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Live Chat: Robert Scheer on Obama’s State of the Union Address

Posted on Jan 28, 2011

(Page 4)

The fact is, we have a society deeply divided over real stuff. We have people who shamelessly paid themselves, what, $15 million a year while they’re impoverishing other people. That’s not going to be … we can’t just sing “Kumbaya” and hold hands. You have the banks being made whole by the government with taxpayer money and then ripping off the taxpayers. We can’t just overlook that! You know, there are hard choices to make. And Obama did not address a single difficult choice. Yes, I will give him one … a couple of points of credit. Let me be a little more balanced. I thought mentioning gays in the military and saying, you know, we’ve got to be over that—that was good. Although he had to put a caveat in there that we’re no longer going to be able to debate recruiting on campuses, and militarism on campuses—we have to give that up. I don’t like that; it’s an infringement on free speech and our right to challenge military recruiting.
But there were a couple of good lines, but in the main, the reason Obama is successful despite this harsh reality, he’s an incredible snake-oil salesman. That’s what he is.

And he patched together a speech, or his writers did, that had something sounding good for everyone. And while you’re watching a speech, it’s very difficult not to say, “Yeah, I’ll check off that one, I like that one.” Yeah. Who wouldn’t want health care that will allow all of us to get insurance, no matter pre-existing conditions, if we can keep costs down, and if the medical industry is happy and the consumers are happy, and we’ll all work on that—that’s fine. But if you ask the question how we’re going to keep costs down, which is a legitimate question—a question that even the tea party people, Republicans are asking—it’s a legitimate question. And the fact is that Obama’s health care plan does not have a provision for keeping costs down, because he rejected a public option, rejected any kind of governmental cost control, rejected an extension of Medicare.

If we had had a health plan that said, “Let’s extend … or put Medicare down to 55 years,” that would have been a big improvement, because Medicare can control costs. But there’s no real cost control here, and I’m afraid that the health care, for all of its good qualities … and it is important that we be able to insure our children up to a certain age; it’s important that we not deny health care when you lose your job, or pre-existing conditions; those are real common-sense achievements. But yes, if you can’t control costs, then you haven’t accomplished very much. And I’m afraid there is nothing really in this health care plan that goes to that issue. But what he did in his speech is he just said, “Boy, everybody wants good health care.” Yes, everybody wants good health care. And he said, “I’ll work with you on the defects.” Well, that’s wonderful, but will he really take them on? And the fact is he didn’t, in the creation of the health care plan; he didn’t take on the for-profit health care industry that got what it wanted.

Anderson: Well, here’s a suggestion from within our own Truthdig team, which is that we ask you what you thought of Obama and the Chinese president’s visit?


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Scheer: Yeah, I thought this was a strong moment for Obama. I think he … look. I think Obama is obviously better than many of the alternatives. Don’t get me wrong. And the fact that he’s not willing to … he has, at times, flirted with the bait China, “hold the Chinese responsible,” card, which Republicans and Democrats do. The good thing about this visit is he was willing to treat the Chinese with respect, which they deserve. That doesn’t mean you give them a blank check; that doesn’t mean you don’t criticize their human rights record. And in fact, one of the great achievements of that visit is the Chinese leader—Chinese leader! In public! Now, unfortunately, it wasn’t reported in China the way we would have hoped—but in public, in front of the world, said, “We need to work on our human rights.” That was an incredible, incredible victory. When is the time when an American president has said that, we need to work on human rights? That was a real achievement.

And I think the resistance of the impulse to demonize China, to look for scapegoats … the fact is, it was the U.S. economy that messed up the Chinese economy, not the other way around. It was the U.S. economy that messed up the Greek economy, and the Spanish economy, and threatened the German economy and the English economy. It was our banking policies—we are the culprits in this thing. Our Wall Street geniuses are the people that caused this international crisis. Now, the Germans and the Chinese have come out of it better than we have. But we can’t demonize them; we can’t blame this all on their currency or something. They’re going to try to do as well as they can, and they have a lot of people, a lot of mouths to feed. They’re going to try to … we’ve always jiggered currency, we’ve always jiggered trade to protect our own people; let’s not kid ourselves. So what they’re doing is, they say, hey, we can’t have riots in the street, we’ve got … hundreds of millions of people are going to be very unhappy with any of the slightest little drop here. And so they have protected their interests, and like the Germans, seem to be coming out of this nightmare that we created, you know, in better shape.

