36 thoughts on “That Good Ol’ Cannot Do Spirit

  1. Ellen Mrja says:

    Must admit, William, I agree with you. And it saddens me to say so. When President Obama won the election, there was such an esprit..”Yes, we can” is the cynical way to describe it. I sensed hope that something new was possible now because we had a leader whose vision was new. What went wrong?

    One major error was the president’s desire to consult with and appease everybody. In D.C., that’s an invitation to be pummeled. He should have been a tougher SOB, especially during the honeymoon period when Americans were willing to give him a lot of support for the “new” initiatives he had promised. Congress would have gone along in its usual gutless manner.

    Another error: spending too much time abroad during the first year – year and one half, when he should have been at home attending to business.Example: I’m convinced propping up the financial industry was absolutely necessary; I also believe “Obamacare” was the right thing to do. However, all of this was expensive and the POTUS failed to sell it to the American people when his energies and attentions were split.

    And then the sharks smelled the blood in the water and began the attack machine. The endless, daily assaults against Obama were more than just politics-as-usual; they easily turned fear to overt hate within those who had been crushed by the economic free fall. The president should have used HIS power to stand up to the baseless accusations that were being made about such fundamental facts as whether or not he was “natural born” and if he was a secret Muslim. He needed to use the FDR approach: “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” Instead, we got the message: “I don’t know. What do you all think?”

    Big trouble for Democrats in the upcoming national elections. Republicans will probably be the beneficiaries of the independents’ ongoing and the Tea Party supporters’ patriotic search for Somebody Else. Do I think Republican victories in the fall will save America? No. Do I think the Tea Party will ride into town and save us from the bandits? I’m not even sure the Tea Partiers know where the town is.

  2. I hate so bad that I have to agree with this. I understand political realities enough that i didn’t expect him to walk on water in spite of all the high hope and high-spirited can-do optimism that swept us away, but I did expect him, at the least, to move forward and cover some new ground here and there with all that wind at his back. What a strange, disappointing man.

  3. He’s trying to show that he’s a moderate who can work bipartisanly — and he has been for two years. But pretty soon, the GOP will get it. If Obama disappoints liberals on just one more issue, they’ll all line up to pass his agenda. This time, I mean it!

  4. Wish I could agree with you. But one of the responsibilities of the Administration, and the Justice Department, is to uphold the rule of law. We saw what happened to our country when George Bush was in office; much of the damage done was by his failing to uphold laws. Whether or not you agree with a law is immaterial, as President of the United States he does not get to pick and choose which laws to uphold, he is required to uphold them all. His statement that he wants it repealed is not only legitimate, but it is the correct way to go about righting the travesty that is DADT.

    1. Hold on, now…you’ve got it backwards. A decision by a federal district judge IS the rule of law. Obama can decide, as a matter of POLICY whether to appeal that decision. He has, and that, too, is within the rule of law. So everyone is acting within the law. It’s just that the president is dragging it out unnecessarily.

  5. Newt says:

    Is the military really the appropriate venue to proclaim and exercise one’s sexuality?

    And how is the exercise of one’s sexuality germane to national defense (that is, if you indeed believe national defense is the military’s purpose).

    I’ve really tried, but I can’t make the link. I sincerely worry about any soldier who enlists in the armed services believing that his/her sexuality is focus of their service.

    Purely as a political matter, I think most Americans sit at home wondering why the Democrats insist on mixing sexual preference with national defense. The two have nothing to do with each other.

    1. One part of what you say makes sense: Sexual preference and national defense have nothing to do with one another. That’s why DADT…apart from being unconstitutional…is a bad idea.

      Were you ever in the military? I was in the Navy for four years. Try telling a sailor that the military is not the place to exercise one’s sexuality.

      1. Newt says:

        I beg to differ.

        Sewing your oats on shore leave (in whatever form pleases you) is different from behaving professionally in a nuclear attack sub.

        There are all sorts of subjects soldiers are prevented from discussing on the job. One’s sexuality is immaterial to the professional exercise of one’s military commission.

        This isn’t rocket science.

  6. I can’t tell what point you’re trying to make here…but what’s offensive is your assumption that gays and lesbians are 1. Not capable of professional performance, and 2. In the military for the purpose of expressing their sexual orientation. Neither of these things is true.

