Reality, Meet Conor. Conor, Meet the Real World.

Update: Commenter Warren Terra sums up the basic point of what follows below:

Basically, my argument, in sympathy with the front-pagers at LGM, amounts to:
1) Obama is a disappointment on a number of civil liberties issues and especially on Drone Warfare. Possibly also Libya, it’s complicated. [TL — I’m not sure Libya is a problem here, but that’s for a different post.  Also, as a number of commenters point out, drone combat is a terrible thing, but many of the alternatives are much worse.  As I argue somewhat obliquely below to the extent that Obama’s drone tactics reduce pressure/incentive to intervene more directly in very complicated parts of the world, then the lesser sin helps prevent a much worse outcome…which is sort of what I take Warren T. to be saying in point 2:]
2) The American popular and political consensus is overwhelmingly behind Obama’s disappointing positions mentioned in point 1, and indeed behind worse positions than Obama’s on all of these except perhaps Libya.
3) On these particular issues, Romney is considerably worse.
4) In fact, Romney is worse on just about any issue you’d care to name.
5) On lots of really very important issues, Romney is inconceivably worse.
6) You’re an asshole if you refuse to consider the issues raised in point 5.

Read on for the longer.

________________________________

As Mistermix has already discussed, the young and earnest Conor Friedersdorf  wrote this yesterday:

The whole liberal conceit that Obama is a good, enlightened man, while his opponent is a malign, hard-hearted cretin, depends on constructing a reality where the lives of non-Americans — along with the lives of some American Muslims and whistleblowers — just aren’t valued. Alternatively, the less savory parts of Obama’s tenure can just be repeatedly disappeared from the narrative of his first term, as so many left-leaning journalists, uncomfortable confronting the depths of the man’s transgressions, have done over and over again.

Keen on Obama’s civil-libertarian message and reassertion of basic American values, I supported him in 2008. Today I would feel ashamed to associate myself with his first term or the likely course of his second. I refuse to vote for Barack Obama.

I and lots here agree, I think, that Obama’s record on civil liberties, the use of military power and so on is hardly perfect — not what many of his supporters hoped for in 2008.  I’d disagree with Conor on the weight I’d assign to different counts in his indictment, and it does seem to me important to recognize that presidenting is much harder than it looks (and it looks damn difficult).  Some of the choices Obama has made, as Michael Lewis makes clear at that link, have involved actions Friedersdorf deplores for reasons that nonetheless have a direct moral calculus of their own.  (See especially the discussion of whether and how to intervene in Libya before Qaddafi’s forces got to Benghazi.)

That said, and acknowledging that Friedersdorf has both reason and the right has the right to feel what he feels — moral revulsion — at some of the acts of the Obama administration,* in this fallen world you don’t get the choice of the perfect man or government.  Friedersdorf acknowledges the “lesser of two evils” argument with a faint sneer:

If you’re a utilitarian who plans to vote for Obama, better to mournfully acknowledge that you regard him as the lesser of two evils, with all that phrase denotes.

But moral relativism is not for the stalwart Friedersdorf:

Today I would feel ashamed to associate myself with his first term or the likely course of his second. I refuse to vote for Barack Obama. Have you any deal-breakers?

Ahh, the eternal righteousness of the resolutely disengaged.

Much of this is down to the dangerous folly of true single-issue voters.  Friedersdorf ridicules what he sees as the liberal caricture of Mitt Romney as “a malign, hard-hearted cretin,” which, he argues “depends on constructing a reality where the lives of non-Americans — along with the lives of some American Muslims and whistleblowers — just aren’t valued.”  In the reduction of Obama and Romney to the one issue of the exercise of state violence, Friedersdorf fails to value the old, the young, the sick, the uninsured and so on…but let that slide, as part of the necessary pathology of someone for whom the complications of living in the world are too much for the enduring sunshine of their spotless consciences.

But the problem for Friederdorf is more basic.  His argument rests on the claim that on the crucial matter Romney and Obama are the same.  Which is why this report in today’s New York Times is such a firecracker up his rhetorical butt:

In one of his first acts, President Obama issued an executive order restricting interrogators to a list of nonabusive tactics approved in the Army Field Manual. Even as he embraced a hawkish approach to other counterterrorism issues — like drone strikes, military commissions, indefinite detention and the Patriot Act — Mr. Obama has stuck to that strict no-torture policy.

By contrast, Mr. Romney’s advisers have privately urged him to “rescind and replace President Obama’s executive order” and permit secret “enhanced interrogation techniques against high-value detainees that are safe, legal and effective in generating intelligence to save American lives,” according to an internal Romney campaign memorandum.

While the memo is a policy proposal drafted by Mr. Romney’s advisers in September 2011 — not a final decision by him — its detailed analysis dovetails with his rare and limited public comments about interrogation.

“We’ll use enhanced interrogation techniques which go beyond those that are in the military handbook right now,” he said at a news conference in Charleston, S.C., in December. [mp3 at the link]

The shorter:  there are still lives and deaths in the balance even in the face of imperfect alternatives. Symbolic gestures can kill just as surely as a sword (ask a Ralph Nader voter).

One last thought.  Memory that extends past the last election can help grasp the catastrophes that can attend principled disengagement.  The historian Peter Gay has written of the “rational republicans” who so honorably undercut the German revolution and the Weimar Republic that emerged from it:

The Vernunftrepublikaner [rational republicans] were reasonable men who had been willing to learn the first lesson of modernity but not the second:  they acknowledged that nostalgia for the Empire was ridiculous, bu they could not see that the Republic might deserve wholehearted support–or, rather, that it might become deserving if enough deserving persons supported it.¹ [italics added]

So it is with Friedersdorf, and with all those who pine for the second coming of whoever.  No doubt we need to keep pressure on both the president and congress to walk back the assault on life and liberty that has taken place in American politics after 9/11.** But to assume that a holy vote for Gary Johnson is somehow going to advance either that cause or make a material difference in the life of a US prisoner under the tender mercies of a Romney administration…that’s worse than foolishness.  It is a cowardly abdication of a basic human responsibility:  the necessity that we make choices where no alternative is without cost.

Or, shorter: Friedersdorf = Wanker!

*edited to reflect a reconsideration brought on by reading the comment thread.

**And before, of course — but what Conor’s complaining about has a pretty straight line of descent from that moment.

¹Peter Gay, Weimar Culture, Harper Torchbook edition, 1970, p. 25

Image:  Nicolaes Maes, Christ before Pilate, mid 17th century.

Cross posted at Inverse Square






175 replies
  1. 1
    eemom says:

    Go fuck yourself Conor. kthxbai. -The Real World

  2. 2
    Linda Featheringill says:

    Friedersdorf:

    Tell me, who the hell is this little twerp and why do the FP’ers care and why should I care?

    My hoodlum friends certainly don’t sit around and talk about him.

  3. 3
    Baud says:

    Have you any deal-breakers?

    I wonder if there is any incumbent president in the last 50 years (or longer) that young Conor would support, since a similar criticism could be levied against just about anyone who has held that position.

  4. 4
    Joseph P. says:

    “Obama’s record on civil rights is hardly perfect.”

    Well, Obama claims the right to assassinate American citizens without any oversight—based only on some secret procedure that he will not reveal. Yes, I would agree that is hardly a perfect record on civil rights.

    But, as the title of this entry reflects, anyone that has a problem with this is obviously not living in the real world.

  5. 5
    Ben Cisco says:

    TBogg had the right answer for this one, albeit aimed at a somewhat different audience:

    Every year in Happy Gumdrop Fairy-Tale Land all of the sprites and elves and woodland creatures gather together to pick the Rainbow Sunshine Queen. Everyone is there: the Lollipop Guild, the Star-Twinkle Toddlers, the Sparkly Unicorns, the Cookie Baking Apple-cheeked Grandmothers, the Fluffy Bunny Bund, the Rumbly-Tumbly Pupperoos, the Snowflake Princesses, the Baby Duckies All-In-A-Row, the Laughing Babies, and the Dykes on Bikes. They have a big picnic with cupcakes and gumdrops and pudding pops, stopping only to cast their votes by throwing Magic Wishing Rocks into the Well of Laughter, Comity, and Good Intentions. Afterward they spend the rest of the night dancing and singing and waving glow sticks until dawn when they tumble sleepy-eyed into beds made of the purest and whitest goose down where they dream of angels and clouds of spun sugar.
    __
    You don’t live there.
    __
    Grow the fuck up.

  6. 6
    Ann Rynd says:

    Conor is an uber-Randian child looking for a superman father. One can ignore him. We’ve been through all of this before with Ralph Nader.

  7. 7
    freelancer says:

    But he’s not a purist, oh no.

  8. 8
    Chris says:

    Who the fuck is Gary Johnson, anyway?

    Actually, don’t even bother to answer that.

  9. 9
    Chris says:

    Tom – “Balloon Juicers, I just don’t know how to quit you.”

    Keep hanging around this joint, it needs you.

  10. 10

    acknowledging that Friedersdorf has both reason and the right to feel moral revulsion at some of the acts of the Obama administration

    I do not acknowledge this. Narratives painting Obama as a hawk or with a bad record on civil liberties are based on wild misrepresentations and blindness to normal standards of presidential policy. Perfect example:

    military commissions, indefinite detention

    Obama has not ’embraced’ these things. The military commissions are an attempt to get around the indefinite detention FORCED on him with gigantic veto-proof majorities by congress. Trying to put these as negative marks on Obama’s civil liberties record is blaming the victim. Obama is on the receiving end of a lot of that, come to think of it.

