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The President Navel-Gazes; Waves White Flag of Surrender

The New York Times Magazine published this interview of Barack Obama on October 12, 2010.  Entitled The Education of a President, Peter Baker speaks with the President, whose first chapter of his Presidency has ended.  He and Obama take an afternoon to reflect on the first two years, and wander into the plans for the next two.

It’s long, very long; I’m very glad that it wasn’t a video interview, so it may not get much attention.  Some of the portions could be pasted into campaign ads for the opposition with not much doctoring; some will undoubtedly floor his supporters.  Or not.  I add a few comments in green italics along the way.

"During our hour together, Obama told me he had no regrets about the broad direction of his presidency. But he did identify what he called “tactical lessons.” He let himself look too much like “the same old tax-and-spend liberal Democrat.” He realized too late that “there’s no such thing as shovel-ready projects” when it comes to public works. Perhaps he should not have proposed tax breaks as part of his stimulus and instead “let the Republicans insist on the tax cuts” so it could be seen as a bipartisan compromise."

I absolutely agree; not doing their homework on projects caused not only spending delays, but also caused much of the money to go to large construction companies, likely with cost overruns built into the contracts.  No ‘perhaps’ about his ceding so many tax breaks to the Republicans up front; he seems not to have learned anything yet about the art of negotiation.

"The friendly fire may bother him even more. “Democrats just congenitally tend to see the glass as half empty,” Obama said at a fund-raiser in Greenwich, Conn., last month. “If we get an historic health care bill passed — oh, well, the public option wasn’t there. If you get the financial reform bill passed — then, well, I don’t know about this particular derivatives rule, I’m not sure that I’m satisfied with that. And, gosh, we haven’t yet brought about world peace. I thought that was going to happen quicker.”

Oh, those damned dissatisfied Democrats; nothing ever pleases them; what do they want, more effective, non-mandated private insurance, and real financial reform?  Don’t they realize I had to give in to the lobbies up front?  Think of the lobbyist pressure that would have come!  They’d withhold campaign contributions!  If it weren't for the Democrats...

"Then again, it is Obama himself, and not just his supporters, who casts his presidency in grandiose terms. As he pleaded with Democrats for patience at another fund-raiser in Washington two weeks later: “It took time to free the slaves. It took time for women to get the vote. It took time for workers to get the right to organize.”

Whining while self-aggrandizing; bad form.

"As we talked in the Oval Office, Obama acknowledged that the succession of so many costly initiatives, necessary as they may have been, wore on the public. “That accumulation of numbers on the TV screen night in and night out in those first six months I think deeply and legitimately troubled people,” he told me. “They started feeling like: Gosh, here we are tightening our belts, we’re cutting out restaurants, we’re cutting out our gym membership, in some cases we’re not buying new clothes for the kids. And here we’ve got these folks in Washington who just seem to be printing money and spending it like nobody’s business."

“And it reinforced the narrative that the Republicans wanted to promote anyway, which was Obama is not a different kind of Democrat — he’s the same old tax-and-spend liberal Democrat.”

I’m sure the Democrats running right now thank you for putting that image into the minds of voters as they’re preparing to vote for more “tax and spend Democrats”.  Or not.

"It would be bad form for the president to anticipate an election result before it happens, but clearly Obama hopes that just as Clinton recovered from his party’s midterm shellacking in 1994 to win re-election two years later, so can he. There was something odd in hearing Obama invoke Clinton. Two years ago, Obama scorned the 42nd president, deriding the small-ball politics and triangulation maneuvers and comparing him unfavorably with Ronald Reagan. Running against Clinton’s wife, Obama was the anti-Clinton. Now he hopes, in a way, to be the second coming of Bill Clinton. Because, in the end, it’s better than being Jimmy Carter."

Anticipating the need to make lemonade, he invokes Bill Clinton.  Brilliant, but marginally better than conjuring up Reagan again would have been.

"Rouse and Messina see areas for possible bipartisan agreement, like reauthorizing the nation’s education laws to include reform measures favored by centrists and conservatives, passing long-pending trade pacts and possibly even producing scaled-back energy legislation. “You’ll hear more about exports and less about public spending,” a senior White House official said. “You’ll hear more about initiative and private sector and less about the Department of Energy. You’ll hear more about government as a financier and less about government as a hirer.”

Educational reform measures favored by conservatives and centrists: does that mean even worse things ahead than Arne Duncan’s Race to the Top same-old, same-old junk?

So no jobs programs, WPA or otherwise.  ‘Government as financier’ could be good, but given the administration’s track record with banks…

 But here’s the one that put my hair on fire:

Obama expressed optimism to me that he could make common cause with Republicans after the midterm elections. “It may be that regardless of what happens after this election, they feel more responsible,” he said, “either because they didn’t do as well as they anticipated, and so the strategy of just saying no to everything and sitting on the sidelines and throwing bombs didn’t work for them, or they did reasonably well, in which case the American people are going to be looking to them to offer serious proposals and work with me in a serious way.”

