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Banal & Bankrupt Notions from the Squishy & Feckless Political Center: An Examination of the Weak, Useless, and (perhaps) Willfully Naive Thinking of Columnist Doyle McManus of The Los Angeles Times.

doylebanner 1Barack Obama Sworn In As U.S. President For A Second TermWithin days of President Barack Obama’s triumphant and stirring Second Inaugural Address, we were treated to a seemingly profound and thoughtful newspaper column by Los Angeles Times opinion writer, Doyle McManus, who gave us his sage and pointedly disappointed observations on the tone of Obama’s speech. Deeply serious Mr. McManus thought President Obama’s Second Inaugural Address should have struck a less partisan attitude. But who the hell is Doyle McManus? What is he thinking? Why is he such a naïve, right of center, post-partisan fetishist? And why should we just ignore what he writes?

6a00d8341c7de353ef0133f5907330970b-320wiDoyle McManus is a son of privilege. Born in 1952, the son of a San Francisco advertising executive, he graduated from Stanford University. A Fulbright scholar, Doyle attended the University of Brussels before joining The Los Angeles Times in 1978. Thirty years later The Tribune Company made him a columnist. Mr. McManus is an accomplished journalist — he’s covered every presidential election since 1984 — but he’s managed to keep his rose colored classes perched on the bridge of his centrist nose.

And his opinion of President Obama’s Second Inaugural Address is a gob of lukewarm spit.

Here’s middling, piddling, pusillanimous Doyle’s opinion column in The Los Angeles Times, along with my commentary IN BOLD CAPS:

Obama’s reach wasn’t long enough

By Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times

On the eve of Inauguration Day, White House political strategist David Plouffe promised that President Barack Obama’s inaugural address would include a call for bipartisan cooperation.

“He is going to say that our political system does not require us to resolve all of our differences or settle all of our disputes, but it is absolutely imperative that our leaders try and seek common ground,” Plouffe said on ABC.

But it was hard to find that outstretched hand in the inaugural speech Obama gave Monday.

mitch-mcconnell-make-obama-one-term-presidentREALLY, MR. DOYLE? DID YOU REALLY EXPECT THAT, AFTER REPUBLICAN SENATE MINORITY LEADER MITCH McCONNELL GREETED OBAMA’S FIRST INAUGURAL BIPARTISAN OVERTURE WITH A CLEARLY STATED DETERMINATION TO MAKE PRESIDENT OBAMA “A ONE TERM PRESIDENT”, THAT OBAMA WOULD STRETCH OUT HIS HAND TO HAVE IT BITTEN AGAIN?

In 19 minutes, Obama delivered an eloquent, powerful and often combative summary of his values as a progressive Democrat who believes that an activist federal government helps make America great.

And if there was any question about how ambitious an agenda Obama intends to pursue in his second term, the answer was clear: He’s going big, not small, just as he did in 2009.

The president listed a daunting series of priorities: a fiscal deal including tax reform, measures to reduce health care costs, a new immigration law, gun control and education reform. He made a point of promising progress on climate change, a priority he seemed to have abandoned during his difficult first term. He added full equality for gay Americans, an item that made its way onto his first-term agenda only through a campaign-year back door.

Obama knows that he will need to win some Republican votes, especially in the House, to accomplish any of those goals. But on Monday he chose to assert his electoral mandate rather than extend an olive branch.

0122-OBAMA-BOEHNER-sized.jpg_full_600AH, YES – THE OLIVE BRANCH! JUST HOW WILL EXTENDING AN OLIVE BRANCH – WHICH McCONNELL AND BOEHNER REJECTED DURING OBAMA’S LAST TERM – GET THESE NEANDERTHAL, TEA PARTY-DRIVEN REPUBLICANS TO MOVE FORWARD ON TAX REFORM, REDUCING HEALTH CARE COSTS, COMPREHENSIVE IMMIGRATION LAW, GUN CONTROL AND EDUCATION REFORM – LET ALONE EQUALITY FOR GAY AMERICANS? ARE YOU SERIOUS, MR. McMANUS?

