Wednesday, February 2, 2011
The Kenyan Imposter?
The above looks like news to me--I mean versus some kind of rant. And it's not surprising that President Obama would be inclined to find some middle course in his reaction to the possibly surprising events in Egypt. After all, this is exactly what he has tried to do whenever he has had to lead a decision-making effort, at least since he was President, and possibly since he was attending Harvard back in the day (see accounts of his leadership efforts there). The Health Care Reform Act actually exhibits this "leadership" at every turn. Its complexity, which the right-wing has used as a club against it, exists because the bill is an enormous compromise with all the "players" who have a stake in the business of health care--namely, insurance companies, hospitals, doctors, etc. President Obama nurtured this effort in Congress. He agreed that a simpler and more elegant approach to reforming health care--namely, making Medicare available for all our citizens--was not to be done. Obama made every effort to protect every interest. He presumed that such an effort would at least be acknowledged for what it obviously was--an exemplification of his good faith--at least with regard to the various significant economic interests. On the vague "general" interest, well maybe the defeat in November at the polls has something to do with how little engaged the people who voted for Obama initially felt with regards to the final outcome. Certainly there's no doubt that while the right wing was revved with fears of the Kenyan Imposter, millions of voters who had come out for Obama in '08 just stayed home in November, 2010.
So with the current moment, where a major player in the Middle East Rube Goldberg Contraption is suddenly and apparently surprisingly experiencing a street revolution--an objection, from the people, to governance as it has been applied in that country since... whenever. What would a Kenyan Imposter have done, that's the question? Certainly not what Mr. Obama has done. Read his statements and those of his Secretary of State. As in the Health Care Bill, Mr. Obama makes every effort to take account of the powers that be, while at the same time trying to at least acknowledge that there are questions of the general common good--in Egypt--to also be considered. Mr. Obama has long telephone conversations with his "friend" Mubarak. Mr. Obama has engaged his clearly impressive diplomatic talents towards finding some course to safety amidst a roiling storm which surely threatens the lives of many thousands of Egyptians, at least in principle and possibility.
Meanwhile, the Right seems to be coming to agreement on how to politicize the moment--"Obama Lost Egypt" is the developing theme by pundit after pundit. Yesterday Mr. Hannity had one Frank Gaffney on board, railing about how there was a fifth column of Muslimists in the Administration. I guess if you believe hard enough, there can be no evidence to the contrary. Tinker Bell was right.
And how many simplistic solutions to complex problems can the right sell to the public? Possibly the number is if not unlimited, at least more than the grains of sand on the beach--or in the Sahara. Mr. Bush sold simplicity in his very being. "He tried to kill my daddy" was as good a reason to engage our vast, complex, military machine as any other. And everyone rallied around the flag for a good long time, and since the actual cogs in the machine are "volunteers," it's actually likely that there will never ever be a voting majority that finds military "solutions" repulsive enough to vote for a different course. Given the lay of the land, Mr. Obama is going to spend his tenure tight-roping the various questions of the day. It's how he rolls--it's how he must roll, because there are too many interests with far more power than he can weld which block all roads to simpler, more elegant, even possibly revolutionary answers.
What's remarkably audacious, and also profoundly insulting to its more fervent followers, is the ongoing chant that Mr. Obama is the Kenyan Imposter. And the insult seems to hold, perhaps due to the underlying prejudice in the "base," a feature never brought to light and actually considered, but always denied and suppressed when challenged. Same as it ever was. The revolution will not be televised.
Update: The "He Lost Egypt" meme has moved to the so-called "mainstream," where Dick Morris of all people said last night on Fox that the US should be using its $Billion plus leverage with the Egyptian Army in support of Mr. Mubarak. We do not know what is really happening, both in front of our eyes (television last night showed us long-distance live footage of exploding Molotov cocktails and the possible lynching of a guy in a pickup truck on a bridge), or behind the scenes in country-to-country conversations. The basic truth that the Right is driven by the fear impulse seems to lead people such as Hannity to say that no country ever found democracy via revolution or popular uprising--a patent falsehood and, moreover, a remarkable inconsistency given all that "water the tree of liberty" jive the Tea Party was spewing so recently. The mystery to me is why we--the US--always assume we can at least theoretically control big events in far off places. And it is also a mystery, albeit the question of 20-20 hindsight is involved, why we tend to never see something like the last days of Mubarak coming down the track. But of course we don't seem to really have an answer to "irrational exuberance" either, and nor are we willing to find solutions to the systematic problems raised when a policy of "irrational exuberance" is the order of the day. Indeed, the most fundamental argument offered against efforts to react proactively to the fact of global climate change is that humans can't devise solutions to such problems. This is a comforting belief, of course. Responsibility has its psychic as well as its economic burdens. If the unknown, in whatever sphere, is beyond our effect, the Bush doctrine (which Mrs. Palin might have called on to great advantage had she but possessed the wit) is our best resort: "just go to the mall." But then if we aren't smart enough to fix it is the rule, why muddle around with the Egyptian Army? As I was saying initially, Mr. Obama is making every effort to walk a tightrope. What else can he do.