a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

Primary him

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 12th March 2011

Obama creates indefinite detention system for prisoners at Guantanamo Bay (Finn/Kornblut, Washington Post, 3/7/11):

President Obama signed an executive order Monday that will create a formal system of indefinite detention for those held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, who continue to pose a significant threat to national security. The administration also said it will start new military commission trials for detainees there.

It’s not the last straw for me; that was somewhere along the line a while ago. But it did seem to merit a response, so I made one, with apologies and credit to James McMurtry’s great “Cheney’s Toy” song.

To family, friends, and neighbors who like Obama – I’d drink a beer with him too, he’s eloquent, thoughtful, all that. That’s not the point. The point is that the facts unfortunately show he’s not on my side on a lot of critical issues. So I’m not on his. The video provides a partial bill of particulars and ends by suggesting — or rather pleading for — the course of action in the title of this post: “Primary him.”  For a set of links supporting some of this, see my ongoing list gathered under the tag “obamadisappointsagain.”  After a while, of course, it’s stupid to be disappointed, but that’s how I felt at first, and the label remains convenient.

Last December, Michael Tomasky at the Guardian zeroed in on a DailyKos diarist’s similar plea and called it “deeply silly.” Yet it wasn’t “just” some DailyKos netizens who were and are grumbling; in the same month, Tikkun editor Michael Lerner laid out a good case for a primary challenge in the Washington Post: Save Obama’s presidency by challenging him on the left. Two key paragraphs:

With his base deeply disillusioned, many progressives are starting to believe that Obama has little chance of winning reelection unless he enthusiastically embraces a populist agenda and worldview – soon. Yet there is little chance that will happen without a massive public revolt by his constituency that goes beyond rallies, snide remarks from television personalities or indignant op-eds.

Those of us who worry that a full-scale Republican return to power in 2012 would be a disaster not just for those hurting from the Republican-policy-inspired economic meltdown but also for the environment, social justice and world peace believe it is critical to get Obama to become the candidate whom most Americans believed they elected in 2008. Despite the outcome of last month’s election, it is unlikely that the level of his base’s alienation will register with the president until late in the 2012 election cycle – far too late for society today and our future tomorrow.

Lerner believes — and I agree — that a challenge could galvanize activism on the left going into the 2012 general election.  And the point need not be to sink Obama’s ship — it will be good just to board it for the general election campaign; that might mean, say, switching Vice Presidents, or getting commitments for other cabinet posts.  And of course getting commitments to reverse the disappointing policies of his first term. If none of that turns out to be possible, though, there’s a real question in my mind whether electing a Republican in Democrat’s clothing is really all that preferable to electing one the left can actually organize against.

That leaves the question of “who?”, of course, and here Lerner suggests a number of possibilities. Tomasky indicates that the two I’d favor most — Feingold and Dean — have apparently ruled out anything of the sort. Yet situations can change. And at any rate, Obama himself was not a household word when his meteoric rise to power began. New leaders can emerge. I hope they do.

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Matthew 25:42

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 16th September 2010

Earlier this month, Scott Horton asked an interesting question: “When Is Offering a Drink of Water a Crime?” The answer, it would seem, is once Eric Holder’s Justice Department finds enough judges like Jay “Waterboard ‘Em” Bybee to help them out with that:

Last August, I reported on the case of Walt Stanton, a graduate student at Claremont Theology School who, with a group called “No More Deaths,” deposited bottles of water at points in the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, an 18,000-acre area on the Arizona-Mexico border. Stanton and his group have no particular position on the illegal immigration issue—they just think that the immigrants shouldn’t die from dehydration. The Justice Department, however, saw the offer of a drink of water as a criminal act, and brought charges. In the absence of any clear criminal statute that would cover the situation, the prosecutors argued that Stanton’s act of Christian charity was in fact “criminal littering.” Under heavy pressure from the feds and a federal magistrate who made his intention to convict plain, Stanton agreed to 300 hours of community service in lieu of a prosecution.

As it turns out, Stanton should have stood his ground. Some of Stanton’s colleagues pushed the case and appealed their conviction. Now the Court of Appeals has handed down its less-than-astonishing decision: leaving purified water in sealed containers for human consumption is not “littering.” The convictions were overturned, and the Justice Department was given a smackdown.

