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Really, Matt?

I just finished listening to Susie Madrak and Matt Stoller from last night’s blogtalkradio broadcast of Virtually Speaking. Highly recommended. For the most part, they’ve got the Obama situation right. Matt Stoller gets a bit closer to Obama’s psychology when he talks about how Obama has seen liberalism and rejected it. The New Yorker profiled Obama back in 2008 and came to much the same conclusion. Essentially, Obama sees New Deal liberals as cockeyed optimists who aren’t dealing with reality, in spite of the empirical evidence that says they are right. They’re too naive and confident in government’s ability to work for fairness and equality. In particular, Obama had a problem with his *mother* not his father. She was a bit too idealistic for his refined tastes. So, he rejected liberalism for tradition and convention. Some of us detected this early but couldn’t quite put our finger on why he seemed to be such a passive Democrat but this paragraph gets to the heart of what Obama’s political philosophy really is:

Obama’s mother is, in his portrayal, an American innocent out of Henry James: a young girl who ventures into the world believing that things are as they seem to be; that a person’s story begins when she is born and her relations with other people begin when she meets them; that you can leave your home without fear of injury or loneliness because people everywhere are more or less alike. She had no idea what she was getting into when she left Hawaii—no idea that only months before she arrived Indonesia had suffered a failed but brutal coup and the killing of several hundred thousand people. Eventually, somebody told her what had happened, but the knowledge didn’t change her. “In a land where fatalism remained a necessary tool for enduring hardship,” Obama writes, “she was a lonely witness for secular humanism, a soldier for New Deal, Peace Corps, position-paper liberalism.” She had a faith, inherited from her father and resistant to experience, “that rational, thoughtful people could shape their own destiny.” She should have counted herself lucky for emerging from the experience with only a second divorce and two bewildered children. “Things could have turned out worse,” her son wrote. “Much worse.”

It seems that Obama would rather Americans accept their fate, embrace fatalism to see them through hardship and stop trying to reshape their lives through vision and rationality. Obama is the antithesis of the New Deal Democrat. He just doesn’t believe in it.

That profile also contained a critique of Obama’s vs Clinton’s approaches to persuading the public on policy. Their conclusion was that she was just better at it because she understood what was at stake and could frame the argument in a way that described what the little guy was up against and then propose well crafted solutions to solve the problem. I can attest to that personally. In 2007, I got to ask Hillary the final question at her break out session at YearlyKos2. I asked her about infrastructure because I was very interested in mass transit and only a few days before YearlyKos2, a bridge collapsed in Minneapolis. She did exactly what the New Yorker article described. She framed the problem, identified the players and proposed concrete solutions. Her answer was detailed and thorough and convinced me that she really knew what she was talking about.

I don’t know where Matt was at the time. Probably waiting to get into a meeting with John Edwards or the Big Kahuna himself.

But anyway, the good stuff ended right about there. Matt says he was conflicted in 2008 but all I remember from Matt Stoller at that time was that he resembled so many of the people who were *trying* (not too hard) to be neutral but really, really, REALLY wanted Obama to win like the voice over narrator of the anti-Nader Anonymous video. I suspect that Obama totally made Matt cry sometimes. Then Matt goes on to say the State Department is messed up, which reminds me of all of the “Hillaryland at the State Department” articles we see in the Washington Post and New York Times whenever the electorate starts having buyer’s remorse over Obama. Then he complained that she didn’t apologize over her Iraq War Vote. Yes, Matt, Hillary Clinton, the senator from fricking New York was the single most important vote and primary reason the Iraq War Resolution passed even though she specifically and strongly urged Bush to let the UN weapons inspectors do their jobs and only go to war as a last resort. That she failed to wear a hair shirt and plead for your forgiveness demonstrates a shocking lack of obsequiousness on her part. Then there was a gratuitous slap from Susie about PUMA, which I don’t think either of them really understood. While there were plenty of PUMAs who were all about Hillary and plenty of the rest of us who hoped desperately that the party would come to its senses before the convention, PUMA was actually a movement that came to life after 18,000,000 votes were trashed at the RBC meeting in May 2008.

