A Tale For Future Generations

caricature-of-donald-trump-jim-fitzpatrick

Once upon a time, kiddies, a once-great nation held this election for what they called a president. And one of the major candidates had no qualifications for the job whatsoever. Furthermore, he actually campaigned on pledges to violate the nation’s constitution and international treaties. In fact, his comments indicated he was totally unfamiliar with those documents.

He repeatedly insulted women, Muslims, Hispanics, African-Americans, veterans and POWs.

He repeatedly called his opponent a liar, even though it was established that he lied far more often and far more severely. Some of his lies were downright hallucinatory; he more than once claimed, for instance, that he had witnessed “thousands” of Muslims cheering in the streets of Manhattan on 9-11.

He relentlessly repeated the silly allegation that his opponent was a criminal, and even threatened to have her jailed if he was elected — something a president would not even be able to do (although a dictator could).

He threatened to sue at least 20 people who dared criticize him during his campaign.

He himself was the target of at least 75 legal actions, including an investigation for rape of a minor. (Most of the people didn’t know about these transgressions because they were all obsessed with something they called email.)

He promoted the outrageous and thoroughly debunked lie that his opponent had been responsible for the deaths of 4 people at a consulate; and he exploited the grief and anger of the victims’ relatives.

He praised the “leadership” of some of the world’s most ruthless dictators.

He had a suspicious relationship with a hostile nation, and openly challenged them to try to influence the election.

He boasted about molesting women, and even snatching their cats. When caught, he responded the way he usually responded — by blaming someone else for causing his deplorable behavior.

He circulated the lie that the current president was not a citizen. When caught, he falsely claimed his opponent had started the rumor.

During what was known as the primaries (they had an extended season of public torture back then) he suggested that the father of one of his opponents had been involved in the assassination of another president, citing the National Enquirer as documentation.

He refused to release his tax returns, claiming it was because they were being audited (another lie) and admitted to dodging taxes for years.

He proposed committing torture, and bombing women and children.

He called climate change a hoax created by the Chinese.

He proposed building a wall between his nation and a neighbor, and insisted that the neighbor would pay for it.

He mocked a disabled reporter.

He condoned violence by his supporters, and claimed that his opponent did likewise. At some gatherings of his supporters, protesters were physically attacked.

He was enthusiastically endorsed, cheered and promoted by the KKK, the American Nazi Party, and other white supremacist groups and “militias”.

When it appeared he was losing, he began protesting, far in advance of the election, that it was “rigged”, and took the unprecedented stance that he might not accept the results. Meanwhile, he encouraged his own supporters to harass and intimidate “suspicious” (i.e., minority) voters at the polls.

He also claimed that media were rigged against him — even though the media literally created his candidacy in the first place, and gave him far more publicity than anyone else — including more positive coverage and less negative coverage.

He had a long history of failed, shady and unscrupulous business practices; evidence indicates that, born wealthy, he probably would have been better off financially had he never gone into business at all.

He faced an opponent who was better qualified for the job than just about any other candidate in the nation’s history — except that she was female.

But golly, he had such a nifty slogan, and he was willing to pander to the religious right by posing as “pro-life”. So he won. And all over this once-great nation, his followers celebrated by escalating their assaults on minorities. Tyrants and terrorists abroad also cheered his victory.

cw2irotxcailc85

And he used his power as president to make his struggling business empire great again. And he lived happily ever after even if nobody else did.

No, no, no. This is NOT like the time I told you about the talking pumpkin.

The 35th Worst President Ever?

Obama coffee cup

In case you missed it,  there was a brilliant little political essay  by the brilliant little political essayist Mark Morford at SFGate on July 8 called “The Best Worst President Ever”, eviscerating the oft-heard lament that Barack Obama is “the worst thing that ever happened to this country”, or some such. The Cult Of Obama Hatred is working overtime to drill its mantra into the head of the American citizen: “worst president ever, worst president ever, worst president ever”. Like a broken record, or a record-breakingly inept Republican president wedging “Iraq” and “9-11”  together into the same sentence as frequently as possible, they hope that if they say it long enough and often enough, people will believe it. And it appears to be working, at least for now.

Not long ago, an RRR (rabidly right-wing relative — don’t they make family gatherings fun?) said to me, “Obama has just split this country apart. He’s caused the races to hate each other more when they were beginning to get along, and he’s made the whole nation more divided than it’s ever been before”. Naturally, I was intrigued by this analysis, and I asked him to explain exactly how the president accomplished this. Needless to say, he was unable to name even one thing Obama has done to cause such unprecedented divisiveness. He just knows that somehow, the president has set Americans against each other more than anyone else has ever done, including, say, Jefferson Davis.

