First Manhattan, then Berlin, then…?

Barackandlincoln "Mr Obama is now the world’s most recognisable phenomenon. There were, by 11 yesterday morning, hundreds of fans standing in King Charles Road, round the corner from Downing Street, cameras and phones held high. There were banners: ‘Mr B Obama you are a ray of hope 4 billions of young men and women around the globe’. There were tears, really. Crying. Logos. Slogans. Hope. The woman on the Clapham omnibus quite literally rose to her feet. A big old belching red number 88 was the first vehicle stopped at 12.44 as Obama’s convoy fled the gates of Westminster to head back to Illinois. She stood up, earrings and sunglasses bouncing, shouting through the glass, furiously snapping away on her phone, ecstatic. The woman on the Clapham omnibus is our ‘How will it play in Peoria?’ in America. I almost tried to find her. We like to have names. But the bus was going, for once, too fast, leaving on the retina only the shimmering slick of an advertising flyer for, I assume, a film called Space Chimps Go Bananas. There was a cartoon monkey. Disappearing fast. Perhaps you want to provide the Bush metaphor?

And now Mr O, with his wickedly easy smile, has been flying, home, and very possibly listening to Leonard Cohen, and smiling. First we take Manhattan. Then we take Berlin."   Euon Ferguson in The Guardian


Hope of what?  No more Bush?  I’ll drink to that. No more irrationality in foreign policy?  I’ll drink to that as well.  An end to the foolish division of America between black and white?  If that were to truly happen on both sides of the divide, then I would be glad to go get "stiff" somewhere with the ghosts of Willam Faulkner, Walker Percy and so many others who have yearned for that outcome.  The divide in America is still between black and white.  All the other groups, Chinese, Japanese, East Indian, etc. are easily disappearing into the blender.

Poor McCain is reduced to appearing a quarrelsome old man who can not find anything better to "bitch" about than a cancelled appearance at a military hospital, a sad thing.  The Army evidently told the Obamanauts that a campaign gig at a hospital is not appropriate.  Good. There has been enough of generals (and other politicians) shaking hands with soldiers at bedside and passing on the "thanks of a grateful nation."   The world will soon forget the mutilated and damaged in the beds, but one can hope that politicians would have some care for their dignity.

If elected, Obama will be a president with an abundant opportunity to fulfill Lincoln’s promises or to disappoint.  I hope he does not disappoint, but the hope of the world he is not.  That is too much to expect.

Obama’s rhetoric?  It is; delightful, amazing, deeply satisfying, but what does it signify?  pl

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50 Responses to First Manhattan, then Berlin, then…?

  1. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Full of sound and fury signifying…..imperialism lite.

  2. Steve says:

    Thanks for your comments, Colonel.
    As for his rhetoric:
    Hope? I do feel that he has given many Americans the “hope” that there still can be a decent, intelligent, thoughtful, problem-solver elected as president.
    For many of us, the past 7 yrs have obscured that possibility. People have been effectively beaten senseless politically.
    Whether or not Obama lives up to those expectations is the question, as you state.

  3. lina says:

    What does Obama’s rhetoric signify?
    I’m not sure what it signifies (if by signify you mean portend). Obama is a politician trying to get elected, so there’s no way to gage what will happen in an Obama administration.
    Here’s what we know: Obama is young, smart, charismatic, ambitious, self-made, literary (read some of his writing), pragmatic, eclectic, and has a great gift for oratory.
    His rhetoric is hopeful, inspirational and patriotic.
    Obama is also historically lucky. His candidacy comes on the heels of 8 years of arrogance, belligerance, war, torture, subversion of the U.S. Constitution, and economic calamity.
    This election ain’t over ’til it’s over, but for now, the stars seem to be aligning for Sen. Obama.

  4. TomB says:

    You know, most if not all of this talk about Obama has focused on his nature and character and etc. and that’s all fine, but it seems to me one has to look at what situation the country and the world will be in if he’s elected. And once he gets beyond pulling our people out of Iraq—which after all may itself lead to terrible ugly things there that even if he’s not responsible for will still not look nice—what then?
    The nature of the remaining problems hardly look susceptible to rock-star like solutions. A mideast policy that he still seems pretty much locked into and that fueled bin Laden in the first place. Ergo, very possibly more terrorist attacks against us either short-term or long-term, and our troops being there ad infinitum. And domestically, what? A terrible budget situation with terrible options only existing.
    So where’s the man’s freedom of action going to come from to do all these vague wonderful things people are vaguely expecting?
    Seems to me this atmosphere is also terrible from two perspectives, even though Obama seems a fine enough man. Firstly, the continuation and reinforcement of our shallow desire for some rock-star-like figure like JFK, with such figures eventually either believing their own hype or feeling the need to live up to it with this or that great stupid crusade to do this or that which everyone loves at first but then realizes when sober what a mess it is. (Think “Vietnam.)
    And secondly just the “savior” mentality all this signifies amongst people. Supposedly we’re a democracy; supposedly we like *self*-government. Supposedly and unlike children we don’t *want* some great father-figure to “lead” us, we want to decide things ourselves and *tell* our “representatives” what the hell to do.
    Instead what do we see? The forgetting of sober, realistic decision-makers like Eisenhower who got us out of Korea and kept us out of Vietnam, and the eternal quest of many politicians to be like JFK and whoop us up into this or that great crusade.
    I don’t want a savior, nor some great romantic who wants to be great not via his own actions but instead by telling all the rest of us what to do or be. I want a green-eye shade guy, who soberly looks at our policy in the Mid-east and soberly assesses our interest and what we can and can’t accomplish. And I want a sober even humour-less guy looking at our budget, who can’t get it out of his head that in the next 25 years only the U.S. population of people over 65 is expected to *double*, with all the terrifying things that means for the budget and even the social fabric. And I want a guy who looks soberly when something like Rwanda or Darfur or Bosnia comes up before deciding to launch us on some new adventure, and thinks soberly about *how* to do it too.
    I.e., I want an Eisenhower. I want stability.
    But I also think McCain is nuts.