That’s what PUMA was all about, Susie. It was the disenfranchised rebelling against the party that ran what turned out to be sham primaries and then selected a nominee behind closed doors. It was about wasting our money and our time on phone banks and canvassing when the result was already decided. It was about screwing with the election process and conveniently eliminating inconvenient votes in Florida and Michigan. It was about the undemocratic caucuses and the theft of delegates from one candidate that were gifted to another who wasn’t even on the Michigan ballot. It was about the apalling spectacle of the ends justifying the means and absolutely no accountability to the voters who had a legitimate claim to be counted. The separation between the candidates in terms of primary delegates was thinner than a gnat’s wing by the time they got to Denver and got even thinner when the Credentials committee restored Florida and Michigan to full voting status. But by then, the damage was done.

I was there in the ballroom when the Kossacks jeered Hillary over her lobbying comment and as a worker in the pharmaceutical industry, I knew exactly what she meant. There was no ambiguity, Matt. The problem was that Edwards had been speaking a few minutes before and had riled the crowd up with his P.T. Barnum routine. There were a lot of suckers in that crowd that afternoon and after Edwards was forced out, they climbed aboard the Obama bandwagon. The funny thing is that industries like Big pharma were never afraid of Obama. They were nervous about Hillary. And if you want to know why you need look no further than the telecomm vote in July 2008. Obama voted for immunity, Hillary didn’t. The Clintonistas were not surprised by this. We understood her.

But what bothers me the most is the persistent and factually incorrect assertion that Hillary ran a poor campaign. I realize that that is the conventional wisdom that the left blogosphere keeps telling itself to justify pushing Obama on the rest of us but it never made any damn sense. In what world does a candidate win NJ, NY, CA, PA, FL, MI, MA, OH, TX, NV, IN, WV, KY, TN, RI, NH and still get accused of running a poor campaign? Wouldn’t it make more sense to say that of Obama because he couldn’t win the big, populated Democratic states? This is a world where the voters don’t really count. it’s a world where caucuses in sparsely populated states count more than voters in a dense state like NJ.

Matt, you are still suffering from an indoctrination hangover. For some reason, young, Ivy League educated males such as yourself were predisposed to like Obama and dislike Hillary. Only you can answer why that is but I think it was Anglachel who correctly identified it as white male graduate student syndrome:

Big Media Matt put up a post the other day before Josh’s wet, steaming pantload was generally noticed that brings up the biggest truth, that the Clever Young Men of the Blogosphere simply can’t see because they are unable (and unwilling) to observe themselves as part of the phenomenon:

“I think Hillary Clinton’s going to win this thing. I think the college educated men who dominate punditland have spent a lot of time missing the fact that there actually are enthusiastic Clinton fans out there — they’re just mostly working class women and thus mostly not in the room when this CW gets hashed out. On the Record
Not in the room.

That really sums up the deep structural problem of the “netroots” as a source of political strength on the left. They have never left the graduate classroom while the rest of us have moved on.

I spent a long time in graduate classrooms before finally deciding that I needed to find a line of work where I could retain my dignity, and I know this type of person very well. He’s white (or codes as “white”), very articulate, often socially awkward, deferential to fawning towards the most senior male in the area, smart-as-a-whip in a bookworm kind of way, can throw together short, abstract, sophisticated arguments about their own esoteric subject at the drop of a hat, and has spent the last 8 to 10 years of his life being praised as the smartest guy in the room. They literally earn an “A” for their thinking and how it is received by the professors. It is a deeply incestuous and self-reinforcing environment.

