When the Democrats went populist

Guest post by Smartypants

As the civil war in the Republican Party between the establishment and the anti-establishment rages on, there seems to be a knee-jerk need in the punditry class to find a false equivalence with the Democrats. We saw this the other day from the dudebro firebaggers in their longing for the same kind of civil war on the left. Now its surfacing from some in the more traditional media. For example, from the establishment point of view, Chris Cilliza thinks that perhaps Chris Christie can emulate Bill Clinton and rescue the Republicans from their civil war. For the anti-establishment folks, Chrystia Freeland seems to thinks the NY Mayoral candidacy of Bill de Blasio is just like the tea partiers.

What’s frustrating in reading all this nonsense is that it seems that very few people pay any attention to history these days – even the more recent variety. Because if they did, they’d know that the Democrats had their own populist movement not that long ago. And the real question is whether or not we can sustain it on a national level going in to the 2016 presidential election.

To set the stage, we have to go back to what led up to the Reagan/Bush years. For the best description of how that happened, I’d suggest that folks read what Peter Beinart wrote about it a couple of years ago. To summarize, coming out of the left-wing hey-day of the 60’s, Democrats got their butts kicked for 20 years in presidential elections – with the one exception being the Carter years that were a direct result of Nixon’s Watergate. Here’s what the Republicans did:

1972 – 520 electoral votes (49 states)

1980 – 489 electoral votes (44 states)

1984 – 525 electoral votes (49 states)

1988 – 426 electoral votes (40 states)

As you might imagine, Democrats were scared shitless that their future as a national party was over (things looked even worse for them than they currently do for Republicans these days). And so, a group of mostly Southern Democrats got together and formed the Democratic Leadership Council in 1985. Their goal was to shift the Democratic Party more towards “centrist” policies. But perhaps more importantly, they felt the need to attract more big money donors to the Democratic Party in order to compete with Republicans.

The result of these efforts was the election of Clinton/Gore (both founders of the DLC) in 1992. Perhaps since the Democrats were still fairly new to this whole business of big money donors, Clinton/Gore got off to a rocky start that resulted in a whole string of scandals about campaign finance. In case you’re forgotten about all that, just think “Lincoln bedroom.”

To connect this with the current race for VA governor, it was during Clinton’s presidency that he installed Terry McAulliffe (big donor fundraiser extraordinaire) as the head of the Democratic Party. That’s why you see the Clinton’s campaigning so hard in his election – their connection to McAuliffe is deep.

One of the first Democrats to speak out against this capture of the party by the DLC was Paul Wellstone; it was the context for the line that was eventually adopted by Howard Dean: “I represent the democratic wing of the Democratic Party.”

And then came Howard Dean’s presidential campaign in 2004. Anyone who actually paid attention knows that – other than his anti Iraq war position – Dean was no flaming liberal. But his bottom-up anti-establishment campaign was a direct challenge to what the DLC and the Clinton’s had built – especially in their reliance on big money.

As a full-blown Deaniac at the time, I watched the Clinton machine go after Howard Dean – as ferociously (perhaps moreso) than the Republicans did. And that became even more evident after Dean lost the presidential primary to John Kerry and went on to out-maneuver them to become Chair of the Democratic Party following Kerry’s loss to Bush.

As you probably know, Dean instituted a 50-state strategy, which was an attempt to build up the party to be competitive in all 50 states. Rather than the party elites picking candidates, Dean wanted them to come from the grassroots. And even after his success in the 2006 elections, the Clinton machine brought out the knives against him. You can read about some of that here. But perhaps the crux of it came when James Carville said that Dean should be fired and replaced with…get this…Harold Ford (then DLC Chair).

All of that is what set the stage for a lot of the acrimony that surfaced between the Obama and Clinton campaigns in 2008. From the beginning, Barack Obama made it clear that he was not a member of the DLC and instead built his campaign on a new and improved version of Howard Dean’s bottom-up grassroots model. While Clinton continued to rely on big money donors, Obama showed that the presidency could be won by harnessing the power of millions of small donors – shattering the whole DLC model.

