THE YEAR OF THE LIBERAL: "A tone of ugliness creeping around the world!"


Interlude—David Brooks, in praise of Obama:
David Brooks writes a column today in praise of Barack Obama.

(Also in praise of Barack Obama's wife.)

Brooks isn't writing his column today in praise of Obama's policy views. "Obviously, I disagree with a lot of Obama's policy decisions," he says at the start of the piece.

Instead, Brooks is writing in praise of Obama's disposition and character, especially in view of what he sees among the candidates in the current White House campaign.

"Over the course of this campaign it feels as if there’s been a decline in behavioral standards across the board," Brooks writes. "Many of the traits of character and leadership that Obama possesses, and that maybe we have taken too much for granted, have suddenly gone missing or are in short supply."

Given the squalor of this campaign, it's hard to disagree with that general judgment.

For the record, Brooks is lamenting the "traits of character" of the current candidates. A similar lament could be raised about the members of the national press corps, who are covering this campaign in the most insipid manner possible.

(On this, the day New Hampshire votes, the New York Times still hasn't reported the basic effects of Candidate Trump's utterly crazy tax proposal, which would add roughly $1 trillion in deficit spending to the federal ledger each year. Meanwhile, have you seen a single attempt to report and analyze the differences between the financial reform proposals of Candidates Clinton and Sanders? Those dueling proposals form the basis for relentless, pointless partisan clattertrap over here in our own liberal tribe. But to a degree which strikes us as unprecedented, newspapers like the New York Times no longer even pretend to discuss such boring topics. Neither do TV entertainers like the horrible Rachel Maddow. It's polls and insults, and mugging and clowning, and narrative all the way down.)

Let's return to the traits of Barack Obama, whose character Brooks comes to praise.

Which "traits of character and leadership" does Brooks praise in Obama? On the down side, what sorts of "behavioral standards" does he find to be in short supply among our current hopefuls?

For starters, Brooks praises the "basic integrity" of the president. "The Obama administration has been remarkably scandal-free," he writes. "He and his wife have not only displayed superior integrity themselves, they have mostly attracted and hired people with high personal standards."

As he continues, Brooks praises the sitting president for his "basic humanity," contrasting him with Candidates Cruz and Trump. Then, he praises "a soundness in [Obama's] decision-making process," contrasting this practice—trigger alert!—with the alleged approach of Candidate Sanders.

The fourth trait Brooks stands to praise is Obama's "grace under pressure." For his fifth and final trait, Brooks praises Obama's "resilient sense of optimism."

How does the president's resilient optimism serve us the alleged so-called people? "People are motivated to make wise choices more by hope and opportunity than by fear, cynicism, hatred and despair," Brooks writes, perhaps correctly. "Unlike many current candidates, Obama has not appealed to those passions."

In the course of praising Obama, Brooks criticizes a wide range of current candidates—Sanders and Clinton on the one side, Trump, Cruz, Carson, Christie and Rubio on the other. Trump, Cruz, Sanders and Clinton each get name-checked twice.

As we'll see in a passage below, Brooks doesn't say that Obama has been "temperamentally perfect." If you want to see someone rattle off Obama's voluminous character flaws, we recommend yesterday's colloquy at the new Salon. It features Professor Dyson.

David Brooks doesn't say that Obama has been "temperamentally perfect." As he closes his column, he rattles a handful of alleged flaws—and he makes an important claim about the drift of the world:
BROOKS: No, Obama has not been temperamentally perfect. Too often he’s been disdainful, aloof, resentful and insular. But there is a tone of ugliness creeping across the world, as democracies retreat, as tribalism mounts, as suspiciousness and authoritarianism take center stage.

Obama radiates an ethos of integrity, humanity, good manners and elegance that I’m beginning to miss, and that I suspect we will all miss a bit, regardless of who replaces him.
According to Brooks, "there is a tone of ugliness creeping across the world." In Brooks' view, this tone of ugliness has been on the rise "as democracies retreat, as tribalism mounts."

