Obama's failed leadership: A mosque in Manhattan, the chance for peace

by: Paul Rosenberg

Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 10:30


Yesterday, in the discussion thread of my diary, "Obama, man of anti-principle, strikes again--gives assist to mosque-haters and al Qaeda ", there was a vigorous debate about whether Obama had done the right thing in making his second statement about the Manhattan mosque.  There was even a vigorous debate about whether he had said anything different in the second statement.  There were very articulate arguments on both sides.

But then, at the end of the day came Harry Reid's announcement that he was joining Sharon Angle on the side of the haters, and Obama's leadership failure immediately became clear.  Now, via wobbly's quick hit, we read that the mosque's proponents may be about to withdraw, in a vain attempt to appease the haters.

Newt Gingrich, Osama bin Laden and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are jumping for joy.

Obama's leadership failure has empowered them above all others.

One could argue endlessly about the rightness of Obama's position as a lecturer in constitutional law.  He certainly would have made a perfectly adequate guest for a segment on an MSNBC program.  But leadership is not just about what you do or say in an abstract, classroom-correct sort of way. It's about what you communicate to inspire the soul.  Or to dispirit it.

Somehow, in the abstract, Obama realized perfectly well that this was all about us as Americans.  But he utterly failed to get that very same message in his own gut.

At Media Matters, Joe Strupp reported on how two top former military men--one also Colin Powell's former top aid when he was Secretary of State--saw this as a disaster for us:

A retired general and a former Bush Administration official harshly criticized efforts to block the building of a mosque in lower Manhattan, contending such a position is unconstitutional and could harm U.S. relations overseas.

Major General Paul Eaton, a retired Army commander who oversaw the training of Iraqi troops following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and Lawrence Wilkerson, a retired Army colonel and former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, both slammed right-wing opposition to the Mosque.

"What we are seeing out of the Republican Party here is just appalling," Eaton told me Monday. "From a constitutional perspective, from a common sense perspective and from a military perspective."

...

Both men also pointed to a detrimental impact such opposition can have on U.S. relations overseas with Islamic countries, and even put U.S. military men and women at risk.

"It is like offering your opponent two or three whips with which to beat you," said Wilkerson. "The impact on our military people would be injurious if we say 'no.' It would put another instrument in the hands of those who want to exploit the fear that Americans are at war with Islam and not the radical elements within it."

Eaton echoed that view, noting: "It is a slap in the face to a great many people we wish to have as allies. We are trying to make allies of our colleagues in Iraq and Afghanistan and this is not helpful."

He also added, "This is unhelpful to the American fighting men and women and counter to the image we wish to portray in Afghanistan and Iraq."

It's now clear that we're looking at a failed presidency.  Regardless of whatever else happens, even if he wins re-relection, Obama has utterly squandered the promise he held out for us all.  He empowers the haters and evildoers of the world by only opposing them academically, while giving way to them in every practical sense.

And the longer we refuse to see this obvious fact, the more complicit we are in betraying his promise as well.

Paul Rosenberg :: Obama's failed leadership: A mosque in Manhattan, the chance for peace

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If you are correct, (0.00 / 0)
and I am not saying you are, but if you are correct that "we're looking at a failed presidency," what is to be done?

What concrete steps?

In other words, does your prediction of a "failed presidency," whatever that really means, make a difference in concrete actions today, in decisions people must make.  If so, how?
   


Fair question (4.00 / 2)
This is a very fair question and for me the quick answer to the question about how this affects what I do and think is "not very much".

Those with very high hopes for Obama before or still may reach a different conclusion.

I do think we should not let any belief in a "failed presidency" cause us to fail to seize any appropriate openings that may arise. If we believe it is foreordained that Obama's will prove to be a "failed presidency" (which is a bit further than I would allow) we should not act in such a manner as to help make it a "bigger failed presidency".

Did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts? Hot ashes for trees? Hot air for a cool breeze? And cold comfort for change?


