The Curious Case of Barack Obama


What is it with this guy? Barack Obama’s first 100 days have to rank among the most active in over 70 years.

He promised a stimulus package and signed one two weeks ago; he promised mortgage relief and delivered; and while Secretary Geithner may have been short on details as far as relief for the financial sector is concerned, he still delivered the beginnings of a more comprehensive package. In the meantime, Obama announced the closing of Gitmo and, just today, he elaborated on his Iraq strategy. Obama’s visit to Canada clearly illustrated a new era in American diplomacy and his address to Congress this Tuesday further outlined his commitment to four major policy areas—energy, health care, climate change, and education. And he’s got a plan for all of it to boot. Still, the fight over the budget remains.

Republicans are opposing Obama on all his initiatives. Par for the course, but short-sighted. The budget battle will be bruising, with record spending and record deficits framing the debate. Even the logic behind Obama’s pledge to eventually cut the deficit by half will be challenged. Spending on the Obama priorities will change America in a way not seen since the 1930’s. The health care issues Obama raised in the campaign will mostly be dealt with; climate change will once again be part of government policy-making; and America will be on a new course with its foreign relations. But much of the country’s debt will remain in foreign hands. This is why a constructive debate is vital and also why this blog has argued for a Republican opposition that goes beyond giving in to the “no” reflex or heeding the rantings of Rush Limbaugh.

The ‘curious ‘ side of Obama is that he is doing his best to respect the essence of his electoral mandate. He is reaching out and trying to change the political climate. Respect, humility and dedication to long term goals is the mantra for Obama’s wider vision for America, one where inclusion and unity become essential to achieving goals. The honeymoon may still be on for awhile but we all know it will someday fade. What is so heartening in all of this is that we have a new man in the White House who is doing things differently and restoring nobility to the task of politics. Some of the naysayers are still stuck in the polarized, confrontational politics of the past four decades. That Obama has transcended those politics is what makes him such a curious figure.


The Curious Case of Barack Obama

  1. Without being particularly maudlin…oh never mind… let’s all be completely overwrought and deeply maudlin while we choke down the contrast between leadership and the shipwreck that is the latest iteration of our ‘new’ government.

    • chris is still stuck on the Bush era. At least ,Obama is doing what he said he would. He inherited a helluva mess . Yeah , he is showing leadership.
      Shipwreck you say …………….You sound like RUSH !Or is it Bush

      • Since most of us commenting here are in Canada, I thought it obvious to what “our ‘new’ government” referred. Guess not. I should have just called people names instead. Next time.

        • sorry Chris.I got it .

  2. Maybe he has something to prove.

  3. “What is it with this guy? Barack Obama’s first 100 days have to rank among the most active in over 70 years.”

    Give me a break. Do you honestly think some other president would not have also implemented a stimulus package, or some form of legislation to curb the recession? Indeed, we don’t even really know whether the stimulus is a GOOD stimulus yet.

    “Republicans are opposing Obama on all his initiatives. Par for the course, but short-sighted. The budget battle will be bruising, with record spending and record deficits framing the debate. Even the logic behind Obama’s pledge to eventually cut the deficit by half will be challenged.

    Once again, you are prefacing your argument on the notion that Obama will inevitably succeed. Lets say Obama’s initiatives do succeed in bringing America out of recession, saving the world, etc. Even if the Republicans support Obama on almost everything, they will not succeed in subsequent elections, if the Dems have the feather of an economic recovery in their hat. Limbaugh was really speaking for Republicans when he said he hoped Obama failed, because continued bad economic times are their ticket back into power.

    “Spending on the Obama priorities will change America in a way not seen since the 1930’s. The health care issues Obama raised in the campaign will mostly be dealt with; climate change will once again be part of government policy-making; and America will be on a new course with its foreign relations. But much of the country’s debt will remain in foreign hands.”

    A few things. Firstly, Obama’s health care proposal was less radical than at least two of the four major primary contenders (Mitt Romney and Hillary Clinton being more radical), and only provides coverage for children. Moreover, it does so while building on the basic existing healthcare system, and without mandates. In other words, it represents evolutionary change, not the kind of revolution you think it is.

    Secondly, you may recall that Kyoto was signed by Clinton, who also maintained a similar kind of foreign policy to the one Obama has promised. Forgive me, but in terms of “amazing” changes, this ranks well below 5000 flushes (the reference is to a 90’s commercial for a toilet bowl cleaner, in case you don’t get it).

