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Archive for the ‘Hope’ Category

Daniel Larison makes a very strong point:  the world does not like the US because of its policies, and the symbolism of an Obama presidency will do little to heal the rifts and unavoidable tensions with the rest of the world:

As I have said before there is scarcely a more disrespectful, condescending attitude towards the rest of the world than the assumption that they can be bought off or won over with something as superficial as a U.S. President with a mixed racial background.  If the Obama fans actually believe their candidate has some legitimate policy changes to introduce, that might be a reason for other nations to respond favorably to him, but on the whole the changes on offer are, like so much else in this campaign, symbolic and aesthetic.  In the end, Obama fans project their own fantasies about “racial reconciliation” into the international sphere, implicitly likening the majority of the world to our minority populations, which is to belittle them a second time.  This relieves them of the obligation to critique seriously U.S. foreign policy, which is the source of some significant part of anti-U.S. animus, since they have already concluded that America’s reputation can be repaired in some measure simply through the election of one man. 

It sure doesn’t help that Obama knows he’s weak on foreign policy and sometimes plays the hawk, like an in-over-his-head manager playing the tyrant to rattle and silence his subordinates.  His appearance and background will do little to help him with counterparts ranging from China to Pakistan to Russia, and his lack of experience and interest in foreign affairs will provide an additional burden if he becomes the President.  George W. Bush is a good example of this problem in action: he could care less about world affairs before he became President, he’s been unduly influenced by idealistic-sounding idiots like Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld, mucking things up mightily because his ability to think critically about the sometimes conflicting advice he’s getting is severely compromised.

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What can we say about Obama and his contradictions?  He’s the man they faint over like the Beatles.  He is also the guy that earnestly discusses health care policy and other wonkery.  He made a deadpan comment about that Bill Clinton’s dance moves (or lack thereof) would prove if he’s black.  Yet, he’s the Harvard lawyer who eschews sound bites and overt partisanship.

Obama is actually quite brilliant politically.  He talks like a very serious guy, but, if you listen closely, he says nothing.   Just by way of example, Obama says the most important job of the next president “will be to mobilize the American people to move forward.”  This means nothing.  People are nonetheless impressed with his “seriousness” and gravitas.

I think this is mostly because he can ably articualte both sides of an issue.  He rarely sinks to the Clintons’ penchant for describing conservatives as a sinister cabal with bad motives.  His style is a big part of the product because that style is so different from Bush’s.  Where Bush is cocksure, inarticulate, and uses the rhetoric of fear and oversimplification, Obama is deliberate, highly articulate, discusses his opponents’ positions intelligently, and uses the rhetoric of . . . (drum roll please) . . . hope. 

I think he is, however, very unserious.  I know this not because “Obama Girl” exists or shallow women are fainting at his speeches.  Nor is it proven by the insufferable “Yes We Can” video.  He’s unserious because he does not openly face the fact that controversy and unpopular trade-offs are the essence of politics.  This evasion is highly evident when he talks about foreign affairs.  His basic schtick is to change the subject and talk about midnight basketball or health care.

If he were brave rather than slick, he could articulate a more sensible vision of domestic and foreign policy.  He’s really just a product of his party.  Democrats don’t want to hear about trade offs or spending cuts or the need to face al Qaeda. They just want to hear from the Smart Guy Who Will Take Us Out of Iraq and Soak The Rich.  On every other issue, his supporters insert their own beliefs into the empty vessel rhetoric of “hope” and “change.” They are happy because they think Obama is such a great guy for agreeing with them, even though that agreement is only in the ether, so to speak.

Obama is spawning unserious devotion precisely because of his apparent seriousness, which at bottom is not serious at all.  It’s an illusion.  He is a typical  hack Democratic politician, but he happens to speak well and has charisma. He knows if he spoke like Kucinich, he’d lose.  So he conceals his beliefs behind a facade of empty rhetoric. That’s all he’s got.  Some “messiah.” 

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