Five Best Saturday Columns: Obama Takedown Edition

'Did he really have to choose Martha's Vineyard?' among other concerns

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Charles M. Blow Likens Obama to a Robot. The Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori coined the phrase “uncanny valley” -- which refers to the fact that we feel good about robots up to a point, until they become just a little bit too human-looking. Then the whole thing becomes eerie and we feel revulsion. According to Charles M. Blow, a great many U.S. politicians reside in this arena, such as "pull-the-string-in-the-middle-of-my-back compulsion to repeat the same red-meat responses" Michele Bachman, the "Buzz Lightyear-come-to-life bravado of Rick Perry," and the "mechanical 'I, Republican' Mitt Romney." (Ha.) But now the robots have a latest member: Barack Obama. "One person I never thought would fall into this valley was Barack Obama, the charismatic candidate who electrified the electorate in 2008... Yet there Obama is, down in the valley, struggling to connect with the American people and failing, increasingly coming across as dispassionate to some and outright revolting to others... A robotic Sustainer-in-Chief with an eerie inhumanity will not satisfy. At this moment, we need less valley and more mountaintop."

Peggy Noonan Thinks Obama is Shouldn't Have Picked Martha's Vineyard. Peggy Noonan, hardly the President's biggest fan, sees Obama's vacation to Martha's Vineyard as a sign that he's dispirited, and giving up. "How could he not be depressed? He has made big mistakes since the beginning of his presidency and has been pounded since the beginning of his presidency. He's got to be full of doubts at this point about what to do," she writes gleefully. "Nothing worked! And nothing's going to work. He's the smartest guy in the room, but he's got the reverse Midas touch. Everything he touches turns to -- well, unsatisfying outcomes... Under these circumstances he could not possibly be enjoying his job." So he's on vacation, but then he makes another mistake: "As for the location, the president loves Martha's Vineyard... It's a playground of the liberal rich: hedge-fund maestros, network producers, Wall Street heavyweights, left-leaning activists. It's the kind of place that reverberates in the national imagination -- that tags you as elitist no matter how many g's you drop." Now, "if you're going to the Vineyard, you have to go to some real American place first, like the Rockies. Which Mr. Clinton did. Going to the Vineyard didn't harm him. But Mr. Clinton had prosperity, and Americans will forgive a lot from a guy who does nothing to stop prosperity, or actually may help it along. Mr. Obama doesn't have that advantage."

Glenn Greenwald Calls the Obama Administration a Surveillance State. One thing we should be paying greater attention to is "topics such as the sprawling Surveillance State and the attempted criminalization of WikiLeaks and whistleblowing," according to Glenn Greenwald. Censorship is not just in China. He notes that "in the wake of recent riots in London and throughout Britain... the instant reaction of Prime Minister David Cameron was a scheme to force telecoms to allow his government the power to limit the use of Internet and social networking sites." And under Obama, the U.S. is no different. "This year, the Obama administration began demanding greater power to obtain Internet records without a court order.  Meanwhile, the Chairwoman of the DNC, Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, is sponsoring a truly pernicious bill that would force Internet providers 'to keep logs of their customers’ activities for one year.'  And a whole slew of sleazy, revolving-door functionaries from the public/private consortium that is the National Security State... are expoiting fear-mongering hysteria over cyber-attacks to justify incredibly dangerous (and profitable) Internet controls.  As The Washington Post's Dana Priest and William Arkin reported in their 'Top Secret America' series last year: 'Every day, collection systems at the National Security Agency intercept and store 1.7 billion e-mails, phone calls and other types of communications.'  That is a sprawling, out-of-control Surveillance State."

Robert Naiman Says Obama Wants to Say in Iraq Forever. It's come to the point, according to Robert Naiman, that we accept the fact that "the US government is spending too much money. We have to live within our means. Difficult choices lie ahead. We can't do everything anyone might like us to do. Everything is on the table." So where can we save money? "Instead of keeping US troops in Iraq past December, we should pull them out like we promised." Previously, according to Naiman, Republicans like John McCain said there's no problem with keeping U.S. troops in Iraq forever, just like we do in Germany, Japan, and South Korea. "How liberals mocked him." But now the tide has turned. "But that's what the Obama Administration is now trying to do: keep US troops in Iraq forever." So whose leadership should the anti-war factions turn to now? You'll be surprised to hear that Naiman writes: "Tea Party leaders say it's time to cut the Pentagon budget... On this issue, the Tea Party is right: it's time for the Pentagon to go on a real diet. Ending the Iraq war would be a great place to start."

George Walden Doesn't Care if Obama Ever Comes Back From Vacation. Now for some criticism from afar! At the UK Telegraph, George Walden thinks Obama might be leaving himself open a bit with the whole Martha's Vineyard vacation. "His fellow-vacationers tend to be high-worth folk, and some – with an eye to their retirement funds – might respectfully ask the President what the hell he’s doing here, golfing and bathing, while the Dow sinks towards Davy Jones’s Locker, and when he plans to descend from his plateau of cerebral aloofness, and get a grip." But really, who cares? "If Obama went back to Washington (and there’s no need, since half the White House travels with him), what would he do? Shock treatment for the economy? His first stimulus package scraped through without a single Republican vote, and gained him a year. A second wouldn’t get through a Congress that is now dominated by the Republicans, who are against spending money the government doesn’t have, often to keep in work state employees it doesn’t need. Like America itself, Obama looks horribly short of options." But it's not just Obama's fault. "What the biggest crisis of American self-confidence since the Vietnam War is revealing is that Obama is the victim of absurdly unrealistic expectations... His economic inheritance was the worst of any new incumbent in memory, but to a country still hag-ridden by race, this was no mere politician. Here was a political messiah, a man with miraculous healing powers, whose appearance among us in times of trouble promised an America reborn." He adds that at this point, "all the GOP needs is a credible candidate, which it hasn’t got." Nonetheless, the decline of Obama is still something to mourn. "Obama has been a disappointment, no question, even if you were never a fan in the first place. Which makes him a little like the euro: if he goes down, part of us goes down with him."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.