Friday, June 20, 2008

The triumph of double-think

Back in the 1930s, many American Communists became disillusioned with the party when Moscow ordered them to make quick ideological U-turns. Only those hard-liners who possessed a formidable ability to edit memory found ways to be anti-Hitler one day and pro-Hitler the next.

Obama supporters have a similar gift for self-deception.

The Obama print ads shown here demonstrate how the campaign played to anti-NAFTA sentiments in states where such sentiments run deep. The Senator criticized the agreement in no uncertain terms.

Many of his most fervent supporters confused NAFTA with the larger issues of globalization and outsourcing, even though a Canada/Mexico/US agreement does not touch on China or India. Zealots presumed that Obama would stop NAFTA cold -- just as American communists once presumed that Stalin would never sign a pact with Hitler.

Now Barack Obama has shifted his position on NAFTA, offering this weak justification: "Sometimes during campaigns the rhetoric gets overheated and amplified."

In the words of Keith Olbermann: "HOW DARE YOU SIR?" As the ads reprinted here demonstrate, Obama did not make a mere slip of the tongue. He and his supporters demonized Hillary on this issue, framing her as a free trade fundamentalist -- even though she had denounced NAFTA and broke with her own husband on the issue.

One ad (reproduced on the right) catches the reader's eye with these words: "Hillary Clinton believed NAFTA was a "boon" to our economy." She never said anything of the sort. The Obamites could not cite a single quote from Hillary Clinton to back up their use of the word "boon;" that's why they had to change the ad. (See below; see also BeckiJayne's superbly-researched historical analysis here.)

Let's look back at the first NAFTA flap, which occurred in February. At that time, we learned that Obama's economic adviser Austan Goolsbee (who, unlike Hillary, really is a free trade fundamentalist) gave back-channel assurances to the Canadian government that Obama didn't really mean his anti-NAFTA rhetoric.

At first, we heard the deceptive claim that Goolsbee did not belong to Team Obama. Nevertheless, Goolsbee "also said he has been told to direct any questions to the campaign headquarters." (Good boy! Toss him a snausage.)

Naturally, the progressives became infuriated... Hillary Clinton.

At first, we heard vague rumors that the Canadian flap was a dirty trick against Obama. On February 28 and 29, progressive opinion solidified around the idea that NAFTA-gate (as it was soon dubbed) was a Clintonian scheme.

At that moment, the O-Borg received a nugget of (fool's) gold: The Globe and Mail published a story suggesting that Clinton's campaign, not Obama's, had given the back-channel assurances. The unnamed source for this assertion pointed to Ian Brodie, Chief of Staff to Canadian PM Stephen Harper:
“Mr. Brodie, apparently seeking to play down the potential impact on Canada, told the reporters the threat was not serious, and that someone from Ms. Clinton's campaign had even contacted Canadian diplomats to tell them not to worry because the NAFTA threats were mostly political posturing. The Canadian Press cited an unnamed source last night as saying that several people overheard the remark..."
(Emphasis added.) Based on that evidence -- "unnamed source...saying that several people overheard" -- the progressive blogs entered into an orgy of Clinton-hate.

Space forbids a full recapitulation of the ensuing propaganda barrage. Let us focus on one discussion thread which was front-paged on Daily Kos.

