Give the Enemy a Name.

Ok, I’ve settled down. But there is nothing to be happy about. My biggest problem in constructing a response to the debt ceiling debacle and the “bi-partisan” deal that put a momentary end to the recklessness and nihilism is trying to say the same thing in a different way. Because, frankly, I’ve pretty much melted down my thesaurus over the argument that there is nothing … nothing … “bi-partisan” about the modern conservative political strategy. The Republicans are playing a zero sum game, in D.C. and in virtually every state, and Democratic leaders are looking like feckless chumps as they maintain their “adult in the room” posture.

In the final days of the debt ceiling idiocy I was fascinated by the ethical dilemma facing Barack Obama. While I was personally in favor of an LBJ-style move, like invoking the 14th amendment and basically saying, “Fuck it, sue me”, that is exactly what the GOP would have done. They would have launched another all-out, all-consuming impeachment crisis, led by Rush Limbaugh and the echo chamber, with Teabaggers clogging DC for months to come. Talk about a steroid speedball for the semi-literate.

But that aside, Obama had two choices, neither of which served the best interests of the country, which is pretty much what he swore an oath to do.

1: Beat the Republicans at chicken and let the country/world experience what they wrought. Sean Hannity, Michele Bachmann and the other intellectual leaders of modern conservatism were convinced that nothing really so bad would go down. A few delayed checks to grannies (who would blame “the government”/ i.e. “Obama”) but none of the rest of that hysterical stuff about inflating mortgage and revolving credit interest rates. (Not that they really knew or cared.) If you take the view, as I do, that none of this obstructionist stuff is going to stop until a calamity stamps it on the public mind as the indisputable result of the work of Eric Cantor, Americans for Prosperity, FreedomWorks and Mitch McConnell we are doomed to repeat these self-inflicted crises month after month after month after … .

But given that Obama takes his oath and responsibilities seriously, and there was no way of knowing every consequence of a default, he couldn’t, within his Constitutional code of ethics, allow such a thing to happen.

2: With any unilateral action unavailable to him, the ethics of conceding to a budget negotiation over the debt ceiling became Obama’s principal challenge. He knows, like every responsible economist, and hell, even the reliably cynical analysts at J.P. Morgan that about the worst thing you can do to the country at this point is suck still more money out of the economy, whether through entitlement “reform” (which is code for replacing lower-cost government services for much higher-cost, but well-lobbied, private coverages) or even defense spending. The latter needs no end of reform, but the sad fact is that it pays for a lot of high-tech, professional jobs, a better proposition than the GOP’s vision of full-employment via McDonalds and Wal-Mart greeting. (What we need is a WPA-type project that converts the tech-savvy industries away from building yet another aircraft carrier or joint strike fighter to reconstruction of the energy grid and any of hundreds of long-overdue economy-boosting infrastructure improvements. Same tax dollars, much bigger bang.)

Given the votes, Obama chose the latter. No default. Life functions “stable”. Live to fight another day. I get that.

But as in Minnesota, where Mark Dayton essentially let the GOP walk away singed but not scarred, Obama continues to fail at use clear, precise and entirely fair and accurate language from the bully pulpit. (Not that he ever comes close to being an actual bully, unfortunately.) Hell, even yesterday he’s on TV describing the FAA shutdown as a problem of “Congress leaving town without doing its job”. No … when you’re the President of the United States and you have the microphone you tell the public that airline safety is imperiled, thousands of workers — “jobs”! — at airport/infrastructure construction projects are left without a paycheck, and the Treasury is losing millions of dollars in revenue, because THE REPUBLICAN PARTY is playing the hostage game again, this time because it wants to bust up union rights within the FAA.

Put another way, you stop pretending that eventually, if you maintain your dignity, the Republicans will come to their senses and return to the spirit of the 1960s and 70s. They won’t. Especially when they’ve tasted blood like they have in this latest fiasco. As long as you, the face of the government, continue to let them off easy as, “part of the Washington problem”, or “Washington playing politics” or whatever the gauzy euphemism-of-the-day, the 60% of the public who have no idea who John Boehner is, much less Cantor and — no chance here at all — Karl Rove’s FreedomWorks, have no other name to fix their animosity on … other than you, Mr. President, for not doing something about it all.

