Thursday, March 15, 2012

Obama: The Hate President

The PowerLine blog weighs in on what what he thinks Obama's term has really brought us:
Barack Obama has been a terrible president in many ways, but perhaps his most poisonous legacy is his cynical fomenting of partisan hate to advance his own political interests. After three years, we have learned that “hope” is not the word that we should associate with the Obama presidency.
Better or worse than the Joker-Face? I report, you decide.
It's a harsh message--and a pretty common narrative amongst the GOP base: President Obama is trying to turn the country against itself--wielding divisive rhetoric in an attempt to forcibly carve out a winning coalition (or maybe just drive the country to socialism). As I noted in the link above, I'm skeptical of connect-the-dots arguments (that's an argument where you show a lot of unconnected events and have the reader "connect the dots" to see a picture emerge)--but what if there was a smoking gun? What if there was an Insider who gave us ... The Scoop.

The Scoop: Obama's Secret Plan
A blog called The Ulsterman Report claims to have dealings with a person, referred to as The Insider, inside the Democratic party that represents a faction disgusted with Obama--seeing him as the greatest mistake they ever made. Ulsterman gets an interview with his own, private, "Deep Throat" in this lengthy article. This guy lays out what he knows--as much as he knows, anyway.

On Birtherism
I have years of experience that helps me put one and two together to try and figure out what is coming down the political pike. And I have associates with access to their own information who agree with me that Barack Obama was a huge f***ing mistake for the party and for America. But I don’t have some super secret Obama file. If I did I would most likely already be dead.
On The Coming Elections
Look, you got generations of voters in this country who have been hammered with guilt for being white. Schools, television, movies…decades of this racism sh*t coming at them from all sides. White guilt is very real. I’ve used it-done it myself… countless times in an election campaign. And for Barack Obama…his re-election team – they are banking on it bringing victory in 2012. Even if it means the threat of race riots. They are willing to go that far – go down that road if need be. If the Obama team can’t guilt enough of White America into voting for them in 2012 – they are just fine with trying to scare the sh*t out of them to do it.
On Obama Himself
So let’s look through the eyes of someone heading into Barack Obama’s upstairs office at the White House to give him a briefing. ... Often you have to knock for some time before being given approval from inside to enter. The big screen will be on – the volume loud. You can easily hear it from outside the door. The sports channels are the ones most commonly playing, though sometimes the channel will be set to music, or Fox News.

A large leather chair will be facing the television – it’s well worn. Not part of the White House furnishings but something the president must have brought in from back home. ... He often sits with one leg draped over one of the chair’s arms and the other leg stuck straight onto the floor. Shorts, sweats, a t-shirt, and like I said, no shoes or just those sandal things that so many of the younger people like to wear these days. And that leg that’s draped over an arm of the chair will be bopping up and down, like…like someone with a lot of nervous energy. Like a kid does. And there’s the smell of smoke hanging on the president. ... And that desk, it’s a mess. Magazines spread out all over it. Stupid shit too. Real low brow reading material the president is into. People. Rolling Stone. Lots of those tabloid things. The most common thread with this sh*t is it’s about the president. If it’s about him, he’s gonna read it. Good or bad – doesn’t matter.

So that’s what you first see when you enter the room – the upstairs office of President Obama. Next you’re gonna notice how small the guy looks. Really thin. He pads his suits up you know. ... Sometimes he gets up when you come in, sometimes he remains seated and will just turn the volume on the TV down with the remote and say, “What you got?” That foot is bouncing up and down while you give him the briefing, but he rarely looks over at you – always looking at whatever is on the television. If it’s Jarrett in the room, or the personal assistant, one of them is there to keep the time. Your time. Don’t go over that fifteen minutes. And even if the president doesn’t look like he hears a word you’re saying, they are listening to everything. Every godd**n syllable coming out of your mouth, and if something is said they don’t like, they jot down notes. Been told it’s to use for the end of day summary they give the president – their own version of what is important and what can be ignored…and who might need to be pushed down, or pushed out…or whatever.
The Plan To Remove Obama
 This paints a horribly grim picture of Obama--but there's a ray of hope: A plan to remove him. This plan is as follows:

  1. Remove DOJ head Eric Holder. This is because a friendly Department of Justice is a "firewall" for the administration--it can stop almost anything coming at him. They will do this by using the multitude of scandals--specifically "Gunwalker" or The Fast and the Furious as a breaking scandal to have congress remove him. That is underway.
  2. Run a Primary Challenger against him (I would presume--although The Insider doesn't name her--Hillary Clinton). The intent is not to win but to weaken him for November. There is some historical precedent for this that is discussed in the article.
  3. Pull off an important staff resignation that will destabilize the Obama complex.
Together these will either lead to Obama being beaten in November or perhaps impeached? It's not clear (and is a bit contradictory anyway). Maybe it will just disrupt Obama's race-riot strategy? The Insider doesn't say.

Does Anyone Buy Any Of This?
The answer is yes, of course someone buys this. Someone always will--even though the article provides no corroborating evidence: Ulsterman doesn't identify himself (or herself). The places carrying the articles are not real news outlets. The Laurouche PAC is no great model of sanity to begin with. However, just because something is unsourced doesn't mean it's not true. The interesting question is not "does someone believe this" but rather "In the face of no evidence, who believes it and why?"

Consider this guy (the No Quarter blog):
I recently wrote about the blogger who goes by the name Ulsterman and his big claim to fame, his interview series with a man who is referred to only as White House Insider (see Part I: “White House Insider: Hoax or Deep Throat?“). Many people speculate on who this insider is, or if he even exists. Is he a composite of several people? Or is he simply a literary device invented by Ulsterman? So far, there is no proof of anything. So I will proceed as if this person is real because so much of what he says has the ring of truth, the feel of reality to it. Like reality TV, I’m hooked, always eager for the next installment. I don’t care if it’s real or not. It’s just interesting as hell! (emphasis added)
Does it have the ring of truth? It does not to me--not because of the content--but because of the construction. The voice of The Insider and the calculated and consistent naivety of Ulsterman who is consistently horrified by The Insider's revelations and argues / plays devil's advocate with him tells me this is a construct designed to explain and draw the reader in. It's David Mamet writing a screen-play for an interview rather than a professionally reported cleaned up piece of reporting.

It's also carefully designed to be vague in an attractive fashion: the idea of a Primary Opponent when it was written (Fall of 2011) was fairly hot. The idea that the Fast and the Furious scandal would break into the mainstream media was attractive to conservatives who were following it closely (and still are). The staff resignation idea (which did happen, right? His press secretary resigned) was the sort of thing that one might predict and then claim credit for later--it's a fortune teller's trick.

But that doesn't mean the subtext of the article doesn't speak to people: if you find the HATE picture of Obama to be telling, I think the odds are high you, like the No Quarter guy, give the article plenty of credit: it sounds true to you.

