Politics The Opinionsphere


I try to focus my reading on people I find reasonable and intelligent who write about a world in which I recognize. But I also check in with some more right wing and progressive blogs that are further out there. What I often find are rather opposite takes on Obama with the final conclusion being the same: He’s not one of us.

To take 2 somewhat random examples — John Hinderaker of Powerline:

For some reason, liberals seem surprised that Americans have not warmed to the Obama administration’s policies, like government takeover of health care; bailouts and government ownership in multiple industries; wasteful and ineffective “stimulus” spending; unheard of deficits; massive tax increases slated for next year; and a foreign policy that perversely alienates our allies and caters to our enemies. There has never been a time in our history when most Americans would have approved of such policies, yet liberals are somehow convinced that today’s manifestation of longstanding voter attitudes represents a unique and sinister animus against Barack Obama and his administration….

52 percent of likely voters disapprove of his performance. Note that many of these people voted for Obama. They have been surprised and disappointed by his leftist agenda…

I think what Klein has in mind here is that Obama’s policies would make the U.S. much more like western Europe, so it is “nativist” or “isolationist” to oppose them…

Conservatives are making, every day, serious public policy arguments on issue after issue that resonate with most Americans. Liberals like Klein, meanwhile, can’t formulate an argument to save their lives, but fulminate impotently against conservatives, with invective substituting for analysis at every turn.

The evidence of bad faith in this passage is pretty clear: Bailouts are Obama’s policy? Government takeover of health care? Describing the scheduled expiration of some Bush tax cuts as “massive tax increases.” And of course, his main thesis entirely misses the point Joe Klein was making. Joe Klein was saying the anger towards the Obama administration was rooted in a “classic American…populism” (to quote from the single sentence Hinderaker does)– and then invoked a number of historical precedents. Hinderaker takes this as evidence that Klein sees the populist right’s animus towards Obama as…”unique.”  Aside from this idiocy or bad faith, the overarching message is clear: Obama is far left and alienating the country because he is so far left.

On the other side, Kirk James Murphy, M.D. over at FireDogLake takes Obama’s talk of tackling the deficit and the health care reform law as an attack on entitlements:

If someone you care deeply about depends on Social Security – or will depend on Social Security – call them up today and tell them you love them. Because Team Obama has targeted Social Security…and your loved ones are just the MOTU’s version of collateral damage.

In this telling, Obama has sold out to corporate interests and is following a stealth right-wing agenda because…well, I’m sure that was tackled in previous posts.

The underlying premise of each is that Obama and those who support him must clearly be acting in bad faith — and what they say should be discounted. So, if Obama claims he is trying to bring down the structural deficit in order to save entitlements — most everyone could agree with that goal even as they disagree with the individual steps to get there. However, who can agree with Obama attempting a radical reshaping of America into a totalitarian welfare state? Or the elimination of that most beloved entitlement, Social Security?

The crazy thing about all this is that what Obama is clearly focused on is protecting and modestly improving America’s status quo — which neither these insensate right-wingers or progressives will acknowledge.

Barack Obama Criticism Domestic issues Foreign Policy National Security Politics The Opinionsphere

An Empire or a Just Society?

[digg-reddit-me]Charles Krauthammer wrote a piece for The Weekly Standard that is getting some attention – a piece apparently following up a speech he gave last week. His theme: Decline Is a Choice: The New Liberalism and the end of American ascendancy.

The criticism from liberals has been fast and furious, swatting away at Krauthammer’s many lies and distortions: Ezra Klein, Matt Yglesias, Joe Klein, FireDogLake, Robert Farley.

But from the right, Krauthammer seems to be finding some traction (along with the Cheneys) in creating this narrative about Obama – and his attack has the advantage of being a comprehensive critique of Barack Obama’s administration and its promise. I don’t think the responses from the liberals so far have defused the attack, which I think will gain traction as time goes on.

Krauthammer’s critique is a profound one: that Obama’s New Liberalism – domestically and internationally – makes the conscious choice to let America decline as a global empire. As Krauthammer explains it (updating Niall Ferguson’s more honest description of the choice in his Colossus), America faces a choice between creating a just society at home or maintaining an empire abroad. As a neoconservative, Krauthammer believes we must choose empire because we are the one, special, unique nation, exalted above all others. The declining dollar; the deficits; the withdrawal from Iraq; the rise of China, India, Brazil, and other emerging powers; the scaling back of the panicked urgency in responding to terrorism; the effort to engage in diplomacy; the acclaim for Obama: all of these become points in the Obama narrative being created.

Thus far, the liberal response has been tepid – swatting back the lies and distortions. (For example, most of these dire situations undermining American power are the direct result of Bush administration policies that Krauthammer supported or failed to object to.)

[Image by B MOR Creeeative licensed under Creative Commons.]