One judge on the panel saw things differently: Jay Bybee. He argued that the statute, which prohibits “littering, disposing, or dumping in any manner of garbage, refuse sewage, sludge, earth, rocks, or other debris,” was actually intended to criminalize Samaritans who offer a drink to illegal immigrants.

Well, so things didn’t pan out for the executive branch this time.  But they may just need to wait a while — because the percentage of Republican-appointed federal judges has actually been *increasing* during Rahm Emanuel’s tenure.  Again, Scott Horton:

Few things count more towards a president’s “legacy” than this, since judges have lifetime tenure. But, as the Associated Press shows in a study published this weekend, under the first two years of Barack Obama’s presidency, the G.O.P.’s already strong grip on the federal judiciary has actually tightened:

A determined Republican stall campaign in the Senate has sidetracked so many of the men and women nominated by President Barack Obama for judgeships that he has put fewer people on the bench than any president since Richard Nixon at a similar point in his first term 40 years ago. The delaying tactics have proved so successful, despite the Democrats’ substantial Senate majority, that fewer than half of Obama’s nominees have been confirmed and 102 out of 854 judgeships are vacant. Forty-seven of those vacancies have been labeled emergencies by the judiciary because of heavy caseloads.

With the Obama appointment process essentially stagnated, and the judges leaving the bench largely those who were appointed by Carter and Clinton, the G.O.P.-appointed percentage of the bench has actually risen.

This performance is inexplicable in light of the enormous Democratic majority in the Senate, which at times has hit the 60 votes needed to preclude procedural measures against nominees. It reflects a dramatic failure of management by senate Democratic leaders like Patrick Leahy and Harry Reid, but it also points to a White House that is simply oblivious to the nominations process. On this measure, Rahm Emanuel is the worst performing White House chief of staff in recent memory.

So maybe Emanuel, Holder, Obama et al — together with Republicans in Congress and the Jay Bybees of the judicial branch, of course — will soon be able once again to make helping people dying of thirst a crime again, and I guess that’s the way it should be.  Hard to square with this, though:

for I was hungry, and ye did not give me to eat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me not in; naked, and ye clothed me not; sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.  Then shall they also answer, saying, Lord, when saw we thee hungry, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not unto one of these least, ye did it not unto me.

CREDIT: Biblical reference via Facebook comment by Andy Famiglietti.
EDIT, 9/16: Verse number corrected.  Blush.

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Save Paris Hilton’s tax cut! Not.

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 15th September 2010

Click the image to send a petition
to your Congressmembers

Good point from CREDO:

There is very little that so clearly demonstrates the callous venality of some members of Congress than the simultaneous demand to give Paris Hilton a tax cut while pushing benefit cuts to Social Security.

They continue:

…President Obama has called for the Bush tax cuts that affect the richest 2% of Americans to expire. We need to have his back.

Tax cuts for economic elites aren’t free and they aren’t effective. The government still needs revenue and giving away money to millionaires (who on average would receive over $100,000 in tax cuts per year if all the Bush tax cuts are extended) takes away from the money we can spend to help the victims of this economic downturn.

It’s almost incredible all this needs to be said, but all too many Democrats, as usual, are running scared trying to avoid a fight they should win, and a fight they should be proud to win.

They should take on this fight because ending the Bush era tax cuts is one of the main ways to support a stable economy, infrastructure, and political system (and fix the deficit): the wealthiest among us pay progressively higher tax rates for a system within which they have flourished more than others. They’ll still be the wealthiest, and the system will function better for everyone. Including the wealthiest, unless they enjoy risking a declining nation and all that entails. (The other main way is reducing our military budget, ending our wars, and reducing our commitments/claims overseas.)

But if that doesn’t mean anything, wavering Dems might still consider it for simple reasons of self-preservation: less money for the superrich to play with may mean fewer, um, peculiar political candidates like Christine O’Donnell or Sharon Angle. (Notice how Rand Paul or Sarah Palin almost seem mainstream by comparison).

Now I can see why the Koch brothers, the O’Donnells, or the Angles of the world would like things to stay the way they’ve become. The Great Divergence — and its related developments: (a) the new “Citizens United”  rulebook allowing unlimited corporate spending on campaigns, (b) the great media noise machines like FOX, Rush, or Beck — is both cause and consequence of the super-rich getting super-richer, and their minions and allies getting attention and electoral successes they’d never achieve otherwise.

