Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Can 50,000,000 Barack Fans Be Wrong?

It’s not that I’m not paying attention, really it’s not. I am paying attention, kind of -- I mean it, I am! I glance at the headlines to see how the primaries are going, and check the usual elitist, hard-left sexist, extremist sites to see which way the wind is blowing. And I admit, I was a bit quicker than usual seeing how Tuesday’s primaries had turned out. Partly because I want it to be over. Presidential election campaigns, like the Christmas shopping season, start a little earlier each cycle, and I find myself feeling almost sorry for Clinton and Obama, who must be exhausted by now, even with their expensive support networks, with eight months still to go. But only almost. And luckily, I’m not in the middle of the vortex.

I have heard only brief clips of either Clinton or Obama speaking, partly because reading is faster than listening but mainly because I’m not interested in their charisma or lack of it. If you’re paying too much attention to the glory emanating from his visage, you’re not paying attention to what he’s saying, and that’s what counts as far as I’m concerned. Noam Chomsky famously likes to belittle his own uncharismatic speaking skills for just that reason. I recall, after a debate during the 2004 campaign I believe, a broadcast pundit dismissing questions about how well the candidates had done on the issues: the issues are unimportant, he said, what counts is which candidate you’d want to invite to your house for dinner. I don’t know, myself, what most voters think about that, but if I needed another reason to avoid TV news, that statement would be it. If I were Hannibal Lecter, I might be interested in having that pundit for dinner.
I find it interesting that I don’t feel much need to explain why I don’t support Hillary Rodham Clinton. She’s a Democratic Leadership Council Reagan Democrat, the kind of pol that has helped the Republicans run the US into the ground. In an ideal world I’d be thrilled to see a woman elected President, but we don’t live in an ideal world. I think that I’ve known since the days of Margaret Thatcher that when we got a woman President, she’d be more like Thatcher than Shirley Chisholm. I don’t object to Clinton’s personality (about which I don’t know much anyway, never having met her, and of course you don’t suppose that you get an accurate picture of her personality in the corporate media?), but her politics. I confess, I’d figured until now that the first woman to get this close to the Oval Office would be Condoleezza Rice, who combines all the stigmatized traits one could wish for, with vile politics and Republican Party affiliation.

No, it’s not wanting to vote for Obama that I feel defensive about. Sometimes I find myself thinking I should watch one of his speeches, and see why so many people are excited about him. Maybe I should anyway, but I don’t expect it would change my mind – I know too much about him. The Anti-Christ’s Running Mate has summed it up here better than I could, and there’s more, like the recent revelation that his senior economic policy advisor reassured officials with the Canadian consulate in Chicago:
“Noting anxiety among many U.S. domestic audiences about the U.S. economic outlook, Goolsbee candidly acknowledged the protectionist sentiment that has emerged, particularly in the Midwest, during the primary campaign,” the memo said. “He cautioned that this messaging should not be taken out of context and should be viewed as more about political positioning than a clear articulation of policy plans.”
Goolsbee disputed the characterization from the conservative government official.
“This thing about ‘it’s more about political positioning than a clear articulation of policy plans,’ that’s this guy’s language,” Goolsbee said of DeMora. “He's not quoting me.
“I certainly did not use that phrase in any way,” he said.
Well, maybe he didn’t. Maybe he has been misinterpreted. But I wouldn’t lay money on it. (The Clinton campaign has tried to accuse Obama of “doublespeak” on trade, but that’s not going to let her off the hook, since it was the first Clinton administration that pushed NAFTA through Congress.) [Update and clarification here.] Obama has also chosen Samantha Power as his Henry Kissinger, and she is busy assuring Israel that “She absolutely does not believe in ‘imposing a settlement.’ Israelis and Arabs ‘will negotiate their own peace.’” (Power, for those who don’t recall, wrote a popular book lamenting other countries’ genocidal atrocities while minimizing those of the U.S. Perfectly mainstream, and that’s the trouble with her.) He's left himself some interesting loopholes with regard to the War in Iraq; and now see his take on the Colombian incursion into Ecuador. [Update: Power has left the Obama campaign after embarrassing it by calling Clinton a "monster."]
But what about the Hope, the Hope for Change? Am I just a jaded old man who’s given up hoping for change? Maybe so. But it struck me that the bright-eyed hopeful young people who’ve fallen in love with Obama are mostly too young to remember the dawn of the Bill Clinton era fifteen years ago, when everyone was thrilled by his promises, his charm, his ability to say the words “gay” and “lesbian.” Yes, really, and that was an improvement, however minimal, over his predecessors. Unfortunately Episode 150 of Alison Bechdel’s Dykes to Watch Our For isn’t available online, since it captures the moment well, so I’ll transcribe some dialogue. Jezanna, the full-figured African-American proprietress of Madwimmin Books (since defunct) contends with the Cassandra-like Mo:
JEZANNA: … Bush and the Bible-thumpers are gone! We’re actually gonna have a President who can pronounce the words “Gay and Lesbian!” Plus four new women in the Senate, one of them the only black senator since Reconstruction! The anti-gay initiative in Oregon failed! The pro-choice referendum in Maryland passed! I feel hopeful! I feel young again!
MO: Yeah, well, don’t throw out your Geritol yet! The homophobes won in Colorado, Iowa defeated an Equal Rights Amendment, and the Senate’s still 94 percent boys!
As it turned out, Bill Clinton could also pronounce “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and “Defense of Marriage”, and rather more convincingly. I hear that Obama has spoken out fairly forcefully on glbt issues, but never forget that so did Bill Clinton when he had his eye on the prize.
I can hear – indeed, I have heard – the liberal whimper: Why are you negative and bitter? Are you afraid of looking foolish? Is that why you won’t give Obama a chance? This sort of question only makes me dig in my heels the more. It’s not about me, really it’s not. I’ll be quite happy to look foolish if Obama wins and keeps the promises that have engaged so many people of all ages and backgrounds. But there are cracks in the façade, which his followers don’t want to see. Looking foolish is not what concerns me, though; it’s how many people will be badly hurt.
P.S. As Michael J. Smith writes, "The Fasc-O-Meter twitches into the red zone: ...

... The incantatory repetition of the Great Leader's name. The waggling, pointing Uncle- Sam- Wants- You fingers. And all those nice-looking young people with appealing cheekbones, intense but not un-cool -- that's the worst. That's the authentic Riefenstahl touch.

And it's not just a matter of style. Obama just endorsed a terrorist assassination by the country with one of the worst human-rights records in the hemisphere (see above on Colombia), and has already advocated some crimes of his own:
In a strikingly bold speech about terrorism Wednesday, Democratic presidential candidate Illinois Sen. Barack Obama called not only for a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, but a redeployment of troops into Afghanistan and even Pakistan — with or without the permission of Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf.
"I understand that President Musharraf has his own challenges," Obama said, "but let me make this clear. There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al Qaeda leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will."
Can 50,000,000 Barack fans be wrong? Yes They Can.