Saturday, August 7, 2010

Great Expectations

John Caruso has a good almost-new post on Obama's record. (Good intentions are all very well as pavement for the road to hell, but actions speak louder than words. Obama has a lot of words.) When it comes to "accountability for torture, detention of terrorism suspects, and use of lethal force against civilians," concern for poor people's access to water, the US educational system, Obama's "approval of an attack using a cruise missile packed with cluster bombs" that killed lots of civilians, Obama has made it easy for me to answer indignant Democrats who sneer that no doubt I'd prefer McCain had been elected: McCain was elected.

Caruso notes:
Obama's been smirking condescendingly at the quaint obsession our little brown brothers down south exhibit over US-sponsored massacres, terrorism, rapes, bombings, dictatorships, and other similarly trivial grievances since the day he took office. He's nothing if not consistent.
On the same day, Glenn Greenwald reported how "Rashad Hussain, the Obama administration's envoy to the Muslim world, was angered and 'shocked' yesterday when -- as part of a tour of India to promote better relations with Muslims -- 'the head of a city-based Muslim institution [Akhtar Hasan Rizvi] slammed the US' policies, not just in the Middle East, but towards Muslims everywhere':
Rizvi held America responsible for many woes in the Muslim world. "You supplied arms to Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war, then invaded Iraq in the name of searching for weapons of mass destruction. You created the Taliban with the help of Pakistan. You have been backing Israel ever since its creation. First, right the wrongs that you have created if you want to establish peace in the world,'' said Rizvi to applause from the students.
Shocked, Hussain who had earlier talked about the Obama administration's resolve to partner with the Muslim world for winning hearts and minds, shot back: "I reject the conspiracy theories that are being floated" . . . . Hussain appeared so upset with Rizvi's trenchant comments that he almost left the dais and wanted to walk out but the meeting's conductor, Akhtar Chauhan, also director of the institute, requested him to stay back.
As so often with elites, I must ponder the question: is Hussain incompetent -- that is, does he not know what "conspiracy theories" are? Rizvi was referring to well-known historical facts, not conspiracy theories -- or is he simply lying, grandstanding, putting on a show to distract attention from the real issues involved? Having encountered so many Americans who simply can't hear criticism of the US, I incline to the former, though there's no excuse for deploying the red herring of conspiracy theories when none had been offered. Evidently Obama's idea of a suitable envoy is one who throws a tantrum if he doesn't get his way. A random two-year-old could do as well. (The question of incompetent/malignant also comes up with Obama, though I think it has been resolved by now.)

Risvi told Hussain, "I apologise if my views hurt you but let me tell you that the Muslim anger against the US will not subside with just this pacify-the-Muslim mission.'' He was right, of course. The Obama administration is continuing the Bush administration's approach of applying public-relations methods to sell Brand America to the ignorant Oriental.

John Caruso's post got an interesting response in comments: "But what's the point? That this POTUS executes the office of POTUS pretty much like the last POTUS and the POTUS before that? You were expecting Che Guevara?"

Well, no, I was expecting the Spanish Inquisition, and it seems that is what we got. It was people like Caruso (and not to indulge in false modesty, moi, though there were many others) who pointed out Obama's Bushian tendencies during the campaign against the hooting and hysteria of Obama's followers, who assured us that an "
Obama victory could have big positive repercussions for progressive politics," that Obama would bring change, would undo the horrors of the Bush years (such as a president who says "nukular"), and make "it less embarrassing to be an American." When Obama won the election, the slobbering and self-congratulation among his supporters was nauseating, and since then they have continued to tout his greatness while ignoring the contradictions between their picture of him and the reality, and alternately denouncing his critics for thinking he'd do anything.

And how about this prediction from a true believer: "If another Katrina happened tomorrow, I think he'd handle it well." Oopsie. It's only a matter of time until Obama fans try the line apologists (both Republican and Democratic) for the Iraq war have relied on as the war became an undeniable disaster: sure, Obama's critics were right about him, but we were right for the wrong reasons.

The thing I keep in mind when dealing with these people is that the excuses they offer for Obama could just as reasonably be made for Bush: Did they really think that Bush would be different from any other POTUS? Did they expect him to be Che Guevara?

The Austrian Hindu monk and sociologist Agehananda Bharati tells a story in The Light at the Center: Context and Pretext in Modern Mysticism (Ross-Erikson, 1976) about the time he went to see a guru who was reputed to levitate every night. Bharati went to the ashram and spent the night waiting, but finally fell asleep. The next morning a devotee gushed to him about how wonderful it was to see the Master levitating. "When did this happen?" Bharati asked, worried that it had happened when he dozed off. The devotee replied that the Master had risen from the floor at sunset and remained suspended in midair until sunrise. Bharati then realized that gurus perform miracles by ascription, simply because they are gurus. (He also reported that he questioned the guru himself, who declared that he never levitated or did anything else remarkable: it was the devotees who made up the stories. Obama, by contrast, participates in the creation of his own legend.)

I suspect that the commenter I quoted, who had evidently begun reading A Distant Ocean only recently, mistook Caruso for a 'disillusioned' Obama follower. That's a popular move among the Obama faithful when they discover that the critic they're talking to isn't a Republican, and find that the "Oh, so you'd rather McCain was elected?" move doesn't work. Next they jeer that you expected him to walk on water or something, because you're a True Pure Leftist sitting on Mount Disdain. It was Obama's fans who expected him to walk on water, and the odd thing is that in spite of everything they think he's actually doing it -- which may be why they get so pissy when they encounter an unbeliever.