  5. J says:

    what does obama’s rhetoric signify? all i see are reams and reams of blank pages, with nary a drop invisible ink even on their pages. sooo sad for our nation.

  6. JohnH says:

    Hope? Yes, hope that people everywhere can find people to lead insurgencies against the corrupt oligarchs that stifle people every day, leading them into expensive, stupid wars and taxing them to subsidize fat corporations and merchants of death.
    And hope that, should Obama not fulfill his promise, he will leave behind a movement that will offer up the next insurgent, and the next, until finally the regime is changed.

  7. Patrick Lang says:

    John H
    “until finally the regime is changed.”
    What, exactly, do you mean by “the regime?” pl

  8. jr786 says:

    I think Prof. Kiracofe gets it right. Obama will cast himself in the Gladstone mode – the ‘reluctant’ imperialist, versus the Disraelian Republican Party. Either way, lots of coaling stations and Government houses to make the world safe for Free Trade.
    Are there no anti-imperialists left in the House or Senate?

  9. Sidney O. Smith III says:

    Relying on the insights of Shelby Steele, it sure looks like the Obama phenomenon is more cultural than political. Perhaps a little more provocatively, Obama as president may come across more as a Woodstock event than one of a true substance that will make the changes necessary today, which are revolutionary.
    Before the intolerant ones start throwing stones, I admire much about Obama and odds are better than 50-50, I’ll vote for him (McCain is out of the question). But Obama’s most brilliant trait, at least from what I can tell so far, is that he absorbs the environment. When in Chicago, he started hanging out with Rezko and become more Chicago than Chicago. When he spoke to AIPAC, he was more AIPAC than AIPAC. When he was Israel, he may as well had worn a T-Shirt that said, “Jabotinsky is my real daddy”.
    If Obama was “revolutionary“, I think odds are greater he would have gone to a Palestinian refuge camp and maybe had said that the one God is a God of justice not militant ethnic nationalism. That’s revolutionary.
    People say that Obama in the White House is “revolutionary”. But Colin Powell, at one time, could have walked into the White House as the first black president and he probably would have carried every State in the dreaded Deep South. Is it wrong to have wanted the first black president to have work his way up through the government?
    And at least where I currently reside, my US Representative is black, as is the mayor, the District Attorney, the State Attorney General, at least three members of the State Supreme Court. Not to mention several of my neighbors. Also the archbiship of the city in which I live is black, as is one of the priests of the parish I attend (well…sometimes).
    So I can’t help but wonder if those who say the Obama phenomenon is so “revolutionary” have lived in extremely segregated environments. And from what I can tell, the “hipper” the area, the more segregated. Marin County is not nearly as racially integrated as some place like Jackson, Mississippi. Aspen is more segregated than Albany, GA.
    Just seems to me that when it comes to race relations, Woodstock nation was a failure. Paddy Cheyevsky captured the shallowness of it all in his film Network.
    And at least from what I can tell, in the post 1990 world, the two institutions that genuinely — and I stress genuinely — promoted a “blending in” are the US Military and the Catholic Church. Neither the US Military nor the Catholic Church were at Woodstock in 1968.
    Shelby Steele, who to me is beyond courageous, gave us perhaps the reason why. In his book, Content of Our Character, he highlighted what he called the guilt-empowerment dynamic. Basically, it is a strategy of creating guilt to empower. It may have had its place at one time in history, but ultimately if race relations do not transcend the dynamic, it only will lead to anger and disillusionment, and not a “blending in”.
    And I think this dynamic is at work to a certain degree in the Obama phenomenon. My evidence: someone who comments at this website plays in the same band as a renowned black singer. After researching the evidence, he dared to vote for Hillary. Yet, if I understand it, he has been called a racist and a member of Stormfront or some neo-Nazi group.
    That’s the guilt-empowerment dynamic at work. We’ll probably see more of it. Maybe we’ll overcome it this fall. Hope so. It’s the only way to transcend race politics.
    Also, bit off topic, but I see no evidence that Lincoln genuinely was for a “blending in”. He solution was to send all blacks back to Liberia.

  10. I still say let’s see what the VP choices tell us. Obama and McCain both have different forms of charisma and appeal to different folks. The question is who is attractive to the “silent majority” the independents that will determine whether either man can accomplish the somewhat difficult objective of being a majority President (meaning gaining 51% or more of the popular vote). And if it is Obama better start now lining up big talent fully committed to taking on hard issues and reform of the wasteland that he inherits. Never will an administration come into office with both the domestic and international scene devastated by such snarling incompetence as this administration.

  11. Nancy K says:

    Obama is a breath of fresh air compared to the stench of this administration. I think and hope that we will know more about what change Obama will bring to the country once the convention is over and the debates begin

  12. lina says:

    Mr. Smith:
    There is nothing “revolutionary” about Obama himself. He is a mainstream Democrat with a very pragmatic view of foreign policy. During the primary campaign he was to the right of Hillary Clinton and John Edwards on domestic policy (e.g. healthcare reform).
    Electing the first African American to the office of POTUS – 400 years post Jamestown – is (if not revolutionary) certainly extraordinary.

  13. b says:

    Slightly OT a remark on the event in Berlin.
    I was there this weekend and talked to people who attended. There was also some insightful ‘Sunday Journalist Club’ talk round about the event on the main TV channel today.
    The show, and it was such, was meticulously set up Obama troops. It was a ‘private event’ and the rules put out were that no political poster or banner could be shown by the people taking part. “Peace Now” posters etc. were confiscated.
    About a third of the total crowd (my friends estimated 70,000) were not Germans. Security was relatively lax on the road leading to the circular place where TV screens had been set up. The inner circle around the stage that could be caught on TV had different rules though. Security was tighter but people who carried U.S. passports were allowed in more swiftly and with less frills.
    That caused more than half of the crowd there having been U.S. people with a lot of British tourists etc. adding to them.
    That might explain the waving of U.S. flags and Obama posters. It is dubious that Germans (who have an aversion towards flags outside of international soccer events) did this.
    There was also a noticeable difference in acclamation to applause lines. The “world without nukes” and “end of Guantanamo” stuff got huge applause. The “shared burden in Afghanistan” and “Iran” stuff got much less applause. As the microphones only covered the surrounding of the stage, it is likely that only few of the Germans their clapped their hands to these (80% are against the German Afghanistan engagement.)
    Simple lesson: What was shown on TV and ‘analyzed’ as general German enthusiasm was likely not such. “Anything but Bush”, yes, “anything the U.S. wants”, no.
    The future relations will be more complicated than today’s.