I just don’t see why the rest of us should welcome that. The super-rich are buying our country out from under us with campaign contributions, advertising, and astroturf movements (or heavily fertilized ones at any rate). They’re turning it into a country with a government ever more openly by, for, and of the wealthy few.

NOTE: built from comments and links on Facebook.

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Actively embedded, passively acquiescing

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 20th May 2010

Remarkable video from CBS, showing BP and Coast Guard personnel turning journalists away from investigating the effects of the Gulf oil spill on marshlands:

Watch CBS News Videos Online

I first saw this video in a story posted by Karl Burkart of Mother Nature News (MNN), who writes:

I never thought I would say this, but for once I actually agree with Rush Limbaugh. The right-wing radio host is attributed with calling the Gulf Oil Spill “Obama’s Katrina.” […] Despite Obama’s half-hearted attempt at displaying anger over the government’s “cozy relationship” with BP, I believe Obama is aiding and abetting a foreign oil company as it perpetrates an environmental crime on American soil…

While I share Burkart’s simmering anger at both BP and the Obama administration, I hesitate to go as far as Burkart in suggesting that’s a quid pro quo for BP’s campaign contributions.  Granted, it’s not comforting at all to learn the video of the oil gusher had been on display in the White House Situation Room for weeks before its release to the public — and immediate calculations that the spill rate was an order of magnitude greater than government estimates.

But I think a response by the Coast Guard (appended to the end of Burkart’s article by an MNN editor) inadvertently suggests a different analysis, both of the incident itself and of the Obama administration’s responses:

…Neither BP nor the U.S. Coast Guard, who are responding to the spill, have any rules in place that would prohibit media access to impacted areas and we were disappointed to hear of this incident. In fact, media has been actively embedded and allowed to cover response efforts since this response began, with more than 400 embeds aboard boats and aircraft to date. Just today 16 members of the press observed clean-up operations on a vessel out of Venice, La….

(Emphasis added.)  Sadly, it’s not hard these days to imagine BP or Coast Guard personnel construing “embeds” as the only authorized form of journalism — we’ve all seen it before in Iraq and elsewhere.  Indeed, it speaks volumes about journalism today that the CBS crew itself acquiesced in a plainly wrong demand.

In fact, the Obama administration seems to have accepted its own “embedding” — buying the absurd notion, for example, that the underwater video of the oil gusher (one of the principal ways of gauging the extent of the disaster)  is simply “proprietary information” that is BP’s to control. It’s not just as if the United States government has ceded control of its shores, its territory, and its authority to provide for the common good and common defense.  They’ve gone and done it — in the face of the organization responsible for the the greatest environmental disaster in our country’s history .

It seems as if Obama and his administration think there’s a tension between making BP pay for the disaster response, and exercising authority and oversight over that response.  To be sure, there may be legal issues to be solved, but there first needs to be executive will to solve them, and that has seemed lacking.    As McClatchy News’s Marisa Taylor and Renee Schoof put it, BP withholds oil spill facts — and government lets it:

BP’s role as the primary source of information has raised questions about whether the government should intervene to gather such data and to publicize it and whether an adequate cleanup can be accomplished without the details of crude oil spreading across the gulf.

Indeed it has.

UPDATE, 5/20: More from Renee Schoof and other McClatchy News reporters at the Real News Network video “Spill may be 19 times larger than BP & Gov’t say.”

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I’ve got two words for you

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 6th May 2010

1. “Predator drones“:

As digby writes, “All presidents should probably make it a rule not to yuk it up over WMD and air attacks. It’s unnecessary.”

2. “Tase him!

(also via digby)

After all, the kid ran on to a baseball field, which jeopardized… something or other. Anyway, TASE HIM!

EDIT, 5/6: WMD link added.
UPDATE, 5/10: Credit where credit is due — the Washington Post editorial page weighs in against what happened in Philadelphia (“Police and Tasers“): “…[T]he Philadelphia police commissioner, Charles Ramsey, who reviewed video of the incident, said his officer had acted within department guidelines. That’s the problem. While Tasers have been useful in protecting officers from dangerous and out-of-control suspects, in too many police agencies the policy on using them is so loosely defined that officers can fire the weapons more or less when they feel like it.”

