Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Is the Obama presidency crumbling?

People are furious,” said a senior intelligence official who would not be identified discussing classified information. “This is officially the White House cutting off the intelligence community.
Cited by Ken Dilanian and Janet Stobart in the Los Angeles Times.

“Crumbling”? That may seem a harsh judgment, even phrased as a question. But the signs of disarray and poor crisis management are mutliplying. Given that Obama’s tenure still has at least two more years to run even before the next round of electoral distraction, premature lame-duckism is not a favorable prospect for our well-being.

But Obama is reaping the deserved fruits of his own bad habits, so it’s hard to work up much sympathy for his travails despite the revolting behavior of his sworn enemies (whom he seems determined to keep courting). For starters, the entire NSA scandal, now mutating and ballooning on an hourly basis, springs from Obama’s own coddling of the spy/war-making apparatus. He provided cover for their Bush-era crimes (by failing to prosecute torture among other things), continues to tolerate the inexcusable Guantánamo nightmare, and acceded to the pointless prolongation of the Afghan war demanded by his generals (who loathe him) despite its futility, no doubt to preserve his tough-guy stance and his chances for a second term. And of course he has been a vigorous defender of the electronic snoopery and major hater of Mr. Snowden for exposing its creepy, Orwellian behavior—until now.

Meanwhile, it’s lovely to see the NSA leakers (leaks! lawbreaking! treason!) try to undermine the White House’s claims that Obama did not know about Angela Merkel’s phone being tapped. At long last, Obama has a problem he can’t lawyer his way out of given that he either (1) did know all along and is lying; (2) really did not know and is thus a piss-poor manager; or (3) kinda-sorta knew but kept himself at arm’s length of the gory details in time-honored Washington style. Or he could simply spit out the more likely story and admit that (4) no one in elected office, including himself, can rein in the spy agencies or even ask what they’re up to any more because they’ve got dirt on everyone or can easily generate some.

Another aspect of the fracturing of Obama’s leadership is his peculiar tolerance for endless buckets of right-wing abuse full of barely concealed racial overtones combined with his furious retaliation against populist or left-wing critics or, heaven forbid, whistle-blowers, whom he loves to prosecute for espionage. Anyone who might have alerted him to embarrassing facts about the wiretaps on foreign leaders surely got the message long ago that the prez did not want to hear them, would not defend anyone who blurted them out, and was content with his role of manager-in-chief of the security state, including turning a blind eye to the boys as they ran wild with drones, electronic bugs, and forklift pallets of $100 bills.

There have been tons of people trying to warn Obama about the dangers, both political and moral, of excessive snooping, slaughter-by-drone, the ongoing cruelty of Guantánamo, the crumbling of the rule of law, and in an entirely different realm, the runaway powers of the finance sector. But he would hear none of that. Now he’s on his own defending all those bad habits, and his only allies are the security state itself, a large part of which hates his guts.

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