Tuesday, June 18, 2013

President Obama responds to the "Bush light" crowd

One of the things I've been doing for over 5 years is watching President Obama closely - trying to get a feel for who he is and how he approaches his job. In other words, I listen carefully to what he says and does.

I'd suggest that a lot of people on both the left and right don't do that and - as I said the other day - simply project onto him their own expectation of politicians. Doing so means that many on the left would have missed what he said when Charlie Rose asked him how he responds to those who say he is simply "Bush light" on national security issues.
I think its fair to say that there are going to be folks on the left - and now what amuses me is folks on the right who were fine when it was a republican president but now Obama's coming in with the black helicopters - who are not yet going to be satisfied. I've got to tell you though Charlie, I think this is a healthy thing because its a sign of maturity that this debate would not have been taking place 5 years ago. And I welcome it. I really do because - contrary to what some people think - the longer I'm in this job the more I believe on the one hand, that most folks in government are trying to do the right thing. They work really hard, they're really dedicated...On the other hand, what I also believe is its useful to have a bunch of critics out there who are checking government power and who are making sure we are doing things right so that if we've triple-checked how we're operating any one of these programs, lets go quadruple-check it. I'm comfortable with that and I'm glad to see that we are starting to do that.
Frankly, given how hard many of us have worked to challenge those critics (albeit mostly for their distortions), this response came as a bit of a surprise to me. But it shouldn't have.

What he's doing here is offering the very same outstretched hand to his critics on the left that they have so vilified him for offering to the right. The question is whether or not they are any more prepared to take it. Is their aim simply to find the proof that he is a liar? Or do they want to have a discussion about these issues? If its the latter, President Obama is saying he welcomes that conversation.

He can do that because he is not being driven by his ego or his own personal agenda - he's not an ideologue. He is a pragmatist looking for solutions. In addition, he knows that when it comes to bad actors in a discussion like this, conciliatory rhetoric can be a ruthless strategy.
One way to deal with that kind of bad-faith opposition is to draw the person in, treat them as if they were operating in good faith, and draw them into a conversation about how they actually would solve the problem. If they have nothing, it shows. And that's not a tactic of bipartisan Washington idealists -- it's a hard-nosed tactic of community organizers, who are acutely aware of power and conflict.
Its fascinating to watch him take this approach - not just with the right - but now with his critics on the left. It makes one wonder whether or not the latter will respond with any more maturity than the former.

12 comments:

  1. I think there are some one the Left who will respond favorably to his offer. They won't be the ones who are dependent upon ratings, clicks or cult followers though. They'll be the honest thinkers who want to be safe and secure, but want to temper the risks to privacy and dampen overreach. The rest will prove categorically that they have nothing to offer other than chronic complaints.

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  2. Joe Scarborough is obviously angry because the left is not angry with Obama like they were when Bush/Cheney because they used what he thinks were the same tactics to eavesdrop on American citizens. Joe Scarborough hates Obama and he wants everyone to follow his lead..He has a classic case of "Obama envy."

    Eugene Washington first said he was appalled at what he has learned but then went on to explain that Obama did not invade Iraq or execute warrantless wiretapping.

    I'll watch the Charlie Rose interview tonight.

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    1. When one really knows the details - same with the NDAA - there is less and less room for the anger and belief PBO is "Bush Lite". The changes both he and our courts have made to the Patriot Act are critically important. Snowden simply lied; Americans no longer can have their calls and electronic transmissions monitored, all acts of any kind of surveillance must have warrants, and the FISC is not a rubber stamp. Instead of paying attention to details - the very point made here - it's become a massive fund raising gimmick to declare the US government is worse then China and Russia. Who'd send money if things were actually getting better? We need to continue the policy debate on the Act itself, our national standing on war itself, our means and methods for the future so the Bush Doctrine may never come again, but we also have to take note of where we are. That is light years ahead on civil liberties from where we were under Bush.

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    2. I don't understand why Scarborough or Eugene Robinson would be surprised at the extent of the NSA's surveillance program. I'm not a big time pundit, politician, or national TV host, and I knew about the program. Some of these same tools either said nothing or cheered GWB on as Congress created and passed the Patriot Act, and he signed it into law. Some of us were warning that the Patriot Act was opening a can of worms which would reduce our individual freedoms and privacy, but they didn't want to hear it. The way I look at it is every American who didn't disapprove of the program under the GWB administration has no reason to be expressing fake outrage that the program is still under effect under President Obama. They're playing political games for the sake of being involved in disparaging President Obama. I don't have a very high opinion of those who have no consistency on issues. They don't deserve my respect, therefore, I give them none. If one is truly concerned about an issue, one doesn't champion it in one administration and oppose it in the next. I hate political games, whether it's the left or right playing them because they indicate a level of dishonesty that makes me want to puke all over them.

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    3. I don't think 'consistency' is the issue when the circumstances and actions are so radically different. There is NO spying on any of us by the NSA as there was under Bush. The fact that courts and this administration have reinstated huge constitutional rights and procedures is what makes it possible to have very different opinions now vs. under Bush. No one is being targeted without a warrant, no one is being hacked or had their conversations overheard. It matters - and the news media's utter inability to distinguish the difference is horrible. Pay attention to details - they are the core of what is not just legal but morally and ethically appropriate. If we cannot distinguish that this president has done what we demanded - we are beyond the place where we can manage a democracy because we have given up discernment and let hype rule our nation.

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    4. Majii is my generation and from my geographic area of the country. I'll bet she was raised the same as I was, with her parents drumming into her all the time that the government knows everything about a person, that you should be careful what you say on the telephone, that if the government wants something from you, they have a way of getting it. This was from the 60s and 70s. There's ALWAYS been a feeling of government surveillance since God was a boy. It's just that technology outgrew us. Now, it's so much easier to be open with these accusations, especially whe it's perceived that the President isn't "one of us."

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  3. On both the right and the left, there are some who would rather be angry than informed.

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  4. I should download the full interview. But those snippets reveal one more thing about Obama - he tells people exactly how he'll fight and does it to the letter. Simply put, as you said, those who don't get who this guy is and how he thinks really aren't paying attention. Despite the emo-progressive paranoia, the President Obama isn't hiding anything, he's a fairly open book for the world's most powerful man.

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    1. It constantly amazes me when people are surprised at Obama's actions since he so clearly telegraphs his plans well ahead of time (sometimes years ahead of time).

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    2. LACoincidental, you can see the whole interview on the Obama Diary, they have already downloaded it. watched it this morning, along with his whole trip to Ireland and now to Berlin. Chips is on top of it all.

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  5. Just watched the DVR of his Charlie Rose interview. President Obama is by far the most sober minded and clear thinking president in my lifetime. The fools on the right and left don't realize how fortunate we are to have him as our president. He has Mt. Rushmore mind, temperament and humanity.

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  6. Thanks for posting this, Ms. Smartypants. It went straight to my Facebook page with my comment that the Americans who believe President Obama doesn't welcome criticism are wrong. He wants to have a discussion on national security. I think that the main reason they believe he doesn't deal well with criticism is because Fox News and other forms of RW media have told them he's thin-skinned and doesn't tolerate criticism well. If they'd stop listening to RW media and listen to what the president says, they wouldn't be calling him a "dictator," a president who "abuses" his power, or a president who "lies" about transparency. President Obama has done something in our national security program that Bush never did--he makes the national security briefings open to every member of Congress. Michael Hayden, Bush's former Director of National Security, congratulated President Obama on his transparency last week.

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