Gratuitously Hostile Me

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on December 13, 2010

Andrew Sullivan has replied to this post of mine. I am a little under the weather, and a whole lot fed up with this entire argument, but again, if it is a blogfight Andrew Sullivan wants, it is a blogfight he will have.

To the tape:

In a response brimming with gratuitous hostility towards yours truly, Pejman Yousefzdeh nevertheless makes a few points worthy of response. I wrote that “several Democrats immediately supported [Bush's] massive tax cut – while no Republicans, in the wake of an Obama landslide – supported a desperately needed stimulus.” I was thinking of the House vote, which attracted not a single Republican vote during what looked remarkably like the beginnings of a second Great Depression. Bush’s tax cuts, on the other hand, got 28 Democratic votes in the House – with no economic crisis at hand and after the president was inaugurated with fewer votes than his opponent. Yes, in the Senate, “Arlen Specter (while a Republican), Olympia Snowe, and Susan Collins all supported the stimulus.” And one has already been purged for it; and the other two hang by a thread.

First off, I have no personal hostility or animus towards Sullivan, whom I have never met, and who, I am perfectly willing to assume, is probably a delightful character in person. My impatience is with the slipshod nature of Sullivan’s commentary, which is entirely partisan, and oftentimes entirely contrary to what the facts actually say. That lends what one might term a frustrated tone to much of my commentary. I am sorry if this upsets Sullivan, but given the fact that he himself is tremendously harsh towards the targets of his Blogospheric ire, I won’t lose sleep. One is tempted, however, to remind Sullivan that he may just have to accept all of this “as part of a new media with no filters,” with the upside being that at least, I am criticizing Andrew Sullivan on substance, and not flinging bigoted remarks his way.

As for the rest of the first paragraph, Sullivan has managed to point out that there were more Democrats in the House of Representatives who liked tax cuts than there were Republicans who liked Keynesian stimulus. So? How this constitutes some form of Obama-hatred is beyond me; opposing Keynesian stimulus is more of an article of faith amongst Republicans than opposing tax cuts was to Democrats during the Bush Administration. Not everything on the planet revolves around the emotion of political hatred. Additionally, Sullivan admits that he forgot about the existence of the Senate, though he tries to mitigate that by stating that of the three Republicans who supported the Obama Administration’s stimulus package, one turned into a Democrat (because he couldn’t survive a Republican primary–the politically opportunistic nature of this switch is unmentioned by Sullivan, leaving the reader to perhaps imagine that noble principle drove Arlen Specter’s conversion), and the other two are “hang[ing] by a thread,” which I guess is Sullivan’s way of being overly dramatic about the fact that as New Englanders, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins are more moderate than many of their Republican colleagues. Again, all of this tedium obscures the fact that Sullivan (embarrassingly) forgot that three Senate Republicans supported the stimulus; I recognize Sullivan’s impetus to distract by trying to use the Imperius Curse to get legions of angels to dance on the head of a pin, but really, all of this nit-picking does more to undermine Sullivan’s point, than it does to reinforce it.

Sullivan then responds to the following that I wrote:

[W]hen President Obama announced his Afghanistan policy–and got attacked for it by the Left – it was Republicans who came to his aid, and offered their full-throated support for the policy. Does this not count as a form of bipartisan cooperation initiated by the Republicans to assist a Democratic President?

by saying:

Not really – since they were so already on the record behind both wars initiated by their own president that taking on Obama on this would have required taking on Bush.

Shorter Andrew Sullivan: “Bipartisan cooperation shown by the Republicans towards the Obama Administration is tainted if it is a continuation of a Republican stance undertaken during the Bush Administration.” This is unreal. Sullivan might have thought to admit that perhaps, just perhaps, Afghanistan represents a huge point of principle for Republicans, and that Republicans believe so strongly in the need to prevail in Afghanistan that they are willing to put politics aside, let it stop at the water’s edge, and throw their support to a Democratic President who adopted an Afghan policy largely in accordance with what Republicans hoped for. Sullivan might have also thought to admit that without Republican support, the Obama Administration’s Afghan policy would have had, at best, vanishingly small Congressional support, given how much Democrats were against it. But no; Republican support for the President of Afghanistan somehow doesn’t count because George W. Bush gave the policy cooties. Or something. Note, by the way, Sullivan’s reference of George W. Bush as “their own president” in reference to Republicans. Funny, I thought that George W. Bush was everyone’s President, just as I believe that Barack Obama currently is everyone’s President. Writing for myself, I’d say this kind of divisive rhetoric is gratuitously hostile towards the best traditions of our democratic republic. It certainly contains more gratuitous hostility than any that little old me showed to Andrew Sullivan.