[ Parent ]
I'm Not Trying To Be A Pessimist Here (4.00 / 7)
If he's going to fail, then developing the capacity to succeed in what he should be doing can actually be an opportunity we wouldn't otherwise have.

For example, there was a very powerful citizens' peace movement that developed in the 1890s and 1900s.  It almost prevented the outbreak of WWI.  It did have some support from politicians, but they were definitely not the leaders of it.  Obama's failure to be a leader for peace and reconciliation may be severely disappointing in the short run, not to mention deeply damaging to America's best interests.  But in the long view of history, if a truly grassroots citizens' peace movement arises in the vacuum he's left, that could be a more powerful force for lasting peace than anything that Obama might have done.

The general principle here is that we're a whole lot freer to think outside the box when freed from his sort of brain-dead pseudo-pragmatism (aka "crackpot realism").

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


[ Parent ]
. (0.00 / 0)
I never thought Obama would become the progressive others saw, but I did view him as a candidate that could hopefully segue us into a more progressive era. In that regard, I could consider him a failure to date as his ability to elevate progressive discourse has been virtually non-existent.

Perhaps losing the senate and house is the best thing that could happen to Obama and progressives long-term? Maybe he needs an environment that's combative to actually thrive?  


[ Parent ]
Maybe (0.00 / 0)
Perhaps losing the senate and house is the best thing that could happen to Obama and progressives long-term? Maybe he needs an environment that's combative to actually thrive?  

Or he'll actually work with the Republicans in a way that sets us very far back.  I have no problem seeing either possibility.


[ Parent ]
Hell-o-ohhh! (4.00 / 4)
Perhaps losing the senate and house is the best thing that could happen to Obama and progressives long-term? Maybe he needs an environment that's combative to actually thrive?

Already got that in spades, and doesn't seem to have changed him a bit.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


[ Parent ]
the difference being... (0.00 / 0)
he wouldn't have to be a vocal opponent of conservative democrats (which he was never going risk), but a vocal opponent of Republicans (which he has risked, half-assed).

I'm not under any illusion that it'll change the policy, but if it helps us change the discourse, so be it.


[ Parent ]
Ask Me An Easy One, Why Don't You??? (4.00 / 10)
The most important step is one we can all take individually, which is to stop thinking with Obama at the center of our thoughts.  Think about principles. Think about issues.  Think about organizational development.  Think about redistricting.  Whatever it is that you feel called to work on or do something about.  And do so with as little dependence on the President as possible.  Then work on bringing those ideas to fruition.

The more we work on developing our own agendas, the better off we'll be.

When has this ever not been the case?

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


[ Parent ]
Congress is the core (4.00 / 5)
Jimmy Carter also had a failed Presidency.  Tip O'Neill pretty quickly established the House as an independent function to the left of the President and made it clear to both Carter and to the voters ("I won 290 seats running against Nixon and I can win 290 seats running against you').

Under Harry Reid and the different interpretation and/or application of the 60 rule, the Senate has pushed things hard to the right.  Reid is doing this again on the mosque issue.  The only chance in the short term is Nancy Pelosi and she has ultimately caved in on many cases.

The Presidency?  Well, it may be lost and it certainly has not been where I wanted it.  A strong Democratic Congress can do what the Republicans "have done" to Obama and more.

Most of the truly bad or ineffective Presidents have been defeated for re-election (Hoover, Grant trying for a third term, John Adams), have not run (Buchanan, Cleveland, Pierce).   One of the few exceptions who did run and win, unfortunately was George W. Bush.  Two mediocre-at-best Presidents with big personalities (Jackson, Reagan) won easily.

We had a rare opportunity for a change Presidency and blew it.  Given how rare those opportunities are (Lincoln, FDR, LBJ in the last 200 years) well ...  At least Congress should save itself (the non-Blue Dog part) and as much of the country as it can.


[ Parent ]
Good answer. (4.00 / 3)
People forget issue organizing.  Building a progressive movement that is not attached to Obama or the Dem party (while it may ally on issues) is important.

MoveOn, DFA, and independant organizations are important.    

Totally agree about this:

which is to stop thinking with Obama at the center of our thoughts.

