An Open Letter to the Left

Hello. It’s Jeff. I know, I don’t blog much lately. I’ve been busy. I have a job that’s actually fairly demanding and a 9-year-old kid and a life. Plus, I have to admit, given a choice between writing jeremiads or watching Doctor Who on Netflix, I’m choosing the Netflix. It’s less depressing. And when I need to vent, there’s always Twitter.

But still, there’s something that I feel I need to bring up. Something that’s been becoming more and more clear to me over the past couple years, since around the time of the health care reform debate.

But first, let me start by talking about the right. We all know the right. They’re completely delusional, right? Out of control, drunk on anger and incohate rage, fed by a steady diet of propaganda from Fox and Rush Limbaugh. Amirite?

Well, no. First, it’s important to get delusional out of there — it’s ableist, yes, but moreover, it’s simply not true. Right-wingers aren’t delusional. They’re quite rational. They’re just dealing with a reality that doesn’t really exist.

The right is reacting exactly as any rational group of individuals would to the facts they’re given. If the president is really a communist secret Muslim out to turn America into a caliphate, while stealing your money and personal freedom, then yes, he’s someone that needs to be stopped at all costs. If you don’t step outside the bubble you don’t see the facile nature of the arguments, the actual facts that don’t fit with the spin. You accept as a given that what Fox tells you is true, and you go with that.

As for Fox, certainly, some of what they report are outright lies. But much more of what they spew is not, not exactly. They have sources, however flimsy. They have references and hyperlinks, albeit ones to questionable, fly-by-night operations. They’re not lying, or at least, they can tell themselves they aren’t. They’re just mainstreaming information that comes from dubious sources, because that information fits their narrative.

Around the time of the health care debate, this same pattern began on the left.

Probably, it’s always been there. But it was at that time that it really began to get traction. Firedoglake began amplifying the message that Obama was selling out the left, that he was intentionally trying to undermine the public option in order to…something. It was never made clear exactly why Obama would work against a policy that he had specifically endorsed, other than that it meant Obama was in thrall to Big Business.

Of course, Obama never did what the FDL crowd accused him of. It never happened. The public option was stripped from the bill for mundane reasons — it didn’t have enough support to get through the Senate. But that didn’t fit the FDL narrative, which is why they chose to believe and amplify information that came from dubious sources, because that information fit their narrative.

Since then, the left wing of the American left has been more and more invested in finding bits of data to fit their narrative, rather than reacting to facts. Bradley Manning? He couldn’t have been arrested for stealing military secrets, then treated badly in jail, though not uniquely so. He had to be a political prisoner, one who Barack Obama had literally ordered to be tortured. The Assange rape case? It couldn’t be, you know, an actual case where women had been raped. It had to be a “honeytrap,” a plot by the CIA to get Assange to the US, where he could be killed, or, alternately, a case of women who shouldn’t be allowed to cry “rape” over a little thing like someone not using a condom when he’d agreed to and then refusing to stop when he was told to stop. And now, the unbelievably stupid crackdowns on Occupy Wall Street in New York and Oakland and Berkley? They couldn’t be the combination of mayoral stupidity and police that have been slowly militarized over the past three decades. No, this has to be a coordinated plot, run out of the Oval Office, to destroy Occupy Wall Street.

Karoli has a good run-down on the completely non-existent underpinnings of that last charge. Suffice to say that one article ran on a questionable website. It was loudly trumpeted by grifter and professional narcissist Michael Moore on Keith Olbermann’s show, and now it’s been taken worldwide by Naomi Wolf, who was last seen simultaneously defending Assange from the mean women who he may have raped and burning every bridge between herself and the feminist community.

Of course, the story is too good to check, because it echos everything the pro-left wants to echo. Obama’s a corporatist lackey who really doesn’t want to improve things for anyone, and who harbors a very-well-hidden authoritarian streak. He’s to the right of Reagan, and anyone who doubts that just hasn’t read enough articles on FDL and Truthout.

The people who say this are not delusional. They are perfectly rational. If you don’t step outside the bubble, you don’t see the facile nature of the arguments, the actual facts that don’t fit with the spin. You accept as a given that what the pro-left tells you is true, and you go with that.

Enough.

Look, as we on the left are fond of hurling at the right, we’re entitled to our own opinions, but not our own facts. And too often lately, the left is going on with their own facts at the same time the right is going on with theirs. And this leads us to where we are now, where there is literally no common ground between the activists in both parties, because both sides are so certain that they are right, and everyone else is wrong.

The truth is messy. It doesn’t fit into narratives, and it’s often uncomfortable. But damn it, it’s the truth. If the left decides to completely divorce itself from reality at the same time the right does, then we are in trouble — big trouble.

So, lefties, I am asking you politely: please stop. Stop pretending that questionable sources are the gospel truth. Stop pretending that rumor and innuendo are the same as facts. Stop listening to anything Moore and Wolf and Hamsher are saying — because their concern for the truth is roughly the same as that of Hannity and Limbaugh and Coulter, and believe me, it pains me to say that, but it’s true.

Stop fighting the truth, and start accepting it. And when possible, work to improve it. For the good of our country and our world, please.

Sincerely,

Jeff

This entry posted in Economics and the like, Elections and politics, Media criticism. Bookmark the permalink. 

38 Responses to An Open Letter to the Left

  1. 1
    Robin Lionheart says:

    Right-wingers aren’t delusional…. If the president is really a communist secret Muslim out to turn America into a caliphate….

    In General Psychopathology (1913) Karl Jaspers defined three main criteria for a belief to be considered delusional: absolute certainty, imperviousness to compelling counterargument, and impossibility.

    Like Orly Taitz’s still‐held evidence‐proof faith that President Obama is not a natural‐born citizen of the United States, an unshakable conviction that “the president is really a communist secret Muslim out to turn America into a caliphate” fits not only the colloquial, but also the medical, definition of “delusion”.

  2. 2
    Elusis says:

    left wing of the American left

    I’m about as left as the American left gets – I’m basically a socialist. And I don’t know anyone who seriously believes either the “Obama killed healthcare” or the “Wikileaks honeypot” thing. I saw some folks initially circulate the Naomi Wolf column, which frankly isn’t nearly so far off the “reality based community” mark as a lot of the stuff that comes out of Fox et al, but have just as rapidly seen the takedown circulate as well.

    Because that’s the difference, IMHO, between Right and Left in America right now: one is interested in critical thinking and evidence, and one is not. One side in fact essentially has it as a policy plank that gathering and reviewing evidence should be avoided at all costs.

  3. 3
    selise says:

    The truth is messy.

    agreed. but here’s the thing…. with regard to the health care debate, as far as i can tell, neither narrative referenced above is actually supported by the facts.

    here’s an example of what i mean: were 60 senate votes really required? as far as i can tell, the answer is probably “no.”

    from the jonathan bernstein link:

    A much more logical explanation is that there was no deal on the public option, and that it died because there just were not 60 Democrats willing to support it.

    if the premise — the need for 60 senate votes — is false, then i must conclude that the list 0f “questionable sources” also includes bernstein (as well as D party leaders).

  4. 4
    Jeremy Redlien says:

    First things first, I’m not really sure that acting otherwise rationally within a false reality makes someone “not delusional” as delusional doesn’t really mean being irrational, but rather refers to believing in something when the preponderance evidence shows that such a belief is false. Or at least that’s how I understand the term.

    Second:

    If the president is really a communist secret Muslim out to turn America into a caliphate, while stealing your money and personal freedom, then yes, he’s someone that needs to be stopped at all costs.

    Fox news plays on people’s irrational beliefs and fears in the evils of Muslims and communists. Are you really arguing that is the mark of a rational, non-delusional human being to allow oneself to be manipulated by fear of “others” be they muslims or communists? I am neither, but I don’t see what there is to fear about either group. Being afraid of a caliphate, loss of personal freedom, theft of one’s money, sure, I can buy that, but the prejudices that lead to these beliefs were islamophobia and anti-communism fears. Neither islamaphobia or an outright fear of communism are characteristics of a rational, non-delusional person.
    -Jeremy

  5. 5
    Mok says:

    Two responses to prior comments:

    1) Whether the term “delusion” is warranted or not is largely semantic and irrelevant to the larger point of Jeff’s post. The name of the phenomenon is secondary to the point that the same ugly phenomenon is becoming more common on the left (it has never been the exclusive province of the right).

    2) That the right exhibits a particular flaw more egregiously and publicly than the left does not excuse us from confronting it.

  6. 6
    Bob says:

    Here’s what I don’t get. When OWS started, for several weeks all I heard online and in the media was that OWS was going to change things and that it’s what democracy is all about and so on. Then there was one shooting at Occupy Oakland, and I woke up the next day and everybody was saying that OWS is full of dirty, lazy hippies. What happened? I don’t think it’s part of some conspiracy that Obama is part of, but I have worked in the media and I know that media outlets are basically owned by their advertisers, so it makes sense that corporations would want to squelch this movement before they lose money. What else could explain the sudden change in attitude? Or was I just in a liberal echo chamber for a few weeks and then stumbled on some mainline sources?

  7. 7
    Otis Campbell says:

    An Open Letter to Jeff Fecke

    I’m a pretty Hep Cat insofar as I’m in a tiny minority of family, friends and co-workers who regularly visit blogs let alone know what a ‘blog’ is. One of many regular stops is at the self-described “O-bots” headquarters Balloon Juice (although I’m a daily lurker, the comments from the partially reconstructed Right Wing authoritarians that followed Cole after his conversion are as close as I can regularly come to sampling that worldview).
    At Balloon Juice and elsewhere I read far, far more words written in defense of Obama than words of criticism.

    My enthusiasm in 2008 was based on the fact that Reaganism and it’s resultant mutated, toxic policies in finance, civil rights, and foreign affairs had been exposed as utter failures. The zeitgeist seemed to me to be uniquely receptive to an ascendent Democratic Party that, while being terribly flawed, was positioned to make progressive changes, if even in spite of themselves. It was a huge bonus to have a ground-breaking minority, magnetic leader of the Party.

    The first dandelion of doubt appeared when Obama brought a viscious, dim-witted preacher to speak at his inauguration. His inaugural address sounded like a tired rehash of Bill Cosby’s rants blaming society’s also-rans for their own plight. Then began a 2 year period of recently unprecedented Democratic control of the Executive and Legislative branches being frittered the fuck away. Obama seemed relieved when the losses of 2010 made it easier to excuse lack of substantial progress.

