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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Fournier's Parallel Universe

I am not someone who takes Ron Fournier seriously, but I do find importantly symptomatic his appalling declaration that there are "a striking number of parallels between Bush's fifth year in office and the atrocious first twelve months of President Obama's second term. My takeaway: Obama needs to shatter the cycle of dysfunction (his and history's) or risk leaving office like Bush, unpopular and relatively unaccomplished."

To begin at the end, President Obama's Administration has presided over the end of two catastrophic and criminal wars originating in President Bush's supposedly parallel Administration, he presided over passage of the Affordable Care Act which expanded Medicaid to millions of precarious citizens and radically regulated the atrocious private healthcare industry, passage of the Lily Ledbetter fair pay act, over the end of Don't Ask Don't Tell and the beginning of Marriage Equality at the turning of the tide for the great civil rights struggle for queer folks in America, his American Reinvestment and Recovery Act was a rare act of macroeconomically literate Keynesian stimulus which halted the great recession and formed a bulwark against the austerian measures of Republicans and corporatist Democrats for years... if the President accomplished nothing more in the years remaining to him (which I consider unlikely) he is already enormously accomplished.

To declare Obama "relatively unaccomplished" is frankly grotesque -- relative to whom, exactly? Compared to Bush -- the comparison actually on offer in the piece -- the statement is flabbergasting, odious, laugh out loud funny, disqualifying its author from serious consideration. But quite apart from such a ridiculous exercise in false equivalence, I simply cannot understand the ease with which the commentariat more generally declares the first year of Obama's second term so evidently "atrocious."
Pundits seem stubbornly wedded, for example, to the diagnosis that Obama's foreign policy has been feckless and naive and disastrous -- when he managed to avoid a disastrous unpopular war with Syria media figures were certain was inevitable while also getting Syria to agree to destroy chemical weapons caches they hitherto would not even admit to having, when he mobilized an effective coalition in sanctions successfully to pressure Iran into negotiations over halting their nuclear program long enough to open the door to a negotiated settlement with the world for the first time in generations.

Despite serial debunkings of a whole host of ramifying non-scandals whomped up by unscrupulous Republicans from Fast and Furious, to IRS Crusades against Teabaggers, to... Benghazi! Benghazi! Benghazi! somehow these groundless acts of witch-hunting mischief are allowed to insinuate themselves into the public perception of the Administration, imbuing it with a coloration of misconduct produced entirely through the misconduct of the Republicans who make unsupported charges media outlets report indifferent to the facts for the public to adjudicate on their own who knows how.

Quite apart from ridiculous Republicans and hate radio celebrities declaring Obamacare the end of the world -- sometimes because providing the uninsured with insurance was somehow the beginning of dictatorship or the end of the world, sometimes because early problems with the website were keeping uninsured people from getting insurance was some somehow the beginning of dictatorship or the end of the world -- many "moderate" "mainstream" commentators also declares the troubled website rollout as the end of the Administration. Needless to say, a month later, the website is working better, millions are signing up... and yet the pundits and the polls are still finding reasons to declare Obama's President fatally compromised, hopelessly dysfunctional, walking wounded.

I agree that this has been a terrible year for the country -- reeling from the beginning with the Newtown school gun massacre and the refusal of Republicans to allow the most modest most widely popular common sense gun safety measures to be implemented, onward to a series of Republican dominated state legislatures passing forced pregnancy laws and contraception bans indifferent to the health and autonomy of the majority of citizens in this country who are women, to the Supreme Court's Republican appointees demolishing provisions of the Voting Rights Act on the pretense that racism is not a problem in this country anymore followed within days by Republican governors and legislators in state after state after state immediately implementing poll taxes and voter restrictions to disenfranchise minority voters, to a Republican government shutdown over the inevitable implementation of the Affordable Care Act, through to the refusal of Republicans to allow a vote on comprehensive immigration reform in the House, again despite the urgency of the problem and the popularity of reform.

When Fournier offers up his smug "takeaway" that Obama needs to "shatter the cycle of dysfunction" in Washington he is blaming the President for the intransigently irresponsible misconduct of the Republicans. To insist that Obama "do something" in this situation is literally to demand that the President be magical. To condemn him for the sins of others is to collaborate in those sins. Fournier's exercise in false equivalence and impossible demands is just an extreme variation of corporate media narratives of the Obama Presidency more generally.

It is to this outrageous misconduct that I would attribute Obama's low poll numbers for the moment -- the American people need to understand why the mandate they delivered the President and Congressional Democrats (Democrats, recall, received millions more votes than Republicans even in House races, as much as deliberate gerrymandering it is the inherent disproportion of rural/suburban representation over urban representation that accounts for the Republican majority there) has not translated to the implementation of urgently necessary and enormously popular jobs bills, infrastructure spending, taxing of the wealthy, regulation of the banks, comprehensive immigration reform, an end to war adventuring, and common sense gun safety measures. The demonstrably and even obviously true answer to that question is unprecedented Republican obstructionism is standing in the way of American priorities. The commentariat in refusing to tell that true story has chosen, whether it admits this or not, to collaborate in Republican deceptions -- while congratulating itself on its fidelty in so doing to a truth-telling reduced to reporting faithfully what the actors say indifferent to the actual truth of what they say.

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