Truth to Power

Lanny Davis: The Fake Liberal Strawman

In Economy, Mainstream Media, News, Politics on June 26, 2010 at 11:21 am

Lanny Davis is one of those Democrats that Fox News and the WSJ love- he’s always willing to slam the liberal base of the party and because he’s a Democrat who claims to be a “liberal” his criticisms of the left are accepted as per se legitimate by the corporate media.

Here’s Davis’ last bit of nonsense over at The Hill:

Two events last week involving elements of the Democratic Party who call themselves the “true progressives” show a danger they represent to the progressive change they say they want to effect. Together they offer President Barack Obama an opportunity for a “Sister Souljah moment” — perhaps to save the Democratic Party majority in both houses of Congress, as well as his progressive agenda in the last two years of his administration.

First was the success of Sen. Blanche Lincoln in June 8’s Arkansas Democratic primary, despite a campaign organized by these self-described progressives, along with certain labor unions. Lincoln won the primary, despite the confident predictions of these liberal-left groups at the “netroots.” Labor unions spent nearly $10 million trying to defeat Lincoln, primarily, they said, because she opposed the “card-check” method of organizing a union. Yet labor supported her opponent, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, who also opposed card-check. Go figure.


The second event was a conference on that June 8 primary day, held in Washington and organized by the Campaign for America’s Future, a self-described “progressive” organization, which cheered denunciations of Obama for “retreat on Guantánamo [and] no movement on worker rights or comprehensive immigration reform,” according to The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank, and shouted down and nearly prevented liberal House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) from speaking. “Progressives have grown ever more dissatisfied [with Obama’s policies] for good reason,” Robert Borosage, the organizer of the conference, said.


But this “eating your own children” syndrome by these so-called progressives also offers Obama an opportunity for a “Sister Souljah moment” — i.e., challenging the base of his own party engaging in these self-destructive tactics.

He can challenge those who prefer the perfect over the good, who seem to prefer to defeat Blue Dog House Democrats and Senate moderates from Republican or marginal districts and states, even if that means setting back the progressive cause substantially with the Republicans winning back the House and narrowing the margin in the Senate way below the current filibuster-proof 60 votes.

That would be the right thing to do for President Obama — and it would be the right politics. By doing so, he will have a chance of winning back those political independents and moderates who supported him for president in 2008 but, polls show, have now become less supportive of him and the Democratic Party….

Let me translate Lanny Davis’ argument- progressives should just STFU and stop complaining that Obama has backed off of all of his key campaign promises/policy positions that HE articulated, and let the adults in the DNC and DLC handle things because, after all, the Republicans are worse.

This reasoning is why nothing ever changes. This is why gays still have to serve in silence in the military, why BP was allowed to operate with minimal to no regulatory oversight, why the financial crisis almost destroyed the global economy and why we became a nation which tolerates such undemocratic policies as torture, rendition and targeted assassinations of Americans abroad.

That progressives and many moderates elected Obama because they wanted REAL change and because they agreed with his stated policy positions during the campaign, is of little importance to Lanny Davis. But he is not alone in this “Blame the Liberals” campaign. To hear these faux liberal establishment types talk, you would think that Obama had campaigned on a platform to NOT close Gitmo, to NOT roll back some of Bush’s most repugnant, secretive terrorism policies, to NOT take on Wall Street full force (as opposed to the window dressing legislation he’s lauding).

But then again, Lanny Davis is the guy who went and worked PR for the coup government of Honduras after the elected President was kidnapped and illegally spirited off to another country, so what can you expect? Basically, policies which maintain the elite status quo benefit Lanny, so anything that threatens to disrupt that is going to be a target of his ire. The thing is, no one really on the left really buys into Lanny’s BS because we’re not fooled by his “I’m a liberal but…” nonsense.

Greg Grandin of NYU pretty much exposes Lanny Davis for the corporatist fraud that he is:

Last Friday, I debated lawyer-turned-lobbyist Lanny Davis, now working for the business backers of the recent Honduran coup, on Democracy Now! It actually wasn’t much of a debate — in the way that word means an exchange of ideas — as Davis was fast out of the box, preemptively trying to taint host Amy Goodman and me as “ideologues.”


Recently, Davis has been hired by corporations to derail the labor-backed Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for unions to organize, all the while touting himself as a “pro-labor liberal.”

