Sunday, January 20, 2013

No One Could Have Foreseen This Situation

(This photo appeared on Reuters (I think), which suggests it may be genuine.  I haven't been able to find it anywhere else, so it's suspicious.  But it sure fits.)

Today Avedon Carol linked to a recent post at The Nation by Rick Perlstein:
We have on our hands a President Groundhog Day ... [R]egularly, and regularly and regularly, Obama initiates a negotiation; finds his negotiating partner maneuvering him into an absurd impasse; then “negotiates” his way out of a crisis with a settlement deferring reckoning (in the former of further negotiation) to some specified time in the future, at which point he somehow imagines negotiation will finally, at long last, work—at which point the next precipice arrives, and he lets his negotiating partners defer the reckoning once more.
Perlstein thinks this pattern comes from Obama's personal psychology, which he promises to explore in a future post.  Avedon thinks it's conscious and deliberate: "Or, at least, that's the story we're meant to believe...."

Liberals and many leftists tend to agree with the far Right that Obama is really a diabolically clever rope-a-dope Eleven-Dimensional Chess master, manipulating his opponents to get what he really wants -- though they disagree as to what he really wants. I think both groups are giving him too much credit.  I also think it's irrelevant.  If I could know that Obama's totally sincere, I'd still criticize his policies and his ability to negotiate.  If he's a canny secret corporatist (I'd agree that he is, except it's not secret) or a wily secret anti-colonialist socialist, the question still arises of what to do it about it: elect more Democrats to Congress?  Or more Tea Party Republicans, to defeat the Kenyan Usurper?  It is to laugh.  The epithet "conspiracy theory" is thrown around by right-thinking people of both parties to dismiss explanations they dislike, whether the theory is supportable or not; but only for other people's conspiracy theories.

Perlstein also writes that in 2011
The president reportedly thought he and Boehner were working together—'to freeze out their respective extremists and make the kind of historic deal that no one really thought possible anymore—bigger than when Reagan and Tip O’Neill overhauled the tax code in 1986 or when Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich passed welfare reform a decade later.'
It's the bit about "their respective extremists" that's important here. Boehner's "extremists" are those Republicans who want to dismantle the Federal Government except for the military and the surveillance machinery, which is arguably an "extreme" position. Obama's "extremists" are those Democrats who want to preserve the New Deal and the Great Society, which is a conservative position in the strict sense of the word, and anything but extremist.  If anything is really "centrist" in the US today, it's opposition to cuts in social programs and support for higher taxes on the wealthy.  Which, among other things, goes to show how meaningless the word "extremist" is.  Insofar as the word applies to anyone, it applies to President Obama, Speaker Boehner, and their loyal supporters.