    If anything, I think Obama receives more than his due credit for facilitating important advances such as the end of DADT given the ambivalance to gay rights that I’ve read in his prior speeches. I still try to believe that Obama is a small man trying to fill an oversized suit and not a mendacious schemer in thrall to Wall Street but Lord he does make it hard.

    I have not suffered the undue influence of Firedoglake (other than TBogg and his bassets). I have not become delusional or deranged since I cast my vote for Obama. Local ballot concerns will get me to the polls in 2012 and while I’m there I will vote a straight Democratic ticket which will undoubtedly include Obama. I will continue to believe my own lying eyes and discount other’s interpretation of reality.

    In short, “Enough!”

    I am not being “delusional” when I feel frustrated by Obama and his Reagan- Democrat worldview. I am not “deranged” when I feel the viscerally painful loss of a brief window in time when a real progressive champion or even a not-so-real-progressive President could have at a minimum drawn a clear distinction in policies instead of adopting Dick Cheney’s foreign policy, Grover Norquist’s austerity and Richard Nixon’s paranoid Security State.

    Your concern-trolling is pathetic, offensive and counter-productive.
    “Stop fighting the truth, and start accepting it”. You are a fucking Douche.

  8. 8
    Stentor says:

    It was never made clear exactly why Obama would work against a policy that he had specifically endorsed

    Without defending the larger “Obama killed the public option” idea, I will say that it doesn’t seem so inexplicable that a politician would promise something in order to get elected, then go back on the promise once in office because they never really wanted it in the first place.

  9. 9
    Sancho says:

    There’s a thing I think of as “the fallacy of equal extremism”. It’s where the existence of a few socialist blogs on the far political fringe screaming for communism NOW is regarded as being as influential and mainstream to the left as Fox News is to the right.

    Jeff appears to be falling for the fallacy.

    I’m Australian, so I’m not immersed as deeply in American political thought as Jeff is, but from here it appears ridiculous to claim that leftist conspiracy theories about Obama are as overt and accepted as the Muslim commie Kenyan stuff.

    I think the cognitive divide occurs because the passionate leftists who drive political debate wanted a genuinely left-wing president, but got a centre-right one because that’s the only thing on the Democrat menu (we’re dealing with an almost identical disappointment with the Australian Labor Party).

    The topic of Jeff’s post deserves more attention, because it’s tiresome and counterproductive to dismiss conservatives as florid conspiracy theorists without looking at what they gain from constructing an alternate reality, but I think he’s laying the blame too squarely this time.

  10. 10
    ballgame says:

    Bradley Manning? He couldn’t have been arrested for stealing military secrets, then treated badly in jail, though not uniquely so. He had to be a political prisoner, one who Barack Obama had literally ordered to be tortured.

    Jeff, please cite:

    • The specific “military secrets” that you think Manning was arrested for; and
    • The major left wing player who alleged that Obama had “literally ordered” Manning to be tortured (as opposed to those who may have asserted that Obama was ultimately responsible for his treatment as C in C and sworn protector of the Constitution).

    Also, are you endorsing tossing a member of the American military in the brig and torturing them via solitary confinement* if they’ve (allegedly) helped uncover widespread corruption, illegality, and even war crimes?

    Stop listening to anything Moore and Wolf and Hamsher are saying — because their concern for the truth is roughly the same as that of Hannity and Limbaugh and Coulter, and believe me, it pains me to say that, but it’s true.

    The odious notion that brave, committed, and intelligent progressives like Michael Moore, Naomi Wolf, and Jane Hamsher are somehow equivalent to right wing blowhards like Hannity, Limbaugh, and Coulter makes perfect sense, coming as it does from someone who thinks Ronald Reagan was one of our greatest presidents. I do have to give you points for consistency here.

    * I understand that the notion that solitary confinement is torture is not universally accepted, but it is pretty widespread and one that I accept, FWIW.

  11. 11
    Ampersand says:

    I basically agree with you about Manning, Ballgame. But regarding this:

    The odious notion that brave, committed, and intelligent progressives like Michael Moore, Naomi Wolf, and Jane Hamsher are somehow equivalent to right wing blowhards like Hannity, Limbaugh, and Coulter makes perfect sense, coming as it does from someone who thinks Ronald Reagan was one of our greatest presidents.

    This doesn’t logically answer Jeff’s point at all.

    A lot of what Hamsher said during the debate over the Affordable Care Act was misleading at best, and were often identical to right-wing claims about the bill. The narrative Wolf and Moore are pushing about the breakup of some Occupy sites — unless they have secret evidence that they haven’t shared — is recklessly making extreme claims without any evidence. In that sense, those three lefties do share a trait with those three right-wingers, although in many other ways the right-wingers are indeed more odious.

    Hamsher, Moore, and Wolf are not sacred cows, and we shouldn’t treat them as sacred cows. If they’re misleading people, then that’s bad and a legitimate subject for criticism.

    coming as it does from someone who thinks Ronald Reagan was one of our greatest presidents.

    Seems like an ad hom.

  12. 12
    ballgame says:

    Rather than bolstering your (and Jeff’s) point, Amp, the link to Ezra Klein’s article seems instead to show how very weak is the claim that Hamsher was misleading, and it suggests that she was misleading at worst, not misleading “at best” (i.e., she may at times have deployed rhetoric designed to heighten the persuasiveness of her position — something that you, Jeff, and I have all done at times — as opposed to intentionally deceiving someone about facts).

