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Bush Is the Wrong Role Model


Bush giving a speech in 2007. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

(I'm off until Monday morning.)

There's going to be an awful lot of assessing going on in the next week as we close in on the 100-day mark of the Obama presidency. And one thing I'll be watching out for is what people are using as their frame of reference. Because the one way to make sure Obama doesn't measure up is to judge him -- either consciously or unconsciously -- on the Bush imperial presidency scale.

A lot of Washington pundits seem to have internalized the view that the commander in chief of the United States should treat allies like servants, enemies like dirt, and Congress like a minor appendage of the executive branch. Anything but unilateralism -- anything that involves compromise, or deference, or shows of respect -- is interpreted as weakness. And weakness, by this reckoning, is the one unforgivable sin in an American president -- way worse than, say, profoundly bad judgment.

Here's a reminder to those who apparently yearn for a bully in the bully pulpit: It didn't work out so great last time around. Looking back on the past eight years, there were more Bush "victories" than you can count -- Congress, certainly, caved in over and over -- but they didn't end up serving the country particularly well.

And despite the growing catcalls from the right and a persistent media narrative that casts Obama as soft, the American public has no doubt that Obama is the alpha dog. In an Associated Press poll just out this morning, for instance, an overwhelming majority of Americans -- 76 percent -- say he is a strong leader.

Indeed, Ron Fournier and Trevor Tompson write for the AP: "For the first time in years, more Americans than not say the country is headed in the right direction, a sign that Barack Obama has used the first 100 days of his presidency to lift the public's mood and inspire hopes for a brighter future.

"Intensely worried about their personal finances and medical expenses, Americans nonetheless appear realistic about the time Obama might need to turn things around, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll. It shows most Americans consider their new president to be a strong, ethical and empathetic leader who is working to change Washington." Obama gets a 64 percent approval rating in the AP poll.

A Pew Research Center poll finds Obama's job approval at 63 percent, and "fully 73% of Americans – including as many as 46% of Republicans – hold a favorable view of Obama as a person."

And, Pew reports: "In conducting foreign policy, most Americans think Obama is striking the right balance in pushing American interests (57%) and in taking into account the interests and views of U.S. allies (56%). Fewer than a third (31%) believe that Obama is not pushing U.S. interests hard enough, and even fewer (19%) say he takes interests of allies too much into account."

Doesn't sound particularly weak to me.

Now it's true that there are certain problems with the Obama approach, particularly as far as the all-important-to-the-Washington-crowd "optics" are concerned. You don't always get exactly what you want. You certainly don't get all the credit. Things happen behind the scenes. They take time. There's no collecting of scalps; there's no dancing in the end zone.

But the Obama agenda is so dramatic and so enormous in scope -- so muscular, one might even say -- that even if taking a more collaborative approach means that only a somewhat reduced and modified version of it is enacted, that would still be a huge accomplishment. And, indeed, looking back at the single most significant product of the first 100 days, signs are that Obama is quite capable of getting almost exactly what he wants even while giving others a role.

Lest we forget, the $800 billion stimulus bill passed in February -- after Obama had ostensibly ceded his power to congressional leaders -- ended up being almost exactly what he had in mind: a massive down payment on his vision of a government that invests in infrastructure and green energy, streamlines health-care delivery and dramatically rebuilds the social safety net.

Furthermore, Obama's collaborative approach, both domestically and internationally, has some distinct advantages. Its achievements are likely to be longer lasting because more people are invested in their success. It's also a less hypocritical way of doing business, as it involves practicing what you preach, rather than breaking the rules for yourself while expecting everyone else to follow them.

Obama's approach to the world reflects a view of American exceptionalism that doesn't give the U.S. the right to do whatever it wants, but rather assumes that we act in ways that lead others to look up to us as a force for good. It calls for our vast military superiority to be understated, rather than overstated -- which is arguably more effective. It's certainly a radical departure from the Cheneyite/neocon principle that you have to constantly show people how strong you are. But again: That didn't work out so well for us.

And Obama is coming from a great position of strength, whether he shouts it from the rooftops or not. We remain the world's only superpower. No military challenge -- with the notable exception of occupying countries where we are unwelcome -- is beyond us. And, as noted above, the public is solidly behind him.

Nevertheless, concern about his alleged weakness has become a frequent point of criticism. The most recent occasion was his friendly-looking handshake with Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez at last weekend's Summit of the Americas. But it also pervades the look-aheads to the upcoming legislative battles over his sweeping budget proposals.

Dan Balz wrote for The Washington Post: "President Obama's weekend of summitry in Latin America will be remembered most for his cordial encounter with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. The images of that smiling handshake spoke vividly to the changes Obama is bringing to U.S. relations abroad.

"The underlying question in all this is whether Obama's approach means the United States will be dealing out of a position of strength or weakness as the new administration confronts problems ranging from Iran's nuclear ambitions to Middle East peace to better relations in this hemisphere. Does Obama's desire to deal more cordially with leaders who are hostile to the United States make him more or less likely to achieve the country's strategic goals in tough negotiations?"

Howard Kurtz wrote a couple days later in The Washington Post: "The president who was elected in no small measure because of his even temperament is getting cuffed around for not expressing displeasure, pique or outright hostility.

"This line of criticism first surfaced with the AIG bonuses, when Obama took several days to say this was an 'outrage.' But he didn't look very outraged. He said America had a right to be angry at reckless banks and that he was angry as well. But he was quite calm when he said it, missing an opportunity, in my view, to identify with the widespread revulsion at the Wall Street titans who crashed the economy.

"Now the president is being denounced for his friendly treatment of Hugo Chavez, the America-basher from Venezuela."

David M. Herszenhorn and Jackie Calmes wrote in the New York Times: "President Obama is well known for bold proposals that have raised expectations, but his administration has shown a tendency for compromise and caution, and even a willingness to capitulate on some early initiatives....

"'The thing we still don’t know about him is what he is willing to fight for,' said Leonard Burman, an economist at the Urban Institute and a Treasury Department official in the Clinton administration. 'The thing I worry about is that he likes giving good speeches, he likes the adulation and he likes to make people happy.'"

But "Obama’s top aides dismiss suggestions that he has shied from confrontation...

"'We’re not taking on a fight; we’re taking on a multiple-front fight because we’ve taken on a series of entrenched interests across the waterfront — from education to health care, and the defense industry, and the lobbying industry as a whole,' the White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, said."

So where is this Obama-is-weak meme coming from? Just guess.

David S. Cloud wrote for Politico: "Republicans are hoping they have finally found the secret to taking on President Barack Obama — by portraying him as overly apologetic about U.S. misdeeds and naive about engaging unfriendly regimes abroad."

Among the most outspoken Republican leaders on this point: Former House speak Newt Gingrich and former vice president Dick Cheney.

Foon Rhee writes for the Boston Globe: "'This administration is opposed to looking for oil in America, but bows to the Saudi king, embraces the Venezuelan dictator, I think it's a very unhealthy strategy for us,' Gingrich said on Fox News Channel. 'I think there is something fundamentally wrong with weakness in America, and then playing to placate dictators.'

"'This does look a lot like Jimmy Carter," Gingrich added. "Carter tried weakness and the world got tougher and tougher because the predators, the aggressors, the anti-Americans, the dictators, when they sense weakness, they all start pushing ahead.'"

Here's Cheney, in an interview with Sean Hannity on Fox News: "I find disturbing is the extent to which he has gone to Europe, for example, and seemed to apologize profusely in Europe, and then to Mexico, and apologize there, and so forth...

"And I think you have to be very careful. The world outside there, both our friends and our foes, will be quick to take advantage of a situation if they think they're dealing with a weak president or one who is not going to stand up and aggressively defend America's interests. The United States provides most of the leadership in the world, we have for a long time. And I don't think we have much to apologize for....

"I think it's important the United States not come across as arrogant, but it's also important that we not come across as weak, or indecisive, or apologetic."

Similarly, former Bush White House aide Peter Wehner writes for Commentary: "When you braid Obama's apology tour with what some of us believe to be his weak early stands on a series of other matters.... the message Obama is sending is a potentially dangerous one: we are willing to absorb, but not to respond to, blows directed against us. And that, in turn, can set up a serious confrontation down the road.

But Mike Lupica writes in his New York Daily News opinion column that the "political discourse in this country dumber than socks....

"Now we are supposed to believe that the President doesn't really understand how dangerous the world is - only Dick Cheney and Rush Limbaugh really do - because he shook hands with Hugo Chavez of Venezuela....

"It makes sense to all those who think Obama can't do anything right, who decided he was the enemy of all things virtuous and patriotic long before he took the oath of office. To them, the handshake with Chavez is just the latest sign that Obama is more of an appeaser than Neville Chamberlain....

"More than anything he's done so far - whether you agree with him or not - Obama has shown that he is willing to listen. And for the past eight years, our foreign policy has been the complete opposite of that, even our allies being told to just shut up and take notes.....

"Continuing Bush's old schoolyard beef with Venezuela doesn't help us or make us safer. Neither do old rules and old grudges with Cuba. Obama shook a guy's hand this week. Only idiots think he should have left the guy hanging. Or greeted him with a clenched fist instead."

"Obama Abroad: All Soft, No Power?" That's the question Ben Bradlee and Steve Pearlstein asked their "On Leadership" panel on washingtonpost.com after Obama's European trip. Specifically, they asked: "In his overseas trip, President Obama was determined to show that he was the un-Bush, compromising and conciliatory, drawing no lines in the sand. As a new leader who is being closely watched and tested, should he have grabbed an opportunity during that same trip to demonstrate his toughness, showing his saber as well as his smile?"

But the members of Pearlstein-Bradlee's leadership panel -- people chosen for their knowledge of the topic -- were overwhelmingly supportive of the Obama approach. All but two were complimentary, and the other two were ambivalent. Consider a few of their views:

Elizabeth Sherman: "The world has had its fill of American 'toughness.' ... Obama intentionally cast himself as a leader among leaders, not the premier among underlings."

Howard Gardner: "President Obama is making it possible to have better, saner relations, and for that the whole world owes him a very big thank you."

Joanne B. Ciulla: "No one likes a bully. If there weren't people who actually believe that this is how Obama should behave, I would say it's a silly idea. Leaders who feel the need to show that they are tough are usually the ones who aren't... leaders should be tough but toughness comes from confidence and resides in deeds."

Bill Shore: "One gets the sense that he is confident and comfortable enough in his leadership that he doesn't need to go out of his way to demonstrate qualities like toughness."

And Kirsten Powers writes in her New York Post opinion column that Obama's "humility is driving the right-wing mad....

"Obama is merely doing what he always said he would -- engaging friends and foe alike. Those on the right are arguing for more of the same old, same old (ignoring some of the nations we don't like), despite the small fruit that strategy bore."

Obama's "view is premised on the idea that humility is a sign of strength. Conservatives seem to see it as a weakness.

"I'm with Benjamin Franklin, who once said, 'Humility makes great men twice honorable.'

"It does at least that for great nations."

Over in my White House Watchers discussion group, I raise a related question about what is strength and what is weakness: Where Should Obama Compromise? Please come weigh in. And I'll see you all again on Monday.

By Dan Froomkin  |  April 23, 2009; 4:30 PM ET
 
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Comments

This is the debate, outlined above, is it better to be tough and shove our will down others' throats OR is it better to build partnerships, treat other countries as equals and work together to solve our shared, foreign policy problems.

I voted for Obama and I'm ready to find out! I think Pres Obama is right and we will reap tremendous rewards from getting away from the right wing's constant fear of everyone and everything.

Give it a year. Give it all a year, the economy, foreign policy, health care. If in one year things are worse then whine away former VP Cheney. Until then just appreciate that the Bush haters had to endure of actually watching failure unfold, being right that our actions were leading to failure, and being called unpatriotic for not supporting our President during a time of war.

Thanks.

Posted by: farkdawg | April 23, 2009 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Obama's apparently following Teddy Roosevelt's advice: "Speak softly, carry a big stick".

Posted by: TalkingHead1 | April 23, 2009 5:17 PM | Report abuse

I really like what Obama is doing, especially with foreign diplomacy. We need to adjust our posture these days, so that America can walk tall again. Heck if the U.S. Navy can handle pirates over in Somalia, Obama can be my commander-in-chief (CINC) any time he likes.

I really, really like the focus on domestic issues: health care, education, and energy. All 3 winners in my book. Some pundits (like Rush) are trying to stir up some kind of backlash; but those pundits forget (too quickly) that McCain lost the election.

My perception is Obama is doing what he was elected to do: fix stuff. Obama is THE FIXER in my book. That's my story, and I am sticking to it.

Posted by: rmorris391 | April 23, 2009 5:20 PM | Report abuse

Obama's apparently following Teddy Roosevelt's advice: "Speak softly, carry a big stick".
Posted by: TalkingHead1

And that's exactly what he *should* be doing. As Froomkin pointed out, Bush's arrogant/reckless attitude and incompetent foreign policy did nothing to help our great nation or make the world any safer.

Posted by: vegasgirl1 | April 23, 2009 5:36 PM | Report abuse

Barack Obama is the President of the United States of America, leader of the free world. If that isn't a position of strength I don't know what is.

Obama has been criticized for not being chummy enough with our allies and for being overly friendly with our enemies. In fact, he has shown the same arms length congeniality with both. It is neither the President's job to entertain foreign leaders nor to scorn them personally. It is his job to advance American interests.

Both George W. Bush and Bill Clinton were quick to show their emotions. I think Obama is a return to the more cool, professional demeanor of George H. W. Bush.

Posted by: fletc3her | April 23, 2009 5:40 PM | Report abuse

Most of Obama's policies have taken big hits from Democrats.

The AP is as biased an organization as exists. That 76% number is bogus. I think 76% think Obama is a nice guy but a 76% approval rating just isn't accurate whatsoever.

This is clearly on-the-job training for Obama so I'm not sure how good his 100 day performance is on substance rather than the style associated with being the first black President.

Posted by: hz9604 | April 23, 2009 5:45 PM | Report abuse

The Republican schoolyard bully approach has been tested and its total failure been obvious for years. Moral strength and principle accompanied by civility has prevailed throughout history. Continuing the Bush/Chaney approach can only discredit this country more and inflate its problems. Fortunately Obama is smart enough to see this and is not going to play the fool by repeating the Bush/Chaney failures over and over again.

Posted by: BwanaMkubwa | April 23, 2009 5:47 PM | Report abuse

I think people mistake Obamas arrogance and lack of experience as leadership. I see it for what it is. I, for one, don't think it is ever appropriate for a President of the United States, the greatest country in the world, to go on an apology tour. A total display of naivety.

Posted by: mmourges | April 23, 2009 5:52 PM | Report abuse

"I think people mistake Obamas arrogance and lack of experience as leadership ..."

You mean, like the same kind of arrogance George W. Bush showed, poster?
Why, no -- of course not.
Because HIS gross incompetence, breathtaking ignorance and horrendous disregard for the rule of law is exactly WHY Obama is having to "apologize" now.
You are flat wrong, poster. The America you apparently admire is over -- a new, saner and smarter attitude is in.
Don't like it? Too bad.

Posted by: vegasgirl1 | April 23, 2009 6:00 PM | Report abuse

Did he really say alpha dog? I am convinced Froomkin has Bush envy. In looking for the dominant alpha charecter it appears that she was scourned somewhere along the way and all her sensitivities are all a flutter. What ever you think there sweetheart, you only have to look at his Bush Sr. to see once W. he makes up his mind he does not change it. (I was shocked he let Rumsfeld go.) The Bush household obviously read somewhere that a wavering man is like the sea drifting to and fro. Compare this to the "waffler" I think that was the Billary 1 management syle. However I did like the Cigar thing. Got to admit pretty original. Was it for flavor. I think what it will come down to is weather pouring water over some ones head constitutes torture. I think the buz words will be ....is there long term physical and or psycological damage. These are not my terms lefty I am pretty sure they are writtn somewhere. Now as long as no one lies under oath what can be said congress was consulted. A legal opinion was rendered. this was one of the rules of engagement in the war on terror.

Posted by: Rvf0509 | April 23, 2009 6:15 PM | Report abuse

I agree with the "speak softly and carry a big stick" approach - as long as we keep the "big stick".At some point our president will be challenged by a rival power,he had better be ready.

Posted by: elarb | April 23, 2009 6:53 PM | Report abuse

"

Most of Obama's policies have taken big hits from Democrats.

The AP is as biased an organization as exists. That 76% number is bogus. I think 76% think Obama is a nice guy but a 76% approval rating just isn't accurate whatsoever.

This is clearly on-the-job training for Obama so I'm not sure how good his 100 day performance is on substance rather than the style associated with being the first black President.

Posted by: hz9604 "

Inside information? Or are you only on speaking terms with the other 24%?

Posted by: thrh | April 23, 2009 7:09 PM | Report abuse

is bush getting any request for speeches like clinton? i would think not.

Posted by: donaldtucker | April 23, 2009 7:42 PM | Report abuse

The most glaring change to me is the total lack of manufactured threats that marked the Bush administration.

Posted by: Chops2 | April 23, 2009 9:05 PM | Report abuse

Only the deservedly insecure right wingers would use such a silly expression as "Apology Tour" when speaking about the American president's foreign visits.

Better he punch everybody in the eye, like Gloves-off Cheney and Old-Europe Rumsfeld did when they left our shores? And the wars they started ... how did they work out? Oh, they're continuing beyond these fellas' terms of office? With uncertain result?

Yeah, let's keep insulting friends, punch everybody else ... it worked SO well for the Bush terms

Posted by: Mill_in_Mn | April 23, 2009 9:11 PM | Report abuse

"Republicans are hoping they have finally found the secret to taking on President Barack Obama — by portraying him as overly apologetic about U.S. misdeeds and naive about engaging unfriendly regimes abroad."

FINALLY? Nah, that portrayal is old old old -- Hillary tried it in the primaries, and McCain dragged it out again and again in the debates. The pundits loved it. But who actually won the nomination and then the election?

Posted by: herzliebster | April 23, 2009 9:29 PM | Report abuse

You mean someone thought cheney/bush was a role model?

WHO?????????????

Posted by: knjincvc | April 23, 2009 9:30 PM | Report abuse

Wow! Liberals are so confused. How can the nice man they voted for be so impotent, ineffectual and emasculated as a role model?

Hey, that's what you wanted - that's what you got. Live with it, the rest of us have to.

Posted by: magellan1 | April 23, 2009 9:36 PM | Report abuse

As a lifelong Democrat, I am totally embarrassed by Obama, as is every Democrat I know! All of us are never voting for a Democrat again! They are acting like children and yes, Obama shows GREAT WEAKNESS!!! His bow to his master the Saudi King was the last straw for me and then came his being made a chump by Chavez! So sad!

Posted by: MNcountryGirl | April 23, 2009 9:37 PM | Report abuse

"Only the deservedly insecure right wingers would use such a silly expression as "Apology Tour" when speaking about the American president's foreign visits."

Yep, these are the voters who would rather have a beer with cheney/bush than Gore or Kerry.

Hopefully republicans will pick their next candidate by intelligence instead of ability to enjoy a beer.

Posted by: knjincvc | April 23, 2009 9:40 PM | Report abuse

Well, he has been very apologetic to a Europe that we saved from itself during WWII, he did bow to a King that openly oppresses women and every religion other than Sunni Islam, and he shook hands and smiled to Chavez like he was his homeboy. I personally know people that had everything taken away from them when Hugo Chavez came into power, like all their land and money. They are currently living in Spain, trying to gain Spanish citizenship. I see President Obama as soft spoken, but he has not shown that he is holding this big stick, yet. I think that anyone that says what he is doing is "great leadership" is still on this Obama high or just so insanely liberal that they are just plain delirious. Not to say that what Bush did was correct, either, because he was the opposite, and I would say too much of the opposite. But 9/11 did cause a paranoia within our country, especially within the Bush administration, that probably had a profound impact on the way he conducted himself on foriegn policy. What I am saying is, that as leader of America and the free world, he must be firm, not cowering to our opposition. Yet he can be sympathetic to countries that we may have caused problems for, but not apologetic, especially to countries that recieve so much of our money and protection from our military that continues to be the peacekeepers of the world. Europe can have the social programs that they have because they don't have a large military to protect themselves. We buy too much oil from Saudi Arabia, a government that has been known to funnel money to al Qaeda, and Venezuela who destabilizes the region by supporting the FARC rebels. The only thing that he did that was a little 'ballsy' was letting the Navy do their job. As a person serving in the military, I will support him as long as he is president, but I think he can stand up for America much more than he has. We can mend our relationship with the world without catering to them and/or compromising our values. This is America, land of free and home of the brave!

Posted by: Oz1303 | April 23, 2009 10:28 PM | Report abuse

Froomkin is beyond boring, and lame.
How does he keep a job?

Posted by: merley1 | April 23, 2009 10:39 PM | Report abuse

I really don't understand what I call the insecurity factor: that is the need to be "strong & resolute", which mostly means bullying others, to prove one's strength. Of course these people have to attack homosexuals to prove that they are not one.

It is like the old saw: "If you have to ask how much it is, you can't afford it"

If you have to show your strength, then you aren't strong. Yes you will be tested. The test counts. You will fail.

Proof? Look at the conservative policies of the last 30 years, and in the last 8 years where the conservatives had their way. All were an unmitigated disaster.

Posted by: jb-atl-126 | April 23, 2009 10:48 PM | Report abuse

Obamas's a smart cookie.

He's going to play this Bush/Cheney investigation like a fiddle. No rush, slow and methodical, and rubbing republicans through the mud for through the next mid-term elections.

Obama's approval ratings are high.
For the first time in years, more people than not agree we are going in the right direction.

GOP, Hannity, Limbaugh and Teabags: President Obama thanks you. Please keep up the good work.

Posted by: jfern03 | April 23, 2009 11:08 PM | Report abuse

About the Obama's "cozying up to the enemy" nonsense, anyone with half a brain (sorry, wingnuts)knows that you keep your friends close, and your enemies closer. Brilliant.

Posted by: jfern03 | April 23, 2009 11:14 PM | Report abuse

High time we stopped tolerating behavior in our leaders that we wouldn't stand for in our children or our classrooms, where parents and teachers alike do their best to teach civility, respect, and tolerance. Bush and Cheney would have gotten time-outs in kindergarten if they bullied the other kids. So it's a mystery why Americans stood for these men running roughshod over everything that makes our country special. Republicans need a time-out,

Posted by: shaman7214 | April 24, 2009 1:07 AM | Report abuse

It's also amusing that Obama's critics focus on a few tiny details for their entire argument. He bowed to the Saudi king, in a gesture of respect. He smiled and shook Chavez' hand. Both images can work to his, and the US', disadvantage, particularly since Venezuela under Chavez isn't even a nominal ally (and Saudi Arabia is a spotty one, at best).

In Japan, for example, bowing is a traditional gesture of respect, as well. Is it impossible to think, that should these leaders come to the US (I'm thinking of the king now), that they'd show similar respect, being in our territory, amid our culture? How is it a betrayal of our entir history to simply acknowledge another's own heritage, with a simple sign? Perhaps the bow was going too far--though it was a simple bend at the waist--but what did Obama really sacrifice? Nothing like, oh, 4,000 American lives, half a million Iraqi lives, and a trillion dollars or so, right? But doint so is a sign of strength! Or something like that.

The critics who're screaming that he's weak, just like the ones saying he's a socialist or a fascist, aren't looking at what's happening--they're starting with their own fantasies instead.

Posted by: whizbang9a | April 24, 2009 8:44 AM | Report abuse

Obama's ratings actually peaked just after the election and have been drifting downward since. America's feelings about Obama would be better described as hope that he will lead in the right direction. Unfortunately he has not yet fulfilled the promise of his rhetoric with respect to reform in the finance industry, accountability for torture and protection of 4th amendment and other rights. A better foreign-policy direction also remains a hope.

Posted by: skeptonomist | April 24, 2009 9:15 AM | Report abuse

Though I'm not 100% certain, it's my understanding that Roosevelt borrowed "speak softly and carry a big sick" from an old African saying. Regardless, after 8 years of "bring it on" and "you're either with us or against us" ('borrowed' from b-grade westerns of W's youth, I might add) a little humility is more than welcome.

Posted by: MemphisSlim | April 24, 2009 10:29 AM | Report abuse

As a lifelong Democrat, I am totally embarrassed by Obama, as is every Democrat I know! All of us are never voting for a Democrat again! ...
Posted by: MNcountryGirl

MNcountryGirl - You are clearly being untruthful about your status as a "lifelong Democrat." Your contention that "every Democrat [you] know" shares your embarrassment is evident that (a) you don't know many Democrats;(b) you are completely incompetent to speak for any Democrats; and (c) you're quite likely to be--not a country girl from Minnesota--but rather a Fox News talking head. Give up your lame attempts to discourage people who really did vote for President Obama, Karl, and use your time to prepare to testify to Congress (and others).

Posted by: lisa9 | April 24, 2009 11:00 AM | Report abuse

Since Froomkin likes poll so much, here's a few more for the crowd.

Fifty-eight percent (58%) believe the Obama administration’s recent release of CIA memos about the harsh interrogation methods used on terrorism suspects endangers the national security of the United States.

Thirty-seven percent (37%) of voters now believe the U.S. legal system worries too much about protecting individual rights when national security is at stake. But 21% say the legal system is too concerned about protecting national security. Thirty-three percent (33%) say the balance between the two is about right.

49 percent of Americans think torture is "often" or "sometimes" appropriate, with 47 percent responding with "rarely" or "never." Only 25 percent of respondents say torture should never be employed

I can understand why Dan overloked these. Sort of ruins the narrative he's going for.

Posted by: SharpshootingPugilist | April 24, 2009 11:10 AM | Report abuse

I can see why Pugi fails to mention that the polling firm that came up with those results was right-leaning Rasmussen. Sort of ruins his attempt at a believable counternarrative.

Posted by: BigTunaTim | April 24, 2009 12:36 PM | Report abuse

right-leaning Rasmussen
------------------

Oohhhh, thats it ... if the nubers trend away from the Dear Leader it MUST not be true!

More words of wisdom from the "reality based" community.

Posted by: SharpshootingPugilist | April 24, 2009 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Though, one major element underlying this entire debate (or brawl) is this assertion: we're dealing, in the form of terrorists, with a new paradigm in threats to nations. I agree with this. Call them, more cartoonishly, superpowered bandits, but technology--in the case of 9/11, the tools of society itself--has fashioned weapons of unprecedented power for marginal, non-governmental groups or individuals to use, and cause widespread damage.

I think a separate category, legal and otherwise, should be devised for such people. However, I think the system concocted by Cheney, Addington and Rumsfeld (Bush was just along for the ride), was too hasty, too reactionary, too paranoid, too shuttered.

I think conspiracy to commit terrorristic acts is sufficient cause for detention of an individual, but I also think that the writ of habeas corpus should always be upheld. I think that the CIA is justified in keeping prisons elsewhere around the world, and in delivering detainees to other states, so long as basic humanitarian rules are followed.

I reject the idea that we need to hold large numbers of people, uncharged of any offense, without possible review. I also reject the idea that we need to physically abuse them in order to learn anything.

As far as these memos go, yes, it's possible that their release could damage the US, especially in terms of bad PR. But how many things in life aren't double-edged swords in some fashion? I think that, even if useful information was gained through torture, it's still morally offensive and we were in the wrong to use it (and until there's definite information to the contrary, I reject the claims of Cheney and others that they stopped specific plots. Cheney and his like have been proven liars on too many other occasions).

Posted by: whizbang9a | April 24, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Referring to the polls quoted by Dull and Pudgy (who incidentally does not identify the polling organizations), I'll quote the previous administration: "We don't govern by polling."

Posted by: apn3206 | April 24, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

The whole metric is missing context. Before holding up a yardstick of 100 days, we need to weigh the bucket of problems to be solved. When you see that, you see the context: Bush filled that bucket a lot more in 8 years than anyone can empty it in 100 days.

Posted by: jpk1 | April 24, 2009 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Reading comments, it is easy to see that some folks are locked in their world view and cannot see Obama as anything but less than Bush, while others idealize his actions. Finding some objective view of what is truly the case is impossible. Ben Franklin said that a genius in is own country is like gold in a gold mine, unrecognized for its value. When I correspond or communicate with friends overseas is where I get the greatest sense that we have gotten a better president this time, one that does not see this as an American world, but one that leads the world from America. For some, it is better to be feared than respected. If all we had was enemies, there might be some logic to that approach. If however, one wished allies to join with you in a struggle, one garners more of them with soft talk than a big stick.

Posted by: thoughtful11 | April 24, 2009 3:32 PM | Report abuse

"Oohhhh, thats it ... if the nubers trend away from the Dear Leader it MUST not be true!"

Yeah, there's that, or it could be that Rasmussen historically demonstrates a rightward bias of roughly 2 percentage points. Look at their polling data last year and compare it to the other dozen or so major polling firms. Rasmussen was a consistent outlier in McCain's direction. And I'm fairly certain last year was included in "reality".

But hey, don't mind me - intellectual laziness has clearly served you well thus far. Though it would be more interesting if you could adequately defend yourself when called on your unsubstantiated b.s.

Posted by: BigTunaTim | April 24, 2009 3:47 PM | Report abuse

One critical rule of any debate unknown to the ignorant American masses is “It is totally impossible to prove a negative conjecture”. You must exhaustively, physically and temporally search the whole physical universe from the beginning of time just after the big bang occurred to the end of time just after Hell freezes over to prove a negative conjecture. It is thus totally impossible to prove.

The Bushies secretly latched onto this “impossible to prove” fact when they obsessively reiterated their mantra: “Saddam: prove that you do NOT have weapons of mass destruction”. They knew it was totally impossible for Saddam to prove this conjecture. This provided the crux for Bush and company’s illegal war crime spree into Iraq. They were never found because they were not there to find, and it was impossible for Saddam to prove it to the world.

Now we have King George, the Junior’s, Uncle Dicky obsessively repeating another totally impossible to prove mantra: “US Government: prove that the results of the criminal war crimes that King George, the Junior, I, and administration have perpetrated against humanity have NOT thwarted another attack on US soil.”

Uncle Dicky knows two things that the ignorant Americans do no know:
- This conjucture cannot be proved as it is a negative conjecture, and
- He is up for election as the kingpin of the King George, the Junior, war-crimes operation.

Uncle Dicky knows that the folks in the red states are scientifically illiterate and stupid. Sarah Palin is the walking and talking example of this fact. However, through their anger, biases, ignorance and stupidity, they make up a gullible and formidable force who make a lot of noise over disinformation, propaganda, and lies.

I love the cartoon: “King George, the Junior, says to Uncle Dicky (sitting on lawn chairs on top of the world together), we accomplished that which no mortal men were able to accomplish, and we did it to the whole world”.


Posted by: MrZ2 | April 24, 2009 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Hey, big tuna, go easy on pugilist. He's just an enlisted guy, not much in the smarts department. He's been trained to use guns and his fists.

Posted by: whizbang9a | April 24, 2009 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Lots of comments from the chicken hawk Right today. I suspect there is a Michelle Bachmann wannabee in here as well.

Bush is a genocidal war criminal. By starting his fake war on Iraq on fake pretenses he is guilty for the murder of all of the million Iraqis killed in the atrocity, as well as the 130 plus people tortured to death in US run facilities and the unknown number of disappeared. The behavior of the right wing is indefensible, which is why the looners are out howling as loud as they are. Simply because Obama hasn't gone murder happy or decided to use the CIA as his personal snuff porn factory doesn't mean he is as weak, limp-wristed and ineffectual as Bush and Cheney were. All they had was alligator mouths and hummingbird asses and they all chickened out when the chips were down. My Pet Goat, what a book, huh?

Posted by: sparkplug1 | April 24, 2009 7:03 PM | Report abuse

I think there is a good question here: what is impressive or important in a US President's presentation of himself to foreign leaders.

It's hardly ever in question that a successful politician will be able to loose the dogs of war whenever it is politically necessary or expedient.
The real question is not "strength" or "weakness" so much as it is whether this is somebody who can be easily swayed, or somebody who has a poor grasp of his situation? Obama gives a *very* good account of himself in that regard.

When Bush declared he had looked into Putin's eyes and liked what he saw there, the pundits ate it up, but it was the absolute nadir of presidential diplomacy in all of US History. Bush had shown himself for a leering fool, one who had to be handled carefully, but who could definitely be handled.

Posted by: fzdybel | April 25, 2009 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Two things: There is always someone that is going to call a bully to back his play. Our military can not be everywhere and we are stained to the maximum now. If you think we look weak now, wait until someone actually WINS against us in a military battle. You will see them really lining up then.
Talking, in the first 100 days is laying a groundwork of dialog, and does not mean weakness;give the guy a break and let things play out. What we have done up to now has not worked so let the next thing develop.
Whatever Chaney has to say is of no interest to me. He ran the country his way long enough, with no success.

Posted by: kelams10 | April 26, 2009 11:26 AM | Report abuse

"Bush's arrogant/reckless attitude .."

He thought the USA could win the war. I mean, How arrogant can one be?

But we did win.

OK. Just stick to the attitude. He should have apologized for winning.

Posted by: GaryEMasters | April 27, 2009 5:03 AM | Report abuse

President Obama really "Gets it"

He understands the danger of a "medical economic pearl harbor"
He knows that a cure for Lung Cancer will be the most valuable economic treasure that the world has ever seen and that the country that owns it and similar cures will own the world.

The guy's a gift from God himself.


Posted by: svreader | April 27, 2009 10:34 AM | Report abuse

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