Davis was also the chief U.S. lobbyist of the military dictatorship in Pakistan in the late 90s and played an important role in strengthening relations between then President Bill Clinton and de facto president General Perez Musharraf.

Now Lanny Davis finds himself defending another de facto regime in Honduras that is engaging in “grave and systemic” political repression, suspending due process, harassing independent journalists, killing or disappearing at least ten people, and detaining hundreds as “constitutional,” all the while touting himself as a (Honduran) constitutional expert.

The Honduran coup occurred on June 28, when soldiers, working on behalf of a small group of business and political elite who control the country, kidnapped democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya and sent him into exile. Since then, the military-backed de facto regime of Roberto Micheletti has tried to argue to the world that it was acting constitutionally, even though nearly every country in Latin America, along with the European Union, isn’t buying it. Only in the U.S. is there a debate as to whether Micheletti government is legal or not — largely thanks to the lobbying efforts of Lanny Davis.

Davis’s argument is based on a disingenuous description of the legal and political maneuvers by Zelaya’s opponents in the Supreme Court and Congress prior to the coup. He calls these power grabs constitutional.

Never mind that several clear violations of Honduras’ constitution were carried out on June 28th, including the detention of president Zelaya by the armed forces (violation of articles 293 and 272), his forced deportation to another country (violation of art. 102) and Congress’ decision to destitute the president (this is not within Congress’ constitutional attributions).

But the best response to this position — in addition to pointing out that Davis’ description of events is so selective as to be false (see below for details) — is that throughout Latin America’s long history of coups, those who executed them usually counted on legal and political backing. Pinochet in Chile, for example, had both.

In retrospect, I should have made this point. But Davis was running through so many lies — they were too focused and polished to be simple mistakes or errors of interpretation — it was hard to catch up.

Through the program, host Amy Goodman demonstrated almost superhuman restraint, professionally refusing to respond to Davis’s provocations. His very first lie accused her of an ideological rant, for simply reporting the truth, for saying that Zelaya accepted a proposal to settle the crisis brokered by Costa Rican president Oscar Arias. This is demonstrably true — Zelaya has repeatedly indicated a willingness to accept the compromise; Micheletti, on the other hand, is playing for time until November’s regularly scheduled presidential elections — yet Davis repeatedly insisted otherwise. My favorite part of the debate took place about a third into the show, when in response to me pointing out that he was carrying out ad hominem attacks, Davis said that I was the one engaging in ad hominem, since I used the word “elite” to describe supporters of the coup. “‘Elite’ is an ad hominem word,” Davis said.

You can read the point-by-point take down of Davis’ lies about the Honduran coup here.

And then of course there is Lanny Davis’ “Israel-First” philosophy which self-defeatingly claims that essentially, Israel can do no wrong and that they should NEVER be publicly called out for ANYTHING, ever. Lanny begins every one of his hasbara meme’s on HuffPo or The Hill or wherever else with the empty assertion that he supports a two state solution. Big deal. By making the claim publicly, he hopes to not come across as the pandering, apologist that he is. What good is verbally supporting a two state solution when any attempt to get the parties to make concrete steps in that direction is violently opposed by the AIPAC crowd, of which Lanny is a proud member? Any call for Israel to stop building illegal settlements is tantamount to a full revocation of U.S. support for Israel in Davis’ knee-jerk, Israel-First world.

Of course, those of us who actually support Israel, realize that sometimes friends have to disclose uncomfortable truths and not always just in private. Blindly supporting the Israeli government even when their policies are dangerous, self-defeating and in some cases, illegal, is not “helping” or “supporting” Israel. In fact, it simply adds to their growing isolation. To not make any distinction between the policies of Likud and the other more moderate political parties in Israel is just ridiculous, as is the refusal to question the policies and hateful rhetoric of people like Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. To blame everything on Israel’s enemies while ignoring the frequent slights Israel levels at her allies, is hardly sound policy. It’s time Israel starts to act like the mature, sovereign nation state it is (or should be) and start taking responsibility for some of its more self-defeating policies rather than simply running behind the U.S. for cover. But as long as people like Lanny Davis, Anthony Weiner, Chuck Schumer, Abe Foxman, etc. manipulate media coverage of the issue and use the age-old tactic of claiming any criticism of Israel represents anti-Semitism or anti-Israeli sentiment, it’s unlikely that the government of Benyamin Netanyahu will change course any time soon.

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