Friday, April 10, 2009

Et Tu, Olbermann? Some Liberals Finally Realize That for Certain Issues, "Change" Actually Means "More of the Same"

Ever since President Obama became the frontrunner in the Democratic primaries, many liberals have gleefully discarded the useful concepts of dissent, critical thinking, and a sanely guarded view of politicians. Rather than approaching politics with critical distance, many liberals became so emotionally charged over the prospects of winning the White House, expanding the party's lead in Congress, and electing an amorphously left-identified black man that they refused to listen to others who questioned whether any politician could deliver the grand promises of "change" that Obama and his supporters made during his campaign.

After President Obama took office, it became abundantly clear that he would continue engaging in some policies that liberals derided during the Bush administration. A few progressives criticized the continuation of these policies, the inherent contradiction between Obama's promises and his embrace of these policies, and the hypocrisy of liberals who failed to condemn Obama, even though they skewered Bush for the exact same conduct. These arguments, however, led to a concerted "pushback" from many liberal protectors of the administration.

Dissenting Justice, for example, provoked a storm among some liberals after running a series of essays which argues that Obama's position on "rendition" differs from Bush's practices in "form" rather than "substance." Since that time, President Obama has embraced positions that are similar to or indistinct from Bush's stance on policies such as state secrets and indefinite detention.

Et tu, Olbermann?
It now seems that some liberals have given up trying to deny the closeness of Obama's and Bush's positions on some aspects of antiterrorism policy. MSNBC commentator Keith Olbermann ranks among the most effusive and uncritical supporters of President Obama. During the Democratic primaries, Olbermann was responsible for spreading a grossly distorted -- actually, downright deceitful -- story which implied that Hillary Clinton remained in the primaries because she was waiting for the possible assassination of Obama. Olbermann produced a nearly 1/2-hour rant in which he accused Clinton of being racist, selfish, insensitive, and many other undesirable adjectives. The Obama campaign immediately emailed the video to other media, after which it quickly spread around the Internet.

Until recently, Olbermann did not bend in his effusive portrayals of Obama and his scathing and acidic criticism of his opponents. But even Olbermann has shifted away from his uncritical stance now that the Obama administration has again deployed a broad state secrets defense to oppose lawsuits challenging the Bush administration's use of warrantless wiretapping and rendition.

Salon blogger Glenn Greenwald, who, unlike many other liberals, has not become seduced into uncritical submission by the Obama administration, does a great job analyzing Olbermann's and other liberals' opposition to Obama's position on state secrets. Earlier this week, Greenwald himself wrote a lengthy article that criticizes Obama's deployment of the state secrets doctrine.

Here is a clip from Greenwald's essay on Olbermann:

Last night, Keith Olbermann -- who has undoubtedly been one of the most swooning and often-uncritical admirers of Barack Obama of anyone in the country (behavior for which I rather harshly criticized him in the past) -- devoted the first two segments of his show to emphatically lambasting Obama and Eric Holder's DOJ for the story I wrote about on Monday: namely, the Obama administration's use of the radical Bush/Cheney state secrets doctrine and -- worse still -- a brand new claim of "sovereign immunity" to insist that courts lack the authority to decide whether the Bush administration broke the law in illegally spying on Americans.

The fact that Keith Olbermann, an intense Obama supporter, spent the first ten minutes of his show attacking Obama for replicating (and, in this instance, actually surpassing) some of the worst Bush/Cheney abuses of executive power and secrecy claims reflects just how extreme is the conduct of the Obama DOJ here.
According to Greenwald, Obama's biggest supporters have no choice but to point out how his policies mimic Bush's because:

It would require a virtually pathological level of tribal loyalty and monumental intellectual dishonesty not to object just as vehemently as we watch the Obama DOJ repeatedly invoke these very same theories and, in this instance, actually invent a new one that not even the Bush administration espoused.
Unfortunately, in the recent past, many liberals actually placed "tribal loyalty" above intellectual consistency and adherence to progressive values.

Greenwald also observes that the state secrets issue has generated passionate criticism on vehemently pro-Obama sites such as Daily Kos and Booman Tribune and at the reliably liberal, though not as visibly pro-Obama, TPM. Previously, commentary on Daily Kos that offerred even slightly critical perspectives on the Obama administration often faced stiff resistance or, even worse, silence and dismissal. Apparently, things are indeed changing for a few people.

Related readings on Dissenting Justice:

Obama Administration Will Appeal Court Ruling Which Allows Habeas Petitions for Certain Captives in Afghanistan

Rendition, Secrecy and Torture: Inseparable?

Forcing His Hand or Providing Political Cover? Congressional Democrats Introduce Legislation on "State Secrets"

Elevating Form Over Substance: Liberals Now Argue that They Oppose the Label of Bush's Program, Not the Substance

Still a Flip-Flop: My Fellow Liberals Push Back Against Allegations of Inconsistency Concerning Rendition


Stray Yellar Dawg? said...

Olbermann is responding to the only language he knows:


O'Reilly: 3121
Brown: 719
Olbermann: 1318
Grace: 1041


Hannity: 2638
King: 911
Maddow: 902
Dobbs: 301


Greta: 2095
Cooper: 833
Olbermann: 660
Grace: 627


O'Reilly: 2578
Cooper: 496
Maddow: 419
Showbiz: 390

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Thanks Stray. I was going to add something in the poast while I typing it -- something like: "Perhaps Olbermann's modification is rooted in self-interest. The days when effusive suppport of Obama drew high ratings have ended."

Thor's Dad said...

Maybe BO is continuing Bush policies because they know things about the terror threat that no one else does - you know top secret clearance and all. So unless they have such clearance the Olbermann's of the world might want to shut up.

Eric said...

So unless they have such clearance the Olbermann's of the world might want to shut up.

Wow. I can't help but wonder if Bush got that spine-cracking benefit of the doubt.

Anonymous said...

Har. Olbermann's in a neck-&-neck battle for viewers with Nancy Grace ! Har again. The Aparatchiks at MSNBC must be proud.

PS said...

Oh, Olbermann doesn't have to shut up. Just be intellectually honest and consistent. When he is that, from either a liberal or conservative perspective, I will bother watching him again. (That's why I read this blog, btw). Until then, though, I reserve my right to ignore him for the pathetic shill he is.

Those ratings numbers indicate how effective the "ignore" method is.

Mister Snitch! said...

Wow, a liberal site criticizing the flaming fraud Olbermann? I didn't know such an animal existed. In fact, I had to go through your site to make certain that you DO in fact call yourself a liberal. And after reading a few pieces, I'm blown away - wow, a liberal who thinks for himself!

imsnooping said...

Personally, I can't see how anybody stomachs watching Keith Olbermann whatever he's saying. He's sanctimonious and smarmy and seems pretty certain he's the smartest man alive.

That said, while I applaud Greenwald and others for at least trying to be consistent, I have to wonder if the motivation here is rooted more in avoiding the crime of blatant hypocrisy than anything else.

The truest test will not be so much whether they will continue to support or oppose certain policies, but what form and tone it takes.

Most of those who circled the wagons around Bush on these matters now seem most inclined to just use the battering ram of hypocrisy when and where possible. And most of those who said Bush should be impeached, if not imprisoned, for "decimating the Constitution" are either silent on Obama or only passingly critical.

It just goes to show where overreaction will get you. The only people who can truly hold their heads high -- whatever side they fall on these matters themselves -- are those who took a nuanced tone to begin with...rather than an active part in the political food-fight.

A Jacksonian said...

Do remember that the oppposite of love is not hate... hate is just the same emotion that was once positive now getting a negative channel. No the opposite is indifference, to have no emotions vested in a subject or object.

It is interesting to watch buyers remorse and who will flip the emotional switch from positive to negative. Sad, but interesting.

Some policies I do applaud, others I do not, and I see a lack of leadership for the Nation overseas and an attempt to go back to 9/10. That and putting us in the largest debt that now will go past WWII and if continued will go multiple times past it in the coming years. That I cannot applaud. We are spending our future, our childrens future and impoverishing ourselves for pleasant pleasure and need that we should look after on our own.

I have had no emotional investment in any President in the modern age and only some admiration for those in our past. I still have none for the present... not love nor hate... and how that infuriates some is truly beyond me. I refuse to be led by emotions as that gives others a means to control me... and you. No politician gets that from me.


tim maguire said...

And so will Olbermann now launch into a scathing and acidic criticism of himself?

MSNBC is an embarrassment and has been for at least a year. I can't imagine why anybody would watch that channel except for amusement.

Anonymous said...

These MSNBC people are simply pathetic. I feel like every tiime I happen to click over there to se what's going on, it's either KO of Madcow going on and on about something "Palin". They are insane.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Mr. Snitch, thanks for visiting. I do not think liberals have a monopoly on "group think" or "party loyalty."

Anonymous said...

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, the group behind the lawsuit over Bush's terrorist surveillance ("warrantless wiretap") program, said it best:
"Change for the worse."

Rod said...

Liberals are missing the main point in this, which is that they have been wrong on this issue all along. The surveillance is a legitimate function of the executive branch. The Bush administration said so and now the Obama administration is saying so.

Somewhere in the course of dreaming up stuff with which to attack Bush liberals started believing their own BS. And now Obama is here to tell them that it was always BS.

kenny komodo said...

