BLUES: Was there something we were withholding?


Last night, blue tribunes confessed: Can denizens of our own blue tribe come to see ourselves more clearly?

At this site, it has long seemed to us that we badly need to do that. Might we come to see ourselves more clearly through the auspices of classic literature? 

In recent weeks, we've been working with an ancient poem of war as we seek a way to gain such insight. That said, before we turned to the verses of The Iliad, we had cited a poem of war composed by Robert Frost.

Frost recited that poem from memory at President Kennedy's inauguration. (Blinded by sunlight from an overnight blanket of snow, he'd been unable to read a new poem he'd composed for the occasion.)

Blinded by light from the blanket of snow, Frost had to work from memory. He recited a poem of the American revolutionary war, such as that revolution was. 

Frost's poem was called The Gift Outright. The passage we've cited says this:

Something we were withholding made us weak
Until we found out that it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.

In Frost's poem, we colonials finally came to acknowledge the fact that we had somehow come to be Americans. This acknowledgment led to many years of war, the poem says as it continues:

Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
(The deed of gift was many deeds of war)
To the land vaguely realizing westward,
But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,
Such as she was, such as she would become.

We were in eighth grade when Frost recited that poem. We don't remember what we thought about it at the time.

At that time, we had a very limited understanding of the various prices which were paid as the land "vaguely [expanded] westward." That said, we memorized the poem for our 8th grade English class.

We were way out in California then, but the New England based poem always stuck in our head.

That said, how about it? Have we denizens of our own blue tribe been withholding something in recent years—something which has made us weak? 

Have we been withholding ourselves? Has that been making us weak?

Last night, in the wake of yesterday's Supreme Court decision, major figures from within our own tribe finally acknowledged that act of withholding—even copped to what's been withheld. 

We'll start at the end of last night's All In as Chris Hayes spoke with David Plouffe, President Obama's campaign manager. To watch their full exchange, you can start by clicking here.

In a decision which rocked the world of blue tribe cable, the Supreme Court had suddenly built another delay into the "insurrection" trial of Candidate Donald J. Trump. 

It now seemed that this trial wouldn't take place before November's election. In the final segment of All In, Plouffe and Hayes spoke with unusual clarity about what this change in the landscape means: 

HAYES (2/28/24): The election is eight months away. All of [Trump's] efforts to wriggle out of legal criminal, criminal legal accountability have sort of worked so far.

Like I said at the top of the show, it's hard to believe that I ever allowed myself to think it would be otherwise, right? 

This is how it's gone, but here's the thing. Here's the thing, the most important thing:

The only thing that has ever worked to stop Donald Trump is you and me. And I mean that in the sense of the will of the voters, Americans, the pro-democracy majority, in Americans showing up at the polls and in the streets and in civil society to protest Donald Trump and to vote against him.

The democracy he wants so badly to destroy, that is the only way that this will end.

We'll have to beat him at the polls! With that, Hayes introduced Plouffe, who quickly engaged in this exchange about the Court's surprising decision:

HAYES: There's a kind of spectatorship quality to the legal stuff that is transfixing and compelling. But there's nothing you or, you know, people can do about what happens there.  

What they can do about it is how they participate in American democracy. And one of the remarkable stories since that first march that first weekend of 2017, is how much people have done.

PLOUFFE: Well, it's a reminder. There is no cavalry. The only cavalry is the voters.


We are where we are, which is there is going to be no outside event that prevents [Trump] from taking those walks on January 20 and unleashing Hell, if not the end of our democracy. So it's on the voters... 

You just have to find a way to put it together so you keep this guy out of office.

It's up to the voters, Plouffe and Hayes said. There will be no "outside event" which keeps Trump out of the Oval.

Briefly, might we talk? Hayes and his "beloved colleagues" have spent the bulk of the past many years beating the drum in search of some such "outside event."

Hour after hour and day after day, they've sold us the story we very much like—the story in which Trump is magically frog-marched away at the end of one of his trials.