In short, their entire sense of self-worth is tied up in winning verbal exchanges on subjects they are going to get tested on in the mid-term exams next month. Yak-yak between and amongst themselves (all under the approving eye of the senior male professor who will give them a recommendation on their job application to Podunk U.) is the fabric of their lives. They don’t waste time with anything that doesn’t mark them off as “clever” and “insightful” (as determined by the senior prof), and they get hostile when someone or something enters their carefully constructed cocoon and simply rips the foundations of their arguments out from underneath them.

[…]

To my thinking, this is why the leading lights of the netroots on the left are so dangerously out of step with the Democratic grassroots. They are flocking to candidates and causes without concrete foundations to their positions, and they speak mainly among themselves, which further exacerbates their distance from the run-of-the-mill citizen. They seize on the formal argument and overlook the practical application. Worse, they cling to sophistry and the good-old-white-boys praise and promote systems of academia and journamalism, and insist their justifications are right. If they didn’t, their entire raison d’etre would vanish and they might have to get a real job bagging groceries, fixing electrical lines, tending elders in nursing homes, or collecting garbage. Icky, dirty, hard things that they might not like and wouldn’t be very good at.

This is intellectual elitism, yes, but even more a rather childish and frightening inability to distinguish the worth or weight of an idea in the context of an ordinary life.

There’s more than a touch of sexism in it. I’ve seen it in the research industry. Women managers are always seen as less competent and token females. Am I right, Matt? Aren’t you a bit more likely to find fault with Hillary and make excuses for Obama? We Clintonistas called it the Penis Years phenomenon. She was vastly more experienced and prepared than he was but he had that certain thing that made him more qualified. Don’t think that didn’t come up in the analysis of the lefty blogosphere sites when the campaign operatives started to sift through the data. You were, and continue to be, an easy mark.

But now, you’re *almost* there, Matt. Susie is right. Hillary was a better candidate to address domestic issues. She was the right candidate for the times. But you wanted to hear an apology from her and that, plus her gender (come on, Matt, admit it to yourself at least) kept her out of the White House.

It wasn’t about Hillary. It was about our obligation to elect the person most likely to be a good president whether that person was black or white, male or female. At the very least, she should have gotten a floor fight and a legitimate roll call vote. It would have been the right thing to do for the voters who desperately wanted a Democrat in the White House. In light of everything that has happened since September 2008, we deserved better deliberation and seriousness from the male graduate student contingent.

37 Responses

  1. RD – you started PUMA…I remember (with Alegre’s Corner) and the writer’s strike from Kos and I couldn’t wait to jump on board.

    I’m still on board – I will never vote Democratic again – unless HRC Rises (again/still) or some unbelievable other candidate comes along.

    Not in my lifetime, I am afraid.

    I thank you for liberating me. PUMA – now and forever.

    PARTY UNITY MY ASS.

  2. The problem they all have with Hillary is that she doesn’t have a blow-job mouth.

    See Diane Rubenstein’s chapter on her in her book This Is Not A President in which she takes on Reagan, Bush I, Bush II, Bill, and some first wives. Then there is the chapter on Hillary running for the Senate which is intellectually fabulous and very very funny as are all her analyses. She is a professor of govt at Cornell among other titles. An incredibly smart feminist on top of it all.

    But she has one photo pic in there of a collage of Hillary with a torn out strip across her mouth with Marilyn’s mouth stripped in. It says it all.

    • She also says lots more about Hillary and why some people distrust her. Hillary is very very aware of gender ambiguity a la Judith Butler and Hillary knows all about “floating” signs.

  3. http://themester.indiana.edu/events/rubenstein.shtml

    Rubenstein will be speaking at Indiana in Bloomington on sept 22 and Judith Butler will be at Columbia the spring semester of 2012. I am wondering if I can make a long drive to Indiana to hear Rubenstein. I do love her. She is one of the most radical feminists.

  4. And please hook this blog up to disqus.com

  5. I wonder if these young, hipster Dudebros will ever figure out the extent to which they were manipulated into supporting Obama.