Via that primary and a win in November 2008, President Obama offered a way out of establishment big money politics. That is why I’ll be watching what happens in 2016. Can we find a way to preserve what Obama has done after he’s gone? Has Hillary Clinton learned anything from her defeat and her time with the President in the White House? Or will her candidacy take us back to the top-down big money model of the (now-defunct) DLC? And finally, if Clinton demonstrates that she hasn’t changed, is there someone who can pick up the mantle from Obama and continue his legacy?

If people really paid attention to our not-too-distant past, those are the questions we’d be asking.

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The Birth of Crisis Journalism™ – A Rant!

Warning! A profane rant is below, hide the kids.

The media has collectively lost their fucking minds. Since when is it the role of the media to obsess over mistakes and blow them completely out of proportion, while ignoring everything else that is happening in the world? They have totally embraced the hyperventilating loons on the right and adopted their moronic thinking.

So a website contractor, hired to design and build the website for healthcare.gov, screwed up. Great, I got it. Now move on to doing your fucking jobs again.

And by the way, Chuck Todd, your job is to present the truth to your viewers, not just deliver the “message” that one side or the other feeds to you through Mike Allen, just before you go on Morning Joe to set the meme of the fucking day. In case you aren’t aware, the Society of Professional Journalists has a code of ethics and the first item in the list is pasted below. Read it, internalize it…there will be a quiz.

Seek Truth and Report It (heading)
Journalists should be honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information. (sub-heading)

Journalists should: — Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error. Deliberate distortion is never permissible.

Now let’s look at Chuck Todd’s full quote from his now infamous appearance on Morning Joe and see how well it fits with the above.

Chuck Todd (on Morning Joe):

“But more importantly, it would be stuff that Republicans have successfully messaged against it,” Todd told Rendell. “They don’t repeat the other stuff because they haven’t even heard the Democratic message. What I always love is people say, ‘Well, it’s you folks’ fault in the media.’ No, it’s the President of the United States’ fault for not selling it.”

In effect, he’s saying that he just delivers the message, it’s not his job to “test the accuracy of information from all sources”. He admits that Republicans have successfully “messaged against it” but he apparently doesn’t care at all whether that “message” is truthful or not. That is some serious bubble think. I keep telling Chuck to get the hell out of Washington and breathe some fresh air, talk to some real people, empathize with folks who actually are influenced by what happens inside your comfy little bubble.

Prior to the “glitch” story, the media was clinging to the idiotic idea that President Obama should negotiate with Republicans who were holding a gun to the head of our economy, demanding the defunding of a law that took 18 months to pass through the legislative process, was signed by the President and upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States in exchange for the Congress doing their jobs. The media acted like complete morons repeating the Republican talking point of “he won’t even sit down with us and talk”, as if that is what you do when one party completely circumvents the legislative process and acts like a 4-year-old kicking and screaming on the floor.

Going back a little further, the media was freaking out about Syria and the “red line”, once again repeating the Republican talking points verbatim, as if Frank Luntz was behind them pulling their fucking puppet strings and lip syncing his focus group tested phrases. President Obama didn’t invent our position on Syria’s chemical weapons. The treaty that we are enforcing was signed by President Nixon in 1972 and can be found here. But the media wanted to pin it all on President Obama because the brain-dead GOP plucked the “red line” phrase out of a speech and proceeded to bastardize the context and history of the international treaty against the use of chemical weapons.

I could go on and on…I’m thinking back to the “momentum” days of Mitt Romney’s bid for King of the Village Idiots (The GOP & their compliant media)!

Welcome to the new world of Crisis Journalism™

Glenn Greenwald’s “Little Brain” Made Me Think of This! UPDATE!