  14. Bobo says:

    Its July right, over 3 months to go till election day. What is Obama going to be doing in that time frame to keep this balloon from coming down to earth. Is this guy peaking too early? If I was his campaign managers I would be a little concerned. He needs to go into hibernation for awhile to let things cool down so he can catch a second breath. You have people writing about his being a “Savior”, come on he is just a politician.
    Take a break and get ready cause McCain is known as a great finisher.

  15. Arun says:

    Senators Reed(R) and Hagel(R) on Face the Nation about McCain(R)’s ad about Obama(D). Doesn’t this already sound pre-1988?
    BOB SCHIEFFER: Senator Reed, now you’ve done a lot of these trips. They call them “codels,” “congressional delegations,” go. Are you ever allowed to take cameras when you go in to visit wounded troops? I thought that was sort of the general rule that everybody knew about.
    JACK REED: I don’t think Senator Obama would have done that. Senator Hagel, Senator Obama and I visited the combat support hospital at Baghdad to thank those nurses, those doctors, to see patients that were there, to bring a bit of greetings from home and profound thanks. That should be in the ad that Senator McCain is running. I think Senator Obama made a very wise choice. Any suggestion that a visit to a military hospital would be political, he made the wise choice not to go. But when you were in Baghdad we made a point at the end of a very exhausting day to go in and see these magnificent young Americans and those doctors and nurses that give such tremendous care without a lot of fanfare, just to say thanks. He did it-the same thing. We went-we didn’t stay in Kabul. We went to Jalalabad to see the soldiers of the 173rd. We stopped in Basra to see our soldiers down there. We went into Anbar province to see soldiers there. That is a completely distorted, and, I think, inappropriate advertisement.
    CHUCK HAGEL: Let me add to that. As you know, Bob, the congressional delegation that you referred to ended when we parted in Jordan. At that point, it was a political trip for Senator Obama. I think it would have been inappropriate for him and certainly he would have been criticized by the McCain people and the press and probably should have been if on a political trip in Europe paid for by political funds-not the taxpayers-to go, essentially, then and be accused of using our wounded men and women as props for his campaign. I think the judgment there-and I don’t know the facts by the way. I know what you’ve just read. No one has asked me about it other than what you’ve just asked about. But I think it would be totally inappropriate for him on a campaign trip to go to a military hospital and use those soldiers as props. So I think he probably, based on what I know, he did the right thing. We saw troops everywhere we went on the congressional delegation. We went out of our way to see those troops. We wanted to see those troops. And that’s part of our job to see those troops, by the way, and listen to those troops, Bob. And we did.
    BOB SCHIEFFER: Do you think that ad was appropriate?
    CHUCK HAGEL: I do not think it was appropriate.
    BOB SCHIEFFER: You do not.
    CHUCK HAGEL: I do not.

  16. FB Ali says:

    The concern about “empty rhetoric” and staged shows is not a reflection on Obama, but, rather, on the state of the USA today. That seems to be the only way a candidate can hope to get elected president there. Look at whom you elected the last couple of times.
    What will he do if elected (as I sincerely hope he is – for the sake of your country)? Sometimes the office brings out the best in a person. He is reputed to be cautious, but he may realize that this is going to be his only chance to make a mark on history. He seems to have the potential to do that.
    In any case, he can’t possibly be worse than what you’ve had for the last eight years. Or what you’ll get if he isn’t elected.

  17. alnval says:

    Col. Lang:
    To paraphrase the poet, “Where has all the affect gone?”
    Goodness. I, for one, am delighted to at last have someone to cheer for. I also think that it’s more than enough that Obama’s rhetoric is “delightful, amazing, (and) deeply satisfying.” without worrying about its significance. Obama is not the second coming even though, for some, it might feel that way. It does remind me, however, how we had almost forgotten that human kind can throw up someone so capable of inspiring us.
    There is something beautifully cathartic in at last being able to express huge gobs of good feeling in the public square with others of like mind without having to worry about whether some police person will have to move me and my friends to a venue where such expressions of freedom are permitted. Moreover, who cares if the joyous mob includes citizens of the world just so long as we all understand that the good feeling that comes with having a future to look forward to is truly one of those unalienable rights?
    I think Sidney Smith has nailed it. “. . . Obama’s most brilliant trait . . . is that he absorbs the environment,” What Smith doesn’t tell us, however, is whether he believes that Obama’s personal code of ethics and morality will require him to sort, save and act on that which is good and discard the rest. The inability to winnow good from evil has been the downfall of too many promising politicians.
    Jon Stewart posed the problem best, “There’s something about a charismatic leader rallying huge crowds of Germans in a large public square . . . “

  18. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    jr786, All,
    In the context of George W Bush as the Neocons ‘muscular Wilsonian’ and the McCain and Obama follow-ons:
    1. For context, we can consider the model of Liberal Imperialism or Social-Imperialism of the 1900-1918 period.
    Good read on this is,
    Robert J. Scally, The Origins of the Lloyd George Cabinet. The Politics of Social Imperialism, 1900-1918 (Princeton: Princeton U Pres,, 1975).
    2. We can take note of the soft imperialism with a human face of the Princeton Project on National Security which IMO will provde a basis for Obama’s Foreign Policy.
    3. Obama will be “pro-Israel” and Israel will be aligned with NATO per Princeton Project recommendations. An early signal of elite opinion on this is:
    Ronald D. Asmus and Bruce P. Jackson, “Does Israel Belong in the EU and NATO?”, Policy Review (Hoover Institution) February and March 2005, pp. 47-56.
    4. Given Obama’s (through his Kenyan Luo father)recent British colonial heritage, it is logical to think he will tighten relations with the British (Left in particular) as we have just noted by his visit and his own words. Message: continuation of Anglo-
    American neoimperial and neocolonial ventures. Say hydrocarbon and resource adventures in Africa among others? And (Condi wannabee?) Susan Rice just advocated bombing Sudan…and the Luo came down into the lakes area from Southern Sudan way back when.

