To recap: we are going to war with no clear exit plan; we are doing so before the regional allies have been forced to take a stand; Obama is shouldering all of the responsibility himself, based on a hysterical public mood that could evaporate in a month’s time. To argue that this is a reneging of everything Obama ran on is an understatement. Even Bush went to Congress for a vote before the Iraq War. And the legitimization of panic and fear and hysteria undoes so much of what Obama had previously achieved in amending US foreign policy. The Nightmare Scenario ☀
The New York Times Book Review asked me what book I most wanted Barack Obama to read. My answer was the Book of Job. Because he really needs to understand that life does not always respond to reason, and that there are implacable foes who are not susceptible to thoughtful ratiocination. Every time he compromises with them, he moves the center to the right. Rick Perlstein ☀
Rick Perlstein: By the Book ☀
- NYT: If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?
- Rick Perlstein: The Book of Job, maybe. It’s the best story I know at driving home the fact that the world just isn’t always a reasonable place. Not grasping that, I think, is Barack Obama’s tragic flaw: He still seems to stubbornly believe that if he just explains clearly and calmly enough to his friends across the aisle why his ideas will bring the greatest good to the greatest number, there’ll finally be no more Red America and no more Blue America. But my 18 years studying conservatism has convinced me the right just doesn’t work that way — they’re fighting for civilization stakes, and he’s a liberal, so, Q.E.D., he’s the enemy. His longing to compromise with them just ends up driving the political center in America further to the right.
In 2008, as an Arab American and person of color, I voted for Barack Obama. I didn’t vote for him because he was a Democrat. I didn’t vote for him because he was a community organizer. I didn’t vote for him because he was young, or educated, or magnetic. I voted for him for one reason and one reason only. I voted for Barack Obama because he’s black. Where is my black president? ☀
Obama has limited patience for the idea that he should act like he’s doing his job rather than just do his job. A Democratic political consultant once told me that the problem with President Obama is that he doesn’t care to “get caught trying.” That is to say, he doesn’t put on a show of trying to get things done when he doesn’t think the show will help get the thing done. My favorite thing about President Obama ☀
…the thing is he [Obama] posed as a progressive and turned out to be counterfeit. We ended up with a Wall Street presidency, a drone presidency, a national security presidency. The torturers go free. The Wall Street executives go free. The war crimes in the Middle East, especially now in Gaza, the war criminals go free. And yet, you know, he acted as if he was both a progressive and as if he was concerned about the issues of serious injustice and inequality and it turned out that he’s just another neoliberal centrist with a smile and with a nice rhetorical flair. And that’s a very sad moment in the history of the nation because we are—we’re an empire in decline. Our culture is in increasing decay. Our school systems are in deep trouble. Our political system is dysfunctional. Our leaders are more and more bought off with legalized bribery and normalized corruption in Congress and too much of our civil life. You would think that we needed somebody—a Lincoln-like figure who could revive some democratic spirit and democratic possibility. Cornel West ☀
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