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For America and Roosevelt On March - 19 - 2011

Preface.

This piece was originally a comment on by What IS leadership and what kind of leader do WE want? by Abbyrose86. In response to a request that it be posted separately, and with the concomitant desire to improve and clarify argument and viewpoint, it has been somewhat revised and expanded by the author, hopefully for the better.

Herein I first address the question What is Leadership? ; discuss how I came to support the President ; argue in favour of his record of leadership, with reference to the topics of Leadership as Accomplishment and Leadership as Conduct and Character ; and close with an Apostrophe to the The Great Forty-Fourth in the Annals of the Presidents of the United States of America. I write as an avowed supporter and apologist, with the hope that enough of a rationale has been conveyed to make the exercise worthwhile to the public. The individual reader is invited to season the contents to taste with a grain or grains of salt, as well as freshly ground black pepper, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, and formaggio parmeggiano ; or to dismiss them. It is not the intent of the author to provoke contention.

As befits the splendour of the occasion, the essay is given in a full roadshow presentation, with Intermission, Entr’Acte, Exit Music, and not one but three Overtures. All opinions and technical idiosyncrasies of style are solely those of the author. Enjoy.

FANFARES.

[ Leoš Janaček : Sinfonietta, first movement. 9 trumpets, 2 tenor tubas, 2 bass trumpets ( in that order in the score ), timpani ( 1 player ). ]

INTRADA.

[ Leoš Janaček : Mša Glagolskaja ( Glagolitic [ Slavonic ] Mass ) ]

OVERTURE.

[ Leoš Janaček : Mša Glagolskaja ( Glagolitic [ Slavonic ] Mass ) ]

What is the answer? In that case, what is the question?

– Gertrude Stein.

I. The question of Leadership : reflexive certainty versus cognitive uncertainty.

Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule,

WE SHALL NOT FLAG OR FAIL.

WE SHALL GO ON TO THE END.

WE SHALL FIGHT IN FRANCE,

we shall fight on the seas and oceans,

we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air,

WE SHALL DEFEND OUR ISLAND, whatever the cost may be.

WE SHALL FIGHT ON THE BEACHES,

WE SHALL FIGHT ON THE LANDING GROUNDS,

WE SHALL FIGHT IN THE FIELDS AND IN THE STREETS,

WE SHALL FIGHT IN THE HILLS ;

WE

SHALL

NEVER

SURRENDER.

Sir WINSTON LEONARD SPENCER-CHURCHILL, K.G., O.M., C.H., T.D., P.C., D.L., F.R.S.
Sixty-first and Sixty-third Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
Address to the House of Commons, 4 June 1940

* * *

Our Constitution declares that from time to time, the President shall give to Congress information about the state of our union.

For 220 years, our leaders have fulfilled this duty. They’ve done so during periods of prosperity and tranquility. And they’ve done so

IN THE MIDST OF WAR AND DEPRESSION ;

AT MOMENTS OF GREAT STRIFE AND GREAT STRUGGLE.

IT’S TEMPTING TO LOOK BACK ON THESE MOMENTS AND ASSUME THAT OUR PROGRESS WAS INEVITABLE

that America was always destined to succeed. But when the Union was turned back at Bull Run, and the Allies first landed at Omaha Beach,

VICTORY WAS VERY MUCH IN DOUBT.

When the market crashed on Black Tuesday, and civil rights marchers were beaten on Bloody Sunday,

THE FUTURE WAS ANYTHING BUT CERTAIN.

BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA
Forty-fourth President of the United States of America
State of the Union Address, 27 January 2010

* * *

In my personal experience, there have been two major milestones in the development of my understanding of the nature of human psychology and human society. The first was on first reading Theodor W. Adorno ( né Theodor Ludwig Adorno Wiengrund, 1903 – 1969 ) ; a composer and student of Alban Berg, he became a leading figure in one of the fountainheads of modern sociology, the Institut für Sozialforschung, Frankfurt, and regarded today as one of the most important philosophers and musicologists of the 20th century. One of the first to write seriously about popular culture, he contrasted the reflexive process of commoditised popular music — based upon Pavlovian recognition of a tune, preferred commercial genre, or celebrity performer — with the cognitive process of classical music, exemplified by the Hegelian dialectic not merely mimicked but made manifest in the Beethoven symphony. This introduced me to the basic concept of reflex versus cognition which, after much development and elaboration, remains the foundation of an understanding of human psychology and society – in can be readily observed in the behavior of ideologists ( ” ideology ” having become my shorthand for the reflex-based mental apparatus and accompanying worldview, whether political, religious, social, or of whatever type ) who react positively to whatever message or spokesperson they have been pre-programmed to recognise as ” correct ” — with no regard for facts, logic, or morals — and who reject anything else, however intelligent or morally reasoned and insightful, as meaningless and automatically ” wrong “.

