Thursday, October 4, 2012

Shocking Failure of President Obama in First 2012 Debate Leads to Immediate Crisis in His Campaign For Re-election


It's time to tell the WHOLE TRUTH and nothing but about  last night's ludicrous "debate" between the President and one of the most despicable immoral cretins ever to run for the Presidency, Mitt Romney. Incredibly Obama LOST bigtime!  What an utterly pathetic performance by  the President!  He was unbelievably bad.  JUST FUCKING AWFUL.  He looked and sounded scared, defensive,  distracted, weak, unengaged, confused, and WOEFULLY ill-prepared.  It was a complete disaster that actually made Romney the pathological liar look and sound credible.  Which is absolutely stunning given the ever present reality that nearly every single thing out of his mouth was 100% FALSE.  And yet Obama stood there at the lectern stupidly looking down and scribbling notes (?)  and refusing for 95% of the entire evening to make any eye contact with either Romney or the camera, while endlessly droning on and on like he was pedantically lecturing at an absurdly boring college seminar.  It was a ridiculous performance which has inexplicably now given Romney an opening and a real opportunity to win this election that he NEVER should have had at all if only Obama had simply shown some GUTS and taken on his moronic opponent like a real LEADER and not an egocentric and cowardly chump looking for somebody to feel sorry for him and suggest that Romney was simply taking advantage of his "goodwill" or "politesse" or whatever the fuck kind of boneheaded and silly excuse the President was indulging in.  To say I was shocked, stunned, angry, or "disappointed" would all be vast understatements. Watching Obama tonight all I really felt was DISGUST...To think that I and so many other people are going to have to vote for this coward because the psychotic "alternative" is far worse just sums up why this particular presidential election is the DEPRESSING FARCE that it really is and one of the worst I've ever seen...I've been saying since 2008 that the only way that Obama could lose his bid for re-election in the end would be a lethal combination of RACISM AND HUBRIS...THEIR RACISM AND HIS HUBRIS.  After tonight I feel that way now more than ever...


Comment by Chuleenan on last night's debate that she sent to the Obama website:

I'm writing because I'm VERY disappointed in the president's debate performance tonight. He didn't engage, didn't debate. He lectured! I didn't want to hear a wonky talk from him. I can't believe he didn't attack Romney, didn't address the $716B in Medicare cuts that are in the Ryan budget but that Romney kept saying Obama was cutting. I know they're not cuts but why let Romney's dishonest repetition of those comments stand? I'm still voting for Obama but he better do much better at the next debate and act like he cares.

President Obama did badly in his first debate—by his standards, by those of his supporters, and in comparison to Mitt Romney.

"Surely, Obama’s campaign strategists know this. So why did the President avoid a heavy counter-attack of Mitt Romney? A lot of black people in social media are saying it’s because the President has to avoid looking like an angry black man. No one (and by no one, they mean white people) wants the specter of a black man threatening or sassing the good, smart white businessman who only wants what’s best for us. Sigh.

During Obama’s April 26, 2007 primary debate in South Carolina, he received a softball question that he flubbed, perfectly illustrating how race binds his words and actions.

Q: The NAACP has asked tourists, groups and sporting events not to come to South Carolina until the confederate flag has been removed from the statehouse grounds. Do you agree with that? Why are you, the candidates, in South Carolina if they support the NAACP? A: I think that the Confederate flag should be put in a museum. That’s where it belongs. But we’ve got an enormous debate that’s taking place in this country right now. And we’ve got to engage the people of South Carolina in that debate.

He started out strong, then conceded that the confederate flag was a matter of debate. And when he got to the Oval Office, he continued the Presidential tradition of sending dead Confederate veterans a wreath for their Arlington National Cemetery monument."


The quote above from the following article is an expression of a profound intellectual, moral, and political COWARDICE with respect to white people and their racist bullshit generally that I see far too often in blackfolks today and ESPECIALLY in the generation(s) under the age of 50.  In some very disturbing and self destructive ways I also see President Obama (who turned 51 on August 4) as a major and rather bizarre "generational spokesman" for these reactionary attitudes and values regarding the absurd racist category and pervasive American FEAR AND HATRED of the "angry black man" (who BTW is "also" a "human being").  Until we all wake up from and denounce this self induced COMA and COWARDICE among black people today we will be and remain SLAVES AND VICTIMS of the 21st century edition of the the racist doctrine of white supremacy--which is to say "Slavery by Another Name"... Whether Obama is President or not...


It's Time For Obama To Become The 'Angry Black Man'
By Kelly Virella
Dominion of New York    

President Obama performed so badly in the debate last night that Amy Davidson from the New Yorker was able to cite seven opportunities he missed to nail Mitt Romney. I think her most egregious example was the President’s failure to swoop down on Romney’s comment that he needed to tell his attorney about the tax deduction Obama said U.S. corporations receive when they move American jobs abroad.

Romney said: “You said you get a deduction for getting a plant overseas. Look, I’ve been in business for twenty-five years. I have no idea what you’re talking about. I maybe need to get a new accountant.”

Obama should have said, according to Davidson:

a) “Sounds like you have a lot of experience moving jobs overseas.” b) “Governor, you’re the one who is wrong. You might even find that deduction in the hundred of pages of your own returns” c) “I don’t know, Governor, based on what we know about the rate of taxes you pay, you might want to keep that accountant.” (Nick Paumgarten came up with that one in The New Yorker’s live chat.)

The President’s failure to catch that rhetorical softball was bad, but far worse was his glaring refusal to confront and sting Romney for flip-flopping on big matters like his tax plan. The Washington Post, The New York Times, and all agree that Romney has proposed a $5 trillion tax cut. As a Facebook friend of mine suggested, Obama could at any moment have pulled back and said, “Ok, yesterday you had one tax plan. Now you say have another. What exactly is your plan? I have time for you to explain it.”

Romney changed his entire tone during the debate, largely by parroting Obama’s talking points, leading a lot of viewers to wonder — egged on by moderator Jim Lehrer’s questions — how the two men actually differ. Smarter people than me, including Gene Demby writing for Dominion of New York, say the impact of Presidential debates is overstated. But if this debate is an exception, Romney’s parroting of Obama could very well be a major blow to Obama’s campaign.

Most likely, Romney’s logic is that if white independent voters are given a choice between a black man and a white man with the same ideas, the white voters will choose the white man, because he makes them feel more “comfortable.” It’s a very cynical way of thinking that could actually help Mitt Romney win this election.

Surely, Obama’s campaign strategists know this. So why did the President avoid a heavy counter-attack of Mitt Romney? A lot of black people in social media are saying it’s because the President has to avoid looking like an angry black man. No one (and by no one, they mean white people) wants the specter of a black man threatening or sassing the good, smart white businessman who only wants what’s best for us. Sigh.

During Obama’s April 26, 2007 primary debate in South Carolina, he received a softball question that he flubbed, perfectly illustrating how race binds his words and actions.

Q: The NAACP has asked tourists, groups and sporting events not to come to South Carolina until the confederate flag has been removed from the statehouse grounds. Do you agree with that? Why are you, the candidates, in South Carolina if they support the NAACP? 

A: I think that the Confederate flag should be put in a museum. That’s where it belongs. But we’ve got an enormous debate that’s taking place in this country right now. And we’ve got to engage the people of South Carolina in that debate.

He started out strong, then conceded that the confederate flag was a matter of debate. And when he got to the Oval Office, he continued the Presidential tradition of sending dead Confederate veterans a wreath for their Arlington National Cemetery monument.

I understand that as a black man at the helm of this nation, Obama is in a pickle. Ta-nehisi Coates wrote a great description of that predicament in his landmark “Fear of a Black President” essay:

“Part of Obama’s genius is a remarkable ability to soothe race consciousness among whites. Any black person who’s worked in the professional world is well acquainted with this trick. But never has it been practiced at such a high level, and never have its limits been so obviously exposed. This need to talk in dulcet tones, to never be angry regardless of the offense, bespeaks a strange and compromised integration indeed, revealing a country so infantile that it can countenance white acceptance of blacks only when they meet an Al Roker standard.”

I don’t pretend to be happy around white people, which is one reason I probably could never be successful in a corporate environment. But I do understand and respect the compromise that black people make everyday to get along in their workplaces, including the White House. I even understand why, back in 2007, Obama didn’t say about the Confederate flag, “The South lost a war that left hundreds of thousands of Americans dead, while defending slavery. The flag is history. Put it in a museum and move on.”

Putting up with BS is part of what keeps President Obama alive. So I’ve stood behind most of his compromises and concessions. But I’m at the point now where I really need to see someone in power — namely my President — challenge it.

The fear that white people will perceive us as angry controls the behavior of far too many powerful black people — possibly even the most powerful black person in the world, the President of the United States of America.