I suggested to my RRR that maybe he should consider the possibility that if indeed the nation is more divided than it’s ever been (which is by no means a given) then in fact it has not been Obama but Obama haters who have contributed to it. After all, they’ve churned out the most malicious lies imaginable about the president on a daily basis for the past 6 years, and lies tend to be quite divisive. To which he replied, “Well, you have your opinion, and I have mine.”

This is what we’ve come to in Twenty-First Century America. The difference between lies and truth is dismissed as nothing more than a difference of opinion. And the prevailing opinion is that Obama has “destroyed this country” and “shredded the Constitution” and “mortgaged our children’s future”, or he’s — (insert the popular cookie cutter phrase of your choice), facts and explanations be damned.

Some polls have the president’s popularity at an all-time low. Or as Fox “News” puts it in inimitable Fox fashion, “more people than ever are fed up” with him. In one poll, a plurality (33 percent) of Americans consider Obama the worst president since at least World War II — even topping out George W (28 percent).  Which just goes to show how effective the anti-Obama propaganda has been, and in particular how effective is the technique of sheer repetition. Because reality tells rather a different story.

Determining the best and worst among presidents is necessarily a subjective undertaking to some extent — particularly among members of the contemporary general public, who tend to assess a leader according to how well he conforms to their own ideologies. And since Obama caters to neither the Right or the Left, he’d be getting a double dose of criticism even if he wasn’t the intensive target of Obama Derangement Syndrome. Even Michael Moore declares that he will be remembered only as the first black president. Et tu, Mike?

But future generations won’t care much about present ideological differences, or how the current crop of right-wing radicals detested the current president past all rationality, or how contemporary “liberals” are disappointed that he’s not progressive enough. With a broader perspective, such as that provided by history or even contemporary historians, there are definite objective parameters. It would be hard to call an Abe Lincoln or George Washington or Franklin Roosevelt a bad president, or an Andrew Johnson or Warren Harding or George W. Bush a good one (though some people may try).

A president’s place in history is determined, with pretty decent accuracy, by his cumulative actions in office; and again, there are definite objective parameters. It would be pretty hard to fault, for instance, the Emancipation Proclamation or Social Security or The Peace Corps (though some people certainly try). And it would be pretty hard to praise the intelligence and security failures that allowed 9-11 to happen, or the launching of the Iraqi quagmire based on lies and fraud, or converting a huge surplus into a huge deficit, or shattering Ronald Reagan’s record for presidential vacation time, or muzzling scientific research and playing denial on climate change (though some people certainly try).

And it’s hard to find fault with the retirement of Osama bin Laden; but the Obama haters certainly try — while at the same time trying to credit it to George W. Bush, who’d been out of office more than two years and had long ago given up even looking for bin Laden. But that’s by no means the only one of the current president’s impressive accomplishments.

Among them, of course, is the Affordable Care Act, forever to be spun as “Obamacare”. Surely you’ve heard of it. Socialized medicine. Government takeover of medicine. Nazi medicine. Death panels. Skyrocketing premiums. Doctors jumping ship. Thousands of armed IRS agents ready to enforce it. A dismal catastrophe all around, right? That’s certainly the way it’s being portrayed. And a gullible public gobbles it up.

Yet when you dig beneath the cacophonous layer of Bedlamite frenzy and press the issue, most Americans will quietly if grudgingly admit that “Obamacare” is… (wait for it) actually a success. Most have even seen this for themselves. Yes, even Republicans. Shhhh!!! Don’t tell anyone.

And what about the economy?  That’s certainly an important factor to consider. And the official spin is that Obama’s economic policies have been ineffective if not disastrous. Many Obama haters cite their own change in economic status as “proof”, on the assumption that (a) their own experience typifies the nation’s as a whole — after all, the universe does revolve around them, doesn’t it?, and (b) it’s all Obama’s fault — if and only if they’ve become worse off in the past few years.

Right-wingers have an immutable four-part formula they apply to a president’s impact on the economy: (a) If the president is a Democrat and the economy goes bad, the president is to blame. Period. (b) If the president is a Democrat and the economy improves, it’s due to the Republicans in Congress or the last Republican president, however long ago. (c) If the president is a Republican and the economy improves, it’s all his doing. Period. (d) If the president is a Republican and the economy goes bad, it’s due to the Democrats in Congress or the last Democratic president, however long ago.

