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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 1/3/10

The Perils of Passivity

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Message David Michael Green
I have to laugh in-between the tears, of course when I listen to regressives speak of the likes of Barack Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi in terms of Stalinesque autocrats or thuggish mafia bosses.

I'm pretty sure that the elites who propagate this nonsense through mouthpieces such as Limbaugh or Beck know just how absurd and contradictory to pesky reality those assertions are. But the regressive hoi polloi as idiotic and ill-informed a bunch of bots as you'll find anywhere this side of the Borg well, they eat this stuff up whole hog.

It's really astonishing, because I can hardly think of three wimpier or more politically anemic drenched noodles than these Democratic buffoons, along with the rest of their pathetic pity party. And also because America actually has had some pretty tough progressives in its history. Harry Truman would eat Harry Reid for breakfast, and still be hungry again before lunch. Lyndon Johnson could teach Barack Obama a few (thousand) things about how to move a legislative agenda through a balky Congress, and it wouldn't involve getting his ass kicked by Joe Lieberman, I can tell you that. Franklin Roosevelt would surely be able to school Nancy Pelosi on the finer points of national leadership.

Democrats have been playing the weakness game for nearly a half-century now, ever since Johnson was driven from office in 1968. That has meant very bad things for the country, which has now been all but completely captured by economic oligarchs, via their wholly-owned human levers in both parties.

What is more remarkable is what it has meant for the Democratic Party, which seems incapable of being assertive even when it comes to preserving its own interests. And what it has meant for the Democrats is more or less that they lose elections, except when the default governing party of the GOP screws up so badly that the public has no other choice than to go with the feeble ones for a while. Republicans then get a few years to rehabilitate themselves, during which time they incessantly shred the Dems from the sidelines, and then the cycle begins anew.

This is precisely where we are now. It absolutely defies the imagination that the Republican Party hasn't been sentenced to death by hanging, drawing and quartering after the crimes of the last decade. But no, remarkably, they are in the midst of an amazing revitalization now, courtesy of their aggressive deceits and the utter capitulation of the party nominally in charge.

There are three things that Democrats absolutely don't understand about the notion of assertive leadership. First, if you don't do it, you won't achieve anything. The American political system, as created by the Founders, is designed to produce utter stasis, the only exception being, well, exceptional moments. Second, no one will follow you, if you don't lead. Leadership is crucial to substantive achievements, but it also has its own intrinsic rewards. People want to be led, and they want to believe in their leaders. Indeed, they will follow strong leaders, like Ronald Reagan for example, even when they disagree with their politics. On the other hand, if you project fecklessness, they will tend to despise you, sometimes even though they like your ideas.

Finally, if Democrats don't lead, the aggressive ogres in the opposition who care not the least about the corrosive effects of deceit and destruction on the institutions of democracy will go ahead and define you to the country, and not in a pretty way either. Sound familiar?

This came clear once again this week, as the demons of the regressive right came out trumpeting the most scurrilous of lies and the most inflammatory of rhetoric during a national security threat. Yet again. On a plane headed to Detroit we had another ignorant and insecure kid, indoctrinated with a toxic brew of bad religion and even worse politics (no, no I don't mean a Palin supporter), trying to blow up an airliner in the name of some jive deity or another.

Undoubtedly the Obama administration could have handled the national hand-holding circus that follows such events a lot better than they did. He waited too long to say something, and when he did, it took his usual passionless form that could put the audience to sleep at a Rage Against The Machine concert. (Doesn't this guy ever get pissed off at anything? He makes Mike Dukakis look like a meth-crazed pro wrestler by comparison.) Then there was the minor matter of Janet Napolitano, reminding everyone how, ahem, well the system actually had worked in preventing a terrorist attack. Apparently, unbeknownst to all of us, the government had secretly hired the Dutch passenger a couple seats over who leapt onto Umar Abdulmutallab to put out the flames. Wow! Those TSA spooks are everywhere! But all of this administration verbiage is after the fact, and doesn't change a thing about what happened. It's the theater of reassurance. It's not like Obama would have been saving lives by speaking on the day of the incident, rather than waiting two days longer.

So what happened next? What else would happen in an American political system populated by vicious Republicans and pathetic Democrats? The GOP thugs came out swinging, attacking the Obama administration for being weak on national security. It reminds me precisely of what Bush did. No, I mean what his father did. No, I mean what Reagan did. No, it's what Nixon did. No wait, wasn't this McCarthy's stock trick? Get it? This is not exactly cutting edge, newfangled politics in America, though you'd never know it watching Democrats deal with this stuff.

Anyhow, right like clockwork, out trotted Dick "Dick" Cheney to rally around the American president at the moment that the country was under attack. Well, not quite. Even though I've been assured by the former Vice President's office that he really is a patriot. You know, even though he "had better things to do" than go fight in Nam and all. Sorry. I must have inadvertently slipped into a parallel universe there, where retired vice presidents maintain their dignity. Back in our galaxy, however, this is what the man actually had to say: "As I've watched the events of the last few days it is clear once again that President Obama is trying to pretend we are not at war. He seems to think if he has a low key response to an attempt to blow up an airliner and kill hundreds of people, we won't be at war. We are at war and when President Obama pretends we aren't, it makes us less safe. Why doesn't he want to admit we're at war? It doesn't fit with the view of the world he brought with him to the Oval Office. It doesn't fit with what seems to be the goal of his presidency social transformation the restructuring of American society."

Nor was he alone. Back on the Cheney Gang, other Republicans and the scary lot in the punditocracy who hold their coats voiced similar indignation. And more. Congressman Pete Hoekstra seemed to think that the very best expression his patriotism could to take would be in the form of a fundraising letter built around the terrorist attack. Can you say "noble'? Nah, me neither. But I've heard of the concept.

The lunatic right in America (and let's face it, nowadays what other kind is there?) has been absolutely champing at the bit for a good national security crisis with which to hammer this president as weak on defense, resorting once again to the seemingly inexhaustible campaign theme for them all down the ages. That's why they leapt on this incident which of course is not minor, but neither is it anything like Pearl Harbor or 9/11. And that's why Cheney's been singing this song for this whole last year. He knew something would happen, and he was laying the groundwork.

But there are just a few things they left out, no doubt absolutely unintentionally:

* They forgot to tell you that while it took Obama an inexcusable three days to make a statement on this event (as if that would change anything, anyhow), it took Cheney's marionette nearly a full week to say anything about the shoe bomber case, an incident almost identical to this one, except worse because it came just a few months after 9/11. Bush was on vacation (what else is new?), and didn't even make a statement about Richard Reid he just mentioned him offhandedly in a press availability that he did six days after the attack.

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David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York.  He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles (, but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. His website is (more...)
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