But I think it was a real achievement of Obama to embrace the Chinese, to treat them as equals, to not demonize, and yet to reserve the right to criticize things that are universally important, like human rights, yeah. So I thought it was a masterful—let me be very pro-Obama on this—I thought it was his best moment in foreign policy; it was masterful. So I don’t always want to criticize … look, I’ve said this before, I’ll say it again. I take no joy in being a naysayer. I know we have people who comment and say, “God, you just love to be in opposition, you just love to be critical. …” I don’t. Trust me, I would rather go sailing today with our managing editor, who happens to be my son, Peter, and say, “Hey! The world’s in great shape. We don’t really need to put out Truthdig. We don’t need to be sounding the alarm. You know, let’s just go sailing! It’s a beautiful day in Los Angeles. You know, we have this little sailboat, let’s go out there, let’s enjoy it.” I’d love to just think, “Hey, let’s have a great lunch here, you know? Let’s take the whole Truthdig staff down to the beach, and we’ll go have lunch. Our work is done. We’ve got a great president, he’s solving our problems, and we should shut up for a while.” But the problem is that a lot of people are hurting around the world, and it would be irresponsible for us to shut up now. We can’t do that.

Anderson: Well, we’ll have to at least cut this off for the short term, or else you’re going to clock into overtime here. But thank you for your participation.

Scheer: All right. And by the way, thank you, Kasia, for doing this great job, and for being one of the two or three leaders of Truthdig.

Anderson: You’re welcome, Bob. Can I go sailing now?

Scheer: Yes. [Laughter]

Anderson: So thanks, everyone, for your questions, and we’ll look forward to the next live chat with Robert Scheer.

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By Tyler, January 31, 2011 at 9:19 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Thanks to the previous commenter who acknowledged by question was NOT at all answered - although I enjoy all of what Mr. Scheer normally says. We do not live in a democracy but an inverted totalitarian state. If elections are what the power elites hold up to claim we have choice, what is the choice? In 2012, what happens? Do we slowly slip into a fascist feudal post-oil state? No one can of course accurately predict the possibility of the US in regard to geo-political interest. But within, we must have a progressive option for the people ASAP

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By Rodney, January 29, 2011 at 1:47 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Mr. Scheer, thank you for being so truthful, honest, and compassionate about the issues that affect all the world. especially the poor.  I appreciate your profound analysis of the President’s speech that helps us to see beyond the feel good phrases.  PLease continued to give us the real deal behind all political manuevering.  Thus far, you seem to be the only voice that speaks with objectivity. Keep up this needful community service.

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By Rodney, January 29, 2011 at 1:47 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Mr. Scheer, thank you for being so truthful, honest, and compassionate about the issues that affect all the world. especially the poor.  I appreciate your profound analysis of the President’s speech that helps us to see beyond the feel good phrases.  PLease continued to give us the real deal behind all political manuevering.  Thus far, you seem to be the only voice that speaks with objectivity. Keep up this needful community service.

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By FiftyGigs, January 29, 2011 at 12:29 pm Link to this comment

T Groan? “...I really don’t see much difference between obama and the republicans…”

With respect, your comment is the epitome of stale argument. It is demonstrably wrong to begin with. It’s also extremely shallow.

Stop obsessing over parties. This is about political power. The most powerful force in this country is a neo-fascist conservatism, embraced by the Republican Party, and buttressed by religious institutions, the most influential media organization in the country, and many of the richest individuals on the planet.

That’s who you’re fighting. Whether it’s a Democratic Party, a Green Party, or the New Party of Egypt, it makes no difference. You face the exact same problem: how are you going to amass more power than Republican conservatives?

Your friends—people like me who wish for many of the same things you do—are struggling to build a counter-force to that power, using the organizational structure of the Democratic Party, which happens to contain today a substantial number of progressives, people you’d admire. It embraces a strong labor movement, people of religious conviction who are horrified by the hijacking of God’s Word by godless politicians, a nascent environmental movement, a feminist movement, a gay rights movement, a consumer rights movement, blacks, Hispanics.

Not to mention liberal youth.

The progressives within the Democratic Party would love to rule the party. I’d love to help them. How about you?

Read Shannon’s comment. That’s one person who has voiced the truth for untold others who don’t want to bother to do even speak up anymore. That’s where your political power stands. That’s how far out of the game you are. That’s the reality as you diss Obama.

What’s happening isn’t that dolts like me are being snookered by Slick Willy 2—think about that. The problem is that the progressive movement is stuck in some kind of fixation with self-immolation.

It castigates Obama endlessly, yet offers nary a peep against the Republicans who impose on them the things they say they despise. People raise hell about Obama because they think they CAN affect him, because they know they could NEVER have affected Bush in a million years, but they’re too proud to admit it.

In your effort to “keep Obama honest”, you must not loose sight of the fact that your efforts are wasted if you don’t also expend effort to keep him in power too. I realize such conundrums are difficult for liberals to handle, but we really need to smarten up.