The opposition, which Obama persistently refers to as “having the best interests of the country at heart”, is single-minded. It has one goal, and one goal only. His defeat. What consequences ensue are acceptable collateral damage. And Obama continues to behave as though he is unaware of that.

Damned blood pressure.

61 thoughts on “Give the Enemy a Name.

  1. Ellen Mrja says:

    You’ve nailed this, Brian.
    I’d love to see how LBJ would have handled this…(dream sequence)…

    SCENE: Boehner in bed with his overnight faux-tan spray applied thickly on his face. Phone rings shrilly.

    “This is Boehner.”

    “Boner, listen up. This is your president. Now I’m callin’ to set you right on what you and your god-damn boys are gonna’ do tomorraw. You are goin’ to get them in line and pass that compromise bill. Or I swear to god, Boner, I will have your dick shoved up your ass so fast you won’t be able to shit for a week. And I will take personal delight in watchin it happen. Now get on the horn and start making those god-damn calls.”

    “But Mr. President. It’s 3 a.m. I can’t call…”

    “I don’t give a hairy rats’ ass WHAT time it is, you little shit. Get this DONE. Don’t MAKE me haul you in tomorraw or I will personally make sure those fuckin freeway funds never make it to your district. Do you hear me?!”

    “Yesss…sirrr….Mr. Ppppprressident.”

    “Well now that’s fine, John. Let’s you and Debbie join me and Lady Bird for dinner some time real soon.”

    “Thank..” (CLICK).

    1. Mike Thomas says:

      Wow Ellen…this is the kind of material that comes to your mind when you are sitting around? This is the kind of rhetoric and imagrey that an enlightened, educated, tolerant liberal not only thinks about but then puts out there for the world to view? I am guessing you are one of these types that thinks that the Tea Partiers, NRA, Republicans or anyone else that does not whole heartedly support your collective resrouces view of the world are angry or violent extreemists, yet you are dreaming of our President making sexual violent threats to the Speaker of the House (and taking a cheap shot at his skin condition). You were a journalism teacher right? People paid tuition to hear these deep and enlightened scenes you dream up?

      1. Jim Leinfelder says:


        Instead of ignorantly criticizing Ellen’s amusing comparison of LBJ’s tactics vs. Obama’s seemingly supine approach to negotiating with the opposing party in Congress, get an LBJ bio and read it, or, if that’s too much effort, listen to his tapes on the Library of Congress website, so that you can join everyone else.

      2. Mike Thomas says:


        That might have been a whole 20 minutes before you jumped on this one.
        You providing any feedback on ignorance, criticism, civility would be like Blago teaching a course in Government ethics.
        LBJ was a jerk to work for and was lucky enough to have a congress of group think minded individuals that could pass his legislation, drag us into war (want to compare deaths and destruction of Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan?), and become so unpopular he couldn’t run a second full term. Maybe you missed that chapter in your private school history book.

      3. Jim Leinfelder says:

        Again, Mike, Ellen was merely making an amusing comparison of styles by burlesquing LBJ’s earthy style of communicating, a contrast in personalities that perhaps spoke to the impatience many on the left are feeling regarding the current President’s dealings with Congress. And, since you mention Vietnam, as if anybody here’s forgotten it, Obama has escalated our involvement in an increasingly unpopular war whose goals become only more obscure with each passing deployment.

        But Ellen’s artful point was merely echoing Lambert’s post. You obviously failed to get it, and yet felt justified in attacking Ellen. How very odd.

      4. Mike Thomas says:


        I am not missing what she is trying to do, I just think she did it very tasteless – my opinoin, am i still allowed to have one? It really wasn’t as artful as it was “shock jock”, Brian Lambert while I may not agree with all of his opinions in the above piece was able to articulate it without illustrating sexual violence. But hey, I am sure you voted for Al Franken and this kind of humor and talk is encouraged and celebrated in your circles.

        You seem to be sensitive of these “attacks” on a fellow liberal (I’d say blogger, but Ellen at least blogs, you just act as some kind of internet thought police force to every blog in town). You lead the pack in attacking anyone you disagree with going down to questioning their personal lives and background. How odd.

