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Posted at 10:41 AM ET, 12/23/2010

Obama's (conservative) liberal agenda

By Adam Serwer

As we reach the end of a successful lame-duck session of Congress and the second year of the Obama presidency, Perry Bacon writes, "This blitz of bill signings completes a dramatic first two years for the nation's first black president that included the enactment of arguably the most major liberal policies since the Johnson administration but also the Democrats' biggest loss of House seats in 72 years."

It's interesting to think of the Obama administration's agenda as the most liberal in generations, if only because of how much it reflects liberals internalizing conservative critiques of liberalism or outright embracing conservative goals.

New START is a modernization and extension of a treaty negotiated by President Ronald Reagan and signed by President George W. Bush. "Don't ask, don't tell" was a Clinton-era "compromise" -- and, while seeking its appeal, the Obama administration went to great lengths to appease all the relevant stakeholders and neutralize potential backlash. The Affordable Care Act closely resembles the Republican "free-market" alternative to Clinton's 1993 health-care proposal and the plan put in place in Massachusetts by Republican Gov. Mitt Romney.

Even many of the initiatives that failed had conservative bonafides. The 2010 DREAM Act was a much narrower version of legislation that had long been part of the moderate Republican agenda on immigration, having once been sponsored by Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and John McCain (R-Ariz.). And while some conservatives descended even further into climate change denialism, cap-and-trade was, like the Affordable Care Act, meant to be the "free market" environmentalist approach.

The Obama administration's agenda, by and large, reflected a liberalism chastened by past failures and willing to endorse more market-based solutions to problems. Rather than simply dismissing conservative criticism, liberals internalized it -- and modified, narrowed and adjusted their goals accordingly. Where conservatives said liberals were too ambitious, liberals sought more focused solutions. Where conservatives said the market would work better than government, liberals tried to find a market-based path to the same goal. When conservatives pointed out that judicial decrees, even in matters of civil rights, are no substitute for the legitimacy conferred by legislative action, liberals took it to heart.

Of course, as liberals moved right or recognized conservative criticism as legitimate, conservatives mostly leveled the same tired epithets at everything liberals tried to do. A more limited DREAM Act with harsher behavioral restrictions became "amnesty," Reagan's arms treaty would lead to nuclear annihilation, and a national version of Romneycare became the twilight of freedom in America. In the hands of liberals, conservative policy ideas become dangerous, elaborate plans for the unmaking of the country.

Liberals may learn from conservatives, but because conservatives today believe that liberals aren't "Real Americans" and therefore can't be legitimate political actors, they don't think they have anything to learn. Liberals aren't mere political rivals, they're Marxists, communists, socialists, "Kenyan Anti-colonialists," whatever the epithet of the day. As David Neiwert has observed, even some of the most prominent conservative commentators see liberals as dangerous subversives who have to be purged from the body politic, not compromised with in pursuit of common goals. Liberals want to destroy America, after all. What is there to compromise on?

At some point, this basic imbalance in the way the two sides look at each other will have to be reconciled, but I doubt it'll happen in the next Congress.

By Adam Serwer  | December 23, 2010; 10:41 AM ET
Categories:  Health reform  
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Comments

'...conservatives see liberals as dangerous subversives who have to be purged from the body politic, not compromised with in pursuit of common goals."

Hmmm I just posted that for the 100th time awhile ago. Liberals are weak and like to compromise, they think Republicans are just misguided good people. But they would have been crushed by McConnell in the lame duck if the TP Express had not delivered Harry Reid, Coons and Murkowski.

Posted by: shrink2 | December 23, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Good points, Adam. They explain how I, a $500+ donor to McC's campaign, who ended up voting for BHO b/c McC was adopting Kristol as his FP guru, no longer recognize McC. They explain how I can now only think of a half dozen Rs I would vote for Senator if I were in their state [I always supported KBH in the past]. The Ds show these signs of including me by taking "my" past criticism of their ideas [HRC's health care plan, for example] and adopting it.

I used to complain that I thought many liberal goals were worthy, but that the classic D approach - all federal government, all the time - was inefficient and costly, and perhaps threatening to private enterprise in some cases. Now Ds seem to have heard me while Rs seem to have abandoned me.

I would want to hear if Kevin Willis has felt any of this shift.

I know that what Adam reports makes actual liberals feel marginalized. Y'all keep thinking big ideas and remember that many of us will listen to them, but want to test them and cost them before rolling out national implementation of them. There are still many of us who are not liberals who do not think it is a cuss word. But the Rs do not want us much any more.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | December 23, 2010 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Obama has forced Republicans to the right. Or, rather, because he has taken the center, he forced them to decide whether to work together, in the center, or oppose everything he's proposing. They chose the latter course, boxing themselves in at the right fringe.

The interesting question, to me, is whether he could drive the GOP to the center by moving left - and pursuing an actual liberal agenda.

Posted by: bsimon1 | December 23, 2010 11:09 AM | Report abuse

The important thing about HCR is not necessarily the bill enacted in 2010, but that it solidifies a federal role in HealthCare as a legitimate benefit for all citizens. If you think in terms of football, liberals are upset because the conservatives drove the ball down to the liberal 20-yard line. But Obama got the ball back and the liberals start the drive from there. Sure, it'd be nice to start the drive around the 40 yard line, but that didn't happen. Either way, this gets the country moving toward something looking like a sane healthcare system.

Posted by: willows1 | December 23, 2010 11:15 AM | Report abuse

They would have to come around the other side of the world. The GOP has too many crazies and semiliterates, and the standard bearer of the baggers is almost incoherent.

Some moderates who never went as far may get more prominent voices, but the GOP will never move left.

