It amazes me just how many people in the media live in a highly insulated world and see everything through the prism that President Obama is responsible for all that came before him and all that lies ahead. They seem to live in a world without context, or nuance and create their own narratives.
The latest narrative that prompted this angry rant is the idea that somehow President Obama is responsible for the entire mess on Wall Street, because he didn’t swoop in and lock up all those evil bankers and hedge fund managers. I certainly understand Republicans trying to pin the mess on him — that’s politics — but when people like Frank Rich and Matt Taibbi jump on the bandwagon, I am reminded why I must blog.
Frank Rich wrote a lengthy piece the other day that tries desperately to pin the whole Wall Street mess on President Obama, and he issues all sorts of dire warnings and predictions about Obama’s reelection. According to Rich, Obama hasn’t sufficiently investigated the mess, hasn’t made heads roll and of course, he hired people from within the mess to work for the administration. Here is a paragraph from Rich that shows symptoms of the contagious Obama Derangement Syndrome.
What haunts the Obama administration is what still haunts the country: the stunning lack of accountability for the greed and misdeeds that brought America to its gravest financial crisis since the Great Depression. There has been no legal, moral, or financial reckoning for the most powerful wrongdoers. Nor have there been meaningful reforms that might prevent a repeat catastrophe. Time may heal most wounds, but not these. Chronic unemployment remains a constant, painful reminder of the havoc inflicted on the bust’s innocent victims.
There is a very simple answer to why President Obama didn’t make them “accountable”. IT WAS ALL LEGAL! And it was made legal by a legacy of deregulation that was created by Presidents Reagan, Bush 1, Clinton (maybe the worst of the bunch) and of course, President G.W. Bush. I’m not exactly sure what the critics would have President Obama do, declare martial law on Wall Street and start arresting people for crimes they didn’t commit? Some wanted him to even nationalize the banks? That would have went over well, I’m sure.
I know that Frank Rich and Matt Taibbi aren’t stupid, so why is it so hard for them to remember the real causes of the financial mess, and the myriad forces (and money) aligned against the President as he was trying to correct it. What they are doing is a form of “blame shifting”. We all know who is responsible for the mess, but you can’t read either Rich’s or Taibbi’s latest pieces and find much acknowledgment of that.
Here is another passage from Frank Rich’s piece that caught my eye and illustrates the tactic of “guilt by association”, one used by the critics who want to blame everything on the President and dismiss any accomplishments.
What has he done to deserve it? All anyone can point to is his December 2009 60 Minutes swipe at “fat-cat bankers on Wall Street”—an inept and anomalous Ed Schultz seizure that he retracted just weeks later by praising Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein as “very savvy businessmen.”
Really Frank? Calling two of the most successful businessmen in the country “savvy businessmen” automatically “retracts” what he said previously? Did you just declare that? I’ve read both statements in there entirety and there is no contradiction.
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It seems like every utterance Obama makes that might be construed as pro-business gets some people jumping up and down like lunatics. If you read further into the article to which he links, you see there was context for the statement and a very important point about executive compensation in our free market system. Not exactly how Frank Rich portrayed Obama’s thoughts on it.
President Obama: “I, like most of the American people, don’t begrudge people success or wealth. That is part of the free-market system.”…
Blankfein and Dimon took their bonuses in stock rather than cash, which Obama encouraged other corporations to do. Such compensation, he said in the interview, “requires proven performance over a certain period of time as opposed to quarterly earnings.” He said that’s a “fairer way of measuring CEO success and ultimately will make the performance of American businesses better.”…
Obama said compensation packages over the last decade haven’t always been commensurate with performance, and reiterated his call for shareholders to have a say in CEO pay.
“That serves as a restraint and helps align performance with pay,” he said. “Shareholders oftentimes have not had any significant say in the pay structures for CEOs.”
As you can see, there was quite a bit more to what the President said in both interviews, if you follow the links. By cherry-picking a sentence and squeezing it into his narrative, Frank Rich reveals a hidden agenda that seems to ignore or dismiss contradictory evidence if it doesn’t fit with that agenda. One wonders what really motivates Rich to push this anti-Obama narrative.
President Obama didn’t deregulate Wall Street; that’s been happening for years. But he did pass major financial reforms prompting this headline from the New York Daily News “President Obama signs most sweeping Wall Street reform bill since Great Depression”, and he did it with no fucking help from those whining the most: folks at The Huffington Post, Firedoglake, Salon and others. I’m not linking to them, they love clicks. But instead of helping the president to sell it to the American people and push for stronger legislation, they went into preemptive whine mode, using words like caving and other very dramatic terms. And most of it centered around the guilt by association crap.