        I will set my minute timmer down and wait for your witty response. Get the thesaurus out kids as we are about to be dazzled with some enlighted pithy comebacks.

      5. Jim Leinfelder says:


        Actually, I was thinking of going all “epistemic closure” on his arse. Mike’s its avatar, a welter of self contradiction and self obliviousness.

        But my link riposte to your link was meant merely to call attention to the sort of imagery to which the Tea Party members of the House cluelessly resonate.

      6. Erik Peterson says:

        I gathered as much Jim. I was struck that you chose to mock my observation of epistemic closure with a Daily Show link. i think your grasp of irony must be slipping old boy.

      7. Jim Leinfelder says:

        No, you don’t seem to be following along. The TPM piece re: The Daily Show piece was a rejoinder to the overwrought piece about Nocera metaphorically calling the TPers “terrorists,” or something like that. Of course, the right means it literally,”terrorist fist bump,” being the most over-reaching and absurdist example of the meme.

        But I really don’t think you can fairly claim that The Daily Show is guilty of epistemic closure, I really don’t. First, plenty of self awareness and self criticism there. Second, the don’t hesitate to mock the left as well.

        I’d say you’re practicing the tired old equivalency gambit, everyone does it, blah, blah, blah.

      8. Erik Peterson says:

        Stewart is not epistemically closed. His audience is.

        False equivalency? This is you folks new false consciousness, just dressed up a bit.

      9. Jim Leinfelder says:


        Uh, huh, but anyhoo, I wasn’t referencing Stewart’s audience, since I don’t know anything about them, but imagine that they’re youngish and jaded about main stream media.

      10. Erik Peterson says:

        Whats your point? Are you trying to tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about it? Good luck(!). Lets disregard the illiterates here and focus on PM, Loveland, and Leinfelder as a sample group. Are you trying to tell me you fellows aren’t epistemically closed? I think ya are… a little. Particulary insofar as you lean on this profoundly stupid false equivalency nullification thingy. It’s a (non) intellectual get out of jail card for anything you don’t want to acknowledge about the state of liberalism. And… it’s merely a revision of false consciousness, albeit de-Marxed.

      11. Erik Peterson says:

        Re the raven haired economist. I dont dismiss what she has to say out of hand. I think its a bit of a straw man. I don’t know who it is thats jumping to accuse her of being a socialist.

      12. Jim Leinfelder says:

        Yeah, Erik, it’s rare as a book mark in the Kardashian household to hear reflexive accusations the likes of “socialist” out of conservatives, or “European-style (fill in the blank),” or, “job-killing (fill in the blank), or, one of my fav’s, “reality-based,” as a pejorative phrase. Never happens…a straw man, as you assert.

      13. Erik Peterson says:

        Yes, I’m aware of that and acknowledge it. Still, its much more accurate to call your average American lib a socialist or commie than it is to call teabaggers terrorists A little oversensitive, don’t ya think?

      14. Jim Leinfelder says:


        Did you take Nocera literally? I didn’t. I took him to be speaking figuratively, as other writers have, who’ve basically said the Tea Party caucus members in the House were taking the full faith and credit of the United Sates “hostage,” and about as amenable to being persuaded toward anything within shouting distant of a middle ground as a “suicide bomber.”

        Yeah, it’s hyperbolic. But it’s not literal.

        But the overwrought language we often read/hear from the more unhinged members of the right do seem to mean their charges of “socialist,” “not a citizen,” etc. as literal accusations, albeit simultaneously “not factual statements.”

        Again, where you see equivalency, I see a stark distinction WITH a difference. Nocera walked his vituperative analogy back, fine. He lives in that petri dish. But his points remained unaltered and just as firmly held.

      15. Erik Peterson says:

        Nocera, now apparently completely aboard the Rove / Carlyle Group / Young Republican gravy train. Calling the Obama administration job killers, as so many conservatives do.

