Oh, give me a home where the Buffalo roam
Where the Deer and the Antelope play;
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word,
And the sky is not cloudy all day.
I am going to go out on a limb here and opine that Charlie Cook, political pundit and "indispensable" columnist for the National Journal would not want to be living on the range. And not just because his name is Cook and the joke is stale. No, Charlie Cook is definitely into delivering discouraging words. In the January 30 th version, he hangs his report on President Obama giving himself the modest grade of B+ for his first year in office.
Before I continue with a précis of Cook's rendition of Presidential Sins permit me a personal observation. It really sucks to have paid good money for something (a subscription to National Journal)that one really hates. Also, perhaps I'm really peculiar, but as someone who has made reference to the seven deadly sins in which conservatives seem to wallow--wrath, pride, envy, lust, greed, gluttony and sloth--I find Cook taking up the theme and describing the President's short-comings as sins (thankfully, only three) to be almost maddening.
Anyway, in the interest of journalistic balance, Cook does admit
Congressional Democrats are hardly blameless on this, but it is the president who sets the agenda and largely runs the show.
That's a sentence which not only leaves the "other party" out of the equation and overlooks conservative obstruction, but also slips in a false assertion--i.e., that the executive, the carry out directives person, is responsible for what those directives are. This is, of course, the basic conservative mantra: "Don't blame me; blame the other guy." It's what, from the conservative perspective, having two parties--bipartisanship (even more worthless than ownership)--is good for.
The other sins Cook serves up are equally disingenuous. First, there's the sin of not having made the economic stimulus package large enough AND
because Obama let the stimulus become a Christmas tree for all kinds of pet Democratic projects.
get this rationale (it's important), because
Instead of being seen as a much-needed economic shot-in-the-arm, the package was widely viewed as wasteful spending.
Cook clearly assigns more importance to what something looks like and ignores who's doing the looking. Also, the agents of legislation--i.e. the Congress--are again, conveniently, left out of the equation, while an inanimate object (the stimulus package) is assigned a life of its own. That's what conservatives, whether they're legislators or pundits, do; they deny their own agency and assign functions where there are none.
Now, while it's true that the sins conservatives routinely indulge are largely self-defeating (gluttony leads to obesity and all that) and Cook may think that the "sins" he's hanging on Obama share that characteristic, fact is that, if there was failure in the stimulus legislation, it wasn't the executive's portfolio to begin with.
Never mind that it takes time to spend money responsibly and most of the dollars have yet to be spent. Or that some local priorities conflict:
The project was the top rated project that was granted stimulus money last year. But the city has declined the stimulus funding it would have received.
City Manager John Bohenko said the federal requirement to pay workers Davis-Bacon Wage rates made it cheaper for the city to build the project using city money. The difference was $17 million without the stimulus and $21 million with. So much for a stimulus!
"Responsible," apparently means "prevailing wage" in fed speak and "on the cheap" in frugal New Hampshire. What's not mentioned here, as elsewhere, is that the bigger the bond issue--i.e. what has to be borrowed from bond-holders, rather than collected from the feds in grants--the bigger the trickle into the pockets of the investor class. If public works have to be bonded, the "investors" get a tax-free cut.
But, to get back to the so-called Presidential sins. Cook almost skips the second and then gets really innovative. I mean, who ever heard of "failure to appreciate" being considered a sin?
The second presidential sin: Instead of immediately pivoting back to the economy when unemployment proved to be worse than anticipated, Obama plowed ahead with health care reform, all but yelling, "Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!" That enraged voters still more.
The third presidential sin was failure to appreciate the intensely negative public reaction to the Troubled Asset Relief Program, initiated in the waning months of the Bush administration and carried through under Obama, and to the various bailouts and takeovers.
So, Barack Obama is not sufficiently agile on his feet; not a Fred Astaire, after all. As for not "appreciating" that bailing out Wall Street turned out to be an exercise in futility, I don't know where Charlie's been hiding that he missed the President's determination the pranksters should pay back every penny and more.
