Saturday, July 05, 2008

Buyer's Remorse?

Take a good look at that photograph above. Wouldn't they make a handsome First Family? And those two gorgeous kids? Cute as a button, huh? Wouldn't you just love to see a family like that living in the Executive Mansion? I know I sure would!

The Democrats were kind enough to remind me this week why I bolted that stupid party almost a decade ago. The reaction to Barack Obama's "adjustments" with regard to his views on American troop withdrawal from Iraq and the FISA law had me asking the musical question, "Don't these crybabies understand a thing about politics?" I fully expected the Republicans to make an issue out of this, but the freaking Democrats??? I mean, just take a deep breath and get a grip here, folks!

Rule Number One:
When a Democratic candidate for the office of the presidency runs in a primary, it is usually a pretty good idea to campaign from the left. After he or she has secured the nomination, the rule of thumb is that one needs to shift significantly toward the center during the general election. The same rule applies for the GOP - only in reverse: Campaign from the (extreme) right in the primaries, move to the center in the general. Please understand, I have no degree in political science. What I am talking about is called "a no-brainer" - Politics 101. Why is it, then, that so many people within the so-called "base" of the Democratic Party have yet to figure out this very simple fact of political life? What the hell is the matter with these people?

Here is what Barack Obama faces in the general election in the autumn: Over two and a half decades ago, the presidency of Ronald Reagan set out on a course that has all but destroyed the infrastructure of a country that used to be a pretty nice place in which to live. And yet, almost thrirty years later, the majority of the American people look back on his two terms with a tender nostalgia that borders on mental retardation and defies the belief of anyone who has bothered to pay attention all these years. What I am trying to say is that Senator Obama has the delicate mission of winning the hearts and minds of a nation of idiots. These are the same folks who in 2000 thought that sending a murderous, half-witted little thug named George W. Bush to the White House was a really neat idea. Four years later, they compounded that mistake by repeating it! Let us face some serious facts here, campers: these are people who desperately need to be pandered to. We're talkin' lowest common denominator here.

The next four months will find Barack saying and doing a lot of really nutty and stupid things in order to appease a nation chock full of nutty and stupid people. Don't panic. That is the only way one can get elected president in this county! Trust me on this one.

The charge that is now being leveled against the Senator from Illinois is that he is just another politician. Let's 'fess up. He is a politician - and a damned good one. That's probably one of the reasons he went into politics in the first place! Next time you're passing by Mount Rushmore, take a good look at the faces carved into the mountain's side. What did George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt all have in common? They were politicians. What made them masters in the art of politics was the fact that in order to get elected to public office, they had to occasionally utter words that they knew were (to be polite) misleading or (to be not so polite) out-right lies. I'm not makin' this stuff up folks; it's all in the historical record. That old fable about little Georgie Washington and the cherry tree ("Father, I cannot tell a lie....") is a lovely little parable. It is also prime and pure bullshit.

Why Abraham Lincoln stands out across the historical landscape is the fact that while he might have been "just another politician", he was undeniably a principled one. But like all of them, he was not perfect - far from it. The most human qualities of all of the great men and women of history are their historical imperfections:

The reason Thomas Jefferson is remembered one-hundred and eighty two years - almost to the day - after his death (he and John Adams would both die on the Fourth of July, 1826) is because he was democracy's first great philosopher.We remember his Notes on the State of Virginia and Declaration of Independence. We tend to forget that, although he abhorred the institution of slavery, he was himself a slave owner. Woodrow Wilson is today held up by the Democrats as a farsighted visionary for his efforts to have America included in the League of Nations. What the Dems conveniently omit from their bios of Wilson is the nasty little fact that he was a horrible racist and a staunch segregationist of the worst order. Republican Theodore Roosevelt was one of our greatest presidents. Having said that, it must also be said that history is most fortunate indeed that no war erupted during his seven-and-a-half years in office. Given his none-too-subtle desire for an American empire, the results might have been disastrous.

It must honestly be conceded that these icons of America's past, good and great men though they were, were also mortals susceptible to all of the frivolities of human imperfection. It also goes without saying that they were not always honest with the people to whom they were elected to represent.

