Obama’s Re-Election Campaign: Destroying the Country to Save It

Much of the discussion about this Jeff Zeleny piece has focused on Obama’s apparent consideration of cutting regulations that “affect the economy.”

The president intends to offer at least some progressive proposals to help regain a fighting posture that he has not had since the health care debate, but a provision is also being discussed to place a new moratorium on some regulations that affect the economy, excluding health care and financial rules. The proposals are likely to infuriate an already unhappy Democratic base. [my emphasis]

Greg Sargent suggests we ought to wait to see precisely what Obama means by this; I agree, not because I have any faith in Obama, but because the syntax of this line is so strange. Does Zeleny mean “moratorium on new regulations”? A “moratorium–does that mean temporary or permanent–on existing regulations”? Who is doing the discussing here, Mr. Passive Voice Journalist?

In short, I think Zeleny has failed his job as stenographer.

Which is why I’m even more intrigued by this passage.

The Republican candidates, collectively and in distinctive ways, continue to cast him as the foil against whom they ran so successfully in 2010: a big-government liberal who has expanded regulations, created uncertainty for business and failed to revive the economy, with millions more Americans out of work than when he took office. They portray him as an unsteady leader who is unequipped to turn around a country in economic crisis. [my emphasis]

Again, the meaning here is unclear: Who is the “they” here? Does Zeleny mean to invoke the themes all Republicans used to run against Obama in 2010? Or just the ones running for President. I’m not sure Ron Paul “ran against” Obama in 2010, though Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry did. Both complained about health insurance reform, but largely in terms of “freedom” and (particularly in the case of Perry the separatist, state’s rights), not regulations. Perry complained about emissions restrictions, which is certainly a regulation, but Obama’s already caved on that front.

Both Bachmann and Perry got caught hypocritically replying on government pork while attacking Obama’s stimulus bill, and it’s fair to say that Perry used stimulus funds to balance TX’s budget, and given the number of government jobs TX has relied on, it’s therefore safe to say Obama’s stimulus created jobs Perry is taking credit for.

And both Bachmann and Perry called Obama a socialist.

But the theme ignores one of the big things Republicans, as a whole, ran against Obama on in 2010: “cutting Medicare” (in the health insurance reform).

Which makes me wonder whether this interpretation of the 2010 election is Zeleny’s … or the Obama team’s?

It seems a critical issue because some seems to have simplified the reasons for the Democrats’ shellacking in 2010, particularly given that voters still largely blamed Bush for the economy in 2010 (though they’re doing so less now).

In any case, if Obama thinks he can embrace policies that will stop two fools who called a President who has coddled banksters “a socialist” from repeating that claim–if Obama believes that spoiling our air and water will make Bachmann and Perry be nice to him–it’s simply not going to work.

But I do worry that’s what he has in store.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

13 replies
  1. Peterr says:

    I don’t worry about it — I’m pretty sure that’s the direction he’s going to go, and that Bachmann, Perry, et al. will simply continue to label him as a socialist jobkiller.

    On the other hand, I worry about people breaking their televisions when I hear him say it. Of course, that would mean people would then go out and buy new TVs on Friday, which would mean . . . JOBS!!!

    (Isn’t eleven dimensional chess great?)

  2. rugger9 says:

    OT – but part of the “looking forward” theme. Apparently John Yoo has a book out, touted as a collection of reflections across the spectrum ACLU to nutjobs, where he felt the need to go on the ABC affiliate KGO 810 this morning [6:26 – 6:29 PDT].

    Apparently, according to Yoo, Obama wised up to the necessity for military “trials”, enhanced techniques, and keeping GTMO open, all of which were necessary to keep us safe because the pre-9/11 police work model was unable to handle the new reality. He’s still a true believer and completely unapologetic and a skid mark on UC Berkeley’s tighty whiteys. His point was that these terrorists who were willing to blow themselves up were too hardened to provide information, repeated the ticking time bomb idea in general terms, and strangely said nothing about Iraq that I heard. Maybe there wasn’t enough time.

    All of these shopworn claims have been thoroughly debunked, and of course the radio team failed to challenge him in any way. Not a single plot has been foiled by enhanced interrogation, and several false leads were also put out there. After all, KSM provided his information BEFORE being waterboarded at least 183 times as we all know here from the actual records ew has posted.

  3. Cregan says:

    A well thought out post.

    I do think you are really going to see a scorched earth campaign plan.

    Just my opinion, but Obama may not be good at much else, but he is good at campaigning.

  4. jo6pac says:


    Yep jobs were ever they even make tv panels at.

    This job thingy is none starter repugs will do whatever it takes to kill it and even if passed it’s chump change compared to what ws is still receiveing from crazy ben and his cousin little timmy. It’s nothing for Main Street once again. Serfs Up

  5. thatvisionthing says:


    Good ONCE at campaigning. I can’t believe anyone is going to listen to Obama now and believe anything he says.

    We all have to be thinking of George W. Bush “fool me once”, right? I went back and listened:


    “There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.”

    What comes next:

    “You gotta understand the nature of the regime we’re dealing with. This is a man who has delayed, denied and deceived the world.”

    Whatever Obama’s campaign is going to be about, it won’t be truth.

    I can’t believe I lived to quote George W. Bush.

  6. guest says:

    “But I do worry that’s what he has in store.”

