Monday, January 21, 2008

Wherein a smarter dude than I articulates truth better than I ever could, so get reading!

Paul Krugman is a groovy cat.

Historical narratives matter. That’s why conservatives are still writing books denouncing F.D.R. and the New Deal; they understand that the way Americans perceive bygone eras, even eras from the seemingly distant past, affects politics today.

And it’s also why the furor over Barack Obama’s praise for Ronald Reagan is not, as some think, overblown. The fact is that how we talk about the Reagan era still matters immensely for American politics.
Exactement. Never, ever, ever tie Saint Ronnie's name with anything good. The majority of people paying attention to politics in any capacity are not to going to think in nuanced terms. No matter how well spoken and crystal clear a candidate speaks, the public is going to hear undeserved niceties tied to that fucking horrid mouthpiece of a diabolical movement that never had, and never will have, the best interests of all Americans at heart.
This is, in short, a time when progressives ought to be driving home the idea that the right’s ideas don’t work, and never have.
Can I get an 'amen?'



Mathman6293 said...



Omen (from old Hebrew days).

FranIAm said...


Suzi Riot said...

MOTHERfucking amen, brother!

I heart Paul Krugman too. How we talk about Reagan, or any administration for that matter, is very important and very relevant. When Obama praises Reagan, is he praising Iran-Contra, unemployment, stagflation, the crack epidemic? What does Obama's historical interpretation of the Reagan presidency tell us about what his own presidency might be like? And people say that I was silly for choosing History as my major! Sometimes examining history provides the only clear path for the present. Fucking AMEN!

Dr. Zaius said...

"It’s not just a matter of what happens in the next election. Mr. Clinton won his elections, but — as Mr. Obama correctly pointed out — he didn’t change America’s trajectory the way Reagan did. Why?

Well, I’d say that the great failure of the Clinton administration — more important even than its failure to achieve health care reform, though the two failures were closely related — was the fact that it didn’t change the narrative, a fact demonstrated by the way Republicans are still claiming to be the next Ronald Reagan.

Now progressives have been granted a second chance to argue that Reaganism is fundamentally wrong: once again, the vast majority of Americans think that the country is on the wrong track. But they won’t be able to make that argument if their political leaders, whatever they meant to convey, seem to be saying that Reagan had it right."


To be fair, Obama's remarks were about the scale of the hunger for change, not the kind of change.


For anyone that didn't hear the quote by Barack about Ronald Reagan and the resulting comments, here's the transcript on it from Meet the Press.

Tim Russert: And one of the things that happened this week was Barack Obama gave an interview to the Reno Gazette-Journal. And he began to talk about ideas, Ronald Reagan, Democrats. This is what Obama said.

(Videotape, Monday):

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL): I think it's fair to say the Republicans were the party of ideas for a pretty long chunk of time there over the last 10, 15 years, in the sense that they were challenging conventional wisdom.

Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that, you know, Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not. He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it.

He tapped into what people were already feeling, which is we want clarity, we want optimism, we want, you know, a return to that sense of dynamism and, you know, entrepreneurship that had been missing.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: His opponents...

MS. (Peggy) NOONAN: Good stuff.

MR. RUSSERT: His opponents, John Edwards and Hillary Clinton, immediately pounced on those comments. Here's what they said.

(Videotape, Tuesday):

MR. JOHN EDWARDS: Senator Obama, when speaking, used Ronald Reagan, President Ronald Reagan, as an example of change. Now, my view is, I would never use Ronald Reagan as an example of change.

(End videotape)

(Videotape, Friday):

Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York): My leading opponent the other day said that he thought the Republicans had better ideas than Democrats the last 10 to 15 years. That's not the way I remember the last 10 to 15 years.

(End videotape)

MS. Michele (from NPR) NORRIS: Yeah.

MS. (Doris Kearns) GOODWIN: You know, it's a sad point in our history when a presidential candidate cannot look back over the course of our history and show admiration for a president who did what he said. He didn't really say that he had better ideas, he said that he had transformed the country, created a conservative movement. Now, I can understand why Edwards and Hillary take that point up, but I think what's happening here is that Hillary has a sense of playing to the base, as Edwards was, and the base doesn't like Ronald Reagan. They don't like Bush. But what Obama was trying to say was, if you want a transformative presidency, if you want somebody who is going to be able, as Teddy Roosevelt was, as FDR was, as perhaps John Kennedy was, to inspire and move the country forward, you've got to have those skills that Ronald Reagan had. It's an historical fact! There was nothing wrong with saying that.