Posted by: caothien9 | December 23, 2010 11:16 AM | Report abuse

Thoughtful post, Adam.

Posted by: AllButCertain | December 23, 2010 11:23 AM | Report abuse

"At some point, this basic imbalance in the way the two sides look at each other will have to be reconciled, but I doubt it'll happen in the next Congress."

Once you understand this, the rest of it makes sense. Do you want to support Hitler or the other guy? What if Hitler wants high-speed rail? OK, maybe it's a good idea, but he's Hitler, after all, so supporting it is still a bad idea. They have taken demonization to the next level.

In some ways, liberals demonized Bush, but I don't think it was to the same extent. Plus, there was a window there when Bush looked genuinely scary. I'm sorry, but making sure people have health insurance just doesn't measure up to lying us into a war (and maybe two wars).

Posted by: willows1 | December 23, 2010 11:34 AM | Report abuse

shrink:

"Liberals are weak and like to compromise, they think Republicans are just misguided good people."

Right. This is exactly how Cheney and Rove were viewed by the left for 8 years. And how Gingrich was viewed before them. And how Reagan was viewed before him. And, of course, this is precisely the benign view of Republicans that hyper-liberal Bernie expresses all the time, like just a few hours ago when he characterized Bill Kristol as, er, "functionally evil".

You are a regular sage, shrink.

Posted by: ScottC3 | December 23, 2010 11:38 AM | Report abuse

bsimon1:
Can you define what "the center" is?

Posted by: Calvin_Jones_and_the_13th_Apostle | December 23, 2010 11:40 AM | Report abuse

Serwer it's contemptable to put the word Conservative next to Obama's name....

Posted by: progrills | December 23, 2010 11:41 AM | Report abuse

mark_in_austin:
All federal government all the time? In which way?

Posted by: Calvin_Jones_and_the_13th_Apostle | December 23, 2010 11:43 AM | Report abuse

If you think in terms of football, you will learn a lot about offense by watching the Oregon Ducks. Fast, relentless, flexible, ruthless, but most of all fast and relentless. I've said politics is a blood sport by another name, but for many people this fight really is a matter of life and death. It isn't just the wars we started and lost, the growth in income disparity isn't about envy, it is about equal opportunity. If being born into poverty means you must remain in poverty, then America has lost what it once was. The idea was that your kids could have a better life, so if you do the right thing, they should, they would have a better life. If that is true for a smaller and smaller slice of America's people, then the trend is the reverse of what it should be, what it was.

Posted by: shrink2 | December 23, 2010 11:45 AM | Report abuse

willows:

"In some ways, liberals demonized Bush, but I don't think it was to the same extent. Plus, there was a window there when Bush looked genuinely scary."

Hilarious. Even the best conservative parody writers couldn't make this kind of stuff up.

Posted by: ScottC3 | December 23, 2010 11:47 AM | Report abuse

ScottC3 - Let me continue that quote for you:

"I'm sorry, but making sure people have health insurance just doesn't measure up to lying us into a war (and maybe two wars)."

I wish it were a parody. Several million Iraqis probably wish it were a parody as well.

Posted by: willows1 | December 23, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

the American left ignores the recent past at its peril.

the run up to obamacare energized the left's political opposition. The Democrats responded by smearing us as "astro turf" then ignoring us, then slandering us with the label "racist".

All of that demonstrated to those in opposition to the Democrats that the Democrats were simply unwilling to compromise or even listen to the public.

The public reaction to that message is embodied in the election results and the subsequent behavior of the congressional Republicans. As I've stated several times now the new congresspeople, the new state legislators, the new govenors, were'nt elected to administer business as usual. they were elected to confront an out of control unaccountable government.

The liberals are decrying this now. But it is far to late to insist on comity and probity. They should have considered that before those black congressmen lied about us.

How many of you recall the time when the Republicans had a very narrow majority in the Senate and the Democrats raised the idea of "power sharing". yeah sure,like that'll work.

It is the same basic message: you sowed. Now you reap. The Democrats in congress no doubt did what the liberals in America demanded: no compromise, enact as much as possible, yank the country to the left as far as possible. When the people objected the response was ghastly.

don't look for much in the next congress. you gave no quarter when you stood on our necks. Why would you expect us to behave any differently than you did then?

Posted by: skipsailing28 | December 23, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Calvin Jones, et al asks
"Can you define what "the center" is?"

No, but I know it when I see it.

Posted by: bsimon1 | December 23, 2010 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Great post Adam.

The right couldn't move to the center if they wanted to. It would demoralize their racist base and give them confirmation that, yes indeed, there is no chance that they will take the country "back" for white supremacists.

Frankly, I think this would have come to pass even if the person we elected President wasn't a "scary black man". Society has moved beyond racism and bigotry. We are experiencing the old white establishment's slow death with this massive generational and demographic shift.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | December 23, 2010 11:51 AM | Report abuse

"Even the best conservative parody writers couldn't make this kind of stuff up."

ScottC, that is your problem right there.

All conservatives do is make stuff up.

That's the whole point of Willow's critique, I believe.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | December 23, 2010 11:54 AM | Report abuse

skipsailing28 - So why did all of those GOP sellouts just go along with pretty much the entire left-wing agenda of the Obama Kenyan anti-colonialist and the Pelosi San Francisco hippy commune types? Maybe that weren't that liberal to begin with.

Posted by: willows1 | December 23, 2010 11:55 AM | Report abuse

All, it looks like Harry Reid is seriously pressing ahead with filibuster reform:

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/plum-line/2010/12/harry_reid_devising_plan_to_fo.html

Posted by: Greg Sargent | December 23, 2010 11:58 AM | Report abuse

only the first two words of this are correct:
===================
"I'm sorry, but making sure people have health insurance just doesn't measure up to lying us into a war (and maybe two wars)."