I asked if there were any Republicans he trusted enough to work with on economic issues. The first name he came up with was Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, who initially agreed to serve as Obama’s commerce secretary before changing his mind. But Gregg is retiring. The only other Republican named by Obama was Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin congressman who has put together a detailed if politically problematic blueprint for reducing federal spending. The two men are ideologically poles apart, but perhaps Obama sees a bit of himself in a young, substantive policy thinker.

 I can see his point that it would be nice if Republicans would feel more responsible to do more than say no; but they may be too busy investigating everything and everyone in the administration.  And Judd Gregg, I’m pretty sure he showed the President that he wouldn’t work with him, and he could take that Commerce Position and…   Oh, and Paul Ryan?  The one whose detailed budget plan would eliminate US debt by 2063, including ‘drastically changing social security and medicare?  The one Paul Krugman called ‘a charlatan’, a flim-flam man, and worse?  

The most unfocused cluster-%#&* in my memory....This is my view of the first 24 months of the Obama administration.  I had previously read the NY Times article and went into even deeper depression.  We are doomed!  I expected a precision operation in Washington (similar to the pre-election Obama campaign that outmaneuvered the Clinton machine.)  Initially, although none of the various machinations were clear to me, the Obama team seemed to be moving in the direction I had longed for.  Then, rumors of massive compromise in the healthcare clean-up.  I didn't give-up hope until January 19, when a literally ignored Martha Coakley was defeated by an incompetent unheard of named Scott Brown.   I call Coaklley's defeat an act of hubris or incompetence by Obama's handlers.  On that day, we gave up control of the Senate.  One could go on and on about all of the lack of clarity and communications with the public, but that would be preaching to the choir.  I make no claims to expertise in the art of politics but I've never had any hesitation:  When an entity was attempting to destroy me, I would come out -- taking no prisoners!  Conservatives are going to take Obama down if it means accepting the destruction of the middle class.  I would make life so miserable for the GOP and those that vote for them, that they would rue, for decades, the decision to destroy me and my presidency, at all costs.  Time to play by their rules. 

So if I understand you correctly, since you didn't get everything you want already (plus a few bonuses) it's a better idea to give control back to those who oppose anything and everything we're even trying to do and have made rolling back the beginnings of the gains we've begun their central campaign point.

Better, I think, someone who is imperfect yet making efforts than people who are diametrically opposed to whatever I stand for and actively working against not only what I believe in, but also the entire society in which I live.

I simply don't understand the depths of your delusion.  And I'm not sure I'm even willing to try.

To whom is your comment addressed, Mr. A-Train?  IMO, the question and comments have nothing to do with what is written here north of what you wrote.  And yet: For some unknown reason, I'm willing to try to understand your meaning here.   ;o)

This is an important article, stardust, and it's great that you brought attention to it, and provided the link.  Plenty to be disappointed in reading it, or offended by if that's your wont -- though I have to be honest.  The earth-colored carpet with inspirational quotations is, I think, cause to offend everyone.  Even me.

But not too much cause for hope in the pages.  A pretty dismal analysis.

I would like to point out one piece from near the beginning that you didn't as it seems to me that losing control of the narrative, or losing a narrative period, was a fatal error on the administration's part.  It has cost already, and will continue to cost, and even if the president is aware of it, I have no idea what would turn that ship around, and without turning that ship around, I see nothing but ever heavier legislative defeat coming up.  But I do think it's pertinent that he is aware.  I'd like to say I appreciate his humility but unfortunately it's not going to cut the mustard to help the situation.  It might rather hurt. 

Anyhow:

"Given how much stuff was coming at us,” Obama told [Baker], “we probably spent much more time trying to get the policy right than trying to get the politics right. There is probably a perverse pride in my administration — and I take responsibility for this; this was blowing from the top — that we were going to do the right thing, even if short-term it was unpopular. And I think anybody who’s occupied this office has to remember that success is determined by an intersection in policy and politics and that you can’t be neglecting of marketing and P.R. and public opinion.”


Your points are well-taken, Anna am.  There was just so much to choose from and highlight.  I confess that section you quoted would have caused me to comment more bitterly than wanted to on the quality of the policy he thought they got right.  I wanted, rather, to focus on the incredibly crap content and timing of what he said, then show readers where he thinks his agenda is headed.  We keep hearing that 'the ship is sooo slow to change course' and things of that nature.  This reads as though he has given up helping Dems win already with eighteen days yet until the election, and is already making compromises with the conservatives.  Just astounding. 

I am so glad the worst bits aren't up on youtube; it's all just astounding.  I just can't think what would account for his cluelessness on how he's speaking here.

I can't either.  It's, uh...well you said it.  Astounding.