    That said, you are not wrong in that the Republicans cannot simply be a party of “no”, your reasons are just facile. “No” is a great strategy – Mackenzie-King, Barack Obama, Jimmy Carter, Jean Chretien, and Dalton McGuinty are but a few examples of folks that won elections largely by not being the guy before them. Going beyond simply being some generic default opposition is risky because by defining oneself, you give the government room to attack you (when generally it should be the other way around).
    See: Dion, Stephane.

    Yet in spite of the risks, the Republicans need to develop a constructive alternative to both the basic Republican campaign they have ran since 1980, and to the Democrats. Why? Reagan won by building on Nixon’s outreach to working class and white southern voters, adding them to the traditional Republican coalition of evil rich people. However, since 1980 America is less white, working class jobs are disappearing and rich people are increasingly voting on non-economic issues. White evangelicals represented almost half of all Republicans – as atheism and agnosticism increase as well, betting your life savings on the GOP nominee on intrade sounds like a worse and worse prospect.

    I have a few suggestions:
    1. Abandon all vestiges of racism in the GOP (and opposition to affirmative action), and reach out to socially conservative minorities.
    2. Abandon all vestiges of homophobia in the GOP, and present the Republicans as a socially moderate party of limited government that likes the environment.
    3. Abandon the foreign policy emphasis on terrorism, shifting instead to the threat of a rising China and resurgent Russia. China’s economic growth means that its GDP will surpass the US soon, and its military might will be soon to follow. The GOP can gain a lot of credibility if they are “right” about the future.

    We have seen aspects of those strategies in play elsewhere. Harper’s outreach to immigrants has been quite successful. Harper employed microtargeting techniques, and so was able to avoid making broad appeals that might have turned off other parts of his base. David Cameron represents more of the second strategy – we will have to see how he fares in the next election.

    • Too long!

      Can you give Executive Summaries of your next posting so we can decide if we want to read the rest?

    • Your suggestions make sense .But your assessement of Obama is bullcrap!

  4. “Republicans are opposing Obama on all his initiatives. Par for the course”

    The pettiness of the Republicans is really astounding – how dare they oppose the largest increase in government in nearly a century, largely coming from a bill that not a single lawmaker read before passing.

    Par for the course, indeed.

    • kody, is your new contract part of the $3 billion package?

    • Sounds distressingly like the NDP. Or so we’re told.

  5. “energy, health care, climate change, and education”

    If Barack gets a fair crack at implementing half of these lefty-socialist dream programs, in the world’s largest debtor nation, then America will be in a much deeper hole four years from now than they are right now.

    Drooling idiots though the Republicans are, the idiots in the Democratic Party are just as bad – except they’re a lot more full of themselves right now and they’re ready to pick up baseball bats and beat the US economy to a pulp. You should pray that the idiots with “R-” in front of their names do as much as possible to obstruct the idiots beginning with “D-“.

    “… reaching out … respect, humility and dedication … inclusion and unity … restoring nobility …”

    That is just silly, boiler-plate, Obama-worship.

    Barack’s AG called Americans “a nation of cowards” and implied that he would use his powers to force them to integrate with each other on the weekend (since the federal government has already forced them to integrate on the job and at school). Sounds like a real sweetheart. And Barack has already got into ridiculous squabbles with media critics like Limbaugh and Rick Santelli. Nothing noble about that.

  6. “The type and formula of most schemes of philanthropy or humanitarianism is this: A and B put their heads together to decide what C shall be made to do for D. The radical vice of all these schemes, from a sociological point of view, is that C is not allowed a voice in the matter, and his position, character, and interests, as well as the ultimate effects on society through C’s interests, are entirely overlooked. I call C the Forgotten Man.

    For once let us look him up and consider his case, for the characteristic of all social doctors is, that they fix their minds on some man or group of men whose case appeals to the sympathies and the imagination, and they plan remedies addressed to the particular trouble; they do not understand that all the parts of society hold together, and that forces which are set in action act and react throughout the whole organism, until an equilibrium is produced by a re-adjustment of all interests and rights. They therefore ignore entirely the source from which they must draw all the energy which they employ in their remedies, and they ignore all the effects on other members of society than the ones they have in view.”

