Wednesday, June 25, 2008

What Obama Needs To Learn From Progressives

[Cross Posted at ]

You can’t have a critical mass for change if you don’t have a mass of criticism about what needs to be changed.

In my recent daily post from Portside I received the recent essay at In These Times by Ken Brociner titled The American Left: What Progressives Can Learn from Obama

Brociner begins by saying,
One of the trademarks of Barack Obama's presidential campaign has been his commitment to a new style of politics. Last year, in answering a question about negative campaigning and ad hominem attacks on opponents, he said: "My preference going forward is that we have to be careful not to slip into playing the game as it is customarily played."

Here's my quick response as a reader's reply to Portside:

Re: The American Left: What Progressives Can Learn from Obama

As a radical progressive I got a good laugh from Ken Brociner's essay. Ken, you haven't presented anything that progressives can learn from Obama. Obama says "we have to be careful not to slip into playing the game as it is customarily played," and then he goes to AIPAC and plays the game completely customarily and his flip-flop cave-in on Telecom Imunity is completely customary politics, just to name two examples. Ken, in case you didn't notice, Petraeus did betray the USA, and Sirota is right that Obama is keeping hush on important issues. Ken, Obama is the best choice among what the two party machines have to offer, but after observing Obama's first two weeks as the nominee and his rush to the center, only uncritical admirers of Barack Obama can still believe he has a genuine desire to transcend old political habits.

Gregory Wonderwheel
Santa Rosa.

As you can see I'm not at all enamored by Barack Obama's candidacy. His speech at AIPAC the day after achieving the nomination was an abomination and supreme display of pandering at its worst. Self-styled progressives like Ken Brociner leave me wondering if there is a political label that Democratic centrists won't try to usurp?

So looking at Brociner's essay a little deeper, afer the first paragraph presented above, he goes on to praise Obama for running "an unusually fair-minded and positive campaign."

Next Brociner says,
Obama's commitment to a different brand of politics represents more than a mere preference for taking the high road in the rough-and-tumble world of political combat. The Illinois senator has, in fact, developed what amounts to an alternative philosophical outlook toward politics. And it is a perspective that, I believe, too many progressives have been ignoring at their own peril.

Unfortunately, Brociner then laspes back into discussing issues of political campaigning style and does not provide any examples of the "alternative philosophical outlook" that Obama is supposed to have developed. So it appears that this alternative philosophical outlook only extends to trying to be a "nice guy" campaigner.

The problem that progressives have with Obama is not as Broiner alleges that we don't trust his motivations, it is that we don't trust his politics. So far he appears to be nothing more than a better window dressing on the Democratic Party. Brociner wants us to believe that every political "enemy" be they vanilla liberal Democrat or rabid neo-con really sincerely believes "they are working to
make the world a better place." So? Perhaps Brociner's view is the problem. What ar ewe to make of people who believe they are working to make the world a better place but who are doing so in a manner that makes it worse? Okay, assuming George Bush and Dick Cheney really wanted to make the world a better place by lying to the public and illegally invading and occupying Iraq, how does that "new philosophy" help us?

Assuming that Barack Obama really wants to make the world a better place when he goes to AIPAC and kisses their shoes regurgitating their false talking points right back to them, while Israel contiues its illegal and inhumane appartheid occupation and blocade of Palestine, how does that express a new "philosophical outlook" in political policy or principles?

It is not progressives who have a one-dimensional analysis, it is Brociner who is presenting a cartoonish version of reality by erasing the facts from the picture. What is happening and why? Brociner cites a September 2005 essay by Obama sent to the Daily Kos blogs titled "Tone, Truth and the Democratic Party."

Brociner includes the following excerpt from Obama's appeal:
"...I firmly believe that whenever we exaggerate or demonize, or oversimplify or overstate our case, we lose. Whenever we dumb down the political debate, we lose. A polarized electorate that is turned off of politics, and easily dismisses both parties because of the nasty, dishonest tone of the debate, works perfectly well for those who seek to chip away at the very idea of government because, in the end, a cynical electorate is a selfish electorate."

That looks good on paper or the computer screen, but why then does Obama dumb down his political debate at every opportunity to do otherwise? Whe did Obama go to AIPAC and not mention that Israel's blocade of the movement of goods in and out of Palestine is a crime against humanity? Why doesn't Obama, who was a Constitutional law professor, use his new status as the leader of the Democratic Party to educate the electorate about the 4th Amenedment and why Telecom Imunity violates it, but instead he dumbs down the issue and falsely pretends that this bill is a compromise. That's not a new "philosophy" that's the same old stick up the rear that the American people have come to expect from politicians that leads to "a cynical electorate" that is anything but "selfish."

Obama is the one who is creating the dishonest tone to the election when he supports an assault on the Constitution and calls it a good deal for the people. The fundamental dishonesty to the Democratic Party is that Obama is conceding that he has no argument against the Republicans on national security. And on top of that Obama's basis message is even though George Bush has the power now, don't worry when Obama is president he will exercise it responsibility. That is not a new philosophy of government; that is the oldest political scam in the world. What Obama needs to learn from progressives is to quit the political con game and keep it real.

P.S. I recommend Glenn Greenwald's blog Obama's support for the FISA "compromise"

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Why there is still time and reason for impeachment of Bush.

Dennis Kucinich is introducing a bill with Articles of Impeachment against George W. Bush. Conyers already presented the bogus argument that there wasn't enough time to impeach Cheney last year so we can expect to hear the same baloney from him about the Bush impeachment. However there is plenty of time as impeachment can be completed in four months as Clinton's was.

The most important reason for impeachment now is not remove Bush in order to get a new leadership but to establish the historical record for the deterrence and prevention of Bush-like tyrants in the future.

I am very grateful for Kucinich doing this now and I hope it becomes a campaign issue in every Congressional district.

When we see Conyers saying, "There isn’t the time here for it." Let him know you know he is lying. Of course there is time. And of course Conyers will be doing everything in his power to make this a self-fulfilling prophecy by his own delaying tactics. I call this playing a desperation card because it is so lacking in substance. It is nothing more than B.S., i.e.,blowing smoke.

Why isn't there time? The history of recent impeachments show that there is time. According to the History Place article on Nixon's impeachment, Sen. Sam Ervin began the Watergate investigation in February of 1973 for the purpose of investigating all of the events surrounding Watergate and other allegations of political spying and sabotage After a nearly year-long court battle over the release of Nixon's tapes, the three articles of impeachment against Nixon were approved by the House judiciary committee on the three days of July 27, 29, and 30, 1974. Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974. Thus, impeachment achieved its purpose from the beginning of the investigation to resignation in 18 months. But most of that time was the court battle over the tapes. For Bush there is no foreseeable reason for such a protracted delay of Bush's impeachment investigation to be held up in the courts.

All the evidence against Bush is already in the public domain. Testimony like McClellan's will only be icing on the cake. The evidence merely needs to be presented at a judiciary committee in an organized fashion to create the record for preferring the charges to the Senate. There are 6 months left in Bush's presidency and with no need for an original investigation like Watergate to occur we have plenty enough time, if the Democrats don't put up the road blocks.

In fact there was no time consuming preliminary investigation conducted by the House in Clinton's impeachment. According to the History Place entry on Clinton's impeachment, impeachment proceedings were initiated on October 8, 1998. The House and the Judiciary Committee did not need to conduct original investigations itself and instead relied upon testimony presented at the committee hearings. The Judiciary Committee sent a list of 81 questions to Clinton for him to either admit or deny under oath, and his responses then became the basis for one of the articles of impeachment. The committee voted on articles of impeachment on December 11, 1998, and upon the passage of H. Res. 611, Clinton was impeached on December 19, 1998, by the full House of Representatives. And the Senate trial lasted from January 7, 1999, until February 12, 1999. Thus, the impeachment and trial of Clinton took only four months. We have that much time.

There are books already published with the allegations of Bush's high crimes and misdemeanors. It would only take a relatively short time to present the case for impeachment by the appropriate witnesses to introduce the events and facts in these books as evidence. It should/could/would take only two or three months for the House to vote on articles of impeachment.

