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Friday, June 06, 2008

Obama wins, panders to AIPAC

I've promised to support the Democratic candidate, so whatever criticism I direct towards Obama is not designed to weaken his bid for the Presidency. Instead, I hope to point out some of Obama's mistakes in the hope he might avoid them in the future. Also, Republicans are sure to capitalize on schisms in Obama's positions, so the sooner they are brought to the fore, the better thay can be managed and confronted.

Another reaon not to fear my criticism--I can hardly believe what I say here will actually change the outcome of any race. I consider that self-importance part of the mainstream media's vanity, and a prescription for dumbing down--something this blog was created to avoid and confront.

Now as for those who might criticize my criticism, and perhaps call me racist for opposing Obama, I can only say that I will put what I feel is the truth first, just as I did when I said that Obama cannot win the General Election. Now for the sake of supporting my candidate, I'm willing to keep most of my fears at bay. I am not, however, willing to succumb utterly to the cult of personality which Obama seems to generate. That would be tantamount to accepting the undisputed authority of a Great Leader, a common and dangerous practice among Bush supporters who reject all criticism and equate dissent with anti-Americanism.

The strength of Obama's following resembles a form of mass hysteria with all the risks of a cult of personality--death before disloyalty, perfection of the cult leader, and unconditional acceptance of the message. The strength of his popularity feeds a belief in Obama's imperfection and a corresponding overconfidence in victory. Like any candidate, Obama is flawed. Let's not presuppose that ignoring his flaws, or embracing the total certainty of his victory--as Bush would have us believe in this War on Terror--will make Obama any more likely to win.

Obama will have some work ahead convincing Hillary supporters that they should support him. Already, Obama has given a great deal of credit to Clinton and her achievements. Perhaps showing their inexperience, many in the Obama crowd seem to bear some anger towards Clinton, and are prone if not to boo at the mention of Hillary at least grimace when Hillary's name is brought up. This is not reconciliation, but the opposite. More must be given by the victorious to the vanquished, unless Obama supporters don't think they'll need all the help they can get in the fall. Leading the party requires reconciliation--bearing grudges will do neither Hillary fans much good, and could well destroy Obama's chances.

Quick some were to label Hillary divisive for not conceeding at the end of the last primaries on Tuesday. So too has Hillary's sluggishness to acknowledge Obama's victory been met with anger from Obama fans. Yes, the inner core of Obama fanatics has worked hard to win, are entitled to the glory of a victory and the satifaction of bestowing some humility on the loser. Like some video game, it's not enough for many in the Y generation to simply win, they derive far greater pleasure from destroying the opposition, then--to quote a Conan movie, "to have your enemy driven before you and hear the lamentations of their women...".

Young and greatly enthused by their candidate, many in the Obama crowd are overzealous and overly combative--hallmarks of those with limited experience in politics. As good as it might feel, disrespecting Hillary for being too slow to admit defeat can only do damage.

Hillary was never the enemy. She in many ways stands for the same things as Obama. She was however, perceived as part of the establishment. "Clintonism is dead" I've heard said. See more on an end to the Clinton dynasty below, in an article from Rob Kall of Op-Ed News.

Politics is more than victory, pleasurable though that may be, amplified as it is. Politics is more an exercise of discretion. Those with political power need wield it carefully as all political power is transient and fickle and subject to forces both far-flung and hard to anticipate. What succeeds in the political arena now may not in the future, if the winds by chance blow from another direction.

Right now, political momentum is in Obama's favor. Yet it is a primary no longer, and anti-Obama political forces are massing. Hopefully, sour feelings among Hillary supporters might not generate enthusiasm for Obama's competition, or alienate Clinton supporters.

