Saturday, January 31, 2009

Bush Hatred and Obama Euphoria Coexist in the Same Heart

Photo credits: TheScroogeReport

Peter Berkowitz’ column in the WSJ, Bush Hatred and Obama Euphoria Are Two Sides of the Same Coin, reminded me of a Newsweek article by Sharon Begley last February titled When It’s Head Versus Heart, The Heart Wins.

Berkowitz would agree, but with a twist. In today’s piece he argues the opposite passions toward Bush and Obama of hatred and euphoria typically coexist in the same heart, and he suggests individuals with hearts so afflicted continue to rule the day.

In constructing his argument, Berkowitz makes some good points – maybe even two or three. He writes:

(emphasis mine)

In fact, Bush hatred and Obama euphoria -- which tend to reveal more about those who feel them than the men at which they are directed -- are opposite sides of the same coin. Both represent the triumph of passion over reason. Both are intolerant of dissent. Those wallowing in Bush hatred and those reveling in Obama euphoria frequently regard those who do not share their passion as contemptible and beyond the reach of civilized discussion. Bush hatred and Obama euphoria typically coexist in the same soul. And it is disproportionately members of the intellectual and political class in whose souls they flourish.

I likely qualify as a member of the intellectual and political class noted above, however, I’ve not once succumbed to Obama euphoria, and although I’ve been almost continuously outraged by the Bush Administration’s policies since the 2000 election, I doubt my feelings toward our 43rd president ever congealed into pure hatred.

As a former member of the Democratic Party who re-registered as non-affiliated last June to protest the sexism and misogyny that Hillary Clinton endured, I can attest to the intolerance of dissent by those “reveling in Obama euphoria.” Since the early days of the Democratic primary, I’ve felt isolated from most members of my usual circle of friends and acquaintances.

My position notwithstanding, scanning the readers’ comments on the message boards of liberal online news outlets easily confirms Berkowitz’ claims that Bush hatred and Obama euphoria are two sides to the same coin.

Recently, for example, the Huffington Post provided a video of the Today Show that featured Jenna and Barbara Bush reading the letter they wrote to the Obama girls in which the Bush twins, playing the role of older sisters, offered some poignant advice to Malia and Sasha. The Today Show’s Meredith Vieira and Matt Lauer were both visibly moved.

Here’s a sampling of the hatred toward even Bush’s daughters expressed in readers’ comments from Obama supporters in response to the above video:

*Who TF Cares?

Every day it's something about these two drunks and thier letter to the Obama girls. They are starting to rival Paris and Lindsey on the annoying scale.

*All the Bushes need to just go TF away.

*"We are still relevant! We are still relevant! Look over HERE! Hello! Anyone?!? Pay attention to us!"

*Zzzzzzzz, just go away.

*They need to go away. No one cares what they have to say!

Reflecting on the 2008 presidential election, I agree with Begley’s contention in Newsweek that voters in America are more apt to vote with their hearts than their heads. And Berkowitz is right in calling the media to account for its preference in appealing to the emotions rather than intelligence:

Bush hatred and Obama euphoria are particularly toxic because they thrive in and have been promoted by the news media, whose professional responsibility, it has long been thought, is to gather the facts and analyze their significance, and by the academy, whose scholarly training, it is commonly assumed, reflects an aptitude for and dedication to systematic study and impartial inquiry.

Berokowitz’ next paragraph oversimplifies the issues while revealing a trace of his own passion, but his words should at least prompt citizens to fact check claims made by candidates a little more thoroughly before casting their ballots:

From the avalanche of vehement and ignorant attacks on Bush v. Gore and the oft-made and oft-refuted allegation that the Bush administration lied about WMD in Iraq, to the remarkable lack of interest in Mr. Obama's career in Illinois politics and the determined indifference to his wrongness about the surge, wide swaths of the media and the academy have concentrated on stoking passions rather than appealing to reason.

In conclusion, Berkowitz points to a favorite conservative scapegoat: academia.

