Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I'm a Loser

President Obama's press secretary Robert Gibbs staged a meltdown (via) in the West Wing the other day. He spluttered to an interviewer,
“I hear these people saying he’s like George Bush. Those people ought to be drug tested,” Gibbs said. “I mean, it’s crazy.”

The press secretary dismissed the “professional left” in terms very similar to those used by their opponents on the ideological right, saying, “They will be satisfied when we have Canadian healthcare and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon. That’s not reality.”
Glenn Greenwald (see especially Update II in the post) lists a number of centrists (such as Bob Herbert of the New York Times) who have criticized Obama not just for doing things that the Bush administration did, but for doing things Obama had formerly criticized when the Bush administration did them. These people are not "the left" by any reasonable standard, let alone the "professional left," except that they are perhaps to the left of Obama, in roughly the same way that William F. Buckley was perhaps to the left of Ronald Reagan.

Greenwald mocks Gibbs's outburst, telling the reader that
You may think that the reason you're dissatisfied with the Obama administration is because of substantive objections to their policies: that they've done so little about crisis-level unemployment, foreclosures and widespread economic misery. Or because of the White House's apparently endless devotion to Wall Street. Or because the President has escalated a miserable, pointless and unwinnable war that is entering its ninth year. Or because he has claimed the power to imprison people for life with no charges and to assassinate American citizens without due process, intensified the secrecy weapons and immunity instruments abused by his predecessor, and found all new ways of denying habeas corpus. Or because he granted full-scale legal immunity to those who committed serious crimes in the last administration. Or because he's failed to fulfill -- or affirmatively broken -- promises ranging from transparency to gay rights.

But Robert Gibbs ... is here to tell you that the real reason you're dissatisfied with the President is because you're a fringe, ideological, Leftist extremist ingrate who needs drug counseling ...
Right on target. But of course this is nothing new. It's normal to denounce critics and dissidents as mentally disturbed, immature, emotionally overwrought, grappling with father issues, and the like. And no doubt critics and dissidents do have their (our) little quirks, just like anyone else. We know Barack Obama has father issues, because he wrote about them at length in Dreams from My Father; Abraham Lincoln had a tormented psyche; and so on.

IOZ pointed to this chilling article from the New York Times about Bradley Manning, who's accused of giving all those documents to Wikileaks. ("Chilling" because it shows the propaganda machine gearing up to crush dissidents and resisters against the American Empire, which given Obama's record is not going to be pretty.) I hadn't heard before that Manning is gay, and his alleged actions put him way ahead of a whiner like Dan Choi in my book. IOZ quotes the Grey Lady and comments:
At school, Bradley Manning was clearly different from most of his peers. He preferred hacking computer games rather than playing them, former neighbors said. And they said he seemed opinionated beyond his years about politics, religion, and even about keeping religion out of politics.
Even about keeping religion out of politics. Hallelujah. We've got a gen-u-wine weirdo.

The Times throws in the usual soup├žon of sexual confusion, even though Manning does not appear to be sexually confused in the slightest, and ties up the package neatly with a strongly implied motive of self-aggrandizement, ascribing an "inflated sense of purpose" to the young private, before--and this is why we can be glad that the Times appears to be run and edited by illiterates--dropping in a damning quote that makes exactly the opposite point it was plainly included to make.

“I wouldn’t mind going to prison for the rest of my life, or being executed so much,” he wrote, “if it wasn’t for the possibility of having pictures of me plastered all over the world press.”
Well, a negative statement followed by a negative subordinate clause is a little hard to parse. Either Thompson and her editors sought to undermine the entire thesis of the story in its ultimate paragraph, or else, far more likely, they misread the quotation and thought they'd caught out Manning proclaiming that he did it for fame.
So you see, Manning just exposed US malfeasance because he was a disturbed gay boy with a drag queen for a boyfriend. There couldn't possibly be anything wrong with the US mission in Afghanistan, or any reason to oppose or obstruct it. I wonder what neuroses the informer Adrian Lamo harbors? But who cares? Dwelling on such matters, while entertaining to a certain kind of mind, is a way of evading the real issues. It's also an indication that the criticism has been more effective than Gibbs (or Obama) wants to admit. Greenwald points out the contradiction: on the one hand, the Professional Left is just a tiny group of malcontents out of touch with reality; on the other, they are powerful, influential, and "they're ruining everything for the White House!!!" As numerous commentators have said already, if the Democrats suffer serious losses this November, they'll be able to blame it on the Professional Left, the Pure True Left, who want to turn the US into the People's Republic of Canada. (The corporate media will blame it on Obama's refusal to move far enough to the center.) But I'll take the White House at its word: I'm nobody, I'm a loser, and the Democrats won't need my vote this year or in 2012.