Kos writer TocqueDeville (who, in subsequent days, never apologized for his fabrications) concocted an absurd conspiracy theory in which a conservative Canadian government teamed up with Republican-in-disguise Hillary Clinton to "sabatoge Barack Obama."
But with what we do know, it is obvious what happened here: Ian Brodie screwed up, and leaked the fact that Hillary Clinton was lying about her position on NAFTA. The Harper government and the Canadian ambassador went into damage control and decided the best way to cover Clinton's ass was to manufacture the same charge against Obama using the Goolsbee meeting as ammunition. A corrupt and complicit reporter, Tom Clark of CTV, either knowingly facilitated the cover story, or at least allowed himself to be used as an agent of it. And this whole scheme worked long enough to win Ohio for Clinton.
As we shall see, not one shred of evidence supported any of this libelous nonsense. (Tom Clark should have sued Markos Moulitsas.) Even so, the progressives ate it up like Christmas candy. Typical responses:
As soon as I heard the reference that Clinton's campaign had also, made contact, I knew that another Clinton "whopper" was in the making... The Clinton's are dangerous, lying, neocon, corporate/MIC enablers.
Hillary has joined the ranks of George Bush in lying every time she opens her mouth.
Billary, started it all by telling Canada that even though she was bad mouthing NAFTA on the campaign trail, do not worry I really still support NAFTA. Politicians like to talk out of both sides of their mouths. Right Billary?
Obama did not reassure Canada of anything...It was all bullshit to cover up the leak that Hillary DID reassure Canada
If anything, this story shows that Hillary is just plain dishonest.
It's worth noting that the pro-Obama discourse at that time was stridently anti-NAFTA. Example:
The US establishment benefits from NAFTA...As does the Canadian establishment. In fact, the establishment is not US or Canadian. These people seem to be without country.
This sort of rhetoric gets us parlously near the paranoid realms of the Illuminati-spotters.

Bottom line: Any honest evaluation of primary season progressive commentary makes clear that most on the left believed that Obama would end NAFTA and reverse the outsourcing of American jobs.

Kossacks being Kossacks, they could not resist the Get-this-to-Keith moment:
Mr. Olbermann, are you there?
Yes he was. He slammed Hillary for her imaginary secret dealings with the Canadians. The following quote comes from a rare D.U. writer who dared to criticize the sainted Olbermann:
KO took this story and ran with it as if it was true - but then KO has been biased for Obama for a long time and his telling this lie just fits with his past actions. Indeed on the show he also could not name the source of the story tonight - the "who heard it" - but that did not stop him.
Upon seeing these heretical words, the progressives responded with their usual venom:
But it's very clear that Hillary Clinton's own organization was behind the initial contact and they lied about it afterward. It's among the most shameful political missteps I've ever seen. She must have Karl Rove on staff.
This false accusation gained credibility through sheer repetition. Here is the truth:

Even though Austan Goolsbee initially asserted that he never spoke about NAFTA with Georges Rioux of the Canadian Consulate General in Chicago -- and even though the Obama campaign officially denied the CTV report -- all parties now admit that Team Obama lied.


The Canadian government conducted an investigation which confirmed the existence of the Goolsbee/Rioux meeting and sought to assign blame for the leak. See this YouTube video; also see here:
A subsequent account of the meeting by Canadian officials indicated that Obama economic adviser Austan Goolsbee had informed them that Obama's criticism of NAFTA could be taken as "political positioning."
Goolsbee -- caught with his pants down and his proboscis lengthened -- eventually tried to sell a new story: Yes, he had spoken to a representative of the Canadian government, but his remarks were misinterpreted. That fib never took hold.

Barack Obama now admits that he does not want to ditch the NAFTA agreement. He contemplates a few modifications, not a thorough revision.

What, then, about the false story that Clinton, not Obama, initiated the back-channel dialog? Remember, progressives never questioned the poorly-sourced Globe and Mail piece, which served as the foundation slab for their Grand Tower of Clintonian Conspiracy.

The yarn originated with a single, unnamed source who reported that other unnamed parties had overheard Ian Brodie speak off the record. Brodie later said that he could not recall mentioning Clinton to reporters. Both the Canadian government and the Clinton campaign categorically denied that any Hillary staffer had opened up a secret channel of communication. Of course, in the progressive imagination, a categorical denial only shows how evil those Clintons truly are.

Investigation revealed that the "blame Hillary" hoax was based on a foolish presumption:
Brodie told investigators that while visiting the Canadian embassy in Washington the day before, he heard someone say something about a back-channel assurance from one of the campaigns. Brodie said he assumed the remark was about Clinton because there was a story in the news on Clinton’s remarks about renegotiating NAFTA.

