Kent Pitman

Kent Pitman
New England, USA
Philosopher, Technologist, Writer
I've been using the net in various roles—technical, social, and political—for the last 30 years. I'm disappointed that most forums don't pay for good writing and I'm ever in search of forums that do. (I've not seen any Tippem money, that's for sure.) And I worry some that our posting here for free could one day put paid writers in Closed Salon out of work. See my personal home page for more about me.


Editor’s Pick
AUGUST 1, 2011 8:19AM

An Open Letter to the Capitulator-in-Chief

Rate: 39 Flag

Dear President Obama,

Today I’m even more discouraged with you than I ever have been. And please don’t flatter yourself by thinking, as I suspect you do, that because you made “the hard choices” people were bound to be concerned. Do not smugly say to yourself, well “this had to be done.” It did not. Not today.

This was an artificial situation created by a political party, the barely recognizable Republican Party, itself under control of the Tea Partiers because even the traditional Republicans among their ranks are unwilling to risk that they might not be re-elected if they stand up to these destructive elements. [white washing] The result is that the American people have been held hostage, and you, Mr. President, have chosen not just to negotiate with those perpetrating this extortion—setting a precedent for how this can and should unfold in the future—but also to give in to basically all of their demands.

In fact, you put up so little fight that there is serious question as to whether you even disagreed with them, or whether you were really just a plant from their party all along. That sounds like a conspiracy theory when said aloud, and yet when I’ve heard people suggest it, I have nothing to answer. The facts are consistent with such a scenario, and frankly it explains the facts better than the story you're telling. But either way, you most certainly did not ever represent the interests of the American people who elected you, and particularly the Democrats, in any but the most feeble and incompetent ways. You yourself have been heard to say “elections have consequences,” or had you perhaps forgotten. Your energy seems to be 100% spent these days on pleasing the minority because you apparently, and quite arrogantly, assume that you have the Democrats in a position where they have nowhere to run.

The ordinary standard of a “fair deal” is that if both parties are willing to voluntarily sign a contract in a free market, the deal is fair. Either party could walk away, but they choose to sign. They aren’t signing under duress.

But here the Republicans have not negotiated such a fair deal. There was no option to just walk away, and they knew it. They coupled a “must do” action (raising the debt limit) with another action that serves their partisan political agenda, such that the signing of any deal now is done under duress.

It was an engineered crisis that never existed in the first place. The debt needs to be resolved but we have longer than overnight to do it. Credible economists even argue that we should take a while to resolve the debt issue, rather than rushing to cut too much too quickly. But the proof that there was no urgency to solve the spending issue today is implicit in this pathetic compromise, when it’s acknowledged that no decision on how to cut the debt will be made just now anyway; rather, a committee will be formed. Forget what the committee will do for one moment. It's the fact that the committee will not report its results today, but rather by November, that tells you all you need to know. There was time to resolve that matter separately. All that had to be done today was to raise the debt limit.

And you, Mr. President, have the power to do that unilaterally to avoid catastrophe. You do not have to say that the Congress, taken hostage, is the last word on the matter. But you have chosen not to exercise your authority as Executive. Rather, you have chosen to make the White House either subservient to or complicit in the actions of this rogue Tea Party action.

A political coup has been successfully executed because you opened the front door to the United States and put out the welcome mat. You had the option of pushing back, but you did not push back. Rather, you offered more than was asked for and now sound all miffed it was turned down. Now, because it was, you're bargaining down to a plan that is pretty much everything the Republicans wanted and nothing the majority of the American people wanted or needed.

You could have invoked, and can still invoke, the 14th amendment. That would fix the debt limit problem. Poof. One sentence and it’s fixed. Congress usually does the honors, but to protect the Constitution you were elected to defend, you can do it yourself. Nothing in the Constitution suggests that you are prohibited form acting to assure that this is so. And your position as Chief Executive veritably implies that it is your role to act in single-minded fashion to handle emergencies that a slow, deliberative body such as the Congress is not equipped to handle propertly. That is why there is a Chief Executive.

You then could still tomorrow launch the commission needed to do this budget deal. The only difference is that if you launch it tomorrow, when we are not as a nation under duress in the discussions it would have. That would change the balance of power back to the majority of Americans. That’s a good thing, right? You are actually thinking that’s a good thing? Because I see no evidence that you do. I see evidence that you want the triggers and the hard choices. You didn’t lament that this would hurt the economy and jobs, but rather lamented that you wanted even more sweeping change than either party was asking for. You are so caught up in yourself that you have seemed to forget who elected you or what the economy needs.

I hereby call on you to still do the right thing and simply raise the debt ceiling, ignoring this other alleged deal, which is not a proper deal since it was negotiated under duress. If you think it’s a fair deal, ask that the same deal be signed tomorrow when we’re not under duress. Then you’ll see.

We must restore balance to the political debate and send a strong signal to the Tea Party and the Republicans it holds hostage that these strong-arm tactics are not going to be tolerated in a political system that is intended to be driven by majority rule. They are not the majority, and it your job to make sure they know it.

I’ll close with a discussion by Senator Tom Harkin on Saturday. It’s a little over fifteen minutes of your time, but it’s a worthy speech. You should take a moment to listen. Really.

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Kent, apparently the "change" we heard about during the 2008 election related to Obama "giving away the store."
Designanator, it's sad to say, but I think that's true. I now understand the purple Obama promised as either meaning “he thinks all Democrats secretly yearn to be Republicans” or else he sees himself as a sort of king who can just decide what he wants without considering the voting majority.
I'm with you on this one. It looks like the final “deal” only involves (targeted) cuts and no revenues increase. What kind of deal is this? And shared sacrifice?

