May 7th, 2016

More on the Ben Rhodes flap

On Thursday I wrote a very brief post linking to an article about Obama’s advisor Ben Rhodes and his influence on Obama’s foreign policy, particularly the Iran deal.

The Rhodes article was so disturbing it’s been the talk of the blogosphere for quite a few days (for example, see this, this, this, and this). In the ensuing time, as I’ve read more about it, I find I have a few things to add to the mix.

Here’s the original article that has caused all the fuss, a piece by David Samuels based on an interview with Rhodes. It’s long; I suggest you read the whole thing. But here’s an excerpt that tells you some of the things you need to know:

Like Obama, Rhodes is a storyteller who uses a writer’s tools to advance an agenda that is packaged as politics but is often quite personal. He is adept at constructing overarching plotlines with heroes and villains, their conflicts and motivations supported by flurries of carefully chosen adjectives, quotations and leaks from named and unnamed senior officials. He is the master shaper and retailer of Obama’s foreign-policy narratives, at a time when the killer wave of social media has washed away the sand castles of the traditional press. His ability to navigate and shape this new environment makes him a more effective and powerful extension of the president’s will than any number of policy advisers or diplomats or spies. His lack of conventional real-world experience of the kind that normally precedes responsibility for the fate of nations — like military or diplomatic service, or even a master’s degree in international relations, rather than creative writing — is still startling…

…One day, when Rhodes and I were sitting in his boiler-room office, he confessed, with a touch of bafflement, “I don’t know anymore where I begin and Obama ends.”…

Having recently spent time working in Hollywood, I realize during our conversations that the role Rhodes plays in the White House bears less resemblance to any specific character on Beltway-insider TV shows like “The West Wing” or “House of Cards” than it does to the people who create those shows.

If you have noticed that Obama’s “foreign-policy narratives” seem to not be grounded in anything as worldly or mundane as the facts of geopolitical history, you’d be right, and the abysmal ignorance of Ben Rhodes is one of the many reasons. The narrative has been elevated above the facts—they don’t need no steenking facts when they’ve got Ben Rhodes. In this I suppose he exhibits a sort of postmodern genius, because it’s worked, hasn’t it?

The tone of the NY Times piece is hard to characterize. It seems rather neutral and descriptive, and the reader is allowed to come to his or her own conclusions about the tale it chronicles of ignorance, deception, spin, and media complicity, as well as PR brilliance.

The author David Samuels indicates that most of us haven’t heard of Rhodes before, but those of us who follow the news most definitely have. I’ve been alarmed about him for quite some time, and wrote this piece three years ago, as well as this one in 2008, where I mentioned the Rhodes hire (he was then 30 years old) and expressed these reservations:

I understand that youth does not necessarily mean historical ignorance, but it does mean that a candidate should be extra careful to make sure his/her young speechwriters have a very strong grounding in the subject.

Obama may be unable to do this because he himself has a certain lacuna where in-depth historical knowledge ought to be. That should make him especially aware of hiring people who can fill in the gaps, but in order to do this he would have to acknowledge his own weakness, something for which he’s shown little capacity to date.

Well, that certainly panned out. The post also contained an excerpt from an article describing the fact that Obama and his writers seemed more interested in the “narrative” than in anything else. So this was all foreshadowed.

Other strange revelations in the Samuels piece are that the ignorant and inexperienced Rhodes, whose previous resume was limited to “writer” (and not an especially sucessful writer at that), had as one of his first official jobs the writing of the Iraq Study Group’s report, on which he had an enormous influence in terms of its conclusions. Yes, you read that right. He also helped write the 9/11 Commission report, and was absolutely essential to and very active in framing the Iran deal.

Obama’s speechwriter Jon Favreau was in part responsible for hiring Rhodes, and with no overt sense of irony Samuels has this to say about that:

The idea of someone with a masters in fiction who had also co-authored the Iraq Study Group and 9/11 Commission reports seemed perfect for a candidate who put so much emphasis on storytelling.