MR. RUSSERT: Interestingly enough, the Salmon Press in New Hampshire, which endorsed Hillary Clinton, cited as one of the reasons that, when they talked to her in the interview, she listed Ronald Reagan as one of her favorite presidents.

MS. NOONAN: That's right.

MR. BROKAW: May I have a cheap, self-serving moment? In my book, "Boom"...

MS. GOODWIN: Of course.

MR. RUSSERT: A best seller! "Boom," by Tom Brokaw.

MR. BROKAW: ...she says that Ronald Reagan plays the music beautifully, and she talked about how he balanced the interests of the middle class and took on the Soviets. What was also in that speech, or that remark that Obama gave, I thought didn't get enough attention probably, was how he dissed Bill Clinton.

Note: Doris Kearns Goodwin is a well known Presidential Historian most recently known for her book about President Lincoln called "A Team of Rivals"


There is a bit of disinformation going around the internet that I think needs to be clarified about Obama's sit-down interview with the Reno Gazette-Journal.

I watch the whole interview and Obama NEVER SAID the following:

"When the country was so sick of a blue state president, Carter, Reagan was able to tap into it by being 100% red-state," said Obama. "Reagan knew the electorate was so sick of a blue-state president and blue-state policies, they we're willing to go 100% red. Reagan didn't mince words. He ran on a 100% red-state message. When Reagan won with a 100% red state message, Reagan had a 100% red-state mandate. Reagan knew transformation was all about mandate. Reagan ran a clear red-issue campaign. He never reached out to blue. Reagan was able to bowl over any resistance in Congress because he had a clear 100% red-state mandate. When you have a 100% red-state mandate, no one is surprised by what you do. Reagan, therefore, was able to get all the changes he wanted. Reagan was for those reasons...transformational."

He DID say the following:

I don't want to present myself as some sort of singular figure. I think part of what's different are the times. I do think that for example the 1980 was different. I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not. He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it. I think they felt like with all the excesses of the 1960s and 1970s and government had grown and grown but there wasn't much sense of accountability in terms of how it was operating. I think people, he just tapped into what people were already feeling, which was we want clarity we want optimism, we want a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing.


Randal Graves said...

To be fair, Obama's remarks were about the scale of the hunger for change, not the kind of change.

You know that, I know that, anyone who pays attention knows that, but this only proves my point. We all know Reagan sucked large amounts of hairy ass, but the average person is not going to dig deeper than what Obama said. I don't for a second think Obama praised Reagan. But to even allow a single shard of light on that actor is not a good thing.

And accountability? What accountability did Reagan bring to the table? There was a sense, a veneer, a carefully cultivated narrative that the wingnuts built up around that clown that the media helped propagate, especially all the hagiographical shit since that fucker left office. For all the feel-good crap, his policies and their descendants have helped America not feel good anymore.

Are we geniuses? No. Do we know a bit more of what's going on than Joe and Jane Sixpack? You bet. THAT is who Obama and Hillary and Edwards have to get through to, not us. We know Reagan, not Carter, was one of history's greatest monsters.

You get optimism when you have good policies. Clinton was a great Republican president, but the economy wasn't in the tank and people felt pretty good. And he, overall, had better policies than the Saint.

Dr. Zaius said...

OBama was only trying to suck up to the moderates and independents, mainly because Hilary has the core party vote sewn up. Heaven forbid that he stoop to politics during an election!

And to a degree, OBama has a point. One thing that has been forgotten by Democrats is Reagan was in fact very popular, even among Democrats. Little things like trading arms with Iranian terrorists for hostages and Iran/Contra and doing his best to destroy trade unions and social programs, etc. etc. aside, he did capture the heart of the American people.