  2. Will Dewey says:

    The trouble with trying to find a “bipartisan” solution to the expanding national debt is that we actually have three parties to deal with, now two. The “Tea Party” fanatics seem to have a stranglehold on the mainstream Republicans. The former clearly just don’t care how many of us suffer, or how much — they’ve got theirs, and to hell with the rest of us. At least the mainstream Republicans were willing to share enough with others to wrest a profit from us.

    When the impasse first began to loom, perhaps the leaders of both recognized parties in the house should have agreed to expel the 50 or so most recently elected members of each party and let them stand for re-election. Then we’d see what the people would do with an electoral do-over.

      1. Jimmy: Lebedoff is absolutely correct. Anything other than politicized re-districting would be better. Hell, computer-designed districts would inevitably shake out dozens of insulated incumbents — from both sides. Or at least make them re-consider their positions.

    1. Will: One tactical shift, on the part of Obama and progressives, has to be affirming the linkage between the Tea Party antidiluvians and the “regular” GOP. The Republicans have made a devil’s pact with that crowd. They own them … or vice versa. Either way the point is that the Tea Party ethos is now, fairly and accurately, the ethos of the larger party. Boehner is helpless to evict it, and is as much a hostage as Obama and the rest of us. But it is counterproductive, in terms of framing the problem, to argue that the Tea Party is something other than a symbiotic facet of the GOP.

  3. But, but….. If President Obama pointed out the truth about the Republican party’s behavior and motive, he would upset the DC Villagers. Quiet frankly, that just won’t do. There are simply not enough fainting couches in DC to handle all the swooning. Someone might get hurt. And with health care in such a pitiful state, why they might eventually die! Dear God! We can’t have DC Villagers dying! Oh the horror.

    THE HORROR!!!!!!!!!

  4. Newt says:

    And now the stock market is crashing WITH the increased debt ceiling.

    Liberals have a hell of a time when bare knuckles politics are employed by the other side. But it was fine when Obamacare was passed without anyone reading the bill, and without a single GOP vote.

    What’s good for the goose …

  5. A Son of Mississippi says:

    I was going to leave a comment but after reading Thomas and Leinfelder I forgot what the lead piece was about.

  6. Newt says:

    Hey Dems – watch your 401Ks evaporate before your very eyes. 500-point decline in the Dow in one day.

    Please show yourselves if you intend on voting for Obama in ’12. I want to know what kind of person thinks Obama is on the right track.

    1. PM. says:

      S&P downgraded US long term debt because we only did $2.1 trillion (Boehner/Republican plan) instead if the larger $4 trillion Obama proposal.

  7. Mike, thanks for the chuckle re your righteous indignation about Boehner’s “skin condition.”

    Barack Obama’s skin condition is black. You know….like tar babies…the GOP congress critter’s hateful, racist reference to the POTUS. That’s spelled r-a-c-i-s-t, btw.

    Dem 401Ks is a myth. We don’t have the money. And btw, the seeds for this economic catastrophe were sowed the day George W. Bush took office — took being an altogether descriptive word. t-o-o-k.

    1. Mike Thomas says:


      Ellen made a comment alluding to Boehner’s skin – which from what he has explained repeatedly is dark or orange naturally. If you can provide some evidence that he is spray tanning then let’s have it. Not sure how this ended up onto the other topic of the President, but since you somehow believe one ignorant comment by a backbencher in Colorado is representative of the entire GOP let’s refresh our memories on some of the enlightened Democrats comments on this very President.
      Joe Biden said Obama is a good clean black man or something of that nature. Vice President
      Harry Reid said Obama doesn’t have that negro dialect and can use it when he needs to. Senate Majority Leader
      Robert Byrd…do I even have to go on? He wasn’t just a member of the Klan or had a fleeting association as President Clinton glossed in his rosy eulogy, he was the Grand Wizzard. But hey coming from a former President who belonged to an all white Golf Club in Arkansas and dismissed the President’s primary wins (hey even Jesse Jackson could win South Carolina)why would we be surprised.
      thats spelled R-A-C-I-S-T

  8. Newt says:

    Barbara – If Obama so opposed the Bush tax cuts, why did he renew them? And since he renewed them, does he take no responsibility for the economic effects that you allege?

    And isn’t it true that you and most others who voted for Obama did so on the basis of his skin color?

