Peter's Principle: Why Overton's Window Needs Some Windex
(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari)The whole idea of an opinion editorial, or op-ed, is to give an opinion. And, as wags like to say with wearisome frequency, opinions are like assholes- Everyone's got one. My style of journalism is akin to that of the late, great Hunter S. Thompson: Rather than be a source of news, I offer commentary and views that aren't shared by the virtually worthless, corporately-owned mainstream media that's always fearful of alienating shareholders and corporate ownership and falling stock prices, viewership shares and circulations.
But an opinion piece, while it conveniently uses (especially in right wing circles) the fig leaf of commentary, needs to be rooted in facts. Without facts, opinion pieces are merely propaganda.
This has apparently been lost on Peter Wehner, former speechwriter (aka propagandist) for George W. Bush who a few days ago wrote an op-ed in the NY Times that has to be read to be believed. One need only read the title to see his intended point: Have Liberals Pulled Too Far Left?
The first problem, of course, is the overarching assumption there are enough liberals currently in the government to wrench the Democratic Party even one millimeter to the left. The usual suspects on the left side of today's political spectrum, Bernie Sanders and my senior senator Elizabeth Warren, certainly take admirable positions. But when one gives just a cursory glance at the positions taken by Democrats in years past, it becomes increasingly clear that Sanders, Warren and a very few others are merely trying to get us back to where America was before Milton Friedman's and Ronald Reagan's neoliberalism began rearing its hideous head.
In short, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and very few others (including a much subdued born-again Democrat Alan Grayson) are merely trying regain ground taken by the radical right wing these past 35 years. In a bygone age, they would've been lost in the crowd. Nowadays? So-called liberals such as Al Franken sneer at anyone who even whispers criticism at Obama's domestic spying program.
And that's the premise for Wehner's extremely irresponsible and selective achievement of mnemonics- That the Republicans have shifted more to the right (Duh) but the Democrats, he whines, have shifted even more to the left. To make his point, he keeps bringing up the specter of progressive voters' enduring superhero, Slick Willie Clinton.
Comparing President Barack Obama to Bill Clinton is like comparing a Granny Smith apple to a Delicious apple. The two look different, they taste different but otherwise inside they're virtually indistinguishable. Saying Mr. Obama is more to the left of Mr. Clinton is technically accurate but it's a straw man argument if ever there was one. It also doesn't say much.
Wehner is correct when he says Bill Clinton ran as a centrist Democrat. But by the time Bill Clinton ran for the presidency in 1992 (and won, thanks in large part to the Bilderburg Group), Americans were so sick of a dozen years of Reagan's and Bush I's right wing neoliberal policies that openly declared war on the poor and middle class, we would've elected a potato with FDR's or JFK's pictures thumbtacked to them.
But Clinton, like it or not, was merely Bush-lite. Many of the most ruinous policies in American history, both socially and economically, originated with the Clinton administration. The repeal of the last of Glass Steagall with the 1999 signing of the Financial Modernization Act (which, ironically, did not modernize our financial system as much as it catapulted us back to the turn of the century heyday of the robber barons that are still running over hill and dale like a wild stampede); NAFTA, which was supported by every living Republican ex president and in which Mexican laborers are making 20% less than they were before NAFTA and created "the giant sucking sound" of disappearing US jobs predicted by Ross Perot; Don't Ask, Don't Tell, which pushed LGBT service members into the closet; The Defense of Marriage Act. The list goes on and on. In fact, Bill Clinton has spent much of his retirement from public service apologizing for these policies and laws. The rest has been anathematized by his wife Hillary (especially NAFTA).
So saying that Bill Clinton was admirably center-right isn't exactly a very courageous or brilliantly insightful position to take. But it's all too facile, not to mention intellectually lazy, to scratch Obama against Clinton and concentrate on the flecks of bright blue beneath the red paint while ignoring that times and society changes.
Obama as Liberal
While Clinton may have delivered a crushing blow to the American labor force with NAFTA, Obama is arrogantly defending the super duper Cosmic Top Secret Transpacific Partnership, which Bernie Sanders accurately calls "NAFTA on steroids." The President is busting a nut, even to the point of publicly insulting Elizabeth Warren, to pass a deal that would essentially give multinational corporations the right to trump national laws and give corporate attorneys, not judges, corporate attorneys, the right to take those same countries to court if their laws threatened their bottom line by so much as a penny.
Between sucking up to the US Chamber of Commerce led by a psychopath named Tom Donohue who'd promised to spend ungodly sums of cash to topple Obama even during a resurgent bull market on Wall Street and making robber baron Jamie Dimon his BFF, from Day One he's been reliably packing his administration (starting with his own Chiefs of Staff), SEC and the Treasury with Wall Street insiders. By that metric alone, it can hardly be said the president is liberal by even the most fevered stretch of imagination. But that doesn't matter much to Wehner.
It's also conveniently slipped what passes for his beautiful mind that the drone program, which was barely out of the starting blocks by the end of Bush II, has ramped up to James Cameronesque levels starting three days after Obama was sworn in. Afghanistan, need I remind you, was also surged just as Bush got his Iraq surge in 2007, resulting in more rotting corpses of US service members sent to Dover AFB while the poppy fields remain intact and while we're paying off the Taliban to not attack us even as they retake key cities and provinces. And Obama took 35 months after being sworn in to get out of what is now plainly one of the most, if not the most illegal and wrong-headed invasions and occupations of all time. (But, according to Wehner, none of that happened because, "Mr. Obama has often acted as if American strength is a problem to which the solution is retrenchment, or even retreat.")
