Glenn Greenwald: Neither a Liberal Nor a Progressive

Out magazine has a profile of Glenn Greenwald, and two things stood—ahem—out to me. One is comparatively minor, the other much more problematic.

[EDITED FROM ORIGINAL: to prevent some from being distracted by a secondary point, I’ve moved the original opening of the post to the bottom. No content has been eliminated, it’s simply been moved around to prevent people from not focusing on my main points]


The more substantive problem I have, though, is with this:

In his early days as a blogger, Greenwald supported Democratic candidates who shared his pro–civil liberties views. But events of the last two years — in both the White House and Congress — have changed his mind. “I just don’t think meaningful change is possible through piecemeal reforms in either of the two political parties,” he says. As for the Democrats themselves, he can barely contain his disgust. “The Republicans,” he says, “have long lived by what they call the Buckley Rule: always support the furthest-right candidate who can plausibly win. That’s because they believe conservatism will work and want to advocate for it. Democrats [by contrast] prop up the most centrist or conservative candidates — i.e., corporatists — on the ground that it’s always better, more politically astute, to move to the right.”

One of his hopes for 2012 is that candidates will emerge to take on the red and the blue teams — he is keeping an eye on Gary Johnson, a two-term Republican governor of New Mexico, who is pro-gay and antiwar, and who could run with a Democrat like former Wisconsin senator Russ Feingold. He would also be happy to see a billionaire run without the help of either party, to “disrupt the two-party stranglehold.”

Greenwald believes the same manipulation of the two-party system is essential in the fight for gay rights. He says he is encouraged by the rise of the Log Cabin Republicans—not because he likes a thing the GOP endorses, but because “it sends a signal to Democrats that they can’t keep using gay voters as an ATM machine.”

Let’s unpack this.  First, let’s have a collective eyeroll at the naivety and (probably surprising to him) Broder-like fetishization of bipartisanship. He’ll support a Republican, but wants the Republican to run with a Democrat? Why? Second, his “I’m hoping for a billionaire to save America from politics” stance is deeply anti-democratic. In effect, he’s hoping for someone to come in and bypass any elections until the presidential general election and just try to buy the election. Doesn’t he know enough to worry about a Ross Perot, or a Silvio Berlusconi?

Then, there’s the issue of his overall political acumen and whether he has a well-formed and resolute set of political values. His written output suggests that Greenwald is politically engaged primarily by civil liberties and security state issues. He writes comparatively little about economic quality of life issues like wealth and income disparities, life opportunities and other forms of economic and social justice, including the rights of workers to act in solidarity to form unions and collectively bargain through their labor unions. And now, in learning he’s open to supporting Republican Gary Johnson, we see enough to know it’s almost certain he doesn’t share with liberals and progressives the core belief that the government has a necessary and essential role in taming the excesses of capitalism or of addressing our existential challenges as a species.

According to the 2002 edition of the Almanac of American Politics, as governor of New Mexico Gary Johnson cut taxes on the rich while cutting social services for the poor. He tried to pluck money out of public schools and funnel it in to private school vouchers. He vetoed a minimum wage bill. He signed in to law a late-term abortion ban. He won’t affirm a belief in global warming, and says even if it is happening that the effects are exaggerated and too much money is being wasted on it. And he vetoed a bill that would have continued the collective bargaining rights of public employees. That’s right, without the bluster but apparently to the same intended effect he did the same thing to public employees in New Mexico that Scott Walker did in Wisconsin.

Oh, by the way: Gary Johnson doesn’t support same-sex marriage.

Glenn Greenwald may be a brilliant legal mind (although he may also just be an slippery sophist trafficking in thoughtless or disingenuous outrage). He may also be right in some of his criticisms of the Obama administration’s legal actions, especially concerning terrorism, secrecy and due process. But if he thinks Gary Johnson is worthy of his support, he’s either hostile to progressive politics, or he’s a political nitwit. You simply can’t consider yourself a progressive in any broadly accepted meaning of the term and thoughtfully and in an informed way support for president someone with the views and history of Gary Johnson. And if you’re going to complain–rightly–that it’s wrong that in the US he can’t marry the man he loves, and he complains that Democrats, including Barack Obama don’t support marriage equality, why in the hell would he play political footsies with someone who’s far, far worse on most issues and is at best no better than Barack Obama on marriage equality?

By saying he might support Gary Johnson, Glenn Greenwald has now demonstrated that he is a narrowly-focused advocate who cares about only a few issues, and is not a liberal or progressive with a broad sense of the common good. He’s also a poor political analyst, for if can’t he recognize the damage that would be unleashed by having as a president someone who cavorts with 9-11 truther Alex Jones and who in 2008 endorsed nutball libertarian Ron Paul for president, why pay attention to what he says outside the narrowly legal boundaries of his claims about the government, our politicians and public policy?

Then again, maybe there’s something else going on. Here’s the conclusion of the profile:

Being predictable, he says, offering advice to the gay community and an unwitting summary of his career, “is the best way to guarantee you’re ignored.”

Maybe, in the end, it’s not even the politics that matter the most to Glenn Greenwald. Maybe what’s most important to him is ensuring that he’s not ignored.