LOL!  I also forgot to mention your commenting on the new decore of the Oval.  "I love taupe" keeps banging around my brain, like one of those ditties you can't rid yourself of until you pass it on to someone else.  Here Anna am; I'm passing it on:

"I love taupe."  ;o)

Good lord. This really was a horrid interview. The first thought that popped into my head reading this quote was: If this is what we get when they spend much more time trying to get policy right than trying to get politics right ... we are so screwed. I don't know if makes it better or worse that he is so clearly full of crap. Which part of good policy over politics was the PhArma deal? Or the AIHP one? Nonsense.

He asserts his only mistake in his first couple years has essentially been a marketing/PR failure? Amazing. That is more or less the same self-critque Bush made regarding his execution of the Iraq war. He didn't fuck up on a single thing, ever - he simply failed to invest the resources to help America understand just how awesome he really is. Jebuz.

Where you see humility, I see an amazing arrogance. It's like he can't even - just for a second - ponder that his critics could possibly have substatative policy complaints that deserve to be addressed respectfully. No one beneath his social strata is worthy of being responded to on actual policy substance or the geniune criticisms leveled. Instead, his internal critics are petulant children who expect too much - and his critics from without are just mush-headed consumers not properly marketed to.

If this is really what they believe, I see bad decision after bad decision in our future.

 

I like the two-part electoral strategy we're getting here. One part emotional motivation: i.e. 'I'm too good for you snivelling morons' contempt, and one part rational incentive, i.e. 'if you don't give us the majority, I'll go and gut SocSec and Medicare with Paul Ryan... just out of spite'.

Utter genius!

... or retarded.

one of those two.

Perfect, Obey; thanks for clanging the two messages together, though I confess, it's almost worse seeing the messages stripped down to their essences like that, and then combined.  (I'm trying to write more, but I'm just sitting here shaking my head back in forth in wonder, imagining the damage this could wreak.)

Don't suppose he could ask for a do-over, could he?  Claim he had the intestinal flu, or someone just ran over his cat...or something? 

Well I don't think he slipped. Whatever else he is, he is a great campaigner who picks his words carefully - especially now. It must be a message that resonates with focus groups.

Why it does so, is a separate question. Maybe the typical dem voters have self-esteem issues and so react well to contempt, maybe they are masochistic and like the idea of sacrificing their values in the name of some vague notion of 'rational voter behavior'. Or maybe Axelrod has given up on liberals and is counting on capturing moderate conservatives, for whom shitting on the left is a big motivator. But in any case this is no accident.

I dunno, Obus Profundus.  I'll have to think that through; I can't imagine a focus group liking the themes here.  But then, I may have lost track of the American Electorate.  I'd think this sounds a bit like Ben Campbell before he switched parties, minus the fireworks.  You're at least making something rational out of it; I can't, at least yet.

Your title, by the way, is perfect, stardust.  On the money.  It (painfully) says it all. 

(Stardust nods;...then sighs.)

Thinking back at reading the original Times interview, I do recall another statement that intrigued me.  During the past two years, I held Rahm Emanuel in disdain as a manipulative snake, willing to sell-out his mother if the price was right.  Somehow, the interview made me sense that Rahm was the only "man-guy" in Obama's inner circle.  I almost get the sense that he was always pleading for Obama to "kick ass and take names."  He, finally, used the governor-thing as an escape mechanism.

Conventional thinking had it that Obama chose Rahm precisely because he was an arm-twister; hard to know what role he really played.  Some say he was the give-away deal-maker.

Another sense I got from the piece was that Obama doesn't really like being the President:  he doesn't like rope-lines and meeting voters, doesn't like schmoozing, doesn't like that he's tied to Congress (WTH?), he was supposed to have been open to all ideas, but hates it when there's conflicting opinion on his staff.  I wanted the guy to like his job, anyway.

I've long thought that Obama is actually an introvert, which would make your observations on the mark.  The Times article is the first time I've heard/read anyone else who thought the same.  I think he is a Myers Briggs INTJ which explains his isolation and his small circle of advisers (how's that for wild speculation). 

wiki's explanation of INTJ

;o)  I like it, though I confess that personally, I (ahem) straddle a few lines on the scales.

(I'm guessing I don't need to elucidate further...)  Thanks, AmiBlue.

Yes, Donal; any model with so few categories is fraught with fuzziness.

Stunningly obtuse.

The Republican Party, thoroughly routed in 2008, the party that authored a expensive and repudiated war and a historic economic collapse, followed up their humiliating electoral defeat by moving as far to the right as can be imagined, promoting strident and extremist rhetoric among their ranks and on the airways.  And now they are about to be rewarded with a tremendous electoral victory.