Because President Gingrich won’t give a rat’s ass about what you think. That’s the truth, the difference. And you know it.

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By david reese, January 29, 2011 at 10:05 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Great, great interview!  Why don’t we have more of these?

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By chip, January 29, 2011 at 1:36 am Link to this comment

Thank You Mr. Sheer
  I guess you won’t get rich speaking the truth
all I can give is my respect.

I wonder what the DNC pays these shills who get on here and attempt to defend this wall street puppet we elected?
They need to quit wasting their money though because your readers are well informed and quite sick of doughnut holes and pre-exsisting conditions and getting to stay on their parents insurance crap.

I notice when the “news” reports that auto deaths are down they never mention the fact that cars have airbags now, that could lead into a unspeakable word. Ralph Nader.
If squeaky clean, incorruptible Ralph can’t save us, maybe it’s Tunisia time.

See> Chris Hedges

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By VoteGreen, January 28, 2011 at 6:47 pm Link to this comment

It appears that the first caller’s question was not answered.  Robert’s reply was informative and insightful(as usual) but I think what the caller wanted was either:a possible Democratic primary candidate to run against Obama; or an alternative to the Democrats altogether. That someone as progressive as Robert didn’t think to even mention the Green Party is disturbing.  How many progressives have even gone to their website to find out the Green platform? It is 100% progressive. Yes,the Green Party is still small and disorganized, and won’t win the next election. But we have to start somewhere.  The comment sections of progressive sites are full of disillusioned progressives vowing to not support the Democrats anymore, so Democrats can’t win anyway(unless they run Bernie Sanders). Thanks to Obomber, I almost gag on the word “hope” now, but we need to vote for our hopes instead of our fears.

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By FRTothus, January 28, 2011 at 5:52 pm Link to this comment

19 hijackers with box-cutters?  Tell me another fairy-tale, Uncle Bob.  What will it take for you to do your own investigation instead of taking official pronouncements as fact?

What credibility does one give to the willfully ignorant, the intellectually lazy?  None, in my book.  None at all.

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By AT, January 28, 2011 at 5:51 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

while tLKING bout the fAWS,LET’S TALK about the lack of
imagination we encountered.doingup Against private
citizen is just that, how ARE YOU FARING Vs SEASONED

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By Shannon, January 28, 2011 at 5:03 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I see nothing but a dodge in Robert Scheer’s response to credible alternatives for progressives in 2012.  How can organization of progressives be possible if those bashing the status quo won’t commit to a reasonable answer?

I have volunteered on several occasions to assist the local groups in campaigning only to arrive and be sent home because the ‘schedule changed.’

Obviously, progressives lack centered leadership and are losing me quickly as a viable option.

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By T Groan, January 28, 2011 at 12:07 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Fifty Gig, are you offering the stale argument that obama is the only choice because the republicans are worse than him?

If that’s the case sorry I really don’t see much difference between obama and the republicans.  Both are owned by the same people and guess what, they don’t have mine or the majoritys interests at heart.

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By SoTexGuy, January 28, 2011 at 10:25 am Link to this comment

Scheer speaks well on important, the most important issues. His calls for accountability from the Obama administration and an end to coddling of the president by the left are especially refreshing.

I was also thrilled to view his fundamental opposition to institutional usury! I’m wondering, however if that extends to individual usury.. in other words, if I acquire something like a piece of residential real estate with the intent and purpose of selling it to someone else in a year or two for 20-30% more.. am I a savvy investor? a slick salesman?

And if this doesn’t work out for me whose fault is it? Should everybody else step in and rescue me?

Just thoughts..

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By FiftyGigs, January 28, 2011 at 8:52 am Link to this comment

I wish this website would get in the game.

Egypt is in turmoil. WikiLeaks is issuing destructive information about Egyptian “police brutality” and none about civilian brutality. (You don’t think the latter exists?) The Republican Party has amassed power from border to border, deciding when life begins, deciding what constitutes science that must be taught to children, deciding if climate change is worthy of attention, deciding what rights we have. The Supreme Court has become demonstrably corrupt.

And this site is headlining a discussion about the State of the Union speech???

My gosh, how could we have been so blind all these years about a matter so terrifically important. The TWO Republican responses we’ll let slide. Let’s be sure and not critique the speeches of the party running Congress. You know, the budgeting bunch?

But, I suppose, everybody needs a website, including those people who simply want to bash Obama. Lord knows there aren’t enough of those.


So, it’s a fact that President Obama isn’t “focused” on unemployment, huh? Please cite the source of that information, because I don’t believe you. In fact, I’ll wager that Obama is more focused on American unemployment than any single individual on the face of the earth. Certainly more than any pundit.

May I recommend the URL “ConjectureDig”. You ARE concerned about honesty, aren’t you?

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