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Philly2Philly looks at Five Favorite Political Stories of 2009


1. Barack Obama’s Not The Guy We Pretended To Think He Was

Yes, the magical boy wonder was elected and so far he’s a disappointment. But so are his supporters. During the 2008 campaign, people came outPresident Barack Obama of nowhere to get Barack Obama  elected. Afterwards, they just assumed they’d done their part. His promises, they thought, would just come about. After all, we had 60 Democratic senators, right?

Not so. He’s a politician and so are the senators.

His stimulus was too small. His escalation of Afghanistan was too large. He’s going to close Guantanamo Bay – maybe. And his health care reform bill  isn’t going far enough.

That being said, part of the problem is that the work doesn’t finish with the election. In fact, that’s when it should have started. It was great to see people who’d never participated in politics come out in 2008 and canvas for Obama. But those same people should understand that progressive legislation doesn’t come easy. In 2009, Obama had the power to begin cleaning up the political sludge left over by George W. Bush  and his followers, but the same American people who got him elected have to force him through activism.

After his original legislation in 1933 to begin giving Americans jobs during the Great Depression, many newspapers began calling for Roosevelt to be sworn in as dictator (a term with less negative connotations then). Roosevelt, of course, did not push for an American dictatorship. In fact it was quite the opposite. Shortly after his election Roosevelt met with his progressive allies, who urged him to support several new causes. He told them: “I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it.” That’s how causes come to fruition. And that’s our Barack Obama problem.

It seems we’re all reliant on election fighting politics and opinion polls, most of which are paid for by political groups who twist words within their questions to get the positive or negative feedback their clients are looking for. The tea patriots won’t get anyone to do anything, just as the anti-war protests of the past eight years were basically for naught. They may have helped ensure Democratic victory in 2008, but they didn’t stop the wars or the torture – much like the protests against Vietnam from 1965-1968, which sent Lyndon Johnson back to Texas, and, under Nixon, more American draftees to Southeast Asia.

2. TelePrompTer

I used to write for OpEdNews.com, and in most of my articles I made use of the term “phony outrage.” It was nothing new and I’m not claiming to have created the phrase. Michael Leonard of the Berkshire Eagle  may have explained it in terms simpler than my examples often showed when he wrote, “O'Reilly is simply pandering to what the Philadelphia-based journalist Randy LoBasso (full disclosure: a friend of mine) once called “the phony outrage base” of America's right wing. The phony outrage base consists of “pundits,” “commentators” and other reactionary blowhards and bloviators seeking to distract Americans from the serious issues our country faces by appealing to the worst in people and stirring up irrational, often hateful passions.”

So, in order to bring Barack Obama down to everyone’s level for verbal abuse, the right wing of the Internet and beyond phony-outraged all over their laptops about how the president uses a teleprompter.

Every president has used one since the technology has been available. Before that, they used paper. But it didn’t matter. New blogs sprang up about this teleprompter, including Barack’s Teleprompter Blog, as featured on Drudge Report  and Rush Limbaugh. The idea was that without a teleprompter to tell him what to say, Barack Obama wasn’t all that great (this theory neglects his 19 primary debates and several won debates against John McCain during the 2008 election, as well as his town hall style meetings with Americans all over the country to discuss both the stimulus and healthcare).

RedState.com and the Drudge Report are the biggest right wing news sites that actually refer to the machine as TelePrompTer. In their comments sections, readers pretend to speak as the teleprompter, or, TOTUS, creating a character that doesn’t think it gets the respect it deserves from the people and the president.

Because of this phenomenon, conservatives’ lust and write about every messed up turn of phrase, every “uh” in his phrasing of an answer. And really, it all has to do with nothing.

3. Michele Bachmann

She’s an elected official. She threatens to slit her wrists to fight health reform and wants congress and the media to investigate which members of Michele Bachmann photo: http://winteryknight.files.wordpress.com/2009/03/us_rep_michele_bachmann.jpgcongress are “pro-American” and which are “anti-American.” She tells audiences God speaks to her and gave her a picture of who her husband would be before they’d met. She plays Conservative Mad Libs with the best of them, ranting about guns, God, abortion and taxes.

She has vowed to not fill out her 2010 census form and urges Americans to do the same. Why? Because FDR signed Republican legislation to put Japanese Americans in internment camps in the 40s, using census information, and Barack Obama (who is just as evil) may do the same. Seriously.

While blaming President Obama (without blaming him) for the outbreak of the swine flu, Bachmann told Rush Limbaugh on April 28, “I find it interesting that it was back in the 1970s that the swine flu broke out then under another Democrat president Jimmy Carter. And I'm not blaming this on President Obama, I just think it's an interesting coincidence.” Bachmann’s insinuation is easily in contention for the dumbest quote of the year, by an official. And not that it matters, but Gerald Ford was actually president last time the swine flu broke out.

She called AmeriCorps and Teach For America “re-education camps,” saying, “As a parent, I would have a very, very difficult time seeing my children do this.” And then her son joined.

Again: She’s an elected official.

4. Glenn Beck

This shock jock-turned-conservative Fox News  host has found his new calling: Cult leader. He used to try to make people laugh by telling Glenn Beck photo: www.mediabistro.comaudiences about his rival DJ’s wife’s miscarriages. Now he makes us cry with his threats that there’s a communist conspiracy looming over the horizon. He weeps and screams and links the dots from Barack Obama to Chairman Mao on his chalkboard. When he was accused of perpetuating racism, he accused his accusers of being no better than Palestinian suicide bombers. And he does it all while claiming he’s just a regular guy who cares an awful lot about his country.

