well, has a good temperament and attitude, and he's charismatic (given how badly things are going with country, a young, energetic and charismatic president is a hell of a lot more reassuring than a scowling, old guy like McCain, or worse, the vacant, dull stare of a V.P. Palin).

I may not like many of the compromises we end up with, and am sometimes disappointed, but it's a hell of a lot easier to sleep at night knowing Obama is the guy calling the shots than anyone from that crazy psychotic cult they call the GOP.

And really, take some measure of joy at being disappointed in your president for what used to pass for normal political disappointment, e.g. a president who isn't quite progressive as you'd like, a president who compromised more than you would have liked... instead of the last guys who were just light years off the charts in terms of greed, corruption, criminality, fiscal irresponsibility, dishonesty... torture. wars. the economy.
posted by Davenhill at 1:18 AM on February 11, 2010


Davenhill: "Obama knows the Republicans aren't going to play ball, but he needs to play Charlie Brown to the Republican Lucy, over and over again, so the public can watch the Republicans continue to shaft the charismatic, smiling, likable president over and over again until it actually starts to hurt the GOP."

The GOP's base doesn't see the president as likable and smiling, no matter how much he does it, and is reveling in their success at obstructing anything the democrats put forward. Meanwhile the progressive base is utterly demoralized by the party's capitulation and is patiently waiting for a coup de grace in November. Yep, we have the GOP right where we want them. 3D chess.
posted by mullingitover at 1:52 AM on February 11, 2010


Watching people bash Obama when a year has barely passed is like watching a kid get angry at his single mom when his dad is the one who bailed on him years back. It's convenient to unload your disappointment on the prominent figurehead, but it's not really very accurate, realistic or deserved.

Nicely put.
posted by aught at 6:14 AM on February 11, 2010


Davenhill wrote I also suspect -- but am acutely aware I may end up being wrong -- that the decision was forced on task force by circumstances beyond their control (e.g. evidentiary screw ups by the previous administration*) rather than a deliberate policy preference where other more palatable options were available. I also sincerely hope that this is not the final word on those detainees.

How could it be anything other than the final word? A Republican president claimed to have the power to simply toss people in the gulag without needing charges, trials, evidence, lawyers, or any of the other things demanded by the Constitution, and now a Democratic president has agreed that yes, the president does have this dictatorial power. You think President Palin is going to suddenly respect the Constitution after Obama wiped his ass with it?

As for evidentiary screw ups by the previous administration, and boy is that the most PC way I've seen to refer to torture that I've ever seen, we follow the rule of law and toss the case out. That's how "rule of law" works, we have one set of rules, they're applied equally to everyone (yes, even people accused of being very bad people), and if there is insufficient evidence for a conviction, or if the evidence is tainted, then you set those people free. That's the whole point of having a legal system instead of simply allowing the government to randomly toss people in the gulag.

Bush screwed up on the procedures? Tortured them into false confessions? Screwed up the evidence trail? Then they get to go free. You say "it would have been politically bad for Obama to obey the law", and I say too damn bad. It is his job to uphold the US Constitution, not to shred it for short term political gain.

As for it being something "forced" on Obama, I can hardly see how that is possible. Further, I'd argue that when Obama claimed to have the power to assassinate American citizens he pretty much stomped all over your hope that he preferred to actually obey the law rather than claim dictatorial powers for himself.

Obama's policies are moderate (which is to say left of America's center, with the understanding that America's center is now already somewhat to the right)

What worries me about that claim is that you may be right. That merely throwing some people randomly accused of terrorism in the gulag with no charges, trials, or any other Constitutionally mandated things is now viewed as "moderate" rather than "foaming at the mouth rabid fascist".

"Well," you say, "Obama is completely discarding all pretense of rule of law and wiping his ass with the Constitution, but he's only throwing a few people into the gulags without trials. He's giving military kangaroo court show trials to a few others, so he's moderate. Bush would have just let them all rot in America's gulag, so Obama must be better, right?"

Wrong.

