Pols Are Pols . . .

Glenn Greenwald:

Politicians, by definition, respond to political pressure. Those who decide that it's best to keep quiet and simply trust in the goodness and just nature of their leader are certain to have their political goals ignored. It's always better -- far better -- for a politician to know that he's being scrutinized closely and will be praised and supported only when his actions warrant that, and will be criticized and opposed when they don't.

Why is so hard for some folks to understand this?

Speaking for me only

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    Not a government of the people by the people (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by Saul on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 09:22:58 AM EST
    and for the people.  Congress was created to represent the main stream desires of their constituency but the only time their constituency get involved is when these politicains campaign and ask for their votes.  At that time their constituency is the most important person on earth.  However, after they get elected their constituency is forgotten and the special interest groups are the most important people in their lives.

    When I hear pols are pols sounds like oh well that is expected of them so as to rationalize their actions or inaction.  Pol are pol to me only reflects a negative factor. They are more concerned with their political lives than what they were really chosen to do.  

    Why do we need most of them anyway.  Most of them were created because back then their was no communication to DC except by traveling by horse to DC.  All the people could not go so they elected one person to speak for them.  Today in this world of instant communication, representatives and senators seem an archaic way to speak for the majority of their constituencies  especially when the majority of the time they don't.

    How many of the decisions these senators and congressman make in DC really represent the desire of the majority of their constituency?

    Some people think they owe some sort of (5.00 / 3) (#3)
    by ruffian on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 09:23:51 AM EST
    personal loyalty to politicans they generally support, like they are their personal friends or something. Doesn't work that way.

    Isnt that exactly WHY (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by blogname on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 09:31:19 AM EST
    We should criticize Obama -- or any other Democrat who upsets us? I have never witnessed such a massive effort to shield a Democrat from scrutiny.  I know that liberals hate Bush, but this does not mean we should just fall into submission to the Party. Progressive change only takes place when social movements remain engaged and vigilant. I expect Obama to be a moderate -- just like Lincoln, LBJ, FDR and Kennedy.  That does not preclude him from presiding over progressive change.  But this will not happen if liberals snooze or stigmatize dissent.

    This is why ... (5.00 / 6) (#7)
    by Robot Porter on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 10:25:59 AM EST
    it's always wisest to take an issue-based approach to politics, rather than a partisan one.

    It's better for ourselves as citizens, but it's also better for the politicians. Because then they will understand that whatever support they engender comes from their stand on the issues, rather than the letter that follows their name.


    Because (5.00 / 3) (#5)
    by flyerhawk on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 09:31:23 AM EST
    not everyone finds the same things important and when someone makes a stink about one issue then the focus becomes that issue.  For some people that means that their issues take a backseat to something they may feel is minor or irrelevant.

    This seems unresponsive to me (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 11:52:35 AM EST
    I do not see how this addresses this post.

    To wit, you are arguing that folks do understand this point and are upset that others are using this approach because it detracts from attention to their concerns.

    If that is their motivation, then shame on them.

    I actually do not believe that for a second.

    I think Cultism is a much more plausible explanation.


    I think that flyer is trying to explain ... (none / 0) (#26)
    by cymro on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 02:59:30 PM EST
    ... a particular mindset that I have also encountered, which is: "I listened to what X said during the election campaign, I agreed with it, I voted for X, now I wish people would leave X alone and stop making a fuss about other issues so that they can get on with doing what they set out to do in the first place."

    I have actually had intelligent people tell me that they believe it is wrong to discuss politics in between elections -- we should just elect our representatives and them leave them alone to do their jobs.


    Some people don't want the responsibility (5.00 / 5) (#8)
    by esmense on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 10:28:23 AM EST
    that democracy requires. Understanding your own self-interest, understanding competing interests, reaching some conclusions about the common good from that understanding, etc., requires work and a willingness to respectfully engage with others outside your own circle and experience. Speaking out and standing up for yourself, for others, for what you perceive as the common good, for principles you value, often requires not only effort but courage. Few people put enough energy or attention into the requirements of democratic citizenship to get beyond the first step -- understanding your own self-interest. Many people don't even get that far.

    We know that all elected officials need (5.00 / 4) (#9)
    by Anne on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 10:40:07 AM EST
    scrutiny and accountability in order to be effective at addressing the issues that concern us, but the mistake we make is in thinking that because we voice our concerns to each other, on blogs, in letters to the editor, that somehow - via magical thought waves or karmic communication, perhaps - these concerns and complaints are being heard and paid attention to by these elected representatives.