If there’s a second half of his strategy — a secret plan to help bring some Republicans to “yes” — the president is keeping it well hidden.

Most inaugural speeches are so anodyne — full of airy invocations of national unity and vague calls to greatness — that the words are forgotten by lunchtime. Not this one. It was a progressive’s call to arms.

1358788602_barack-obama-inauguration-speech-467OF COURSE IT WAS. IT WAS A MAJORITY OF AMERICANS – PROGRESSIVES, LIBERALS AND DEMOCRATS – WHO ELECTED HIM. AND HE WAS SPEAKING TO US – THE MAJORITY WHO ELECTED HIM AND WANT TO MOVE THE COUNRTY FORWARD. WHY DOES THAT SURPRISE YOU, MR. McMANUS?

“We have always understood that when times change, so must we,” Obama said, “that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges” (are you listening, Tea Party?) and “that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action.

“A great nation must care for the vulnerable and protect its people from life’s worst hazards. Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation and one people.”

And instead of gauzy invocations of common ground, Obama issued a series of surprisingly tart political zingers aimed, not so subtly, at his adversaries.

“Our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it,” he said. “We do not believe that in this country freedom is reserved for the lucky or happiness for the few.

“We reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future.”

He even took aim at Rep. Paul Ryan, the Republican vice presidential nominee, who has derided recipients of federal benefits as “takers” rather than “makers.”

photoAMAZING! OBAMA ACTUALLY RE-STATED THE ARGUMENTS THAT WON HIM RE-ELECTION! MR. McMANUS SEEMS TO BE SHOCKED THAT PRESIDENT OBAMA WOULD ACTUALLY EMPHASIZE THE KEYS TO HIS VICTORY: CHAMPIONING THE 99% — AND PROTECTING FDR’S NEW DEAL SOCIAL SAFETY NET.

“The commitments we make to each other through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security … do not make us a nation of takers,” he said.

Ryan, who was on the platform listening, took the high road with a statement that said: “We (have) strong disagreements over the direction of the country. But today we put those disagreements aside. Today we remember what we share in common.”

Privately, though, many Republicans were seething.

AP771916897310_620x350BOO HOO HOO. PAUL RYAN IS SEETHING. CRY ME A RIVER, McMANUS. CAN YOU IMAGINE ANYTHING OBAMA MIGHT HAVE SAID THAT WOULD HAVE PLACATED ANTI-NEW DEAL TEA PARTIERS LIKE RYAN? SPARE ME THEIR CROCODILE TEARS. 

It was a long way from the Barack Obama of 2009, the brash young idealist who promised to change the way Washington worked, seek post-partisan solutions and banish “the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long.”

2700349-president-barack-obama-2013-obama-inauguration-650-430IT WAS A LONG WAY FROM THE RELENTLESS PUNCHES THAT OBAMA TOOK IN THE FACE FROM THE GOP AFTER OFFERING AN OLIVE BRANCH IN HIS 2009 SPEECH. WERE YOU THERE, MR. McMANUS? DID YOU MISS PRESIDENT OBAMA’S FIRST ADMINISTRATION? WERE YOU SLEEPING THE PAST FOUR YEARS – AND JUST WOKE UP, IMAGINING YOU’RE IN POLITICAL FANTSASY LAND?

This year, instead of an outstretched hand, he delivered a slap. “We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate,” he said.

Obama has been trying this more pugnacious approach since the November election, and it has undeniably made him more effective — so far. He forced Republicans to back down on income tax rates at the edge of the “fiscal cliff,” and he appears to have forced them to back down again on their threats to block an increase in the federal debt ceiling.

boehner-kelly-clarksonDUH. GETTING TOUGH WITH THESE GOP CLOWNS ACTUALLY WORKS. BECAUSE REPUBLICAN IDEAS ARE MORIBUND – AND THEIR LEGISLATIVE AGENDA IS DETRIMENTAL TO PROGRESS.

