The Hypocrite, The Fanatic, or Obama?

26 Mar


 

The American electorate is facing a presidential election in which there is almost no prospect of a constructive debate. On the Republican side the campaign for the nomination has exhibited the clash of irresponsible and reactionary views, slightly relieved by the libertarian Ron Paul who at least counsel against militarism and the death dance with Israel.  All the Republican presidential hopefuls, except Paul, exhibit a craven distaste for reality when they attack Obama for being insufficiently pro-Israeli, as if 95%+ is insufficient. Such a posture, whether meant seriously or not, iexpresses contempt for the intelligence and common sense of the American citizenry.

How can an American president show greater deference to Israel than Obama, who never loses an opportunity to speak adoringly to AIPAC’s  annual national gatherings. Of course, it is not only the Middle East that discloses such a regressive Republican zone of agreed lunacy. More disturbing in some respects is the embrace of climate skepticism by all the Republican candidates, rejecting the overwhelming view of the scientific community that global warming is an urgent peril that is already causing extremely harmful effects on weather, oceans, and food security. To refer the matter to God and the Bible is to throw several centuries of trust in reason and scientific understanding of nature and the environment into a toilet of unknowing. 

 

 

            The overwhelming Republican favorite to win the nomination is Mitt Romney, not that the party base loves him, or even trusts him, but because he is thought to be electable. Romney has been convincingly charged with being ‘a vulture capitalist’ in his private sector exploits by Newt Gingrich, who is the most reckless of all the Republican presidential hopefuls, hanging in their by the sturdy thread of his ego. Romney has also reinforced the accusation about his path to fortune by displaying a monumental indifference to the plight of the very poor in America. 

 

            Revealingly, Romney has indicated that what he says to gain the Republican nomination about being a ‘true conservative’ will not impede  subsequent efforts to win independents to his side by altering policy positions sufficiently to reassert his claims to be a ‘true moderate’ in time to win centrist votes in the November election. His senior political advisor went further by comparing the struggle to win the nomination to the game ‘etch a sketch,’ which when interpreted means that what has been said so far is erasable as soon as electoral the fight against Obama begins, which will call for a new erasable sketch. It is sad to note that the best the Republican opposition can come up with is an opportunistic hypocrite ready to change his pitch as often as it seems opportune to do so. But as Republicans appeal to rally beneath the banner of Romney’s electability matters of substance and principle fade from view.

 

            Yet the only conceivable Republican alternative to Romney remains Rick Santorum, whose only prospect of success rests on prayer at this stage, which is fortunate, as he clearly seems worse for the country and the world. Santorum holds fanatical views that would deny women elementary reproductive rights as well as maintain anti-gay discrimination to the extent possible. Both Romney and Santorum converge, along of course with Gingrich, on the desirability of launching an unprovoked military attack on Iran at an early date, and seem utterly unconcerned about the likely dire consequences of such a move. This naked endorsement of aggression, a major crime in international law, is made even in the face of up to date consensus intelligence reports from the CIA and other sources that uniformly agree that Iran abandoned its nuclear weapons program as long ago as 2003, and that no credible evidence exists that they have revoked this critical decision. Romney when president is more likely to exhibit the virtues of a hypocrite if we should be so unlucky that he makes it to the White House by changing his mind given a more dispassionate look at the evidence and the consequences. In contrast, Santorum would likely adhere to his fanatical outlook, and would be unwavering in his resolve to start such a war no matter how unrelated to American security and how dangerous in its likely effects. From such a perspective the hypocrite is to be preferred over the fanatic, at least in the setting of the American presidency.

 

            It is pathetic that the main opposition can offer no better alternative to Obama. Arguably, the country needs a third party alternative to the Democratic and Republican Parties, which are both captives of Wall Street and the Pentagon. But if not a third party, at least a second party that talks sufficient sense to enable an instructive debate during a presidential election campaign about the main challenges facing the country. Democracy is discredited if it cannot do better than this, and calls into question whether it is any longer entirely reasonable to call the United States ‘a democracy.’ Perhaps, more descriptive are labels such as ‘plutocracy,’  ‘pre-fascist,’ and ‘soft authoritarian.’ Democracy to retain credibility has to be about more than elections and a competition to get biggest contributions from the nation’s billionaires. If the world were to be enfranchised in American elections, there would be less to fear. There is more sense abroad that the challenge of climate change needs to be met, that a war against Iran would be an evil folly, and that a more equitable approach to global economic policy would benefit humanity. And arguably in a globalizing world where people are often deeply affected by the outcome of American national elections they should be entitled to participate in selecting its political leaders. If the United States acts as if it is a legitimate world state with interests and a military presence throughout the planet then the peoples of the world should have a say in how it acts. Perhaps, in the end the difference between ‘empire’ and ‘democracy’ is whether those affected participate and those in charge are accountable. From such perspectives, it seems more accurate to perceive the United States as an aspiring global empire.