[Original opening to the piece]

First, this bit of slipperiness about his living inBrazil, and why:

Given Greenwald’s intellectual fecundity and argumentative ferocity, being gay may be the least interesting thing about him. But even Greenwald doesn’t claim that his sexual orientation doesn’t matter. After all, if he were straight he would be living in Manhattan, his home for most of the last 20 years. Instead, he lives in Rio de Janeiro, barred from moving to the United Stateswith his Brazilian boyfriend, David Michael Miranda.

“Brazil recognizes our relationship for immigration purposes, while the government of my supposedly ‘free,’ liberty-loving country enacted a law explicitly barring such recognition,” says Greenwald, referring to the Defense of Marriage Act with the disdain he typically shows for policies he believes are eroding Americans’ freedoms. Greenwald’s attacks on the powerful make him a tempting target for reprisals. So it’s no surprise that, soon after he started blogging, critics sometimes tried to out him in a game of “gotcha”. But what upset Greenwald was the implication that he had been closeted in the first place. “There was nothing to out,” he says. “I’ve been as out as I can be since I was 20.”

I don’t know if the faulty claims here are from Greenwald, the writer, or a combination of the two, but it hardly makes sense that the only reason Greenwald isn’t living in theUS is because he’s gay. He evidently comes and goes through the US as he pleases, and his partner says he used to travel everywhere with him but now he sometimes has to stay inRiobecause of his studies. And there’s certainly no prohibition against being gay and having a committed partner.

Of course it’s completely plausible that what’s really happening is unconscionable but not dark and menacing. If Greenwald were straight and met a woman inRio, he could have married her and eventually—although not with a certainly and probably not without hassles–gotten her a visa so they could live together in the US. But he can’t do that officially and easily with a same-sex partner, so therefore it’s possible that his choice is live in the US but not be able to bring his partner in to the US permanently, or just say “screw it, I want to be with him, and we can either have a crappy long-distance relationship across national borders or I could live with him in Rio and travel to the US when necessary.”

That Greenwald and others who love someone of the same sex may be forced to make such a choice is unjust. I admit that in the past I had thought “you know, if he cares so much about the US then why doesn’t Greenwald just live here and fight to make it better instead of staying in Brazil.” But I was wrong. If indeed his partner can’t get permanent resident status in the US, who are we to say that Greenwald should stay here and deny himself love and domesticity?

But if Greenwald lives in Brazil because he wants to live with the man he loves, while unjust and makes the US worthy of criticism, it’s not close to being true that he’s “barred from living in the United States with his boyfriend.” It’s more likely true that, like plenty of couples, same-sex as well as hetero, that because they’re unmarried his partner can’t live permanently in the US, but unlike hetero couples they don’t have the option of changing that by getting married. That’s horrible, but not as ominous sounding as saying he’s barred from moving to the US.


Commenter William has a link to an astonishing 2005 Greenwald piece on immigration, where he not only fulminates about amnesty for illegal immigrants but also writes this, which reads like a typical angry libertarian rant against the legitimacy of federal government [bold added by me]:

 There already is a “closed sign on the border” when it comes to illegal immigration. It’s called the law. The problem is that the “closed sign” isn’t being enforced because the Federal Government, which has its interfering, power-hungry hands in virtually everything else, has abdicated its duty in one of the very few areas where it was actually meant to be: border security.

The position that the federal government has very few areas where it’s meant to be was once the dominant position on the US Supreme Court. Beginning with Lochner v New York (1905) the court repeatedly invalidated federal actions, most famously in striking down many of the New Deal programs in the first few years of FDR’s administration. After about 1935 FDR was able to appoint justices who didn’t adhere to what was until recently an antiquated and disdained interpretation of the Constitution. But in recent years, the Federalist Society and other far-right groups, particularly those steadfastly opposed to business, labor and environmental regulations, have taken positions consistent with the Lochner view, and in the spirit of Greenwald’s outburst quoted above, that the federal government has few prerogatives outside protecting our borders and defending us from attack.  It’s the position of Justices Alito, Thomas, and I think Scalia. And none of them, obviously, are liberals or progressives.

That line I’ve quoted doesn’t prove that that Greenwald pines for a Lochner-era interpretation of the Constitution, but it suggests he may. And what thoughtful liberal or progressive who cares about labor laws or consumer and environmental protections would ever blurt out that the federal government–especially during the Bush years, with it’s lax or non-existent regulation of the economy and environment!- is meant to be only in few areas like border patrol, and that it has its “interfering, power-hungry hands in virtually everything else?”

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88 Responses to Glenn Greenwald: Neither a Liberal Nor a Progressive

  1. Allan says:

    Thank you Dana, for writing this. I read the Out profile and had a very similar reaction.

    I personally know bi-national gay couples who are in the same bind as Glenn and his partner and I completely empathize with the unfairness they face. So I don’t in any way discount his justifiable bitterness over US immigration policy.

    But the fantasizing about some white knight Republican/Democratic hybrid team being a better alternative to the administration we have right now is extremely, even willfully naive and disingenuous.

    We have here a Log Cabin Republican, and a particularly grim and scolding one at that.

  2. Newsie8200 says:

    He may not want to be predictable but Greenwald is entirely predictable.