They have refused to talk about the issues which have propelled Trump into the lead over President Biden in a wide array of recent polls. They have pleased us and pleased us and pleased us again, offering us the magical story which keeps us viewers returning for more.

How much are they paid to sell us this corporate product? You aren't allowed to know that! Now, and finally—at long last—Hayes was saying that we'll have to do this ourselves. 

As Plouffe continued, he even said such remarkable things as this:

PLOUFFE: Listen, we have a challenged candidate because of his age. But at the end of the day, he's starting to talk about that more openly...I actually think this helps focus the mind. There is no easy off-ramp. No one else is going to save the country. 

Really? Our blue tribe has a challenged candidate? Suddenly, it's OK to drop the veil of group denial and say such things out loud?

As the conversation continued, Hayes and Plouffe were even more frank about the blue tribe's candidate. 

"Biden has a lot of work to do, no question about that," Plouffe said. This is where the exchange and the program ended:

HAYES: I've got this feeling about— You ever go, let's say you go to a reunion, OK? You haven't seen someone in fifteen years. It's like, "Whoa! Wow! You've aged," or "You've gotten work done," or—

I don't know, there's a million different ways you might see a person and be like, "I haven't seen you in a while and you look different."

It strikes me that there's a little bit of that with Biden....Joe Biden is 81 years old. No one's pretending otherwise. That's what he sounds like.

PLOUFFE: ...Yes, it's not the same guy from 2016. But this is who he is.

HAYES: David Plouffe, it's always great to have you here in person.

Candidate Biden isn't the same guy he was in 2016? Suddenly, we're encouraged to notice such things, even to say them in public?

Hayes and his beloved colleagues have spent the past many years pleasing us with the idea that some "outside event" was going to take Candidate Trump off the field of battle.

Focus on the legal minutia has started at 4 p.m. each day with two hours of Deadline: White House. The focus on the lawsuits and trials has continued on through the night.

In the course of chasing this theme, blue tribe stars have refused to talk about such issues as immigration and the southwest border. As a general matter, they've also been pretending that nothing of consequence has changed with our blue tribe's candidate.

To our eye and ear, President Biden doesn't seem to be the same person he was in 2016. A large majority of the public has told pollsters that they've also noticed some such thing. 

By and large, those voters have also noticed the vast disorder at the border. On blue tribe cable, we've just continued to seek that glorious "outside event."

At 6:08 this morning, Jonathan Lemire was suddenly singing the same new song on Morning Joe. "We can't count on the courts to bail us out," the Morning Joe sidekick now said. 

At 6:15, Joyce Vance followed suit:

"Voters, it's up to you," the legal analyst said. 

At the start of the 7 o'clock hour, the new morning got even newer. There was Jeh Johnson, on Fox & Friends, appearing above a chyron which said this: 


Johnson was director of Homeland Security under President Obama. To watch his presentation, start by clicking here.

For years, there was something we were withholding. In our view, it was making up weak. 

Our stars were withholding a wide array of truthful assessments. This was very good for ratings, for profits and for salaries, but it was making us weak. Let us refresh you with the recent "swing state" survey results we posted yesterday:

Nevada: Trump +10
North Carolina: Trump +9
Georgia: Trump +9
Arizona: Trump +6
Pennsylvania: Trump +5
Wisconsin: Trump +4
Michigan: Trump +3

The campaign may not turn out that way. Then again, it might!

Along the way, our blue tribe's dream of an "outside event" has been making us weak. At this site, we're going to vote for Candidate Biden, but Candidate Biden is behind in the polls, and for all the ridiculous, pitiful claims that Donald J. Trump called his wife Mercedes, there is zero guarantee that that will ever change.

Can we learn to see ourselves more clearly? The hour is somewhat late.

Tomorrow: "Beloved viewers"

This afternoon: Laura Ingraham, possibly right (but also plainly wrong)


  1. DiC - PCE 2.4% YoY! Let the Good Times Roll!

  2. All of the issues, negative to Biden polls, etc. Has all been covered by MSNBC.

    The tormenting of the President’s son, which Bob had celebrated as an “issue” had now collapsed, revealing yet another level of corruption and cruelty from the party of Bob’s good friends and neighbors.
    So, the situation is stark, and the Supreme Court fix Trump put in looks pretty secure. Bob continues to diddle as the U.S. burns, a very not good and not decent person.