    The Forgotten Man, William Graham Sumner

    I was going to do a line by line fisking of this post but htoh seems to have taken care of it already. Sumner was spot on when he wrote about the forgotten man 100 hundred years ago. I think Obama and Congress are about to beggar the US and I wouldn’t mind that too much if Canada weren’t entirely reliant on the US to buy our exports.

    • Think about Obama’s predecessor, then read this:

      “War, expansion, and imperialism are questions of statesmanship and of nothing else. I disregard all other aspects of them and all extraneous elements which have been intermingled with them. I received the other day a circular of a new educational enterprise in which it was urged that, on account of our new possessions, we ought now to devote especial study to history, political economy, and what is called political science. I asked myself, Why? What more reason is there for pursuing these studies now on behalf of our dependencies than there was before to pursue them on behalf of ourselves? In our proceedings of 1898 we made no use of whatever knowledge we had of any of these lines of study. The original and prime cause of the war was that it was a move of partisan tactics in the strife of parties at Washington. As soon as it seemed resolved upon, a number of interests began to see their advantage in it and hastened to further it. It was necessary to make appeals to the public which would bring quite other motives to the support of the enterprise and win the consent of classes who would never consent to either financial or political jobbery. Such appeals were found in sensational assertions which we had no means to verify, in phrases of alleged patriotism, in statements about Cuba and the Cubans which we now know to have been entirely untrue.”

      — William Graham Sumner (1840-1910)

      The rest is here:


      • Don’t really agree but if you have a problem with Bush’ jingoism, he wasn’t the first. I think most/all presidents and prime ministers who declared war ramped up the patriotism and nationalism rhetoric. Not unique to Bush.

        • Did you actually read htoh’s post? Are you sure you want to back somebody who so successfully shot down every straw man he himself erected?

          eg, from htoh’s post:

          Parisella: “What is it with this guy? Barack Obama’s first 100 days have to rank among the most active in over 70 years.”

          htoh: Give me a break. Do you honestly think some other president would not have also implemented a stimulus package, or some form of legislation to curb the recession? Indeed, we don’t even really know whether the stimulus is a GOOD stimulus yet.

          Note that Parisella only described Obama’s first 100 days as “active”, which is a pretty uncontroversial statement. htoh’s response? That any president would have racked up those accomplishments (no supporting evidence is provided) and besides, there’s no proof that the outcome will be good.

          Hey if you wanna hitch your wagon to *that* lame horse, be my guest jwl.

          And *of course* every wartime president ramps up patriotism and nationalist fervour. It’s not pretty but it’s probably a necessary part of leadership. Archangel’s Sumner quote was about much more than mere jingoism though, wasn’t it?

          What WAS unique to Bush was a sophisticated juggernaught marketing campaign designed to link 9-11 and Iraq and to mislead the country into thinking that Iraq’s pathetic military posed a threat to the United States of America.

          Also unique? A steady drumbeat of accusations against anybody who opposed the invasion (as well as all Democrats) of treason, of wanting America to fail, of being “objectively pro-terrorist”.

          Also – Cheney’s personal, politically-motivated interference in the gathering and assessment of intelligence, even going so far as to set up an alternate intelligence unit (the Office of Special Plans, featuring such luminaries as Doug Feith) to cherry-pick raw intelligence in support of the conclusion the Republicans wanted to reach.

          And so on and so on. Probably a more well-rounded response to Archangel’s quote than your dismissing it as referring to mere jingoism, no?

        • Agree to an extent ,jwl, but Bush was deliberate and contrived . iIthink Leahy of Vermont is on to something . We should not exclude prosecution!

  7. “Probably a more well-rounded response to Archangel’s quote than your dismissing it as referring to mere jingoism, no?”

    No, I don’t think it is. Unless ‘response’ now means ‘agree with’.

    I can’t be bothered to get into discussion about Bush, I am not a fan of his either, but as far as misleading American people into war please look into LBJ – Gulf of Tonkin and McKinley – USS Maine (tho this example is more up for debate). And when you say all Dems were accused of treason, please provide examples of this accusation against Biden, Clinton, Gephardt, Reid … et al who supported the Iraqi War. Not sure why Bush would accuse supporters of his plans to invade of treason but I am sure you will inform me.