    Greenwald gives lousy political advice. Those displeased with Obama’s gay rights record are free to vote for others, but they shouldn’t do so under the delusion that voting for anyone with a similar or even worse gay rights record will do anything to advance gay rights.

    Plus if Greenwald knew anything about progressive politics, he’d understand how important a candidate’s stances on other issues are to advancing gay rights. LGBT groups are part of the progressive coalition, and without the others in the coalition, we’d have even fewer LGBT friendly elected officials all over the country than we do now.

    Again, those displeased with Obama’s record on gay rights or anything else are free to express their displeasure by not voting for him, but be clear on this: Greenwald isn’t progressive, doesn’t understand progressive politics, and sucks at political analysis.

  3. William H. Brewer says:

    It’s a dead-cert guarantee you’re going to get a fuckton of shit for writing this, so let me say now that this is a great post and absolutely dead-on.

    My first red flags about Greenwald came a good 4 or 5 years ago, when I saw how he argued in comment threads (consistently misrepresenting the statements of anyone who disagrees with him); of course he was doing the same in arguing with other bloggers, but in a comment thread the misrepresentations are a lot more obvious. The breaking point for me was his whole “Rand Paul is a principled libertarian” schtick, which he was pushing back when a lot of anti-ward lefties were disgusted with the Democratic party. Since then it’s been clear to me that he’s a ratfucker first and foremost–probably more for the attention (and profit) than for anything else, but the upshot is he’s a de facto Republican tool.

    Then, there’s the issue of his overall political acumen and whether he has a well-formed and resolute set of political values. His written output suggests that Greenwald is politically engaged primarily by civil liberties and security state issues. He writes comparatively little about economic quality of life issues like wealth and income disparities, life opportunities and other forms of economic and social justice, including the rights of workers to act in solidarity to form unions and collectively bargain through their labor unions.

    Exactly. One of his recent Obama-is-worse-than-Bush columns really illustrated it for me: the title referred to two standards of justice, but he mentioned poverty and race only in the most perfunctory way, as a set-up for his real subject (the Justice Department’s failure to prosecute a whole bunch of people Greenwald thinks should be prosecuted). Someone who actually gave a shit about race and poverty issues would have actually written about them, instead of using them as pseudo-progressive buzzwords.

    And if anyone is still unconvinced, I suggest they check out his naked nativism when he was talking about illegal immigration.

    • Allan says:

      I hadn’t read that piece before, but it’s illuminating. Thanks for linking it. Yes, Dana had better don asbestos undergarments.

    • Dana Houle says:

      Wow. Wow! That’s some pretty toxic stuff from him on immigration. He makes amnesty sound like it’s the same as letting Nazi war criminals escape to Argentina. And this is a revealing line and absolutely supports my contention that his view of the role of government isn’t consistent with the general view of liberals and progressives:

      The problem is that the “closed sign” isn’t being enforced because the Federal Government, which has its interfering, power-hungry hands in virtually everything else, has abdicated its duty in one of the very few areas where it was actually meant to be: border security.

      It’s pretty amazing that he would write that there are very few areas where the federal government was actually meant to be; that sounds like a Loughner-era view of the scope of the federal government’s powers.

      • William H. Brewer says:

        Yeah, that bit about where the Federal government was “meant to be” is pretty revealing. Also, entirely consistent with his admiration for Ron Paul back in 2007.

        (btw, I’m not actually William H. Brewer–I have a WordPress blog on which I’m posting excerpts from Brewer’s letters 150 years after the fact, so all my WP comments are under his name. I’m actually Tom Hilton, who used to blog about politics at If I Ran the Zoo.)

  4. Dana Houle says:

    Thanks for the comments.

    William, I’m afraid you’re right that I’ll take a lot of grief for this. To be fair, I’m also probably going to get more traffic to the blog for it, and that was a reason I actually paused before writing it; I didn’t want to just post link-bait. But Greenwald is a huge figure, and I think one that gets too little push-back from liberals/progressives/leftists, and I’m enough of fool who doesn’t walk away from potential fights that I ended up doing it. But Greenwald is a prodigous rhetorical pugilist, and indefatigable. Those are traits I admired during the Bush administration when he was bludgeoning them on their policies. And I’m not going to wade in to his critiques of Obama administration policies on detentions, secrecy, civil liberties and the like. But there’s a serious problem that so many people lap up unquestioningly what he says about politics more broadly, and this Gary Johnson stuff is a stunning example of why he may or may not deserve serious attention and respect on legal matters but is a horrible person to listen to on politics that advance a broader conception of the common good.

    Allan: I’m not sure if he’s really a Log Cabin Republican–I doubt he is, in fact–but thinking they’re anything other than punching bags is ridiculous. They’re hated by their party, and I just can’t respect anyone who has one party that is pretty good and can be improved but they reject that party to be active in a party that continually shows them little other than hatred. Also, they’re just not effective. I mean, hell, other than the Mainers there were, what, two or three Republican Senators who voted the right way on the cloture vote on the DADT repeal?

    • NathanExplosion says:

      The Hard Left’s rather strange gleeful willingness to shit on those with whom they agree on a wide swath of policy issues because they don’t agree on everything is the definition of political naiveté.

