Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Answer to an excellent question


In the comments of the previous post, one of our loyal readers, Vic, asked a question of Broadway Carl and me. How do we feel about the federal pay freeze? Rather than answering in a comment, I figured I'd make it a post. I'm feeling rather long-winded today and it's a point that deserves more discussion than I could provide in a comment. And I am over-due for a post anyway.

I am very supportive of Pres O, but I admit that there are moments when the doubting arguments start to make a dent - like today. What do you and Jennifer make of his salary freeze announcement? The perception that he always caves before he needs to is starting to get to me.

Vic used a key word, "perception". It is exactly THAT -- a perception. One of my consistent beefs is with the distortion of, selection of and analysis of the administration by our media. THEY decide what we know. THEY decide what details we receive. THEY decide what tone to set. THEY decide OUR moods. But honestly, none of us know how Obama got to the salary freeze decision. Because it was a surprise to us does not mean that it wasn't without a fight.

I understand the frustration people feel but I disagree with the premise that he caves before he tries. We have no clue what or with whom or for how long or how he discusses any issue. Just as he says he needs to get out of the fishbowl that is Washington, we need to realize that we are not looking into a fish bowl and seeing all there is to see. However, we are told to believe he just jumps without thinking or fighting. Why? Why do we continually go where we are led by the very people we criticize repeatedly for being, as Palin correctly states, "lame"? What about Obama in his speeches, in his politicking, suggests that the perception is the reality? Why don't WE do a better job demanding that the two match? Instead we allow the perception to become the accepted stance and then we fight against it. In many ways, we create our own enemies out of thin air. We waste energy and resources punching shadows instead of stopping and thinking and trying to grasp why decisions are made.

We aren't in the room, on the phone or at the other end of the Presidential Blackberry. WE don't know when he goes to the wall or when he realizes that flexibility is key to progress.

Secondly, Obama wasn't really a fighter in the campaign. I don't know how many times Dems would say, "I wish he'd....". We've done it to him since day one. Often I hear "We want the campaigner" back as if that Obama were a different person. He hasn't changed. His job has changed. I've always said that a campaign is a wedding but being President is the marriage. Weddings are about the drama and excitement, the memories and good vibes. But everyone who is married, or in a long-term relationship, hell, even a friendship, knows that the wedding ends when the bride and groom drive off with cans strung to their bumper.

When my husband and I were first married, we fought all the time and the fights may have appeared to be about stupid things but they were always about one thing at the root of it all: communication. And it's with persistence and bending and listening and changing that a marriage progresses into a relationship that makes both people feel involved and active and stable.

The problem is that we can't communicate with Obama in any direct way. A speech is one-sided. A press conference doesn't necessarily address our specific questions. We can't get in deep to understand and share with the very person we want to hold accountable for every decision made. It's truly not fair. We demand so much of a President but have no way of communicating with him. Instead, we rely on the media to do it for us and we get frustrated at him when the messenger tells us to.

Now the Republicans are threatening to block all legislation unless the Democrats add to the deficit by extending the tax cuts for the wealthy. It's hypocrisy in so many damn ways. We all know that. But what is the best way of dealing with them? Is being equally stubborn the answer?

The Democrats didn't care about the deficit much more than being able to call hypocrisy on the Republicans before. We don't care if we add to it if it creates stimulus. But by goddess we won't add to it if it benefits the wealthy!

Well, here's the deal. We need to be grown-ups. Do I want us to add to the deficit? NO. I have been one of the Democrats who wants to pay it down so we can free ourselves from debt to places like, oh, China. But do I think there is no solution other than black and white? No. I am realistic. There are options. We are as bad as the Republicans when we say "we won't compromise". Hell, that's what the Republicans said in their letter. We know that Murkowski said she would vote to repeal DADT because it's the right thing to do. But now she'd block it because she wants to play a game of extortion?