He writes:

Consequently, though Bush hatred may weaken as the 43rd president minds his business back home in Texas, and while Obama euphoria may fade as the 44th president is compelled to immerse himself in the daunting ambiguities of power, our universities will continue to educate students to believe that hatred and euphoria reflect political wisdom. Urgent though the problem is, not even the efficient and responsible spending of a $1 trillion stimulus package would begin to address it.

I disagree with Berkowitz’ claims about universities. I received my own liberal arts education (BA in English) at a state university in Minnesota in the 1970s where I learned to think critically and in the process developed a healthy skepticism for the media and politicians of every stripe.

And just for the record, I'm a progressive from this great state in the tradition of our late U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone, former professor of political science at Carleton College, Northfield, Minn. Like Obama, Sen. Wellstone was once a community organizer; however, he did not feel this experience qualified him for the presidency.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Media Coverage of Equal Pay Act: Mrs. Obama’s Apparel Trumps Ledbetter’s Struggle for Justice

Lily Ledbetter speaks at the Democratic National Convention last August. Photo credits: Ron Edmonds/AP

There’s no question the Ledbetter equal pay act signed yesterday by President Obama is a major step forward for working women. However, as I read several news accounts of the celebratory event in the White House, led by both Barack and Michele Obama, my enthusiasm faded when I noticed Lily Ledbetter’s still unresolved struggle for justice with the Goodyear Company – it will never have to pay up - was buried near the end of each report.

For example, in his piece at the Christian Science Monitor, David Cook places Ledbetter’s statement to that effect after his artful description of what Michele Obama was wearing for the occasion:

(emphasis mine)

With Ms. Ledbetter standing next to her, Mrs. Obama paid tribute to her “commitment, her dedication, her focus.” Mrs. Obama, wearing a purple suit and white pearls, said Ms. Ledbetter “knew unfairness when she saw it and was willing to do something about it because it was the right thing to do, plain and simple.”

In response, Ms. Ledbetter said, “Words cannot begin to describe how honored and humbled I feel today. When I filed my claim against Goodyear with the EEOC ten years ago, never, never did I imagine the path that it would lead me down.”

“I have spent the past two years since the Supreme Court decision in my case, fighting for equal pay for this,” Ms. Ledbetter said. “But to watch him {President Obama} sign a bill that bears my name, a bill that will help women and others fight pay discrimination in the workplace is truly overwhelming. Goodyear will never have to pay me what it cheated me out of. I will never see a cent from my case. But with the passage and the president’s signature today, I have an even richer reward.”

Here’s the back story provided earlier in Cook’s article:

After 19 years on the job at Goodyear Tire & Rubber, Ledbetter found that she was the lowest paid supervisor in her plant despite being more experienced than several male counterparts. A jury found the company guilty of discrimination but the Supreme Court held that a discrimination claim must be filed within 180 days of the first offense. The measure Obama signed today provides that every discriminatory paycheck extends the statute of limitations for 180 days.

We can wholeheartedly celebrate what Lily Ledbetter has done on behalf of all working women, but at the same time we are most certainly obligated to protest the injustice she continues to suffer at the hands of the Goodyear Company.

Along with the Goodyear Company, the media bears its share of shame for making Ledbetter’s long struggle for justice secondary to its focus on the Obamas, including what Michelle was wearing on this important occasion.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Time for a Laugh: Read “Obama on Thin Ice”

After ridiculing DC schools for closing for “some ice,” President and Mrs. Obama coincidentally visit their daughter Sasha’s school the next day. Photo credits: AP.

Jeanne McManus who retired from the Washington Post in 2005 has had it with out-of-towners picking on Washington, D.C., including President Obama. In today’s guest column, McManus responds to Obama’s ridiculing the city for closing its schools the other day due to some ice.

