Memorable moments from 2013

I’m against hierarchies, so these are in no particular order, in spite of the placement.

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The Moment Barack Obama Gave Congress Back its Testicles

Ah, remember when the Syrian drums of war were beating? When all the talk was about “red lines” and “consequences”? When the beltway media was sure, just sure, that the bombs would start flying soon and were ordering up snazzy new graphics? Fun times.

And then a weird thing happened. President Obama interrupted my Saturday morning Premier League football match (damn you, Obama!) and did something no president since Franklin Roosevelt had done. He averred that on his own he had the authority to strike against Syria for using chemical weapons against its civilian population; but then he pivoted, and gave the braying Congress what it said it wanted: a voice in the decision. There would be no strike against Syria unless approved by Congress. In one press conference, he moved to undo the Imperial Presidency, where presidents could send the legions anywhere by fiat.

Suddenly the cries were of “weak” and “Neville Chamberlain” and “leading from behind”. But, another funny thing happened: it worked. It spooked Vladimir “The Impaler” Putin enough to push legacy hire Bashar al-Assad to join him in a rousing rendition of “Uncle”. Syria joined the convention against chemical weapons. Inspectors went in. And in the new year, all of the regime’s chemical stockpiles will be destroyed. All because, as Ride or Die Joe would say, Obama waved his big stick. No trillions spent, no dead Americans, no new quagmire in the Middle East. And the sight of emoprog dudebros licking authoritarian Putin’s nethers served for signal entertainment and revealing psychology.

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The Spy Who Went Into the Cold

He’s one of Barbara Walter’s “Most Fascinating People of 2013″. He was short-listed for Time’s “Person of the Year”. (Instead the Marxist Pope won. More on that anon.) Bus ads thanking him have been taken on Washington D.C.’s Metro. He’s Edward “I spilled state secrets and all I got was exile in Moscow” Snowden!

The NSA revelations which have dripped out in a steady stream since the summer rank among the top ten political stories of 2013 if only because said revelations expose a rather dark seam of Obama Derangement Syndrome. I’m old enough to remember when US intelligence agencies were doing much worse under G.W. Bush—and doing it without writ of warrant or law—and the media, at first, ignored said malefactions. Eventually the crimes were covered, in the manner of pulling hen’s teeth, with the attitude that “Yes, we should have some safeguards, but it IS a dangerous world in which we live, remember.”

The same policies, now under firm legal strictures under Obama, were leaked by, well let’s not mince words, the spy Edward Snowden. Emotarian dudebros who routinely divulge the most secret of their personal information to multinational conglomerates in order to get the shiniest new toy were suddenly aghast that the government was doing much less in the name of, yes, securing the country in a world which is still every bit as dangerous as before Barack Obama took office in 2009. And as someone who’s worked with millions of metadata records in a past life, metadata will reveal that you called a phone sex line; it won’t reveal if your kink tends towards sheep love.

But, of course, the black president is an autocratic shredder of the Constitution eleventy billion times worse than Bush because Stop and Frisk now applies to libertarian dudebros. Except, of course, it doesn’t, as communications originating within the US aren’t monitored.

And grand poobah of all things emotarian Glenn Greenwald dialed his Obama hatred to 11, to the point where he became even more of a parody of himself. The likes of Charles Johnson of LGF and Bob Cesca and Joshua Foust had detailed refutations of Greenwald’s screeds within minutes of him posting them. But, beating up on Obama was good for Greenwald’s bottom line; he was able to parlay his outrage into securing a billionaire sugar daddy into funding his new project. Which leads one to wonder if all this wasn’t just some snowjob by Greenwald, using a dupe like Snowden, in order jump charge a career which had quite frankly stalled. I’m sure Snowden is wondering what he’s getting out of the deal as the winter freeze sets in Moscow and he struggles with Russian lessons.

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The Hostage Is Delivered Mostly Unharmed

At various points throughout 2013, Barack Obama made a simple statement: “I will not negotiate with Congress for them to do their job.” He was referring to writing a budget and raising the debt limit so that the Treasury could pay bills Congress had already racked up. He made variations on this statement through the entirety of the spring and summer, as the fiscal tsunami was building.

The beltway media and Republicans in Congress didn’t believe him. “He’ll cave.” “He’s weak.” “He has no leverage.”

They were wrong on all counts. Coordinating strategy with Harry Reid, Obama let the budget deadline come… and pass. He would not repeal Obamacare. He would not amend it with a gun to the country’s head. He would give no concessions so that John Boehner would do the bare minimum of his job, which is to pass a budget, or, in this case, a continuing resolution. Once that resolution and the debt ceiling were dealt with, then normal budget negotiations could begin—negotiations sought by Senate Democrats, and rebuffed by Senate and House Republicans.

It was supposed to be another of Obama’s many “Waterloos”. What actually happened is that Obama and Democrats broke the back of the Tea Party—so much so that when Paul Ryan and Patty Murray released their budget deal to cackles from the usual right wing groups, John Boehner fished out his long-lost manhood and fired back, saying that they were using the American people for ideological ends.

If for nothing else than igniting the long-simmering GOP civil war, Obama, Reid, and Nancy Pelosi deserve our thanks. But they did more than that. The reminded Boehner and Eric Cantor and Mitch McConnel that elections have consequences. The GOP controls one House of one branch of the federal government. Negotiation and compromise are not just kumbaya words, but the only ways to govern a democracy. Hopefully, mainstream Republicans will take that lesson to heart.

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What If They Gave A War and No One Joined In?

Of a piece with the Syrian war drums, those same drums were beating even more insistently for war with Iran over its nuclear program. During the 2008 presidential campaign we were treated to Old Man McCain cavalierly singing “Bomb bomb Iran”. But, what can you expect from someone who graduated second from last in his Naval Academy class and was yet another legacy hire?

Expectations weren’t high at the start of the year for successful negotiations. Then two key events happened. 1) President Obama appointed John Kerry as his Secretary of State. And 2) moderate Hassan Rouhani was allowed to run for Iran’s presidency, and won it.

Rouhani immediately set about—with the support of the real power in Iran, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei—to reorient Iran’s nuclear program to assuage Western fears. Secretary Kerry made reaching agreement with Iran the top priority of his term in office.

It’s amazing what happens when people talk with understanding. All sorts of peace and good-feeling break out. In two November negotiating sessions, a framework agreement was reached, and the dearest dreams of hawks both Israeli and American were dashed.

For a warmonger itching to kill Muslims, Barack Obama sure does a bad job of it.

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Benghazi!!!!!11!1!!11

It’s “The Scandal Which Will Finally Bring Down Obama”. And this was the moment the media got into the act, exposing itself completely for the GOP-shilling organ it has become.

From Jonathon Karl building a Benghazi story around doctored emails to Lara Logan airing a hit job on “60 Minutes” with a star “witness” who was no witness to the events in Benghazi, the media went into overdrive flinging feces at the wall to see what would stick. It’s worked before with other presidents, and made many a media member’s career.

But what infuriates the media and the GOP is that in regards to Barack Obama they have to stretch the meaning of the word “scandal” to such an extent that it loses form and disintegrates. And once the scandal is shown to be a house of cards, their efforts to prop it up just makes them look sad and pathetic. And rather amusing. And the President just keeps motoring along, trying to make people’s lives just a bit better. Imagine if we had a media and opposition which didn’t exist merely to gin up outrage.

We’ll probably recycle scandals starting in 2014. Arugula on burgers, anyone?

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Somone Who Has Nothing To Do With Obama, Except He Does

Like Hassan Rouhani, Pope Francis I wouldn’t have come along, or at least have had the same impact, until the Age of Obama.

As a lapsed Catholic who is still heavily informed by his Catholic upbringing, I haven’t been able to help but to view Francis’ travels through the world with anything but admiration since his surprise election this year. No, I don’t expect him to issue a Papal Bull reversing the Church’s stance on gay marriage or contraception. But by flinging open the rusted shutters of the Church to let in fresh air to its musty chambers, he is again taking up the work of Vatican II, with which I grew up, and which had and has much promise.

In general, I’m no believer in Providence. And then the universe throws up a trio like Obama, Rouhani, and Francis. It may be mere luck. But sometimes luck is all we have to fall back on. Luck has to be built on and made to work; but it’s as good a place as any to start.

And he pipped Snowden for Time’s Person of the Year. For which he will probably win sainthood.

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Forget the Website. Millions Are Getting Healthcare For the First Time Ever.

Obamacare is a disaster! Obamacare is another Katrina! Obamacare is the greatest threat facing the nation since forced fluoridation!

It’s called a “tell”. When someone’s fulminations become fiercer and more deranged, you know you have him. And he knows you have him.

That’s what we have with Obamacare. Yes, the website glitches were annoying. But these glitches have, to my knowledge, not killed anyone. And they were fixed rather quickly and effectively.

The opponents of health reform were hoping that the website troubles would sink the law. But what’s happened? As the website was fixed, and the state exchanges got up and running, Obamacare enrollment has skyrocketed, meeting and exceeding the projections for this first phase of enrollment. And that’s what they always feared.

There are now millions of people with health care who never had it before, and many for a pittance of a monthly premium. Millions of people who now no longer have to worry about choosing between a doctor’s visit and food on the table. Millions of people who can now take for granted the security of having affordable, reliable access to health care.

And these millions of people will look askance at anyone who wants to throw them back to the tender mercies of what obtained before. If they weren’t voters before, they will be now, and woe to any Gohmert or Paul who wants to take away their health care.

2014 will be the Year of the Obamacare Voter.

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"The defining challenge of our time."

It’s accepted for a truism that Republican policy favors the rich and Democratic policy favors the poor. And yet the poor seem to grow in ever greater numbers, no matter who controls the White House or the halls of Congress.

On December 5, President Obama drew attention to this crime in the world’s richest nation.
But we know that people’s frustrations run deeper than these most recent political battles. Their frustration is rooted in their own daily battles — to make ends meet, to pay for college, buy a home, save for retirement. It’s rooted in the nagging sense that no matter how hard they work, the deck is stacked against them. And it’s rooted in the fear that their kids won’t be better off than they were. They may not follow the constant back-and-forth in Washington or all the policy details, but they experience in a very personal way the relentless, decades-long trend that I want to spend some time talking about today. And that is a dangerous and growing inequality and lack of upward mobility that has jeopardized middle-class America’s basic bargain — that if you work hard, you have a chance to get ahead.

I believe this is the defining challenge of our time: Making sure our economy works for every working American. It’s why I ran for President. It was at the center of last year’s campaign. It drives everything I do in this office. And I know I’ve raised this issue before, and some will ask why I raise the issue again right now. I do it because the outcomes of the debates we’re having right now — whether it’s health care, or the budget, or reforming our housing and financial systems — all these things will have real, practical implications for every American. And I am convinced that the decisions we make on these issues over the next few years will determine whether or not our children will grow up in an America where opportunity is real. 
In a way no American president has done since Lyndon Johnson, Barack Obama has staked his entire presidential career on rectifying the groaning chasm of inequality which threatens to destroy this nation as no foreign enemy has ever come close to. Equality of opportunity does not exist for great swathes of the country. The nation’s human and material infrastructure has collapsed due to 30 years of Republican dominance. Passing health reform was the first step in addressing this inequality. The next few years will determine whether we live in a democracy or an oligarchy.

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2013 was a momentous year. The country’s first black President took his second oath of office. Healthcare reform became a reality. The electorate is starting to see through the lies and calumnies of the Republicans. The work isn’t done, because the work is never done. All we can do is keep marching forward. Here’s to a prosperous, magical, and compassionate 2014.