The "Mere Bystander" Theory Of The Presidency

Charles Blow:

Maybe Obama was wise to hang back. While anger can simmer forever, overheated outrage is exhausting and ultimately counterproductive. Anyone familiar with Aesop’s fable “The Tortoise and the Hare” surely remembers this lesson: slow and steady wins the race. I was beginning to think of Obama as the hare, but maybe he’s the tortoise.

Instead of 11 dimensional chess, Blow posits, Obama was playing rope a dope. Whatever. In any event, can we all agree that if that is how President Obama plans to "lead," then it is imperative that we have a strong, vibrant and VOCAL progressive Caucus (in the House and if possible, in the Senate) and movement to push the debate in the proper direction (where would the health care reform debate be if not for the Progressive Caucus and Senators like Jay Rockefeller and Sherrod Brown?) Can we dispense with the "Don't Worry, He's Got It" nonsense? Clearly, if Obama is going to use an Accidental President approach, he's going to need policy driven by progressive elements in the other branches of government (think about Gitmo detainees and habeas petitions.) If this is Obama's approach, it DEMANDS a loud and vocal progressive pushback on every issue (even the ones I disagree with progressives on, such as Afghanistan and free trade.) It is imperative that the Progressive Caucus become a force to be reckoned with.

Speaking for me only

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    Blow is the most transparent (5.00 / 4) (#1)
    by andgarden on Sat Sep 26, 2009 at 09:27:01 AM EST
    Obamapologist I can think of. Why he has an op-ed column in the Times is beyond me.

    As to your point about progressive pressure, I agree.

    Yes, he seems to be (5.00 / 2) (#7)
    by KeysDan on Sat Sep 26, 2009 at 10:39:47 AM EST
    assuring that he stays in Obama's good graces with his mea culpa for even allowing his mind to question the brilliance of the president's "Pollyannaish, laissez-faire disposition" in the midst of the mayhem swirling around him. Yes, it seems the job of Blow is to remind us that Obama has, yet again, outsmarted us.

    Obama Promise (5.00 / 10) (#2)
    by Stellaaa on Sat Sep 26, 2009 at 09:32:05 AM EST
    Considering that Obama's promise was transparency in making public policy, it seems that this "bystander" approach is the exact opposite.

     But, it's exactly like you say, if this will be the strategy, then the "opposition" to the right needs to be strong and vibrant.  None of this "leave him alone" and "Don't worry he's got it".  

    I myself still waiting for the C-span public meetings where he will have open discussions with all the stake holders.  


    Me too (5.00 / 4) (#4)
    by MO Blue on Sat Sep 26, 2009 at 09:42:18 AM EST
    I myself still waiting for the C-span public meetings where he will have open discussions with all the stake holders.  

    BTW (5.00 / 3) (#14)
    by MO Blue on Sat Sep 26, 2009 at 11:34:02 AM EST
    I'm still waiting for the President to fulfill his campaign promise that Seniors with incomes under $50,000 a year will not have to pay any income taxes.

    Mass confusion theory of leadership (5.00 / 5) (#3)
    by MO Blue on Sat Sep 26, 2009 at 09:40:55 AM EST
    NEW YORK TIMES/CBS NEWS QUESTION: Do you mostly support or mostly oppose the changes to the health care system proposed by Barack Obama, or don't you know enough about them to say yet?

    Mostly support: 30 percent
    Most oppose: 23 percent
    Don't know enough to say yet: 46 percent

    Holy moley! After all those speeches and prime-time pressers, the biggest chunk of the public, by far, doesn't know what they think yet! But then, this pattern will sometimes emerge when pollsters give respondents "permission" to admit that they don't really have an opinion. Somerby

    The claim could be made that the results are due to Americans not paying enough attention. I have been paying a great deal of  attention and I don't know enough to say I support the changes to the health care system proposed by Barack Obama. Plan - What plan?

    At this point (5.00 / 8) (#5)
    by Stellaaa on Sat Sep 26, 2009 at 09:59:50 AM EST
    there is no Obama plan.  What I find interesting is the conflation of the Baucus plan into the Obama plan and any dissent is seen as opposing the President.  

    I don't know why we are surprised, I still remember the interview with the Reno Gazette, this is what he said he would do, but this is not what he said in the speeches.  