    In fact, I found Klein’s post itself to be at least as misleading as what he was accusing Hamsher of. Out of his 10 points, there were only two or three that struck me as having any validity. A lot of his allegations of Jane being ‘misleading’ turned on his dubious interpretation of the royal “you.” Using Klein’s logic, an assertion that some hypothetical law ‘would force you to drive out of state to get an abortion’ would be misleading, since most people don’t want or need or abortions. Moreover, he was comparing Jane’s critique of ObamaCare with the currently existing system, whereas it’s always been clear that Jane was comparing it to alternatives currently operational elsewhere, and omitting the enormous negatives that adhered to what the bill left in place. (You clearly know all this, but I’m just pointing out that it’s BS to claim that Ezra was objectively demonstrating that Jane was being deceptive.)

    Hamsher, Moore, and Wolf are not sacred cows, and we shouldn’t treat them as sacred cows. If they’re misleading people, then that’s bad and a legitimate subject for criticism.

    A valid point if I had suggested we treat them like sacred cows … but I didn’t. I have zero problems with anyone — including Jeff! — criticizing someone’s substantive positions or concrete behaviors. And that goes for anyone, including Hamsher, Moore, and Wolf. But there’s an enormous chasm of difference between doing that and doing what Jeff does here and has routinely done in the past: namely, vilify some progressive and imply they should be treated as outcasts based on a small number of things they did wrong or because their assessment of Democratic officeholders differs from his own.

    Also (and I strongly suspect you know this, Amp), what Limbaugh and Coulter do on a routine basis is hateful and contemptuous of the truth. (I’m not as familiar with Sean Hannity, though I suspect it may be true for him as well.) The notion that Moore, Hamsher, and Wolf are anything like those two is offensive in the extreme, and I am in all honesty surprised that you aren’t just as appalled at the comparison as I am (and, I would hope, many of your Alas readers are).

    As for the notion that my Reagan reference was some sort of ad hom, it strikes me as questionable. I’m not accusing him of secretly thinking Reagan was a great president, or applying a label to him that he abjures (like calling him an ‘anti-feminist’ when he identifies as a feminist, for example). I’m:

    • pointing out a fact …
    • that he’s proud of (proud enough to put in a blog post which he has never rescinded) …
    • and giving him ideological consistency points for doing so.

    If that’s an ad hominem attack, (and I’m not convinced that it is), it’s a rather exceedingly mild one, no?

  13. 13
    RonF says:

    Sancho:

    I think the cognitive divide occurs because the passionate leftists who drive political debate wanted a genuinely left-wing president, but got a centre-right one because that’s the only thing on the Democrat menu (we’re dealing with an almost identical disappointment with the Australian Labor Party).

    I have lived in the State of Illinois for the last 36 years or so. Understand that Illinois politics and government are widely considered to be among the most corrupt in the United States. Four of our last 8 governors have been convicted and sent to prison for commission of felonies. Illinois is where Pres. Obama conducted his political career until he became elected President. President Obama is a typical reasonably intelligent Chicago/Illinois politician. The unintelligent ones promise the Democratic base anything they think they want to hear and then rob the public blind once they get into office. The reasonably intelligent ones promise the Democratic base anything they think they want to hear. But, when they get elected, they use their influence to permit their major contributors to take advantage of access to public contracts, etc. while being careful not to take the money themselves. The Mayors Daley (pere and fils) of Chicago were masters of this.

    The left thought they were getting a leftist President because that’s what the promises Obama made to them were. But anyone with any sense knew that he had no intention of keeping any of those promises that he couldn’t carry out without spending too much political capital on. The objective is to make sure that he gets re-elected and that his major campaign contributors get taken care of. Not, mind you, that this makes him particularly unique among politicians – certainly not among Illinois politicians. But it seems that those people now expressing disappointment had to have been pretty naive.

    You’re wrong about there having been no other choice. The Democrats could have put up Hillary Clinton. The difference is that she was centrist and admitted it. Obama was more interested in getting elected than in making clear what kinds of promises he was going to keep and which ones he couldn’t. Obama may be the better politician. But Hillary seems to me to have more integrity.

    Stentor:

    Without defending the larger “Obama killed the public option” idea, I will say that it doesn’t seem so inexplicable that a politician would promise something in order to get elected, then go back on the promise once in office because they never really wanted it in the first place.

    True. But this administration campaigned in the first place promising that they would be the most open administration ever, that it would root out corruption, etc., etc. The bald-facedness of this lie perhaps exceeds that of previous administrations.

    Otis Campbell:

    I am not “deranged” when I feel the viscerally painful loss of a brief window in time when a real progressive champion or even a not-so-real-progressive President could have at a minimum drawn a clear distinction in policies instead of adopting Dick Cheney’s foreign policy, Grover Norquist’s austerity and Richard Nixon’s paranoid Security State.

    That’s what happens when you have to shift from campaign mode – where you can ignore reality – to governing mode – where you have to accommodate reality and at least try to do what works. Two years in the U.S. Senate and people thought that he had a clue as to how things worked?

    He means well, I’m sure. The extreme right-wing pundits named elsewhere in this thread rant on about how he’s a socialist and wants to destroy America. Mocking those people bothers me not a whit. They deserve it. No, the explanation is more mundane. He had a leftist notion of how the country works and what could be done to change it – and he was dead wrong. Now he flails about looking for scapegoats.

