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“Maureen Dowd Gets Way Too High”: The Journey To ‘The Other Dark Side’ Of Her Mind

While I usually try to abstain from writing posts about how something an op-ed columnist wrote was stupid—not an unworthy endeavor, but if I don’t do it many other people will be there to pick up the slack—today I’m going to make an exception for Maureen Dowd. That’s not only because her column in today’s New York Times is particularly inane, but because there’s a lesson hidden there, really there is. So stick with me. But first, on to Dowd’s glorious tale. Seems she was in Denver and decided to sample some of this “marijuana” she’s been hearing so much about. Like any sensible person trying a drug for the first time, she made no attempt whatsoever to determine how much of it she should consume to reach her desired state of consciousness. Instead, she bought a cannabis candy bar and ate the whole thing. The results were unsurprising:

But then I felt a scary shudder go through my body and brain. I barely made it from the desk to the bed, where I lay curled up in a hallucinatory state for the next eight hours. I was thirsty but couldn’t move to get water. Or even turn off the lights. I was panting and paranoid, sure that when the room-service waiter knocked and I didn’t answer, he’d call the police and have me arrested for being unable to handle my candy.

I strained to remember where I was or even what I was wearing, touching my green corduroy jeans and staring at the exposed-brick wall. As my paranoia deepened, I became convinced that I had died and no one was telling me.

It took all night before it began to wear off, distressingly slowly. The next day, a medical consultant at an edibles plant where I was conducting an interview mentioned that candy bars like that are supposed to be cut into 16 pieces for novices; but that recommendation hadn’t been on the label.

I reckoned that the fact that I was not a regular marijuana smoker made me more vulnerable, and that I should have known better. But it turns out, five months in, that some kinks need to be ironed out with the intoxicating open bar at the Mile High Club.

For the rest of the column, Dowd relates some anecdotes about people doing foolish things while high, and the cases where a little kid has consumed edibles and gotten sick, perhaps unaware that she was reinforcing the fact that by eating that entire bar without bothering to find out what it would do to her she displayed all the sense of a five-year-old. As I tweeted last night when I read this, that’s kind of like saying that the first time you ever tried alcohol, you downed a whole bottle of Jack Daniels and it was quite unpleasant, so this prohibition thing might not be such a bad idea.

To be sure, there’s a genuine issue with how edible cannabis is packaged and sold. Unlike alcohol, which has a shocking taste and therefore turns little kids off, edibles just taste like food, so extra care needs to be taken to keep them away from children (and even adults who might eat them not knowing what they are). Unfortunately, we don’t yet have a measure akin to “proof” that can give you a quick and understandable sense of how high you’ll get from whatever you’re going to eat or smoke. Furthermore, one of the risks of edibles is that you eat them and then have to wait a while for the effects to kick in, so you don’t know if you’ve consumed too little or too much until it’s too late.

Colorado, Washington, and every other state considering legalizing marijuana should work on a system to address this problem, including regulations on how edibles are labeled. But Dowd’s story of her journey to the dark side of her mind offers those of us who write about politics and policy for a living a valuable lesson. Writing about your personal experiences can be a good way to add texture to what might otherwise be dry discussions of policy. The effect laws have on individual people is why they matter. But if you’re going to hold your own experiences up as exemplars to represent something larger, there are some questions you have to ask: Was my experience typical, or unusual? Does it have genuine implications for the choices we face as a nation? Does it actually shed light on important aspects of this issue?

If you answer those questions thoughtfully, even an atypical experience can offer something edifying. Or, you can just tell the story of the time you acted like an idiot.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, June 4, 2014

June 6, 2014 Posted by | Journalism, Journalists, Legalized Marijuana | , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Press And The ‘Leadership’ Charade”: Pundits Are Professionally Wed To Faulting President Obama For Republicans Shortcomings

Just days after the government shutdown came to an end, and with public opinion polls continuing to show that the Republican Party paid a grave price for its radical and shortsighted maneuver, Meet The Press host David Gregory wanted to discuss President Obama’s failure to lead.

Pointing to a mocking National Journal piece by Ron Fournier, that was headlined “Obama Wins! Big Whoop. Can He Lead?” Gregory pressed his guests about when Obama would finally “demonstrate he can bring along converts to his side and actually get something meaningful accomplished.” Gregory was convinced the president had to shoulder “a big part of the responsibility” for the shutdown crisis, due to the president’s failed leadership. New York Times columnist David Brooks agreed Obama is at fault, stressing “The question he’s never answered in all these years is, ‘How do I build a governing majority in this circumstance?'”