Today, let's forget the rest of the world! In our view, this tone of ugliness is hard to miss in our current presidential campaign, which is being conducted as the "tribalism mounts" within our own failing political culture.

Next week, our new pavilion opens at this incomparable site. Within that gleaming new pavilion, we'll be discussing a whole new set of topics and concerns.

That means that we have only three more days to explain what experts and scholars mean as they increasingly refer to last year, in an unpleasant way, as "The Year of the Liberal." In the course of those three days, we'll be asking a basic question:

Is it possible that the creeping ugliness is partially coming from Us?

This afternoon: Important perspectives on Flint, featuring real information!


  1. The character of Obama represented by him disqualifying petition signatures of blacks in Chicago (who printed their names because they could not sign them in longhand), eliminating two potential challengers so that he would be the only selection on the ballot?

    That character?

  2. I don't see creeping ugliness. I see business as usual.

    I also remember the ugliness of the primaries between Obama and Clinton. I didn't see these sterling personality traits then, as Obama gave Hillary the finger while calling her likable enough and referring to getting emotional at that time of month. No classier than Trump then. How quickly these guys forget!

    Pretending that nativism is new to American politics ignores history. Pretending that vitriol is new to politics ignores history too. Brooks has written a particularly silly editorial, in my opinion.

  3. Wikipedia lists the following:

    Katherine Archuleta, who was the director of the Office of Personnel Management, was forced to resign on July 10, 2015 after the data theft of information on 22 million people who had applied for security clearances.[1]

    Veterans Health Administration scandal of 2014 - It was discovered that officials in the Phoenix VA hospital lied about how long the wait times were for veterans to see a doctor.[2] An investigation of delays is being conducted by the Veterans Affairs Office of the Inspector General.[3][4] The Secretary of Veterans Affairs, General Eric Shinseki, voluntarily resigned.[5]

    2013 IRS scandal - IRS admitted to inappropriate investigation of conservative political groups associated with the Tea Party.[6] Later, it was found that the IRS investigated liberal and progressive groups as well.[7][8][9][10][11] The president demanded and accepted the resignation of Steven T. Miller Acting Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service. Other actions arising from the scandal included:
    1.Lois Lerner, head of the IRS Office of Exempt Organizations, stated she had not done anything wrong and then took the Fifth before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.[12] She retired in 2013 after an internal investigation found that she neglected her duties and was going to call for her ouster.[13]
    2.Joseph H. Grant, commissioner of the IRS Tax-exempt and Government entities division, resigned on May 16, 2013.[14]

    ATF gunwalking scandal – Attorney General Eric Holder was held in Contempt of Congress after refusing to release all documents which the House of Representatives had demanded concerning the Fast and Furious gun walking operation. (2012)[15]
    Terence Flynn, an appointee of Barack Obama to the National Labor Relations Board, resigned in May 2012 after being accused of serious ethical violations by leaking information to the National Association of Manufacturers.[16]

    Martha N. Johnson, head of the General Services Administration, fired two top GSA officials and then resigned herself after it was revealed that $822,000 had been spent in Las Vegas on a four-day training conference for 300 GSA employees. (2010)[17][18][19][20]


    They don't list the Secret Service misbehavior. I'm not sure why.

    I'm also not sure why the vast conservative conspiracy didn't target Obama the way it did the Clintons. Maybe they were too focused on trying to torpedo Hillary's presidential prospects with Benghazi and the email shenanigans. You could call this an Obama scandal since Clinton worked for Obama, but somehow no one is doing that either. Hillary seems to own it, while Obama is untouchable. And there is no mention of Obama's unfortunate tendency to get involved in pending legal matters by taking sides (Gates, Martin) in racially charged situations. I think it is a scandal that he was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize then did nothing to earn it (didn't close Guantanamo, didn't end the war in Iraq/Afghanistan). What was that for exactly?