If started before Bush leaves office it might be able to continue weven after he leaves.

If delays are created by the Democrats or Republicans, there is also the question of whether or not impeachment would be made moot by the end of Bush's term. In other words, the Constitution may allow impeachment of a president even after he has left office.

Certainly it is arguable that if impeachment proceedings are begun while the president is in office, because Article I Section 3 of the Constitution provides that judgement may extend to "disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of Honor, Trust or Profit under the United States" that an impeachment is not made moot simply by the president leaving office, because a judgement disqualifying Bush from future office would still be an effective punishment that is not made moot by his leaving office by the end of the term.

When Nixon resigned the impeachment hearings were stopped because it was seen that his resignation was punishment enough. But if Bush didn't resign, as we know he wouldn't, if he stays through his term and is simply out of office by the time running out, then he would escape all punishment, so as I see it in order to have a punishment, since removal form office would be moot, the punishment that would be available is the disqualification clause. I would argue that leaving office would make impeachment moot only if the removal from office clause were the only punishment available. Since the disqualification clause is an additional punishment I believe impeachment would not be moot if Bush leaves office on January 21, 2009.

This is an interesting Constitutional question that I have not seen specifically addressed yet. If anyone knows references to this question please post them.

And besides, even if the Republicans could delay a vote on impeachment until January 2009 and that would make impeachment constitutionally moot, impeachment proceedings would still have been the right thing to do and in the name of upholding the rule of law. Conyers and Pelosi act like they doesn't understand that the rule of law is an even more important legacy than whether or not Bush is able to run out the clock. By putting impeachment on the table now, the Democrats finally would be saying that no matter how close to the end of a term a president is, he or she can't escape the checks and balances of our Constitutional democracy.

However, by refusing to allow impeachment proceedings to go forward, it is Conyers and the Democrats who would be preventing justice and it is Conyers and he Democrats who are thumbing their noses at our Constitutional system of protections. It is Conyers and the Democrats who are letting a criminal President literally get away with murder. It is Conyers and the Democrats who are establishing the precedent that a president doesn't have to worry in the least about committing high crimes and misdemeanors if he is near the end of his term.

If the People's sovereignty is not upheld at the very minimum by at least having a hearing of the impeachment charges against George Bush, who is arguably the worst criminal president in our history, then Conyers and the Democratic Party are the one's who should be held responsible and accountable for aiding and abetting Bush's crimes. Not only that, they will be laying the foundation for the future crimes of future presidents even yet to be born. Unless Congress takes impeachment seriously, they will be sending a message to all future Presidents that the days of being held accountable re over. That is the open door to fascism.

We are always hearing how the delusional Bush claims that history will show he ws right and the people are wrong. Impeachment is the best and necessary way to write the initial historical record today that will be used in the future to document that Bush is the worst President in US history.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Why did Clinton lose? Plain and simple in one word: Judgement

Adding to the post mortems of the Clinton campaign, in my view Clinton lost because she didn't have the good judgement to win. She didn't have the good judgement to know who is in the Democratic Party and what their issues were. Clinton didn't have the judgement to see past her own issues. She didn't have the judgement to know that a leader doesn't ignore the base of the Party in fundamental issues.

At every crucial fork in the road, she misjudged the Democratic base. No amount of "experience" can make up for poor judgement unless it is used to transform poor judgement into good judgement. Unfortunately for her, Clinton just couldn't or wouldn't admit that her poor judgement on the war needed transformation. She did not have the judgement to lead herself out of the corner she had painted herself into. A leader needs the judgement to know the difference between pandering and following, and while Clinton showed no reluctance to pander on certain issues, she was incapable of following the majority of the Party's base on the most important concern of the day, and without demonstrating the judgement of responsive leadership she doomed herself and couldn't win.