You're absolutely right when write this: "It was an engineered crisis that never existed in the first place."
I divorced the Democrats a long time ago. I foolishly took them back in 2008. I'm not sure what the solution is. Today, I want to live somewhere else. Tomorrow. Well, maybe tomorrow I can find some reason to believe.
I keep that fables 'change' from the big 'O' in an unglazed pottery bowl on my dresser to look at now and again Kent.
We got what we all voted for.
No jobs, student funding cuts, cuts to the poor and needy, and total control of the reins by the corporate/industrial/military complex.
Get out the begging bowl. Even the crumbs are gonna be slim picken's. We can now b lame each other and begin the ripping out of each other's throats. It will be child's play.....
Kent, I don't think it's a conspiracy theory at all. It's not even the least bit questionable to believe that both of our political parties have been bought by corporations and wealthy individuals. As such, their sole responsibility is to protect the interests of those groups. In fact, what I think is outrageous is that anyone believes otherwise.
Part of this "problem" was created by the fact that while the Democrats controlled both houses of Congress and the Presidency they failed to pass a budget. You do a budget for your house and wonder how things got out of line in something as large as the government.

The cuts are only cuts in Washington. They are not to normal people. Inflation last year was less than 2%. This year it looks to be about 4%. These cuts are based on government growing 7%. So if you raise spending by 7% then reduce that to 6% you didn't cut anything. The amount spent next year is bigger than the amount spent this year. That makes it an increase.

There are no hard choices made here by either side. The "cuts" are to be figured out later by a group that can only make suggestions. They have no power. What happens if they make suggestions and Congress won't pass them? Triggers. That is political speak for CYA. After the the cuts are reported and not passed both sides can blame them other then blame the results on triggers. Why risk reelection?

I really hope Hillary run a primary against Obama.
This is being framed as a Republican victory. However there are no real cuts before the 2012 election.

Sometime between now and then, the exact cuts will need to be identified, and then the idea of wasteful spending will quickly shift to howls as rhetoric becomes reality.

The blowback from the Republican scorched earth approach should and will get worse rather than better.

Most importantly, the Bush tax cuts will expire.

The 'NO' option is now belongs to the Democrats.

The Republican 'victory' is largely rhetoric.

And, fwiw, Wall Street was appalled by this stunt.
I would hate to be an accused criminal and have Obama as my lawyer. If I was expecting to serve 5 to 10, Obama would come back to me with a deal he made with the prosecutor: life in prison with no parole.
You hit the nail on the head, but you missed the real point. The American people are indeed being held hostage by an alien ideology, but the president of the United States is being held hostage by a recalcitrant Congress. I have no doubt that Obama agrees with the budget cutters that the budget has to be cut, but I agree with them too. The question is what to cut, and how to cut, not whether or not to cut. The problem is that the Republicans in the House of Representatives have discovered the fatal flaw in the American system of government: rather than having majority rule with minority rights, the Radical Right has proven that a distinct minority that holds the balance of power in its grip has the ability to dictate terms to the rest of the Congress and, thus, to the president and the people at large. This fatal flaw is built into all republican governments, which is why republican governments always fail. No republican (meaning a republic rather than a democracy) has ever exceeded 500 years in power. Other forms of government last far longer. People forget that our 212 year history as a nation is a mere eye blink in the course of human history.

Obama is trapped in a constitutional crisis. Invoking the 14th amendment would surely have led to is impeachment and, while the Republicans don't have the votes to convict, the mere act of bringing impeachment proceedings would bring the entire Obama government to a crashing stop. Even if he were found not guilty, his chances of winning re-election after an impeachment are nil. In the meantime, his actions under the 14th amendment would have brought a court challenge, during which the entire government would have been in limbo.

I don't think Obama is a great president. I don't know where his heart is, but I am damned sure that his actions are constrained by the reality of the situation. Had he not knuckled under to the Republicans, true chaos might well have ensued because the Republicans are well aware of the fact that their seats and thus their majority are secure because of demographic factors that are immune to argumentation....and therefore might well have pushed the crisis past that tipping point.

We are all well and truly screwed. My only hope is that he wins a second term, turns his coat, and undoes what he did in his first term....but I am not holding my breath.
Here, Here!

Since the president could not see fit, to stand up against the bullies. It is high time we act like the rest of the world, and take to the streets. Oh yes, we are Liberals, and Liberals don't do that sort of thing. No we sit on our fat behinds, and let the bullies take over. Well, I guess I can't call myself a Liberal!
although i consider myself politically 'literate,' i'm usually hesitant to comment on political writing here--but this 'open letter' is both cogent and important (two qualities missing from most current debate)...i hope it becomes widely and circulated--rated.
What we need is a Democrat who IS capable of standing up to the Tea Party thugs and spitting in their face. Maybe dare I say this, Nancy Pelosi?
More sound from the left trying to insure a victory for the right.

The right talks about what it will do with the victory it wins in 2012...the left is obssessed with whom to blame for its loss in 2012.

The problem is not with the leadership of the is with the unreasonable expectations and unwillingness to support leaders...of the base.

The left is rushing headlong into defeat...anxious to get there...proclaiming their intention to get there. And they have the audacity to blame their silliness and short-sightedness on Obama.

The left does not deserve any better than they erroneously suppose Obama to be.
Yeah frank, blame it on the left.

The left made him increase the military budget.

The left made him offer up social security and medicaid during the budget cuts.

The left made him fly more drown strikes in two years that bush the lesser did in eight.

The left made him expand two wars into six.

The left made him capitulate every time the repugs pushed right.

The left made him stay in Libya even after his own lawyers said he coudn't.

The left made him file to take any meaningful action on the job.

How delusional.

And folks like you who supported each and every move he made are blameless!

Ha, what a joke.

Back to Roosevelt:

"this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public"

"Roosevelt in the Kansas City Star"
May 7, 1918

The only thing artificial about this crisis is the deadline which has been manufactured. The way they’re dealing with it though is insane. The biggest problem with the budget is the astronomical amount of corporate and political corruption and welfare. This is for the most part being almost entirely ignored. The economy and the budget are related although is some ways it isn’t direct but pretty much all the corporate corruption is having an effect one way or another. This is all being ignored.