  19. alnval says:

    Col. Lang:
    As my better half just reminded me, hope by itself is of no value without a call to action.
    That’s what keeps Obama from being an empty suit.
    “Yes, we can.”

  20. David W. says:

    I would argue that Obama’s timetable for getting out of Iraq isn’t just beautiful jawboning, and his diplomatic efforts with Al-Maliki were fruitful enough to cause McCain to flip-flop on the issue. (Apparently, McCain’s ‘we’ll stay in Iraq 100 years if necessary’ position was…mere rhetoric)
    McCain’s candidacy is based on his demographics and priveleged upbringing (sound familiar?), and his supporters are driven more by ‘brand loyalty, mercenary reward and reactionary tendencies against Obama than strong belief ‘in’ McCain. What would that belief be based on? Well, McCain *had* some substantial legislative victories, however, since his campaign has failed to comply with the McCain-Feingold Campaign Reform Act, this has been forgotten. ‘War Hero’ is a pretty big stretch too, especially given the way the Republicans threw dirt on John Kerry in ’04 (given the reactionary tendencies of the current Republican base, I would imagine that they are praying that the Dems pull out the ‘purple band-aids’ for McCain, so that the R base could have something to mindlessly froth at the mouth about.)
    Regarding race, I think we will never have a chance as clear cut as this one to examine the ‘baseline’ of racism in this country, because, frankly, McCain has nothing going for him save the fact that he is a white male Republican (though, ‘of a certain age’). McCain’s policies are indistinguishable from Bush’s, his advisors are second-rate neocons, and first-rate lobbyists, and his ‘Straight Talk Express’ has turned into the ‘Pander Local.’
    The race question will always be present at some level, because there will always be class inequality, and power to be gained from demonization of minorities. I think the more relevant question is whether or not McCain is simply too old and out-of-touch to be popularly elected. The generational divide between the two camps is indeed a factor, and I find myself wondering how much of this criticism is really directed at Obama’s followers, who are frequently derided for their arriviste enthusiasm and naivite.
    At any rate, we have the Bread and Circuses of the Conventions coming up, which will magnify this very issue. Unfortunately, being a reactionary is a ‘dead-ender’ in terms of strategy, and given McCain’s increasing desperation, which is shown by his unprecedented recent slurring of Obama, I think we’ll just see more desperate slime coming out of the McCain camp. Not very presidential, eh? Otoh, it takes the heat off McCain’s own bright ideas, like the…errr… National Gas Tax holiday–brilliant, but can they deliver anything besides reactionism, divisiveness and fear mongering?

  21. Stormcrow says:

    Well, Col Lang, Obama’s rhetoric signifies two things to me, loud and clear.
    First, he wants to win this election. Seriously. So he chooses his words with care, speaking to the emotions. This is of a piece with his organizational skills and his (by now) famous temper control. He’s serious about this, and acts accordingly.
    We’ve all seen too many reform Democrats who weren’t serious. Kucinich comes to mind. Nice ideas, but he really didn’t care whether he won or lost.
    Second, he’s smart. Strategically.
    Those, and the fact that his inauguration will put “paid” to seven years of the Worst Government Ever, are enough for me.
    Not everything I’d prefer. Especially after his capitulation on FISA. But it’ll do.

  22. JohnH says:

    PL-Regime change begins at home…

  23. Patrick Lang says:

    Ah, but do you mean change of system of governance as Obama seems to when he talks about changing how things are done in Washington? pl

  24. Sidney O. Smith III says:

    On second thought, I may have written my above comment to hastily. Too many typos and I may have misspoken re: the word “revolutionary”. My apologies. Again, there is a better than 50-50 chance that I will vote for Obama. So let me try again –in the most provocative way I can, of course.
    It just seems to me that Obama’s speech in Berlin reveals much about Obama and, perhaps more importantly, those who are whispering in his ear. The Berlin speech, at least in my opinion, was a fantastic opportunity to talk about the guiding principle of our founding fathers: the idea that sovereignty rests in the people through a voluntary coalition of States that, in turn, create a federal government for limited purposes. It is this vision that prevents the rise of an overly centralized government that only leads to tremendous suffering and bloodshed.
    As history has shown, a centralized government increases chances of a policy of military pre-emptive strikes (blitzkrieg in Belgium in WWII, “Shock and Awe” in Iraq in 2003, maybe Iran). And a centralized government typically promotes perpetual war so as to impose on others the values of a particular “civilization”, primarily justified through the work of political scientists who just “know” what is the best for those not yet “enlightened”.
    Maybe I am wrong but I did not see a spirit of decentralization in Obama’s speech in Berlin. If such a spirit had guided Obama’s words, historians, perhaps, would have called his time in Berlin as the time of the anti-Lincoln and anti-Hitler speech. (provocative part now follows).
    Lincoln and Hitler shared a few beliefs. Both sought the creation of a centralized government that was seen as sovereign and one seen as creating the various States, not the other way around. Such is the path to authoritarianism, imperialism, and fascism.
    Two, Lincoln and Hitler both believed that a central government should subsidize corporate entities. In Lincoln’s time, it was done primarily for the railroads under the idea of “internal improvements”. Another word for it is “mercantilism” and yet another, perhaps, is national socialism. (think government bailouts of Fannie Mac and Fannie Mae).
    Third, Hitler and Lincoln were racists, to one degree or another. Some may want to debate that conclusion but I just don’t see any evidence suggesting otherwise. The abolitionist Lysander Spooner called Lincoln’s bluff early on and actually believed in a constitutional right of secession. Spooner believed that recognizing a right to secession was the path that would lead to less racism, less violence, and even peace. (And it is remarkable to me that Brazil is far more post racial than the USA.) Spooner, of course, was anti-imperialist.
    Our founding fathers may have shared this same idea to one extent or another. A similar vision in Europe is Switzerland, perhaps. Not too bad a model in my book.
    Did Obama mention Switzerland as an ideal in his Berlin speech? I don’t know.
    But Obama certainly spoke much of breaking down barriers. Fine. Beautifully spoken. But is he talking about doing so through an overly centralized government? Is he talking about achieving such through the methodology of political science or the way of anthropology? Is he talking about a centralized government in a global village telling others how to live?
    As for the answer to these questions, I just dunno’.
    Again, I am not voting for McCain. Out of the question. Never. And I am a big fan of Shelby Steele. He recognized a psychological dynamic ultimately ruinous for race relations, at least in my opinion. He was about 20 years ahead of the curve. And Brazil is about 20 years ahead of us.
    So it just seems to me that states’ rights in a post racist America is the ideal to seek and the way to go. Jeffersonian approach. Not Chicago, but Monticello.

