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April 05, 2011

Zobambies! (The Return of the Liberal Dead)

By: John Caruso

Since I poked Kevin Drum just last week, I'd be remiss if I didn't take a moment to acknowledge his publication of this extraordinary bit of credibility auto-demolition:

But the reason I voted for Obama in 2008 is because I trust his judgment. And not in any merely abstract way, either: I mean that if he and I were in a room and disagreed about some issue on which I had any doubt at all, I'd literally trust his judgment over my own. I think he's smarter than me, better informed, better able to understand the consequences of his actions, and more farsighted. I voted for him because I trust his judgment, and I still do.

As I read this I couldn't help but be reminded of CommonDreams commenter Joe Hope, who wrote the following immortal words (and many more just like them) shortly after Obama's election:

Obama is my commander (in-chief) and I trust him. Okay, so here's the tricky part. In a war, it is not the duty of a foot-soldier to develop the entire strategy for the war, nor is it the duty of a foot soldier to decide what orders to obey and which to disobey. No war could be won by an army governed by anarchy.

In this war, (against radical Right-wing government and social forces) it is up to Obama to craft a winning strategy, not us - the disorganized rabble. When we judge his strategy in a negative light, our criticism is ignorant, because we do not know what his full strategy entails. Keep in mind, it would be foolish, in a state of war, to simply divulge what that strategy is. So we must have faith in Obama and trust him. If we want change (and I know I do) then we must trust him, even when we feel we can't. We must see beyond our fears, and remember that sometimes it is more important to follow than to try to lead. The Left does not need more wannabe leaders and more petty infighting. It's like each of us has a piece of a puzzle, but only Obama can put the pieces together to create an image for our future.

Separated at birth, maybe?  Hard to say.  But in fairness to Mr. Hope, he was writing in 2008 and I'm guessing by now he probably feels some serious twinges of regret, whereas Drum offered his subordination of self right here in 2011, after the burden of proof has been more than satisfied and the jury's verdict is a foregone conclusion to any objective observer.  The mind, she boggles.

All I can say to Drum is, you stay away from my tasty brains.

(Drum posted a followup in an attempt to do some damage control for his reputation, if you're interested.  The most notable part for me was his peremptory dismissal of various critics "who simply find it risible that I think well of Obama in the first place"; in Drum's world, apparently, you're not worthy of consideration unless you were snowed by Obama at some point along the way.)

— John Caruso

Posted at April 5, 2011 11:39 AM


This reminded me of a column I read recently at HuffPost which was published in 2008. The author played bass in Joan Jett’s first band and also went to Harvard Law School with Obama. She finds them similar in that each aspired to greatness and consciously adopted the mannerisms associated with same. She knew Joan Jett before and after; Obama, when she first met him, had already made this decision. A quote:

"One of our classmates once famously noted that you could judge just how pretentious someone’s remarks in class were by how high they ranked on the 'Obamanometer,' a term that lasted far longer than our time at law school. Obama didn’t just share in class – he pontificated. He knew better than everyone else in the room, including the teachers. Or maybe even he knew he didn’t know, but knew that the leader of the free world had to be able to convince others that he did."

As the Who song “Eminence Front” said, “It’s a put on.”

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at April 5, 2011 12:11 PM

This is my new favorite analogy. Thanks for the pointer to the article, mistah charley, I hadn't seen it before. And she definitely has him pegged; as hard as it is to believe given mash notes like this and this, no one loves Obama more than Obama.

Posted by: John Caruso at April 5, 2011 12:39 PM

John, this is a beautiful, beautiful post. From now on, I will try to incorporate the phrase "tasty brains" into every post that I write. Thank you.

Posted by: Aaron Datesman at April 5, 2011 01:32 PM

Well, golly, John. I have to admit, I was snowed by Obama, too. I never imagined he would be THIS bad.

Posted by: Paul Avery at April 5, 2011 02:34 PM

Anyway,I was taught that it's impolite to speak ill of the dead. Arthur Silber gives us the scene of poor Drum's demise:

OBAMA: I want you to take a deep breath, Kevin. Then hold it. Just hold it, until I tell you otherwise. Don't take a breath again until I say you can.

(Drum does as he is instructed. Two minutes pass.)

DRUM: (very quietly, with a sound of gentle inquiry) Mmmfffttt?!?!?!?!

