Thursday, June 5, 2008

And So The Luster Fades

In a few short months, my opinion of Senator Barack Obama has degraded considerably, to say the least. At the start, when I knew nothing of him but what he chose to present of himself, I was suitably impressed. I never thought much of his policies (or lack thereof), but I at least believed in his idealism. When his church was shown to be a hotbed of racial contempt and grievance-mongering I at least admired his willingness to stand by his associates, even while he artlessly dodged the implications of those associations. I lost the last of my personal respect for him when, so soon after defending his pastor of 20 years, he publicly sacrificed the Rev. Wright on the altar of political expedience. Call me old-fashioned, but loyalty still means something to this soldier.

Then came Mr. Obama's autohagiographic commencement speech this past Memorial Day weekend, with its strangely limited conception of service. For Obama, improving the lives of others apparently only counts as "service" when you're an underpaid left-wing rabble-rouser or organ of a maternalistic government bureaucracy. Referencing the economic challenge of India and China, Obama calls for graduates to become not engineers, scientists and tradesmen, but teachers and administrators. He quotes a young man who joined the Peace Corps “because it was the first time someone asked me to do something for my country.” This young man has seemingly never seen an Armed Forces recruitment ad anywhere, ever. And those men and women many of us think of first when we think of "service" -- firefighters, policemen, armed servicemen -- who daily protect Americans from those people and forces that would do them harm? Ironically for a speech on service, "the Service" earned not even a mention from Mr. Obama.

After all that, however, it was Senator Obama's victory speech last night in St. Paul that turned my ambivalence to disgust. There are a lot of things in this speech I could write pages about: Obama's disingenuous mischaracterizations of John McCain; his arrogant naivety in thinking that handing out international legitimacy like party favors counts as "tough, direct diplomacy"; his Obamessianic promise to retrochronically create the fields of health care and employment while channeling King Canute's promise to command the tides (and without the good King's pious intent); his fascistic sanctification of "change", as if we live in the worst of all possible worlds and any change must be for the better; or his adolescent whinging that McCain hasn't given him an attaboy for his (unsuccessful) campaign to get asbestos removed from some Chicago tenements at the same age McCain was having his bones broken in a North Vietnamese prison camp. But I'll leave all that aside for the one unforgivable quote of the speech:
[I]t's not change when [John McCain] promises to continue a policy in Iraq that asks everything of our brave men and women in uniform and nothing of Iraqi politicians.
Mr. Obama, before now I was thinking that you really need to visit Iraq, to understand the imminent victory from whose jaws you are so intent on snatching defeat. But after that remark, I truly wish you wouldn't visit Iraq -- though I know political expedience will force you to -- because you have no right to stand alongside the Iraqi politicians you sneer at. If you must go, however, I wish their examples might teach you what hope means when it's not just a pleasant buzzword. These men risk their lives daily to build a future for their country; many have had family members kidnapped and killed. We ask nothing?! They risk everything! They risk everything because they. have. hope. Hope for the future and faith in their countrymen. You would present yourself as an expert on hope, but your denial of the courage and determination of these brave men -- and your cynical reliance on the ignorance and indifference of your supporters to the undeniable political progress being made in Iraq -- has made me realize that whatever you mean by that word, it's something I don't even recognize.


Thursday's Child said...


Lutheran Lucciola said...

Yeah, I agree. This guy is a real jerk. And the fools around me are lapping it up, because they crave a monarchy and nanny government.

Shane said...

Dude, I really appreciate your blogging - since I've become a liberal I don't think I get enough conservative representation in my daily reading. It's refreshing to hear the thoughts of the other side from time to time. I don't even have conservatives in my platoon.

Since I will probably never get around to giving this presidential race much consideration in my own blog, I might as well address some points here.

I thought the graduation speech was pretty awesome. I do think that our nation's greatest interests lie in a global PR campaign - our image is tarnished, and this image is frustrating our goals abroad. I highly doubt a large number of Wesleyan's graduates were considering military service, anyway. Hell, my friends who went to military-friendly schools like Texas A&M don't even want to join now. Besides, asking graduates of Wesleyan to be scientists and engineers doesn't seem like a cost-effective use of Obama's influence. Sure, I'd love to get a shout-out for choosing the life of the E-4 instead of going to law school, but even I wouldn't recommend this career move to other college grads. Obama gets a pass from me on this one, since it seems like he's basically considering his audience and playing off that.

And as someone who thinks that we should get out of Iraq ASAP because it would be better for Iraq if we were gone (and better for the US), I love that we're making good progress in Iraq. I think it has less to do with the surge than it has to do with COIN (which should have been implemented years earlier - see Tom Ricks' Fiasco), but I'm honestly confident that drawing down troop levels will lower the overall levels of violence. In fact, if we left today after declaring victory (violence down, political stability up, etc. etc.), then we get to leave on our own terms. I don't want permanent bases in Iraq the way we have in Germany, South Korea, Italy, or Japan because I don't believe that it serves our strategic interests. Besides, all the power is in the Iraqi politicians' hands - the difference between a peaceful democracy and a violent failed state is in their hands, not ours. Besides, since most Iraqis want us out I'm inclined to say they probably know better than we do whether we're a force for good or for bad.

My last observation about your post - your portrayal of the left as some freedom-limiting regulatory nanny reminds me of why I always had hated liberal ideas before. But I've come around on issues where there are clear collective action problems, externalities, and the whole tragedy of the commons thing. That means I support strong environmental regulation (go breathe some Chinese air if you think that our environmental laws aren't worth the dampened economic growth), and believe that the health care status quo is unsustainable and in need of government intervention.

Really, I think there's too much talking past each other - the right likes to single out the Code Pink/Cindy Sheehan types as being typical liberal while highlighting the ACLU's establishment clause cases while ignoring its free exercise cases on behalf of Christians, while the left tends to demonize the right as racist hillbillies, greedy businessmen or ignorant, religious sheep. There's a bit of truth to both sides' strawmen, but not much.

Anyway, I still have some glimmer of idealism - I'd like to see bipartisan efforts to address nuclear proliferation and more sensible carbon policies, which are issues where both candidates share similar views.

When I have time to actually flesh out some of these admittedly undeveloped arguments, I'll probably talk to you online or post to my own blog. But I might not - I just don't have the passion for it anymore.

Elephantschild said...

It occurs to me that Obama is systematically stripping the word "change" of any meaning whatsoever and redefining it on his own terms.

He who controls the language...

From his June 4th speech:
That man needs us to pass [...]an energy policy that will create millions of new jobs that pay well and can't be outsourced. That's the change we need.

Ok. Someone explain how an energy policy that is likely to limit domestic production even further than it's limited now creates jobs that can't be outsourced. Oh, right: "Change" now means "paradox." And, um, where is he getting that "millions" number from? Even the most Evil Conservative Evil Big Oilaburton expansion would hardly create "millions" of jobs. Unless we're powering turbines with giant HAMSTER WHEELS. 'Cus that WOULD take alot of people. Wonder what *that* union would be called...

Rita Loca said...

Excellent, insightful post!

May I link to this?

Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake said...

Please, link away!

And Elephantschild, you forget, one can always create millions of candlemaking jobs by outlawing light bulbs.

Elephantschild said...

Not so fast, there. Paraffin wax is a petroleum product.

Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake said...

Truly. So you can figure for another few hundred thousand jobs in beekeeping.