You would think that just maybe these Ivy League policy wonks like Obama would get the message that the public actually responds to bold and confident positions from people with a strong and morally clear philosophical core.  But no.  The way was, and is, clear for Obama to become the public champion of energetic Rooseveltian government, high octane job creation programs, middle class debt relief and and unapologetic wealth redistribution and egalitarian re-cutting of the national pie.  But he refuses to take that path, and instead stays on his centrist course with more of that Summers-Greenspan-Rubin status quo economics.

Several of the things Obama says make me think that he is just a self-hating Democrat.  He wishes he were a Republican, finds the criticism from the left impertinent and bothersome, and longs at some level to be in the other camp.  Maybe he should just switch.  Just like the departed Emanuel, he clearly thinks we are all retards.

"Stunningly obtuse."  I admit my crest fell as he named his economic team, as though he really had no understanding of the disasters that the Clinton team had wrought in terms of deregualtion, especially.  When he decided to keep Gates, I tried to think that it was just in the transition phase, and once he felt more comfortable he would find better foreign policy and defense people than the old-hat notables from the past.  His choices started making me wonder if, through back channels, he hadn't asked freaking Henry Kissinger to join is team. 

And he wasted the energy of the folks who got him elected; shut down the operation that eventually turned into Organizing for America, asking people to volunteer to help get legislation passed that was far short of what people wanted.  Such a staggering waste of opportunity and goodwill!  He'd say, "Make me do it!"; but it was clear he didn't want us to after a time.  It looks as though the legislation we got is the legislation he wanted, and from this interview, it seems that including even more conservative 'reforms' into his legislative plans will be fine with him.  It's just mind-boggling.

  

Reading your post and learning that he was today urging Democrats not to get discouraged I am beginning for the first time to dislike the guy.  Until now I've been sympathetic to him personally because he does have a truly impossible job, even while perceiving one "substantively right, politically hard" decision after another to be just the reverse (Clinton said the same things at times; I'm not sure if was deceiving himself or his listeners more.)  I mean, how much political courage does it take to capitulate to the fatcat interest groups instead of confronting them where he thinks they are wrong?  

Democrats are discouraged because they have been expecting him to advocate and defend his party's values.  Instead he half apologizes for them and makes a show of trying to reject them for the vanity points a Democratic President can get in the media for appearing to be a "new Democrat".  It turns out that, far from asserting the historic progressive values that our party (and Teddy Roosevelt earlier last century on some domestic issues) has advanced, to the lasting benefit of our country, he at times does not even appear to respect them. 

He is turning out to be as ineffective an advocate in a governing role as he was a compelling advocate in his 2008 campaigning role. (He has realized of late that he is in another campaign.  But he is fighting an uphill battle to try to win the attention, let alone the support, of some of the people who helped him get elected and are disgusted with what they've seen so far.)  He is an admirer of Lincoln.  In the white hot fires he had to walk through, Lincoln recognized and seized opportunities that presented themselves to make desperately needed choices unavailable through the conduct of normal politics.  On fateful issues, he didn't try to split every difference or imagine there was some way he could please everyone.  And just because he included rivals and even enemies among his own Cabinet does not mean he entertained illusions about the extent they would meet him part way or provide him with cover.  

He says Democrats are congenital pessimists.  He might find that if he scratched the surface of a seeming congenital pessimist he might find a wounded citizen activist idealist whose commitment, effectiveness and passion, so much in evidence during the campaign, might surprise him. 

I admit to my doubts on this last point.  Democratic activists feel so beaten down, dissed and sold out by party professionals and some candidates and officials they've helped elect over decades now that there may be a certain numbness that has set in, whereby the words have become increasingly hard to believe.  The cynicism that has set in is very much evident in the progressive blogosphere and may at this point be increasingly hard to overcome.  It's not a healthy situation where there is the degree of mistrust of the true commitments of candidates who express strong support for progressive values and policies as there appears to be to me at this time.

Setting aside the enormous arrogance self-regard it must take to even imagine being the President, we need to remember he wanted the job, and he wanted it hard!!  So I can't feel too sorry for him that he regrets now how difficult it is.  You mention that it takes no courage to capitulate to fat-cats and interest groups.  And we're left wondering if it was just his nature, since he dislikes conflict (not such a great quality for a politician, much less a President), or is he comfortable advancing that agenda?  Or does it even matter by now?

"Instead he half apologizes for them and makes a show of trying to reject them for the vanity points a Democratic President can get in the media for appearing to be a "new Democrat".  (Ratchet, ratchet...)  If that's his intended narrative, it's not working.  And he sure is making it hard for the Dems who really are trying to hold to Democratic values right now.  It's just impossible for me to think that if he had done what was right for Americans, not what was expedient, we wouldn't be where we are today, cringing at the thought of what election night will mean for us.  My state may wake up to Governor Tom Tancredo and Senator Ken Buck: it's a horrifying thought, and that the Tea Party grew massively during the summer that our President was AWOL, nowhere to be seen, disturbs me massively.

