Saturday, October 16, 2010
I've been thinking about writing this for a couple of days. I've been on some of the blogs I mentioned in the previous posts, ones that support Obama no matter which one of his supporters he and the rest of the democratic party screws today. I leave comments and engage in, oh I don't know, spirited exchanges with other commentators.
There are a few points that seem to come up repeatedly. First, I would have attacked both FDR and LBJ because they weren't pure enough, in particular FDR and his treatment of African Americans and LBJ and Vietnam. Second, neither FDR or LBJ accomplished much during in the first few months of taking office.
The first arguments is sort of personal and I would have to say that I would hope that I would not have engaged in pointless snipping at either of those presidents. On the other hand I would hope that I would have opposed FDR and the conservative politics he adopted in his first weeks of office before he turned hard left and I would hope that I would have opposed his Internment policies during WWII. As far as LBJ is concerned when I got back from Southeast Asia I did become part of the anti-war movement and did participate in anti-war activities, although not as much as I should have.
The second point is one that shows an amazing ignorance of Twentieth Century American History. My undergraduate areas of concentration were Twentieth Century American History, Political Science, and Literature (which is why I am now a lawyer). It was almost a truism that if a president was going to get major programs through it would have to be within his first two years. Now that didn't work for FDR, he had his first and second New Deals, but the most famous period in American legislative history is FDR's "First One Hundred Days."
As far as Johnson is concerned, I remember being in Washington D.C. in the summer of 1964 on a trip after my graduation. This would have been about seven months after LBJ took office and watching the leadership of the senate announce the filibuster had been broken. Now one can argue that this was legislative, but anyone who is aware of history knows the influence LBJ had on the senate at that time and the fact that he did lead (and push and threaten and cajole and use his power and popularity) in getting this through the senate. The elections of that fall swept the democrats into power and immediately most of the last major social and civil rights legislation was passed, before the 1966 elections when the democrats lost big time.
A couple of good reads on FDR are Eric Rauchway's The Great Depression & The New Deal: A very short history, and for a longer read one could do worse than Arthur Schlesinger's three volume The Age of Roosevelt.
Of course these complaints are coupled with: Just you see how much Obama has accomplished this is more (in the case of HCR it is argued) than any other president has ever been able to accomplish. It is really difficult for me to take this argument seriously, given what the out come was and how what was done was done. In particular how Obama and the "leadership?" of the democratic party aborted the most popular parts of reform and sought to stifle any popular support for the bill there by letting the right wing get control of the narrative as they did. The rest, money for bankers, fumbling (on purpose) chard check, not providing real help for people whose homes are being foreclosed on, and on, and on, and on. History will tell, but I think that I know already what history will tell and as I've said before it will compare Obama more closely with Hoover than with FDR, although I'm beginning to think that it may be Buchanan he most closely resembles.
The final point is that I am simply too pure to understand how politics really operates and that is why I take these kind of positions. Kind of difficult for a person who has voted for the lesser of two evils all my adult life (starting with Hubert Humphrey) and who was the president of two small local unions to take these criticisms very seriously.