OBAMA: (smiling, with approval and encouragement in his tone) You're doing fine, Kevin. Don't breathe! This is the path to still greater enlightenment! You trust me, don't you, Kevin? More than you trust yourself? You said you did. Didn't you mean it? (A note of sternness enters his voice.) I hope you meant it.

DRUM: (weakly nods his head affirmatively) Mmm-hmmm!! (After another minute or so, his face begins to turn purple.)

OBAMA: It's absolutely crucial that you don't breathe, Kevin. If you take even the smallest breath, the effect will be ruined. Full enlightenment, Kevin! It's coming!!

(Several more minutes pass.)

DRUM: (barely audible) (His mumbles finally trail away. His head droops, and he falls from his chair onto the floor.

After several minutes, Obama presses a button on his desk. Two paramedics enter and cross to Drum's body. One of them checks for a pulse.)


Shall my floral arrangement for his funeral directly to Mother Jones?

Posted by: Paul Avery at April 5, 2011 03:14 PM

"... in Drum's world, apparently, you're not worthy of consideration unless you were snowed by Obama at some point along the way."

That's exactly the way that the "liberal hawks" continue, for the most part, to react to people who opposed the invasion of Iraq from the get go. "If I didn't know enought to oppose it then you didn't either so there was no way you could have known you were right and you were only right because you were being irrational."

By the time Drum emerges from adolescence he will have learned that the road to hell is paved with smart people. Or he won't have.

Posted by: Weldon Berger at April 5, 2011 06:40 PM

I hope 'Joe Hope' is ready for a future meeting with Zombie Nestor Makhno!

Posted by: Euripides at April 5, 2011 06:53 PM

Weldon: Yep, exactly. The usual phrase is "right for the wrong reasons," and just as I haven't seen a major Iraq war supporter recant that notion, I've never seen a prominent liberal Obama supporter say it about those who saw Obama for what he was before he was even elected (sometimes years before, as in the case of Adolph Reed).

Posted by: John Caruso at April 5, 2011 07:11 PM

Drum realized he said something dumb and quickly took it back. (How horrible to be pegged as Britney Spears, but without the dance moves!) I think there is something refreshing about someone actually being able to admit an error.

Mistah charley's quote from Joan Jett's bass player reminds me that I once read that Henry Kissinger's classmates at Harvard called him Ass-kissinger.

Posted by: N E at April 5, 2011 10:59 PM

How exactly did Drum take it back, NE? I read his follow up post to mean simply, "no it wasn't an April Fool's post; I really do worship Obama".

As far as his dismissing the criticisms of Brian Doherty and Doug Mataconis, while I think that what the previous commenters here said is accurate, part of Drum's dismissal is just his feeling that he doesn't need to respond to them because they don't have the readership of somebody like Greenwald, and it's unlikely his regular readers have heard of them.

By my reckoning Silber has more status than Drum could ever hope to, even if he doesn't have a Drum or Digby-sized readership. (Actually Drum reads like a less concise Digby, come to think of it.)

Posted by: Jonathan Versen at April 5, 2011 11:15 PM

Here's Drum's revised statement:

If he and I were in a room and disagreed about some issue on which I had enough doubt to make me unsure of myself, I'd literally trust his judgment over my own.

You can decide for yourselves whether following Obama's judgment on any issue where he's "unsure" of himself (as opposed to having "any doubt at all") makes his hunger for brains any less potent, but personally I'd still recommend wearing a football helmet when he's in the room.

Posted by: John Caruso at April 6, 2011 02:20 AM

For me, Drum's two-steppin' epitomizes the very murky distinction that liberals make between conventional thinking and critical thinking. I'm not at all sure they find such a distinction as being relevant. Thus, we end up with these Orwellian nightmares defended by the best and the brightest babbling double talk.

Posted by: Paul Avery at April 6, 2011 05:05 AM

What Drum included in his appropriately defensive revised statement:

"That was phrased more strongly than it should have been, but I guess I took it for granted that "any doubt at all" means "enough doubt to make me unsure of myself."

Basically, Drum admitted that he overstated what he meant and retreated all the way to "made me think twice", which Greenwald said in his own revised statement he didn't even disagree with, and wouldn't have objected to if that was all Drum had originally said. But Drum hadn't just said that initially--he had made that stupid Britney-like remark that Caruso for some reason is incorrectly calling his revised statement.