Samuels never directly condemns Obama or Rhodes, but he doesn’t seem to be praising them, either. Passages such as this one give you the tone of his article:

When I suggested that all this dark metafictional play seemed a bit removed from rational debate over America’s future role in the world, Rhodes nodded. “In the absence of rational discourse, we are going to discourse the [expletive] out of this,” he said. “We had test drives to know who was going to be able to carry our message effectively, and how to use outside groups like Ploughshares, the Iran Project and whomever else. So we knew the tactics that worked.” He is proud of the way he sold the Iran deal. “We drove them crazy,” he said of the deal’s opponents.

Yet Rhodes bridled at the suggestion that there has been anything deceptive about the way that the agreement itself was sold.

“The suggestion” of something deceptive must have come from Samuels, I’d imagine, but he doesn’t come out and say that. It’s a curious tightrope-walk of a piece.

So here’s my question to add to the mix: why did Samuels write this, and in particular why did the NY Times publish it? It seems to indict the Obama administration, if only indirectly. Do the Times editors see the story it tells us an admirable one? Have we come that far?

And why did Rhodes so freely give this interview and say things that would seem to the objective observer to be an indictment of himself and the administration? Is he so arrogantly confident that he and they are correct and all the experts wrong, and therefore all this spinning to get the narrative out is perfectly justified and wonderful?

53 Responses to “More on the Ben Rhodes flap”

  1. Tom Says:

    So, Obama and his minions lied!?!?!?!?!?! I’m SHOCKED, just SHOCKED! I’m also shocked that the media hasn’t made this a front page story EVERY day. These things would NEVER happen, would they? Sorry for the sarcasm, well, a little anyway.

  2. I won't submit Says:

    Maybe they thought he might grow on the job and bring new outlooks and stuff.
    If given the opportunity and through hard work and perseverance YOU can be like this guy.
    Although, unlikely.

    Never have so many enabled so few to generate so much cow dungs. TWICE!
    That includes the RINOs in Congress. They sat .. ..stupidly.

    We deserve it good and hard.

  3. Cornhead Says:

    I’ve wondered the very same things Neo raises in the last two paragraphs.

    As to Bennie, I suspect he did it to show off and announce to the world how smart he and Barack are. They duped the entire United States. Tricked that dope Corker. Out lawyered them on the treaty. Pure arrogance. The ultimate touch down dance.

    As to the NYT, maybe they figured out they got duped by Barack. Maybe they are turning on him. Way, way late on this issue, but that’s the only thing I can think of now.

    The thing that really, really bothers me is that this thing with Iran is not a game. They are lying, murdering religious zealots and we had them on the canvas and let them up. As former Creighton coach Dana Altman always said, “Step on their throats.”

    This Iran deal is going to be a problem for decades and it did not serve OUR interests one bit. We got totally screwed.

  4. J.J. Says:

    “And why did Rhodes so freely give this interview and say things that would seem to the objective observer to be an indictment of himself and the administration? Is he so arrogantly confident that he and they are correct and all the experts wrong, and therefore all this spinning to get the narrative out is perfectly justified and wonderful?”

    Objective observer is the key word here. We have a difficult time understanding the progressive. socialist, communist mind because we recognize the problems with their beliefs. For young men like Obama and Rhodes, who grew up in a leftist environment, what they believe and are attempting to achieve (a communal, egalitarian, pacifist world) seems both normal and moral. They cannot be objective about their actions. To them their opponents are evil, wrong-headed, racist, war-mongers and it is their job to thwart them at every turn.

    Rhodes undoubtedly assumed that the NYT reporter was friendly to the cause. So, he just told him what he had done, probably with a sense of satisfaction and a belief that the NYT would praise him for his ability to so cleverly push the narrative forward.

    Though this article is quite astonishing to we of the loyal opposition, my guess is that it will soon fade from view. Just as so many of the Obama administration’s many crimes against the Constitution and the Republic have done. As Rhodes seems to believe, they can get away with it by successfully shaping the narrative and they will.

    We are being overwhelmed by the pace at which they are willing to push their narrative and agenda. It just occurred to me that Obama’s last insult before leaving office may be to release all the remaining Gitmo prisoners. Outrageous? Yes. Unfortunately, he could probably get away with it.