  11. 11
    Ben Cisco says:

    @Ben Cisco: And while he’s growing the fuck up, he should wake the fuck up too.

  12. 12
    catclub says:

    @Ben Cisco: This should be paired up with Hilzoy’s answer, which LGM has near the front page at the moment. paraphrasing: “Unless I am actively rebelling from the government holding elections, I will vote for least worst.”

  13. 13
    Donald says:

    I’m a Glenn Greenwald fan who is voting for Obama in a safe state. To the extent that my vote is symbolic (and it is–he doesn’t need it where I live), I want the symbolism to be that Romney lost by as large a margin in the popular vote as possible. I want the insane Republican party to be swamped by a tidal wave of rejection.

    So that said, I didn’t like how this post ended. Specifically this–

    “that’s worse than foolishness. It is a cowardly abdication of a basic human responsibility: the necessity that we make choices where no alternative is without cost.”

    So we’re back to namecalling people who might share the same values (or not, in Friedersdorf’s case) and make a different judgment on how to act on them. Look, someone might in good faith and with good reason argue that if we continue to vote for the lesser of two evils we will in effect give permission for the Democrats to continue to swing as far right as they choose and on some key moral issues there will be no pressure to change.

    I don’t buy that argument in this election because the Republicans have demonstrated to me that they are worse on everything and much worse on some things. But it’s not impossible for someone in good faith to think that the only way to end the American government’s imperialistic tendencies is to draw a line and say “No.”

  14. 14

    If you refuse to vote for a candidate who will be a “steward of empire,” you’ll have the satisfaction of withholding your vote for your entire life.

  15. 15

    @Joseph P.:
    A federal judge thinks this claim is bullshit. Awlaki did, in fact, get his day in court.

  16. 16
    Pinkamena Panic says:

    @Joseph P.: Well, that didn’t take long. [citation needed], fuckpiece.

  17. 17
    japa21 says:

    Here is the reality of deciding whom to vote for, from my own (slightly prejudiced POV):

    There is only one person on the face of this earth whose viewpoints on every topic under the sun and who meets the constitutional qualifications for US President match my own. That, of course, is me. Now first of all, I amnot a candidate, have no desire to be a candidtae and acknoweldge openly that I would be a horrible President.

    All that being said, when deciding for whom to cast my valuable vote I must decide which candidate I agree with on the most issues based upon the importance of those issues to me.

    If Conor’s issues that he obviously considers the most important to him, happened to match my own, and if I even agreed with him on those issues, which I do to a degree, I would still vote for Obama because Obama’s position on other issues of importance to me match mine about 75%. Romney’s. OTOH, match mine about 0% of the time.

  18. 18
    Culture of Truth says:

    I don’t care what this guy thinks about anything. But I really don’t care how pure he can show he is by how he plans to not-vote. I’m not voting-times-infinity, so take that, Condor!

    I supported him in 2008. Today I would feel ashamed to associate myself with his first term

    Well you voted for him so you are. Pfft.

    Have you any deal-breakers?

    We all have deal-breakers. Obama hasn’t come close to any of mine. He’s still best liberal President in decades.

    I think what pisses me off most about this is how empty it all is. We could have a great conversation about military policy and drones but oh no, it’s all about whether Obama is a “good” person, or bashing liberal writers who aren’t as wonderful as Con, about whether people who don’t agree – on the issue of voting! – don’t care about human life. It’s… how shall I put this… self-aggrandizing and stupid.

  19. 19
    JustAnotherBob says:

    Need to go to town, so I’m getting my drone comment in early…

    First, I accept that there are people who are ‘out there’ who are working to hurt Americans and the fact that they won’t meet on the field of battle like proper gentlemen.

    Then I look at our alternatives, the alternatives PBO has.

    1) Leave them along and let them take them do what they want.

    2) Send in military units. Let our folks shoot their way into the village and back out of the village. Do this and we lose people as well as likely wipe out a lot of innocents as well as ‘plow boys’ holding rifles on our way to and from getting the leaders.

    I am 100% for going after the leaders and leaving as many grunts out of it as possible. I’m tired of kings sacrificing farmers and then retiring to a comfortable castle if they lose.

    3) Drop big bombs from way up high. Collateral damage and some chance of not hitting the target.

    4) Drone strikes. Controlled by people not caught up in the heat of battle, unlikely to shoot a few civilians just because they are angry. Someone other than the ‘trigger-puller’ has to OK the hit. Time for discussion and consideration. High accuracy. No risk to American or friendly forces.

    The down side of drones, even if we perform due diligence we cannot be certain that innocents are not hanging out with the folks we are targeting.

    At some point the head terrorists have to take responsibility for putting their families at risk. They wouldn’t take them on a raid against a military position, would they?

    That drone strikes piss off others in the country/area – we need to accept the fact that they would also be pissed off by military squads and bombs.

  20. 20
    jrg says:

    If you’re a utilitarian who plans to vote for Obama, better to mournfully acknowledge that you regard him as the lesser of two evils, with all that phrase denotes.

    If you refuse to acknowledge that we live in reality, not Tbogg’s “Happy Gumdrop Fairy-Tale Land”, it’s better to mournfully acknowledge that your head is up your ass, with all that phrase denotes.

  21. 21
    Mutt says:

    Voting for the lesser of two evils has worked great so far!

  22. 22

    @JustAnotherBob:
    You forgot cruise missiles. We used to use cruise missiles for this. Of course, they were way less accurate than drone strikes.

  23. 23
    chopper says:

    If you’re a utilitarian who plans to vote for Obama, better to mournfully acknowledge that you regard him as the lesser of two evils, with all that phrase denotes.

    i do that every time i step in the voting booth, even if i’m voting for city dogcatcher.

    seriously, what color is the sky in this dude’s world?

  24. 24
    Sarah says:

    Two of my friends posted on FB today about all their reasons for not voting for Obama. I sort of don’t want to be friends with them anymore.

  25. 25
    Ash Can says:

    I don’t recall hearing any shrillness out of this horse’s ass during the W Bush clusterfuck. Now he joins the convent and refuses to sully his most holy purity by voting for a mere mortal politician? I hope he treads carefully; he wouldn’t want to trip over his habit and bust his wimple.

  26. 26

    @Joseph P.: anyone that has a problem with this is obviously not living in the real world.

    I know you’re being facetious, but the point here is not that you can’t have a problem with it; the point is that you aren’t going to change it by voting for nobody (and you bet your sweet bippy you aren’t going to change it by voting for a Republican).

  27. 27
    Warren Terra says:

    See the related, somewhat epic series of threads at Lawyers, Guns, and Money – six of the last ten posts are on this subject (I’d link individually, but doing so would trip the moderation filter).

    Basically, my argument, in sympathy with the front-pagers at LGM, amounts to:
    1) Obama is a disappointment on a number of civil liberties issues and especially on Drone Warfare. Possibly also Libya, it’s complicated.
    2) The American popular and political consensus is overwhelmingly behind Obama’s disappointing positions mentioned in point 1, and indeed behind worse positions than Obama’s on all of these except perhaps Libya.
    3) On these particular issues, Romney is considerably worse.
    4) In fact, Romney is worse on just about any issue you’d care to name.
    5) On lots of really very important issues, Romney is inconceivably worse.
    6) You’re an asshole if you refuse to consider the issues raised in point 5.

  28. 28
    LAC says:

    Conor, meet highway traffic. Highway traffic, meet Conor.

  29. 29
    chopper says:

    seriously, that’s what democracy is. you’re voting for the lesser of X evils where X is hopefully > 1. the only way to vote for someone who will constantly uphold your own beliefs and morals is to write yourself in, and even then you’re likely to sell out anyways.

  30. 30
    different-church-lady says:

    If you’re a utilitarian who plans to vote for Obama, better to mournfully acknowledge that you regard him as the lesser of two evils, with all that phrase denotes.

    Except that’s not calculation at all. It’s the choice between flawed and evil.

    Someone’s really gotta challenge these guys to describe some kind of realistic path to a world where the US does not engage in any kind of warfare. I guar-an-fucking-tee hypothetical President NaderPaul will be sending troops somewhere during his term.

    That’s gotta be the most attractive thing about being part of the “they’re all the same” crowd: your villains always have real shit to deal with imperfectly and your hero’s actions are always hypothetical.

  31. 31
    Culture of Truth says:

    I don’t feel moral revulsion at all – Obama has a strong moral argument, but those should not always carry the day.

    Sometimes doing the morally right thing is not always the proper thing. Sometimes it is.

    Having said that, is there anything more boring than a post announcing who you refuse to vote for and why? I’d rather sit through a Powepoint slide show of you vacation trip to Schenectady.

  32. 32
    MikeJ says:

    When are the anti-droners going to sign up for the East Yemen warrant serving squad?

  33. 33
    catclub says:

    @Mutt: But is probably still better than voting for the greater of two evils.

  34. 34
    Dennis SGMM says:

    @Donald:

    So we’re back to namecalling people who might share the same values (or not, in Friedersdorf’s case) and make a different judgment on how to act on them. Look, someone might in good faith and with good reason argue that if we continue to vote for the lesser of two evils we will in effect give permission for the Democrats to continue to swing as far right as they choose and on some key moral issues there will be no pressure to change.