As far as I can tell if they sign this then they may put it off until after the election then the default will be to slash and burn programs for the public without touching the corruption or taxing the people that caused this corruption. This should be a major wake up call to the public. There is, of course, an election between now and then; if we don’t elect people at the grass roots level that actually represent the public they will almost certainly sell us all down the river. Ideally we need to boycott all the corporate candidates which just about rules out most if not all candidates that the Mass Media considers viable. Sincere candidates can never get past the corporate gauntlet that involves collecting campaign contributions that can only come from the corporations and getting media attention that can only come from the corporate media.

None of the so called viable candidates are willing to take on corporate welfare, planned obsolescence, and epidemic of false advertising, an incredibly corrupt consolidated media that appears more like a propaganda machine, and environmental destruction juggernaut, the military industrial complex and other corporate corruption.
JFK planned to audit the federal reserve bank. He was assassinated.
RFK ran for president and intended to finish what his brother had started. He was assassinated.
The real owners of this country (as George carlin called them) will annihilate any politician who tries to conduct himself ethically.
Obama is playing along, at least for now.
Kanuk, you're right: No shared sacrifice here. (Anyone wanting an elaboration should see my 2008 post Redistributing Burden.)

Jeanette, see my article The “Two Unprincipled Parties” System. Leveling between the parties is supposed to be what keeps parties in check—the fear that people will run to the other. But, largely, when you make parties a matter of ideology (“principled” in the somewhat whimsy parlance of my article), you make that much harder.

FLW, it is indeed extraordinarily frustrating.

Mission, yes, how things have changed.

Catnlion, because of the filibuster and how often it was used, it's not entirely fair to say that the Democrats did control Congress in the time you're talking about.
Nick, if by “Wall Street” you mean the entire world, yes, I agree. I'll write about that another day.

Lefty, good metaphor. I heard someone on the radio referring to an article I've not yet tracked down where someone was saying “This is the adminstration smart enough to figure out they could invade Libya and not call it a war. They clearly have smart lawyers. They're just not tasking them to do the same kind of clever thing in this case. The 14th amendment was easy to make a case for, as an example. Obama didn't use it (or hasn't—I keep hoping he will) because he didn't want to use it, not because he couldn't.”
Sagemerlin's comment makes the most sense to me in this discussion.

You know he had a super majority in the Senate and could instantly override any filibuster. He never ever needed a Republican vote for his first 2 years. So you can't blame the Republicans. He could have done anything at anytime.
I guess I'm part of the big crowd here who really dislike this deal. The Repubs have moved the goalposts re tax increases versus spending cuts with far too much of the latter now being locked in. This is a hill where Obama should have stood his ground and fought. It looks like the few defenders on the left have held out hope that under this new scenario, the Bush tax cuts may yet expire at the end of 2012. I'm not sure how plausible this is but it tastes like thin gruel.
Catnlion, I agree there was a squandered opportunity to lead, but the Democrats are not all in lockstep like the Republicans. And the blue dogs might as well have been DINO's in that situation because they were acting like Republicans. He did not have the votes to overcome a supermajority, and it was the conservative democrats, not the liberal ones, that were to blame for that.
Abrawang, I think most of Obama's base could have tolerated a compromise if they saw him initially push for the thing they wanted. But they never saw the case made. The instant-compromise amounted to unilateral disarmament at best and to having been a player for the other team at worst. Someone (Norquist? Rove?) had said that if the Democrats were elected, the key was to never allow them to govern like Democrats so that no one could ever see Democratic policies, and then to have them blamed for the result. That seems to have happened. Weirdly, the Dems will be blamed for Republican policies and some number of kneejerk voters will then run to the arms of the Republicans for salvation. Or maybe the public will get some sense and stop blindly rushing from party to party without asking serious questions. If they engaged the politicians in serious debate before electing them, that might help a lot.
I sent an email to the White House yesterday telling him he no longer has my vote. For what that's worth.

You know, I have some thoughts about this. I have no idea if they are useful or not, but my main one is we forget about the White House for now. We need to concentrate first on Congress. We need to get pretty much everyone out of there. I know that's a tall order, but I'm wondering ... how do we do that? A new party?
I so want your take on this to be wrong. Just this once. I have no logic to offer. Only emotion. And home ... doesn't seem to be anywhere. Perhaps I've been here a long long time.
I have wondered what happened to the man we elected, he has strayed so far from his campaign promises I doubt we can trust anything he says. I don't know why no one talks about this alternative, why is it not a part of every discussion on this issue.
You hit the nail exactly on the head in this piece.
rated with appreciation for your view
No logic in my comment either, I'm afraid. Maybe the 14th Amendment is exactly right but no one really seems to want to govern or think about what is actually best for the greater good. Almost all we see is evidence of people wanting to win - regardless of the cost to anyone else. How do we pretend to teach our young when critical thought seems to have been abandoned for winning and believing yourself to be "right." No wonder it seems so easy to throw so many teachers out of so many classrooms. Children have no power. They can cast no vote. Who does anyone care about anymore. Dollar signs and greater thans. Does anyone remember what allows home to be a home. This probably is no clearer, Kent. I am glad you are trying to think this through. It simply begins to feel like Greek tragedy and the chorus isn't being heard. No one in "power", whatever that has come to be, seems to care.
Kent, I just don't get it. Does he really think he doesn't need the democrats, just the independents to get re-elected? Does he think people will look at the republican candidates, and I have to admit, they are weak, and just vote for him? Does he think his billion dollar war chest will automatically get him re-elected? I feel the knife turning in my back, by a man who fooled us all. Great speech by Harkin, by the way!
This is a "deal" in the same sense that it's a "deal" when a mugger agrees not to shoot you after you've handed over your wallet. All Obama got out of this is that the country won't default on his watch. Big deal. The country has already defaulted morally.

