It’s clear that not everything Obama has done has always been a masterstroke. He likely ceded a bit too much on the stimulus before negotiations began. There are some genuine concerns over the Geithner bank plan (concerns based on substance, separate from the hyperbolic tone so many adopt). Personally, I’m not a huge fan of his cap-and-trade plan, and – call me a sycophant of the New Yorker – but I’m strongly in favor of bold plans like swapping the payroll tax for the carbon tax and boosting the economy at the same time we fight global warming.

But, as my friend Greg likes to say, “it’s clear that Obama and his team play a longer game than anyone else.” That’s evident in many ways this week, particularly in the reaction of the pundit class to his first serious trip overseas. While the bloviators pound their chest and proclaim the trip a failure because Obama didn’t get specifically what he wanted on certain tactical matters, the Obama team rightfully ignored them. Axelrod was positively beaming as the trip concluded, giving a calm piece of insight into the administration’s strategy:

Before leaving Istanbul, W.H. senior adviser David Axelrod called Obama’s eight-day European trip “enormously productive”…but added that the results of the trip won’t be seen for some time.

“You plant, you cultivate, you harvest,” Axelrod told reporters. “Over time, the seeds that were planted here are going to be very, very valuable.”

Plant? Cultivate? Long-view? Actually work to improve relations and restore America’s image before starting to cash in those chips? All foreign concepts to the TV (and often blog) pundits of the world, and all the more grateful we should be to have a team that ignores them.

As time progresses – the reaction and analysis of the Obama administration is increasingly becoming a dividing line between what we once mocked as “serious” and “unserious” people. But there really is no better word to apply to this situation. Quite simply, a large number of the bloggers and online (and offline) pundits are just not serious – or more directly – to be taken seriously.

What makes someone “serious” isn’t if they instantaneously agree with the Obama administration – no no, let’s dismiss that straw man immediately, since we know the David Sirotas of the world will inevitably employ it.

No: what makes someone “serious” is whether or not they even attempt to dig into the substance of the issue – and whether or not they try to see the long-term strategy behind a move the Obama administration makes. Since we now know that the administration views everything through a long-term lens, wouldn’t it behoove pundits to at least TRY to determine what that lens would be? If they don’t even try, but react emotionally, tactically, or with a short-term view – what’s the point of even reading them anymore?

A perfect example: the decision by Obama to keep Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense. When it was announced in the fall, the outcry was completely predictable.

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It’s difficult not to return to my favorite subject, simply because he keeps providing me more fodder. I’ve long contended that David Sirota is, in fact, an idiot. A man who doesn’t come close to understanding the intricacies of issues – nor does he try to. Truth means nothing to Sirota, unless it fits into his pre-existing “populist” frame. Compare him to a guy like Matthew Yglesias who, agree with or not, actually does research and likes to know what he’s talking about before he writes about it. Sirota is shoot-first and never actually ask questions later – and his fire is almost always aimed at his favorite villain: Barack Obama.

For example, yesterday he pimped his own appearance on Rachel Maddow’s show and proceeded to draw an equivalency between Obama’s policies and those of Ronald Reagan (yes, really) and went on to decry, predictably, how Obama was mean to automakers but nice to Wall Street baddies. By the way, to Maddow’s credit, she’s pointed out that many financial execs were pushed out before receiving government funds as well, a point Sirota ignored, of course. Sirota jumped the shark ages ago at DailyKos, where at least 50% of commenters on his diaries figured out his shtick and called him on it (which is one reason he no longer engages in discussions in the comments, prompting the invention of the term “Shit and Run Diary”).

But he still has his core group of fans who are determined to despise Obama and anything that doesn’t fit into the faux-anger frame. To the fanatical Open Left fans, things like pragmatism, actual governing which involves compromise and seeing the larger strategic political landscape, all smack of evil corporatism. Everything Obama does is something to be outraged by, to grab the pitchforks and the storm the castle walls (or in their cases, grab their keyboards and say things like, and I’m not kidding, “impeach Obama!”). But did even this audience, so determined to despise Obama at all costs, finally figure out how fake Sirota’s “populism” is? If they did, it happened in this Sirota post which set a new bar for pure, unadulterated idiocy. Here’s what he wrote about Obama budget director Peter Orszag, and I quote:

How does a budget director who claims to be a deficit hawk in an administration that insists it wants to get rid of government waste nonetheless get driven around in a government car with a taxpayer-paid driver?