    Withholding your vote accomplishes exactly as much as holding your breath until you turn blue in the face. If you want to move the Democratic party toward what you consider a better stance on an issue then you, that’s you personally, have to get involved and do your best to advance candidates who represent your values.

    You fucking flounder.

  35. 35
    Warren Terra says:

    @Ash Can:
    Duh. Friedersdorf exists to advance the Republican agenda, always has done. He concern-trolls the left and promotes Koch-friendly economic and regulatory ideas.

  36. 36
    Water balloon says:

    Obama is squarely on the low end in terms of civilians killed during his presidency, especially during wartime. FDR, Truman, LBJ, Nixon and Bush were responsible for several orders of magnitude more deaths than Obama. His policies are more comparable to Eisenhower and Kennedy’s CIA ops or Reagan and Clinton’s cruise missile strikes. Especially considering who he’s running against, it seems to me if you’re looking for a less belligerent foreign policy, Obama is the clear choice.

  37. 37
    different-church-lady says:

    @Frankensteinbeck:

    We used to use cruise missiles for this. Of course, they were way less accurate than drone strikes.

    But cruise missiles were much more “fair” because human beings had to pilot them.

  38. 38
    catclub says:

    @Warren Terra: Good summary.

    I want to emphasize number 2 as the elephant in the room (pun intended).

  39. 39
    Tom Levenson says:

    @Sarah: Better to argue with them than give up on them. Send ’em to Lawyers Guns and Money. They’ve been pounding on this issue, and I think they’ve got it exactly right. (If I’d read their posts before I wrote the above, I might have just put up a bunch of links adding “what they said.”

    You could send them to Charles Pierce too. He’s been relentless on the issue of drone killing and other related issues — but he hasn’t lost sight for a moment of the totality of what’s at stake this November, nor how he thinks his readers should act.

    Engage!

  40. 40
    eemom says:

    @different-church-lady:

    That’s gotta be the most attractive thing about being part of the “they’re all the same” crowd: your villains always have real shit to deal with imperfectly and your hero’s actions are always hypothetical.

    Nicely stated.

    btw, you are one of my favorite fellow commenters here in general.

  41. 41
    PeakVT says:

    Voting is not an exercise in self-expression. Freezerdork should get a regrettable tat or a new car if he wants the world to know what he’s like.

  42. 42
    Ben Cisco says:

    @catclub: Oh yeah, that’s good too.

  43. 43
    Joseph P. says:

    My last comment was snarky. But I am surprised at the vitriol on this comment board towards Conor Friedersdorf because his outrage over warrantless assassinations has caused him to turn from Obama. Yes, this election is a choice, and one of the choices is far worse than the other. We may have to hold our nose at Obama’s failings in order to save the republic from the catastrophe of a Romney Presidency (this is what I myself will probably do). But it is wrong to scornfully and hatefully dismiss Conor as a clueless idealist with TBogg-like snark about rainbow ponies.

    I personally think that what Obama is doing is outrageous. The US is in an undeclared war in Yemen, supporting a corrupt and evil dictator by killing his opponents with drone missiles, as well as killing innocent civilians. There is reason to believe that the US is targeting funerals of people killed in drone attacks. We are very likely provoking another terrorist attack, which the US will then interpret as hate for our freedoms instead of a retaliation for our actions. Obama has targeted multiple American citizens in this war, including a 16 year boy whom the Government claimed was in his 20s and a terrorist, until his grandparents proved it to be lies by releasing his Colorado birth certificate.

    I simply don’t think that anyone that is outraged enough by this to not vote for Obama deserves scorn. It’s a small protest to be sure, and ineffectual, but sometimes idealism is all you have.

  44. 44
    Lojasmo says:

    @Joseph P.:

    American citizens who have gone overseas, and are committing hostile acts against the United States.

    The oath office and American citizenship…how the fuck do they work?

    Fuck off, quim.

  45. 45
    FormerSwingVoter says:

    Who the fuck is Conner Dierdorf, and why the fuck should I care?

  46. 46
    Brachiator says:

    It is a civil liberties violation for the state to hold a woman down and force her to undergo a medical procedure such as an ultrasound.

    It amazes me that some supposed liberals see civil liberties only as wiretapping and related activities.

    Pricks.

    Now, which party is all for humiliating women, and which party and presidential candidate is against this?

  47. 47
    Culture of Truth says:

    Be ashamed. Be very ashamed.

  48. 48

    @catclub: Yep. Nader used to say “The lesser of two evils is still evil.” My response is, “and it’s still lesser.”

  49. 49
    different-church-lady says:

    @eemom:

    btw, you are one of my favorite fellow commenters here in general.

    Well, shucks, thanks. But I have to ask the community a question: I lose track of all the handles around here — should I be flattered or horrified by this?

  50. 50
    Violet says:

    Yay! TL;DR is back! With accompanying depressing and/or horrifying painting. Welcome back, Tom!

  51. 51
    Warren Terra says:

    @Joseph P.:

    vitriol on this comment board towards Conor Friedersdorf because his outrage over warrantless assassinations has caused him to turn from Obama

    Nonsense. Friedersdorf hasn’t “turned from Obama” – he was never an Obama supporter. He claims to have voted for him, but he doesn’t agree with any of Obama’s domestic agenda. He is a conservative, of a somewhat libertarian bent. If he weren’t cashing checks from James Bennett, he’d be cashing checks from the Koch brothers. The reason he’s free to say what he did is that he doesn’t care about the other issues – indeed, he’d prefer Romney on the other issues.

  52. 52
    Chris says:

    The differences between Romney and Obama? Oh, only this –
    * A bill that makes the difference between health insurance and bankruptcy for thousands, probably millions of poor people.
    * Yet another opportunity for the wingnuts to push for the privatization of Medicare and/or Social Security, like they already have during Reagan, the Gingrich Congress, and Bush. (Probably by the Ryan Budget)
    * More tax cuts to sink the deficit to no point and purpose.
    * Whether or not we go to war with Iran. No, that’s not a joke.
    * Whether or not we again start using interrogation methods for which we condemned Nazis as war criminals.

    If that’s not enough, what the yotz IS?

  53. 53
    Violet says:

    Where does young Connor live, anyway? Does his vote really matter? Or is he in Ohio or Florida or Virginia or something?

  54. 54
    Enhanced Mooching Techniques says:

    @Baud:

    wonder if there is any incumbent president in the last 50 years (or longer) that young Conor would support, since a similar criticism could be levied against just about anyone who has held that position.

    If you are willing to far back far enough Harrison died just 32 days into office so I am sure he did no wrong.

  55. 55
    Warren Terra says:

    @Joseph P.:
    Also, I’ve never understood why people make a big deal out of Obama authorizing assassination of American citizens overseas. Authorizing assassinations is a big deal! Make noise about it! Not enough attention is being paid, and not enough questions are being asked! But none of the rights to due process (or, for that matter, to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness) are in any way conditional on your citizenship status – the fact that a couple of the people we killed were American citizens isn’t material.

  56. 56
    eemom says:

    @different-church-lady:

    I lose track of all the handles around here—should I be flattered or horrified by this?

    Go with horrified. But just to be safe, I take it back.

  57. 57
    NCSteve says:

    @Donald: No one is questioning the good faith of anyone (except Young Conor, I mean). But I know plenty of people who do stupid things in good faith. I’ve been that person from time to time. Calling them out on the stupid isn’t questioning their good faith.

  58. 58
    gwangung says:

    @Warren Terra:

    2) The American popular and political consensus is overwhelmingly behind Obama’s disappointing positions mentioned in point 1, and indeed behind worse positions than Obama’s on all of these except perhaps Libya.

    Given that, WHY THE FUCK ARE WE SO DISAPPOINTED WITH OBAMA???????

    ETA: Jesus H. Christ, people….think!

  59. 59
    different-church-lady says:

    @eemom: As a policy I never LOL, but I will here.

  60. 60
    Chyron HR says:

    @gwangung:

    Because drone strikes are the pet project of this one evil man, and they will cease forever when he leaves office in January 2017.

  61. 61

    @Cris (without an H):
    My point is that he can only have a problem with it if he has a problem with the ACTUAL policy. If his description pretends Awlaki didn’t get due process or that this isn’t well and thoroughly established in the courts as constitutional, then we can’t have a discussion over whether the actual policy is right or wrong. I really hate the constant misrepresentations of Obama’s actions and the false narratives built off of them.

  62. 62
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    @Donald:

    But it’s not impossible for someone in good faith to think that the only way to end the American government’s imperialistic tendencies is to draw a line and say “No.”

    I heartily agree with this, but I disagree with the implication that your vote in a first past the post two-party electoral system is an effective tool for saying “No”. In practice when you abstain from voting, you don’t get to decide what your decision “means”. Other people who have much bigger microphones than you will creatively re-interpret your non-vote as they see fit to match their agendas, not yours. And if you are left-of-center then most of these folks in our right-of-center news media will do so to the detriment of many political causes and policies that you do support and to the benefit of many that you oppose. That is a fact of life.

    The solution is not to try to speak your intended message into a broken microphone (which is effectively what our press is today), such that either nobody hears it or the opposite of what you intended comes out. The solution is to build a better microphone.