The sad truth is that occasional deception is essential to a successful career in politics. While running for his third term in 1940, Franklin Delano Roosevelt - undoubtedly the greatest president of the twentieth century - said that he would never send America's sons off to fight and die in a European war. He was lying. FDR knew damned good and well that he would eventually be forced to confront the menace of Hitler. Had he uttered the awful truth during that long ago campaign, it is a certainty that Wendell Wilkie would have been elected and we'd all be speaking German today (Seig Heil!) In 1960 Jack Kennedy (who also turned out to be a pretty good chief executive) campaigned against Vice-President Richard Nixon on the issue of a missile gap between the United States and the Soviet Union that he knew didn't even exist! At the dawn of his one term in the White House, Jimmy Carter (a good man but a lousy president) told the American people, "I will never lie to you". He did. Repeatedly.

Here are two recent, infamous lies uttered by two different, infamous presidents:

Lie Number One:
"I did not have sex with that woman - Ms. Lewinsky."

Lie Number Two:
"The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

Examine them closely, boys and girls. Lie Number One was a pathetic effort to cover up a personal and private matter that was no one's business but the liar in question. Lie Number Two was an effort to embark on an unnecessary war that has, thus far, led to the deaths of an estimated one million men, women and little children. Now, ask yourselves the following question: WHICH LIE DO YOU THINK INSPIRED THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES TO INITIATE IMPEACHMENT PROCEEDINGS? American politicians are kind of funny that way, aren't they?

And while we're on the subject of presidential whoppers, remember this golden oldie from Ronald Reagan?

"My heart tells me that we did not trade arms for hostages with Iran, but the facts tell me otherwise."

A classic non denial/denial from the Gipper!

As has been said, an occasional lie in order to benefit the national purpose, may be a necessary, even positive thing. The problem comes when you have an administration like this one - where lying is a large and essential part of their overall policy. Bill Clinton's lie about having a fling with a half-witted intern did this country no harm whatsoever. What did incalculable damage was the reaction to that lie or - more properly - the overreaction to it. George W. Bush's lie on the other hand, which led directly to the stupidest military blunder in American history, has done the type of harm that will take generations to repair. A century from today, July 5, 2108, will find our puzzled heirs still picking up the pieces of the mess that was made in eight short years by this hilariously incompetent, imbecilic president.

Will there be times when Barack Obama deceives us during the campaign of 2008? Absolutely there will. He's gonna lie like a rug, baby! He would be an utter fool if he didn't. Is there anyone out there silly enough to believe that John McCain won't do the same? Would anyone deny that he, too, is "just another politician"? Just two years ago, McCain was denouncing the torture techniques being used against prisoners of war by the Bush Mob. Today he has no problem with it. In the first four years of this disgusting administration, he condemned George W. Bush's policy of tax cuts for the uber rich at the expense of the poor and middle classes. Today he tells us (with a straight face, no less!) that he has every intention of continuing those policies as president. Whom do you think is the more principled of the two politicians: Barack Obama, who has maintained a decided degree of consistency throughout - or John McCain, who doesn't even vaguely resemble the lone "maverick" he portrayed himself to be during the Republican primaries of 2000? True, McCain may very well be exercising the Machiavellian techniques of deception which are essential to victory. Maybe a McCain administration would surprise us in the long run. The only problem with that little scenario is this: it wouldn't be that much of a surprise. To say that Senator McCain would make a better president than George W. Bush is merely a classic case of damning by faint praise.

If there is anything that is beyond argument it is the fact that America needs to change its ways. John McCain does not in any way represent that type of change. Barack Obama does. Woodrow Wilson had the New Freedoms; FDR had the New Deal; JFK had the New Frontier; Bill Clinton had the New Covenant (whatever the hell that meant). In Senator Obama, we have been offered the New Direction. We need to go there.

Tom Degan
From the Great American Weekend
Goshen, NY

When Presidents Lie
by Eric Alterman


At 6:22 AM, Anonymous MACAM said...

"winning the hearts and minds of a nation of idiots." Great to see a bit of cultural honesty... GOOD LUCK !

At 1:04 PM, Anonymous Linda said...

Yours is the one place I come to to regain some perspective when the radicals from both directions try to drive me off my course. Thank you for being a voice of reason and reality.