Criticizing Critics

During the primary, criticizing Obama has led to accusations of racism. Criticizing Hillary, on the other hand, was not seen as anti-woman. I've always said the reason I supported Hillary was not out of dislike for Obama--or admiration for Hillary--but rather the very practical position that many swing states wouldn't vote for a black man. And they didn't, at least in the Democratic primary, which leads to the troubling conclusion that the Democratic candidate is less likely to win, if the traditional swing states of Ohio and Florida, among others, will determine who wins come November.

Yet there is a window of opportunity: the all 50 states approach. This idea involves engaging all Americans, everywhere, in a dialogue of inclusion. Under this philosophy, we are not from Red states, or Blue ones, but rather share universal values as Americans.

As someone with progressive values stuck in a very Red state, I'm not so convinced we are all equally receptive to good ideas, or not so unprejudiced as to value one person's opinion equally regardless of skin color, gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. While Americans have the capacity to overcome our differences, it seems to me our differences are deeply ingrained. Now in the ivory towers on the coasts, people might seem to be coming together under Obama and that contagion may seem to be sweeping the more conservative heartland. Let's hope this feel-good attitude is based in reality, and can overcome racism and resistance to Obama, which may or may not be related to the candidate's race.

While it may seem that black and white, brown and yellow, can dwell under the same roof and practice similar beliefs, the fact is America is divided. We are split mostly by income, but also by identity politics. This latter term describes a process which attempts to make one candidate more appealing based not on specific positions, but rather by how receptive voters are to the image they project. A marketing approach for politics, identity poltics capitalize on differences not between candidates, but between voters. Negative perceptions rule in identity politics; it's not just how much the candidate is like the voter, but how much the other candidate isn't.

John Kerry should have provided a good example of how image and perception shape a politicians' electability. A real veteran, not one serving an aborted deployment in the Texas Air National Guard, was swift-boated into a pansy, while Bush's dubious service records fell on deaf ears in the media. Kerry's flip-flopping on the Iraq War vote painted him as indecisive--apparently a far worse crime in the opinion of a majority of the electorate--apparently--then making a horrible decision to invade Iraq, a choice which should have clearly disqualified Bush entirely, had the media not strained so hard to hide his downside.

Rovian politics epitomize this discordant approach. They were quite successful in framing George Bush, a prep school, upper crust New England liberal as a cowboy president whom NASCAR dads could look up to and soccer moms could trust. Image was everything and perception the key. Will Americans now embrace an Obama? They might, we do not know. Americans have grown tired of identity politics, and want change. Obama claims to represent a new America, but we still don't know what he can achieve, other than change itself, until he wins the Election.

An Obama weak spot

Like Obama critics being called racist by overzealous supporters, critics of Israel are always quick to be labelled anti-Semites by defenders of Zionism. Zionism is a militaristic approach which puts Arabs on the receiving end of territorial expansionism and apartheid imposed by the state of Israel over Palestine. The philosophy dominates American foreign policy in the Mideast.

Unfortunately, when it comes to Israel, all American politicians pander to the Zionist philosophy, embodied by AIPAC--the American-Israeli Political Action Committee. In an exemption granted by Congress, AIPAC is the only foreign lobbying organization whose lobbyists aren't required to identify themselves as agents of a foreign government.

So innundated with Zionist influence is our political system that no alternative to a continuance of the status quo in regard to America's unconditional support for Zionism is offered among our choice of candidates. Nor is any meaningful debate tolerated in regard to our policy towards Israel. Not surprisingly, Israel behaves however it wants--colonizing the West Bank and "protecting" itself--including cutting off medical supplies to Gaza and bombing civilians (a 4-year old and her mother were killed by an Israeli "Defense Forces" air strike there yesterday).

It should be noted that many Jews oppose Zionism. The mainstream press however, is dominated by the Zionist Power Configuration, which controls Israel's image and how she is perceived by Americans. Ultimately, support for Israel has been equated with support for Jews, an insidious achievement which testifies to the strength of the Zionist movement and Right wing Israelis in shaping perceptions around the enormity of the Arab threat, and the need to take preemptive action--an approach mirrored in our War on Terror.