The second, and culminating, milestone was upon finally reading a book I had first heard of over thirty years previously, when its publication received coverage in Omni magazine. The impetus to do so came in reading The god delusion by Richard Dawkins, in which he describes this book as — and his statement is, it should be remembered, the product of over thirty years of reflection — ” either complete rubbish or a work of consummate genius, nothing in between ” ; tantalising, no? The book is The origin of consciousness in the breakdown of the bicameral mind by Julian Jaynes, and I am morally certain that it is equal to On the origin of species and Über die spezielle und die allgemeine Relativitätstheorie as one of the most imporant books ever written. ( Read it. ) Jaynes hypothesis, on the basis of archeological, literary, and neurological evidence, hypothesises that what we understand as consciousness is of very recent origin, having emerged within recorded history ; prior to which society was rigidly hierarchical, with a god-idol and its high priest spokesman at the top, and everything on down operating by unthinking obedience to command, provided the commands came from the ” correct ” source – once again, something readily observable in the world around us today.

* * *

The concept of ” leadership ” is not only difficult to define, but is in itself open to some question. I recall early in the President’s Administration an occasion where he did not have an immediate statement on something because ( word to the effect that ) ” he wanted to know what he was talking about first “.

I find this admirable. Those in the ideology-based, non-reality-based, non-cognitive community do not. In their view, value is accorded to producing the ideologically-determined ” correct ” statement as quickly as possible; consideration of such things as questions of fact, uncertain outcomes, the nuances of a particular unique situation, and so on, are indications of stupidity, incompetence, and moral turpitude. This is a concept of ” leadership ” which we may reject, with no small amount of justified smug self-satisfaction; however we should consider to what extent its presumptions colour our notions of ” leadership “, or are indeed intrinsic to the concept ( given the obvious connections of leadership, authoritarianism, and the ideological mentality ). Although it leads outside the scope of the present essay, we should also consider the concept, found in Adorno and Slavoj Žižek, of the ” administrated society “. Do we really want a ” Leader “, or would an ” Administrator ” be more appropriate to a truly cognitive, post-bicameral ( in Jaynesian terms ) society? ( Alas, we are as yet a long ways from this being a pressing practical concern. )

II. The question of Leadership : a memoir of Decision 2008 ; and an argument for pragmatism.

[ In the section, the topic of criticism of President Obama from the Left is used as a springboard for a defense of pragmatism, an account of one voter’s decision process in the 2008 election, and an anticipation of the topic of the outcome of that decision. ]

A frequent criticism of the President from the Left is along the lines of – and this is a crude simplification ( or maybe not ) – why doesn’t he just wave the magic wand, why doesn’t he ” take a stand ” on this or that, why isn’t he doing this particular thing in this particular way that I think it should be done, etc. etc. Often this in basic disregard of the plain facts – how many votes there were in the Senate ; that laws ( such as DADT ) cannot be repealed by executive order; that there are certain issues of institutional prestige and authority around the Government of the United States of America which tend to disincline against facilitating foreign prosecutions of government officials, whether we like or not ( with respect to breathlessly exaggerated claims that the Obama Administration blocked Spanish prosecution of George Walker Bush Administration officials ) ; that it is normally the obligation of the government to uphold existing laws; and so on and so on.

[ IIa. Leadership as Inclusion. ]

WE MAY HAVE DIFFERENCES IN POLICY, BUT WE ALL BELIEVE IN THE RIGHTS ENSHRINED IN OUR CONSTITUTION.

We may have different opinions, but we believe in the same promise that says this is a place where you can make it if you try. We may have different backgrounds, but we believe in the same dream that says this is a country where anything is possible. No matter who you are. No matter where you come from.

THAT DREAM IS WHY I CAN STAND HERE BEFORE YOU TONIGHT.

That dream is why a working-class kid from Scranton can sit behind me.

THAT DREAM IS WHY SOMEONE WHO BEGAN BY SWEEPING THE FLOORS OF HIS FATHER’S CINCINNATI BAR CAN PRESIDE AS SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF THE GREATEST NATION ON EARTH.

BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA
Forty-fourth President of the United States of America
State of the Union Address, 25 January 2011

Related to this is the brute fact, often ignored, that the inescapable duty of government is to represent the populace – or, more accurately, interests, of which the populace is one; and the populace, furthermore, is one divided into segments swayed by various interests. The other side is part of our nation: they cannot be saturation bombed, nuked, or gassed into nonexistence; they must be accommodated – and that accommodation can be done with varying degrees of skillfulness, with varying degrees of capitulation or non-capitulation, with varying degrees of compromising in the right places or the wrong places. I believe that the judgment of history will be that our current Administration is doing this job very well. The onerous and loathsome bailouts have been about as successful as they could have been – the Soviet Revolution may have been more admirable on principle on this point, but they were less successful in the long run ( to grossly oversimplify a complex historical subject ); pragmatism, alas, reigns.

