The Bishop and the Butterfly: Murder, Politics, and the End of the Jazz Age
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    Lame Duck Amok (or, Barack Obama in Winter)

    So President Obama is having a couple of pretty good months for a lame-duck President. Obamacare upheld, same-sex marriage legalized nationwide, and the Confederacy-lovers suddenly on the ropes. Things can change fast in national politics, and this post might seem completely wrong in six weeks, but right now, today, Obama's opposition seems about as hapless as they've ever been: unable to cope with events, usually on the defensive and mostly on the wrong foot. And yes, some of this is the usual ups-and-downs of partisan politics. But it's still remarkable that halfway through his second term, when most presidents are largely irrelevant, Obama seems to have stronger mojo than he's had in years.

    Maybe it's luck. But maybe Obama's opponents have done this themselves. They have forced him to govern like a lame duck for years now, unable to get almost anything through Congress, so that he had to rely on executive action and the bully pulpit. Most presidents get reduced to using those tools around this point in their second term, and it takes most of them a while to adjust. But Obama has been practicing using his lame-duck toolkit since the 2010 elections; he is right in the middle of his comfort zone at exactly the point when most presidents get thrown out of theirs. In fact, being a lame duck has liberated him to use the bully pulpit more, to be more energetic and direct in his rhetoric. There are no more mid-term elections to worry about, no more swing districts to lose. Obama can just be Obama.

    And to some degree, what we're seeing is the overreach of conservative opposition to Obama. Obama has not gone on the offensive; he hasn't had the muscle to do that, and it seems not to be his nature. Instead, the conservative right has largely chosen their own battlegrounds on which to fight Obama, and they're losing to him badly on those chosen grounds. They decided to make repealing Obamacare into a hopeless crusade, long after the point of realism, and they've lost. They made gay marriage a core issue, and lost completely. If the last Supreme Court term has been largely liberal in its decisions, it's because conservative activists overreached, proposing cases that they hoped would produce huge 5-4 wins but that instead turned into 5-4 and 6-3 losses. The conservative Supreme Court Bar has kept swinging for the fences, striking out, and giving the ball to the other side.

    Barack Obama could not have started the Black Lives Matter movement. The First Black President could never have done that. And remember, back in 2010 people were publicly scolding Obama for even suggesting that maybe Henry Louis Gates, Jr. shouldn't have been arrested on his own front porch because a cop was annoyed at him. But over the last few years conservative media have chosen to actively champion a series of white men who killed unarmed black men, beginning with Fox News's attempt to lionize George Zimmerman: not just to defend him, but to hold him up as an actual hero. That has meant that increasingly, over the past few years, national media has covered shootings that previously got nothing more than a brief story in local papers. Young black men being shot by cops is not a new phenomenon. What's new is that young men being shot by cops get national press attention, which starts to make it clear just how often this goes on. This has become a national conversation because the conservative media chose it as an area of focus, because they chose the inalienable right to shoot a teenager with Skittles as their preferred cultural battleground. It gets Fox News's viewers excited, but it turns out that repeatedly advocating for killing unarmed youths is not a winning mainstream position. And now Black Lives Matter has a life of its own.

    And, to be fair, Obama's success (at least for the moment) in his lame-duck phase may ultimately come down to something much simpler: discipline. At this point in their second terms, most two-term presidents have been wrestling with a major scandal. In July of 1987, the Iran-Contra hearings were already on TV every day. In July of 1999, Bill Clinton had survived impeachment and we all knew much too much about blue dresses, cigars, and the President's favorite sex acts. In July of 1975, Richard Nixon had already been replaced by Gerald Ford. The second half of most second terms have involved a lot of self-inflicted bleeding. And while the last two years of George W. Bush's presidency might not have had a signature scandal per se, an iconic American city got all but completely destroyed on his watch and he seemed neither equipped nor strongly inclined to deal with that. The debacle of Hurricane Katrina clearly destroyed the public's confidence in Bush's leadership, and he never got it back.

    For all the chatter, almost since he was inaugurated, about "Obama's Katrina," he simply hasn't had one. There has been no disaster of that size, compounded by negligence, on Obama's watch. And despite the endless harping on possible scandals (Ben-ghhhhaaaazzziiii!) by the Republican base, none of them has seemed like much of a scandal outside the Republican base. Obama is partly helped by the fact that things that could and arguably should be scandals -- wiretapping foreign leaders, aggressive drone strikes without oversight -- are things that his predecessor began doing and that his opposition wants to intensify, not to stop.

    That said, we're at the point where most second-term White Houses are plagued by scandal, a muckraker's paradise, but journalists are hell-bent on digging up dirt on Hillary Clinton instead. The Candidate of Hope never quite turned into that guy, but No Drama Obama has pretty much delivered what he promised: a disciplined White House with no major scandals and little serious self-inflicted damage. You can beat Barack Obama; we've seen it done. But you can't get Barack Obama to beat himself. And he's been more than willing to let his opponents knock themselves out.



    It seems like he just left the GOP bark and bark up the wrong tree until they wore themselves out. They are in power in the house and senate but are only there because of high dollar campaigns and gerrymandering, long past their popular support.