  63. 63
    Culture of Truth says:

    Harrison? He was a war criminal!*

    *probably

  64. 64
    catclub says:

    @Violet: Some people say that the TL in TL;DR is Too Long, but Tom Levenson also works.

    You can call me captain obvious.

  65. 65
    SatanicPanic says:

    I used to care about drones. Now I don’t. In fact, I want more of them. I want a drone army, with drone soldiers and drone tanks. And drone boats and drone satellites that shoot lasers. Barack Obama has made me into a boot-licking authoritarian, just like that. Must be magic.

  66. 66
    Suffern ACE says:

    @Enhanced Mooching Techniques: Harrison signed that guano treaty with Peru that continues to haunt us to this day.

  67. 67
    Violet says:

    @catclub: Heh. I was just joshing with him. I like Tom’s posts and he’s been so funny about posting realistic length posts and then saying he doesn’t have time for his usual tomes.

  68. 68
    Forum Transmitted Disease says:

    @Joseph P.: Need some help getting down off that cross?

    No? Ok then. Those nails must hurt like a bitch, but whatever.

  69. 69
    policomic says:

    Thank you for this, and especially this: “It is a cowardly abdication of a basic human responsibility: the necessity that we make choices where no alternative is without cost.”

    I will admit it took me years to own up to this reality, but it’s the core truth of living with whatever measure of political–and human–responsibility we are given.

    One’s purity is worth nothing; not even, really, to oneself. It’s not moral, just selfish–and childish.

  70. 70
    JustAnotherBob says:

    @Frankensteinbeck:

    Forgot neither cruise missiles nor smart bombs. Both are earlier versions of armed drones.

  71. 71
    good2go says:

    I followed a link to the Conor Friedersdorf article. It was one of the most adolescent, callow, stupid, navel-gazing, poorly reasoned, rhetorical train wrecks I’ve ever come across in my life. Pure and utter shit. This boy should not have a forum through which to inflict us with this rambling incoherent crap. Back to the playpen, junior. You have much more interesting and intelligent peers I’d prefer to read.

  72. 72
    Culture of Truth says:

    There’s a lot of pushback because the piece is less about policy than his insufferable self-rightousness and pointed critcism of those who don’t share his belief Obama is not a ‘good’ person. It reads like it was written by Holden Caulfield. (the real one, not the blogger).

    My gentle suggestion is vote for Obama (or don’t) and write a persuasive piece about drones.

  73. 73
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Mutt:

    Voting for the lesser of two evils has worked great so far!

    It would have worked better if the lesser evil had actually won once in a while. Or are you of the opinion that George W Bush was the lesser evil when compared to Al Gore and John Kerry?

  74. 74
    Ruckus says:

    @Warren Terra:
    6) You’re an asshole if you refuse to consider the issues raised in point 5.

    There are lots of words that could be used here other than asshole. I’m glad you chose to use the one that fits best, that being, asshole.

  75. 75
    Brachiator says:

    @Joseph P.:

    I personally think that what Obama is doing is outrageous. The US is in an undeclared war in Yemen, supporting a corrupt and evil dictator by killing his opponents with drone missiles, as well as killing innocent civilians. There is reason to believe that the US is targeting funerals of people killed in drone attacks. We are very likely provoking another terrorist attack, which the US will then interpret as hate for our freedoms instead of a retaliation for our actions.

    Well, let’s see. Yep, undeclared war. As is terrorism. So, do you really want to play the game of never going where the terrorists are?

    And when you come up with a foolproof method of identifying corrupt and evil dictators and angels, let me know.

    There is no military operation that does not put civilian lives at risk. It’s not right, but it’s true. You want to halt any US military operation that might result in a civilian death? OK. So now, you are in the position of those who apparently believe that corrupt and evil dictators can kill people 24/7 because it is only wrong when the US kills innocents.

    Terrorism is not just a retaliation for bad shit that the US does. Terrorism, often state sponsored, supports a nation’s interests. bin Laden and his seconds blame the US for supporting India against Pakistan. Doesn’t matter what the specifics are.

    So, is your ideal US one that is strictly neutral, has no foreign policy or dealings with any nation that is not approved by anyone with money and a grievance?

  76. 76
    grandpa john says:

    @Linda Featheringill: My sentiments exactly, why the hell are we wasting space here on such insignificant little pieces of holier than thou moralizing shits

  77. 77
    LD50 says:

    @Cris (without an H): And I would say to Nader, “name one way in which you actually made things better in the real world”.

  78. 78
    Suffern ACE says:

    It wasn’t the Emperor who brought the storm troopers into the republic. It was Yoda, who thought he knew better. Take that you soulless clones in the service of the MIC.

  79. 79
    General Stuck says:

    Sorry Tom, but unless critics of Obama for whatever, drone welfare or civil liberties fail, provides specific examples to be properly debated and dissected, you and whomever are just wanking he emo prog line.

    There may be some I would agree with to a degree, but most can be easily dismantled as not what is claimed they are in the Obama disappointment department. So bring it on,

  80. 80
    Warren Terra says:

    @Brachiator:
    Don’t roll over so fast on “undeclared war”. My vague recollection is that after 9/11 (or perhaps against Iraq) Congress voted the President war-making powers against “Terrorists” that were so sweeping and absurd as to conceivably endorse drone strikes a decade later in Yemen, or for that matter in Omaha. This doesn’t make them right – very much doesn’t make them right – but might make them legal.

  81. 81
    Quaker in a Basement says:

    It’s all pretty simple. Come January, Jill Stein is NOT going to take the oath of office. Neither is Whathisface Johnson. It’s going to be either Obama or Romney. If you really, really think the future of the country will be the same under either as president, well be my guest. Vote for somebody who isn’t going to win.

    And keep your fingers out of the electrical outlets.

  82. 82
    Steve M. says:

    Sorry, I can’t — I had this argument for months in 2000, and for months and months afterward, at Table Talk with a self-righteous Naderite named Recycla (and a few other members of Ralphie’s amen corner). I’d rather have testicle surgery without anesthesia than repeat the process.

  83. 83
    SatanicPanic says:

    And I resent the idea that Obama is the lesser of two evils. The man’s not evil at all and if you think he is you need your head checked. Stupid libertarians.

  84. 84
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    @Joseph P.:

    I personally think that what Obama is doing is outrageous. The US is in an undeclared war in Yemen, supporting a corrupt and evil dictator by killing his opponents with drone missiles, as well as killing innocent civilians.

    __
    And this differs in what way from actions approved by (to name just presidents who on this blog would generally be considered on the better side): Clinton, Carter, LBJ, JFK, Truman, FDR, Woodrow Wilson, Teddy Roosevelt? Which one of these guys has a better record than Obama on national security and civil liberties?

    If you’ve gone 0-for-9 at the plate with nine different batters, maybe the game is the problem rather than the current batter. And who sets the rules of the game? Folks who look at Obama’s record on these issues and don’t like what they see are seeing the American people, thru a glass darkly.

  85. 85
    LD50 says:

    @Donald:

    “that’s worse than foolishness. It is a cowardly abdication of a basic human responsibility: the necessity that we make choices where no alternative is without cost.”
    So we’re back to namecalling people who might share the same values

    If you think that qualifies as ‘namecalling’, you must very sheltered indeed.

  86. 86
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Joseph P.:

    But I am surprised at the vitriol on this comment board towards Conor Friedersdorf because his outrage over warrantless assassinations has caused him to turn from Obama.

    I think a big part of the vitriol is because, as far as I can recall, Friedersdorf never turned towards Obama in the first place. He’s always been a Republican-voting glibertarian and the fact that he’s going to support libertarian Gary Johnson is about as shocking as my lifelong Republican father declaring he’s supporting Ron Paul over Mitt Romney.

    If he voted for Obama in 2008 (and that’s a big “IF,” IMO), it was a shaky and reluctant vote against McCain/Palin and I’m not surprised that someone whose support for Obama was so shallow in the first place would somehow manage to come up with an excuse for ducking the issue this time around.

    But, frankly, I don’t give a shit, because a vote for Johnson is just as good as a vote for Obama.

  87. 87
    👽 Martin says:

    Young Conor finally learns that lesson that inevitably must be learned: wars involve killing people in incomprehensibly horrible ways. And even though The Rules™ say to only hurt bad people, nobody in the history of mankind has ever found a way to follow The Rules™, despite millennia of trying. We’ve gotten closer, but The Rules™ continue to be broken, in large part because everyone knows The Rules™, and trusts that countries like the US will bend heaven and earth to follow them, and they exploit that to their advantage by hiding out in places with weak governments and no treaties.

    Shorter CF: It’s Obama’s fault The Rules™ are still being broken after the obelisk showed up on earth 4 million years ago.

  88. 88
    Mnemosyne says:

    Also, too, my dealbreaker? Abortion. If the Democratic presidential candidate was “pro-life,” I would vote Green.

    But I’ve been told before that abortion is a lowly “social issue” that’s not worthy of being a dealbreaker, unlike the Very Serious Issue of killing al-Qaeda leaders overseas who are American citizens.

  89. 89
    El Cid says:

    Given that at the moment of voting — one particular moment in time in one limited circumstance — there will be one of two outcomes, either Mitt Romney or Obama will be the President, one’s individual act of voting has to do with no more than changing the probability of one or the other outcome occurring.