Also related is the notion referred to of ” why isn’t he doing this particular thing in this particular way that I think it should be done “. Earlier this evening, I momentarily reflected upon the cliché ” Any man who is under 30, and is not a liberal, has no heart; and any man who is over 30, and is not a conservative, has no brains. ” – it would be accurate, I think, if the word ” conservative ” were replaced by the word ” pragmatic “. With the passing of some years, the unthinkable moral obscenity, ” compromise “, becomes the very foundation of existence – in political terms, it is the essence of democracy, the accommodation described above; and what become essential are the concepts of ” politics as the art of the possible ” and of ” incremental change “. Prior to, perhaps, mid- or late October 2008, I was not someone for whom political pragmatism or compromise were virtues. My only prior vote for a Presidential candidate was for H. Ross Perot in 1992 – never for a major party candidate ( curiously similar to my father, a Roosevelt-era American Socialist and McCarthy victim – I remember him voting for John Anderson in 1980, and saying he had almost never voted in a Presidential election ). On the other hand, and at about the same time, on one evening in the early 1990s I found myself experiencing an episode of herbally-augmented fascination with the television set ; which resulting in my watching the PBS American Experience program LBJ, and subsequent reading ( and even mostly re-reading ) the volumes to date of Robert Caro’s biography ( which is shorter than Proust – so far ). I came to have a gleefully idiosyncratic reverence for Johnson – the first President whom I actively admired ( as distinct from holding received sentimental notions of such Presidents as Roosevelt or Kennedy ), and the down-and-dirty compromiser and deal-maker par excellence.

[ IIb. Birth of a pragmatist. ]

I WOULD SAVE THE UNION.

I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored; the nearer the Union will be “the Union as it was.”

IF THERE BE THOSE WHO WOULD NOT SAVE THE UNION,

UNLESS AT THE SAME TIME THEY COULD SAVE SLAVERY,

I DO NOT AGREE WITH THEM.

IF THERE BE THOSE WHO WOULD NOT SAVE THE UNION

UNLESS AT THE SAME TIME THEY COULD DESTROY SLAVERY,

I DO NOT AGREE WITH THEM.

My paramount object in this struggle is to save TO SAVE THE UNION,

and is not either TO SAVE OR TO DESTROY SLAVERY.

IF I COULD SAVE THE UNION WITHOUT FREEING ANY SLAVES I WOULD DO IT,

AND IF I COULD SAVE IT BY FREEING ALL THE SLAVES I WOULD DO IT ;

AND IF I COULD SAVE IT BY FREEING SOME AND LEAVING OTHERS ALONE I WOULD DO IT.

WHAT I DO ABOUT SLAVERY, AND THE COLORED RACE, I DO BECAUSE IT HELPS TO SAVE

THE UNION ; AND WHAT I FORBEAR, I FORBEAR BECAUSE I DO NOT BELIEVE IT WOULD HELP TO SAVE THE UNION.

I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views.

I HAVE HERE STATED MY PURPOSE ACCORDING TO MY VIEW OF OFFICIAL DUTY;

AND I INTEND NO MODIFICATION OF MY OFT-EXPRESSED PERSONAL WISH

THAT ALL MEN EVERYWHERE COULD BE FREE.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN
Sixteenth President of the United States of America
Letter to the New York Tribune, 22 August 1862

* * *

In the run-up to 2008, the candidates I was considering were Cynthia McKinney ( I saw her 9-11 Truthism as just one facet, and have a very different view of conspiracy thinking in general today ), Ralph Nader, and Mike Gravel ( pre-primary, after which he swung towards Libertarianism, which I found somewhat dubious then and more than wholly dubious now ). I contributed $25 to McKinney; voted for Gravel in the Democratic primary; and was skeptical of the then-Senator Obama, who struck me as too right-wing – most conspicuously, with his support for expanding the death policy, support for the status quo in Israel, and nods to the Christian semi-Right ( and Hillary Clinton was way out there she lost me forever when she said, to a religious group, ” works without faith cannot be sustained ” ). ( I continue to be amused, at best, at talk of how he ran as a ” progressive ” and has since betrayed his ” base ” with every move of a finger. )

As the election approached, I began to think of the critical state of the nation; of how the two major parties really were crucially different under the circumstances; of how it was perhaps important – at least morally, as I live in a safe state – to vote for the Democratic candidate; and moreover that is seemed that the Democratic candidate would perhaps just possibly be someone like Johnson, who would be able to play the game, keep the country from collapse, maybe accomplish a good thing here or there, and — most importantly — lean the country in a direction which would be preferable to the then-current one.

What is crucial about this is that, in doing so, I made a conscious decision to entirely disregard the notion of ” agreeing ” on policy – on any policy. I accepted that some things would be good, some would be bad, that there was a good chance that overall things would be better than they might be otherwise, and that what good might be achieved could not be micro-predicted from advertised policy points.

