Wednesday, October 12, 2011

What A REAL Democrat Sounds Like, And What The 60s Can Teach Us About Occupy Wall Street

Watching this AWESOME partisan takedown, I can't help but wonder what happened to today's Democrats, from the top down? Can you imagine how JFK would have reacted to today's obstructionist right wing Republicans and what he'd say about the CIRCUS spectacle witnessed last night in the Republican debate? It might go something like this:

And can you imagine President Kennedy EVER behaving as Mr. Obama has for the past two years toward these Republicans in Congress? They blame the President, unfairly, for the plight of the economy now, as we teeter on the edge of a double-dip recession, and desperately need another boost of Keynesian stimulus to the economy, a lá FDR's Works Project Administration. But no. The plutocrats and corporations are in charge. And they just LOVE using this country as a host for the Chinese infection.

Yet it was the President's passivity in the face of what many economists warned were half-measures on stimulus, and his terrible choice of an economic team, rewarding an arrogant sexist like Larry Summers and a Wall Street lapdog like Tim Geithner with the highest, most influential positions, while the guys who were REALLY right — Austan Goolsbee and Jared Bernstein — were benched, with no power even of the persuasive variety to influence policy, that has us in our current fix. The fix wasn't nearly big enough to fix the economy. History will show us, but it's clear already. And that's entirely on President Obama.

David Halberstam's seminal book The Best And the Brightest, chronicles the Kennedy-Johnson administrations' inexorable slide to war in Vietnam, a tragedy for which this nation paid with 58,000 American lives and which, in a way, opened the door to the right's power grab. Halberstam once described how one man within Johnson's inner circle tried unsuccessfully to pull us back:
"George Ball was the number two man in the State Department in the Johnson years. He had been a lawyer in France during the first part of the Indo-China War when the French were fighting the Vietnamese and losing. And it made him very wary of American intervention there and as such, he made a strong case against sending combat troops. It was a lonely business; he believed that Johnson was listening to him and taking him seriously but in the end, the forces for escalation were too strong."
We hope President Obama may be more successful winding down our devastating involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ironically, though, while the President is intent on not repeating the errors of Vietnam, it is on the domestic front, the don't rock the boat or upset Wall Street economic de-escalators on the President's team who are most responsible for our current economic downward drift. Goolsbee and Bernstein played George Ball's role in this administration, with the same result. They were unsuccessful in moving policy toward stronger economic stimulus — the imperious Larry Summers ignored them, and worse, female economic advisers were to be seen and not heard.

The President, it seems, set aside the political instincts that served him so well during the 2008 campaign while comfortably ensconced in his fraternity of Harvard pals. Summers shut down all dissenting views and sneered at critics like Paul Krugman. (To be sure, a Nobel Prize for economics isn't in Summers' future.)

President Obama's handling (or mishandling) of the economy is analogous to Johnson's tin ear on Vietnam, surrounded by a coterie of Ivy League hawks with one sole outlier, George Ball. Jared Bernstein and Austan Goolsbee were the George Balls of the Obama administration, but with less influence. And they're gone now; defeated by the toxic climate in Washington, or the fact that Summers crapped all over the joint and waltzed right out of there leaving them to clean up the mess. Geithner remains. But he's like the President's little brother. Obama likes him, protects him — they're the same age — empathizes with the searing criticism Geithner takes from all sides. It's as if Geithner's the economic lightning rod that validates the President's economic policy (in his own mind), the old adage that if both sides are criticizing you, then you must be doing something right.

The President has often put it in these terms to justify his conciliatory approach as the correct one toward a nest of Republican vipers  — encouraged by the Idiot Punditocracy, who can hardly wait for the chaos of a Republican in the White House. (If you look hard enough, you can actually see Chuckles Toddy salivating.) Mr. Obama is working hard to mend fences with progressives, years too late, and pushed back by multiple self-inflicted penalties to the one-yard line. He has frustrated and infuriated his liberal base (don't believe the polls, people are more complicated than that), who said all along he should fight back — like Kennedy. We were right, of course, and now he faces a long, hard drive to score his re-election.

Obviously, and truthfully, President Obama is no economist (which should have set off political warning bells in his mind like, e.g., "am I being rolled?") but he was comfortable in his Harvard fraternity of conservative economists — who had pushed for the very deregulatory policies that got us in this mess — just as Kennedy was when he assembled his own team around Dean Rusk and Robert McNamara, whose belated mea culpa over Vietnam was a singularly pathetic near-deathbed confession. But we never got to know whether Kennedy would pursue the same destructive escalation in Vietnam. There were tantalizing clues that he would have gotten us out of Vietnam.

For once, the Idiot Punditocracy is correct in its assessment that the state of the economy will determine whether President Obama is re-elected. Isn't it a bit premature for the President to claim no laws were broken by the Wall Street criminals (in the legal sense of the word) who brought this economy down? Maybe he was too busy to read Matt Taibbi's articles. The President should really get out of his "bubble" more often.

Chris Matthews hosted a couple of 60s revivalist segments on Hardball earlier this week, no doubt inspired by the sight of thousands of 21st century hippies on the streets of our nation, peacefully demonstrating against corporate greed, income inequality, and a host of other injustices. Very much like the 60s demonstrations. Chris could have booked any number of objective Republicans (like his buddy Ed Rollins, for instance) but instead, quite deliberately I think, he gave free rein to GOP attack dog Ron Christie to launch into a stream of 60s-like establishment slurs against the peaceful, diverse, middle class Occupy Wall Street demonstrators:
I guess my first emotional response is, I feel your pain. I understand where you're coming from, but GO GET A JOB.

I think when you find a lot of people who are coming to New York City, college Students who are out having sex on the lawn, people who admit that they`re there just to be part of a good time, people who are taking drugs, people who are breaking the law, yes, I think they need to go get a job.

MATTHEWS: You first, Ron. You smelled the crowd, you saw them. You know what we're talking about visually, right?

CHRISTIE: Yes, I do. And it's just a disgrace. I think people have the obligation, if they're upset with the government, they have the lawful petition right to say, hey, this isn't right. But they don't have a right to urinate on the lawn. They don't have —

MATTHEWS: Yes, but they're not mad at the government, they're mad at Wall Street. They seem like they're mad at the business people.

CHRISTIE: Well, their anger is misplaced. But if they actually really want to be angry at somebody, I would suggest their elected officials in Washington, D.C. who can't get it done. I'd be angry at this administration —

MATTHEWS: You know, Ron, there's really a historic precedent for this. I mean, going back to the beginning of our republic, people from the West have mistrusted the big New York bankers, I mean, as Andy Jackson stuff. This isn't un-American, is it? But how do you put it in our history? The stuff in New York right now?

CHRISTIE: I don't think it's un-American. I think, frankly, of our history, this looks a lot to me like 1968 -- a lot of people coming out against the Vietnam War, a lot of people protesting. The difference here, though, when you look at Eric Cantor's use of the word "mob," Chris, I looked it up on Webster's before I came on tonight. A mob, according to Webster's, is a large and disorderly crowd. What you have in New York City is a large group. Some of these folks have been disorderly. By definition, that's a mob. You didn't see the same sort of activity with the Tea Party. [Huh?! Whaaa ...? Excuse me?!]

And this allegation that Nancy Pelosi just had me that had me so angry, I was at that Tea Party rally when she said that members of Congress were spat upon. I was standing right there, I saw these members of Congress, who are the members of the Black Congressional Caucus, I didn't see a thing. [Right. HEAR no, SEE no ... but speak plenty of EVIL on Hardball.]

So, if she's got some proof, I'd like to see it. But denigrating the Tea Party, who have been largely peaceful in their demonstrations, is nowhere near analogous to what we're seeing in New York. [Huh?! Whaaa ...? Excuse me?! Are we going to relitigate what we've all seen on tape, despite Andrew Breitbart's attempts to whitewash it?]

MATTHEWS: OK. You may be right, [No, Chris. You brought this asshole on to insult tens of thousands of your viewers, with impunity. It's your responsibility to set the record straight.] but you're wrong about the 60s. I loved them, they were fabulous. And I love -- I didn't like the assassinations, obviously. But the other part of the '68 experience was incredible. [To quote Christie, "if you've got some proof, I'd like to see it." I think the 60s you're talking about — Summer of Love in San Francisco, 67 — is all in your head, pal.]
Then the next evening Chris tried to make amends for his reactionary verbal bacchanalia with Ron Christie by hosting Ron Reagan, a really lovely guy, to speak some more of the OWS demonstrations. But not before injecting his bias with this inflammatory tease:
"Can the Democrats embrace the Occupy Wall Street protesters? Should they? If they jump in, as one person pointed out, what happens if the protesters start throwing garbage cans through the windows, or worse?"
What's really creepy about comments like these, coming from Beltway luminaries like Chris, is that it shows just how brainwashed they are by the right wing hysteria over the OWS demonstrations. I'm convinced Chris internalizes this shit from Bill O'Reilly and other wingnut propaganda sources, and then spouts them on his show, on a supposedly "liberal" network. It's just one more example in hundreds, daily, of how much the Beltway Media is in the thrall of Fox right wing propaganda.

FYI, Chris, while the demonstrations have been orderly and peaceful, right wing provocateurs have infiltrated them to cause disruption and then blame the chaos on OWS. The same pattern occurred in Wisconsin, and everywhere people have gathered to rage against the corporate right wing machine that is destroying their lives. Keith has covered this, and Rachel too, showing Breitbart protegé James O'Keefe walking the crowds looking to promote trouble for his heavily edited video hit jobs. Hardball? Crickets. That is, until a wingnut provocateur creates an incident, in which case Chris will go hysterical. After whimsically declaring his faux flower child bona fides, Chris goes Archie Bunker ... and good on Ron for replying in kind:
MATTHEWS: Ron, what are your impulses when you watch those people up in New York. I mean, we have gotten different pictures of them. Do you feel for them? Do you think — do you wish like, in the summer of 67, we all felt we were all out in San Francisco? Is this something you wish you were a part of? Do you sense there's a downside for the Dems if this stuff gets more rowdy, if you will, rougher up there and other places besides New York?

REAGAN: Well, yes. Imagine — imagine what would happen if people at these Occupy Wall Street groups should start showing up with assault-style weapons and talking about Second Amendment solutions. Yes, then I`m sure the roof would come off, wouldn't it?
I thought Chris was a guard, or something, during the 60s. To be fair, he did the Peace Corps too, which is a great thing. But as far as Chris's political "evolution" (watch out for people whose views "evolve" or who switch horses in mainstream, well into their adult lives) to the "40-yard line" or whatever, well, that's anyone's guess. Here's how I see Chris in the 60s, face-to-face with Bobby Kennedy. Chris plays the part of the sheriff:

When Chris, the Zeitgeist sponge, said "... nor do I want political flourishes — gestures that give joy to the left or the right"... perhaps he was referring to Congressman Alan Grayson's takedown of his  buddy, P.J. O'Rourke. Well, you know, Chris — when you host a ratbastard like Ron Christie, who comes on your show to insult the 24 million Americans who can't find a fulltime job and who now swell the throngs of the OWS demonstrations, the minute you cut Christie his "political analyst" check, in effect doubling down on the insult, that's something for which you and MSNBC ought to be ashamed.

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