On Eve of Election, Centrist Pundits Turn to Ghosts of Politics Past, Present and Future, Scary in Their Ignorance and Mendacity   Leave a comment

This close to an election, actual analysis and prediction is too risky for the centrist pundit.  People might actually remember what they wrote and judge them according to whether they’re right.  (They’re not, usually.)  Much better to preserve reputations of being a serious figure worthy of respect by reveling in some fairy dreamland, admiring political landscapes that didn’t, don’t, or will never exist.

Richard Cohen’s Kennedy nostalgia is probably the most nauseating, just because it absolutely refuses to even acknowledge that national political dynamics have changed since the 60s, and then fucks up recounting those 60s dynamics just for good measure.  Shameless.

[Robert] Kennedy brimmed with shock and indignation, with sorrow and sympathy, and was determined — you could see it on his face — to do something about it. I’ve never seen that look on Barack Obama’s face.

Instead, I see a failure to embrace all sorts of people, even members of Congress and the business community. I see diffidence, a reluctance to close. I see a president for whom Afghanistan is not just a war but a metaphor for his approach to politics: He approved a surge but also an exit date. Heads I win, tails you lose.

Forget Cohen’s trying to do psychology through a telephoto lens.  Try and explain that last sentence.  You can’t.  Because it makes no sense.

Kennedy had huge causes. End poverty. End the war. He challenged a sitting president over Vietnam. It could have cost him his career. […]

Obama never espoused a cause bigger than his own political survival. This is the gravamen of the indictment from the left, particularly certain African Americans. They are right. Young black men fill the jails and the morgues, yet Obama says nothing. Bobby Kennedy showed his anger, his impatience, his stunned incredulity at the state of black America. Obama shows nothing.

And here’s the nub.  Kennedy believed in stuff, man, he was working towards things, was angry at the status-quo, had vision.  And Obama does not.

There are two problems here (besides the absolutely stunning doublethink required to praise a man as a political pariah in the wilderness for doing the politically expedient thing of denouncing an unpopular and unnecessary war that he himself had helped turn into a clusterfucking orgy of destruction).  The first is willful ignorance about the gulf in political and social contexts between now and the late 60s.  Johnson used supermajorities of Democrats in both chambers of Congress to pass enormously ambitious social safety net programs, and the numbers in both chambers didn’t change for about a decade.  The war party ran a presidential candidate who had a “secret plan to end the war.”  I hope the contrast between then and now is too obvious for me to have to make.  To anyone besides Richard Cohen, I guess.  And even with Obama “not caring”, he still passed the most ambitious social safety net programs since the ’60s.  It isn’t ludicrous to argue that, comparing the relative contexts, Obama showed more political skill and determination to accomplish the same goals than Johnson.  It is ludicrous to argue what Cohen argues.  Or dreamily reminisces, would be a better term.

But the second problem is even more pig-ignorant, if anything.  Cohen wonders why Obama hasn’t shown “anger/impatience/stunned incredulity” at the “state of black America”.  Even if you had no idea who Jesse Jackson was, or the nature of his several dismal attempts at running for president, or were completely clueless about the state of race relations in the US circa the 21st century, there’s no excuse for this.  Imma just leave this here.

Cohen’s attempts to garble political history beyond all recognition take first place, but Michael Gerson’s re-hashing of the politics of Obamacare is a close second in the race to use ignorance and mendacity to avoid saying anything about the election.

In late 2009, the Democratic-controlled House and Senate had both passed health-reform legislation and were proceeding with reconciliation talks. But in January 2010, Democrats lost Ted Kennedy’s Massachusetts Senate seat — as well as their filibuster-proof Senate majority — in a protest against Obamacare. It was a remarkable revolt, in the bluest of states.

Democrats lost that Senate race because they ran a candidate who didn’t know what Fenway Park was.  And in any event only 7% of Brown voters cared about the effect on the process of the health care bill.  And in any event Massachusetts elects state-wide Republicans fairly often nudge nudge wink wink.   So the majority of factual claims in that paragraph are silly.  But it gets worse.

