On the Subject of Quitting
Friday 03 December 2010
My head is swimming. My hands are shaking. My teeth are grinding together so hard that my jaw muscles look like I'm
storing walnuts in there for the winter.
For once, these symptoms are not being caused by politics. I have not had a cigarette in four days. I have been gobbling
nicotine lozenges like M's, and am breathing freely for the first time in twenty years. I think I've got this thing licked.
As it turns out, I picked exactly, precisely the right week to undertake this daunting exercise. I might as well have;
with everything that has been going on, the physical symptoms I have been suffering - wooziness, tremors, grinding
teeth, anxiousness, sleeplessness, and the occasional bout of extreme rage - would have been present anyway. Might as
well have something good come out of it.
It was the right time to quit, because if I had still been smoking this week, I would have been sorely tempted to stab a
butt out in my eyes, to spare me from having to witness a Democratic presidential administration fly apart at the
seams...and not because of some nefarious right-wing plot or media malfeasance. No, Mr. Obama and the pinheads who
advise him did this to themselves, and it is disgraceful beyond all measure to behold.
A federal wage freeze was how the week began. Really, Mr. President? What's next? A big sign on the White House lawn
saying, "The GOP was right. - BHO" would not surprise me. Way to concede a very contested economic point without putting
up even the slightest indication of a fight. Paul Krugman said it best
After the Democratic "shellacking" in the midterm elections, everyone wondered how President Obama would respond. Would
he show what he was made of? Would he stand firm for the values he believes in, even in the face of political adversity?
On Monday, we got the answer: he announced a pay freeze for federal workers. This was an announcement that had it all.
It was transparently cynical; it was trivial in scale, but misguided in direction; and by making the announcement, Mr.
Obama effectively conceded the policy argument to the very people who are seeking - successfully, it seems - to destroy
So I guess we are, in fact, seeing what Mr. Obama is made of.
It got worse as the week went on. A dog-and-pony meeting between Mr. Obama and congressional Republicans yielded one of
the most ridiculous presidential statements since Richard Nixon's demented, gin-soaked farewell address. According to
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, Mr. Obama took responsibility for the partisan tone in Washington DC. "The
president acknowledged he needed to do better," said Gibbs.
As a quick recap, before he was even inaugurated, Republican members of Congress were calling President Obama a Marxist
Hitler on the House floor. (Had that ever happened before?) Then there was Jim DeMint, who compared Obama to Napoleon
and Hitler in the same month. Let's not forget Michele Bachmann's warning that Obama was going to brainwash our children
in Marxist gulags to go with her constant hectoring about "socialism."
Then came the Birther Caucus - that group of 17 Republican lawmakers who questioned Obama's citizenship and even
introduced legislation which suggested the President isn't quite American. And when Obama planned to address the
nation's school children on their first day of class, Republicans rioted.
We can't leave out Republican Joe Wilson's shouting "You lie!" during the State of the Union - which was also without
precedent, not to mention the House Republicans cheering their en masse vote against the stimulus, the "death panels,"
and "pulling the plug on grandma." Can't leave out Lamar Smith (R-TX) suggesting Obama should be impeached for not
protecting the border. And who can forget Republican members of Congress proudly speaking at event under a banner that
compared the law to the holocaust - all while Republican officials nationwide almost weekly compared Obama to Hitler.
There is a lot of talk about Mr. Obama's character, or lack thereof, these days. He's not a fighter, he's too
conciliatory, he's weak, he's unprepared, he's a secret Republican, etc. I have an outside-the-box theory about Obama
that may explain all this: Stockholm Syndrome. The malady arises when a hostage situation goes on long enough that the
hostages begin to identify with their captors, and in some cases, go so far as to stand up for them, and even defend
them in public and in the courts. The GOP has been pounding on Mr. Obama since his presidential campaign began almost
four years ago, and I think the pressure and stress might have blended his sense of direction. Left has suddenly become
right, and the Democratic President of the United States has become the most eloquent advocate for everything he was
elected to put a stop to.
If the White House needed any further evidence that their conciliatory approach (read: retreat) will never, ever, ever,
ever yield results with the GOP, all they had to do was check the news wires approximately 0.0000034 seconds after the
"meeting" with the GOP ended. After coming together with the president to talk about trying to get along, the GOP
emerged and announced with one voice that they would block every single piece of legislation - including a bill to make
sure unemployed people don't lose their benefits on the doorstep of Christmas - until Congress made permanent George W.
Bush's tax cuts for rich people. As of this writing, it looks for all the world like the White House is going to cave on
this issue as well.
Hope. Change. Fail.
And, hard as it is to believe, the worst was yet to come
In its first months in office, the Obama administration sought to protect Bush administration officials facing criminal
investigation overseas for their involvement in establishing policies the that governed interrogations of detained
terrorist suspects. A "confidential" April 17, 2009, cable sent from the US embassy in Madrid to the State Department -
one of the 251,287 cables obtained by WikiLeaks - details how the Obama administration, working with Republicans, leaned
on Spain to derail this potential prosecution.
Back when it seemed that this case could become a major international issue, during an April 14, 2009, White House
briefing, I asked press secretary Robert Gibbs if the Obama administration would cooperate with any request from the
Spaniards for information and documents related to the Bush Six. He said, "I don't want to get involved in
hypotheticals." What he didn't disclose was that the Obama administration, working with Republicans, was actively
pressuring the Spaniards to drop the investigation. Those efforts apparently paid off, and, as this WikiLeaks-released
cable shows, Gonzales, Haynes, Feith, Bybee, Addington, and Yoo owed Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus...and with any luck, he will put some courage in Mr. Obama's stocking this year,
right next to the lump of coal the president's dismal, disappointing, demoralizing performance has earned him. In one
week, the man certified the viability of Republican economic policy in the face of overwhelming evidence that
Republicans have no economic policy beyond "We Like Rich People." He took responsibility for the crappy tone in
Washington while being called a Nazi terrorist Marxist socialist non-citizen. He appeared all too ready to capitulate on
the Bush tax cuts, even as an overwhelming majority of Americans want them done away with.
And to cap it all off, the Wikileaks document dump exposed the fact that Mr. Obama and his people went out of their way
to derail even the most outside chance that some form of justice might be done after eight years of rampant Bush-era
criminality. Mr. Obama waxed positively lyrical
about the need to seek that justice during his presidential campaign. From the look of things, that promise - like so
many others he made on the trail - turned to dust the moment he entered the Oval Office.
I quit smoking this week. The President quit on me this week. I know a whole lot of people who are about to quit on him,
if they haven't already.
William Rivers Pitt
is a Truthout editor and columnist. He is also a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: "War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know
" and "The Greatest Sedition Is Silence
." His newest book, "House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation
," is now available from PoliPointPress.