Bush started it, yes. No argument, and for that he gets a full share of the blame. But we elected Obama, among other things, because he promised to restore the Constitution and close the gulags. Instead he has chosen to make a half-assed try at closing one physical gulag, while maintaining and strengthening the gulag mentality.

Bush at least had the excuse that he was both stupid and that he had never claimed to have any respect whatsoever for the Constituion. You could convincingly make the argument that Bush is so stupid he wasn't even aware that he was doing something both wrong and unconstitutional. Obama is smart, and worse he is a Constitutional scholar. He knows his history, he knows his law, and he knows that what he is doing is both wrong now and sets truly awful precedents for the future, but he is doing it anyway.

He has given the sacred seal of bipartisanship to the act of desecrating the core judicial values of our nation. In my mind that gives him an equal share of the blame at the very least.

aught Yeah, it was a truly excellent strawman. Want to address my point, or just keep knocking down the strawman Davenhill set up for you?
posted by sotonohito at 6:50 AM on February 11, 2010


Finally, I think it's easy to overlook how much bureaucratic and institutional inertia exists in Washington. Cleaning house after 8 years of an administration is not something that can be done overnight. There are a lot of people, for example government attorneys, who were appointed by Bush who continued their work into the Obama administration. You may recall that the Bush administration got into a lot of trouble for firing government attorneys apparently because they didn't like the cases they were prosecuting (against Republicans) or failing to prosecute (against Democrats).

This is the kind of the thing the Obama admin has to contend with: Turf wars between guys like Rahm Emmanuel and Holder. Not to mention a DOJ packed with staff who served through the Bush admin and in many cases longer, who are much more sympathetic to the previous admin's policies than you or I might be.

In short, as an electorate, we've stood by for years allowing the powers that enthusiastically embraced the Bush agenda (and for that matter, who bought into the original premises of the PNAC report that argued for a radical expansion of American military presence throughout the middle east) to become entrenched as the Washington political establishment. Even among the longtime Democrats we've supported, a significant portion have for many years acquiesced to the kinds of policies Obama has committed himself to trying to reverse.

After decades of loading the Washington power establishment full of exactly the kinds of people who designed and implemented the last administration's policies (to the point that we now have a Supreme Court that doesn't even bother trying to disguise its partisan commitments), you can't just expect electing one guy--even if he is the closest thing to the right guy we could hope for--to reverse these problems under his own steam. We have to keep hammering away at the parts of the power structure actively throwing up resistance: the specific DOJ attorneys who issue findings that carry bad policies forward, the faithless Democratic congressmen who run for the hills whenever it's politically expedient (or even just convenient), the right wing and its relentless obstructionism.

There are thousands and thousands of other cooks in the kitchen in Washington, and in its current form, the senate might as well be an entire body full of Super Presidents unto itself, because, thanks in no small part to Reid's inability or unwillingness to confront the procedural challenges in the senate, any individual senator is effectively more powerful than the president because they can not only actually introduce and pass legislation into law, but they can also block or indefinitely delay action on any issue on the president's agenda and there's currently no way to prevent that as long as the Democratic congressional leadership insists on deferring to the status quo on the procedural rules in the Senate.

I think too many people assume that all of Washington is stepping in line and that any decisions made on the ground are reflections of the administration's will. It's pretty clear to me that even within the Democratic party, there are large factions who do not in any serious way share Obama's commitment to a progressive agenda.

Why is the degree of difficulty Obama faces in Washington so hard for you to understand? I mean, consider just this one historical fact: the oldest current senior ranking Democrat in the Senate, Sen. Robert Byrd, early in his life served in the role of "Exalted Cyclops" in the Ku Klux Klan. The Democratic party has never been some standard-bearer of liberalism. It just so happens to be the one refuge progressives currently have left because the Republican party's insistence on ideological purity won't even let them in through the door (the party of Teddy Roosevelt the modern GOP is not).