=========================

Yup, sorry you are.

It is just amazing to me that the left has so little self awareness. They believe themselves to be the absolute paradigmn of all that is right and just in the world so they are completely unaware of their own bigotry. The above quote is a perfect example.

The bottom line for the person who wrote that: yeah, we were cruel to Bush but he deserved it. YOu guys can't be cruel to Obama because in our opinion he doesn't deserve it.

Note that the leftie quoted arrogates to himself (herself?) (itself) the absolute right to decide right and wrong for everyone.

Still it doesn't measure up to my personal favorite, which is the liberal who sagely advised me that that White People were the biggest threat America faces.

No bigotry there, no sirree bob.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | December 23, 2010 11:59 AM | Report abuse

@shrink2 "they think Republicans are just misguided good people."

I see no evidence of this. The more common liberal/progressive view of Republicans, certainly as expressed in the comments on this blog, is as a group warmongering, backward, racist tools of the rich and corporations who are always willing to sell out the national interest in pursuit of their narrow political agenda.

A more significant question is would the election results have been more favorable to the Democrats if they had held votes on the items in the lame duck agenda prior to the mid-term elections (i.e. on the Bush tax cuts, DADT, DREAM, START, 9/11 First Responsers Act & the Omnibus Budget) rather than delaying the "tough" votes in an attempt to gain a tactical advantage.

Posted by: jnc4p | December 23, 2010 12:04 PM | Report abuse

I would still like to know who the Republicans here think should run against Obama. You realize that there is very little time left before you'll need to organize around a small number of candidates, people you consider viable. I only count two with enough name recognition.

It is too late to bring someone from obscurity. At the end of '06 everyone knew it was Obama v The Clintons. So is it Palin v Romney? You'll have to make the rest of those clowns disappear and soon or you will dissipate the enthusiasm gap that helped you last month.

The future is always breaking in on politicos who want to rehash the past.

Posted by: shrink2 | December 23, 2010 12:04 PM | Report abuse

oh really? All? every last one of the Republicans went along with Mr Obama? Really?

why ask me?

why don't you ask them? Surely they will take your call.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | December 23, 2010 12:06 PM | Report abuse

The last president with a liberal domestic agenda was Richard Nixon. Clinton & Obama both ran for office as "liberals", and governed as corporate conservatives. That Rethuglickin dupes want to call them "marxists" or "socialists" is something the dupes really should take up with a shrink.

Posted by: Jihm | December 23, 2010 12:08 PM | Report abuse

jnc4p, perhaps you suspect, my answer to your more significant question is yes, for sure!

As for how liberals think, I am not talking about people on post-it boards. I am talking about the great mass of liberal voters, not the activists.

Posted by: shrink2 | December 23, 2010 12:10 PM | Report abuse

"dupes really should take up with a shrink"

They don't have health insurance.

Posted by: shrink2 | December 23, 2010 12:11 PM | Report abuse

There are two trends in evolution, both equally successful. There is the “survival of the fittest” trend, which is the one I’m sure most conservatives are familiar with. It favors the biggest, meanest, most aggressive individuals and leads nowhere to even bigger, meaner, spikier, more aggressive individuals. This trend continues until the predator has some once favorable feature so overdeveloped that it becomes a disadvantage, or the predator depletes its food supply.
Then there is the co-operative trend, where all individuals in the group act for a common advantage. Practitioners and fans of the former trend tend to deride this “socialist” tendency because it just isn’t fair to the lions when the gazelles circle, horns outward, to protect the old, the young, and the weak.

Posted by: Capn0ok | December 23, 2010 12:11 PM | Report abuse

I must say that for once that for once, Mr. Sewer seems to have nailed one. The fact that these initiatives are being hailed as great liberal victories in some circles while simultaneously decried as creeping socialism in others, vividly illustrates just how far to the extreme right our national political discussion has moved in the last couple of decades.

Still, politics is the art of the possible and every win, even a much smaller one than you like to see, helps to redefine the shape of what's possible going forward. But nothing actually moves until ~something~ actually gets done. Most of this stuff would have been inconceivable as recently as 5 years ago and all of it represents steps in the right direction, no matter how (arguably) small or overdue.

Posted by: CalD | December 23, 2010 12:11 PM | Report abuse

The other explanation for the perception that the left/progressives/liberals have moved more to the center and that the Republicans have moved more to the right is that Obama is correct when he says that Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of the country.

The "center" isn't what it was in the 1960's and 1970's. The skepticism about government that was unleashed by the left in the 1960's regarding Vietnam has been solidified into a much more broad-based critique about government in general. As Obama notes, this skepticism and cynicism about government aligns better with the conservative vision of government than the progressive one.

Posted by: jnc4p | December 23, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse

"I would still like to know who the Republicans here think should run against Obama"

He'll never win the nomination, but I like Gary Johnson.

opposed to the wars, opposed to spending. everyone will hate him for different reasons.

http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2010/05/05/gary_johnson_most_interesting_republican

Posted by: NoVAHockey | December 23, 2010 12:16 PM | Report abuse

"everyone will hate him for different reasons"

Sounds like my kind of guy, I'll check out your link.

Posted by: shrink2 | December 23, 2010 12:17 PM | Report abuse

"As Obama notes, this skepticism and cynicism about government aligns better with the conservative vision of government than the progressive one."

Both sides are equally blind as to the problems we face. Republicans just have more corporate money for the fight.

Posted by: shrink2 | December 23, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse

skipsailing28 - Not sure why I'm wasting my time with this, but here goes.

I can admit that some of what the left said about Bush was over the top. But then again, many of Bush's policies were over the top as well. It's really hard to get over the invasion of Iraq as really a model of how Bush did things. He basically invented a false reality in order to do something that he wanted to do all along for what seemed to be personal reasons. He had a last-minute out when Hussein agreed to leave the country and yet he went for the big 'splosions and guitar riffs because that's what all those flag-waving 'mericans paid for, not some panty-waisted exercise in foreign relations.

Now compare this with what Obama has achieved. A nuclear arms treaty. Financial regulation. A very centrist HealthCare Reform bill. Allowing gays to serve openly in the military. A stimulus package which was 40% tax cuts. A tax-cut compromise which passed the Senate with 70+ votes. A bill to help 9/11 first responders. A bill regulating the credit card industry. A bailout of the auto industry which has been a spectacular success. I'm sure there are more, but that's all I can think of right now.

Now tell me, which of those legislative accomplishments rises to the level of scariness that lying a nation into war does? You might not like them, but none of those can be looked at as being universally wrong or bad the way invading Iraq was.

Posted by: willows1 | December 23, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Obama is in a good position right now. He can let the Republicans take the political heat for actually making real cuts to government, which all but the most knuckle-headed and/or extreme know that we must make because of the US debt levels.

The tax levels themselves are not necessarily the problem; it's the loopholes in the tax code that are the problem. If Congress were to just cut/paste the 1986 tax code onto the current rates, even where they are now, much of our immediate indebtedness would be solved and much of the rest could be met through budget cuts.

Everyone averted their eyes to the real estate bubble of 5 years ago, not just Wall Street bankers. Now, everyone needs to man-up and help to solve the problem, instead of whining about a problem that is already on us and will only get worse in the future.

Posted by: armyofone | December 23, 2010 12:25 PM | Report abuse

"I haven' t found the Republican Party to be exclusive as much as inclusive," he adds.

Ron Johnson sounds like a really nice person, smart too. But he doesn't know how Republican politics works, as for example Stu Rothenburg does.

"His chances are zero," political analyst Stu Rothenberg says via e-mail. "I'd say that they are less than zero, if there was such a thing. I'd expect his impact to be nonexistent."

How is that for inclusive?

Posted by: shrink2 | December 23, 2010 12:26 PM | Report abuse

willows1 writes
"which of those legislative accomplishments rises to the level of scariness that lying a nation into war does? You might not like them, but none of those can be looked at as being universally wrong or bad the way invading Iraq was."

Generally I find debating the W administration to be a waste of time, but the point willow makes is worthwhile. Whether you think, like many (most?) on the left, that President Bush deliberately lied or falsified the argument for going to war in Iraq, or it was more an error in judgement, or failure to plan effectively for the post-war period (as seems to be the conservative interpretation), the war was a collossal mistake, causing severe damage to our foreign policy, treasury, economy & credibility. None of the Obama administrations policies, thus far, seem to approach that level of incompetence or irrepairability - health care reform, for instance, could potentially be overturned in the next Congress (unlikely, perhaps, but its a law, not a war, and can thus be undone).

Posted by: bsimon1 | December 23, 2010 12:35 PM | Report abuse

"How is that for inclusive?

Agreed -- He'd never make it through the primaries, but it would be fun. he would be running to the left of Obama on some issues. Maybe if it's still all about the economy he can tap into that stuff and not get hammered by the press as some sort of backwater moron (Palin). I don't think the press would know what to do with him, as he doesn't fit the traditional narrative.

Posted by: NoVAHockey | December 23, 2010 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Thank you for proving my point willows1. As a rationalization for bad behavior I'd give your reponse a good old Russian judge nine. It contained all the requisite elements: micharacterizations, propaganda and out right lies.

but that's not really my point. My point is this: the left in America is decrying a political atmosphere that they themselves created. Their ten year temper tantrum all but destroyed the existing norms of "civility". the culminiation of this arrogance was the false charges leveled against the American people by Carson and Lewis.

the message that sends is quite clear, the left will stop at nothing to achieve their goals.

Now go back and read the whining about how the Republicans and conservatives are just do darned obdurate. It is just hilarious.

Oh, and I think the Iraq war was a masterstroke. And I am far from alone. So my secondary point remains, you arrogate to yourself the sole right to decide good and bad, then you level bigoted charges at those with the temerity to disagree with your sacred assessment.

The rationalization for bad behavior was amusing. It isn't new, in fact it is quite trite at this point, but it was amusing.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | December 23, 2010 12:47 PM | Report abuse

"Maybe if it's still all about the economy..."

It will be, no doubt about that. That is why I think Republicans will have to put Romney versus Obama; Mitt is anathema to a lot of "values voters", but Palin has no shot, she's just too stupid.

Posted by: shrink2 | December 23, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse

shrink:

"As for how liberals think, I am not talking about people on post-it boards. I am talking about the great mass of liberal voters, not the activists. "

I see. In other words, you can read the minds of people you do not know and with whom you have had no contact whatsoever.

Spectacular insights, shrink.

Posted by: ScottC3 | December 23, 2010 12:54 PM | Report abuse

My point is this: the left in America is decrying a political atmosphere that they themselves created. Their ten year temper tantrum all but destroyed the existing norms of "civility".
-----------------------------------------------
Ah, so no more Mister Nice Guy, eh?

I'm having a wee bit of trouble ever seeing you as Mr. NG. Oooooh, is that harsh?

Posted by: 12BarBluesAgain | December 23, 2010 12:56 PM | Report abuse

shrink:

"Republicans just have more corporate money for the fight. "

As evidenced by what, exactly?

Posted by: ScottC3 | December 23, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Apparently skipsailing28 doesn't see the difference between killing hundreds of thousands of people and trying to give health care to millions of people.

Posted by: maurban | December 23, 2010 1:00 PM | Report abuse

That is why I think Republicans will have to put Romney versus Obama; Mitt is anathema to a lot of "values voters", but Palin has no shot, she's just too stupid.
--------------------------------------------------
Clever, shrink, clever.

We could turn it the other way--Mitt has no chance because he's too boring and, to boot, LDS. Palin is malleable (that's the benefit of being "not *too* smart").

Posted by: 12BarBluesAgain | December 23, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Scott, you need to take another break, please, you are already showing signs of cracking up. Don't go caps lock, ok? And don't get all burned out like Brigade, whose meaning in life seems to derive from chopping up other peoples' ideas and ridiculing the snippets he's created. Take a longer break. please. As for your "point" I don't read minds, I read. And in my life, I have known many, many ordinary liberals; my Dad worked for the McCarthy campaign, he did, but I don't know very many activists.

Posted by: shrink2 | December 23, 2010 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Apparently skipsailing28 doesn't see the difference between killing hundreds of thousands of people and trying to give health care to millions of people.
-----------------------------------------------------
You're wrong, maurban. Skipsailing thinks its far worse to give health care to millions of people. Killing is relatively cheap next to trying to keep people alive. You know, living people, keep needing healthcare. Parasitic behaviour, living is.

Posted by: 12BarBluesAgain | December 23, 2010 1:05 PM | Report abuse

Listen skipsailing28, when the left demonized Bush for the Iraqi War, it was because they thought it was needless killing. Whether or not it was "needless" is a matter of opinion, but it did end up killing a few hundred thousand innocent people in our names.

The right spent the last 18 months saying that Obamacare, an effort to HELP people by giving them insurance (or, making them buy their own insurance in the private market.....a very conservative idea) as wanting to KILL them with death panels.

You don't see the difference here? Obama REFUSES to cave to the left and nationalize the banks, so the right calls him a socialist. He doesn't raise taxes on anybody....socialist again. Doubles the number of troops in Afghanistan, quadruples the number of drone attacks in Pakistan, keeps Guantanamo open.....he is weak on national defense.

I'm sorry, but no matter what your political ideology you should be rational enough to see that the while the critiques of Bush may have been over the top, at least the left was critiquing him for things he was actually doing.

Posted by: maurban | December 23, 2010 1:07 PM | Report abuse

@willows1 "I can admit that some of what the left said about Bush was over the top. But then again, many of Bush's policies were over the top as well. It's really hard to get over the invasion of Iraq as really a model of how Bush did things. He basically invented a false reality in order to do something that he wanted to do all along for what seemed to be personal reasons. He had a last-minute out when Hussein agreed to leave the country and yet he went for the big 'splosions and guitar riffs because that's what all those flag-waving 'mericans paid for, not some panty-waisted exercise in foreign relations."

What's your evidence for the claim that "He had a last-minute out when Hussein agreed to leave the country"?

I have tended to believe that Bob Woodward got the story on Irag basically right in his "Bush at War" series when he notes that after September 11, there was a complete reassessment of what constituted an acceptable risk to the United States. Iraq moved to the top of the list due to it's previous support for terrorists (not Al-Queda, but rather the PLO, Baader-Meinhof, Carlos the Jackal, etc from the 1970's & 80's) and the failure of the U.N sanctions regime to force Iraq to comply with the terms of the cease fire from 1991. You can argue it was an overreaction and took our focus and resources off of what should have been the primary fight in Afghanistan, but there's no evidence that it's "something that he wanted to do all along for what seemed to be personal reasons".

If you dig up the contemporaneous reporting from the beginning of Bush's term to just prior to September 11th, 2001, you'll find that the focus was on getting new "smart sanctions" for Iraq through the U.N. since the existing sanctions regime was failing.

More significantly, a lot of the criticism about how we got into the Iraq war has only come out in hindsight after the failure of the Bush administration to successfully resource and execute the post-invasion occupation. If we had the security and political situation in Iraq that we now have back in 2004, there would not have been all this ex-post-facto revisionism about how the war started.

The best case for the war in Iraq was made by Bush at the UN in September 2002 and then by Tony Blair to the U.K. House of Commons in March of 2003.

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2002/09/12/national/main521781.shtml

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2003/mar/18/foreignpolicy.iraq1

Posted by: jnc4p | December 23, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Right wing mantra: 'HCR is bad'-except when confronted with the reality that large chunks of it were originally moderate GOP ideas. So, either they are being disingenuous or are are extremey jealous.

Posted by: ChuckinDenton | December 23, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

"It will be, no doubt about that. That is why I think Republicans will have to put Romney versus Obama; Mitt is anathema to a lot of "values voters", but Palin has no shot, she's just too stupid."

Johnson agrees with you, from a New Republic article: What does Johnson make of Palin? On a drive through the foothills of New Hampshire, I ask him. Riding shotgun, he turns the question around on me. "Um, I guess some people think she's folksy," I say from the backseat. "Well, at first she strikes you as folksy," he shoots back. "And then you realize: She might be running for president of the United States! And then, don't we have the obligation to tell her what a terrible idea that is?"


Posted by: NoVAHockey | December 23, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse

"Right wing mantra: 'HCR is bad'-except when confronted with the reality that large chunks of it were originally moderate GOP ideas. So, either they are being disingenuous or are are extremey jealous."

Whether disingenuous or jealous, the point is the same one I made at the top - Obama took a moderate approach, and the GOP plan for success in the midterms & 2012 is to paint everything Obama does as liberal socialism; therefore HCR, even if its based on what used to pass for 'center-right' ideas, is tantamount to reforming America into a socialist paradise that MUST BE STOPPED. The merits of the policy (if there are any) are irrelevant. The sources of the policy ideas are likewise irrelevant. The only thing that is relevant, is who wins. The Repubs think the midterms show that they won (approval ratings notwithstanding); and they think ramping up those tactics will prove to be a winning strategy for 2012.

Posted by: bsimon1 | December 23, 2010 1:19 PM | Report abuse

The Bush Doctrine of justifying preemptive war (which really is a concept of constant war) is his enduring legacy.

Luckily, our experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan has poured cold water on Americans' enthusiasm to charge off into another war, preemptive or not. But, just like the lessons of Vietnam were swept under the rug in just a few short years, I expect that the business of war will persuade us to forget the lessons of Iraq/Afghanistan. We will forget that war is not this short, cheap, explosive, can't-lose proposition that Rumsfield maintained, but instead a long, slow, expensive and questionable quagmire that it really is.

We've sold out to corporate interest for the last thirty years at least, and corporate interests are advanced when we are constantly at war.

Posted by: 12BarBluesAgain | December 23, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

jnc4p - Well my criticism of the Iraq war started from way before the beginning. It may well be that they re-assessed what constituted a threat, but in layman's terms that is called finding an excuse to do something you really wanted to do. When Bush v Gore was decided, I laconically noted to some of my friends at the time "How long until we invade Iraq?". I wish I had been wrong. By the way, I don't feel the same way about Afghanistan and never have. I didn't think Bush was up to the task of successfully prosecuting a war in Afghanistan, but I realized we had to do something.

As far as the timelines of criticism, I think it is well established that the media completely fell down on the job of adequately covering the Iraq war story at its inception. They were bullied and envious of the Bush White House and did everything they could to give them a pass. We were all still in mild shock over 9/11 and the White House press people knew this all too well.

I really hate to re-litigate all of this, but either way nothing Obama has done is even in the same realm.

I'll have to dig up the last-minute out for you some other time. Deadlines approaching.

Posted by: willows1 | December 23, 2010 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Johnson would have to have money to compete and there are two sources, he will never get the corporate pay to play money, he is too smart and too honest, they don't like that. But could he access grassroots money, the way Obama beat The Clintons? He would need to get what the Obama campaign called The List. The Obama campaign was relentless with its internet based social marketing programs.

Someday a smart, honest, genuine fiscal conservative could lead the Republican Party, but it would have to happen in such a way that s/he outflanked rather than took on the party establishment directly, again, as Obama did.

Posted by: shrink2 | December 23, 2010 1:28 PM | Report abuse

Yes, sir the thoughtless bigotry of the left remains on display.

maurban uses and old, tired leftist technique. First the liberal mischaracterizes the opposition's position then incorrectly extolls the virtues of his own.

Here's an example: If a conservative doesn't agree with me that X will solve the problem of world hunger, then that conservative is in favor of loading babies onto boxcars with a pitchfork.

As I said it is old, tiresome and unproductive. I thought liberals were all about open mindedness. Guess Buckley got that right way back when.

further neither liberal wag, maurban and 12 bar can actually prove that what was passed will achieve the result the proclaim. Thus far it has had the opposite effect. but hey why let facts get in the way of a good old leftie temper tantrum?

And spare me the repetition of the same unhelpful rationalizations for the left's bad behavior. Bad behavior is bad behavior. To claim that it was somehow justified simply proves my point. If the poor performance of the left during the Bush years was justified because the left says it was, then the same poor behavior on the right is also justified. Net result: new norms.

And that's the point. We're living with new norms. Today it is insufficient to simply raise sound, reasonable argument. Today we must make a film based on the assasination of the president we despise. Oh and publish a couple of books based on the same theme.

Sorry, but you'll have to lie in the bed you made. The invective hurled in the general direction of Obama and his minions is as nothing compared to the nastiness of the left, baseless rationales notwithstanding.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | December 23, 2010 1:32 PM | Report abuse

jnc4p - Let's just not forget how the Rumsfeld Pentagon actively circumvented the normal intelligence community to produce their own assessment of whether Iraq constituted a threat and that Richard Perle - a long-time advocate of invading Iraq - remarkably came to conclusions completely at odds of those of the UN, the State Department, and IAEA, and virtually every other credible intelligence agency at the time.

Let's also not forget yellow cake uranium from Niger which was a lie. Let's not forget the meeting in Prague between agents of Iraq and agents of Al-Queda, which was also a lie. Let's not forget that the mobile biological weapons Collin Powell discovered were actually weather balloons. Some of these things may have come out later than they should have. But they have come out and they do nothing but bolster the opinion of people who believe that Bush (more likely Cheney) were determined to go to war with Iraq no matter what.

Posted by: willows1 | December 23, 2010 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Yes willows, you are using "laymans terms". Perhaps that is because you don't actually think like a political leader or a member of the military.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | December 23, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

@willows1 "I really hate to re-litigate all of this, but either way nothing Obama has done is even in the same realm."

Where do you come down on targeted killings/assassinations by drones in countries we aren't at war with, including American citizens?

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/06/AR2010040604121.html?hpid=topnews

Posted by: jnc4p | December 23, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

skipsailing28 - Yeah, how did that whole unseating a President because he had an affair thing work out for the Republicans? Number one reason I'm a Democrat today.

Posted by: willows1 | December 23, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, but you'll have to lie in the bed you made.
-------------------------------------------
Skipsailing is saying "yeah, we're nasty but you guys made us that way."