'Seizing moments' takes conviction and sensibility, some radar that can pick up on the moods and beliefs and needs of the citizenry, and focus it all into directed policy, to make Congress do it, and show that it's the will of most of the people.  It's clear Obama has isolated himself too far to read the winds, or make any substantive changes now.  Instead, as you say, he's convinced himself of the opposite of what we see.

After Coakley's defeat, he too late realized that he screwed up by so favoring the banks, and enacting that sort of health legislation.  When, in an attempt to mitigate some of the damage, he dragged out Paul Volcker, and went to Wall Street to swat the bankers, it was Bad Theater.  The bankers knew it; they didn't even show up for his scolding!  And to pretend that he was 'the only thing standing between the banks and the people's pitchforks' or however he said it was so hollow.  All you had to do was look at his call list: never a banker whose call he didn't accept. 

Anyway.  If he had to do all this odd faux-self-examinaton, he could have waited a few years, or even until after the mid-terms.  That he has crushed even your confidence and belief in him, Mr. Dreamer, shows how wobbly things are for him.  Wow.

Well, there is a lot here.  But let me just focus on the beginning of the title.  Navel gazing is derogatory term used to describe someome who is utterly focused on them inner spiritual universe without any regard to world outside themselves.  Reading this interview as well as the rolling stone interview (which I agree with one of the commenters was a real soft ball pitch of an interview), shows me a president who is, if anything, overly sensitive to the world around him.  Now in one your last comments your problem is really not he is navel gazing but that he doing this "odd faux-self-examination."  I would say, however, that having a president who is willing to reflect and admit, not only to himself, but to the public where he made mistakes is a good thing, and definitely refreshing. As this quote from the interview indicates, Obama may be doing a lot of things but he isn't navel gazing:

Now in retrospect, I could have told Barack Obama in December of 2009 that if you already have a third of the package as tax cuts, then the Republicans, who traditionally are more comfortable with tax cuts, may just pocket that and attack the other components of the program. And it might have been better for us not to include tax cuts in the original package, let the Republicans insist on the tax cuts, and then say, O.K., you know, we’ll compromise and give you your tax cuts, even though we had already proposed them. 

And if you recall, when we initially unveiled what the Recovery Act would look like — in fact, that a third of it was tax cuts — Mitch McConnell actually was, as he phrased it, pleasantly surprised that sort of traditional Republican idea had been included. But very quickly that pleasant surprise turned into attacks on the infrastructure or the aid to the states or what have you.

I would have told Barack Obama back in 2009 that just be warned, structuring the tax cut the way we did, where people basically got a small bump in their paycheck every two weeks, was the right thing to do economically, but politically it meant that nobody knew that they were getting a tax cut. And in fact what ended up happening was six months into it or nine months into it, people had thought we had raised their taxes instead of cutting their taxes.

My point here of focusing on this "navel gazing" facet is two-fold.  One is that we all have, including myself, have some narrative we want to validate.  We will take things such as this interview and use to build that narrative, even though someone else can come in basically prove the opposite if so motivated. In reading this and the Stone interview, I don't see a president who has waved the white flag, but one that is trying to achieve the possible steps forward, rather than get nowhere while taking principled stands.

There is a quote in the Stone interview which brings up the point that is the second reason for the "navel-gaze"

I could have had a knock-down, drag-out fight on the public option that might have energized you and The Huffington Post, and we would not have health care legislation now. I could have taken certain positions on aspects of the financial regulatory bill, where we got 90 percent of what we set out to get, and I could have held out for that last 10 percent, and we wouldn't have a bill. You've got to make a set of decisions in terms of "What are we trying to do here? Are we trying to just keep everybody ginned up for the next election, or at some point do you try to win elections because you're actually trying to govern?" I made a decision early on in my presidency that if I had an opportunity to do things that would make a difference for years to come, I'm going to go ahead and take it.

Now this is definitely a legitimate ground for debate to say he could have gone for those fights and won, that he is just making an excuse for giving into the wealthy special interests.  But what I see in both of these of these interviews is a president who is attempting to articulate both what he trying to do and how he is approaching it in given political environment. 

So Obama and his administration tried to govern with political and economic they were handed, we able to achieve some things, admitedly not perfect, and laid the groundwork for other things.  Or so goes one narrative.  And with this narrative it isn't surprising that Obama isn't out there trying to convinve people on the left that he isn't navel gazing nor waving the white flag, then or now.

na·vel-gaz·ing
  1. pointless self-analysis: concentration on self-analysis and personal concerns in a way that excludes considering broader issues or taking practical action
Synonyms: self-analysis, reflection, rumination, brooding, self-absorption, meditation, contemplation, daydreaming, woolgathering

How do you think the many Dems who are running for election in seventeen more days will take to this interview?  I would think most, including Pelosi, will be tearing at their hair. 