Meanwhile, Obama's been doing a lot more than some seem to realize behind the scenes to try to correct damage done in areas like the EPA.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:42 AM on February 11, 2010


Just a reminder, of course, but right in the middle is actually astoundingly far to the right. So please don't try to hold that up as if you're the voice of profound reason.

Of course it seems that way if where you stand is far to the left. ;) I can actually tell the difference between right, middle, and left because I stood next to you, far to the left at one time.
posted by GrooveJedi at 8:55 AM on February 11, 2010


This argument baffles me the more I hear it. It somehow assumes that we're ignorant and foolish and Mr. Obama has knowledge and wisdom we can never have - and yet that his better knowledge and wisdom continues to result in a failure to act.

I think it more assumes that there is a degree of complexity and information that we do not know (and sometimes cannot know) and that is not at all well conveyed by a media that is more consumed with the fight than what is being fought for. (One thing I've heard several times, going back to the election, is how Obama has to struggle to dumb himself down to respond to irrelevant and oversimplified questions from the media--a complaint Bush likely never made. In his speeches, Obama clearly gives us more credit for our intelligence than does the media, which is refreshing for those of us who are not willingly obtuse.) But you bypassed the questions my baffling argument posed. If we're to assume that Obama is freely and purposely promoting policies that are counter to his stated beliefs, then we would have to assume that either (1) he grossly misrepresented himself in order to get elected and all along has secretly wanted to continue Bush policies, or (2) that he has been converted to them and is misrepresenting himself now. Are these explanations simpler (not to mention more realistic) than what we already have a sense of in terms of the procedural and political hurdles necessary to get things done in office? The example highlighted most recently--that of Republicans holding up nominees for positions for reasons that have nothing to do with the nominees or the positions themselves--does that not give some sense of how any other decision in DC must be navigated and resolved?

But also, you seem to be dismissing the likelihood that it could well have been impossible for any leader to accomplish the things you would like in the time frame you are looking at, given systemic and political realities--or to be able to accomplish them and also accomplish any number of other things that are not on your particular radar.
posted by troybob at 9:15 AM on February 11, 2010


I miss that man every day of my life.

Why the hell my aim hasn't improved after all this time, I'll never know.
posted by Space Kitty at 2:09 PM on February 11, 2010


saulgoodman I've no doubt everything you say about institutional inertia is completely correct. It certainly seems to be the case for most of the issues where Obama's desire for hope and change seem to have been about on par with his desire for pizza tonight. I do have problems with the fact that Obama seems not to really give a shit about any of his promises. Maybe he thinks health care reform would be a good idea, but he obviously doesn't think it's important enough to expend any actual energy fighting for.

But that doesn't seem to have much to do with his decision to continue and expand the Bush era gulag program. In this case we don't have Obama fighting with insufficient vigor against institutional inertia, but rather Obama going completely to the other side and embracing with gusto the exact polar opposite of what he campaigned on.

He has, several times, explicitly stated that he intends to follow through on the mockery of justice Bush set in motion, has claimed to have the presidential power to simply order the CIA to assassinate any American he decides is a terrorist, etc.

If he's struggling mightily against institutional inertia he's not merely doing so in secret, but is actively covering up his attempts by publicly stating that he really loves the idea of a gulag system and a lawless executive branch.

Institutional inertia is present, no doubt. But that isn't what seems to be at work here.

troybob wrote If we're to assume that Obama is freely and purposely promoting policies that are counter to his stated beliefs, then we would have to assume that either (1) he grossly misrepresented himself in order to get elected and all along has secretly wanted to continue Bush policies, or (2) that he has been converted to them and is misrepresenting himself now.

I don't know. I know that candidate Obama swore that he truly did intend to uphold the Constitution, that he would end the gulag system established by Bush, and that president Obama has done the exact polar opposite.

I can't speculate as to his motivation. I simply know that he has done a complete about face on the subject of America's gulags, that the media and many on the left seem to think this is a minor and inconsequential issue that only real crazy people get upset about, and that no, damnit, this isn't something that is negotiable. Either we are, or are not, a nation of laws. Either we are, or are not, a nation where the president has dictatorial powers to toss someone in the gulag on a whim (or simply order the CIA to assassinate them, another power Obama claims he possesses).