Jonathan Versen: Interpretation is a different matter than reading, and you may be right to interpret Drum as "worshipping" Obama, though that way of putting it just makes me roll my eyes. I don't read Drum enough to know if you're right, but I do think what he originally wrote was very stupid, and I didn't get the sense from it that he is nearly cynical enough about what we're doing in Libya. It's THAT stupidity that for me is the most disheartening because any damn reason seems to be enough to convince most supposedly thinking people in the US that we should attack some other country.

I don't know why Caruso in his comment calls Drum's original statement the revised statement, because it isn't. And I don't know but suspect you may be right that Drum wouldn't bother responding to anyone but Greenwald, because that seems typical of journalists. For me, I think arguing about Obama's goodness or badness is pointless and uninteresting and, dare I say it, dumb. What really needs to get fixed is what a bunch of bloodthirsty savages we are collectively as a nation and how easy it is to get people like Drum and Samantha Power and others who supposedly aren't warmongers to support warmongering just by calling it humanitarian intervention or some such nonsense, as if anyone actually gives a damn about Libyans or for that matter anybody else.

I like Arthur Silber's essays too and wish he weren't suffering so. There's way too much of that going around.

Posted by: N E at April 6, 2011 09:36 AM

And what did Great Leader have for breakfast today? What a beautiful sunset: surely we have the Commander to thank for its glory!

Posted by: seth at April 6, 2011 09:38 AM

"I think arguing about Obama's goodness or badness is pointless..."

It's exactly that "goodness" that causes the "how easy it is to get people like Drum and Samantha Power and others who supposedly aren't warmongers to support warmongering just by calling it humanitarian intervention or some such nonsense".

Posted by: Peggy at April 6, 2011 11:14 AM

Dead on, Peggy (and that's exactly why I spend so much time talking about Obama).

For the record, here's Drum's original statement:

If he and I were in a room and disagreed about some issue on which I had any doubt at all, I'd literally trust his judgment over my own.

The only change he offered for that statement was: "That was phrased more strongly than it should have been, but I guess I took it for granted that 'any doubt at all' means 'enough doubt to make me unsure of myself.'" And here's the revised statement with that change applied—exactly as I already stated it above:
If he and I were in a room and disagreed about some issue on which I had enough doubt to make me unsure of myself, I'd literally trust his judgment over my own.

Again, you can decide for yourselves if Drum is discrediting himself any less with the revised version than he did with the original (but really: wear that helmet).

NE, I'm genuinely curious: are you being intentionally dishonest, or were you really just too dense to notice this change (even though I discussed it specifically)? I'm leaning toward outright lying, based on what I've seen from you here in the past. But since your own Obama-inspired hunger for brains probably outstrips Drum's (it's hard to measure at those levels), maybe detecting the difference really did just exceed the capabilities of the human mental faculties you still retain.

Posted by: John Caruso at April 6, 2011 01:44 PM

JC, I want to play by the house blog rules, which favor courtesy, so I'll not comment on your genuine curiosity apart from substance.

As for substance, I think that you engaged in sleight of hand and shouldn't make something you made up by patching a revised statement into an original statement look so much like a quote. Drum never said that statement you attribute to him--that was Caruso on Drum, not Drum. And when you patch quotes together like that, you shouldn't call someone else a liar for not reading the revised statement in a more natural and ordinary way.

Take note that Glenn Greenwald read Drum's revision (without an invented quote) more fairly than you did, which is why Greenwald said about it:

"That, of course, is a much different point than the one Kevin originally (albeit unwittingly) expressed, and had that been the original point, not only would I have not objected, I would have agreed entirely."

Perhaps I was influenced by reading Greenwald's statement, and maybe Greenwald is a liar too.


I don't think you're entirely right about people being so easily convinced to support violence because they think Obama is good, although I do think you're right that his support helps some people feel that way. Still, if Obama turned into a pacificist, I think people would mostly retain their attitudes, just not towards him. That is to say, people like Samantha Power and Drum and many, many others who believe in the noble exercise of American military aggression would like it just as much but like Obama less. He'd become viewed more like George McGoven, whom I like and admire.

Posted by: N E at April 6, 2011 02:37 PM

This time around you're just straight-out fibbing, NE, since:

1) Your response now tries to obscure the fact that you'd claimed—twice, no less—that I was quoting Drum's original statement without changes ("I don't know why Caruso in his comment calls Drum's original statement the revised statement"), and

2) You yourself quoted that same suggested change of Drum's and said that it converted what he'd said into an "appropriately defensive revised statement"—so clearly you agree that Drum was endorsing the statement with that one single revision.