      Good job shitting on Greenwald. Obviously he deserves your scorn and vile. (This is sarcasm.)

      Your he-doesn’t-dotte-“i’s”-how-we-like-them-to-be-dotted political inclusion strategy is interesting in a your-political-instincts-are-retarded sort of way; good luck trying to court moderate/centrist voters (whom you will need) in 2012.

      When you are on your deathbed years from now, I’m sure you will look back on pieces like this with tremendous pride. (Yes, more sarcasm.)

  5. Christina says:

    I see the point has been made that you’d best have your finest asbestos underwear on 🙂

    The ego is strong with GG and he sure does *love* to search on his name to find posts like these. So do his supporters. So, good luck!

    Excellent observation on his wishing for a Gary Johnson/Russ Finegold ticket or a billionaire (Trump??! Aack!) candidate and what that says about his political position overall. He is always otherwise assumed to be a liberal Democrat and there is just no way that this particular interview supports that label.

    I always understood his living arrangement to be for the reason that his partner cannot get permanent resident status in the US (which is, as we’ve all stated, utterly pathetic). I have no idea why he would phrase it the way he did.

    Well done my friend!

  6. Miranda says:

    Its about time more people starting see through the hypocrisy that is Glenn Greenwald.

  7. This is amazing. Well done.

  8. Lawnguylander says:

    He writes comparatively little about economic quality of life issues like wealth and income disparities, life opportunities and other forms of economic and social justice, including the rights of workers to act in solidarity to form unions and collectively bargain through their labor unions.

    Greenwald does talk about these things some times. For instance, a year and a half ago or so he told everyone that the teabaggers are natural allies of liberals and that we were stupid not to form a political alliance with people who’d love to see us all in camps or worse. As for his views on the Supreme Court, you’re probably aware that he liked the Citizens United ruling. He has also worked for The Cato Institute yet no other blogger inspires such slavish devotion from internet lefties. If he hadn’t come along some other huckster would have taken them for a ride, I guess, but he’s bad, bad, news for liberal politics.

    • Dana Houle says:

      The more I read of Greenwald–and I admit, I don’t read him often, and have barely read him for the last few years–the more I see him as a more socially liberal version of Bob Barr. Saying he’s like Bob Barr isn’t for me a horrible insult; I wrote a piece lauding Barr some years back

      Like Barr, I think of Greenwald as a fairly consistent civil libertarian, and that’s an approach I respect and recognize is necessary, and we’re best as a country when we have critics of excessive government power launching their critiques from both the left and the right. Greenwald is probably culturally more sympatico with liberals, but I just don’t think one can be seen as a liberal or a progressive if you’re hostile to just about any actions by the federal government, and it appears more and more that Greenwald is hostile to the federal government’s role in anything. Greenwald became a prominent civil libertarian at a time when almost all the civil libertarians were on the left, so I think people assumed he was on the left, and culturally he’s far from a religious right culture warrior. But he’s not of the left, he’s not a progressive or a liberal, he’s a civil libertarian whose usefulness to liberals and progressives is at best limited in any other areas of politics and policy outside a few specific areas like government transparency, due process and civil rights.

  9. Charles Few says:

    Glenn Greenwald works for CATO, defends online gambling, says that the two party’s try to paint racist Ron Paul b/c they’re scared of his ideas, and supports an obscure libertarian for POTUS.

    Time to quit pretending that he’s a progressive in any way, shape or form.

    • Joe R. says:

      I came here via a link from a libertarian site, and I’m surprised to find that progressives are against online gambling. Why are progressives against it?

  10. Pingback: Glenn Greenwald’s ‘eye on’ candidate Gary Johnson running for president : The Reid Report

  11. Kyrondo says:

    Wow. Excellent piece. Get ready for monkeys to start slinging and flinging shit threw their cages.

  12. Dirk says:

    “Maybe, in the end, it’s not even the politics that matter the most to Glenn Greenwald. Maybe what’s most important to him is ensuring that he’s not ignored.” … Just spot on. Kudos to you evil Ted.

    • Diable4 says:

      At the root of it all, he’s a famewhore. Since he isn’t attractive enough to do it via the entertainment industry, this is how he does it. Much more limited in scale, and with a rather dubious and emotionally-retarded following.

      • NathanExplosion says:

        (cite) Since he isn’t attractive enough to do it via the entertainment industry…(/cite)

        Very nice. You stay classy, Diable4.

  13. bmull says:

    You are clueless.

    • Diable4 says:

      Howdy, Greenbeck? You’re the scout drone, right? Go back to the hive and report that someone dared question GG’s integrity. Wah.

    • LAC says:

      What a surprise to see you here! Did you get your Greenwald bobbysoxes on before or after you ran to the computer?

      Great article! My thanks to the author.

    • Paula says:

      Know what? Tell your posse:

      I don’t give a rat’s behind who or what GG or anyone else in the Accountability Now! PAC lobbies for, just stop going on TV and calling yourself a representative of the progressive base. Call yourself independent, unaligned, whatever — but you are not a part of that base.

      • Diable4 says:

        What GG needs to do is be honest about what he is: an opportunistic famewhore.