Historians and economists, however, are not blessed with such divine insight, and so they have to rely on hard numbers instead. Those numbers almost invariably show that economic improvement coincidentally has a way of occurring when a Democrat is in the White House. And the present president is no exception.

The guys at Motley Fool have compiled tables of how the presidents since 1900 compare in five economic factors. Of 19 administrations, Obama’s ranks fourth in stock market performance, seventh in reducing unemployment, eighth in GDP per capita, and — get this — FIRST in corporate profit growth. The latter isn’t even close: at an annual growth rate of 43.1 percent, Obama’s figure smokes the next closest competitor at 17.7 percent. This, mind you, is a president whom the wingers love to brand a “socialist”. So lopsided is the president’s boon to corporate interests that the Fools suggest, with a perfectly straight face, that maybe he should play fair and bring the percentage down to a more competitive 6.2 by factoring in the final year of the economically disastrous Bush administration. You think I’m making this up?

Okay, so President Obama has plenty of positive things going for him. What about the possibility that there is enough in the minus column to wipe out his assets? Well, it’s really not a realistic possibility at all. Certainly, he’s only human, and he’s exhibited his share of missteps and flaws like any other politician. (And ironically, they tend to be overlooked by the Obama Haters in their rush to circulate nutball rumors.) But contrary to loud and pervasive rumor, there is nothing that promises to make a dent in the history books.

Which certainly hasn’t prevented the haters from trying desperately, comically, to find something. From Benghazi to birtherism to Benghazi to the IRS to Benghazi to the NSA to Benghazi to Fast and Furious to Benghazi to Solyndra to Benghazi. And oh yes, there’s always Benghazi. Failing to gain much traction with these “scandals” they grasp at straws that are excruciatingly silly even by their usual standards.

There is, for example, the “latte salute”. The president’s casual act of saluting two marines while holding a cup of coffee as he exited Air Force One was turned into a tsunami-sized controversy by the hatred industry. The puerile hyperbole over this non-event is perhaps best encapsulated by Karl Rove on Fox “News”:

Are we surprised? After all, we’ve got a chai-swilling, golf-playing, basketball-trash-talking, leading-from-behind, I-got-no-strategy, ‘Osama-bin-Laden-is-dead-GM-is-alive’, community organizer commander-in-chief… It’s not a latte salute, it’s a chai salute because he drinks chai tea. I mean, please! How disrespectful was that?

This thoughtful and mature analysis brought to you by a man who, in many respects, ran the country for 8 years, and is often referred to as “Bush’s Brain”. Hey, let’s all try being as adult and sophisticated as Karl. Hmmm… If he was Bush’s brain, which end would that make Dick Cheney? The reference to “no strategy”, by the way, is a comment taken out of context (a national pastime for Obama haters) and seized upon to advance the myth that the president is weak/ disastrous/ embarrassing in foreign policy. In raising such a hue and cry over the disgraceful latte/ chai salute (Which is it? Makes all the difference in the world, you know.) Fox “News” completely gets its facts wrong  (Fox?? Say it ain’t so!) about the history and protocol of presidential salutes, and asks “Would President Bush ever do this?” The answer to that, it appears, is probably not.

Bush dog salute

Bush salutes several times with a dog, and he’s a patriotic, strong-willed, resolute commander-in-chief. Obama salutes once with a cup of coffee (Or is it tea?  Inquiring minds want to know.) and he’s an embarrassment, a joke, a traitor in league with ISIS who wants to infect you with ebola. But in the interest of being “fair and balanced”, surely Fox soon will launch into a protracted analysis of how Bush’s saluting posture was cowering, wimpy, and quasi-fetal as he clung to the most popular member of his administration, while Obama’s saluting posture is erect, bold, proud and decisive. I’m sure they will. Any day now. Doncha think?

Basically, anything that any other politician could do without raising a Hannity eyebrow becomes a major, major scandal/ outrage/ source of ridicule if Obama does it. Is there anything more worthy of a Lemony Snicket novel than Sarah Palin, that persistent answer to a question nobody is asking, mocking the president for using a teleprompter with a canned one-liner read from a teleprompter?  Considering that nearly all of the media coverage of President Obama is negative, and a great deal of it is deranged and apocalyptic, is it really any wonder that his ratings are so low?