    There’s no manifestation of conscience or holding anyone accountable or responsible other than that.

    If one views one’s single vote in that single moment as some sort of powerful demonstration of one’s engaged and strong conscience, then that view is quite a weak one.

    Choosing to vote (or not vote) one way or another changes reality by changing the probability of that particular governing outcome, and does not transmit a spiritual message beyond that.

    Of course one must follow one’s reasonably informed conscience and thought process regarding whether or not to vote and for whom to or not to vote, but this must be as much based upon one’s realistically arguable thoughts on how the nation and world would change given the 2 possible (and the only 2 possible) outcomes.

    I would think that one’s conscience would truly be revealed and demonstrated in the nearly endless parade of moments between polling places in Presidential election years and how one acts during those times.

  90. 90
    👽 Martin says:

    @Mnemosyne: Remember, social issues are things you inflict on other people. Abortion is only a social issue to men.

  91. 91

    This might be a dickish thing to do, but I’m going to link to something I wrote a year or so ago, that ABL put on the front page here. It was about some boobs (not the good kind, either) who were talking about running somebody against President Obama in the primaries, but the overall gist kind of applies here, too, which is: You won’t get everything you want, so grow up and do the best you can with what you have; and if you don’t, then don’t think anybody owes it to you not to call you an asshole for choosing to make some meaningless protest with the one vote that you get.

  92. 92
    Forum Transmitted Disease says:

    Folks who look at Obama’s record on these issues and don’t like what they see are seeing the American people, thru a glass darkly.

    @ThatLeftTurnInABQ: I made this point a few threads back but it bears repeating: Obama is the most liberal president you’re going to get given today’s electorate.

    If you want somebody more “progressive”/sensitive/vegan/insane/whatever, you’re going to have to start changing the minds of the American voter. That is not a quick and easy process, which is why all self-styled “progressives” (I put it in quotes because a modern “progressive” is an insult to the term as originally coined) dismiss it out of hand as a course of action and demand the President instead act like a liberal God Emperor of Earth, and deliver those fucking ponies NOW.

  93. 93
    different-church-lady says:

    @ThatLeftTurnInABQ:

    If you’ve gone 0-for-9 at the plate with nine different batters, maybe the game is the problem rather than the current batter.

    Ahh, but you see, if you just vote for someone who has no chance of winning the game, then you’re not complicit in any of this! [nods smugly]

    As I recall one of our popular artists recently made some kind of distinction between the game and the people who play it, and which one you should eschew.

    I’m starting to feel bad for Connor here. Faced with a GOP so badly off the rails they offer no alternative, he is forced to withhold his vote from someone he doesn’t really want to vote for in the first place. But hey, at least he hasn’t started pushing Ron Paul*, someone who would ensure that we no longer kill anyone in conflict overseas, preferring instead to create policy that ensures they die here instead**.

    *(Yet.)
    ** (So, I was thinking, “Hey, maybe this is a gratuitous swipe at Paul, drop it.” And then I thought, “Naw, eff it, let’s leave it in and enjoy the chaos that’s bound to ensue any time someone lights the Paul batlight.)

  94. 94
    jeremy says:

    Will someone please tell me how Obama should go after Al Qeada then ? Because if you don’t use drones then what ? Reckless land wars like the Iraq war that Bush started.

    Would some who decry Obama’s tatics said no to the raid that killed Bin Laden ?

    The American people fell out of favor with Bush’s policy on Iraq because it was a war we were lied into, including all of the scandals. But most people didn’t care about him going after high level terrorists.

    Look no President can pass the emo left standard especially FDR. Every Democratic President has had moments of using American military power and expanding executive power. we don’t live in a perfect world and never will.

  95. 95
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    So, what Carl is saying, IF he voted for Obama in 2008, is that he actually voted against McCain. Because he certainly didn’t vote for the Obama running for office.

    I’m just curious if he actually voted for Obama.

  96. 96
    Ash Can says:

    @Joseph P.:

    I am surprised at the vitriol on this comment board towards Conor Friedersdorf because his outrage over warrantless assassinations has caused him to turn from Obama.

    It’s mainly because his so-called outrage is complete and utter transparent bullshit. If he were truly concerned with human rights and the legalistic ins and outs of combating terrorists, he would have been one of the leading voices of the anti-war movement by now. He had a good six years in the previous decade to establish his cred and hone his chops. But no, he waits until 6 weeks before Election Day to cry crocodile tears on everyone’s shoulders about how his conscience pains him.

    The sometimes murky legal issues surrounding the problem of dealing with anti-US combatants are perfectly legitimate fodder for debate, and there’s certainly valid grounds for criticizing Obama with regard to them. But opportunistically announcing that your conscience just won’t allow you to cast another vote for Obama because you’ve suddenly had a come-to-Jesus revelation about his anti-terrorism measures both cheapens the debate and makes you out to be a charlatan and buffoon. Friedersdorf can go eat shit and bark at the moon.

  97. 97
    grandpa john says:

    @Ash Can: I also note that mr. holier than thou while condemning the people elected to make the difficult decisions involved in upholding his oath of office, had no solutions of his own to offer to the situation
    land yes sometimes there are judgments to be made that have no safe alternatives.
    Fuck this idiot, we all make decisions every day that have consequences, unless you are dead or otherwise incapacitated

  98. 98
    different-church-lady says:

    @jeremy:

    Will someone please tell me how Obama should go after Al Qeada then ?

    He shouldn’t. The War on Terror is a fabrication.

    /pure-progressive-ironic-voice

  99. 99
    Brachiator says:

    @Warren Terra:

    Don’t roll over so fast on “undeclared war”. My vague recollection is that after 9/11 (or perhaps against Iraq) Congress voted the President war-making powers against “Terrorists” that were so sweeping and absurd as to conceivably endorse drone strikes a decade later in Yemen, or for that matter in Omaha. This doesn’t make them right – very much doesn’t make them right – but might make them legal.

    Good point. Thanks very much for this.

  100. 100
    kvenlander says:

    @Joseph P.:

    supporting a corrupt and evil dictator by killing his opponents with drone missiles,

    citation needed.

    Dude, at least read the fucking Wikipedia before pontificating on foreign policy. Makes you look less like an idiot. The president-for-life evil dictator that Obummer is supporting was kicked out last year. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2.....revolution Sure, the current guy comes from the same tree, but they have an agreement on elections in 2014.

  101. 101
    1badbaba3 says:

    I’m sorry. I’ve had enough. I’m where Cole was about the refs the other night. So here’s my last word on it: Fuck off, drone trolls.

    That is all.

  102. 102
    RSA says:

    @different-church-lady:

    Except that’s not calculation at all. It’s the choice between flawed and evil.

    I was thinking along similar lines.

    If you’re a utilitarian who plans to vote for Obama, better to mournfully acknowledge that you regard him as the lesser of two evils, with all that phrase denotes.

    Or you could happily acknowledge that you regard him as the better of two candidates. It’s possible for utilitarians to set their “evil” thresholds in different places.

  103. 103
    LD50 says:

    “In an interview with journalist Matt Lewis, Friedersdorf stated that he has right-leaning views but that he does not consider himself to be a doctrinal conservative or a member of the conservative movement.”

    So is this what libertarians do now, pretend to be disappointed liberals?

  104. 104
    SatanicPanic says:

    @LD50:

    So is this what libertarians do now, pretend to be disappointed liberals?

    Glenn Greenwald has been performing that act for years.

  105. 105

    What people need to understand is that post-JFK foreign policy is not under the domain of the Executive Branch. Not really. When the FISA bill came up in 2008 why didn’t any Republicans worry about handing over that power to a black marxist? Because the power didn’t accrue to the White House, it accrued to our National Security complex, which functions beyond the control of our three branches of government. That’s why no one’s really arguing foreign policy.

    As far as NatSec criminality goes, it has affected our justice system. The war on drugs is merely a way to control who profits from the drug trade, not how it’s stopped.

    I think that every President has already been well-schooled in the rules before he ever runs for office.

    So there is no point in voting against Obama because of the drones or the NSA or the drug war. Those are all things that are run by someone above his rank.

  106. 106
    👽 Martin says:

    @LD50:

    So is this what libertarians do now, pretend to be disappointed liberals?

    Consider the alternatives. It’s what I’d pick.

  107. 107
    General Stuck says:

    My problem with drone warfare against AQ and Taliban during the Bush administration and also into the early Obama administration, was way too loose rules of engagement and protocol for accuracy of intelligence that who we were shooting at was actually the people or person that was killed, to the greatest degree possible.

    There were far too many mistakes and dead civilians, rather than AQ or Taliban members or leaders. And by all accounts that process has been tightened up to a much higher degree, with Obama personally giving the green light on drone strikes.

    And as far as the AUMF is concerned, it stated, pretty much the same as the UN stated in its resolution after 9-11 passed BEFORE the AUMF was passed in the US, that wherever AQ was, the countries they were in MUST confront them and fight them. Most have. Some have asked for assistance like in Yemen, where AQ hides in lawless territory they control with violence or threat thereof.

    My biggest question is why I am responding to this bullshit all over again.

  108. 108
    Or something like that.Suffern Ace says:

    I will grant him this much. Progressives and civil libertarians are nominally part of the coalition that makes up the Democratic party. They should be putting pressure on elected democrats on these issues. They should be also be working to convince other democratic voters that these are important issues. If they have not been successful, they need to figure out how to convince those democratic voters.

