Monday, 6 May 2013

The gentle czar

This week we heard that Obama thinks the Guantánamo dungeons ‘need to be closed’ as if he had nothing to do with their remaining open.

This is classic Obama, and it seems to be working wonderfully, both for him and for the government’s continued mission creep into a blatantly authoritarian state. The pattern goes like this: Obama represents some worthy goal, attracts massive popular support for pursuing it, then is oddly incompetent at pushing the agenda forward until he is finally stymied by teabagger/howling nutjob intransigence.

We’ve seen the pattern repeatedly in the health insurance reform, financial regulation, and a dozen other issues. This week it was Guantánamo and the continued languishing in the animal cages of men not only enver charged with a crime but, in many cases, cleared for release as ‘not dangerous’. (I guess actually saying ‘not guilty of anything’ would be too much to ask.)

If you ask most liberals or Obama voters, they’ll blame the Republicans for this state of affairs. At their most critical, they’ll admit that Obama is either weak, a poor strategist or naïve.

By contrast, I think Obama is extremely smart, sophisticated and not shy at all when he wants to go after something or someone. The apparent buckling to the Lindsey Grahams on all sorts of issues like the Cuban tiger cages isn’t the result of a foolish misreading of the political possibilities but a perfectly accurate one.

While it’s possible Obama has a deathly fear of offending conservatives, a simpler explanation is that he just does not want to do anything that they are determined to resist. By allowing them to rant, rave and mobilize their supporters, he gets to look reasonable while bowing to their wishes.

What if this pattern were not a bug of his governing approach but a feature? What if Obama is not just proposing to start slashing away at Social Security because he wants to win progressive concessions from the right wing but because he wants to slash away at Social Security?

It’s not as if Obama is hesitant when, for example, he wishes to pursue drone warfare in secret, persecute whistleblowers with espionage indictments or provide cover for his banker friends like Jamie Dimon. Assured of silent acquiescence or encouragement from the Neanderthals, Obama goes ahead with elan.

I think we can pretty much guarantee that approval for the planet-destroying Keystone Pipeline will be forthcoming from the Obama White House, along with a ‘compromise’ deal to encourage further fracking for natural gas.

So is it better that O is president and not Mitt Romney? Probably, given that all these disasters would be happening anyway without even the promise of tiny victories like the end of discrimination against gays in the military.

But we pay a price for having this faker in charge: we think things aren’t so bad because the head guy is not completely, manifestly insane. That’s superficially true, but the crazies are calling the shots nonetheless.

1 comment:

Jay said...

Actually, Obama ordered the shutdown of the Guantanamo prison on 22 Jan 2009, two days into his first term of office. It didn't help, but he did give the executive order.