Next comes the following passage from me:

For that matter, has Sullivan forgotten that the very tax deal he celebrates this week with endless, meaningless, Baghdad Bob-ish, nauseating frequency, featuring one ludicrous “meep, meep” after another, is a tax deal that was crafted in negotiations with Republicans? ThatRepublicans are supporting this deal, and are trying to save it–and the Obama Administration’s prestige–in the face of Democratic assaults so virulent that F-bombs have been thrown the White House’s way, and House Democrats have even stated that they will not bring the tax package for a vote? Why is all of this not equivalent to some Democrats supporting a Bush tax cut?

With the following response from Sullivan:

Pej has a point there. But the principle of low upper rate taxes is a Republican principle, and it is this for which the GOP fought. Lower taxes, in contrast, were definitely not a Democratic principle in 2000, when many, like Gore, urged that the surplus should go to shore up social security and pay down the debt. Pej goes on to argue that the ubiquitous Bush as Hitler smears during W.’s two terms are equivalent to the muck thrown at Obama, that cultural artifacts such as the image above prove the left’s secessionist dreams, and that Vanity Fair’s Bush Joker and Maclean’s Bush Saddam are no better that Forbes’ Obama with Stalin. My point is that the Bush-as-Hitler crap (which I decried at the time) did not start at the very beginning, but emerged after Bush’s decision to go to war with Iraq, using torture as a method, adopting radical notions of executive power in a permanent wartime, and being responsible for an incompetently occupied country where hundreds of thousands were slaughtered. The high-level demonization of Obama began from the very start – with no real cause at all, except that he won an election easily.

Once again, Republican support for President Obama is somehow considered suspect if it is in line with Republican principles. Apparently, according to Sullivan, Republicans can only be good Republicans if they start acting like Democrats. Additionally, Sullivan believes that mass violations of Godwin’s Law–along with all of the other artwork and photo-shopping I brought up in response to Sullivan’s dare (see the last sentence of the third-to-last paragraph)–are more acceptable because they supposedly occurred when people began to disagree with the Bush Administration’s policies. To which, the reply is twofold: (1) Disagreement with the Bush Administration’s policies did not, and do not justify Hitler analogies (those who think otherwise, clearly forget history); and (2) Has Andrew Sullivan forgotten this scene?

I don’t recall any Republicans pelting the Obama motorcade with projectiles in protest of his inauguration. I certainly don’t recall any right-wing version of Michael Moore making a movie celebrated by Hollywood praising such activities. Sullivan will respond by pointing out that Bush’s election was controversial. But that never justified the violence that was evinced by the protesters. Sullivan seems to think that if he can trace Bush-hatred to a specific policy disagreement, then the Bush-hatred becomes acceptable, or at least, understandable. What he fails to get, however, is that even if one considers the policy disagreements, the hatred was completely and entirely out of proportion to the disagreements at issue. Out of proportion hatred, is out of proportion hatred, pure and simple. Context may help explain the hatred, but it doesn’t even remotely come close to justifying it. If Andrew Sullivan wants to see what “gratuitously hostile” looks like, all he needs to do is to cast his mind back to 2001, when Bush-hatred began (far earlier, it ought to be emphasized, than Sullivan would care to admit it began).

Finally, there is the following from Sullivan:

But their complaints about legitimacy after Bush vs Gore were far more defensible, it seems to me, than the far right delusions about Obama’s birth certificate. And after 9/11, there was huge support for the president by the vast majority of Democrats – something I encouraged (look at W’s polling numbers in the winter of 2001 – and imagine anything like that for Obama since the Depression began.) I do not recall any major Democrat saying he hoped that Bush would fail in the war on terror, the way Limbaugh broadly hoped for the failure of Obama in the economic crisis. And the attempt to turn Obama into an un-American from the get-go was pre-meditated, and dabbling in dangerous racial waters.

(Emphasis mine.) Ahem:

BRENDA BUTTNER: You’re basically saying he’s [Bush] going to get re-elected. I mean essentially.

ELLEN RATNER, FNC political analyst: Well, unless the economy tanks –

BUTTNER: The economy could. That’s what people vote on.

RATNER: Well, unless he messes up the war [with Iraq]. My hope.

BUTTNER: Your hope?!

RATNER: Well, I don’t want him to be reelected!

BUTTNER: Right, but I mean, “mess up the war,” what do you mean by that?

RATNER: I mean, do something that will make Americans say, ‘maybe we shouldn’t have done this.’ You know, that kind of thing.

Ellen Ratner’s Wikipedia entry is here, for those wondering who she is. But you know, why limit this merely to statements made during the War on Terror? Here’s E.J. Dionne before the 2001 inauguration in a piece entitled “Democrats begin waiting for George W. Bush to fail”. Dionne urges Democrats to do more than to simply hope that the Administration fails, but states pretty clearly that the hope for failure was a common one for Democrats–a point reinforced by this:

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, just minutes before learning of the terrorist attacks on America, Democratic strategist James Carville was hoping for President Bush to fail, telling a group of Washington reporters: “I certainly hope he doesn’t succeed.”