How long will we allow this type of fear to control us? When will be the right time for us to speak our minds on our jobs, in our Presidential debates?

If your answer is never, that’s a problem.

I’m not asking Obama to go Redd Foxx or Sherman Helmsley and start clowning Romney. I am simply asking him to be firm and direct, to be the authority figure that he is, to be the President.

Some white people won’t have a problem with it. Some will. It could cost him the election. It could propel him to victory.

The point is: No one really knows what would happen if the President truly challenged Romney in a debate. The only way to find out is by trying.

A Nationally-Televised Presidential Fail
Thursday, 04 October 2012
By William Rivers Pitt, Truthout 

President Barack Obama, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and moderator Jim Lehrer, center, after the presidential debate at the University of Denver, in Denver, October 3, 2012. (Photo: Doug Mills / The New York Times)


"I don't know how he let Romney get away with the crap he threw out tonight."
--Chris Matthews, MSNBC

It is never a pleasant experience to lead an article with a Chris Matthews quote, but in this instance, it suits the moment. Something like 60 million people tuned in Wednesday night to watch President Obama and Governor Romney face each other in the first debate of the election. What they got, in the end, was a mess.

First of all, and let's just get this one out of the way, it is my devout hope that Jim Lehrer has moderated his last debate. The man lost control of the situation from the beginning, interrupted the participants on multiple occasions, and allowed Mr. Romney to steamroll through time limit after time limit. It was as if some recently-unemployed NFL replacement referee wandered onstage and took the moderator's chair. Lehrer seemed to have no conception of the purpose of his role in the event, threw flags that were not warranted, and called holding penalties that only served to interrupt the flow. Jim Lehrer, sad to say, made David Gregory's performance during the Scott Brown-Elizabeth Warren debate look like Masterpiece Theater by comparison, and that, my friends, is saying something.

But that gripe only goes so far. Mr. Obama, I am sure, was counseled to be cautious on Wednesday night; after all, he's ahead, and all the pressure was on Romney to come through in a big way. For my part, I had high hopes that Mr. Obama would be aggressive with Romney, pin him down on any number of the contradictions and outright fabrications that define the GOP candidate's campaign, and park the argument once and for all in front of the largest audience this race is likely to see: this guy is a fatuous gasbag, a rudderless bullshit artist of the purest ray serene, and here is the proof...and here, and here, and here, and also here and here, and here, and also here.

It did not happen that way.

Three moments from Wednesday night stand out for me in high relief.

The first came when Mr. Romney re-re-re-re-re-told the $716 billion Medicare lie around 43 minutes into the debate. To wit: "Under the president's plan, he cuts Medicare by $716 billion, takes that money out of the Medicare trust fund and uses it to pay for Obamacare," said Romney. This is a brazen lie, which was debunked in front of a massive television audience by former President Bill Clinton during the Democratic National Convention to lethal effect. This was around the tenth outright lie Romney told on Wednesday night, but would not be the last. Mr. Obama, in that moment, had a golden opportunity to blow Mr. Romney right out of the room. By calling Romney out on that one epic deception, by driving the point home hard and deep, Obama would have in the process called every other assertion Romney made, and would make, into question. Tag a liar for being a liar, and he stays a liar in the eyes of all in observance.

But that great big fat hanging meatball of a pitch sailed right over the plate, and Mr. Obama did not swing at it. A dozen other like-sized lies meatballed their way slowly and ponderously through the strike zone as the evening ground on, and in similar fashion, Mr. Obama turned up his nose and allowed them to slap into the catcher's mitt unmolested.

The second moment came during the "Role of Government" segment. Both candidates, when asked about their opinions on the role of government in American society, delivered a word-salad that best represents...well, nothing, really, at all. Word-salad is made of iceberg lettuce: it has no nutritional value, very little taste, but will pass through the system without upsetting the digestion. Romney and Obama both went into safe and happy mode during this portion of the debate, which I am sure pleased the Romney camp to no end, because it was during that segment that they were most in peril.

See, in a discussion of the role of government, Mr. Obama could have brought up Mr. Romney's widely-known opinions on 47 percent of the populace, and annihilated for all time the idea that half the country is comprised of victims who only want to live on the public dole. He didn't. Mr. Obama could have brought up the state-level GOP government jihad on women's reproductive rights, and indeed on women's very lives.

He didn't.

Mr. Obama served up another word-salad instead, and allowed Mr. Romney to escape a moment that could have defined not only this campaign, but the ongoing argument in this country. Mr. Obama had the opportunity, in front of 60 million people, to tattoo the catechism of the far right onto Mr. Romney's forehead, but once again, he let the moment slide by.

Which brings me, most frustratingly, to moment number three.

In minute 77 of the debate, Mr. Romney donned a big, sad hound-dog face and rolled off a litany of economic woes currently being endured by the American people. Here is the big chance, I thought as I watched, for Mr. Obama to put the bricks to his opponent in undeniable fashion. Here is the moment to repeat everything Romney said about high unemployment, more people on food stamps and all the rest of that sad, accurate assessment of modern American life...and then remind the country of the Republican Party's catastrophic record during the 21st century, remind everyone that Romney is a Republican, and say, "You built that."

Talk about a zinger.

But of course it didn't happen. Mr. Romney was allowed to go on and on about the economic problems America is dealing with without ever once having to recognize and answer for the fact that it was the policies of his own party - indeed, the policies he still espouses - that caused this whole debacle to begin with...because Mr. Obama failed to hold all that against him. It isn't as if Mr. Obama doesn't know these things. He does. We all do; it's axiomatic at this point. He just failed to call the guilty parties to account, on national television, in front of 60 million Americans, at the moment when doing so would have, quite simply, sealed the deal.

Mr. Obama had opportunity after opportunity to draw a bright, shining line between the policies he is pursuing and the demented nonsense being espoused by his opponent, and he could not summon the will to do so. Mr. Obama had the opportunity to underscore the dangerous madness boiling behind the scenes of Romney's plastic-fantastic campaign, and he failed to do so. Allowing such a freight of nonsense to pass undisturbed gives that freight unwarranted legitimacy, and Mr. Obama was too polite - or too whatever - to call out The Crazy for what it is.

Here's what I know for sure: The "mainstream" news media has been slavering for an opportunity to explode the headlines and TV shows with "Romney's Back, It's Close!" stories, because a close race is what moves the money their way. They got their chance on Wednesday night, and they will take it. Welcome to the rest of the week, and the weeks to come.

Here's what I know for sure: blaming the moderator is a weak excuse. Jim Lehrer was terrible, but Mr. Obama is very suddenly running out of time to demonstrate that he is the President of the United States of America, and not just a nice guy who allows himself to be interrupted with a pained look on his face by a professional liar and an incompetent media fossil.

Here's what I know for sure: despite a lot of people's giggling self-satisfied assurances over these last comfortable summer months that the deal has already gone down and the history of this race is already written, this election is, in fact and all of a sudden, far from over.

And they say Mr. Obama hasn't gotten anything done. On Wednesday night, he turned a rout into a contest again, and all by himself. Given the state of the race on Wednesday morning, that's quite the accomplishment.

Or something.

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission of the author.

William Rivers Pitt is a Truthout editor and columnist.  He is also a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of three books: "War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know," "The Greatest Sedition Is Silence" and "House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation." He lives and works in Boston.


Like I said earlier:  it was abject political COWARDICE on Obama's part that he never mentioned or attacked the "47%" statement by Romney the Liar...


Mitt Romney's 47% Remarks Absent From Debate
Huffington PostOctober 4, 2012

DENVER -- Among many topics not mentioned during Wednesday night's first presidential debate was Mitt Romney's controversial comment about 47 percent of Americans viewing themselves as "entitled" to government benefits.

That comment, videotaped at a private Romney fundraiser for wealthy donors, has been at the epicenter of President Barack Obama's attacks on his GOP opponent over the past few weeks, with his campaign even putting out an ad on the topic. Its absence in the debate, therefore, was conspicuous and a bit head-scratching.

"Seriously, Dems, can you believe that Obama never used the 47% video? Incredible!" tweeted political analyst Larry Sabato.

"Why not push the 47 percent comment that is the subject of saturation ads? Keep pres above it? Or deny Gov Romney chance to explain it?" wondered Carl Hulse of The New York Times.

Some of the spin coming from the Obama campaign and its surrogates after the debate seemed contradictory or unbelievable. Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley argued that Obama didn't mention the 47 percent comment because "he's a gentleman."

"I think the president wanted to come in tonight and not deliver attack lines," said Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki. "He wanted to lay out what his plans were -- what his economic plans were, how he was going to protect health care and we did exactly that."

