Feet to the Fire

I find myself in the strange position of defending President Obama's current negotiation approach on the austerity bomb while at the same time having to defend my criticism of his negotiating style in the past. It is strange to me because I believe the President has changed his approach to political bargaining - a change I believe began in August 2011 (see, e.g., How Occupy Defined the Election.) This appears to be a widespread view now - see the NYTimes' article Criticized as Weak in Past Talks, Obama Takes Harder Line.

I think I should applaud this change (even when Tim Geithner, someone I have been harshly critical of, is the chosen messenger.)

So what do I make of Glenn Greenwald's column today mocking progressive pundits moving to be "constructively critical" of President Obama? My own view is Glenn, who I consider a friend, is better off making his substantive critiques of the Obama Administration instead of keeping tabs on how MSNBC and The Nation are doing. More on the flip.

Regular readers know about my insistence on the need for Madman Political Bargaining in the face of the current Republican Party. And it gives me great satisfaction to see President Obama in fact adopt such an approach on the austerity bomb/fiscal cliff - see White House willing to go over fiscal cliff if absolutely necessary.

Frankly, I personally have had little to complain about in the past year from the President and his team, and this includes his austerity bomb/fiscal cliff proposal and the negotiation approach they have taken so far.

Now, to be clear, that is not to say that progressives (I'm a Centrist) do not have legitimate beefs. They do not agree with the Administration's drone policy (I do.) They argue for closing of the Gitmo detention camp (I don't. I am more interested in seeing more transparent and improved combatant status procedures.) They want the Afghan conflict ended (or at least US involvement in it.) I favored the Afghan surge and only recently, and reluctantly, have come to believe I (and more importantly, the President) have made a mistake on this issue. The warrantless surveillance regime is chock full of questions, to put it mildly.

Do I take back my past criticisms? I don't see why I should. Do I remain vigilant and, yes, skeptical? Certainly.

But if I do not recognize and acknowledge what the President and his team are doing right, that would be pretty dishonest. I'd rather avoid that if we can.

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    I would guess the bottom line... (5.00 / 3) (#1)
    by Dadler on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 02:12:42 PM EST
    ...for people who stand to be genuinely and deeply affected by whatever is being threatened with cuts, is that they have yet to see the stand Obama is apparently saying he is willing to make.  So they are very wary, skeptical, cynical, what have you. And I think they have every right to be. Show me the money should be their attitude about President Jerry McGuire and the rest.

    And I'm still trying to figure out what is leftist particularly about wanting my president to make the speech of the century about fiat currency and it's absurd and amoral nature sans human concern for other humans, that is sand human beings consciously setting the baseline value of that currency with nothing more than generous humanity. I want a leader who can speak to the reality that in a nation that wants to have the freedom for individuals to get wildly wealthy, to raise the roof to new heights, that without a human and generous floor as a baseline, the house will collapse in due time, every time.

    If wanting humane logic to determine the baseline value of our currency, while absolutely retaining the ability of people to be richly rewarded for a variety of reasons, is this is leftists, then I guess I must be. I hate the labels, but I'll wear the one that says "People Starve, Money Doesn't" with pride all day, all year, all life.

    PROOFREAD!!! (none / 0) (#2)
    by Dadler on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 02:13:57 PM EST
    Dear God, forgive me. Sigh.

    It des not seem inappropriate (5.00 / 3) (#3)
    by KeysDan on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 02:15:08 PM EST
    to criticize a position in which you find disagreement and to commend a responsive and responsible change.  Glenn Greenwald points out the difficulties and dilemmas in trying to re-shape or alter positions taken by a politician or party that you generally support, chastising muted tongues and silent keyboards. I think your "criticism/commendation" approach is among the most effective. And, that criticism needs to include skepticism and, and even cynicism, in the face of counter-pressures.  And, the commendation needs to include cautionary reservations.  In my view, we should do the president a favor--don't do him any favors.

    I don't have much regard for those (5.00 / 10) (#5)
    by Anne on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 02:43:31 PM EST
    who propose solutions to problems that don't exist - and that's exactly what this fiscal cliff thing is: a manufactured crisis designed to wring unpalatable solutions out of the hides of those who've already been nearly skinned alive; there will be loopholes and work-arounds galore for those who aren't living on wages or trying to make do on SS and Medicare.