War profiteers, including Blackwater's newest incarnation, are more bloated than ever thanks to the Obama administration's ceaseless warfare. Despite being strong-armed by evolving public opinion into supporting gay rights and abolishing DADT (which wouldn't have happened if VP Joe Biden hadn't beaten the president to the punch and put the administration on the spot to support LGBT rights), DOMA is still on the books, the USA PATRIOT Act is up for, and will get, full renewal instead of being sunsetted as it should be.
The NDAA (or rather, its renewal) robs us of our first amendment rights by criminalizing protesting near a federal building or anyone enjoying Secret Service protection (such as Obama, for instance). It took Edward Snowden, a renegade contractor, to clue us in as to how all-pervasive Obama's and Bush's domestic spying programs truly are. When he was on the campaign trail in 2008, Obama suspended his stumping long enough to fly back to DC to give the totally legal spying program of the telcoms retroactive immunity.
As far as Israel goes, not a single thing has changed since the founding of that terrorist state during the Truman years. Obama's shadow boxing with Netanyahu notwithstanding, we still blithely turn our backs on their countless war crimes and annexation of Palestine and continue giving them $3 billion a year while we invade, or let Israel attack, nations that do not threaten us.
Gitmo is still open and torturing innocents (If the Obama administration wanted to find the $10,000,000 necessary to close it, they could find it somewhere in our $1.7 trillion annual budget). Unions are marginalized, the same liberals who helped elect and reelect Obama now suffering from sticker shock are routinely bitchslapped by Obama, he'd frozen pay for federal workers for two years while doing absolutely nothing about corporate excesses except bark at them from time to time on his short leash, he seriously and repeatedly proposed cuts to Medicare and the taxpayer-funded Social Security on the easily disprovable rubric it contributed to the national deficit. The "government takeover of 1/6th of our economy", ObamaCare is nothing more than a gateway to the free market through which all of us are pushed as through a cattle chute.
Please remember that. FDR gave us Social Security. LBJ gave us Medicare. And Obama is slowly trying to take that away as per the dictates of the Republicans. How that qualifies as "too liberal" should be enough to make all but the most brainwashed right wing nut job scratch their head. And just for saying that in a nationally known newspaper, Wehner should seriously be considered for institutionalization at St. Elizabeth's.
In short, if future generations are more honest than ours, posterity should judge the Obama presidency as one of the worst and most ruinous in American history on any and every conceivable front (But, hey! Gay Marriage!)
Yeah, We've Moved a Bit to the Right. So?
And, sure, they went after and impeached Clinton over a blow job to get back at Democrats for going after Nixon during Watergate. But if Obama had been guilty of such a transgression, the GOP wouldn't have been happy with mere impeachment. The more radical elements of today's Republican party would've been at Home Depot shopping for a rope.
And that's another thing conveniently forgotten by Wehner while making the startlingly insightful observation that the Republican Party has moved more to the right is the rise of various extremist hate groups, selfish malcontents, KKK and white supremacy and separatist groups that finally got organized and mobilized on a lush carpet of astroturf under the corporately-funded and -driven banner of the Tea Party.To say that Republicans haven't moved that much to the right after the neocon abomination of the Bush administration is ridiculous enough. It's outright laughable to maintain that lie in the six years since the rise of the Tea Baggers.
Since 2009, when various and sundry malcontents and other ignoramuses embarrassed their ancestors by adopting tea bags and tricorner hats and conflating racism and selfishness as patriotic American virtues, they've helped elect some of the most ignorant, Bible-thumping, hypocritical and insane right wing lunatics in the history of Congress (which is saying a lot). From Michele Bachmann to Scott Desjarlais to Steve Stockman to Allen West, about the only thing the Teabaggers got right these last six years was in releasing a collective cold shudder of disgust at the thought of a Romney presidency.
The Republican Party has made it part of every campaign strategy to prevent people of color from voting under the ridiculous reason of "voter fraud". They have waged an open war on women, veterans, the poor, the middle class, college students, the elderly and everyone who isn't in the 1%. And (albeit largely through the miracle of gerrymandering), we rewarded these hateful, spiteful, racist psychopaths with not just the lower chamber of Congress but also the Senate. Like Bobby Jindal and his Common Core, they've time and again turned on their own initiatives and agendas when our ultra left wing president adopted them as his own.
The radical right wing we're now seeing in the GOP, the ones best exemplified by the odious likes of Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, are the same exact ones Barry Goldwater, the ultra arch conservative of his day, warned us about. “What in God’s name has happened to the Republican Party!” exclaimed Henry Cabot Lodge. “I hardly know any of these people!” If Lodge were alive today, he would scarcely appraise his political descendants as even human.
And just the very existence of such a whiney, ignorant article by Wehner in the Gray Lady's pages is proof of how much further to the right the GOP has effortlessly moved, much further than Wehner's willing to give them credit for. Thanks to a wet-legged, craven mainstream media that refuse to challenge right wing tropes, lies and fabrications, one that grasps for access to bullshit because it feels it's better than no access at all, the right wing has morphed from a mere check and balance to the Democratic Party into one that places party primacy above all else, no matter the cost.