    What I find particurly discerning are the (5.00 / 7) (#6)
    by MO Blue on Sat Sep 26, 2009 at 10:22:01 AM EST
    e-mails I receive from well meaning friends asking me to contact Congress and tell them to support Obama's health care plan. They hear eliminating preexisting conditions (some are cancer survivors) and annual check ups and they think all things will be great and wonderful after we get Obama's plan (?).

    My  response has been when Obama actually has a plan, I will decide if the legislation will actually provide affordable health care or do more harm than good. Also, suggest that they read the Baucus plan to see if they would support that plan if it becomes the Obama plan.


    I think you've created (5.00 / 6) (#8)
    by jen on Sat Sep 26, 2009 at 10:49:09 AM EST
    the perfect title for Obama: The Accidental President. :D

    Yes (5.00 / 3) (#10)
    by Spamlet on Sat Sep 26, 2009 at 11:07:19 AM EST
    Thanks to Lehman Brothers.

    Accidental my eye! What about the CDS in the media (5.00 / 2) (#25)
    by rennies on Sat Sep 26, 2009 at 02:19:41 PM EST
    and the shenqnigans of Nancy Pelosi, Dean, and the DNC idiots. But maybe Pelosi got exactly what she wanted.

    This textbook Obama (5.00 / 11) (#9)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Sat Sep 26, 2009 at 10:53:48 AM EST
    Sit and wait for someone to come up with something sellable, and then latch onto it and call it his own.  Oh, and then he'll tell people it was his plan all along....

    If you read back into his history you'll see this is what he always does.

    Not very entrepreneurial, but VERY, VERY Obama.

    Was that article in the Chicago Trib.? (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by oculus on Sat Sep 26, 2009 at 11:27:24 AM EST
    I remember that part about "where the f#ck did this guy come from"?

    Obama hasn't latched on to Feingold's (5.00 / 4) (#22)
    by Ben Masel on Sat Sep 26, 2009 at 01:08:35 PM EST
    leadership in rolling back the excesses of PATRIOT and FISA, indeed he's opposing.

    Those things (none / 0) (#31)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Sat Sep 26, 2009 at 04:58:21 PM EST
    aren't yet rolled back, are they?

    Your first clue that he never intended (none / 0) (#32)
    by MO Blue on Sat Sep 26, 2009 at 05:15:26 PM EST
    to roll back the excesses of PATRIOT and FISA might have been his Yea vote on the Bush Cover Up and Elimination of 4th Rights (FISA w/telecom immunity) bill.

    No, the FIRST clue (none / 0) (#38)
    by Ben Masel on Tue Sep 29, 2009 at 12:32:57 PM EST
    was his vote to renew PATRIOT in March of 2006.

    Obama's Leadership (5.00 / 12) (#11)
    by CRW on Sat Sep 26, 2009 at 11:24:10 AM EST
    Last night I was contacted by the DNC asking for money to put up ads telling the real details of "The Presidents Health Care Reform Plan," and debunking Republican misinformation.  

    I told them I was sympathetic to their needs, but with so little leadership from the President, the Democrats have lost control of the debate and that I was unable to justify sending any more financial support.

    The fellow agreed with me that the President had not provided much leadership on the issue and that they were hearing that from others.  He seemed perfectly willing at that point to say good-bye and thank me for past support.

    I guess only the White House is not getting the message.

    Though Perhaps (5.00 / 6) (#16)
    by The Maven on Sat Sep 26, 2009 at 11:57:44 AM EST
    it would be worthwhile to also tell them that we'd all very much welcome a series of ads which actually explain the "real details" of Obama's plan, as it remains unclear what they are.  That's been one of the biggest problems all along here:  Obama has promulgated some general guidelines and expressed some preferences, but I'd have to place myself in the 46% cited above who don't know enough about the president's plan yet to say how I feel about it.  For someone who's been pushing this issue for month after month now, and is supposedly such an excellent communicator, Obama has been stunningly inept at articulating what "his" health care reform plan specifically entails.

    The idea that the president and the party need additional funds from the rest of us in order to get his plan across to the public is insulting and reeks of little more than a perpetual money-grab.