 

            In the end as matters now stand we have little choice, if we believe in rational politics and minimal ethics, to affirm Obama. Such a conclusion seems firmly grounded even for those who are deeply disappointed by his performance in office during the last four years. From the outset of his presidency he signaled his readiness to work with and for the entrenched interests that produced militarism overseas and the financial meltdown at home. Even more discouraging, although he made early gestures about renouncing torture by the American military, was the refusal to allow the rule of law to be applied in relation to those officials responsible for authorizing torture during the Bush presidency and the various moves taken subsequently to abridge the liberties of Americans and to rely on a stringent code of secrecy so as to keep inconvenient truths from the American people. As well, the refusal to acknowledge failure of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan sets the stage for future disastrous military interventions and deprives the public of a proper understanding of the limits of military intervention as a means to prevent unwanted political outcomes in the 21st century. Also, Obama showed no willingness whatsoever to bring into the policy mix even such mainstream dissident voices among economists as Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz. Obama surrounded himself with only those advisors who were associated with the neo-liberal excesses during the Clinton and Bush presidencies that had brought on the worst crisis of global capitalism since the Great Depression. The unhappy effects of such leadership by Obama has been to demobilize the enthusiastic youth base that did so much to get him the nomination and the victory four years ago while doing nothing at all to lessen the anger of his militant opposition who are prepared to spend billions to make sure he does not win again.

 

            And yet despite all this, Obama remains the best that the United States and the world can hope for in November. Beyond mere success, we have to hope for a crushing victory both to give a second term Obama a strong Congressional mandate that may counter his reluctance to provide leadership on wedge issues and to induce the Republicans to go back to the drawing board and reinvent their oppositional worldview in a more constructive manner. With Obama as president, we can at least expect a measure of rationality in foreign policy, a degree of empathy in domestic policy, and some respect for knowledge and humanistic ethics as the foundation of public policy. Sorrowfully, this is the most that we can expect, and more than we are likely to receive, in a global setting that urgently requires far more. 

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20 Responses to “The Hypocrite, The Fanatic, or Obama?”

  1. Ray Joseph Cormier March 26, 2012 at 5:31 am #

    As a Canadian closely observing the US Presidential race, I have come to the basically the same assessment as you have Professor.

    It seems to me unfair that I cannot vote in an election that has major consequences and ramifications for CanaDa and the world with the American decision.

    If you haven’t seen it, you might enjoy the article ‘GENERAL/PRESIDENT DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER – The Last Real Commander-In-Chief’ One line from it reads:
    “Congress opens with a prayer every day of Business. Those prayers from the lips will do no good. Reading General/President Eisenhower’s speech everyday might produce better results for the People and their Representatives.”

    http://ray032.wordpress.com/2011/09/04/generalpresident-dwight-d-eisenhower-the-last-real-commander-in-chief/

    I was thrilled to see candidate Obama give his “world citizen” speech in Berlin. Considering myself a “world citizen long before Obama was a Senator. As only one individual among the 6,000,000,000 sharing this planet, I saw that speech as an affirmation of my long held vision and my Hope was restored that it was possible.

    President Obama says all the right words that the people should take to heart and act on them but don’t. The American people have to do the action since the President is a prisoner of the White House. The President Americans did not listen to the wise council of General/President Eisenhower when he left Office and the world is now at the place he warned about.

    Not shutting down Guantanamo was the 1st red flag warning to watch closely the difference between the words and actions of this Administration. You are probably not aware one of your earlier articles moved me to send this to the Nobel Committee:

    From: Ray Cormier
    To: postmaster@nobel.no; library@nobel.no
    Subject: Peace Prize/War Prize
    Date: Sat, 15 Oct 2011 22:35:33 +0000

    Honourable Members of the Nobel Committee,

    Considering the speeches candidate Obama gave before the Global Financial Meltdown-Economic Pearl Harbour-Tsunami of September 2008 under the watch of his predecessor, I was happy when your august Committee awarded the new President the Nobel Peace Prize.

    I supposed at that Time, you awarded it to him knowing the mess he inherited would leave him holding the bag, and at a great disadvantage with the American people to start with, and you hoped awarding him such a prestigious award at the outset of his Presidency might ameliorate the disadvantage of inheriting a failed economy and in those circumstances, help keep him focused on the Prize of Peace.

