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Thread: There is no such thing as 10 dimensional chess

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    Elite Member Grimmlok's Avatar
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    Lightbulb There is no such thing as 10 dimensional chess

    There's no such thing as ten dimensional chess, and our president is not a vulcan.

    During his health care forum yesterday, President Obama gave his usual pep talk about how during the campaign everyone thought he was down and out. But like the tortoise and the hare, slow but steady Barack Obama won the race.

    And it's all very cute. And all very wrong.

    Barack Obama was in serious trouble last July and August. John McCain had launched a serious of "celebrity" ads, mocking Obama as more puff than substance, and, I think, taking a bit of a swipe at his manhood as well. It was the first attack by the Republicans that was actually starting to take hold, starting to do real damage to Obama, and Obama's response was nowhere to be found. Like Michael Dukakis twenty years before him, Barack Obama kept forging ahead, like the good geeky professor, while John McCain continued to beat the crap out of him.

    Finally after the Netroots exploded at candidate Obama - almost exactly a year ago today - fretting that he was endangering our best chance at the White House in a decade, and after top donors then picked up the ball and privately slapped the campaign around, the Obama campaign discovered their inner cojones and fought back, hard.

    Barack Obama didn't win the election through the strength of his subtle, non-combative personality. He won in large part because his supporters finally forced him to fight back like, as the expression goes, a man.

    So when I see President Obama try to assuage Democrats' concerns about his presidency, and his meek performance to date on issues ranging from the stimulus package to health care reform, by telling us it's all part of the same grand plan he had for the election, I worry because I know first hand that the grand plan is a myth. Obama didn't win the election by being cool and collected, aloof and obtuse. He won it by finally engaging the enemy, mano a mano, and showing the American people that he had a spine, that he actually stood for something, and was willing to fight for his beliefs.

    Now back to today.

    President Obama, and some of his supporters, would like you to believe that the erratic cacophony, and repeated caves, that are his "strategy" on health care reform are all part of some grand plan, so complicated, so incredibly smart, that mere political mortals like you and I could never even begin to fathom its brilliance and breadth.

    Yes, that's one possibility. The other is that top Obama aides Rahm Emanuel and Jim Messina have decided that it's politically expedient to chuck the president's various campaign promises and run for the middle, since "the left of the left" has nowhere else to go.

    Occam's razor teaches us that when presented with conflicting, theories to explain a situation, the simpler theory, with the fewer assumptions, is usually true.

    What's more plausible?

    That President Obama is actually for the public option, but is actually playing us: trying to so enrage the left as to motivate us to beat the bejeesus out of him, plummet his approval ratings, and brand him as weak and spineless in the eyes of the public, all with the secret intent of making us make him do the right thing, giving him the grassroots support he needs to pass the best health care reform bill possible, including the public option and even single payer, just like he promised?

    Or, that yet another Washington politician made a lot of promises and then sold us out once he got into office?

    But putting the logic aside for a moment. Let's look at the facts.

    Was flip-flopping on FISA, saying he'd lead the filibuster against it and then actually voting for it, eventually part of some grand secret scheme to actually kill the FISA bill? No.

    How about when he flip-flopped on...

    Off shore drilling.

    Immediately withdrawal from Iraq.

    Forgoing public financing.

    NAFTA.

    The DC handgun ban.

    Welfare reform.

    Eliminating military tribunals.

    Releasing torture photos.

    Gay rights across the board.

    Handing 40% of the stimulus package to useless GOP tax cuts.

    Caving on the public option.

    There's a lot more, but those are some of the more memorable moments in which Barack Obama went back on, or caved, on some very public issues. In which of those cases was the cave not a cave at all, but rather part of some secret plan to actually win the issue in the end, and win on the particular issue that he seemed to have caved on?

    President Obama has never played ten dimensional chess on a single issue. When he's caved in the past, he actually caved. There was no grand plan. There was no super secret double back flip fake to pull out a win in the end. He simply caved on a promise for political expediency and those who supported that promise lost.

    There is no such thing as ten dimensional chess.

    AMERICAblog News| A great nation deserves the truth: There is no such thing as ten dimensional chess
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    Elite Member Fluffy's Avatar
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    NAFTA.
    Refresh my memory, this was a campaign thing, right?

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    Elite Member Fluffy's Avatar
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    Glenn Greenwald wrote about this too today:
    Friday Aug. 21, 2009 08:22 EDT
    Has Obama lost the trust of progressives, as Krugman says?