Well, that's not quite correct. I do have an idea. Given that the theme of the January 30th issue of the National Journal is All the Rage, it's clear Charlie was hanging out with the editorial staff and had been tasked with providing a coda for the cover story.
The public obviously is angry. But where Americans direct their rage is unpredictable.
by Paul Starobin
Which, on the print cover, morphed into
All the Rage
It's easy enough to see that public anger is high right now. It's a lot harder to predict the path this anger will take
by Paul Starobin
illustrated by a red-faced, red-clad fellow holding an "ANGRY? YOU BETCHA!" sign. Funny how "public" so often shows up as the companion of "angry." One is reminded of Howard Dean as the angry candidate whose management was a challenge to the political establishment.
Frankly, it's a cover story that, like so many others, I didn't bother to read. I mean, who's got time to waste on people who think making predictions, that one doesn't want them to make in the first place, is hard? Talking nonsense is hard work?
But, actually, that explains a lot. We have come to refer to the party of NO, not just because that's the conservatives' favorite word, but because conservatives DO NOTHING. They just talk a lot and think that's the same as doing aught.
ALL HAT; NO CATTLE
should have read
ALL TALK; NO ACTION
But, you might object, and rightly so, there was a lot of action under Bush/Cheney. Two foreign nations were attacked. Which is true. But what's left out is the planning was done and left on the shelf by Democrats. (Which explains why there wasn't any planning for the aftermath).
And that's the consistent pattern we overlook. Autocrats give orders and then Democrats carry them out. It's what conservatives consider bipartisanship. Conservatives pretend to be the good cops, which often means just looking the other way, and Democrats get to shovel out the stables. As I said, even more useless than ownership!
The pundits role in all this? To serve up discouraging words. It isn't enough for Democrats to do all the work; they have to be declared deficient so conservatives can collect the glory and then rally the troops under the mantle of "try and try again." In short, Conservatives are con men. What they're really good at is talking other people into doing their dirty work--i.e. since all work, from their perspective, is dirty, Democrats should do the work and let the cons take the credit. Moreover, unlike the regular con, who once in a while gets caught and sent to prison, like Bernie Madoff, Conservatives have it down to an art and perpetrate their mischief under cover of law.
The question is how come we Democrats don't usually notice what's going on? Why did we buy into the economists' line that recessions are a "routine" correction for free markets (more inanimate entities) and happen, absent any human intervention at all? Why did it go largely unnoticed that when crooks stash away the cash, the people who need money to lubricate their trade are brought up short?
The answer, I would argue, is the preconceived notion, bought into by the pundits and the press, that it's the autocrat giving orders which keeps everyone moving. Not only is the notion indispensable, if the old order is to persist, but, if you're in the business of making predictions, that's what you want. The unpredictable public is not the oracle's friend. Besides, if Democrats' interest in DOING is such that taking orders from the cons is preferable to being obstructed at every turn, then, in effect,
WHAT THE DECIDER WANTS, THE DECIDER GETS
He just doesn't get it himself; he lets some flunky do it.
Notions are a powerful thing. On the other hand, it can be argued that what we, as Democrats, are so proud of--our ability to get things done--is our downfall. If doing something is better than doing nothing, then the cons get their way; at least as long as we let the obstructionists call the shots.
Is there any virtue in the obstructionist position? Not hardly. Is there reason to let oneself be discouraged? Only if salving one's pride with self-deception is preferable to taking action on one's own. Refusing to dance with the devil is not failure. Nor, contrary to what the Charlie Cooks would have us believe, is it a sin.
Victory is mine,
victory is mine,
victory today is mine.
I told Satan to get thee behind,
victory today is mine.
When I rose this morning,
I didn't have no doubt,
I knew that the Lord would bring me out.
I fell on my knees,
said, "Lord help me please"
got up singing and shouting the victory.