    1. Newt says:

      Gays and lesbians are fully capable of professional military performance, as are straights. Their sexual preferences, and their proclamations thereof, are ancillary and irrelevant to the defense of America.

      The military is well within its right to manage the conduct (behaviors and speech) of soldiers in ways that maximize the effectiveness of our national defense. National defense is the purpose of the military, right?

      The military has determined (and I happen to agree) that open discussion of sexuality is a distraction from the goal of defending America.

      I would die to argue this case before the Supremes. I would kick ass.

  7. Jim Leinfelder says:

    Yes, I’m sure that the heterosexual members of the military never make “ancillary and irrelevant” reference to aspects of their lives that would reveal their sexual proclivities.

    One assumes Newt is referencing a demonstration of his imagined forensic talents before a 60s female R and B act out of Detroit that recorded on the Motown label.

  8. Newt says:

    Leinfelder – in your world, the military is all about what goes on in the bathing suit region.

    Thanks, but I’ll choose warriors over wieners to defend my country.

  9. Jim Leinfelder says:


    I cannot fathom the topography of your world. Who has argued that the sexuality of a member of the military is any way central to their mission of national defense?

    As you seem to initially argue, the matter of one’s sexual orientation is “ancillary and irrelevant” to that mission. And yet, well aside this initial point, you pivot wildly to then argue that it is so central to the life of a soldier as to make a gay person unfit to serve.

    It is private logic worthy of a Tea Party rally.

    1. Newt says:

      Leinfelder: “Who has argued that the sexuality of a member of the military is any way central to their mission of national defense?”

      Answer: Opponents of DADT. Your ilk demands that soldiers be permitted to proclaim their sexuality AS PART OF THEIR MILITARY SERVICE.

      How does this relate to national defense?

  10. Mike Kennedy says:

    Oh Jesus. Does everything you lefties say come back to a Tea Party theme?

    What exactly is illogical about cutting back government spending and reducing the debt and deficit? What’s illogical about keeping taxes where they are or ensuring that laws follow the principles of the Constitution?

    Sounds like planks that many people have run on in the past.

    Now, we can debate economics — the wisdom of curing the deficit and debt with no increase in taxes But the Keynesian notion of letting government power the economy by continual spending has never proven to work either.

    I think the Tea Party has its problems with who it nominates for candidates — I’m not a fan of some of the people they have chosen and wouldn’t vote for them.

    But what exactly makes the Tea Party so illogical? Lay out your liberal arguments.

    1. Jim Leinfelder says:


      But their inchoate, angry, self-pitying, entitled and fact-challenged prattlings and ravings out on the hustings in regard to how they’d like to achieve those vague goals you enumerate serve as handy illustrations from the zeitgeist of how ill-informed people use self-contradictory and inconsistent logic to support what may well be vaguely worthy, even laudable goals.

      I think Newt’s goal is a strong defense. Who could argue with that? But he seems to believe forcing gays to live under DADT is a worthy way of advancing this widely-embraced goal. I have trouble following his reasoning.

      In your neither-here-nor-there, six-of-one-half-dozen-of-the-other worldview, you apparently haven’t noticed any of that. The Tea Party’s just for fealty to the Constitution, low taxes and repealing health care reform.


      1. Mike Kennedy says:

        What a bunch of hot air. You huffed and puffed and produced nothing.

        So many of them are standing up for some thing like not raising taxes that would be in their self interest. So what?

        Gasp. That’s certainly what unions do. Environmental groups do the same. Businesses does it. The elderly through their groups do it. What is your point?

        Your argument is so full of holes it’s amazing. What politician doesn’t call for vague goals with no concrete specifics?

        How is the Tea Party any different? What a snarky attitude you have about “ill informed.” That’s according to you and other liberals who can’t really put up anything solid so you just pull that out — a charge totally lacking in definition.

        You are like a book critic who has never read the book.

        My descriptions of the Tea Party weren’t mine. Look up the listed beliefs of the Tea Party on the internet. Then, come back and tell me what is illogical about any or all of them.