    Then began a 2 year period of recently unprecedented Democratic control of the Executive and Legislative branches being frittered the fuck away.

    It’s kind of funny that the Democrats are blaming the Republicans for not being able to agree upon and pass a budget when they had two years to do it from 2008 to 2010 and never did.

  14. 14
    RonF says:

    Sancho:

    It’s where the existence of a few socialist blogs on the far political fringe screaming for communism NOW is regarded as being as influential and mainstream to the left as Fox News is to the right.

    The equivalent to the few socialist blogs on the far left fringe would be the extremist blogs on the far right, not Fox News. The equivalent to the latter would be MSNBC, CNN, the New York Times, the L.A. Times, etc.

    The major error that the left is making is thinking that conservatives are being led around by the nose by people like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and whoever is holding forth on Fox News these days. Your error is not that those leftist blogs you cite don’t have as much influence as has been represented – your error is thinking that Fox News and Rush and the rest have a good deal more influence than they actually do. The left loves to depict conservatives as being of somewhat lower intelligence than the benighted left and being readily influenced by the right-wing media’s “lies”. The concept that they might well be quite intelligent people who look at the same set of facts you do and draw different conclusions seems to not be particularly prevalent.

    Right-wingers aren’t delusional. They’re quite rational. They’re just dealing with a reality that doesn’t really exist.

    The right is reacting exactly as any rational group of individuals would to the facts they’re given. If the president is really a communist secret Muslim out to turn America into a caliphate, while stealing your money and personal freedom, then yes, he’s someone that needs to be stopped at all costs.

    Case in point: “the facts they’re given”. If you really think that it’s mainstream conservative thought that the President is a communist secret Muslim seeking to establish an American caliphate then you’re the ones who are deluded. This attitude that conservatives only deal with the “facts they’re given” from one particular source rather than taking a look around at various sources and weighing what they hear is truly patronizing.

  15. 15
    livex says:

    Right-wingers aren’t delusional. They’re quite rational. They’re just dealing with a reality that doesn’t really exist.

    How is that not a definition of ‘delusional’? You’re confusing ‘delusional’ with ‘irrational’.

  16. 16
    livex says:

    (and that applies to your delusional/irrational distinction with regard to the Left also, of course)

  17. 17
    GT says:

    This post is a perfect example of why I am not a “liberal.”

    I am a proud Progressive.

    Jeff, keep drinking the Obama Kool-Aid.
    Enjoy.

  18. 18
    Jeffrey says:

    While many ardent social activists may be prone to overstating and hyperbolizing — including Moore, Wolf and Hamsher — there’s a huge difference between even their most egregious missteps and the deliberate lies, hate mongering and daily acts of deception perpetrated by Coulter, Limbaugh and Hannity.

    I am particularly troubled by Jeff’s attempt to create perfect symmetry here — three on the left vs. three on the right. This effort smacks of the worst of contemporary journalism, where somehow sharing equal balance between opposite sides of the political spectrum equals “fairness” and “honesty”. Is Wolf really the equivalent of Hannity, Moore the same as Limbaugh and Hamsher the equivalent of Coulter? The three on the Left, despite their imperfections, have all rendered major contributions to political and social life. What have Hannity, Coulter and Limbaugh produced other than hateful rhetoric and lies, other than a minor financial fortune for themselves?

  19. 19
    Brendan D says:

    Sheesh. From the responses here, it seems many of my fellow leftists are going to continue to stay in denial. I’m particularly bothered by this comment from above:

    You’re wrong about there having been no other choice. The Democrats could have put up Hillary Clinton. The difference is that she was centrist and admitted it. Obama was more interested in getting elected than in making clear what kinds of promises he was going to keep and which ones he couldn’t. Obama may be the better politician. But Hillary seems to me to have more integrity.

    I don’t know exactly where it comes from, but if RonF is actually from the State of Illinois as he claims, he should know better. Barack Obama, for those who were paying attention, was always a centrist. In fact, when it came to healthcare reform, Sen. Clinton actually outflanked Sen. Obama from the left by insisting on an individual mandate. Was Obama just saying what he needed to get elected? Maybe. But I’m tired of this ludicrous assertion that Obama was some kind of Savior of the Left, equal parts FDR, JFK, and Bill Clinton. Obama is, and ran as, every bit the centrist Sec. Clinton is, if not moreso.

    There are legitimate reasons to criticize the president, and this is true on both the Right and the Left. But it pains my arse to see and hear people with whom I’d normally ally myself on the left pissing and moaning about how Obama has betrayed them. He hasn’t. Many leftists continue to project what they wanted from him onto him, but the truth is, President Obama isn’t, and has never been, Chocolate Jesus. He’s a politician. And quite frankly, he’s far, far preferable to most of the rest of what’s out there. Maybe that’s a low bar to set, but that’s the sad reality we live in.

  20. 20
    Wenke Taule says:

    Amen! from a bleeding heart liberal.

  21. 21
    Jeffrey says:

    RonF — Comparing Fox”News” to The NYT, CNN and even MSNBC is a downright misrepresentation. FN is an unapologetic voice of a far right point of view, and has never allowed the truth to get in the way of its message. The NYT, CNN, etc. provide bona fide journalism coverage. MSNBC hosts numerous liberal commentators, but there is a significant difference between the Rachael Maddow show and a phony newscast with “anchormen/women” and “reporters”, who parrot a party line and have no regard for facts when it comes to covering hard news or political developments.