  5. blert Says:

    This is but the beginning of the campaign to lower Soetoro — and set the table for Hillary to rescue foreign affairs.

    She is being put in a position to walk away from Barry’s triumph.

    Since this ‘treaty’ is red meat for Donald Trump — this campaign had to start without delay.

    It was kept on the back burner so long as Cruz was in the race… as the NY Times did not want any issue to pop up that could possibly favor Ted.

  6. Cornhead Says:

    When Iran tests its nukes in three years Rhodes can talk about it at a Georgetown conference. I would run him out of the country on a rail.

  7. Matt_SE Says:

    I’d said before that ignorant leaders had little way of hiring the best people to fill the gaps in their knowledge, but it turns out that was a bit too generous to Obama:
    He doesn’t even want his gaps filled. Not with facts, anyway.

    He is the ultimate cynical post-modernist, who thinks he can establish truth by merely speaking. Lots of people may die as a result of all the lies these two have told.

  8. Eric Says:

    To their credit, and characteristically as activists, they set up the move in advance.

    Natsec blogger Brian Dunn notes that the aggressive propaganda deception on Iran traces back to at least 2007 with the Bush-undermining spin regarding the NIE on Iran:
    http://thedignifiedrant.blogspot.com/2016/05/how-two-plus-two-equals-five.html

    Note that in 2007, President Bush was setting up the elements of an Iran strategy that relied on 3 prongs: stabilize Iraq as an American ally, increase sanctions pressure, and support civil reform in Iran. Notably, President Obama did the opposite of all three.

    In the Narrative contest for the zeitgeist of the activist game, narrative is elective truth while the actual truth is just a narrative that must be competed for like any other in the arena.

    Narrative is crafted with layers. Reiterated in the NY Times article, in both Rhodes’s origin story and the underlying premises of the propaganda for the Iran deal is the prevailing yet demonstrably false narrative of OIF.

    For the Democrat-front Left’s operative, master narrative frame, their propaganda on OIF is a linchpin cornerstone premise. It continues to be renewed as a constant premise of the public discourse and, under Obama and either Trump or (probably) Clinton if elected, a guidepost for real policy. Contra Rhodes, the live strategic role of the public’s perception of the Iraq intervention goes to why I stress the importance of setting the record straight on the why of the Iraq intervention.

  9. J.J. Says:

    Matt_SE Says: “Lots of people may die as a result of all the lies these two have told.”

    Sad, and true.

  10. Eric Says:

    JJ:
    “As Rhodes seems to believe, they can get away with it by successfully shaping the narrative and they will.”

    Of course they will, at least until there’s sufficient activist counteraction to reverse it.

    More than a defensive instrument to “get away with it”, propaganda has been the main offensive instrument of their political rise. As I said in Neo’s 1st post:

    Makes sense given that Obama became President with the chief instrument of a demonstrably false narrative of OIF that yet is the prevailing narrative of the Iraq intervention in the zeitgeist despite its plain contradiction of a straightforward law, policy, precedent, and fact record. It stands to reason that they would continue the propaganda strategy for President Obama that made Obama President in the 1st place.

  11. I won't submit Says:

    blert is right…
    Yet, maybe it is just that we are in the midst of a bozo explosion.

    Biden opines.
    Unserious people in serious times… of their own making.
    Thank the voters.

  12. F Says:

    I too wondered why Rhodes would give this interview at this time and why the NYTimes would publish it. Since Rhodes fancies himself such a setter of narrative, we can presume he did not give this interview off-the-cuff or without giving it some thought. So he is creating this meme in anticipation of something, and he is doing it in the NYTimes to give it authority. This will not end well. But then we have known that about this administration for more than a few years. Time to re-read the Book of Lamentations. The time is nigh.

  13. expat Says:

    This all ties into to the recent Sec Def comments about their opinions being filtered by WH staff. It’s scary. I hope Obama knows that there will be an enormous tell all shortly after he leaves office.

  14. Ann Says:

    The author, David Samuels, wrote a piece for Slate in 2009 presenting a “rational argument” for Israel to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities. That makes me think he’s probably against Obama’s Iran deal.