By "political hurdles" I presume you mean "doing the Constitutionally mandated thing might give the right wing crazies ammo with which to reduce his reelection chances", and I say that is a piss poor reason to shred the Constitution and continue Bush's gulag system. If that is the case, and Obama has chosen to shred the Constitution and embrace Bush's gulag system out of fear of harming his reelection prospects than I argue that he should be impeached immediately. No president should but his reelection above the Constitution.
posted by sotonohito at 3:09 PM on February 11, 2010


I do have problems with the fact that Obama seems not to really give a shit about any of his promises.

I do not for the life of me understand how you could possibly believe this if you've been paying attention. I couldn't disagree more thoroughly. I've seen exactly the opposite: on promise after promise, Obama is STILL fucking trying despite the best efforts of just about everyone else, as much as his opponents are trying to foster the vague impression that he isn't among the public (effectively, it seems). We just don't see eye to eye at all.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:45 AM on February 12, 2010


The only time I've seen him expend any effort was when he sent Rham in to twist the arms of liberal Representatives who opposed his escalation in Afghanistan. On pretty much everything else he seems to give a pretty speech and then run off and hide while Congress does squat. When asked for help or advice he tells Congressional leaders to give the most evil and conservative members everything they want and not to try any bare knuckle stuff at all.

See: health care reform and his specific order to Reid to give Lieberman everything.

I'm willing to admit that I may be wrong. Do please link to any evidence of Obama being willing to expend political capital, twist arms, etc in pursuit of non-conservative legislative goals. Pretty speeches don't count.

This, as I said, is a completely different topic from the fact that Obama has completely reversed himself on gulags, justice, and the Constitution and now advocates for the continuation and expansion of the Bushian system.

I'd probably be a lot more willing to cut Obama slack and see his performance in other areas differently if it weren't for the fact that in the single most important area he is actively and aggressively pursuing the worst, most evil, course of action that exists. When a man takes a giant shit on the Constitution and declares that he has the power to simply toss people in gulags without any legal niceties I tend to see him in a bad light.
posted by sotonohito at 7:02 AM on February 12, 2010


On pretty much everything else he seems to give a pretty speech and then run off and hide while Congress does squat.

That's bullshit.
Obama's Brilliant First Year -- "By January 2010, he will have accomplished more than any first-year president since Franklin Roosevelt."

A World of Change in 287 Days.

Obama’s first year was a success despite the common wisdom of the Right Wing.
posted by ericb at 7:28 AM on February 12, 2010


Obama has announced he will personally select location of KSM trial.

You know. After he's done heading for the hills.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:54 AM on February 12, 2010


ericb ok, reading those I see that they mainly talk about:

1) The bankster bailout. I note that this is a continuation of Bush era policies, and includes absolutely no new regulation on banks. I can't say that giving the banksters a lot of money but failing to put in place any new regulations seems like an especially great idea. And, it was just continuing Bush's policies, hardly a bold new direction. He hardly had to fight for that one, considering it was Bush policy to begin with.

2) Health Care Reform. Which is the example I gave of Obama making a few pretty speeches than running away while Congress (especially the Senate) does nothing worthwhile. A year later we have a bill that is unacceptable to a large number of progressives and won't get through the Republican filibuster in the Senate, and is largely as shitty as it is precisely because Obama did no arm twisting but rather surrendered completely to the most vile Democratic Senators who exist. You want me to count that as a victory? It's exhibit A in my case for Obama not fighting for progressive causes. No one even threatened to yank Lieberman's chairs, but Obama sure is pissy at the progressives who dare to suggest that maybe forcing Americans to buy health insurance without any meaningful restraints on that industry.....

3) Pretty speeches about foreign policy abroad. Yes, those are nice. I'm glad that of the many Bush policies Obama is continuing, the Bush policy of deliberately pissing off the rest of the world isn't one of them. No, this is hardly an example of Obama accomplishing much, or fighting for progressive goals.