The outcome has radically transformed my understanding of, and involvement in, politics, towards belief in pragmatism, compromise and incremental change. ( I saw it pointed out somewhere that the Civil Rights struggle was incremental – in fact, it was. ) I suppose that could seem convenient – it would have been a bummer if it hadn’t, wouldn’t it? – but I believe it is justified. I can only suggest from my own experience that I was not motivated to take that chance on Bill Clinton, nor did his Administration persuade me to such views, nor would have the present Administration ( or one of Hillary Clinton ) if it had been similar.
I do find it striking, in retrospect, that my only previous vote for a Presidential candidate was for a right-leaning one who would arguably have been a fine pragmatist. I can only assert my leftist credentials, and will supply recollections of how I grew up watching Battleship Potemkin on PBS on request.

[ While Perot remains, to some extent, controversial, I will only state that a defense of him and my vote is possible ; it is, unfortunately, outside the scope of this essay. I will only mention that his support in 1992 was 73% liberal and moderate, making him very much unlike today’s Tea Partiers, indeed.

Don’t be too quick to mistake tea party for Perot movement

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/200/04/17/AR2010041701613.html ]

To fast-forward a little bit and give an example of where pragmatic leadership has gotten us, a little over two years later, BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA, Forty-fourth President of the United States of America, is the historic LGBT Rights President in the history of our nation. There are some notable loose ends to tie up — such as repealing the Defense of Marriage Act and establishing nationwide marriage equality — but it is essentially done. It has happened.

I did not expect that. No-one did. This was a particular area in which the signs — his 2008 campaign stand against marriage equality, and associations with Donnie McClurkin and Rick Warren — were not favourable ; in which, in the tallying of the good and the bad, this area was not expected to wind up in the ” good ” column in one’s estimate of a future President Obama. The decision to decide on pragmatics rather than issues, to choose the best of the good-and-evils, has, however paid off. And it is only a small part of the accomplishment.

So how did this happen? I suspect it is a case of a politician’s belief in Leadership as Inclusion trumping his advertised policy points.

Mr. Nader, in the 2008 campaign I enjoyed your lists of what was ” on ” or ” off ” the table for yourself and the other candidates – but, sorry, try again. I have seen that that not all of what it is all about, and that there are more ingredients in an enchilada than policy points.

[ To the doubters, I offer the awarding of the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Harvey Milk — a profoundly moving and potently symbolic gesture which surely would not have been forthcoming from President McCain — at the head of a laundry list of advances including absolutely everything but marriage equality : the first-ever transgender appointees ; the unprecedented participation of the President, Vice-President, and White House Staff in the It Gets Better movement ; and so on. Documentation is given in the Coda, below.

And marriage equality by January 2017?

Bet on it. ]

INTERMISSION.

[ Colin McPhee : Tabuh-Tabuhan. I. Ostinatos. ]

ENTR’ACTE.

[ Colin McPhee : Tabuh-Tabuhan. II. Nocturne. III. Finale. ]

III. The question of Leadership : Leadership as Accomplishment.

AND WE SHALL OVERCOME.

LYNDON BAINES JOHNSON
Thirty-sixth President of the United States of America
Address to Joint Session of Congress, 15 March 1965

And that brings me around to the idea of leadership defined as accomplishment, and of how greatly my early, decidedly non-Obamabot hopes that we might have another Johnson have been exceeded. I will not argue this Administration’s record of accomplishment; that is a plain matter of record, and I put the responsibility on the skeptic to make a cursory internet search.

( I won’t pass up the chance to post one of my favorite videos, though. )

And it is, specifically, accomplishment. It is not about such-and-such policy being executed in perfect accordance with someone else’s set of points. It is not about pronouncements being made before we can know what we are talking about ( as with Libya in recent days ). It is not about counter-productive trumpetings of ideologically pure policy – one notes that the then-controversial concessions on offshore drilling have come to be all but abandoned in the wake of the British Petroleum disaster ; and one sees the same beginning to occur for the inclusion of nuclear energy in energy policy, in the wake of the ongoing Japanese disaster. In both cases, an approach has been taken which allows space for real-world events have to duly influence, in the preferred and positive direction, broad policies which made concessions to political opponents ; rather than an approach of leading with ideologically pure policy which would merely expose the policymaker to additional and unproductive policy.

It has been my observation that this is characteristic of President Obama — it is, indeed, his accustomed manner of speaking — to make his point — and quite clearly and unambiguously, too — after a premise which appears to give ground, or embrace the other side. In his 2011 State of the Union Address, the President stated :

Our free enterprise system is what drives innovation. But because it’s not always profitable for companies to invest in basic research, throughout our history, our government has provided cutting-edge scientists and inventors with the support that they need. That’s what planted the seeds for the Internet. That’s what helped make possible things like computer chips and GPS. Just think of all the good jobs — from manufacturing to retail — that have come from these breakthroughs.

Note this statement is very carefully. He is stating very clearly — and boldly, in the face of the opposing ideology and our current political environment — the government, not free enterprise, drives innovation.