To this date, neither the Kossacks nor Keith Olbermann nor any other Obama supporters have offered apologies for their despicable allegations -- which they paraded as fact, without any "ifs" or "perhapses" or other qualifying remarks. (Speculation has a place in blog-land, as long as it comes labeled as such.)

How do progressives react to Barack Obama's newfound pro-NAFTA sentiments? Most of them do not know that his new stance is actually his original stance. In 2004, he said:
“The United States benefits enormously from exports under the WTO and NAFTA.”
Note the reference to the World Trade Organization, loathed by most leftists.

And yet, during the campaign in Ohio, in his own published materials (see the example at the top of this page) Obama said:
"I don't think NAFTA has been good for America -- and I never have."
The fanatically pro-Obama Huffington Post has decided that Obama has always offered "nuanced" support for NAFTA, and never mind what you read on those printed campaign ads. One reader's response:
The media has a sneaky way of editing and cutting candidates remarks to fit the agenda they're pushing.
Does the official advertisement reproduced here count as "editing and cutting"? To me, it looks more like "lying and deceiving" -- especially this part: "Only Barack Obama consistently opposed NAFTA."

Meanwhile, the Kossacks responded to Obama's position shift by repeating the charge that Hillary had "flip flopped." When this diarist offered a very tentative argument against Obama (the headline was changed to make weak tea even weaker), the predictable barrage of paranoid outrage came quickly:
Only a Clinton supporter, still trying to poison the well, would post this diary.
The Great Clinton Conspiracy theorists never stop. Neither do the acolytes of vituperative unreason:
Go away, we don't need this and if you don't like his stand on NAFTA then your not dealing with reality.
And neither do the aficionados of strained rationalization:
Free trade is starting to look alot better with a weak dollar and higher oil prices.
This, despite the fact that the entire left expressed a volcanic rage against NAFTA, the WTO and free trade just two or three months ago. This, despite the fact that Obama ran on an anti-NAFTA platform in Ohio and elsewhere, and had mischaraterized Hillary's own position.

Yesterday, we quoted Atlantic writer Virginia Postrel on Obama's hallucination-prone supporters:
He attracts supporters who not only disagree with his stated positions but assume he does too. They project their own views onto him and figure he is just saying what other, less discerning voters want to hear.
This capacity for self-deception runs deeper than even Postrel comprehends. Pro-Obama fanatics have gone beyond convincing themselves that Dear Leader secretly shares their own views. Now they -- like the American Communists of yore -- have discovered the ability to convince themselves that they have always believed the new party line, however mutable the party line may prove.

As Orwell wrote:
All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory. 'Reality control' they called it: in Newspeak, 'doublethink'."
(Note to the reader: I'm rather proud of this post. I'd be grateful to anyone who links to it or directs attention to it.)


Brenda J. Elliott said...

Gotcha covered at RW.

Becki Jayne said...

Dang, Joseph. What's that saying about great minds? I cited your previous post (Just Words) with the video in commentary about Obama's okey doke on NAFTA, but I hadn't seen this one until now. You and I both picked up on the Obama's misleading NAFTA mailer. Spooky.

But great job.

*Goes off shaking head wondering if we're psychic twins*

Joseph Cannon said...

Becki, you certainly would not want to be my PHYSICAL twin. But I rewrote the piece slightly, adding a link to your fine work -- and lifting one of your graphics.


2Truthy said...

Excellent post, Joseph.

They call it 'groupthink'.

"Any honest evaluation of primary season progressive commentary makes clear that most on the left believed that Obama would end NAFTA and reverse the outsourcing of American jobs."