Meanwhile, what gets far less media attention is that a group of 238 presidential scholars has done a periodic ranking of U.S. presidents that placed Obama 15th. That’s 15th BEST, boys and girls, not 15th worst. This, mind you, was after his first year in office and thus before most of his accomplishments. Other surveys of the experts have also rather consistently ranked him highly — as highly as 8th. And highly ranked presidents tend to rise in their rankings after they are out of office.

So, sorry to break the news to you, Obama haters, but posterity promises to be far kinder to Barack Obama than to you. Or to your warped image of him. If you wanted to peg him as, say the 35th worst president ever, then you might have a case. But the worst? Not unless things change very, very drastically. And very, very soon.

Propaganda Factors that Boosted Mitt’s Chances (Part 2)

Benghazi consulate

Factor # 3: Obama Derangement Syndrome

Rule of thumb: to ensure that large numbers of people swallow a rumor, no matter how wacky, just insert the word “Obama” into it. From birth certificates to death panels to socialized medicine to Islamic Nazism to FEMA concentration camps, nothing is too idiotic for people to believe if it attacks the current U.S. president. But of course none of it could possibly have anything to do with racism. So don’t you even suggest such a thing.

But in addition to the usual rumors that we’ve already discussed in the post The Biggest, Baddest, Brassiest Lies About Barack Obama (and a Few Dishonorable Mentions), the stage of world events dropped a new gift into the laps of the Obama Haters just a few weeks before election day: the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya. Now we all know what happens when there is a terrorist attack against Americans: Americans put aside their differences and unite behind their commander-in-chief.

No, wait. That was during the Bush years.  On his watch there were no  fewer than 7 — count them, SEVEN — deadly attacks on U.S. consulates and embassies. No big deal, eh? But that was then, and this is now; and the new way of the world is to exploit such an occasion to the hilt for political partisanship and fresh smears against the cat in The Oval Office.

First, there was a major brouhaha about Obama failing to call the incident a terrorist attack immediately. That’s right: “conservatives” who love to kvetch about the “word police” associated with “political correctness” were chomping at the bit to impeach the president over a single word — not because he used it, but because he didn’t.

Except that, um, he did. The day after the attack, he delivered a speech about it from The Rose Garden, in which he said:

“No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for.  Today we mourn four more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America…”

Hmmm… The purpose of this speech was to make a statement about the attack in Benghazi. So you don’t think it’s possible that maybe he meant the words acts of terror to apply to that event? Well, if not, there was another speech a day later, in which he said:

“So what I want all of you to know is that we are going to bring those who killed our fellow Americans to justice. I want people around the world to hear me: To all those who would do us harm, no act of terror will go unpunished.”

So for those who want to make a major issue out of his terminology, there you have it. Not good enough for Mitt Romney and many others, however, who insist that the administration didn’t officially and explicitly label it as terrorism until 14 days later, which would prove… well, something, I’m sure.

And after all, there was also speculation that an anti-Islam video might have helped inspire the timing; and if that’s the case, it couldn’t possibly also be a planned act of terror, could it? Apparently not, at least not in right-wing fantasyland. (In fact, some of the attackers themselves commented that the video was the catalyst for their actions.) To top it off, the president’s officials stated that the administration was still investigating the incident — and heaven forbid that a president actually should do his homework.

But the silliness didn’t end there. Led by Fox ‘News” which seemed determined to dissolve any lingering trace of doubt about its utter lack of scruples, right-wing extremists launched the meme that there was a “cover-up”  of Benghazi, even if they didn’t quite make it clear just what was being covered up or why, and spread the outrageous lies that the administration was slow to respond, had refused back-up to personnel there (back-up actually arrived almost immediately), and “abandoned Americans to die”. They were determined to make a scandal out of the tragedy, to paint it as yet another in the president’s series of supposed Watergates.  (At least one source reports that security had been scaled down that evening at the request of the late Ambassador Stevens himself, who was having a tryst with his boyfriend. If Obama is “covering up” anything, it could be that, out of respect for Mr. Stevens.)

It’s especially galling to see Republicans try to lynch the president for his supposed laxity in security when they themselves have been gutting the funding for State Department security. As Dana Milbank notes in The Washington Post:

For fiscal 2013, the GOP-controlled House proposed spending $1.934 billion for the State Department’s Worldwide Security Protection program — well below the $2.15 billion requested by the Obama administration. House Republicans cut the administration’s request for embassy security funding by $128 million in fiscal 2011 and $331 million in fiscal 2012. (Negotiations with the Democrat-controlled Senate restored about $88 million of the administration’s request.) Last year, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that Republicans’ proposed cuts to her department would be “detrimental to America’s national security” — a charge Republicans rejected.

