You Have To Contend With What You Choose To Contend With


Drew Westen:

To his credit, the president pushed through a stimulus bill that
prevented us from falling off the cliff. But he refused, as FDR had
done, to brand the crisis that had occurred as the direct result of
Republican ideology and governance. He refused to explain to the
American people why deficit spending in times of a crashing downward
spiral is a virtue and not a vice. And he refused to call out — let
alone even answer — Republican politicians attacking him from his
first days of office for deficit spending, although they had just
created as much debt in 8 years as in the previous 200-plus with
enormous tax breaks for the wealthy and a trillion dollar war “off the
books,” neither of which they even considered paying for. As a result,
he got little credit for having prevented another Great Depression, and
now there are two competing narratives, that the stimulus saved us and
that it was a waste of taxpayers’ money.

FDR didn’t contend with political foes with their own cable network and creduloushe said, she said stenographers.

Obama doesn’t have to contend with those things either. He chooses to. He and his staff and his fellow Democrats choose to be cowed by the screechings of Tweety and his spiritual children, to listen to the harping of Fox News hairdos, to ignore polls that favor their approach to issues, and to continue to assume the worst will happen, ie, that somebody on CNN will say something mean.

And here’s some news: NOBODY OUT HERE CARES. Yes, it sucks that Official Washington will call you a partisan asshole, but out here, in, like, the world? We will be happy to have health care, and jobs, and streets, and cops, and schools, and we will thank you for it at the ballot box. You can look at poll after poll that says that, if you want, in case you need proof to buck up your flagging spirits. Or you can just look at all the faces of all the people in your rallies, and calculate to yourself which of them you are willing to let die because Politico is run by fucking idiots and that gives you an out.

I am so completely opposed to letting presidents off history’s hook by claiming the press is somehow bitchier today than it ever was. Yeah, there might have been a moment in the early 1960s when TV news didn’t suck, but over the long run? No way. Newspapers and radio were much, much meaner than we think in our imaginings of some golden age of gentility and respect. People have always had to fight to get their messages through. We think because everybody looks back now and says, “Damn, FDR, what a thundering badass of a human being that was,” thatpeople didn’t hate his ass?

At first
Coughlin welcomed Roosevelt’s administration and pledged his
support: the New Deal, he told his audience, was “Christ’s
deal.” But he quickly soured on the President, disgusted by
both the slow, compromised pace of New Deal reform and by
Roosevelt’s unwillingness to involve Coughlin himself in
decision making. By 1935 he began attacking the New Deal
regularly as a tool of banking interests.

In 1936 he helped form the National Union for
Social Justice, which in turn helped form the National Union
Party. The Union Party ran North Dakota congressman William
Lemke for President in 1936. Coughlin pushed Lemke’s
candidacy on the radio and through his newspaper, Social
But despite Coughlin’s fervent support, and his
prediction that Lemke would receive nine million votes, only
900,000 Americans cast their ballots for Coughlin’s party.
Roosevelt’s popularity remained extremely high. The
experience, historian Alan Brinkley suggests, embittered
him. “President Roosevelt can be a dictator if he wants,” he
commented on Lemke’s defeat, and he vowed to abandon the

But he soon returned to the broadcast booth. From
then on Coughlin’s sermons took on a nasty edge of
anti-semitism and lunatic conspiratorial thinking.
Increasingly, his talks combined harsh attacks on Roosevelt
as the tool of international Jewish bankers with praise for
Mussolini and Hitler. The now bitter and delusional tone of
his sermons alienated his larger audience, and though he
maintained a core of followers through his magazine,
Social Justice, his bishop ordered him, in 1940, to
cease all political activity.

Yeah. That’s some shit that would have even Glenn Beck sayingdamn. Yet somehow Roosevelt managed to keep being president. Last I checked, wasn’t nobody chaining themselves to the doors to stop health care reform. Yeah, they were on the Mall yelling stuff in stupid costumes, but so were war protesters for years. The wars are still going on.

That’s the only real claim to genius Bush’s people can ever make. They figured out you can ignore everything and everybody, and not only will nobody rise up to stop you, they’ll praise you for your moral courage. They used that secret in service of two wars and all kinds of blatantly nasty, vindictive, evil shit, and nobody even called them “embattled” until their second term. New York Times comes out with a story they’ve been illegally spying on people? They shrug, get Congress to retroactively legalize it, and are on to the next pillage-and-burn op.

Take a lesson, and use that power for good. You don’t have to contend with Fox News, with CNN’s increasing stupid, with Fred Hiatt’s editorial page. You can go do things that need doing. Quit choosing to be paralyzed into failure just because it’s easier to blame somebody else than to succeed.


7 thoughts on “You Have To Contend With What You Choose To Contend With

  1. Excellent post, A.
    FDR understood the value of having the right enemies when he said, “…I welcome their hatred.”Obama has the same enemies now! and he won’t welcome their hatred. Grr.
    Another relevant saying is, “He’s a bastard, but he’sour bastard.” C’mon, Mr. Obama, be our bastard. The country (except for the 27 percent dead-enders) will love you for it.

  2. Unfortunately we paid no attention when Obama told us he was strictly a compromiser, a seeker of consensus, a bipartisanship freak, during the run up to the 2008 election. Reading his position paper about health care reform was extremely revealing, and he has followed that paper very closely since being elected.
    Much more unfortunate is the fact that there was no candidate for the Democratic nomination for president who was a true progressive, willing to push hard for the needed reforms, and willing to call Republicans what they are. There was Edwards, who always made me grab my wallet and hold on for dear life when he spoke. There was Clinton…right. Kucinich was also there, and very likely would have been what we hoped Obama would be if he were to be elected, but that isn’t ever going to happen.
    I don’t know of a solution to this problem.

  3. I find this all so dispiriting- it flummoxes me. I don’t know what to do to change it (meaning, change it now, not at the ballot box)
    Ultimately, it’s disenfranchisement, or so it feels.

  4. Is it clear by now that “Change We Can Believe In” was just a slogan? Obama is a standard-issue politician with an unbelievable oratory gift. But he hasn’t changed the game in Washington at all, and he doesn’t really appear to be willing to try. When the hairdos whine on Fox that he’s brought the “Chicago Way” to D.C. … well, I wish. Mayor Daley gets shit done. He doesn’t give a fuck what you think. He does what he does. Bulldoze an airport. Done. Give away all the parking meters. Done. Anyone want to run Midway Airport? Let’s get it done. Obama ain’t no Daley.

  5. Thank you, A. I am so fucking sick of watching Obama fail on purpose. We didn’t elect him to be Most Popular, we elected him to LEAD. I was worried about his backbone during the primaries, whether he could stand up to the Republicans and against the corporations and the banks.
    It’s so much worse than I feared: he is Sally Field at the Oscars, waiting for the Best Actress award to be announced, crossing fingers and whispering over and over to himself, “Please like me. Please like me. Please like me.” The irony being, of course, thatthe real Norma Rae would have cut out her own tongue before she’d allow it to utter such pathetic entreaties.
    There’s one more thing we can try to do. Norman Goldman is pushing a project to get us each tosend ahand-written postcard to our 2 Senators demanding that they push Harry Reid to include the Public Option in the Reconciliation bill. It’s my last shot at believing we can actually accomplish something during these four years (because at this rate, he sure as hell won’t get eight).

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