Obama campaign manager Jim Messina, meanwhile, said, "It just didn't come up in the course of the conversation. We continue to believe it is a very clear difference. Gov. Romney is trying to run away from that comment. It just didn't come up tonight."

These explanations don't work together. Either Obama was planning to discuss it and it didn't come up, or he wasn't planning on offering "zingers" at all. A top Obama official, when asked for a concise explanation, conceded that avoiding it was part of a strategic decision before the debate.

"We weren't going to do a bunch of political stuff tonight," the aide said, adding that the debate "was about looking in the camera and laying out the choice and the plans."

At the very least, Obama campaign senior adviser Robert Gibbs said on Tuesday that he expected moderator Jim Lehrer to bring up the topic.

"I have no doubt that the moderator is going to ask Romney maybe to spend a little bit more time telling us more elegantly, in his words, what he meant by what he said," Gibbs said, adding that he expected Obama to say "47 percent" 47 times.

Romney senior campaign adviser Kevin Madden also said he believed "a lot" of the reason it didn't come up was because Lehrer never raised it.

One Republican official had another explanation for why Obama didn't bring it up: "cockiness."

"I think it was a loser for the president to bring something like that up, because the president's created a monstrosity in this government," added Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus.

Still, it seemed like the Romney campaign was perhaps surprised the famous remarks were never mentioned. When asked whether Romney had prepared a response, Madden replied, "You prepare for everything, right? Sort of like the Boy Scouts."

Simon Schama on How Obama Threw It All Away in the Denver Debate
by Simon Schama
October 5, 2012

After the president’s calamitous performance on Wednesday night, historian Simon Schama asks if Obama has it within himself to turn things around.

As the whoppers tumbled from his smiling lips, Pinocchio Romney’s nose grew so long that it was practically poking out the eye of his mournful opponent. But even had it struck raw cornea, the president would have politely removed the intruding proboscis to say, “Governor Romney, I probably agree that the nation could do with a good eye-watering, though we disagree on the manner in which it would be administered,” or some such snappy retort.
President Barack Obama looks over to a group of supporters after walking off stage at a campaign event at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012, in Madison, Wis. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP Photo)

Quick! Somebody call the Rejoinder-Implant Service before it’s too late! Which it already may be. Especially if Obama sticks with the prep team who did such a tiptop job in Denver. Maybe next time they’ll tell him: “It’s TV Mr. President. They don’t actually turn off the camera pointing at you when you’re not speaking, so all in all, best not to be caught constantly chin down, nose in your notes. How about paying attention to what the other guy is saying, looking his way even? That way you get to think of a response.”
Obama astoundingly allowed Governor 47 Percent, of all people, to pose as a paragon of social understanding. That’s how staggeringly bad it was.

It’s hard to see how there can be a comeback. God knows there weren’t any on offer from the presidential side even when Romney had the brass to claim that he and his party weren’t actually proposing tax cuts for upper income Americans! How about a reply playing on memories of a certain embarrassing video: “Well Governor, if you’ll pardon the expression, that’s RICH coming from you!”

To be fair to Obama, he did make an effort to contest some of the more outlandish suggestions, like that somehow he alone had been responsible for deficit bloat rather than the calamitous policy of his predecessor and other Republicans. And he asked Romney to specify the closed loopholes and terminated deductions that are supposed to make good the revenue lost from tax cuts. But he did so in a tone of weary exasperation, letting Romney slither around the question rather than treading on his tail until he came up with answers like “mortgage deductions,” as in “end of.” Instead of the Clintonian chuckle of disbelief we got the sour grimace of silent reproof.

Some of us saw this coming, for truthfully, while he was often an astonishingly inspiring orator before the crowds, Obama was not an especially nimble television debater in 2008. Hillary often cleaned his clock, but he had already got the nomination numbers in the bag, and he lucked out in the election with his opponent’s choice Sarah Palin as running mate and the unfolding of the Bush mega-meltdown.

Obama astoundingly allowed Governor 47 Percent, of all people, to pose as a paragon of social understanding. That’s how staggeringly bad it was.

What does this tell us? That Obama is someone who perhaps thinks of The People in an abstract rather than personal way—or who at least rises  to the occasion best when summoned by rhetoric. But television isn’t like that. Its “debates” aren’t really debates at all, but a way of making a personal connection with millions of people as if there were just a handful of them in the room. Television feeds on bright little bursts of energy, like the hopped up yapping that Romney has mastered along with the capacity of turning complex issues into a chummy infomercial. One of his lame pre-packaged zingers was that as a father of five boys, he’s gotten used to people repeating an untruth in the hope that saying it often enough would make it true. It was directed at Obama’s and the Democrats’ shocking allegation that Romney and his party are in favor of tax cuts for the wealthy. But if Obama had been remotely on his game it ought to have rebounded against Romney, for that is precisely what his party has proposed for three decades, all the while claiming against massive historical evidence that those tax cuts would pay for themselves by stimulating economic growth.

There was something else that went badly missing from what, if you are a Democrat, was a wretchedly dispiriting evening—and that was the opportunity of articulating a clear, strong, unapologetic affirmation of the principles by which the Democratic Party has tried to govern America since the New Deal: of compassion in times of hardship; of fairness when sacrifices are called for; of integrity and competence when cleaning up the wretched mess so often left by the other side; of realism in the face of wishful thinking; of a national community rather than a collection of  self-interested individuals. Those are, in fact, the themes that were sounded loud and clear at the Democratic convention and which have been reiterated by Obama himself many times on the campaign trail. But astoundingly he allowed Governor 47 Percent, of all people, to pose as a paragon of social understanding! That’s how staggeringly bad it was. And it was because he and his team thought it would be a smart move just to coast along on poll numbers that were already evaporating before the debate began.

Never has such a strong political hand been so needlessly, carelessly, calamitously thrown away.

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Simon Schama is a professor of history and art history at Columbia University.  He has been an essayist and critic for The New Yorker since 1994, his art criticism winning the National Magazine Award in 1996.

by Rich Lewis
Sentinel Columnist
On the issues as presented, Mitt Romney was the winner of the debate by a fairly wide margin. However, it is not at all clear that he achieved the kind of personal appeal that so many observers thought was a central goal of the event for him.

Romney was on the attack from the minute the debate started — and he was well prepared. On issue after issue, he went after President Obama with details and examples to support his claim that the president had failed to follow through on promises to bring the country out of recession.

That was to be expected. Romney is smart and experienced and, realizing its importance, he’d been preparing for this debate for a long time.

What was not expected was the president’s failure to punch back with any force or authority. Obama is widely regarded as a great speaker — and he has proven to be so on numerous occasions. But debating requires a different set of skills — and the president either doesn’t have them or chose not to use them. In contrast to Romney’s rapid-fire, tightly structured attacks, Obama was generally tongue-tied, often groping for the right words and often not quite finding them.

Romney never abandoned the offensive, while the president made only a few, somewhat feeble references to well known weaknesses in Romney’s policy positions.

In short, it was boxer and punching bag for most of the night.

The two men’s body language only reinforced the impression that Romney was steamrolling the president.

Romney delivered his criticisms directly to the president, head up and eyes straight ahead. He also spent a lot of time addressing the camera — which, given the way television works, means addressing the millions of viewers who had tuned in to watch.

Obama, in contrast, spent an inordinate amount of time talking to moderator Jim Lehrer — probably the least important member of that audience of millions. On the occasions where Obama spoke directly to the camera, he was effective, but there was far too little of that.

Worst of all, though, the president often did not raise his head to look squarely at Romney during the times when he addressed him directly. He seemed to be avoiding confrontation — appearing deferential and even a bit intimidated.

If you had turned off the sound and just watched the picture, you would have bet that Romney was the president and Obama the challenger. You can bet neither Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton would have allowed themselves to shrink in that way.

So, on the one hand, many of Romney’s statements about Obama’s failures, or the virtues of his own plans, went unchallenged in any effective way. At the same time, the president seemed to be physically retreating from the barrage of arguments pouring from the other podium.

As for closing statements, Obama’s was rambling and lacked a central message. Romney’s was forceful and neatly packaged all his key positions.

That adds up to a solid win for Romney.

Now for the other side of the coin — and there is always another side.

Though easily the dominant debater, Romney was far from completely appealing. He was in energy overdrive the entire night – almost manic at times — speaking so rapidly and intensely that I half expected him to burst into flames. After an hour or so, Romney was simply wearing me out. I was exhausted. There was something unpleasantly machine-like in the presentation — which, of course, plays into a stereotype that Romney has been struggling to overcome. He was mouthing the right words, stressing his compassion for the poor and downtrodden — but the words were not in synch with the affect.