Who is Olbermann? I don't read any of his writings anywhere.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Kenny - Olbermann is a political commentator on MSNBC.

Rod - I agree with your assertion that Obama has claimed this as a legitimate function of the executive. But this does not mean that liberals are "missing the main point." There are several ways to come at this from a liberal perspective. One could address the shifting perspective of Obama on the subject (which is interesting in and of itself). Also, one could continue to anlyze the underlying value of the blanket assertion of state secrets. Accepting the belief in the doctrine does not warrant the wholesale application of it to dismiss lawsuits.

Having said this, if you read my essay on rendition and secrecy (linked on the "related readings" section of this essay) you will find that I have embraced a more complicated issue on the subject. Where rendition is concerned, I think that secrecy probably comes with the territory. Unless Congress moves on the issue, I expect courts to continue deciding the cases the way the government argues them. With a violation of constitutional and statutory rights pursuant to a statute passed by Congress (FISA and warrantless wiretapping), the issue is far more complex. Congress has provided for the use of warrantless wiretapping under certain circumstances and has imposed liability for violations of the statute. It is more difficult proposition for the government or a PRIVATE domain to escape liablity simply because the president asserts a privilege. I am not saying that courts must necessarily reach the merits of the cases, but the FISA stuff strikes me as more complicated than rendition.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Thor's Dad - maybe DOJ just doesn't want to lose a great tool for winning cases!

Aeneas said...

That is why I read this blog and do not listen to MSNBC (never did), or CNN (used to) or any of the other when I want to hear both sides of the story, or the truth. It has gotten this simple, or this bad, or this pathetic... have your pick.

As for Obama administration adoption of all that secrecy and immunity business--I'm sorry, but my view is very cynical: it has nothing to do with protection from terrorism; it has to do with power grab and retaining the most useful tool for that--the ability and 'right' to spy on Americans and create a thought police network. I've seen this before. And it was not hte Bush administration (of which I am not one of the hysterical or orgasmic critics); I saw this in the history of Eastern Europe, where I experienced the results (although a very, very young child, it left indelible memories).

While the Bush administration made me frown and cringe now and then (but, for the sake of disclosure, not any more than any other president, including Clinton; Carder--I was too young and unconcerned)this administration causes me fear for their Big Foot, disengeneous (spelling, darn it!) and yes, low cunning. It follows of pattern of disregard for the people that worries me.

As for Obama--he promissed everything to everyone, mostly by saying nothing and allowing the voters of the left, right and center to project on him their unchecked hopes and fears to now, ironically and paradoxically, show each faction all at once that he has no principles or real philosophies, he's the puppet of his ideological supporters, power hungry, opportunistic, unrealistic, a divisive figure, etc. etc. Take your pick. And, as it was written in 1984--it's just an exchange of power. The low and the middle will simply stay where they are--lied to and bamboozled.

I am not saying this is how it is in reality, but this is how it's beginning to look to supporters and foes--one disappointed the other having their most loony fears confirmed (in their mind, or otherwise.)

I fear for the Constitution a lot more than I did before.

Thank you, again, Professor, for the level headed analysis and presentation. And the attacks against you--consider them the highest form of compliment.

megapotamus said...

The simple fact is that these practices that Obama and the hard Left criticized as imperial/fascistic blah blah are actually not only well within the applicable law, including the Constitution, they are common sense necessities to national security even in the eyes of a philosophically pussilanimous admirer of Fidel Castro once he is fully informed. That's enough. Olberman is a torturous watch and if you don't think so you should get out more.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Megapotamus: You are aware that the constitution does not extend any formal "privileges" to the president -- unlike members of Congress? In other words, saying that certain (unidentified) practices are within the constitution is true only to the extent that you accept judicial intepretation as a source of law.

I am not saying that you do not appreciate this reality already, but many people have condemned courts -- especially the Iowa Supreme Court -- for engaging in judicial review and interpreting ambiguous text of the constitution. Your point simply confirms what I have been saying in response: Judcial review helps both conservatives and liberals.

Anonymous said...

This is a most thoughtfully researched article and its insights should be on the front page of every major "mainstream" media rag...

It's about time that the ObaMyopics started lifting the clouds from their defective vision throughout the Primary where Hillary became the "whipping girl" of all the so-called "progressive, liberal" Obamabots and the media sexists like Olbermann and Chris Matthews.

If the sexist attacks that Hillary had to endure for day after day by the Obama Campaign, his Obamyopic supporters and the "in the tank" (except for Saturday Night Live!)media "leg thrillers" had been racist, Obama would have left the scene back in January of '08! The uncritical, biased viciousness levelled at (then) Sen. Hillary Clinton to force her to quit the race that she was winning by a margin despite caucus cheating and shameless race-baiting thrown her way, was phenomenal!

