Thursday Reads: The GOP Debate, Obama’s Narcissism, and Generations

Good Morning!! Last night we live-blogged the Republican debate, and it was borrrrrinnngggg! The less said about that debate last night the better. I can’t begin to pick the best or worst of that bunch. They were all horrible. For the media the big story in the debate was the conflict between Rick Perry and Mitt Romney. From CBS News:

The sparks flew early at Wednesday night’s Republican presidential debate, with onetime frontrunner Mitt Romney and the man who has overtaken him in the polls, Texas governor Rick Perry, trading barbs over their respective records on job creation.

Romney was asked about the fact that Massachusetts was ranked 47th in job creation during his time in office. After making the case that he had improved a bad situation, Romney took a subtle shot at Perry, who has been in politics since 1984, saying, “Look, if I had spent my whole life in government, I wouldn’t be running for president right now. My experience, having started enterprises, having helped other enterprises grow and thrive, is what gives me the experience to put together a plan to help restructure the basis of America’s economic foundation so we can create jobs again, good jobs, and compete with anyone in the world.”

Pressed on his reference to spending a “whole life in government,” Romney, who touts his experience in the private sector, added: “It’s a fine profession, and if someone were looking to say how can we restructure government, and which agency should report to which other agency, well, maybe that’s the best background. If you’re thinking about what it takes to reshape and update America’s economy, and to allow us to compete with China and other nations around the world, understanding how the economy works fundamentally is a credential I think is critical.”

Perry countered by saying that while Romney had a good record creating jobs “all around the world” in the private sector, “when he moved that experience to government, he had one of the lowest job creation rates in the country.”

“So the fact is, while he had a good private sector record, his public sector record did not match that,” the Texas governor continued. “As a matter of fact, we created more jobs in the last three months in Texas than he created in four years in Massachusetts.”

Whatever.

I don’t expect the President’s jobs speech tonight to be much more interesting, but we will be live-blogging it anyway. I do expect that after the Obama has nothing new to offer in his speech tonight that he will have “crossed the Rubicon,” so to speak. He will have passed the point of no return. He’ll be done, finished, caput. I’ll say again what I’ve been saying for awhile now: this president needs to follow in the footsteps of that  other failed president, Lyndon B. Johnson. Realize it’s all over and withdraw from the race so someone else can try to beat whichever nutjob the Republicans nominate.

If Obama refuses to withdraw, I think the media should hold debates where the President debates candidate Obama from 2008. They could play clips of his campaign promises and then ask him to explain why he adopted the Bush policies instead. Now that might be an entertaining debate.

For a long time now, we’ve been seeing former Obot bloggers expressing their disappointment in the man they forced down America’s throat. Lately the disappointment and even disgust has been coming from more mainstream sources. It’s quite amazing really. Yesterday Richard Cohen, the aging WaPo columnist told the Villagers that Obama has lost the Hamptons.

Over the Labor Day weekend, I went to a number of events in the Hamptons. At all of them, Obama was discussed. At none of them — that’s none — was he defended. That was remarkable. After all, sitting around various lunch and dinner tables were mostly Democrats. Not only that, some of them had been vociferous Obama supporters, giving time and money to his election effort. They were all disillusioned.

Let me call the roll. I am talking about are writers and editors, lawyers and shrinks, Wall Street tycoons and freelance photographers, hedge funders and academics, run-of-the-mill Democrats and Democratic activists. They were all politically sophisticated, and just a year ago some of them were still vociferous Obama supporters. No more.

Frankly, I was surprised. The Hamptons are a redoubt of New York liberalism. It is to campaign money what the Outer Banks are to fishermen. I expected more than a few people to defend the president. No one did. Everyone — and I do mean everyone — expressed disappointment in him as a leader. In that area, they thought he was a bust. Some articulated detailed critiques — the nature of his stimulus program, for instance. They argued that more money should have gone into long-term infrastructure programs. Most, though, skipped the details and just registered dismay: Where had their “change” agent gone?

Today, Al Gore attacked Obama as anti-science and anti-environment.

Instead of relying on science, President Obama appears to have bowed to pressure from polluters who did not want to bear the cost of implementing new restrictions on their harmful pollution—even though economists have shown that the US economy would benefit from the job creating investments associated with implementing the new technology. The result of the White House’s action will be increased medical bills for seniors with lung disease, more children developing asthma, and the continued degradation of our air quality.

BTW, why hasn’t Gore been protesting outside the White House? Why hasn’t he been arrested? Wouldn’t that have a powerful effect? But I digress.

I want to highlight another elite critique–although this critic apparently saw through Obama early on. Yesterday, HuffPo published an outstanding post by Professor of International Affairs Michael Brenner, from the University of Pittsburgh: The Great Betrayal.