    LOL! That sounds like Miss Manners’ attempt at the understatement of the year! Obama is nothing if not predictable. As if he learned anything about the Rs from the debt ceiling debacle. If he was going to learn anything about right wingers, he should have learned that in in 1st 100 days in office. This has been pure collusion on his part from the very beginning, starting before the election with FISA and TARP.

  7. Bob Schacht says:

    Did you see last night’s Frontline special on The Secret War? I’ll bet Obama’s knees began to buckle when he realized how big our war machine has become. And it has not only become big, but it has a new and creepier mission: Not only to go after known terrorists for their crimes, not only to gather intelligence on terrorists plans for future attacks, but to PREVENT future attacks. This means a shift from the old prosecution paradigm and the old CIA methods of gathering intelligence to a new interventionist model, and too bad for you if you fail to connect the dots in a timely manner, or fail to act in a timely manner. The old model of “get permission first” has been superseded by the model of “act now, and get forgiven later.” This all goes back to actions taken by Cofer Black. Under this model, there are no Constitutional protections. And now we have a secret government that is HUGE and entirely invested in this new paradigm, in which the Prime Directive is Keep America Safe, and all else (including the Constitution) be damned.

    What is a president to do?

    Bob in AZ

  8. earlofhuntingdon says:

    “Cutting regulations” is Grover Norquist-speak for corporate fodder. It means externalizing more costs of corporate excess onto real people, ordinarily those least able to bear another burden their own conduct hasn’t generated. Not the sort of thing one would expect a Democrat from north of the Mason-Dixon line to tout. Then again, not many would any longer characterize Mr. Obama as a Democrat, any more than they would call Jonah Goldberg an intellectual.

    I think references to “this country” have to consider that, like China and its Beijings and Shanghais, its industrial coastal cities and its rural hinterland, we are many countries. The “this country” Mr. Obama caters to changes with each speech, though normally it is the home of supranational corporate elites that he refers to.

    So when we speak of destroying “the country” in order to save it, as if it were a recalcitrant village in occupied Vietnam, the destruction referred to is Main Street’s, be it Detroit or Toledo, Syracuse or Tuscon, Salem or Montgomery. The point is to ensure that the legal and military “country” remains a secure base for corporate America, which is behaving like it considers itself the Green Zone in Iraq or old Saigon in Vietnam, one IED away from irritability and taking its marbles and sponsorship money elsewhere.

  9. pdaly says:

    @ Bob Schacht @7

    Last night NPR broadcast Terry Gross interviewing Dana Priest. Dana Priest quoted a figure that about 7 of the 10 richest counties in America are counties in which “Top Secret America” employees live and work.

    So, not only does the US Government successfully subsidize “jobs” in the private sector in the intelligence industry (but not so much in manufacturing or education), the US Government also directly enables top secret-clearance-wielding Americans to better fund the education of their progeny –in a time when government funding of public education nationwide is in the decline.

    It is becoming “well-funded socialism” for top secret families, and do or die for the rest. And with no Congressional oversight.

  10. pdaly says:

    Here’s an excerpt of the Fresh Air transcript with Dana Priest:

    Ms. PRIEST: Well, the 10 richest counties in the United States, according to the Census Bureau, seven of them are hubs of top secret America. That tells me that we are not just talking about a concentration of top secret work in a concentration of top secret corporate business, but the ripple effect of that is that the people who live and work in those communities are, by far, more well off, economically, than their counterparts elsewhere. And so there you see the distortion, if you will, of top secret America’s economic power. The schools are better. The income is higher. The standard of living is much different.

    GROSS: So I’m wondering, when you hear politicians say government can’t create jobs…

    (Soundbite of laughter)


    Ms. PRIEST: Oh, and what I’ve just said about those wealthy communities is the best example of that. I mean, this is a jobs program, as well – which is not -which is a very important political point, because jobs programs are really hard to cut back on, politically, for government, for politicians, because people’s livelihoods are at stake.

    It’s much easier just to keep adding more onto this, so that if something were to happen, you know, nobody can be blamed. The cost, the political cost of cutting this, publicly, is that if something happens then political leaders are going to accuse whoever did the cutting of risking our future and risking our safety. So it’s just much easier to maintain this belief that we are nearly under attack every day, than it is to speak openly and honestly and disclose much more about what we know about al-Qaidas strength right now.


  11. rugger9 says:

    @Bob Schacht:

    Good point, but I missed the show. I do agree that the MIC is a problem for any President, especially now that the companies involved are multinational hydras without state loyalty. It’s the mercenary vs. home-grown soldiery problem shown very many times over the years to be the routine downfall of empires and nations.

    So, when’s Condi’s book coming out? As the saying goes, last one in is a rotten egg….

    The other point is that the intensive police state is necessary to keep us “safe”. The plots we saw in WA, Zazi’s fiasco in NY, and the Hutaree for example were all blown by coincidence, witness observations [by muslims, no less] and good old fashioned Constitutionally compliant police work. Not enhanced interrogations or wiretapping without warrants or porn screening.

    And we pay top dollar for this lack of success.

  12. Kathleen says:

    “The proposals are likely to infuriate an already unhappy Democratic base. [my emphasis]”

    Obama is going to have to end up explaining to his base, Inde’s and Republicans who voted for him last time how he is any different than what we would get from Romney

    They think they have the left wrapped up. From what I am hearing not the case

  13. Gitcheegumee says:


    Welcome to the Corporate Imperium:

    If it were necessary to give the briefest possible definition of imperialism we should have to say that imperialism is the monopoly stage of capitalislm.

    VLADIMIR LENIN, Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism

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