Friday, May 23, 2008

Obama's Theater of the Absurd

Barack Obama has received months of fawning press coverage, coverage that has tried valiantly to hide from an increasingly dumbed-down populace just how ultra-liberal are the Senator's positions on abortion, on a timid foreign policy, on homosexuality, on ethics, and many more important issues.

How long can that protective screen remain in place? Let's do a quick rundown on a few cracks in the dike.

1) Charles Krauthammer takes a hard look in the Washington Post at how Barack Obama is arrogantly, weirdly making a foolish mistake into a centerpiece of his foreign policy.

When the House of Representatives takes up arms against $4 gas by voting 324-84 to sue OPEC, you know that election-year discourse has entered the realm of the surreal. Another unmistakable sign is when a presidential candidate makes a gaffe, then, realizing it is too egregious to take back without suffering humiliation, decides to make it a centerpiece of his foreign policy.

Before the Democratic debate of July 23, Barack Obama had never expounded upon the wisdom of meeting, without precondition, with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Bashar al-Assad, Hugo Chávez, Kim Jong Il or the Castro brothers. But in that debate, he was asked about doing exactly that. Unprepared, he said sure -- then got fancy, declaring the Bush administration's refusal to do so not just "ridiculous" but "a disgrace."

After that, there was no going back. So he doubled down. What started as a gaffe became policy. By now, it
has become doctrine. Yet it remains today what it was on the day he blurted it out: an absurdity...

2) Obama's extravagant support of homosexual marriages, if fairly reported, will be causing some deep embarrassment for so-called "conservative" Democrats like Nebraska's Ben Nelson. Obama wants to "fully repeal" the Defense of Marriage Act, signed into law by President Clinton in 1996, protecting states from having to recognize same-sex marriages contracted in other states.

Obama's website boldly describes the Senator's position, "Obama also believes we need to fully repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and enact legislation that would ensure that the 1,100+ federal legal rights and benefits currently provided on the basis of marital status are extended to same-sex couples in civil unions and other legally recognized unions."

When Ben Nelson endorsed Barack Obama for President, the Nebraska Senator claimed, "Those of us on both sides of the aisle who have made it our purpose to set aside partisanship to address some of the important issues of the day want a president that will join the effort, not foil it. Barack Obama, to me, represents the best hope for our own political reconciliation and a future where the cogs of government are working smoothly for progress instead of being gummed up by partisanship. Barack Obama will be the strongest candidate in the heartland, because he puts solutions and consensus first and he inspires great crossover appeal among Republicans and independents."

Ben, are you still giddy about Obama? With his hard line opposition to any and all right to life efforts, his dangerously naive ideas about economics and foreign policy, his lack of principled patriotism, and now his wholesale embrace of the homosexual agenda regarding repeal of DOMA, are you still going to try and act as if this is the guy to bring Americans together? And do you really believe that you can still position yourself as a moderate when you've gone so far out on the limb for the Senate's most liberal member?

3) In a NRO column written by Sabrina Leigh Schaeffer and appearing on the CBS News website, the problem of Obama's many anti-Israel friends and advisors is highlighted. This is another situation that will likely receive more and more publicity, giving Obama an increasingly ugly problem with Jewish voters.

Schaeffer writes, "But with the Democratic nomination all but secured, Jewish voters are likely to start thinking less about the senator’s speeches and more about the company he keeps. As the last two elections reveal, when it comes to the Jewish vote, actions speak louder than words.

While Reverend Wright’s anti-American and anti-Semitic ravings captured the attention of the public for weeks, it’s simply his theatrics that appear to make him the most repellant of Obama’s friends. The senator has tried to dismiss Wright as a 'crazy uncle,' but if you take a closer look at the crowd the senator runs with, it appears he has a whole lot of crazy relatives to disinvite from dinner."

She goes on to detail just some of the worst offenders including Rev. Michael Pfleger, a Catholic pastor at St. Sabina, also on the South Side of Chicago who Obama told the Chicago Sun Times was one of his three spiritual mentors. (Yeah, Jeremiah Wright is in that trio too.)