    However Connor isn’t a democrat. He’s a libertarian. nominally it is his group’s responsibility to start moving republican voters in that direction because that’s who libertarians are nominally aligned with. Have they convinced anyone? Going out on a limb, I’d say they are no closer to convincing the conservatives than they were when they started. I doubt there will be no more than a dozen libertarians joining him in his hunger strike.

    Is there any part of his rant that might persuade anyone who doesn’t already agree with him that drone strikes are wrong?

  109. 109
    Uncle Ebeneezer says:

    @Water balloon: Exactly. Did I miss some big Mitt moment where he swore that he will not use drones if he becomes president? Isn’t he bragging about how more options will be “on the table” if he is president unlike metrosexual-hippie-socialist Obama? Couple that with his hard-on for Iran and I call bullshit on anyone who wants to allow him into office based on civilian death concerns.

  110. 110
    jeremy says:

    Look Obama stole foreign policy as a issue that use to benefit Republicans after the Vietnam war, and now people look at the Democrats as the Daddy party. The guy was never a pacifist but a guy who said that he would have a pragmatic foreign policy. The guy has done what he said he was going to do. He called for Health reform in the first year he did that, he called for a massive stimulus investment package he did that, he called for the end of DADT and DOMA and he has and is doing it, and the list goes on and on.

    I don’t think the president is perfect but no president has been. But this president has done so much in terms of transforming this country and the Democratic party unlike any Democrat since FDR and LBJ. The guy was consistent in saying what he was going to do if elected.

  111. 111
    nastybrutishntall says:

    @Donald: Actually, if everyone gives Democrats everywhere as much support as possible, so much so that the GOP is banished almost entirely from politics, then we will have better primaries. When “pragmatic” candidates are no longer so essential, you can have more progressive candidates win.

  112. 112
    Argive says:

    The boys at LGM have done some excellent work today. My hat is off to them.

    It’s honestly kind of sad to talk to people like Friedersdorf. Of course, I knew a number of people in ’08 who seemed to think that Obama was the Messiah come again. No lie: a very sweet person who I enjoyed working with on the campaign a lot wrote on her facebook wall “Obama is the Prince of Peace” shortly after his election. He’s not that. He’s just a human being. But for all of the things he’s gotten wrong, he’s gotten a lot right. And I don’t want Romney in the White House. So let’s run up the score.

  113. 113
    different-church-lady says:

    @General Stuck:

    My biggest question is why I am responding to this bullshit all over again.

    The serious answer is because drone warfare is a sticky wicket well worth examining.

    The snarky answer is because Potemkin progressives won’t stop using it as a Trojan Horse to convey their payload of rat-fucking.

  114. 114
    jeremy says:

    @Bob In Portland: Oh so who is this person above the Presidents rank ?

    I don’t have time for conspiracy theories about the shawdow government and what not.

  115. 115
    Joseph P. says:

    @Frankensteinbeck:

    A federal judge thinks this claim is bullshit. Awlaki did, in fact, get his day in court.

    No, Awlaki did not get his day in court. The judge ruled only that his father did not have standing to file a lawsuit on behalf of his son. Furthermore, the judge did not believe that the claim was bullshit, as he wrote in his 97 page opinion that the case raised “stark, and perplexing, questions”—including whether the president could “order the assassination of a U.S. citizen without first affording him any form of judicial process whatsoever, based the mere assertion that he is a dangerous member of a terrorist organization.”

    We can justify a vote for Obama as the lesser of two evils, but it is wrong to rush to viciously attack anyone that opposes Obama for his outrageous warrantless assassination program.

  116. 116
    Maude says:

    @Uncle Ebeneezer:
    Romney won’t use drones unless the windows open.

  117. 117
    jl says:

    OK, gotta round up a few voters to make up for misguided self righteous narcissists like Friedersdorf. At this point, I am losing interest in debating with people who will not change their minds.

    But the post is aimed more at explaining to others who are not so far gone into counterproductive preening of their own high virtue, that they should ignore Friedersdorf’s illogic. So, thanks, TL and WT.

  118. 118
    maurinsky says:

    I am not a single issue voter, but I do have a deal-breaker, and that deal-breaker is the Supreme Court, which is why I am happily going to vote for Obama, despite the things he’s doing that I don’t like and don’t approve of.

  119. 119
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    @jeremy:

    The guy was never a pacifist but a guy who said that he would have a pragmatic foreign policy. The guy has done what he said he was going to do. He called for Health reform in the first year he did that, he called for a massive stimulus investment package he did that, he called for the end of DADT and DOMA and he has and is doing it, and the list goes on and on.

    __
    I think one of the things about Obama that drives people round the bend is that, to a far greater degree than any major political figure in our recent history, he says what he means and means what he says. And then he goes out and just does it. And that doesn’t fit our mental templates for interpreting political leaders, templates that have been drilled into us from Vietnam and Watergate on thru the W administration. In fact the misfit is so stark that it puts otherwise intelligent and well informed people into tilt mode.

  120. 120
    LD50 says:

    In 2008 the far left and the far right were equally guilty of believing Obama was something vastly different from what he always said he was. They even sort of thought he was the same thing. The only difference is that the far right *still* believes that’s what Obama really is.

  121. 121
    jeremy says:

    @different-church-lady: Some on the left are as loony as some on the right. Sometimes both sides have overlapping crazy ideas. Like the one world government, illuminati, crap that continues to this day. Like that poster who I responded to that believes that there is someone who out ranks the president.

    Now don’t get me wrong I believe there is a Military Industrial Complex that wields a lot of power and influence but I don’t believe there is some man behind the curtain.

  122. 122
    Kent says:

    This is just ridiculous. We aren’t choosing between the lesser of two evils, or endorsing every aspect of a particular candidate. General elections are very simple. We are choosing which party we want to occupy the executive branch of government. Who will run all the environmental, educational, and consumer protection agencies. Who will appoint the next 3 supreme court justices and the fed chief. Who will run the state department and appoint the ambassadors to the UN and the rest of the world. Who will write all the environmental, economic, and consumer protection regulations that will be written over the next 4 years. Who will run the Justice department and appoint all the US attorneys who serve around the US.

    If you aren’t interested in having a say on any of those issues then fine. There are plenty of other Americans who will be happy to make your choice for you.

    Elections have consequences.

  123. 123
    different-church-lady says:

    @jeremy:

    The guy was never a pacifist but a guy who said that he would have a pragmatic foreign policy.

    The only explanations for the “disappointed progressive” view of Obama on pacifism are (1) “He’s only saying that to get elected, he’ll turn dove once he gets in office,” or (2) they just weren’t paying attention.

    Well, I suppose there could be (3), they’re just being rhetorically disingenuous.

  124. 124
    JadedOptimist says:

    @Violet:

    He lives in Orange County, CA. I will personally take responsibility for canceling out his vote with mine.

  125. 125
    Or something like that.Suffern Ace says:

    @jeremy: I have a plan to destroy the terrorists forever in two weeks, but I can’t tell you until after the election.

  126. 126
    different-church-lady says:

    @jl:

    OK, gotta round up a few voters to make up for misguided self righteous narcissists like Friedersdorf.

    It’s really not looking like this election is going to ride on the backs of a few score blowhard internet pundits, even if some of them do write for the Atlantic.

  127. 127
    plosin says:

    @Culture of Truth (18): Yes, it’s moral exhibitionism. Conor Friedersdorf wants us all to know that he’s better-endowed ethically than the rest of us. As I said in another post, this is a common trait afflicting a large portion of the opining class, but especially the glibertarians.

  128. 128
    scav says:

    Will he hug his moral purity to his bosom as he watches innocent people die of untreated medical conditions here if their insurance is ripped back away from them? Or, are they not innocent enough to bother his beautiful mind over?

    And how exactly did Michelle describe the kind of questions that cross the President’s desk? Sounds like Conor is having vapors over the President having to do the grubby bits of his wretched job in this sublunar world.

  129. 129
    NobodySpecial says:

    @Joseph P.: We can justify a vote for Obama as the lesser of two evils, but it is wrong to rush to viciously attack anyone that opposes Obama for his outrageous warrantless assassination program

    Yeah, you’re at Balloon Juice. And there are certainly people here who could watch Obama eat a live baby on the teevee and insist on voting for him because Romney would eat his with ketchup.

    Your vote is YOUR vote, not the vote of any of these assholes giving people shit about it. Give it to whomever you want, and amen. Bad things might happen, true. However, that should at least give some people pause to think that there are folks out there who feel strongly enough about this issue to actually endanger their future and their kids’s. And no, I don’t mean Libertarian trolls like Friersdorf.

  130. 130
    General Stuck says:

    @ThatLeftTurnInABQ:

    I think one of the things about Obama that drives people round the bend is that, to a far greater degree than any major political figure in our recent history, he says what he means and means what he says. And then he goes out and just does it. And that doesn’t fit our mental templates for interpreting political leaders, templates that have been drilled into us from Vietnam and Watergate on thru the W administration. In fact the misfit is so stark that it puts otherwise intelligent and well informed people into tilt mode.

    Good points. all.

  131. 131
    kindness says:

    I love these ‘Let’s Bag On Young Conner’ threads.