  25. arbogast says:

    Obama has seen what happened to Jimmy Carter when oil prices went through the roof and the US suffered military setbacks abroad.
    He is channeling Reagan for all he is worth. I seem to recall that Reagan’s speeches were light on content.
    It is a good strategy.

  26. rjj says:

    Obama’s rhetoric? It is; delightful, amazing, deeply satisfying, ….

    Dubya’s was even better, but it was marred by his delivery. Obama’s disturbingly Orwellian campaign is a reprise of Bush 2000 – from on-the-ground mobilization, to rhetoric, to staging, to symbols, to style [neo? retro? social(ist) realism].
    COMING UP NEXT in this mass debauch of political pornography.
    Two generations have grown up in a peaceful prosperous environment and a lax permissive culture. Ease and security are ambient- like air or gravity; liberty and tyranny are abstractions. Barnyard fowl, oppressed only by tedium, forget the need to be vigilant.
    Of the two applicants for the job, I prefer the frail, nasty, sic-transit-gloria-mundi old coot behind Door Number Two. He doesn’t have a little guy behind him holding a laurel wreath, nor does he likely need to be reminded he is merely a mortal.

  27. robt willmann says:

    I guess I will be one to fill a bucket with cold water and throw it.
    When I first saw Barack Obama on television last year, after he had gotten started and was having some success, I said two things to my mother: 1) I thought his speaking was not great but was bland, and 2) he looked like a media creation. I have not changed those observations.
    I admit to being spoiled by listening to some of the old-time Texas courthouse lawyers, such as Warren Burnett, whose speaking was extemporaneous, eloquent, detailed and substantive, flawlessly clear, and musical in the sense that it was easy to listen to.
    I think that Obama’s wife gives a much better speech than he does.
    He is wasting valuable time with these foreign travels. The election is here, not over there. The great black jazz trumpeter Miles Davis was welcomed in Europe with adoration, but was beaten up by the New York City police while taking a break outside a jazz club during a performance.
    Obama has got to get a lot of a certain type of voter. An example will explain.
    A friend of mine went to work for Texas Governor Ann Richards and after a while became a member of her inner circle. Ann surprisingly beat a horseback-riding Republican in the 1990 election. You don’t become governor unless you can get the “redneck” vote in East (the “Piney Woods”) and West Texas, and enough of the urban areas wherein many people describe themselves as “conservative”. She became even more popular locally and received fabulous national press. She was the classic southern matriarch with the white hair and the strong voice with a slight but pleasing drawl. She was a true liberal, but the rednecks loved her: she was their Mama and Grandma rolled up into one.
    Then, despite her political experience as a county commissioner, State Treasurer, and Governor, she made a fatal mistake. The legislature passed a law that would let you carry a concealed handgun if you took a little gun safety course and got a permit from the Texas Department of Public Safety (the umbrella agency for the highway patrol, state police, Texas Rangers, and drivers licenses). To the shock of many, she vetoed the bill.
    So in 1994, someone named George W. Bush showed up, announced his candidacy for governor, and said that if the legislature would pass the concealed carry handgun bill again, he would sign it. After the votes were counted, Ann Richards lost her bid for re-election, Bush won, and unfortunately the rest is not yet history.
    I had come to believe that Ann Richards, before her collossal blunder ended her political career, could have run against Bill Clinton for the 1996 Democratic presidential nomination, as Clinton was damaged goods at the time, and beaten him. She was more popular in the South, and the northern and west coast liberals liked her. She would have steamrolled over Bob Dole or anyone the Republicans ran. But it was not to be.
    Ann Richards was “tough as a boot”, as we say down here. But I’m starting to think that Obama might have a glass jaw. He can certainly keep his cool in discussions and debate, but backtracks and apologizes at insignificant criticism.
    After Ann’s defeat for re-election, my friend told me, “We lost the white men over 40”.
    Are you listening, Barack Obama?

  28. lina says:

    Col. Lang:
    Obama’s rhetoric about “changing how things are done in Washington” is pretty much word for word what Jimmy Carter said in 1976. Nothing new that I can see. There’s no need to read more into it than campaign hype.

  29. dilbert dogbert says:

    I am afraid that Obama’s first administration will be a repeat of Bill Clinton’s. The Democratic Party lead congress will run off in 100s of directions as they have no party discipline.
    I really don’t care. I just want Bush and his party to remove themselves from the levers of power so that we can get out of Iraq. Anything we want to argue about after that is just fine with me.

  30. Sidney O. Smith III says:

    Just like you, I researched the words of Jimmy Carter, but it was the title from the book he wrote in 2006. It has the title, “Palestine, Peace Not Apartheid”.
    Did Obama recite those words on his latest trip to the Middle East? I mean if he is some super duper revolutionary, then don’t sell out, right?
    If he is believes in the title of Carter’s book but is refusing to say so in order “to win”, then isn’t he playing the Washington Beltway game that Americans are so sick and tired of, not to mention the rest of the world.
    I guess you know the day after Obama left the Middle East, the GOI announced further settlement expansion in East Jerusalem. So much for the peace process.
    According to Glen Greenwald, 70 per cent of Americans want an even handed approach to the Middle East. Looks like a winning approach to me, at least for those who dare.
    Once again, I am probably voting for him. But I sometimes think Woodstock generation has managed to checkmate itself, all the while sending its youth to fight in imperial wars and leaving them bankrupt. Reminds me of the title of that play of existential despair, “No Exit”.