The following is a clip from one of my all time favorite movies, “Defending Your Life”. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. Besides Albert Brooks, who also wrote and directed it, it stars Meryl Streep and Rip Torn. Take a few minutes and watch this clip. I frequently think about this scene when reading the likes of Glenn Greenwald or many of the writers at The Nation. My favorite exchange is…

Bob Diamond: Being from Earth, as you are, and using as little of your brain as you do, your life has pretty much been devoted to dealing with fear.

Daniel Miller: It has?

Bob Diamond: Well everybody on Earth deals with fear — that’s what little brains do.

Bob Diamond: …Fear is like a giant fog. It sits on your brain and blocks everything…

Updated!!! I clicked on a link in a Tweet from Albert Brooks and came across the following post at Huffington Post, from Albert himself, which I will not link to.

WHAT DID I JUST READ?

By Barack Obama (Albert Brooks)

Imagine my surprise when I opened the New York Times and read Vladimir Putin’s Op-ed. I didn’t know what I was reading for a few minutes. Sometime’s my Chief of Staff will put The Onion in front of me just to shake things up so it took me a moment to realize this was not a joke.

First off, let me say I had a very nice time at the G20. The food was good, although a bit heavy for my taste, and the weather was pleasant. Certainly you can see the sky sometimes, which you can never do in China.

As I continued to read the Op-ed, I really couldn’t understand whether we were being insulted or praised. Mr. Putin seemed to respect the United States for one paragraph, and then blast us in another. Now understand, I admire Mr. Putin. For his age he seems to be in great physical shape and even though I could kick his ass in basketball I do believe that if a bear were to attack the both of us, he would be the one to shoo it away.

But let’s make one thing perfectly clear: this is written by a man who is the head of Russia. Russia, where the air conditioning in the room conked out even though I was in the Presidential Suite. Russia, where no one smiles and where people actually look disappointed that they are white.

Mr. Putin, we put a man on the moon and you barely got a monkey home safely. We invented the computer and you invented the way to steal it. Your country is filled with our fast food businesses and yet there is not one Russian take out place in the whole United States.

You are known for Siberia, we are known for Big Sur. We make Cadillacs and Lincolns and God knows what you call those little square deathtraps. It’s one thing to put down exceptionalism, but before you do that, you at least have to produce one Broadway show, or make one commercial airliner, or invent one type of salad.

Having said that, your people are wonderful and I know that you care about them deeply, except, of course, for the gay ones. As a matter of fact, you care about them so much that you hate to see them argue, especially with you, so you graciously offer them the solace of prison.

In any case, I enjoyed your editorial and I am very impressed that it was printed in The New York Times. If only there was a newspaper in your country that would print this.

My very best wishes,
Barack Obama.

The Justice Department Did Not “Organize” Protests In Sanford Florida As Idiots Claim!

Only the crazy, racist, brain dead people of the right-wing propaganda machine could turn a Department of Justice unit called the Community Relations Service into a nefarious group and claim they helped “organize” the protests in Sanford Florida, following the national exposure of the tragic death of Trayvon Martin.  The CRS is tasked with preventing tensions in racially charged situations, the opposite of what the idiots are claiming.

It fits nicely in their up is down, down is up world, doesn’t it?

I won’t link to any of the many posts flying around the wingnutosphere claiming that this Community Relations Service helped to “organize” anti-Zimmerman protests. The following is what the Community Relations Service actually does, via Media Matters for America…

The Community Relations Service is the Department’s “peacemaker” for community conflicts and tensions arising from differences of race, color, and national origin. Created by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, CRS is the only Federal agency dedicated to assist State and local units of government, private and public organizations, and community groups with preventing and resolving racial and ethnic tensions, incidents, and civil disorders, and in restoring racial stability and harmony.

[…]

For more than 45 years, CRS has been asked to provide its experienced mediators to help local communities resolve conflicts and disturbances relating to race, color, or national origin. Each year CRS’ highly skilled conciliators bring hundreds of community-wide conflicts to peaceful closure across America and its territories.