    It should be a regular thing.

  132. 132
    Billy says:

    Obama has been a huge disappointment, and I’m not going to bother enumerating the reasons, almost everyone here knows them.

    And almost up until Romney selected Ryan, I figured he was another center-right like Obama and what the hell. But Ryan was a game changer for me, along with the string of verbal missteps in which Romney demonstrated that he’s taken on the full-bore Libertarian retard position on the economy and taxation. Now I would vote for Satan’s brother before I’d vote for him, and Obama is a helluva lot better than Satan’s brother.

  133. 133
    Kristin says:

    I’m not all that concerned with what Friesdorf or Greenwald do with their votes. I just wish they’d stop telling everyone else what horrible people they are for not being beholden to their particular pet issue. I think people would be less hard on them if they weren’t such smug a-holes about it.

  134. 134
    grandpa john says:

    @policomic:

    The necessity that we make choices where no alternative is without cost.”

    Yeah this, Its called living in the real world. It’s also part of the job description of being POTUS

  135. 135
  136. 136
    nastybrutishntall says:

    @Mutt: You mean, living in a prosperous country with a Constitution rather than a Fascist Theocracy? Works for me.

  137. 137
    El Cid says:

    __

    Obama is a helluva lot better than Satan’s brother.

    Man, Satan always gets the top billing! It really sucks to be the dark lord’s siblings. His mom never put his trophies up in the hall, either.

  138. 138
    grandpa john says:

    @LD50: Well Joe in his sheltered life ,unlike the rest of us that exist in the real world,has probably never had to make one of those kind of decisions

  139. 139
    Mnemosyne says:

    @plosin:

    Yes, it’s moral exhibitionism. Conor Friedersdorf wants us all to know that he’s better-endowed ethically than the rest of us.

    Yep. IIRC, He Who Shall Not Be Named (because his trolls will descend upon us) wrote a post where he sneered that if people wanted to cast their vote about silly, unimportant things like healthcare and abortion when there were Serious Moral Questions regarding the assassination of al-Awlaki that they should be thinking about instead, then they could certainly go ahead and do that.

    I’m still not getting why it’s somehow less moral for me to choose the health and welfare of millions of my fellow Americans over the one fellow American who chose to work for al-Qaeda and got killed for his trouble, but it’s not a moral problem I’m losing any sleep over.

  140. 140
    Legalize says:

    Can someone tell me why we’re supposed to give a shit about what this dude thinks? I’ve seen this all over the tubes today.

  141. 141
    nastybrutishntall says:

    @ThatLeftTurnInABQ: We’ve seen the lesser and the greater of two evils, and he is us.

  142. 142
    scav says:

    @Legalize: well, they’ve clearly got Rombo firmly trussed and with the mute button firmly engaged somewhere. I can’t explain it otherwise: simple lack of usual easy target.

  143. 143
    nastybrutishntall says:

    @Billy:

    ObamaLife has been a huge disappointment, and I’m not going to bother enumerating the reasons, almost everyone here knows them.

    I’m sighing right there with you, man. But then I realize the alternative, i.e. living in any other time in history, under any other ruler but BHO, would have been far worse.

  144. 144
    Frankensteinbeck says:

    @Joseph P.:
    And if you read further, the judge says those questions A) don’t apply to Awlaki because his case is clear cut, and B) are questions for the legislature, because as the laws stand this is completely legal. CONTEXT.

  145. 145

    @Donald:

    I didn’t like how this post ended

    Life as an adult in the real world is difficult and there are many times where we are called up to choose the lesser of two evils because inaction would cause an even greater evil. However, in most elections this is just an idiomatic expression because we don’t really think that one side or the other is evil. I certainly don’t feel that Pres. Obama is evil or even bad. I think he is a good man in a really shitty place. But I believe he has a strong enough moral compass to thread his way through the mess and make the best decisions for our country. I don’t always agree or understand, but I basically trust him.

    Conor (and GG and all that ilk) are armchair quarterbacks with no skin in the game, if you’ll pardon the expression. And they essentially do not like or trust the President.

    Romney on the other hand is different. His offers appeal to our most selfish and base nature and it would come about by depriving others of their lives, their health, their equity, their peace of mind. To me that’s not only immoral, it’s evil. So this election, in my mind it’s not the lesser of two evils but choosing between a good man in a difficult place and a bad man who wants to make that difficult place much, much worse.

    Conor is a man who will not suffer from the consequences of his non-action or the actions of whoever is elected. He is a man who wants to keep his conscience clean. I can admire that position intellectually. Perhaps if no one else would be hurt by my conscience or if I was the only one to suffer from taking this kind of stance it would be okay. But the reality is that there will be consequences (specifically for me and my children who can’t get health insurance, for my young nephews and cousins who serve in the military, and many many more) and to see those consequences and to think of his conscience before the very lives of others? That is foolish, cowardly and selfish.

  146. 146
    grandpa john says:

    @Kent:

    Elections have consequences.

    Yes they do. I am 75 years of age and have probably been hearing that statement for at least 50 of them, but I doubt that I will live long enough for the majority of the people in this country to ever fully comprehend the full effect those 3 words could have on our country

  147. 147
    Lit3Bolt says:

    @Tom Levenson:

    I’m with Steve M. Conor and GG would have us believe they weep for every sin committed by a US President, but the tears burn all the hotter when the sins are committed by a ostensible liberal President like Obama. Sorry, I’m not buying it. They’re just turning up the rhetoric in order to get links and pageviews. Journalists, by their professional nature, are trolls, and have a deeply invested paradigm where they think everything they write and say actually matters.

    @Or something like that.Suffern Ace:

    Sanctimonious outrage is the means and the end. Let’s be honest. No one goes to bed at night weeping over Awlaki’s death. He’s a rhetorical tool, a bludgeon to make a particular tribe of white males across the ocean feel superior to others within the tribe. He’s a money maker for people like Conor and Glenn. They’re lazy journalists who think they can blog and tweet their way to a majority consensus against the imperial Presidency and US hegemony. They have no interest in horse-trading or deal-making but every interest in appearing on TV and writing books to express SHOCK, just SHOCK, that the United States government kills Muslims with flying death robots and executive fiat. It makes you wonder if they ever have cracked open a US history book.

    So, if you refuse to participate in US democracy and two party system, and think Obama is the world’s greatest monster, then by all means, rise up and start your personal rebellion on behalf of dead Muslims You Don’t Really Care About. Make common cause with them, attack Israelis and Americans on sight, and strike a blow for your morally pure Empire of Me. Or better yet, buy a fucking plane ticket and bring a camera to all the Pakistani and Yemeni weddings that you’re so desperately concerned about. Even if your body is among the slaughtered, it’ll be worth it, right? Right?

    Not willing to die or kill for your pet purity troll cause?

    I didn’t think so.

  148. 148
    nastybrutishntall says:

    So when is the Anti-Drone March on Washington? A Million Pundit March? GG? Conor? Because it matters, right? You’re totally gonna get yourself gassed and clubbed performing civil disobedience over Al-Awhatever, right? No? Then fuck off.

  149. 149
    TerryC says:

    @JustAnotherBob: [Laser Guided] Smart Bombs came first. Then Cruise Missiles. Had a stint at DSPRG and saw some of that happening at the time. Never heard of a piloted (as someone upstream mentioned) cruise missile. It’s like the opposite meaning, really. No question that drones are the latest in this line.

    What I wonder is, will we call it when someone blows up the home of a drone operator who lives in the middle of the US?

  150. 150
    different-church-lady says:

    @TerryC:

    Never heard of a piloted (as someone upstream mentioned) cruise missile.

    Goodness, you are an earnest one.

  151. 151
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @TerryC:

    What I wonder is, will we call it when someone blows up the home of a drone operator who lives in the middle of the US?

    I would say it is pretty much the same as shooting up a tent city barracks.

  152. 152
    Bubba Dave says:

    I would love to see the day when a President who holds all the same positions Obama does is the greater of the two evils in position to be the next POTUS. I will continue devoting my money and time to supporting more progressive candidates– for Congress, for the Senate, and for the White House– in the effort to bring that day about. But right now, today, the choice is between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, and there is no position on which the two differ where I prefer the Romney position.
    My vote is not the only tool available to me, but it is a tool, and I will not let it sit idle on the shelf because I cannot use it to build Utopia overnight.

  153. 153
    Ruckus says:

    @Quaker in a Basement:
    And keep your fingers out of the electrical outlets.

    You sir are a lot nicer than I.

    I would think suggesting fingers or even tongues in outlets is the way to go.

  154. 154
    Lost in America says:

    Great blog. Someone needs to send this shit to Jamie Kilstein. Dude’s been ragging on Obama and apparently thinks Romney would end the drone program. What a deluded moron.

  155. 155
    Davis X. Machina says:

    @different-church-lady, etc.:

    Never heard of a piloted (as someone upstream mentioned) cruise missile.

    Ask and ye shall receive. Behold the Fieseler Fi 103R Reichenberg

  156. 156
    Steve Crickmore says:

    “For eighteen long months, you have stood up, one by one, and said enough to the politics of the past. You understand that in this election, the greatest risk we can take is to try the same old politics with the same old players and expect a different result. You have shown what history teaches us – that at defining moments like this one, the change we need doesn’t come from Washington. Change comes to Washington. Change happens because the American people demand it – because they rise up and insist on new ideas and new leadership, a new politics for a new time”.