Do I like extortion? No. That's why I also don't like blanket statements like "Tell Obama not to compromise" especially when followed by some vague threat of primarying him with someone "more liberal".

WE MUST COMPROMISE. But compromise is a bad word these days. So from now on I'll just call it what it is: being a grown up. Progress is working toward a goal. It isn't being a stubborn ass (pun intended) refusing to climb a mountain. Progress is being the bigger person and seeing that giving an inch gains a mile. Who gives a fuck about the inch when we have a mile?!

Priorities and perspective. We need them. We also need to step back from our knee-jerk emotional responses and see that big picture our President is always seeing and trying to show us. It's on us to stop demanding specifics and start thinking about what is more important: the result or how we get it. I want results and we are getting them from President Obama. How we get them is water under the bridge.

Back to the initial point about the salary freezes, the best I can articulate it is this: we have been creating private sector jobs. We have been losing public sector jobs. I would rather we freeze salaries than lay people off. And yes, some workers will be frozen at a pay that is too low already. But that is better than being without a job or having to get a similar paying job with zero health benefits.

I am constantly remind myself of four things:

1) Am I being a hypocrite? If so, reconcile it with integrity and honesty.

2) Do I believe the source or the spin? If not, decide what I think.

3) Read, watch or learn two positive things for every negative thing I read.

4) Obama IS the person I voted for. He IS doing the exact job I expected him to do. The frustrations are valid but irrelevant to the bigger picture of a nation consisting of opposing views and opinions and interpretations of fact. Follow Obama's lead on this because he's a grown up and I need to try to act like a grown up myself.
Oh, and I should probably add that we all define "fighting" differently. My idea of the President fighting may not be his idea or your idea or a Republican's idea. People need to stop clinging to semantics on this issue.


Broadway Carl said...

Thanks, Jennifer. I don't think compromise is a bad word. The problem lies in what some believe the definition to be. It is incredibly frustrating to see the President come out of a meeting with GOP leadership and say he thinks they cam come together and make progress, while the GOP leadership comes out of the same meeting claiming the President realizes he needs to reach out in a more bipartisan manner.

For the GOP, compromise doesn't mean meeting in the middle, it means realizing you're wrong and coming to their side.

And yes, we allow the media to create the narrative. Apparently it happened today on Ed Schultz's radio show. Here's what I received as a text from another reader: "Ed on warpath against Obama for capitulation on Bush tax cuts - called him weak and is off the wagon."

Did I miss something during my flight? Did the White House say they are extending the Bush tax cuts permanently for everyone, or is this the reaction to Obama not standing his ground on letting them expire for the top 2% and saying he's willing to listen to alternatives?

If it's the latter, then the die has been cast and that is now the media meme. Because Obama didn't draw a line in the sand, that means he gave up. And I'm tired of that assumption. Ultimately, it's just frustrating to watch and I think people in general are just burned out and war weary. At least those who follow politics on a daily basis, which I might add is a very, very, VERY small percentage of the population.

jhw22 said...

This is all still based on Obama saying he's open to ideas. Despite the fact that he still says extending for the wealthy is a bad idea. He has a group working on a compromise and that's where we stand.

Your assessment of compromise is correct. The problem is that so many want Obama to play by the Republican's definition. I want him to follow the actual definition and principles. Asking him to not even do that is what pisses me off. I don't care (well, I care, but you know what I mean) how the other party acts. I do not want Obama to play that game. I know, I know, people will say he shouldn't because they won't but so what? That's my point. It's the whole concept I teach my son: if someone hits you, don't hit back. It doesn't solve the problem and you're likely the one to be caught hitting. ;)


vic said...