It’s impossible to blame any politician, even a president who once promised post-partisan hope and change, for surrendering to reality and doing what works. But it sure isn’t pretty, and, more important, it may not always be effective.

At some point, Obama is likely to need willing collaborators from the opposition — if he hopes to pass an immigration reform law, for example, or negotiate a long-term deal to reduce the deficit.

When that day comes, the president may find himself wishing he had devoted a few more words of his second inaugural address to offering an outstretched hand.

obama-inauguration-elite-dailyREALLY, DOYLE McMANUS? DESPITE ALL HISTORICAL EVIDENCE TO THE CONTRARY, DO YOU TRULY BELIEVE THAT THE GOP CULTURE WARRIORS AND TAX FETISHISTS WERE GOING TO BE ASSUAGED BY OBAMA SPEAKING A FEW “MORE WORDS” IN THEIR FAVOR?

DO YOU TRULY BELIEVE THAT BOEHNER, RYAN, McCONNEL, RAND PAUL AND THE REST OF THE GOP WILL ACTUALLY RESPOND POSITIVELY TO OBAMA “OFFERING AN OUTSTRECHED HAND”?

IF SO, THEN DOYLE McMANUS — YOU ARE EITHER A COMPLETE FOOL OR SOMETHING MUCH, MUCH WORSE. 

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Our National Half Time

Here in the United States of America — the Land of the Free and the Brave — our national mid-term elections are just 12 weeks away. And don’t fool yourself: the stakes are as high as they’ve ever been. Sometimes, it seems like we’re right on the brink of countrywide crazy.

With the NFL pre-season getting underway, let me put the situation in a context that those who watch more ESPN than MSNBC can appreciate…

The election of President Barack Obama two years ago was not a Super Bowl-winning touchdown spiked in the end zone. Democrats and progressives who suffered for eight years while George Bush ran amok, simply got the football back, first and ten, on our own five-yard line – with 95 yards to go for a score. It was lousy field position to start with, and little room to operate.

When Obama dropped back deep to look for a long yardage play upfield (Health Reform with a public option), he was nearly sacked in the end zone for a safety. So he rolled to his right and threw an outlet pass for 10 yards and a first down to his halfback rolling out of the backfield. We didn’t get the public option most of us wanted, but we got some measure of Health Care Reform. We moved the chains.

The chains continued to move as President Obama kept his opponents off balance with a flurry of short yardage plays like the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the Credit CARD Act (which reformed the way credit card companies do business), increased funding for veteran’s health care, and the naming of the Steve Goodman Post Office Building in Chicago, Illinois, signed on August 3, 2010.

Oh yeah, and there was that Stimulus Bill, too. The crazy things is that even before we got the football to start our drive, we were already facing third down and unfathomably long yardage after eight years of GOP economic malpractice. Obama did what he had to do to move the chains again – but there were a lot of injuries on that play.

When Obama dropped back to go long on Financial Reform, guys on his own team (like Democratic Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska) simply fell down on the play. Obama tossed the ball to Senator Chris Dodd — but Dodd, who’s playing out his contract before retiring, hauled in the pass but never turned on the jets. He settled for another first down — when everyone in the stands was looking for a touchdown. All Elizabeth Warren could do was watch from the sidelines and hope she could get in the game and truly advance the ball as the head of the new Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection.

Naming Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court were two solid plays that gained ground against relatively little resistance – but a Climate Control bill never made it out of the huddle.

For most of the game, it’s been three yards and a cloud of dust. It hasn’t always been thrilling – certainly not when you compare it to the pre-game show with a sea of flag-waving Obama supporters in Washington and a 70% approval rating after his inauguration. But Obama has kept us in the game, moving us down the field against a doomsday defense unwilling to yield an inch of common ground without holding, tripping, clawing, scratching and biting.

So, if we look at the mid term elections as Half Time in America – it’s clear that, in order to keep moving forward, progressives must stay unified as a team, elect more teammates in the House and Senate that are willing to play hard — and get President Obama as many snaps as he can get between now and 2012. You can’t score many points if you don’t have the ball.