McManus writes:

I was born and raised in Washington, and though I live in Bethesda now, I still don't take too kindly to people breezing in from out of town and telling us how to run our lives. Maybe it's because I was vote-deprived for so long. Got that? Maybe it's because I thought it grossly unjust that some Republican congressman like Virginia's Joel T. Broyhill was empowered to tell Washingtonians what our priorities should be, as he opposed home rule for the District. (As you can see, I don't forget. It's kept me in a defensive crouch for a few decades.)

On an even smaller and meaner note, I will confess that when I was deputy sports editor at The Post from 1991 to 1999, I took with glee the phone calls from aggrieved and transplanted New Yorkers complaining that we didn't provide enough coverage of the New York Knicks or Giants. My former boss, George Solomon, will be pained to learn that I would elbow aside other editors to handle such a call, just so that I, in my chirpiest voice, could give the troubled subscriber my solution: "You want more about the Giants? Move back to New York. Bye-bye!"

So many out-of-towners who get stationed, transferred or elected to serve here feel entitled to waltz in and take shots at the way we dress (we wear too much black; women wear sneakers with dress suits), the way we drive (too aggressively and erratically) and, most recently, the way we respond to snow (we like to shut things down).

Read More:

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

More About the Obama Administration’s Attempt to Bypass/Control the Media

The above photos were among those distributed in last week’s publicity release by the White House, which broke tradition by not allowing access to the media on Obama’s first day in office.

Today’s topic relates to my earlier post describing the new administration’s plans to use the Internet to bypass the media in mobilizing public support for President Obama’s programs.

The media, however, has ways of pushing back. A few days ago, the Associated Press, Reuters, and Agence-France-Presse refused to distribute White House provided photos of Obama’s first day in the Oval Office. The agencies were protesting the Administration’s break with long-time tradition in its refusal to allow news photographers access on that important occasion.

Those impressive photos of Obama’s first day in the Oval Office, prominently displayed by the Huffington Post, were actually “visual publicity releases.” (In today’s search I could find only the two shown above.)

Ari Melber picks up the story today in Obama, the Press and Us: Transparency is Not Enough:

It is great, of course, for the White House to release photos or documents or any other material. Obama's openness is a welcome change from his predecessor, who went all the way to the Supreme Court to hide the RSVP list for a single policy meeting. And transparency is intrinsically good, since in a democracy, very little government activity is legitimately secret.

Transparency reform and government information, however, are no substitutes for journalistic access and original reporting. “In fact, the administration's new openness might even function as little more than another unfiltered route to disseminate its view. If the information is offered to supplant independent reporting -- as in the photo disputes -- and only flows in one direction, then the government simply amplifies its already sizable megaphone. A louder government with less journalism does not enrich our democratic process.

It is odd, though, to now hear the media complaining about the way the Obama Administration is treating it. Not much of a reward for swooning at the One’s feet since he first announced his candidacy for the presidential office.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Kirsten Gillibrand sworn in to the U.S. Senate Today (video)

Watch Kirsten Gillibrand sworn into the U.S. Senate today by Vice President Joe Biden:

Despite Stricter Rules, Obama Administration Opens the Door to Lobbyists

Remember the Democratic primary when the two youthful male candidates for the party’s nomination, Barack Obama and John Edwards, repeatedly roused their supporters on the extreme left by pledging to kick former lobbyists out of the nation’s government?

With much fanfare, our new president, “Yes-I-can” Obama, signed off on ethics rules the other day that restricted lobbyists from serving in his administration. Hours later, the One proceeded to appoint big-time Raytheon lobbyist William Lynn as second in command at the Pentagon.

It gets worse:

Rood and Schwartz at ABC News report this morning that Mark Patterson, a former lobbyist for the big investment firm of Goldman Sachs, will soon be welcomed on board as chief of staff to the newly appointed Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner – the guy who forgot to pay taxes for a couple of years in the recent past.

Here’s the deal:

“Mark Patterson was a registered lobbyist for Goldman until April 11, 2008, according to public filings.