Gregory, Brooks and Fournier were hardly alone in suggesting that Obama’s a failed leader. Why a failure? Because a Democratic president beset by Republicans who just implemented a crazy shutdown strategy hasn’t been able to win them to his side.

In her post-shutdown New York Times column, Maureen Down ridiculed Obama, claiming he “always manages to convey tedium at the idea that he actually has to persuade people to come along with him, given the fact that he feels he’s doing what’s right” (i.e., Obama’s too arrogant to lead.)

And in a lengthy Boston Globe piece last week addressing Obama’s failure to achieve unity inside the Beltway, Matt Viser wrote that Obama “bears considerable responsibility” for the Beltway’s fractured, dysfunctional status today (it’s “his biggest failure”) because “his leadership style” has “angered countless conservatives, who have coalesced into a fiercely uncompromising opposition.” That’s right, it’s Obama’s fault his critics hate him so much.

Talk about blaming the political victim.

As an example of Obama’s allegedly vexing “leadership style,” Viser pointed to the fact Democrats passed a health care reform bill without the support of a single Republican. That “helped spur the creation of the Tea Party and a “de-fund Obamacare” movement,” according to the Globe. But that’s false. The ferocious anti-Obama Tea Party movement exploded into plain view on Fox News 12 months before the party-line health care vote took place in early 2010. Obama’s “leadership style” had nothing to do with the fevered right-wing eruption that greeted his inauguration.

The GOP just suffered a humiliating shutdown loss that has its own members pointing fingers of blame at each other. So of course pundits have turned their attention to Obama and pretended the shutdown was a loss for him, too. Why? Because the Beltway media rules stipulate if both sides were to blame for the shutdown that means both sides suffered losses. So pundits pretend the crisis highlighted Obama’s glaring lack of leadership.

But did it? Does that premise even make sense? Isn’t there a strong argument to be made that, by staring down the radicals inside the Republican Party who closed the government down in search of political ransom, Obama unequivocally led? And that he led on behalf of the majority of Americans who disapproved of the shutdown, who deeply disapprove of the Republican Party, and who likely did not want Obama to give in to the party’s outlandish demands?

Doesn’t leadership count as standing up for what you believe in and not getting run over, not getting trucked by hard-charging foes?

Yet so many pundits are professionally wed to faulting Democrats for Republicans shortcomings that the agreed-up script is that the GOP’s stunning implosion meant Obama failed to lead by not bringing the two parties together. He wasn’t persuasive enough. And if he had just tried a little harder, asked a little nicer, Republicans would’ve totally come around.

Much of the current leadership commentary is built on the tired trope that Obama “promised” to change the tone and culture of Washington; to break down partisan barriers. And since he hasn’t, that’s botched leadership. Of course what Obama did do, like virtually every presidential candidate before him has done, is vow to try to change the culture in Washington, and to try to get both parties together.

The fact that Republicans plotted as far back as January 2009 to make it their primary goal to thwart Obama’s attempt at bipartisanship, is now used as a weapon against the president under the lazy premise he “promised” to change Republican behavior. By failing to lead, by failing to change Republicans’ deeply extremist behavior, Obama must shoulder the blame, goes the faulty Beltway logic.

“Despite polarization, Obama’s two predecessors managed to find common ground with their obstinate opposing parties,” Fournier recently wrote, in a sentence that almost perfectly encapsulates what’s wrong with the trolling about “leadership.” It’s predicated on a completely outdated premise, which suggests that since previous presidents were able to work, at times, with the opposing party that means Obama should too. And if he can’t, that means he’s not leading. That claim entirely omits all the context about today’s radicalized Republican Party. It entirely omits everything that’s happened in American politics since 2009.

For instance, did Obama’s predecessors face opponents who launched an unprecedented campaign to scuttle a Secretary of Defense nomination? Did they face political foes who shut down the federal government in a comically doomed attempt to defund a three-year-old law, who didn’t blink at denying Americans disaster relief aid, or who obstructed legislation that garnered 90 percent support among voters?

They did not.

When Obama’s immediate predecessor was sworn into office, President Bush was soon greeted by liberal Democrat George Miller (D-CA) who promised to help him secure the votes he needed to pass an education bill. And it was liberal Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) who personally guided Bush’s No Child Left Behind legislation through Congress.

Memo to media: Thanks to extremist Republicans, that Washington, D.C. world no longer exists, so stop pretending that it does. And stop penalizing Obama for arriving too late to experience it.

Why doesn’t it exist? Because Republican re-wrote the rules and pundits keep scoring Obama against the old one. They keep scolding him for not winning over purposefully un-persuadable Republicans.

“We’re saying there’s a reason Republicans almost certainly can’t be won over,” noted Washington Post writer Greg Sargent, who regularly pushes back against the media’s “leadership” charade. “And that this reason resides not in the failure of presidential persuasion but in basic realities about today’s GOP.”

Just ask Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA). After he defied his party and tried to help get a bipartisan background gun check bill through Congress last winter, he explained its defeat: “In the end it didn’t pass because we’re so politicized. There were some on my side who did not want to be seen helping the president do something he wanted to get done, just because the president wanted to do it.”

And with that, Toomey, a Republican senator, gave away the game. He pulled back the curtain and confirmed how the Republican Party actually functions under Obama: It fights him on every conceivable front, withholding the slightest bit of support not necessarily because of ideology, but because most members do not want to see Obama succeed.

Ever.

That represents a stunning lack of leadership. And it’s not coming from the Oval Office.

 

By: Eric Boehlert, Media Matters for America, October 22, 2013

October 23, 2013 Posted by | Media, Politics, Press | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Thank You And Goodnight”: My Fellow Americans, Barack Obama Is The President, Not An Action-Movie Hero

Sometimes it appears that everybody in Washington yearns for an action-hero president to make them feel important. That’s never more apparent than during a crisis like the Syrian civil war President Obama stands accused of “dithering” about.

Of course, his chief journalistic accusers are columnists Maureen Dowd and Charles Krauthammer, of the New York Times and Washington Post respectively. Dowd turns everything into a movie scenario. She wrote a column about George W. Bush’s 2003 “Mission Accomplished” aircraft carrier stunt that’s almost too embarrassing to quote.

“Out bounded the cocky, rule-breaking, daredevil flyboy, a man navigating the Highway to the Danger Zone,” Dowd wrote. “He flashed that famous all-American grin as he swaggered around the deck of the aircraft carrier in his olive flight suit, ejection harness between his legs, helmet tucked under his arm, awestruck crew crowding around.”

Sure, there was mockery in Dowd’s Top Gun take on Bush’s “joystick politics,” but hero worship too. Here’s how her imaginary flyboy summed up America’s adventure in Iraq: “Aggression breeds patriotism, and patriotism curbs dissent. Aggression has made Democrats cower, the press purr and the world quake. Aggression—you mark my words—will not only save humanity, but it will soon color all the states Republican red.”

So how did that work out?

Ten years later, Krauthammer thinks things would have worked out better if the U.S. still had troops occupying Iraq—the better to menace Iran and Syria too, formerly Saddam Hussein’s job. Obama, he opines, “simply does not understand that if America withdraws from the scene, it creates a vacuum that invites hostile outside intervention. A superpower’s role in a regional conflict is deterrence.”

Also known as perpetual war in the Middle East.

Even Bill Clinton famously piled on, which is what set Dowd off. At a public forum in New York, he explained that Obama risked looking “like a total wuss” if he blamed opinion polls showing that 80 percent of Americans oppose U.S. intervention in Syria for his own indecisiveness. Clinton said that presidents sometimes have to act, “and hope to God you can sell it.”

It’s not clear that Clinton spelled out exactly what a take-charge guy like himself would be doing in Syria—which may be a good thing, given his wife’s key role in the Obama administration’s wait-and-see policy.

Indeed the former Secretary of State’s pronouncement at a 2012 conference in Istanbul that dictator Bashar al Assad needed to leave Syria contributed mightily to the White House’s predicament. Taking sides in a sectarian civil war while refusing to get involved wasn’t terribly clever. That Clinton reportedly urged Obama to arm anti-Assad Sunni rebels makes the diplomatic blunder no less egregious.

Now that the Syrian dictator, with Russian and Iranian assistance, seems on the verge of defeating his enemies, President Obama has agreed to provide small arms to rebel groups—something unlikely to prove decisive.

Asked how he imagined Syria after Assad, a rebel commander told the New York TimesBill Keller “maybe Somalia plus Afghanistan.” In short, chaos and slaughter, a horrifying prospect to the crusading editor, who nevertheless thinks Obama needs to get the U.S. more deeply involved in deciding which mob of Syrian religious fanatics gets to massacre its enemies.

Perhaps sensitive to criticism, President Obama gave an extraordinarily frank interview to CBS’s Charlie Rose. “This argument that somehow had we gone in earlier or heavier in some fashion,” he said, “that the tragedy and chaos taking place in Syria wouldn’t be taking place, I think is wrong.”

In essence, the president argues that there are no good options in Syria and never were. Would establishing a no-fly zone, for example, mean bombing Damascus? What about civilian casualties? And what happens if chemical weapons stored there get hit?

“Unless you’ve been involved in those conversations,” he said, “then it’s kind of hard for you to understand the complexity of the situation and how we have to not rush into one more war in the Middle East.”

In other words, no Barack Obama doll to match the official “TOP GUN George W. Bush 12-Inch Action Figure in Flight Suit” available from Amazon.com. Also, however, no 10-year occupation of Syria, no thousands of American dead and hundreds of billions of dollars lost in the desert.

Instead, Daniel W. Drezner argues in Foreign Policy, Obama’s stalling constitutes a kind of cynical realpolitik American presidents can’t openly admit: “[t]his is simply the United States engaging in its own form of asymmetric warfare.  For the low, low price of aiding and arming the rebels, the U.S. preoccupies all of its adversaries in the Middle East.

Here’s what Obama ought to say, a friend wrote recently: “My fellow Americans. I don’t give a rat’s [posterior] who wins the civil war in Syria. And neither should you. Thank you and good night.”

In effect, he has.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, June 26, 2013

June 27, 2013 Posted by | Foreign Policy | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Facing Republican Intransigent Extremism”: How President Obama Can Still Win In Washington

The Washington pundits of the moment – a group that includes such blinding lights as Maureen Dowd and Ron Fournier – seem to believe that if only President Obama would provide adequate “leadership,” the partisan polarization on Capitol Hill would evaporate and America’s problems could be solved at last. While the president rightly mocked this notion as a fantasy worthy of Hollywood’s Aaron Sorkin, it does raise the vital question, however obtusely, of what Obama might do as he confronts an oppositional Republican-led Congress.

Whatever the punditocracy may imagine, there is no way for Obama to force his agenda on the Republicans in the House and the Senate, who range from scheming partisans like Mitch McConnell and Eric Cantor to Tea Party zealots like Ted Cruz and Michele Bachmann. Unlike Abraham Lincoln or Lyndon Johnson, the two brilliant manipulators with whom he is sometimes compared and found wanting, the president is not equipped to bribe, blackmail, or herd in the style of those Machiavellian chief executives. If he were so equipped — and indeed used his power as ruthlessly as Lincoln or Johnson — the same pundits who now complain that he isn’t controlling the agenda would shriek about his misuse of power.

In this journalistic mindset, the president (especially a Democratic president) is always wrong; using power is bad/unethical/cynical, while failing to use power is weak/aloof/naïve. Both ends of this stick have been repeatedly applied to Obama, of course, just as they were constantly used to punish Bill Clinton.

Alternatively, those calling for presidential “leadership” — especially the oh-so-serious Beltway types — want Obama to prove his bona fides by abandoning Democratic programs and principles, even though the Republicans have showed no willingness to cross their redline on taxes. In fact, the president has offered an excess of compromise already, while failing to elicit any fresh initiative from the opposition. Yet somehow, in the pundit mindset, Obama and the Republican leadership are equally at fault.

The president understands that critics who play such jejune Beltway games don’t deserve much of his time or attention, unless they can serve as absurdist foils for a funny dinner speech. The most salient fact in American political life is (and for some time has been) the intransigent extremism of the Republican Party. Any columnist who tries to ignore or excuse that extremism has nothing useful to tell any president.

What Obama evidently doesn’t understand, despite years of bitter experience, is the significance of that right-wing extremism for someone like him, whose nature is to accept differences and seek compromise. Unable to negotiate with a reasonable counterpart on either side of the Hill, he too frequently negotiates with himself – whether over Obamacare, the debt ceiling, the budget, deficit reduction, taxes, or “reforming” Social Security.

Yet whenever he discards a progressive position, such as the public option in health care, or adopts a conservative position, such as reducing Social Security cost-of-living increases, he only succeeds in demoralizing his base. Meanwhile, rejection by the Republicans is preordained.

So what is left for President Obama to do if he wishes to see any of his second-term agenda enacted? By now he ought to have noticed that when he speaks out firmly on behalf of progressive principles, in support of working families, his polling numbers improve and his power increases. (And whenever he vacillates, his numbers diminish and his authority weakens.)

The recent battle over gun background checks indicates that even some of the most reactionary Republicans – like Pennsylvania senator Pat Toomey, formerly of the Club for Growth – can be pushed into supporting sensible reform. But that doesn’t mean seeking a “grand bargain” with politicians who want no bargain at all. It does mean mobilizing citizens on the largest possible scale, every day; it means making sure they know that the president is on their side, shares their values, and will uphold his promises to them. It means explaining to the American people, with fearless candor, that the Republican Party is unfit to participate in national governance – and unless that party is defeated decisively next year, no important objective can be achieved.

 

By: Joe Conason, The National Memo, May 3, 2013

May 6, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Politics | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“History Is A Cruel Judge Of Overconfidence”: Ten Years Ago, Bush Declared “Mission Accomplished” And The Media Swooned

Today marks the tenth anniversary of Mission Accomplished Day, or as it might better be known, Mission (Not) Accomplished Day. Sadly, it comes amid another upheaval in sectarian violence in Iraq—two days ago The New York Times warned of a new “civil war” there—and a week after the attempts at Bush revisionism upon the opening of his library. We’re also seeing aspects of the run-up to the Iraq invasion playing out in the fresh, perhaps overheated, claims of chemical weapons in Syria.

In my favorite antiwar song of this war, “Shock and Awe,” Neil Young moaned: “Back in the days of Mission Accomplished/ our chief was landing on the deck/ The sun was setting/ behind a golden photo op.” But as Neil added elsewhere in the tune: “History is a cruel judge of overconfidence.”

Nowhere can we see this more clearly than in the media coverage of the event.

On May 1, 2003, Richard Perle advised, in a USA Today op-ed, “Relax, Celebrate Victory.” The same day, President Bush, dressed in a flight suit, landed on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln and declared an end to major military operations in Iraq—with the now-infamous “Mission Accomplished” banner arrayed behind him.

Chris Matthews on MSNBC called Bush a “hero” and boomed, “He won the war. He was an effective commander. Everybody recognizes that, I believe, except a few critics.” He added: “Women like a guy who’s president. Check it out. The women like this war. I think we like having a hero as our president. It’s simple.”

PBS’ Gwen Ifill said Bush was “part Tom Cruise, part Ronald Reagan.” On NBC, Brian Williams gushed, “The pictures were beautiful. It was quite something to see the first-ever American president on a—on a carrier landing.”

Bob Schieffer on CBS said: “As far as I’m concerned, that was one of the great pictures of all time.” His guest, Joe Klein, responded: “Well, that was probably the coolest presidential image since Bill Pullman played the jet fighter pilot in the movie Independence Day. That was the first thing that came to mind for me.”

Everyone agreed the Democrats and antiwar critics were now on the run. The New York Times observed, “The Bush administration is planning to withdraw most United States combat forces from Iraq over the next several months and wants to shrink the American military presence to less than two divisions by the fall, senior allied officials said today.”

Maureen Dowd in her column did offer a bit of over-the-top mockery, declaring: “Out bounded the cocky, rule-breaking, daredevil flyboy, a man navigating the Highway to the Danger Zone, out along the edges where he was born to be, the further on the edge, the hotter the intensity.

“He flashed that famous all-American grin as he swaggered around the deck of the aircraft carrier in his olive flight suit, ejection harness between his legs, helmet tucked under his arm, awestruck crew crowding around. Maverick was back, cooler and hotter than ever, throttling to the max with joystick politics. Compared to Karl Rove’s ”revvin’ up your engine” myth-making cinematic style, Jerry Bruckheimer’s movies look like Lizzie McGuire.

“This time Maverick didn’t just nail a few bogeys and do a 4G inverted dive with a MiG-28 at a range of two meters. This time the Top Gun wasted a couple of nasty regimes, and promised this was just the beginning.”

When Bush’s jet landed on the aircraft carrier, American casualties stood at 139 killed and 542 wounded. That was over 4,300 American, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi, fatalities ago.

 

By: Greg Mitchell, The Nation, May 1, 2013

May 2, 2013 Posted by | Iraq War | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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