    1. Dave the Guitar PlayerFebruary 9, 2016 at 1:06 PM

      I don't see how any of these problems you list could be called Obama "scandals". There was nothing in Obama's policies or direct participation that caused the rogue behavior or mistakes you describe. For contrast, President George W Bush was an active participant in the illegal snooping on American citizens after 911 and he never spent a day in jail. *That* is a scandal.

    2. 11:46, none of these are MAJOR scandals, because the Justice Dept. and the tame mainstream media soft-pedaled them. So, they're forgotten. Back in the 1960's, when I was in college in Chicago, Mayor Daley had no major scandals for the same reasons -- incumbent protection and subservient media. Barack Obama made Chicago politics national.

    3. Dave the Guitar PlayerFebruary 9, 2016 at 1:56 PM

      DIC - So a scandal is major if and only if the media think it is a scandal? I am afraid not. Secret spying on citizens is a scandal. Having to fire GSA officials for stupidity is not.

    4. David, what offenses by Daley were covered up in the 1960s?

    5. Caesar -- I can only tell about two local ones, one of which is hearsay. A druggist near the U of Chicago SS was reputed to be close to the police. He sometimes didn't bother to collect sales tax. This I experienced. The other event, by word of mouth, concerned two young men whose expensive motorcycles had been stolen. They gave SS $200 and somehow the motorcycles were returned to them.

    6. @ 2:47 PM - a dumbass's idea of a fact.

    7. David, do I understand this? A druggist named SS sometimes failed to collect the state sales tax, so that shows the media were subservient to the MAYOR.

      You heard that SS may have been able to recover stolen motorcycles for $200. Again the media were subservient to the MAYOR.

      David, buddy, if I understand your examples, they just don't prove your point.

    8. A small point. Failure to collect sales tax isn't the same as failure to pay it to the agency collecting the sales tax. It means the seller is absorbing the tax and will be paying it himself instead of charging the buyer. It is a way of reducing the price of something.

    9. "Barack Obama made Chicago politics national."

      Other than baseless GOP-manufactured bullshit, there's absolutely nothing. That's why there's no scandals for the press to soft peddle.

      I don't mean to offend your buddy, iCA, but you're a delusional liar and a total waste of space.

    10. Soaps, I ain't offended. I visualize a better David, but the rest is up to him.

  4. From Bill Clinton:

    "Here's a story you may not know: When I was governor of Arkansas, our state had six of the poorest counties in America. And Hillary told me how worried she was: "We've got all these kids starting school and their parents can't read -- they'll never catch up. But I read about this program in Israel for new immigrants who teach the parents to become their children's first teachers. I think it would work here."

    "Great," I told her. "What are we going to do?"

    "Oh, I called the woman who started it. She'll be here in ten days, and we're going to start the program."

    Next thing I know, I'm going to graduations for preschoolers all across the state -- and then it's in 26 states, and it's still thriving.

    I didn't do that. She did that. She hadn't been elected to anything -- she just made something good happen. There are thousands of people in this country today who have better lives, learned more and grew up ready to succeed, just because she's always cared enough to help the people around her."

    End quote

    This is only one of many reasons why I am voting for Hillary Clinton.

    1. Thank you for that.

      I really wish the millennials who are rejecting her would take the time to learn her biography.

    2. mm demonstrates some Clintonistas never learn.

      "the millenials who are rejecting her"

      Maybe some people are embracing her opponents.