jhw22 - Thank you for a very thorough answer, most of which I agree with. [You have a great way of putting into words some of my feelings about Pres. O's leadership style.] I would NEVER want him to use the Republican playbook - his restraint was, for me, one of his most impressive trait during the campaign. I do like his version of the word ' fight', but sometimes it is hard to see/hear his followers losing heart and then have him step forward in a move that seems counterproductive. You've raised the point before that we need to trust that he has the long view in mind and that we need to be adults. I know this is my head, but there are moments when it would help morale if he would draw us more into his rationale. As Broadway said earlier, the logic behind his moves is not always/usually readily apparent. Of course, it's commendable if he takes the backroads and still gets to a desired end (ex; Healthcare), yet once in a while using a direct route would ensure him some company (ie. more supporters). By the way, Broadway, I see no disconnect between Pres. O and Campaigner O. He sets a goal and he works towards it, quietly and without open confrontation - it's only his seeming quickness to make concessions that bother me from time to time. Jennifer's detailed response has pierced the descending gloom - for now. As she pointed out, we really do not know all the ins and outs he faces before making the decisions we hear.

As an aside Jennifer, the media do not really influence me that much, because I wrote them off long ago in relation to the President. It was hearing his actual speech that threw me.

P.S. Jhw22: You do such a good job supporting the President that you should be on his PR committee. :)

jhw22 said...

Vic, Let me first say, I truly hope you don't think that any of my remarks were specific to you. You just provided my jumping off point where I could make comments directed more to the general chaos of some in our beloved party.

That said, we may not pay much attention to the media, but their messaging permeates. Just today I read the word "cave" by two sources I generally respect. They aren't considered mainstream media yet they both used the same word. And I have seen more headlines today with the same attitude -- Obama is caving on Bush tax cuts. I don't think we can avoid the messaging when it's everywhere. It starts to affect our friends and fellow bloggers and Facebook updates and so on. We can't avoid it even when we avoid certain sources.

I do love the President. I have been called a lot of things because of it but I stand by my honest perception that he is doing what he said he would in the manner he demonstrated his entire career.

You know, Desert Crone and I have talked a lot about the disappointment people feel when Obama does something other than what we expect. I have concluded that WE are the problem. We set up these idyllic scenarios, we set expectations for Obama down to the word usage. When he doesn't meet those expectations, we blame him. Huh? What's up with that?

We decide what would be beautiful based on gut. Liberals are very similar to Conservatives in that we set our principles in cement before we get all the details sorted out, before we think about alternatives. We draw that "line in the sand" before we know which beach we're going to.

To your point of wanting Obama to say something different to bring more people on board early, I often feel that same way. I think "He should...". But that's part of that point I made about him seeing the bigger picture. We are so microcosmic in our view that we have to change. His job is to teach above the bar. Our job is to reach it. As Desert Crone has said in the past, the best teachers teach to the brightest kids in the class so that the slower kids are challenged to rise, yet no one is asked to slow down.

Obama must lead by staying the course. We must follow by realizing our own hang-ups, change our expectations to realistic ones and realize over and over again that no one view is the best view. If Democrats can't agree on one aspect, who's to say which is the better one?

Thanks for being so honest yet open to my thoughts.


NowhereMan said...

Obama is his own worst enemy.He appoints a deficit commission when no one asked him to(to your correct point Jen-who gives a shit about the deficit?)but appoints a former conservative republican and a Wall street insider to head it!But thats not all!he appoints just three liberals to it!DUH!Let the entitlement cuts begin!
As for the message Broadway received,he's appointing Tim Geithner to negotiate with the republicans on a compromise on the Bush tax cuts.Intead of keeping the promise he made in Iowa city in 2008 about letting the Bush tax cuts expire for the top 2%,he now passes the buck to Geithner to strike a deal with the republicans.
What bothers me most about him besides the constant caving,he never shows any leadership in either the house and senate.Just listen to guys like Weiner and Sanders if you don't believe me.So as a result,the republicans say we want to extend the bush tax cuts to include the top 2%.Pelosi says no,Reid says no after all, thats what Obama has been saying all along! But the white House has become the waffle house.So instead of the Democrats having one unified message,the republicans smell blood and thus keep pushing the envelope because his actions don't match his rhetoric-they know he can be rolled.when Bush was in charge,as much as I hated him, he set the agenda and told both houses what he wanted and expected.You also never saw he or his surrogates never call his base fucking retards or blast the "professional left".Too bad he's not as critical about his enemies.
Obama refuses to both fight and lead which makes me wonder why did he bother running for president?

jhw22 said...