That fact that many of Reagan's policies were abhorant to us doesn't change that. Also, the Democrats at that period of time were not exactly loving unions or doing the will of the American public either. The country would be well served by a "Democratic Reagan" at this point, someone who can effect real change.

And of all of the things that can be said about Reagan (whom I can't stand, BTW), "Reagan was not all bad. World leaders respected Reagan, and by proxy - they respected America. He carried on the legacy of SALT, and created START. [...] Reagan also appointed the first female Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O'Connor, against his own reservations about abortion. And damn what the critics say, 'Bedtime for Bonzo' was a great movie! I've seen it several times." Zaius Nation

"Clinton was a great Republican president,..." I think it was who Michael Moore that I first heard say that. Although it is an unfair characterization, there is indeed some truth to it.

I think Obama and Edwards are kind of getting a raw deal from the media and the Clintons. At this point, however, I would vote for lawn chair if it meant keeping the Republican's out of office.

pissed off patricia said...

Nothing more I can say, Dr. Zaius did a great job of laying it all out.

Mary Ellen said...

I couldn't believe last night when Obama was trying to get out of his statement when called on this. Reagan was one of the worst Presidents we have ever to Bush. Just like Bush, he pushed us into such high deficits and the air traffic controllers still haven't recovered from what he did to them.

Candace said...

I second PoP: Thank you, Dr. Zaius, for putting the whole thing out there. Sen. Obama's comments were knowingly twisted (like that's a new thing) and used against him. Good job.

Anonymous said...

Ditto. Oh and amen.

Randal Graves said...

Dr. Zaius, I know Reagan was popular, even among Dems for some of the reasons you lay out later on in your comment - I remember the 1980s quite well in a split Republican/Democrat household - but my point is that continuing to use Reagan as an example of any sort is going to dull all those treasonous and immoral things he and his administration did. People should want to vomit when they see or hear about Ronnie.

I don't think that characterization of Clinton is unfair. NAFTA, the telecom bill, don't ask don't tell, DOMA. By far the best president since 1980, but I'd like a little bit better.

I'm under no delusions that any of these dudes and chicks are the true progressive that America and the world needs, but hell, find another way to say your point without invoking Reagan of all people, warm fuzzy feelings or not. The fucker headed a criminal administration. And I'd vote for a lawn dart. And they don't even make those anymore! ;-)

ME, invoking Reagan because of good feelings is like invoking ice cream. Sure, you feel good, but you should eat some goddamn veggies, too.

POP/Candance/Colleen, don't worry, Obama has my vote if he's the nominee, but man, Reagan? Ugh. :)

Anonymous said...

Just Amen. And I love Krugman.

Candace said...

We need healing. Just sayin. That's what he was sayin, too. Like you say, Randal, we know what he said, the context in which he said it, and how it was twisted to say something else - it's the idjits out there who rely solely on soundbytes. Whoever the Democratic nominee is will get my vote this time. I'm still an Indy.

dguzman said...

AMEN! I love Krugman too; he's never on acid, like Broder and Dowd and Kristol always are.

When I think of Reagan, I think of ketchup as a vegetable and the rise of the ultra-rich. He brought the robber barons back, and the Bushes sealed the deal.

Dean Wormer said...


I understand the political calculation towards running towards the center, but have two questions for you - isn't it a little early to switch to the general and can admiration for the presidency of Ronald Reagan really appeal to moderates?

(For clarification's sake I'm talking about real political centrists not the far right/ semi-far right paradigm that is well represented in Washington and by the media.)



fairlane said...

On one hand people say Obama is sincere, and genuine, and on the other they explain away his odious comments by saying he's simply pandering or "playing politics."

We need someone to make a stand, and soon. We don't need another toady pandering to the dim bulb masses.

Reagan left a scar on this country, and the only thing that should be said about him is how unfair it was he got Alzheimer's because he never had to live with the regret.

Instead he became a phony sympathetic caricature the Right props up like he's the second coming of the Messiah.


And what in the fuck is a "Moderate?"

Who "moderately" believes in something?

"You know, I'm kinda pissed the Wingnuts want to turn American into a Corporate Theocracy, but at the same time, it's good because you never know what I might believe tomorrow. You know me, whichever way the winds blows."