It's disempowering, whether he is successful, medicore, or failed.

Thanks, Paul.  You often talk about the deep issues, the long-term stuff and I find your writings very thought provoking.  


[ Parent ]
Independence (0.00 / 0)
MoveOn has not been independent.  During the health care reform campaign, leaders let the Administration determine the agenda.  As a result, energy that might have been directed to advocates for real reform was channeled into MoveOn, which acquiesced in supporting whatever weakened version of the bill the President pushed.

Out went the single-payer signs, in came the public option signs until those, too, were jettisoned and members were sent off to harass Dennis Kucinich into switching his "no" vote on the final version to "yes."

I agree with you, but think MoveOn might not be the right group if you're looking to organize around issues rather than Obama.


[ Parent ]
One thing we must do (4.00 / 12)
(on top of the obvious, neverending a job of building a progressivise movement) is to do everything we can to dissociate liberals and liberalism from him (Robert Gibbs helped on this score.) If he's going down, as he seems to be, the last thing we need is for him to take the cause of activist government with him. To this end, we should welcome a primary challenge from the left.

(I know, Tom, from reading your stuff at Daily Kos that you disagree, but I'm not sure how long you can continue to claim -- and to operate as though -- Obama is ally of progressives.)


[ Parent ]
Definitely (4.00 / 10)
We need to get used to saying things like, "We welcome President Obama joining with progressives on this issue, and hope that he stays steadfast."

Even when we praise him, let's make it clear that's because he's like us, not the other way around.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


[ Parent ]
An ally of an anti-fascist (4.00 / 1)
coalition.

It's an intertesting choice:

If he's going down, as he seems to be, the last thing we need is for him to take the cause of activist government with him

Either butress him to keep him from going down and taking the cause of activist government from going down with him

or

Disassociating activist government from him.

I lean more to the former still, but I understand your point.  Obama has some weakness now, but I still think he is the most popular voice of "activist government" as it is seen by the general public.


[ Parent ]
The problem with buttressing him... (4.00 / 6)
... is that it's a complete waste of progressive energy and resources. We might as well be buttressing alleged "moderate" Republicans, for all that's worth. Let's face the simple fact that the current Democratic leadership is essentially playing for the other side and are thusly not our friends, but our opponents on every issue that's important. Because that's reality.

In politics, you don't throw a life line to your  enemies when they're in over their head. If anything, you throw them an anvil. But I would argue simply disassociating, becoming independent and simply not helping those who oppose progressive values is sufficient. This administration will never be anything but hostile to progressive or even most liberal values. That much is clear now. They go well out of their way to prove it.

We even have a senator from freakin' Nevada taking sides in a local NYC zoning decision in order to pander to NVs apparently huge bigot demographic.

Supporting such people is political suicide for progressives.

This isn't about Obama, or Reid, or even Pelosi. This is about what progressives should do to improve "our" position. They are on the other side. They are the ones who are going to privatize Social Security in lame duck session--further damaging the real economy and sending millions of old people into poverty. That should tell you all you need to know about who is playing on what side.

Spending precious resources helping such people is political suicide, which is why the party elites are so damn insistent we do just that. Why on earth would the people we reach out to whilst organizing ever take us seriously while we support the people who are destroying the middle class and the collective future of tens of millions of people in this country?

Prepare to have a lot of doors slammed in your face out of sheer disgust.


"More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly." -Woody Allen, My Speech to the Graduates


[ Parent ]
It's a problem alright, (4.00 / 3)
but it might not be an insurmountable one. Après moi, le déluge didn't work out so well for the Bourbons, and it might not work out so well for the President either, but when I look around at all the drooling hyenas and jackals in the Republican party looking to replace him, especially in my state (AZ), I have to admit that I have some sympathy with those who want to save him at all costs.

I wouldn't go that far, but I do think that it might be prudent to split the difference. I'll vote for him, most likely, and even work for his campaign, but most of my time and energy will be focused elsewhere, and so will my money.