  22. 22
    Tom C says:

    The Democrats did not control the legislative branch for two years. They controlled it for roughly two months, from Al Franken being seated in July 2009 to Teddy Kennedy’s death in late August of that year. That’s how long they had a filibuster-proof majority.

    It amazes me that so much venom is spewed at Obama for Harry Reid’s failures.

  23. 23
    ACS says:

    Thanks, Jeff, for saying what most Democrats are thinking. The conspiracy theories are just embarrassing.

  24. 24
    Douglas Lucas says:

    Hi, I’ve read Alas (when possible) for a year or so now; this is my first time to comment. Decided to because I’m pretty much the target audience for Jeff’s post — someone whose specific stances usually wind up somewhere between FDL and TPM and who’s not welded to any particular ideology. Jeff’s emphasis on the importance of stepping outside bubbles resonates with me as a general principle, too, so I figured replying here would be a good exercise in doing that.

    Jeff uses four particular instances — what the radical left makes of: 1) Obama’s motivations, 2) Bradley Manning’s (initial) imprisonment, 3) Julian Assange’s situation, and 4) Naomi Wolf’s reliance on a single dubious source — to make the larger case that a) radical leftists are deluded b) as much as right-wingers and c) radical leftists assess evidence rashly.

    As for b), I think Sancho is correct to point out a “fallacy of equal extremism.” Regardless of whether the right or left is correct on whatever issue, I think rushing to say one side is just as crazy as another is simply a way to end conversation. It’s a shrug of the shoulders and a way to keep differing people happy at the dinner table. The fallacy of equal extremism gets so much traction because it resonates with the American pragmatic ethos, our checks-and-balances legal framework, and that we (unfortunately) only have two viable political parties. But it doesn’t accurately identify anything.

    Drilling down to the specifics of individual instances is much more useful in terms of truth, but often avoided as it’s an impediment to manufacturing generalizations, which are rightfully the essayist’s (or blogger’s) typical focus — and an impediment to manufacturing the sweeping narratives that mobilize donors, volunteers, and voters. :-(

    Obama and the public option remains pretty perplexing. The claim he conceded it early against most Americans’ wishes according to multiple polls is best supported by the Democrats’ initial decision to go for 60 votes in the Senate (instead of 51 out of the gate) and by former Democratic Senate Majority leader Tom Daschle’s 2010 remark:

    [The public option] was taken off the table as a result of the understanding that people had with the hospital association, with the insurance (AHIP), and others. [...] premise was, you had to have the stakeholders in the room and at the table. Lessons learned in past efforts [such as Clinton's attempt at healthcare reform] is that without the stakeholders’ active support rather than active opposition, it’s almost impossible to get this job done. They wanted to keep those stakeholders in the room and this [the public option] was the price some thought they had to pay. Now, it’s debatable [...] but that was the calculation. I think there is probably a good deal of truth to it.

    Note the FDL article Jeff links to as an example of FDL’s alleged irrationality relies (only) on the Daschle quote. What if Daschle is off, y’know? Doesn’t seem to me that he’s off, but one quote is far from proof, and yeah, FDL does represent it to be proof. Which is wrong of them.

    I’ve never heard any explanation as to why the Democrats didn’t go for reconciliation (51 votes) from the beginning, other than people saying 60 is better politics than 51. Why is it better politics? Because our citizenry is afraid of the phrase “nuclear option” and incapable of remembering that both parties use reconciliation in the Senate often? If I were to meet Obama, that’s one of the top 3 things I’d ask him: why not 51 out of the gate to pursue your campaign promise of a public option?

    So there are two reasons to believe Obama ditched the public option, perhaps wisely if Daschle’s suggestions about the insurance companies’ bargaining power are correct. What reasons support the case Obama didn’t ditch the public option prematurely? Jeff asks, Why would he, it’s in sync with his overall political temperament. Fair question. I don’t know that we’ll ever know until Administration members write memoirs decades from now, and maybe not even then. (I do suspect Obama spent all his political capital on healthcare reform as soon as he could, and that that’s why he’s been so ineffective lately.)

    On to Manning’s torture. Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe who taught Obama and later worked on his ’08 campaign signed the open letter which called Manning’s conditions “illegal and immoral,” a letter signed by over 250 legal scholars etc. Former State Department spokesman PJ Crowley had to resign after calling Manning’s treatment “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid.” Here‘s what Manning underwent:

    For nine months, Manning has been confined to his cell for twenty-three hours a day. During his one remaining hour, he can walk in circles in another room, with no other prisoners present. He is not allowed to doze off or relax during the day, but must answer the question “Are you OK?” verbally and in the affirmative every five minutes. At night, he is awakened to be asked again “Are you OK?” every time he turns his back to the cell door or covers his head with a blanket so that the guards cannot see his face. During the past week he was forced to sleep naked and stand naked for inspection in front of his cell, and for the indefinite future must remove his clothes and wear a “smock” under claims of risk to himself that he disputes.

    We have an Eighth Amendment against “cruel and unusual punishment,” and a Sixth insisting on a “speedy and public trial.” He’s been in pretrial detainment for over a year and a half. You don’t forfeit your rights by becoming cannon fodder a soldier.

