Retortless

I’ve tried to claim, throughout my many posts endorsing Barack Obama’s candidacy, that I have not let foggy notions of hope and a selfish sense of liberal condescension cloud my independent judgment about the upcoming presidential election.

To wit, David Brooks’s much-emailed op-ed today in the Times, How Obama Fell to Earth. If nobody emailed it to you, essentially he says that the damage has been done and now Obama is a pedestrian pol with all the double-talk, false promises and pandering that entails. The unsullied usher to the promised land has been reduced to that basest of human life-forms: the politician.

Ready for my retort? Well, I don’t have one. I completely agree. It’s been hugely sad to me to watch Obama engage in all the games he said he wouldn’t play and the tactics he said he’d never use. All along I’ve been worried about his pledges to bring our troops home from Iraq unequivocally, thinking surely his lawyerly prudence would assess the situation from inside the Oval Office and make the best decision for our country and the world. And actually I think this is still the case, but now veering even slightly from his current prescription will mean he lied outright. And that’s really disappointing.

I still find him hugely inspiring as a leader, thinker, speaker, and yes, even as a politician. For as much as he has sadly succumbed to the lowest common denominator, he still stands head and shoulders above the field. As a supporter, one can only hope that Clinton’s unabated and opportunistic attacks have only tempered the steel of his electability and promise, and not done any permanent damage heading into November.

God help us, when we make it to November, that is…

6 thoughts on “Retortless

  1. Speaking of unsavory people, I’ve been working in Europe now, and it seems to me that Anti-Semitism has been replaced/expanded with Anti-Americanism. It’s the same old conspiracy theory thing, except instead of the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” we have the “Protocols of the CIA/Mossad 9/11 & Moon Landings Conspiracy”. Seemingly nice people I work with happen to share rather bizarre beliefs. Maybe it is a survival instinct to think that all other surrounding ethnic groups are in a vast league out to get you, I don’t know.

    At least Michael Moore can win some film awards here. ;-)

    And by the way, no, I don’t really think Hamas is going to sue for peace, at least not until Gaza has lost 3/4 of its population.

  2. Or…the audacity of naiveity. That all sounds fine and dandy except for one problem. Hamas and the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who support them OPENLY DECLARE THEY DO NOT WANT PEACE WITH ISRAEL. It’s actually in Hamas’ charter. The Israeli-Paletinian conflict would be over tomorrow if the Palestinians decided they valued a state of their own more than they value the destruction of Israel. The majority of Palestinians consider homicide bombings legitimate. Why is it that in areas around the globe where people are living in much worse condtions than the “poor Palestinians” they don’t resort to suicide bombings? It’s because the current Palestinian culture is, unfortunately, a culture of hate. If you think this is alarmist simply note the textbooks that Palestinian children learn from, ommitting Israel from the Middle East. There was enormous celebrations in the streets of Gaza when news came of the 8 teenage Israelis murdered in a religious school by a Palestinain. Furthermore, why did the PLO (Palestinan Liberation Organization) form PRIOR to any “occupation” by Israel of the West Bank and Gaza? What were they liberating…Tel Aviv?

    In response to James…there is a big difference between, as you put it, coming in contact with unsavory people, and continuing to associate with a pastor who honors a man like Louis Farrakhan…have you gone to YouTube yet to see the delightful things he has to say about Jews and America? It’s at best terrible judgment.

  3. One MUST follow the Obama approach to be a successful politician. Being a politicians means compromising, with your own past, the facts, opposing parties. “Only Nixon Could Go To China” as the Vulcans say.

    Being principled is fine for everyday life and the average individual, but if you want to make it as a top leader you have to be willing to wiggle around the truth.

    The are usually three areas in which you are forced to do double-speak, or resign, as a politician:

    1. Audience Alteration: when speaking to a specific audience, in order to tailor the message to gain enough support from that audience, you must extend out to reach them in a way that may be opposite of that needed for another critical support group not in the audience. Lincoln was fond of doing this to abolitionist Republicans on the one hand and the border slave state Democrats on the other.

    2. Temporal Alteration: something you said in the past no longer makes sense in the present due to your own different beliefs, analysis, facts, or most usually, a change in the political climate. Think of Lyndon Johnson’s support of segregation in the 50s versus his destruction of it in the 60s, or Lincoln’s movement from initial attempts at re-admission of the Southern States early in the way to insistence on total capitulation later on. Times had changed.

