Saturday, August 23, 2008

As Obama Sinks Slowly on the Right

I've been very critical of Obama's remarks on Latin America, particularly his declared intention to continue the embargo against Cuba and his ign'ant attacks on Hugo Chavez. But Laura Carlsen has an interesting piece at Counterpunch, analyzing "A New Partnership for the Americas", a paper released by Obama's campaign after his pandering speech in Miami last May. Carlsen does a nice job, and raises some good points, but I think she's too optimistic with her talk of the necessity of a "leap of faith" (Jump! Jump!), and I'm taken aback by her claim (quoting the Miami speech!) that Obama's "perspective also seems to recognize that Latin America has come of age and validates in principle the reform experiments in the region that the Bush administration has vilified."

"Come of age"? Back in the 60s some of us used to question whether the United States was "ready for self-government," mocking a common American excuse for keeping various countries under our or European heels. I still don't see anything in the vacuous campaign rhetoric of Obama's Miami speech to indicate that he even understands what is at stake. It seems that he also "vilified" the reform movements in the region, and seems to think that the oppressive "governments that cared more about their own power than their peoples' progress and prosperity" emerged out of nowhere and survived without U.S. support. In Miami he said, "It's time to press Haiti's leaders to bridge the divides between them." Has Obama ever said anything about the U.S.-backed coup that removed Aristide from office in Haiti and established the current regime that he's now criticizing? Does he know anything about the active role the U.S. has played in stifling democracy in Latin America and elsewhere? It doesn't look like it, and that is inexcusable.

Has the U.S. come of age? It doesn't look like it to me. Carlsen finishes with the hope that "If the Obama campaign continues to build a grassroots base ... we have the raw material for making change." I don't think that any politician is going to build a grassroots base that will undercut him. The democracy movements that swept the U.S. in the 1960s weren't built by John F. Kennedy. Don't look to Obama's own machine to produce opposition to his policies.