Nothing new of course, but I'm with Trope on this one.  What you call "pointless self-analysis" I call an interview wherein the subject has been asked to reflect upon his job so far. 

While proud of his record, Obama has already begun thinking about what went wrong — and what he needs to do to change course for the next two years.

In fact, I'd be more upset if he simply had no interest in looking back on the last two years and analyzing his performance.  Wouldn't you?

 

This is absolutely not the time for this sort of 'reflection'; ususally Presidents engage in this sort of reverie once they're out of office, not just before midterm elections. 

My beef is that he seems to have learned, or says he learned, many of the wrong lessons, or at least concluded wrongly when assessing voters' dissatisfactions, both in process and policy.  He concludes that it was a communication problem; even Gibbs gets that it was not, unless you call not making a case to Americans for why he and his White House took the tacks they did on so many issues, while pretending otherwise. 

Okay.  That is a legitimate argument, but I suppose "navel gazing" was a more nifty dig even if it was off base? 

And maybe he is trying to undo some of that dissatisfaction by making a reasonable case for why we on the left shouldn't be dissastified.  Those on the left can say okay "I hear you but I am still dissatisfied."  Or they can say, "okay that makes sense.  Now isn't the time to stay home and let the other side take control." 

And if one does agree with Obama that given the Congress, the economy, etc. as it was, the achievements, and there were some, were probably the best one could hope for (also given that no one is perfect and they made some missteps), then the "dissatisfaction" as a general malaisse is probably misplaced.  And why are some feeling this misplaced dissatisfaction is that the conditions and achievements obtained in that environment have not be well communicated.  For if they were then we wouldn't haven't the dissatisfaction.

It isn't in the end a "communication" issue as much as it is a "framing" issue.  If one says that I'm dissatisfied with the HCR we got because we could have gotten so much better, then if one believes that is a falsehood, then it behooves one to say so.  To persuade the other that, indeed, we have made the progress we could.

In the end, if the left was making a bunch of noise about how unenthusiastic they are, how dissatisfied they are, about how they might not vote at all, maybe you wouldn't be seeing all these self-reflective interviews that seem to point to one more reason to be dissatisfied.

 

What I'm getting from the excerpts I've seen in this post and thread (not having read the interview yet) is that some of the things he said, trope, yes, could be seen in the light you suggest--as efforts to "explain himself" to the folks he feels are shaky or deserting him.  And yes, if he thinks that, absent such an explanation, there is no reason to think those developments can be reversed, sure, it makes sense for him to do that now, as opposed to in his memoirs.

Other things he says seem counter-productive to that end, however.  If you're trying to get another hearing from people, dissing them, as some of the things he also said in the interview predictably would be seen as doing, isn't so helpful. 

Again, I am going to try to interpret what he's saying in the most favorable light, that the guy is probably utterly exhausted, distressed by what he's seeing all around him, and might not have enough emotional energy at this point to be as guarded in the interview situation as might ideally have suited him perfectly. 

Really, I think that to the extent that the griping and criticism are serving as a distraction from trying to hold the Congress right now, that's counter-productive, some might say self-destructive. 

To the extent that individuals need to let it out, to ventilate, to air their frustrations, in order to be able to move on and act as constructively as they can (hopefully to help save the Congress), well, then I would say that people do what they need to do.  I understand that doing that in public fora, as I myself have done in this thread, carries with it the downside of possibly further de-energizing others, which is most unhelpful now in my view.  

Individuals are different in what we need to do, in how we respond to situations and what enables us to move past what's upsetting us so much and act as constructively as we are able to.  That's what I take away from this exchange. 

Well said.  Just going off your last paragraph, I think what I would say the question of the moment is "what is the most constructive act right now?" But that has to do with how we assess what has transpired over the last year and a half.  So some of this is has do with that assessment, since so much of how we decide where to go has to do with our understanding of where we have been.  Which is why business and organizations spend so much mind-numbing amount of time doing one variation or another of SWOTs. 

I like your comment, American Dreamer and think your take is very fair-minded.  Since I see navel gazing as a kind of looking inward that isn't productive, I think it suits this piece because to my mind the timing of the article, so close to the elections, called for something else.  What that something else should've been I can't say as a "fired up and ready to go" piece would hardly seem authentic at this point.  But I think perhaps something more like a the president sounded angry and frustrated by Republican opposition piece would've been a lot more satisfying to a lot of people.  Yes all presidents do it.  They blame the other side and Obama wants to stay above that kind of thing.  But politics is theatre and this script was off in terms of the moment.  It read like a post-mortem.  A dirge. 