Obama's very first speech was to AIPAC. So great is AIPAC's stranglehold on American politics, that virtually all politicians feel pressured to comply with AIPAC's wants. Those that don't are labelled anti-Semites, and AIPAC money and influence is used to isolate and selectively purge those who don't submit to Israeli control over US foreign policies, which should be built around American interests, not foreign ones--no matter how important the foreign state is, or how closely aligned they are said to be with us.

Obama's forte is not foreign policy. Still, considering the status of our foreign policy under the current regime, committing to getting out of Iraq qualifies Obama as a more skilled statesman with better leadership abilities. About other issues, Obama has indicated that he would delegate some of the responsibilities of the President to underlings. Yet the formulation of foreign policies is a task over which he cannot afford to lose control, as foreign policy is too important.

Obama's foreign policy team will devise his foreign policy. Reading the AIPAC speech, it's clear that whoever wrote it is Zionist. The message appeases and appeals to militaristic principles. Arabs are labelled as the aggressors in every confrontation--Israeli use of force is never unnecessary, no matter what the consequences or effectiveness.

This philosophy of Zionism advocates the use of military force against any hostile regime. Obama bends backwards to announce his willingness to do anything--anything--to protect Israel. While not a surprise coming from an Presidential candidate hungry for funds, the boot-licking does grow tiresome. Politicians need to exercise some restraint, announce that we will support Israel, but not service AIPAC's every need. American foreign policy must serve American interests--troubling it is that every politician must grovel at AIPAC's feet in order to be vetted as a suitable candidate by a mainstream media thoroughly dominated by Zionists and their interests.

In the speech, Obama shows his inexperience. Hamas is to be excluded from any election, because of their open willingness to confront Israeli military aggression with counterattacks. Neither Obama nor Israel can or should be able to ban Hamas from an election--only the Palestinians can and should choose to reject violence, not be prevented from defending themselves from Israeli aggression. In its striving to please the Israel lobby, America has abandoned any semblance of neutrality in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in favor of blanket acceptance of any Israeli action no matter how grievous to the Palestinian side, or counterproductive for any Palestinian government that espouses non-violence.

In Lebanon, Hezbollah is treated as a terrorist organization for launching missiles into Israel proper in the August 2006, month-long war. Obama said that Iran's al-Quds force was rightfully labelled a terrorist group, which would deny Iran a right to defend itself, or preserve the rule of international treaty in the waging of war against Iran, either by us or our proxy Israel. (Or is Israel the tail that wags the dog--with us being her proxy, fighting her war for her?)

In short, violence and aggression begets violence and aggression--just how much can one people take without resorting to the collective instinct to strike back? The Israeli threshold for tolerating incursions and rocket attacks is well known, can we blame the Palestinians for not exercising the same right of self-defense? Violence by Palestinians triggers a cycle that the Israeli Right justifies to perpetuate more preemptive aggression and territorial control. Violence by Palestinians is labelled terror, while violence inflicted by Israelis called justified force, no matter what the terror it causes.

Zionist influence manifests itself in anti-Iranian sentiments now dominating the mainstream media narrative. Obama said "the Iranian regime is the author of its own isolation" and he believes "stronger sanctions in the Security Council" that will "strengthen our hand with Russia and China."

"...We should work with Europe, Japan and the Gulf states to find every avenue outside the UN to isolate the Iranian regime," Obama claims, as if the world can't wait to punish of a Muslim state which had the gall to develop nuclear power--which is its right as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which Israel--with its 150 nuclear weapons--has refused to sign. So innundated with the influence of Zionism is our foreign policy that we assume other nations must not only see Iran as the threat we do, but also comply Amero-Israeli efforts to sanction the Persian state.

