Cut the Messiah Crap

During the campaign opponents of Barack Obama tried to dismiss the support for him as a cult following a Messiah figure. After Obama won the nomination and then the election I had hoped this nonsense had come to an end but Dana Milbank revives it in an op-ed in The Washington Post.

Obama received millions of votes. Undoubtedly different people had different reasons for voting for him and saw him differently. To dismiss his support as a cult was absurd back then, and it is equally ridiculous to repeat the claims that his supporters saw him as some sort of Messiah.

During the primary campaign it became clear that Barack Obama was the only candidate I found acceptable who I thought had a reasonable chance to both beat Hillary Clinton and beat whoever would win the Republican nomination. Milbank believes Obama supporters did not see him as another politician. I never had any illusion that someone who could get to that stage was not a politician. The point is not that he was not a politician but that his type of politics was preferable to that practiced by both Hillary Clinton and the current Republican Party.

Milbank misunderstands the response to Obama’s decision to remain in Afghanistan. Yes, of the millions who voted for him I am sure that some were surprised and felt betrayed. Many more of us were fully aware that the current plan is totally consistent with the plans Obama discussed as a candidate. The fact that Obama had said he planned to remain in Afghanistan as a candidate does not mean we cannot criticize the policy. Campaigning on a policy does not give a candidate some sort of immunity to being criticized for the policy–even by those who supported the candidate. We knew that he was not a Messiah who would always be right.

I bet that many Obama supporters predicted, as I had, that Obama would do many things we would disagree with. Back in December 2007 I wrote my annual list of Festivus grievances, that year airing my grievances with the major presidential candidates. On Obama I wrote:

My suspicion is that in a couple of years I will be writing a number of blog posts disagreeing with some of your actions as president, but things will be far better than if any of your major opponents were to win.

Milbank concluded with reaction to Obama’s decision on Afghanistan, describing some of the opposition and writing:

His Afghanistan policy, likewise, is above all a pragmatic, nonideological strategy. He stayed true to his campaign promise to take the fight to the Taliban, but he also tried to build a consensus. You’d think his supporters might applaud this sort of thoughtful, methodical leadership as a repudiation of the Bush style of government by political theory.

Yes, it is true as Milbank also wrote, that some on the left have gone overboard in attacking Obama over this and other areas where they disagreed with him. Some have even unfairly compared Obama to George Bush. Just earlier today I wrote that “I Might Not Agree With Obama On Afghanistan But At Least He Seriously Considered The Issues.” The post praises Obama for at least seriously considering the ramifications of his policy and attempting to avoid past mistakes, along with contrasting Obama’s decision making style to that of George Bush.

Over the Thanksgiving weekend I listened to a large portion of the audio book of David Plouffe’s book on the Obama campaign, The Audacity to Win, while driving or while following around family members as they went shopping. Obviously David Plouffe’s portrayal of Obama must be taken with a grain of salt but while listening I was thinking about why the Messiah line never really hurt Obama. Even while Plouffe was obviously building up Obama, it wasn’t as any sort of Messiah but as an intelligent man (repeat: man) who seriously considered the issues and who did represent a change from the politics of the Clintons and the Republicans (which over time had become virtually identical).

Obama will continue to make mistakes, or at least make decisions I do not agree with. What is important is that we have a president who seriously looks at the facts and asks questions before making deciding. That is not being a Messiah, but it is being vastly superior to his predecessor. I might disagree with some of Obama’s decisions, and certainly never saw him as any type of Messiah, but I still believe, as I did back in 2007, that we are better off than we would be if any of the other candidates had won.

Update: Public Policy Polling puts liberal dissatisfaction with Obama in perspective. While many do disagree with him on specific issues such as Afghanistan, overall only three percent of liberal Democrats disapprove of him.

Bloodthirsty Partisan Bloggers

Conservatives tend to ignore the real problems which motivate a demand for health care reform. John Fund believes Democrats are pushing for reform out of a fear of “bloodthirsty partisan bloggers.” (Hat tip to Booman Tribune.)

Does that really mean that the Republicans have pushed right wing extremist policies because they are afraid of bloodthirsty conservative bloggers?

Does Fund also believe that groups such as the American Medical Association, The American Diabetes Association, and AARP are pushing for health care reform because they are afraid of bloodthirsty partisan bloggers?