If, as many people have suggested, Romney needed to make people like him more than he needed to score argumentation points, then he may well have won the battle and lost the war. We’ll see plenty of polls in the next few days to suggest which way that falls.

Obama may have been hindered by his own concern about stereotypes. From the beginning of his rise to the presidency, Obama has been wary of coming across as the “angry black man.” Just this week, Fox News’ Sean Hannity and other right-wing media agitators were trumpeting “discovery” of a video from 2007 of Obama speaking at a black college that purportedly shows him engaging in a radical, racial politics that they claim he deliberately hides from the general public. It was a stupid ploy — the video had been extensively discussed in the media in 2008. Nonetheless, it may have touched a nerve in the Obama campaign and caused them to advise the president to avoid appearing overly aggressive in the debate. But there is a big difference between careful coolness and complete passivity.

At the same time, the president was an appealing figure. Passivity can be read as humility. The president went through a natural range of emotional expressions. He came across as what we know him to be — a thoughtful, reasonable, compassionate guy. Still, being a nice guy doesn’t mean you have to roll over and surrender. That’s something the Obama camp must fix before the next debate.

I have no doubt that most people will say that Romney won the debate. And that is true in many ways.

But it doesn’t mean he won the hearts of voters who have concerns about his core values and intentions.

Rich Lewis’ email address is

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Henry Giroux Reminds Us What's Most Important and Necessary Above And Beyond the National Elections


As we are pushed, prodded, joustled, coerced, patronized, exploited, and manipulated by the present corrupt electoral system and the two (or is that now three?) "mainstream" political parties ("popularly known"--sic-- as the Democrats, the Republicans and the venomous Koch addicted Tea Party)-- and their various shapeshifting candidates for the Presidency and Congress-- it is more crucially important and necessary than ever that we as both citizens and human beings not lose sight of the far more significant, profound, and longterm "big picture" realities facing us all politically, ideologically, economically, culturally, and spiritually no matter who's running for office.  What's also clearer and truer than ever is that if we collectively fail to properly acknowledge and confront the burning necessity to struggle and FIGHT for truly radical and transformative structural changes and progressive reforms in our withering Democracy in general then it won't matter one iota who "wins" the various elections in November or beyond.   One of the most vitally important, insightful, and consistently eloquent writers, thinkers, and social activists in the world today in compelling us all to honestly and directly deal with these demands and obligations in our civic and cultural life is the revolutionary writer, critic, social theorist, educator, and authentic public intellectual Henry Giroux.  As always Giroux courageously doesn't hold back or equivocate on what really matters in both our political discourse and public activity.  Rarely has that old warhorse phrase "theory and praxis" taken on more meaning and been more valuable than it is at this very moment.

So as we do every damn thing in our collective power to confront, stand up to, and aggressively DEFEAT THE RIGHT in every single national election contest in November--and especially their venal and criminally reactionary electoral standard bearers for the Presidency and Vice Presidency Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan-- WE MUST ALSO DEMAND more aggressively and seriously than ever on a national scale that President Obama specifically and the Democratic Party generally be held absolutely accountable for every single thing they say and do during Obama's upcoming second term with regard to the crucial issues of employment, housing, education, healthcare reform, Wall Street regulation, and protecting the social safety net of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, which makes it all the more imperative that we collectively take down the Republican and Tea Party gangsters during this national election for the Presidency and Congress.  Meanwhile we cannot ignore or take lightly what Giroux continues to tell us in his work.  If we do it will only be to our collective peril both now and into the future...Stay tuned...

Why Don't Americans Care About Democracy at Home?
Tuesday, 02 October 2012
By Henry A Giroux, Truthout | Op-Ed

"It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have."  
--James Baldwin

Four decades of neoliberal policies have given way to an economic Darwinism that promotes a politics of cruelty. And its much vaunted ideology is taking over the United States.[1] As a theater of cruelty and mode of public pedagogy, economic Darwinism undermines all forms of solidarity capable of challenging market-driven values and social relations. At the same time, economic Darwinism promotes the virtues of an unbridled individualism that is almost pathological in its disdain for community, social responsibility, public values and the public good. As the welfare state is dismantled and spending is cut to the point where government becomes unrecognizable - except to promote policies that benefit the rich, corporations and the defense industry - the already weakened federal and state governments are increasingly replaced by the harsh realities of the punishing state and what João Biehl has called proliferating "zones of social abandonment" and "terminal exclusion."[2]

One consequence is that social problems are increasingly criminalized, while social protections are either eliminated or fatally weakened. Another result of this crushing form of economic Darwinism is that it thrives on a kind of social amnesia that erases critical thought, historical analyses and any understanding of broader systemic relations. In this instance, it does the opposite of critical memory work by eliminating those public spheres where people learn to translate private troubles into public issues. That is, it breaks "the link between public agendas and private worries, the very hub of the democratic process."[3] Once set in motion, economic Darwinism unleashes a mode of thinking in which social problems are reduced to individual flaws and political considerations collapse into the injurious and self-indicting discourse of character. As George Lakoff and Glenn Smith argue, the anti-public philosophy of economic Darwinism makes a parody of democracy by defining freedom as "the liberty to seek one's own interests and well-being, without being responsible for the interests or well-being of anyone else. It's a morality of personal, but not social, responsibility. The only freedom you should have is what you can provide for yourself, not what the Public provides for you to start out."[4] Put simply, we alone become responsible for the problems we confront when we can no longer conceive how larger forces control or constrain our choices and the lives we are destined to lead.

Yet, the harsh values and practices of this new social order are visible - in the increasing incarceration of young people, the modeling of public schools after prisons, state violence waged against peaceful student protesters and state policies that bail out investment bankers but leave the middle and working classes in a state of poverty, despair and insecurity. Such values are also evident in the GOP Social-Darwinist budget plan that rewards the rich and cuts aid for those who need it the most. For instance, the Romney/Ryan budget plan "proposes to cut the taxes of households earning over $1 million by an average of $295,874 a year,"[5] but at a cruel cost to those most disadvantaged populations who rely on social programs. In order to pay for tax reductions that benefit the rich, the Romney/Ryan budget would cut funds for food stamps, Pell grants, health care benefits, unemployment insurance, veterans' benefits and other crucial social programs.[6] As Paul Krugman has argued, the Ryan budget "isn't just looking for ways to save money [it's] also trying to make life harder for the poor - for their own good. In March, explaining his cuts in aid for the unfortunate, [Ryan] declared, 'We don't want to turn the safety net into a hammock that lulls able-bodied people into lives of dependency and complacency, that drains them of their will and their incentive to make the most of their lives.'"[7] Krugman rightly replies, "I doubt that Americans forced to rely on unemployment benefits and food stamps in a depressed economy feel that they're living in a comfortable hammock."[8] As an extremist version of neoliberalism, Ryanomics is especially vicious towards American children, 16.1 million of whom currently live in poverty. Marian Wright Edelman captures the harshness and savagery of the Ryan budget passed in the House of Representatives. She writes:

"Ryanomics is an all out assault on our poorest children while asking not a dime of sacrifice from the richest 2 percent of Americans or from wealthy corporations. Ryanomics slashes hundreds of billions of dollars from child and family nutrition, health, child care, education and child protection services, in order to extend and add to the massive Bush tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires at a taxpayer cost of $5 trillion over 10 years. On top of making the Bush tax cuts permanent, the top income bracket would get an additional 10 percent tax cut. Millionaires and billionaires would on average keep at least an additional quarter of a million dollars each year and possibly as much as $400,000 a year according to the Citizens for Tax Justice." [9]

Under the euphemism of a politics of austerity, we are witnessing not only widespread cuts in vital infrastructures, education and social protections, but also the emergence of policies produced in the spirit of revenge aimed at the poor, the elderly and others marginalized by race and class. As Robert Reich, Charles Ferguson, and a host of recent commentators have pointed out, this extreme concentration of power in every commanding institution of society promotes predatory practices and rewards sociopathic behavior. Such a system creates an authoritarian class of corporate and hedge-fund swindlers that reaps its own profits by placing big bets with other people's money. The winners in this system are top Wall Street executives and traders, private-equity managers and hedge-fund moguls, and the losers are most of the rest of us. The system is largely responsible for the greatest concentration of the nation's income and wealth at the very top since the Gilded Age of the 19th century, with the richest 400 Americans owning as much as the bottom 150 million put together. And these multimillionaires and billionaires are now actively buying the 2012 election - and with it, American democracy.[10]

Unfortunately, the American public has remained largely silent, if not also complicitous with the rise of a neoliberal version of authoritarianism. While young people have started to challenge this politics and machinery of corruption, war, violence and death, they represent a small and marginalized part of the movement that will be necessary to initiate massive collective resistance to the aggressive violence being waged against all those public spheres that further the promise of democracy in the United States. The actions of student protesters and others have been crucial in drawing public attention to the constellation of forces that are pushing the United States into what Hannah Arendt called "dark times." The questions now being asked must be seen as the first step toward exposing dire social and political costs of concentrating wealth, income and power into the hands of the upper one percent.