Russia and China do business with Iran. Are we supposed to believe they'll abandon billions in trade and massive energy investments because we say the Iranians are bad? Obama seems prone to inherit Bush naivete on international matters, despite his obviously greater intellect. This immaturity in the foreign policy arena makes it clear that people other than Obama are already likely wielding far too much authority in formulating his foreign policy.

Obama need not design all his foreign policy positions himself. But if foreign policy goals aren't well-designed and implementable, or bent purely around the interests of another country to the exclusion of others in the region, they are destined to fail. The US doesn't need more failures at this point. Our international influence is in fact waning, and our leaders would be wise to rebuild it, not simply push more anti-Muslim propaganda for the benefit of Israel. Israel's interests are but one consideration in a multi-faceted web of global policy issues. Can US interest in the Mideast best be served by making our "shoulder-to-shoulder" support of Israel the cornerstone of our dealings with all the people in that region?

The AIPAC speech showed that pleasing the the Zionist Power Configuration is the primary goal of Obama's foreign policy. This may be based on Obama's fund raising--apparently 40% of all giving to Democrats comes from Jews, with a large portion of that coming from people who support the Zionist cause.

By talking up sanctions, and thereby reducing the preventative role played by diplomacy in averting conflict, Obama has flip-flopped on Iran. He's caved into the practice of brinkmanship made popular by the President he hopes to replace. John McCain criticized his willingness to negotiate with Iran. In a pattern with echoes of the Reverend Wright controversy, Obama began by responding with a clever, reasonable, articulate defense of his position that negotiating with our enemies was vitally important.

Then, when challenged further, Obama changes his position, rejecting his previous position. While a few months ago, Obama had been content to explain that negotiation is a sign of strength, he's gradually toned down his support for diplomacy. In his most recent AIPAC speech, he says talk isn't just for talk's sake. I'm left wondering if, given more pressure amplified by the media, he might talk himself into abandoning any negotiations at all.

Obama's eventual departure (a "resignation of membership" as it was referred to) from Trinity church made his careful deconstruction of Wright's positions seem unnecessary. Like a novice politician, Obama first distanced himself, then later realized he hadn't made the separation clear enough to the dumbed down element of the audience. A nice, calm, logical refutation of Wright, which seemed so wise and reassuring, was abandoned.

Perhaps, in a shift toward more astute managing of public perception, Obama seeks an appeal to the voter's lower nature, recognizing their intolerance for discretion and nuance in an age of mindless media consumption and meaningless sound bytes. If this is necessary to win, then perhaps he must do it. But this would hardly be the change around which he's built his campaign message. As his AIPAC speech showed, avoiding risks and building political support is just what any politician would do in order to win, even if the result is no change of policy.

Perhaps the Obama could have done better sticking to his guns--or perhaps not. He'd defended himself without defending Wright. He'd made the racist perspective part of a legitimate black liberation theology. Without rejecting blackness, Obama rejected racism. But this delicate message was hurt by Wright's stubborn unwillingness to just back off, plus a later scandal with a white preacher which further threatened Obama.

Obama's 2007 speech contained some feel-good stuff for the Zionist crowd, but he'd apparently been booed at some points for not offering enough. Along with a pledge for $30 billion for Israel, Obama's 2008 speech shows that he's learned how to milk the Zionist cow, which is a major force shaping the media and political environment in America.

Other Notes

Rob Kall of OpEdNews.com interviewed several influential media personalities concerning the shift to the left that he thought Obama's nomination might bring to the Democrats. To Rob, the Clintons personify the Washington, D.C. power interest, epitomized by the DLC, Democratic Leadership Committee.

Kall poses to his interviewees the question of whether or not Clinton's defeat brought an end to the dominance of a more conservative Democratic Party. While Kall's report stretches over seven pages, it contains numerous jewels. What kind of changes should we expect, with Obama assuming his position as the new leader of the Democratic Party?

The party's future may be shaped more by what Obama is not more than what he stands for. He is not the insider, nor is he adverse to new ideas and approaches. In theory, Obama's leadership will mean changes in the way government operates at the federal level.