The funny thing is that despite these shenanigans, I still think you were mainly being unobservant, since it would have been very easy to miss the minor revision Drum had made to his original statement; the two are barely distinguishable. But you just couldn't resist trying to twist the truth rather than simply owning up to it.

I'll give you this: you're very good at misleading people without being obvious about it ("lying in the margins", as I sometimes call it when I encounter people like you). I'm sure it works on some people—particularly those who haven't seen enough of your past performances here to know what to look out for—but it's exactly the reason I try to avoid reading anything you write.

Posted by: John Caruso at April 6, 2011 05:10 PM

Drum himself said: Short version: "any doubt at all" was written in haste. It should have been something like "enough doubt to make me unsure of myself."

That was the change John Caruso made. It's clear who's being dishonest and it's not John.

Perhaps the time it took you to respond would have been better spent on comprehension. John can write it for you, but he can't read it for you.

"...who believe in the noble exercise of American military aggression would like it just as much but like Obama less."

Nope, I think you have it backwards. Again, Drum said: If it had been my call, I wouldn't have gone into Libya.

Posted by: Peggy at April 6, 2011 05:27 PM


It's bad karma to lecture people about comprehension. I can usually tell pretty well when I don't understand something, which unless we're talking about nuclear physics fortunately isn't all that often. I've convinced more than a few people that I understood them better than they preferred.

But you make a good point about Drum having opposed the intervention--he was more resistant than Obama to the intervention, which is directly counter to what I suggested. So you get a three pointer there and applause from the crowd. But I'm stubborn, so I still think Drum is basically supportive of American militarism abroad, as is just about everybody to a large extent, and that problem in the "intellectual" culture or zeitgeist or whatever is pushing Obama more than he is pushing it. (Someone will undoubtedly say that means I love Obama, which really just is so painfully stupid that I want to announce my view of that in advance.)


Drum wrote an original statement, and he wrote a revised statement. I didn't actually say that you used his first quote without change, though you're right that I didn't notice the change because almost none of that was even part of Drum's take-it-back statement. That's why it struck me as sleight of hand. I don't approve of the technique of patching together a quote from two quotes based on a direct substitution of some words from the second quote into the first even when the clarification could be taken in a very literal way to invite that. I think that's an unfair way to use someone's words and basically a gimmick. Okay as a demonstrative technique, I suppose, but that's about it. Language doesn't work that mechanically, which is why Greenwald understood and didn't even disagree with what Drum said in his second statement. I guess I don't get why it's necessary to be unfair to Drum to disagree with him, or even to dislike his viewpoint. Or even, frankly, to think he's a punk or a fascist or whatever. Just as I think it's sort of juvenile to get all pissy with me when I don't even have a damn name and might be a dog.

And JC, if I were the only person you don't read, you'd be okay, but I get the sense I'm at the end of a very long line of people you never don't read because they disagree with you. I actually do read your posts, and though you don't rock my world, almost nobody does, and you've got some good things to say. I'd even invite you to a really great party if you'd promise not to get all snarky.

Peace, companero.

Posted by: N E at April 6, 2011 09:42 PM

NE, first you said: "I don't know why Caruso in his comment calls Drum's original statement the revised statement."

Now you say: "I didn't actually say that you used his first quote without change."

Incredible. Do you really think people won't notice?

It's ironic to watch you tell Peggy that "I can usually tell pretty well when I don't understand something", even as you're lecturing her for having correctly called out your failure to understand not just one but two things—one of those being the entire point of Drum's article, which is that he trusts Obama's judgment over his own in cases of doubt. But that's par for the course; I've never seen you demonstrate an accurate understanding of a word I've written here, though it's often tough to tell when it's an actual misunderstanding (as in this case) or disingenuousness and outright dishonesty (as in this case).

You truly are a piece of work. I'll go back to trying to ignore you and let you blow another two or three screenfuls of smoke; who knows, maybe someone will even be convinced.

Posted by: John Caruso at April 6, 2011 11:58 PM


Sorry, but since you aren't going to be nice, no party invitation for you. I'll try to study harder for the next quiz.

Posted by: N E at April 7, 2011 01:37 AM

NE, dishonesty is not nice. Calling you on it is a public service (thanks, John).

Posted by: Peggy at April 7, 2011 04:57 PM


You're right, dishonesty is not nice, and it seems to be pretty contagious, too. I'm glad you and John are around to keep me from infecting anyone with all my lying opinions, which might cause everyone else to lose all their comprehension too and, gasp, misunderstand how smart and fair-minded it is to splice one statement from an explanation into a revised quote and present it as what the author said and then have a little temper tantrum if anyone disagrees. You two keep up that good work in the name of honesty.

p.s. Does this mean you aren't coming to the party either?

Posted by: N E at April 7, 2011 09:09 PM

What party?
There's a party?
No, I asked my karma and she won't let me go.

Posted by: Peggy at April 7, 2011 09:52 PM


She'll calm down--it's probably just stress. I'll send her a note and some flowers (red, of course) one of these days and plead your case to trt to get you a pass. Give sin a chance.

P.S. JC can come along with you if he promises not to start complaining about all the lying and otherwise trying to throw all the money lenders out of the temple. That's kind of a buzz killer.

Posted by: N E at April 7, 2011 10:10 PM

I must admit, as a several-years reader of ATR and its comment threads, there is some amount of lulz here. I stand by my earlier theory that N E is a sophisticated Turing machine.

Posted by: Cloud at April 7, 2011 10:17 PM

You're welcome, Peggy--glad it's helpful to someone. And while I admire your dedication, you're never going to get the last word in with ATR's resident narcissist, so don't wear out your keyboard trying....

Posted by: John Caruso at April 7, 2011 10:21 PM


Thank you for the high praise, but I am not sophisticated! It may be possible that I am a Turing machine, but my self-recognition files seem to have been deleted and replaced with "Yes we can!" audiofiles that leave me swooning and remembering with nostalgia those glorious minutes before the dawn.

The more I read JC, the more I enjoy his remarkably consistent antagonism to saboire fare. He has just reminded me of a period very early in my professional life when I received seven performance evaluations from seven different people, each one of whom attributed to me what I thought was his or her own worst quality, none of which were at all similar, all of which together forced me to conclude that I was either stark raving nuts or there was some serious projection going on. Or both, of course. Ooops, wait, I'm getting a little narcissistic . . .

Peace be unto you, Cloud, from here in Turingland to whereever you're hanging out. You can come to the party too, if you promise to either do something nice or something rotten for someone who deserves it. Myself, I can't quite decide which is more important, so I'm trying to do a little of both, but be warned, you have to defend your own decision before you get to dance.

Posted by: N E at April 7, 2011 11:54 PM


You know, it might be useful in the future to have a one-stop thread for NE's neuroses. He's already demonstrated the sloppy reading habits, chronic dishonesty and the irresistible urge to make himself the center of attention, but there's also the self-regard:

I am not only above average intelligence, i am a real smarty pants, so much of a smart pants that I actually was aware that it's true by definition that 50% of any population--every population--is below average intelligence...

His guiding philosophy (with its touching faith in Democratic remorse):

[I]t's our obligation as subjects to understand the predicaments our rulers find themselves in so that we can judge them fairly. Otherwise, we might blame them for wanton death and destruction that they feel bad about. This could weaken them and lead to their replacement by other rules who don't feel bad about causing even more wanton death and destruction and, worse, the new rulers enjoying themselves in the process.

And his apparent conviction that he's fighting a land war in Asia:

As both Tony Soprano and Sun Tzu said, when your opponent is choleric, irritate him. For all you know, I could be yanking your chain. Hell, maybe i am yanking your chain and I'm so clueless I don't even realize it. Maye the insurance for my meds ran out.

I have to admit that that last sentence seems awfully likely—I could picture him wearing a Napoleon outfit in a nice comfortable white-roomed building somewhere where the orderlies don't realize he's smuggled in a phone with a web browser.

Or Cloud might be on to something. Maybe NE actually stands for New ELIZA?

Posted by: John Caruso at April 8, 2011 02:25 PM

Or maybe he's paid by the word?

Posted by: Peggy at April 8, 2011 03:48 PM

JC, you flatter me. And here I thought you don't read anything I write! If you keep it up, I'm going to get you that invitation to the party after all, just because I do sort of admire your craziness. That being said, you need to check in with your sponsor for a pep-talk on how to ignore me. I'm actually starting to feel a little guilty about making fun of you for having a fit and calling me names because I disagreed with you. Then again, not that guilty. Maybe I had meaner siblings than you, because I learned early that if you're going to dish it out, you better be able to take it.

hasta luego. The orderlies are coming with my meds, so I have to go now. . .

Posted by: N E at April 8, 2011 03:53 PM


That's my dream!

Posted by: N E at April 8, 2011 03:55 PM