Playing the “Liberal Bias” Card

800px-Orson_Scott_Card_at_BYU_Symposium_20080216_closeup

And it’s especially disconcerting to see noted science fiction/ fantasy writer Orson Scott Card, for whom I’d heretofore had a great deal of respect and admiration, commit himself to this nuthouse, excoriating the president in the vilest terms imaginable — including, natch, plenty of Hitler references. Card is, like Mitt Romney, a Mormon; and I suppose it’s understandable that such ideological kinship might jaundice his judgment and lead him to conclude that Romney is “a decent, intelligent, moderate, honest man of proven ability”. (You may pause here to catch your breath before resuming.) But that hardly accounts for or excuses his delusions about President Obama, whose response to Sandy was, he affirms, at least as inept as Bush’s response to Katrina. No, seriously.

One suspects that Mr. Card has kept his head in the fantasy realm so much that he’s taken up permanent residence. In his alternate universe (where Kenneth Starr is a noble and intrepid muckraker who was doing the media’s job for them) the librulmedia conspired with Obama to cover up The Truth About Benghazi and get him reelected; and Fox “News” is the last bastion of honest and conscientious mainstream journalism. Meanwhile, here in our own universe, Fox’s coverage of Benghazi was, like its coverage of everything else, an orgy of smears, misinformation, irresponsible conspiratorial speculation, and wholesale fabrication. The network was instrumental in torpedoing the nomination of Susan Rice for Secretary of State, crucifying her for stating — CORRECTLY — that U.S. intelligence suspected — CORRECTLY — the offensive video was a catalyst. Fox and others even tried to link the Benghazi “scandal” to the sex life of Gen. David Petraeus. I kid you not.

Since Card makes such a point of comparing the media’s treatment of Obama to that of George W. Bush, we might remind ourselves, in case anyone forgot, that exactly 11 years before the Libya massacre, there was another terrorist attack against Americans – not on the other side of the world, but right on American soil. It didn’t kill 4 Americans, but a mere 3000 or so. And Bush, a Republican (which made him, according to Card and  many others, an object of media scorn) was in office then. His administration, unlike Obama’s, had received some very explicit warnings about the impending strike, but brushed them aside.

Now we must note here that most of the criticism of how Obama handled Benghazi (and even some of the criticism about how Bush handled 9-11) can be attributed to a perception bias that is sometimes called creeping determinism. Which is a fancy way of saying that when we’re armed with hindsight, past events often seem much more predictable than they actually were when we were armed only with foresight. Even so, one might make a case that Bush’s lack of preparation was impeachably negligent, depending on how much “noise” (i.e., similar warnings that proved false) he’d had to filter out.

His handling of the attack after the fact was unmistakably less than stellar. When informed that a major terrorist strike against the U.S. was in progress, he didn’t do a goddamn thing for at least half an hour except pose for photos while Americans were roasting alive in Manhattan. His eventual “response” was to continue being chummy with Saudi Arabia (a brutal dictatorship that supplied 15 of the 19 hijackers, thank you very much) and instead launch an invasion (justified by fraudulent “evidence”) of another country that was ruled by one of bin Laden’s enemies. This action has resulted to date in the deaths of thousands of additional Americans, as well as untold thousands – quite possibly millions – of  Iraqi civilians. Not to mention a price tag in the billions. And if you want to talk about lies and cover-ups, the Bush administration lied at least 230 times about the conflict, and changed its story about the motive for invading at least 30 times.

Yet you never heard about any of this from the mainstream librulmedia until Michael Moore shone such a bright spotlight on it that some of them must have felt too embarrassed not to give it at least a cursory mention. There was little probing into the Bush family’s longstanding close relationship with the Saudi royal family, and it scarcely was deemed worth mentioning that both the Bush family and the bin Laden family had strong ties to The Carlyle Group, a significant U.S. Defense contractor. (But fear not, a few years later the same media cartel would go apeshit over Barack Obama’s passing acquaintance in the past with “terrorist” William Ayers.) The attitude of the mainstream media toward Bush was best summed up in the words of Dan Rather:

“Wherever he wants me to line up, tell me where.”

And line up they did, praising his brilliant “leadership” in a time of crisis, and his “courage” and “strength” and “resolve” in waging his “War on Terror” that probably encouraged more terror. Under the media’s prodding, Dubya was handed a second term, and achieved the highest presidential approval rating in the nation’s history — despite his having seized the office through nepotism, cronyism and election tampering.

Liberal bias, anyone?