    (updated below)

    Paul Krugman has an excellent column today arguing that progressives have backlashed so intensely over the prospect of Obama's dropping the public option because -- for reasons extending far beyond specific health care issues -- they no longer trust the President. Citing Obama's steadfast continuation of Bush/Cheney Terrorism policies, the administration's extreme coziness with crisis-causing banks, and the endless retreats on health care, Krugman says that "a backlash in the progressive base . . . has been building for months" and that "progressives are now in revolt. Mr. Obama took their trust for granted, and in the process lost it."

    Krugman contends that while "the fight over the public option involves real policy substance," it is at least as much "a proxy for broader questions about the president’s priorities and overall approach." That's the argument I made the other day about why the health care fight is so important regardless of one's views of the public option. The central pledges of the Obama campaign were less about specific policy positions and much more about changing the way Washington works -- to liberate political outcomes from the dictates of corporate interests; to ensure vast new levels of transparency in government; to separate our national security and terrorism approaches from the politics of fear. With some mild exceptions, those have been repeatedly violated. Negotiating his health care reform plan in total secrecy and converting it into a gigantic gift to the pharmaceutical and insurance industries -- which is exactly what a plan with (1) mandates, (2) no public option and (3) a ban on bulk negotiations for drug prices would be -- would constitute yet another core violation of those commitments, yet another bolstering (a major one) of the very power dynamic he vowed to subvert.

    It is difficult to dispute that there is rising progressive anger over what the administration appears to be doing in the health care realm. Consider the remarkable, blog-based fund-raising campaign to embolden progressive House members who vowed a NO vote on any health care bill lacking a public option even if that's the bill returned from conference reconciliation. If those House progressives adhere to their pledge, that would be an enormous impediment to the White House's plans -- and Kevin Drum astutely notes that the purpose of the fund-raising effort is to force the notoriously hapless, impotent and capitulating House progressives to adhere to their clear commitment (as The Hill put it yesterday: "House liberals have a history of getting rolled"). In just a few days, that campaign has raised more than $300,000. From what I can recall, that is the most prolific single-issue Internet fund-raising since the fundraising bonanza fueled by anger over the 2008 vote by Democrats (revealingly including Obama) to legalize Bush's warrantless eavesdropping program and retroactively immunize telecom lawbreakers.

    If one were to analyze matters from a purely utilitarian perspective, one could find ways to justify the White House's attempt to write a health care plan that accommodates the desires of the pharmaceutical and drug industries [mandates (i.e., 50 million forced new customers) plus government subsidies to pay their premiums plus no meaningful cost controls (i.e., no public option)]. All other things being equal, it's better -- from the White House's political perspective -- that those industries not spend vast sums of money trying to defeat Obama's health care proposal, that they not pour their resources into the GOP's 2010 midterm effort, that they not unleash their fully army of lobbyists and strategists to sabotage the Democratic Party. That's the same calculating mindset that leads the White House to loyally serve the interests of the banking industry that caused the financial crisis (we don't want to make enemies out of of Goldman Sachs or turn investment bankers into GOP funders). Indeed, that's the same mindset that leads the White House to avoid any fights with the Right -- and/or with the intelligence community and permanent military establishment -- over Terrorism policies (there's no political benefit to subjecting ourselves to accusations of being Soft on Terror and there's plenty of reasons to cling to those executive powers of secrecy, detention and war-making).

    In essence, this is the mindset of Rahm Emanuel, and its precepts are as toxic as they are familiar: The only calculation that matters is maximizing political power. The only "change" that's meaningful is converting more Republican seats into Democratic ones. A legislative "win" is determined by whether Democrats can claim victory, not by whether anything constructive was achieved. The smart approach is to serve and thus curry favor with the most powerful corporate factions, not change the rules to make them less powerful. The primary tactic of Democrats should be to be more indispensable to corporate interests so as to deny the GOP that money and instead direct it to Democrats. The overriding strategy is to scorn progressives while keeping them in their place and then expand the party by making it more conservative and more reliant on Blue Dogs. Democrats should replicate Republican policies on Terrorism and national security -- not abandon them -- in order to remove that issue as a political weapon.

    If those Emanuelian premises are the ones that you accept, if you believe that Obama should be guided by base concerns of political power, then you're likely to be satisfied with the White House's approach thus far -- both in general and on health care specifically. That would also likely mean that you're basically satisfied with the behavior of Democrats during the Bush era, and especially since 2006 when they won a majority in Congress, since that is what has driven them for the last decade: all that matters is that we beat the Republicans and we should do anything to achieve that, including serving corporate donors to ensure they fund Us and not Them and turning ourselves into war-making, civil-liberties-abridging, secrecy-loving GOP clones in the national security realm.