    1. "Bob continues to diddle as the U.S. burns"

      What horseshit! Somerby has been screaming that we're all just talking to ourselves - Trump, Trump, Jail! - rather than crafting a message that might resonate with even a few of the Others. And we're losing, against the worst candidate ever!

      And the amazing thing to me: The Biden administration has the best record on the economy that I've ever seen (with the possible exception of the Clinton administration). Biden inherited a recession, convinced a hostile Congress to enact sufficient stimulus, tamed the resulting inflation, and now we're living in an economic Eden (strong growth, full employment, no inflation). And we can't figure out a message?

      How about: "Happy Days Are Here Again!"

    2. The negative poll results listed by Somerby (again) continue to neglect the FACT that Trump has been underperforming in the various primaries compared to his polling, by quite a bit, enough of a margin to swing an election to Biden. If Trump were running away with the election, Nikki Haley wouldn't be cutting into his leads like she is doing. Biden, in comparison, did better than Trump in his primaries, even in MI with the uncommitted vote.

      Trump cannot win with only 60% of the Republican vote. There aren't enough Republicans compared to Democrats and Independents for him to win. And now Trump is off the ballot in 3 states, which may cut into his electoral college votes.

      Biden is not losing, according to those who know what to look at (Hint: it isn't the polls).

      So, why does Somerby keep posting these negative poll results, which most political junkies have already seen? He perhaps hopes to discourage liberals from their enthusiasm for Biden as a candidate. It is essentially calling Biden a loser, not helpful for messaging, as he pretends. But everyone admits that there is no chance of a new candidate at this stage in the election. Progressives or Bernie bros or supporters of other possibilities are not going to get Biden to change his mind about running. So they need to get aboard or shut up, or wander over to No Labels.

      Another indicator that Biden is doing better than Somerby claims -- Biden has the biggest campaign chest, the largest fundraising, or any candidate in history (at this point in time) while Trump and the RNC are mostly broke. Funding indicates support and it enables candidates to get the word out, so this matters.

      Crickets from Somerby on that.

    3. Keep sucking on the pacifier that everything is fine!

    4. The things that Trump did that caused him to be indicted (“ Trump, Trump, Jail!” as you put it Piper) show his psychopathy and unfitness for office, the very things that Somerby kept wanting the media to discuss. Apparently, that’s gotten through. Haley keeps getting 40% of the primary vote, causing Trump to massively underperform with Republican primary voters.

    5. It's my view that every voter in America has made up their minds about Trump. Millions think he's the Savior of America. Millions think he's a sociopathic conman. (I'm of the latter persuasion.) And millions fall somewhere between those extremes.

      In my view, we should be thinking about crafting a message that might appeal to that third group. And it would be a positive message. Something along the lines that the Trumpian civil wars we've all been fighting are thankfully in the past, and that it's now time to Let the Good Times Roll! And we have the economic good times to support such an uplifting message.

    6. How is that message going to get through when our candidate is just too old and feeble, as we are constantly being told it’s the messenger that’s the problem, by Somerby and the media?

    7. The problem is that objectively, Biden is performing his job well and that defies the stereotypes being pushed by Somerby and the right. Old doesn't necessarily mean "feeble." Biden rides a bike and has the stamina to carry out travel and a full day's work, unlike Trump who spent most of his time watching TV and never worked past 5 pm, and had to ride a cart around when he traveled (which he did much less frequently than Biden, while president).

    8. Pied Piper, the Trumpian civil wars won't end until Trump does. You cannot simply declare them over while Trump is still manipulating the congress and whining about his court cases.

  3. "Can denizens of our own blue tribe come to see ourselves more clearly?"

    Not the ones in the comment section. To them, admitting any error on their part equates to feeding Russian bots or increasing Republican votes.