Yes, that’s right, David Sirota dedicated an entire post to expressing outrage that the WH budget director, with perhaps the busiest job in town, gets driven around on the taxpayer dime. To the barricades!!!!!! Or not.

But Sirota’s core audience finally may have awoken. Almost every comment to this post expressed disbelief that Sirota would write a post on this. Some samples:

Orzag seems to travel around DC a lot — maybe this way he can be on his phone or reviewing budget papers all the time, rather than spend 2-3 hours per day driving or taking the metro.

He should lay off his secretary too, if he still has one, and if there’s a deputy budget director or assistant budget director they should get the axe. In fact, let’s chop out the entire office of budget director! Then we’ll really show ’em who’s got images and appearances under control! We don’t need a real budget anyway, just something budget-ish.

This Orszag guy should be doing the real work that real workers do when they really work. He should be carrying heavy boxes around his office, raking leaves in the White House front yard, and taking out his own recycling. Someone ought to get a drill press and install it on his desk, and make him spend an hour a day with a hard hat and ear/eye protection on, getting his photo taken while drilling holes in sheet metal without any help from anyone. And shouldn’t he be helping Michelle dig holes in the organic garden?

The American people, despite the Drudge-like insistence, are not that facile and idiotic. The fact that Peter Orzag has a car and driver says NOTHING about this administrations policies and to make it seem like the appearance of this would is stupid beyond belief.

This is remarkably trivial. Wow, just wow. I can’t imagine any one actually caring about this.

Tipping point or turning point for Sirota? I doubt it. As long as he keeps getting his name out there and people like Maddow keep legitimizing his shoddy work, he’ll continue. But please, let there now, finally, be no doubt: David Sirota has no integrity. He is incapable of real analysis or thoughtful reporting. He is a bomb-thrower, and his target is the Obama administration, pure and simple. How else could you write a column focused on the fact that the budget director has a car and driver? I guess Sirota cares so much about working people he wants the federal government to lay as many of them off as possible.

He’ll keep on going, but this post was the nail in the coffin amongst anyone who thought that Sirota’s work deserved anything other than mockery.

It’s been a few months since I stopped participating in discussions at DailyKos. I left at the time because I felt that it was devolving into a series of endless outrages and microscopic arguments over the day-to-day minutiae of what was, at the time, just an administration in transition. I still read the site and check it out daily – and since I left I am grateful that I no longer have to get into mindless arguments with people (not everyone there, just the most vocal) who define themselves as consistently oppositional, utterly impractical, and deeply immature.

It was clear since November 5th that the blogosphere wasn’t going to unite behind Obama and form an organization to help him enact his agenda. No, that would be too Republican for them – too “mindless” – too much like the Bushies of yesteryear who failed to question the Iraq War, etc etc (note, I’m using their arguments, not mine). But even in my worst nightmares I didn’t imagine that they would be so short-sighted as to join with far-right members of the GOP in demanding that the Treasury Secretary step down two months into an effort of economic recovery. Even the supposed “adults” are joining in the game: Arianna Huffington joined in the chorus. Perhaps most distressingly, Frank Rich, normally so astute at seeing past the Northeast Corridor bubble at what the pundits miss, insultingly calls the AIG bonuses Obama’s “Katrina Moment,” despite evidence that, in the real world, this media-ginned-up outrage wasn’t hurting Obama’s poll numbers (and yes, I personally believe the AIG bonus debacle is a tempest in a teapot – a distraction for those who can’t handle the notion that economic recovery might involve some unfairness).

Al Giordano smartly points out that Geithner’s departure would be a disaster for economic recovery, makes no strategic sense now, and illustrates how few of his critics are proposing a realistic alternative – both to his plan and to his position. He posted his piece to DailyKos, spurring the usual amount of “oh you are just saying we can’t criticize Obama” nonsense. Indeed, more than a few members of DailyKos have pointed out how eagerly the community and the left-wing blogosphere has been drinking from the spout of God Krugman. Yes, I know, there are plenty of economists who dispute the validity of Geithner’s bank rescue plan, and they could indeed be right. But not one of them has to deal with the practical nature of governing, nor do very few of them propose alternatives (Krugman believes in nationalization/receivership – but rarely discusses how ugly this would be, entirely ignoring the IndyMac example).

But this isn’t even my main point: my main point is that to listen to the whims and passions of some of these communities is a foolhardy endeavor. Remember how we all loved to pile on Kristol or Friedman and attack them for their poor track records of getting things wrong? Well – let’s see what happens when we apply that test to some folks in our own world.

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It’s as simple as that. Why beat around the bush? They want Obama to fail, and therefore, they want the US economy to fail. The reasons are very very simple, and can be broken into two:

1) A failed economy under Obama brings Republicans back to power.

2) A successful stimulus plan will, once and for all, destroy Republican economic ideology. Enough time and distance from the New Deal allowed them to re-brand their same ideology as somehow relevant, but this would put the nail in that coffin. Period.

Josh Marshall, whose writing I think is generally excellent, but I think has been somewhat erratic since the election, nails it today:

…a successful Stimulus Bill would be devastating politically for the Republican party. And they know it. If the GOP successfully bottles this up or kills it with a death of a thousand cuts, Democrats will have a good argument amongst themselves that Republicans were responsible for creating the carnage that followed. But the satisfaction will have to be amongst themselves since as a political matter it will be irrelevant. The public will be entirely within its rights to blame Democrats for any failure of government action that happened while Democrats held the White House and sizable majorities in both houses of Congress.

I can’t take it. I just can’t take it anymore. Someone shut this guy up. I have never known a more ill-informed, idiotic rabble-rouser in my life than David Sirota. He makes some of the morons on the National Review seem like Val Kilmer’s roommate in “Real Genius.”

I know, I know, I’m getting repetitive – and I yearn for the day when there are more substantive things to blog about – but I can’t help it. And it’s not a question of disagreeing with someone. There are plenty of people I disagree with. It’s a question of David Sirota being an idiot.

I’ve railed against him before, so my feelings are nothing new. I’ve always felt like Sirota is an intellectually shallow hack who shoots first (at Democrats) and asks questions later. However, I was wrong. He never actually asks the questions later, he ends at the “shooting first” part. Part of me thinks he does this shtick to get attention. Part of me thinks he does it to prove some magical working-class credentials that he actually doesn’t have. But all of me thinks he’s helping bring down the left-wing netroots fast.

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This morning on CNN’s American Morning, John Roberts interviewed Tennessee Republican Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn regarding Obama’s stimulus package. She proceeded to go on a rant about how we need smaller government and “we know” the one thing that works to create jobs is to give businesses tax cuts, not increase government spending (of course, Roberts didn’t question her on the validity of her statements, despite Blackburn’s continued use of the refrain “we know what works” regarding tax cuts).

I’m reading Jonathan Alter’s “Defining Moment” book now and I’m struck by the parallels and the differences between our Republicans and the Republicans of 1933. Then, the Republicans were equally out of touch, demanding tax increases and cuts in government spending – a balanced budget, economic consequences be damned.

But today’s Republicans are even more preposterous:
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January 8, 2009

Sarah Palin sits down for a long interview to discuss how she was mistreated by the media. In it are such doozies as a personal attack on Katie Couric (“Katie, you’re not the center of everybody’s universe”), raising the point that she might have been discriminated against because of her class, her anger at SNL for a skit that aired before she went on the show…and her subsequently admitting that she would still have gone on the show had she seen it anyway, and more. If I’m not mistaken, this may be unprecedented:

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