Barack Obama’s betrayal will resonate in history long after he has become just another name on the over-priced celebrity speaker circuit. It is a betrayal of far more than the youthful idealists and loyal progressives who put him in the White House. Obama has unmoored the Democratic Party from its foundations — philosophical and electoral. No longer is it an expression of the persons, programs and ideas that crystallized with the New Deal and which dominated the country’s politics for sixty years. Its future is that of ad hoc assemblage of hustlers and special interests whose sole claim to govern will be that it is not the amalgamated Tea/Republican Party. Obama, by this Oedipus-like act of patricide, has also betrayed the country that voted for an enlightened leader with a social conscience — a country in desperate need of the opposite to the fate he has laid on us.

Brenner argues that Obama’s extreme narcissism reflects our contemporary culture and that we’ll see more like him in the future {shudder}.

A narcissist has no convictions other than a total dedication to his own gratification. That gives him the freedom to maneuver without inhibition or conscience with the revered self as the only reference point. All expressions of ideals, of opinions, of intentions are implicitly so qualified. A complementary narcissistic trait is an ease with blurring the line between virtual reality and actual reality. Narcissists believe everything they say — at the moment they say it. Their declarations are sterile acts that have no pride of parentage nor can they expect honor from offspring. Witness Obama’s momentarily rousing support of a labor movement that he has scorned for thirty months. This is the same President who has launched an all-out campaign against public school teachers whose unions serve as the whipping-boy for all that ails American education. Narcissists take as given that they never dissemble or lie — because to do so is to acknowledge that reality has an intolerably constraining claim on them.

Of course, this last is a feature of contemporary American political culture in general. Facts are taken to be infinitely malleable, the very notion of truth is denied, speaking honestly is viewed as a lifestyle choice, and communication is more a matter of self affirmation than an attempt to convey knowledge, emotion or intention to somebody else. We have externalized navel gazing to a remarkable degree. One consequence is that public discourse is not anchored by common standards of honesty. It is a maelstrom of opinion, emotive outbursts, mythology and primal screams. Accountability, therefore, ceases to exist. There is accountability only where there are benchmarks of veracity, a reasonably rigorous monitoring of what is said and done, and a dedication on the part of some at least to ensuring that these requirements for a viable democracy are met. The abject failure of the media to perform these functions to any reasonable degree is a hallmark of our times. The think tank and academic worlds are little better.

This amorphous environment is narcissist friendly terrain. It is permissive of twists and turns, leaves no record of what was done yesterday or the day before — much less a year ago, and focuses only on the evanescent existential moment. Case in point is the remarkably uncritical coverage that Obama has received from the supposedly responsible media — especially those who claim to be upholders of the ideas and policies and interests that he has betrayed.

Wow! Can that guy ever write! As I said Brenner apparently saw Obama pretty clearly from the beginning. Here is an excerpt from a paper he wrote in October, 2008 Who is Barack Obama? In this piece, Brenner comments on Obama’s strange disdain for the political and cultural movements of the 1960s and 1970s.

Obama is not a philosophical progressive or a populist. Little if anything in the roiled public life of America seems to anger him or even irk him. At a time of multiple crises – constitutional, economic, and in the nation’s foreign dealings – he keeps his emotional distance. It is hard to imagine him getting worked up about any of the developments in American society or attacks on the body politic that so deeply dismay many others

In all respects, Obama is very much a man of his times. Weak or absent convictions, dispassion even about grievous wrongs, incapacity for moral outrage, quiet acceptance of the precept to put self first – if not quite the measure of all things, a natural egoism – all the hallmarks of contemporary American society. A man who amasses $10 million at a relatively young age after a late start and married to a woman with no inherited wealth whatsoever is a man who looks after himself. He has none of the idealism that exemplified his mother’s life, and for which she paid a steep price in comfort and security. Obama’s disparagement of the 1960s social movements that shaped his mother is revealing. It confirms the absence of serious interest in his own lineage. It hints at an introspection, such as it is, that has the instrumental needs of the present as its magnetic pole. It exemplifies a strongly ahistorical approach to the current world he occupies. Obama’s public remarks that the whole 1960s experience was a ‘psycho-drama’ is astonishing. He is what he is, where he is, as a direct result of the 1960s. The same holds for his wife and children. Indeed, he simply would not be were it not for the ideals and attitudes that became full-blown in the 1960s.

Perhaps at the root of Obama’s narcissism there is a sense of disgust about where he came from and who is is? Or maybe he disdains the movements of the ’60s and ’70s–the Civil Rights movement, the Women’s movement, the anti-war movement, the gay rights movement–because he has no convictions of his own and can’t understand why anyone would have convictions worth fighting for? I don’t know. I admit I simply do not understand the man. I just know he’s toxic for America and he was toxic for the Democratic Party, which, thanks to him, is now truly dead.