    I am positive I am not the only resident of earth to see the difference between the words of Candidate Obama and the inexperienced new President Obama you awarded the Peace Prize to, and his actions since then. Since being given the Prize, his actions on the world stage show he resorts to military action 1st and not as a last resort. He is showing by his actions to be undeserving of The Nobel Peace Prize.

    I may not be the 1st person to write to you about this, but I see justifiable reasons to recall the Peace Prize awarded to President Obama prematurely in wishful thinking. He is showing himself by his policies to be unworthy of it. If you can’t take it back, at least make a Public Statement saying in retrospect, The Committee made a hasty decision.

    What moved me Today to write to you was reading the latest article in the Blog of Professor Richard Falk, International Law Scholar titled
    ‘Missing the Point Twice: International Law as Empire’s Sunday Suit

    http://richardfalk.wordpress.com/2011/10/15/missing-the-point-twice-international-law-as-empire%e2%80%99s-sunday-suit/#comment-4783

    Peace
    Ray Joseph Cormier

    • kenyatta2009 March 26, 2012 at 8:59 am #

      Excellent article. Ray Joseph Cornier said everything I would have.

  2. Mark E. Smith (@fubarista) March 26, 2012 at 6:03 am #

    There is another option:

    http://fubarandgrill.org/node/1360

    Don’t allow the corrupt banks and corporations that rule the US to limit our choices.

    Boycott 2012!

  3. ksnoli March 26, 2012 at 8:56 am #

    It is disconcerting to think that democracy in the United States is being discrediting. However, how can one speak of the US as a democracy when there is no candidate to represent the rational and openminded?

    Once again, thank you for your words of wisdom even when they are unsettling…

  4. Kaitlyn Noli March 26, 2012 at 9:01 am #

    It is disconcerting to think that democracy in the US is being discredited. However, how can one speak of the US as a democracy when there is no candidate to represent the rational and openminded?

    Once again, thank you for your words of wisdom even when they are unsettling…

  5. monalisa March 27, 2012 at 12:35 am #

    Dear Richard,
    I, as a non-US-citizen and living in Austria/Europe got the impression, that after the Cold War-era ended in 1990 no real enemies were existing for USA (and Euope).

    The NY Times wrote about an whistleblower in the early 1992
    (http://www.nytimes.com/1992/02/17/world/pentagon-images-new-enemies-to-fight-in-post-cold-w…) saying that the Pentagon wants to maintain forces outside USA and therefore widen its influence.

    Looking at the website of the Pentagon’s kept fleets (as well as to the NATO website) seeing where and how many of the US marine is placed (as well as to the kept military personnel in more than 180 countries!!) one becomes terrified (not only me!).

    Looking at this I came to the conclusion that it will be fully irrelevant who will be elected as president of the USA. Anyone will follow the US agenda set and in action since 1992 (or even earlier!) according to the NY Times articles and most of all: tracing the movements of the US military “interventions” as well as those by the CIA point clearly to this set agenda.

    Additionally, there are no third or fourth parties in USA who could challenge both big parties. This would be very very much important in order to keep more democracy in the USA and to maintain somehow a controlling function. Also this would include more different mainstream media openly criticising politicans and therefore putting the other mainstream media supporting the big parties a little bit “out of place”.

    So, my conclusion is: it will make no difference at all from which US party the elected president will come. As long as such a big military and CIA body is kept and more and more enemies and more and more instability is brought to our world, as long the US citizen will see no real benefit. And US President Obama will make no real difference to the set US agenda. He didn’t do it the last years and didn’t keep most of his promises !!
    It is very easy to make promises. It is or could be extremely difficult – so my impression – not to bend down for the benefit of the military body and its affiliations.
    And if – for example – Ron Paul would be elected: if he wouldn’t bend down his life would be in great danger.

    PS: Three years from now we shall see ….. and can exchange our impressions and which developments we didn’t see clearly or neglected at all !
    I hope I am wrong ! But the last more than twenty years speak a clear language !

    Take care of yourself,
    monalisa

    • Richard Falk March 27, 2012 at 6:42 pm #

      I almost agree, dear Monalisa, but do insist there are small differences that could mean life or death: whether to attack Iran, to give the rich more tax breaks, to build extra weapons systems, to let gays marry and have a decent life, etc..

      But you remain my mentor, so I should not be too strong in expressing my American oriented views, although I am here for a few more days in Sao Paulo.

      warmly, Richard

  6. Ann Nevans March 27, 2012 at 4:00 am #

    A corporocracy is what we are and I no longer have any hope that President Obama is any more than a prettier face of the corporations that run our country. When the supreme court voted that a corporation is a person any hope for democracy was finished.