Neoliberal Ideology and the Rhetoric of Freedom

In addition to amassing ever expanding amounts of material wealth, the rich now control the means of schooling and education in the United States. They have disinvested in critical education, while reproducing notions of common sense that incessantly replicate the basic values, ideas and relations necessary to sustain the institutions of economic Darwinism. Both parties support educational reforms that increase conceptual illiteracy. Critical learning is now reduced to mastering test-taking, memorizing facts, and learning how not to question knowledge and authority. This type of rote pedagogy, as Zygmunt Bauman points out, is "the most effective prescription for grinding communication to a halt and for [robbing] it of the presumption and expectation of meaningfulness and sense."[11]

This type of market-driven illiteracy has eviscerated the notion of freedom, turning it largely into the desire to consume and invest exclusively in relationships that serve only one's individual interests. Citizens are treated by the political and economic elite as restless children and are "invited daily to convert the practice of citizenship into the art of shopping."[12] Shallow consumerism coupled with an indifference to the needs and suffering of others has produced a politics of disengagement and a culture of moral irresponsibility. Language has been stripped of the terms, phrases and ideas that embrace a concern for the other. With meaning utterly privatized, words are reduced to signifiers that mimic spectacles of violence, designed to provide entertainment rather than thoughtful analysis. Sentiments circulating in the dominant culture parade either idiocy or a survival-of-the-fittest ethic, while anti-public rhetoric strips society of the knowledge and values necessary for the development of a democratically engaged and socially responsible public.

In such circumstances, freedom has truly morphed into its opposite. Neoliberal ideology has construed as pathological any notion that in a healthy society people depend on each other in multiple, complex, direct and indirect ways. As Lewis Lapham points out, "Citizens are no longer held in thoughtful regard ... just as thinking and acting are removed from acts of public conscience."[13] Economic Darwinism has produced a legitimating ideology in which the conditions for critical inquiry, moral responsibility and social and economic justice disappear. The result is that neoliberal ideology increasingly resembles a call to war that turns the principles of democracy against democracy itself. Americans now live in an atomized and pulverized society, "spattered with the debris of broken interhuman bonds"[14] in which "democracy becomes a perishable commodity"[15] and all things public are viewed with disdain. Increasingly, it appears the only bond holding American society together is a perverse collective death-drive.

Neoliberal Governance

At the level of governance, neoliberalism has turned politics into a tawdry form of money laundering in which the spaces and registers that circulate power are controlled by those who have amassed large amounts of capital. Elections, like mainstream politicians, are now bought and sold to the highest bidder. In the Senate and House of Representatives, 47 percent are millionaires and the "estimated median net worth of a current U.S. senator stood at an average of $2.56 million while the median net worth of members of Congress is $913,000."[16] Elected representatives no longer do the bidding of the people who elect them. Rather, they are now largely influenced by the demands of lobbyists who have enormous clout in promoting the interests of the elite, financial services and mega corporations. Currently, there are just over 14,000 registered lobbyists in Washington, DC, which amounts to approximately 23 lobbyists for every member of Congress. Although the number of lobbyists has steadily increased by about 20 percent since 1998, the Center for Responsive Politics found that "total spending on lobbying the federal government has almost tripled since 1998, to $3.3 billion."[17] As Bill Moyers and Bernard Weisberger succinctly put it, "A radical minority of the superrich has gained ascendency over politics, buying the policies, laws, tax breaks, subsidies and rules that consolidate a permanent state of vast inequality by which they can further help themselves to America's wealth and resources."[18] Democratic governance has been replaced by the sovereignty of the market, paving the way for modes of governance intent on transforming democratic citizens into entrepreneurial agents. The language of the market and business culture have now almost entirely supplanted any celebration of the public good or the calls to enhance civil society characteristic of past generations.

Neoliberal governance has produced an economy and a political system almost entirely controlled by the rich and powerful - what a Citigroup report called a "Plutonomy," an economy powered by the wealthy.[19] These plutocrats are what I have called the new zombies sucking the resources out of the planet and the rest of us in order to strengthen their grasp on political and economic power and fuel their exorbitant lifestyles. Policies are now enacted that provide massive tax cuts to the rich and generous subsidies to banks and corporations - alongside massive disinvestments in job creation programs, the building of critical infrastructures and the development of crucial social programs, which range from health care to school meal programs for disadvantaged children. In reality, the massive disinvestment in schools, social programs and an aging infrastructure is not about a lack of money. The real problem stems from government priorities that inform both how the money is collected and how it is spent.[20] Over 60 percent of the federal budget goes to military spending, while only 6 percent is allocated toward education. The US spends more than $92 billion on corporate subsidies and only $59 billion on social welfare programs.[21] John Cavanagh has estimated that if there were a tiny tax imposed on Wall Street "stock and derivatives transactions," the government could raise $150 billion annually.[22] In addition, if the tax code were adjusted in a fair manner to tax the wealthy, another $79 billion could be raised. Finally, Cavanagh points out that $100 billion in tax income is lost annually through tax haven abuse; proper regulation would make it costly for corporations to declare "their profits in overseas tax havens like the Cayman Islands."[23]

At the same time, the financialization of the economy and culture has resulted in the poisonous growth of monopoly power, predatory lending, abusive credit card practices and misuses of CEO pay. The false but central neoliberal tenet that markets can solve all of society's problems has no way of limiting the power of money and has given rise to "a politics in which policies that favor the rich ... have allowed the financial sector to amass vast economic and political power."[24] As Joseph Stiglitz points out, there is more at work in this form of governance than a pandering to the wealthy and powerful: There is also the specter of an authoritarian society "where people live in gated communities," large segments of the population are impoverished or locked up in prison and Americans live in a state of constant fear as they face growing "economic insecurity, health care insecurity [and] a sense of physical insecurity."[25] In other words, the authoritarian nature of neoliberal political governance and economic power is also visible in the rise of a national security state in which civil liberties are being drastically abridged and violated.

As the war on terror becomes a normalized state of existence, the most basic rights available to American citizens are being shredded. The spirit of revenge, militarization and fear now permeates the discourse of national security. For instance, under Presidents Bush and Obama, the idea of habeas corpus with its guarantee that prisoners have minimal rights has given way to policies of indefinite detention, abductions, targeted assassinations, drone killings and an expanding state surveillance apparatus. The Obama administration has designated 46 inmates for indefinite detention at Guantanamo because, according to the government, they can be neither tried nor safely released. Moreover, another "167 men now confined at Guantanamo ... have been cleared for release yet remain at the facility."[26]

With the passing of the National Defense Authorization Act in 2012, the rule of legal illegalities has been extended to threaten the lives and rights of US citizens. The law authorizes military detention of individuals who are suspected of belonging not only to terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda but to "associated forces." As Glenn Greenwald points out, this "grants the president the power to indefinitely detain in military custody not only accused terrorists, but also their supporters, all without charges or trial."[27] The vagueness of the law allows the possibility of subjecting US citizens who are considered in violation of the law to indefinite detention. Of course, that might include journalists, writers, intellectuals and anyone else who might be accused because of their dealings with alleged terrorists. Fortunately, US District Judge Katherine Forrest of New York agreed with Chris Hedges, Noam Chomsky and other writers who have challenged the legality of the law. Judge Forrest recently acknowledged the unconstitutionality of the law and ruled in favor of a preliminary barring of the enforcement of the National Defense Authorization Act.[28]

The anti-democratic practices at work in the Obama administration also include the US government's use of state secrecy to provide a cover or prevent being embarrassed by practices that range from the illegal use of torture to the abduction of innocent foreign nationals. Under the rubric of national security, a shadow state has emerged that eschews transparency and commits unlawful acts. Given the power of the government to engage in a range of illegalities and to make them disappear through an appeal to state secrecy, it should come as no surprise that warrantless wiretapping, justified in the name of national security, is on the rise at both the federal and state levels. For instance, the New York City Police Department "implemented surveillance programs that violate the civil liberties of that city's Muslim-American citizens [by infiltrating] mosques and universities [and] collecting information on individuals suspected of no crimes."[29] And the American public barely acknowledged this shocking abuse of power. Such anti-democratic policies and practices have become the new norm in American society and reveal a frightening and dangerous move toward a 21st century version of authoritarianism.