    You must have Faith. (5.00 / 11) (#13)
    by Turkana on Sat Sep 26, 2009 at 11:31:55 AM EST
    You must understand that He understands things we don't. We are mere mortals. We should not presume to understand His ways. Got it?

    But, but (5.00 / 11) (#15)
    by MO Blue on Sat Sep 26, 2009 at 11:34:52 AM EST
    I've been clapping as hard as I can.

    Clapping? All this time I've been flapping! (5.00 / 3) (#27)
    by RonK Seattle on Sat Sep 26, 2009 at 03:07:53 PM EST
    I wish he'd been more specific about the plan.

    Which plan? (5.00 / 2) (#28)
    by MO Blue on Sat Sep 26, 2009 at 03:08:51 PM EST
    Maybe flapping works only if we ... (5.00 / 1) (#35)
    by RonK Seattle on Sat Sep 26, 2009 at 06:05:44 PM EST
    ... all join hands and jump off a tall enough building together.

    Guess you're right - I just don't have enough faith.


    I was thinking more of (5.00 / 2) (#29)
    by jbindc on Sat Sep 26, 2009 at 03:12:45 PM EST

    Current Health Plan Implementation (5.00 / 4) (#17)
    by Stellaaa on Sat Sep 26, 2009 at 12:09:32 PM EST
    I have a proposal.  Look, this is going to be so complicated to explain to individuals and employers, there will be a whole new industry that develops of attorneys and accountants.  Want to go on the ground floor with me for a chain of HR Block style, stores?  
    We can call it: Rx Block.  

    Then we can hire lobbyists and never ever really change the darn thing, just keep tweaking, tweaking and tweaking.  

    But, we will be a whole employment sector, Green Jobs at that

    Will CHPI advise "insureds" (none / 0) (#18)
    by oculus on Sat Sep 26, 2009 at 12:32:36 PM EST
    if they have made a good faith effort to obtain affordable insurance sufficient to qualify for subsidies?  

    unfortunately, as well, his bystanding... (5.00 / 5) (#19)
    by Dadler on Sat Sep 26, 2009 at 12:36:13 PM EST
    ...is going to get a lot of innocent bystanders injured.  

    Obama is hanging back for one reason: (5.00 / 6) (#30)
    by pluege on Sat Sep 26, 2009 at 03:37:43 PM EST
    to be able to take credit for whatever gets passed. Rather than shaping the legislation, Obama is positioning himself - in favor of everything - to take credit for whatever gets passed.

    If he were to be strong on the public option and the bill doesn't have it, he couldn't claim credit and vice versa. Ergo, one speech he's for it, but does nothing to make it happen, and others, he and his surrogates are OK without it.

    Argghhhh (5.00 / 1) (#34)
    by lentinel on Sat Sep 26, 2009 at 05:39:32 PM EST
    Iran has said it will allow inspections of it's nuclear facility - the "secret" one.

    That should be of interest to those interested in not repeating the behavior that placed us in an interminable war in Iraq.

    But it isn't.

    I would like to see what the IAEA concludes.

    But Lieberman and those who prop him up already know better.
    Just like they did before.

    The latest ploy is to associate anyone who doubts the wisdom of prejudging Iran with holocaust denial.

    hope Obama does not run out of faith either. (none / 0) (#20)
    by joze46 on Sat Sep 26, 2009 at 12:36:36 PM EST
    Obama, going to meetings with the people likely enhances his disappointments in the system relative to Health Care. Then debating with the so called Democratic Blue Dogs likely is the same. This Blue Dog language stuff has to go or be defined because it has me scared. Starting to read Anthony Storr author of Churchill's Black Dog, Kafka's mice and other phenomena of the human mind.

    Because I never liked the term "Blue Dog" or knew what it means. Storr offers up the notion Churchill had periods of depression called Black Dog. This Jargon proliferated in WWII time. Worse a chapter about Newton also having periods of insanity don't know if it was Black Dog depression but is a surprise. All this perhaps connected to Blue Dog stuff and mental set backs. Hate Radio is on a rampage declaring Liberalism as a mental defect. To me seems Blue Dogs play both sides like Arabs do that being a huge defect. Yes, but is their Option isn't that cool, for john Q. American would like an option too.  