Darren Leonard Hutchison's DISSENTING JUSTICE and Greenwald (and NO QUARTER and CONFLUENCE) were the only voices of Reason drowned in a cacophony of fraudulently inspired pro-Obama rhetoric that tainted and twisted the presidential Campaign beyond recognition--to the great detriment of Democracy itself!

Thanks Darren for your constant search for Objectivity and truth so pathetically lacking in our mainstream "leg thriller" media. Olbermann and Matthews, MSNBC and CNN committed the same grievous sin of hiding the facts and acted as surrogate Presidential Campaign Managers for an inexperienced, immature and incompetent candidate whose anorexic resume was filed on top...Zeus help us all!


Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Hutchinson: Good Lord. I'm not going to have to blast judicial review on *this* thread too, am I? I'll merely reiterate that the "help" both sides think they are getting through judicial review is at the expense of democracy, and citizens giving their consent to be governed. It weakens the legislative branch compared to the judicial branch. It turns judicial confirmations to exercises in torture and endurance, putting a premium on shiftiness, evasiveness, and a willingness to bend over here it comes again. It often doesn't work as advertised.

Other than that, judicial review is 21 karat fools gold.

Olbermann and Greenwald are behaving astonishingly. In the interregnum between the election and inauguration, Glenn Reynolds posted that Olbermann would spin round 180 degrees and sing hosannahs if The One continued the Bush policies.

They are not doing so. They are blasting The One, with at least 86 proof vitriol.

Such behavior astonishes me. I did not expect that. Nor would (at a guess) megapotamus or AJacksonian have expected this. Yet it is happening. The sun is rising in the west.

Get on to the main issue. What measures are right to defend this nation against a 9/11 style threat? Megapotamus tries his hand with this, writing:

"The simple fact is that these practices that Obama and the hard Left criticized as imperial/fascistic blah blah are actually not only well within the applicable law, including the Constitution, they are common sense necessities to national security even in the eyes of a philosophically pussilanimous admirer of Fidel Castro once he is fully informed. That's enough."

There's much to what he(?) writes. But he is conspicuously silent on the corruption that power brings. See e.g. Stevens, Ted a scoundrel of the first chop, who will nevertheless escape a likely deserved punishment because the Justice Department pulled numerous fast ones in prosecuting him. The powers involved in Megapotamus's scheme have the same sort of corruptive potential, yet he is silent about these troubling possibilities. Nor is there any answer to the question, "When will this war be over?" Likely because asking such a question leads to another one: "Is the United States formally at war? If so, where's the declaration as provided by the Constitution? If not, what are we doing?"

These are important questions. Geo. W. never really answered them, and his historical reputation will suffer for it. To be fair, no one else has really answered them either. The Left simply denies that a conflict exists and sez everything is America's fault, if we would just get out, all would be well. The Right is hopelessly splintered among various positions. The One leaned that way until he assumed office and suddenly had to govern, instead of campaigning. I have never understood his impatience with foreign affairs. He has yet to learn what that grossly overrated charlatan John Kennedy found out after the Bay of Pigs when he told Richard Nixon:

"'It really is true that foreign affairs is the only important issue for a President to handle, isn't it? I mean who gives a shit if the minimum wage is $1.15 an hour or $1.25 in comparison to something like this?"

Such naivete is exasperating in a President. The One has the 200 proof deluxe edition of it. The nation is going to pay a high tuition for his eye opening.

Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster

Stevie Nichts said...

imsnooping sez: "Most of those who circled the wagons around Bush on these matters now seem most inclined to just use the battering ram of hypocrisy when and where possible."

And rightly so. If these things were 'crimes' and impeachable offenses under Bush, they should be so under Obama. To deny that is the height of hypocrisy.

As for "circling the wagons," there are still some of us who believe in the quaint notion that Job #1 of the C-in-C is to keep this country safe, and that the thought of 535 indian chiefs all trying to do it their way would rightly have sent the Founders into fits.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

M. Sakel - great to see you again! Thanks.

Aeneas - great to see you as well. I agree with your "cynical" observation that the use of state secrets has less to do with terrorism than with governmental power. DOJ does not want to give up a powerful tool to dismiss lawsuits, and President Obama does not want to give up a tool that prevents the messy details of rendition from becoming public. I do not understand why so many other liberals refuse to cut through political rhetoric. These things do not make Obama a "bad" president; they make him a politician.

Alessandro Machi said...

I'm Snooping, excellent perspective you bring...."Personally, I can't see how anybody stomachs watching Keith Olbermann whatever he's saying. He's sanctimonious and smarmy and seems pretty certain he's the smartest man alive."


I'm still waiting for Chase bank and the credit card industry to get their comeuppance. I think it won't be coming from Keitho or any other media or celeb type.

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