My only hope is that enough Democrats refuse to go along with this "deal" so that it can't get through the Senate or House, forcing Obama to choose the 14th Amendment option. I'm not holding my breath.
From the Washington Post:

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, describing the debt ceiling deal:
"A sugar-coated Satan sandwich."
I honestly don't know where to go from here. I feel like a pawn on a chessboard being shoved around the board constantly, without any specific destination. To say I'm disappointed doesn't put a fine enough point on my reaction to this fiasco. I say we organize our generation; i.e., baby boomers and older, to march on Washington to let it be known that we don't appreciate being fucked without so much as a peck on the cheek.

Sage, I think the notion that Obama might not be re-elected is not necessarily a bad thing. Consider that there's quite a large chance he wouldn't be anyway—the Republican spin machine is one of their most refined tools and they'll argue “it's time for a change.” If the change can be expressed as a change to another Democrat, that argument is muted. And anyway, I actually agree that Obama has done decently against very long odds in this administration, I just don't see how another 4 years of him will do as well. I think he's peaked in what he with his centrist strategies can do. There are two things I wanted out of him: (a) to not be McCain and so to do something level-headed about the economy; he didn't do what I wanted precisely, but he wasn't McCain, and that was already good, and (b) to make the hard choices about Climate Change, but sadly he hasn't even gone after the easy choices against BP, so there is like zero chance he'll do that. That's a shame because he is most ably qualified to advance the arguments, but it's just 100% clear he's disinterested. And we need someone who will advance any argument to move forward on that. We simply cannot afford a 4 year delay in responding aggressively to Climate Change. So telling me he might get impeached and not re-elected is like telling me that there's a way to force the Democrats to primary him, which they should be doing anyway.
"A political coup has been successfully executed "
is putting it mildly.

Jeffersonian violent thoughts spin in my head,
the stuff about when the guv mint
is no longer viable.

obama still has the military, i hope.

a coup in the usa
is not front page news,
the front page got news of a nearby murder.

a few blocks away.
domestic violence, they say.
Kenny, for better or worse, we do changes of power by voting now. Although it's a bit starting to look like the original Star Trek series episode A Taste of Armageddon. What I hope is that the voting machines are not likewise compromised.

mistercomedy, thanks for visiting and for the kind words of support.

Kenny, perhaps Dean or even Kucinich. I've wondered if Bloomberg might do it, especially being now independent. Kind of a wildcard. I don't know. But we don't have to decide who can win. We have to decide it's worth having the discussion. The primary process is supposed to crank out a winner. Let it begin. And let's see what candidates the other (“3rd”) parties are running, too.
Frank, while I'm fine about you expressing an opposing point of view, I heard a lot of negative remarks there and a fair deal of understandable bitterness, yet not really a positive suggestion so I frankly (pardon pun) can't figure out what you'd like to see instead and why, so can't really comment.

RW, thanks for offering the historical insights. You generally have some very good intuitions on such matters, so I look forward to tracking down those references.
Kent, I have to keep reminding myself that I only voted for Obama because I would NOT vote for any idiot who selected Sarah Palin has his running mate. In effect, I didn't vote for Obama. I voted against Palin. In the end, it seems I chose ineffectual over ignorant but I absolve myself on the grounds that it wasn't apparent that Obama was ineffectual, but it was absolutely obvious that Palin was ignorant. So, on the whole, Obama was an interesting experiment, but we really need to find an adult to take over now. The only problem is that we seem to have a shortage of adults in the arena. I don't see Clinton as a viable candidate. I think the best thing the Dems could do would be to pull a real switcharoo and draft Colin Powell. I know he wouldn't take the job, but it would be really cool if he did. No sitting democratic governors need apply. We need them where they are. We can't afford to lose a single Democratic seat in the senate, so the candidate cannot be anyone whose seat isn't coming up for re-election in 2012. So far Joe Lieberman, Kent Conrad, Daniel Akaka, Jeff Bingaman, and Herb Kohl have all declined to run for re-election. Lieberman's Connecticut seat should remain Democratic, along with Akaka's Hawaiian seat Kent Conrad's seat is probably going over to the Red side, but it's a fair dinkum guess that Herb Kohl's Wisconsin seat is a giveaway to the Democrats, given what has happened in that state. Bingaman's seat is a real toss up, but with the increase in Latino voters in New Mexico, the chances are that the Democrats will retain that berth.

That's four out of five, but that's four more seats than the Democratic National Committee would have had to defend had these incumbents stayed the course for one more term. Scrolling down the list of Democratic incumbents. If you scan down the list of Democratic incumbents, remove the Jews (because no Jew is electable in the present political climate), and you are left with a paltry few who qualify by my requirement, none of them appetizing. I think that's why we ended up with Obama, because he seemed the best of a bad bunch.
Mark, you're right that this president certainly has the ability to go his own way when he is of a mind to. He's demonstrated that. So it's hard to believe he's acting under duress in a great many of the ways his base has found disappointing.
Okay, Kent…let me try it without the “understandable bitterness” and with some “positive suggestions.”

More sound from the left trying to insure a victory for the right.

I withdraw that as “bitterness.”

The right talks about what it will do with the victory it wins in 2012...the left is obssessed with whom to blame for its loss in 2012.

This is a rather significant difference, I would say. They (the right) are talking about what they intend to do with the mandate they see coming their way. They will, as I interpret them, make sure that the rich have more, since they seem to think the rich do not have enough. They also will see that the poor has less, since they seem to think the poor has more than enough and would probably benefit from having a bit less (they seem to think it may stimulate them to become rich!)

On the other hand, the left seems to be doing lots of finger pointing and assigning of blame for why things are going so badly for them.

POSITIVE SUGGESTION: Can the blame game…and focus on unity. Support the president the way the Republicans were able to support people like Nixon, Quayle, Cheney, W, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, and the others. Stop helping the obstructionists by savaging Obama…and demanding that he do things that obviously cannot be done. (He was unable to get concessions from the obstructionists in the debt ceiling battle. Neither were the many Democrats in the House and Senate. Keep the eyes on the prize…and let the opposition do the savaging.

The problem is not with the leadership of the is with the unreasonable expectations and unwillingness to support leaders...of the base.