    Manning is a political prisoner. When a guy blows the whistle on war crimes, giving evidence that included a video of trigger-happy US soldiers gunning down Iraqi civilians and Reuters journalists for no reason, and in response we lock up the guy who blows the whistle instead of the guys shooting on the video, then we have a problem. Certainly Manning didn’t read every cable (if he winds up credited with what the accusations say), but then again, Daniel Ellsberg copied a lot of stuff in a hurry too.

    I’m a fervent WikiLeaks supporter, maybe that’s obvious by now. The basic background of Assange’s current legal situation is: the two female complaintants and Assange got into two he-said she-saids about just how sketchy the sex was or wasn’t, and the Swedes drop the case because there isn’t enough evidence. With permission from the Swedes, Assange takes off to the UK. A new prosecutor, Marianne Ny, is appointed to the case and all the sudden INTERPOL is interested in making sure she can ask Assange questions in person. INTERPOL issued a Red Notice for Assange; in their eyes, Gaddafi only merited an Orange Notice. This is unprecedented. You know, Ny could always ask him the questions over the phone. But here’s hoping Assange is released after he answers Ny’s questions (if his final extradition appeal fails) — the standard should be “innocent until proven guilty” not “he-said she-said.” (Incidentally Assange just the other day won the top award for journalism in his native country of cyberspace Australia.)

    That said, there is some boorish behavior on the part of certain WikiLeaks supporters. I’ve only heard a honeypot allegation made prominently once, and it was in the context of a parody, though that’s still somewhat inappropriate, I think. If the law extradites Assange to the US, it won’t be by a nameless CIA plane — haven’t seen any supporters actually claim that. So Jeff is venturing into strawman territory here as his case is reaching its emotional peak.

    Despite my support for Occupy Wall Street, I agree Naomi Wolf erred in making too much of a single unsourced comment. DHS has been spotted during several crackdowns, however, but that doesn’t prove co-ordination at the federal level. There’s that anti-OWS marketing plan lobbyists put together for the banks (PDF) though!

    Jeff left out the polarizing al-Alwaki example! When I mentioned it to one particular Obama supporter, he told me “due process is overrated.” This stops being frustrating and becomes frightening when I tell you he’s a recent graduate of Washington & Lee law school. For al-Alwaki, again I come down on the old-fashioned side of the rule of law, innocent until proven guilty.

    While making their arguments, Obama apologists in many of these matters seem to give off this vibe that they’re somehow “mature” and “capable of making the tough decision”…to throw rule of law out the window. Seriously…

    So what does the scorecard come out to? By my reckoning, Jeff’s got Naomi Wolf’s error, a very few boorish WikiLeaks supporters, and a tie on the public option. I’ve got Assange, Manning, and the public option’s other half. What does that tell us?

    It tells us we need to stick to specifics lest we become deluded or rash.

    Also, can we start doing more useful things? Like when Super-Committee members were being appointed, couldn’t we have phoned Boehner asking for the appointment of a Republican who might have worked with our three? And yet all the email lists I’m on begged me to make calls to get Representative Raul M. Grijalva or Senators Sanders appointed. Of course I’d have wanted Grijalva or Sanders appointed, but that wasn’t what would have accomplished anything. Why aren’t there nonprofits dedicated to “reaching across the aisle” — progressives and Tea Partiers could work together on civil liberties, for example, but they don’t. Why not? Because, I think, no one’s funding it… so I guess I’ll return to supporting populist causes such as WikiLeaks and Occupy Wall Street…

  25. 25
    Pupster says:

    Couldn’t agree more with Jeff. I’m a big city bleeding heart lib, but I hate with the intensity of a thousand suns Jane Hamsher and her ilk. It’s always been obvious that she’s more about self-promotion and getting her face on tv than any half-hearted concern for the rabble.

    Call me an Obama-bot, though my admiration and respect are far from blind, but the guy is doing pretty damn good considering the obstruction he’s getting from the both sides. And the more I read comments like GT’s, the more I will be giving direct to the Obama campaign. Fuck GT and his fucking “progressive” compatriots who do more to put right-wingers in power than Roger Ailes.

  26. 26
    Douglas Lucas says:

    I should note Assange hasn’t been charged with anything in any country.

  27. Pingback: Obama’s liberal critics, cont. « Bill Stephens

  28. 27
    Guillermo Diaz says:

    This post is a prime example of why I’m not a ‘progressive’.
    I’m a ‘liberal’.

    It also sums up fairly well why I abandoned the increasingly-ludicrous ‘Daily Kos’ a couple of years back. It was, and remains, an albatross. As is the idea that I have to be somehow ‘represented’ by con artists like Michael Moore, who never met a camera he didn’t run, breathless, to be in front of, or even the holy Olbermann, who I respect, but who branched off into a self-parody of himself so long ago, I find him unwatchable.
    This isn’t about ‘drinking kool-aid’. It’s about seeing the forest for the damned trees. And, believe it or not, not everybody is out to get you.

  29. 28
    Serolf Divad says:

    And what is the common element in all these fantasies? The notion that in 2008 we elected an absolute monarch instead of a president. These charges all stem from the misguided idea that Barack Obama could, by fiat, dictate every element of domestic and foreign policy, and have his dictates rubber stamped by an obseqious congress. Therefore, if something doesn’t happen the way the left wants it to happen, it could only have been because Barack Obama intended it to happen that way.