I imagine that the wingnuts really don’t want tensions to be eased, they hope to see cops bring out the riot gear and beat some people down for their sick pleasure. They really want there to be riots, you can tell by all the stories that have been written fantasizing about it. Don’t be surprised if they bus in instigators to cause disturbances, that is how they roll.

The overt racism within the right-wing media is bubbling over. Since the election of President Obama, the backlash from racists has been obvious to anyone not mired in that hateful, ignorant world. The Trayvon Martin trial has brought many of them out of their shells. They are incapable of seeing Trayvon as a living, breathing, 17 year old kid with college aspirations and a caring heart, but rather as a “thug” or any of the adjectives that George Zimmerman was recorded calling young Trayvon.

When anyone even starts to justify the killing of Trayvon, an innocent young man walking home from the store, I cut them right off. In my mind, anyone capable of justifying the murder of Trayvon Martin is a sick motherfucker and needs help. There is absolutely no justification for murdering Trayvon Martin in cold blood, NONE!

The only person responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death is George Zimmerman, full stop.

When Greenwalds Attack! 10 Examples From His Past

It’s fascinating for someone who has kept a critical eye on Glenn Greenwald to see him playing in the big leagues and striking out so much. I do believe it’s time for him to be sent back down to the minors.

Glenn Greenwald frequently attacks people who disagree with him, he can’t help himself. He has a hair trigger on that gun of his and likes to shoot it off. (By the way, he is against gun control, in case you weren’t aware.)

The most recent example of Glenn’s penchant for lashing out happened on Twitter as he attacked Daniel Serwer of Johns Hopkins University and peacefare.net.

GGTweet

Well, that one little tweet from the “Rio Pundit” prompted quite a backlash from many different directions. One of the best came from Adam Serwer, Daniel Serwer’s son, a writer for Mother Jones and a reporter for MSNBC.com.

AdamSerwer

Glenn Greenwald’s knee-jerk attack on Daniel Serwer revealed exactly how GG rolls. I wrote a post recently, The Top 5 Exaggerations By Glenn Greenwald On NSA!, that looked at just a few of Glenn’s exaggerations in his latest 15 minutes of fame. This one tweet from Glenn is both an exaggeration and an attack, combining two of his favorite tactics. And for those that say Glenn is “smart”, please read that tweet one more time.

Daniel Serwer, the person that Glenn tried to dismiss by claiming Edward Snowden had “done far more for the world in the last two months than you have in your life”, has actually spent most of his adult life working for peace. Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs has Daniel’s bio and gives his take on this incident. Here is a piece of the bio…

Daniel Serwer (Ph.D., Princeton) is a Professor of Conflict Management, as well as a Senior Fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations, at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. He is also a Scholar at the Middle East Institute.

Formerly Vice President for Centers of Peacebuilding Innovation at the United States Institute of Peace (2009-10), he led teams there working on rule of law, religion, economics, media, technology, security sector governance and gender. He was previously Vice President for Peace and Stability Operations at USIP, where he led its peacebuilding work in Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan and the Balkans and served as Executive Director of the Hamilton/Baker Iraq Study Group. Serwer has worked on preventing interethnic and sectarian conflict in Iraq and has facilitated dialogue between Serbs and Albanians in the Balkans.

I won’t spend time pushing back against the Snowden claim, you can go read some of Bob Cesca’s work here, here and here if you want to get up to speed on the issues surrounding the Edward Snowden leaks.

One of the main tactics Glenn Greenwald uses is to attack anyone who challenges him, with venom and over the top projections of all things evil onto his target. I’ve personally been called a few names by him, mostly because I support President Obama. He really dislikes people who support President Obama. Joy-Ann Reid wrote about this a while back.

Anyone who fails to loathe Obama as he does is an “Obama lover” (just chew on that, if you’re African-American) or a “cultist.” It isn’t possible that Obama could do anything that isn’t vile and insipid and worthy of continual, emphatic condemnation.