    But that isn't what Obama pledged he would do when he campaigned. He repeatedly vowed he would do the opposite -- that he would reject that thinking and battle aggressively against domination by what he called "the interests of powerful lobbyists or the wealthiest few" who have "run Washington far too long" -- and he convinced millions of people that he was serious, people who, as a result, became fervent devotees to his cause. Those are the people who New York Times columnist Frank Rich recently said have been "punked by Obama" because it is precisely that same narrow group which continues to be the prime beneficiaries and masters of Washington behavior during the Obama presidency.

    More than any betrayal on a specific issue, it is Obama's seeming eagerness to serve the interests of those who have "run Washington for far too long" -- not as a result of what he has failed to accomplish, but as a result of what he has affirmatively embraced -- that is causing what Krugman today describes as a loss of trust in Obama from those who once trusted him most. This approach is not only producing heinous outcomes, but is politically self-destructive as well. In a superb post the other day, Digby recounted what fueled the Naderite movement in 2000 and warns, presciently I think, that the willingness of Obama/Emanuel so blatantly to disappoint those to whom they promised so much (especially young and first-time voters who were most vulnerable to Obama's transformative fairy dust) will lead them either to support a third party or turn off from politics altogether:
    Rahm Emanuel believes that the key to Democratic success is a coalition in which Blue Dogs and corporate lackeys mitigate progressive change on behalf of the moneyed interests which he believes the political system must serve. Regardless of his malevolent view of how the political system should work, on a political level, I think he's living in the past. . . .

    But on a political level, the left has been betrayed over and over again on the things that matter to us the most. The village is pleased, I'm sure. But the Democratic party only needs to look back eight short years to see just how destructive it is to constantly tell their left flank to go fuck themselves. . . .

    At the time [in 2000] nobody believed that an incumbent Vice President in a roaring economy would have a race so close that the Republicans could steal it. But we know differently now don't we? And you would think that the Democratic establishment would also know that because of that, it may not be a good idea to alienate the left to the point where they become apathetic or even well... you know. It can happen. It did happen. Why the Democrats persist in believing that it can't happen again is beyond me. . . .

    Obama mobilized a whole lot of young people who have great expectations and disappointing them could lead to all sorts of unpleasant results. Success is about more than simply buying off some congressional liberals or pleasing the village. It's worth remembering that a third party run from the left is what created the conditions for eight long years of Republican governance that pretty much wrecked this country.

    After 2000, what is it going to take for the Democrats to realize that constantly using their base as a doormat is not a good idea? It only takes a few defections or enough people staying home to make a difference. And there are people on the left who have proven they're willing to do it. The Democrats are playing with fire if they think they don't have to deliver anything at all to their liberal base --- and abandoning the public option, particularly in light of what we already know about the bailouts and the side deals, may be what breaks the bond.

    It's really not too much to ask that they deliver at least one thing the left demands, it really isn't. And it's not going to take much more of this before their young base starts looking around for someone to deliver the hope and change they were promised.
    On most fronts that matter -- civil liberties, national security, economic policy, servitude to corporate interests, even rising opposition to Obama's long-promised escalation of the war in Afghanistan -- that defines rather clearly what the Obama/Emanuel approach has been thus far. Stopping it somewhere -- anywhere -- is vital, and for many reasons, the health care fight provides an excellent opportunity (at least as good as any) for doing so. Clearly -- as first became conclusively clear when Obama so shamelessly reversed himself on FISA and telecom immunity -- the Obama White House will not, on its own, cease following the dictates of Blue Dogs, "centrists" and the corporate interests which own them. That will only happen if they realize that their political power is threatened by building their power in service of corporate interests and by continuing to ignore the interests of those who elected them. The signs which Krugman identifies to show that Obama has lost the trust of many progressives is one important step, but preventing a health care bill that is nothing but an ill-gotten gift to the insurance and drug industries is a far more important step still. Whatever else one might want to say, changing who wins in Washington is the most important goal there is.

    UPDATE: The new weekly Research2000/Kos tracking poll was just released and -- according to Daily Kos polling analyst Steve Singiser -- Obama's approval ratings have taken a dive (as have the Demorcratic Party's) due to increasing dissatisfaction with him on the part of Democrats:
    Across the board, the drops among Obama and the Democratic Party have come not from the loyal opposition, nor have they come from dismayed Independents.

    They have come from Democrats.

    A cursory look at the graph for Obama's favorability, broken down by party, shows that after a long period of relative stability among Democrats, there was a sharp drop this week . . . Anyone who thinks the protracted arguments over health care aren't frustrating the Democratic base need look no further. A ten-point dip in net favorability, in a single week, is a pretty solid statement.
    That speaks for itself. The Obama/Emanuel approach not only produces awful policy but is also self-destructive politically.

    -- Glenn Greenwald
    Has Obama lost the trust of progressives, as Krugman says? - Glenn Greenwald - Salon.com

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