Interestingly, I came across another post at HuffPo today that address the issue of generational conflict: Generation X Simply Doesn’t Get it, by Joshua Grant. The post seems to have been written in reaction to the August unemployment numbers. Joshua longs for the days when America really was a great country that everyone could be proud of. His generation, Gen Y, has never experienced it, he says.

We, Generation Y, are a people who have lived through the need for “ADHD medicines,” “anti-depressants,” dysfunctional and broken families, a dot-com bust, financial collapse, failed government institutions, world hunger, terrorism, and international conflicts. Simply put, there has been little to celebrate in life since we’ve been around.

Some people think we are self-absorbed, concerned only with our interest, but can you blame us? The only glimmers of hope have been what personal achievements we have accomplished, of which we hang onto to for dear life. After all, in a country that is supposed to be so “great,” something doesn’t add up, and we want to know why? It’s not that we are conceited or don’t want to be a part of something better, but why get in the middle of a national mess that looks like a downward spiral?

Joshua is so young that lacks any historical perspective. He blames the problems he sees on Generation X. Poor Gen X! They grew up under Reagan and never experienced an America that produced prosperity for anyone but the rich. I’m not sure Joshua even knows about difficult passages that members of other still living generations experienced–like the Great Depression, World War II, Vietnam, racial discrimination and segregation. He wants to know why things are so terrible in this country right now. And if Gen X-ers aren’t going to do anything about it, he wants them to get out of the way so his generation can. To his parents’ generation, he writes:

Let me thank you on behalf of my generation, Y, for all that you have done, and now I ask that you step aside, open your books, and let us, with all the right questions, begin to solve the problems you can’t seem to figure out. It all starts with Why/Y.

If you won’t ask, we will.

I don’t want to be too hard on Joshua, because he’s obviously very young. But what on earth is his generation waiting for? Why aren’t they in the streets protesting already? Why aren’t they out there demanding jobs and a guarantee they’ll get social security in their old age instead of complaining about being stripped of hope? Why aren’t they protesting the wars, torture, and domestic spying? Why are they waiting around for someone else to do it?

In the comments on Joshua’s article, everyone hammers the baby boomers and says it’s all our fault. At least we tried to fight the powers that be. Our generation didn’t sit around waiting for our parents to change things. We fought for change and we had a powerful effect on the culture even though we couldn’t stop the growing corruption and corporatization of the government. What are these kids waiting for? I admit I just don’t get it.

Well, this post has turned into a bit of a rant, so I guess I’ll wrap it up. What are you reading and blogging about today?


Saturday Reads

Good Morning news junkies! I’m filling in for WonktheVote today. She is taking a little break from blogging, so Dakinikat, Minkoff Minx, and I are going to take turns doing the Saturday Reads for a little while. So what’s in the news today? Let’s see…

After his blow-up-the-economy plan passed the House yesterday, John Boehner gave a very defensive-sounding speech to justify his treasonous behavior.

A defiant House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) late Friday defended his debt-ceiling plan by saying it is the only viable plan on paper so far….

“I’ve offered ideas, I’ve negotiated,” Boehner said in closing debate on his bill. “Not one time, not one time did the administration ever put any plan on the table. All they would do is criticize what I put out there.

“I stuck my neck out a mile to try to get an agreement with the president of the United States,” Boehner continued to grumbling among Democrats. “Hey, I put revenues on the table in order to try to come to an agreement in order to avert us being where we are. But a lot of people in this town can never say yes.”

He also defended including the ridiculous balanced budget amendment to the Constitution in his bill.

“It’s time for this to happen,” he said. “It enjoys support from both houses of this Congress, and it enjoys bipartisan and widespread support across our country.”

No. It doesn’t, Mr. Speaker.

A short time later the Senate put Boehner’s bill out of its misery.
Now what?

Despite a day of frenzied legislative maneuvering and another attempt by President Obama to rally public opinion behind some kind of compromise, the two parties made no visible progress in finding common ground, leaving Washington, Wall Street and much of the nation watching the clock toward a deadline of midnight Tuesday.

Reid has made some changes in his plan, hoping to appeal to Senate Republicans. The NYT didn’t elaborate on what these changes are. At Huffpo, Michael McAuliff and Sam Stein say Reid’s plan is now a lot like Mitch McConnell’s. But whatever its contents, Republicans in the House plan to hold a “symbolic vote” on it today in order to “send a message” that whatever the Senate agrees on will not pass the House.

These people are playing with fire. It’s looking like they’re not going to meet the August 2 deadline either.

The seemingly unbridgeable impasse between the two parties as the deadline for raising the nation’s debt limit approaches has Tom Daschle losing sleep, as he never did when he was a Senate Democratic leader in the mid-1990s and Congressional Republicans forced government shutdowns rather than compromise on spending cuts.