Carville was joined by Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg, who seemed encouraged by a survey he had just completed that revealed public misgivings about the newly minted president.

“We rush into these focus groups with these doubts that people have about him, and I’m wanting them to turn against him,” Greenberg admitted.

The pollster added with a chuckle of disbelief: “They don’t want him to fail. I mean, they think it matters if the president of the United States fails.”

Minutes later, as news of the terrorist attacks reached the hotel conference room where the Democrats were having breakfast with the reporters, Carville announced: “Disregard everything we just said! This changes everything!”

The press followed Carville’s orders, never reporting his or Greenberg’s desire for Bush to fail. The omission was understandable at first, as reporters were consumed with chronicling the new war on terror. But months and even years later, the mainstream media chose to never resurrect those controversial sentiments, voiced by the Democratic Party’s top strategists, that Bush should fail.

That omission stands in stark contrast to the feeding frenzy that ensued when radio host Rush Limbaugh recently said he wanted President Obama to fail.

I mean, I guess it’s nice that Carville and Greenberg begged people to disregard everything once they learned of the terrorist attacks, but why hope for failure in the first place? Isn’t that A Bad Thing To Do, according to Andrew Sullivan? And why should it be forgiven, or not considered, merely because these statements were made before the War on Terror began–assuming, of course, that they were made at least a few seconds before planes started hitting the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in Shanksville, PA, after which point, the War on Terror might have been said to have begun?

Is it okay to ask these questions of Andrew Sullivan? Is it okay to point out anew that simple research via Google serves to undercut his arguments?

Or would it be considered gratuitously hostile to point out that once again, when it comes to argumentation, the Daily Dish goes where facts rightfully fear to tread?

NOTE: I welcome comments, but if a comment takes a personal shot at Andrew Sullivan, or takes one at me with an attempt to question my motives, I’ll delete it and ban the user. Disagreement with my ideas, or Sullivan’s, without introducing a personal element to the comment is welcome. Let’s keep things civil–as the proprietor of this blog, I insist that we do so.

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  • http://thecrowbar.us/ Ben Grivno

    If one read Sullivan’s blog exclusively, one would have absolutely zero chance of grasping reality.

  • http://www.resurrectionsong.com zombyboy

    Sullivan is really making an argument about popularity, it seems. Since President Obama captured so much of the vote, since he was so popular, the Republicans should have ignored principle and voted to support the popular option. He imagines that since they did not, it proves their personal hatred of Obama.

    This is, of course, an idiotic argument, but he can’t see the value of a rational argument against it because it is so irrational to begin with. It’s like arguing with a Truther: the irrational basis of their initial assumptions and their emotional attachment to their beliefs don’t allow for a rational response. Rational response, in fact, bolsters their beliefs and are integrated with the rest of the conspiracy theory.

    • Thejeff

      lots of folks here seem to be a bit too comfortable in dismissing sully as “idiotic” or “irrational”. (actually quite tame compared to others’ posts)

      Here is something to chew on going forward: setting up an opposing point of view as beneath serious consideration without due diligence is lazy, and points of view so obtained gain no purchase in a larger world. feeling superior without earning the status isn’t a worthy goal, and suggests that one has an ” emotional attachment to their beliefs (that) don’t allow for a rational response.”

      • http://www.resurrectionsong.com zombyboy

        I’m sorry, but there is a point in a discussion where it no longer pays to engage someone in a serious discussion–and that’s not about me feeling superior. For example, Sullivan’s obsession with Trig Palin was not only warrantless, but it wasn’t worth engaging in serious conversation past a certain point. This conversation is heading the same direction.

        For that matter, not all opposing points of view are worthy of much in the way of time or effort. If I were to tell you that Earth is flat and that it was created just a few thousand years ago, would you feel the need to craft a serious argument in rebuttal? And, if you did and I maintained a stubborn, emotional attachment to my original beliefs, would you then continue that conversation?

        You might disagree with where to draw that line, but in my opinion the original responses from our host more than took care of any due diligence and the best path now is to call the game.

        For the record, I haven’t dismissed Sullivan as idiotic or irrational, I dismissed his argument as idiotic and irrational. Which it is since, as our host has amply shown, it is based on faulty assumptions and inaccurate statements. If I were to call him anything it wouldn’t be idiotic (although I might stick with irrational).

        But thank you for your thoughts.

        • Thejeff

          sully on trig is a world-shattering fail. absolutely bizarre, and i have written that to him.
          have you read sullivan’s own argument or are you relying on our host (who i agree makes a number of fine points)? I have read both thoroughly and am quite sure that if you assess sullivan’s argument and not your thin characterization of it, it will become clear that terms like idiotic and irrational are to be used a bit more carefully than you do. for instance, the very worst i could say about your original comment is that it uses a straw dog to dismiss a more complex point of view out of hand, which is lazy and beneath the efforts of an obviously educated and intelligent poster.