And he does so by beginning his statement with ” Our free enterprise system is what drives innovation. “

There is a great deal for Left critics of the President to learn in this, if only they would. I read a critique of the Address, by an Ivy League academic ( no less ), which berated the President at length for stating that free enterprise drives innovation, in complete disregard of the fact ( and with a complete absence of the reading comprehension skills one would expect of someone far lower in station than an Ivy League academic ) that he was clearly stating the opposite.


IV. The question of Leadership : Leadership as Conduct and Character.

Another part of leadership is in conduct and character – the reason why there will always be certain ironic qualifier to the achievements of Johnson; the reason why the essential humanism and potential for greatness of Nixon will always be deeply overshadowed; why the myths of Reagan will always be belied by the stark facts; why all conceivable apologies for George Walker Bush are controverted by the ineradicable spectacle of the truly grotesque and appalling buffoon who trampled the world stage for eight long years ( and to whom, curiously, the George Walker Bush of today bears little resemblance – I suspect there may be a parallel with Governor George Corley Wallace, as a person who was profoundly corrupted by political power ). In conduct and character, President Obama is truly extraordinary, given the open, disloyal, and not infrequently seditious hostility with which he has been received. His perennial forbearance, even temper, dignity, confidence, and good cheer does, indeed, make a profound impression on those who choose to see it, and it indicates someone who attention and energy it directed where it matters most, in a way few of us can hope to acheive – towards actual accomplishment; and it is integral to his continued popularity and, more importantly, the restoration of standing of our nation in the world. It is merely crude to mistake his graciousness for weakness.

Coda : Of Thee I Sing.

I see the President often. I think better of him than many do. He has conscience & homely shrewdness—conceals an enormous tenacity under his mild, gawky western manner. The difficulties of his situation have been unprecedented in the history of statesmanship. That he has conserved the government so far is a miracle itself.

Letter from Walt Whitman to James P. Kirkwood, 27 (?) April 1864

So, where has President Obama led?

In his most recent State of the Union Address, the President stated: ” American leadership has been renewed and America’s standing has been restored. “

That is true. It has happened. And that, to paraphrase the finest Vice-President since, I don’t know who, is a Big Effing Deal.

On a more trivial level, I can testify that he has transformed one American’s understanding of and involvement in politics. For me today, while I might prefer some advantages in other systems, the two major parties are not the same, and it makes a difference if and how I vote; and, if of the two major parties, there is one that I have come to unambiguously and emphatically support, I am still free to identify as independent, and expect to continue to do so. Most personally, and most importantly, today I have a President. There is not the endless, grim, grey alternation of the Mild Embarassment and the Acute Embarassment in the White House. ( I regret that I was in my early teens when President James Earl Carter left office and was unable to appreciate his Administration. ) For me today, I am invested and have an active role to play, even it is only voting and preaching to the choir on the internet – that is a fundamental difference from alienation and apathy. For me today, This Matters.

* * *

” His name was Harvey Milk, and he was here to recruit us — ALL of us — to join a movement, and change a nation.

For much of his life, he had silenced himself. In the prime of his life, he was silenced by the act of another. But in the brief time in which he spoke, and ran, and led, his voice stirred the aspirations of millions of people. He would become, after several attempts, one of the first openly gay Americans elected to public office ; and his message of hope — hope unashamed, hope unafraid — could not ever be silenced.

It was Harvey who said it best :

‘ You gotta give ’em hope. ’ “

President Obama Honors Harvey Milk With Presidential Medal of Freedom


President Obama: It Gets Better


Vice President Biden: It Gets Better


White House Staff: It Gets Better

LGBT Accomplishments

http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=433×485790

* * *

Anybody heard of Jackie Robinson? Who was Jackie Robinson? He was a famous baseball player. When Jackie Robinson was a young man, you didn’t have African Americans – black people weren’t allowed to play baseball in the major leagues, and he was the first African American to play in major league baseball.

So I said, “Have I told you that you are brave?”, is what I’m saying to my daughters, and I talk about Jackie Robinson. I say, “A man named Jackie Robinson played baseball and showed us all how to turn fear into respect, and respect into love. He swung his bat, with the grace and strength of a lion, and gave brave dreams to other dreamers.”

Now, when he starting playing baseball, a lot of other people didn’t want black people to play baseball, and so they were being mean to him, and booing him, and throwing things at him; but, he was so brave that he was willing to go ahead and play anyway.

President Obama Reads to Schoolchildren

http://www.obamafoodorama.com/2010/12/holiday-storytime-with-president.html

* * *

WE DON’T QUIT.

I DON’T QUIT.

BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA
Forty-fourth President of the United States of America
State of the Union Address, 27 January 2010

* * *

THE FUTURE IS OURS TO WIN.

BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA
Forty-fourth President of the United States of America
State of the Union Address, 25 January 2011

* * *

I can’t do it by myself.

No president can.

Remember: Change doesn’t happen from the top.

It happens because of you.

BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA
Forty-fourth President of the United States of America

http://www.theobamadiary.com/
http://www.blackwaterdog.wordpress.com/
http://www.obamafoodorama.blogspot.com/
http://www.whattheheckhasobamadonesofar.com/
http://www.obamaachievements.org/
http://www.propresobama.org/
http://www.republicansforobama.org/

http://www.whitehouse.gov/
http://www.youtube.com/user/whitehouse
http://www.my.barackobama.com
http://www.democrats.org/

The Best Possible President We Could Possibly Have :

” Kabuki Democracy: Why a Progressive Presidency Is Impossible, for Now ”
by Eric Alterman

http://www.thenation.com/article/37165/kabuki-democracy-why-progressive-presidency-impossible-now

Obama in Command: The Rolling Stone Interview

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/obama-in-command-br-the-rolling-stone-interview-2010092

* * *

2012.

obama

Sí, se puede.

* * *

FINALE.

[ Leoš Janaček : Sinfonietta, fifth movement. Full orchestra, plus the additional forces of the first movement. ]

[ Sorry about the typically poor Boulez performance – Michael Tilson Thomas is incomparably superior – but this has good video of the 13 extra trumpets and tubas from about 5:30. ]

INTRADA.

[ Leoš Janaček : Mša Glagolskaja ( Glagolitic [ Slavonic ] Mass ) ]

Written by For America and Roosevelt

For America and Roosevelt was the campaign slogan of Lyndon Baines Johnson for Representative in the special election of 1937. More recently, For America and Roosevelt is a native Borinqueño de San Juan, longtime committed resident of Los Angeles, Second Generation American Socialist, and Second Generation McCarthy and Manzanar survivor. He is a political independent whose major voting record is : H. Ross Perot for President, 1992 ; Peter Camejo ( Green Party ) for Governor of California, 2003 ; Senator Barack Obama for President, 2008 ; straight Democratic ticket, 2010.

21 Responses so far.

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  1. Truth says:

    For America, here’s a collection of my favorite passages:

    The other side is part of our nation: they cannot be saturation bombed, nuked, or gassed into nonexistence; they must be accommodated – and that accommodation can be done with varying degrees of skillfulness, with varying degrees of capitulation or non-capitulation, with varying degrees of compromising in the right places or the wrong places. I believe that the judgment of history will be that our current Administration is doing this job very well.

    …( I continue to be amused, at best, at talk of how he ran as a ” progressive ” and has since betrayed his ” base ” with every move of a finger. )

    In conduct and character, President Obama is truly extraordinary, given the open, disloyal, and not infrequently seditious hostility with which he has been received. His perennial forbearance, even temper, dignity, confidence, and good cheer does, indeed, make a profound impression on those who choose to see it, and it indicates someone whose attention and energy it directed where it matters most, in a way few of us can hope to achieve – towards actual accomplishment; and it is integral to his continued popularity and, more importantly, the restoration of standing of our nation in the world. It is merely crude to mistake his graciousness for weakness.


    I can’t do it by myself.
    No president can.
    Remember: Change doesn’t happen from the top.
    It happens because of you.

    BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA
    Forty-fourth President of the United States of America

    WELL DONE, FOR AMERICA AND ROOSEVELT! Thank you!

  2. Chernynkaya says:

    FAAR—I really enjoyed this piece! And I agree with your position. Definitely my kind of post on many levels.

    That out of the way, I can’t ell you how thrilled I am to find someone else who loves Jaynes. I also probably don’t need to tell you how hard it is to express his views. They are hard to sum up and very misunderstood. Here’s a quote from the jacket:

    At the heart of this book is the revolutionary idea that human consciousness did not begin far back in animal evolution but is a learned process brought into being out of an earlier hallucinatory mentality by cataclysm and catastrophe only 3000 years ago and still developing. The implications of this new scientific paradigm extend into virtually every aspect of our psychology, our history and culture, our religion -- and indeed, our future.

    But that really doesn’t do it justice. It was one of those books which, upon reading, I had an “Aha!” moment.

    I have read elsewhere how the fact that most history is oral affects the brain. Imagine the different skills and consequent brain functions (or is it the other way around?) that are required in telling a saga, listening to the saga and then remembering a saga—as opposed to reading the tale. In that sense alone, earlier man was using different parts of the brain than we use today in, say, video games or on the computer. I also ponder the effects on humans who lived in an almost silent quietude of the desert, or the village. Could that not also drastically alter our brains/minds? It is only very recently that there has been so much noise.

    Anyway, I am not sure how you are tying in the bicameral mind to the views about Obama, but I will say this: evolution is not a straight line. There were Homo Sapiens living with Neanderthals, and DNA studies have begun to see if they could have mated. We are no different today. Although literal Neanderthals no longer exist, I am pretty sure we have not all evolved at the same pace. While we are all Homo Sapiens, we are not all of the same order; some are “less” Sapiens. Same with the bicameral mind—some of us are more Etruscan. That is not, of course, a scientific assessment, just my own theory. To be blunt, we live with people whose evolution is retarded, and I am not talking about intelligence. But I am not talking about nurture or culture either. I am talking about throw-backs among us.

