The Long Game


A reader writes:

I’d love for you to help me understand how it could ever be “dangerous” to seriously criticize a president when they act in a corrupt way. If, if, IF you are right that Obama is acting corruptly on purpose, as part of a hidden plan, don’t you and I have the exact same responsibility as active citizens to criticize him passionately nonetheless?  Are you suggesting that Obama’s long range plan requires a citizenry and blogosphere that both gains access to the reasons of his corrupt action AND THEN quietly stands on the sidelines?

 And for the sake of context- I’m not disagreeing with the possibility that Obama has secret plans. I just don’t understand at all the mentality that suggests we must try to figure that out in order to support it when the immediate actions are awful. 

These are important points. In the last couple of days, this blog has done both - rip him a new one over his decisions (or non-decisions)  on torture and marriage but also grant him some moral and political benefit of the doubt over the long haul.

This was also, I should add, this blog's take on Bush.

I gave him every benefit of the doubt in the war and on gay rights until he took decisions that, in my view, violated the core integrity of the enterprise - the reckless incompetence of the Iraq occupation, the decision to allow torture, and the backing of a federal marriage amendment. In some ways, Bush wanted to argue the long game on all these fronts as a defense, and I felt it was unwarranted. The betrayals were too deep. Violating core values on the treatment of prisoners, amending the constitution to marginalize gay couples and refusing to acknowledge a failed strategy in Iraq until all hell broke out: these were decisions that crossed lines that could never be excused by the long game.

Politicians are not saints. They cannot live in the pristine world of a blogger who can make abstract arguments with only a responsibility to keep telling the truth to his readers as best he can. The task of an intelligent critic is both to grasp the core issue without holding these guys to impossible standards of purity and truth in a flawed and miserable world. Obama's revisiting of his decision not to release the photos is a sign of a president able to re-think difficult stances. If it leads to a cover-up of serious crimes, then he deserves real opposition. If it is a measure to keep the ship of state afloat - and soldiers morale high - as the process of discovery and legal accountability continues, then give him some time and space.