        Why is it that the infantile media always latches onto those who least represent the views of progressives and deem them to be the mouthpieces of the left? Hamsher and Greenwald aren’t anything but a couple of attention whores and assholes who can go suck Grover Nordquist’s cock.

  14. Vinnie From Indy says:

    Well, Ross Perot was EXACTLY correct when he offered that the passage of NAFTA would cause a “giant sucking sound” from all the jobs that would be lost in America.

    Also, at least Glenn knows how to use spellcheck. I find your attacks to be nonsensical, hysterical and juvenile.


    • Dana Houle says:

      What’s funny about this is that the libertarians Greenwald finds appealing are all free trade advocates who would never want labor or environmental conditions attached to trade agreements.

      Oh, that and the fact that there wasn’t any argument about how I’m wrong other than neener-neener.

  15. Vinnie From Indy says:

    How about a little less mind reader and a little more reasoned argument supported by actual quotes. Your attack on Glenn is basically you telling your readers what he thinks without ever offering anything of substance in the way of factual evidence. Lastly, I think Greenwald’s latest tweet sums up your work quite nicely.


  16. Vinnie From Indy says:

    Sorry, but I forgot to mention my favorite part of your post. You write,
    “To be fair, I’m also probably going to get more traffic to the blog for it, and that was a reason I actually paused before writing it; I didn’t want to just post link-bait.”

    LOL! This is perhaps the funniest thing I have read in quite some time on a blog. Your Scarlett O’Hara-esque lamentation should hopefully fully inform your readers as to your intent!


    • Diable4 says:

      The author’s intent was honest dialogue and pushback against the dishonesty that is Glenn Greenwald. His acolytes such as you can’t bear even a scintilla of criticism directed at Oh Chinless One.

      You Greenbecks are a cowardly lot. The only numbers you have an your side are your army of sockpuppets.

      • dinglebingle says:

        for a group of sophisticated bitter clinger communists calling themselvs progressives and deriding all criticism as “neener neener”, that sure was a neener-neener comeback.

        I was going to provide a substantive question about your politics, but I see it’s all just “neener neener” from some silly police lovers.

  17. Iolaus says:

    If I were you, Dana, I’d be pretty pissed off about Greenwald “keeping an eye on” Gary Johnson, too. Greenwald even mentioning a Republican as anything other than subhuman has got to be poison for a top Democratic organizer. After all, who reads Greenwald but people like me: A lifelong loyal Democrat, pushed by the fraudulent campaign promises of Barack Obama into thinking about alternatives. Not that I’d ever vote for a guy who gave his girlfriend a copy of “Atlas Shrugged,” but you have to admit Johnson is something of a novelty–and that “keeping an eye” on someone does not actually constitute an endorsement.

    • Vinnie From Indy says:

      Please stop making sense! Can’t you see that the OP is deeply concerned that this laughable flame bait might actually drive people to (gasping and clutching pearls) this website?

      This is the funniest web site that I have stumbled upon in a while and it is precisely because the OP belives his/her work here has substance and credibility that makes it so funny!

      Cheers! You may have acquired another loyal reader. Damn flame-bait gets me everytime!

  18. Andrew says:

    To play devil’s advocate, my sense is that Greenwald would describe himself as a progressive, though he’s basically a left-libertarian. His prime focus is civil liberties and while he’s sympathetic to liberal viewpoints on economic and redistributive issues, he would argue that Democrats are no better than Republicans on these issues. Moreover, while he considers himself an opponent of corporate power, he would likely be sympathetic to libertarian critiques that corporate power is a function of government sponsorship. That does leave space for some progressive positions – for example, he supported the public option during the health care debate. But that debate also illustrates where some of his progressive impulses conflict with his more libertarian ones, for although he says he “didn’t oppose” the health care bill he has often criticized the individual mandate on exactly the same grounds that Republicans and libertarians do.

    I think Greenwald is a useful voice for civil liberties and executive power issues, issues which generally get far too little attention from the political establishment. And his influence there isn’t a bad thing, as the attention he has gotten has helped spawn many other writers sympathetic to civil libertarian concerns, most notably Adam Serwer, who I read these days far more often than Greenwald.

    My own quarrels with Greenwald have to do with his tendency to revert to ad hominem and strawmen attacks. He loves to rail against “Obots” and “mindless followers,” as well as assert equivalence between the Democratic base and the Republican one. However, his own influence on these issues illustrates how false that equivalence is. High-information Democrats and liberals are far more critical of Obama – especially on civil liberties issues – than Republicans were of George W. Bush. Except for The New Republic, virtually all progressive media – both blogs and print publications – are loudly critical of Obama on this subject. So instead of citing mainstream publications, Greenwald often picks out random people on Twitter or low-trafficked blog posts as examples of “Obots” or “mindless followers.”

