Saturday, September 28, 2013

There They Go Again!

Speaking of the cult of personality, I've noticed that some people have been trying to give President Obama all credit for the de-escalation of superpower hostilities in Syria.  He went to Congress with the question of whether to bomb Syria!  He proved that diplomacy is better than war! 

Never mind that Obama only went to Congress after a popular and Congressional uproar over his bellicosity -- and then he couldn't get the support he wanted for an attack, so he let it be known that if he wanted to, he'd kill Syrians without Congressional approval.  The national conversation on Syria erupted without his initiative and, indeed, against his wishes.  Luckily, Vladimir Putin saved him by getting Assad's regime to agree to get rid of their chemical weapons.  (Assad will still have plenty of other weapons to kill Syrians with, of course.) 

As far as I've seen, the Obama administration itself hasn't been rewriting the recent history of his policy on Syria; it's been free-lance PR people among his devotees.  (See the comments under this article, this comment for example:
Obama has very strong political skills. Diplomacy is always better means to resolve a problem than war. No shots have been fired and there is a binding resolution today by the UN security council to recover and destroy all Syrian chemical weapons...if this is not a strong political and diplomatic skill by the Obama administration, please tell me what you expect.
Maybe this person believes that Obama was playing eleven-dimensional chess again: he never really intended to bomb Syria, he just threatened to do so as a kind of civics lesson to Congress and to American citizens generally -- even to Vladimir Putin.  Congress would never have asserted its Constitutional war powers if Obama hadn't pretended to defy them!  Americans would never have questioned the use of war over diplomacy if Obama had pretended to want to attack Syria!  Putin wouldn't have cooperated with Obama to get rid of Syria's chemical weapons if POTUS hadn't fooled him!  (Seriously: another commenter wrote that Obama "just snookered Vladimir Putin and Bashar al Assad to work out an agreement under the auspices of the UN to turn over their chemical weapons, without a single military dollar being spent.")

The discipline of their memories is ... impressive.  They don't even need Obama's instructions to know when and how to magnify his name.  Now, that is faith that the Son of Man would envy.

This episode reminded me of something that happened thirty years ago, during the administration of Obama's hero Ronald Reagan.  I've quoted it before, from Mark Green and Gail MacColl's There He Goes Again: Ronald Reagan's Reign of Error (Pantheon, 1983), page 89: 
During the 1982 election campaigns, the Republican TV advertisement showed a white-haired mailman delivering July's Social Security Check, which contained an automatic cost-of-living increase in benefits.  "President Reagan kept his promise to the American people," the ad proclaimed.
In fact, Reagan opposed the increase in Congress, which passed it anyway.  Rep. Claude Pepper (D-Fla.) chairman of the House Committee on Aging, said that for Reagan to claim credit for the increase "lowers the art of deception to depths not explored since the Nixon Administration" (New York Times, 7/7/82) [p. 89].
But again, this Orwellian rewriting of history came from the Republican campaign machine.  Obama's fans outdo Reagan: they spontaneously and independently manufacture falsehoods to glorify their Leader.