    And the worst offenders in this game, from the very beginning, could be found on the pages of the Huffington Post. By refusting to acknowledge that Obama might be pursuing the policy positions he was due to political realities “on the ground” they slowly and irrevocably eroded the president’s base of support on the Left. From early 2009 to the present it has been sadly disheartening to see it happen. Because it didn’t just hurt Obama during the health care debate: the more his base of support eroded, the less negotiating muscle he had for future fights. SO now the Left finds itself in a situation with which it is all too familiar throughout our nation’s recent history: we hope for the president’s re-election because we desperately want to hold on to the last vestiges of the welfare state (Medicare, Social Security) and not because we have real hope of broadening those programs to help ameliorate our nation’s shocking state of economic inequality and despair.

  30. 29
    Bill says:

    Judging from many of the comments here, you’ve really hit a nerve with some people. Good work. By the way, Jonathan Chait has a nice analysis of this same problem in New York Magazine.

  31. 30
    Tom C says:

    Douglas Lucas writes, “I’ve never heard any explanation as to why the Democrats didn’t go for reconciliation (51 votes) from the beginning, other than people saying 60 is better politics than 51.”

    I suspect there were four reasons in play:

    1) The Democrats believed they wouldn’t need to, what with an expected 60 votes in the Senate. Then Ted Kennedy died and Scott Brown won his seat.

    2) They had already blasted the GOP for passing the Bush tax cuts via reconciliation and didn’t want to appear hypocritical.

    3) Passing via reconciliation would have involved possibly stiffing Senators from their own party. If you pass with 51 votes then that’s 8 or 9 Democratic Senators whose pet projects you decide to ignore.

    4) Passing via reconciliation would have potentially involved a confrontation with the Senate Parliamentarian over the application of the Byrd Rule.

  32. 31
    Josef says:

    Dear Mr. Fecke,

    This was an engaging article, thanks or posting it. I find it interesting that you completely fail to address any of the more substantive criticisms of the sitting president – who I supported in the general election despite preferring the Quixotic leftists in the primary.

    - Our president has continued, validated, and cemented in place numerous aspects of foreign policy and the “war on terror” to which I object vehemently (drone bombings; holding prisoners without due process; assassination without due process; invasion of sovereign countries like Pakistan; going to war without authorization in Libya, etc)

    - Our President promised a radically transparent administration while campaigning and has instead pursued radical secrecy (prosecuting whistleblowers like Thomas Drake, Julian Assange, Bradley Manning etc; at the same time using leaks of classified information to bolster the government’s position in the press; keeping cases out of courts, using the “state secrets privilege” that the government does not even deserve because it was “earned” fraudulently in US v Reynolds, so that the people cannot find out about government activities; etc)

    - Our president failed to use the financial crisis as an opening to structurally reform the US financial system by: breaking up big banks; reimplementing a wall between commercial and investment banks; taxing financial transactions;

    - Our president selected the wrong advisers – Robert Reich, Paul Volcker, and Elizabeth Warren would have been a much better economics team than Geithner, Summers, and Rubin; from the latter trio, one can only expect woeful advice, and that’s what he/we got.

    - Our president has acceded to the conservative meme framing government as a problem and the budget as in need of immediate balancing. He should have made a strong case for the importance of fiscal stimulus. He should never have compared the US budget to a household budget, as they are not analogous.

    The bottom line: it is clear that the president takes the left for granted, assuming that they have no better option than him, given how crazy the republicans are and how quixotic third party challenges are in our political system. He governs to the center, at least in part out of political/electoral concerns. Thus it should be no surprise that the left is disgruntled: they see the right feed their hardline base red meat all the time on guns, religion, abortion, and plenty of other issues, only to find themselves offered nothing better than iceberg lettuce from the sitting president (elected with their support) and that a rarity. So we raise a hue and cry to (as FDR famously requested his supporters do) push the president our way.

    How would you expect the left to react?

  33. 32
    rob says:

    Perhaps, but the excesses of the Right have become the mainstream, while the examples you cite from the left are still quite fringe. For example, no Major Democratic political figure has suggest that Sarah Palins youngest son might not be her own, but several major Republician figure have suggested(albiet obliquely)that Obama might not have been born in the USA…

  34. 33
    Blue Texan says:

    My response to your post is here.

  35. 34
    Douglas Lucas says:

    Thanks for the helpful reply about 60 vs 51 strategy, Tom C.! :)

  36. Pingback: The Fifteen Most Popular “Alas” Posts of 2011 | Alas, a Blog

  37. 35
    ballgame says:

    Maybe the underpinnings to the notion that there was federal involvement in the disruption of the Occupy movement aren’t as nonexistent as Jeff claimed.

  38. 36
    IndiaTweet says:

    Dear Jeff – I am not sure if you heard of the recent story of gang rape in India. A bunch of 20 year olds brutally gang raped a 23 year old girl in a moving bus and tortured her so brutally that she died after 13 days of struggle by doctors trying to save her. this incident has made international news and shaken the conscious and souls of many in the society leading to outcry and tormented people walking in candle light vigile. However there are still some animals who continue to rape and more stories uncover. I read your blog and simply hunting to find answer what can we do to prevent this animalistic culture in our society.

    Wonder what you would have to say.

    Thanks.
    IndiaTweet