POSITIVE SUGGESTION: : Can the blame game…and focus on unity. Support the president the way the Republicans were able to support people like Nixon, Quayle, Cheney, W, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, and the others. Stop helping the obstructionists by savaging Obama…and demanding that he do things that obviously cannot be done. (He was unable to get concessions from the obstructionists in the debt ceiling battle. Neither were the many Democrats in the House and Senate. Keep the eyes on the prize…and let the opposition do the savaging.

The opposition, by the way, is doing one hell of a job. They really do not need the help.

The left is rushing headlong into defeat...anxious to get there...proclaiming their intention to get there. And they have the audacity to blame their silliness and short-sightedness on Obama.

Okay, let’s withdraw that last part as bitterness. But the first part…the headlong rush to defeat…anxious to get there…proclaining their intention to do it…all should be canned. The left should focus on unity. Support the president the way the Republicans were able to support people like Nixon, Quayle, Cheney, W, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, and the others. Stop helping the obstructionists by savaging Obama…and demanding that he do things that obviously cannot be done. (He was unable to get concessions from the obstructionists in the debt ceiling battle. Neither were the many Democrats in the House and Senate. Keep the eyes on the prize…and let the opposition do the savaging.

The left does not deserve any better than they erroneously suppose Obama to be.

Well, I recognize that this could be construed as bitterness, but I suggest that there is a more nuanced interpretation that might be considered. If the left is courting disaster by being bullheaded…and if they suppose Obama is selling them out to the right…and if the left is willing to take a victory by a tea party vetted Republican in preference to supporting Obama…then THEY DO DESERVE what they erroneously suppose Obama to be. They deserve to have agency working for a Republican victory.

Not being a wiseguy here, Kent…just trying to present a different perspective of what is going on. No bitterness intended...although I am sure you understand a bit of anger (with a smile) is almost a given.

I hope you have enough substance here to give a reply now.
i have a feeling americans are not exposed to a discussion of the constitution in high school anymore. if you trouble yourself to read it, you discover that the house of representatives has control over expenditures, not the president.

obama was presented with this choice: submit to the tea party demands, or destroy the american economy today. he decided to put off collapse for another few years.

americans are political cattle, barred from participating in the management of the nation by the constitution. if they had an ounce of self respect they would tear it up and establish democracy. but they don't.

one consequence is that they imagine the people in office are god-like beings who could realize the fantasies of the children who vote for them, if they only would.

well, sorry. politicians are in office to make the world a better place for politicians. quite like other humans, when you think about it. if you are unwilling to be a citizen of a democracy, then learn to submit to the will of your masters without whining. whining suggests you have some dissatisfaction but are too ignorant, lazy, and selfish to do anything about it.
Frank, I do appreciate your going back through it that way. And what I'll say is that while I understand the value of unity that the Republicans derive from supporting even the whacko candidates like Bachmann, I don't think it serves the country to simply rally around anyone just because they're of the party. Nor does it serve the country to have these astonishing litmus tests. So saying that Obama must be supported merely because he's a Democrat (if that's what you were saying) seems a little strong not only because I'm not a Democrat, just a supporter-in-the-moment of Democrats because they have the best game going (relatively speaking, obviously, since I'm not happy with the absolutes).

I've said before and it bears repeating that I'm willing to support Obama if he supports me. If I thought even for a moment that he had tried in good faith to negotiate something like single payer universal health care and been pushed back after expending some effort to where he ended up, I'd feel very differently. If I thought he had even tried to push the Republicans into a corner by taking to the bully pulpit and talking about (a) how callous their agenda was and (b) how he does have options (e.g., 14.4) and put some heat on the Republicans to not expect they get a free pass, then I'd feel less bad if we had to bargain back. The Republicans were able, with complete confidence, to remove 14.4 from the discussion and hence did not have to worry about playing poker because Obama said to them “hey, guys, I like playing with all my cards showing even if you don't.” That's a little hard to unconditionally rally behind. Honestly, if you just told me he was a sleeper candidate working for the Republicans, I'm not sure how that would be either a shock or even inconsistent with anything I see going on. So asking me to unconditionally rally behind him is like asking me to unconditionally rally behind Cantor, for example. To what end? He is not leading our party. He is taking orders from the Right. Rallying behind him right now would be like rallying behind the Republicans, but just indirectly.
This is not rocket science

1) President Obama and the Democrats did not concern themselves with the budget when they had the majority in both houses. Those like Paul Krugman will tell you deficits don't matter.

2) When the President lost control of his stimulus and Health Care plans he created an opening for the GOP to regain their voice, which led to the GOP gaining control of the House, and for Scot Brown to win Senator Kennedy's Seat

3) Angry and Scared white American became pawns in the building of the tea party (I assert with Barack Hussein Obama in the White House - the Tea Party would be a footnote in American Politics)

4) Once the Democrats lost the House, it was all but a certainty that unlike other debt ceiling increases in the past that were passed with little fanfare, the House Republicans were going to extort this President to get what they wanted

5) Everything else was theatre

…you are a decent person and I appreciate your response.

Like you, I am not a Democrat. I tend to support progressive agenda items…and I think progressive agenda items ultimately are needed in order to make our Republic a better place in which to live…which, for me, means I am going to support Democrats more readily than Republicans…and liberals or progressives rather than conservatives.

I also am not a liberal. But I think that the people who do identify themselves as Democrats and who identify themselves as liberals…would learn a very valuable lesson from the Republicans…and I that is what I am trying to share. I may not be doing a very good job of it, but I recognize my debate/exchange shortcomings…and I intend to try despite them.

I am not convinced…not nearly convinced that Obama has not tried to get lots more than you are giving him credit for. I am working, however, under the assumption that he is an intelligent, pragmatic individual…and that he recognizes the limitations of what he can and cannot do in the political climate in which he is working. I am willing to suppose that many of the concessions he has made, were made under the assumption that they would eventually be made anyway…and there is value in preemptive concessions.