In 2002, Clinton didn't have the judgement to vote against George W. Bush and he war. This was when she lost me in her bid to become president. Clinton didn't have the judgement in 2002 to know that if she wanted to run for president in either 2004 or 2008 that in 2002 she needed to show leadership against the Republican war machine. She needed to have the judgement of knowing right from wrong when it came to Bush's doctrine of preemptive war. She needed the judgement to know that the people want a leader who knows the difference between waging a war of defense from a war of offence. Clinton didn't have the judgement of Jeannette Rankin, the first woman to be elected to Congress, who voted against the First World War.

Then in 2004, Clinton went on Larry King (among other venues) and still did not have the judgement to apologize. Instead she defended her vote and defended the war with its preemptive war doctrine, claiming only that President Bush was failing to execute the war properly.

Thus, Clinton lost her campaign way before the actual race had begun.

Yes, if there had been no Obama, no viable alternative, Clinton may have gotten away with her poor judgement. But the majority of the Democratic Party was hungering for someone to stand up against Bush, not for someone who followed him off the cliff. So even though Obama didn't fight strongly against Bush once he came to the Senate, the mere fact that he was on record at the time in a speech opposing the war was enough to give his improbable campaign credibility with the Democratic base as the candidate to be rallied around and to trust as someone who had the judgement to say "No" to the stupidity of the war. No amount of sheer charisma on Obama's part would have been enough to catapult Obama into the lead if he did not have the war as the fulcrum.

Once the campaign started and before the first primaries, Clinton still refused to apologize for her war vote. She blamed Bush for lying when she still didn't recognize that the rule against preemptive war is in large part just for the purpose of protecting the people from an executive's lies, precisely because a president has too many enticements not to lie if a war will be of use to shore up a failing administration. If she had the judgement to say, "My vote was a mistake because I was not giving enough importance to the doctrine against preemptive war, and now I have learned the lesson why preemptive war is wrong" then she might have had a chance. She would have demonstrated analysis at work.

Instead she continued to embrace war as an option of diplomacy, instead of as a last resort of self defense when there are no other options. So she voted for the Kyl-Lieberman Amendment, once again demonstrating that she had learned absolutely nothing from the Democratic Party's base.

There are just too many forks in the road to list where Clinton demonstrated she did not have the judgement to listen to the Party's base and make corrections. Here are just a few the instances of failed judgement at the turning points.

At the crossroads of deciding to run on "experience" or on the vision of a better future, whether it is called "hope" or "change,"
she misjudged and chose "experience" even though her husband had run against "experience" and won.

At the crossroads of healthcare, instead of using the judgement to see that the Democratic base wants single payer health care, she chose not to show leadership and instead essentially adopted and edited version of John Edward's healthcare proposal. One has to wonder why, since she had made healthcare a center piece of her campaign she did not have an original, innovative, and bold proposal at hand before she even officially announced her candidacy?

After the first four primaries and the writing was on the wall that Obama was the frontrunner and Clinton needed a new strategy beyond the hollow claim of "experience", one that would show her leadership in action, Hillary could have come out strong against Bush and called for his impeachment. Only an issue like impeachment could have brought a significant portion of the progressive base of the party (that is of those who needed more than the mere fact that she is a woman) toward her. If she didn't want to go all the way to impeachment, she could have at least promised to call for an independent prosecutor to conduct a complete and thorough criminal justice investigation of the Bush administration's crimes leading up to the war. Instead even after Bush's lies were completely apparent, she denied the need for impeachment and did not offer any leadership toward an alternative. At this time of course, Obama didn't support impeachment or an alternative either, but he didn’t have the need to do so because he had the high ground of his anti-war vote and was the front runner. It was the need to show bold leadership at that time when she was behind that Clinton again misjudged.

Lastly, on Tues, June 3, Clinton once again showed her poor judgement by refusing to concede, and instead of selflessly stating the obvious and eloquently and graciously praising her opponent and getting behind him, she had the poor judgement to think she could continue her campaign with a tasteless appeal to her supporters to help her decide what to do next. If on the last day of the campaign she didn't have the judgement to see that she had lost and to know how to be decisive and to rise to the occasion to admit defeat, then she still didn't have the judgement to be Vice President, much less President.

Cross posted at The Daily Kos