    They are so busy posturing and fighting among themselves to even be effective at passing legislation for Obama to veto. Also the opposition is so busy having a shadow primary for money between 20+ Republican candidates that the media hasn't got any idea were to start.  So how do you get the media worked up on a maybe scandal if there is no solid coordinated front. 


    Doc, a classic piece of great writing, thanks for taking the time to do it.

    It seems that the lack of an Iran deal, while hugely important, would not be the detractor it might have been if his other successes had not materialized, thankfully, the way they have. Still, I think the Iranians want to re-enter world commerce and that a deal will materialize.

    For the balance of his term, I think Obama's "Katrina" is possible because of the rise of ISIS, and domestically, a possible sputtering of our economy due to slow growth around the world---which would, of course, be Obama's fault.

    When I think of Katrina I'm reminded of a survey in the South which asked who was more responsible for the failure to respond to Katrina, GWB or Obama. At least 50% thought that Obama was more responsible.   

    What does gay marriage or the South Carolina shooting or the rebel flag have to do with Obama? Why do these developments make a good month for him? Were there major White House initiatives that I missed? Just 2 years ago Obama opposed gay marriage - does his conversion now means all progress in this area accrues to him? In South Carolina Obama gave a eulogy and while I didn't see it, did he have a Reagan moment, "Ms Haley, tear down this flag!" And if he's that good, can he do something about police abuse of blacks too? I think that's actually part of the DoJ mandate. So I'm not seen as hypercritical, I do give the White House credit for the birth control workaround - well done!

    Why haven't you seen the eulogy? You should see the eulogy.

    Why specifically should I see the eulogy? I usually skip funerals anyway, though will probably make it to mine - though late as usual I imagine.

    Forgot TPP - was it good Obama passed it with little Democratic support or irrelevant as Krugman says or a travesty as Elizabeth Warren and many on the left believe? Is this part of Obama's good month or one for the iggy file?

    Tpp may come to be regarded as his best, in the sense of least worst, foreign policy accomplishment. 

    Whatever positive legacy that President Barack Obama might point to – the first African-American president, the Affordable Care Act, the changed social attitudes on gay rights, etc. – his ultimate legacy may be defined more by his reckless stewardship guiding the United States into a wholly unnecessary new Cold War.

    Wow, things going too well in Ukraine for them? Overall Ukraine has been a bright spot in US and EU foreign policy. Donna's has turned from seeming critical to Ukraine's economy under Yevkoshenko to a costly backwards industrial zone. Putin's overreach has backfired in terms of capital flight, global good will, and opinions within Donbas itself. Proper power sharing still seems an option but only without Russia pulling the strings - at the moment, the message to Putin is "you want them autonomous, you pay the bill" - and at the moment he's running out of options. In any case, his charm offensive is over, Europe's limiting its energy exposure to Russia as best possible, and overall it's been a successful transition from a Soviet Era headache. Even financial negotiations with IMF are going much better than with Greece, with more effort at reform and of course much smaller dollar amounts. But I'm sure there's a budding nuclear holocaust in there somewhere if you look hard enough. Meanwhile in the real world, Ukraine is on its way to the EU - welcome.

    Of course Ukraine’s negotiations are going much smoother with the IMF than are Greece’s. The IMF is a political arm of the West and that means primarily of the U.S. And, the IMF is loaning/giving money to Ukraine in direct violation of its own specific guidelines regarding ability to repay them. Here is Forbes assessment of Ukraine’s economy but a quick google search will find many more, most of which are even more dismal. I didn’t find one that painted a rosy picture for Ukraine going forward.

    Ukraine's Economy Is A Disaster. Its Demography Is Even Worse

    Estimates are in the range of one million Ukrainians being internally displaced and tens of thousands leaving the country. Most have gone to Russia. I wonder why. Maybe they get different news. 

    The following piece is worth reading,IMO.


    Altogether a sloppy, context-free brief for the prosecution masquerading as serious analysis. And typical of so much that is written about Russia today.




    Many share the Russian language and have contacts inside the Russian border. They are just looking for a safe place to go. 

    Yes 1.3 million seem to be internally displaced, no they didn't mostly go to Russia, almost 60% are pensioners and getting out of war zones and Russian occupation may make sense. As for the big demographics worries, I don't see it. Yes, overall population has been decreasing in Ukraine and Russia for years. This particular stat doesn't even differentiate between Donbas, but its a crisis for the IMF somehow, event though the amounts are 1/20th the Greek bailouts and 1/5 the next suggested bailout. Of course much of Ukraine's shortfall is due to war along with corruption, energy blackmail, etc while Greece's is due to corruption and mismanagement and currency issues. Of course we're usually sympathetic towards a country with foreign invaders. I do agree that there can be too much hysteria writing up Putin's actions, though I don't think I've engaged in them. I see the situation as simply shepherding Ukraine into the EU and protecting against a bigger problem in Donbas. Even if Donbas leaves, no big deal - it's a small part of Ukraine, though I don't think that's what most people in Donbas want.

    Well here is my feeling about lame ducks

    And then

    Marc Maron

    I was astounded by these two airings.


    Etc. etc. etc....



    the end





    The White House Correspondents Dinner skit was classic.

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