What he's fought tooth and nail for was a military escalation in Afghanistn, that he was willing to pull bare knuckle political games for. Closing the physical Guantanamo facility? He made a pretty speech and then did squat. Continuing the Bush gulag system and shitting on the Constitution, Obama is out there taking huge dumps and aggressively pushing the Bush gulag system.

I ask again: show me examples of Obama actually fighting for progressive causes. Because, to me, it continues to look like he doesn't get shit done, except for his precious war plans, and the only people he ever stands up to are us progressives who got him into office in the first place. Show me where he twists conservative Democrat arms.

saulgoodman Great, he's willing to pitch in a little for one of the few accused terrorists he deigns to give a real trial to. Talk to me about the others he's just tossing in the gulags. Talk to me about the others he's only willing to give show trials in military kangaroo courts.

I note you don't want to address that point. You keep sidetracking into the other topic of my feeling that Obama is insufficiently willing to fight for secondary progressive causes while completely ignoring the vastly more important point that Obama is aggressively pushing for a continuation of the worst thing that has been done to American justice in a very long time.

He campaigned on restoring the Constitution, got into office and decided to do the exact opposite on the single most important issue there is.

So, yeah, I'll give him a minor little bit of karma for doing a very little for a single case. This doesn't seem to be the profile of a man who fights for progressive causes, or really any of the stuff (except for his decision to kill a lot more people in Afghanistan, he fought like hell for that) he promised on the campaign trail.

He's continuing to shit on the Constitution, continuing to aggressively claim the ability to not merely toss people in the gulag on a whim, but even to order the CIA to assassinate American citizens on a whim, and you want me to be happy because he's getting very slightly involved in giving a single person a trial? I don't think so.

Wake me up when he twists conservative Democrat arms on repealing DADT. Wake me up when he gets aggressive and starts yanking pork from the districts of key Republicans in the opposition. Don't bother me when he gets a little involved in one of the very few people to whom he's willing to give a real trial instead of simply tossing in the gulag. That isn't boldly supporting progressive causes.
posted by sotonohito at 8:15 AM on February 12, 2010


Wake me up when...

Or you could just wake up now.
posted by troybob at 8:42 AM on February 12, 2010


troybob Links to evidence to support your implicit claim that Obama is fighting against the conservative Democrats? I'd love to believe what you say is true, but I'm afraid I can't just take that on faith.

saulgoodman Re: the story about Obama being involved in the location for the trial:
And Holder, in an interview Thursday, left open the possibility that Mohammed’s trial could be switched to a military commission, although he said that is not his personal and legal preference.
So, yeah. Obama is going to be involved, but can't even commit to giving Mohammed a real trial, nope a show trail before a military kangaroo court is still an option. Bets that Obama chooses a "military commission" instead of a real trial? This is the man who thinks it's perfectly fine to toss people into the gulag without even bothering with a show trial after all.

But it's so nice that Holder says a show trial in a military kangaroo court isn't his "personal preference". He'll do it in a heartbeat, but he prefers not to. I'm so happy that even though my elected officials will cheerfully toss people into the gulag they have a "personal preference" for trails. That makes it all better.
posted by sotonohito at 9:01 AM on February 12, 2010


Meanwhile, your ideological counterparts on the other end of the political spectrum are out making the talk show rounds to make the case that Obama's anti-torture policy is costing America the War on Terrah, because the CIA's torture program was (and I quote, with additions for clarity in brackets):

"[the CIA torture program that Obama shut down was]...the single most successful and importance intelligence program we have in the war on terror and possibly in the history of the CIA," Thiessen said.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:10 AM on February 12, 2010


"So, yeah. Obama is going to be involved [sticking his neck out politically like you keep claiming he doesn't], but [Holder, the guy Obama just took off the job of picking the location] can't even commit to giving Mohammed a real trial, nope a show trail before a military kangaroo court is still an option [therefore, that is exactly what will happen, and that outcome must now and forever be assumed in advance as given]"

Am I translating this correctly?
posted by saulgoodman at 9:17 AM on February 12, 2010


Am I translating this correctly?

