Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Friday, January 8th, 2016.


Stuff to Read

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Obama Administration

I’m recommending an article at Politico — no, really — called “The Nation He Built” by Michael Grunwald. It’s a look at President Obama’s legacy. Here’s the basic premise:

Over the past seven years, Americans have heard an awful lot about Barack Obama and his presidency, but the actual substance of his domestic policies and their impact on the country remain poorly understood. He has engineered quite a few quiet revolutions—and some of his louder revolutions are shaking up the status quo in quiet ways. Obama is often dinged for failing to deliver on the hope-and-change rhetoric that inspired so many voters during his ascent to the presidency. But a review of his record shows that the Obama era has produced much more sweeping change than most of his supporters or detractors realize.

… When you add up all the legislation from his frenetic first two years, when Democrats controlled Congress, and all the methodical executive actions from the past five years, after Republicans blocked his legislative path, this has been a BFD of a presidency, a profound course correction engineered by relentless government activism. As a candidate, Obama was often dismissed as a talker, a silver-tongued political savant with no real record of achievement. But ever since he took office during a raging economic crisis, he’s turned out to be much more of a doer, an action-oriented policy grind who has often failed to communicate what he’s done.  …

…Internally, Obama has made a point of distinguishing his approach from Clinton’s “small ball,” telling aides he didn’t seek the job to promote school uniforms. Take that $800 billion stimulus, which set the tone for his swing-for-the-fences presidency in his very first month. Its main goal was saving the economy, but as his first chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, liked to say, it was also stuffed with an entire administration’s worth of accomplishments. By contrast, Clinton fought unsuccessfully early in his presidency for a mere $16 billion stimulus, just enough to fund the high-speed broadband and high-speed rail initiatives in Obama’s package. One veteran of both White Houses summed up the difference by telling me Clinton’s put out more fact sheets touting its work, while Obama’s has been too busy doing work.

It’s a long article, and it documents that the Obama Administration has been doing a lot of things that even I wasn’t aware of. And what people do know about often isn’t popular, because the only people explaining these policies to them are right-wing hacks.

Nancy LeTourneau writes that news media have given up covering policy and only cover politics. And political reporters see their roles as adversarial. “Pundits in the mainstream media see it as their job to challenge politicians – especially the president. So they focus on poking holes in whatever an administration says,” she writes.

It is easy to see the role that right wing media plays in all of this. They are constantly screaming about what a failure President Obama is and how government is all about giving freebies to “those” people. But what about liberal media/pundits? A lot of them get consumed with screaming back at the ridiculous things Republicans say/do. But they are also often populated by pundit/activists who see it as their job to “hold the administration’s feet to the fire.” In doing so, they react negatively to what Keith Humphrey’s called “airing clean laundry” and fall into the trap Marilynne Robinson captured with this:

Most of the things we do have no defenders because people tend to feel the worst thing you can say is the truest thing you can say.

So the real question becomes: where do everyday Americans go to actually hear about President Obama’s policy accomplishments? The pickings are few and far between. That has played a huge role in the problem of perception vs reality.

The line about “people tend to feel the worst thing you can say is the truest thing you can say,” resonated with me. It explains a lot about the anti-Obama criticism coming from the Left. If one believes the POTUS has done anything good, or at least is an improvement over George W. Bush, one is a brainwashed Obamabot partisan ninny. If you don’t believe the worst about him, you are a pollyanna. It’s become a mental habit to assume worst thing is the truest thing.

Elsewhere, be sure to read Matt Taibbi’s The Dumb and the Restless.

The Bundy militiamen are like a Black September version of an Iron John forest retreat: a bunch of weepy middle-aged guys who dressed up in crisply pressed outdoorswear and took over a bird sanctuary so they could play outlaw for a few days while they “worked on themselves.”

Good stuff.

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