Obama Equates Disagreement to being Demeaning

By: Harry Waisbren

Marcy Wheeler wrote a fantastic post on a report from The Hill over how “the president picked up the phone several weeks ago to  find out why  Conyers was “demeaning” him.” The Hill discussed the story in context to how it highlights Obama’s sensitivity to criticism from the left, while Marcy wrote about it in regards to Obama’s view that criticisms from even his strongest supporters (chairing congressional committees no less) can be “demeaning”.

Conyers is far more than a disgruntled progressive falling out of love with Obama.

That said, he is in many ways the archetypal disgruntled progressive. The issues the Hill cites–Afghanistan, health care, Gitmo, and PATRIOT–are many of those that progressive everywhere split with Obama on.

Obama was always a hawk on Afghanistan. He was always a moderate on health care reform–though he did campaign on a public option. It’s the latter two issues the Hill cites–Gitmo and PATRIOT–that violate Obama’s campaign stance that “no one is above the law” and that he would revisit FISA immediately (the Administration has rejected such efforts now, including the HJC bill aiming to do just that). Conyers’ complaints with Obama are the complaints we all have.

Then again, unlike the rest of us, Conyers is Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, which just so happens to be the committee that oversees these “rule of law” issues.

And it’s on that level where the accusations of “demeaning” seem most important. Obama has asked Congress to roll over on issues and, in SJC at least, succeeded in getting top people (like Pat Leahy) to do so. On PATRIOT and Gitmo, Conyers has thus far refused to do so.

So who is demeaning whom? If the President demands that a Democrat who has served in Congress since Obama was four years old, one who paved the way on civil rights issues to make it possible to elect an African American man President, and one who played a key role in Obama winning the primary, just roll over on legislative issues, who is demeaning whom?

This is an important story in relation to Get FISA Right, as we are also a coalition who have supported Obama yet who have the gall to “demean him” by publicly disagreeing with his stances on the Patriot Act in particular while pushing for him to do better. If the president is making these sort of demands from Chairman Conyers of all people, regrettably, it might shed light on how he currently views our attempts to open up a substantive discourse with him in regards to these policies on which we would like to show him the way.

Such an attitude certainly betrays the notion—still expressed at the top of the Organizing for America website—that he is asking us to believe in our own ability to bring change to Washington. However, words have consequences, and the inspiration behind Obama’s words can not be undone.

We all must continue to believe that we hold this capacity, and just because Obama is in Washington now (and appears to be feeling its effects) it does not mean that we must go back to believing merely in his own ability to bring change.

It is a citizen’s duty to act—as Marcy says, citizenship is something you do—and we all should internalize the belief that YES WE STILL CAN!

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4 Responses to Obama Equates Disagreement to being Demeaning

  1. Mark Dorlester says:

    Harry is absolutely right!

    It may seem logical to the White House to take Obama’s leftmost supporters for granted. The president has little time and he must spend it on tough issues, not preaching to the choir. But someone, somehow, must reach the President and inform him that when it comes to basic Constitutional freedoms, even we will not sit still for Bush-like secret and abusive government.

  2. Robert Cook says:

    Yes, some Congressmen and citizens with a Constitutional conscience are demeaning the President.

    TO DEMEAN: TO BELITTLE SOMEONE BY POINTING OUT PERCEIVED PERSONAL FLAWS, OR FLAWED ACTIONS.

    “Candidate” Obmama is not steering the Ship of State; no, a different captain, “President” Obama is now at the helm.

    Candidate Obama bemoaned the loss of our Privacy Civil Rights, as Bush’s Patriot Act took away half the Bill Of Rights.

    Obama has taken the helm/ship’s wheel, but listening to high profile advisors, he has lost his inner compass.

    The Ship of State, which veered off course under Pres Bush, has not been righted.

    President Obama has unpredictably retained all the power over our Rights that Pres Bush had grabbed for the Executive office.

    And Bush’s legacy Patriot-Act-empowered Homeland Security Acgency tops all other agencies, CIA, FBI, etc. This scares civil libertarians to death regarding general warrants, or warrantless searches.

    His words still ringing in my ears, “Candidate” Obama, a Consitutional laywer, would restore America to a country run “by the people” and for the people, governed by the “rule of LAW”, not the “RULE OF MEN” (Bush/Cheney).

    Are we demeaning President Obama by reminding him that he has NOT followed Candidate Obama’s plotted course, but (for whatever reason) has become locked into former Pres Bush’s dire course heading?

    Will someone please yell, “Captain, you’re off course!”

    Sorry, if that was demeaning.
    Rob (bob-pol), racggg@gmail.com

  3. Sally G says:

    Captain, you’re off course!
    Consider it yelled, both here and on the president’s White House contact page.

  4. Sally G says:

    Here’s exactly what I “yelled”:
    Captain, you’re off course!
    —SJG

    “Candidate” Obmama is not steering the Ship of State; no, a different captain, “President” Obama is now at the helm.

    Candidate Obama bemoaned the loss of our Privacy Civil Rights, as Bush’s Patriot Act took away half the Bill Of Rights.

    Obama has taken the helm/ship’s wheel, but listening to high profile advisors, he has lost his inner compass.

    The Ship of State, which veered off course under Pres Bush, has not been righted.

    (above from Get FISA Right Web site, comment by Robert Cook)

    SJG again:
    President Obama, please review Candidate Obama’s stand on civil liberties and the rule of law, then do what is right as captain of the ship and a constitutional scholar—put us back on course to the representative democratic republic that the founding fathers designed.

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