Archive for the ‘Larison’ 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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Daniel Larison makes a good observation about why serious students of politics, columnists, bloggers, and educated party donors may underestimate certain types of candidates and their appeal:

A good rule of thumb: if you are an informed, educated and serious person, whatever is most hateful to you is probably what the general public will prefer.  This is especially true in electoral politics, where being informed, educated and serious often blinds you to what drives and motivates 90% of the electorate.  To the extent that these folks become aware of these things at all, it is usually to dismissively declare them evidence of the irrational in politics.  But irrationality has always existed and will always exist in any human political order, and expecting anything else, as I often have done, is a great error.  Limiting the role of irrationality in politics, while desirable, is hardly possible in a mass democratic regime with an historically illiterate and media-saturated majority.  The main flaw in most of the critiques aimed specifically at Huckabee, populists, restrictionists, etc. in recent months and years is the assumption by those making these critiques that they represent the more rational position, rather than one that is equally or more irrational.     

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Larison on Obama

Obama is the RFK of this election cycle.  Like Howard Dean and Bill Bradley, he’s the darling of both ideological purists (i.e., limousine liberals) and those who want a charismatic figure to save us from politics (soccer moms and young people).  I must confess, he’s pretty good at this schtick.  I certainlydon’t viscerally dislike Obama the way I do, say, Hillary or that nut job from Alaska. 

I thought Larison explained his appeal quite accurately in the remarks below:

Obama’s gift is to make what is otherwise obviously an aggressive rhetorical move seem completely inoffensive and almost boring.  It doesn’t sound like the sort of “red meat” denunciations that partisans want to hear, but it is all the more politically dangerous for conservatives because of that.  With perfunctory nods to the importance of family and personal responsibility, his God-talk and his rhetoric of American unity, Obama smuggles his very progressive record past those sentries who are always on the lookout for the next big left-winger.  People who somehow found the eminently centrist Howard Dean to be a scary and unhinged zealot find the genuinely left-wing Obama charming and amiable and (here’s the key word) unthreatening.  Thus, in the bizarre estimations of many Republicans, Hillary Clinton, the embodiment of DLC centrism and cynical difference-splitting, supposedly represents the radical left who will tear the country apart even more, while Obama represents a less polarising and more broadly appealing kind of politics, yet he is objectively to the left of everyone in the Democratic field (except on the war) aside from Dennis Kucinich and perhaps the current, latest incarnation of John Edwards.  Conservatives said of Dean, “Please nominate this man,” because they assumed a landslide victory for their side would follow.  Now, strangely, conservatives seem to be getting concerned that the Republican nominee will have to face Obama, even though this would probably represent the GOP’s best chance at political salvation.   

Obama also loves the device of invoking the line, “There are those who say…,” setting up the nameless, faceless opposition that he can characterise as he pleases, and now he has Oprah uttering the same kinds of remarks on his behalf.  Both men (i.e., Obama and Bush) have a habit of putting words in the mouths of their critics, and they enjoy evading criticism by ridiculing the credibility of the critic without addressing the merits of the criticism. 

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