THEY KNOW WHAT YOU WANT: Barack Obama’s greatest week!

MONDAY, JULY 6, 2015

Part 1—As passed by Republican votes:
Last Wednesday, Digby joined the liberal crowd, singing the week’s liberal song.

Her piece at Salon started like this. To us, this seemed a bit odd:
DIGBY (7/1/15): Last week was a productive one for President Obama. His approval ratings are up, he passed a major piece of legislation, he gave a historic eulogy at Charleston’s Emanuel AME church, and the Supreme Court handed down two rulings that will leave lasting positive marks on his legacy.
“Last week was a productive one for President Obama,” Digby said.

“He passed a major piece of legislation,” she said. To us, that sounded odd.

Why did that sound odd? Because the major legislation in question received support from very few Democrats in either the House or the Senate.

The legislation had been aggressively opposed by many liberals and progressives. In the actual congressional voting, the bill was opposed by 158 of 186 Democrats in the House and by 31 of 44 Democrats in the Senate.

Rightly or wrongly, Obama had passed the legislation with mainly Republican support. This wasn’t just Obama’s bill. For better or worse, it was also John Boehner’s.

Credit where due! As she continued, Digby acknowledged this state of affairs.

In our view, she performed a bit of a two-step in the process. The legislation which made Obama’s week “productive” was in fact “depressing” for her:
DIGBY (continuing directly): And it seems that liberals in general are feeling pretty good about things too. While the horrifying events of Charleston threw everyone for a loop, the long overdue realization that it was time to put the Confederate Flag into the history books was a welcome reaction. And while the passage of the fast-track legislation over the objections of the progressive base was depressing, the left put up a good fight that showed a path to winning future battles. Two big, highly anticipated Supreme Court decisions were met a huge sigh of relief, in the Obamacare case, and buoyant euphoria, in recognition of the right for gays and lesbians to marry. Sometimes it’s good to be a liberal.
As it turns out, “the passage of the fast-track legislation...was depressing,” Digby said. She said liberals were feeling good because of those other events.

It seemed to us that Digby was cheerleading just a bit. On a week when the president passed legislation she found depressing, she found a way to play along with the liberal meme of the week, in which this had been Obama’s greatest week.

She toned that language down a bit, changing the president’s week to “productive.” In the process, she gave him credit for two judicial decisions he hadn’t authored—and she smoothed her way past legislation he aggressively pursued, legislation which made her own head hurt.

To us, that was a bit of a two-step. In fairness, that put Digby miles ahead of the liberal cable hordes, who plowed ahead as if Obama’s success with that fast-track bill had been a triumph for socialist labor.

On the One True Liberal Channel, Obama’s week was being hailed—and that “depressing” piece of legislation was widely treated as one of the triumphs. On Tuesday night, Al Sharpton had started his program like this:
SHARPTON (6/30/15): Thanks to you for tuning in. We start with President Obama—loose, energized and with momentum coming off what many are calling the best week of his presidency. Today a reporter asked him about it.

OBAMA (videotape): In terms of my best week—now my best week, I will tell you, was marrying Michelle. That was a really good week. Malia and Sasha being born, excellent weeks. There was a game where I scored 27 points. It was a good week.

SHARPTON: It was a light-hearted moment, but the momentum is real. The president signed a major trade deal. His Charleston speech was stirring, maybe even healing. Two Supreme Court rulings cemented his legacy on Obamacare and gay rights. We saw the White House lit up in rainbow colors after the ruling in favor of same-sex marriage.
In Sharpton’s recitation, that “major trade deal” was treated as a triumph—as part of that “best week.”

(He also credited Obama for the Court’s decision on same-sex marriage. He said it cemented Obama’s legacy on the subject, even though Obama opposed same-sex marriage until 2012.)

To us, that sounded a bit like cheerleading. But so what? One hour later, a loud cable talker was pushing the same line:
MATTHEWS (6/30/15): Well, after last week’s powerful sequence of triumphs for President Obama on trade, health care and same-sex marriage, his former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, is looking to capitalize on his momentum and that’s making some on the right nervous. President Obama reflected on his successful run last week earlier today. Here he is.