So much for principles, eh?

Posted by: 12BarBluesAgain | December 23, 2010 1:37 PM | Report abuse

What I like about Obama is that while he is instinctually and intellectually inclined towards left-leaning solutions, he is curious about and open to legitimate ideas and critiques from across the ideological spectrum, and his number one priority is finding solutions that actually work. As a result, the big picture isn't one of Obama negotiating from the center, only to be moved further right by an intransigent Republican opposition, but rather one of a thoughtful leader and a brilliant strategist who knows how to make the maximum amount of real, positive progress that is actually possible. He isn't concerned with labels.

Take the example of climate change. Already, Obama has gone around Congress in issuing new vehicle emission standards, and he is about to do the same with power plant and refinery emissions:
http://voices.washingtonpost.com/post-carbon/2010/12/epa_announces_plans_to_regulat.html

Instead of moving rightward after the market-based alternative of "cap-and-trade" failed, he has moved leftward, because this was the best option he had in order to actually make real, positive progress. Similarly, the public option was taken out of health reform to ensure that a bill that puts this country on a clear path toward universal health care would become law. The removal of a public option was a move rightward from the left, but again, the ultimate real-world outcome was what really counted: 30 million more Americans covered, and a major step towards bringing costs down.

Posted by: billy_burdett | December 23, 2010 1:39 PM | Report abuse

Where do you come down on targeted killings/assassinations by drones in countries we aren't at war with, including American citizens?
-------------------------------------------------
I'll answer for myself. I question that all the alternatives are being considered. We have transitioned America into a country in constant war, and justifying it by our belief that we need to intervene all over the world whether our interests are involved or not, and further justifying it by having troops all over the world.

I am suspicious that all this warmaking serves corporate interests more than anything else.

Posted by: 12BarBluesAgain | December 23, 2010 1:42 PM | Report abuse

jnc4p - I don't like it. This is the kind of thing people should be worried about. This and the Patriot Act and the Gitmo and the GWOT and black sites and FISA and waterboarding and charges of "conspiracy". Authoritarianism isn't about HCR, it's about drawing a box around people and saying "step outside this box and you're done for". Liberals have been disappointed in Obama for not doing more about these things.

Posted by: willows1 | December 23, 2010 1:42 PM | Report abuse

@willows1 "jnc4p - I don't like it. This is the kind of thing people should be worried about. This and the Patriot Act and the Gitmo and the GWOT and black sites and FISA and waterboarding and charges of "conspiracy". Authoritarianism isn't about HCR, it's about drawing a box around people and saying "step outside this box and you're done for". Liberals have been disappointed in Obama for not doing more about these things."

Yes, but would you concede that it's "in the same realm" as say warrant-less wiretapping?

Posted by: jnc4p | December 23, 2010 1:45 PM | Report abuse

skipsailing28, you're trying really hard to make a valid point....but it's just not happening. Name calling and semantics; why don't you try refuting some of our points?

Posted by: maurban | December 23, 2010 1:54 PM | Report abuse

"He will never get the corporate pay to play money"

To a point -- i think businesses back a winner. Money flows to where the best ROI will be. But you're point about the Obama model makes sense. Anyway, at this point, he's who I would like to see. Longest of long shots.

Posted by: NoVAHockey | December 23, 2010 2:04 PM | Report abuse

my Dad worked for the McCarthy campaign, he did, but I don't know very many activists.

Posted by: shrink2 | December 23, 2010 1:04 PM
-----

Joe McCarthy?

Posted by: Brigade | December 23, 2010 2:06 PM | Report abuse

I'm old, but not that old!

Posted by: shrink2 | December 23, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

BTW, Rachel Maddow did a piece the other night that nicely put things in perspective:
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/40774380#40774380

Posted by: billy_burdett | December 23, 2010 2:55 PM | Report abuse

in response to this
=============
Skipsailing is saying "yeah, we're nasty but you guys made us that way."

So much for principles, eh?
=======================
NO 12barblues, that's just another slanderous mischaracterization. What I am saying, for the umpteenth time, is that the behavior of the left during the Bush years reset the norms for political discourse in our society.

If those are the rules, and they work, then your opposition will play by them. It has nothing to do with prinicples and everything to do with tactics.

the left is all about winning. Well guess what, so are we. If the left is willing to slander a president to gain political advantage (somehow) they cannot expect anything less in return.

Or are you trying to justify "do as we say not as we do" one more time?

Even conservatives can read and implement Alinsky's opus magnus. That's the point.

Stop whining and face it. Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

the mischaracterization noted above is either the product of poor reading skills or a long habit of slander as a means of ending conversations. One should expect the latter since liberals have relied on the magical incantation of "racist!" to shut people up for years. It used to work too. No mas pal.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | December 23, 2010 2:58 PM | Report abuse

yo maurban, I accurately described your technique. You didn't make any "point" you hurled an insult.

and billy_burdett extols the virtues of the police state. Democracy no longer matters to the leftists. In fact many doubt that it ever did. Can't get congress, the folks duly elected by the people, to go along with the liberal agenda, well then just imposed it by fiat.

So much for freedom. And of course guys like billy_burdett have no problem with this at all. Democracy and freedom get in the way of his desired aims so let's just brush them aside shall we? Way to go fellow. Nice, very nice.

Here's proof that even a blind squirrel can find an acorn:
===============
Right wing mantra: 'HCR is bad'-except when confronted with the reality that large chunks of it were originally moderate GOP ideas. So, either they are being disingenuous or are are extremey jealous.
===========================
This is just so close to actual reality it is saddening. Let me explain: there are conservatives and there are Republicans.Just like there used to be liberals and Democrats.