You know, like you.

Except not like you. Beck cares about America so much, he’s willing to defend slavery and the constitution’s use of calling African Americans 3/5 of a person. His newly-found man-crushes on the founders led him to circulate fringe rumors and tell his audience FEMA may be building concentration camps on U.S. soil for conservatives. His paranoia, an act or not, is extremely dangerous for America and I personally did not believe his followers would come out of the woodwork fast as they did.

Beck personally began something through his television show called “The 9/12 Project”, consisting of nine principals and 12 values his followers repeat. The first is “America is good” and the second is “I believe in God and He is the Center of my Life.” On the actual day, September 12, hordes of men and women from across the country came to Washington, DC to protest their various grievances with the government. Why 9/12? Because Glenn Beck wants America to be the way it was the day after 9/11, when most of us were fueled by sadness, fear, and revenge. Beck claims he felt “great” on 9/12.

In a Gawker post titled “Happy First Post-9/11 9/11”, written on 9/11/2009, writer Alex Pareene breaks down the 9/12 protests and the circumstances surrounding the 2001 September morning: “Shortly after (or maybe during) that day, our president at the time, a little f***head no one liked, handed over the reins to the most psychotic elements of his administration.”

He goes onto directly address Beck: “On 9/12, people in New York (and DC) did not feel as “great” as Glenn Beck. They felt like s***. They felt scared and confused and depressed. Many of them were drunk. And only an idiot or an actual terrorist would want to always feel like it was 9/12/01…Glenn Beck is an actual terrorist, and the people attending his rally in DC tomorrow are al-Qaeda in America.”

5. The Tea Parties

Charles Johnson of web log Little Green Footballs  linked to a quiz on December 6 from the American Revolutionary Center. He notes in his post that of the 89% surveyed who claim to know something about the Revolution, only 17% actually passed this particular quiz.

He then writes, “How many of these people who put such value on knowing their history (yet know very little history) show up at the tea party demonstrations dressed in 18th century clothing?”

While he doesn’t have an exact number, he’s probably onto something. The 2009 tea parties, like the majority of Republican rhetoric since the election of President Barack Obama (and in many cases, before), are studies in the anti-intelligence Galt-esque homicidal philosophies the right is always fawning over.

The tea parties were begun by Ron Paul, Alex Jones and many of their 9/11 Truth Movement followers in the form of “money bombs” during the 2008 presidential campaign. They became an outlet for Americans to presumably take days off work and hold up racist signs in Washington DC, asking Barack Obama where his birth certificate was (and then his “long form” birth certificate), claiming health care reform is Voo Doo medicine and, of course, likening Democrats to Soviets.

Fox News cheered on all the screaming of “fascism,” “communism,” and “reverse racism.” They revved up crowds for camera shots, used false footage to bloat the number of people in attendance and acted as if protests were something new, backhandedly implying these protests were new because they were attended by “real Americans” and not tree-hugging hippies.

What this all amounts to is the same Mad Lib-style rhetoric the right has been using for decades. And it’s what the Democrats should learn from. When the right doesn’t get its way, it cries (Glenn Beck), threatens self-imposed harm (Michele Bachmann) and generally acts like douches (the Tea Patriots). When green jobs czar Van Jones  resigned for, among other things, calling Republicans “A**holes,” he was absolutely onto something, and he wasn’t ridiculing them. He was congratulating them. In politics, that’s how you have to act.

Democrats are giving us a watered-down health care bill because they’re not assholes, they’re thinkers and negotiators – and that doesn’t get anything done. Bush got his and the neocons’ war in Iraq back in 2003 after proclaiming, “You’re with us or you’re with the terrorists.” Us, of course, were Americans. And those Americans against the war in Iraq weren’t real Americans.

Now, they’re successfully attacking Barack Obama using the strong elements they’ve got – violence, death and money.

It’s nothing new. As Glenn Greenwald wrote for Salon in September, “Tens of millions of dollars and barrels of media ink were expended investigating “Whitewater,” a “scandal” which, to this day, virtually nobody can even define. When Clinton tried to kill Osama bin Laden, they accused him of “wagging the dog” – trying to distract the country from the truly important matters at hand (his sex scandal)…More intense and constant attacks on a President’s “legitimacy” are difficult to imagine.” Greenwald also quotes Jesse Helms back in the 90s, whom Wonkette writer Ken Layne described as “American Garbage” in an obituary of the North Carolina Dixiecrat-turned-Republican: “Mr. Clinton better watch out if he comes to here [to the south]. He better have a bodyguard.”

Barack Obama, at the end of 2009, no longer looks like the human porcelain we made him out to be during the campaign and shortly after. He is, after all, a politician. He’s going to be attacked the way a politician gets attacked. Except more. Because he’s black (and, being so, a certain proportion of Americans are going to believe criticism against him no matter what) and he’s a Democrat. Republicans use sex, death and money not just to promote their FOX TV shows, but to illegitimize their opponents. It’s unfortunate, but expected, and if things go as they are now in 2010, it’s hard to know what strange phenomenon and violent outrage I’ll be writing about in a year.