[ Parent ]
That seems pretty reasonable to me. (4.00 / 3)
Although I certainly won't work for his campaign. No money, no time, no effort of any sort--not this time. He's not on my team, so I'm not playing for his. To me, supporting any member of Dem leadership equivalent to cutting off one's nose to spite one's face. Reid in particular should be tossed under the proverbial bus if nothing else, for his pandering to racists if nothing else.

I may vote for Obama though. I also may vote third party or write in my cat's name (Chairman Meow, vote early and often!). I probably won't decide on that until I actually have to.

Just to be clear about this, I see continued dominance of these neo-liberal creeps as actually being worse than the GOP, in terms of anything resembling a "progressive movement" is concerned. Dubya, Inc. did wonders for progressives. Obama, Inc. is killing us. That's what bothers me most in all this. We simply can't gain anything with these people splitting up the Democratic constituencies the way they do. They know that, which is why they are going all Red Herring on "teh left." To them, we're just scapegoats and nothing more. Progressives who wish to support those people are welcome to do so, but in my eyes it's nothing more than Stockholm Syndrome.

Is Obama somehow better than a Republican? Personally, I have my doubts at this point. He's doing at least as much damage to this country as his predecessor, but he can do it while branded as some kind of "moderate." That's just dangerous in my book.  He's just  as right-wing as BushCO. He's just as slovenly devoted to corporate interests over the Public Interest (BP anyone?) as Bush, although he knows how to thread the needle better than Bush, who would have simply taken Rand Paul's position. But the results will be essentially the same, as it's just a matter of packaging. Their seafood testing in the Gulf is for oil only, not Corexit, and yet they tell us the food is somehow safe when they're not even testing properly? Profits before people, anyone?

But I also see your point and I wonder about that a lot. Probably too much, actually.

I basically see this country as a bunch of people just tossed off a capsized boat, trying to tread water. We can see shore, but it's far away. But at some point, we will either try to make shore, or we'll just drown while trying to make up our minds about what to do.

Ultimately, we're not in the driver's seat. They are. The right-wing bipartisan coalition and their friends in the media are driving the situation. We can be reasonable and play along hoping for (and fighting each other over) the odd table scraps from their sumptuous feasts, or we can go have our own barbeque and have a much better time. I guess the bottom line is we have to start somewhere and playing their game on their rules is just a complete waste of valuable resources.

Okay, too many  metaphors for one post.

"More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly." -Woody Allen, My Speech to the Graduates


[ Parent ]
I feel you (4.00 / 3)
As you know, I don't disagree with the substance of what you're saying here, but from my perspective, political wisdom -- such as it is -- has all sorts of kinks in it. Unintended consequences, paths not taken, opportunities squandered, and unperceived risks have all got to be taken into account when attempting to step beyond the mess we're standing in.

Historical precedent can be a guide, but it's a very rough guide. Did the Committees of Correspondence know what they -- and France -- were in for? If they had known, would it have changed anything?

I look at the Obama presidency as a holding action, and a hedge against an American implosion that we need more time to prepare for. It's too weak a reed to stand for long in the hurricane to come, but it'll have to do for now. (I like metaphors overmuch myself.)


[ Parent ]
Yeah, we're not disagreeing at all, just asking some different questions.. (4.00 / 2)
And no, the Committees had no idea. No one did. Even the smartypants jacobins had no real idea, even though they certainly thought so--chances are they all thought they did. Revolutions are all about chaos. They are only resolved over time, when those who prevail finally managed to cement their position. But you ask the right question, methinks: would it have changed anything?

I tend to think not. Too much chaos to deal with. Revolutions aren't made, they happen. FWIW, I think we're well on that path now. It's not that there are any viable conduits for making it happen (I tend to think that idea is historical myth-making, given the way they actually work), or somehow managing it. It's all about who prevails in the end, not who starts it. There's no way of knowing who's going to start it. I tend to think it will be the right that starts it. That's what the Teabaggers are all about, after all. They're the ones caching weapons and ammo, not us.

