Sunday, January 24, 2010

The "Conan Obama" article

One channel of communication that is especially popular among Republicans that the Democrats don't use in the same way is the old-fashioned e-mail chain letter. But Peter Daou says this article by Hofstra political science professor David Michael Green: How to Squander the Presidency in One Year: Hey, Conan Obama: How About Now? Can You Hear Us Now? CommonDreams 01/22/10.

I can't help but sympathize with the opening sentence:

There's only one political party in the entire world that is so inept, cowardly and bungling that it could manage to simultaneously lick the boots of Wall Street bankers and then get blamed by the voters for being flaming revolutionary socialists.
But I don't really approve of this piece. It sounds like cynical concern-troll arguments to me. This kind of argument can give the one making it the satisfaction of washing their hands of any of the sins of the Obama administration. Purity is a good feeling.

But purity is more likely to be found in theology or meditation than in politics. The sociologist Barrington Moore, Jr., did a whole book on the dangers of purity in politics, Moral Purity and Persecution in History (2000). I have reservations about his main argument, especially his very superficial treatment of the concept in the Hebrew Bible. But he does have some very informative chapters on the French Revolution and the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre.

I'm not saying that David Michael Green is like French Queen Mother Katharina von Medici out to slaughter the Huguenots in 1572. If I had to guess from this article alone, I would say he's more likely a cynical hawkish Democrat in the process of becoming a cynical hawkish Republican. He sneers at Obama for not talking about the "war on terrorism" and echoes Republican and Pod Pundit complaints that Obama spent time mending fences with foreign countries alienated by the criminal, crackpot policies of his predecessor. Green even says, addressing Obama, "You're running around the world, apologizing for America everywhere you go!" That's a stock Limbaugh/FOXist charge and it's bunk.

He sneers at the idea of health care reform, again echoing the current Pod Pundit conventional wisdom that he should have been concentrating more on jobs than on this silly boring health care reform nonsense. He also at the same time blasts Obama for not being more effective on getting health care passed, buys into the stage-managed image that Obama was leaving the health care reform to Congress, and criticizes him for making deal with Big Pharma and the health insurance lobby over health care. He's throwing charges on the wall to see what sticks, in other words, without worrying too much about the factual details or whether the charges even make sense together.

And Green offers this dubious piece of authoritarian analysis, blasting Obama for not playing to it:

Americans, especially in times of crisis, want their daddy-president to pick a point on the horizon and lead them to it. Often - especially in the short term - they don't even care that much which point it is. They will happily follow a president whose policies they oppose if he will but lead. [my emphasis]
He accuses Obama of never naming enemies anywhere, which is an accurate enough charge as far as Obama's relationship to the Republican Wrecker Party goes. But, for better or worse, Obama has been very clear about naming The Terrorists and Afghan insurgents and Pakistani insurgents and the group in Yemen that calls itself "Al Qa'ida" and of course Bin Laden's Al Qa'ida as deadly enemies requiring a military budget as large as that of the whole rest of the world combined. In dealing with states like Iran and Venezuela, Obama's restraint in treating sometime adversaries as enemies is one of the most positive contributions he's made.

Sure, it makes me want to join a Trappist monastery or something when I hear, for instance, Senior White House Adviser Valarie Jarrett on Sunday's Meet the Press talking like anyone who doesn't echo the White House line in the same clone-like way she does is completely clueless about the world. But I'm not inclined to use a hodge-podge of attacks borrowed from all across the political spectrum to trash what credibility Obama and the Democrats have left - and I actually think they have a substantial amount left if they're willing to tap into it - in order to show how pure my political principles are.

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