    • So we’re clear: Archangel’s quote deals with much more than jingoism. You don’t have to agree with it, but “I disagree” with no supporting detail is kind of a cop-out.

      Can you point to an American administration before Bush that actually constructed and executed a marketing campaign to create an enemy out of thin air? Your point re: Tonkin etc is well-taken but these did not constitute such a campaign. Leaders have been cooking up causus belli since the dawn of time. This was much more – the nation was mobilized into war from a standing start against a crippled and pathetic nation with no provocation whatsoever.

      Has any other American administration ever, ever done such a thing?

      As for accusations of treason – the entire Democratic party was regularly accused of treason for YEARS. This sort of thing used to be on the outer edge of acceptable discourse but became a common, widespread smear among Republicans, their operatives, their supporters in the press and the True Believers. Are you seriously unaware of this sickening turn for the worse in political rhetoric?

      Here – let me help you: http://www.google.ca/search?hl=en&rlz=1C1GGLS_en-USCA291CA305&q=democrats+party+of+treason+iraq&btnG=Search&meta=

      • “create an enemy out of thin air”

        Bush was incredibly devious. I mean, getting Saddam to sack a neighboring state, agree to a ceasefire, then repeatedly violate that ceasefire by shooting at the Americans and British, publicly proclaim to have WMD’s such that Saddam’s own Generals believed he still had them (of course he did have them as he gasses the Kurds with them but no one knows exactly where they went, and when) violate over twenty U.N. resolutions over a multi-year period, openly defy the world body notwithstanding the overt threat of force by ejecting the very inspectors who could have proved that Saddam had been lying about his capability, then secretly infiltrate every national security agency including the Russians, the French, Mossad, the Egyptions to somehow plant evidence in their repective intelligence services making them believe that Saddam had WMD’s, while maintaining a super secret file where he knew the “truth” while letting the leaders of the Dems (who almost all voted in favour of the use of force) see the “fake” intelligence reports while retaining the super secret ultimate truth report that only he knew about, such that Bush “lied” and fooled everyone in the world, including Saddam’s own generals.

        Manufacturing grounds for war indeed.

        Bush was an evil genius.

        • I hate arguing with the True Believers but what the heck.

          Saddam did bad things a long time ago. But in the run-up to the war there was NO credible evidence that he actually had any WMD capability. UN inspectors were allowed in the country sporadically. Toward the end, they were conducting their investigations freely – they were ordered to stop by the *Americans* who had decided to invade rather than wait for the inspections to complete.

          Saddam was a paper tiger. Yes, he made bellicose declarations. But the reality – supported by actual evidence available at that time – is that he had no WMD capability and poor conventional military capabilities. By the turn of the century Iraq was a shell of its former self.

          The Bush administration created a case out of innuendo, discredited intelligence, rhetoric and sheer, unadulterated bullshit. By the time of the invasion, ~70% of Americans believed Saddam was involved in the 9-11 attacks. There was never any evidence to support this. Hell, in the 2004 presidential debates, Bush himself confused Bin Laden and Hussein and had to reassure viewers that he knew the difference between the two.

          It was a propaganda campaign to generate support for a war that had no actual justification.

      • The entire Dem party was not accused of treason because many of them supported Bush and his desire to overthrow a dictator. Personally, I don’t believe there is any bad reason to overthrow dictators. I would be a big fan of any president who sent marines around the world to overthrow all dictators.

        I am not huge fan of Bush but neither do I believe he was uniquely evil in the annals of US presidents. He had his good/bad points just like all his predecessors. I can’t be bothered to worry about Bush because he’s gone and now we get to focus on the next messiah/evil/inept (take your pick) President for 4/8 years.

        • At least , Obama was one Democrat who had the foresight to oppse the iraq war.

        • “I can’t be bothered to get into discussion about Bush…”

          No wonder you think Jonah Goldberg is the shit. He uses the same dodge.

          Did you click the link I provided? Here’s a random example: “Democrat [sic] Party Treads Close to Treason” by Intellectual Conservative:

          “In a time of war, it is understood that even political adversaries join together to support the Commander-in-Chief. That has not been the case for several leading Democrats and what they are saying of late treads extraordinarily close to being treasonous.”

          Just a random example. And it calls out Pelosi and Kerry in particular even though they voted for the AUMF. Pretty typical of the vile discourse and NOT – as you suggest – limited to Democrats who opposed the war.