Moderate/Wingnut, what's the fucking difference?

They're both spineless.

Suzi Riot said...

fairlane, that is EXACTLY what I was trying to say about moderates in my Jonestown post. You've said it much better here!

Dr. Zaius said...

Dean Wormer, You said, "can admiration for the presidency of Ronald Reagan really appeal to moderates?" I can only say that once again that Obama did not show any admiration for Reagan's policies, only Reagan's popularity with the American people and both sides of the aisle in congress. If you have any doubt about what Obama said, might I direct you to his comments during the most recent debate.

Fairlane has suggested that the left, the right and the middle are at fault or "spineless". Apparently this leaves only him and those that immediately agree with his position that have "spines". (Logically, this pool of people with "spines" would seem to be a very small minority.) He has mentioned his solution before:

1) "Get a passport and get ready to get the fuck out of here before they declare Martial Law and cancel the 2008 election."

2) "Buy a gun and get ready for the possibility that they may declare Martial Law and cancel the 2008 election."

3) "Have the moral and intellectual fortitude to not only realize, but accept that the two party system is a fucking scam."
Fairlane's Solution

I am not convinced that "buying a gun" or "running away" are actually solutions to anything. His discussion on these matters never seem to get to the part where something beyond this description actually happens. In a very real sense, politics and elections in any country are indeed kind of a "scam," however. This has been discussed since Ancient Greece.

A solution of running away or buying a gun would hardly seem to be a feasible solution in my view. Darth Vader had a solution all worked out in his mind that he spoke to Senator Padmé Amidala about that involved a small minority that controls the populace, but of course that is only in the movies.

Randal Graves said...

Candace, please don't say healing. 1974. 1992. How about we try heads in baskets instead. ;-)

dguzman, don't forget Watt! Use everything up 'cause Jesus is coming back real soon!

fairlane and dr. zaius, don't make me put you two outside.

In all semi-seriousness, speaking only for myself, the only solution I see right now is a revolution. Or some miraculous mass epiphany. I also know that that is 100% unfeasible, given the current state of American society and their love of creature comforts. No boats shall be rocked no matter how expensive a gallon of gas gets and no matter how many times we all email, write, call and fax our congressfuckers.

If there IS a postponement of the election, I honestly cannot say what I would do. I've gone over various scenarios in my mind, sure - caveat: I believe this is much more possible than the average person, so take it with a heaping bowl of salt; power is not so easily given up - and I do find some Dems are not vomit-inducing - Waxman, for one - but even if the election goes on and whether it's a Dem or Rep, the required sea change is likely not forthcoming. Best case scenario? We continue to elect more progressives and in a few decades perhaps things will be improved. I don't see that happening. Education in this country is designed to create fuckers to plug into cubicle jobs and not question the corporate machine.

But, I'm a natural cynic. The glass is always half-empty. So grab another bowl of sodium. But don't worry, I love you all, so this one isn't poisoned.

fairlane said...

Zaius, I already told you what I think of you.

You're a Prop Comic cut from the same mold as Carrot Top, and Gallagher. I realize some people think that trite crap is funny, but I'm not one of them.

If I want to hear a lecture from someone like you, I'll head down to the Community College.


For those who are unaware, Zaius, and I had an interesting discussion a while back that resulted in his little feelings getting hurt.

I was already fed up with the Parental tone he takes with people (He does it with everyone. I'm sure I'm not the only one who notices), and I decided to fuck with him instead of arguing.

Being the self-important drone that he is, he completely missed it, and continued the same tired ass dance, so, I kept poking.

I thought it was a good time, but apparently it really, really got to him because he brings it up whenever he can.

It reminds me of a line in a Jon Spencer song, "This is the part of the record where I'd like everyone to stand up, throw your hands in the air, and kiss my ass, because your girlfriend still loves me."

I understand that probably doesn't makes sense to someone like Zaius, but he's completely left brained, and that's to be expected.

Here's the facts Zaius, (I'm making a list. Something you left brained types love),

1)I'm funnier than you are
2)I'm more intelligent than you are
3)I'm a better writer than you
4)I'm better looking than you are, and
5)If it came down to brass tacks, I'd kick your ass.