Nowhere Man, I have to disagree strongly. As I have already written the ASSUMPTION that he doesn't "fight" is old and based on speculation. When YOU see his daily call list, when YOU have transcripts of every call and discussion he has with anyone, then you can convince me he doesn't fight.

Secondly, your idea of fight and mine are likely different. I do not respond to being yelled at our belittled or commanded. I respond well to discussion. How, exactly, do you mean you want him to fight? No hollow phrases, please. Details. In what ways should he fight? What steps should he take?

What on earth do you think he can do SPECIFICALLY to get Republicans to vote WITH him? No rhetoric, no hyperbole. What detailed steps should he take? Sorry to take this out on you personally, but I am tired of people yelling that "He should..." and yet not having concrete things other than fight. And if he tells the Republicans "Fuck no" then what do you honestly think will happen? Do you honestly think they'll bow to the black man? How do you think they will change their entire process of winning the Senate and the White House in 2012? You do know that they aren't here to get stuff done, right? They are here to regain power. So tell me, in detail, why they would change that mission to work with the current President. Tell me how the Palin-state of mind would all of a sudden change if he did something differently.

He is acting like a grown-up. He is acting responsibly. Maybe YOU would like him to act like a monster but I do not think that is at all what the elections suggested most Americans want. He should not change his behavior to appease the pissed off left. I am a liberal and my opinion is as relevant as yours and Jane Hamsher's and Glen Greenwald's and Olbermann's and David Corn's, etc. My voice is just being drowned out by talking points that have seeped into the conscience of people who should be seeing the successes and instead focus on the assumption that he isn't doing anything.

jhw22 said...


Sorry, Nowhere Man, but your tone is the exact type of tone that has kept me from being involved lately. I am tired of discussing issues with people who think "fight" = magic. As if "fight" = results. I love Sanders. But in all reality, he is one Senator who represents one state. We had a President who did what you want Obama to do and people like you and me didn't feel represented by him for eight years BECAUSE of the very attitude you now demand of Obama.

I simply reject the false and overgeneralized, assumption-based and purely subjective OPINION that Obama isn't working to get shit done. You have an opinion and I have mine. Neither is based on fact. It's opinion. Let's not treat it as if one person or one group of people's shared opinion is fact. Let's not declare Obama as a non-fighter because you don't like the way he gets shit done.

Obama has accomplished a shitload. Remember that often, please. And remember that he accomplished a shitload by being who he is. Now, with details, tell me how we would have had any more success if he played bad cop. How would we have earned a public option? How would we have closed Gitmo? Again, avoid rhetoric.

I like you Nowhere Man, but frankly, I disagree so strongly with your view that I can't allow your comment to go unchallenged. And sadly, you are the punching bag for everyone who has pissed me off in this party for the last two years. No offense, I swear.

But I am so damn fucking tired of this damn party wasting energy fighting against the President instead of the people causing the problems. Instead of tearing the President down, WTF are people doing to help him fight? We want him to fight but he has to fight US as much as he has to fight the party of no. What a fucking waste.

Now, this is precisely why I have been taking a break from all this shit. I have better things to do with my time than fight with people in my own damn party who so easily disregard the President who has done more than any President in decades.

So I think I'll return to my self-impose sabbatical for a few more days. Hopefully, by then, a few more Democrats will start acting like Obama and be willing to work together.


jhw22 said...