    • Dana Houle says:

      I’m not sure how much advocating you’re doing there on behalf of the devil because I don’t see much that you wrote that’s not compatible with what I wrote in the post. And elsewhere on this thread I lauded Greenwald’s work as a civil libertarian. But the problem, which you somewhat allude to although I think you’re too generous toward him, is that when you move beyond civil liberties, he’s really not coherent in any fashion I find consistent with liberalism or anything further to the left. He’s actually pretty close to Bob Barr if Bob Barr were more socially and culturally tolerant and liberal. Bob Barr is a mostly consistent civil libertarian, and Greenwald is too. But I don’ t think it’s a civil liberties approach to unquestioningly tout someone who thinks the federal government has pretty much no role in regulating the economy, and Greenwald is definitely doing that, maybe because–as the update demonstrates–he has expressed those views in the past and it may be what he actually believes.

      You correctly point out that he advocated the public option. I’m going to be far less generous than you and say that’s an indication that he’s just incoherent. You can’t be for the public option and also think the federal government has almost nothing other than border security that it’s allowed to do. One could argue that Greenwald has evolved since that 2005 post, but I don’t buy it. If you go to a top ten law school and you’re in your 40’s and you’re saying stuff like that, and then a few years later you’re advocating the public option, then you’re either politically and theoretically incoherent or you’re mostly taking stances rather than advocating a somewhat coherent political theory and belief and set of governing principles. And that’s essentially the point of my post.

      As for the ad hom’s, I fully agree. I made a snarky comment about him once on Twitter, but without using his twitter ID. A little while later he launched several nasty tweets about me, calling me a political hack and the like. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t follow me, so he must have been searching for his name, or had acolytes sending him messages that someone on the internet is wrong. I’m no shrinking violent, but I try pretty hard to keep things substantive. He makes no effort.

      Finally, his “obot” stuff is a self-caricature. He traffics in outrage, and on things afield from the more narrow civil liberties issues, his criticisms of Obama and other Democrats are often no-less knee-jerk than are the slavish defenses of Obama by the usually obscure people he lampoons as Obots. That he has the platform he does but tries to pass off those false equivalences is quite an irony, one of which he’s either unaware or unconcerned.

  19. Crab Nebula says:

    OK, Greenwald fans. Let’s say you and he are right about everything. Please explain your strategy for persuading others, building a coalition, and achieving political gains. Please give us some evidence that this is either feasible or already happening (poll numbers, statewide electeds holding office that are aligned, etc.)

    Or do you and Greenwald just get off on throwing bombs? Is that satisfying to you? Can you say how you think you’re moving the ball in some way?

  20. Very cool. Thanks for all the great information about ole Glenn Greenwallet. The man has no shame about lying or exaggerating, and I really don’t think he is that bright, like everyone says. His lies are recorded, we can watch them or read them, he can’t hide.

  21. Robert says:

    You’ve seen THIS, right? (BTW, I like Greenwald; the fact that he comes to where he is now from where he was then is a heck of a lot more consoling than if he always assumed our side is blessed. Which it ain’t, necessarily.)

    On Sunday 24th April 2011, @ggreenwald said:

    @sahar_shafqat That was a 6 yrs ago: 3 weeks after I began blogging, when I had zero readers. I’ve discussed many times before how there were many uninformed things I believed back then, before I focused on politics full-time – due to uncritically ingesting conventional wisdom, propaganda, etc. I’ve written many times since then about how immigrants are exploited by the Right for fear-mongering purposes. I’m 100% in favor of amnesty, think defeat of the DREAM Act was an act of evil, etc. That said, I do think illegal immigration is a serious problem: having millions of people live without legal rights; having a legal scheme that is so pervasively disregarded breeds contempt for the rule of law; virtually every country – not just the U.S. insists on border control because having a manageable immigration process is vital on multiple levels. But that post is something I wrote literally a few weeks after I began blogging when nobody was reading my blog; it was anything but thoughtful, contemplative, and informed, and – like so many things I thought were true then – has nothing to do with what I believe now.

    That’s why Obama cultists have to dig back 6 years into my archives to try to find things to discredit me.

  22. Iolaus says:

    …and this is why I keep reading Greenwald: Who else ever admits–and admits promptly, without the usual weasel-words and backing and filling–that they were wrong about something? It is also why people like you, Dana, are so useless: You’re all about party loyalty and hanging on to power, no matter what. And while we’re at it,

    • Dana Houle says:

      Ha! Yeah, so he says he supports DREAM act. I guess by some kind of tranformative rule of politics that makes Gary Johnson and all his odious views OK, and Greenwald’s statements about Gary Johnson completely devoid of any problems.

      I’m always amused by who calls whom “cultists.”

      • Dana Houle says:

        Oh, and Gary Johnson? He doesn’t support amnesty, and wouldn’t support DREAM if it had a path to citizenship. But Greenwald support DREAM, so why question his openness to supporting Johnson!

      • Walter Glass says:

        Oh for Christ’s sake, the idea that one has to support every single stance taken by a particular candidate to commend SOME of their stances is absurd. If there’s a single politician in Washington who you don’t think has at least one repugnant view (like, say, Obama on gay marriage?), then you’re probably a hack.

        We’re still well over a year out from the election, and you mob are in overdrive to discredit anyone and everyone who even remotely considers endorsing a challenge to Obama. The next year and a half is going to suck.