Here's another fact, switching from Twinkies to Ho-Ho's will never help you lose weight.

If people want real change (And I'm assuming they do because I hear it a lot), then all the Junk Food must be thrown out.

It's not neat, it's not safe, and I understand such things upset the Left Brained among us who are compelled to control, but thems the facts.

Oh, I'll also point out that despite his incessant demand that others have a "Solution," you'll notice Zaius never has one himself.

And Zaius, would you please look up "Nihilism." Please. If you did, you'd realize just because someone doesn't agree with your pompous ass does not make them a "Nihilist." In fact, if you knew shit about "Nihilism," you'd know there's no such thing as a "Nihilist." The philosophy is contradictory, and illogical.

A "Nihilist" would not argue with you or anyone for that matter because they don't believe anything is worth arguing.

Damn, and I'm more left brained than you.

At least you have that monkey routine. That's pretty cool.

Randall, thanks for the space. I do my best to avoid Zaius, but he can't let it go, and when I see a hornet's nest, I'm compelled to poke it.

Randal Graves said...

Fairlane, you'll always have space here. As will Dr. Zaius. I share political viewpoints with both of you guys, and consider you both internets pals.

I'll never demand that we all hold hands and sing songs of brotherhood and peacenikery because that's not the kind of guy I am, and disagreement is always welcome, but whatever personal beef you two have, let's not let it spill over here.

Anonymous said...

Damn! Where the fuck have I been sleeping? An real-life fucking argument finally breaks out on one of these blogs and I totally miss it... well not totally.

Dr. Zaius, personally, you make a very fine distinction between what Obama said of the Reagan Presidency and how it was perceived. IMHO, a man in his position should choose his words more wisely when it comes to speaking on historical matters because however "transformative" the Reagan Presidency was. The recollection I have of the Reagan years was not good at all and for lots of good reasons, starting with Iran/Contra. To invoke his name, even in the most objective of senses, will always come across as gratuitous praise. He should know better than to do that while he's still running for the nomination.

As for Fairlane and his call for revolution, all I can say is that it's an option. It's not necessarily one I would choose right now, but I would not discount it given the hubris of the current administration. The first step we need to take is to call a constitutional convention and conduct a top down review/update to ensure that rights of every American citizen are secured from tampering of any kind. As it stands, too much power lies in the hands of the Executive Branch and too much influence over the political process lies in the hands of the ultra-wealthy. So far, I haven't heard any candidates talking about the erosion of our civil liberties, not one has brought up impeachment charges against Cheney or Bush despite the overwhelming evidence of treason against both, and not one is complaining about the consolidation of the media into the hands of a few moguls. Do we need to break out the rifles and the Molotov cocktails ? Not just yet, but keep them handy, while we try to talk this shit out.

Dean Wormer said...


I watched the debate and took Obama's comments on Reagan with interest. I will take Obama at his word that he does indeed think Reagan was a bad President. (That being said I don't think the uproar over his original Reagan comment was without merit.)

A solution of running away or buying a gun would hardly seem to be a feasible solution in my view. Darth Vader had a solution all worked out in his mind that he spoke to Senator Padmé Amidala about that involved a small minority that controls the populace, but of course that is only in the movies.

I can disagree politely with you on politics but hold out the hope that, at least when it comes to the Prequel Triology, we would share the view that they didn't cut the mustard.

I mean politics are one thing but movies are IMPORTANT.


My Inner French Girl said...


A lot of Filipinos love Reagan, but we generally love any actor who makes it into the highest office in the land. Exhibit A: Joseph Estrada, a Reagan-wannabe without the smart entourage.

But Reagan also allowed Marcos and other dictators to survive and thrive around the world. I remember thinking at the time (I was in high school in Manila) that Marcos must be a good president, right, if the Great Reagan supported him? But then the Fall came, and not only did Marcos' reputation swirl down the toilet with revelations about political prisoners languishing (or dying) in jail, billions of dollars missing, the collapse of the economy, etc., but Reagan got a second look as well. And the result has not been pretty.

I hope the Democrats listen to Krugman's words of wisdom. But I wonder if his advice will be heard in the sturm und drang of the campaign.


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