          There may be a point in a discussion when it no longer pays to engage someone in serious discussion, but i politely suggest your analysis is short of that marker, as there is a bit more meat on those bones than you seem to think. obama is getting a fair amount more deranged flak from officials than bush did, though i certainly remember cucinich’s unworthy rants and others. I say this as someone who defended bush (and still does) against some dear friends who are otherwise sane and lovely people, yet persist in the bizarre notion that he was complicit in 911, and/or a fascist. they are not senators, congressmen or policy makers (thank god).

          • Thejeff

            hilariously, straw man, not dog. i hate the flu

      • Anonymous

        You also have to remember this: Sullivan is indebted to the Obama administration for throwing out his federal drug charge which would jeopardize any future immigration chances he has. He should be read as a paid shill on all things Obama related.

        • Thejeff

          do you believe that? that’s a thin pretext to be dismissive of a person’s point of view, and i suspect you would quickly call someone on that kind of lazy thinking if it was in defense of a point of view you agree with. Do the exercise of imagining if there might be a grain of truth in what i am saying before you reply.

          • Anonymous

            He did get caught smoking pot on federal land and Obama’s DOJ had the
            charges thrown out and the judge in the cases noted this was highly
            unusual. Sullivan’s lawyer explicitly stated this was partially
            because it would complicate his immigration case.

            http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/brainiac/2009/09/sullivan_avoids_pot_charges.html

            Regardless of all of that, Sullivan has shown himself to be unserious
            in many cases and histrionic in all things Palin. To continue to
            treat him as a reasonable actor in political debates is to deny the
            present in honor of the past. He was once relevant, sadly that is no
            longer the case.

            And lastly, we shouldn’t read everything there as the words of Andrew
            Sullivan. A small team of people are actually writing unlabeled
            posts. Some are Sullivan, some aren’t and there is no way to know the
            difference.

          • Thejeff

            he is weird on palin.

            his team is on his christmas card, and i see plenty of bylines throughout.

            he knows good thinking even when he isn’t doing any of it, and his( or his groups’) links to topical thought are more varied and of a consistently higher quality than any single other source i have found. those links lead me to, among other destinations, places like this, where a smart fellow ably argues against one of andrew’s positions. that has the look and feel of reasonableness.

            as to relevancy, to whom? he seems to be relevant to quite a few people. you may dismiss them or him as irrelevant, but you may be wrong to do so. it is possible.

          • Thejeff

            and as to the drug imbroglio, it may be that the doj gave the guy a break. did they threaten to reverse their decision if he didn’t keep writing nice pieces about the obama administration? it feels silly just to type that. where is the lever that puts him in the bag? he was in the bag for obama long before that and doesn’t hide it. you don’t need some silly conspiracy to get there.

    • Thejeff

      lots of folks here seem to be a bit too comfortable in dismissing sully as “idiotic” or “irrational”. (actually quite tame compared to others’ posts)

      Here is something to chew on going forward: setting up an opposing point of view as beneath serious consideration without due diligence is lazy, and points of view so obtained gain no purchase in a larger world. feeling superior without earning the status isn’t a worthy goal, and suggests that one has an ” emotional attachment to their beliefs (that) don’t allow for a rational response.”

  • Anonymous

    Haven’t you figured it out yet? To the Left “bipartisanship” and “compromise” only occur during Republican capitulation to the Democrat position.

  • Fred

    Let’s also not forget that at the time that Carville and Greenberg were hoping to the failure of George Bush, he wasn’t really in the midst of anything controversial from a Democratic point of view. Sure, there was the big tax cut, but for the previous few months the big news was No Child Left Behind, which was written by Ted Kennedy and was the major bipartisan agreement of the time. At the point in time that Democrats were hoping for Bush’s failure, Bush was governing as a centrist, Big Goverment Republican. Outside of the war and its attendant issues, Bush looked to shape a largely “progressive” agenda with a center-right facade – he accelerated the growth of the welfare state, just not as quickly as Al Gore would have done. And he was hated for it.

    • http://twitter.com/MrMaryk MrMaryk

      Also look at the reasons – Greenberg and Carville’s motivation was cynical politics: If they could force him to “fail”, it would enable them to take power. No more, no less. Rush ahs stated his reasons clearly in defense: He opposes the President’s policy prescriptions purely on ideological grounds, and wanted Obama to fail to implement them. That would be his “failure”, not slow-motion train wreck we saw last week.

  • Anonymous

    Again, why does anyone read anything Andrew Sullivan writes. The man is clearly unhinged, inaccurate and lies outright about so many things.