Since I’ve spent way too much time reading and writing about Glenn Greenwald, mostly because I despise his tactics, but in all candor, partly because he has such a profound hatred for President Obama, I thought I’d share some links I have gathered over the years. You can decide for yourself how you feel about Glenn, considering the following.

10 Examples of Glenn Greenwald Attacks

1.  When the “don’t touch my junk” guy emerged on the scene, Mark Ames and Yasha Levine wrote a piece questioning some issues surrounding that incident, Glenn Greenwald pounced on them. Go read this account by Mark Ames and Yasha Levine, it’s quite remarkable.

2. Benjamin Wittes of Lawfare and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution wrote a great piece explaining why he won’t engage with Glenn Greenwald and the piece reveals a lot of what others have seen too. It is one of the reasons why I quit interacting with Glenn, I’ve blocked him on Twitter and try not to read any of his trolling drivel.

3. Glenn Greenwald set his aim at Wired Magazine when they published the chat logs of Bradley Manning, which got him busted. The targets of his attack on this time were Evan Hansen and Kevin Poulsen. (You may have to Google ‘The Curious Case of Glenn Greenwald vs. Wired magazine’ if you hit a paywall)

3. In this one, Glenn attacks Kurt Eichenwald and Joy-Ann Reid in an epic Twitter battle that is summarized here.

4. One of the worst attacks Glenn has made over the years, which he has never apologized for, involved joining in on attacking a friend of mine, Imani Gandy (Angry Black Lady). This one included tweeting about rape with one of his minions.

5. Ben Cohen at The Daily Banter (a most excellent site), wrote a great piece about Glenn attacking fellow journalists who supported the Iraq War…but of course, Glenn Greenwald told us in his own words how he supported President Bush in his invasion and slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi’s. And of course, Glenn was also supporting President Bush when he rammed the Patriot Act through…you know, that law that started much of the surveillance that Glenn now rails against.

6. Jonathon Chait wrote a hilarious and revealing post titled “Glenn Greenwald is Ralph Nader“, which prompted Glenn Greenwald to attack Paul Krugman…go read it, you’ll see why. And here is a post detailing the attack on Paul Krugman, for making a reference to the NSA story.

7. You have to give Greenwald credit for taking on people who are way smarter than he is. Here is an exchange between Al Giordano and Glenn Greenwald that has a lot to do with the current NSA revelations, this is a must read if you want to be informed and entertained. I wish Al posted more often, he is amazing.

8. Chez Pazienza wrote a terrific piece called “The Daily Banter’s Official Helpful Media Guide for Interacting With Glenn Greenwald” that is a must read for anyone thinking of saying anything that Glenn Greenwald disagrees with.

9. This little skirmish with Sam Harris is pretty interesting. Sam Harris likes to tell it like it is and Glenn got a little bit of push back from Sam.

10. The last one I’ll throw in the mix is Greenwald’s attack on David Gregory, which I have mixed feelings about. David Gregory asked a horrible question loaded with innuendo and completely blew the opportunity to ask a really good one and then hammer Glenn until he answered it. The question I would have asked is “did you have any contact with Edward Snowden before he took the job at Booz Allen?” A lot of people want to know the answer to that question. It seems to me that the protection a journalist has by saying that someone came to them with information kind of flies out the window IF that “journalist” had something to do with stealing the information. And please, any GG minions, spare me turning that last sentence into an accusation, the word “IF” should be your clue. The act of stealing the information and then publishing it are separate acts.

Bringing it back to the original Glenn Greenwald attack, I think Daniel Serwer’s final tweet to Glenn Greenwald is pure perfection.