    That was Obama in his acceptance speech in Denver, August 28, 2008

    From that we basically have two arguments being made on this post, for the 2012 presidential election. Obama is the lesser of two evils, and Romney and the Republicans are so completely nuts, the choice is is a no brainer. Sigh… but it does seem a comedown from 2008!

  157. 157
    Commenting at Balloon Juice Since 1937 says:

    Friedersdorf won’t vote for Obama no matter what. He’s just trolling for a justification.

  158. 158
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Ms. D. Ranged in AZ:

    Conor is a man who will not suffer from the consequences of his non-action or the actions of whoever is elected. He is a man who wants to keep his conscience clean.

    Conor is one of the many people in this country who has no problem letting other people suffer for his moral stances. He just claims “civil liberties” as his moral stance rather than abortion.

    It’s easy to take a moral stance when you’re never actually going to have to confront the consequences of that stance.

  159. 159
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Steve Crickmore:

    Actually, most of us are thinking more along these lines:

    If you turn away now — if you turn away now, if you buy into the cynicism that the change we fought for isn’t possible, well, change will not happen. If you give up on the idea that your voice can make a difference, then other voices will fill the void, the lobbyists and special interests, the people with the $10 million checks who are trying to buy this election and those who are trying to make it harder for you to vote, Washington politicians who want to decide who you can marry or control health care choices that women should be making for themselves. (Cheers, applause.) Only you can make sure that doesn’t happen. Only you have the power to move us forward.

  160. 160
    TimmyB says:

    @Lojasmo: Name all the hostile acts that he was charged with. Oh that’s right, Its ok with Obama to kill an American based on evidence that wouldn’t even support the filing of a criminal charge against that American.

    Nice.

  161. 161
    mclaren says:

    “Obama’s record on civil liberties…is hardly perfect.”

    That’s a good one.

    Ordering the murder of American citizens without even charging ’em with committing a crime?

    “Hardly perfect”?

    By the same token, we can say that “Stalin’s record on civil liberties…is hardly perfect.” But since Stalin was ever so much better than Lavrenti Beria, why, let’s vote for the fellow! All hail Comrade Stalin, Hero of the Motherland! Any who disagrees, as mistermix so delicately puts it, should “fuck off and die.”

    There you have it, ladies and gentlemen. A perfect recipe for dictatorship.

    And yes, Barack Obama now wields the powers of a dictator. He acquiesces to secret police thugs on the streets using military weapons against non-violent political demonstrators. Barack Obama orders the murder of U.S. citizens without even accusing them of committing a crime. Barack Obama has had Julian Assange, a guy who doesn’t even do any whistleblowing but merely facilitates American whistleblowers, declared an “enemy of the state.” And Barack Obama has prosecuted more whistleblowers than all the other presidents in American history.

    Barack Obama has overseen the creation of a national security military-surveillance-prison-torture state in which politica protest is now classified as a “low-level terrorism” and in which the NSA now keeps “dossiers on nearly every American.”

    And you people have the gall to calls this abject slide into a totalitarian police state, a fascist Orwellian nightmare where anyone who dares protest these gross violations of the constitution gets pepper sprayd, tased, beaten, and dragged off in a choke hold by 10 burly riot-armored muggers with badges while a K-9 police dogs savages your genitals, and you delicately term this descent into living hell “hardly perfect.”

    You know what?

    If someone were to beat you with a baseball bat until your face was unrecognizable, I guess that too would be “hardly perfect.”

    But of course we can’t expect perfection, can we?

  162. 162

    @mclaren: Took you awhile. Was getting worried about you there. You OK?

  163. 163
    Triassic Sands says:

    @Steve Crickmore:

    “…but it does seem a comedown from 2008!”

    Of course it’s a comedown — that was utterly inevitable. George W. Bush (worst president ever), John McCain (aged and very grumpy stand-in for W, plus batshit crazy airhead Sarah Palin), and Barack Obama (first minority candidate with a real chance to win) — those three things together made 2008 unique and the outcome made it historic. How could 2012 compete?

    However, what makes this election special is that it is the most important election of my lifetime (over sixty years) — the radical policies of the Modern Republican Party threaten to wreck this country completely, something Bush started and Obama has been working to undo for the last nearly four years.

    A Romney win would likely be accompanied by Republican majorities in both houses (if Obama were to lose, I’d expect most of the close Senate races to tip to the GOP), which would set the stage for radical changes that would set this country back decades, if not centuries.

    There was a thread earlier about Democratic enthusiasm, and I’d attribute much of that to genuine fear and loathing of the Republican Party, rather than excitement at the prospect of an Obama win. Let’s face it, even if Obama wins, the next four years will probably be dreadful, as the Republicans do their best to wreck the country and blame it on Obama. Entering a cryonic chamber might be the best way to spend the next four years (if it were feasible) if Obama wins. If Romney wins, a cremation oven would be more attractive. Why be thawed out after four years just to see the smoldering ruin that was once the US of A?

  164. 164
    mds says:

    @Billy:

    Now I would vote for Satan’s brother before I’d vote for him, and Obama is a helluva lot better than Satan’s brother.

    You might want to be careful with this line of reasoning. After all, according to the candidate endorsed by the Real True Christians(TM) as one of them, Satan’s brother is named Jesus.

  165. 165
    Don SinFalta says:

    @Frankensteinbeck:

    A federal judge thinks this claim is bullshit. Awlaki did, in fact, get his day in court.

    No, he doesn’t and Awlaki didn’t. The judge said Awlaki’s father didn’t have standing to sue on behalf of his son. And then he went on to say:

    Judge Bates acknowledged that the case raised “stark, and perplexing, questions” — including whether the president could “order the assassination of a U.S. citizen without first affording him any form of judicial process whatsoever, based the mere assertion that he is a dangerous member of a terrorist organization.”

    I know it must be hard to actually read your own citations when you’re suffering from Republican levels of epistemic closure, but you should try fighting it harder.

  166. 166
    Michael says:

    @Don SinFalta: erm…no

    He also said decisions about targeted killings in such circumstances were a “political question” for executive branch officials to make — not judges.

    The “political question” doctrine is nearly as old as the nation itself…goes back to, IIRC, Marbury v Madison, and basically says on certain issues, the only Constitutional mechanism for holding a branch of government responsible is via the electoral process.

    Basically, the court said, despite these vexing issues, ultimately its a question the people, not the court, should adjudicate.

  167. 167
    Brian R. says:

    @mclaren:

    Thanks for showing up. Donated another $100 to Obama in your honor.

  168. 168
    danah gaz says:

    @Mnemosyne: “But I’ve been told before that abortion is a lowly “social issue” that’s not worthy of being a dealbreaker, unlike the Very Serious Issue of killing al-Qaeda leaders overseas who are American citizens.”

    Let me guess. This was explained to you by a Penis-American(TM)

  169. 169
    danah gaz says:

    @Mnemosyne: “But I’ve been told before that abortion is a lowly “social issue” that’s not worthy of being a dealbreaker, unlike the Very Serious Issue of killing al-Qaeda leaders overseas who are American citizens.”

    Let me guess. This was explained to you by a P3nis-American(TM)

    FYWP wordlist ban

  170. 170
    Some Loser says:

    Honestly, I don’t care which whatever way someone votes or who they vote for. I’ll just be happy when we have a consistent 80% of people voting each election. Not just for the President of the United States but also for their Representatives and Senators.

  171. 171
    Bruce S says:

    It’s easy to diss a total fucking idiot like “mclaren” on this, but BJ starts from this “mistermix” default position: “Conor Freidersdorf, Glenn Greenwald and other critics are right about the Democratic hackery/hypocrisy among those who support Obama’s foreign policy and criticized GWB’s.”

    Which is almost as pernicious and idiotic. Of course, no one leans on this crap in comments as much as when I’ve pointed out that the White House has dropped the ball on some core economic issues like assisting homeowners, which is undeniably true.

  172. 172
    fuckwit says:

    They’re spoiled fucks.

    Only those who are in a position of power, ease, and privilege can have the LUXURY of apathy, narcissism, nihilism, and entitlement that these fuckers have.

    To hell with ’em. This stuff matters too deeply to too many of us, to go ivory tower with this.

    The choice this year is: a very smart guy who ended one war and is ending another, or a rather dumb guy who wants to start new ones.

  173. 173

    […] of which, there’s a lot of bloggy back and forth about an essay by The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf on his declaration not to vote for Mr. […]

  174. 174
    jazzgurl says:

    Conor who? Some ‘little fellah’ who feels he needs to psuedo intellectually expound on Obama’s lack.
    Nobody really cares Conor, except the person who felt the need to bring your bullshit here.
    If you don’t want to vote then keep your thoughts to yourself and also do not pollute the space with your musings.

  175. 175
    Rhetoric says:

    God Democrats are so angry over Nader it is actually funny at this point. Despite a really fuzzy Florida vote count, it is all Nader’s fault.

    You realize all post-9/11 legislation enjoyed BIpartisan support, right? The invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan enjoyed BIpartisan support.

    But, naturally, when things went south and it turned out to be an obvious shit-show it is somehow all Bush’s fault.

    Anyway, you can’t turn a blind eye to war crimes and still be president – sorry.

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