    3. Clinton is no more or less corrupt than anyone else running and probably has her good points. The problem is she has adopted and pandered to a progressive left that has become increasingly unhinged during the Obama years, that has wrecked and reversed progress on race relations, elevated abortion to an entitlement representing the ultimate act of female empowerment, embraced social justice warrior lies about police brutality to the detriment of both police officers and blacks who are murdered in record numbers now because aggressive protection is not an option for the wise law enforcement officer now, promoted campus witch hunts that have muzzled academia. Safe spaces, trigger warnings, violent criminals cast as victims if their target's skin was too light, defining the killing of members of one group of humans as entirely ethical in all cases because of the age and location of that class of humans, declaring the objective of college campuses as creating a place of comfort and home and not a place for intellectual thought, defense of negligently importing a culture that condones rape and murder while attacking one that promotes peace and love. Republicans are better liberals.

    4. From Bill Clinton:

      "Here's a story you may not know:

      I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinski."

    5. @ 3:15 PM - butthurt for nearly 20 years.

    6. "elevated abortion to an entitlement representing the ultimate act of female empowerment"

      Women have abortions because they cannot afford another child, cannot take care of it, or it would endanger their own health to have the child. They do not regard it as "an entitlement" and it certainlty doesn't represent empowerment.

      For one thing, getting pregnant is something your body does without your permission. Power is the antithesis of what mother nature inflicts on all of us. Do you think anyone gets old willingly? It is the same way with other health issues, including pregnancy. No one begrudges a person other kinds of health treatments. With this particular one, women are deemed to be the servants of the fetus and they must sacrifice all autonomy over not just their bodies but their lives, to bear it. An abortion restores a woman to the status quo when her body unilaterially undermines her ability to live normally.

      Conservatives like to regard pregnancy as a sin tax. That would have a tiny shred of logic if women had sex only by choice. In our world, that is no more true than pregnancy by choice. There is incest, date rape, forcible rape, condom failure, and male refusal to use contraception while insisting upon sex (both husbands and boyfriends do this).

      I hate it when men talk about abortion because they don't have a clue what they are talking about. They are the ones who wish to be empowered, by exerting their will over women who wish to make a different choice. And they have the nerve to describe abortion as "female empowerment"!! This is why we need more women in office, starting at the top.

  5. "That means that we have only three more days to explain what experts and scholars mean as they increasingly refer to last year, in an unpleasant way, as "The Year of the Liberal."

    Poor Bob. When he stops discussing his invention
    nobody will explain anything his imaginary experts and scholars say. I wonder if the analysts will be moving to the new Pavilion. Will he still abuse them and make them cry?

    1. That would be the Do-As-I-Say-Not-As-I-Do, or DAISNAID Pavilion.

  6. "....the New York Times still hasn't reported the basic effects of Candidate Trump's utterly crazy tax proposal,...have you seen a single attempt to report and analyze the differences between the financial reform proposals of Candidates Clinton and Sanders? Those dueling proposals form the basis for relentless, pointless partisan clattertrap over here in our own liberal tribe."

    I join Bob. More coverage of craziness, please. More analysis of pointless partisan clattertrap!

  7. Re Bob's paragraph in parentheses: The Times does today have a piece analyzing Sanders's tax plan. It's on page 3 of my print copy. It seems like a nitpicking analysis, and designed to cast doubt on Sanders, but still, there it is.

    1. I beleibve it was written by the same journalist for the Times who wrote:

      A Trillion Here or There: The Details Aren’t What Matter in Trump’s Tax Plan

      Of course I must be wqrong because just above this commment, in a post by Bob Somerby we are told the Times has never discussed this crazy plan.

      "On this, the day New Hampshire votes, the New York Times still hasn't reported the basic effects of Candidate Trump's utterly crazy tax proposal, which would add roughly $1 trillion in deficit spending to the federal ledger each year."

      So check this out and reassure me Somerby isn't blowing smaoke up my ascot and that my eyes deceive me.

  8. HuffPo contuines to assault Hillary.

    1. Today HuffPost has several stories about how minority voters shouldn't be supporting Hillary, aren't supporting her and how she doesn't represent their interests. Once again attacking her strengths as if they were liabilities -- taking a page from the conservative playbook. The Sanders left should be so proud of itself!

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