Sullivan, Obama, and Elections


Ethan Gach

I write about comics, video games and American politics. I fear death above all things. Just below that is waking up in the morning to go to work. You can follow me on Twitter at @ethangach or at my blog, And though my opinions aren’t for hire, my virtue is.

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59 Responses

  1. Avatar Sam says:

    This is a substantive and reasonable critique. I do have the following comments:

    -I am baffled by anybody opposed to American intervention in Libya, as if the intervention mirrored American action in either Iraq or Afghanistan. What should the United States have done instead? Simply refused to get involved, materially or otherwise, thus abandoning its own strategic interests, both political and economic? It is perhaps a grim calculus to get involved in, but to simply throw up our hands seems an unrealistic expectation at best.

    -I am equally baffled by your refusal to mention the American withdrawal from Iraq. I recognize disliking a non-specific wartime that seemingly goes on forever, but as of right now, there is less war than there was last year. This was Obama honoring previously reached agreements, but he did so in the fact of some political opposition who continues to clamor for more troops-on-the-ground war like we’ve enjoyed (endured) this last decade.Report

    • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

      Whether or not one agrees with the President’s intervention in Libya, the reality is that Congress voted against it, and the act was never declared, setting further precedent for something like, say, undelcared military strikes in Iran.

      With respect to Iraq, yes, we are leaving, only at the behest of the Iraq government and only after three years of an Obama presidency.  Still, it is true that this undeclared war is officially over, even as our presence there unofficially continues via a small army of state department officials and private security contractors.

      My general critique of “wartime” and undeclared wars though has more to do with the policy of attacking anyone, anywhere, at any time as part of the ungoing “War on terror,” more so than any specific conflict with which we are involved. 

      So yes, to the degree that Obama could have caved to pressure, or a Republican in his place would have stayed longer, it is a +1 to the President for getting out when the time came.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        I am baffled by anybody opposed to American intervention in Libya, as if the intervention mirrored American action in either Iraq or Afghanistan. What should the United States have done instead? Simply refused to get involved, materially or otherwise, thus abandoning its own strategic interests, both political and economic?

        So now the truth is out. It was never about the wee-being of the Libyans, it is about strategic american interests. Its nice to know that americans are fine with invading other countries for non-defensive reasons.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP says:

          Is operating in our own strategic interests such a terrible thing?   Qaddafi murdered quite a few of us over time.   Perhaps you think the Lockerbie bombing has passed from our minds, or the Berlin disco bombing or the Libyan exiles murdered on his behalf.

          And don’t beg questions as if we Invaded.   Obama finessed this hand.   He didn’t put boots on the ground or erect an American flag.   Libya’s in the hands of the Libyans.   I might be tempted to beg a few questions of my own about the role of the countries who dealt with Qaddafi knowing him for the monster he was.


          • Avatar Murali says:

            He didn’t put boots on the ground or erect an American flag.

            No, he just dropped lots of bombs and then played no insignificant role in setting up a puppet government.

            Kudos for being more subtle than Bush. Not so much for crassly extending american imperium and violating the sovereignty of another nation over an ideological issue (not to mention one where it is possible that Kadaffi may even have been right)Report

          • Avatar Murali says:

            BlaiseP. Not only is the lockerbie connection to Libya tenuous, Gadaffi had already paid compensation to the families (even to those which the US had bombed in retalliation)

            Also, since when was it acceptable (under any existing norm of international relations) to attack another country in “retaliation” for 25 year old offenses. Hell, try even justifying that under an idealised set of norms.

            I might be tempted to beg a few questions of my own about the role of the countries who dealt with Qaddafi knowing him for the monster he was

            Trying to build peaceful relations is actually the most defensible course of action. And besides, it is not like America doesnt attack other countries without provocation, bomb innocents, casually violate other countries’ borders and assasinate its own citizens.

            Also, operating on your own strategic interests can be anything from a straightforwardly defensive war, to invading other countries in order to take control of important natural resources. Strategic interests is so broad a justification it will justify almost anything.