    • I think they know but they don’t want anyone, especially former *PUMAs*, pointing it out to them.
      Being right and vocal about it is apparently a no-no.

    • They know Myiq…They know! Kinda like my feelings for cheeseburgers. 🙂

      I know they are not good for me, but but but, they taste good! I know the “grease” they swim in clog my arteries but but but, They taste good.

      Same with the Obots. They KNOW Obama screwed them over but but but….He’s a bro not a H………!

      Eff them all!

  6. Excellent, excellent, excellent! You nailed it (yet again)

  7. But what bothers me the most is the persistent and factually incorrect assertion that Hillary ran a poor campaign. In what world does a candidate win NJ, NY, CA, PA, FL, MI, MA, OH, TX, NV, IN, WV, KY, TN, RI, NH and still get accused of running a poor campaign?

    Thank you. Hillary was screamed at louder to ” get out ! ” after every win….they want to pretend she ran a poor campaign so the criminal actions taken against that campaign won’t somehow “matter ” so much . It wasn’t criminal actions that denied Hillary the Presidency .she would have won …it was Hillary’s own darn fault ( again )

  8. Renault: I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here.

    Employee of Rick’s: [hands Renault money] Your winnings, sir.

    Madamab:

     Barack Obama, who refused to take Social Security benefit cuts and raising the retirement age off the table during his campaign in 2008, is now “shocking” “progressives” by…proposing Social Security benefit cuts and raising the retirement age to 67. Here, idiots, you had it from the Elephant’s mouth on Snuffleupagous’ show three freaking years ago. Look, moving pictures! That should attract your attention for about 45 seconds.
    [Go to this link to get the video: http://thewiddershins2.wordpress.com/2011/07/13/activist-wednesday-austerity-the-final-solution/]

    Text:

     STEPHANOPOULOS: You’ve also said that with Social Security, everything should be on the table.
    OBAMA: Yes.
    STEPHANOPOULOS: Raising the retirement age?
    OBAMA: Everything should be on the table.
    I’m sure the fact that the proposal to raise the retirement age came from Obama’s mentor, Senator Joe “Party of One” Lieberman, also went right by the morons at MoveOn.org.

  9. Excellent summary, RD. All tied up in a nice package.

    Too bad those smarter than a whip doods won’t see themselves in that package.

    We PUMA knew all along that they were played.
    What 2008 did for me was to clearly show that the “smartest ones in the room” were not really very astute at all.
    Those KOSasses were played and they look pretty “stoopid” right now.

    In my book, they and the MSM have lost all credibility.

    • Seems anyone with half-a-brain would have noticed that the same MSM that supported Bush over Gore, Bush over Kerry, the Iraq War, and Obama while stomping on Hill was just part of the Hope+Change advertising campaign to keep the money at the top. The average voter just buys the message. Was it worth the $10 to $15 per vote that it costs to get Obama in? Seems anyone with a D after his/her name would have been a shoo-in.

    • But if you were to take a “peek” at the “Daily Kooks” site you’d find that they are STILL finding ways to defend Obama.

      unbelievable!!!!!!!

  10. Yes, you’re right. And it’s not unlike what happened to brilliant MA AG Martha Coakley, who should certainly now be in the Senate instead of Scott Brown.

  11. “Essentially, Obama sees New Deal liberals as cockeyed optimists who aren’t dealing with reality”

    This from those, like Matt, who put their HOPE into The One above all common sense selection a candidate who demonstrated reasonableness, hardwork, wonkiness and *gasp* compromised with her vote re: the Iraq War. These are now the same idiots who are contending that Obama is just tacking center and being a realist. It is truly amazing to see just how hypocritical they are: They damned Hillary for being a realist and now praise Obama for being one. Anglachel’s description of them having never left the grad school mentality. And now that they’ve discovered “pragmatism” its all the rage.