    It’s tough looking in the mirror, isn’t it?

    1. Jim Leinfelder says:

      It would seem that Americans loath at record levels what Congress has been doing and, one assumes based on their desire for jobs-focused action rather than mere rhetoric, would prefer that the President get back to what he was doing at the outset of his term when he was basically taking the controls of a sputtering economy and managing at least a Sullenberger-like water landing instead of a flaming crash into the 1930s.

  9. Ellen Mrja says:

    Comment to Mike more than anybody:

    In all the time I’ve blogged here, I don’t recall ever using “language” as I did above during the LBJ dream sequence. I had to work at getting the LBJ rant going but then I think I pulled it off well enough.

    But I certainly never thought anyone would have thought this was my wish that “violent sexual threats” would be made against anybody. If that was the interpretation, I’m sorry.

    Truth be told, I did feel uncomfortable publishing it. Took a chance.

    Mike, I really enjoy reading presidential biographies. And the president often named as being the most ruthless of all (“without a doubt,” Helen Thomas) was LBJ. My imaginary phone call was precisely the type LBJ was known to make in the middle of the night. He enjoyed waking up members of Congress (from both parties, by the way) from a dead cold sleep and then using his bully pulpit like a club.

    The crudest thing he ever did, as I first read it in one of the Caro books, was to haul people in to the Oval Office restroom to while LBJ was sitting on the toilet. The poor fool would have to stand there listening to LBJ go on and on while “his pants were around his ankles,” as Doris Kearns-Goodwin said in an interview. And, by the way, DKG says he did this in front of men and women if he felt they needed to have a few feathers plucked.

    And so my rant was meant to reproduce how LBJ might have handled things and I believe I was probably 80% correct. Which is a “B-“.

    1. Mike Thomas says:


      Appreciate the comment. Don’t always agree with your politics, but appreciate your writing.
      What incited my response was considering the talk we have had in the media on violent rhetoric from talk radio to TV to the internet in the aftermath of the Gabrielle Giffords incident, was that many of my friends on the left pointed to the conservative media as baiting the mood that resulted in an outbreak of violence. I was surprised as someone as yourself presumably liberal who would then write something from my point of view was out of the realm of civil discourse even for a blog.

      I get the joke, and am not so self righteous I don’t appreciate sexual humor. I do question though that if someone here or in the media had written something and flipped Boehner and Obama, where Obama was being threatened what kind of reaction it would have from “the crowd”. Just a thought.

      Again I appreciate you took the time to clarify your point of view and appreciate the debate. If I offended you with any of my rhetoric, then I offer my apology.

    2. Jim Leinfelder says:

      I imagine you’ve heard this before, Ellen, but on the off chance you haven’t, LBJ ordering some Haggar slacks:

      1. Ellen Mrja says:

        Ha Ha Ha. Good ol’ boy, wasn’t he?

        I can’t imagine the President of the United States would take time out of his day to order Haggar slacks. You can just hear the sweat pouring out of Joe Haggar and LBJ’s assistant at the end as they try to make double-dog positive they’ve got everything correct.

  10. Will Dewey says:

    Well, I do for one. whether you’re concerned with however many million Americans are dependent, at least in part, on Social Security oe not. It was a promise, which the Federal government — here the Congress — simply MUST keep or suffer the direst consequences.

    1. Newt says:

      The average American burns through their lifetime contributions to Social Security within 8 years of retirement, but they live >25 years beyond that. What “promise” was made to subsidize underfunded accounts? I know of none.

  11. Will Dewey says:

    The original premise of Social Security was that the contributions would be invested and payouts would be based on the proceeds of the payins, after the initial beneficiaries were covered. Somehow this plan was abandoned. If we took off the cap and taxed on a sliding scale we could provide the necessary revenue without drawing on general revenue, and we’d reduce the vast disparity in incomes.

    1. The solutions to the Social Security “crisis” are fairly straight forward. As you say, if you remove the cap, hedge fund generals like John Paulson — multi-billionaires based on a 15% tax rate — would be making significant contributions AND receiving no check back from the loathsome federal govt. in their declining years. Somehow that strikes me as fair.