OBAMA (videotape): So in many ways, last week was simply a culmination of a lot of work that we have been doing since I came into office. How am I going to spend whatever political capital that I have built up? You know, the list is long. And my instructions to my team and my instructions to myself have always been that we are going to squeeze every last ounce of progress that we can make when I have the privilege—as long as I have the privilege of holding this office.

MATTHEWS: Isn’t that great, that the president of the United States, even he has to make lists of things he tells himself to do every day, like everybody else is trying to do?
Like Sharpton, Matthews treated the trade deal as one of the president’s “powerful sequence of triumphs.” The “depressing” nature of the triumph escaped his notice too.

The next night, on The Last Word, David Axelrod continued the theme:
O’DONNELL (7/2/15): Where do you place last week, David, in the Obama presidency?

AXELROD: Well, you know, obviously, it was a strong week, you know, for a variety of reasons. He had worked hard on this trade bill that was thought to be dead, it came back. You know, but the other—

He said today, and I think he was right, that really what it was, was a culmination of a number of things. The affirmation of the healthcare act was a culmination of, you know, a six-year effort on his part and it was—and so it was very satisfying...
“Yes, it was a really good week,” Axelrod said. To him, the trade bill was part of the package. Lawrence didn’t complain.

Without any question, Obama had some major victories during the week in question.

The Supreme Court refused to overturn the Affordable Care Act; this preserved the major legislative act of the president’s tenure. And he did prevail on that fast-track legislation—the legislation which Digby said left progressives depressed.

Can we talk? If you were watching MSNBC last week, you didn’t hear much extended discussion of that “fast-track” trade legislation.

You saw Matthews and Sharpton add it to the president’s triumphs without further comment. Other hosts ignored the matter altogether.

You heard little discussion of what the legislation accomplished. You heard very little discussion of the fact that the bill had been passed despite overwhelming Democratic Party opposition.

In many ways, this was fitting. If you watch MSNBC, you probably have little idea about this legislation.

Unless you watch Big Ed Schultz, you haven’t seen it discussed a whole lot. You haven’t seen its merits and its demerits discussed or debated.

Last week, you saw the legislation hailed as one of Obama’s triumphs, but you saw little discussion of its substance. You saw your favorite hosts rush past the fact that the bill was passed with Republican votes, in the face of overwhelming Democratic opposition.

All week long, we’ll be asking a question. Why have you heard so little discussion about this legislation? It can almost seem like the cable gods are keeping us barefoot and clueless!

How much do you think you know about this trade legislation? Why have you heard so little about it on The One True Channel?

Why have your favorite hosts ignored this major legislation? Is it too complicated to discuss? Could there be some other reason? Does the general avoidance of this topic fit some larger pattern?

We don’t know how to answer those questions. But we were struck by the discussions last week, in which this bill was treated as a triumph, with very few questions asked.

It almost seems like the cable gods may have stolen a line from the early Bob Dylan:

Progressives like Digby may (or may not) know what we the people need. But it almost seems like the cable gods think they know what we want.

For some reason, we don’t need to hear about that silly trade bill! To us, that avoidance seems to fit a pattern—a pattern which isn’t attractive.

Tomorrow: Rachel Maddow, early in May, describing a very bad bill

74 comments:

  1. Very bad post.

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  2. Oh, mama, can this really be the end?

    Somerbob has smoked my eyelids
    and poached a childhood lyric again.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Heaven forbid he use any rhetorical devices to add readability to his posts.

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    2. Well, time for my old bootheels to be a wandering after that excellent response. In the jingle jangle morning you come following me.

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    3. You think something's happening here but you don't know what it is, do you Mr. Jones?

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    4. Phogg E. RunesofthymeJuly 6, 2015 at 1:33 PM

      I think Bob Dylan was a youngish scribe who appealed to many a privileged set of white males with a high-fi and nothing better to do in their dorm than memorize lyrics they can still recall in their dotage. Your results may repeat themselves.

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    5. Bob preaches civility among tribes and rational bases for reportage, not acquiescence to opposing policies.

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    6. In his current incarnation Somerby would have booed Dylan at Newport in 65. In '83 he would still be blogging about what a sell out he was.

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    7. Everyone booed Dylan in the 60's. You'd know that if you were there.

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  3. Bob seems miffed that Obama wasn't tribal, and rather than hate the other side, the president struck a deal with them.

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    1. I think he is miffed because Obama colluded with Republicans to enact a bill Democrats oppose. It isn't compromise Somerby (and liberals) dislike, it is the content of this particular bill.

      However, now that you bring it up, many of us think Obama compromises more than necessary. Some have even said he gives away the store before even beginning negotiations. I think that is one way of explaining Obama's inherent conservatism -- just too much willingness to compromise, not a lack of any real commitment to progressive change.

      Now, progressives have shifted their fantasies onto Bernie Sanders, projecting onto him all their hopes and dreams, just as they did with Obama in 2008. I've been reading the comments about Sanders on various webpages and they are remarkably similar to the enthusiasm, the things said about Obama during his primaries. So evidently, at least some progressives don't learn from their previous mistakes.

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    2. Somerby does not discuss issues or politicians, only the discourse surrounding them. He means liberal leaders in the press failed lazy liberal rubes in their audience by not letting them know the other side won.

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    3. What do trolls have against adjectives?

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    4. High in poli-sci fatuousness and low agitational value.

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    5. They are an adverberial lot?

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    6. 12:34 PM says,

      [QUOTE] Now, progressives have shifted their fantasies onto Bernie Sanders, projecting onto him all their hopes and dreams, just as they did with Obama in 2008. I've been reading the comments about Sanders on various webpages and they are remarkably similar to the enthusiasm, the things said about Obama during his primaries. So evidently, at least some progressives don't learn from their previous mistakes. [END QUOTE]

      The slight difference being that Sanders has a forty plus year history of positioning himself on the left in matters of domestic policy, he's done so when it seemed disadvantageous to his own career, and he's followed through on his positions with his voting record. All this is entirely different from Obama's, "For this phase of this campaign cycle, only" posturing in 2008.

      Fast Track is going to prove catastrophic to what's left of American democracy. Sanders opposed it throughout its legislative path, Clinton avoided the subject as it hung in the balance for months until dissembling at the last moment once the final behind-the-scenes legislative maneuvers were in place to make sure it passed.

      [QUOTE] Mrs. Clinton, who has not taken a yes-or-no position on the trade deal, which is strongly opposed by labor groups, is in a bind over an agreement she once praised as a potential “gold standard” for trade deals when she was secretary of state.

      “I said positive things about the process and the potential,” said Mrs. Clinton, who occasionally called Mr. Ralston “Joe” during the interview.

      “Some people don’t like any trade agreement, and some people are willing to take any trade agreement,” she said. Asked whether she would vote in favor of fast-track authority if she were still in the Senate, Mrs. Clinton replied, “Probably not, because that’s a process vote, and I don’t want to say that’s the same as T.P.P.”
      [END QUOTE]

      Fast Track was the decisive vote in the entire process and it's going to deliver on a lot worse in the way of trade deals than just the TPP. But Hillary will forever going forward be able to point to her "probably not" as proof she's been on the side of American democracy and labor since forever.

      But yeah, Sanders sounds just like Obama did in 2008 so Vote Hillary! Like Bob always says, "Democrat please, There Is No Alternative."*

      *[LINK]

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    7. CMike: "Fast Track was the decisive vote in the entire process and it's going to deliver on a lot worse in the way of trade deals than just the TPP. But Hillary will forever ...blah blah blah blah .......)

      It is so sad to watch a good mind such as yours suffer from Clinton Derangement. This TPP was pushed by Obama, and passed with majority Republican votes. So naturally, Hillary Clinton is to blame.