Here's the part that gets me: Gore (Silicon Valley tech venture capitalist) backed Obama supporters are PRO job outsourcing, if not MORE than "free-trade" McCain supporters. This has more to do with PRO immigration (particulary LEGAL H-1b visa/green card) policy in the name of cheap labor. Obama's camp is playing the bleeding heart card on immigration so that corporate whores can open up the floodgates for unlimited cheap labor from India and China during this depressed job market.

It is stupefying to see the Kossacks line up behind the white collar job killing, Gore backed Obama (Hillary supporters, too -- don't forget she is Chair of the Senate India Caucus, the white collar job killer lobby). The Left is just the 'Punch' to the Right's 'Judy'. Nader gets it.

Joseph Cannon said...

Good points, 2truthy.

You know, I still get robo-cranks who write "Your girl lost; get over it." No matter how many times I tell them, they refuse to listen: Hillary is NOT my girl.

Just because I will not tolerate lying about her does not mean I agree with all of her views.

Truth be told, the Kucinich view on NAFTA was closer to mine. Of the "viable" candidates, Edwards was best on this topic.

You may recall that I carried an ad for Edwards at the top of this blog for a long, long time.

As for the Obama position on NAFTA -- well, what IS his position?

Which way is the wind blowing?

Anonymous said...

Gosh and now he has also flip-flopped on taking public campaign financing and on FISA. His supporters' heads must be exploding. Although I bet some think he has a secret plan...


Mike Ombry said...

Interesting post. Just thought you would be interested. I only recently have been taking a more serious look at McCain. I supported Hillary and have seen less and less to like about Obama. I said this today on Democratic Underground. When one of the posters seemed oblivious as to how anyone could not be all onboard with Obama, I said that there were others and posted a link to the JustSayNoDeal website. When I went back tonight, my posting priviledges had been revoked! I suggested to them that discussing these concerns seemed to me to be better than blogger capital punishment. We'll see what their response is. I guess I am not pure enough of thought or something.

Joseph Cannon said...

Mike, I am extremely interested in this statement.

Many people object to my penchant for quoting outrageous bits of reader commentary originally published on Kos and DU. I'm told that I cannot judge the Obama campaign by the things said by a few rabble rousers.

Yet those "rabble rousing" comments exist only because the blog masters WANT them there. Your experience -- and that of many others -- proves as much.

Moulitsas, Marshall, Stassinopoulis, and the DU admins are personally responsible for the tone of the reader comments -- just as I (in a much smaller way) am responsible for what goes on here.

This is not to say that I agree with everything said here. Hell, I might conceivably allow a Holocaust denier or a KKK-style bigot to comment here -- but only once, and only to mount a response of my own.

I can't control every word on every comment, but I am responsible for the overall tone.

Same thing at DU.

The Hillary-hate -- the recapitulation of all the anti-Clinton lies of the 1990s -- should be blamed on the people who run those sites. They could have shut that nonsense down cold.

And they were working hand-in-hand with Obama.

orionATL said...

joseph -

this is fine reporting and fine commentary.

i was reminded of bob somerby as i was reading down the scroll,

but your work is on a larger, historic scale, as opposed to the solely contemporary.


rjarnold said...

Great post!

In all fairness to Obama, it isn't his fault that a majority of the net-roots and democrat activists are a bunch of fools.

And on an unrelated note, Obama is already playing the race card for the GE in a subtle way, and no one is calling him on it. Here's the article:

"They're going to try to make you afraid of me. He's young and inexperienced and he's got a funny name. And did I mention he's black?"

He has no evidence whatsoever that Republican campaigners are going to use racial politics (not even a quote that can be taken out of context), but he can still attacks them for it, because he "knows" they will. It will be interesting if this strategy backfires against him.

Anonymous said...


There is something in your post you may wish to [re-]consider.

"Kos writer TocqueDeville (who, in subsequent days, never apologized for his fabrications) concocted an absurd conspiracy theory in which a conservative Canadian government teamed up with Republican-in-disguise Hillary Clinton to "sabatoge Barack Obama."