    • For America and Roosevelt says:

      Ah, another Jaynesian! I need to reread him ( and read the anthology, what is it, Reflections on the dawn of consciousness? ), but if I could summarise, it would be :
      “ consciousness is learned ” explains Beckheads. ( And dittoheads, and creationists, and teabaggers, and so on. It explains a lot. ) Well, that’s not really it. :) I guess I could say : bicameralism-broadly-speaking ( unquestionable acceptance of the “ approved ” information / information source, without regard to, uh, plain reality that you and I see around us ) explains the Right.
      I guess it is hard to summarise, but, yes, it was my big “ Aha! ” for everything that had always puzzled me in human society. As far as Obama, I guess the relevance is that a lot of opposition could be reduced to “ look, he isn’t obeying the god-idol, therefore he’s an alien threat ”; also with his being basically a cognitive-intellectual-pragmatic leader ( which really needs a word other than “ leader ” ) rather than an authoritarian-ideological leader ( which apparently a segment of the Left wants him to be, too ).
      I’m inclined to agree with your evolution take, but realistically it’s probably mostly cultural – look how much of bicameralism is still with us, simply on a cultural level. Add to that, that so much of our scientific knowledge is only a century or two old, we can see that society still has a lot of digging out from under the muck to do.

      I find meme theory very persuasive and explanatory, too. Religions have caused a great deal of havoc. It is dreadful to contemplate that the ancient Greeks were at the same technological level as we were in about 1600 – in other words, progress literally stopped dead for 1500 years. There was no psychology before Freud, because of the myths dictated about human nature by deterministic ideology. It is dreadful to contemplate, too, that the first piece of literature with a psychologically realistic first-person narrator ever written was Jane Eyrein the lifetime of my great-great-grandparents ( or maybe great-great-great ), after 5,000-6,000 years of recorded history.

  3. Writing from Alaska says:

    Hello -- I had to register and wait for my registration to go through to have the chance to comment here with great enthusiasm and agreement with your premise and analysis. I believe that Obama is one of the greatest presidents we will ever have. I am very excited to read an analysis of his presidency that is so in agreement with my observations. We have to keep doing the work of communicating within our communities, and giving him support to accomplish the great things he is capable of doing. He is not going to lead us where people are not ready to go, and he can’t be a great president without a great people, so we better get it together.

    • For America and Roosevelt says:

      Welcome, and thank you, and welcome!

    • whatsthatsound says:

      WFA, welcome!
      I like what you wrote, and yet…”he can’t be a great president without a great people”; somehow I question that. I am not sure I agree, and not sure that the American people were “better” during the times of Washington, Lincoln, FDR, etc. (and for that matter, “worse” during the time of Taft, Harding, etc.)
      It raises an interesting question. Do a leader’s strengths depend on the strength of his followers? Is the job of a strong leader with “weak” followers then to call forth and draw out the latent strength of his followers? If so, do you feel that Pres. Obama is doing this, and how?
      These are meant not so much as a challenge as just a desire for you to flesh out what you wrote, if you’d be willing.

    • bito says:

      Welcome ‘Writing from Alaska’, we are not just “obamabots , we do attempt to discus the issues . We welcome you and your thoughts. looking at this page may be of some help. http://planetpov.com/faq/ Again a warm welcome.

  4. KQuark says:

    Excellent continuation on an interesting subject FAR.

    It’s much easier to pick out fatal flaws in leaders than to define what make a leader great. I think one of the biggest fatal flaw with leaders are leaders who put their personal ideology before reality.

    Much is made about how Reagan would not fit in the GOP today because he did compromise much more than the legend states.

    But what people don’t talk about is how FDR and Truman would be viewed by the purist left today for the decisions they made with national security. Believe me purist like Glenn Greenwald would be eviscerating them as imperial presidents no doubt. I saw someone mention that Truman was too liberal for the Democratic Party. Really he’s the one who started US lead policing of the world after WWII. The Korean War was not authorized by congress and was a UN action where we did put boots on the ground and we lost tens of thousands of troops. Now people are acting like this current UN action against Libya is “just like Bush” when in reality it’s just like Truman actually much less aggressive than Truman. So no Truman would not pass the progressive ideologue test today by any means.

    Everyone seems to recognize that the right is going further right but few here will acknowledge that the left (I’m not including the whole Democratic Party) is moving further left. The big difference of course is the right is pulling the GOP with it.

    • For America and Roosevelt says:

      “ people are acting like this current UN action against Libya is “just like Bush” ”

      Are they really? How do I combine a yawn with eyes rolling?

      But really, that is just amazing – it is very much just unlike Bush in every particular, most conspicuously in being by international initiative and under international leadership. File under “ Bush III ”, “ Lawrence Summers makes Richard Cheney look like Benjamin Franklin ”, and “ hey guys, maybe Bernie Saunders can mount a primary challenge! ”. It really is tedious.