The chalk talk is over. Here’s the bottom line.

On November 2, 2010, the citizens of this stressed and agitated nation will go to the polls to decide who we want to be our Congressmen, Senators, Governors, and local officials. On a national level, the balance of power on Capitol Hill hangs in the balance. This is not an abstract concern for millions of blue collar working people and Americans of all economic classes worried about the future of our democracy. We can either vote to go backward on Election Day 2010 – or elect to continue our 234-year struggle toward a more perfect union.

For the most part, we’ll be deciding between Democrats and Republicans. For the most progressive among us, the choice between the Donkey and Elephant won’t be very inspirational.

But it will be critical.

Make no mistake. We cannot afford to allow the Democrats to lose their majorities in either the Senate or the House of Representatives.

I can understand my progressive friends who feel that President Obama’s administration hasn’t moved fast enough on an array of important agenda items. (I’m not Press Secretary Gibbs.) But while I’m just as tired as anyone of hearing, “Let not the perfect be the enemy of the good” – the fact is, we’ve got to keep that bromide in mind this Election Day.

Now, we’ve got less that three months before the kick-off on November 2. It’s time to button up our bonnets, dig down, play hard – and stay focused on the end zone. Without a big push from progressives, President Obama could lose possession of the football. And if that prospect doesn’t scare you, I have five words for you…

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

And here’s six more…

Speaker of the House John Boehner

Okay, on three, set…

Hut! Hut! Hike!

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Common Cents

I’m not as good a student of the American Revolution as I’d like to be, but what I do know about the founding of our nation — the Declaration of Independence, the Revolutionary War, the Federalist Papers, the Constitutional Convention of 1787 and, yes, the Boston Tea Party — makes it all the more infuriating when I hear the intellectually bankrupt, morally confused, and hopelessly misinformed, misguided, and myopic blather of today’s self-styled Tea Party activists.

Bankrolled by right wing think tanks aligned with corporate interests, former GOP House Majority Leader Dick Armey’s fabricated Tea Party pretends to be a grass roots movement – and the mainstream media (also controlled by multinational corporate masters) plays right along. Good-looking empty-headed figureheads like quit-term Governor Sarah Palin and GOP Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann help gin up anti-Washington fervor among an eclectic collection of the frustrated, frightened, and fanatical. (And more than a few racists who just don’t cotton to a black man in the White House.)

These new Tea Party “patriots” appropriate American Revolutionary iconography and add their own individual touches of Libertarian orthodoxy, anti-tax “drown government in the bathtub” zealotry, neo-Know Nothing nativism, New World Order conspiracy theory, and a gun-worshipping, survivalist militia mentality. It’s a toxic and combustible mix, stirred up by those who seek to divide the American body politic into opposing camps – and enlist struggling working people in a righteous war against their own best interests.

As we approach the critical mid-term elections of 2010, these are once again “times that try men’s souls”. Where is Thomas Paine when we need him?

These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated…” Thomas Paine

If Paine, the influential Revolutionary patriot and pamphleteer, were living today he would, no doubt, be a blogger. After all, there aren’t that many time slots available on MSNBC. (Though I’m sure Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow would have Tom on as a guest.) If he were alive in this moment of crisis, Paine would certainly be rallying his fellow citizens to battle against the real enemy they face: the steady, stealthy loss of their 234-year old democracy to the selfish, greedy, power-grabbing interests of multinational corporations.

Paine would tell these misguided Tea Party tools that their elected government isn’t their enemy. Our representative government is what stands between us and the rapacious depredations of a corporate oligarchy that’s been amassing money and power at a clip not seen since the Gilded Age of the Robber Barons. Our common fight isn’t against Big Government, which protects our water, food and air — and provides a host of other services and protections that individual Americans cannot provide on their own. Rather, we must be vigilant about the rise of corporate personhood and power. The man who wrote “Common Sense” would tell us to be wary of big money. It’s time for “Common Cents”.