To Whom Does it Speak?
I believe the interview has a very specific target: PUMAS and their more right-wing Republican counterparts. The material is, I think, very carefully calibrated to play on the concerns of people who tend (or trend) to vote Democrat but felt baffled and betrayed by the Democrat's nomination of Barack Obama. In short, this hits all of their key issues as played out into the 3rd year of his presidency. These are:
  1. He is not ready to lead. The picture the interview paints of him is the one that Hillary successfully ran with in her 3 AM Phone Call ad. This was a highly effective attack ad that showed a family sleeping peacefully in their home while a red telephone rang, unanswered, in the white house. Who would you rather have answer that phone?
  2. It hits Obama (hard) on the Race Card. A major complaint of the PUMAs was not only that Obama played "the race card" but that his supporters played it against other Democrats. The voice of the Insider speaks directly to the sense of betrayal on this.
  3. The Birther Issue is deftly handled: Birtherism originated with the nascent PUMA movement (when it stood for Party Unity My Ass) and has become a painful point of mockery for many people (it was always wishful thinking that a revelation about Obama would quietly and cleanly validate Hillary supporters and clear the way for her). In this interview the Insider claims he thinks "There is something there" but doesn't know what it is. This elegantly walks the line for people who still harbor doubts but are afraid to admit it.
  4. There is some interesting stuff (which I didn't quote because it was long) where Obama's physical stature is mocked. He is called thin, wimpy. It's said he pads his suit and his wrists are thin--"like a woman's hands." I think this is telling. The use of disparaging gendered terms against Obama is unsettling if it's coming from a PUMA-related standpoint--but consider this: one of Hillary's selling points was that she was (and is) very, very tough. Obama is seen (by them) as more characteristically feminine and weaker. 
  5. It indemnifies the Democratic party. In the piece we are told that the Democrats--the honorable resistance, anyway--are horrified by what they have created. For Hillary voters who feel their loyalties were trodden on, this gives them some solace: their team feels remorse. They are going to fight to make it right. The faithful are wanted back. One of the major complaints of very partisan Hillary voters was, ironically, after claiming they would never vote for Hillary that after the nomination, they were not pandered to enough by Obama.
What Do I Think?
As I've said, I don't think Obama is an especially divisive president by any specific action--any more than Bush was by nature. People who want to be divided will find ample reason in the myriad storm of facts daily life produces (just as Bush Derangement Syndrome did for Lefties). The idea of Obama as the HATE president seems as much an example of political boosterism as Obama as the Hope-And-Unicorns president: if you buy either as a literal truth you're just embracing your bias. 

Those biases, however, are very real and very motivating. We all have them and while we can, to a degree, recognize and control them, it is impossible to shut off our filters entirely. Even for people who regard the Ulsterman interview or the HATE-Poster as false or hyperbolic there may be a sense of "Yeah--but the basics are right." 

I think this is in play when polls show that 45 percent of Mississippi voters think Obama is a Muslim:Do they really think that? That it's an established fact--that Obama, for example, prays 5x a day facing Mecca and the press does in fact report it? That's it, like, out in the open? Or do they either (a) suspect it because, hey, Hussein! Of course he's going to say he's Christian in order to get elected! Or (b) just really dislike the guy and find pushing the button (it's an automated poll) for Muslim to be funny or telling?

I think it's a combination of the latter. 

What I'm on the fence as to is whether or not this kind of thing is even remotely new. I think suggesting that a  sitting president would try to cause race riots as a re-election strategy is a special level of stupid (can you imagine trying to organize that? Or predict the outcomes? The risk-assessment?) but is the charge itself worse than people who suggested that Bush was bringing back military units to the untied states in order to set up martial law before the election?

Not really is my over-all assessment--but it's hard to be sure (Bush declaring martial law has a different emotional spin than a black president creating race riots). 

One message is consistent, however: we are told that this time--this cycle--all the gloves will be off. The Republican candidate will be expected by the base to fight as hard as possible. The super-rich Super-PACs have complete weapons-free-clearance. The right expects no stratagem to be too underhanded for the left and we have already seen the GOP nominees "test fire" some of these against their own. We were promised that Rick Perry would 'Make your TV bleed' (It didn't happen: I've repeatedly checked--my TV is disappointingly un-bloodied). So maybe we will see worse yet to come.

From the Ulsterman Report:
Insider ... Off the charts stuff. Remember when I said that Obama ain’t no Democrat? That’s as true now as it’s ever been. And he’s on some kind of collision course now with everybody scrambling to get out of the way, and then some of us trying to do what we can to stop it before it’s too late. He’s already destroyed the party…much of it. Gonna take a long time to recover. Daley can’t stop this from within. He’s moderated the damage, but he’s wearing down. Now it’s the country we are worried about. My kids and grandkids will do all right without a Democratic Party around. They need to have an America though. The whole world does.
Ulsterman: You really believe Barack Obama would go that far to win in 2012? He would be willing to engage in that kind of tactic? Just how far would he go?
Insider: (Pauses)… As far as it takes. We’re preparing for it. I sure as hell hope America is too. Like I told you…this election coming up…Brutal.

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