Shelling Undefended Positions

Mark, you’re creating straw men.  We’re not saying that we don’t support the President; we’re saying that the President has to fight for what he claims to believe in.

You state, correctly, that we all need to get on the phone and tell DiFi to “pass the damn bill.”  But you know what?  Obama needs to do that, too. 

You argued, correctly, that the OFA organization needs to really get energized.  But you know what?  Obama needs to energize it, too.  This is a guy who can fill arenas. 

Where is he? 

There’s an old line about a liberal being someone who won’t take his own side in argument.  If Obama is that kind of liberal, then he will fail.  And Mike and I will be completely justified in being very, very ticked off.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.

10 thoughts on “Shelling Undefended Positions”

  1. Jonathan, that line about liberals is very much to the point. Obama is too busy referring the game to bother to be our COACH. There are millions of us out there ready to push his agenda across the line. But he's got to rally us around specific goals, not just let Congressional leaders wrangle and plan to claim victory based on whatever mangled wreckage falls across the finish line.

  2. It's fair for each of us to ask ourselves whether we're building him up or knocking him down. Participating in a chorus is a consequential act. What have you got to lose — disappointment, and feeling like a dope for being 'had'? By what calculus are these even relevant, when the stakes are as they are?

    "Him" in my first sentence does not, as Mark points out, refer merely to a single individual. It's our only shot at progress because there isn't another game, and if we lose this one, there isn't going to be another chance for a very long time. Are you building it up or knocking it down?

  3. Exactly. I am getting fed up with fellow Democrats and Progressives who tell me to "support the President, it takes time to change." Obama gives good speech, but nothing ever comes from it. He must lead those of us who elected him, not the other way around. The President would rather continue searching for the bipartisan pony that, you know, actually lead us. We will fight, but he has to give us something other than his eloquence to fight for. When that happens I might start listening to him again. Until then I'll do what I did when I heard Bush the Lesser's voice on the radio: Change stations.

  4. The problem isn't that Obama won't fight for what he believes in. The problem is that he believes in bipartisan ponies, quack economic theories, incremental only health care reform, militaristic interventionism, no accountability for those who caused our problems, secrecy fetishism, and all the other things he actually does fight for. If we want to avoid failure we can't afford to support Obama; we have to break him and make sure that he's so dispirited that he no longer tries to fight for what he believes in and creates space for others to fight for things that will actually help our country.

    Obama will never fight for liberal causes because he's not liberal; he's a moderate conservative, and even moderate conservatism is part of the problem, not part of the solution. Turning a blind eye to Obama's essential conservatism , to his distaste for liberalism, is to leave the reality based community.

  5. What the extended health care reform process in the Senate proved was that there is no leadership in the Democratic Party. In the Army we used to distinguish between managers and leaders. Managers analyzed problems and made decisions. Leaders got people organized to work together and get things done.

    I've seen no symptoms of leadership in 2009. Reid and Pelosi have had their hands full with their respective Congressional bodies, and I wouldn't expect them to look outside those areas, but Obama? Where's he been, especially since August? Health care reform should never have been allowed to drag out this long and Obama should have been talking over the heads of the Senators and getting the public involved on his/our side. Instead the opponents of Health care reform got the public involved and none of the Democrats have known what to do about it.

    The result has been that as America's problems have pressed on us even more we have had a dysfunctional federal government that has done just what the Republicans love – not a damned thing domestically.

  6. I should add that the SOTU suggests President Obama may have decided to leave the supine position and do something. At least his rhetoric sounded good and the tax on the 50 largest banks does place the Republicans in a real bind when it comes time to vote.

    One small step. Is that all of it until next year?

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