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Deepwater Horizon disaster a rebuke to Obama

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 30th April 2010

Coast Guard officials were investigating reports on Friday that crude oil leaking from a well beneath the Gulf of Mexico had washed ashore, threatening wildlife in fragile marshes and islands along the Gulf Coast. As the vast and growing oil slick spread across the Gulf and approached shore, fishermen in coastal towns feared for their businesses and the White House stepped up its response to the worsening situation.
Oil From Spill Is Reported to Have Reached the Coast” (Robertson, Robbins, NYTimes, 4/30/10)

As the extent of the Deepwater Horizon spill disaster grows hour by hour, day by day, and likely week by week, Barack Obama’s decision to open new areas off the Atlantic Coast to offshore oil exploration looks worse and worse.

First, and perhaps least importantly, if the widely held conclusion is true that the decision was designed to sweeten the political climate for a climate change bill deal, that calculation may have blown up in the White House’s face with the looming demise of the Kerry bill.  If so, we’ll have oil rigs off Cape Hatteras because that kept Lindsay Graham happy for a few weeks in the spring of 2010.

But it gets worse: it turns out Obama had come to believe (or cross his fingers about) claims about offshore oil rig safety that John McCain made in 2008:

I don’t agree with the notion that we shouldn’t do anything. It turns out, by the way, that oil rigs today generally don’t cause spills. They are technologically very advanced. Even during Katrina, the spills didn’t come from the oil rigs, they came from the refineries onshore.

…when in fact 124 oil rigs spilled a total of over 700,000 gallons of oil — with six spilling 42,000 or more gallons each, and one spilling the 100,000 or more gallons considered to be a major spill.  (Both links via ThinkProgress.)  Watch the video; the characteristic self-assurance with which Obama delivered his mistaken understandings should give even his warmest supporters pause.

Now some are saying Obama has “listened” by ordering a review of offshore oil rig safety.  And of course he has.  But the other way of looking at that is that it was just about the very least he could do. Even a President Palin would have gone to the Rose Garden and said “I’m against oil spills” too — so let’s get the best technology to get all that oil to the fuel pump instead of spilling it on birds, beaches, and fishing grounds.

Where I differ with ‘drill, baby, drillers’ like Palin — and now, sadly, Obama — is that I think the best way to prevent spilling Atlantic shelf oil is not to pump it out of the ground in the first place.

I’ll be interested to see whether Salazar gives any thought to that option in the report Obama wants.  I’ll also be interested whether any expensive precautions he recommends get scotched down the road by the oil companies.  They’ve lobbied against so-called “acoustic switches” before — technology that might have been a last-ditch option for the crew escaping the doomed “Deepwater Horizon.” But even such a switch presumably wouldn’t work if the the breakpoint  is below the shutoff valve it controls.

The fact is that when you open offshore areas to oil exploration, oil spill disasters are the non-negligible risk you take.  It’s more than a bit disturbing Obama took such a weighty step with such a poor understanding of that.

[crossposted to PlanetForward]
MORE ON DEEPWATER HORIZON SPILL: What the Spill Means for Offshore Drilling, NYTimes debate; BP Oil Disaster in the Gulf of Mexico (Murley, PlanetForward) – links to Transocean/BP, EPA, and White House press briefing.

UPDATE: 4/30: digby at Hullabaloo makes the same point about Lindsay Graham and the Atlantic offshore opening: “This is the reason why people don’t want offshore drilling. It’s not ideological and it’s not aesthetic. We don’t want to look at oil rigs on the horizon, but that’s hardly the main objection. It’s a concern for the environment. Obama tried to help out his pal Huckleberry get some non-existent votes lined up for the energy bill and begin his inevitable turn to the right for 2012. And it didn’t work out. When a policy is this bad, it rarely does.”
UPDATE, 5/2: Obama’s got company in the ‘jeez I wish I hadn’t said that’ club – Mary Landrieu, (Blue Dog-LA).

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Down from the mountaintop: EPA’s new guidance on MTR mining

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 4th April 2010

Mountaintop removal mining (MTR) is a particularly devastating variety of strip mining practiced in the Appalachian Mountains, particularly in West Virginia, in which whole mountaintops are pulverized to get at the seams of coal beneath. The “overburden” is pushed into neighboring valleys, resulting in ugly, scarred moonscapes and above all, buried, ruined streams that — when they do emerge from the rubble — are too high in dissolved pollutants to support life.

On April 1st, the EPA issued new guidelines that spelled out the downstream conductivity standards that MTR would have to satisfy in the future — standards described by Guardian reporter Susanne Goldenberg as “effectively call[ing] time today on one of the most destructive industries in America.”