      2. Jim Leinfelder says:

        My point is that their prescriptions for getting anywhere close to any of those vague goals are largely ludicrously facile or just plain erroneous and leave me gob smacked, Mike. That was the gist.

        It’s a pretty scattered bunch with no leaders and no real manifesto. They’re mainly just spouting borrowed slogans, to which I’m sure you’ll respond with your standard boilerplate that everyone does it and they’re in no way distinct from anyone else.

        I get it. Thanks.

      3. Mike Kennedy says:

        We don’t disagree on the vagueness. I just find it rather entertaining that you can possibly deny that this is the American political way and the Tea Party is being any more vague than most other political groups.

        But to each his own.

  11. Mike Kennedy says:

    BTW, the Tea Party also opposes the health care reform bill, as I understand it. This puts them right in with the majority of Americans. Illogical?

    1. PM says:

      What is illogical about their support for repeal of the health care bill is that they actually support most of the specific reforms of the health care bill. (see: http://www.kff.org/kaiserpolls/upload/8114.pdf ) And, of course, that the parts they want to repeal are the parts that make the whole possible.

      Mike, I agree with your larger point that the Tea Party is no worse than most of the rest of the electorate–basically, they want all of the services that the government provides (medicare, social security, defense spending, etc.) but they want someone else to pay for it, and they don’t want any more deficits, etc.

      Nothing new about this bizarre mix of stupidity–except that there is a political party and a news network that use it cynically and promote these obviously irreconcilable goals for their own purposes, in order to get elected and then use their political power/offices to enrich themselves while cynically playing off of the dumb oafs.

      Does that dynamic extend to the other side? sure, but to a far lesser extent, i think. I think that there has been a good faith effort by Obama and the democrats to do something positive–and I think that Clinton in his presidency actually did something positive–he got the budget whipped into shape,, we ran surpluses, etc. I think that Obama would have liked to do something similar, but that the republicans (mostly in the form of the old Bushies, those who got booted out of power) were not about to allow him to succeed at anything–even/especially if it was for the good of the country.

      Maybe i am naive here, but the blatant cynicism of the Fox News/Republican Party group who are promoting the Tea Party people is just insane.

    2. Ellen Mrja says:

      The majority of Americans don’t understand what the health care reform bill will mean for them. When benefits kick in in January, they’ll like it..a lot. Those opposed to it should never use any of its features.

  12. Joad Red says:

    All progressive constituencies get key values subverted at times in pursuit of a larger egalitarianism. That’s the grand bargain.
    Obama hasn’t exactly stood up for atheists, choicers, or greens either.

    This is not about a recalcitrant public, but rather a recalcitrant military. Progressives are going to need the military at some point. It’s the GLBTs turn to bend over and take one for the team.

  13. America is full of it…the Can’t Do spirit, but this is nothing new or even modern. The simple reason is the entrenched interests that control all government refuse to embrace any idea that does not extend and improve their interest. There are even polls that show percentages in favor of certain changes at clear majority levels, I’ve seen some as high as 70%…and still nothing changes other than the degree of kabuki theater tactics employed to disguise their lack of movement.

    But this is even known and understood, but being a can’t do people, we refuse to make any changes on our own and wait for corporate or government to change things…somehow thinking this change will be in our best interests merely because we voted.

    Thus, maybe the answer is that government (and the big corporates that control it) must be drowned in the bathtub after all. But, first to go should be the government of the republicans first as they are the most out of touch of the parties…the party of no should be the first to go…they are the most worthless.

    People need to vote in their own interest, and act in their own interest…to continue to vote for the interests expressed by the entrenched interests of Boehner, McCain, Pawlenty, Emmer, etc. is a waste of time.

    They also need to act without waiting for government–
    –you don’t like immigration–then publish and boycott the companies that hire immigrants–cut it off at the source, don’t wait for a government regulator or freaking fence.
    –you don’t like big oil–then stop buying their products, wean yourself off oil. Put your money into wind and solar and such; the point is not that oil disappears, but to take a big chunk of the profit out of it to reduce their money/power over us.
    –you don’t like taxes–then change your income and where you put your money to reduce your tax exposure.
    –you don’t like wall street and big banks–then move your money away from them, there are options like credit unions and local interest investments–start a restaurant or a pub or a retail store or a trade school, anything other than a 401k controlled by wall street.