    Another left-wing, narcissistic sociopath with a blog. Ignore the idiot!

  • Daniel in Brookline

    Personally, I wouldn’t mind Mr. Sullivan addressing his massive flip-flop on all this. It’s well known, and well-documented, that in 2001 he sounded like a hard-core conservative, perfectly willing to support the President in nearly everything that he did. Sometime in 2003 or 2004 this changed, and virtually overnight, President Bush could do no right in Mr. Sullivan’s eyes.

    Granted, there’s nothing wrong with changing one’s mind (although such a complete makeover gives one pause). However, then we get to statements like this:

    > the Bush-as-Hitler crap (which I decried at the time)

    Really? The Bush-as-Hitler slurs never stopped; it was a popular theme right through 2008, and no doubt can still be found today. If Mr. Sullivan decried such sentiments “at the time”, when did he stop, and why? At what point in time did it become legitimate, in his eyes, to describe the President as another Hitler?

    In fairness to Mr. Sullivan, he seems to be making the point that Democrats, supporting the war against principle, are morally superior to Republicans, supporting tax cuts in accordance with principle. I think that point is worth addressing. (Were it up to me, I’d want to point out that supporting a wartime President in re the war is a very different proposition than supporting an arguably pacifistic President in his attempts to take over healthcare.) However, I don’t think that Democrats’ initial support for the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, short-lived as it was, makes up for the hostile opposition and gratuitous name-calling that dominated the Bush presidency, from our elected representatives on down.

    In short, President Obama has a long, long way to go before criticism of him is even in the same neighborhood as what his predecessor endured for eight long years. And it’s worth noting that, so far, President Obama hasn’t handled his criticism with anything like the grace that President Bush did.

    I’d also like to echo our host in pointing out the multitudes who declared GWB “not my president”. Has this been echoed on the Right? Have Tea Party rallies been showing banners, declaring that Barack Obama is not their President? I have yet to see one such banner, let alone the endless supply of “not my president” paraphernalia in evidence during the Bush years.

    It is not to Mr. Sullivan’s credit that he continues this, calling GWB the Republicans’ President. If he wishes to talk about civility on the Left vs. the Right, perhaps he should address his own words first.

    respectfully,
    Daniel in Brookline

    • Thejeff

      er, I googled “tea party banners declaring obama is not my president”. tee shirts and coffee mugs anyone? hey, you can’t take your country back if it hasn’t been stolen. you should do your own opposition research and realize there is plenty of visceral partisan hatred on both sides of the spectrum. once you have gone that far, see if there is more you might have missed.

  • Anonymous

    Although these bloggy slapfights are entertaining, they tend to lose focus quickly. It took me a while to remember what this discussion was about. Now I believe that Sullivan’s original arguments were that the GOP (and not just the right’s excitable fringe elements) regarded Obama as “an alien and a threat,” and consequently oppose his policies because it detests him personally.

    I’m going to plead guilty to viewing Obama as “an alien and a threat.” The second part is easy: Obama is a threat to many personal liberties, the economy, and the federal government’s solvency. As for the charge that Obama is “an alien,” well, he’s not helping himself look particularly American when he goes to Berlin and identifies himself as a “citizen of the world.” No one should mistake him for Lee Greenwood when both his campaign and the opening months of his presidency focused on getting Europe, Turtle Bay, and the Muslim world to like him as much as they hated Bush. I don’t think there’s anything improper about regarding Obama’s post-American presidency as alien.

    • Anonymous

      As for the Republicans-won’t-compromise-with-Obama charge, Yousefzadeh has parried Sullivan well, but there are a few more points worth mentioning.

      First, the idea that Obama is a post-partisan healer is and always was the fictional creation of Obama’s message machine and the compliant media. Obama isn’t any less deceitful than any other pol who ever said “let’s put partisan differences aside,” but he’s also no better. When a politician says “let’s stop the partisan bickering and come together” the unstated conclusion of that sentence is “and do what I want.” But for all the post-partisan messaging, Obama actually ran a very ugly campaign. It’s easy for someone who was as caught up in the “Yes We Can” B.S. as Sullivan to forget, but under the “hope and change” facade was the reality of a bitter and divisive election machine. Obama played the race card against both John McCain and Bill Clinton. Bill “First Black President” Clinton! The treatment of Sarah Palin was absolutely disgraceful. The jeering and mocking of President Bush as he was departing on Obama’s inauguration day was shameful. I think I can be forgiven if I’m not particularly motivated to compromise with a guy who gives his opponents the finger when he attempts to scratch his face.

      Of course, the divisiveness didn’t stop there. You’d think that the post-partisan healer would at least offer token compromises to his opponents, but what we got from day four of the Obama presidency was “I won.” Never mind that the GOP Representatives he was talking to had also just won their elections. Never mind that it was politically smart to give a little to the GOP so that they couldn’t effectively criticize the stimulus package. Obama won, so he was getting his way.