I realize that these are not your words and that they don't represent your ideas, but I think a less partisan mind would have realized what the "conservative" Canadian government was really up to with this clumsy ploy.

It wasn't designed to help "Republican-in-disguise Hillary;" it was designed to help Republicans.

Think about it. Whether via Brodie or Wilson [or whomever leaked the Goolsbie memo,] the Harperites smeared both Dem candidates and set them at each other's throats. The issue became divisive and led to much finger-pointing.

Then Harper puts on his disingenuous "Who, me?" act and states that his government has no interest in gaming the primary for either Dem. Which is technically true, because he was gaming it for the Republicans, his political brethren.

I think that's a distinction worth noting, and just because TocqueDeville didn't entertain it doesn't mean that nobody else should entertain it either.

I just want you and your readers to realize: while Harper didn't act at Hillary's behest or to her benefit, it doesn't mean that Harper had no ulterior motive for what transpired. He did.

A smarter and smoother politician wouldn't have been caught doing it, but then Harper is neither smart nor smooth. He is George Bush with a somewhat better vocabulary.

Anonymous said...

Great post. Don't know who is linking to it and not but C.I. included you in the snapshot today

Gary Reagan Sherrill said...

I recently watched a program that Hannity did on Obama. They had some very dramatic music playing in the background while they told stories about Obama and his past associations. The funny part is, the tone of Hannitys report made it sound as if Obama was a child killer, and yet the content of the report was stuff like " he bought a house from a crooked real estate salesman". I have always thought of real estate salesmen, and salesmen in general, as being pretty darn crooked.
In my opinion the majority of the attacks on President Elect Obama sound really silly.
I do understand that NAFTA is a life killer, and the elimination of NAFTA should be a top priority. Why not get upset about a bunch of thieves that got us into a war based on lies who now have set up a 700 billion dollar theft of the American peoples tax dollars. UNBELIEVABLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I wasn't going to vote for him because I have been so frustrated with African Americans and the afro-American anti-white propaganda machine. The funny thing is, I believed I didn't want him as my President for specific qualified reasons. I meet white idiots every day and that would not have stopped me from voting for McCain. What a revelation! Once I understood this about myself and I understood how this affects my observations I realized that this guy is about as good as it's going to get. He is a young, motivated workaholic who believes that he has much to prove. At least with him we have a shot at a future. I suppose you would still rather an old out of touch elitist was going to run the country for the next 4 years. Anyone that would openly admit he wanted to tax my health care benefits while reducing capital gains taxes tells me how little Mccain understands about reality or more importantly the reality of an average working class American. I have several specific reasons why I voted the way that I did. However, my own blue collar, last generation father told me that he would hang up the phone if I said anything positive about Obama. When I asked him what specifically were the reasons he did not want to have Obama sitting in the White House he rambled off a bunch of meaningless generalizations "he's a Muslim" and "the children were singing to him the same way they used to sing to Hitler". HITLER??????
I don't think you even realize that all of the information you are filtering from the media is tainted by an anger towards the average black American. With all that we have suffered under an 8 year Bush Presidency it's amazing to hear fellow citizens nit pick a young talented hard working family man. The guy was campaigning! Who cares if he was stroking the right while feeding the left.
If that is all we have to complain about then we can go ahead and write-off every person that ever ran for any public office. It's obvious when looking at him and his positions on the whole, that it would be silly to believe he is a pro NAFTA blood sucking life killer. Look at the diversity of perspectives he has surrounded himself with in this transition period. He is just trying to figure out the best way out of this mess.

I understand that I'm not as intelligent or sophisticated as the average person observing these issues. My vocabulary is limited and I don't have much education. However, I believe that the choice that we made on November the 4th was a no-brainer. With all that we face ahead of us, I think that its time to stop all of the political in-fighting and start to focus on the things we need to do. As my soon to be Commander in Chief puts it, "Lets get to work"
Search your heart.