    Watching and listening to the republican candidates (which I no longer do) is like a ridiculous movie – it does not seem possible that such numbskulls could be hoping to represent a country – their idiocy is not even entertaining. Even scarier is to think that almost half the country listens to these people. How did the US become a nation of dummies ?

    The rest of the world looks on askance as though a child bully is running the world. The American right has a lot in common with the Taliban – they should get together.

    Yes, we need a third party – but where would they find the money ?

    We hope in vain that if Obama gets in again – as seems assured when looking at these alternatives – he will show some kind of backbone or progressive thinking – but why would Monsanto let him ?

    • Richard Falk March 27, 2012 at 6:39 pm #

      Dear Ann:

      I share your understanding of the American situation, but we need to acknowledge that there are some relevant reasons to think the Republicans might be worse than Obama: on prospect of war with iran, on judicial appointments, on tax policy, etc..

      And the American public is stupid enough to go for a Republican should there be some bad economic news between now and November. The polls even now put them rather close.

      We are looking forward to july/August in Turkey, and are writing from
      Brazil. Love to Christing, Hilal joins, Richard

  7. Jeremy R. Hammond March 28, 2012 at 3:58 am #

    Dear Prof. Falk,

    I with the utmost respect must emphatically disagree with you! I cannot imagine casting a vote for a second term for a president who should rather be facing impeachment, if not war crimes charges at the Hague. A man who has continued Bush’s policies. Who escalated the war in Afghanistan. Who escalated the drone strikes in Pakistan, in Yemen, in Somalia. Who violated the Constitution with his illegal war in Libya. Who claims for himself the authority to kidnap and imprison people indefinitely without charge, who rejects habeus corpus. Who claims the power to be able to assassinate American citizens, to order the military to capture and indefinitely detain Americans on US soil. To be honest, I am quite shocked to see you, who rightfully opposes all of these policies, advocating to willfully and intentionally put this man, this criminal, into office for another four years!

    It is one thing to argue against voting for Romney or Santorum (or Gingrich), and there is certainly no disagreement between us that any vote for any one of these men would be an act of insanity. But in my view, voting for Obama is no less so. So, what? Don’t vote? No! I don’t understand, particularly since you brought him up and spoke of how he is the only anti-war candidate, why you completely dismiss Ron Paul. I don’t think I need to make an argument to convince you that he is far and away the best candidate when it comes to foreign policy. I have to therefore presume that either you think Dr. Paul’s policies on domestic issues would be so horrifying that you would vote for a man you know has no respect for the Constitution or international law, or you think Dr. Paul is the better man but would still vote for Obama because you agree with the logic that says voting for the non-establishment candidate is “throwing away your vote”.

    If the former, I would like to hear your reasons, and would respond first by asking whether it wouldn’t be wise to vote for the one person who predicted the housing bubble and was warning against the policies that created it for nearly a decade before it burst, precipitating the 2008 financial crisis? Who rejects the authoritarian powers Bush and Obama have claimed for themselves? Who opposes illegal wars and empire? Who would rather trade with than drop bombs on others? Etc.?

    If the latter, I say that voting for either pro-establishment candidate is throwing away your vote. What change can ever be hoped to achieve if we never cast a vote for anyone but one of the two chosen to represent establishment interests? Does this kind of voting strategy not meet the definition of insanity, as Albert Einstein defined it: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?

    I look forward to your further thoughts on this.

    With respect and admiration,

    Jeremy

    • Richard Falk March 28, 2012 at 8:51 am #

      Dear Jeremy:

      I am here in Brazil on my last day of a visit, and not able to provide a thoughtful response to your most challenging comment. Of course, I am aware of the dilemma posed, and have so far felt that it is still important to avoid the worse of all electoral outcomes for the reasons I indicated, especially avoiding new wars in the Middle East. Also, I think there is a genuine possibility if Obama loses all progressive support or the economy dips between now and November a Republican could be elected. I respect your assessment, and will give the issue further thought, and agree that the liberal disposition to support the system has been dysfunctional, raising risks of both implosion and a slide toward a new form of corporate fascism. Let me think further..Richard