Kent, the nut cases in our society hold the good cards right now. Many people in our country are in love with simplistic answers…and there are politicians on the right willing to feed that crowd. The people on the left have to be more realistic…and “realism” simply does not play well with the masses.

I’ll close this for now…you can read between the lines of what I’ve said. I hope you can see value in what I am advocating…and that although you already show some inclination toward it at times, that you head in that direction even more in future posts.

You have the bully pulpit here in OS. Use it wisely, Kent.
frank will ignore this as he ALWAYS does. I and others have printed numerous laundry lists of unconstitutional and immoral acts by this president, and all frank does is implore us to support him, but, he ALWAYS ignores this, too (sorry for the redundancy):

"it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. "Roosevelt in the Kansas City Star"
May 7, 1918

PS - thanks for teaching me some html, Kent.

PPS - You don't reward a misbehaving child by giving him second bar of chocolate. You don't reward a malfeasant president by re-electing him. Kucinich, Bernie Saunders, perhaps, but anyone but more obama.
Zachery, it certainly calls for some careful reflection and a willingess of the electorate to get more involved than they have. The problem is that in Wisconsin, the Republicans ran “fake” or “decoy” candidates to make sure to prey on people who did insufficient homework, so that business of running candidates one has never heard of is tough. It reminds me of a few years back when they were changing the money to have a new look and they ran ads saying something very close to “If you see money you don't recognize, that's how you'll know it's genuine.” Uh, yeah, that's a good way to detect counterfeiting! And to some extent the idea of running off-the-radar candidates has the same problem. As such, I'd rather find an intermediate candidate who is known but perhaps was previously someone we wouldn't back... Kucinich is an example, perhaps. I don't know. Or Dean, who disqualified himself by saying “yeehaw” and yet at this point we might get him to apologize for getting momentarily enthusiastic ...

Jane, although I think a lot of what Obama has done is disappointing, if there isn't a credible other Democrat or super-credible third party candidate (the bar is higher from them because before I throw away my vote there, I have to believe everyone else is planning to do the same), I'll be forced to vote for him again. Every single Republican candidate I've heard talk of would be way worse than Obama, so don't even think of a protest vote with the Republicans.
Gracie, you're right there are risks to being patriotic. Who knows if that's what happened to the Kennedy's but it's within the realm of possibility. But what's the alternative? I think the people who run for office know they're at risk regardless.
You must be TOTALLY aware of the esteem I hold for You, Kent, but, with all due respect, how could any republican be worse than obama's been, and more importantly, wouldn't the prospect of a republican in the white house, likely, result in a restoration of democrats in the Congress and a restoration of REAL checks and balances, as the founders intended?
Kent, this post is an emotional tantrum and not well thought out. I think you will eventually conclude that yourself.

The biggest flaws in what you wrote:

> It is silly to think that Obama is a plant for the Tea Party. The Tea Party only exists because Obama overreached with the stimulus spending and then focused all his efforts on an unpopular healthcare bill... all the while, the economy was stagnant and long-term unemployment was existing.

> The Tea Party is not dictatorial at all. They are elected representatives and have a right to vote for what they believe. Just as the 2008 Congress led by Pelosi and Reid did. If the word dictatorial would be used at all, it would be to characterize a move by Obama to claim Presidential authority to increase the debt ceiling. That would have been a case of one man claiming to be the primary authority rather than just one branch of a three-branch, checks-and-balances government.

> Your use of the term "political coup" implies that voters who elected Tea Partiers are somehow not valid voters and the representatives not valid Congress people. I doubt you really mean this but it is wrong-headed and disrespectful at minimum to say that duly elected representatives voting for what they believe is somehow a "coup."

What I think you touched on that is right is that this basically shows Obama to be incompetent, regardless of his beliefs. He had control of both houses of Congress with super-majorities and yet still never did anything to remotely structure government spending in a rational way. After all, they could have voted to extend the debt ceiling back before the 2010 elections when they had plenty of votes. And, he could have had a better deal for him a week ago but misplayed his hand and lost control of the process.

This is what you get when you vote emotional hope and change and believe that some people are special enough to change a whole society simply by existing. Obama was always an empty suit who would be out of his league as President. We are living with that now.
Mark, you ask how a Republican could be worse than Obama.

The answer comes in two parts, one to do with policy, one to do with procedure.

In terms of policy, Obama has made really lame progress on addressing Climate Change. He has returned Science to the EPA. He has, in fact, kept the EPA alive. He has a number of specific policies that are anti-environment, but he hasn't gotten rid of the watchdog. That matters. The Republicans tell us that if allowed to, they will disempower and/or dismantle the EPA, whatever they can get away with. That really matters to me.

Obama has allowed creation of an office to protect consumer financial issues. That Republicans have blocked attempts not only to get that organization created, but even to put limits on interest rates at levels like 75% tax, even suggesting that they think that Payday loans are a good thing.

Obama has not created single payer universal care, but he did improve health care for a lot of people in measurable ways. I think it would have been cheaper and better to do different, but no matter how you count it, the Republicans want to undo what Obama has done. They will replace it with market forces. Market forces? There is no price elasticity of demand in health care, which is to say it doesn't respond to market forces; if you make an iPod cost twice as much, fewer people will buy it and the market is given an incentive to make price go lower, but if you make health care cost twice as much, people will just try to continue to pay.

I haven't seen any effort on Obama's part to help out the unions he promised to help. He said if they were threatened, he'd come stand with them, which he didn't. But he didn't do anything active to hurt them. The Republicans are actively filing legislation to dismantle labor protections.

I'm sure there are many other examples of ways in which Obama has made plodding progress forward and Republicans would actively seek to take us back.