    But no, we are america, the can’t do country…nevermind…resume your position and whining about our submission.

  14. Mike Kennedy says:


    I agree – Fox has been a supporter of the Tea Party, just as MSNBC and others have been ridiculing it.

    I understand how galling it is to liberals because people actually do watch Fox as opposed to MSNBC. It is a powerful medium.

    I’m glad you understood my point that most people, Tea Party or not, don’t want to sacrifice their pet programs, projects and funding for those while wanting to cut everyone else’s.

    We disagree a bit on Obama. Telling Republicans that “elections have consequences and I won” is no way to garner bipartisan support.

    True, Republicans were in no mood to cooperate after the way Bush was treated, but I wouldn’t say Obama helped the situation.

    We agree on Clinton. However, he did change his ideology along the way and found some common ground with Republicans. There is a lesson there.

    Finally, let’s not forget that all those surpluses, while I’m not downplaying Clinton’s accomplishments, were helped in part by a “new economy” that came crashing down to earth in the tech/internet blowup.

    Furthermore, using accounting gimmicks like borrowing out of the Social Security trust fund to make the budget appear in balance is as crooked as Enron accounting.

    If I used my employees retirement funds to balance my corporate budget, I would probably be looking at jail time — no Jim S. (my CPA), I’ve never done that.

    Finally, I am trying to learn more about the Tea Party, as I haven’t paid much attention until recently. Thanks for the link. Here are a few others.



    1. PM says:

      I thought the Jonathan Haidt article in the WSJ today (the second one you posted ) was particularly good.

      I think that there is a larger point to be made–I fully expect that then Tea Party will be more successful than anyone would have thought 6 months ago, and I also fully expect that the Tea Party will disappoint it’s most ardent supporters within a year of this victory–just as Obama’s most ardent supporters have also been disappointed (witness Souder’s original screed, to which we are all writing addendums now).

      Frankly, William, i think that you were naive in terms of your hopes for Obama, just as I think that Tea party supporters are similarly naive in their hopes for change. Change is hard, it does not happen fast, and political realities make compromise inevitable. Sorry that you don’t like it, but that is the way the world works. get used to it, and if you really are interested in changing things, you’d do a lot better to spend your time organizing and working and getting people who supported Obama enthusiastic again and going to the Polls this November as opposed to griping and whining and complaining.

      Personally, i think that what Obama has already accomplished so far in his brief occupancy of the White House is amazing, and to complain about what he has not yet done is surly on your part–it says more about you than it does about him. I too would love to see DADT gone, but frankly I am amazed at how far we as a nation have come in just my lifetime on issues like this (I remember in highschool health class being shown a movie titled “Boys Beware” about the dangers of predatory homosexuals lurking in the bathrooms of public parks, etc.).

      those of you who continually see the glass as half full are responsible for creating your own self fulfilling prophecy–the loss of the House this november and the end of your dreams. You helped to create change 2 years ago, and now you are ceding the field. Losers. Welcome to getting what you deserve.

  15. Mike Kennedy says:


    Good post.

    I remember those movies. Having had a gay brother and losing him to AIDS, I was amazed at how far we had come in his short 37 years (which is now 11 years past).

    Unfortunately, I didn’t get to meet many of his friends until after he died — he lived halfway across the country. He helped me cure my somewhat homophobic tendencies during his life, as did his friends after his death.

  16. Ellen Mrja says:

    Mike: My sincere sympathy for your family’s loss.

    I’ve said it before, Newt, and I’ll say it again. When sniper fire is all around me, I don’t care if the man or woman next to me is gay or straight. I just want him/her to have my back and to shoot straight.

    PM: I agree with this. Tea Party will make some real inroads this election. I also agree with you that those elected will have no idea what to do next..not because they’re ignorant but because some (Ron Johnson running against Russ Feingold in Wisconsin for U.S. Senate) have actually boasted: “I’ve never been to Washington, D.C.” as a campaign plus:

  17. Mike Kennedy says:

    Thanks, Ellen. I’m not sure if newbies help or hurt. I can see benefits and disadvantages to both.

    One thing is for certain. It’s going to be an interesting election and several years going forward.

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