            All I’m wondering is when America is going to attack Singapore because of the way the singaporean government places restrictions on public demonstrations. Because, by God, political liberties are so fishing important that we should invade other countries which dont provide enough of them right?Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          So now the truth is out.

          I’d say it differently. The beauty of nationalism is that every military adventure is justified by a multiplicity of reasons. They’re overdetermined by design!Report

        • You might be surprised to learn this Murali, but I actually wasn’t consulted before the operations in Libya were begun. But even if you are willing to ignore the fact that Libyans are almost certainly better off without that murderous madman leading their nation, America benefits strategically from his absence, if only because there’s one less murderous madman at the helm. Is it really so awful it something that potentially benefits the Libyan people ALSO potentially aligns with American strategic interests?

          (Also: we didn’t invade.)Report

  2. Avatar Kirk says:

    Sullivan’s piece was largely focused on domestic policy. CF rightly noted this in his response.
    AS would have been better off saying:
    1. I care most about domestic policy
    2. The gop is worse on foreign policy so the question is moot.

    Instead, his natural feistiness drew him into a losing debate… I predict a qualified retraction of his response to CF within a week.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

      I can see this happening.  One of the things I really like about Sullivan is that he is one of the few well know bloggers out there that – after some period of perhaps digging in – will take a step back and say he was wrong.  The internet could use a whole lot more of that.Report

  3. Avatar Kirk says:

    One aspect of Sullivan’s response that carried weight was his emphasis on torture. It is an abomination that I would view as qualitatively different than other civil liberties concerns. Although drone strikes cause more suffering, torture of detainees strikes me as much more troubling.
    Perhaps this is irrational, but I’d accept more executive overreach by Obama eather than risk the return of torture under the GOP.
    Perhaps for sullivan, it’s not the lesser of two evils… But instead a cgouce between really bad and EVIL.Report

  4. Avatar James Hanley says:


    A nice analysis, and I am substantially in agreement with you.  I especially support your additional comment that a better presidential stance on torture would have been to prosecute those who promoted its use, rather than effectively leave it as a president-by-president decision.  For that failure, I think Sullivan dramatically overstates the Obama = no more torture” case.

    So  just a minor quibble.

    centuries of research and reporting have proven that representative body to be nearly indecipherable.

    I think researchers have deciphered it pretty well, actually, and for those who are willing to put in the effort to read their work, the institution’s pretty intelligible.  But it does take quite a bit of work due to the complexities of the structure, and very few journalists have really done that work.  So, I agree that to most Americans it certainly does appear indecipherable.

    But that’s a side point, obviously, and leaves the substance of your argument untouched.Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

      James, as an actual academic in the field, are there any nice summary literature reviews you would recommend?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:


        Ummmm, probably not.  A) It is complex, and B) political scientists are lousy popularizers (economists and biologists do it so well, we ought to be able to).  If there is I’ve missed it because it’s not really my area of study.

        If you want some short books to read, I’d recommend starting with just about anything by Richard Fenno or David Mayhew.  On a purely personal level I’d recommend Fenno’s Learning to Govern (a really outstanding very short work on the Republican majority in Congress after the 1994 election, and their unpreparedness to handle being in the majority).  His Congress in Committees is a classic (that I haven’t read), is longer, but can be bought cheap.  He also wrote two good short books about campaigning and learning to become a legislator, Learning to Legislate: The Senate Education of Arlen Specter and The Making of A Senator: Dan Quayle, both out of print I think, and hard to find, but worthwhile.

        In a nutshell, to understand Congress you have to understand how legislators–especially Representatives–are electorally connected to their districts (more than they are to their parties and its leadership), how crucial committees and their chairs are in the legislative process, the importance of logrolling (vote trading), and the great difficulty Congress has working as any kind of unified institution.