    Even calling and e-mailing and writing these individuals directly is no guarantee that our concerns are being heard, just because of the layers between us and them; who knows which letters and e-mails get culled out and given to this Senator or that Representative?

    Scrutiny and accountability used to be a major function of the news media, but somewhere along the line, with some exceptions here and there, the networks and the newspapers cut back on the time and personnel allocated to government and political oversight and just issued pom-poms in an appropriate color; we get cheering apologists instead, and I have yet to figure out who that benefits.  For sure, we do not have better government, the people in it have come to believe that there is no price to pay for not doing their jobs, or for turning the Constitution on its head.

    For the last 8 years, I have had so many moments of, "okay, this is what will make the difference, this is what will bring the house of cards down," and all we get are three-ring circuses and sternly-worded letters.  The war went on full speed, warrantless wiretapping went on with the help of the government, our leaders committed war crimes, the torture and rendition went on and on and on, the Justice Department thumbed its nose at all of us, disaster relief was mismanaged and continues to be mismanaged, consumers are not being protected, the environment gets worse and worse, the economic health of this country was allowed to deteriorate, the troughs were regularly filled up for the pigs on Wall Street, at the expense of the average investor.  When you look at what has been allowed to happen, it is mind-boggling.

    We are, for all intents and purpose, powerless and voiceless, and from what I have seen so far, that's not going to change on January 20th.  

    Is Obama effected by left criticism at all? (5.00 / 2) (#29)
    by FoxholeAtheist on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 03:20:56 PM EST
    Obma's response to progressive criticism has been largely cosmetic, short-lived and ultimately worthless. Evidently, Obama needs to be pressured a lot more, at every stage, to turn campaign promises into policy.

    Just a few weeks ago, critics of Obama's choice of John Brennan for CIA Director believed they had successfully dissuaded Obama from putting a torture enabler in a key intelligence position. In fact some critics, were feeling rather giddy about their apparent influence and the NY Times prominently blamed progressive critics for ruining Mr. Brennan's chances.

    Then a few days ago, we heard that Obama had made Brennan Chief Adviser on Counter-terrorism; which means Obama gets his way plus Brennan avoids the harsh light of a confirmation process. Perhaps that was Obama's plan for Brennan from the get-go. Either way, I'd call that a lose-lose outcome for those of us who'd hoped to jettison Brennan altogether.

    This past Sunday, in the most recent go-round on Gitmo closure, Obama got some blowback when he said the process would take a while, certainly more than a 100 days. This time Obama made a cute rapid faux-response: within 24 hours, he went out and told his critics that on day one he'd issue an executive order to close Gitmo. However, as Jeralyn and Greenwald subsequently noted, Obama still didn't cede that he'd close Gitmo one day earlier than he'd originally stated.

    Thus far our collective howling has gotten us precious little: not on FISA, Favreau, Warren, Brennan, Gitmo, et al. Evidently, the pressure has been WAY too limited in scope, intensity and duration. Imo, some HUGE inauguration protests might bring our disaffection into sharper national focus.


    Not quite voiceless and powerless. (none / 0) (#24)
    by oldpro on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 02:36:09 PM EST
    For those of us who take the trouble and make the effort, you can speak directly to your state or federal senators and representatives when they come to your area for meetings, town halls, Democratic events/fundraisers, etc. ... or you can make an appointment and meet them at the capitol.

    Or you could organize a sitin at their district offices.  That always gets their attention...and that of the press.


    There's a happy medium (5.00 / 2) (#10)
    by MikeDitto on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 10:50:33 AM EST
    between full-on trust-in-the-dear-leaderism as some have exhibited and throwing one's hands up un the air because Obama's a corporatist neocon Republican-lite hack as others have done.

    Both positions reflect great ignorance.

    Effectiveness lies in the understanding that our friends sometimes need our support to be courageous. And sometimes they need to be poked gently with a stick, repeatedly if necessary. It doesn't mean we don't love them, of course.

    They always need to be poked (5.00 / 3) (#12)
    by andgarden on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 11:12:09 AM EST
    and if they respond favorably enough of the time, they get our support, and sometimes our money, at campaign time.

    Should have been clearer (5.00 / 3) (#14)
    by MikeDitto on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 11:21:00 AM EST
    By "support" I mean political support, as in giving our leaders ammunition to do what they already know is right but may not have the political capital to achieve if they can't say the switchboard lit up with calls in favor of this or that position. Political cover as it were.