    "Might we come to see ourselves more clearly through the auspices of classic literature?"

    Depends who you ask. The DNC bots will dismiss the literature entirely for not measuring up to today's progressive cultural values. It's apparently useless then.

    The forefathers would be embarrassed by some of today's so-called liberals. But they would've also had a word or two to say about Trump. A John Adams quote comes to mind:

    “How strangely will the Tools of a Tyrant pervert the plain Meaning of Words!”

    Speaking of the revolutionary war, a common enemy surely can unite people. But in today's pampered society, it's full on war between blue and red. You must pick a side!

    Some are so busy finding faults in the Others these days, there's no time for self-improvement. Maybe after the current enemies are crushed, they say. There's never a lack of a current enemy however.

    The MSM spouting that only the voters can fix this is reminiscent of hedge funds complaining about "dumb money" from the common folk retail investors.

    Or oil company reps and celebrities just saying the everyday person needs to cut their carbon footprint!

    1. Correction: Samuel Adams said that.

    2. Rationalist doesn't know much about Revolutionary times. First, the forefathers didn't all agree with each other. Second, the common enemy (Britain) did not unite people. The ones who sided with England fled to Canada or kept a low profile. The idea that modern times are the most contentious ever is wrong. It is just that detail fade and people don't know about past controversies dividing people.

    3. From the MSNBC excerpts above, it sounds like blue media is calling for civil unrest.

    4. No, they are calling for VOTERS to keep Trump out of office. They plainly and clearly state that the voters must rescue democracy because Trump will not be brought to trial for his crimes soon enough for that to keep him from reelection. There is no mention whatsoever of anything resembling civil unrest. There IS explicit mention of voting.

    5. They mention the Women’s March of 2017 and “ Americans, the pro-democracy majority, in Americans showing up at the polls and in the streets and in civil society to protest Donald Trump and to vote against him.”

    6. The Women's March was entirely peaceful and the streets are where marches happen. When someone says "barricades" then you can get nervous. Civil society refers to peaceful society. Uncivil society is violent society, like at Trump's uncivil rallies and the uncivil insurrection on 1/6. There is no left equivalent to any of that. And you'd better believe we are voting against Donald Jessica Trump!

    7. The women’s March was peaceful, “taking it to the streets” before and doing the inauguration, not so much.

      I’m sure that Hayes and company mean that voters need to send a message to SCOTUS, to the justice system in general and if it take getting rowdy now and again, that’s the voice of the people.

    8. I won't be responding to troll comments that misrepresent the contents of my post, FYI.

    9. Thank God, rationalist.

    10. From Wikipedia, about the women's march:

      "The crowds were peaceful: no arrests were made in D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, or Seattle, where a combined total of about two million people marched. The organization's website states that they wanted to adhere to "the nonviolent ideology of the Civil Rights movement".",of%20the%20Civil%20Rights%20movement%22.

      Cecelia doesn't care about facts. She just says whatever she wants. That is typical of right wingers, in my experience.

    11. Anonymouse 7:35pm, if you’ll scroll up, you’ll see that I expressly stated that the Women’s March was peaceful.

    12. Women are peaceful.

    13. No, you used the women’s march as an example of violence.

    14. No, Anonymouse 9:04pm, I said the street protesters right before and during Trump’s inauguration were not peaceful.

      I distinctly separated them from the Women’s merch, by explicitly saying the Women’s March was peaceful.

      Try reading rather than reacting.

  4. It is a small point, but a denizen is not a member of the blue tribe. The word means:

    an inhabitant or occupant of a particular place

    Then Somerby states that we need to see ourselves more clearly and thinks discussing Troy more will do it. Why cannot Somerby state anything directly? Clear communication does not mean shrouding meaning in allusions to obscure texts nor use of metaphors and never plainly speaking his ideas much less his opinions. Somerby is the least clear person on this planet.

    But if Somerby IS going to use literature to understand ourselves, I think Peyton Place would be more apt (or at least more fun).

