I’m glad Barack Obama finally figured out that he can’t compromise with the extremists in Congress, and is doing some things by executive action that he was unable to achieve by consensus. I just wish he hadn’t waited until “the fourth quarter” to do so. He may have blown the game in the first quarter when he doubled down in Afghanistan.
If the boldness Obama has been recently displaying had come early in his presidency, it would, paradoxically, have paved the way for compromise. But he squandered his mandate, and next year even more extremist Republicans will come after him with a vengeance.
Therefore to say 2014 has been “a breakthrough year for America” is wishful thinking to the point of being out of touch with reality. Besides, the breakthrough will not come for one nation, much less a nation that plunged the world into the darkness of the ‘global war on terror, which began under Bush-Cheney and has continued under Obama.
The breakthrough all peoples of the world urgently and pragmatically need is to leave to history the atavistic mentality of nationalism (which I doubt Barack Obama shares in his heart), and think globally and act globally in the global economy and society.
By not being honest with the American people abut the state of the country and the world, but couching his policies in the same old knee-jerk, nationalistic optimism of “we are Americans and we can fix problems,” President Obama added to the hopelessness so many people feel at home and abroad. Especially since he was elected on a platform of hope and transformation.
The essential falseness of Barack Obama turns on the fact that he was born of a Kenyan father on the periphery of the USA (Hawaii did not even become a state until 1959, two years to the month before Obama was born), and spent four of his formative years in Indonesia. Barack is a true citizen of the world, yet he pretends to be a nationalist.
Why? Because he made the calculation that the American people were not ready for a genuine world view, much less seeing themselves as global citizens. That calculation gives a lie to his constant refrain of his “faith in the American people.”
His posturing didn’t stop the contemptible ‘birthers’ from claiming that Barack is not an American citizen. That’s precisely what he feared jingoistic extremists would tag him with, and they did anyway. It’s lamentable that Barack felt compelled to hide a true thing within him—that he is a citizen of the world—under a nationalistic cover.
The more President Obama plays the dutiful nationalist, the further he leads his countrymen and the world away from the global polity humanity must and will have.
The path to greatness is through the universality of the message. But President Obama gives no voice to humanity, even at a time when history and the human crisis demand it. Can he still? Does he have the audacity to aspire to Abraham Lincoln’s stature, who saved the Union but spoke for all humanity in ending slavery?
Is radical change beginning to happen anyway, led by Latin America? “There will be radical and fundamental change,” said Andrés Pastrana, a former president of Colombia. “I think that to a large extent the anti-imperialist discourse that we have had in the region has ended. The Cold War is over.”
He’s not just speaking of the last vestiges of the Cold War between the US and Russia, which is freezing up again under Vladimir Putin after a generation of ‘sole remaining superpower’ triumphalism. He’s speaking of the frozen relations between the United States and Latin America in recent years.
Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff, who led the Latin American chorus of condemnation of NSA spying after revelations of surveillance of her and her top aides, called Obama’s deal with Cuba “a moment which marks a change in civilization.”
That too sounds a bit hyperbolic, but the restoration of diplomatic relations with Cuba marks an historic shift. After all, what triggered Lee Harvey Oswald to assassinate John F. Kennedy were grievances about Cuba, only a year after the world came the closest to nuclear war that it ever has.
The last vestige of the Cold War has ended, even as Cold War II, more dangerous than the first, has begun. Obama’s Cool Hand Luke optimism ignores the fact that the Russian bear feels cornered, and still has its nuclear claws.
The mainstream media is shouting from the rooftops: “Patriotism demands that we show ‘The Interview!’” Egad.
As a writer who has been censored in the United States, it’s galling to hear President Obama say, “We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship.”
The leaders of North Korea, a land far more hermetically sealed off from the world than Cuba, have shown a sophisticated grasp of American culture and character. Their hacking of Sony is at once serious and farcical, given all the juicy bits they fed America’s celebrity maw, and the cancellation of a Christmas release of what reviewers say is a stupid and lame satire about the assassination of Kim Jong-Un.
The fact that I agree policy-wise with Obama’s recent executive decisions does not mean I’ve changed my mind about the duplicitous mendaciousness and dangerous mediocrity of the President. When democracy is threatened, criticizing a president one mostly agrees with is required, a way of helping to inoculate one’s country against authoritarianism.
So why doesn’t it occur to any of the talking heads on cable news that the shades of strongman that they are applauding in Obama may foreshadow even more power being concentrated in the presidency—exactly what the founders feared and sought to prevent by three equal branches of government?