Will your core beliefs switch with the presidency?

We’ve just wrapped up the most awful eight years in at least a generation—probably more, but I’m not old enough to know for sure. Everything that could go wrong, did. Everything that President Bush could mangle, he did. It was planned incompetence, a looting of government by corrupt contractors, a gleeful demolition of the public trust on the part of its leaders. And, amazingly, at least four years of that was conducted with the permission of America, an America who knew what they were getting into. It will take years for us to take the full measure of the damage. Patrick Farley labels it “all circus and no bread,” and I think that’s about right.

Today brought the first changing of the guard that has taken place with a political blogosphere. Roles are about to be swapped. Beliefs are going to be challenged. Will those who demanded that President Bush be treated respectfully, by virtue of being president, extend the same courtesy to President Obama?1 And vice-versa? Will those who supported unlimited powers for the presidency, superior to the the courts and the legislature, continue to support those powers? (We know John Yoo and John Bolton won’t.) And will those who argued that the branches are coequal argue that as loudly if Obama oversteps those boundaries? The next four (or eight) years will amount to a very public hypocrisy test for thousands. Bloggers: you’re on notice.

1. President Obama. Holy shit. PRESIDENT OBAMA! That is wonderful to write. I could cry.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

27 replies on “Will your core beliefs switch with the presidency?”

  1. Me, I’m almost happier that W now has no, NO input into anything that affects me or my family. Hopefully, he goes quietly into that good night.

    To be fair, we should hold Obama (can we just refer to him as “O” now?) to the same standards as well. But I think that’ll be less difficult.

  2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CLDzJHdxWAc

    Not to mention the fact that even Obama could not muster the class to look back and spit upon the previous administration.

    Sadly, this day did more to solidify opposition to Obama than it did to unite the country. Calls for civility were marked with boos and jeers towards Bush… so in the very first moments of this “new era” those on the Mall — and the President himself — failed to answer their own call.

    Of course, the “loyal opposition” handles things in different ways. Notable though how the opposition typically mimics the caricature of what they believe the very worst of the other side to be.

    * In the 1990’s, Republicans attacked Clinton with the same ferocity Democrats attacked Reagan in the 1980’s.

    * During the Bush era, Democrats figured out that this sort of “politics of personal destruction” was good for the gander… and Bush suffered a torrent of personal criticism (Chimp, anyone?) as a result.

    * Now, Republicans see how Bush was treated, and will also assume that this is the path to power. Obama will be ridiculed, caricatured, harassed, have shoes thrown at him, shown disrespect in other countries, and it will be know that there really are two Americas.

    Now I’m not saying that’s the style of politics that *I* particularly enjoy in engaging — in fact, I detest it, though I do enjoy pokes and prods in good fun.

    But I will say this: Obama had a brief moment to end that cycle, and failed his own test today. Feinstein’s speech was deplorable, divisive, and triumphalism at it’s worst; the very things she claimed to want to reverse.

    A shame, because Americans really are better (and deserve better) than this.

  3. Shaun,

    I don’t understand how it is classy to spit on Bush.

    Next, I think you’re missing how staggeringly unpopular Bush is amongst Americans. It is an opinion held by the overwhelming majority of Americans that the Iraq War, which has cost thousands of American lives, was argued using false pretenses. He is widely viewed as having condoned torture and failing to respond to domestic emergencies like Katrina. He holds the worst popularity ratings on record. No one has ever sunk this low in America’s collective vision, so we’re in uncharted territory. As a result, I can’t say I’m surprised to see millions of Americans booing him. Also, how did Obama fail to answer his call for civility? His remarks were seemingly universally received as “sober” and “level”.

    I’ve witnesses an impressive level of introspection amongst Republicans both directly and via statements to the media since the election. I believe them to be too thoughtful to simply resort to aggressive personal attacks like you assert.

  4. What I got out of the last 8 years is that there is a very dark side to how some folks would have America operate and ..they found their way into our Government.

    They seriously damaged the core values that this country stands for.. that Democracy itself stands for.

    There’s a quote on TV ads these days from Frost/Nixon where at some point Nixon blurts out that if the President does something – it’s by definition – not illegal… and it seems like those same people that were around during Nixons tenure … came back out of their rats holes and infested this Presidency…..

    No matter how one feels about Bush and his involvement in all of this – at the least – he showed us that there can be a President who will preside (like Nixon did) over this kind of thing.