Then too, Obey makes a good point above when he says the right tone to take here was researched to death and structured down to the minutest details.  And if holding the center is what they're about, then maybe all of us here are all wet.  Isn't it the conventional wisdom that the American voter doesn't like anger and doesn't like mudslinging?  Could've fooled me about that, I think people love a good fight, but I'm talking conventional wisdom. 

that excludes considering broader issues or taking practical action

Show me where in the substance of the interview that this is true.  In fact the whole point of my post could be said that Obama's argument is that he was attempting to take practical action, even if that meant not getting everything we wanted.  And just in case you were considering the Taupe Argument, Obama was just responding to the interviewer's opening comment upon entering the room.

And personally I think they should welcome it, because it shows a president who is willing to reflect upon things and talk about them in an open and sincere manner.  He talks about they way governance actually works rather than reducing it to some us versus them battle or whatever soundbite de jure.  But if you want a president that talks like W., that's okay. I personally don't.  Even if the general electorate won't bother reading something as lengthy as the interview and instead base their decision on some 30 second commercial.

ATrope, you and I could easily write each others screeds by now, so I'll desit in answering.  The last few comments I've made to you went unanswered, and one was to a question you pointedly asked me via a ticking-timebomb-jack-bauer-ish scenario.

By just posing the question in the manner you did, it shows me that you and I are so far away from being able to find any agreement that I think our words are wassted on each other.  One day I may change my mind, but for now I'll let your words stand; others can, like LisB, cheer you on. 

"And just in case you were considering the Taupe Argument, Obama was just responding to the interviewer's opening comment upon entering the room."  LOL!  You and I must have read the same interview, but boy, did we take away different things from it!  Read David Bromwitch at Huffpo; he commented on the same two final graphs I put into the quote box, and his take was totally different!  ;o)

 

I always try to answer people as best as I can, but sometimes life takes me away from the threads and then everyone is on to the thread of the moment.  I'm trying to think of the ticking-timebomb quote and it isn't ringing any bells.  But if you link to it I will give me best to answer it.

The blogosphere such as this site operates on two conflicting realms.  On one hand, we look to express ourselves in a likeminded group, where not only is their affirmation of our thoughts and opinions (always a nice thing), but also to get an expansion of knowledge that provides an even greater affirmation of our thoughs and opinions.  On the other hand, we open ourselves to those who don't see eye to eye.  In our case, what makes it seemingly more interesting, is that we would basically agree on the end, where we want to take this country, the role of government, etc.  The disagreement comes when we start to get into the details of the here and now of how this being achieved.

And really one of my points is simply that two people can read the same interview and see two different things.  For the life of me I can't understand why the President making small talk with a reporter about the decoration of the white house when the reporter brings it up should somehow be held against the president.  Unless one has the agenda to show how out of touch the president is, which of course this is just a fish in a barrel because with so many americans suffering and he is talking taupe he must be disconnected.

You say, and I hear others say: "In our case, what makes it seemingly more interesting, is that we would basically agree on the end, where we want to take this country, the role of government, etc."

I must, at long last, conclude that you and I (as well as other Dems) disagree with this.  The final destination too often includes the 'how we got there' part; what government policies you can be content with often run counter to mine.  I will argue for truths and outcomes I believe in.

About the last thing I would accuse this President of is navel-gazing.  The guy's been working his ass off from day 1, just as one would have hoped for.  For me that's not a source of criticism.

Trope, would you agree or disagree that, when the President says he got 90% of what he wanted in the financial reform bill, he might not have seen it that way if he were listening to people like Joseph Stiglitz and others who have been on the right side of the financial mess issues for a long time, unlike (for the most part) the economic advisors he's been heeding?  And that, in retrospect, it would have served him better to have had a more diverse group on the inside making these arguments to him, at the time they needed to be made, rather than through the media, often after the fact?

I don't want to belabor the point at this time.  I appreciate your willingness to say openly that there are legitimate disagreements that can be had with some big decisions that have been made.  I agree with you that that is not so pertinent at this moment and for the next 2 weeks and two days, and the less discussion focuses on that for this time period the better.  I know I need to do better in that regard myself and will try to stifle myself for the time being and just try to help as best I can, as I've been trying to do. 

If Obama could rule by dictate, I would answer one way, as opposed to the way I would answer that what he needed was to get legislation passed through what just everybody here would say is a generally corrupt Congress who is in the pocket of the wealthy special interests.  One thing to keep in mind in interviews like this is any president, regardless of their party or stripes, cannot openly call out Congress and hope to get anything done in the future.  The question we have to ask is what could had the most progressive president in US history realistically made a reality in terms of the financial reform bill given the realities.  And what would compromises would one be willing to make.

I would just add, does the Consumer Protection Agency seem to be a product of a Bush-lite administration or one which working to turn the ship that has been turning the wrong direction for decades.

It's my opinion that: (since it seems unclear to one or two readers, lol!)

Since Obama agreed to do this interview, one might have concluded that his impetus would have been to help Dems in the midterms.  If it was, in fact (and it may be so) that it was to help his re-election, that is a whole 'nother kettle of fish.  I won't even begin to try to analyze that possibility and the contents of the interview.