Moderate Republicans may have thought more federal intervention in healthcare was a good idea, but they didn't get a chance to go at it because we conservatives showed them the door.

I will grant that not every Republican that ran this time out won. But the message to the party from the people was clear. We would rather an O'donnell than a mushy Castle. It is just that simple. Yes we are yanking the GOP to the right, as we should.
Bob Benett went down in Utah because he wasn't conservative enough. And Mike Dewine in Ohio lost his senate seat in 06 for the same reason.

Democrats don't like to consider this because it takes away the luster from what they thought was a victory for their positions in 06. In many cases it was. But in many cases the Democrat's opponent lost because the Republican lost the support of the conservatives. We right wingers don't do well on the plantation, unlike many Democrat constituencies.

What does that mean for the new congress? First, we don't trust McConnell and with good reason. Spending went UP the last time he was in charge. Next, we'll challenge any sitting member who doesn't toe the line.

The stakes are enormous. Our contry is in dire straits. The way forward from here, the solutions we develop, will be based, in large measure, on electoral politics.

I believe that the real impact of this last election on the Democrats has yet to be felt. The Democrats not only lost seats in congress but they lost control of redistricting. And even more importantly, the American population shifted away from the Democrat strongholds and to Republican dominated states. Winning Texas now means quite a bit to a presidential candidate. Ohio, not so much.


Posted by: skipsailing28 | December 23, 2010 3:14 PM | Report abuse

Liberals keep losing because Americans instinctively favor growth and freedom over social engineering, and optimism over liberals' endless whining, hypocrisy and sanctimonious drivel.

That's not going to change.

Posted by: thebump | December 23, 2010 3:37 PM | Report abuse

thebump said:

Liberals keep losing because Americans instinctively favor growth and freedom over social engineering, and optimism over liberals' endless whining, hypocrisy and sanctimonious drivel.

That's not going to change.

-----

That's nonsense. The liberals don't keep on losing; they ocntinue to exist. Their numvbers wax and wane, in the public opinion, just like the Conservatives.

The 'center' is a moving target.

Posted by: samsara15 | December 23, 2010 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Couldn't agree with this post more. Democrats' embrace of "conservative" (actually thuggish) policies is why attention-paying liberals are so deeply disappointed with Democrats.

Posted by: janinsanfran | December 23, 2010 4:00 PM | Report abuse

samsara15: "Their [liberals'] numbers wax and wane, in the public opinion, just like the Conservatives. The 'center' is a moving target."

Actually, identification as liberal versus conservation has been remarkably stable for a long time.

In any case, the point of the author's post is that liberals have shifted in a "conservative" direction on key issues because they lost the argument. Another example he might have cited is gun control, which used to be a huge liberal bugbear but has simply disappeared. Same for capital punishment.

The center indeed is a moving target, and it moves inexorably in the direction of growth and freedom, because that's what America is all about.

Posted by: thebump | December 23, 2010 4:12 PM | Report abuse

Hey Skipper,

If you are still out there. Who would you put up against Barry?

(I'll show you my rational if you show me yours...)

Posted by: ashtar377 | December 23, 2010 5:54 PM | Report abuse

Truly though, I love these discussions. Much of it is a back and forth "nu-uh" "yeah-huh!" fest, but sometimes really good points are made. jnc4p raised a very good point about liberal disenchanment with government solutions in the 1960's and 1970's. Perhaps that helped to set a foundation for the very change in application of ideology that we are seeing from the "liberal agenda" now?

Posted by: ashtar377 | December 23, 2010 6:02 PM | Report abuse

To thebump-
I think "lost the argument" is an interesting way to put it. If they keep losing the argument in this fashion, this country just might have a whole lot more progressive policies to deal with in the future.

As for gun control and capital punishment, those arguments have been "lost" only so much as abortion rights and equality for homosexuals have by conservatives. You and I both know all of these are still in play to a certain extent.

Posted by: ashtar377 | December 23, 2010 6:37 PM | Report abuse

When Billionaires such as Rupert Murdoch and the Koch head brothers absolutely own the Soul and control the actions of the entire Republican/GOP political party you must sacrifice everyone’s safety from Nuclear proliferations and pay the Devils their due to protect 300 million Americans and Six Million long term unemployed workers from losing benefits and to get the START treaty passed to protect against nuclear proliferation. Billionaires must be paid in cash and with the lives of American troops dying on borrowed money. Mansions, Villas and Yachts must be paid for on the backs of the working class under duress of nuclear proliferation.

The Billionaire Koch brothers and right wing extremists look for any divisive wedge issue; racial, religious, economic, homophobia, islamophobia to divide and weaken American society for their financial gain. The Tea Party and right wing Koch brothers are fighting for what's best for Wall Street Criminals, for Oil and Coal Industry Criminal negligence resulting in Deaths and Pollution, and the Policies that allow them to continue doing so Without Oversight or Regulation.

The Billionaires (David and Charles Koch) Bankrolling the Tea Party

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/29/opinion/29rich.html?src=me&ref=general

The billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama.

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/08/30/100830fa_fact_mayer

Posted by: Airborne82 | December 23, 2010 6:39 PM | Report abuse

You know what You guys should stop complaining because, one the health care we have now isnt as good as it was supposed to be. also the law has just been signed so give it some time. so if u want to say u have the right to choose tell that to ur congress men or state official. If you do not have insurance and need one You can find full medical coverage at the lowest price by searching online for "Wise Health Insurance" If you have health insurance and do not care about cost just be happy it and trust me you are not going to loose anything!

Posted by: bilythompson | December 24, 2010 1:42 AM | Report abuse

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