    Not only to allow it to happen but to actually choose people who will do it – like Gonzales and Rumsfield ..and others.

    We just got finished, IMHO, with an 8-year attack on American Principles.

    who knows how long it will take to repair the damage.

  5. Will —

    Should have read: “Obama could not muster the class *not* to look back and spit upon the previous administration.”

    Second, I fail to see how Bush’s unpopularity excuses bad behavior. Feinstein’s triumphalism, and the digs from the podium by Obama himself were un-presidential at best.

    Again… Obama had a chance. Instead, he’s given the green flag to all the crazies on the right to be just as cruel as they perceive the Democrats to have been to Bush.

    As for the last part, that is tradition — to show respect to the president and the office during the inauguration, not to make political free throws. One side did this, the other side did not. Not only this, but that it was noted by activists on both sides should give reason for pause, if not concern.

    My thoughts, anyhow.

  6. Larry —

    We just got finished, IMHO, with an 8-year attack on American Principles.

    I’ve heard that hyperbolic line before, from folks who wanted change from the post-Clinton era.

  7. “respect”?

    for what?

    damaging the Presidency and the Republic?

    do we respect what Nixon did with the power of the Presidency?

  8. Will Democrats who decried such things do so if Obama uses them to his ends? Will Democrats allow the same nasty, negative attacks to happen to Obama that they showered upon Bush?

    Hypocrisy is always put to the test. But it is never a defense.

  9. Shawn,

    you completely fail to recognize the moment.

    It is the Bush legacy that was repudiated by Obama’s election. every exit poll showed this. it is to usher in a new era, for Obama not to address this, to not articulate the reason for his election, the break from the recent past, would be incompetent at best.

    What made this even more embarrassing for the Bush is the two million folks who showed up and the unprecedented number of people who watched it on TV . . . it was like a village whipping . . . but in front of the whole country . . . I mean world.

    And anyway, its called the market place, the real world, actions have consequences, three strikes and your out . . . or something like that.

    oh yeah and the the best example of what waldo is talking about is a guy down the street took down his “god bless the troops and god bless the president” sign yesterday.

    I think that is hilarious.

  10. Marine One lifted off from the Capital in the minutes after the Inauguration and did at least two long swings around the Mall as Bush made his way to Andrews AFB and the plane home. I was looking up (most people were ignoring the helo drone), and contemplated Bush looking down, gawking at the assembled millions, like he had watched New Orleans drown – detached. A rising flood of indignation had swept him and his from the American stage and here it was, manifest.

    Bush must be held accountable for his aggressions, and authorization to torture. That he left America’s Capital unshackled, enduring a few boo’s and catcalls should be seen as his great good fortune. I urge his apologists to not push their luck. Those estimated 2 million standing in Washington’s icy cold were just a representative few.

  11. Shaun,

    I was exhausted when I posted last night, I could have been clearer. Really what I’m wondering is what, specifically, you believe Obama did that was “spitting” on Bush. Certainly he referred to the nation’s recent failings, but he didn’t link those to Bush in any way I could discern (even though some of them clearly are) and it would be irresponsible for anyone’s inauguration speech to not mention the challenges ahead. I thought he was very level and unconfrontational, personally. So I’m curious what specifically he said that you feel was antagonistic.

    I was at the inauguration, and while I had ample opportunity to join the hundreds of thousands (if not more) booing Bush, I did not because I felt it pointless. That said, I don’t consider it unreasonable to do so. He has disgraced his office, damaged our international standing, jeapordized our national security and generally alienated the American public. The majority of Americans who disapprove of Bush’s performance is so overwhelming it makes Clinton’s worst ratings look comparatively good. People aren’t just unhappy with him, they are actively angry with him. More than any other president. And I personally think it is very difficult to make the case that, after all of the lies and deception he’s directed at the American public, he still deserves a polite and respectful goodbye. I would have personally preferred him be met with stony silence, which half the audience did indeed do, but I don’t think the other million’s response was unjust.

    Obviously we disagree on this point, I’m just trying to discover where the source of our disagreement lies.

  12. Shaun — a large portion of the problems Obama was elected to address, policies he promised to reverse in a campaign he won decisively, were of Bush’s making, either deliberately or by omission. The business of an administration is the people’s business, not the personal domain of the president, and the fact that you see repudiation of those actions as a classless attack on Bush personally does not make it so.

    Obama’s call for a rejection of divisive politics is predicated on being willing to accept good ideas from any political perspective. It is not predicated on avoiding speaking the truth about bad ideas to protect the feelings of those of a different persuasion.

    Obama’s critique in no way caricatured or belittled Bush, nor did his campaign, and yet you are certain that Republicans will conclude that the “path to power” is doing exactly those things. Which, since they have been doing them for several decades now, will hardly be much of a stretch. Your chronology conveniently starts with Democrats attacking Reagan, rather than Reagan’s “movement conservatives” who introduced slash-and-burn politics after an era marked by relatively sober bipartisanship, and equates the actions of random activists and bloggers for the Democrats (Chimp, anyone?) with those of prominent conservative officials and pundits like Newt Gingrich, who taught his caucus that Democrats were not opponents, but enemies, and Rush Limbaugh, who spoke lovingly of the day that liberals would be exterminated. Further, the idea that because of this speech Obama “*will* be ridiculed, caricatured, harassed,” etc. by a conservative movement that has been doing all of those things for more than a year without any such provocation is breathtaking in its dishonesty.

  13. I am a proud George W. Bush supporter who looks forward to the day when historians wonder what his opponents were thinking during his term.
    I’m willing to give President Obama the benefit of the doubt, although I disagree with him on policy issues. I trust him more than I do the Democrats in the House, Senate and blogosphere.
    There’s no way the anyone can be personally tougher on Obama then Bush. That tide has to ebb.
    The right side will be policy-oriented in dissent, since policy questions are much more serious now than in the 1990s. The economy and terror-threat supercede questions that boiled the Clinton era.
    As the first African-American president and a member of the post-60s generation, he has a chance to really change things. The current coalitions of the parties can shift like they did in the ’30s, ’60s and to some extent the ’80s.

  14. And will those who argued that the branches are coequal argue that as loudly if Obama oversteps those boundaries?

    Let me go on record right now: hell, yeah. I’m doing it.

    This country is OURS, not that of any political party. Right and wrong don’t change positions simply because the leadership changes.

  15. For the next few years, we’ll get a good opportunity to see the difference in character between the Left and the Right. The first time President Obama is publicly disrespected by anyone, that’s when we’ll see it.

    When that moron threw a shoe at President Bush, I wanted him hauled out and shot. He attacked the President of the United States, and what did the leftwingnuts do? They cheered and laughed about it. That was beyond disgusting, and any of you who chuckled over it should be ashamed. And if you’re not ashamed, that speaks volumes about you character. When President Obama gets treated similarly — and it will happen, somewhere — pay close attention to how the Left and the Right respond to it.

    President Obama is my president, and I respect him and the office he holds. I wonder how y’all will feel a couple years from now when we’re still in Iraq (broken Obama promise), there’s no national health care (broken Obama promise), and things are pretty much the same as they are now (broken Obama promise). I suspect the attacks many of you numbnuts have leveled against Bush will be curiously different when the same facts apply to Obama. Funny how that is.

  16. When that moron threw a shoe at President Bush, I wanted him hauled out and shot.

    Well, that’s certainly a display of character, right there.

  17. If/when we can’t afford Healthcare reform, or can’t leave Iraq or find ourselves mired in the Pak border regions, America will know that it is because of the FUBAR stink that Bush left us holding. How will America know this? Because we have Barack Obama at the helm; and Mitch McConnnell, John Cornyn, John Boehner, and Newt Gingrich don’t add up to a weak moan next to The Orator.

    At this point it is difficult to overestimate the damage that the Bush Administration has done to the United States. But we will have that measure, just when Bush’s ability to cover his tracks will have ended, and the reckoning will have begun. Let the prosecutions begin!

  18. President Obama is my president, and I respect him and the office he holds. I wonder how y’all will feel a couple years from now when we’re still in Iraq (broken Obama promise), there’s no national health care (broken Obama promise), and things are pretty much the same as they are now (broken Obama promise).

    So, you respect him, but you think he’s a liar or incompetent. I’m glad I’m not at risk of earning your respect.

    I suspect the attacks many of you numbnuts have leveled against Bush will be curiously different when the same facts apply to Obama. Funny how that is.

    Yes, quite funny how you believe that the incredibly vague hypothetical you pose will come to pass. Hilarious, even. Also, “numbnuts.” Now that’s public discourse!

    Anyway, while I don’t believe Obama will succeed in everything he tries (he’s the president, not the dictator), his actions in the first 48 hours in office have been quite encouraging already. He seems to intend to put his metaphorical money where his mouth is.

    Only time will tell, of course.

  19. If you a were a member of Jackasses Against Bush for the last eight years, you’ll still behave like a jackass. If you were a member of Jackasses For Bush for the last eight years, you’ll still behave like a jackass. Most folks’ jackassery is independent of the occupant of the Oval Office.

  20. Will M. —

    Apologize for the delayed response. I want to point back particularly to Feinstein’s introductory remarks. I’ll leave out the audio, but the text really doesn’t require much embellishment:

    The freedom of a people to choose its leaders is the root of liberty.

    In a world where political strife is too often settled with violence, we come here every four years to bestow the power of the Presidency upon our democratically elected leader.

    Those who doubt the supremacy of the ballot over the bullet can never diminish the power engendered by nonviolent struggles for justice and equality like the one that made this day possible.

    No triumph tainted by brutality could ever match the sweet victory of this hour and what it means to those who marched, and died, to make it a reality.

    Our work is not yet finished. But future generations will mark this morning as the turning point for real and necessary change in this nation.

    Two things made patently clear: (1) a swipe against Bush’s policy in Iraq, and (2) the “turning point” commentary.

    Now we could quibble about whether or not words mean things, but I don’t think there’s a politically astute soul in America who didn’t get the message.

    Now onto Obama’s remarks, after Feinstein’s setup:

    On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

    On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

    But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions – that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

    What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them…

    Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please.

    I could go on, but I don’t want to bore with too many details for fear of being nitpicky, or just being anti-Obama for the sake of doing so. Not my intent.

    What I would say is this: Obama is certainly free to forge his own agenda. But the constant references to the past as “doing what we please,” or defining the opposition as holding “narrow interests” or being “cynics,” or worse still holding the opposition as belonging to the politics of “fear” or “conflict and discord” or the politics of petty grievances, dogmas, recriminations, etc.

    References to levees and firefighters climbing up stairs were direct references to New Orleans and 9/11? Direct references to the past.

    Now I’m not Obama’s speechwriter. Nor am I the guy to sit back and say how Obama should be reaching out to the nation. Certainly Obama (or any candidate-turned-officer) has the right to outline the future against a backdrop.

    All this having been said, there’s a way to do it.

    In sports, you rarely if ever see a team rub it in. In politics, it’s also rarely seen, though one too many times it surfaces — bush league as it might be.

    At a Presidential Inauguration though, history is watching. The peaceful transfer of power in the American experiment is one that deserves recognition as a celebration of America and where the next set of leadership will take us.


    The link is a history of inaugural addresses. Sure it’s fine to say “here is what we’re going to fix.” But personally, it is poor taste to follow that up with “because the moron heading out the door screwed things up.”

    In my estimation, that is what the election was for.

    From the perspective of the “Republican everyman” the inaugural address from Obama sounded much like a campaign rally — a bit nobler, but a rally nonetheless. In my estimation, such triumphalism at a time like that cheapens the moment.

    Now I’m sure some folks will make the run of several arguments: I’m wrong, oversensitive, a Bush lover, just hate Obama, too conservative to see things clearly, bitter over the election results, etc.

    I won’t say I’m entirely objective, but I will say that as I watched it and raised a few eyebrows, you can bet that plenty of other less-objective Republicans saw something entirely different, and will remember it.

    Redshift —

    Your statement makes my point nicely, assuming motive while insisting that Obama and his movement is entirely devoid of the “partisan politics” he supposedly denounced and refused to practice.

    I could care less who started the political shenanigans. That doesn’t offer anyone a position of moral strength or authority.

    Those who choose to transcend it, or when they cannot choose to stand on principle honorably, earn respect.

    Obama, at least during the inauguration, in my opinion failed in this respect.

    MB —

    I became politically aware during the Clinton era, active shortly after he was elected President. I started out as a Young Democrat, but was thrown out for being Catholic and pro-life (I kid you not). The transition to the GOP was a slow one, but by ’96 I was drawn in by folks like Jack Kemp and others in the civic empowerment movement.

    The rest is history.

    Vivian —

    Spot on. Right and wrong don’t change at all regardless of the leadership.

    Now the leadership’s relationship with right or wrong… that’s a different story… ;)

  21. Well, Shaun, that certainly was a peek into the mind of someone with a serious commitment to victimhood, reality be damned. Thanks, I guess.

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