    Obama may be able to mitigate or postpone that inevitability, but I'd have much more regard for him if he'd tell Americans the truth: there is no fiscal cliff.  I guess that's kind of hard to do when he's been beating the deficit/debt drum for like forever, and is still enamored of Bowles/Simpson.  Has that changed?  Has he fallen out of love with austerity?  I don't think so.  I think he's busy selling a populist message with a plan that sounds equally populist - that plan will get a lot of support, but rather than see that as support for the proposal, he will see that as support for him, and as permission to do whatever he needs to to "get things done."  

    That's kind of the pattern.

    It irritates me no end that so few people are even asking if where we are is where we need to be, or who is going to derive the most benefit from where we are.

    Great insight (5.00 / 2) (#6)
    by sj on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 04:06:45 PM EST
    I think he's busy selling a populist message with a plan that sounds equally populist - that plan will get a lot of support, but rather than see that as support for the proposal, he will see that as support for him, and as permission to do whatever he needs to to "get things done."

    Very good post! (5.00 / 4) (#7)
    by Robot Porter on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 04:20:48 PM EST
    Much like what happened at the beginning of the last century.  Elective politics isn't involved in the real issues of the day.

    They're covering for their buddies.  And playing a bunch of games of political theater.

    And it's not even very entertaining theater.

    Of course, we all lose in this scenario.  But that's nothing new. Average Americans have been on the losing end for the last forty years.  There have been a few respites.  But they've been short lived.  And have had no lasting impact.


    nothing phony about the "fiscal cliff" (none / 0) (#16)
    by Mr Natural on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 07:55:50 AM EST
    What's phony is the pretense that we haven't already fallen off the fiscal cliff, with dozens of years of insane deficits.

    Don't know how U.S. drone policy ... (5.00 / 6) (#8)
    by Robot Porter on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 04:27:32 PM EST
    can be described as "centrist".  It includes the extra legal killing of American citizens.  Without trial.  Or even finding of fact.

    And the drone "kill lists" include minors who many believe are even younger than their stated ages.

    Only in our current "Through the Looking Glass" world are these policies ... centrist.  In the real world, this is the type of policy favored by tin pot dictators.

    I am constantly amazed at (none / 0) (#23)
    by Slado on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 04:14:04 PM EST
    the disconnect in our society between drone killings and torture.

    is it because torture is so personal that we get so worked up and since drone killings are cool we don't?

    What isn't personal about being exterminated from 30,000 feet with no judge or jury?

    Our drone policy scares the hell out of me but lets ignore that and have another thread on Waterbording a known terrorist.  

    That's something to get in a huff about.


    Please don't tell me (5.00 / 2) (#27)
    by NYShooter on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 06:32:12 PM EST
     you scrolled past the hundreds of impassioned, vociferous, and repeated condemnations of Obama's drone policy here.

    Would you like to go back and amend your incorrect premise?    

    I think you should; if, that is, you would like to have any credibility in your views.


    BTD, you're much better (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by SuzieTampa on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 05:30:46 PM EST
    than Glenn Greenwald, and very kind in your criticism, which a person must do unless he wants to be attacked by Greenwald.

    Too late. (5.00 / 3) (#11)
    by lentinel on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 07:15:10 PM EST
    I favored the Afghan surge and only recently, and reluctantly, have come to believe I (and more importantly, the President) have made a mistake on this issue.

    Obama's "surge" has been a monumental and predictable failure.

    As of the end of September, there have been a total of 2,121 American troop casualties. 1,491 of those have been since Obama took office. That is 70% of all American deaths.

    Obama indeed made a big mistake - but I have seen no indication that he has realized it - or if he has realized it, is willing to publicly acknowledge it and do something about it. All I read about is that he and his advisors are deciding what level of forces to leave in Afghanistan AFTER 2014.

    Albert Einstein has been quoted as saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

    Our policy is insane.

    "Burn rate" (none / 0) (#17)
    by Mr Natural on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 07:59:54 AM EST
    Venture capitalists use the term "burn rate" to describe the rate at which money is consumed by a company.  The death toll is just a burn rate to the high and mighty policy manipulators who are in charge of America's war-mongering.  