“That was nothing compared to this. That was a shutdown of the government; this could be, really, a shutdown of the entire economy,” Mr. Daschle said. “You can’t be too hyperbolic about the ramifications of all this.”

Democrats and Republicans with legislative experience agree that even if both sides decided Saturday to raise the $14.3 trillion borrowing ceiling and to reduce future annual deficits, it would be extremely difficult for the compromise measure to wend its way through Congress before Tuesday’s deadline, given Congressional legislative procedures.

But all signs point to August 2 passing with no budget bill. As we all know, President Obama could end the struggle at any time with an executive order, but then he’d have to put off gutting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid for a little bit longer. He can’t allow that, now can he?

Stay tuned…

There has been a disturbing string of sexual assaults on women in Ann Arbor, Michigan over the past two weeks. the assaults have taken place near the University of Michigan campus. There have been six attacks, two of which were rapes. In the others, women were grabbed and fondled, but managed to escape.

Two different composite sketches of the suspect have been developed. Police aren’t sure if there is just one perpetrator two. The FBI is now involved in the investigation.

The agency will be assisting Ann Arbor police at the city’s request, said FBI spokeswoman Sandra Berchtold. She did not provide any details about the agency’s role.

The six attacks occurred between July 15 and 26, and between the hours of 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. The victims were traumatized, said police spokeswoman Lt. Renee Bush.

Ann Arbor Police Chief Barnett Jones said he did not know if the attacks were linked. He warned in a letter to university staff, faculty and students that there was a “predator or predators operating in our community.”

Emily Zinn and her boyfriend were sleeping when one of the rapes took place right outside their apartment.

…an 18-year-old woman was pulled behind a wall outside Zinn’s bedroom window and raped on July 18.

She first noticed something was wrong when she and her boyfriend, Matt McAnelly, 24, a University of Michigan graduate student, heard the girl sobbing outside about 12:45 a.m.

“We heard a girl crying and ‘Help me, help me,’ ” Zinn said. “She was saying, ‘He left, I’m alone,’ so we didn’t really know what was happening.”

The couple heard nothing while the girl was being attacked.

This monster (or monsters) must be stopped ASAP.

Is the U.S. on the verge of a revolution?

On last night’s The Big Picture with progressive talk show host Thom Hartmann, author Neil Howe discussed how he and William Strauss came to accurately predict today’s political crisis in their 1997 book “The Fourth Turning,” and offered speculation as to what might happen next….

Speaking of the generational differences between today’s new guard and the retiring baby boomers, Howe said that cultural forces have essentially forced this crisis, with “culture warriors” and “values voters” in direct contention with “gen x” for control of the national budget.

“Are we on the verge of another ‘fourth turning’ — another major crash leading to a world war and a world-wide depression?” Hartmann asked.

“No,” Howe said. “I hope it won’t be bad. I hope the destructive will be avoided to the furthest extent possible and the constructive, which always comes out of a fourth turning… will be maximized.”

Watch it:

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A judge has ordered the release of Richard Nixon’s grand jury testimony about the Watergate scandal.

U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth granted a request by historian Stanley Kutler, who has written several books about Nixon and Watergate, and others to unseal the testimony given on June 23 and 24 in 1975.

Nixon was questioned about the political scandal during the 1970s that resulted from the break-in of the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington….

Lamberth ruled in the 15-page opinion that the special circumstances, especially the undisputed historical interest in Nixon’s testimony, far outweighed the need to keep the records secret. Grand jury proceedings typically remain secret.

The Obama administration opposed the release of Nixon’s testimony. It figures, doesn’t it?

Finally, here’s a fascinating bit of historical revisionism from George W. Bush.

In a rare interview with the National Geographic Channel, Bush reflects on what was going through his mind at the most dramatic moment of his presidency when he was informed that a second passenger jet had hit New York’s World Trade Center.

Bush was visiting a Florida classroom and the incident, which was caught on TV film, and has often been used by critics to ridicule his apparently blank face.

But Bush claims he deliberately decided to stay in his seat so as not to alarm the children and to “project a sense of calm.”

“I had been in enough crises to know that the first thing a leader has to do is to project calm,” he added.

I wonder what “crises” he’s talking about? Just about the only thing he did as Governor of Texas was execute people. Let’s watch Bush’s demeanor on 9/11/2001 and see how well he projected “a sense of calm.”

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Here’s what one of the children who was in the classroom that day had to say about it:

“The president he just sat there, and his face — he just went dead,” says Jaimie, who was among the second graders in the classroom where President Bush learned of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

Jamie’s one of the kids featured in Nickelodeon’s Linda Ellerbee news special, “What Happened?: The story of September 11, 2001,” which debuts Sept. 1.

That’s all the news I’ve got for today. What are you reading and blogging about?