      Now we have proof that the GOP would have been willing to compromise with Obama back in early 2009 had he not been such an arrogant jackass. The GOP has more political momentum with it now than at any time in at least six years, and Obama’s facing the flight of the moderates, anger from his base, and a challenging reelection campaign. The GOP could tell Obama to stuff it, but instead the Republicans are compromising on a tax/son-of-stimulus package. Obama could have had this compromise 22 months ago, but that wouldn’t do, because he won.

      So Obama flipped off the Republicans and passed the stimulus that he wanted, but he didn’t stop there. He never misses an opportunity to dump on Bush, relentlessly pointing out that everything wrong with the economy was Bush’s fault, and seemingly forgetting that he himself had spent 2005-2009 as a Senator who could have proposed legislation to deal with the problems that he claimed that Bush caused or failed to address. His Secretary of State ostentatiously dumped on Bush with the childish “Resent Button” stunt with the Russians. Everything about the man is petty, vindictive, and small.

      Next, facing a deep and broad recession, with unemployment that exceeded his administration’s expectations (which no doubt were artificially inflated to make Obama look good), Obama decided to make his legislative priority passing the #1 item on the Democrats’ wish list for the better part of a century. Rather than address an anemic economy and an awful job market, Obama sought to hand out a perk that only wealthy nations can afford.

      This is the president with whom Sullivan expects the GOP to compromise? This is the man whom the GOP despises because, I don’t know, he’s half-black and his middle name is Hussein? No, to the extent that anyone in the GOP dislikes the man, it’s because he’s an arrogant, petty, vindictive asshole. And yet the GOP has been far more willing to compromise with Obama than he has deserved.

      • Julia Drusilla

        This is pretty funny. Universal health insurance is a “perk that only wealthy nations can afford” – and yet the United States cannot afford it? I don’t think it’s terribly controversial to say that the United States is, in fact, a pretty wealthy nation! Whatever yardstick you use (nominal GDP per capita, GDP (PPP) per capita, not to mention overall GDP), the United States is a good deal richer than all manner of other nations that maintain universal health insurance regimes.

        Now, it’s true that President Obama has said, implicitly and explicitly, that his predecessor’s policies were often mistaken, inferior, or otherwise misguided. This, dear akdc, is part of life in a state with more than one political party. Obama’s behavior is evocative of how Bush II dumped on Clinton, who dumped on Bush I and Reagan, who dumped (with real bile) on Carter, who dumped on Jerry ‘n Dick, who dumped on LBJ and JFK, who dumped on Ike, who dumped on Truman and FDR, who wasn’t very fond of Herbert Hoover…

        So I’m sorry that Obama’s critiques of the prior administration have hurt your feelings. But that kinda goes with the territory, dontcha think?

        • Anonymous

          I don’t think it’s terribly controversial to say that the United States is, in fact, a pretty wealthy nation!

          If we had balanced federal and state budgets and didn’t have a $14,000,000,000,000 (and growing) national debt, I might agree with you. But that’s not the case. We’re a debtor nation that cannot presently afford a lavish welfare state.

          So I’m sorry that Obama’s critiques of the prior administration have hurt your feelings. But that kinda goes with the territory, dontcha think?

          I’m not going to argue with you about whether Obama’s habit of blaming his predecessors is unprecedented in scope or frequency. But this habit, combined with his pettiness and arrogance, supplies a reason that Republicans might be unwilling to extend olive branches to him. It’s not, as Sullivan contends, because he’s half-black.

          • Thejeff

            so america isn’t a wealthy nation? that may come as a bit of a surprise to the other 7 billion inhabitants of the world.

          • Anonymous

            You’re not wealthy if you’re maxed out on your credit cards, you’ve got piles of student loans, and you’re upside-down on your house and car. That’s basically where the U.S. government is right now. And now Obama just bought a boat, figuring that the sea air will all do us some good. It’s madness.

          • Thejeff

            we have a number of ways to deal with the deficit and still take care of our own people. roughly one fifth of the entire world gdp is relegated to 1/23 of the world’s people, so the money is certainly there. finding someone in washington who has the balls to engage the public in the very unsavory conversation that would be preamble to action on any of those avenues is another matter altogether.

            every nation in the world worth living in is a welfare state, which makes an argument against such unrealistic. so maybe the battle is in the details. maybe having a system where two diametrically opposed sides hash out the nation’s priorities isn’t such a bad idea…

          • http://classicalvalues.com TallDave

            We’re actually the wealthiest large country in the world on a PPP GDP per capita basis, and by a pretty significant margin. The average Western Europe country is something like 20-30% below us.