          And beyond that, let’s give our heads a shake – opposing a policy is not treason. It’s disgusting that such a serious charge was thrown around during that time. It was deliberately employed to quell dissent.

          Really, you’re 100% Machiavellian in the case of “dictators”? Was the end – removing Hussein – worth the means – over 1 million Iraqis dead, maimed or displaced, thousands of Americans dead, the US financially hobbled? You really think *any* country should be roaming the globe, overthrowing leaders they don’t like? You want the US to invade China? North Korea? Half of Latin America and Africa?

          I’ve already explained why I think he was unique in American history. You have yet to tell me which other American administration has used a massive propaganda campaign to gain support for a war with no provocation, from a standing start. Has any other US president ever done anything like that?

          Because THAT is uniquely evil.

          • What I should have written is I can’t be bothered to get into a discussion about Bush with people who obviously are suffering from Bush Derangement Syndrome. Again, I am not a huge fan of Bush’ but I don’t think he was all that bad either. And who cares about bloggers and what they write – we are talking about Bush and his admin and they have not accused supporters of Iraq War treasonous just because they are Dems.

            And if you really vexed by Bush and his ‘massive propaganda campaign’, what do you think of the Spanish-American War where newspaper and other media ginned up controversies in order to help McKinley?

            I dispute your one million figure but lets say it’s accurate. Saddam was responsible for the deaths of millions of his, and others, people and if you pay any attention to history you will see leaders get even more blood thirsty as they get older. And his two sons, possibly even more deranged than their father, were next in succession line.

            If all that matters is numbers, more would be dead now if Saddam stayed in power than what has occurred under new Iraq regime. And going forward, there are fewer and fewer casualties which would not have been the case if Saddam had stayed in power. I agree that it is entirely unfortunate that innocent people were killed/hurt/displaced but if we are going to worry about greater good than taking Saddam out was the correct choice because there is less death and destruction.

          • Bush Derangement Syndrome? Grow up. You sound like Michelle Malkin.

            And on one hand you dismiss bloggers, media, etc since we’re talking strictly about the Bush administration itself. Then in the next paragraph you draw a parallel to the Spanish-American war in which the *media* ginned up support.

            Which is it? Are we talking strictly about the administration, or are we talking about cooperation within the media?

            Beyond that, there were a number of instances on the floor of the Senate/Congress of Republicans accusing Democrats of “giving aid and comfort to the enemy” and/or being “pro-terrorist” and “anti-America”, all of which amount to charges of treason.

            Beyond THAT, Republicans and their surrogates ran a huge campaign trying to label the entire Democratic party of hating America, loving the terrorists and plain old-fashioned treason. They did not discriminate based on individual votes. And just why do you think bullshit accusations of treason are acceptable if one pol doesn’t like the way another voted?

            Beyond THAT, the entire justification for the Iraq war was a facade created and marketed by the Bush administration. Created, packaged, marketed and sold. My favorite quote from an administration insider: “We decided to launch the Iraq campaign in September because, from a marketing perspective, you don’t launch a new product in August.”

            Tell me – aside from newspapers ginning up support for the Spanish-American War, did the McKinley administration start from scratch, construct a bullshit justification for war out of whole cloth, then travel the country warning of mushroom clouds and an existential danger to the homeland? Did McKinley falsely link the Spaniards to an unrelated attack on the United States? Did he convince Americans that the Spaniards had ALREADY attacked the US?

            Uniquely evil jwl. In 200+ years of deplorable acts by American leaders, Bush invented a whole new low.

            It’s unfortunate that massive numbers of innocents died for Bush’s pet war? How nice that you feel a momentary regret. But hey, if you’re going to make an omelet, you have to slaughter thousands and thousands and thousands of eggs.

            I don’t understand why you think more Iraqis would be dead now in the absence of the invasion. Saddam wasn’t slaughtering people. He was killing some, undoubtedly, but his mass slaughters were almost 20 years ago. Yes a very bad man (just in case you decide to accuse me of being pro-Saddam) but he was not killing people on a grand scale for years.

  8. jwl has been anti Obama from day one and pro Bush when he thought he could get away with it . I supported Bush at the outset because I believed Colin Powell. Powell showed he had no guts and went along with the lie .
    jwl conveniently forgets these things . Go TJ Cook . You are the man or the woman!!

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