        At the risk of self-promotion, I wrote a piece on how a bill does not become a law (using the case of closing the Chicago Ship Canal to keep Asian Carp out of the Great Lakes) for a friend’s Congress class (it was a bit nasty; I wrote it in 24 hours to embarrass his students who said his paper topic–10 pages on a bill in process–was too hard for them).  He used to work in Congress and he was very enthusiastic about what I wrote, so it might have some value.  It basically explains the real legislative process by explaining why this bill has almost no chance to become law.  I’d be willing to share it if anyone’s interested.  (I’d kind of like to do a little more with it than just embarrass slacker students.)Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          Link please!Report

          • Avatar wardsmith says:

            Link hell, submit it as a guest OP, I’m certain ED will publish it.Report

            • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

              This.  Definitely this.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Well, thanks.  I’m flattered.  But it’s 12 pages long, over 5,000 words, with endnotes, which I’m not sure will read well in blog post format.

                I used to have a faculty website I could have put it on, but there’s a long story involving a hacker and blackmail of our college, and, well, I don’t at present have a faculty website.

                I’m open to suggestions. I’d let someone stick it on another website, as long as my name remained attached to it.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Bawdy House?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Eh, still a blog.  I just don’t think it’s blog-appropriate because of length and style.  It’s really more in an academic style (although not “high academic” in tone).Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                I think you should make it an assignment to turn the paper into a blog post. A sort of summarizing for the 21st century so to speak. Grade kids on it and post articles on blog!Report

              • James – 5000 words isn’t so bad.  That’s about 3 slightly longer than average LoOG posts.  Any chance you could break it down into a two or three part series?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                He writes, just as I’m posting about where I’ve made it available!

                Maybe so, since everyone seems to think so.  I’ll let a few of the smart folks here look at it and give me advice.

                I’m not opposed to it appearing here; I’m just dubious about whether the style and form are suitable to the medium, in terms of making the object accessible to the reader.Report

            • Avatar Jeff says:


              +20 if I could.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                OK, all, I figured out a solution that is satisfactory (to me, anyway).  Turns out that with my gmail account I can automatically set up a free webpage.  So thank you for your interest; I’m flattered and hope the essay is in fact worthy of your interest.  You can access it here.  (If, after reading, you all actually think it would work on a blog, I would consider doing so.)  And while I’m not yet familiar with the website, I think it actually will allow you to leave comments–if so, feel free to do so.

                By the way, I did talk to my friend today–who in addition to teaching a Congress course has actually worked on Capitol Hill, and is my go-to guy for Congress questions–and he agrees there is no relatively brief summary overview of Congress to recommend. It is intelligible, but not briefly describable.  I like my essay because I think it provides that overview reasonably well, in the form of a case study.  But I don’t pretend it’s a complete or thorough overview.

                To Ethan, apologies for inadvertently threadjacking.  I reiterate that aside from this minor quibble I agreed with it all, and it was well-written and thought-provoking as always.Report

              • Acch! Password protected.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Seriously?  Crap, let me figure it out.  I’ve had the site all of half an hour and I’m a techno-idjit.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                OK, I think that was easy.  The gmail account is through my employer, so the “share permissions” automatically limited it to people from the employer’s domain.  I changed it to “public on the web,” which ought to make it accessible.Report

              • Avatar wardsmith says:
                “Insufficient Privileges”

                The ‘Insufficient Privileges’ error message in Google Sites often means there’s an item embedded on the page that you don’t have permission to view. The site’s permissions can be set differently from any embedded items within the site — including content from other Google products like Google Calendar and Google Docs.

                If you think embedded content is causing the error, you may want to try contacting an owner or editor of the embedded content. That person needs to share access to the embedded content with your Google Account. Here’s how to adjust the sharing permissions in a couple of Google products:

                Of course, it’s also possible that nothing’s gone wrong and that the site owner has intentionally restricted your access. In which case you may find comfort in the old adage about “sticks and stones.”