Neoliberalism as the New Lingua Franca of Cruelty

The harsh realities of a society defined by the imperatives of punishment, cruelty, militarism, secrecy and exclusion can also be seen in the emergence of a growing rhetoric of insult, humiliation and slander. Teachers are referred to as welfare queens by right-wing pundits; conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh claimed that Michael J. Fox was "faking" the symptoms of Parkinson's disease when he appeared in a political ad for Democrat Claire McCaskill; and the public is routinely treated to racist comments, slurs and insults about Barack Obama by a host of shock jocks, politicians and even one federal judge.[30] Poverty is not only seen as a personal failing, it has become the object of abuse, fear and loathing. Poor people, rather than poverty, are now the problem, because the poor, as right-wing ideologues never fail to remind us, are lazy (and after all how could they be poor since they own TVs and cell phones). Racism, cruelty, insults and the discourse of humiliation are now packaged in a mindless rhetoric that is as unapologetic as it is ruthless - and has become the new lingua franca of public exchange.

Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney echoed the harshness of the new lingua franca of cruelty when asked recently about the government's responsibility to 50 million Americans who don't have health insurance. Incredibly, Romney said they already have access to health care because they can go to hospital emergency rooms. In response, a New York Times editorial pointed out that emergency room care "is the most expensive and least effective way of providing care" and such a remark "reeks of contempt for those left behind by the current insurance system, suggesting that they must suffer with illness until the point where they need an ambulance."[31] Indifferent to the health care needs of the poor and middle class, Romney also conveniently forgets that, as indicated in a Harvard University study, "more than 62 percent of all personal bankruptcies are caused by the cost of overwhelming medical expenses."[32] The new lingua franca of cruelty and its politics of disposability are on full display here. To paraphrase Hannah Arendt, we live in a time when revenge has become the cure-all for most of our social and economic ills.

Neoliberalism and the Retreat from Ethical Considerations

Not only does neoliberal rationality believe in the ability of markets to solve all problems, it also removes economics and markets from ethical considerations. Economic growth, rather than social needs, drives politics. Long-term investments are replaced by short-term gains and profits, while compassion is viewed as a weakness and democratic public values are scorned because they subordinate market considerations to the common good. As the language of privatization, deregulation and commodification replaces the discourse of social responsibility, all things public - including public schools, libraries, transportation systems, crucial infrastructures and public services - are viewed either as a drain on the market or as a pathology.[33] Greed is now championed because it allegedly drives innovation and creates jobs. Massive disparities in income and wealth are celebrated as a justification for embracing a survival-of-the-fittest ethic and paying homage to a ruthless mode of unbridled individualism.

Morality in this instance becomes empty, stripped of any obligations to the other. How else to explain Mitt Romney's gaffe caught on video in which he derided "47 percent of the people [who] will vote for the president no matter what?"[34] There was more at work here than what some have called "the killing of the American dream" or simply a cynical political admission by Romney that some voting blocs do not matter. [35]Romney's comments about those 47 percent of adult Americans who don't pay income taxes for one reason or another, whom he described as "people who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it,"[36] makes clear that a politics of disposability is central to the extreme right-wing philosophy of those who control the Congress and are vying for the presidency. Paul Krugman is on target in arguing that in spite of massive suffering caused by the economic recession - a recession that produced "once-unthinkable levels of economic distress" - there is "growing evidence that our governing elite just doesn't care."[37] Of course, Krugman is not suggesting that if the corporate and financial elite cared the predatory nature of capitalism would be transformed. Rather, he is suggesting that economic Darwinism leaves no room for compassion or ethical considerations, which makes it use of power much worse than more liberal models of a market-based society.

Politics of Disposability and the Breakdown of American Democracy

The not-so-hidden order of politics underlying the second Gilded Age and its heartless version of economic Darwinism is that some populations, primarily the elderly, young people, the unemployed, immigrants and poor whites and minorities of color, now constitute a form of human waste or excess. The politics of disposability delineates these populations as unworthy of investment or of sharing in the rights, benefits and protections of a substantive democracy.[38] What is particularly disturbing is how little opposition among there is among the American public to this view of particular social groups as disposable - this, perhaps more than anything else, signals the presence of a rising authoritarianism in the United States. Left unchecked, economic Darwinism will not only destroy the social fabric and undermine democracy; it will also ensure the marginalization and eventual elimination of those intellectuals willing to fight for public values, rights, spaces and institutions not wedded to the logic of privatization, commodification, deregulation, militarization, hyper-masculinity and a ruthless "competitive struggle in which only the fittest could survive."[39] Clearly, this new politics of disposability and culture of cruelty will wreak destruction in ways not yet imaginable, despite the horrific outcomes of the economic and financial crisis brought on by economic Darwinism. All evidence suggests a new reality is unfolding, one that is characterized by a deeply rooted crisis of education, agency and social responsibility.

Under such circumstances, to paraphrase C. Wright Mills, we are seeing the breakdown of democracy, the disappearance of critical intellectuals, and "the collapse of those public spheres which offer a sense of critical agency and social imagination."[40] Since the 1970s, we have witnessed the forces of market fundamentalism attempt to strip education of its public values, critical content and civic responsibilities as part of a broader goal to create new subjects wedded to the logic of privatization, efficiency, flexibility, consumerism and the destruction of the social state. Today, neoliberalism's ascendency has made the educational force of culture toxic, while educational institutions - whether in public or higher education - have all but transformed from promoting the public good to affirming private interests.

Encountering an onslaught of neoliberal ideology from all sides, it becomes increasingly difficult for the larger public to hold on to ideas that affirm social justice, community and those public values central to the cultural and political life of an aspiring democracy. Within both formal education and the educational force of the broader cultural apparatus - with its networks of knowledge production in the old and new media - we are witnessing the emergence and dominance of a powerful and ruthless market-driven notion of politics, governance, teaching, learning, freedom, agency and responsibility. Such modes of education do not foster a sense of organized responsibility central to a healthy democracy. Instead, they foster what I have referred to in the past as a sense of organized irresponsibility - a practice that underlies the economic Darwinism, public pedagogy and corruption at the heart of both the current recession and American politics.

Beyond Neoliberal Mis-Education

The anti-democratic practices that drive free-market fundamentalism are increasingly evident in the neoliberal framing of public and higher education as a corporate-based sector that embraces commodifying the curriculum, supporting top-down management, implementing more courses that promote business values and reducing all spheres of education to job training sites. As universities turn toward corporate management models, they increasingly use and exploit cheap faculty labor. In fact, many colleges and universities are drawing more and more upon adjunct and non-tenured faculty, many of whom occupy the status of indentured servants who are overworked, lack benefits, receive little or no support and are paid salaries that qualify them for food stamps.[41] Students are buried under huge debts that are celebrated by the debt collection industry that is cashing in on their misfortune. Jerry Aston, one member of the industry, wrote in a column after witnessing a protest rally by students criticizing their mounting debt that "I couldn't believe the accumulated wealth they represent - for our industry."[42]

There is more at work here than infusing market values into every aspect of higher education. There is also a full-fledged assault on the very notion of public goods, democratic public spheres and the role of education in creating an informed citizenry. When Rick Santorum argued that intellectuals were not wanted in the Republican Party, he was mimicking what has become common sense in a society wedded to narrow instrumental values and various modes of fundamentalism. Critical thinking and a literate public have become dangerous to those who want to celebrate orthodoxy over dialogue, emotion over reason and ideological certainty over thoughtfulness. Hannah Arendt's warning that "it was not stupidity but a curious, quite authentic inability to think"[43] at the heart of authoritarian regimes is now embraced as a fundamental tenet of Republican Party politics.

In the United States, many of the problems in higher education can be linked to low funding, the domination of universities by market mechanisms, the rise of for-profit colleges, the intrusion of the national security state and the lack of faculty self-governance, all of which not only contradicts the culture and democratic value of higher education, but also makes a mockery of the very meaning and mission of the university. Decreased financial support for higher education stands in sharp contrast to increased support for tax benefits for the rich, financial industries and corporations. Rather than strengthen civic imagination among students, public universities are wedded more and more to the logic of profitability, to producing students as useful machines and to a form of education that promotes a "technically trained docility."[44]

Universities and colleges have been largely abandoned as democratic public spheres dedicated to providing a public service, expanding upon humankind's great intellectual and cultural achievements and educating future generations to be able to confront the challenges of a global democracy. As a core political and civic institution, higher education rarely appears any longer to be committed to addressing important social problems. Instead, many universities and colleges have become unapologetic accomplices to corporate values and power, and in doing so increasingly make social problems either irrelevant or invisible. Just as democracy appears to be fading in the United States, so is the legacy of higher education's faith in and commitment to democracy.