The president went ahead, saying, “I feel lucky.” In March 2010, Obamacare was passed without a serious recalibration or a single Republican vote. […]

Obama achieved all of this with a quick and dirty legislative shove that further discredited the political process. The final bill was passed through a maneuver — the reconciliation process — that embittered opponents and assured that a future GOP majority would engage in retribution. […]

The evidence is found in the current campaign. Obama’s signature legislative accomplishment is a relatively minor theme of his reelection effort. It is hard to crow about a law that presidential scholar George Edwards calls “perhaps the least popular major domestic policy passed in the last century.” So Obama’s closing argument on health care is mainly a divisive, unqualified defense of abortion rights.

The Republicans in 2009 must have been prescient, only allowing Obama to staff about 40% of positions requiring Senate approval and breaking the record for number of filibusters in a session ten times over.  They were forced to do so by Obama’s underhanded tactics they knew he was going to pull in the future regarding healthcare reform, such as adopting a Republican plan for healthcare reform, and allowing Republican Senators on relevant committees enormous influence in the crafting of the bill in exchange for yes votes (which of course had to become no votes, because of the lack of bipartisanship displayed by Obama).

The only way to explain this is if Gerson thinks he can educate the public by showing them a world in which Republican talking points actually came true.  This world ignores the above and doesn’t acknowledge Obama talking about Obamacare in every single speech he’s given in 2012, and running ads exclusively about Obamacare on the tv.  What Gerson hopes to get out of this, I don’t know; showing some tyrant editor what the world would be like if he continued to disregard honesty and accuracy?

Of course we all know David Brooks’ game by now, hopefully.  Proclaiming the bright, moderate, bipartisan Republican administration just around the corner, sure to be here any minute now:

To get re-elected in a country with a rising minority population and a shrinking Republican coalition, Romney’s shape-shifting nature would induce him to govern as a center-right moderate. To get his tax and entitlement reforms through the Democratic Senate, Romney would have to make some serious concessions: increase taxes on the rich as part of an overall reform; abandon the most draconian spending cuts in Paul Ryan’s budget; reduce the size of his lavish tax-cut promises.

As President Romney made these concessions, conservatives would be in uproar. Talk-radio hosts would be the ones accusing him of Romneysia, forgetting all the promises he made in the primary season. There’d probably be a primary challenge from the right in 2016.

But Republicans in Congress would probably go along. They wouldn’t want to destroy a Republican president. Romney would champion enough conservative reforms to allow some Republicans to justify their votes.

The phantasm Republicans of Brooks’ future will agree to tax increases.  On the rich.  Because they care more about Romney’s political career than their own.  This is more likely to happen than getting two or three asshole centrist Democrats to vote for the same kind of spending cuts they always vote for and always are seeking as preconditions for voting for anything else.

Brooks’ rendition of the ghost of politics future is a good illustration of why these jerkass centrists aren’t talking about the election.  Try and call a race or two, or provide analysis on election trends, and you’ll be wrong, as always, but people will be able to remember you were wrong.  If, Colbert forbid, Romney actually gets elected, Cohen and Gerson don’t have any paper trial to worry about, and by the time Brooks’ prediction is shown by events to be the mendacious hackwork it is, no-one will remember it.  On the exceedingly small chance someone does dig it up in a desperate effort to make something, anything, in the current political media ecosystem accountable to reality, it will be a trivial exercise for Brooks to point out that, gee, the details of the election / hyperpartisanship by Democrats / the dissolution of the Euro / the dissolution of Syria / whatever happened to have been in the news a few days ago kind of makes that analysis moot, now, doesn’t it.

Good work, if you can get it.  And you don’t mind comparing unfavorably to the most famous villain in Western literature.

Posted October 30, 2012 by Ben in Uncategorized

Tagged with

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: