Bryan Joiner

Why then I

Tag: barack obama


ME: What the fuck is up with your mosque statements?

BO: I firmly believe in the right of all citizens to practice religion, but I worry about the wisdom of this project.

ME: Are you fucking kidding me?

BO: Are you swearing at the President of the United States?

ME: Are you pandering to a nebulous group of people who aren’t going to vote for you anyway? Are you shying away from a “teachable moment?” Are you blowing this non-issue spectacularly?

BO: Well, Bryan, you said it. It’s a non-issue. I have bigger things to worry about.

ME: So you can afford to punt on this one?

BO: I’m not punting. I said what I believed.

ME: If you said what you believed, I’m the starting quarterback for the Patriots.

BO: Something happened to Tom Brady? (he’s angry and calm in that way of his)

ME: You do realize the mosque isn’t a mosque, isn’t at Ground Zero, and that there’s another mosque already in existence down the block?

BO: I’m aware.

ME: So why is this community center unwise?

BO: I didn’t say it was unwise. I say I questioned the wisdom of the decision.

ME: You realize people can’t stand that, right? I mean, it was fine right after Bush—it was like having C-Span after you’d been watching TV fuzz for eight years. The worst part is that everyone knows you don’t believe what you’re saying, and you’re botching even how you say it.

BO: I have a difficult job.

ME: I’ll say. And you went through hell to get it. But you knew exactly what you were getting into. All those comparisons to Herbert Hoover people leveled at you starting, oh, on January 21st, 2009? You are making those people look like Nastradamus.

BO: You mean Nostradamus.

ME: I most certainly do not.

BO: Do you know what LBJ said about Herbert Hoover?

ME: Enlighten me.

BO: He said, “I thought Hoover was a victim of sadistic people and economic conditions over which he had no control. He was unusually equipped to be President.” I’ll be Herbert Hoover.

ME: Damn.

BO: Were you saying that because you were impressed, or because of the pun it made with “Hoover?”

ME: (shamed) The second one.

BO: I thought so.

(He walks away, disgusted.)


Finish the Sentence

Don’t Forget: The House Actually Works

Watching my Google Reader queue fill up today is the universe’s way of saying, “You know, Brian, you can spend all weekend buying video games, drinking and playing football, thus leaving you tired and cranky as of Monday, but nobody else cares.” That’s how bad it is: the universe spelled my name wrong.

There’s a lot of talk about the Obama budget today, but I submit you have to be a wonk of the highest order to enjoy parsing it, line-by-line. In fact, I’d submit that you’d almost certainly have to be from the minority party and be looking for easy targets, of which there would be too many to count. I’m sure Sean Hannity will talk about them on his show tonight.

The big news, if you can call it that, is that White House Robert Gibbs has called for a Question Time session with Senate Republicans. It won’t happen, so I’m not sure how important it actually is. I do kind of agree with Matt Yglesias (with whom I seem to agree pretty often; political blogging is fun!) when he says that John Boehner has a good point when he effectively rejects bipartisanship vis-a-vis the House. The House works just fine as a legislative institution that is representative of the wishes of the country at the ballot box; with no filibuster in play, the wishes of the people, as represented by the body of the House, are always going to be met in an important way. It’s the Senate that’s broken beyond any easy repair (save nuking the filibuster), and where bipartisanship is the only way to get things done. You can dislike members of the House, but at least it works.

Early Monday Morning Thoughts

Don’t have much to say right now. Drank green tea at 10:30 so God knows when I’ll get to sleep.

• If you didn’t see Barack Obama’s Q&A on Friday, watch it or just read about it. It won’t change how awesome it is.

Kobe. There’s not much more to say anymore. Look, I hate the guy. Have hated the guy. But he’s done too much at this point, and I’ve read too much (specifically here and here) to ignore it. Let’s just move on.

• Football. As I said, I’m on a flag football team. We won yesterday. That was not expected. Been thinking philosophically about football and other sports tonight, as I am wont to do. Specifically thinking about how the contents of the ball (or puck) represent the games themselves, the jumping-off point being the inflated football and the tightly-wound baseball, but the real gem being my association of all the materials of hockey with the output of places in which it is traditionally popular and which, like the game itself, have fallen on tough times. I’ll spare you any further details. Actually got to thinking about this when my friend Sam came over with his six-month-old son, Henry, who was squirmy until we handed him the football, where he got really happy and started to eat the end of it. Sam joked that maybe he’d grow up to be 6’4″ and a star quarterback until he realized Henry probably liked the end of the ball because it looked like a nipple.

Greenwald Is Wrong On Alito

I can’t help but think that Glenn Greenwald has Alitogate totally backward. He writes, referring first to the “You Lie” outburst:

Wilson and Obama are both political actors, it occurred in the middle of a political speech about a highly political dispute, and while the outburst was indecorous and impolite, Obama is not entitled to be treated as royalty.  That was all much ado about nothing.  By contrast, the behavior of Justice Alito at last night’s State of the Union address — visibly shaking his head and mouthing the words “not true” when Obama warned of the dangers of the Court’s Citizens United ruling — was a serious and substantive breach of protocol that reflects very poorly on Alito and only further undermines the credibility of the Court.

Somehow this gets me thinking both to the end of the Sopranos*—where there was rampant talk of how fiction “makes its own rules”—and of the end-the-filibuster movement, which stresses that the filibuster is a creation of the same group it undermines. Wilson’s outburst was worse than Alito’s non-outburst because for the exact reason Greenwald cites: Obama and Wilson are both political actors, and Wilson effectively broke character. He signed up to play by those rules and he deliberately and unmistakably broke protocol.

Alito, on the other hand, didn’t say anything. Greenwald writes:

Justice Alito’s flamboyantly insinuating himself into a pure political event, in a highly politicized manner, will only hasten that decline.  […] Alito is now a political (rather than judicial) hero to Republicans and a political enemy of Democrats, which is exactly the role a Supreme Court Justice should not occupy.

First, to say that Alito acted “flamboyantly” is so disingenuous that it’s absurd: He mouthed some words. Unlike Joe Wilson, whose job it is, at least partially, to maintain composure in this hyper-public setting, more than 99 percent of Alito’s job has nothing to do with maintaining some sort of stony composure in public. His job is to be the best Supreme Court Justice he can be. Is he partisan? Probably, but this doesn’t make him any more or less of a Republican hero than he was before. Republicans love the decision, and Obama didn’t like it. It’s not like Alito told us anything we didn’t know about where he stands on the issue, nor was he technically wrong. Nor should he have mouthed those words. It was, if not a startling breach of protocol, certainly bad form.

But Joe Wilson’s outburst was much worse. He flagrantly and obviously violated the terms of the arrangement for which he specifically signed up. I don’t want Sam Alito on the court any more than you do, but I don’t give a crap about this. Mouthed words or not, we know what side he’s on.

* To draw out the Sopranos analogy, many people, including myself, initially made “Tony is Dead” arguments based clues we erroneously believed were inserted into previous episodes. Something on the order of “Once it’s over, it’s just black,” or something. I don’t remember exactly what we thought was said, but it wasn’t. Without that clue, any argument other than “it’s ambiguous” fell apart completely. The only justification for truly “proving” he was dead was built upon any rules that this particular fiction had created for itself.

My stray SOTU thoughts

Here are the SOTU thoughts I’ve recovered from my cortices:

The Tone. At first, the tone threw me. When Obama super-casually asked why the Republicans weren’t applauding an applause line directed at them, it was the first time I had seen him break Super Orator character. I think the shift in tone worked: It got away from Obama as speechmaker and moved him into Obama as problem solver. This is the Chicago Obama, not the Harvard one, and this is the one better equipped to be President.

The GOP. Man, they don’t stand for much, do they? They seem so petulant. As I’ve written before, and said before, I have no problem with conservative values, but the party is a joke, especially when it acts like a bunch of spoiled kids who realize that banding together under their High School Republicans platform makes them look tough. They didn’t applaud when Obama said he would knock $1 trillion off the deficit. What on Earth were they thinking?

The Juggler. This is related the the first point. I don’t think we had gotten the image of Obama as President until last night. Those who criticized him for doing too much were making the implicit criticism that Obama couldn’t do all these things at once and successfully divide his attention. Last night he came across as the one guy who had his eye on all the balls in the air, and that Republicans challenge his competence at their own risk. He certainly knows why he’s doing what he’s doing, and I think the sense that he’s gasping for air has been extinguished completely.

• The Response. The “Mini State of the Union” was a nice set-up for the Republican response. Many are criticizing the demographic choices of the people directly behind Bob McDonnell, in that the ribben of people from different races didn’t accurately represent the GOP. That’s politics, the same way Obama’s spending freeze is designed to earn him points with swing voters, only he can’t say as much. FWIW, I think he did a terrible job of explaining that last night, as I think it’s impossible for him to honestly explain, especially in the face of near-unanimous criticism. I don’t support it as much as I think I know why he did it, but we’re going to have to wait for his memoir to know for sure. He’s just getting blistered on it now.

• The Supreme Court. Great moment with the Court, seated directly in front of the President, getting called out by him as most of the chamber stood to applaud. It was something right out of the WWE. Obama vs. Roberts at the Royal Rumble. Or something.

• The Length. Dear God, it was long. I have no problem with Obama waiting 32 minutes to get to health care. Everyone knew it was coming, and no one was tuning out before it came up. Not that he really said much that hadn’t been said, or that his words will have that much of an effect. The die has basically been cast, and now it’s time to pass the thing. Obama’s fortunes are already tied to this bill even if it’s largely out of his hands, like the quarterback who leads his team near victory and needs his defense to seal the deal: Whatever happens, it will ultimately be heaped on his shoulders. For all that we remember about Bush, it really comes down to Iraq and Katrina—while there were many, many other things for Obama to walk back, those are shorthand for his Presidency. Health care is it for Obama. It needs to pass or the narrative of him as ineffective will pick up steam and lead wherever it leads. Republicans would be wise to try to kill it altogether in the short term, but in the long term they’re damned if they do, damned if they don’t. Democrats need to make it happen to forcefully overturn the Republican majority/minority, if only once.

• Sorry again about the post. This was supposed to wrap up nicely, but I’m trying to recover it from memory. Imagine some really clever line to take you out of here. I know you can do it.

Snap Take on SOTU

Sorry, I just wrote a long post that WordPress just ate. I don’t think I have it in me to reproduce it right now. I have an issue for work due tomorrow and the thought of retyping 1,000 words just isn’t appealing. The snap-take aspect is gone.

You can see how happy I am about this.

The Spending Freeze: Overdramatized? The Hoover Comparison: Invalid? (AQUA TEEN UPDATE)

In July, Harper’s Magazine published an article called “Barack Hoover Obama: The best and the brightest blow it again” that’s probably wise to revisit in light of the recently-announced spending freeze. Kevin Baker wrote:

Hoover’s every decision in fighting the Great Depression mirrored the sentiments of 1920s “business progressivism,” even if he understood intellectually that something more was required. Farsighted as he was compared with almost everyone else in public life, believing as much as he did in activist government, he still could not convince himself to take the next step and accept that the basic economic tenets he had believed in all his life were discredited; that something new was required.[…]

FDR was by no means the rigorous thinker that Hoover was, and many observers then and since have accused him of having no fixed principles whatsoever. And yet it was Roosevelt, the Great Improviser, who was able to patch and borrow and fudge his way to solutions not only to the Depression but also to sustained prosperity and democracy. […]

Much like Herbert Hoover, Barack Obama is a man attempting to realize a stirring new vision of his society without cutting himself free from the dogmas of the past — without accepting the inevitable conflict. Like Hoover, he is bound to fail.

I thought that comparison was unfair then, a mere six months into the Presidency, and I think it’s unfair now, even as more people start to adopt it. For their similarities, let’s not forget that Obama came one absurd special election away from passing the most comprehensive Health Care Reform bill in… what, ever? All in the same time he was negotating the bank and auto bailouts, and two inherited wars, etc. Yes, every President has battles to fight and yes, Obama’s intellectual bent with fairly traditional solutions looks like Hooverism, even from up close. But let’s be fair. There are a lot of balls in the air right now, and this is actually not that big of a practical measure. The Wall Street Journal’s coverage begins by pointing out how small it actually is compared with the waves it’s making politically, calling it “a move meant to quell rising concern over the deficit but whose practical impact will be muted.”

Even among the more thoughtful elements of the left, anger and confusion reign. Rachel Maddow laughed one of Joe Biden’s economic advisors off her show, and Nate Silver called this The White House’s Brain Freeze… while admitting that practically, it wasn’t that big of a deal.



This sh!t has got to stop. If you don’t think this is a good decision, it doesn’t mean it’s the worst decision Barack Obama has ever made. It’s certainly going to give him some cache with independents who remember it come 2012, and to Nate’s suggestion that this gives ammo to Republicans to attack him should he renege on any part of it—do you really think the truth matters to them come election time? The assault is going to be giant, unmistakable, and disingenuous. If Obama can keep this promise, I think that the pundiocracy has lost sight of what it might mean to an average voter than the President is *not* a Democratic stereotype.

But even if you disagree, this is really not all that big of a deal. To suggest otherwise is ignorance, at best. This is the matter of governing when you miss out on Health Care by one vote in a completely absurd situation. Governing isn’t easy, but you can’t always let the perfect be the enemy of the good. This has actual benefits for Obama if he can stick to it. The only thing that bothers me is that he clearly lied to Diane Sawyer when he said that he’d rather be a good one-term President than a mediocre two-termer. This is a long-haul decision with low downside and low upside, but the upside is there. Even if it does affect the economy (with many on the left suggesting deficit spending as the key to end the recession), there’s no way Republicans are going to win independent votes by bragging that Obama lost the economy by following their platform. If anything, this move shows how irresponsible the GOP’s economic plan is, not Obama’s. We call this governing.

There’s ample room to disagree here, but I would like people to keep a level head about this.

UPDATE: Ben has a theory, and it sounds plausible.

Pain, and the Basketball Hall of Fame

Some serious—and I mean serious—back pain this morning. I think I pulled a muscle.

I just joined a gym and started lifting again, only I only lift extremely light weights because I don’t want to be lifting at all. I want to be doing yoga, but I don’t know the first clue about how to choose one kind or find a teacher. I am being a baby about it, I know, but I thought doing the light lifting would help in the meantime. Holy sh*t, I was wrong. I can barely sit up. Feels like someone is corkscrewing into the lower-right of my back.

Ryan said I need to have more posts with Barack Obama in the tags, so his tag gets bigger than A-Rod’s. Fair enough. I’m not sure how what I’m about to say fits with Obama, but I’ll see if I can connect them.

Today’s [insert series of intellectually disparaging adjectives] column to the contrary, I like Bill Simmons. I even bought his book, The Book of Basketball, and I’m enjoying it. It’s less a history of basketball than one man’s history of basketball, designed to start and sustain arguments between two people or the reader and the writer (Basically, it’s a 600-page blog post). It’s pretty good, and I just got to the part where he wants to move the Basketball Hall of Fame and change its induction policy. I agree with both parts. It’s in Springfield, MA, now, and I’ve driven by it plenty of times but never had the desire to go. Not a good sign.

He says move it to Indiana, the home of basketball. At first, I thought it was ridiculous, and thought it should be in Manhattan. I don’t think that’s an inherently NY-centric view. Put it here, in the city with the “World’s Most Famous Arena,” make it a tourist attraction, and people will come.

Then I thought about it some more, and came up with a better idea. If we’re going to blow it up and move it, why not make it its own tourist attraction?

That’s what the Baseball Hall of Fame is, but that’s its own thing. No one’s going to go to Indiana just to see the basketball Hall of Fame. Basketball simply doesn’t draw on its past the way baseball does, so there’s no reason to think that people will go to Indiana just to be in Indiana, the way people flock to upstate New York just to go there. No: there needs to be another draw.

So here’s what I was thinking. Put it in Indiana if you want. Or Chicago. Or Vegas, ideally, but that ain’t going to happen. But make it a destination by making the HOF only part of the draw. Put it next to a golf course. Better yet, have dozens of open basketball courts, like the US Tennis Center has tennis courts. Have open play available for visitors who otherwise have put their balling days behind them. Use the courts to play High School championships and for summer camps. Put restaurants, bars, and hotels on campus. Make it a both a bachelor party and family destination where the groups can split up. “What are you doing today?” “Oh, I’m going to hit the pool and play in the 3 p.m. pickup game.” “Nice. I’m going to check out the Celtics exhibit.” “I saw it yesterday, and it’s awesome.” Etc.

I’d put $500 on it for a weekend, wherever that was. You know who else would? President Obama.

There you go.

Amateur Hour

Third, and probably angriest, column from yesterday. If you read all three, you’ll notice something familiar in here.

If you want to know why Democrats can’t govern, look no further than the fallout from the announcement that President Obama had won the Nobel Peace Prize.

The Europeans are injecting their politics into this, one liberal friend wrote on Twitter. Isn’t diplomacy part of the job description? blared another, on Facebook. Way to lower the bar, Nobel Committee, said a third. And finally, the most common criticism: He hasn’t done anything yet.

Sure he has! He won the Nobel Peace Prize!

Just as Obama’s “flunking” the International Olympic Committee test brought about a nauseating response from Republicans, Obama’s Nobel Prize victory was Amateur Hour for the left. On Twitter and Facebook, self-professed Obama supporters shat all over his credentials for an award handed out by a small group of people in Norway.

Why today? Because we are mad that the Europeans are getting involved in our politics, fearing, I guess, that praising Obama during the tough times will embolden him. These are the same people who literally believed “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for” as literally as fundamentalist zealots believe the Bible. He was too smart to let them in on the real secret, that in many, many ways he’s more similar to George W. Bush than he is different. Those differences, however, are of paramount importance to the country and the world, and they are so big that transcending them resonates from Washington to Oslo in fundamental ways.

Are the Europeans “injecting their politics into the decision?” Yes! Of course they are! The better question is when this wouldn’t have been the case. In effect, the Nobel Commitee has said: We know how hard of a time President Obama has had governing, dealing with a system that gives a minority of its citizens power to stop his nearly every move domestically, but we will overlook that in favor of the good he has done for world relations. They see our system and laugh at the roadblocks other politicians have put up for him. Many of these people come from Obama’s own party, eager to “get theirs” now that the gettin’s good. They want what’s good for them, not necessarily what’s good for the country. They waited eight years for this!

Well, I’ve got news for them: so did the rest of the world. They want American leadership that isn’t regressive and inward-looking. They admire certain qualities in an American President, and they’ve found those in Obama. His prize is that he gets to answer questions back home from a skeptical media about whether he thinks he “deserves” it—questions taken straight from the GOP playbook, but intoxicating to too many on the left as well. Why is it? I have no idea. Maybe it’s sheer egoism, or maybe it’s just ignorance that a commitee of European award-givers has no power to sway, alter, or morally ratify the foundations of America. The Nobel Prize is, like all trophies, just a trophy.

Am I happy Obama won? Yes. But I’m happy when the movie I prefer wins the Best Picture award too. When it doesn’t, I’m annoyed, but I don’t put too much stock into it. The world is no different today than it was yesterday at this time, except a gold piece of hardware will be transferred from Norway to the White House. While some people have taken it as such, it’s no more an opportunity for anyone to pass judgment on the President than each sunrise is. That‘s what makes this country great. Let’s not forget that.