    • Paula says:

      Interesting. I’ve been trafficking in (as in, my teachers have made me) liberal/progressive/antiracist/feminist/anti-imperialist ideology for almost twice as long as Greenwald — and yet I have no audience for my bloviating. GG is lucky that his personal conversion from doctrinaire libertarian to incoherent lefty who thinks Russ Feingold should make a symbolic stand with a die-hard anti-government intervention fiscal conservative is so captivating for others.

      “Small brain”, indeed.

  23. strongerthandirt says:

    You cite Gary Johnson as not being in favor of gay marriage. Johnson says he supports gay unions, but does not support government approving anyone’s marriage. He is treating gays and straights the same here. It is a good and principled position for libertarians to take that government should not be involved at all in a personal relationship, or in somehow affirming religious vows. In other words, you either misconstrued or misunderstood Johnson’s position.

    The main complaint I have with Obama is that he is pro-war, and under his presidency 1,000 civilians (at a minimum) have been killed by drones in Pakistan. The wars in Libya and Afghanistan are just more examples of western colonialism and imperialism. Also, he seems to know nothing about economics, and his nearly full-time campaigning now is indicative as to how much he cares about the country. Every time there has been a crisis worth full-time attention, such as the end of the budget talks, the Gulf oil spill, etc., he has taken weekends off for golfing.

    • anim8sit says:

      Oh wow….Obama knows nothing about economics?….yeah…..meanwhile we have the entire Republican party engaged in econ fantasy land, with Ron Paul Austrian style econ idiocy leading the way for all the republican candidates. The worst thing that could be done for the economy, hands down, would be to turn it over to that party with Paul (or Johnson) at the head. Obama and his team, while far from perfect, are certainly far better than any alternative you can muster.

  24. buermann says:

    Isn’t this sort of a moot point? I don’t think Greenwald ever suggested he was liberal or progressive.

    ” if … he complains that Democrats, including Barack Obama don’t support marriage equality, why in the hell would he play political footsies with someone who’s far, far worse on most issues and is at best no better than Barack Obama on marriage equality?”

    Er, isn’t it kind of obvious that he’s arguing that on the issues he most cares about — the drug war, civil liberties, and foreign policy — the GOP option there looks better? One needn’t even point out that Obama also cut taxes on the rich while cutting social services for the poor to get that.

    As for political astuteness, pushing both parties in the same direction has worked out very well for the insurance and drug and war and financial and police state lobbies, it’s strange that you think it’d be political idiocy for anybody else to try it.

  25. Jenny says:

    I don’t think it is possible to change any minds on Greenwald.

    Glenn’s fans are like Hamsher’s fans — nothing they do will make their followers post a word of criticism. For example when Hamsher hooked up with Grover Norquist, you couldn’t get any of her followers to acknowledge the fiasco. Ditto the racist, black face, minstrel man caricature of Clinton and Loserman. No one would even concede it was bad judgement. Similarly, Glenn enthusiastically supported the Citizen’s United decision, and it was impossible to get a supporter to say Glenn was wrong.

    • Paul says:

      I am a fan/supporter of Greenwald, but I disagreed with him about Citizen’s United. There you go, not impossible!

      The problem with this debate about ideological camps (narrowly about Greenwald, less so about Paul, and most broadly about the positions) is that there’s nothing wrong with isolating them for the purposes of DEBATE without generalizing them into political support and election guides.

      If you agree with Greenwald’s arguments in the realm of civil liberties, do yourself a favor and stop there. You can agree with Greenwald or Paul on an anit-war position and disagree with them on everything else, and still consider their voices useful in a national debate. Neither need be a standard-bearer for liberal ideology; Greenwald wouldn’t extend his expertise to immigration policy and neither should Megan or anyone else.

      Debate is about abstract principles and, yes, cherry-picking positions and quotes from other people to make particular points. It’s called nuance. As we get from Fitzgerald, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” Such as it is to consider Ron Paul.

  26. Jenny says:

    You have to wonder why Jane and Glenn don’t form their own ticket and run against Obama, themselves.

    They won’t want for money as they can get their readership and the blogosphere to donate tens of millions.

    At the very least, they would get a ton of free coverage from Fox News.

    They certainly don’t think their political and policy acumen are less than anyone else. They certainly don’t doubt their communications skills.

    So why not run. Why push inferior candidacies, with mixed bag policies.

    This is why you can’t take Jane and Glenn seriously. They don’t have the courage of their convictions. With all the resources at their command, they won’t even run for a plain ole congressional seat. How revealing.

  27. dzd says:

    Greenwald writes a lot of important stuff, especially lately about US militarism and how torture, the silencing of critics, and perpetual war have become an accepted, bipartisan fixture of American political life, and I respect him for that. But he does have some very obvious blind spots–he could use a crash course in spotting the signs of American parafascism, and he definitely doesn’t seem to grasp that the enemy of your enemy is not your friend.

  28. watou says:

    What a cheap attack on Greenwald. He has emphatically stated that he is not backing Gary Johnson, but your “argument” relies on your reader misunderstanding that. Your argument also relies on the nonsensical basis that we get to choose our perfect candidates, which is equivalent to the nonsensical claim that you like everything about Obama. While high in Greenwald’s priorities are things like not torturing prisoners before (or after) their trials, or bombing children to win hearts and minds, or allowing gay people to have the same basic rights as others, you clearly have a different set of priorities, plus the vanity to say that you fit the “progressive” blueprint and he doesn’t. Lots of folks are trying to say Progressive = my current president, but you are engaged in a bogus battle of the brands, and therefore intentionally deprioritizing the progressive causes (“peace,” “civil liberties,” and several others) that Glenn champions.