    Was the NY Times totally in the tank on the Iran deal when it was being discussed? I don’t remember, but I do remember Sen. Schumer being against it, so perhaps there were some dissenting voices at the Times too? If so, perhaps they’ve run the piece now to push Hillary to get tougher on Iran.

  15. Richard Says:

    We have witnessed the narrative being elevated above the facts even before Obama was elected in 2008. The press sold the lie, the opposition party did not aggressively fight the lie, and the Robert’s- led Supreme Court failed us with the Obamacare rulings despite Gruber admitting the fraud BEFORE they ruled. Now the Rhodes fabrications and the Iran deal. Will the current Republican leaders mount an attack or will they wait for the hated Trump to carry the banner. America truly awaits for an honest leader to set the country straight again-let me be the first(I think), Neo for President!

  16. neo-neocon Says:

    Ann:

    The NY Times was totally in the tank. See this and this.

  17. Ann Says:

    Thanks, Neo. I figured that was probably the case. So no clue why they’d choose to publish the Samuels piece.

  18. Wooly Bully Says:

    This interview is not playing well for Rhodes. A guy at Foreign Policy calls him an “a-hole”:

    http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/05/06/a-stunning-profile-of-ben-rhodes-the-asshole-who-is-the-presidents-foreign-policy-guru/

    “A-hole”! In the headline! Foreign Policy! Either Rhodes miscalculated the effect of the interview, or he underestimated the interviewer. I think he was trying to advance his career, but this is likely to hurt it.

  19. Brian Swisher Says:

    As the author of the article in Foreign Policy admits, he voted for Obama. Twice. File this under “another rube self-identifies”.

  20. LTEC Says:

    Perhaps it is frustrating to be a very powerful person who can manipulate the opinions of millions of others, without anyone ever realizing how powerful and clever you are. You desire not only power and success, but also recognition. Maybe this is why the Grubers and the Rhodes’s cannot help speaking out, even though it does them no good.

  21. Chris Says:

    LTEC – that’s exactly it.

  22. Ben Jacobs Says:

    This is why I find it funny for Obama to denigrate Trump as host of a reality TV show. That suggests at least some connection to reality, whereas the Obama administration lives in a world of fiction.

  23. The Other Gary Says:

    Is he [Rhodes] so arrogantly confident that he and they are correct and all the experts wrong, and therefore all this spinning to get the narrative out is perfectly justified and wonderful?

    My gut reaction was that being “arrogantly confident” or needing to feel “perfectly justified” are beside the point for Rhodes — for whom there are no “facts,” no right or wrong, only the never-ending battle of competing “narratives.”

    Others have written things that bolster and/or augment this view:

    Matt_SE:

    He is the ultimate cynical post-modernist, who thinks he can establish truth by merely speaking.

    Eric:

    In the Narrative contest for the zeitgeist of the activist game, narrative is elective truth while the actual truth is just a narrative that must be competed for like any other in the arena.

    LTEC:

    Perhaps it is frustrating to be a very powerful person who can manipulate the opinions of millions of others, without anyone ever realizing how powerful and clever you are. You desire not only power and success, but also recognition. Maybe this is why the Grubers and the Rhodes’s cannot help speaking out, even though it does them no good.

    Bingo, LTEC!

  24. Beverly Says:

    This lady deserves a fair hearing.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lxaKUo5naoY

  25. Ymarsakar Says:

    All the shadow puppet masters are coming out of the dark. Strangely enough, I wonder why now.

  26. sdferr Says:

    Lee Smith invited David Samuels to take part in a Hudson Institute panel a little over a year ago (April 24, 2015). The Panel is titled “What’s Wrong with the Proposed Nuclear Deal with Iran?” (can be viewed at the link), and included Michael Doran along with Matthew Kroenig as well. Samuels was primarily asked to participate on the strength of an earlier article he had written concerning a truck driver here in the US figuring out the details of nuclear design on his own by reading carefully in the public record, if I remember correctly.

