Saturday, September 26, 2009

Doomed to Repeat It, Before It's Even History

President Obama ranted to the G20 Summit about Iran's nuclear program the other day. "Rant" is the right word, too. Where did Obama ever get his reputation as an effective speaker? Every time I hear him, I cringe: the hectoring tone, the mechanical Daddy-Won't-Stand-For-This-One-Second-Longer attitude. And when I read him, the obfuscations and lies drive me up the wall.

Numerous writers have been pointing out the errors in Obama's tirade (with this defender), but does he care? He's the President. For all I know he may have the support of most Americans on Iran (though not on Afghanistan, probably because we have American troops dying over there while we don't - yet -- in Iran; but does he care?), but he's still wrong. And I've known just how bad he was since I read his New York Daily News op-ed piece (via SteveB's comment under this article) from 2007 (see "discussion" here); it prepared me to be skeptical of him and his acolytes forever after. As I wrote in comments at A Tiny Revolution (no link to the comment, alas):
Reading SteveB's diary and the comments was interesting too; it made me notice some things about Obama's op-ed that I hadn't before. For example, Iran as a "challenge to American interests" -- "American interests" meaning, of course, the usual elite corporate interests. As Noam Chomsky likes to say, when national politicians and the media denounce "special interests" they mean working people, racial minorities, women, the elderly -- in short, the vast majority of the American population. By "the national interest" they mean the wealthy, the corporate, a tiny percentage of the population.
Bearing this in mind, the main threat to American interests in the Middle East is the government of the United States of America. It is also the main threat to peace in the Middle East, with Israel a close second. The foreign country most responsible for violence in Iraq, including arming Shi'a terrorists, is the United States of America. That Obama would single out Iran, in the face of this well-known reality, shows just how dangerous he is.
His insistence on diplomacy is not reassuring. Some of the Kos commenters yelled that Obama was calling for diplomacy, not war! But by chance I looked at Jon's post of April 19, 2007, in which he quoted George Bush saying, three days before the invasion of Iraq: "Tomorrow is the day that we will determine whether or not diplomacy can work..." Bush always pretended -- not very convincingly, of course -- that he only went to war because diplomacy had failed. (So did Clinton, so did Bush Sr.) So, who'd trust Obama? Not me.
There's another thing I've been meaning to mention here, from Whatever It Is I'm Against It, this quotation from an interview Obama gave to the Toledo Blade:
I was always a big believer in - when I was doing organizing before I went to law school - that focusing on concrete, local, immediate issues that have an impact on people’s lives is what really makes a difference and that having protests about abstractions [such] as global capitalism or something, generally, is not really going to make much of a difference.
It's not exactly new to hear Establishment figures (and you can't get much more Establishment than Barack Obama is now) deriding popular protests on any subject. Just stay at home, you silly-billies, and let us professionals work out the hard issues! Often you can tell by just how peeved they are that the protests are indeed making them feel the pressure. It's hard to say just how much effect the worldwide protests against globalization have, but it seems that they did support the heads of state who rebelled in the late 1990s against US domination of the IMF and WTO, and that is not a bad thing. Katha Pollitt once did a great piece in The Nation (March 16, 1998, though it's not on the site unless you're a subscriber -- you can see part of it here) about a small, well-organized protest during a "Town Hall meeting" (sound familiar?) at Ohio State University meant to drum up support for Bill Clinton's plan to bomb Iraq. It worked so well, to the consternation of Clinton himself, his Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and CNN (who helped stage the spectacle) that heads of state from other countries declined to support US warmongering. "Global capitalism" isn't really an "abstraction" in the sense Obama means anyway: the protesters have very concrete notions about what they're against.

What's most offensive about Obama's statement is that, judging from his autobiography, his community organizing in Chicago was based more on his need for a job than for any clear sense of what was wrong and what needed to be done: rather, he went in to try to find something to protest. And even worse, his remarks are a slap in the face to his many earnest and idealistic supporters, who on his recommendation should have stayed home and pressured their city councils instead of joining the campaign of a cynical opportunist who made vague, pretty, and abstract promises that led them to believe he was more than just another politician on the make. Sorry, grassroots -- you were astroturf all along.