  12. I’m an unapologetic PUMA, and a deep admirer of Anglachel, but I don’t think the frame of hers that you quote here really captures the right issue/divide. The deepest issue, of course, is misogyny. But importantly amplifying that, I’ve always felt, was generational attitudes. Obama didn’t just reject his mother’s New Deal/liberal idealism in some abstract or philosophical way; he rejected the Boomers as putative emblems of that.

    We heard this throughout his campaign — about the need to “move past” the allegedly dried-up ideological divides of the ’60s. This feeling about my and his parents’ generation is all over the face of his books. And now, big surprise, he’s going after the safety net just as we come into it. Big Tent Democrat is right on the money here: http://www.talkleft.com/story/2011/7/11/18485/6504.

    In other words, it’s not just that a particular sub-group (white grad students) made/make up a lot of the netroots, and skewed things toward Obama and against Hillary. It’s also that a lot of people in Gens X and Y said to their parents, “Just leave, will you? Go down to Florida and play shuffleboard, or hit the elderhostel circuit, but stop being such drama queens and let us live our own lives.” Part of me can sympathize — but the consequence has been godawful. The consequence has been that we have elected a phony Democrat who is trying to do what no elected Republican could have wet-dreamed: to dismantle the New Deal.

    • As far as baby boomers go, Obama are one. He and I would have been in high school together. I am nowhere near the age where I could decamp to Florida and play shuffleboard. So, really, Obama is screwing his own generation.
      I’m going with anglachel on this one. The people who selected Obama for us were a small group of male, ivy league guys who think they know what’s good for the rest of us. Not all of the 18,000,000 Clintonistas were lower middle class working women. Many of the ones I met were Indistiguishable from the Obama contingent. It’s certainly a generational thing now but mostly it’s a class issue and a sexism issue. The idiots in charge are just clueless about what goes on beyond their little social circle.
      And consider this: why is it that so many of the up and coming pundit types fit a specific mold? Think Ezra Klein, Matt Yglesias, Matt Taibbi, Matt Stoller (so many Matts), David Leonardt, Josh Marshall and Glenn Greenwald. Notice anything odd about that list? They’re all GUYS. Are we to believe that there weren’t any women capable of producing political commentary? Oh, throw Kevin Drum in there too.
      Which women net roots bloggers are making money at prestigious online journals writing about policy and politics? Don’t you find that a little strange for a so-called progressive faction? It’s the old boys network all over again.
      They create the reality that the rest of us are forced to live in. Why do we put up with it?

      • I totally agree that this is most importantly about sexism — and I also agree that Anglachel is describing something real. I am a lapsed academic myself, and I recognize what she’s describing. But I guess we’ll have to disagree on how important that particular dimension of our recent history this is. To my eye/ear, generational conflict is more important than the influence, however baneful, of this particular segment of the netroots.

        Yeah, Obama is technically a Boomer — but he has clearly separated himself mentally and emotionally from us. I don’t think I’m saying anything very different from what the psychological profile at the start of Riverdaughter’s post is saying — except that I’m proposing an expansion of its import. I don’t think it’s just an ideological issue; I think it’s a generational one, too (a la Lewis Feuer).

        Don’t get me wrong. I feel nothing but rage at those fratboy Obots (though I would offer a mild demur — I don’t think David Leonardt belongs in that list). But we shouldn’t make them the sole or even most important villains of the piece. The MSM types — all the folks Somerby so persistently skewers, from Matthews to Rich to Dowd and on and on — are even more to blame. So is the leadership of the Democratic Party. Howard Dean performed a true service in 2004… but he is complicit in a terrible abdication of responsibility and miscarriage of justice in 2008. The list is long of those who — contra Stoller — actually owe the world a nostra culpa.

        It must, though, be noted that while Hillary had this stolen from her, Obama did get nearly as many primary votes… and did win the general election. Yes, there was a selection — but as with Bush-Gore 2000, it was tipping a very close scale.