    If you wanted to try again making a real argument, devoid of digs about his personal life and obvious obfuscation, I would read it.

  29. Madfoot says:

    Why can a progressive support Barack Obama but not Gary Johnson?

    • Bradley says:

      Because Obama might have described himself as “progressive” at some point, and Johnson probably never has. Labels, apparently, are everything.

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  32. jcalton says:

    “nutball libertarian Ron Paul”

    If this is the furthest understanding of Ron Paul’s platform you have achieved, then you won’t understand Greenwald, either.

    • Bradley says:

      You’re making a mistake assuming this post is an attempt to get at what motivates Greenwald (or Paul or Johnson, for that matter). It’s not; it’s an exercise in emotional sculpture. We’re defining Greenwald out of the club because he didn’t say the magic words. And because he praised someone who appears on radio shows run by a kook. (Guilt-by-guilt-by-association — now there’s an ad hominem for you.)

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  34. Karl says:

    Greenwald’s a poseur. And far, far, far away from being a legal brain. He’s barely pedestrian. I’d wager a first-year student at whatever is the USA’s lousiest law school could out-think and out-reason Greenwald, jurisprudentially speaking.

    His schtick is to build on people’s empathies for the plight of gay men everywhere — by being out and proudly so — and to pretend at legal scholarship by writing for legal ignorami with legalese phrasing and the occasional hyperlink citation to something “official” which allegedly buttresses or “proves” his argument.

    He’s done more to mislead Americans on legal issues including Civil Rights than perhaps the entire Evil Rethuglican party.

    He has no expertise in constitutional law, though he claims to be expert in the field.

    He’s a liar, quite simply. And he writes to fund an expensive bicontinental relationship’s travel needs. That’s the gist of the Greenwald game.

    I’m sure people will happily shit on this comment because I’m not a gay man myself. But I’m not sure what one’s sexuality has to do with the accuracy of Greenwald’s lying essays.

  35. empi says:

    I am so glad to happen upon this site. I have been saying the same thing for years about Glenn. He’s an opportunistic liar, log cabin republican posing as a progressive liberal

    • restorethelaw says:

      He certainly is that and more.

      Read it and weep.

      “Matt Hale has been allowed with impunity to engage in terrorist-like activity for four years now. He has had blood on his hands for more than four years. He is now where he should be.” Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center calls Hale “the most dangerous American racist of his generation.” Attorney Glenn Greenwald, representing Hale, says he believes the charge against Hale stems from what he calls a misinterpretation of Hale’s statement that “we are in a state of war with Judge Lefkow.” Greenwald says: “They are probably trying to take things he said along the lines of political advocacy and turn it into a crime. The FBI may have interpreted this protected speech as a threat against a federal judge, but it’s probably nothing more than some heated rhetoric.”

  36. Peg says:

    I believe Glen has every right to support whoever he wants to support, I just want him to stop passing himself off and allowing the pundits that interview him to identify him as a liberal, progressive, left, democrat voice.etc.
    He is left-libertarian and he is being disingenuous to keep pretending that his top issues are the same as the rest of the left. They are not.

  37. Ohhh, Johnson IS all that. I was editor of a weekly paper in NM near the end of his first term. He’s a piece of art. He is a more consistent libertarian than Paul… and, because of that, arguably more scary.

    As for Greenwald, yes, the bipartisanship on a ticket, as well as his fetishization of billionaire candidates, is naive or worse. One more reason I don’t hugely miss him from my feeds.

    And, thanks for posting that other link about Greenwald and immigration. Glenn is still, ultimately, a libertarian himself. As a Green, it’s no surprise that, in his half-love piece for Paul that I blogged about, he wouldn’t give Greens the time of day. And, probably won’t respond to my email.

    Let’s ALSO not forget that his support for civil liberties is iffy .. he’s never said anything about the “coup” at the ACLU a few years back, well reported by Wendy Kaminer. I’ve emailed him (I have a personal connection of sorts to him via somebody) asking him to address this, to also tout a place like the Center for Constitutional Rights and other things, and he hasn’t.

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  42. says:

    “First, let’s have a collective eyeroll at the naivety and (probably surprising to him) Broder-like fetishization of bipartisanship. ”

    You have CLEARLY not read Greenwald much, and have a party axe to grind if you can say something like this – few have written on false equivalencies more vociferously. Moreover, you’ve taken Glenn completely out of context. Supporting a billionairre to overturn the 2 party system is not supporting oligarchy – it’s supporting a jolt to the system.. What we have now is undemocratic. These are but two of the out and out mischaracterizations you make in this article.

    The reason we have the system we do is reflexive support of our 2 parties. Obama is the most massive progressuve failure in post war history, and it’s becasue he’s enabled to turn his back of progressives because they will vote for him anyway. That you miss that main point and then straw man Greenwald as you do make you one of the enablers of progressive failure.

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