Personally, I prefer your view of things on this question. I'm quite uncomfortable with mine. But I also think there are too many things coming down the pike in a pretty short time frame that are going to push a lot of people into being extremely unreasonable and at that point, holding actions won't count for much. Or at least that's what worries me.

A dying Gulf of Mexico will devastate that region. The looting of Social Security will devastate millions of people. Fiscal austerity will devastate the rest of the economy, devastating millions more. So I have doubts about how much time there is, really. The implosion you mentioned is already upon us. It's only a question of time before we start reaching tipping points.

What happens after that starts is anybody's guess, and that's how I read the historical precedents, if that makes any sense. History has taught me, if nothing else, just how messy, chaotic and costly upheavals are, even when they manage to work out in a good way. So I don't romanticize "the troubles" of times past. To me they serve as a warning, not something to wish for.

And yet, here we are.....


"More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly." -Woody Allen, My Speech to the Graduates


[ Parent ]
I'd give this one a lot more than four if I could Emo.... (N/T) (0.00 / 0)


[ Parent ]
a damning indictment of our mainstream media (4.00 / 4)
I still think he is the most popular voice of "activist government" as it is seen by the general public.

or cognitive dissonance?


[ Parent ]
Don't put down academics (4.00 / 6)
by associating us with that mealy-mouthed wimp.  He's the U of C law school's equivalent of "Teach for America."

In all seriousness, though, this guy could not frame an issue to the advantage of the Democratic party if his life depended on it.  He can't even use issues where Democrats have enjoyed a decades-long popular advantage like financial regulatory reform, Social Security and the crisis in the gulf for political gain.  Even Rahm fucking Emanuel wanted to go after BP and the GOP harder in the wake of the latter.  

Of course, some of this is a function of Obama's sincere, unwavering and, ultimately, irrational commitment to neoliberal ideology.  But even and especially a inept dimwit like George W. Bush knew how to demagogue an issue to his advantage.  But not Obama.  When his administration ends, there won't be any need for a made-for-TV bio. The networks can save their money and replay The Quiet American.


Well, He CAN Frame Issues To Democrats' Advantage (0.00 / 0)
He just can't do it for more than two seconds in a row.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
I was thinking more along the lines (4.00 / 2)
of "The Raft of the Medusa" than a 3"x5" postcard from Atlantic City.

[ Parent ]
Don't Forget the (Apparent) Truth (4.00 / 5)
Salon did a piece yesterday that details how this story got legs: it was reported by the New York Times in December, the imam's wife was interviewed on CNN around the holidays, all with zero controversy and a measure of public support. Indeed, there are TWO mosques near Ground Zero that have been there awhile. Then the lady at Atlas Shrugged was interviewed by the Post and all hell broke loose. If the storyline is true, we've all been played (can you say Shirley Sherrod?). It's a test of character and Obama, among others, have failed the test.

Then again, politicians who actively support a destructive status quo probably can't be bothered to worry much about "The Other." That requires a broader more skeptical view of the world.

The Salon debunking of this story is here: How the "ground zero mosque" fear mongering began.


Yes, I Thought About Including Some Reference To That (4.00 / 2)
But, to be honest, I had a browser crash, so I re-wrote it even shorter than the original.

(I usually don't compose directly in the browser. But when something gets to me like this, sometimes I just rush right into it.)

The failure to respond to this quickly and proactively is yet another facet of Obama's leadership failure--one that's totally at odds with how he ran his campaign... at least at one level.

But, at a deeper level, arguably it's not, since it's not an issue that affects him directly. Or at least that's what his careerist Versailles mind and his toady advisors tell him.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


[ Parent ]
Exactly (4.00 / 5)
But, at a deeper level, arguably it's not, since it's not an issue that affects him directly. Or at least that's what his careerist Versailles mind and his toady advisors tell him.

This is what I meant by politicians who support a destructive status quo can't (or don't or won't) think much about regular people. It's not about getting the facts and making a reasoned response. That's what you hope leadership entails. Instead, Obama's leadership is more a knee jerk response which is dangerous when Republicans and their minions are flat out evil (see Breitbart, Andrew and Geller, Pamela) and happy to push their racist propaganda.