        In any event, that’s not what I was really addressing. I was talking about Obama’s motivation, and what I take to be the motivation of a lot of the people who supported him.

        btw, I’m not moving to Boca anytime soon, either. 🙂 Fuck ’em.

        • Two further things:
          1. It’s entirely unsurprising that “progressives” are sexist. It was the misogyny of the Left that fueled the Women’s Movement in the ’70s. Andrea Dworkin describes this powerfully.
          2. I just realized that RD is you. Duh… 🙂

          • Yes, RD is riverdaughter but don’t apologize. I am thoroughly enjoying this.

        • And one more thought: I can’t decide whether I’m more disgusted by those Obots who are standing by their man or those who are now denouncing him — but without any acknowledgement that they were wrong, and that it was knowable at the time that they were wrong, and that many of us, in fact, did know it and said so. To paraphrase Somerby again… the armies of the unemployed, underemployed, sick, old and young who will suffer enormously from the disastrous economic failures and betrayal of principle by this Administration look up at them in devastating judgment.

        • Did he get almost as many votes and delegates? I don’t know about that. He didn’t earn any of the votes he got in Michigan. There were also many complaints about caucus fraud and pressure on Dacia delegates to change their affiliation. And WTF was going on in Indiana?? That was truly bizarre. If you look at the states he *won*, they were mostly republican states. He was trounced in the big Democratic states. If the Democrats ran their primaries the way Republicans do by winner take all, the nomination would have been won by supertuesday. By Clinton.
          Even Karl Rove thought she had cinched it in February 2008. Florida and Michigan were the linchpins. Without those states in her win column, she always looked like she was playing defense.
          The whole party was in on it.

          • Entirely agree — Hillary won. But my memory of it is that even with Michigan and Florida properly assigned, the vote count was — to borrow your metaphor — thinner than a gnat’s wing. But (a) my memory may be faulty and (b) as you’ve pointed out, it still begs the question of the whole, highly gamed caucus debacle.

            Elections really do have consequences, and the primaries of 2008 turn out to have been among the most consequential in our lifetime. It’s obviously absurd to play alternate-history what-if games in one’s head… but one doesn’t have to go there. All one has to do is look at what the Precious has actually done, and what he is seeking to undo. If the reigning satraps of the Democratic Party hadn’t put their thumb on the scale, we wouldn’t just have a far safer, healthier, more hopeful country and world today… the Democratic Party itself would have taken an important step back to vitality and political relevance. Instead, we’ve accelerated the devolution of American politics into two parties — a feckless conservative party (the Democrats) and a batshit crazy radical party (the GOP).

            As Yeats said, the best lack all conviction, and the worst are full of passionate intensity.