              • Avatar wardsmith says:

                Ok, got it, tried to copy and paste the instructions for doing it from Gmail but that got held up in moderation limbo. Haven’t started reading it yet but will get to it soon.Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          Post it in parts, then. because I do want to read it. If kos can put up seriously long posts about senate procedure, and actually get people to read them… this should be easy!Report

    • Avatar E.C. Gach says:

      An astute point that should qualify my earlier claim.Report

  5. Avatar joey jo jo says:

    i appreciate what ryan is saying, but the below highlights something that doesn’t sit right with me:

    “I do begrudge liberals who support Obama without an honest assessment of just how much of a disaster his foreign policy has been for liberalism.”

    on one hand this is subjectively true.  on the other hand, wouldn’t an honest assessment include looking at what he did, why he did it, and how those things play into other policies?  without the larger “honest assessment”, this feeling exists in a vacuum.Report

  6. Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

    Maybe this deserves a larger guest post or something, but I’ll take a stab at what I feel to be the most unfair criticisms over the President’s foreign policy and executive governance record.

    First: All of the criticisms of Obama’s handling of executive governance and foreign policy rests on the narrow view of these as being limited essentially to a handful of policy areas. I’m not going to argue that these are not important policy areas. I think policy regarding detention and use of force are both key policy areas for US national interest. But they are not, in the sum total the extent of a presidency’s executive power nor of its foreign policy responsibilities.

    On foreign policy, the Libya intervention (in addition to the actions on the Somali coast) should also be understood in light of the international system, and not simply in terms of US domestic politics. In many ways the Libya intervention was the anti-Iraq. There was in fact a UN Resolution backing the use of air power, a NATO agreement to use force, and an Arab League resolution to condemn Ghaddafi’s actions. It was authorized under a widely held international standard of intervention known as Right to Protect (note I am not making a value judgment on whether or not enshrining R2P is a desirable trait). In addition it signaled a return to a non-boots on the ground, intervention. Given that one of the preconditions of restoring US foreign policy in a more liberal direction would be the reinforcement of multilateral institutions and a gradual deemphasis on US hegemonic power by providing an avenue under which other powers are also involved in the decision making process for the use of force.

    Second there are many areas in addition to the formerly mentioned areas of foreign policy. The nuclear disarmament summit was, quite frankly, an event without precedent and one that was spectacularly well managed by the Obama Administration. While one may fault its lack of concrete commitments toward eventual global disarmament and its actions as “talk”, the simple fact is, this Administration is one of the first to actually put total, nuclear disarmament on the table and take steps to make this a diplomatic priority. While there are conflicts with existing policy over how this will move toward implementation, to argue that this is trivial is a rather odd definition of foreign policy.

    There are of course additional areas where executive governance matters. Cabinet appointments and decisions such as the recent Keystone XL pipeline permit decision are areas where executive governance is important. One can also point to looking into housing discrimination, predatory lending practices and consumer protection while imperfect are also things the Obama Administration has done better than a hypothetical Rumsfeld or whatever other strange bizarro-world administration Friedersdorf wants us to imagine.

    Second: The interpretation of certain executive actions in the worst possible light.

    First on the killing of Al-Awlaki.
    There is plenty of legal analysis supporting what was done, even if you disagree with it. To simply put it as “assassinating US citizens by fiat” is misleading and hyperbolic. Even taking into account the
    (If you would rather have the IANAL short form see:
    I believe Burt and Mark can provide counter-commentary if they wish, and I will add for the sake of disclaimer’s sake that i’m a former student of Robert Chesney so therefore may be more inclined to take his analysis at his word given the additional discussion/context I have in interacting with him.)

    Second on the authority claimed by the Executive regarding detention and processes and the Section D controversy:

    I would argue that in both cases you and Ryan have worked to actively take for granted only the most critical (and uncharitable) interpretation of Obama’s actions.Report

    • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:


      Since it seems I did one of my “space out while writing different paragraphs” thing (reason #12312b2 that I would make a terrible blogger), let me expand a little bit on what I was trying to get at.