DwerwerTweet2

Glenn Greenwald, The Polemicist

Jonathan Chait has penned a must read of a column on Glenn Greenwald. Go read the whole thing. Here are a few passages that stuck out to me. (emphasis mine)

The debate over domestic surveillance is not a debate about what we think about Glenn Greenwald. But Greenwald is a fascinating character. His resemblance to Ralph Nader is not one that, so far as I can tell, anybody has thought to make. […]

For Greenwald, like Nader, the lawyer is the key protagonist in his political drama. Political victory is a series of successful lawsuits. He is wildly litigious:

In 1997, Achatz and Greenwald filed another lawsuit for broken elevators in their building. (They lived on the 32nd floor.) They later moved into another building in Midtown Manhattan, and countersued after being sued by that landlord for having a dog that weighed more than 35 pounds. They sued American Airlines and its parent company for not placing the right number of miles flown in their frequent-flier account.

Greenwald, like Nader, marries an indefatigable mastery of detail with fierce moralism. Every issue he examines has a good side and an evil side. Greenwald, speaking not long ago to the New York Times, said something revealing about his intellectual style:

“I approach my journalism as a litigator,” he said. “People say things, you assume they are lying, and dig for documents to prove it.” […]

That is the echo of Greenwald’s suspicions of the Democratic agenda. President Obama scaled back some of the Bush administration’s anti-terror policies — torture, warrantless wiretapping — but kept in place others. One could make the case that he did not change enough, but that is not a Greenwald sort of argument. He insists that Obama is worse than Bush. Obama’s health-care reform was not just a step along the way to Greenwald’s ideal, it was a monstrous sellout that probably did no good at all (“there is a reasonable debate to be had among reform advocates over whether this bill is a net benefit or a net harm.”).

This way of looking at the world naturally places one in conflict with most liberals, who are willing to distinguish between gradations of success or failure. Nader and Greenwald believe their analysis not only completely correct, but so obviously correct that the only motivation one could have to disagree is corruption. Good-faith disagreement, or even rank stupidity, is not possible around Greenwald. His liberal critics are lackeys and partisan shills. He may be willing to concede ideological disagreement with self-identified conservatives, but a liberal who disagrees can only be a kept man.

A Perfect Example Of Why Congress Has A 10% Approval Rating!

Congressional-Job-Approval-500x313The immigration reform process going on in Washington presents us with a perfect example of why congress is the biggest joke in the country. From Steve Benen at Maddowblog. (emphasis mine)

Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) told Dave Weigel yesterday one of the main reasons and he and his House Republican colleagues will not support comprehensive immigration reform.

“If you’re the White House right now,” he theorized, “and you have a signature law — that is, Obamacare — that is completely a legacy issue for the president, and it’s looking like implementation is going to be a disaster, and if you’re on your heels in terms of these scandals, and you’re flummoxed by the NSA, there’s one issue out there that’s good for the White House. That’s immigration. The question is: How much energy does the White House actually put into getting the legislation, or do they want to keep the issue for 2014?

I hear this quite a bit from the right. Democrats say they want to pass reform legislation, the argument goes, but it’s a sham. What those rascally Democrats really want, conservatives argue, is for immigration reform to fail so Democrats can use the issue against the GOP in the 2014 midterms and beyond.

And every time I hear this, I’m convinced our public discourse has slipped a little deeper into madness.

Look, this isn’t complicated: Democrats want to pass immigration reform. President Obama wants to pass immigration reform. When the reform bill reached the Senate floor yesterday, it received 100% support from Democratic senators, and support is expected to be at a similar level among House Dems. If the party were engaged in some elaborate ruse, they’ve apparently managed to fool everyone, including themselves.

In fact, I’d love to hear Roskam and others who share his ideology explain the electoral rationale behind their strategy. He seems to be arguing, “Democrats want immigration reform to fail so they can use it against us, therefore, we should make sure reform fails so that they can use it against us. That’ll show ’em!”

I think there is also something missing from the above snippet, the fact that Republicans never want to give President Obama a win. They see any legislation that gets passed as a win for the president. Maybe they aren’t aware that he has already been reelected and “giving him a win” isn’t going to help him electorally. It might help his legacy, but is trashing President Obama’s legacy worth more to them than representing their constituents? It could be the reason why they are less popular than child molesters.