June 12, 2009

Keeping bad company

Naturally, one problem with trying to be "objective" about President Obama is that you realize, over time, that you're in league with some truly awful people: racists, lunatics, Right Wing "patriots" verging on a form of Fascism. Increasingly, this "objective center" in American life is a mirage - no one really lives there. Charles Krauthammer, one of the Washington Post's big name columnists, writes this today:

"Not that Obama considers himself divine. (He sees himself as merely messianic, or, at worst, apostolic.) But he does position himself as hovering above mere mortals, mere country, to gaze benignly upon the darkling plain beneath him where ignorant armies clash by night, blind to the common humanity that only he can see."

That's how Krauthammer responds to Obama's Cairo speech, and in particular to the President's reference to the CIA coup in Iran in 1953. This piece of historical honesty enraged Krauthammer, predictably enough, and it sent him into a tirade about "false equivalencies" in the Obama speech. Everything which has ever occurred in the Muslim world has been horrific whereas any mistakes ever made by the United States have been trivial and the result of good intentions with unfortunate outcomes. In essence, that's his argument, proof that the Right's ideas of American Exceptionalism have not changed at all since the days of Mario Savio. We're good, they're bad.

Krauthammer goes so far as to suggest that Obama's speech raises a question about Obama's "ambivalence" about his own country. You see, you can't be an effective leader unless you're as jingoist as Charles Krauthammer. But even more, look at the language in the quote: isn't this simply the fancy-pants (and sort of indirect) way of calling Barack Obama an uppity Negro?

Of course it is. And this is the problem with objectivity in America. Barack tried it in Cairo and this is the reception he gets. If I had one moment of Barack's time, I think what I would tell him to do is to simply and absolutely forget any kind of overture toward the Right. Don't even try it anymore.

More than any other writer I know, Glenn Greenwald has demonstrated over and over again that the American public is more "progressive" and liberal than the Beltway conventional wisdom. The Washington insiders repeated over and over again, for example, that the public would never stand still for defunding the war in Iraq, even while rigorous poll after poll demonstrated the exact opposite to be the case - the American people were way ahead of the Washinton establishment on this issue. I think sometimes that Barack's focus on the equally absurd war in Afghanistan results from a similar Beltway calculation, that the "American people" favor this endless overreaction to 9-11, and even if it's been going on for 8 years and shows no sign of abating, nor shows any sign of progress, the American people just won't abide a cessation of this battle. And it makes Barack look like a "war President."

I actually think what goes on is that Obama and Rahm and the other White House thinkers believe that they won't be able to withstand the withering attacks from the Right, from Fox News and the Washington Times, et cetera ad nauseum, if they were to take the commonsense measure of ceasing hostilities that do us no good. Yet what is the relevance of the "Right" or of Republicans generally if they have lapsed, as they have, into inchoherent lunacy and extremism? Who cares? Why is Obama kowtowing to people who cannot be reasoned with and who consider him "messianic" for trying?

Obama won a HUGE victory in November, and he won it because he seemed so different from what the American people had grown sick of. I wish he would take the obvious lesson from that message. It literally doesn't matter what Krauthammer, or Bill Kristol or Rush Limabaugh or Newt Gingrich or Sarah Palin or Bill O'Reilly or any of these people think - not at all. The only relevance they have is a gift from the "center:" the extent to which rational people pay any attention to them or make any effort to placate them.

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