  27. Ymarsakar Says:

    http://neoneocon.com/2016/05/02/allan-bloom-on-undermining-the-american-vision/#comment-1139488

    My reply to junior, for convenient link.

  28. Strand Says:

    …One day, when Rhodes and I were sitting in his boiler-room office, he confessed, with a touch of bafflement, “I don’t know anymore where I begin and Obama ends.”…

    ******

    Holy crap.

  29. FOAF Says:

    “I would run him [Rhodes] out of the country on a rail”

    Only after being drawn and quartered.

  30. Barry Meislin Says:

    If this isn’t an impeachable offense, then I don’t know what is.

    Oh right. The lying thug in the White House can’t be impeached.

    File under: Prevaricating and Proud!

  31. Barry Meislin Says:

    ‘A guy at Foreign Policy calls him an “a-hole”’

    No doubt for spilling the beans.

    Just like the NYT ran roughshod over Jonathan Gruber for his indelicate and indefensible remarks (indefensible for all those who worship at the feet of the lying thug in the White House).

    (At least Lois Lerner had the “decency” to, heh, just shut up—and was rewarded for her efforts).

  32. Barry Meislin Says:

    “Obama’s last insult before leaving office may be….”

    There’s quite a bit he could do. Release the remaining Gitmo prisoners? Sure. Why not?

    Sabotage the US economy even more that he already has? Sure. Why not?

    Crack down on lawful gun owners? Sure. Why not?

    Recognize the State of Palestine? Sure. Why not?

    And his ace in the hole: Race riots.

    Everything seems to depend on Obama’s raw ideology and Rhodes’s perverse imagination.

  33. Barry Meislin Says:

    Hmm. Forgot about this….:

    http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2016/05/06/3804536obamagenderidentitypush/

  34. Hangtown Bob Says:

    “And why did Rhodes so freely give this interview and say things that would seem to the objective observer to be an indictment of himself and the administration?”

    Very simple…….. He did it because HE WON! Where have we heard that brag before?? He wanted to rub his victory in the face of all those who opposed the Obama narrative.

  35. Big Maq Says:

    We’ve already seen this issue from one angle – Johnathan Gruber, the Obamacare (non-)Architect. And another – Sen Claire McCaskell, and her ability to do similar to help nominate a beatable GOP nominee. No doubt, there are more.
    http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/08/todd-akin-missouri-claire-mccaskill-2012-121262_Page2.html#.VcuVE6RVhBc

    Several of these people just cannot hold it in. They want us all to know how they blatantly pulled one over on “the people” to “win”.

    This is what feeds the discontent and anger.

    Anyway, following the results of this GOP nomination process, it is now hard to be any more angry at the manipulators as the manipulated.

    It makes one wonder… Are those “majority” Trump supporters who are angry really “victims”, as they are lead by their nose using their own willful illusions and emotions against them… as they, evidently, would just as quickly do the same for their cause (since principles don’t matter, only a “win”)?

  36. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    I buy LTEC’s speculation on Rhodes’ motivation. But the NYT’s motivation remains a mystery. IMO, the key question is, how does publishing Samuel’s article advance the narrative?

    I don’t buy that a faction within the NYT opposing the Iran deal, prevailed in exposing the deceit. As that runs counter to everything about the NYT. So what was their motivation? I draw a blank to that question. But I can’t believe they didn’t have a rationale for doing so…

  37. Eric Says:

    Neo:
    “Is he so arrogantly confident that he and they are correct and all the experts wrong, and therefore all this spinning to get the narrative out is perfectly justified and wonderful?”

    Richard:
    “Will the current Republican leaders mount an attack or will they wait for the hated Trump to carry the banner.”

    I expect for a President Trump’s foreign affairs to be tantamount to an Obama 3rd term with American leadership afield further recoiling in tacit (or even overt) acquiescence with the Russian preference for the American role. The Russians advocate the Iran nuclear deal, which echoes the alterations they wanted for the Gulf War ceasefire disarmament process in their advocacy for (and illicit business relationship with) Saddam.