      First, I think it’s interesting that a persistent angle the Obama Administration has taken with regard to their use of drones, or detention authority or just about any other “war on terror” issue is that they rest much of their legal logic upon the 2001 AUMF. This is contra to what the Bush Administration argued (at least until Jack Goldsmith’s tenure) in that the Yoo memos and their like actually suggest that the Presidency has INHERENT authority to conduct the actions they argue for.

      Some have criticized what is essentially the contortionist logic that’s required to follow through on some of the justifications (and I agree that some of the logic is tortured), but it must be noted that Section 1031 of the NDAA is also predicated on the actions involving AUMF related activities. This might sound sophistic (and it is a bit of legal quibbling), but in my more charitable moments, I tend to think it’s Obama and his advisers looking at the history of US attitudes towards civil liberties in times of war and trying to find a way to defuse a bomb in the long run.

      Why do I think this?
      A. The emphasis on taking out Al Qaeda leadership through any means at its disposal by the Administration suggests to me that they are serious about eradicating Al Qaeda’s operational capability to be a threat to the US.
      B. The overall trend appearing in the Administration’s Afghanistan policy which seems to be using a “mini-surge” to provide sufficient political cover for a phased draw-down and exit within the next 4 years.

      Let’s unpack this argument a bit more.
      The 2001 AUMF (which we will recall was supported by nearly everyone, including the Sainted Doctor Paul, patron saint of Civil Liberties and Peace, evidently) is worded essentially to mean the authorization is based upon pursuit and neutralization of Al Qaeda as it was constituted in September 2001. More broadly it basically means Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri’s acolytes. While the DC Circuit Court has helpfully expanded the definition of Al Qaeda to include “in theater” threats like the Taliban, it’s not likely to take groups that do not provide material support or backing to AQ or affiliated organizations.

      In essence, by enshrining in law that the AUMF is the authorizing power for a host of powers (like certain types of military detention) these statutes expire the moment the AUMF is no longer in force. (We can hope, but this is of course a caveat that applies for everything)

      So why is zealously prosecuting a war in Afghanistan and Northwestern Pakistan important? Because it provides the narrative foundation for claiming an end to the US’s “War on Terror”. The death of Bin Laden has severely shaken public support, and it’s likely that if Zawahiri is whacked (let’s hope he is…) the case for staying and continuing to attack targets in Af-Pak become even shakier.

      Once the US does draw down and “end” the war in Afghanistan (the Administration seems to have a 2014-ish timeline in mind for beginning this process) the US will be moving towards an Offshore balancing strategy as has been recently revealed. Under this metric, the indefinite detention of anyone becomes less important, because it’s starting to work towards a lower footprint strategy of having the US be an over the horizon guarantor. At that point, the hysteria in the US over terrorism will likely to have started healing, and in the 2016 elections will likely be sufficiently in the past (15 years at that point barring some new incident) to allow a gradual dismantling or simply sunsetting of powers that are related to the war on terror.

      Likely as not there’ll be new powers to keep Greenwald’s word count happy followers fed. No guillotining of Wall Street executives, or maybe the normalization of Right to Protect will probably be the next battlefield. But the best way to actually end the “war on terror” state is to end the war on terror, and I’m inclined to believe the Obama Administration has a roadmap for this that’s actually feasible and less likely to result in short-term blowback that’ll just sweep an even more crazy militant into power. Is it fool proof? No. Does it work on a timescale that I’m happy with? Not at all.

      But it’s something to think about.Report

    • Avatar E.C. Gach says:

      In many ways the Libya intervention was the anti-Iraq. There was in fact a UN Resolution backing the use of air power, a NATO agreement to use force, and an Arab League resolution to condemn Ghaddafi’s actions. It was authorized under a widely held international standard of intervention known as Right to Protect.

      But it was not authorized by the democratic system of representation the United States employs in deciding these matters.  Again, Obama considers the “rule of law” parmount, except when he doesn’t.

      In addition it signaled a return to a non-boots on the ground, intervention.

      Not true…there were CIA agents…we were training and arming the “rebels.”  Unless we were beaming them aboard some ship we had boots on the ground to do this.