Obama will need to unify Democrats, which means bring Hillary supporters back into the fold. Some of the lingering resentment that now Hillary faces came from her take-no-prisoners approach. Anyone who was not with them, was against them. This political philosophy is shared by Washington's other quintessential insiders, the Bushes. Loyalty is praised above all else, and the viewpoints and opinions of outsiders are ritually ignored.

Here Kall quotes Consortium news' Robert Parry:
"If Clinton wins, the first period of time will be spent getting rid of anyone who showed them disloyalty. They'll put their loyalists in everywhere. That's how they work. That's how they think. And that's why they called Bill Richardson the "Judas" on Good Friday. It was typical of them. That's how they are. Richardson was not "made" by them.link.

Obama camp does maintain a degree of exclusivity, but only in a much more bottom-up way that accomodates grass roots activism. The semi-fanaticism shared by Obama supporters acted to (and still acts) casts out non-believers, but participation is open, which was and will be vital in motivating younger voters who will be key.

Parry talks about all the money and the role in plays in Washington politics. Whether or not Obama is an outsider to that system, he clearly understands the importance of fund-raising. His campaign raised most of its money via the Internet, a sum of over $200 million contrasting with Hillary's constant money issues.

Now on to the strategy changes like the 50 state approach that I mention above. Kall quotes Katrina Vanden Heuvel:
You have in Howard Dean someone who, whose campaign in 2004 was a striking repudiation of Clintonian centrism. It urged Democrats to end the war and it talked about a bottom up kind of campaign, using the internet, and organizing, and I think Obama is sort of Dean 3.0, fusing online and offline in ways Dean never had a chance to do and I think what Dean has done with the Democratic party, in terms of his 50 state strategy, is very much in line with what Obama has been doing and talking about, which is, not seeing the country as red and blue, but trying to organize in every state and bringing people into that organization so it's not just about suites but also about the streets.
That 50 state strategy is the hallmark of Howard Dean's time as the DNC Chair. And it's come under fire. It's come under fire from people from people who think that the role is to fight it out just in the battleground state or certain states and not try to engage people across this country.link

That would be me, I guess. I don't know if the Obama campaign can change historical precedent. If his popularity does catch, the chance of victory will be greater in the less Red states like Virginia and Colorado. While I've said that Obama might win Ohio, Hillary was a better candidate there, in a state that no Democratic President has ever lost.

Obama's popularity could rewrite those assumptions; I'm hoping it will. Even if he's less likely to win Ohio than Hillary, he could still win the state, particulary if the contagion effect amplifies his message and popularity in traditionally Republican areas, places who've recently shown a willingess to vote Democratic.



  • At 9:01 PM, Blogger jbpeebles said…

    Just how different is Obama from McCain in his support of Israel, and willingness to confront Iran militarily, to "eliminate the threat" posed by Iran? Obama has shifted away from diplomacy, and toward tougher sanctions.

    Therealnews.com has several video reports on Obama's AIPAC's speech. The 2nd report, by Aijaz Ahmad, focuses on key changes in Obama's positions on issues relevant to the Israel lobby.

    Ahmad points out differences between Obama before and after his nomination, and his choice of words. Obama repeated Bush's threat leaving military action "on the table."

    Obama's speech at AIPAC goes a few steps farther than McCain's, Ahmad explains. Obama appears willing to expand on sanctions proposed by McCain.

    Obama's positions might be transient. Like all politicians, his views are subject to short-run political objectives--in this case appealing to AIPAC and the Israeli Lobby. Let's hope Obama isn't interested in moving to the right of McCain.

    Part One is here.

    There are a few more video reports there at therealnews.com about the AIPAC conference. One is an interview of Bernard Avishai; another by Pepe Escobar reviews Obama's positions, including his misstep on calling Jerusalem the undisputed capital of Israel.


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