“Patterson first began lobbying for Goldman Sachs in 2005, after working as policy director for then-Senate majority leader Tom Daschle. According to publicly filed lobbying disclosure records, he worked on issues related to the banking committee, climate change and carbon trading and immigration reform, among others.

“Patterson is one of over a dozen recent lobbyists in line for important posts in the Obama administration, despite a presidential order severely restricting the role of lobbyists in his administration, the magazine {National Journal} reported.

“The Obama administration's limitation on lobbyists isn't a direct ban. Lobbyists are still allowed to be a part of the administration working on areas that they have not lobbied on. But the potential appointment of Patterson and others raise questions about just how much the Obama administration will be able to move away from the revolving door model of business that has become so common inside the Beltway.”

So here we are barely a week into the Obama Administration with an already severely compromised Pentagon staff and questionable appointments to lead the Treasury Department in the midst of a deepening financial crisis.

As the cloud of euphoric Obama adulation across the nation gradually fades, I no longer feel quite so alone in my skepticism.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Mobilizing Obama’s Hordes of Sexist Online Minions to Promote the New President’s Agenda


Here's a quote from Althouse relevant to my post on this topic:

"We'll see how it works out. What was a campaign becomes a big propaganda machine. What proportion of the 13 million want to be on the receiving end of that? And as for new media, how many of us new media outlets will passively pass along the talking points? My idea of new media is that we take the raw material and do something with it. It needs to get out of the control of the one who's sent out the original message. You can distribute your propaganda, but you can't organize it. You can't organize us. The internet is self-organizing, and we will see how it organizes itself. It can't be according to the will of a President."

If you took the trouble during the Democratic primary to scan the readers’ comments on web sites such as Huffington Post and the Daily Kos, you had to be frightened by the unrelenting vulgar sexist and misogynist assaults by Obama supporters directed at Hillary Clinton.

Ever since the debate between then Senators Clinton and Obama hosted by ABC last April, I’ve found the power of Obama’s online shock troops troublesome. Described as mainly youthful, unemployed tech savvy males on the far left of the political spectrum, this demographic commanded an inordinate amount of power.

In the aftermath of the above debate, I posted at Katalusis:

“And heaven help the TV pundit who challenges Obama. It was common practice during the primary for debate moderators to ask Hillary Clinton tough questions while going easy on Obama. That changed on April 16, 2008 when ABC hosted the Philadelphia face off between the two remaining Democratic candidates. Moderators Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos asked Obama several uncomfortable questions, which quickly put him on the defensive. By Friday morning, more than 19,800 comments were posted on ABC News' Web site, the tone overwhelmingly negative.”

ABC soon capitulated and issued an apology for having put the One on the spot.

Therein lies the danger: the possibility of the Obama camp continuing to mobilize its hordes of online minions to outflank the media in winning support for the new president’s programs.

Rutenberg and Nagourney in an article published yesterday at the NY Times wrote:

“WASHINGTON — Lyle McIntosh gave everything he could to Barack Obama’s Iowa campaign. He helped oversee an army that knocked on doors, distributed fliers and held neighborhood meetings to rally support for Mr. Obama, all the while juggling the demands of his soybean and corn farm.

“Asked last week if he and others like him were ready to go all-out again, this time to help President Obama push his White House agenda, Mr. McIntosh paused.

‘“It’s almost like a football season or a basketball season — you go as hard as you can and then you’ve got to take a breather between the seasons,” he said, noting he found it hard to go full-bore during the general election.

“Mr. McIntosh’s uncertainty suggests just one of the many obstacles the White House faces as it tries to accomplish what aides say is one of their most important goals: transforming the YouTubing-Facebooking-texting-Twittering grass-roots organization that put Mr. Obama in the White House into an instrument of government. That is something that Mr. Obama, who began his career as a community organizer, told aides was a top priority, even before he was elected.

“His aides — including his campaign manager — have created a group, Organizing for America, to redirect the campaign machinery in the service of broad changes in health care and environmental and fiscal policy. They envision an army of supporters talking, sending e-mail and texting to friends and neighbors as they try to mold public opinion.