    It's just the burn rate.  Nothing to see here.  Move along.


    Knowing (none / 0) (#28)
    by lentinel on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 06:58:09 PM EST
    that to be true, it is always a sickening spectacle to me when politicians like Obama and his unlamented predecessor come around on Veteran's Day, or the 4th of July, and, referring to the soldiers who have been killed,  tell us to "honor their sacrifice".

    I have unbridled contempt for those who send young people to die to satisfy a craven political agenda, treat them with contempt if they return, and then tell us about "honor".


    What's better for taking people's (5.00 / 2) (#13)
    by Anne on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 07:31:42 PM EST
    minds off things they should be paying attention to?  Why, it's a royal pregnancy, of course!

    I swear that NBC spent more time on the story of Kate's trip to hospital for severe morning sickness than it did on the situation in Syria (US to Syria: don't use chemical weapons...or else) and the negotiations on the fiscal cliff, combined.

    What do you want to bet the world will be on Baby Watch in August, when we face the next "crisis?"

    I feel a bit sorry for Kate (none / 0) (#20)
    by nycstray on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 01:44:29 PM EST
    After listening to a morning blabber about how she is now ready to have a baby. WTF?! It's not like she's 17 or something. But I am happy to know that she and hubby got some parenting practice in with the puppy and the fact that Kate seems to like children . . . ::head desk::

    Okay, I have to admit (none / 0) (#25)
    by sj on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 04:31:25 PM EST
    While I think discussing the pregnancy itself is  rather intrusive, I was fascinated to hear that "they" are working on changing the rules of succession so that, if a girl, this child will have precedence over any younger brothers.

    BTD with your permission (none / 0) (#4)
    by AngryBlackGuy on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 02:31:07 PM EST
    I respect and agree with the post. I think that he will probably disappoint you by giving more than you desire ultimately, but your post will allow those criticisms to come to be viewed as more objective IMHO.  All he's owed is a fair shake from his critics. That appears to be what you are giving.  

    Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain... (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by Mr Natural on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 08:09:38 AM EST
    "This is not a fight between the two parties; it is a choreographed beat-down of the American majority by corporate Democratic and Republican thugs, aided by shrieking corporate media banshees screaming, Watch out for the cliff, Watch out for the cliff!."

    If Glenn Greenwald (none / 0) (#10)
    by KeysDan on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 05:31:50 PM EST
    had Tweety in his MSNBC sights before, he would really be beside himself after tonight's show.  Tweety, the grand negotiator coach, felt that a good position for the president would be to ask just for an increase in tax rates for those making $1 million or more (rather than above $200,000/250,000) since the president, after all, campaigned on increasing taxes for millionaires and billionaires. It would not generate as much revenue, but it might strike a deal (although he did not say if he would be willing to throw in Medicare and Medicaid in appreciation for Republican generosity.)

    Seems Tweety does not seem to be  familiar with the difference between a millionaire and billionaire, and an annual income of a million (or billion).   His guests, Howard Finemen and Joy Reid, did note, with some astonishment,  that that was the now withdrawn Chuck Schumer plan. These guests felt it would not be a disaster if no deal occurred until the new Congress, but Tweety disagreed, citing concerns for the "foreign markets."

    Verrrry Substantial Difference (5.00 / 3) (#12)
    by BackFromOhio on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 07:30:41 PM EST
    between revenue to be garnered from increasing taxes on those earning $250,000 or more and those earning $1 millon or more.

    And, the issue is when is there going to be shared sacrifice in this country?


    I've been thinking along those lines... (none / 0) (#14)
    by unitron on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 01:14:07 AM EST
    ...because you can argue about should it be $200K or $250K, and whether $250K is really all that much money if you live someplace like NYC, but if you say we're only going to increase taxes on your second million and up, how can the opposition argue that we're being horrible to those poor millionares?

    The most impartial and professional journalists wouldn't be able to keep from laughing.


    I marvel at the stupidity (none / 0) (#22)
    by Slado on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 04:08:26 PM EST
    Does anyone really believe raising taxers on millionaires will raise any substantial revenue?

    Of course it won't.  Millionaires will simply move their money and still pay a low effective tax rate.

    Stay tuned my progressive brethren.   First they came for the millionaires, then the thousandaires and then you.