The second issue is procedural. A president tends to give some favor to their own party. So if a Republican comes to office, we get a lot of Republican judges, we tend not to get Republican bills vetoed, etc. If a Republican appoints the next Supreme Court justice, that would be very bad since the Court is already unbalanced. If a Republican decides vetoes, that gives enormous voting advantage to Republican bills. So it matters there, too. It matters because of all of those examples I gave above about what the Republican agenda is, which is apparently to cut working Americans off at the knees in terms of workers' rights, health care, education, and the environment.
Kent, appreciate your sensibility in the letter and will be back when I have more time to read it again more slowly and thoughtfully and also peruse the comments and harkin video! nice job! ty! libby [R]
Matt, I guess my reply to Sagenerlin will be the reply most relevant to you. :)

Abrawang, check out the Rachel Maddow show tonight (or see it on their web site at Chris Hayes was sitting in for Rachel and was making a point that I want to rewatch when it rolls back around (they rerun several times in the evening) about how a nation can be at serious risk when it no longer commands the power to effectively tax its citizens. He didn't seem to make the obvious link to the Tytler quote, of which that seems an ironic variant (since the rich seem to suggest that the risk is the opposite, that the citizenry will tax them too much, something that was likely never a risk).

Odette, there are a number of other parties. And though I don't think they have much chance normally, maybe this stuff will inspire people to go after them more seriously. The Green Party, the New Progressive Alliance, and Americans Elect are places to start, though I haven't seen their candidates.

Anna, yes, it's disorienting and I think there are a lot of of people feeling like they wish they could wake up just about now. Even though you feel like your thoughts were wandering aimlessly, I think many of us can relate.

Poetess, thanks for visiting and offering support. It's sad indeed that the public doesn't have more control over the agenda of questions to ask. The media doesn't always represent us well. Sometimes they have a pretty cynical view of what would interest us.

Scanner, his history is that he's very savvy about a lot of things but has some big blind spots, and I do think he thinks that he can count on that Democratic support. I think through some weird cognitive dissonance, he thinks it's really done well by his base. I don't think he acknowledges the degree to which many of his own party feel abandoned.
I've been feeling that Obama was secretly a Republican since his first days in office, and his actions since only reinforce that belief. His blatant hypocrisy is repugnant. I think he's scarier than Dubya Bush was, and I believe that it's vital to the safety and wellbeing of the People that he NOT be re-elected.
Cranky, yeah, you're right. When I wrote my article Teetering on the Brink of Moral Bankruptcy (one of the precursor articles to my recent Sociopaths by Proxy), one of the gripes I got from readers was “why does the title only say teetering?” And in retrospect I agree. We've already pretty plainly fallen into the quicksand...

Lezlie, I'm never sure if those marches help. Maybe they do, so I won't try to dissuade you. I tend to think such actions are dissipative of political energy at a time when we really need to capture and use that same energy. But I think the commonality between what you're saying and what I and others are thinking is that it's certainly time to not just sit still. We need to find something to do to energize fellow voters, support candidates that can make a difference, etc.
James, there's no doubt the media is dysfunctional. The headline tomorrow will be Gabby's return, with the vote a mere footnote... “GABBY RETURNS ... (world economic collapse postponed)”

Sage, I don't think Powell could succeed. We'll leave aside the fact that the whole racism issue would come up and stick straight to politics: Many people, myself included, think he could have and should have stood up to Bush better, and should not have allowed himself to be duped as he was. He may have been a good leader of men in the service, but I don't think he has it in him to be a political leader.

I keep wondering if maybe Bloomberg could do it, or if that was even a good idea. Heck, I've been thinking Jimmy Carter might have another term in him—heh. At least he was right on Climate Change. I just don't know, but I think it's right to think hard on this issue.

al, I've seen it suggested that people only vote if they are dissatisfied, and that the lack of engagement in US politics by the citizenry is something that speaks to the fact that basic needs are being met. I think in the future, as these cuts run deep, you'll see a lot more people who once wouldn't have voted or followed politics will suddenly care.
stlfilmaker, your analysis seems to make some good points.

McGarrett, hi there. I wrote the piece in a hurry precisely to capture the moment, but I have no regrets so far. To your points:

• I didn't mean to imply he was a plant for the Tea Party but I did mean to say some have accused him of being a closet Republican. Does that make it OK now? He's basically the ideological twin of Romney, as far as I can tell, and if he called himself Republican, I don't think it would do much beyond making it easier to understand why he does the things he does.

• I didn't use the term dictatorial. That concept comes up in one remark by Sagemerlin. You speak of the Tea Party having a right to their vote. Sure. But political advocacy is not the tricking of a rep not to exercise their rights, it's the persuading that they should change their mind on a vote. And it's hard to see how a President sworn to protect and defend the Constitution would be overstepping by choosing to invoke part of it.

• Actually, as to the use of the word coup, you should understand that I would portray elections as an overthrow of government on a scheduled basis. Coup, however, portrays an element of intrigue and political or tactical maneuvering. That's what I meant to convey.

I agree partly with what you say about Obama and competence, though in fairness to him, it is the Constitutional duty of the Congress to get the budget right. Obama could have meddled, but he wasn't obliged to. He should, however, have demanded to get the debt ceiling out of the way when we were discussing extending the Bush tax cuts, since he had a 100% upper hand then and could have dictated terms. (There's that pesky dictator metaphor again.)

Frank, I appreciate you clarifying your remarks as you did. It helps me make sense of what you're saying.

libby, thanks for the support.

sickofstupid, while I don't agree that he's scarier than Dubya, I certainly understand your point.
I wrote a long comment.
It never went anywhere.
I assume it's the hacker.
I had to re-sing in again.
Who boots me all day?
Betrayal is discernible.

I return the gadget on.
We people learn here.
Thanks for Speaking.

Mission etc., got me:
Maybe I'll post? sigh.
I've never ever been so dismayed by my country or the people who are supposed to be leading it. Unless people begin to take to the streets, I really see no positive future.
Alas. Trying to drain an ocean of falsehoods with a coffee cup of truth.

