S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Fighting back at your critics --


We have heard almost nothing on the news channel TV recently but Limbaugh vs. Obama, or Steele vs. Limbaugh, or Steele vs. those who recently elected him. So much of what passes for news these days is not informed opinion, or about something that is newsworthy, but concerns what the latest fight is about. My world feels very contentious these days. has the story of how Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele is fighting back against his critics, hoping to keep his seat. Republicans in Congress seem to be willing to give him some time to succeed, but Republican patience is not unlimited. Their recent defeats have been unnerving to them and right now they are just flailing around. To quote:

The RNC announced Thursday that it would transfer $1 million apiece to the cash-hungry National Republican Congressional Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee—contributions that could buy Steele good will among party operatives and GOP members of Congress.

Still, an array of top GOP officials and strategists are expressing concern over Steele’s month-long tenure, including some of those he defeated for the post.

Fred Hiatt edits the Washington Post and so operates from a position of the power to influence public opinion. A recent post on Firedoglake (3/7/09) by "Thers," was titled, "Who's the More Foolish, The Fools, or the Fools Who Fluff them?; Or, Fred Hiatt, You Ignorant Cretin." The blog's an excellent analysis of how much credibility should be ascribed to Liberals or Conservatives. And that is not as simple as it would seem. It is a caution against over-generalization and includes a look at the part that the MainStreamMedia play in this credibility game. The post concludes that Hiatt could do much better than he is now at fighting to get the actual truth out. To quote:

As we're seeing, even disastrous election results are not enough to persuade the GOP and conservatives to accept reality, and the "MSM" certainly isn't about to make them do it. It's an incredibly dangerous situation. Does it matter what the truth may be? Does it matter what the public wants?

Don't be absurd. What matters is where the limits of "legitimate" speech have been imposed -- and these have been imposed by those who have no incentive to be right, and face no penalty for being wrong, no matter what the damage may be to the nation, or the world.

Whose opinion makes the newscasts and why? "Critics' Voices, Rhetorical Choices," is a wonderful analysis of the criticism the Obama administration has faced most recently and will likely face more strongly in the future. Anyone who is in a position to cast doubt on Obama's approach will make his job more difficult as time passes, as things get worse and solutions must be found quickly. It is in the Congressional Quarterly -Politics (of 3/5/09) by Madison Powers. To quote:

. . Obama has to attend to the influential voices that matter most among ideologically marginalized circles. Those voices are not precisely Republican nor elected officials of any party. The opinion-makers are now more diffuse and less accountable to the electorate.

The biggest threat to Obama’s economic agenda are the potentially corrosive effects of a loss of public trust in the economic elites who seem (to many) to bear responsibility for having gotten us into much of the mess we are in.

. . . On the one hand, there is a steady drumbeat of critics saying that the administration is undermining the prospects for recovery by adding rhetorical fuel to fire on Wall Street. On the other hand, a parallel argument is directed toward the perceived lack of speed and clarity in dealing with problems they say are more urgent than the stimulus package. For many of these critics, the larger threats lie either with lack of a consistent and coherent approach to the mounting credit crisis or the underlying foreclosure and home valuation crisis. In short, the Obama approach is characterized as a continuation of the wrong solution to the wrong problem.

Both of these business-oriented criticisms have a common thread, and they both reinforce the more general populist antipathy to reliance on discredited economic expertise. The new administration, they say, has a very short window of opportunity to get it right, and that window is quickly closing on an economic team stuck in the past.

Obama’s challenge is thus as much cultural as political. He has to fight suspicion not only about his particular policies. He has to fight a culture of intellectual nihilism that threatens to undermine critical congressional support he will need going forward.

Senator Arlen Spector's reelection fight has already started. Here is what his critics are saying right now. Charles Chamberlain, from Democracy for America, wants me to "CONTRIBUTE TO OUR AGGRESSIVE CAMPAIGN AND MAKE SURE SENATOR ARLEN SPECTER GETS THE MESSAGE." Because Senator Specter is "against a Truth Commission to investigate Constitutional abuses authorized by Bush and Cheney," DFA wants to work for his defeat in the 2010 election, as one who still stands with the previous Bush administration. But, in Senator Spector's defense, I must remind Mr. Chamberlain that Senator Spector was one of only three senators who stood recently with the Democrats to pass the economic stimulus bill. His critics should take a wider look at the truth here.

Transparency can be one of President Obama's most effective tools for silencing his critics. But it has risks. What you see is what you get when it is all out there. ProPublica has a wonderful little tool they call "Change Tracker," that follows and documents changes to White House websites. I highly recommend getting their e-mail news letters for a little while, just to follow what happens behind the scenes with the Obama administration's big transparency project. A recent (3/3/09) item noted, "White House Updates Bush's Biography: Less Prosperity, More BBQ." It is an example of how difficult it is to maintain objectivity in a highly political atmosphere. To quote:

ChangeTracker [1], our handy tool that watches for changes on White House Web sites, noticed wide changes to the biography of George W. Bush [2].

. . . We contacted the White House for comment, and a spokesman told us that the version of the biography currently on [3] is actually not new, but an old one written at the end of the Bush administration. . . . Our research says otherwise

. . . So, what do you think [6]? Are the victors rewriting history, or is this just a tempest in a Twitter?

Reference: "Tracking States' Spending Trackers," is also available from ProPublica. It is for ascertaining how states are spending their stimulus monies.

Today's post has attempted to peel away some of what obscures the truth in an atmosphere where critics abound. It is one of the ways I want to check myself for more objectivity, more fairness, and more evenhandedness. I want my criticism to be based on the truth as I can ferret it out, and on as much fairness as I can muster. If I avoided over-generalization and hyperbole I have gotten myself back on track again.

See also Behind the Links, for further info on this subject.

Carol Gee - Online Universe is the all-in-one home page for all my websites.

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