    Lighting up the switchboard doesn't get (5.00 / 3) (#15)
    by andgarden on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 11:24:11 AM EST
    enough credit. It's really effective. That's especially true when you can overwhelm the other guys.

    I don't know about this. (5.00 / 2) (#18)
    by dk on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 12:23:36 PM EST
    My concern with these kinds of statements is that they can lead to kind of a Broderesque, bi-partisan kind of view of things.  I also get suspicious when people claim to have found the "happy medium" on something.  There's a certain arrogance there, one of someone who wrestled with a certain tension and, once they have resolved them in their own mind, automatically discount someone else's results.

    People's views of a politician are, no doubt, often motivated by their own priorities and metrics of judging people generally.  If you disagree with certain people's priorities and metrics, fine.  But to say that you have found the "happy medium" and that those who are not in that happy place are, by definition, ignorant, isn't too convincing.


    When was the last time Obama (5.00 / 1) (#37)
    by FoxholeAtheist on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 04:37:38 PM EST
    or any politician made a significant policy change after being "poked gently with a stick"?

    I'd say the Dems were "poked" pretty damn persuasively (but pleasantly) when they just won the GE and majorities in the House and Senate. Trouble is, they're not responding well to that positive feedback nor some gentle critical prodding.

    Imo, now is the time to bring on the really tough love. Beat them all, hard, about the head with a big stick called "CAMPAIGN PROMISES: IF YOU MAKE EM, DON'T BREAK EM".


    Need a better media too (5.00 / 4) (#11)
    by ruffian on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 11:04:49 AM EST
    The media has its set narratives about what it means when Dems have public debates about the issues. Dems in disarray, Dems are indecisive, etc. Enough of the country is so inclined to authoritarianism that they can't understand real intellectual disagreements among leaders, and the media is not inclined to speak about it intelligently.

    And it does not help when Dems feed the narrative with real screwups like the Burris affair, where the leaders change their minds with no intelligent explanation.

    Answer: (5.00 / 2) (#13)
    by Faust on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 11:14:21 AM EST
    Because people are tribal. People want to BELIEVE. Once they identify with their favorite pol most people want to be fed and led, they don't want to do the hard work themselves.

    I might be tribal but I want my own tribe (5.00 / 2) (#21)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 01:37:14 PM EST
    I'm in the get out of my way 10%.  I did used to think that the overall tribe was "nicer" than they turned out to actually be, but I'm over it now :)  Onward to the diamond mines slaves to democracy!

    It took a super crap war for me to get this (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 01:31:12 PM EST
    I braved the last election KNOWING this, but I bet I don't EVER forget this :)  Diamonds are girl's best friend so lets make diamonds.

    MT, a couple of weeks ago (none / 0) (#39)
    by FoxholeAtheist on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 04:44:06 PM EST
    you were wondering about the Afghanistan mission. At the time I said, rather bluntly, that it was 'about oil as always'. I hope you didn't take offense, I meant none, especially to you.

    *I was thinking about the huge Afghan natural gas pipeline project; which is scheduled to break ground in 2010 and scheduled to flow in 2014.


    I didn't take offense at all (5.00 / 1) (#53)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Jan 14, 2009 at 09:14:58 AM EST
    After 9/11, idealisms and patriotisms reigned supreme.  They did even for me and I was fighting it.  I kept telling myself that nothing is 100% anything, THAT MUCH I KNEW to be a fact of life.  I still didn't expect to get the proverbial shaft to the degrees that the military has from all sides :)  I have matured.  If it doesn't kill you it will make you wiser, but I dispute that stronger thing.....you have to heal first to be stronger.  I no longer entertain ideas that oil men don't sit on the sidelines every second of every political world day looking for an opening either.  If we could all be flies on walls, oh the things we would know that were said in private, and the things that were said and rebuked by the "deciders" and the things that were said and weren't rebuked by the "deciders".

    Thanks for the heads up, best to you MT (none / 0) (#56)
    by FoxholeAtheist on Thu Jan 15, 2009 at 04:23:36 PM EST
    Why? (5.00 / 0) (#28)
    by lambert on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 03:17:22 PM EST
    Because they're authoritarian followers?

    See, BTD, what you're not getting is that Obama's not a politician, as you think. He's a Leader.

    Please provide some further commentary (none / 0) (#54)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Jan 14, 2009 at 09:15:52 AM EST
    on this.