Great letter, Kent.
I have nothing else to add. I agree 100%.
I have learned over the years to count on you, Kent, to provide facts. When I need emotions, I have other places to go. This is an emotional piece that is misleading to those of us who have actually read the legislation. An example, you mention nowhere in this that of the evil cuts--Half are cuts to the military budget. I could take this piece apart bit by bit but why bother? Your opinion represents the status quo of thinking and me pointing out the errors would have no impact. Progressives or liberals always lose and that is why, until recently, no progressive progress was ever made since the 1960's.
Spudman, the primary thrust of my remarks are that it doesn't matter what's in the outcome, I'm disappointed that we set the precedent that this process was appropriate. We negotiated with terrorists, and needlessly. We are implicitly endorsing politics by crisis (see last night's Rachel Maddow show, guest hosted by Chris Hayes, here, though Rw005g also raised this issue above in this thread and offered references). This was not a fair negotiation, whatever the outcome. And so pointing to any given part of it as good or bad is meaningless.
Thank you for bringing this to the table,
I've just listened to Boehner in their self congratulatory tones of triumphantly being able to get a handle on their own Congressional spending. It sounds like an AA promise by a bunch of rapists who've just figured out how to put a condom on. But I fear what values and hopes we've held for dear, are now about to be lifted on to the abortion table. Ironical, huh? We can argue amongst ourselves as to who was wearing the surgeon's mask, and they would probably prefer it if we did. But does it really matter? The moorings are being cut, and the transparent fences will soon advance their encroachments. But a mass national run on the banks beginning on the day the vote goes down just might shovel bang someone up there hard enough in the head to cause them to hear what we are really saying, and not just what they are mouthing in front of the cameras, and saying that that's what they've heard us saying. Bull Shit.
Nancy Pelosi brought the House to a standing applause three times when she laid out the complete "absurdity" of Boehner's scheme. "Absurd" she passionately named him. And as absurd as it may be, we can get to him publicly with the national ratings. Monday I called eight Representative's offices with my concerns about this whole thing and how they were voting. Speaker Boehner's was the only number with no one on duty - just a medley of weepie patriotic music that made me want to puke.
If someone is giving the store away, this is one way to take it back and hold on to it.
I view this all as schoolyard bullying. All things being relative, by your assertion, Obama looks pretty saintly in comparison to the Republicans and tea-baggers; the latter two have been far from sporting in the past few years. Who cares more about the individuals who make up this nation—the ones who give fat cats tax breaks, or the "socialists"?

This may be a bit rosy of me to say, but I suspect one of Obama's problems was that he thought too much about the American people. If he was more of a hard-core pragmatist about it, as opposed to an ethical one, he would have unblinkingly kept the debate open until the righties eyes cracked from lack of moisture. They had him and his party's collective balls to the wall, and he knew it.

It is interesting to watch Obama betray his true feelings via his micro-expressions. During his address, I registered complete disgust on his face as he spoke of compromise, Boehner, et al. For what it's worth.
Dear Kent,
While I love your passion and your wit, I see a lot of connecting dots here that aren't there. After working in politics, I can say that most of the decisions of this nature are not made by the executive branch, but the legislature. I do agree there is a fatal error in both major parties right now, but we can't expect a president (that we didn't even know when we elected him) to be who his party says he's supposed to be. Love your writing, your style and your boldness...and usually you bring a delightful perspective to a weary world. This time I disagree, but still rate you for your voice, which I love and need to hear. It is what makes this country great, in the long run.
Princess, I don't expect a decision of him. I expected the decision of the legislators. But I expected the President to lend support, and in particular by saying “fight fair, or I will use the 14th.” Had he done this, the Republicans would not have had the Democrats in a no-win situation where bargaining was meaningless and the only thing to do was give in or see the economy of the US (if not the world) get shot. Instead, the President signaled there was no good alternative if the Democrats did not capitulate, and in so doing he gave away the store. That much I expected from him. If he tried and it had not worked, I would have forgiven him. But I am less willing to forgive not trying.
Kent, O got until 2013. He sacrificed everything for this. The voter block in Tea Party is large enough to NOT send in a final vote of 260 in House.

It hurts. I'm sad, but not dissolute. There is HOPE- just its so small and marginalized. I worry about people without jobs, people without basic education and recently born to minorities. Margins are thin and hard to live full lives in, but...

I have my vote, and I'll vote every little, medium and BIG election. My vote will go for pollies who think of margins.
I agree with Kent Pitman's statement. Except that I am tired of being mad about the President's total capitulation to the Republicans. We were duped by Obama. Either intelligent people like us write articles and express our frustration, or we do something about it. How about a "million American march on Washington" to encourage Hillary Clinton to run in 2012? It would be hard for her to just say NO with a million Americans in front of the US Capitol & White House demanding that she run. It also would send a profound message to the weak and spineless Democratic party too. Look at what the people did in Tunisia & Egypt. Look at what's going on in Libya. They faced bullets to make change in their leadership. We don't have to worry about that. Yes, we are angry...and we should be. Now, after anger comes action. Let's march on Washington, choose our next leader, and encourage them to run. That would be change that we can believe in. I think there are Democrats who want to run against Obama, but are afraid to undermine the 1st Black president. They should not worry about that. As an African-American man, such a movement would truly represent Dr. King's dream of equality. America will show that it has come a long way when we can vote out a Black president for poor performance and elect someone who will represent our interests. That was Dr. King's ultimate dream!!
If the Republicans are under the control of TP, then what's the benefit of letting the left stay unified yet ineffective?
AA4, I guess given OWS, you got your wish.

Insurance man, people differ in opinion on this, but I think anything that keeps Republicans from being elected while there's this tea party mean streak going on is worth having. Given a choice between ineffective goodness and active badness, I'll take ineffective goodness. And sadly the choice is between good/bad right now, not between policies for achieving goodness. The Republican agenda is actively hostile to the majority of Americans right now. I look forward to the day when we again have two or more political parties working for similar common goals of the average American, just from different points of view. There is no sense in which I can construe the present Republican approach as in the best interest of the US. It's a thin veneer over the dismantling of the US and preparing it for wholesale purchase from without.