Anti-War Activist Shames Himself in Obey Confrontation (Updated)

Alright. We’re all going to talk about Obey so let’s get it out of the way so we can go on to something substantive – the FBI’s ignorance of the Constitution and the Republicans’ contempt for it, maybe.

What bothers me about that video isn’t the fact that Obey’s frustration led him to a little name-calling (not of the people involved but of liberals in general). That’s understandable given what he and other Democrats have been up against with the Republicans.

They also seem to have waylaid him in a hall at the end of the day. Right from the beginning he looks tired, on edge, yet he stays patient with Richards for a couple of minutes before he snaps a little, and even then he barely raises his voice until the end when he’s somewhat wound up. And why not? These people are supposed to be on his side and they’re harassing him.

And it doesn’t bother me that they were harassing him a bit. A lot of Democrats deserve harassment. They sat on their hands for years or actively rolled over to Bush and Cheney and Ashcroft (remember him?) and Gonzales and Rice and so on and so on, allowing them to make patently false statements time and again without calling them on it. Nor has their cowardice under Pub rule earned them any points. And it shouldn’t. They’ve shown little in the way of backbone for two decades now (except in the area of fighting Bush’s outrageous choices for federal judgeships, for which they deserve full credit) and their shameful behavior during the run-up to the invasion was a low point in Democratic history, no error.

Nor does the fact that it was clearly a setup. With the bulk of the mainstream media in the pockets of the powerful, citizen guerrilla-journalism is eminently justifiable. The late Hunter Thompson invented the phrase “gonzo journalism” to describe a type of reporting that deliberately sets out to break the gentlemen’s agreement between reporters and their targets that there is such a thing as “off the record”, when politicians in particular can be as hypocritical and debased as they like secure in the knowledge that it will never see the light of print. In gonzo, nothing was off the record, especially in politics. In a time of extreme, authoritarian secrecy on the part of the govt, gonzo is an absolutely necessary counterbalance.

No, what’s disturbing isn’t Obey but the astounding ignorance of the two who accosted him.

Richards is the mother of a serving Marine, not a political activist, who was injected into this little piece of street theater (or perhaps I should say, “hall theater”) to give it weight. Yet having agreed to do it, she didn’t even bother to find out who Obey was. She didn’t seem to know that he was the sponsor of the bill she was asking him to vote “no” on. She didn’t understand how Congress works. She seemed unaware of the way Republicans have used the rules to hijack the process. In fact, she didn’t seem terribly aware that the Pubs were a significant part of that process. She seemed, genuinely, not to understand why, if the Democrats wanted to end the war, they couldn’t just do it instead of dicking around with non-binding resolutions. She even admitted as much to the Post.

“I don’t understand why it has to be that way,” she said in an interview yesterday.

No, she clearly doesn’t. She is a citizen of a country at war, her son is risking death in that war, and she doesn’t have a clue how the govt behind the war works. That is an almost inexcusable lack of knowledge, yet it is as common as ignorance of, say, nuclear physics in the US population.

Worse – far worse – is the ignorance paraded by the real activist, the unidentified male at the end of the video who is most likely the one responsible for this execrable little drama. Not only has he picked the worst possible target for his ambush, he doesn’t know it. Obey was one of the earliest and most vocal Democratic voices against the war. I remember that when he made his first public anti-war statement, it was news because it was a Democrat making it. We were looking for some Dem, any Dem, to go against the president’s phony war. Obey was it and he was practically by himself in those days. And this is the guy you pick on?

But this unnamed birdbrain’s shameful ignorance goes a lot deeper than that. He’s an “activist” yet he doesn’t have even the fundamental knowledge an activist must have, like for instance the fact that the House doesn’t filibuster. Or what a “supplemental budget” is, let alone that it’s Bush’s responsibility to present a budget or the (slightly) subtler knowledge that the Iraq war isn’t in the regular budget because Bush wants to be able to claim the deficit is a lot smaller than he would have to acknowledge it is if the expense of the war was included. He seems to believe the Democrats did it and can toss it into the regular budget just by voting to do so. All of that is so far beyond this clown that Obey might as well have been speaking Sumerian.

This is embarrassing, not for Obey but for the anti-war movement. That so-called “activist” ought to have his ears boxed and his right to challenge anyone older than 12 taken away until he can pass at least the minimum standard of Constitutional and civic knowledge. He’s got no business representing us. In fact, this nitwit is so clueless, I’m not sure he has the wherewithal to be up and around. No wonder Obey lost his temper. In the same position, I wouldn’t have generalized my characterization. I would have told him he was an idiot. Which he is.

The only way this self-glorifying tv show could have been worse was if either of them was impolite. Fortunately, they weren’t. The one thing the activist blockhead has going for him is that he stayed calm.

The unfortunate part is the distinct probability that, as piss-poor as his performance was, this embarrassing video is going to make him a star when what it ought to make him is a laughing-stock. A pity, but that’s the topsy-turvy world we’re living in.

Update: David Sirota agrees, but for different reasons.

[B]erating one of the antiwar movement’s longtime leaders and then trying to mount his head on the virtual YouTube wall over a debate about the best WAY to end the war suggests that the antiwar movement fundamentally does not understand the very power structure it is trying to influence. It’s the same fundamental misunderstanding we at the Progressive States Network experienced when a few antiwar activists attacked us for pushing resolutions in state legislatures that “only” call for Congress to defund the Iraq escalation, as opposed to ending the war entirely (which, by the way, many of these resolutions do – Progressive States, unlike some other organizations on the left, is not in the top-down habit of dictating to state legislators what they exactly have to do – we provide models and templates and support so the effort is actually homegrown, and in that process our models and templates are customized).


However, the troubling thing out of the spat is not Obey’s behavior: it is the reaction to it by the progressive movement, and what that reaction really says. The idea that Jack Murtha – the guy who voted for the war, the guy who was one of the most outspoken pro-war Democrats, the guy who has never seen a defense bill he didn’t try to increase – is now an antiwar saint beyond reproach, but Dave Obey is some sort of pro-war villain is so fundamentally absurd it suggests that at least some who liken themselves as progressive movement leaders really are “idiot liberals” because they have positively no idea how the hell basic movement building or power works…

(link thanks to Norwegianity)

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