      I don’t know if the Left is really more Left, but I do wonder how many Progresso Blameobamabots ( or left baggers, if you prefer ) were / are Clinton I or Clinton II supporters ( not all, but doubtlessly some ), and what that says about exactly what those “ principles ” of theirs are. I also know I would have never believed in any Right / Left equivalence before I started observing someone of the ridiculous hysteria over at HuffPo in the past year. There may be differences in spelling ability and propensity for violence, but I’ve learned a good segment of the Left can be just as fact-free and hysterical.

    • Smedley Butler says:

      I’m not sure the left is anymore left today. In 1912-20 Eugene Debs got 900k votes in his presidential bids and the Socialist Party of America had elected a couple of congressmen and hundreds of state and local officials.

  5. chasethis says:

    For America--Oh, my. What a beautiful piece. Sappy as it sounds, I admire your work. And I am still hopeful.

    • For America and Roosevelt says:

      Thank you.

      My cheerful thought is – it’s only been two years, we can’t even imagine what it’ll be by the end of the second term.

      And think what it would have been otherwise.

  6. For America and Roosevelt says:

    Oh, *golly*! I’ll have to make some coffee and have a look at this!

    Thank you, Ad Lib!

    • AdLib says:

      Congrats back to you for such a remarkable debut article! Thoughtful, inspirational, well done!

      I think it is critical that we keep making the case for why we have to move forward with and support the only President in decades who has proven such a commitment to the welfare of the American People.

      I do think that ultimately, it will be up to The People to come together and demand big changes in the course of this nation. We need politicians who will listen to and represent us and Obama is one of those people.

      Those alleged Progressives who rail against Obama, if they truly want more change than Obama is providing, should invest their energy in organizing Progressives, getting out in the streets to confront the Repubs and corporations and putting their money where their mouths are.

      I have little patience for these La-Z-Boy Purist Progressives sitting at home and attacking Obama for not doing enough. They are not doing enough, they are part of the problem. It’s easy to attack and destroy, it takes energy and commitment to build something. Those who are investing their time and their physical participation are helping to change minds and the status quo.

      Time for those folks to get on board and help row this ship through the rough waters ahead.

      • For America and Roosevelt says:

        An important part of my experience is when I went to the President’s pre-election rally at USC last October – the first and only rally I have ever gone to! While waiting in line, I read in the newspaper that Bank of America had to lower their valuation by $10 billion – because of debit card fee reform. As someone else in line put it, “ that’s how much they were screwing us for ”. Ralph Nader and the Summers-is-worse-than-Cheney crowd may scoff, but that is real change ; and the financial reform, whatever its shortcomings, is still the greatest since Roosevelt ( if it’s good enough for Rachel, it’s good enough for me ). Later, when the President spoke, he reaffirmed his commitment to repealing DADT. At this time, many were skeptical, but, hearing his reaffirmation, it was clear he meant it – and two months later, it was done.

        Back when I was trapped in Queen Bee’s Mad Nightmare Realm, I was especially vexed by “ progressives ” talking about staying home and not voting or voting third party – that is, about going in exactly the opposite direction that has seemed so evident and urgent to me over these last years. What is hopeful is that we are gaining some insight into the, ahem, forces in media that have possibly driven a great deal of that ( if not most, I wouldn’t be surprised ) and are now in a better position to fight it. ( Especially now that Keith seems to be coming over to our side. )

  7. jkkFL says:

    Perhaps you’re preaching to the choir here, but What an effective presentation!
    Thanks.

  8. ADONAI says:

    Outstanding post, Roosevelt! I believe you made your argument more than clear!

    I shall now present my comments to said post in the form of bumper sticker slogans I thought of 10 seconds ago. :)

    No man can lead who has not first learned to follow.

    A leader is any person who can convince someone to follow them.

    A leader delegates, a tyrant subjugates.

    Confidence. It matters less what you say but more how you say it.

    O.K., enough of that. If you are going to lead people you must be ready to lose people(o.k. one more). But leadership is just leading. Making a decision. Life is just a series of decisions. Whether it proves to be right or wrong , that decision must be made and I do not envy the person making it. That’s leadership to me. Not the silly promises, the speeches, or the “brilliant ideas”. It’s making a decision that affects everyone and having the confidence it is the right decision. And if it isn’t, the humility to seek forgiveness.

    • For America and Roosevelt says:

      Good bumper stickers!
      Some stuff I forgot to put it : more about realpolitik, real-world economics ( in the broadest sense ), and realism in general – in an imperfect world, imperfect decisions about the nation’s interest, prestige, and security have to be made ; there is a cost-benefit analysis for everything, which for this administration includes everything up to incurring the risk of civil war ; and for every questionable policy decision, there are literally a million other things in play, maybe some of which are ameliorating, but that’s never apparent when someone shouts “ but such-and-such!! ” . . . and so on and so on . . .
      . . . for next time . . .

    • Abbyrose86 says:

      Adonai…I like the bumper stickers. Short, sweet and to the point! You want to help the DNC out a little…they seem to have some trouble in the marketing department! :)


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