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    8. Obama is not running for President in 2016. Hillary Clinton is. So is Bernie Sanders.

      Comparing the two is equated with Clinton Derangement Syndrome by mm, staunch friend of Bob,
      stalwart defender of Lady Clinton Foundation.

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    9. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    10. Bernie blew a lot of hot air, to no avail (par for the course). Hillary had no vote on this runaway train.

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    11. mm,

      Fast Track was, and TPP is a crucial issue. Some of us are expecting presidential aspirants to show some leadership on pending crucial issues. You don't expect that, at least not from H. Clinton. In fact you expect nothing in particular from your candidate; you have a long list of excuses for why Clinton can't be expected to declare against the TPP and instead hide behind the fiction that, on net, it might be good for America and, in any event, we don't know what its final version will be [LINK]. You wouldn't expect H. Clinton to come out in favor of a $15/hr. minimum wage or take the lead on any of a host of other issues.

      Instead, you look at the coming campaign as sort of the pomp and circumstance preceding the coronation of the throne's rightful heir, confident that, thereafter, she will take into consideration some of the concerns of the 99%, at least, when she is not bound by a Washington Consensus. We have different views of the democratic process, I guess.

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    12. CMike, I'm starting to resent you telling me what I think and what I expect. What I said was there was no way Hillary Clinton was going to be able to stop this runaway freight train and she had no vote. I was not impressed by Bernie's theatrical hot air balloon cabaret show. I trust Hillary - a lot more than I ever trusted BO.

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    13. mm,

      Funny, I don't resent you telling me I'm deranged, though it is sort of -what were the words you used?- "sad to watch."

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    14. The wishful thinking this time around is that (1) Sanders could ever get elected, (2) he would be able to get anything done in a Republican dominated House or Senate, (3) he would be anything more than another person saying the right things but without the power to accomplish them.

      Hope needs to be grounded in reality. Democrats claim to be the ones who pay attention to facts, the reality-based community, but they let go of their grasp on those facts the minute anyone offers pretty promises. How much has Sanders gotten done in his 40 years?

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    15. I don't know how much Sanders has gotten done in 40 years. I do know he wasn't on the team that got rid of welfare as we knew it in order to maintain the team members' "political viability within the [rigged] system."

      As to Sanders not being anything more than another person saying the right things," don't you get it? That is the exact and only place for a Democratic leader from the Democratic wing of the party to start.

      As for your "Vote for the Insider. Vote Hillary!" argument- go ahead 7:24 PM, stick with that message.

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    16. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    17. No more amateurs and dilletantes and incompetents in the presidency. It matters who gets elected.

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    18. Agreed [LINK]:

      [QUOTE] Over the years, Sanders has tucked away funding for health centers in appropriation bills signed by George W. Bush, into Barack Obama’s stimulus program, and through the earmarking process. But his biggest achievement came in 2010 through the Affordable Care Act. In a series of high-stakes legislative maneuvers, Sanders struck a deal to include $11 billion for health clinics in the law.

      The result has made an indelible mark on American health care, extending the number of people served by clinics from 18 million before the ACA to an expected 28 million next year....

      To Sanders, the clinics have served as an alternative to his preferred single-payer system. Community health centers accept anyone regardless of health, insurance status or ability to pay. They are founded and managed by a board composed of patients and local residents, so each center is customized to fit the needs of a community. No two health centers are alike.
      [END QUOTE]

      Also, no more neo-liberal sell-outs in the presidency, can you agree with that 8:55 PM?

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    19. While expanding funding for clinics is admirable, it is small potatoes and road in on Obama's coattails. I don't consider HRC a neocon or a sellout, although her opponents are working hard to pin both labels on her. I am tired of underqualified men being supported instead of amply qualified women. Sanders has his heart in the right place but very little to qualify him beyond that. I don't know why he is running.

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    20. 10:46 PM says:

      I am tired of underqualified men being supported instead of amply qualified women.

      What a surprise. You know, it was just eight years ago we were hearing from voters every bit as objective as you are explaining that they were tired of privileged, inside tracked white people being supported by racist voters instead of an against-all-odds-success-at-everything-he-ever-tried black man. Meet the new cultists, same as the old cultists.

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    21. You are speaking to a Puma. I predicted Obama would be what he turned out to be, getting myself banned from a bunch of liberal blogs including Digby & Kevin Drum & Steve Benen and DKos. Now I am telling you Sanders is not the answer either. I'm not the one with buyer's remorse. I'm the one saying I told you so. This time we need a competent president not a charismatic symbol of hope and change.

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    22. You are speaking to a Puma.

      Hey kids got that, mm's a Puma from the olden days. Seein's how you all were twelve and under during the 2008 campaign you probably didn't know that, nor what a big deal that is to her sense of self.

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    23. CMike, what you've written above is slightly incoherent, but once again you've landed on your face making unwarranted assumptions.

      It was the progressives who attacked Hillary Clinton in 2008 such as DKos who unhappily were under 12 during President Clinton's two terms in office and were unable to recognize a successful COMPETENT two-term Democratic president versus a drama queen hopey-changey candidate.

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    24. I wrote the comment @12:52 and I am not mm.

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    25. 9:32 AM,

      My mistake then.

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    26. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  4. John Roberts is an evil genius. He convinced liberal America that the Supreme Court is “just right”

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  5. By the way, why all the rhetorical and vaguely conspiratorial questions, and a week of dragging it out?

    Let me ruin the suspense: TPP is favored by major corporate interests --- the same corporate interests that write Rachel's, Chris', Lawrence's and even Big Ed and Al's paychecks. Better to focus on feel-good identity politics, favorable Supreme Court decisions over which the President has no control, and "empty" gestures like singing Amazing Grace than to directly challenge to corporate paymasters.

    There --- did I leave anything out?

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    Replies
    1. Those "feel good" identity issues have real consequences for LGBT people in terms of what they can do in their lives. They are only "identity" issues for those who are straight, and thus already have the rights granted by the supreme court last week. Similarly, the president's words probably meant a lot to the family and friends of those murdered in Charleston. They are only empty gestures for those unaffected by that event.

      So, yes, you did leave something out.

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    2. I was encapsulating where I think Bob is heading with his rhetorical questions, hints and vague suggestions and intimations, that's all. Cutting to the chase and saving us some time. I also don't know why Bob can't just come out and say things sometimes.

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    3. Otter Seamus NessJuly 6, 2015 at 2:38 PM

      It is his Rachel-like need to fill space. She picked it up from phone-in columns by Gail Collins.

      Let Bob get in touch with his feminine side, please.

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    4. What's of interest, as always, is not what Somerby's politics are -- far less interesting still, what Geoff imagines them to be -- but rather what is shown about the way politics are treated in our press.

      Confess: It's true: Somerby is right about MSNBC.

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  6. This young man puts 90% of our "press corps" to shame:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UNLGyO7um14

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    Replies
    1. And 90 % of the commentators on this blog, including the host.

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    2. 90% of the press corps is corralled behind HRC's moving rope line.

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    3. And cicero is glued to the mrc Paypal site.

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  7. The larger issue that has been ignored since the election of Obama is that Obama is somewhat conservative. He has not supported progressive interests in several major respects, including this one. Liberals seem to think that because he is African American and exemplifies progressive social justice goals, he must embody the rest of the progressive agenda -- when he does not and never has. The blind eye turned on his conservative initiatives (including defense, net neutrality, school "reform", and support for Wall Street) is because having elected the first black president, he must be seen as successful, even when he is doing things progressives mostly do not support.

    Somerby's point, again, is that narratives prevail, even when they do not conform to reality. The point isn't the content of this particular narrative but the fact that a narrative is being pushed -- for some purpose. On trade, the narrative seems to fit plutocrat interests and they do own these cable stations and media outlets (and Digby, now that she is being paid by Salon). On Obama's good week, the narrative fits progressive interests only to the extent that it makes Obama seem like the bestest president ever.