Unfortunately, one measure of this disinvestment in higher education as a public good can be seen in the fact that many states such as California are spending more on prisons than on higher education.[45] Educating low income and poor minorities to be engaged citizens has been undermined by an unholy alliance of law-and-order conservatives, private prison corporations and prison guard unions along with the rise of the punishing state, all of whom have more of a vested interest in locking people up than educating them. It is no coincidence that as the US disinvests in the institutions fundamental to a democracy, it has invested heavily in those apparatuses that propel the rise of the prison-industrial complex and the punishing-surveillance state. The social costs of prioritizing punishing over education is clear in one shocking statistic provided by a recent study that stated "by age 23, almost a third of Americans or 30.2 percent have been arrested for a crime.... Researchers say [this] is a measure of growing exposure to the criminal justice system in everyday life."[46]

The assault on the university is symptomatic of the deep educational and political crisis facing the United States. It is but one lens through which to recognize that the future of democracy depends on achieving the educational and ethical standards of the society we inhabit.[47] Political, moral, and social indifference is the result, in part, of a public that is increasingly constituted within an educational landscape that reduces thinking to a burden and celebrates civic illiteracy as foundational for negotiating a society in which moral disengagement and political corruption go hand in hand.[48]

This collapse on the part of the American public into a political and moral coma is induced, in part, by an ever expanding mass mediated celebrity culture that trades in hype and sensation. It is also accentuated by a governmental apparatus that sanctions modes of training that undermine any viable notion of critical schooling and public pedagogy. While there is much being written about how unfair the left is to the Obama administration, what is often forgotten by these liberal critics is that Obama has virtually aligned himself with educational practices and policies that are as instrumentalist and anti-intellectual as they are politically reactionary and therein lies one viable reason for not supporting his candidacy.[49]What liberals refuse to entertain is that the left is correct in attacking Obama for his cowardly retreat from a number of progressive issues and his dastardly undermining of civil liberties. In fact, they do not go far enough in their criticisms. Often even progressives miss that Obama's views on what type of formative educational culture is necessary to create critically engaged and socially responsible citizens is utterly reactionary and provides no space for the nurturance of a radically democratic imagination. Hence, while liberals point to some of Obama's progressive policies - often in a new age discourse that betrays their own supine moralism - in making a case for his re-election, they fail to acknowledge that Obama's educational policies do nothing to contest, and are aligned with, his weak-willed compromises and authoritarian policies. In other words, Obama's educational commitments undermine the creation of a formative culture capable of questioning authoritarian ideas, modes of governance and reactionary policies. The question is not whether he is slightly less repugnant than Romney. On the contrary, it is about how the left should engage politics in a more robust and democratic way by imagining what it would mean to work collectively and with "slow impatience" for a new political order outside of the current moderate and extreme right-wing politics and the debased, uncritical educational apparatus that supports it.

The Role of Critical Education

One way of challenging the new authoritarianism is to reclaim the relationship between critical education and social change. Education both in and out of schools is the bedrock for the formative culture necessary to create not only a literate public but also a public willing to fight for its capacity to hold power accountable and to participate in the decisions and institutions that shape its everyday existence. The question of what kind of subjects and modes of individual and social agency are necessary for a democracy to survive appears more crucial now than ever before, and this is a question that places matters of education, pedagogy and culture at the center of any understanding of politics. We live at a time when the American people appear to have no interest in democracy - beyond the four-year ritual performance of voting, and even this act fails to attract a robust majority of citizens. The term has been emptied of any viable meaning, hijacked by political scoundrels, corporate elites and the advertising industry. The passion that democracy exhibits as an ongoing struggle for rights, justice and a future of hope has been transmuted into a misplaced desire to shop, fulfill the pleasure quotient in spectacles of violence and misappropriate the language of democracy to deploy it as a rationale for racist actions against immigrants, Muslims and poor minorities of color and class.

Clearly, as the Occupy Movement and other youth movements around the world have demonstrated, the time has come not only to redefine the promise of democracy but also to challenge those who have poisoned its meaning. We have already witnessed such a challenge by protest movements both at home and abroad in which the struggle over education has become one of the most powerful fulcrums for addressing the detrimental effects of neoliberalism. What these struggles, particularly by young people, have in common is the attempt to merge the powers of persuasion and critical, civic literacy with the power of social movements to activate and mobilize real change. They are recovering a notion of the social and reclaiming a kind of humanity that should inspire and inform our collective willingness to imagine what a real democracy might look like. The political philosopher, Cornelius Castoriadis, rightly argues that "people need to be educated for democracy by not only expanding the capacities that enable them to assume public responsibility but also through active participation in the very process of governing."[50] The current attack on democracy is directly linked to a systemic destruction of all those public spheres that expand the power of the imagination, critical inquiry, thoughtful exchange and the formative culture that makes critical education and an engaged citizenry dangerous to fundamentalists of all ideological stripes.

As the crucial lens through which to create the formative culture in which politics and power can be made visible and held accountable, pedagogy plays a central role. But as Archon Fung points out, criticism is not the only public responsibility of intellectuals, artists, journalists, educators and others who engage in critical pedagogical practices. "Intellectuals can also join citizens - and sometimes governments - to construct a world that is more just and democratic. One such constructive role is aiding popular movements and organizations in their efforts to advance justice and democracy."[51] In this instance, understanding must be linked to the practice of social responsibility and the willingness to fashion a politics that addresses real problems and enacts concrete solutions. As Heather Gautney points out:

"We need to start thinking seriously about what kind of political system we really want. And we need to start pressing for things that our politicians did not discuss at the conventions. Real solutions - like universal education, debt forgiveness, wealth redistribution and participatory political structures - that would empower us to decide together what's best. Not who's best." [52]

Critical thinking divorced from action is often as sterile as action divorced from critical theory. Given the urgency of the historical moment, we need a politics and a public pedagogy which make knowledge meaningful in order to make it critical and transformative. Or as Stuart Hall argues, we need to produce modes of analyses and knowledge in which "people can invest something of themselves ... something that they recognize is of them or speaks to their condition."[53]

I want to conclude by quoting from James Baldwin, a courageous writer who refused to let the hope of democracy die in his lifetime and who offered that mix of politics, passion and courage that deserves not just admiration but emulation. His sense of rage was grounded in a working-class sensibility, eloquence and passion that illuminates a higher standard for what it means to be a public intellectual and an engaged intellectual. His words capture something that is missing from the American cultural and political landscape, something affirmative that needs to be seized upon, rethought, and occupied - as part of both the fight against the new authoritarianism and its cynical, dangerous and cruel practices, and the struggle to reclaim a notion of justice and mutuality that seems to be dying in all of us. In "The Fire Next Time," Baldwin writes:

"One must say Yes to life, and embrace it wherever it is found - and it is found in terrible places.... For nothing is fixed, forever and forever, it is not fixed; the earth is always shifting, the light is always changing, the sea does not cease to grind down rock. Generations do not cease to be born, and we are responsible to them because we are the only witnesses they have. The sea rises, the light fails, lovers cling to each other and children cling to us. The moment we cease to hold each other, the moment we break faith with one another, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out."

1.Manfred B. Steger and Ravi K. Roy, [i]Neoliberalism: A Very Short Introduction,[/i] (Oxford University Press, 2010). 
Juliet B. Schor,[i] Plenitude: The New Economics of True Wealth[/i](New York: Penguin Press, 2010); 
Henry A. Giroux, [i]Against the Terror of Neoliberalism[/i] (Boulder: Paradigm, 2008); David Harvey,[i] A Brief History of Neoliberalism[/i] (New York: Oxford Press, 2005); John and Jean Comaroff, eds. [i]Millennial Capitalism and the Culture of Neoliberalism[/i]  (Durham: Duke University Press, 2001). On the moral limits and failings of neoliberalism, see Michael J. Sandel, [i] What Money Can't Buy[/i] (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012) and for positing a case for neoliberalism as a criminal enterprise, see Jeff Madrick,[i] Age of Greed: The Triumph of Finance and the Decline of America, 1970 to the Present [/i](New York: Vintage, 2011); Charles Ferguson, [i]Predator Nation [/i](New York: Crown Business, 2012); Henry A. Giroux, [i]Zombie Politics in the Age of Casino Capitalism[/i] (New York: Peter Lang, 2010).
 João Biehl, [i]Vita: Life in a Zone of Social Abandonment [/i](Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2005). These zones are also brilliantly analyzed in Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco, [i]Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt [/i](New York: Knopf, 2012).
Zygmunt Bauman,"Does 'Democracy' Still Mean Anything? (And in Case It Does, What Is It?)" [i]Truthout [/i](January 21,2011).;view=item&id=73:does-democracy-still-mean-anything-and-in-case-it-does-what-is-it

 George Lakoff and Glenn W. G Smith, "Romney, Ryan and the Devil's Budget," The Berkeley Blog (August 23, 2012). Online:

 Robert Reich,"Mitt Romney and the New Gilded Age" [i]Truthout [/i](July 2, 2012). Online:
 David Theo Goldberg, "The Taxing Terms of the GOP Plan Invite Class Carnage," (September 20, 2012). Online:
 Paul Krugman,"Galt, gold and God," [i]The New York Times, [/i](August 23, 2012), p. A25.
8. Ibid.
 Marian Wright Edelman,"Ryanomics Assault on Poor and Hungry Children," [i]Huffington Post [/i](September 14, 2012). Online:
10. Reich,"Mitt Romney and the New Gilded Age,"; Charles Ferguson, [i]Predatory Nation: Corporate Criminals, Political Corruption, and the Hijacking of America [/i](New York: Crown Business, 2012); Daisy Grewal,"How Wealth Reduces Compassion: As Riches Grow, Empathy for Others Seems to Decline,"[i] Scientific American[/i] (April 10, 2012). Online:
 Bauman,"Does 'Democracy' Still Mean Anything?"
 Lewis H. Lapham,"Feast of Fools: How American Democracy Became the Property of a Commercial Oligarchy," [i]Truthout[/i] (September 20, 2012). Online:
 Zygmunt Bauman, [i]This is Not a Diary[/i] (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2012), p. 102.
15. Lapham,"Feast of Fools,"
16. Eric Lichtblau,"Economic Downturn Took a Detour at Capitol Hill," [i]The New York Times[/i] (December 26, 2011). Online:

17. Peter Grier,"So Much Money, So Few Lobbyists in D.C.: How Does the Math Work?" [i]DC Decoder[/i] (February 24, 2012). Online:

18. Bill Moyers and Bernard Weisberger,"Money in Politics: Where is the Outrage?" [i]Huffington Post [/i](August 30, 2012). Online:

19.  It is difficult to access this study because Citigroup does its best to make it disappear from the Internet. See the discussion of it by Noam Chomsky in"Plutonomy and the Precariat: On the History of the U.S. Economy in Decline,"[i] Truthdig [/i](May 8, 2012). /repo/item/plutonomy_and_the_precariat_the_history_of_the_us_economy_in_decline_201205/
20. Salvatore Babones,"To End the Jobs Recession, Invest an Extra $20 Billion in Public Education," [i]Truthout [/i](August 21, 2012). Online:$20-billion-in-public-education

21. John Atcheson,"The Real Welfare Problem: Government Giveaways to the Corporate 1%," [i]Common  Dreams [/i] (September3,2012).Online:

22.John Cavanagh,"Seven Ways to End the Deficit (Without Throwing Grandma Under the Bus)," [i]Yes! Magazine [/i](September 7, 2012). Online:
 Joseph Stiglitz,"Politics Is at the Root of the Problem," [i]European Magazine[/i] (April 23, 2012). Online:
 Lynn Parramore,"Exclusive Interview: Joseph Stiglitz Sees Terrifying Future for America If We Don't Reverse Inequality," [i]AlterNet [/i](June 24, 2012). Online:
 Editorial,"America's Detainee Problem," [i]Los Angeles Times [/i](September 23, 2012). Online:
 Glenn Greenwald,"Unlike Afghan Leaders, Obama Fights for Power of Indefinite Military Detention," [i]The Guardian[/i] (September 18, 2012). Online: See also, Glenn Greenwald,"Federal Court Enjoins NDAA," [i]Salon[/i] (May 16, 2012). Online: . See also, Henry A. Giroux, [i]Hearts of Darkness: Torturing Children in the War on Terror[/i] (Boulder: Paradigm 2010).
 Charlie Savage,"Judge Rules against Law on Indefinite Detention," [i]New York Times [/i](September 12, 2012). Online:
 Karen J. Greenberg,"Ever More and Ever Less," [i]TomDispatch[/i] (March 18, 2012). Online:
 Catherine Poe,"Federal Judge Emails Racist Joke about President Obama," [i]Washington Times [/i](March 1, 2012). Online:
 Editorial,"Why Romney Is Slipping," [i]New York Times[/i] (September 25, 2012), p. A20.
 Brennan Keller,"Medical Expenses: Top Cause of Bankruptcy in the United States," [i]Give Forward[/i] (October 13, 2011). Online:
 George Lakoff and Glenn W. G Smith,"Romney, Ryan and the Devil's Budget," [i]Berkeley Blog [/i](August 23, 2012). Online:
 David Corn, "Secret Video: Romney Tells Millionaire Donors What He Really Thinks of Obama Voters," [i]Mother Jones[/i] (September 17, 2012). Online:
 Naomi Wolf,"How the Mitt Romney Video Killed the American Dream," [i]The Guardian [/i](September 21, 2012). Online:
 Corn,"Secret Video,"
 Paul Krugman,"Defining Prosperity Down," [i]New York Times [/i](August 1, 2010), p. A17.
 Zygmunt Bauman is the most important theorist writing about the politics of disposability.  Among his many books, see [i]Wasted Lives [/i](London: Polity Press, 2004).
 Robert Reich,"The Rebirth of Social Darwinism," [i]Robert Reich's Blog[/i] (November 30, 2011). Online:
 C. Wright Mills, [i]The Politics of Truth: Selected Writings of C. Wright Mills [/i](New York:OxfordUniversity Press, 2008), p. 200.
 Hart Research Associates, [i]American Academics: Survey of Part Time and Adjunct Higher Education Faculty[/i] (Washington, D.C.: AFT, 2011). Online: Street, Maria Maisto, Esther Merves, and Gary  Rhoades, [i]Who Is Professor "Staff" and How Can This Person Teach So Many Classes?[/i] (Los Angeles: Center for the Future of Higher Education, 2012). Online:
 Andrew Martin and Andrew W. Lehren,"A Generation Hobbled by the Soaring Cost of College," [i]New York Times [/i](May 12, 2012), p. A1.
 Cited in Richard J. Bernstein, [i]The Abuse of Evil: The Corruption of Politics and Religion since 9/11[/i] (London: Polity Press, 2005), pp. 7-8.
 Martha C. Nussbaum,[i] Not For Profit: Why Democracy Needs The Humanities [/i](New Jersey:PrincetonUniversity Press, 2010), p. 142.
45. Les Leopold,"Crazy Country: 6 Reasons America Spends More on Prisons Than On Higher Education," [i]Alternet[/i] (August 27, 2012). Online On this issue, see also the classic work by Angela Y. Davis, [i]Are Prisons Obsolete?[/i] (New York: Open Media, 2003); and Michelle Alexander, [i]The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness [/i](New York: New Press, 2012).
 Erica Goode,"Many in U.S. Are Arrested by Age 23, Study Finds," New York Times (December 19, 2011), p. A15.
Zygmunt Bauman,[i] The Individualized Society[/i] (London: Polity, 2001), p. 4.
 Leopold,"Crazy Country,"
49. See, for instance, Rebecca Solnit,"Rain on Our Parade: A Letter to the Dismal Left," [i][/i] (September 27, 2012). Online:,_we_could_be_heroes/ TomDispatch refers to this article as a call for hope over despair. It should be labeled as a call for accommodation over the need for a radical democratic politics.  For an alternative to this politics of accommodation, see the work of Stanley Aronowitz, Chris Hedges, Henry Giroux, Noam Chomsky, and others.
 Cornelius Castoriadis,"Democracy as Procedure and Democracy as Regime," [i]Constellations [/i]4:1 (1997), p. 5.
 Archon Fung,"The Constructive Responsibility of Intellectuals," [i]Boston Review[/i] (September 9, 2011). Online:
 Heather Gautney,"Why Do Political Elites All Hate Democracy?"[i] LA Progressive[/i] (September 19, 2012). Online:
 Stuart Hall and Les Back,"In Conversation: At Home and Not at Home," [i]Cultural Studies[/i] Vol. 23, No. 4 (July 2009), p. 681.
Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

Henry A. Giroux currently holds the Global TV Network Chair Professorship at McMaster University in the English and Cultural Studies Department. His most recent books include: Youth in a Suspect Society (Palgrave, 2009); Politics After Hope: Obama and the Crisis of Youth, Race, and Democracy (Paradigm, 2010); Hearts of Darkness: Torturing Children in the War on Terror (Paradigm, 2010); The Mouse that Roared: Disney and the End of Innocence (co-authored with Grace Pollock, Rowman and Littlefield, 2010); Zombie Politics and Culture in the Age of Casino Capitalism (Peter Lang, 2011); Henry Giroux on Critical Pedagogy (Continuum, 2011). His newest books:   Education and the Crisis of Public Values (Peter Lang) and Twilight of the Social: Resurgent Publics in the Age of Disposability (Paradigm Publishers) will be published in 2012). Giroux is also a member of Truthout's Board of Directors. His website is


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