What he did, IMO, was to say that Democrats are never satisfied, not just attack the Lefty blogosphere as he often does; this was bad.  He then goes on to (what I call) faux-analysis, in that he tosses out some critiques and charges concerning his giving away the bank to business, Republicans, etc., and muses it may have been wrong, while in the same interview saying that he's prepared, since the Dems will lose power in one or both Chanbers, to give new creedence to the 'conservative and centrist reforms' the R's want.  Well, shiver me timbers; he's just announce his agenda for the next two years.

So all the Dems who want to take action on a plethora of issues just got told they can go Peddle Fish:  the President wants to make nice with the soon-to-be recalcitrant Congress.  He doesn't draw some nice, neat lines in the sand, or tell people why it's crucial they elect Dems; he sort of mumbles that he hopes he can fulfill some of that remaing 30% of his campaign promises (okay; I'll leave that one alone), and make some of the enacted policies even better. 

He sounds weak, he sounds like he just gave in to big Dem losses, and worst of all he just gave into some idea that the Republicans might be right on some Reform ideas.  He even named Paul Ryan, who might just agree with the Catfood Commission, and want to lower the deficit by cutting socail programs!  I'm picturing the Dems who still do believe in turning things around, holding their heads in their hands.

And this morning David Ignatious told us that the buzz is that after the Dec. report on Afghanistan comes out, and we all get to Huzzah or scream about it, he'll be choosing General David Petraeus to be Chairmanof the Joint Chiefs.  Now, if that's not an indicator that he means us to be on a permanent war footing, I can't think what is.

I personally can't wait for the next batch of wikileaks.

Never said your opinion was unclear to me.  On the contrary, it's extremely clear.  Laughing

Things depend on where you are as a voter.  Personally I doubt I will unseat Pence but I'm trying.  But in those places where it is iffy - do you really think it doesn't matter who sits as chair of the House Committee.  We all screamed for Warren to be head of the Consumer agency, but if the repubs take control, what will become of that? 

And when one looks at the Senate, which is not representative of the country of the whole, where Idaho has as many votes as New York, the reality of what is possible is totally different.  But if one wants to make political critique without looking at this reality, that is your right.  It just makes the argument weak.

Ultimately, Obama is still treating the electorate like adults (at least in the interviews).  I suppose that is his weakness. They need someone to tell them the what is what, to tell what to do, because we can't expect the electorate to be adult enough to look at the issues and the the various politicians positions and make an educated decision.

That you are still unable to grasp that I am upset because he dimmed the chances of Democrats getting elected, how can we possibly communicate?  We are talking past each other at an extraordinary rate!  I personally have to vote for Michael Bennett, Corporate Dem, and might end up with Tom Tancredo as my Governor, and you're tallking to ME about it?  I will likely even make calls for John Salazar, Blue Dog.  Son; you are reading things here that are in your mind.

Aren't you being a little melodramatic on the Tom Tancredo thing? He's down by 20 with two weeks to go.

 

He doesn't really have shot ... right?

 

Maybe melodramatic:  "Tancredo within four points of Hickenlooper" (who is fantastic, by the way).  And if something (ahem) happens to Maes, who knows how many of his votes Tancredo would get?  All of them if the votes were still out; for now, he's the spoiler in the race.  Bennett has been narrowing the lead, but Silver had given him an 89% of winning or something...

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/10/15/tom-tancredo-within-four-_n_764711.html

 

Obama appears to have Volkered Warren ... she isn't going to be the head of the consumer protection agency regardless. Besides, if he weren't a pussy he'd just recess appoint her - like every other president has done before him. Obama's refusal to employ the tools of the presidency on behalf of America does not cause those tools to cease existing. He could literally appoint her today and there isn't a damn thing the republicans could do to stop him. Electing more democrats isn't going make him take action - nor would electing more republicans prevent him from doing so.

The reality of the Senate is that they can change any damn rule any damn time they want.  I don't think you understand the power achieved through Reid holding the Majority Leadership and Biden being president of the Senate. They literally can do anything with the rules they choose - only "decorum" prevents it. In addition, they have been rolling in the majority with 58+ ... and Obama holding the fillibuster in his own pocket in the person of his centrist crew: Ben Nelson, Blanche Lincoln and Max Baucus who all bypass Senate leadership and go direct to the WH. If you want to ignore that, it's your perrogative but the gridlock in the Senate originates in the White House, not the GOP. Republicans are only able to obstruct because the Democrats allow it - and Obama is the uncontested leader of the Democrats.

Regardless how this election goes, we still have to address the WH first if we want to see real change fought for. In a vast number of areas, the reason we aren't getting the change we hoped for is because Obama is actively working to make sure it doesn't come to pass ... for whatever reason.

 

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