    Because (none / 0) (#1)
    by SOS on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 09:02:33 AM EST
    some folks are just stupid.

    i don't think it is. (none / 0) (#6)
    by cpinva on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 09:52:14 AM EST
    Why is so hard for some folks to understand this?

    but not all of us have the time to constantly keep up with what our representatives are doing, or not doing, as the case may be.

    frankly, there's just too damn many of them, at every level, and some of us have families and work for a living. there's only so much time left at the end of each day.

    At least it's easier than it used to be (5.00 / 1) (#17)
    by ruffian on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 12:23:20 PM EST
    what with the internets.

    Easier also for the pols to find out what people think. Even if they view polling and opinion research only through the self interest prism of whether or not they will lose votes over a particular stance, they are still getting sense of what people think. Our half of it is to get our opinions out there where they can be found, by whatever means we can manage.


    I agree with this post (none / 0) (#19)
    by Alien Abductee on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 01:22:15 PM EST
    Understand? (none / 0) (#22)
    by squeaky on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 01:51:01 PM EST
    What do you mean? What is there to understand about Hillary's SOS confirmation hearings?

    Sorry (5.00 / 1) (#23)
    by Alien Abductee on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 02:09:24 PM EST
    but the irony of this post compared to the comments on the adjacent one made me laugh.

    She's my girl!... I am so proundly optimistic... Pay-for-Play?  No... she will open doors and create dialogue that no one else can do... Hillary's being in the news made me feel so much genuine, unadulterated happiness... I find her to now be a reassurring figure in a world gone mad... This brings tears to my eyes... Another Sen submitted some questions today that she needs to answer by tomorrow, which I thought was kinda crappy...

    No "trust in the goodness and just nature of their leader" and "praise and support only when his actions warrant" going on in that thread!!

    Not that I grudge anyone's happiness at Hillary's smooth confirmation process. Enjoy.

    I look forward to Hillary's feet being held to the fire here along with all the rest of the Dems in the days ahead.


    Here's the thing (5.00 / 3) (#31)
    by Steve M on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 03:37:19 PM EST
    For your analogy to be on point, Hillary's fans would have to be telling people to STFU about substantive issues relating to her job.

    There is a difference between "Obama is awesome" and "Obama is awesome so don't question his policies."  It certainly doesn't bug me when people admire a politician, but you still gotta hold their feet to the fire.


    There's some (5.00 / 1) (#32)
    by indy in sc on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 04:13:17 PM EST
    STFUitude in some of the comments as it relates to questions about the Clinton Global Initiative.  A lot of people seem to be of the opinion that questions about potential conflicts of interest there are offensive.  I think the questions are legitimate.  

    I think she answered the questions well and I am satisfied that her answers, the MOU and her general integrity mean that I needn't worry about undo currying of favor through the CGI.  That said, I don't want the senators charged with vetting nominees for confirmation purposes to just believe in the integrity of the nominees--I want them to ask the questions.


    I don't disagree with you on the narrow point (5.00 / 1) (#33)
    by Alien Abductee on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 04:17:17 PM EST
    restricted to today's hearings. But I do think my analogy IS on point for reasons of the history of the past year here, in conjunction with these two adjacent posts today. It's not as if commenters in that thread were calling for aggressive scrutiny and restricting their praise to some particular action that warranted it. They were literally "trusting in the goodness and just nature of their leader."

    That thread (none / 0) (#38)
    by Steve M on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 04:39:11 PM EST
    was about her confirmation hearing, not about any substantive aspect of her job.

    Do you genuinely expect people to accompany any statement of praise, regardless of the context, with a disclaimer like "of course, in other contexts I'll welcome aggressive scrutiny of her actions"?  That standard makes your argument a bit self-justifying.


    I don't expect it, no. (none / 0) (#41)
    by Alien Abductee on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 04:59:06 PM EST
    That is the point. Because discussion threads about confirmation hearings are supposed to be all about heaping praise on your favorite pol instead of calling for aggressive questioning... Right?

    Yes (none / 0) (#43)
    by squeaky on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 05:06:54 PM EST
    All the confirmation hearings I have watched are usually centered on clothing, hair do and general good looks. Not much else to comment on..

    I dunno (none / 0) (#44)
    by Steve M on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 05:31:23 PM EST
    I don't see any comments from you in that thread arguing for tough questioning at her confirmation hearing.  I guess you must be a cultist too!

    Huh (none / 0) (#45)
    by squeaky on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 05:50:47 PM EST
    I posted both links to the questions from Foreign Policy blog and the questions that Sen Kerry gave her in advance.

    I questioned her policy in Afghanistan, and I question her policy toward the mid east conflict.

    Once I tuned into the actual hearing I applauded Kerry for asking good questions about the WOT and why we are continuing it, particularly in Afghanistan.