  31. Paul says:

    It would be difficult for me to describe with sufficient detail why my taste buds reject sausages. So it is with Obama. Though he may be short on detail and promise, there is something about his presence and carriage that is appealing. But words are not action. In that light my “hope” is nothing more than a belief that he will change the tenor of discourse. The world’s problems are far too complicated and interconnected for any single person (or nation) to correct.
    That he knows how to use the English language appeals to ordinary people and it is refreshing compared to the pap and trash talk that characterizes the utterances of Bush and McCain.
    It is my opinion that his appeal to Europeans owes to his politeness. Yes, there are far too many ugly Americans (no tourists are louder and insulting than Americans) and who knows this better than Germans and French. Who can forget the insults hurled at the Europeans by Bush, Rumsfeld and the news media at the beginning of the Iraq war?
    Without saying so, Obama seems to place the Iraq war in the “unjust war” category. It would be nice to hear “John’s” explanation as to why Iraq is a just war. What about his stance on torture and eavesdropping since we have not seen his media pals ask him tough questions about it? Helen Thomas would destroy him on these questions alone.
    Obama will never get the attention of the diehard Republican camp (40% of the electorate) but he may well lose the election because of the inordinate number of white Democrats who will not – no matter what – vote for a black guy to the White House.

  32. Green Zone Cafe says:

    It’s really going to hurt when I vote against McCain. I gave money to his 2000 campaign and volunteered. I believe the USA would have been a lot better off had his campaign not been derailed by the scurrilous tactics of the Bush campaign in South Carolina.
    But McCain is a tragic figure – a good man who had to hitch his wagon to what the once-proud GOP has become. He’ll end up choosing some “movement” or “establishment” figure like the loathsome Romney as his heir/running mate.
    Obama is a once-in-a-generation figure. I am always pleased and moved by both his deftness as a politician and his (relative) directness. Electing him is changing the paradigm with our relations with the rest of the world.

  33. Cieran says:

    Just $0.02 worth from a reluctant Obamaphile about this topic…
    I wince when I see comparisons written between Bush in 2000 and Obama in 2008. The notion that because neither candidate was particularly specific about their political programs is not germane to their character: it simply reflects the reality in American politics that citizens will disagree mightily over minor details of anything presented to them, so successful politicians have learned to keep their speeches free of such practical matters — no more, no less.
    But it’s not difficult to discern a good idea of what a given candidate will be like by studying their past record of decision-making, and anyone who thinks George W. was some kind of cipher in 2000 hasn’t done their homework. Virtually every awful trademark of the current administration can easily be found in Bush’s tenure as governor of Texas, including ignoring international treaties and relevant laws, demonstrating a dubious penchant for torture (confined then primarily to death row), and a reliance of mob lawyering through shysters like Gonzalez instead of an adherence to the rule of law.
    We can also see clearly what kind of man John McCain is, if we’re willing to look past the barbeques he hosts for media pundits and the hype that corporate America would like us to believe. McCain abandoned his family to marry a rich heiress and that tells us all we need to know about his deus-ex-machina economic beliefs and his warped sense of values. In his old age, he’s become a doddering idiot with no serious track record of real accomplishment, and Wesley Clark was 100% correct when he pointed out that getting shot down was not appropriate experience for service as commander-in-chief. Clark might be considered impolite, but he clearly showed the candor that leaders are supposed to demonstrate, if we can summon up the guts to hear it.
    Obama, like all other candidates, is part candidate but also part projection of our own fears and hopes. But the skeletons in his closet don’t involve Alberto Gonzales writing first drafts of torture memos for a sitting governor or brave airmen being incinerated on the deck of the USS Forrestal: they involve the usual big-city slimy pursuits of slumlords with ready campaign cash, and that’s not exactly a rare vulnerability in current America politics. Scratch the surface of any campaign’s financial team and you’ll find similar ilk, so this vulnerability is not an Obama-specific problem, regardless of what the GOP wants you to believe. In politics, if we let he who is without sin cast the first stone, we won’t see a lot of rocks thrown anytime soon.
    And if we want to know what kind of decisions Obama would make as president, we merely need to look at the choices he’s made in his own life to date. He married a strong and intelligent woman that he adores, he dotes on his children, and he eschewed high-paying and high-prestige professional opportunities upon graduation from Harvard Law, so that he could work to help poor people in Chicago. That’s his track record, if we care to look at it, instead of letting our attention span be hijacked by guilt-by-association stories about Tony Rezko.
    Compared to Bush and McCain, Obama is a saint, and the evidence is there to see for anyone who cares to pay attention. We don’t need to be confounded by his gift for rhetoric, we just need to examine honestly what kind of man he has been so far, and that’s the path that eventually led me to support him. He’s not perfect, but who is?

  34. EL says:

    “Obama’s rhetoric? It is; delightful, amazing, deeply satisfying, but what does it signify?” Maybe, that he’s not George Bush?

  35. David W. says:

    Sidney, I have to admit that I find your promotion of Shelby Steele interesting–unfortunately, for the wrong reasons. Any appeal that his message carries is not, in my opinion, shared by any appreciable percentage of African-Americans. Personally, I would lump him in with Clarence Thomas, Alan Keyes, and Grover Norquist as political entities who are savvy enough to figure out who is paying the tab, and figuring out what message appeals to those fellows.
    Speaking of paying the tab, Steele is a fellow at the Hoover Institute, just south of me, down the 101. The Hoover Institute is also the landing spot of Don Rumsfeld, and sufficiently out of step with the community enough that Stanford students and faculty have been demanding that the Hoover be severed from its remora-like attachment to the University. So, as much as Steele’s message may resonate with you personally, he has very little ‘street cred’, and lives in the Republican ‘Log Cabin’, along with his fellow travelers who have cut themselves off from their own kind, in search of greener pastures. At any rate, given his exotic provenance, I’m sure we’ll see plenty of him during the Potemkin parade at the Republican Convention. (And, just for the record, ‘blush wine’ is the cheap stuff, and I do have some regard for Sam Nunn;>
    Finally, PL, I’ll take a shot at answering your leading question in this thread; ‘the market’ has determined that the two-party system is the most cost-efficient to co-opt.