But it’s not clear that’s what the guidelines do.  True, EPA chief Lisa Jackson appeared to back up that judgment:

“You are talking about either no or very few valley fills that are going to be able to meet standards like this,” she said. “What the science is telling us is that it would be untrue to say you can have any more than minimal valley fill and not see irreversible damage to stream health.”

While that sounds great, Ms. Jackson also said “This is not about ending coal mining,” and a look at the supporting EPA documents makes that plain:

Q. Will this memorandum stop mining?
No. EPA has recently approved permits for some surface mining projects in Appalachia and expects to continue to do so, where these projects are consistent with the guidance. EPA recognizes the importance of coal to Appalachia and to the nation’s energy mix, but also has an obligation based on the law and emerging science to prevent harm to our waters and environment. Projects that are damaging to water quality will be closely scrutinized, but mining companies that employ the best management practices contained in this memorandum and meet water quality protection standards should expect favorable actions on their permits…

The Charleston Gazette’s Ken Ward Jr. (“Coal Tattoo”) says the simple result is that EPA can block new permits or “demand significant changes” when downstream conductivity is projected to exceed 500 microSiemens. The “slightly more complicated” outcome?

Read the rest of this entry »

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“In what’s become a bit of a regular occurrence”

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 1st April 2010

…President Obama once had a different position on offshore drilling. Here’s a clip of candidate Obama’s statement on the subject, on June 20, 2008:

My transcript of his remarks follows.  Given President Obama’s reversal on the subject, candidate Obama’s criticism of McCain’s reversals seem even more hypocritical than his one-time environmentalism:

But what wouldn’t do a thing to lower gas prices is John McCain’s new proposal, a proposal adopted by George Bush as well, to open up Florida’s coastline to offshore drilling. In what’s become a bit of a regular occurrence in this campaign, Senator McCain once had a different position on offshore drilling, and it’s clear why he did: it would have long term consequences for our coastlines, but no short term benefits, since it would take at least ten years to get any oil.

Well, the politics may have changed, but the facts haven’t. The accuracy of Senator McCain’s original position has not changed. Offshore drilling would not lower gas prices today. It would not lower gas prices tomorrow. It would not lower gas prices this year, it would not lower gas prices five years from now. In fact, President Bush’s own energy department says that we won’t see a drop of oil from his own proposal until 2017. And in fact you wouldn’t see any full production out of any oil drilling off the coast until 2030. It would take a generation to reach full production, and even then, the effect on gas prices will be minimal at best.

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Death of the public option on the Orient Express

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 15th March 2010

Hercule Poirot: If all these people are not implicated in the crime, then why have they all told me, under interrogation, stupid and often unnecessary lies? Why? Why? Why? Why?
Dr. Constantine: Doubtless, Monsieur Poirot, because they did not expect you to be on the train. They had no time to concert their cover story.
Hercule Poirot: I was hoping someone other than myself would say that.
Murder on the Orient Express, 1974 film version

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

The “public option” — a health insurance option run by the federal government, for those mandated to obtain new health insurance– seems likely to be dropped from the final health insurance reform legislation apparently on the agenda sometime towards the end of this week.

Last week, Rachel Maddow pointed out the sizeable number of Senators who’ve either co-signed the Bennet letter or otherwise claimed they would support a reconciliation bill with a public option.  Guest Chris Hayes (The Nation) said he thought that support was soft — some Senators were counting on never having to vote for or against a public option.

When Maddow replied that Durbin had just pledged to whip whatever came to the Senate from the House, Hayes continued,

“…except for the fact that what is going to come out of the House is being negotiated between three parties … the House leadership, the Senate leadership, and the White House […] …it’s become this kind of like murder mystery game of “Clue,” it’s this whodunit, you know, who killed the public option: was it Senator Reid with procedural obfuscation in the Senate chamber, was it Rahm Emanuel with the insurance industry in the Roosevelt Room, everyone is pointing fingers at everyone else and it really is hard to figure out who actually put the knife in.”

And that, of course, is the point.  As in Agatha Christie’s famous mystery, the right way to read the evidence is that they *all* put the knife in, spreading and blurring responsibility for the deed. Read the rest of this entry »

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“First of all, I know both those guys”

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 11th February 2010

Arianna Huffington, reporting from the Nashville “Tea Party” Convention, noticed a startling element of Sarah Palin’s speech:

Indeed, at times in her speech, Palin sounded like the second coming of Huey Long. “While people on Main Street look for jobs, people on Wall Street — they’re collecting billions and billions in your bailout bonuses,” she said. “And everyday Americans are wondering: Where are the consequences? They helped to get us into this worst economic situation since the Great Depression. Where are the consequences?”