    The money is in the middle class.   Once they figure that out we're all screwed.  

    Well everyone except the millionaires that is.


    Re:Your third paragraph, particularly (5.00 / 1) (#24)
    by christinep on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 04:26:28 PM EST
    Quite inventive, your inapt variation on "they came for...then, they'll come for you.". I'll take the chance, Slado, because the reinstatement of higher tax levels on the wealthy garners significant "downpayment" & more.  And, I suspect it is the power of the "& more" reality that may be most troubling to the heretofore getting-off-almost-scot-free, tax-wise, moneyed naysayers.

    C'mon Christine, (5.00 / 3) (#30)
    by NYShooter on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 07:00:48 PM EST
    Slado is thinking the Rockefellers as an example of Millionaires displaying their superior skill and knowledge in thwarting our Socialist Tax Laws.

    Don't you remember in the last century, when marginal tax rates exceeded 90%? Oh, the tragedy, as thousands and thousands of newly minted Millionaires, unable to "put food on the table," relinquished their citizenships and moved in droves to some real Conservative, free market Havens........like Franco's Spain, or even North Korea?

    I don't know what trickery America employed in the 20th. century, enjoying the greatest half century of growth, upward mobility, and unprecedented prosperity the world had ever seen.

    I can certainly understand why the Adelsons of the day rebelled so strongly; it took at least a couple of years to "earn" a Billion dollars, not just a single one, as he revealed he received this year alone. But, Slado is right in letting us know how smart these patriots are. Adelson will make an additional 230 million dollars this year by moving next year's dividends up to this year.


    Wrong (none / 0) (#31)
    by Slado on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 11:00:52 AM EST
    Talk to a CPA, they'll set you straight.

    Get rid of deductions and lower rates on the middle class if you really want to stick it to the rich.

    At least have enough common sense to understand when you're being pandered too.


    Adopting your tone, Slado, I'll simply say (none / 0) (#32)
    by christinep on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 12:04:38 PM EST

    Slado... (5.00 / 1) (#29)
    by lentinel on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 07:00:03 PM EST
    they already came for me...

    The mulit-billionaires, not yet.


    Obama DOES Play Hardball - to shaft all (none / 0) (#15)
    by seabos84 on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 01:59:46 AM EST
    the dupes who think he gives a crap about anyone beyond his merry band of sell outs.

    Greenwald's main error in this outstanding piece - toying with the idea that the big shot "progressives" are anything but weak knee diaper wetters afraid being shut out of hanging with the Kool Kids Clique.

    yawn. isn't it time to start the 2014 LOTE LOTE LOTE panic ?? how we'll take back the house, and once we conquer EastAsia, who we've always been at war with,

    THEN the 11-nty dimensional genius will show itself!


    "his merry band of sell outs. " (5.00 / 2) (#18)
    by Mr Natural on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 08:06:24 AM EST
    Way too harsh, dude.  He's never sold out his true base, people like Chicago billionaire Penny Pritzker, his 2008 campaign Finance Chair.

    This whole thing is not worth paying (none / 0) (#21)
    by Slado on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 04:05:07 PM EST
    attention to until December 31st.

    I don't know what will happen but all this current discussion is meaningless and simply theater for the pundits.  There will be a last minute BS deal that we all will hate.

    That I am guaranteeing.

    Neither party is serious about fixing the economy or fixing our debt issues from their individual perspective.

    Republicans won't propose real cuts and dems won't propose real revenue increases or slashing the military.

    Dems want to raise an insignificant amount of revenue and then spend it all on a non effective mini simultaneous.

    Repubs want to leave taxes as is and barely touch spending in any real way.

    What will we get?  A supposedly hard fought deal between two non effective strategies no matter which way you lean.


    What saddens me most is partisans on both sides want to pretend that "winning" will actually accomplish anything when in reality all it will be is one side celebrating a temporary political victory while Rome burns.

    As I hinted at above (none / 0) (#26)
    by christinep on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 04:35:21 PM EST
    Having the determination to push for & obtain some additional tax $$$ contribution from the wealthiest among us would be a good start for the economy & the consumer confidence level that is such a central component of a growing economy...as well as for the theatrical denounement that always seems to be part of DC resolutions.