    3. Information Alteration: upon ascending to a higher office, say senatorial rank or especially the Presidency, you gain information not available to the common public that causes you to behave in a way contradictory to your pledges. This happens almost universally in the Presidency. It is why liberal and conservative politicians tend to behave very similarly in the Oval Office regardless of their political affiliation. It is very often the case that events, many unknown to the public, drive actions that cannot be avoided. I think again of Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation, directly contradictory to his campaign promises, made necessary by the drastic losses during the early Union campaigns, causing the necessity of the introduction of large numbers of freed slaves in captured territory into the Union army to make up for lost troops; the scale of these defeats were generally unknown to the public.

    4. Survival Alteration: at times a political career can be at risk, and the only way to preserve that career may be to act in contradiction to past statements, beliefs, and even the law, at all costs, simply to survive. A Darwinian survival of the politician. We think of Nixon and Watergate, made famous because he was caught and lost. But we can also think of the support Lincoln needed for the war early on when he did not have the necessary support from the various states. Through arbitrary jailing of Democrats, arrests of newspaper editors, shutdown of presses, army vote-rigging, and military intimidation, support for the war from the border states was assured, and Lincoln’s political survival sustained.

    Lincoln is a good example in comparison to Obama – both had somewhat humble beginnings, both Illinois lawyers, both relatively unexperienced, both with no executive office prior, both very talented at oratory, both altering their message radically depending on audience, both securing the nomination only with great difficulty and initially from far behind. Those who have not studied Lincoln in detail are often surprised to the extent that he violated not only his own pledges and assurances but also the law and constitution. However, this must be balanced against the achievements of one whom many regard as our greatest President.

    It is perhaps a coming of age for many to see how Obama has “Fallen From Grace” – however, it is actually a positive in that he is becoming “a real candidate” now, and going through the same transformation that turns a mere mortal into a real President. You Obama supporters may feel disillusioned, but you should realize that what he is doing is completely and totally necessary for political survival, and his actions today that may so greatly discourage you may one day lead to his being called the greatest American President of the 21st Century.

    My best hope with Obama is that he will be able to bridge a true peace with the Muslim world, a comprehensive solution that both secures the Jews and the Ummah from violent extremism. This could set us forward on the next 100 years to peace and prosperity. Then again, if he does nothing or screws it up, it’s perpetual war for perpetual peace.

    Think of it this way: what’s holding the US back is the enormous pressures created by $800b a year spent on defense, almost half of that just on our active wars. This sucks away money from infrastructure, education, healthcare, and through the resulting deficits and dollar depreciation drives up the cost of everything else. Think of the economic boom of the 90s that came from the end of the Cold War. If we can end our war with the Muslim world, we can begin prosperity again.

    I think Obama could do it. He has the ear of the Muslims. He can negotiate with Iran. Israel could swap the Golan with Syria in exchange for peace and the end of support for Hezbollah, securing the northern border, similar to the treaty with Egypt and withdrawal from the Sinai. Co-declaration and inspection of Israel’s and Iran’s nuclear program could allow for a controlled, declared arsenal, in exchange for the dropping of support to Hamas and Hezbollah, similar to that done between the US and Russia during the Cold War. Creation of a demilitarized Palestinian state with negotiated borders could be agreed with the GCC in exchange for a peace treaty and the importation of a large number of Palestinian laborers to the GCC countries. This would allow Israel to maintain a Jewish population advantage even with a minimal right of return to Palestinians, even a net decrease of Arabs.

    The audacity of hope.

  4. It’s true. The speaking is great.

    But it’s also what the speaking represents. It’s a symptom of something else, more sinister going on that underlies the speaking: it’s the thinking.

    It would be hard to make politics your career choice – and God help anyone who does – and not come into contact with people that others would find unsavory or distasteful. To try to please everyone all of the time is, well, impossible. In place of that, I’ll settle for someone who can encounter all kinds of people and who can still have original, well-reasoned thoughts. That he can put them into really nice speeches is a bonus.

    We’ve tried having a president by committee, whose verbal gaffes give us fodder for jokes and witty email forwards. I’m ready for something different.

  5. Only in the safe Obama enclave of well-off elitists is it “inexplicable” that there could possibly be folks out there who haven’t fallen in love with this man. How closed-minded. Seeing Obama stumble, side-step and backtrack time and time again in the latest debate when actually challenged on his SEVERAL DECADE LONG assocication with an anti-American, anti-semetic, Farrakhan-honoring preacher, and another non-repentant, self-admitted domestic terrorist (Bill Ayers of Whether Underground) was quite telling…but wow is he a great speaker!

  6. A note to the inexplicably growing faction of right-wing readers of this blog: even I know that Brooks hardly qualifies as a champion of your ranks. But as far as the Times goes, I think it’s fair to say he’s only left of Bill Kristol.

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