It's also true an intelligent Democratic party would vet the facts in the Salon article and push back, shouting that this is another Shirley Sherrod story, another ACORN story, another scam played on the media and the public by Republicans. That won't happen, of course.


[ Parent ]
Having written the following last Fri night… (4.00 / 6)
Yeah, the Ground Zero mosque flap is pretty much a non-issue, but by sticking with it the right has unearthed an issue our Professor-in-Chief won't wade into, fearing reinforcement of that idiot myth he's a Muslim in disguise. Diabolically clever, no?

...I must say that when I heard about his statement Fri night, as a New Yorker I actually felt it was the perfect time (a state function at the beginning of Ramadan) to address a local issue that Mayor Bloomberg and the local boards seemed to have pretty much resolved. It's the statements the next morning that reopened us up to all this BS. And I think those statements will become a symbol of his ineptitude, if not outright pusillanimity, whether or not the Park51 center ends up getting built on the proposed location.

"This ain't for the underground. This here is for the sun." -Saul Williams


[ Parent ]
"…his ineptitude…" (0.00 / 0)
...should say "Obama's ineptitude"...for clarity's sake...

"This ain't for the underground. This here is for the sun." -Saul Williams

[ Parent ]
Actually I would've welcomed (4.00 / 5)
the Professor-in-chief, the one who has the capacity of address charged issues with nuance (for politics), the one who gave the speech on race and the speech in Cairo. That, in fact, is the best Obama, the teacher who speaks to our better Angels, because, God knows, he's not going to  attack entrenched power in a substantive way. But he didn't dare commit. He went halfway, then backed it up to a quarter.

That's one big sad thing about Obama's presidency, those areas on which because of who is, he has a special capacity to lead -- race, American's relationship with Muslims -- he's especially afraid to touch.  


After 9/11 (4.00 / 9)
Muslims from all over the world communicated their revulsion and sorrow over the attacks.  We (Muslims and non-Muslims alike) should thank them for their solidarity and support and use the attacks to remind Muslims to oppose and denounce violent terrorist movements propagated in the name of Islam.  But instead we have decided that all Muslims share the guilt of 9/11.  It is a grotesque and mind-bogglingly stupid attitude.

By this reasoning, all Jews share the guilt of Jesus' death, and all Christians share the guilt of the Srebrenica massacre.

Mr. Obama, this is not an occasion for hedging and trimming.  When the people hear only one message, they will be steered by that message.  Today the only message being heard is Sarah Palin's and that of Fox News.  You have lost your voice.  I agree with Paul: You are presiding over a failed presidency.  Please recover your voice.


Jimmy Carter and abortion (4.00 / 1)
Jimmy Carter tried to hit the sweet spot on abortion during the 1976 general election campaign and blew it in a similar manner.  He was personally against abortion.  Oh, yeah, he was in favor of implementing Roe v. Wade as the law of the land.  That little side shift got him a week or two of bad press and ceded the issue , seemingly forever, to the Republicans.

It may be that the best answers are gray rather than black or white (not the commenter, although he does hit the nail on the head).  The best presentation is clear and unambiguous.  I really don't have that kind of mind but I certainly recognize it.  This isn't it.

One simply truth that is a lie.  The answer politically and practically is rarely in the middle.  Otherwise Reagan and the Republicans would have died when they moved away from the Eisenhower-Nixon-Ford center and Jimmy Carter would have been a fabulously successful politician.  Not.  Appealing and keeping to principles is far more successful.  The better angels of our nature are long term not just for a day or two until Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh say otherwise.  And the Times?  A *** excuse for a once significant newspaper that seems intent on selling America into the crapper (Paul Krugman and Bob Herbert to the contrary).  They've stopped reporting NY City and NY state news except for upper class Manhattan and are way late on national stories.


