Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Still in the Tank, I Guess…

Upgraded and adapted from the Moot, from my latest response to "thanatz p.":
What prompted the blogosphere outrage ... was the message the WH was pushing hard via Gibbs and Emanuel Thurs-Sun that there would simply be no prosecutions.

That "hard push" to which you refer was an immoderate exaggeration contradicted (or, to be generous, complicated) by other actually available facts. The title of the post that prompted your initial comment was "I guess I see these things differently" because it seemed to me I was literally seeing different things than the outraged were seeing.

Comments by Gibbs and Emanuel seemed to me to be genial conciliatory noises made for the benefit of tractable opposition forces by people whose role wasn't to make the decisions of an independent AG as to prosecutions in the first place, while Obama's release of the memos seemed to me yet another facilitation of the process of prosecution that his stance on lawfulness on the campaign trail followed by his reversal of lawlessness upon entering office coupled with his awareness of upcoming Congressional commissions and reports all seemed orchestrated to accomplish. It just seemed to me Obama was being more intelligent in the way he was proceeding than others who wanted the same outcome were demanding he be, all because they were less patient and less pragmatic (and rather paranoid) to no good purpose.
Indeed that I think he needs be strong-armed into doing things he advocated on the campaign trail is not due to juvenile assumptions about supposed evil intentions or sinister motives, but rather the recognition that he must deal with extremely powerful institutional structures that remain fundamentally unchanged from their state in the Bush-Clinton era and which themselves are capable of pushing back.

But of course that's why he's leaning on slow-moving multi-lateral processes that cause blogospheric impatience, and making conciliatory noises that provoke blogospheric outrage. You point to declarations of principle made "on the campaign trail" as if to suggest Obama has compromised the dedication to lawfulness that won him the election (among so many other things) somehow even though he literally reversed the lawlessmess immediately, tried to re-invigorate the proper separation of the branches of government and de-politicize Justice and so facilitate the proper processes through which lawfulness must actually be re-established (I actually have quibbles with some of his moves on this score but the thrust is clear and clearly different from the one that drives your comment), released the memos that have pushed the process forward at exactly the moment when a host of other reports are emerging in the media from professional and congressional committees all to consolidate support for what might be unprecedented prosecutions, made conciliatory noises to nervous institutions fearing scapegoating in the face of such turmoil, and so on.

You seem to see complex competing institutional dynamics as reasons to presume Obama a hypocrite and failing in consequence to observe facts that look to me to contradict that presumption in Obama's actual conduct. The very moves that prompted outrage were more properly understood in my view as signs that Obama is sensitive to the institutional complexities you claim to grasp are in play here. I'm glad you say you don't impute sinister motives to Obama, though. Some commentators of whom I would have expected better have done just that through this episode, and not at all only those mouthbreathing jackholes of the right.
[T]he country needs to show Obama that it wants this.

Well, I certainly agree with this. But I disagree that those who desire prosecutions of lawlessness should have needed this reassurance given the actual facts, nor do I see that the process of prosecution itself has been advanced by the freakout that prompted the walkback. The Right is too disorganized to take advantage of what could have been a squandering of political capital and a loss of control of messaging, but that's just luck. We can't count on that luck forever, we should be more intelligent.

We should certainly be signing petitions for impeachments (links to such have appeared on this blog, for example) and disbarments and organizing rallies to express outrage at perpetrators (and not against the President!) and to push back against Bush loyalists who try to spin respect for law as partisanship and media outlets that push this sort of line, while showing support for the Administration and congresscritters who take the risk of supporting prosecutions themselves.

Endlessly and impatiently scouting for signs of betrayal and hypocrisy while at that very moment the Administration facilitates delicate damaged accountable information-gathering and consensus-gathering and alliance-building and message/momentum-building processes eventuating in prosecutions in the face of complex oppositional forces is possibly not really so productive as you seem to think it is?
When Obama's proxies explicitly reject the rule of law people should get angry.

That never happened, by my lights. I think you made a mistake. Your heart's clearly in the right place, we're clearly on the same side, and if Nixon Reagan Bush Gingrich W. has made you skittish that is certainly understandable. But I think we should all stop confusing hairballs coughed up by sensationalist media based on decontextualized statement snippets as signs of betrayal and hypocrisy in the face of multitudes of facts that complicate such a picture to say the least.

As I said before I was especially upset at those who saw signs of palpable betrayal in Obama even as he intelligently facilitated processes through which the very outcomes they desired would properly be accomplished -- this seemed to me to amount to outrage against doing things intelligently -- and upset at those who used this immoderate overreaction as rationale for rhetoric claiming a Bush-Obama equivalence that is, frankly, outrageous and flabbergastingly wrongheaded. I can't see how that helps progressives at all. I think our President is doing an amazing job, and remains an incomparable force for actually-possible progressive change in the world.


Anonymous said...

Off-topic: I'm wondering how you, Dale Carrico, would react if President Obama (after attending some NASA conference where singularitarian guru Ray Kurzweil was the among the guest speakers) suddenly began publicly advocating the goal of making Americans "better than well" for a "transhuman future" or musing about the "Singularity" as "The end of everything we know. The beginning of something we may never understand".

Would you continue being in the tank for Obama? Would your critique of transhumanism become even more relevant and urgent? Would you accept being interviewed by CNN to criticize Obama for having become a Robot Cultist? Wouldn't all of that be your greatest mindfuck? ;)

Dale Carrico said...

If President Obama started talking like a Robot Cultist I would, er, indeed be perplexed. If he started talking about Ayn Rand, flying saucers, or Amway products I would also be perplexed. I don't expect the issue to arise.