    As it stands, I see no difference between the Bible thumpers who turn to chapter and verse to find meaning in life, and Somerby who quotes his favorite parts of Homer (calling him sacred) to find direction in our murky times. But the problem is that I don't share his religion, whatever it is, and I find scripture unhelpful in general, and specifically a lot worse than looking closely at whatever I am trying to understand.

    Today's essay by Somerby is just as bizarre as his previous ones and not at all convincing of any need by the left to examine itself and mend its ways. We are doing fine -- no need for false concern from Mr. Somerby.

  5. "Really? Our blue tribe has a challenged candidate? Suddenly, it's OK to drop the veil of group denial and say such things out loud?"

    It isn't as if no one has been saying that Biden is old. Everyone has been saying it and everyone know it. What they don't know is how good a president he has been, how sharp he remains and how competent he is in the job. That is what the Democrats will be emphasizing.

    In 2016, Biden's son had just died. He was grief-stricken and decided he was not up to running a campaign. The comparison is not to Biden's younger age but to his healed and job-focused mental and emotional state now.


    2. Cecelia -- what part of "his son just died" do you not understand?

    3. Anonymouse 7:32pm, I didn’t write the article. It reports Biden wanted to run but was discouraged from running because Obama thought Clinton had better odds and because Biden wouldn’t be a his best.

      It was Biden’s intention to run and according to the article Obama was not encouraging in that.

    4. He wasn’t at his best because his son just died.

  6. You list what you perceive to be Somerby's flaws, but you fail to say why you continue to read him.

    1. Sorry - this was a reply to 2:29.

    2. No, it isn't a reply to anything.

    3. The intention is to try to make Somerby look bad in every comment section as much as possible, but they end up just making themselves look bad.

      They also want to clog up every decent discussion thread with their pettiness and hoist their psychological issues on the rest of us.

      Life's too short for this kind of nonsense but it's good to inform new readers of what they're up to so they don't think that they are actually posting in good faith. But I won't be responding to anything they write, at least directly, it can be somewhat productive to point out their fallacies for others and keep one's logical skills in practice, but otherwise, no.

      TLDR: Don't feed the DNC trolls

    4. If life is too short, rationalist, i would suggest you refrain from reading and responding to the comments at all.

    5. Anonymouse 3:41pm, you’ve finally gotten that concept, huh?

      The same holds true for anonymices who have no use for Greek mythology, works of fiction, or Bob’s take on anything.

    6. Well, good then Somerby will get zero comments. Is that what you want?

    7. Anonymouse 5:38pm, anonymices have run off commenters.

      That’s why you’re here.

    8. There would be no commenters otherwise.

    9. Calling people DNC bots is not a logical skill.

    10. Anonymouse 7:24pm, so why are you helping this blogger spread a message that you think is pro right wing?

    11. I am 7:24, that’s all. Just pointing out a fact. Are you saying sort by would quit blogging if he got no comments? What a snowflake.

    12. Typo: Are you saying Somerby would quit blogging if he got no comments? What a snowflake.

    13. Anonymouse 12:40am, you’re the one who suggested that Bob would get no commenters here if anonymices left. As though you’re doing him a favor.

      Why are you doing him a favor?

    14. Why do you equate commenting with doing him a favor? I merely pointed out that without critics, there would be no commenters, because you Bob fans only comment on the commenters. You never initiate a comment thread based on Somerby’s post. Your comments are solely based on other commenters.

  7. The external event that Somerby keeps referencing is justice through the courts, for Trump's civil and criminal misdeeds. It is wrong that these delays have occurred (Justice delayed is justice denied). Trump has abused the legal system in the same way as he has abused his office, to further his own self-interest without regard for the will or the needs of the people.

    This is not about us wishing for an event to rescue us, but about Trump being held to account for his own actions, just as the rest of us are. Of course we want that to happen. If the system doesn't work for Trump as it does for every other citizen, then the system is broken and needs to be fixed. Our faith in the systems that protect us, including a functioning government, will be undermined by a Trump-serving Supreme Court verdict as surely as it would be if Trump were allowed to default on his fraud and defamation judgments or not be tried for trying to overthrow the election and meddling in vote counting. These are things Trump did -- it is not wrong to want him to be found guilty and issued punishment, because he has damaged our country and will continue to do so as long as he is free and walking around.

    The other "even" that might stop Trump is his death or incapacity. That is perhaps more likely than that crony judges will do their jobs. Trump may be able to manipulate the courts, but he cannot beat death when his time comes. And his body has no idea he is wealthy when he fills his gut with Big Macs and spends his nights texting instead of sleeping. This will catch up with him and it will be good for our country when (not if) it happens.

    1. Anonymouse 2:50pm, making it look like a heart attack would be the obvious setup.

    2. Putin isn’t President of the US…yet.

    3. Anonymouse 3:38pm, as though the president would matter.

    4. Btw, Anonymouse 2;50pm, Trump is a 77-year-old. McDonald’s could go with your take and promo their fare as health food.

    5. 77 is almost exactly the life expectancy (77.2) for a man these days. It is nothing special for Trump to be that age, but I wouldn't expect him to live much beyond that, given his lifestyle and stress levels.

      Are all right wingers going around accusing liberals of trying to murder Trump? It strikes me as pretty irresponsible of you to do that, given the crazies in the world. If you are joking, it isn't funny.

    6. Anonymouse 7:29pm, I made a comment about the CIA.

      It’s a fact that liberals now think the CIA is a constituency of the Democratic Party, but that wasn’t always the case.

    7. liberals don’t think that

    8. Anonymouse 9:06pm, if you’re not conflating the CIA with liberals, then don’t accuse me of saying that liberals could take out Trump.

      You may be the most obtuse anonymouse yet.

    9. The CIA killed Richard Lewis, and made it look like a heart attack.

    10. Anonymouse 8:23am, they must have mistaken him for Bill Maher.

    11. Bill Maher is a deep-state asset.

  8. Cecelia is preparing the narrative for the possibility that Biden wins.

  9. Or should I say, she is saying that the deep state will have no choice but to take Trump out.

  10. Anonymouse 3:54pm, i’m suggesting if Trump kicks out before the election, it won’t be because of Ronald McDonald.

  11. For the record, Biden has never based his campaign on the idea that Trump will be convicted. He has gone after Trump head on.

    1. Anonymouse 7:32pm, right, it’s not like Biden is the head of the DoJ, a Democratic governor, or liberal DA.

    2. ?? this makes no sense

    3. Anonymouse 9:06pm, Biden and his team don’t have to “base his campaign on the idea that Trump will be convicted.”

      Biden has powerful Democratic allies who are working that angle.

    4. It’s hard to tell if Cecelia is serious. Democrats controlled the government in 2016, but somehow failed to secure a win for Hillary Clinton. Biden controlled the White House for the past three years, but couldn’t ensure a bigger margin in the Senate, and lost the House. They’re just infinitely clever, these Democrats, making it look like they don’t really control diddly squat. What a joke, Cecelia.

    5. Anonyonmous 2:08am, but the same DC establishment wrecked the same sort of havoc on Trump from before the election when the Clinton campaign floated the Russia collusion theme by the Obama WH.

      That involved foreign intelligence services and embroiled the Trump Admin for its entire term.

      As with Biden, Clinton, personally,, never needed to dirty her hands.

    6. Oh, I see, even as the FBI was sullying Hillary publicly over the emails, very cleverly causing her clean hands to never become President. You’re just full of nonsense.

  12. The "deep state" is a right wing invention. It is vague, so they can't be pinned down about who or what they are saying.

  13. Anonymouse 7:36pm, can anonymices read? I said nothing about “deep state”. I directly referenced a known organization called the CIA.

  14. The CIA is a figment of Joseph Stalin's imagination.

  15. Trump is 77. If he dies there will be no reason to suspect foul play. He is not in good health, unlike Biden.

  16. Anonymouse 9:12pm, if Trump dies before this election or if he wins it and then dies, there is every reason to be suspicious.

  17. If Trump dies, that just means God calls him home.