Sunday, September 8, 2013

Acting Against Type

I have mentioned before my view that Obama was anointed to be elected president five years ago because he was the candidate best-able to neuter the anti-war voices in the United States and the world – all the while maintaining the militaristic posture of the state.

He was well suited for this role, given the many instances where he spoke out and acted against war as well as the general perception regarding his strength on civil liberties.

It was convenient that he could lay the blame of the major military adventures on his predecessor – his role supposedly being to limit the damage or the mess created by the warmongers that preceded him.  As to the new adventures begun on his watch, such as Libya and Egypt?  As the US role was for the most part quite indirect and behind-the-scenes, little dirt stuck on Obama.

Syria is different – the US has not been able to generate the next tactical victory in its war on the MENA region in a behind-the-scenes manner.  Assad was apparently beating back the imported rebels with their imported weapons.  It was necessary for the US to generate some reason to intervene.

This one could not be blamed on Bush.  This one was not being successfully carried out through proxies.  In this one Obama had to take direct action.  So far, he has bungled this wonderfully well. 

I refer to two articles as background for this; the first regards the many contradictions in Obama’s presidency, entitled “Obama's Stance On Syria Is One Contradiction Too Many.”

Regarding Obama’s efforts to move the Congress and the nation to war, the author writes:

…what may doom the president's effort, in the end, is not his short-term tactics. It is years of contradictory policies by the American government and Obama himself.

As Charles Blow noted in the New York Times last week, this is the "Era of Disbelief," where Americans don't trust their president or Congress. Blow rightly cited Iraq as the primary cause. But a litany of other government half-truths have pushed the public's trust in its government to record lows.

Obama's primary sin has been contradiction. On many issues related to the war on terror, he has broken campaign promises or adopted inconsistent positions. Obama is now asking Americans to trust him on Syria. But they will not.

He lists Obama’s contradictory statements over the years: on extricating the US from the Middle East, Iraq, and Afghanistan; the lack of any meaningful action on Guantanamo; kill lists developed in secret, with subsequent drone-strike executions; NSA eavesdropping expanded and defended. 

Many of the same issues have disenfranchised the Obama fans in Europe.  I recall the two separate visits Obama made to Germany.  First, in 2008, the candidate Obama spoke to hundreds of thousands in Berlin:

For the man who has brought rock-star charisma to electoral politics, today saw the campaign rally as pop festival, a summer gathering of peace, love — and loathing of George Bush.

After listing a series of global problems, from genocide in Darfur to loose nukes, he declared: "No one nation, no matter how large or how powerful, can defeat such challenges alone." It was a promise to end the unilateralism of the early Bush years, and the crowd could not contain their delight.

There was no less warmth when Obama explained his belief in "allies who will listen to each other, who will learn from each other who will, above all, trust each other".

I guess that didn’t go as promised. 

Recently, Obama visited Germany again.  After the sack full of hope and change had burst open, revealing an empty vessel, he appeared this time in front of only a few thousand, with none of the promise having been delivered. 

In Europe, just as in the US, Obama has not delivered the goods.

The second article is appropriately entitled “What Happens When You Can't Believe A Thing The President Says?  Setting aside that there is nothing unique in Obama regarding this….

With respect to Syria, the president tells us there will be no U.S. boots on the ground.  Um, would that be like:
•If you like your health coverage you can keep it. Most people won’t be able to.
•Health insurance premiums for a family would be $2,500 lower by the end of his first term in office.  They were actually about $3,000 higher.
•The Obama administration was not responsible for proposing the budget sequester idea.  Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward challenged this claim and forced the administration to backtrack.
•Money from the nearly $800 billion stimulus package would be spent on “shovel-ready projects” and unemployment would drop to 5.3 percent by the end of his first term.  The president later conceded the projects weren’t as shovel ready as he had hoped and unemployment was 7.9 percent.
•There was nothing Obama could do about Benghazi.  Subsequent revelations and congressional testimony have shown just how disengaged or disinterested the administration was.
•The Justice Department told a judge that Fox News reporter James Rosen was a “co-conspirator” and a security threat?  The DOJ later apologized and tried to make amends with Washington reporters.
•That Attorney General Eric Holder didn’t know about the Fast and Furious gun-running program?  Investigators have found documents confirming that he did have knowledge.

Hey, I didn’t write it.  Don’t blame me.

What am I getting at?    Most presidents have no difficulty living a contradiction, and they don’t have such trouble lying about their actions.  Obama, unlike most presidents, seems to both struggle with contradiction and has difficulty keeping track of his lies when trying to hide the contradictions.