  36. Jose says:

    Unfortunately, it’s working”
    I have observed several elections in Europe, makes out political process look amateurish and childish.

  37. Twit says:

    I think Obama’s rhetoric signifies a redistribution of wealth and power from the top 0.1% of (or fewer) to the top 20%. BO thinks that meritocracy means that everyone gets a chance to go to the Ivy League (how about making state universities better than the Ivies instead?). He thinks that his ‘story’ is only possible in America (what about India, where an Untouchable became PM?). He even proposed to promote community empowerment by starting a ‘community organizing fellowship’ (apparently missing the basic point that true empowerment is antithetical to the inevitable resume checklists that ‘fellowships’ entail)!
    This guy is about consolidating wealth and power around people like him, just like Bush. It’s just that educated, image-oriented, consumers-not-creators happen to currently represent around 20% of the current US population, where as the anti-liberal, anti-constitutional plutocrats that Bush represented represented fewer than 0.01%.
    i.e. BO is a reflection of and candidate for our contemporary upper middle class culture and those that aspire to it.

  38. jon says:

    Here is a link to an interview that Obama did with the Jerusalem Post:
    That is a skeptical audience. I believe you will find relatively little oratory and high flying rhetoric. Instead it seems to be clear, informed and thoughtful responses to the questions posed relating to Israel, Palestinians, Iran and Syria.
    For those willing to do a modest amount of work, it is not difficult to supplement the pneumatically delivered, polished sound bites which have so concerned many. Seek and ye shall find.

  39. Sidney O. Smith III says:

    DAvid W.
    Since I am a Southerner, odds are great we will have divergent views of MLK, Jr. So tell me where I am wrong.
    In my opinion, if MLK Jr. had just gone to the Middle East, he would have gone into the Palestinian territories and given his “I have a dream” speech and it would have rocked the world. It is the ultimate act of moral courage.
    Justice is truth in action, right?

  40. rjj says:

    And if we want to know what kind of decisions a candidate would make as president, we merely need to look at the choices he’s made in his own life to date. He married a strong and intelligent woman that he adores, he dotes on his children, and he eschewed high-paying and high-prestige professional opportunities upon graduation from Harvard …

    for boardroom work – corporate versus charitable foundation.
    Contrary to their myths, neither spent much time toiling in the vineyards. Dubya spent more time in oil fields than Obama did on the streets.
    Five years from graduation to elected office suggests more chancing than eschewing.
    [/wince-making][/chain yank]
    Is there much correlation between the aptitude for domestic life quotient (ADLQ) and professional ability, performance, or leadership style (PAPLS)?

    Compared to Bush and McCain, Obama is a saint, and the evidence is there to see for anyone who cares to pay attention.

    I am paying attention, Don’t see it. My Obamascope (Ebay, reconditioned, no warranty) needs a calibration check.

  41. JM says:

    A man with a black father and a white mother is considered “black.” So we know that 50% “black” means that you’re an African American. Got it.
    I’m rather desperately trying to determine my status with respect to a certain population group that generates considerable revenue from a casino operation – can anyone help me to figure out the percentile cut-off point after which one is no longer considered “red?”

  42. fnord says:

    I am reminded of the old Monthy Python song, wich goes:
    “henry kissinger
    I am missing ya
    At least youre not insane.”
    Well, now that Henry K. and his cronies has been proven to be insane, I would strongly support anyone wich means that his influence will finally wanr and recede like a echo from the torture cells of Chile and El Salvador. In many ways, the current administration has been the last of the Cold War admins, frantically trying to realign their politics of hate and fear towards a new enemy, islamofascism so as to keep the machine rolling. Obama to me marks an end to the politics of fear, and thats worth dragging your arses out of the chair and voting for. Come on, you yanks!
    Sydney O. Smith: In principle I agree with you, but in the sorry state that reality is in at the moment, I would say that Obama and the machine wich he will build is bound to be better than letting McCain run the repub machine for four more years. Its basically been a kleptocracy these last eight years, and to believe that McCain using the exact same people will not cover up the crimes of his predecessor is foolish. So while Obama sure aint my ideal social democrat, at least he seems sane and halfway decent. Thats the best offer you get, if ya see what I mean. Nelson Mandela aint running.

  43. Cieran says:

    Thanks for the insights… here’s a couple back at ya!
    Dubya spent more time in oil fields than Obama did on the streets.
    Not so, actually, or at least not as worded.
    Dubya didn’t spend time in any oil fields. His dad sure did, but the closest Junior came to actually working in an oil field was his experience making bad speculative oil investments… and those are much closer to gambling inside an air-conditioned office than they are to actually working out in the oppressive west Texas heat.
    Or more simply, Junior’s living in Midland-Odessa constitutes hanging out in the oil patch, not working in an oil field. Quite a difference, especially on a day like today.
    I am paying attention, Don’t see it. My Obamascope (Ebay, reconditioned, no warranty) needs a calibration check.
    Consider that the sentence that is breaking your scope is a relative measure, not an absolute one (it begins with “compared to…”).
    Hopefully that will clear up your metrological calibration woes.
    And if not, try looking up the term “damned with faint praise” to get the general idea.