[ Parent ]
Initially, I thought Obama's two statements were decent, consistent, (4.00 / 7)
and sufficient.  But, I then realized that I was viewing them as if my 2L Con Law professor had recited them.  Taking off my lawyer's blinders for a few minutes, I can see how the President's "clarification" of his position (or opinion) was a complete giveaway to the opposition.  Here was a chance for him to actually take a stand--perhaps even, as a commenter at TPM said--to articulate in plain, powerful English that the Constitution is as hallowed and sacred as Ground Zero.  But, instead, the President starts dithering about how he didn't mean he supported those Muslims in their ill-advised attempt to exercise their First Amendment rights (and in trying to heal the rifts between Christians, Muslims, and Jews).

Obama's presidency has been a total, albeit unspectacular, failure--more like an extremely slow-motion train wreck, during which observers can point out numerous opportunities for the conductor to avoid or mitigate the wreck.


Slow Motion Train Wreck (4.00 / 3)
That seems about right.  In some cases Obama is just on the wrong side.  But most of Obama's problems are the negative space left unfilled.  This is a great example of that.

Obama really did make a passionate plea to the First Amendment.  He didn't just claim they had the right to build the center, he strongly claimed that right is what it means to be American.  He even made that point the second time.

From the quotes I've seen, Reid's statement against the "mosque" are universally being treated as in opposition to Obama.

But Paul and the rest here are correct that Obama never made the much harder point that supporting this center is good diplomacy.  He could have come out in favor of the center, not just against the haters attacking it.

Would it have made an actual difference?  I don't know.  But it all adds up.  Obama is being treated by 80% of the population as if he is takes these strong positions, so he might as well actually do it.

Still, as I type this up I find myself not at all convinced that a perfect Obama would be that much more successful.  I'd like to find out, though.


[ Parent ]
A Good Loser vs. A Bad One (4.00 / 5)
Still, as I type this up I find myself not at all convinced that a perfect Obama would be that much more successful.  I'd like to find out, though.

It's a common mistake to think that history is made by winners.  In fact, the greatest changes are usually made by losers, people who tried the impossible, and failed simply because it was impossible--but in the process they began the larger process of redefining the possible.

Now, presidents usually don't play in that sort of territory very much.  They tend to come along late in the process, after all the heavy lifting has been done, and they get to cut the ribbons and kiss the babies.  But there are some times when that just doesn't cut it.  Or other times--more often, unfortunately--when the bad guys are in office, and they move aggressively to move things backwards as hard as they can.  In these situations, it matters a great deal how hard presidents push, how much they are willing to risk failing in their ultimate goals just to get as much as they possibly can.

That's where Obama legitimately should have spent at least part of his time and energy.  I never expected to him to spend all of it in that state, or even most of it.  But when it counted, when it was really necessary, he needed to be willing and able to step up.  Not necessarily to win, but to affirm the value of the fight, that others might win it one day.

Instead, he doesn't even know the meaning of the words.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


[ Parent ]
I agree with you (4.00 / 5)
presidents usually don't play in that sort of territory very much.  They tend to come along late in the process, after all the heavy lifting has been done, and they get to cut the ribbons and kiss the babies.

That's true. But a leader also organizes his organization to put out the required messages so that the nature of the debate can be changed with the public. When Obama was elected I thought he would use his OFA organization to do that. Traditionally it has also been a function of the party chairman (I think.) But instead it seems to me that Obama his retreated into the White House, pulled up the drawbridge, and tried to monitor the situation outside. The messages come out either by Gibbs,on Saturday morning, or by carrier pigeon.

Only if there are any messages they are lost en route.

That defensive hunkering down might be a normal reaction for anyone walking into the mess left by the Cheney/Bush administration, but as a retired military person if I had a leader who reacted that way when things got really bad I'd seriously consider somehow changing to get a competent leader. A hunkered-down leader has taken 9 steps down a 10 step path to loss for the organization.  


[ Parent ]
Rick B - did you mean to (0.00 / 0)
troll rate me on this diary?

http://www.openleft.com/diary/...

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.


[ Parent ]
As I see it (4.00 / 8)
Yes. It's always been up to us. The tears in Jesse Jackson's eyes at President Obama's victory speech weren't earned by Obama; they were earned by generations of determined African Americans, Jesse Jackson among them.