At 1:08 PM, Blogger Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...

Dear Linda,
This hasn't been one of my best days on a personal level. Reading your kind words cheered me to no end!

Tom Degan

At 4:55 PM, Blogger stoney13 said...

Great one, Tom! George Carlin would have been proud!

Teddy Roosevelt once said, "There is no room in Washington for an honest man!"

He then proceeded to prove the point, by proclaiming himself a "Bull Moose"! And impervious to gunshot wounds!

Of course with Teddy Roosevelt, it could not, in all honesty be considered a lie! He actually believed himself to be a bull moose, and, as such, impervious to gunshot wounds!

Good Job, Tom!

At 8:25 PM, Anonymous Dr. Rick Lippin said...


I stand with you.

Keep up the great writing.

It is at once both insightful and inspiring.

Be Well,

Dr. Rick Lippin

At 2:00 PM, Anonymous The Job Angel said...


This is why I love your blog. Reasoning is in short supply and I can always dip my cup into the well of reasoning here.

While time normally flies past my window, these next five month's are going to feel like dog years! You help to take away the pain of waiting for America to do what's right.

Thank you for being such a blessing to me.


At 7:40 PM, Blogger Fabianna said...

They WOULD make a nice looking First family. Even though that is not what is important, but it adds a little something when they are also "easy on the eyes". I really think I haven´t seen such a nice looking "dream" since JFK. The Clintons might have pulled it off had it not been for Chelsea. Bill and Hillary werent bad looking back then, and while Chelsea is looking quite attractive THESE days, timing couldn`t have been WORSE for her when they moved to D.C.

At 12:00 AM, Anonymous Georgette Orwell said...

We're like Charlie Brown and the football--we can't help just hoping that *this* time people can tolerate the truth so a politician will be allowed to tell it.

However, as we get up from the dust where we've fallen after a mighty attempt to launch that pigskin, I think we may have grazed the football with our toes this time.

At 7:56 AM, Blogger Fabianna said...

Let´s hope Obama doesn´t yank the football away...

At 2:54 PM, Blogger Ali Zaidi said...

I usually enjoy your comments on AlterNet, however I disagree with your conclusions here.

What is your evidence that Obama will not continue the status-quo?

Obama has 'adjusted', 'refined', or simply flipped his positions on all major issues.

Clinton sold-out the middle-class to earn a 2nd term in office (NAFTA, WTO, 'Welfare Reform') not to mention his opportunistic signing of DOMA.

Obama had the potential to bring about a new, progressive era by hammering in the real issues (health-care, education, retirement, jobs, economy).

I mean, just look around America. We don't produce anything of value anymore; our jobs are getting offshored; our healthcare sucks...

Well, the list is long, and an articulate, charismatic politician, could bring out the electorate on these issues.

Yet Obama, being the neoliberal hack, will follow the policies of Bush-Clinton-Reagan.

I don't think you have made a case as to why liberal ought to vote for Obama.

At 5:33 PM, Blogger Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...

Dear Al,
You make some excellent points, pardner. Truth be told, by nominating Senator Obama, the base of the Democratic party is taking one hell of a chance. I have to believe that, given the man's background, that this is not our father's Democratic politician. We may very well find ourselves back here four years from now bitter and frustrated that he let us down. But he is our only choice. Ralph Nader - God bless him - does not have a chance. Barack Obama is the most extraordinary candidate to come along since Jack Kennedy forty-eight years ago. We have no other choice than to stick by his side.


Tom Degan

At 12:37 AM, Blogger Prairie Waif said...

"Obama has 'adjusted', 'refined', or simply flipped his positions on all major issues."

I am not convinced that this is a case worth arguing. Barack Obama hasn't "adjusted, "refined" or "flipped" on positions as I have further educated myself into his previous statements on the issues that the "pundits" (*spit*) are trying their damndest to *make* news, instead of *reporting* news.

These so called "adjustments," "refinements" and "flip-flops" are manufactured; go back through his recorded statements and the man has spoken this way previously. "Refinement" is an editorializing word which in reality means, "Barrack Obama discussed, in greater depth, the position he stated in the Primary." Period. No scary editorial words that can "fake you out"; without you even knowing you bought what you didn't know was being sold, specifically to you.