In his classic 1776 pamphlet, “Common Sense”, Tom Paine made the patriot’s case against the authority of a royal monarchy. Today, an elite royal monarchy rules from the boardrooms of mega-corporations solely devoted to profit as they offshore American jobs, lend money to hard-pressed wage earners at usurious rates, gamble our pensions away on risky market speculation in the hope of a fat bonus, and continue to pollute our environment — unless they get caught by those pesky government people and their “anti-business” regulations. Educated and aroused by the plain, inspiring language of Thomas Paine, a new generation of American patriots might finally hear the alarm that should have been sounded from sea to shining sea on that fateful day, January 21, 2010, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Citizens United case.

In their landmark 5-4 decision in the case of Citizens United v The Federal Election Commission, the right-leaning Supreme Court led by Chief Justice and corporate shill, John Roberts, held that the First Amendment protects the right of corporations to plow unlimited funds into independent political broadcasts during candidate elections. Thus, the sluice gates were opened to a torrent of dirty money to flood the airwaves with attack ads, sponsored by big money interests.

Do you think your $5 and $10 contributions to your favorite Congressional candidate can compete with the millions that Target or BP can spend to slime your candidate if he opposes building a shopping mall on your local forest preserve — or if he’s fighting against Big Oil’s right to pollute your shoreline with minimal environmental protections?

In deciding that corporations have the same free speech rights as human individuals – that corporations are, in essence, persons with the same inalienable rights as you and me – the five “conservative” Justices conveniently overlooked the fact that corporations are granted their existence by We the People through licenses issued by our government. As Bill Cosby used to tell his kids on TV, “I brought you in – and I can take you out!” Corporations aren’t persons. We the People grant them license to do business – and we can limit what they’re allowed to do under that license. That’s what the 2002 McCain-Feingold Act attempted to codify in the area of corporate contributions to political campaigns. Alas, the Citizens United decision blew McCain-Feingold to smithereens.

Siding with the corporate elite against the interests of average American people, the Roberts Court has paved the way for Big Money to buy our elections. You’ll hear a lot of screaming on Faux News and in the Right Wing echo chamber about how the Supremes have also allowed those dreaded labor unions to buy elections. But seriously folks, who’s got more money to spend — Citibank, Wells Fargo and Goldman Sachs — or a labor union? It’s not even close…

And our faux populist friends in the GOP, Faux News and Right Wing Talk Radio – the same blowhards who pretend to support the interests of hard-working, pro-American Tea Party members – don’t even care if foreign companies can buy our elections. Explain to me, my “conservative” friends, why wax-figure Mitch McConnell and teary-eyed, tanning bed addict John Boehner are opposing legislation that would prevent foreign companies from pumping money into U.S. elections? And why would these same GOP leaders be against public disclosure of who is paying how much for all these campaign ads? Don’t We the People have an inalienable right to know who’s behind these million-dollar ad buys?

Tom Paine would have these companies’ names posted on the commons for all true patriots to see.

I’ll end with a final word on the pernicious doctrine of Corporate Personhood: this dubious notion that a corporation is a person entitled to basic human rights. The fact is – corporations are entities created by government (AKA We the People), and thus, can be limited by government (AKA We the People). So, given that the John Roberts-led Supreme Court is so confused (read “bought and paid for”), perhaps we must amend the U.S. Constitution to make it clear that only human beings (We the People) are “persons” with constitutional rights.

It’s We the People vs. Big Money. That’s the battle that is going on right now. And whether or not you’re disappointed that the Obama administration has been progressive enough, try to imagine if McConnell and Boehner crawl back into power. Try to imagine if Dick Armey’s absurd, unenlightened Tea Party is able to set the political agenda for the next six years. Are you ready for the ascendancy of Queen Sarah and her corporate overlords? (Okay, maybe I exaggerate. Maybe.)

Get out the vote this November.

And when your “conservative” friends say something snarky about President Obama or Senator Al Franken or our progressive agenda — smack them down with inarguable facts and the force of your well-reasoned opinion.

And call on the timeless words of Tom Paine

The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman…What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated…”

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