Obama, meanwhile, is Mr. Nuance on the latest set of bonuses paid out to the Masters of The Universe.  From an interview yesterday on, via Zack Carter of Alternet:

Q: Let’s talk bonuses for a minute: [Goldman Sachs CEO] Lloyd Blankfein, $9 million; [JP Morgan CEO] Jamie Dimon, $17 million. Now, granted, those were in stock and less than what some had expected. But are those numbers okay?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, look, first of all, I know both those guys. They’re very savvy businessmen. And I, like most of the American people, don’t begrudge people success or wealth. That’s part of the free market system. I do think that the compensation packages that we’ve seen over the last decade at least have not matched up always to performance. I think that shareholders oftentimes have not had any significant say in the pay structures for CEOs.

Now to be fair, there’s more in Obama’s comments about reforms he’d like, etcetera.  (To continue being fair, Obama also makes an inane comparison with million dollar baseball players who don’t make the World Series.)

But of the two, Palin’s statements convey more anger and emotion about the Great Recession, and more directness — however dishonest, however  shortlived — about its origins than Obama’s unspeakably stupid, tone-deaf opener “first of all I know both those guys.” Next he’ll be telling us how deeply he’s looked into their eyes.  But the real problem is claiming they are beneficiaries of a “free” market.  As Paul Krugman points out in his reaction to Obama’s interview (“Clueless”),

“these bank executives are not free agents who are earning big bucks in fair competition; they run companies that are essentially wards of the state. There’s good reason to feel outraged at the growing appearance that we’re running a system of lemon socialism, in which losses are public but gains are private.”

For a variety of reasons, I’ve given up caring why Obama says the things he says or does the things he does.  Maybe he was a community organizer once; he walked away from that a long time ago.  And I was barely interested in whether the Democratic Party still has a pulse a year from now.  It stood for civil rights and prosperity for a growing middle class once — and it didn’t just stand for those things, it enacted them.  Now it’s a wretched, hollow shell of an organization, unable to parlay a majority in the House, a (now vanished) supermajority in the Senate, and an electoral landslide for the White House into the accomplishment of its alleged number one goal: meaningful health care reform.  Ever since the Massachusetts Senate race loss and the health care reform doldrums, I’ve felt like David Mamet’s line: these guys could f**k up a baked potato.

Now someone like Sarah Palin — a far more dangerous, instinctively able, Nixonian politician than she’s given credit for — is bidding to wrest the populist torch away from the none-too-resisting hands of Obama and the Democrats.  And Palin is good enough at what she does to succeed overtly at what Brown did more or less covertly in Massachusetts — assuming the mantle of change, and conveying the hope of momentum for disaffected, fickle, “independent” voters who are rightly bummed and rightly want to throw the bums out.  If she isn’t, others are.  And Obama, the Democrats, and progressives and liberals who tied their hopes to them will have forfeited the very hope and change that seemed to be the wind in Obama’s sails one short year ago.

Andrew Leonard defends Obama’s performance, complaining: “We’ve got a guy in the White House capable of more nuance than anyone in recent memory, and a political culture that can’t deal with any nuance at all.” Look: nuance and a dollar fifty will buy you a cup of coffee. We don’t need nuance.  We need action.  We need jobs, we need homes saved, we need health care that doesn’t threaten us with choosing between ruin and death, and oh, we need to get out of a couple of wars and stop the ice caps from melting. The question is how, at what cost – and whether we can believe the people we hire to do the job.

UPDATE, 2/12: Full Business Week/Bloomberg interview here, via John Judis of The New Republic, who points out that Obama’s choice of known union-basher and FedEx CEO Fred Smith as a CEO he “admires” is pretty disappointing too. Judis: “Overall, the impression the interview leaves is of a president surprisingly oblivious to the fury that is sweeping the nation. Obama has occasionally attempted to speak to it, or read speeches that address it. But this interview shows that, in the choice between Main Street and Wall Street, his natural inclinations lie more toward one side—and it ain’t Main Street.”
UPDATE, 2/14: In a similar vein: Frank Rich NYTimes op-ed Palin’s Cunning Sleight Of Hand.

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