They are so off the rails of journalistic integrity, they cannot even participate in introducing a story without editorializing words, which those ignorant of media manipulation and even basic linguistics do not "catch" before being lead from the Rose Garden into the Briar Patch.

Basic and common-form of today's "journalist/pundit;" (*spit*) "Today, in a heated and staunch Republican stronghold, where union jobs have been lost by the thousands, Senator Obama attempted to sway the crowd with a smoothly delivered message on the economy."

All those editorializing words are scary to the uninitiated. Who the hell is running these two campaigns? Wolf Blitzer, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Anne Coulter, Laura Ingram, and Bill O'Reilly? Their so called reporting shapes the elections cycle and fear of one candidate/wife and then finds another bogey-issue to scare the public with "news", spurious and specious as each nugget of GOSSIP. They equate to watching the "Faux Gnus Gnatwerk's" political calvacade or the election-cyle version of Entertainment Tonight and TMZ.

Sure! We know where Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann and Ed Schultz stand, firmly in Camp Obama, but they are not CLAIMING to hold the journalistic high ground, and "no spin" as CNN and Faux Gnus Gnatwerk do by pretending, to "rise above the fray" of editorializing as the above mentioned previous three enjoy and so SO WELL.

Thank God for Bill Moyers, the BBC and the CBC. The rest of the "4th Estate" is as healthy as the housing market, attempting to sell cheap and fast before the fall (i.e. media savvy trumps editorial scary stupidity).

Thanks for the reassuring message and excellent Rant; as usual, a voice in the wilderness of scare tactic "straight journalistic reports."

Rant on!


At 10:33 AM, Anonymous shehova said...

Oh, Tom! There is none so blind as he who will not see!

At 10:37 AM, Blogger Libertine said...

Good post.

Politics is all about compromise. Politicians have to work with a lot of people they don't agree with, so if no one ever compromised, nothing would ever get done.

I'm fellow Alternet commenter and I'll be back to visit your blog.

At 9:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Politicians left and right want us to trust them. They give constant speeches on what they are going to do, what they plan to do.

At the end of the day, what really matters is how they vote (and in the case of the President how he uses or doesn't use the military).

Obama voted as a Republican. He has all but cinched the Presidency as it is. He could have stood up for what is right.

You want to have faith in Obama and you are letting that desire color your judgement of him. You are trying to find hidden motives, parsing his statements, to contine justifying your faith.

This is a world of proof, evidence, facts. The fact is Obama's vote on FISA was a vote to let the companies involved get off without financial penalty.

If those companies had lost a lot of money in court it would have given QWest a leg up in competing against those other telecoms as they did not help Bush with his illegal spying program.

But then again, why should I be surprised about your faith in Barack, you think FDR was the greatest President of the 20th century.

Look up Wickard v Filburn. That court case was a direct result of his policies. It is one of the worst overreaches of Federal Government power in the history of our nation.

Sorry, but I don't trust your judgement and I don't trust Obama. Obama no doubt has a polling staff that researches how his vote on this issue would affect his election chances. If the left has the mindset that they will let him get away with this vote all he has learned is that he can take the party base for granted.

Well he cannot take me for granted.

At 10:02 AM, Blogger Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...

Listen, his recent votes have me troubled as well. But they must be viewed within the overall context of his political strategy. Look at his voting record before he secured the nomination. It's fairly (although, admittedly not totally) impressive. I believe that an Obama adminstration might be transformative for a country that is in desperate need of transformation.

Tom Degan

At 10:34 AM, Anonymous Dangerous Dave said...

Tom, you make a great point. He IS a politican and the best one we could still vote for. Was I upset at Barack? You better believe it! However, I have heard him speak on it (voting for it) and reading your insight does give me a different view on it. Am i upset? Hell yes. Lets thank "da lord" that the ACLU is going after this like the wild aminals they are. GO ACLU! Fight for our rights!

At 2:39 PM, Blogger Pexster said...

I agree with Ali. Also, how can we reach this "common knowledge" conclusion about moving to the center when no one has had the courage to maintain a principled campaign? Look what Ross Perot accomplished. I would like to believe someone with a progressive agenda can MOVE the center.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home