You forgot the word gulag. Just stick it in anywhere.
posted by troybob at 10:05 AM on February 12, 2010


Let me step back a moment and try for a more straightforward and less emotionally wrought statement.

I have two major objections to Obama. The first is that I perceive him as being insufficiently active in promoting his progressive goals, especially in comparison to his activity in promoting his extreme right wing goals. The disparity in how Obama dealt with Congress WRT Health Care vs. Afghanistan is illustrative of my general dissatisfaction with Obama. He seems to expend a great deal of effort, and is apparently willing to engage in bare knuckle politics, only when his opponents are liberals and the goal is conservative. In other instances he seems content to allow the most conservative members of the Democratic party to dictate things.

That, while it is worrying in terms of political future (ie: I suspect it will disengage the young, first time, voters who got Obama into office and they will not be voting in 2012), is the least of my objections to Obama.

My much more significant objection is that Obama has completely abandoned his proclaimed commitment to the rule of law.

Whether or not the current suspect du jour gets a real trial, a military commission, or is simply locked away forever with neither trial nor charges is largely irrelevant to the central fact: Obama has repeatedly committed himself to the notion that the legal process is optional, and may be dispensed with at the whim of the president.

That, saulgoodman, is why I do think that Obama will (under what authority?) decide that Mohammed won't get a real trial. Why should he? Obama has already decided that trials, evidence, charges, etc are luxuries that the executive branch may cast aside whenever they become inconvenient. Since principle has been abandoned already, why would Obama waste his time, popularity, or political energy giving one person a trial when he denies trials to others? I'm at a loss to explain why Obama thinks giving any of them trials is worthwhile, since he has already abandoned the very concept of justice, equality, and adherence to Constitutional demands.

It is that latter objection that makes me truly despair, and inspires genuine outrage. I knew when I voted for him both in the primaries and the general election that Obama was a right wing Democrat with a fixation on the myth of "bipartisanship". I'll admit that I hoped the latter was merely a ploy for votes rather than a true reflection of his attitudes, and I find his continuing faith in bipartisanship (despite a full year of Republican stonewalling), to be frustrating, but neither are at the heart of my objection to Obama.

As I said, I'll vote for him next time for the simple reason that the alternative is so much worse.

But his utter abandonment of the most basic principles of justice cause me despair for the future of my nation. At this point I can't see how we can ever come back. As long as shredding the Constitution was limited to one party there was a chance for recovery, but now, thanks entirely to Obama, the idea that the president can arbitrarily decree that anyone is a "terrorist", have them tortured and imprisoned forever with neither charges nor trial, has become so deeply embedded that I simply cannot see how it will ever be rectified.

troybob wrote You forgot the word gulag. Just stick it in anywhere.

I have used the term exclusively to refer to Guantanamo, hardly arbitrary or just stuck in anywhere. What else would you call places where people are sent to be tortured on a governmental whim?

Guantanamo is not a jail. A jail is where people go while waiting for a trial and Obama has decreed that trials are a privilege granted only to a few of the people held at Guantanamo. Self evidently Guantanamo is not a jail. Neither is it a prison. A prison is where people who have been convicted in a trial are sent. The victims of Guantanamo have not been charged with any crimes, they have not been convinced of any crimes, and per Obama's own plans many never will be. They have been tortured, several tortured to death, many are apparently driven mad by their treatment. Only one word that I'm aware of comes close, and that word is "gulag".

I'll admit that "gulag" is not entirely appropriate, the Soviet gulags were destructive labor camps for their political prisoners, and apparently at Guantanamo torture, not destructive labor, is the only method by which our government kills its victims. However since the death of the victims is not the main goal at Guantanamo calling it a "death camp" is also inappropriate.

What term would you use?
posted by sotonohito at 8:38 AM on February 15, 2010


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