Sunday, September 26, 2010

Obama's Rocky Start . . . and Fighting Back to Regain America

I have to admire David Rothkopf's essay at the Foreign Policy site, especially as a reminder (and, I confess, I needed one in the midst of Obama's going-nowhere "peace process") of all that he's accomplished in less than half a term in office.  Rothkopf ticks off the achievements very nicely:
Within 20 months, the new president -- despite an utterly uncooperative, obstructionist opposition party, despite the extraordinarily dire and complex challenges he inherited -- pulled the economy back from catastrophe. He passed historic legislation that preserved millions of jobs. Obama and his team worked to restore Wall Street to profitability while at the same time passing sweeping financial reforms to help reduce the risk of calamities in the future. He and his team helped to get the U.S. auto industry back on its feet. He and his team began the work of fixing a broken U.S. health care system that was putting millions of Americans and our entire economy at risk. He has met his goals for ending the U.S. combat presence in Iraq. He has, for better or worse, expended enormous effort to rethink our presence in Afghanistan and redoubled efforts to contain the even greater threats emanating from Pakistan, next door. He has committed the U.S. to active engagement in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, something his predecessor ignored for years. He has launched an effort to eliminate nuclear weapons and if that sounds wide-eyed and implausible, he made it more real with a new arms limitation agreement with Russia. He has actively engaged with the world, realigned our international relationships both bilaterally and through mechanisms like the G20 to reflect a new international power reality. And he has done much to restore America's image and standing in the world.

Yet, as Rothkopf also notes, Obama seems to be headed toward a mid-term defeat in November - one that, if it materializes, may stymie his remaining agenda; and he looks, on a personal level, a bit beaten up.  Truly, who wouldn't be, given the shots he's taken.  And Rothkopf may be going a bit too far is stating that Obama "may have the character to rise to this challenge but thus far he has not demonstrated it."  In Rothkopf's view, Obama is too defensive, too brittle, too much the un-Bill Clinton, who, according to Rothkopf, has gotten off the canvas to redeem himself, whereas Obama has a glass jaw.

Is Rothkopf on the mark?  Too early to tell.  What's Obama to do?

Well, for one thing, the departure of Rahm Emanuel is IMHO a plus.  Emanuel seemed to me all spit and no substance, more terrier than bulldog - and on the international scene, I can't help believing that replacing a chief-of-staff who once served with the Israeli army with someone less obviously tied to the Israeli side (provided that Obama indeed does that) will be a plus.

But otherwise, I'm fearful that Obama's presidency after November is doomed - because a core of white, wealthy semi-racists (who call themselves Tea Partiers) who see that their home values have plummeted and fear that their taxes will go up, have linked arms with populist poor whites who are losing their houses and jobs, and who have been enabled by lurker pseudo-populist billionaires (like David Koch), and who have been shrilly promoted by the Limbaugh-Hannity-Fox noise machine, have taken control of the national center-stage.  Mark Lilla in the New York Review of Books puts it very well, as well as points out that the Tea Partiers might be better identified as the new Jacobins:
The conservative media did not create the Tea Party movement and do not direct it; nobody does. But the movement’s rapid growth and popularity are unthinkable without the demagogues’ new ability to tell isolated individuals worried about their futures what they want to hear and put them in direct contact with one another, bypassing the parties and other mediating institutions our democracy depends on. When the new Jacobins turn on their televisions they do not tune in to the PBS News Hour  or C-Span to hear economists and congressmen debate the effectiveness of financial regulations or health care reform. They look for shows that laud their common sense, then recite to them the libertarian credo that Fox emblazons on its home page nearly every day: YOU DECIDE.
They have in Sarah Palin a media-savvy - and media-glorified - attack dog and political rallying point; they have the benefit of millions of US citizens who have been ginned up to see monsters all around (terrorists, economic ruin, death panels) and who have been blessed with short memories (of who bankrupted their nation and set it up for its current malaise), blissful ignorance of the history of their own country (note the recent essay that shows how much the Tea Partiers are out of sync with their namesakes) . . . and they have votes.

We've all been raised to believe that America was supposed to be about "Us" as a people.  First and foremost, the Tea Party is a bunch of "Me's" trying to steal the mantle of "Us" and use it to "restore" an America that of citizens who (in contrast to that "Greatest Generation" whose many sacrifices they hypocritically praise so highly) want to be asked to make no sacrifice to rebuild the country that has been shattered by the leaders that the vast majority of them helped elect.

Mr. Obama spoke often of sacrifice and working together when he campaigned for the presidency.  Whatever their rhetoric about being "real Americans," it's not what the Tea Party is about.  And without the emergence of an America that can embrace those values - and leaders in the media who can help them do it - Mr. Obama may be doomed, along with the United States of America as we were raised to know it.

No comments:


Blog Archive

Cluster map

Search This Blog

ICAHD - 18,000 Homes Campaign (large banner)