Posted by Brad @ 2:56 pm on November 14th 2008

A Promise

This last week or so, I’ve noticed a tendency in myself that I’m becoming increasingly annoyed with.

If I were an op-ed journalist or professional pundit, I’d probably pass on mentioning it, but blogging is always supposed to be more transparent, and more about the hashing out of political thought in real time, so in that spirit, I thought I’d say something.

Namely, in the course of my regular browsing, I’ve been coming across stories about Obama that are troublesome, but which I’ve nevertheless not felt the desire to pass on—indeed, have almost, it seems to me, avoiding passing on. I would have passed them on had they come from McCain, or certainly President Bush, but it’s somehow seemed more ambiguous and less newsworthy coming from Obama.

The tendency, once I caught it, seems about three-fold.

First, of course, the regular honeymoon period. We have a new, historical president, a very impressive figure whom I greatly respect, so naturally there’s a tendency to gloss over his failures and talk about the exciting parts more. Second, there’s the benefit of the doubt question. Bush long ago proved himself unworthy of even a smidgen of benefit of the doubt, and pretty clearly demonstrated that the opposite—hardcore, aggressive skepticism—bore more fruit. And McCain also, I feel, ceased to become worthy of much benefit of the doubt on important questions, through his record and then later the course of his campaigning. Namely, the benefit of the doubt became so great that one would have to assume both were simply outright lies on his part, a big game to win the presidency, to be able to justify voting for him for president. And thirdly, and just as powerfully—I’m already pre-sick of hearing from the peanut gallery, every time I post a story critical of Obama, “Har har I guess he’s not as great as you thought he was!”.

The first reason (honeymoon period) is human nature—which is why it’s a powerful force in regular media as well. The second is, I think, perfectly defensible—but in that respect, I think I side more with something Glenn Greenwald said the other day:

It simply is noteworthy of comment and cause for concern — though far from conclusive about what Obama will do — that Obama’s transition chief for intelligence policy, John Brennan, was an ardent supporter of torture and one of the most emphatic advocates of FISA expansions and telecom immunity. It would be foolish in the extreme to ignore that and to just adopt the attitude that we should all wait quietly with our hands politely folded for the new President to unveil his decisions before deciding that we should speak up or do anything.

Politicians respond to constituencies and pressure. Constituencies which announce their intention to maintain respectful silence all but ensure that their political principles will be ignored.

And the third is just dumb, both ways. Obama was never going to be a perfect president, I said that in every endorsement I made of him, and he would never live up to ideals. And, as a modern president, he’s probably going to do far more things that annoy me than things I cheer. That’s a far cry from arguing I would have been better off voting the other guy. And, I’ve noticed, I’m letting the precriminations force me, mentally, into already sort of a bunker mentality, i.e. “he’s my guy, I have to defend him”, which is just stupid on my part, and misses the entire point of everything I was arguing about on behalf of voting for him.

So, having done a bit of navel-gazing on the matter, I think I’m going to try to lean the other way on the question. If I fault, I’m going to try to fault on the side of being too critical, too skeptical. I’ll likely still defend him from people attempting to reduce his every action into caricature—I think there’s an equally strong pull among people who argued against him in the election to prove themselves right by hyper-emphasizing all the sucky things he does (just a corollary to my own impulse as expressed here, and equally a matter of emotional investment hijacking thought process or open inquiry). But I’m going to try to get rid of this unconscious filter I’ve become aware is already starting to settle in place. That’s my promise.


  1. Thumbs up to you for your self-criticism.

    That having been said, I don’t think you’re a bunker guy. You haven’t been silly or mindless in your support for Obama at any point–you’ve been receptive to criticism of the candidate and willing to offer it yourself when you’ve felt it was merited. It’s not as if you were calling for a woman whom you once called a cancer on the Democratic party and an overt race-baiter–a woman with no foreign policy experience of any kind–to be named Secretary of State. Or, you know, something like that.

    There’s nothing in the world wrong with hoping for the best from this administration. Hell, I do, too. I’m certain you’ll drop the hammer if and when you feel the situation calls for it.

    If, when you do so, people like me start hitting you with “I told you so, nyuk nyuk nyuk,” you are entitled to kick us in the dangly parts.

    Comment by Rojas — 11/14/2008 @ 4:02 pm

  2. Don’t worry about what James says so much, no one else does.

    Comment by Mortexai — 11/14/2008 @ 4:45 pm

  3. Lately, it seems to me, you have become an apologist for whatever Obama does and a harsh critic of anyone who finds fault in what he says or of his agenda. Your self-criticism is warranted.

    Comment by Coogan — 11/14/2008 @ 4:56 pm

  4. Actually, I stand by what I post. What I was talking about was more a filter of what I do and don’t pass on.

    What I won’t apologize for is pushing back against people who either style themselves as relentless cynics and wear that like a badge of honor (i.e. bending over backwards to find fault under any rock, which clouds judgment just as equally), or people who, like myself, are getting into a bunker mentality and are quick to reduce everything to caricature.

    I think we all need to wash the election off.

    Comment by Brad — 11/14/2008 @ 5:26 pm

  5. My personal feeling is that the authors of this blog are neither bunker people nor relentless cyncics, and I think that those who’ve been accused of those things have adequately disproven such accusations through their posts.

    Comment by Rojas — 11/14/2008 @ 9:59 pm

  6. For my own part: I’ve always wanted to be a bunker guy. It’s just that every time I try to climb into one, they kick me out for being bad company.

    Comment by Rojas — 11/14/2008 @ 10:03 pm

  7. And I’ve always wanted to be a relentless cynic, but I keep looking for the good things in people and finding them. :(

    Comment by Brad — 11/15/2008 @ 12:25 am

  8. I, sort of, feel that you’ve been too much of an Obama cheerleader. Though the problem (for me) is probably that you find Obama to be a “very impressive figure whom I greatly respect,” whereas, if I had to describe him in two words it would be, “typcial politician.” As such, I find your frequent paeans to him to be a bit offputting.

    On the other hand, seriously, who cares what I think. You spend a lot of time writing numerous(frequently informative) blog posts. I merely read them and infrequently comment.

    [Though you should know, that you’ve been displaced in the number one slot by Rojas in my (prestigious) “Crossed Pond blogger rankings.” (And Cameron’s gunning for you both!)]

    Comment by Redland Jack — 11/15/2008 @ 6:06 am

  9. I don’t even see what warrants this kind of masturbatory blogging. Show, don’t tell.

    Comment by fred — 11/15/2008 @ 9:32 am

  10. I’m number one! I’m number one!

    Proof, if any more were needed, that in the blogosphere, sheer vehemence matters more than talent.

    Comment by Rojas — 11/15/2008 @ 4:36 pm

  11. Curses!

    Comment by Brad — 11/15/2008 @ 4:38 pm

  12. Face it, punk. You are TCP to my Connecticut Local Politics.

    Comment by Rojas — 11/15/2008 @ 7:41 pm

  13. Donít worry about what James says so much, no one else does.

    I would submit that everyone worries about what I say; and for a good reason.

    Comment by James — 11/16/2008 @ 11:41 am

  14. And Iíve always wanted to be a relentless cynic, but I keep looking for the good things in people and finding them.

    You are looking in the wrong places.

    Comment by James — 11/16/2008 @ 11:44 am

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