    My point is just like "The Tortoise and the Hare" is Zeno's paradox mathematically the game never ends. This political struggle agreed needs momentum all those times we heard that word but now realize it is easier to say some one swings one eighty rather than really do a one eighty turn. Obama is likely sitting on a boat load of corruption that will take time to untangle.

    You must have Faith, indeed hope Obama does not run out of faith either.      

    You may not like the term (5.00 / 1) (#21)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Sep 26, 2009 at 12:42:13 PM EST
    but it is the name of a group in the House - the Blue Dog Caucus.

    "Blue Dog" (5.00 / 2) (#23)
    by jbindc on Sat Sep 26, 2009 at 01:45:06 PM EST
    From Wiki

    "Blue Dog Democrat" is derived from the term "Yellow Dog Democrat." Former Texas Democrat Rep. Pete Geren is credited for coining the term, explaining that the members had been "choked blue" by "extreme" Democrats from the left.[5] The term is also a reference to the "Blue Dog" paintings of Cajun artist George Rodrigue of Lafayette, Louisiana; the original members of the coalition would regularly meet in the offices of Louisiana representatives Billy Tauzin and Jimmy Hayes, both of whom had Rodrigue's paintings on their walls.[6][7] Tauzin and Hayes later switched to the Republican Party. An additional explanation for the term: "A blue dog is our mascot because when dogs are not let into the house, they stay outside in the cold and turn blue,"[8] a reference to moderate and conservative Democrats feeling left out of the Party which they believed had shifted to the political left.

    The Blue Dog Coalition was formed in 1994 during the 104th Congress to give more conservative members from the Democratic party a unified voice after the Democrats' loss of Congress in 1994


    Democrats who identify with the Blue Dogs tend to be conservatives, but have more divergent positions on social issues than "New Democrats." Reflecting the group's Southern roots, many Blue Dogs are strong supporters of gun rights and receive high ratings from the National Rifle Association, some have pro-life voting records, and some get high ratings from immigration reduction groups. As a caucus, however, the group has never agreed on or taken a position on these issues, and many members favor more socially liberal positions.

    On economic issues, Blue Dogs tend to be pro-business and favor limiting public welfare spending, arguing instead for individuals to take their chances on their own by competing with one another for jobs, so that business owners can gain the upper hand and prosper. They have supported welfare reduction as well as the Republican-backed Bankruptcy Reform Act of 2005. They have differing positions on trade issues, and include both supporters and strong critics of labor unions, protectionism, and other populist measures.

    Agree completely (none / 0) (#24)
    by CodeNameLoonie on Sat Sep 26, 2009 at 01:56:28 PM EST
    the progressive caucus must become a force to be reckoned with on all fronts.

    But does that reckoning include accepting that Obama must continue to act as a buffer for the right? In other words, is there a political value to having the president act out the conciliator role a few more times in order to further discredit republicans (as obstructionists and extremists) and create centrist cover for dems who feel they need it? (The latter group includes the prez of course)

    No (5.00 / 2) (#33)
    by gyrfalcon on Sat Sep 26, 2009 at 05:38:23 PM EST
    Simple answers...

    I like simple answers (5.00 / 1) (#36)
    by MO Blue on Sat Sep 26, 2009 at 06:20:42 PM EST
    They have such a ring of truth.

    Yes, they're so comforting. (none / 0) (#37)
    by CodeNameLoonie on Sun Sep 27, 2009 at 12:50:05 AM EST
    slightly ot (none / 0) (#26)
    by kmblue on Sat Sep 26, 2009 at 02:44:04 PM EST
    white house lobbies officials individually

    article says Rahm is running the effort, which sounds like bad news to me!

    ny times, white house courtship stolberg

    The insurence lobby doled (none / 0) (#39)
    by jondee on Tue Sep 29, 2009 at 01:35:02 PM EST
    out all that money to all the frontrunners for a reason, and it wasnt because any of them were expected to be any kind of threat to their major shareholder driven agenda.

    What part of this do people around here still not get?

    Oh, Hillary would've been a better leader. Please.


    Make that "leader" (none / 0) (#40)
    by jondee on Tue Sep 29, 2009 at 01:39:51 PM EST
    The only radical, creative, change in this country is going to come from informed, organized people taking to the streets.

    Our leaders are, to varying degrees -- and not varying enough -- already bought and paid for.