When I was reading Paul's diary on America's Cognitive Impediment yeasterday, the image uppermost in my mind was of the price paid to move the trend lines in those eloquent graphs. Millions of people endured an awful lot of poverty, humiliation, and brutality -- and a lot of them died, desperate and alone -- to achieve the crossing of those lines.

On Democracy Now! last week, during the memorial for Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James Chaney, Amy Goodman made brief reference to the unidentified African American bodies dredged up, as she put it, during the search for the three who'd made the news.

This is the sort of half-buried truth which should drive our efforts. Whether any of us as individuals win or lose this or that battle, we should never forget what we owe to the generations who came before us. It's a debt that only we can pay, and paying it doesn't depend on the good will of powerful people. Never has, never will....


This really gets to heart of it (4.00 / 1)
This is the sort of half-buried truth which should drive our efforts. Whether any of us as individuals win or lose this or that battle, we should never forget what we owe to the generations who came before us. It's a debt that only we can pay, and paying it doesn't depend on the good will of powerful people. Never has, never will....

I may print this out and tack it on my wall. Thanks.

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.


[ Parent ]
Obama as a failed President? Sure looks like it to me. (4.00 / 2)
I've been trying to understand what is wrong with the Democratic party for at least a decade. Obama is clarifying my understanding. Frankly, he is simply not a leader. This is apparent to me right now. Unfortunately, the Democrats need a leader right now.

Obama is highly intelligent and has a great deal of self-confidence. He, however, has no history of leadership whatsoever and certainly doesn't understand what it requires. The Democratic Party has a lot of very capable intellectuals. What the Dems don't have is successful leaders. This is especially apparent when the political environment turns bad as a result of the bad economy. Leadership becomes most important to an organization when the organization is in trouble and fighting for survival.

I see the conservative Republicans as being a cultural movement. They also have effective leadership as the series of astroturf operations clearly demonstrates. So the Republican Party, which is now the vehicle for the conservative movement, has a somewhat consistent vision of what they will create when they return to power and they have the goal of regaining power to achieve that vision.

The Democrats are neither a movement nor are they goal oriented. There is no leadership, and even retaining power does not seem to be a goal for the party as a whole. retaining power is a goal only for the rather isolated individuals who claim the mantle of being Democrats. So the Democrats are operating on the defensive, waiting to see what garbage, lies and opportunistic attacks the Republicans are going to come up with and then, as individuals, trying to defend against those attacks. That's an overstatement, of course. There are mutual support operations. But leadership that coordinates those mutual support operations? Really, Is Harry Reid alone in his battle against Sharron Angle? But the most important thing is that there is no organized attack on the conservatives and other Republicans.

You don't take on a movement one issue at a time. For Democrats issues seem to be goals, but for the Republicans they are tools to gaining power.

A symptom of Obama's lack of leadership is the apparent non-existence of the Chairman of the DNC. Where in Hell is Tim Kaine? Why is he not developing a set of issues the party can run on? Is Kaine in his relatively independent position outside the White House a threat to the insiders near Obama? Have they neutered him so that he will not become another Howard Dean?

I don't know how accurate this is, but I strongly supported Obama for President. Then he was inaugurated and seemed to disappear into the White House, not to be seen again except in rare, distant sightings like a rare bird chased by birdwatchers. Maybe that's OK if he is working behind the scenes to build the party, but I don't see any symptoms of that either. So I am disappointed and disgusted with Obama.

Maybe Obama doesn't think he has to do anything to keep my support. What am I going to do? Send money to Rick Perry and Michael Burgeson and vote for them? Support Mitch McConnell and John Boehner?

In Obama I'm seeing symptoms of Jimmy Carter's dislike for political parties, only in Obama it is dislike of movement politics. Carter let the party get weaker through his lack of support of it. Then Carter earned a space at 32 of 43 in the recent evaluation of Presidents through his lack of leadership. Obama seems to desire a similar achievement.  


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