  44. alnval says:

    Col. Lang:
    A perhaps final follow up to my earlier comments about what Obama’s rhetoric might mean:
    June 23, 2008, the Politico published a review of Obama’s work as president of the Harvard Law Review. The article, titled “Obama kept Law Review balanced” by Jeffrey Ressner and Ben Smith can be found at and has been abstracted below. I encourage you to read the 1300 word article in its entirety.
    The eight dense volumes produced during his time in charge there — 2,083 pages in all — show the Review to have been a decidedly liberal institution. . . Under his tenure, the Review published calls to expand the powers of women, African-Americans and the elderly to sue for discrimination.
    (Obama) published a searing attack on affirmative action, written by a former Reagan administration official (and) selected a young woman [Robin West, now a professor and associate dean at Georgetown Law Center] from a non-Ivy League law school to fill one of the Review’s most prestigious slots, (who) produced an essay focused as much on individual responsibilities as on liberties, criticizing both conservative judges and feminist scholars.
    West’s article challenged the then-prevailing wisdom . . . taking as its touchstone the work of Czech freedom fighter Vaclav Havel and the anti-Communist revolutions in Eastern Europe that were then still under way. Havel had written that the citizen’s sense of responsibility — not just of individual rights — was essential to political liberty, and West applied that critique to contemporary liberalism to argue that goals such as tolerance and diversity might in fact be “weakened, not strengthened, by taking rights so ‘super-seriously’ that we come to stop examining our sense of responsibility.”
    Obama “clearly agreed with me at the time that a shift in constitutional thinking from a rights-based discourse to one that centered [on] responsibility and duties … would be a good thing,” West told Politico.
    Federal Judge Michael W. McConnell, who was nominated by President Bush and has frequently been mentioned as one of Bush’s potential Supreme Court nominees, recalls receiving (a letter from editor Obama regarding) his article “The Origins and Historical Understanding of Free Exercise of Religion.”
    McConnell told Politico, “A frequent problem with student editors is that they try to turn an article into something they want it to be. It was striking that Obama didn’t do that. He tried to make it better from my point of view.” McConnell was impressed enough to urge the University of Chicago Law School to seek Obama out as an academic prospect.
    (In summary, Politico writes) Even in the staunchly liberal milieus in which he has spent his entire adult life; Obama has managed to lead without leaving a clear ideological stamp, and to respect — and even, at times, to embrace — opposing views. To his critics, that’s a sign of a lack of core beliefs. To his admirers, it’s the root of his appeal.
    “To understand what someone else is trying to say isn’t just an editorial skill,” said McConnell. “It’s a life skill.”

  45. Arun says:

    Question – along with Bush, we got the PNAC (Project for the New American Century) folks for free. What is the baggage that comes along with Obama?

  46. David W. says:

    Very Delphic, Sidney. Regarding MLK, I was involved with the Mixed Blood Theater which was affirmative action in the best sense, founded on Dr. King’s vision.
    Regarding your scenario, it would be monumental, but if I gather your analogy correctly, I’d say the difference is that Obama is a politician, not the Second Coming.

  47. Stormcrow says:

    Third, Hitler and Lincoln were racists, to one degree or another.

    Oh, puuh-lease.
    arbogast, you may as well accuse them both of being “human beings”. This statement is as empty of useful content as the equation “1=1”.
    It was not possible to grow to adulthood as a white in America much prior to the present day without practically absorbing racism through one’s skin. It absolutely permeated every aspect of popular culture. You could no more avoid it than you could avoid exposure to chicken pox. But the racism was a hell of a lot more destructive.
    This may not have occurred to you, but it has to me. I was born in 1950, into a liberal Democratic family, and I’ll probably still be cleaning the rubbish out of my head the day before they shovel dirt on me.
    Truly pervasive ideas have that effect.

  48. Sidney O. Smith III says:

    David W.
    Congratulations. A magnum opus. Or, if you prefer, a magnum of LaFite Rothschild.
    If justice is truth in action, then perhaps art is truth in action as well.
    If true, then maybe art and justice do indeed have something in common. Never really thought about it before. But your work may suggest such.
    Ironically (perhaps) the quote, “Justice is Truth in Action” originates with Benjamin Disraeli.
    When it comes to race relations in the US, the show, Frank’s Place, always fascinated me. The creator and talent behind Frank’s Place was Hugh Wilson (a white Southerner, for those who note such). When he was on top of his game, he, in my opinion, was the best. Preston Sturgis and then some.
    Kindly note to your theater world. Not sure “To Kill A Mockingbird” is still apropos, although such a rehashed storyline can always sell in LA and NY markets. Perhaps it helps people forget the historical racism that gave us Harlem and Compton? I merely suggest such. Who knows…
    In my opinion, the greatest threat to race relations, at least right now, is not a group of uneducated and idiotic kids in Louisiana, who are really no different than uneducated and idiotic kids anywhere else. It’s blowback from conditions in the Gaza Strip and maybe its sequel — a pre-emptive strike on Iran that exposes US troops to greater risks.
    Seems to me that a foreign policy that, according to an increasing number of people, promotes militant ethnic nationalism abroad increases the probability of creating ethnic divisions in the United States. Therein looms one great danger to the US. Our founding fathers warned us of a blowback that ultimately splits and divides.
    Obviously, there are some at the Pentagon who would not agree. Many in the film, theater, and literary world would not either. But that makes me wonder if those of that persuasion are all one and the same. You know what I mean…action adventure.
    Again, congrats.

  49. David W. says:

    Sidney–your kind praise exceeds my contribution, but I thank you nevertheless. The most valuable communications are those among people of vastly different backgrounds, so I appreciate where you are coming from, and the opportunity this forum provides us. I sense this topic will become a thread in the future, so I look forward to more discourse.

  50. Sidney O. Smith III says:

    Hi David W.
    My apologies for not responding soon. You are very welcome and I too look forward to other discussions.
    I am drifting a bit off topic, but from what I can tell, you probably know Samm Art. No greater person on earth. The absolute best. (Same for his cousin, Jimmy, former career Air Force and now career prosecutor).
    I betcha’ Samm Art will vouch for Hugh Wilson’s greatness as a screenwriter and a person too. Frank’s Place was groundbreaking and, at least in my opinion, qualifies as “truth in action”.
    Art and justice wrapped in one as “truth in action“. Never thought about that before. I like it. Thanks!
    I’ll end this discussion with a question. Does the life of Rachael Corrie qualify for the spirit of MLK Jr. and Mixed Blood? I really don’t know the answer, as I am not part of the theater world and truth be told, do not know all the circumstances surrounding her life and death. But I do know there was a play about her life that was making the rounds and then disappeared. Philip Weiss — one of (if not) the most courageous journalists in America — has written about her life and the play at his blog as well as in an article at Nation titled, “Too Hot for New York” (One day, Weiss should receive what he richly deserves — a Pulitzer for his work).
    Corrie as truth in action? I just wanted to toss the question out there.

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