            But of course we already have universal health care — everyone is treated, and virtually everyone who can’t afford medical insurance is eligible for Medicaid. This is evidenced by the fact the Obamacare estimates for the state-run exchanges have so far turned out to be fifty times too large — virtually no one is signing up for them.

            And not only are they are all treated, they get the best care in the world. Detractors will point to irrelevancies like life expectancy that don’t correlate to healthcare or things like infant mortality that are measured differently (Europeans generally consider low birthweight babies “stillborn”) but the facts are that we lead the world in treatment outcomes, research, access to new medication, access to new technology, and facility effectiveness (cleanliness, responsiveness to patients, etc). This is all because our healthcare system has the largest free-market component.

            (It’s also worth noting that the U.S. is indirectly responsible for perhaps 90% of drug development, because it is only here that drug companies are allowed to recoup the exorbitant costs of productization — without us, drug development would be a much less profitable endeavour and so much less of it would be done.)

            The argument would more correctly go: the United States is rich, and if it wants to stay rich it should not be quasi-nationalizing arguably the most productive and dynamic 1/7th of the economy.

      • Julia Drusilla

        This is pretty funny. Universal health insurance is a “perk that only wealthy nations can afford” – and yet the United States cannot afford it? I don’t think it’s terribly controversial to say that the United States is, in fact, a pretty wealthy nation! Whatever yardstick you use (nominal GDP per capita, GDP (PPP) per capita, not to mention overall GDP), the United States is a good deal richer than all manner of other nations that maintain universal health insurance regimes.

        Now, it’s true that President Obama has said, implicitly and explicitly, that his predecessor’s policies were often mistaken, inferior, or otherwise misguided. This, dear akdc, is part of life in a state with more than one political party. Obama’s behavior is evocative of how Bush II dumped on Clinton, who dumped on Bush I and Reagan, who dumped (with real bile) on Carter, who dumped on Jerry ‘n Dick, who dumped on LBJ and JFK, who dumped on Ike, who dumped on Truman and FDR, who wasn’t very fond of Herbert Hoover…

        So I’m sorry that Obama’s critiques of the prior administration have hurt your feelings. But that kinda goes with the territory, dontcha think?

    • Anonymous

      As for the Republicans-won’t-compromise-with-Obama charge, Yousefzadeh has parried Sullivan well, but there are a few more points worth mentioning.

      First, the idea that Obama is a post-partisan healer is and always was the fictional creation of Obama’s message machine and the compliant media. Obama isn’t any less deceitful than any other pol who ever said “let’s put partisan differences aside,” but he’s also no better. When a politician says “let’s stop the partisan bickering and come together” the unstated conclusion of that sentence is “and do what I want.” But for all the post-partisan messaging, Obama actually ran a very ugly campaign. It’s easy for someone who was as caught up in the “Yes We Can” B.S. as Sullivan to forget, but under the “hope and change” facade was the reality of a bitter and divisive election machine. Obama played the race card against both John McCain and Bill Clinton. Bill “First Black President” Clinton! The treatment of Sarah Palin was absolutely disgraceful. The jeering and mocking of President Bush as he was departing on Obama’s inauguration day was shameful. I think I can be forgiven if I’m not particularly motivated to compromise with a guy who gives his opponents the finger when he attempts to scratch his face.

      Of course, the divisiveness didn’t stop there. You’d think that the post-partisan healer would at least offer token compromises to his opponents, but what we got from day four of the Obama presidency was “I won.” Never mind that the GOP Representatives he was talking to had also just won their elections. Never mind that it was politically smart to give a little to the GOP so that they couldn’t effectively criticize the stimulus package. Obama won, so he was getting his way.

      Now we have proof that the GOP would have been willing to compromise with Obama back in early 2009 had he not been such an arrogant jackass. The GOP has more political momentum with it now than at any time in at least six years, and Obama’s facing the flight of the moderates, anger from his base, and a challenging reelection campaign. The GOP could tell Obama to stuff it, but instead the Republicans are compromising on a tax/son-of-stimulus package. Obama could have had this compromise 22 months ago, but that wouldn’t do, because he won.

      So Obama flipped off the Republicans and passed the stimulus that he wanted, but he didn’t stop there. He never misses an opportunity to dump on Bush, relentlessly pointing out that everything wrong with the economy was Bush’s fault, and seemingly forgetting that he himself had spent 2005-2009 as a Senator who could have proposed legislation to deal with the problems that he claimed that Bush caused or failed to address. His Secretary of State ostentatiously dumped on Bush with the childish “Resent Button” stunt with the Russians. Everything about the man is petty, vindictive, and small.

      Next, facing a deep and broad recession, with unemployment that exceeded his administration’s expectations (which no doubt were artificially inflated to make Obama look good), Obama decided to make his legislative priority passing the #1 item on the Democrats’ wish list for the better part of a century. Rather than address an anemic economy and an awful job market, Obama sought to hand out a perk that only wealthy nations can afford.