“The organization will be housed in the Democratic National Committee, rather than at the White House. But the idea behind it — that the traditional ways of communicating with and motivating voters are giving way to new channels built around social networking — is also very evident in the White House’s media strategy.

“Like George W. Bush before him, Mr. Obama is trying to bypass the mainstream news media and take messages straight to the public."

Read more of this disturbing development here.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Clinton Offers Gillibrand Helpful Advice at Congratulatory Lunch (AP video)

Gov. Paterson, Secretary of State Clinton, Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand, and Senator Schumer on Sunday. Photo credits: Kathy Willens, AP via the NY Times


Watch Gillibrand and Clinton at Lunch with Paterson and Schumer (AP video)

Evidently, the anonymous Democratic consultant in the news account mentioned below was a Kennedy or Obama supporter intent on putting Gov. Paterson in his place for daring to pick Congresswoman Kirstin Gillibrand to fill Hillary Clinton’s vacated senate seat instead of Caroline Kennedy.

Just two days ago, Hakim and Confessore at the NY Times quoted an unnamed Democratic consultant accusing Gov. Paterson of alienating the Kennedys, the Cuomos, and the Clintons by naming Congresswoman Kirstin Gillibrand to Hillary Clinton’s senate seat.

The consultant said the governor had angered Secretary of State Clinton by his “willingness to consider Ms. Kennedy in the first place after she endorsed Barack Obama in the presidential race last year.”

It’s no wonder our rumor-mongering consultant chose to remain anonymous. He or she obviously forgot Clinton’s well-publicized appeal to her supporters early on to not oppose Kennedy’s bid for the recently vacated senate seat. Moreover, the consultant was not in the loop for the congratulatory lunch described minutes ago in the NY Times by Sharon Otterman:

“Ms. Gillibrand spoke to reporters after finishing a congratulatory lunch at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York with the newly minted Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Charles E. Schumer, the state’s senior senator, and New York Governor David A. Paterson, who appointed Ms. Gillibrand on Friday to fill Ms. Clinton’s vacated senate seat.

“Ms. Gillibrand said that the four discussed foreign policy and how to best stimulate the flagging economy, and Ms. Clinton had offered her some practical advice on how to be an effective senator. The governor joined Ms. Gillibrand at the news conference that followed, but Ms. Clinton and Mr. Schumer did not appear.

‘“The senator knows that she has very big shoes to fill,” Governor Paterson said, adding that while the state would miss Ms. Clinton, “we will be in a position where we are well served, because Ms. Gillibrand, as a congresswoman, has been outstanding.”’

According to the article, Gillibrand went on to say:

‘“The bulk of Ms. Clinton’s advice to her was about how to organize her office to best serve the many requests that come from constituents across the state. She said she would follow Ms. Clinton’s example so that she could “hit the ground running.”’

Gillibrand will be sworn into office on Tuesday.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Harvard Kennedy School of Government’s Kellerman: Hillary’s First Day at State “Nothing Short of a Triumph”

Barbara Kellerman of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and author of Bad Leadership and Followership gives Hillary Clinton high praise for her first day on the job at the State Department:

Here’s Kellerman’s lead paragraph (emphasis mine):

“Hillary Clinton's first day at the office was nothing short of a triumph. Greeted by cheering throngs - many of them old hands at the State Department convinced that under her leadership at new day dawned for diplomacy - she did not let them down. Not only did she bring with her the polish and panache of seasoned celebrity, she delivered the message they wanted to hear."

And here’s her conclusion (emphasis mine):

“Obviously, the new Secretary of State has her work cut out for her. She faces great challenges abroad. And she faces great challenges at home - not least of which is managing her outsized team, including men like Richard Holbrooke, who is himself outsized, and used to having wide latitude and direct access to the president himself. Still her presentation of self at State gave evidence yet again of Hillary Clinton's strengths and smarts. Even the big boys would be foolish to underestimate her.”

To read the complete article, go here.