      • Jeremy R. Hammond March 28, 2012 at 9:43 pm #

        Certainly! Thanks for the reply. A few more thoughts: It comes down to voting strategy, and basically I just reject the view that we should vote for the lesser of two evils to prevent the greater evil from gaining power. This strategy merely perpetuates the established order. Bush, Obama, Republican, Democrat… What’s the difference? Worse, inasmuch as elections are viewed as a referendum, a vote for Obama would be interpreted by the administration and the establishment as an approval of the first four years (whether or not that is true). It’s a recipe for even more unrestrained abuses in the next four years. I would argue that we should vote our conscience, and instead of voting against the candidate we least like vote for the candidate we most like. The only reason third-party candidates (or in this case Ron Paul running as a Republican, although on a very different and anti-establishment platform) are “unelectable” is because almost everyone chooses this “lesser of evils” strategy! This kind of thinking makes that judgment self-fulfilling. A paradigm shift is required. I refuse to accept that I must choose between Tweedle Dee or Tweedle Dum! I will not! I voted for Ron Paul in ’08, last month in the MI primary, and will do so in November’s election.

        And if the anti-establishment candidate does not win? I don’t think that should be seen as a loss any more than getting Obama reelected should be seen as a win. The more votes an anti-establishment candidate can garner, the stronger the message sent to Washington. Ron Paul has already achieved major victories, nearly single-handedly changing the nature of the debate in the country on several issues, such as the role of the Federal Reserve, which in my view is the single most important issue, because it is the Federal Reserve system that facilitates these endless wars in the first place. We need a return to sound money, which would not only enable economic recovery and an end to the “business cycle” of booms and busts, but would but a check on government’s ability to pay for wars by running the printing presses and inflicting the inflation tax on the public.

  8. rehmat1 March 28, 2012 at 6:49 am #

    Ray Joseph Cornier – you should know by now that the election of Thomas Mulcair as the new leader of Canada’s third largest party, the New Democratic Party (NDP), and leader of the Official Opposition in Canada – has completed, like the nextdoor neighbor United States, the Israelization of country’s political process. Canada’s three major political parties; the Progressive Conservative Party, lead by Israel-Firster Zionist prime minister Stephen Joseph Harper (with Jewish family roots); the interim leader of the Liberal Party, lead by Robert Keith Rae (a former leader of NDP with Jewish family roots) is on the board of Jewish National Fund, a criminally racist organization, even Israel wants to stay at a distance from it.

    http://rehmat1.wordpress.com/2012/03/27/israelization-of-canadian-political-process/

    • Ray Joseph Cormier March 28, 2012 at 7:21 am #

      Rehmat, as you said Harper is an Israeli Firster,

      There can be no doubt Netanyahu came to Harper seeking Canadian endorsement for Israel to start WWIII/Armageddon with a 1st strike on Iran.

      I was relieved and pleased to see Harper state unequivocally CanaDa’s position is for the conflict to be resolved peacefully through the Diplomatic process no matter how bumpy the road or how long it takes. At least that’s what I heard listening to the statement live after Harper’s meeting with Netyanahu. I am relieved reason has prevailed!

      Mulcair is practical and pragmatic. No matter what others say about him, I listened to him several times on the Ottawa CFRA Michael Harris
      talk show. He impressed me with his logical intelligence and sharp, disciplined, focused mind. I had to admire that! I have sent a message to his Office already. You know my views on the middle East situation.

  9. Hobson doesn't care March 28, 2012 at 11:59 am #

    By accepting a forced choice between strictly-controlled parastatal parties, you’re playing into the hands of the aggressors. This election has nothing to do with choice, as it fails to meet the democratic standards of CCPR Article 25(b), which requires the FREE expression of the will of the electors. The state will use your vote, whatever it is, to justify rights derogations and breaches of jus cogens. By playing by statist rules, you give your consent-of-the-governed seal of approval to state crimes. At home it will be, Shut up, it’s settled, we voted for this! Abroad it will be, We are a democracy so everything we do is just. So for a 1 in 50 million chance of making a nugatory difference, you are lending legitimacy to a criminal state. And you think rationality compels assent to voting for a hostis humani generis who happens to be a Dem? That’s the logic of learned helplessness.

  10. monalisa March 29, 2012 at 12:36 am #

    Dear Richard,

    thank you for your kind words.

    In my opinion nowadays – even in Europe – the personality should be taken into consideration.

    In the case of USA I don’t think that both big parties have a big difference in their “actions”. And as long as the governments are creating war desasters the burden of taxes will be put on the back of the citizen. That’s for sure !
    And speaking of gays: they represent usually about 2 % of a population. And I think that the gay-problem in the USA is also borne in a big way by some religious groups without knowing the fact – or not wanting to see it – that even nature has some kinds of such things.

    I think that the vote should go to the person who shows a strong will and speaks against the “party rule” of his own party.

    However, I see the great dilemma US citizen are in.

    Hopefully nothing will go more worse in the future …

    Take care of yourself,
    monalisa

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