      Given that one of the preconditions of restoring US foreign policy in a more liberal direction would be the reinforcement of multilateral institutions and a gradual deemphasis on US hegemonic power by providing an avenue under which other powers are also involved in the decision making process for the use of force.

      A valid point, but one which scrapes the bottom of the “what’s expected” barrel for me.

      The rest of point number one, well, I’m not sure (beyond nuclear disarmament) what they actual actions you’re a citing in support.

      According to the U.S. government, moreover, he also has taken on an operational leadership role with the organization al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), recruiting and directing individuals to participate in specific acts of violence.

      Yes, according to them, on the basis of, we don’t know what, because it need not be made explicit.

      is believed to be “part of” enemy forces within the meaning of the AUMF;

      Again, by the account given via the government, which is not up for review or debate, i.e. there is no due process.  It’s shoot first, ask questions later, or probably not at all.

      I would argue that in both cases you and Ryan have worked to actively take for granted only the most critical (and uncharitable) interpretation of Obama’s actions.

      The fact of the matter is that people labeled “enemy combatants,” whether here or abroad, can be picked up and held indefinitely without a trial or any oversight.  Abroad there is also precedent for them being killed via drone strikes, killing them and whoever is around them, even when they are U.S. citizens, even when those U.S. citizens are under the age of 18. 

      Indefinite detention and the right to kill whomever is not in this country, even outside of declared war, is not an uncharitable interpretation.  It’s the truth, one that Obama and his lawyers endorse, and which should be self-evidently contrary to the beliefs and values of any semi-serious liberal, at the very least.Report

      • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

        1. The United States government ratified the UN Charter. There was, and is ample precedent for the US NOT participating in a multinational institution and not regarding its rules as binding. League of Nations anyone? Law of the Sea Treaty? Declaration of Paris? Those are all part of the democratic mechanisms of the US policy making apparatus. Being a UN Member state and a NATO member are both things that were done under the advise and consent section of the Constitution involving treaties.

        2. re: Boots on the ground. I’ll admit that I don’t consider CIA advisers and special ops forces to be a high profile boots on the ground operation compared to the use of combat infantry battalions and occupation. I should have framed this differently and this is my mistake.

        3. Wittes has noted and I will reiterate: Al-Alwaki WAS given what was given recourse. He could have surrendered either to the Yemeni government (which has no extradition agreement with the US) or to US forces. In either case, he could have left the target list by simply being in US custody and regaining a whole list of rights that he possessed (and would still possess even after Section 1031) but chose not to, and instead remained in Yemen, in hiding amongst members of AQAP.
        (For a good exchange on this subject see Ackerman and Wittes’s exchange)

        Moreover, the definition of “declared war” is essentially meaningless. AUMF provided the same sort of military authority that a declaration of war would, except that it was an authorization against a Non-state actor.

        Here’s a different question then.
        Would you support a national security court that was set up like FISA but with higher evidentiary standards in order to clear the placing of a US citizen on the capture/kill target list? The simple fact is this mechanism wasn’t available to the Obama OLC when they were dealing with the Al-Awlaki case. Could they have asked for Congress to create one? Possibly, but that also has the implication that we’d be creating an entirely new process which would be permanent and likely not limited to the current conflict.

        There’s a cost to weigh here. I would like to think I’m a serious liberal. But I’m not sure I fit your definition.Report

  7. Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

    Um. Any reason a large response post is “awaiting moderation”?Report

  8. Avatar Scott Fields (formerly 62across) says:

    With all due respect, are we sure that Sullivan is the one conflating campaigning with governance?

    In just the third paragraph of the Newsweek article, AS states quite clearly that disagreement with some of Obama’s decisions is warranted and necessary. (He cites in the articles his alignment with the left’s disagreement with Obama on some of the issues you raise here, as a matter of fact.) And at the end of that paragraph, he lays out the article’s them statement. Despite these disagreements, Sullivan believes President Obama’s “reelection remains, in my view, as essential for this country’s future as his original election in 2008.”

