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Sep 26 2011

Missing the Point

Rewarding Good Rhetoric

by David Atkins (“thereisnospoon”), Hullabaloo

9/26/2011 07:30:00 AM

Obviously, the so-called “Obama Wars” in the blogosphere are more complicated than this: the President could surely take a stronger negotiating position so that the final compromise position with Republicans to avert disaster would have a decidedly more left-leaning skew. Certainly, the President could always have been doing much more with executive decisions, bypassing the Legislature to achieve more progressive results. The President’s rhetoric over the last couple of years could no doubt have been far more forceful. And it would be easier to give the President the benefit of the doubt were there not ample evidence that he actually believes conservative claims that Social Security and Medicare require cutting in order for the nation to solve its deficit problems. Changing all of these things would have helped dramatically, and the criticism the President has received from progressives on these fronts has been more than valid.



Progressives are rightly furious with the President over what he has done–and perhaps more importantly, what he has not done over the past two years.

But the reality is that from now until November 2012, the President is not going to be able to accomplish much of anything in the legislative arena. The Republicans simply won’t allow him to claim any sort of legislative victory, no matter how small.



Is that a political ploy to win back the progressive base? Probably. But what of it? First of all, rhetoric matters. When the President speaks, the people listen. And if the President is telling the progressive story in an aggressive way, that itself constitutes action in its own way.



(G)iven that for better or worse Mr. Obama will be the Democratic standardbearer in 2012, a progressive activist seeking to reward good behavior and punish bad behavior would be wise to praise this newfound aggressive rhetoric as not only a good first step, but truly the only real step possible at this point given the political dynamic at work.

Of course, once election season is over, there has to be follow through.



But for now and for the next year, rhetoric will be 90% of what we have to judge this President on. It’s fairly impossible to tell whether Mr. Obama has had a real change of heart regarding his negotiating strategy with Republicans or not.



It’s important that this change of pace in his rhetoric be rewarded. We have little else to go on at this point, and little other leverage to use.

Wrong!  And here is why-

For Voters to Believe Obama’s Second Term Will Bring About Change, He Needs to Acknowledge What Needs to Change in Himself

Arianna Huffington, The Huffigton Post

Posted: 9/18/11 11:29 PM ET

We’ve now seen the ways in which the president went about trying to effect that change over the last three years. So while his ideas about the changes the system needs in his second term are welcome and necessary, there is another kind of change he needs to talk about if the change he proposes is to be believed. He needs to make clear the changes he intends to make in himself, in the way he governs, and in the way he approaches the big, systemic changes he claims to want to see.



Obama has continued to make eloquent speeches about the need for change — but it’s the between-the-speeches-about-change part that needs some change of its own. Because, at this point, it’s abundantly clear that the system isn’t going to change unless Obama’s method of bringing about change changes first.

It won’t be easy. The closer we get to the 2012 election, the more voters tend to dismiss all rhetoric as mere electioneering. So given this rhetorical depreciation — an election speech loses half its value the second you drive it off the lot — this time it’s going to take more than Obama trumpeting change as the goal. This time we need to hear more about exactly how he intends to change the ways he intends to bring about change. This requires acknowledging that change is not just needed in the country, but in himself.



(T)he president’s problem going forward is explaining the shift: If you’ve been taking one approach and then you abruptly change without acknowledging why, or even that you did, or what lessons were learned that caused you to make the change, it just doesn’t ring true.

Of course, acknowledging mistakes and course-correcting are the hardest things for a leader to do. But in order for voters to believe that things will be different in the president’s second term, there has to be some recognition of what didn’t work in the first. Otherwise, any future talk of change will be like hearing a song without the music. And the more often words of change are used without real change happening, the more devalued they will become.

Arianna on what Obama needs to do

By John Aravosis, Americablog

9/22/2011 12:45:00 PM

I’m posting this because this is exactly what I’ve been telling people the past few days. I want to believe that the President’s shift towards being a fighter and not a lover is real. And he’s made some good moves and should be lauded for it. But I’m not sure whether it’s entirely real because it doesn’t quite make sense. What changed? How do you one day wake up and become a different person? I think it’s possible to change, but I think it usually takes some kind of personal epiphany, brought on by seriously bad circumstances, and I guess I’d like to know more about what that epiphany was, in order to believe that it’s real. That’s why Arianna’s words above hit a chord for me.

Obama making big push to win back minorities and other core Democratic voters

By John Aravosis, Americablog

9/25/2011 08:00:00 AM

A lot of us predicted this two years ago, and really more than two years ago. We warned that core constituencies were getting seriously ticked off, and that the President’s desire for comity was making him look, well, like a wimp (we just didn’t use the word because it wasn’t polite).  And in response, we were called “bedwetters,” and more generally belittled by senior presidential aides.

I’m glad the President appears to be changing direction these past few weeks.  But if it’s only based on the current polls, and the fear of not being re-elected, then how do we know we won’t be back to where started (the phrases “f’g retards,” “professional left,” and “Internet left fringe” come to mind) the day after Barack Obama is re-elected? That’s a core concern the campaign, and the White House, need to address.

We want to see an epiphany, not just a temporary tactical correction that will end on November 7, 2012, regardless of who wins.

Obama’s small financial donors not showing interest this time

By Chris in Paris, Americablog

9/25/2011 05:55:00 PM

Sounds like quite a few people who expected “change” and aren’t seeing it. The “professional left” is possibly a bit larger than the White House team imagined. So now that the Wall Street people who donated heavily to Obama in 2008 think that he’s a socialist, the youth vote is disillusioned and the small donors feel that he gives in too easily, will this finally make a difference? The recent tone sounds like an improvement but at this point, most want more than just a few days of tough talk.



This issue is what really has stood out for me in the last few weeks of travel in the US. Friends and family who were among the most supportive of Obama in 2008 are disgusted with the constant crumbling on issue after issue. It hardly sounded like it was a casual concern, but instead, very deeply rooted with voters. Reading this NY Times piece, it sounds like it’s a very serious problem that needs to be addressed.

And of course, as TheMomCat pointed out previously, Obama isn’t even able to give up his progressive bashing rhetoric for a whole solid week.

So the question on the table is- do you want to vote for a Conservative Republican?

Or a Conservative Republican who’s also an opportunistic liar?

Harry Truman gave us the answer to that-

Given the choice between a Republican and someone who acts like a Republican, people will vote for the real Republican all the time.

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