Obama’s “negotiating” style is now too much even for the Center for American Progress.

In the time since Barack Obama’s inauguration, I can think of no think tank, nobody even remotely connected with academia who has been more obsequious to the president than the Center for American Progress. So closely have they hewn to the presidential line that for me they had largely lost credibility. So imagine my surprise when I read this:

If one believes that negotiations should yield results roughly near the middle of the range of disagreement, it’s important to note that the president already met the other side half way before the negotiations even started.[1]

Such words will not be shocking to any true progressive. They mark a radical departure, however, for an organization, that even if more diplomatic in a scholarly style, surely shared the sentiments of Robert Gibbs declaring that those who compared Obama to former President George W. Bush should be “drug tested,”[2] of David Axelrod asserting the White House’s righteousness in replying to a blogger’s complaints saying, “Right back at’cha. Right back at’cha.”[3] and of those responsible for such snide remarks directed at the so-called “professional left” as “Wake up,” “Get over it,” “Get in gear, man,” and “That’s not reality.”[4]

Democratic Representative Anthony Weiner of New York recently said of Obama, “the president fundamentally — he’s not a values guy.”[5] But it is probably more accurate to say Obama’s defenders have reliably substituted responsibility for capitulation and compromise for an obsessive compulsion to appease one’s opponents.

It shouldn’t require a subject as quantifiable as a budget for this to be clear. And that it does confirms the critiques of Jacques Ellul and Neil Postman, in which our technological society—in Postman’s terminology, a technopoly—recognizes truth in numbers and diminishes everything else as unreliable.[6] It’s a dangerous place to be, because if so-called “experts” can manipulate numbers—and you have to be a statistics major to evaluate statistical methods for validity—their assertions carry an undeserved weight[7] and numbers obscure the ninety-or-so percent of experience that can’t be quantified.

And so-called “negotiation,” reduced to a race to prove who is holier than thou on deficit reduction, exemplifies the obscurity of the real pain these cuts cause.

  1. [1]Michael Ettlinger and Michael Linden, “Will the Budget Process End Where the House Leadership Started?” Center for American Progress, March 23, 2011, http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2011/03/bizarre_budget.html
  2. [2]Sam Youngman, “White House unloads anger over criticism from ‘professional left’,” The Hill, August 10, 2010, http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/113431-white-house-unloads-on-professional-left
  3. [3]Greg Sargent, “Liberal blogger directly confronts David Axelrod, accuses White House of ‘hippie punching’,” Washington Post, September 23, 2010, http://voices.washingtonpost.com/plum-line/2010/09/liberal_blogger_directly_confr.html?wpisrc=nl_pmpolitics
  4. [4]Blue Texan, “Stop Whining, Liberals!” Firedoglake, September 27, 2010, http://firedoglake.com/2010/09/27/late-night-stop-whining-liberals/
  5. [5]Amanda Terkel, “Anthony Weiner: Obama Is ‘Not A Values Guy’,” Huffington Post, March 16, 2011, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/16/anthony-weiner-obama-not-a-values-guy_n_836664.html?view=screen
  6. [6]Jacques Ellul, The Technological Society, John Wilkinson, trans. (New York: Vintage, 1964); Neil Postman, Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology (New York: Vintage, 1993).
  7. [7]See for examples Alexander W. Astin, “In ‘Academically Adrift,’ Data Don’t Back Up Sweeping Claim,” Chronicle of Higher Education, February 28, 2011, http://chronicle.com/article/Academically-Adrift-a/126371/?sid=cr&utm_source=cr&utm_medium=en; and Nick Pinto, “Women’s Funding Network Sex Trafficking Study Is Junk Science,” Village Voice, March 23, 2011, http://www.villagevoice.com/2011-03-23/news/women-s-funding-network-sex-trafficking-study-is-junk-science/all/

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