      This is the president with whom Sullivan expects the GOP to compromise? This is the man whom the GOP despises because, I don’t know, he’s half-black and his middle name is Hussein? No, to the extent that anyone in the GOP dislikes the man, it’s because he’s an arrogant, petty, vindictive asshole. And yet the GOP has been far more willing to compromise with Obama than he has deserved.

    • Julia Drusilla

      And yet Obama – the “alien,” as you would have it – received seventy million votes from your countrymen. Hard to get less “alien” than being elected President by a majority of a democratic electorate.

      • Anonymous

        I’m not following you. Can you please flesh this out a little more for me? How is winning a national election a validation of “American-ness,” however defined?

        For many Americans, someone who denies American exceptionalism and is as seemingly focused on placing the concerns of foreigners on par with or above the concerns of his fellow Americans will appear at least somewhat “alien.”

        • Thejeff

          come on. he denies american exceptionalism in your mind only and certainly has a track record of putting america first. you sound like a puppet with that drivel being the centerpiece of your argument. i slapped down plenty of lefties who argued the same way about bush, and what is good for the goose…

          only a partisan speaks like that.

          • Anonymous

            No, Obama doesn’t deny American Exceptionalism only in my mind. Surely you’ve heard Obama say “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.

            Now, the full quote at the link does provide some context, but it’s apparent that even viewed in the best light, Obama views American Exceptionalism differently from how it is traditionally understood. Again, I’m not saying that that this makes him un-American, but it does make him the least American of any president to date, and probably the first post-American president.

          • Thejeff

            do you disagree with any part of what he said or is america the only country whose inhabitants believe is exceptional? someone professing anything more than that very realistic assessment is simply pandering to the masses’ patriotic impulse. i personally believe america is the greatest force for good in the world and the last best hope of mankind, but i expect someone born in, say, israel may think they exist to fulfill a greater mission than ours.

            i simply can’t make sense of what you mean by post-american. are we doomed to fail now, and if so what a very contradictory view for someone professing to believe in american exceptionalism. i think times are tough but there is a reason we are in the position we are in relation to the rest of the world (and history) and that reason still holds and will hold even after this least american president leaves office. stop with the histrionics and get a life.

  • Accentmark

    But their complaints about legitimacy after Bush vs Gore were far more defensible, it seems to me, than the far right delusions about Obama’s birth certificate.

    Honestly? written by the very person who has spilled more pixels about keeping hope alive of proving Trigg Palin did not travel the birth canal of Sarah Palin? Nothing personal, but Andrew can’t be taken seriously.

    • Anonymous

      That Andrew Sullivan, whose whose open contempt for and hatred of Sarah Palin is unparalleled by that of anyone writing for a major publication, would criticize anyone for having a personal dislike of Barack Obama is staggering beyond comprehension.

  • Accentmark

    I just remembered something about Andrew and this only tangential but sort of goes to his selective, short memory or selective use of facts.

    Recall this, Sullivan’s sort of milquetoast response to Jill Greenberg’s photo-shopped McCain images complete with blood and fangs. Yet Andrew is upset Obama was referred to as ‘it”.

  • Christy

    First up: I confess to having only read this post, and nothing else in the discussion. So if what I mention is contrary to what really happened, please bear that in mind.

    I can’t get past what seems to be the crux of Sullivan’s argument: Compromise is a good thing, and is defined by sacrificing your principles.

    I’m confused by the challenge of determining what someone’s principles are if they’re constantly sacrificing them. Perhaps those are merely principles in rhetoric, but not in reality? Perhaps in reality what is designed to look like compromise is really the self-serving posturing of an unprincipled actor.

    Also, perhaps the reality is that there is something laudable in knowing the difference between your principles and your desires, and being willing to sacrifice the latter while sticking to the former.

    Just perhaps.

  • http://classicalvalues.com TallDave

    To answer Pejman’s question about whether such questions can be asked: yes, but it isn’t likely to accomplish much.

    Andrew seems like a nice guy, I agree with him on a lot, and I wish him well personally, but let’s face it: intellectual honesty is neither his blog’s forte nor its audience’s reason for reading it. The last pretense of such evaporated when it was revealed unnamed assistants actually wrote much of “the Internet’s most popular one-man blog” under his name.

    So… a noble effort by Pejman, to which I tip my hat, and a chuckle for the futility of it all.

  • Alankh

    I do not recall any major Democrat saying he hoped that Bush would fail in the war on terror, the way Limbaugh broadly hoped for the failure of Obama in the economic crisis.

    Sully seems to insinuate that Limbaugh hoped for the economy to fail, when in truth Limbaugh hoped that Obama’s policies – which are inherently destructive to the economy – would fail to get enacted. Obama is at his heart a central-planning control freak, and that kind of stuff depresses markets.

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