The economic disaster that was left for the President wasn’t the only problem he inherited from previous presidents. The most obvious mess and a cause of much left-wing “whinging“, was DADT, which was passed by President Clinton and was the law of the land for 17 fucking years until President Obama came along and put a bullet in its face. But of course, for the first two years of Obama’s presidency, the stain of DADT lingered around the new president as if Obama himself had signed the goddamn bill. And then after President Obama killed it, most wouldn’t give him credit and instead, immediately moved on to the next blame game.
As I was reading Frank Rich’s article, it reminded me of how many problems were left over or created by previous administrations and have been blamed on President Obama – both directly and indirectly. So much of it was hurled at him in his first year and consisted of “why haven’t you fixed my problem yet?” or “why don’t you issue an executive order?” How shitty is it to be handed a recession-heading-towards-a-depression, with all the underlying structural issues that caused it, and be told, “FIX IT NOW!”, while the people who should be helping to push your agenda through are standing on the sidelines hurling rocks at you.
Here is a brief summary of some of the issues President Obama inherited from the previous presidents with my ranting coloring it.
- DADT – I covered that injustice towards the President above, it was the single most idiotic “nontroversy” created by a small group of impatient, politically immature pundits (and people elevated to that status undeservedly). I’m looking at you, Lt. Dan Choi.
- Bush’s legacy of torture – Once again, Bush ordered his lawyers and justice department to justify his atrocities and thus cover his ass. And I have to say, I was hoping at least some of them would pay a price, but I understand not wanting to mire the country down in endless prosecutions. Fuck the unemployed, fuck the poor, fuck students AND the economy…I want to see some heads roll baby. Greenwald and his gang wanted Holder’s justice department to re-litigate Bush’s entire 8 years and waste the next 8 with endless made-for-TV trials. The media obsession would drown out any other issues. Not a good plan.
- Guantanamo Bay – Anyone who is honest with themselves and their readers, knows that Congress punted on that one. The spineless wimps took the Republican bait — hook, line and sinker — with their “terrorists in your backyard “ scare tactics. Most of them-there terrorists have dark skin, you know? Congress cut off funding for closing Gitmo, but still President Obama gets to have that funk follow him around too. And like the others, he didn’t create the fucking mess at Gitmo either. When I hear someone blame the President for Gitmo still being open, I know they either have their heads up their ass or they know the truth, but lie about it anyway.
- DOMA – (Defense of Marriage Act) This was signed by President Clinton (the Teflon Democrat) in 1996. The Obama administration has taken several steps towards undoing it. The Administration will no longer defend the constitutionality of the discriminatory statute and recently the President and the Attorney General have concluded that, as a general matter, anti-gay discrimination is preemptively unconstitutional and state and federal laws have to apply a heightened constitutional scrutiny. Go read this excellent piece at The People’s View to find out why this “nontroversy” shouldn’t be dogging the President either. I know the “tantrum crowd” freaked out when, early in the Obama administration, the justice department continued the longstanding practice of defending all federal laws challenged in court, including DOMA. President Obama has already done a lot to keep his promise.
- Bush Tax Cuts – This was the largest of all the “political time-bombs” and probably the most damaging idea of the 20th century. The timer on the bomb was set to go off on December 31, 2010 and in the lame-duck session of congress, 42 Republican Senators threatened to block all legislation until something was done. Congressional Democrats, with prodding from the White House, attempted to pass two bills extending the tax cuts to only those making under $250K and 200K respectively. They only received 53 votes, not clearing the new super majority needed for damn near everything in the Senate now. Notice that even some Democrats didn’t vote for the fucking bills. But when the President makes a deal where he extends unemployment insurance, gets more stimulus and other goodies, guess who is to blamed for having to deal with those Republicans, the “Fall-guy-in-chief”. The Bush tax cuts were set to expire for everyone and certainly the incoming Congress would have extended them anyway, without the above goodies. President Obama made the most of that bad situation as spelled out by Ezra Klein. And it cleared the schedule for them to repeal DADT, fucking aye!
So much of the poutrage from this group is rooted in ignorance. When reading some of the stuff from the usual suspects, I really wonder if they know that Congress writes the bills (with the help of lobbyists) and appropriates money. The President has a pretty limited roll in how laws are made, when it really comes down to it. Especially in such a politically charged environment where we have an ultimatum a day from the Republicans and a Democratic Party that spans the range from Maxine Waters to Ben Nelson. And I would add that the Democratic Party, unlike the Republicans, allow their members to think freely and express themselves, which just gives fodder to both sides with which to attack the Obama administration.
But you know what, President Obama just keeps plugging along while the media and the faux left chases phantom narratives, waiting for the President with his cloak of invincibility and his magic wand to suddenly fix everything with a few waves of his hand.
Cross-posted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles