The Circular Firing Squad

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Here’s Barack Obama at a fundraiser last night:

Democrats, just congenitally, tend to get — to see the glass as half empty. (Laughter.) If we get an historic health care bill passed – oh, well, the public option wasn’t there. If you get the financial reform bill passed — then, well, I don’t know about this particular derivatives rule, I’m not sure that I’m satisfied with that. And gosh, we haven’t yet brought about world peace and — (laughter.) I thought that was going to happen quicker. (Laughter.) You know who you are. (Laughter.) We have had the most productive, progressive legislative session in at least a generation.

“In other words,” says Glenn Greenwald, “you’re just a petulant, unreasonable, unrealistic, fringe child who doesn’t appreciate the greatness and generosity he’s given you….What’s most striking about Obama’s comments is that there is no acceptance whatsoever of responsibility (I’ve failed in some critical areas; we could have/should have done better).” Jane Hamsher piles on too: “It all appears to be little more than an egotistical, thin-skinned taunt aimed at those they feel aren’t giving them the accolades the Democrats think they deserve.”

I know why Jane and Glenn and plenty of others are angry at Obama. Some of their disappointments I share, some I don’t. And there’s some history here. But still: come on, folks. It’s a campaign fundraiser. It’s a place where you rouse whichever troops are in the audience and reel off a list of your accomplishments, not one where you hang your head and talk about your failures. It’s a place where you tell a few jokes — like acknowledging the fact that liberals have been devotees of the circular firing squad for as long as liberals have existed. It’s lighthearted after-dinner stuff, not an address to the nation.

I wish Obama and his staff would knock off these kinds of jibes, but even so it doesn’t make sense to go this ballistic over a casual remark at a fundraising event. Maybe we should all ease up a bit on this stuff.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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