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    1. You appear to be spot on.

      It would be a big mistake to place too much hope in the idea that this dynamic will result in liberal outcomes. Once in a while, for any number of unpredictable reasons, it will go their way. But the rest of the time the conservatives are going to be winning just as they have been.

      Don't you think that is kind of what Somerby is saying?

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    2. Yes, but mostly I think he is calling our attention to the narrative of the week, because identifying such narratives is part of critical thinking with respect to the media. He is saying that the facts about Obama's actual success don't fit the narrative that Obama is having a good week, but that doesn't stop our liberal media from repeating the narrative.

      I wish I knew where the narratives came from. During campaigns there were talking points disseminated by the campaigns. Where does the media get its talking points from absent a campaign? How did Digby know to promote this idea of Obama's good week when she doesn't work for MSNBC, for example?

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    3. Thanks for agreeing with Digby.

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    4. He is a complete failure to those of us who espouse more conservative social policy and more liberal economic policy.

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    5. 2:03 do you mean Bob, Digby, or Obambi?

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  8. The fault lies with this blog and blogs like it and is exemplified by comments such as these.

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    1. Troll infestations are a sign of global climate what have you.

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    2. Actually, they are a sign of lack of moderation.

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    3. Moderation in the defense of virtue leads to liberties being taken.

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    4. Liberties need to be used wisely or they do disappear. Trolls abusing their liberty lead to calls for moderation, for example.

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    5. I would prefer a little moderation to these disgusting pictures of red meat and all that sugar!

      Update: At least I got a green salad this time.

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  9. The answer here is simple. To SJWs and their sycophants, tribalism as seen through the lens of identity politics trumps virtually all else.

    A black president gets a corporate-sponsored treaty that will certainly mean the loss of rights and jobs by American workers passed in secret so not even most legislators know what's in it? Great! Our black president passed it! American workers mostly white and are probably a bunch of racists anyhow. Who cares about the practical effects on people who just might vote Republican? It's the symbolism that's important! OMG! OMG! We are so enlightened! We shall be remembered as heroes! And we deserve to be elites because hardly anyone watches our network!

    I hate our species.

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    1. Our species has always been at its worst when the emotional meanderings of college SJW freshwomen determine feels-based policy and the accountable and responsible in society are silenced.

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    2. HB, my brother. How many times do we have to say it? Get over it!

      She never really cared for you and no, it really wasn't any good for her. Never. She was only in it for the money which should tell you how low she set her sights. Get over it and get back on the horse. Not all of them think size matters.

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    3. Oh 2:25, you wag!!

      Heh, yeah -- other commenters have sexual problems!

      So irreverent!!!

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  10. Cults of personality are nothing new but they never bode well.

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    1. The Inquisition being a prime example. Or the riots after the MLK assassination and O.J. verdict.

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    2. @ 2:41

      There were no riots in Los Angeles after the MLK assassination or after the verdict in the State of California v. Orenthal James Simpson.

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  11. It's hard to begrudge Digby a little happiness on an up week for Obama, but generally The Daily Howler is correct.

    Americans, and most of the liberals I know, see life as a high school football game. Winners and losers, that's about it.

    I think there is probably an element of hypocrisy in some progressives who beat up Clinton for Kosovo and NAFTA, and look the other way on Afghanistan and this new trade agreement. There are good and bad reasons for this.

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  12. Clinton and Gore not only passed NAFTA, but championed it. This is the pair the blogger refers to as representing progressive interests.

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    1. The NAFTA debate with H. Ross Perot was when Al Gore put the image of a prissy lactating wuss behind once and for all.

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  13. "the pair the blogger refers to as representing progressive interests"

    Where was that, then?

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  14. Doesn't the author realise people are sheep, not very smart?

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    Replies
    1. If you're referring to the blogger, of course he does. As a failed stand-up comedian, he learned that the public sucks.

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