  12. This is exactly the economy the Republicans want. RIch doing fine, everybody else screwed and angry. They have fewer constituencies to please because their chief clients have trillions in their pockets, and money can buy voters. The worst thing we can do now is piss on Democrats who somehow managed to keep the car on the road, getting angry at Dad who somehow avoided that deer. Imagine if that deer had homicidal intent and you have some idea of the dilemma. And let’s face it, this ugliness came about because Democrats got pissy and stayed home last November.

    1. Mike Kennedy says:

      Huh? The Republicans have trillions in their pockets? Look at the Wall Street and Hollywood donations to the Dems. Warren Buffet, the richest person in America is a……….Democrat. What rubbish. If you are going to blindly follow partisan political talking points, well, you’re going to look like a hack. Some of you on these pages are operating under the delusion that one party has all the money. Well it’s like the old saying goes, it’s not what you don’t know that hurts you. It’s what you know that just ain’t so. And, pardon me, but Democrats kept the car on the road? I think not. They took over a car in a ditch and proceeded to drive it into a bridge. This ugliness did not come about because Dems stayed home but because independents are having their fill of Democratic leadership, just as they did Republican leadership in the late Bush years. It’s gonna be an interesting election coming up.

      1. PM. says:

        Actually, Mike, it is pretty clear that Independents broke significantly for the Democratic Party in 2006 and 2008, and then stayed home in 2010. Republican gains in 2010 were all from the base.

        but you are right–2012 will be interesting….I really wonder how Perry’s entry will affect the rest of the Republican filed, for instance.

  13. Newt says:

    810 days and counting that Democrats still have not submitted a budget.

    Who is the Party of No, Brian?

  14. Joe Loveland says:

    When Obama acknowledges Republicans have the best interest of the country at heart, I agree, and think its important for citizens to hear their Presidents say things like that, particularly in times of deep division. I have no doubt that Tea Partiers love the country as much as everyone else, and want everyone in the country to do better. They just have bought into a bunch of myths about how to bring about improvement — trickle down, government is the problem, greeted as liberators, best health system in the world, welfare millionaires, rugged individualism, death panels, death tax, non-citizen President, immigrants the root of all evil, etc.

    You have to vigorously debunk those myths to win the political debate, and I agree that Obama could get more emphatic and persistent on that front. But I have no problem with someone elected to represent all Americans acknowledging that his fiercest opponents want the best for America too. Because they do. Being wrong about policy is different than being intent on destroying the nation, and getting everyone to believe that is a crucial prerequisite to democratic problem-solving.

    So, I’m all for Obama getting tougher about debunking Tea Party myths, but that doesn’t mean he has to make it personal and call the Tea Partiers names (“Anti-American”) or question their motives (“only care about themselves”). Bloggers can; Presidents shouldn’t.

    1. Ellen Mrja says:

      Mike: Hi. If you accept your premise, that Obama’s remarks made the market worse, how do you account for the fact that it rebounded 400 points today?

      My opinion: I don’t have full faith in any of them. Obama has not created this mess. As Newt points out, Obama has not raised taxes; he’s extended Bush’s tax program. He did not create subprime mortgages and junk packaging of derivatives; that would be Wall Street and the big banks – all of whom were socialist enough to take bail-outs from the taxpayers. Problem is they’re still sitting on that money. As for business, which has been protected with the understanding that businesses will drive the economy by providing jobs..well, that hasn’t happened either.

      Obama’s bungled this, as have the Dems, the Repubs, the Tea Party, the bankers, brokers, etc. It took a village to destroy this country.

  15. Mike Kennedy says:

    Hi Ellen. Obama didn’t talk today. Markets went up. There you have it. The more he talks, the worse. The less he talks, the better. Of course that’s here. European markets are falling apart and our tremors aren’t over yet. Shock of shocks, it took a NYT reporter to write a book “Reckless Endangerment” that lays the fault of the subprime mess right where it belongs, at the feet of the government and its idiotic “social justice” goal of putting everyone in a house, whether they could afford it or not, creating the means for Wall Street to speculate on this house of cards… Apartments anyone?

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