          • I was absolutely sure that the fix was in the day after supertuesday when the Obots were screaming that the math was not in her favor and she should get out. The whole plan was to deliberately withhold Florida and Michigan. Without those tow states, she could never get the critical mass to make her the decisive winner and popular choice. She always looked like she was running hard to catch up. And the Democrats were making sure that Florida and Michigan didn’t count even one more day than they needed to in August 2008. There was never any question that the votes would be counted fully. It was only a matter of timing.
            So, let me take you back to supertuesday 2008 and ask you to imagine the scenario where she wins the big Democratic stated AND Florida and Michigan had already been added to her plus column. Are you with me yet? NOW tell me who was winning.
            In February 2008, they had already written off all of her voters by withholding Florida and Michigan. It’s surprising that she continued to win and win and win in spite of the rigging. But she did. In fact, she was getting stronger. By may 2008, they had to make a decision about Florida and Michigan and that’s when they changed the rules and allowed Obama to take delegates from Michigan where he wasn’t on the ballot and then they reduced the two state delegations to half strength to prevent hillary’s numbers from rising. By doing that, they not only screwed Florida and Michigan, they screwed NJ, NY, MA, CA, PA, OH, TX, etc, etc, etc. If they hadn’t taken Florida and Michigan out of the picture, Obama might have lost. That’s generally the way it had worked in other primary seasons but this primary season was going to be different. Obama was selected, not elected, to the nomination and the primary results were reorganized to reflect this desired outcome. (go on, Matt Yglesias and Matt Stoller, admit it, that was what “The Math” was all about. You didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure it out but a background in science did help)
            But let’s say that everything was conducted without any skullduggery and they still went to the convention separated by the width of a gnats wing. How do you explain the fact that two candidates who were so closely tied, really, the final delegate separation was something like 17, which is statistically insignificant, how do you explain why there wasn’t a legitimate roll call followed by a floor debate? The whole convention’s tone was such that the average viewer could only believe that Obama had won in overwhelming numbers. But that wasn’t even remotely true. But they humiliated her anyway and harassed and intimidated her delegates. Those delegates were in Denver to represent *us*, the 18,000,000 of us who did not vote for Obama. Didn’t we deserve to be counted? Because I wasn’t counted. Jon corzine gave the entire state of Nj’s delegation to Obama. But Obama lost NJ by 10 points. How do you explain that? How do you excuse it?
            You can’t. That’s why what the democrats did was so unforgivable. They completely disenfranchised us and forced Obama on us when we knew he wasn’t ready and that he was a ruthless bastard who didn’t give a fuck about the outcomes of elections. That right there told me everything I needed to know about how Obama would govern and what I could expect from the Democratic party. And I was right. I don’t like being right about them but once I saw what was going on, I couldn’t unsee it.

        • Yeah, Obama is technically a Boomer

          I remember arguing with Obots who said Obama was “post-boomer.

          I was born in 1960 so I’m a year older than Obama. All my life I’ve been told I was part of the BB generation because it ran from 1946 to 1964 People born after 1964 were Generation X

          Suddenly in 2008 the Obots claimed that there was a “Generation Jones” that fit between BB and GenX

          • Right — they really wanted to make that distinction. It carried real emotional weight for them. And the psychological analysis RD cites at the top locates Obama’s own version of this in his biography.

            I’m longer in the tooth than you guys — born in ’48 — and maybe I’m over-reading this.

  13. Great post. I particularly like the part about Obama’s attitude about his mother. I remember reading accounts in ’08 of Obama’s discussion of the respective approaches of his mother and his Indonesian stepfather to the ongoing violence, corruption and abuse in Indonesia at that time. While the merits of those approaches can be debated based on the context, the stepfather advocated acquiescence to the powers that be, while his mother was more into confronting their evils wherever she found them. It struck me even then that Obama was much more sympathetic to his stepfather’s approach than to his mother’s and was pretty embarrassed about her. What struck me at the time was how wrongheaded Obama was about drawing the wrong lessons from this – it’s one thing to say that you have to be careful about how you deal with the movers and shakers in a country when they might shoot you at any time, it’s another thing entirely to generalize from that and say that the right approach to the powerful in the US is to bow and truckle, do what they ask and hope for scraps. I thought it was revealing, and not in a good way, about Obama’s approach to power – placate the people who have it so that they’ll give it to you, and then defend their interests so that they won’t take it away.

    • We are getting the full brunt of Obama’s displaced anger at his mother whom he blames for the absence of his father.

  14. Beautiful post, RD. Incestuous amplification explains the white, male graduate student syndrome. Unfortunately, all of us are stuck with the consequences.

    djmm

  15. Someone in a comment at the Times this morning mentioned having read that some of Obama’s friends were surprised when he first ran as a Democrat, that they thought he and Michelle were Republicans. Has anyone heard this before, or know where the story came from?

  16. This is one of the best lines I have read in a long time. Profound and worth reading over many times.

    “This is intellectual elitism, yes, but even more a rather childish and frightening inability to distinguish the worth or weight of an idea in the context of an ordinary life.”

    To me this sums up so much of what is discouraging in political leaders. Thank you for articulating such a big idea so succinctly.

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