    So, a partial answer along the lines of ‘why not’ rather than ‘why’ for Rhodes speaking out a la Gruber may be relaxing upon Trump winning the GOP nomination with the secure expectation that neither Trump nor Clinton will change course from Obama’s foreign policy like the creative destructive deviation that Obama made from Bush.

  38. Eric Says:

    Wooly Bully:
    “I think he was trying to advance his career, but this is likely to hurt it.”

    I doubt his career will be harmed in a substantial way. He’s a propagandist. That’s a different standard. He didn’t break any SJW PC rules. In terms of professional ethics, his business isn’t like an organized sport with rules banning players for performance enhancing drugs.

    There might be a delay in his career for appearance sake, not even a setback. His credentials are secure for life. More than his senior White House pedigree, he’s a proven winner of the only social cultural/political game there is, which provides its own gravitational pull.

  39. Eric Says:

    Add: The only way to really punish political operatives like Rhodes is to reconfigure the Overton Window, which must begin at the premise level of the public, political discourse.

    Re-order the prevailing norms and stigmas via the same activist narrative process by which Rhodes et al have marginalized foreign policy experts in the course of reifying a paradigm shift that discredits American leadership of the free world.

    Of course, whereas Rhodes’s team was not countered effectively in the arena, I expect they would better resist any activist campaign targeting their accomplishment.

    The competitive narrative process to reconfigure the Overton Window looks gross because Rhodes et al have championed a false narrative for elective truth, but the actual truth is just a narrative that must be competed for like any other in the arena.

    Again, the cornerstone linchpin premise – indeed, a critical thematic premise in narrative terms – for Rhodes et al’s paradigm shift is their demonstrably false narrative of the Iraq intervention.

    Setting the record straight on the why of OIF at the premise level of the public, political discourse switches the cornerstone linchpin premise and lays the foundation to sequentially flip the switches to reconfigure the Overton Window in order to discredit Rhodes et al and shift away from their paradigm.

  40. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    Eric,

    I’m doubtful that a Pres. Trump’s foreign policy would essentially imitate a 3rd Obama term.

    I can’t say specifically, what it would resemble but I’m equally doubtful of speculations that it would basically be an isolationist policy.

    It seems most likely that it would be somewhat incoherent, a hodgepodge of tough and conciliatory, dependent upon the nature of and particular degree of leverage available. Trump will threaten and woo… it’s what bullies, who can be charming when it suits them, do…

  41. Strand Says:

    I buy LTEC’s speculation on Rhodes’ motivation. But the NYT’s motivation remains a mystery. IMO, the key question is, how does publishing Samuel’s article advance the narrative?

    I don’t buy that a faction within the NYT opposing the Iran deal, prevailed in exposing the deceit. As that runs counter to everything about the NYT. So what was their motivation? I draw a blank to that question. But I can’t believe they didn’t have a rationale for doing so…

    *********

    Maybe they ran the story to gain credibility during the general election, but then the story is about the media being duped.

    You know what–I think that might be it.

    The NYT wants to say they were tricked into doing Rhodes’ bidding rather than being blatant biased cheerleaders on the deal. They could also be trying to hang things on Rhodes–while giving Obama cover as a President who was unaware of the machinations of his unqualified staffer.

  42. Ann Says:

    James Bennett, formerly president and editor in chief of The Atlantic, became the head of the NY Times editorial board just this month. Back in March, Politico called the replacement of “longtime editorial page editor Andy Rosenthal,” “a seismic shift in the upper ranks of The New York Times”.

    The Atlantic has now and then published pieces that are not always Obama-friendly, and David Samuels is one of the magazine’s contributing writers.

  43. Ann Says:

    More on The Atlantic under James Bennett’s leadership — here’s a 2015 piece in the magazine about the Iran deal that’s quite hard on Obama, and even quotes Ben Rhodes:

    “The president said many times he’s willing to step out of the rut of history.” In this way Ben Rhodes of the White House, who over the years has broken new ground in the grandiosity of presidential apologetics, described the courage of Barack Obama in concluding the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with the Islamic Republic of Iran, otherwise known as the Iran deal. Once again Rhodes has, perhaps inadvertently, exposed the president’s premises more clearly than the president likes to do. The rut of history: It is a phrase worth pondering. It expresses a deep scorn for the past, a zeal for newness and rupture, an arrogance about old struggles and old accomplishments, a hastiness with inherited precedents and circumstances, a superstition about the magical powers of the present. It expresses also a generational view of history, which, like the view of history in terms of decades and centuries, is one of the shallowest views of all.