    Sullivan is making the case for re-election here, not for capitulation to Obama’s governance decisions.Report

    • Avatar E.C. Gach says:

      “Yes, Obama has waged a war based on a reading of executive power that many civil libertarians, including myself, oppose. And he has signed into law the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens without trial (even as he pledged never to invoke this tyrannical power himself). But he has done the most important thing of all: excising the cancer of torture from military detention and military justice. If he is not reelected, that cancer may well return. Indeed, many on the right appear eager for it to return.”

      This is perhaps the most illustrative of what I’m talking about.  Sullivan says ending torture is more important than militaristic excess and the degredation of civil liberties by the executive.

      Says who?  He doens’t even provide an explanation for this position, which, like the others, ends up amounting to praising the good things and sweeping the rest under the rug via some vague claim that they aren’t as important.

      It’s lazy.Report

  9. Avatar E.C. Gach says:

    “They miss, it seems to me, two vital things. The first is the simple scale of what has been accomplished on issues liberals say they care about. A depression was averted. The bail-out of the auto industry was—amazingly—successful. Even the bank bailouts have been repaid to a great extent by a recovering banking sector. The Iraq War—the issue that made Obama the nominee—has been ended on time and, vitally, with no troops left behind. Defense is being cut steadily, even as Obama has moved his own party away from a Pelosi-style reflexive defense of all federal entitlements. Under Obama, support for marriage equality and marijuana legalization has crested to record levels. Under Obama, a crucial state, New York, made marriage equality for gays an irreversible fact of American life. Gays now openly serve in the military, and the Defense of Marriage Act is dying in the courts, undefended by the Obama Justice Department. Vast government money has been poured into noncarbon energy investments, via the stimulus. Fuel-emission standards have been drastically increased. Torture was ended. Two moderately liberal women replaced men on the Supreme Court. Oh, yes, and the liberal holy grail that eluded Johnson and Carter and Clinton, nearly universal health care, has been set into law. Politifact recently noted that of 508 specific promises, a third had been fulfilled and only two have not had some action taken on them. To have done all this while simultaneously battling an economic hurricane makes Obama about as honest a follow-through artist as anyone can expect from a politician.”

    The above paragraph is Sullivan writing to explain what the Left get’s wrong about Obama.

    It certainly appears to me that he is making the judgement that X set of policies on the one hand out weigh Y set on the other.  There’s nothing wrong with making that judgement, but I’m not sure how we compare drones and civil liberties to a not as bad economy and the passage of ACA.  How would we measure one against the other?  Sullivan seems to have done that, but without providing the chicken scatch notes that led him to those calculations.Report

    • Avatar Scott Fields says:

      It certainly appears to me that he is making the judgement that X set of policies on the one hand out weigh Y set on the other.  There’s nothing wrong with making that judgement, but I’m not sure how we compare drones and civil liberties to a not as bad economy and the passage of ACA.  How would we measure one against the other?

      Absolutely, how can you measure one against the other without being subjective? Sullivan applied his subjective values to the calculation – just as you have. You’ve taken a rather long list of accomplishments in the excerpt above, “sweep it under the rug” as it were and judged it inadequate to… um… what?  Convince you to quit protesting President Obama’s militaristic excess? Who’s asking you to do that? Sullivan certainly isn’t.

      Look, I’m not interested in a full-throated defense of Andrew Sullivan. Like you, I find him interesting to read and, like Tod, I appreciate how he works through his positions on important issues in the open air for all to view. (It’s like watching the sausage being made.) But, I read his article in Newsweek and saw nothing close to a call to quiet dissent. Instead, I came away with what I thought was a pretty strong case toward those who voted for Obama in 2008, like Sullivan, to look at Obama’s record, in toto and considering the alternatives, and decide it is important to vote for him again in 2012.  You’ve acknowledged you reached the same conclusion. It appears to me as though your bone of contention is that Sullivan’s vote will not be as begrudging as yours will be.Report