these past few days.
Krugman is the liberal world’s most valuable player—has been so for a very long time. But this morning, he grouses in the following way, sounding like Rachel and KO:
KRUGMAN (12/10/10): Which brings me back to Mr. Obama’s press conference, where—showing much more passion than he seems able to muster against Republicans—he denounced purists on the left, who supposedly refuse to accept compromises in the national interest.
Well, concerns about the tax deal reflect realism, not purism: Mr. Obama is setting up another hostage situation a year down the road. And given that fact, the last thing we need is the kind of self-indulgent behavior he showed by lashing out at progressives who he feels aren’t giving him enough credit.
The point is that by seeming angrier at worried supporters than he is at the hostage-takers, Mr. Obama is already signaling weakness, giving Republicans every reason to believe that they can extract another ransom.
Professor! Like Achilles, beat back your great anger!
Boo-hoo-hooing like Rachel and KO, Krugman complains about the way Obama denounced liberal purists this week. (Liberal purists like Krugman himself, as he notes early on.) Was Obama’s behavior “self-indulgent?” That’s certainly possible. But did Obama denounce his own splendid tribe more harshly than he denounced The Other? This claim is grossly self-indulgent—although, since Tuesday, this claim has been made all over the liberal web.
Boo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo! Obama denounced us, his own supporters, more harshly than he denounced The Other! But please note: As we see from that passage from Krugman, Obama repeatedly denounced the GOP as “hostage-takers” during his press conference—hostage-takers who were fully prepared to do real harm to the hostages.
By normal standards, this was extremely harsh presidential rhetoric. Was it worse when Obama dared to “denounce” some of us wonderful liberals as “purists?” Actually no, it really wasn’t—unless we have become so self-indulgent that we’ve lost the capacity to reason. Unless we’ve become so thoroughly tribal that we can’t even hear the insults aimed at the other tribe.
(Within the thoroughly tribal mind, such insults get processed as “facts.”)
On the web, many liberals have been self-indulgent this week, crying about Obama’s insults; we’ve displayed our sensitive tribal mindsets all through this peculiar week. But since Krugman is our team’s most valuable player, it would be quite bad for progressive interests if he ended up the same way. Professor Krugman, beat back your great anger! Professor! Step back from that ledge!
That said: We’ve been amazed, all this week, by the way many liberals have reasoned. Are we so tribal that we can’t even notice the simplest facts? Let’s review three bone-simple concepts, concepts which have been widely ignored all during this overwrought week:
Majority doesn’t rule any more: In appropriate contexts, every liberal knows to complain about the new logic of the Senate, in which a majority doesn’t rule—in which it takes sixty votes to get a measure passed. Despite this, aggrieved liberals have complained all week long about the way Obama failed to act when he had those “big majorities.” Here was Rachel Maddow, one of the dumbest players in American public life:
MADDOW (12/7/10): The president today also turned withering fire on liberals, on the Democratic base, for expecting too much—turned that withering fire on liberals for expecting too much from a White House that for another hot minute has big Democratic majorities in both the House and the Senate.
Boo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo! Maddow was training liberals to be resentful—and to be stupid. (Imagine! The president turned withering fire on us!) One statement here was perfectly accurate: At present, Obama does have “big Democratic majorities” in both the House and the Senate. But so what? At present, majority doesn’t rule in the Senate! Maddow, who endlessly plays the fool, still can’t—or won’t—process this fact.
A Democratic super-majority isn’t a liberal super-majority: For a few brief shining moments, Obama did have a 60-seat Democratic super-majority (although you had to count Lieberman). But that resulted from a political miracle—and that Democratic super-majority wasn’t a liberal super-majority. At present, the small states tend to be very red; for that reason, it’s impossible to elect sixty Dems to the Senate without including a bunch of people who come from beet-red states. Two examples: That Democratic super-majority included Senators Lincoln and Pryor; they hail from Arkansas, a state which favored McCain by twenty points in 2008, when Obama was still well-liked. Here’s a basic fact of life: Democratic senators from red states aren’t going to toe the progressive line. If professional “liberals” still can’t grasp this fact, why shouldn’t such nitwits resign?
Elections really do matter: Guess what? Democrats and liberals got beaten with sticks in last month’s elections! Anyone but a tribal ninny would understand what this means: When Democrats get beaten so badly, it’s harder to persuade Republican senators, or Democrats from red states, to adopt progressive positions. But many of our tribal liberals seem to have no sense of this fact. To Maddow, Obama still has, for “another hot minute,” “big Democratic majorities in both the House and the Senate!”
Go ahead! In a rational frame of mind, ask yourself why that wholly irrelevant fact is still supposed to matter.
Can our liberal team reason at all? Relentlessly, Maddow seems to represent the soul of our tribal cluelessness. Just consider this clueless response to poor Goolsbee, who was forced to be polite:
GOOLSBEE: In this case, no matter what you say, Rachel, the fact is, no one expected that in this environment where we’re facing in January the possibility that John Boehner was simply going to come forward and pass these out of the House and get only the Republican things, nobody thought that the president was going to get two or two and a half times as much as for his priorities as those high-income tax cuts. So, I think it’s a little unfair to criticize him so vehemently on that.
MADDOW: Well, I don’t—I don’t think anybody is criticizing the things that the president was able to get. I think the criticism is that he wasn’t able to get more than that. And that the Republicans got so much of what they wanted!
As she continued, Maddow referred again to the irrelevant fact that “there are still 58 Democrats in the Senate.” As we’ve noted, it takes 60 votes—and guess what? Last weekend, the Senate tried to terminate the Bush tax cuts for people who are truly rich—for income above a million dollars.
It gets worse, as she never seems to ask why eliminating tax breaks for the richest Americans -- an obvious political winner according to the polls --
by the Democratically controlled Congress before the midterms, as opposed to after a knee-cracking midterm for Democrats.
Like Chronos, we liberals eat our young (presidents). We do it time and time again.