  44. neo-neocon Says:

    Ann:

    Now, that’s interesting. I wonder why that happened, and what it means, if anything.

  45. FOAF Says:

    I’m not so willing to trust the Atlantic. One of its chief writers is Obama’s boot-licking toady and propagandist Jeffrey Goldberg.

  46. Big Maq Says:

    “The Atlantic has now and then published pieces that are not always Obama-friendly”

    @Ann – Interesting, as I’ve come to notice that about the Atlantic lately.

    I hope what you say is true. It fits in line with this progressive-critical op-ed article from NYT…
    “… maybe we progressives could take a brief break from attacking the other side and more broadly incorporate values that we supposedly cherish — like diversity — in our own dominion.”
    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/08/opinion/sunday/a-confession-of-liberal-intolerance.html?ref=opinion
    .

    @FOAF – one does not have to trust everything in every publication one reads, but it is important to get info from perspectives outside our own bubble of self confirming echos.

    We also have to keep in mind that not everything a progressive tells us is false, and that maybe a good part of what we are hearing in “conservative” media has its own false narrative.

    That last part is particularly jarringly apparent this year, with so many “conservatives” or GOP “supporters” either backing Trump, or, now, capitulating to Trump, despite all they’ve said was important all these years.

    Many, including Gov Jindal, amongst the latest, are now telling us to back Trump to stop the evil Clinton.

    The problem with that argument is that it presupposes that all evil exclusively comes from the left.

  47. Eric Says:

    Big Maq:
    “That last part is particularly jarringly apparent this year, with so many “conservatives” or GOP “supporters” either backing Trump, or, now, capitulating to Trump, despite all they’ve said was important all these years.

    Many, including Gov Jindal, amongst the latest, are now telling us to back Trump to stop the evil Clinton.”

    Not surprising – “The capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.”

    This goes to why ‘hostile takeover’ is a better characterization of the Trump phenomenon than ‘burn it down’.

    This also goes to why the reflex by some conservatives to work within the parameters of the GOP is insufficient. The GOP, like Jindal, will react to the market. Right now, the market inefficiency is being exploited by the Trump phenomenon. Therefore, while conservatives can work for the GOP, limiting their efforts to the GOP is a formula that risks unethical compromise and (further) practical marginalization.

    To compete for their preferred social condition versus the socially dominant Left and striving insurgent alt-Right, conservatives need to establish their own social activist movement and embark on a Gramscian long march that’s distinct from the GOP.

  48. Beverly Says:

    OT: but calling all NIGHT OWLS:

    This might help you get to bed earlier, or at least head off that dreaded Second Wind that keeps us up until all hours. A free widget called “f-lux,” which shifts the color spectrum of your computer screen to sort better with the nighttime. It’s freeware, and was linked from a New York Times article.

    https://justgetflux.com/

    They have downloads for PC’s, the Mac, and various I-gadgets.

    I noticed the effect immediately I installed it….. zzzzzz

  49. Richard Saunders Says:

    Eric — I usually agree with you, but what leads you to believe Trump’s foreign policy will be a continuation of Obama’s simply eludes me. Can you elucidate?

  50. Eric Says:

    Richard Saunders,

    Recall Obama’s passive-aggressive approach to the SOFA negotiation with Iraq where he made a show of upholding the American interest but constantly ‘negotiated’ in a way seemingly designed for Iraqi rejection. Eg, capping troop levels too low to maintain the vital, painstakingly developed US role in Iraq versus political cost, and rejecting an executive immunity guarantee, yet the post-2011 US troop deployment to Iraq has relied on an even weaker diplomatic immunity assurance.

    As Neo has often posted, the Obama ‘doctrine’ has been to side with autocratic regimes antithetical to the US – from Latin America to the Middle East – and renege, limit, and/or withhold/withdraw a sufficient degree and kind of American intervention to match means to ends for American national-security commitments.