Damn, I meant to say this as well:

It irks me, Nowhere Man, that I don't feel you actually READ my post. Your comments seem to disregard any of my points as if I didn't even make them and are just a canned rant. It would be more helpful if you would address my points rather than parroting the same stuff I already called out as hollow. I read your comment and seriously wondered if you bothered to process what I wrote or if you just wanted to rant and the comment place was a good spot. Your comment reads as if you're oblivious to the fact that your very comment reflects the exact issues I was raising.

Now, if you disagree with my assessments, that's one thing. But writing as if you aren't even aware of the points I raised kind of proves my point that people aren't really thinking for themselves these days and that the messaging is seeping in to everyone's opinion.


NowhereMan said...

No offense taken Jenn,I love reading your blogs because you do take the time and do first class research better than most of the MSM and you obviously speak from the heart and I truly appreciate your passion.
Lets see how should Obama "fight"?Lets see,start with DADT-Truman wanted to integrate a segregated US army.The army took a survey that concluded 4 out of 5 soldiers were against it.So what did he do?Despite Republicans controlling both houses,he ordered the army be integrated anyway.Why? because it was the right thing to do.If Obama had done that early on,he wouldn't have wasted all these months trying to convince the Republicans it was the right thing to do when every poll in the country wanted it to be repealed.
On the public option,he campaigned on it but he had already made a back room deal with the pharmaceutical industry to water it down.That was obvious early on when Tom Daschle who was a campaign adviser to him and now lobbies for the health care industry said the public option was on the table.The left started screaming all over the place so the Daschle had to walk it back.Right then and there I knew it was dead.Three months later Sabilias said the same thing.But the kicker to me was when SEN. Byron Dorgan who unfortunately is retiring announced he had 48 senators committed and 6 more who were leaning towards adding a drug importation bill that would allow us to buy drugs from Canada where they are 1/3 of the price than what we pay.That was on a Thursday the vote for his provision was for Friday.Just before the vote,Reid postpones the vote till Monday.Why?the WH told him to.So guess what happens Monday?Instead of getting the potential 54 votes,he got only 32.The fix was in.

NowhereMan said...

On GITMO I don't blame Obama at all.He wanted to transfer those prisoners here but his own party was terrified that the republicans would use it as campaign fodder(which they would've).Then they back stabbed him by saying they didn't want the KSM trial in NY because of the cost and the inconvenience to business.Personally, I would've said fine,we will have the trial at Governor's Island and house them there also.That way it wouldn't inconvenience any of the spineless NY politicians or anybody in Manhattan but I digress.
My problem with him is that he never calls the republicans on their bluff.Even Dick Luger said you don't play politics with the START treaty and told Obama hold a vote for it in the Senate to hold his own party accountable but he has thus far refused!Another case in point:yesterday the house voted the Bush tax cuts as you know,to those making 250k and what does the WH say?The republicans obviously don't give a shit about the middle class and the incoming speaker called you chicken shit.No,of course not they said they approve of the house bill and are sending Geithner to negotiate a deal with the republicans!I would pull the hair out of my head but I have very little hair left to pull.Heres whats gonna happen in 2012:There will still be a budget deficit bigger than the one we have now in part because Obama agreed to extend the Bush tax cuts and of course, the republicans will use those numbers and say his capitulation increased the deficit.I would let them expire and continually point out it was the Republicans who voted to let them expire and say so over and over again using the bully pulpit.Tom Harkin another senator I deeply respect said today "if Obama capitulates on the Bush taxes he better hope Palin will be his challenger in 2012
You asked in your original post about the republicans and the Bush tax cuts"is being equally stubborn the answer?"I would like to remind you that Gingrich closed down the government when Clinton refused to go along with his cuts.The results were Gingrich was forced out of office and Clinton's popularity rose.
Your post also said a campaign is like a wedding.As you correctly pointed out,when you get married its all about communication.So why hasn't he learned to communicate with the Democratic leadership in the House and Senate so I for once feel everybody is on the same page?