"Pfleger’s name became more widely recognizable two years ago when Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich appointed a Farrakhan aide to serve on a hate-crimes commission. When the appointee, Sister Claudette, refused to denounce Farrakhan’s racist and anti-Semitic remarks, three Jewish members on the commission resigned - a situation that prompted Pfleger to respond, 'good riddance.'"

Other odious advisors? Retired Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Merrill “Tony” McPeak, Obama's national co-chairman, who has made numerous anti-Semitic and anti-Israel comments. "While the general has a long blame-Israel-first record, the most repugnant remark came during a 2003 interview, when he blamed the Jewish-American community for the failure of the peace process between Israel and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Despite calls on Senator Obama to remove McPeak as a key adviser, the general continues to serve on the campaign."

There's more...disgustingly more. Read the article here.

4) One more for this morning. And a particularly interesting one at that because this criticism of Barack Obama comes not from the right, not from the center, but from the far, far left. It's a severely negative piece from leftist professor Adolph Reed Jr. in The Progressive that concentrates on Obama's character and political maneuvering.

He struck me then as a vacuous opportunist, a good performer with an ear for how to make white liberals like him. I argued at the time that his fundamental political center of gravity, beneath an empty rhetoric of hope and change and new directions, is neoliberal.

His political repertoire has always included the repugnant stratagem of using connection with black audiences in exactly the same way Bill Clinton did—i.e., getting props both for emoting with the black crowd and talking through them to affirm a victim-blaming “tough love” message that focuses on alleged behavioral pathologies in poor black communities. Because he’s able to claim racial insider standing, he actually goes beyond Clinton and rehearses the scurrilous and ridiculous sort of narrative Bill Cosby has made infamous...

The Obama campaign has even put out a misleading bio of Michelle Obama, representing her as having grown up in poverty on the South Side, when, in fact, her parents were city workers, and her father was a Daley machine precinct captain. This fabrication, along with those embroideries of the candidate’s own biography, may be standard fare, the typical log cabin narrative. However, in Obama’s case, the license taken not only underscores Obama’s more complex relationship to insider politics in Daley’s Chicago; it also underscores how much this campaign depends on selling an image rather than substance.

There is also something disturbingly ritualistic and superficial in the Obama camp’s young minions’ enthusiasm. Paul Krugman noted months ago that the Obamistas display a cultish quality in the sense that they treat others’ criticism or failure to support their icon as a character flaw or sin. The campaign even has a stock conversion narrative, which has been recycled in print by such normally clear-headed columnists as Barbara Ehrenreich and Katha Pollitt: the middle-aged white woman’s report of not having paid much attention to Obama early on, but having been won over by the enthusiasm and energy of their adolescent or twenty-something daughters. (A colleague recently reported having heard this narrative from a friend, citing the latter’s conversion at the hands of her eighteen year old. I observed that three short years ago the daughter was likely acting the same way about Britney Spears.)

Princeton Professor Sean Wilentz, a Clinton supporter, noted that the Obama campaign advisers have tried to have it both ways on the race question. On the one hand, they present their candidate as a figure who transcends racial divisions and “brings us together”; on the other hand, they exhort us that we should support his candidacy because of the opportunity to “make history” (presumably by nominating and maybe electing a black candidate). Increasingly, Obama supporters have been disposed to cry foul and charge racism at nearly any criticism of him, in steadily more extravagant rhetoric.

The campaign’s accusation that the Clinton team made Obama look darker in a photo or video clip than he actually is—and what exactly are we to make of that as an accusation?—and the hysterically indignant reaction to Geraldine Ferraro’s statement that much of Obama’s success stems from the fact that “the country is caught up in the concept” of a black candidacy are no different from the campaign’s touting its “historic” character...

Obama’s style of being all things to all people threatens to melt under the inescapable spotlight of a national campaign against a Republican. It’s like what brings on the downfall of really successful con artists: They get themselves onto a stage that’s so big that they can’t hide their contradictions anymore, and everyone finds out about the different stories they’ve told different people...