Recall the words of Obama’s former pastor, Jeremiah Wright:

In a sermon delivered shortly after the September 11 attacks in 2001, Wright made comments about an interview of former U.S. Ambassador Edward Peck he saw on Fox News. Wright said:

"I heard Ambassador Peck on an interview yesterday. Did anybody else see him or hear him? He was on Fox News. This is a white man, and he was upsetting the Fox News commentators to no end. He pointed out — did you see him, John? — a white man, he pointed out, ambassador, that what Malcolm X said when he got silenced by Elijah Muhammad was in fact true — America's chickens are coming home to roost."

Wright spoke of the United States taking land from the Indian tribes by what he labeled as terror, bombing Grenada, Panama, Libya, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki, and argued that the United States supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and South Africa. He said that his parishioners' response should be to examine their relationship with God, not go "from the hatred of armed enemies to the hatred of unarmed innocents." His comment (quoting Malcolm X) that "America's chickens are coming home to roost" was widely interpreted as meaning that America had brought the September 11, 2001 attacks upon itself.  ABC News broadcast clips from the sermon in which Wright said:

"We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye... and now we are indignant, because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought back into our own front yards. America's chickens are coming home to roost."

Later, Wright continued:

"Violence begets violence. Hatred begets hatred. And terrorism begets terrorism. A white ambassador said that, y'all. Not a black militant. Not a reverend who preaches about racism. An ambassador whose eyes are wide open and who is trying to get us to wake up and move away from this dangerous precipice upon which we are now poised. The ambassador said the people that we have wounded don't have the military capability we have. But they do have individuals who are willing to die and take thousands with them. And we need to come to grips with that."

As an aside, I find little reason to object with this general view…unless I wanted to be president more than live a consistent life….

Obama knew Jeremiah Wright for 20 years.  It seems reasonable to believe that he found comfort in the church environment and the message, else why attend for most of his adult life?

Obama is a president that seems to have difficulty acting against type.  It seems, before he ran for president, he found comfort in the view that the US government was often acting in criminal ways.  Since his first run for president he has tried to live with that contradiction – even while occupying the throne. 

He took steps to prove he was worthy, just three days into office:

As the Bureau’s own data on Pakistan makes clear, the very first covert drone strikes of the Obama presidency, just three days after he took office, resulted in civilian deaths in Pakistan. As many as 19 civilians – including four children – died in two error-filled attacks.

Assuming he was sincere before he became president, one cannot go from anti-establishment community organizer and a 20-year friend of Jeremiah Wright to launching a murderous action against innocents and not suffer internal contradiction. 

It was one thing when much of the media was behind him and when public opinion was molded to accept that he was doing his best to resolve his predecessor’s mistakes.  It is another when the action is unequivocally his. 

Most people with the character necessary to become president don’t struggle with such things, and they pull off such aggressions without visible shame.

Obama’s behavior exposed during this Syrian episode makes clear that he cannot.  He is acting against type.


  1. "Obama, unlike most presidents, seems to both struggle with contradiction and has difficulty keeping track of his lies when trying to hide the contradictions."

    I found Obama's inability to manage his lies and contradictions absolutely fascinating. People often said George Bush was a terrible liar - and they may be right to an extent - but his errors were more stylistic. He was able to maintain a consistency of his paradigm, as blatantly false as it may be.

    Obama seems to constantly shift and squirm and continue to mold his dialogue to a point where even his many most ardent supporters have begun calling him out on it, or at least taking the path of silence.

    In some ways it's surprising he was allowed a second term, but perhaps this was more due to the lack of a better alternative - perhaps the establishment saw Romney as a squirmer in similar vein.

    Great stuff, as usual. Posting this at Lions.


    1. Thank you, Marc.

      It is possible that another factor in the Obama v Bush dynamic is the perception of relative intelligence. Whether accurate or not, the perception or portrayal of Bush was that he was not the brightest bulb, so his stumbling about could be ignored or explained away due to this.

      Obama, again whether accurate or not, is portrayed and perceived as an intelligent and thoughtful man. So even when he makes similar mistakes in managing the false narrative, it is not explained away in the same ease.

      My biggest hope, however, is that the internet is beginning to generate enough of a groundswell that the mainstream media can no longer to afford to ignore reality....

      Perhaps an even bigger hope? The elite see that they will lose control if the people lose faith in regulatory democracy. For this reason, they are taking a step back. God willing.

    2. "Perhaps an even bigger hope? The elite see that they will lose control if the people lose faith in regulatory democracy. For this reason, they are taking a step back. God willing. "

      That's not going to help if they keep piling on endless regulations and taxes on the people while refusing to reduce spending.

    3. I have suggested elsewhere that they will selectively declare insolvency, if necessary, to delay / prolong even further. For example, what happens if bonds owed to central banks are never paid back / perpetually rolled-over?