    Whereas, suspiciously, in the instances that Obama has intervened (eg, Libya) or ostensibly continued an intervention (eg, Afghanistan), his decisions and adjustments seem to be, in Army speak, (deliberately?) setting up the mission for failure.

    Post-OIF Iraq is a case in point. First, Obama prematurely disengaged from Iraq. Then, as the situation (as expected and predicted) worsened under regional and internal pressure sans American protection, Obama reneged on the SFA (distinct from SOFA) in the window the US could have readily recovered the situation. But then, as the situation worsened beyond a ready recovery, Obama then began a ‘mission creep’ with Iraq that, as critics like WaPo’s Fred Hiatt have noticed, has maintained a suspiciously consistent ‘too little, too late’ pace with the situation. Eg, the same US action taken with Iraq in 2015 could have turned the tide in the 2013 situation, but was insufficient by 2015. Obama’s consistent ‘too little, too late’ pace with the situation is reminiscent of the passive-aggressive to the SOFA negotiation with apparent US action, but closer scrutiny shows that the US action is seemingly (deliberately?) set up for failure.

    How does that tie into Trump as an Obama 3rd term?

    The effect of the passive-aggressive Obama ‘doctrine’ and deviation from Bush has been to degrade American international relationships and devalue/discredit American leadership abroad, thus paving the way for a Trump isolationist turn that builds on Obama’s embrace of autocratic regimes, breaks already weakened international relationships, and further recoils American leadership begun by Obama’s creative destruction.

    Note that instead highlighting the deviation of Obama from Bush and advocating to re-credit American leadership of the free world, Trump has disingenuously conflated Bush and Obama’s foreign affairs in a suspiciously consistent manner to Russian propaganda.

  51. Eric Says:

    Oops. Fixes:
    Obama’s consistent ‘too little, too late’ pace with the situation is reminiscent of the passive-aggressive approach to the SOFA negotiation with apparent US action, but closer scrutiny shows that the US action is seemingly (deliberately?) set up for failure.

    Note that instead of highlighting the deviation of Obama from Bush and advocating to re-credit American leadership of the free world, Trump has disingenuously conflated Bush and Obama’s foreign affairs in a suspiciously consistent manner to Russian propaganda.

  52. Richard Saunders Says:

    Eric — yes, one of the Assh*le’s major nonsense points is conflating Bush and Obama’s foreign policies — and he hates them! So how does that indicate that he would follow them?

    Yes, his announced foreign policies are a mishmash of mercantilism, neo-isolationism, and “Bomb ’em.” But how are any of those a continuation of the One-derboy’s? Even if you want to put a nice face on them and call his foreign policy of the Realist School, that’s certainly not Barry O’s. Saying that the Iran deal is “the worst deal in American history” is not following Obama.

    Sorry, the argument that Trump’s foreign policies are a follow-on to Obama’s is just fetched too far for me.

  53. Eric Says:

    Richard Saunders:
    “So how does that indicate that he would follow them?”

    Pre-conditions and trend.

    Bush’s post-9/11 foreign affairs, especially OIF, upheld the fundamental principles of American leadership of the free world. The same kind that framed your service in Germany and mine in Korea.

    Whereas Obama’s foreign affairs, deviating from Bush, have been effectively a (deliberate?) sabotage of American leadership of the free world.

    In terms of effect, what is Obama’s foreign affairs trending towards?

    The answer is Obama has set up the pre-conditions for alt-Right, Russian-approved American “neo-isolationism”.

    Distinguishing Bush’s from Obama’s foreign affairs would be an indicator that Trump meant to re-right the course by fixing the damage to American leadership engineered by Obama.

    Instead, by conflating Bush and Obama’s foreign affairs, it appears that Trump means to use the damage to American leadership engineered by Obama as a jumping off point to further the shift away from American leadership of the free world.

    Of course, predictive analysis of Trump’s foreign policy outlook is with a big grain of salt due to his ambiguous, cursory, shifting rhetoric.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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