    While that's well and good (none / 0) (#47)
    by Steve M on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 06:09:49 PM EST
    my comment was not directed to you, good sir!

    Got It, Sorry.. (none / 0) (#48)
    by squeaky on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 06:15:46 PM EST
    I noticed after Alien Abductee's response..  Forgot to push the 'parent' button..  

    I dunno either (none / 0) (#46)
    by Alien Abductee on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 06:02:31 PM EST
    That's best left to her loyal supporters here to rise to that level of objectivity. Questions from anyone else is just being a "hater" apparently - worthy only of being dismissed.

    Please do call me a cultist if you ever see such abject fawning from me about any pol. (Hint: don't hold your breath.)


    Yes (5.00 / 3) (#49)
    by Dr Molly on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 07:13:41 PM EST
    Your snide mockery above of others' comments about Hillary were based in love, not hate. Kay.

    Hate? (1.00 / 1) (#50)
    by squeaky on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 07:30:11 PM EST
    You are the seething one here. If anything it is amazing to read the starstruck comments about Hillary. It is obvious to most that a love parade is going on. Pointing that out does not remotely involve hate as you accuse.

    Do you feel hate when you point out to a lovesick teen that they are experiencing brain fog due to the rush of hormones in their body?

    Maybe jealousy, but I really doubt that you would feel hate.


    Mockery is not hatery (1.00 / 1) (#51)
    by Alien Abductee on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 08:06:53 PM EST
    I thought I was being quite gentle about it, considering.

    Having one's blind spots pointed out is not hate unless one chooses to take it that way.


    meh (none / 0) (#52)
    by Dr Molly on Wed Jan 14, 2009 at 06:19:48 AM EST
    Whatever language you like to use, it's pretty easy to distinguish the commenters who peddle in driveby attacks, negativity, stomping on other commenters, and general wanktardery. Call it whatever you want.

    Sounds Like (none / 0) (#55)
    by squeaky on Wed Jan 14, 2009 at 12:46:59 PM EST
    You would be happier in a fanclub type blog, where everyone loves or hates in sync.

    TL is not that type of place. All commenters do not agree with everything you have to offer.


    Oh, Alien, does Hillary still have any feet (5.00 / 3) (#40)
    by FoxholeAtheist on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 04:48:49 PM EST
    to be "held to the fire" during her term as SoS?

    I thought Hillary's feet had been pretty much burned down to nubs during the primaries, no?

    At the same time, I believe Obama's tender tootsies may have actually grown a size or two ;-)


    Riiiiiiight. (4.40 / 5) (#27)
    by Dr Molly on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 03:13:11 PM EST
    Not that I grudge anyone's happiness at Hillary's smooth confirmation process. Enjoy.

    Happiness (5.00 / 1) (#34)
    by Alien Abductee on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 04:19:06 PM EST
    at the smooth confirmation of a talented member of the incoming Democratic administration is something I don't begrudge. I share it.

    I take it you don't find the dissonance between this:

    Some people think they owe some sort of personal loyalty to politicans they generally support, like they are their personal friends or something. Doesn't work that way.

    and the many comments like what I quoted above from the adjacent thread at all revealing or amusing. That's fine. To each her own.


    No, I don't (5.00 / 4) (#36)
    by Dr Molly on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 04:36:58 PM EST
    The comments in that thread are expressing happiness at her appointment because of her stands on the issues, her vocal support of women's and children's rights, and other things. You and others are distorting that into something else. Issue-based criticism of her is perfectly fine, and that includes her war vote and other things.

    As Steve M said, haters will just hate, period.


    You are the only one (1.00 / 1) (#42)
    by Alien Abductee on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 05:01:18 PM EST
    in this conversation even close to hater territory.

    People Are People Too (none / 0) (#25)
    by squeaky on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 02:40:20 PM EST
    I am sure that this thread's appearance is no coincidence irony notwithstanding.

    Interesting thought (none / 0) (#35)
    by Alien Abductee on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 04:19:43 PM EST
    Depends on who's watching (none / 0) (#30)
    by diogenes on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 03:35:55 PM EST
    I'd bet that most pols would rather be seen as resisting moveon.org pressure than as yielding to it.  It's better for Democrats to be seen as making decisions based on their own judgments rather than having them seen as caving in to pressure from the netroots if the decisions are not necessarily those supported by the majority.  
    When John McCain moveed to the right because he was "being scrutinized closely" by the Republican right, it sure didn't do him any good, after all.