I Might Not Agree With Obama On Afghanistan But At Least He Seriously Considered The Issues

Obama Arlington

I might have my doubts about the strategy in Afghanistan, but I do appreciate the fact that Obama actually did think about the decision, in contrast to how decisions were made during the previous administration. The New York Times has an article on how the decision was reached:

The three-month review that led to the escalate-then-exit strategy is a case study in decision making in the Obama White House — intense, methodical, rigorous, earnest and at times deeply frustrating for nearly all involved. It was a virtual seminar in Afghanistan and Pakistan, led by a president described by one participant as something “between a college professor and a gentle cross-examiner.”

Mr. Obama peppered advisers with questions and showed an insatiable demand for information, taxing analysts who prepared three dozen intelligence reports for him and Pentagon staff members who churned out thousands of pages of documents.

This account of how the president reached his decision is based on dozens of interviews with participants as well as a review of notes some of them took during Mr. Obama’s 10 meetings with his national security team. Most of those interviewed spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, but their accounts have been matched against those of other participants wherever possible.

Mr. Obama devoted so much time to the Afghan issue — nearly 11 hours on the day after Thanksgiving alone — that he joked, “I’ve got more deeply in the weeds than a president should, and now you guys need to solve this.” He invited competing voices to debate in front of him, while guarding his own thoughts. Even David Axelrod, arguably his closest adviser, did not know where Mr. Obama would come out until just before Thanksgiving.

Obama “peppered advisers with questions and showed an insatiable demand for information.” In contrast, George Bush was known for rarely asking questions and having no intellectual curiosity. The article further shows how Obama’s approach differed from Bush’s:

The episode underscored the uneasy relationship between the military and a new president who, aides said, was determined not to be as deferential as he believed his predecessor, George W. Bush, was for years in Iraq. And the military needed to adjust to a less experienced but more skeptical commander in chief. “We’d been chugging along for eight years under an administration that had become very adept at managing war in a certain way,” said another military official.

Besides trying to avoid the mistakes that George Bush made, Obama considered previous U.S.  mistakes:

Moreover, Mr. Obama had read “Lessons in Disaster,” Gordon M. Goldstein’s book on the Vietnam War. The book had become a must read in the West Wing after Mr. Emanuel had dinner over the summer at the house of another deputy national security adviser, Thomas E. Donilon, and wandered into his library to ask what he should be reading.

Among the conclusions that Mr. Donilon and the White House team drew from the book was that both President John F. Kennedy and President Lyndon B. Johnson failed to question the underlying assumption about monolithic Communism and the domino theory — clearly driving the Obama advisers to rethink the nature of Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Slate Announces Winners of “Write Like Sarah Palin” Contest

Slate has held a “write like Sarah Palin” contest with the winners posted here. (Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan). The winner is:

One night after a long day of campaigning, when the haters had made my spirits reach a nadir, I looked into Todd’s eyes, which were as blue as the stripes on Old Glory, and too representing truth and loyalty, and he looked back at me with a twinkle of determination which I hadn’t seen since I told him my goal of having another baby in my fifties and naming it Tron, then did I know for sure that I could carry on, like he, and we, have done together all of these years on this long, Iron Dog race of a marriage that is at once grueling and celestial, onerous and majestic.

Sure it is amusing but we really cannot blame Sarah Palin for content written by others, no matter how much it sounds like something she might say. Besides, there’s plenty of material in Palin’s own statements. For example, in her second appearance as Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live, Tina Fey received laughs for quoting Palin word for word in response to one question from Katie Couric.

Sarah Palin Says United States Should Rededicate Itself To Seeking God’s Will

Palin Graham

Sarah Palin said the United States should rededicate itself to seeking God’s will in a video released Friday by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Palin is a young-earth creationist who believes she will see Jesus in her lifetime. As mayor of Wasilla she tried to stack the local school board with creationists and tried to pressure the local library to remove books which social conservatives found offensive.

This is hardly the first time that Palin has expressed such theocratic sentiments confusing “God’s will” with governing. In June 2008 she described the Iraq war as a “task that is from God” and even described the Alaska gas pipeline as “God’s will.”

As repulsive as these beliefs are, they are apparently mainstream in the GOP. For example, George Bush has expressed the belief that God chose him to be President and advised him to go to war in Iraq. Donald Rumsfeld used biblical imagery to sell Bush on the Iraq war. Jacques Chirac has also been quoted as saying that Bush had justified the Iraq war based upon biblical prophesy.