Friday, July 25, 2008

Two From Obama

Let's look at two rhetorical products of Barack Obama, his initial response to 9/11 and his speech given yesterday, "A World That Stands As One." Like everything Barack says until he flip-flops for political expedience, these two effusions are leftist cliche.

The 9/11 response was revealed in a long piece on Obama in the New Yorker -- the one that goes with the satirical cover in which Obama failed to see the humor. Here it is in full:

Even as I hope for some measure of peace and comfort to the bereaved families, I must also hope that we as a nation draw some measure of wisdom from this tragedy. Certain immediate lessons are clear, and we must act upon those lessons decisively. We need to step up security at our airports. We must reexamine the effectiveness of our intelligence networks. And we must be resolute in identifying the perpetrators of these heinous acts and dismantling their organizations of destruction.

We must also engage, however, in the more difficult task of understanding the sources of such madness. The essence of this tragedy, it seems to me, derives from a fundamental absence of empathy on the part of the attackers: an inability to imagine, or connect with, the humanity and suffering of others. Such a failure of empathy, such numbness to the pain of a child or the desperation of a parent, is not innate; nor, history tells us, is it unique to a particular culture, religion, or ethnicity. It may find expression in a particular brand of violence, and may be channeled by particular demagogues or fanatics. Most often, though, it grows out of a climate of poverty and ignorance, helplessness and despair.

We will have to make sure, despite our rage, that any U.S. military action takes into account the lives of innocent civilians abroad. We will have to be unwavering in opposing bigotry or discrimination directed against neighbors and friends of Middle Eastern descent. Finally, we will have to devote far more attention to the monumental task of raising the hopes and prospects of embittered children across the globe—children not just in the Middle East, but also in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe and within our own shores.

This response is the worst possible one that any serious person could have at that time. Every point he makes is wrong, and more, it is deeply stupid. No one but the postmodernist philosopher Jacques Derrida could more misunderstand 9/11 than Barack Obama.

First, to make a minor point that illustrates my major point, 9/11 was not a tragedy. You can call cancer, car accidents and earthquakes tragedies, but a terrorist plot that kills thousands is an atrocity. To call it a tragedy takes focus off of the injustice and puts it on the suffering; it gives the terrorists a break, just as the rest of Obama's statement does. And of course the focus on suffering fits the altruist view of a world in which all must sacrifice to all and self-reliance is a myth.

The killers of 9/11 did not lack empathy for their victims. After all, they killed themselves too, and surely they empathize with their own selves. They were driven by an ideology, Islamism. They want to destroy the non-Islamic world and replace it with a global caliphate and Sharia law. They are at war with us.

Obama bends over backward to make excuses for the killers, but has stern words for the victims (America). Despite our "rage," we must not respond with all-out war, but with multiculturalist understanding of the other and welfare state handouts for the poor around the world. Our enemies could hardly expect a better response from an American politician: not only does he advocate appeasement, but maybe they can get some of the hand-out money Obama wants to throw at the world. Stupid Americans! Not only do they long to be wiped out, but they will pay their killers to do it!

****

John F. Kennedy went to Berlin when it was a divided city at the height of the Cold War to give a speech in which he said "Ich bin ein Berliner." Ronald Reagan went to Berlin when it was still a divided city to give a speech in which he said, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall."

Barack Obama went to Berlin yesterday to give a speech in which he called himself "a fellow citizen of the world."

Kennedy and Reagan went to Berlin to reaffirm America's commitment to resisting the spread of tyranny. Obama went to Berlin to speak because Kennedy and Reagan made it a prestigious thing to do.

Obama's speech, vague and a little flat as it was, essentially makes a "one world" argument of the altruist-collectivist left. Because modern communications bring the world closer together and because of the threat of global warming, we must all sacrifice for the biggest collective, the world.

At the risk of being called a McCarthyist, I must note that the ideal of transcending nationalism was also shared by the communists. The USSR's national anthem was the "Internationale."

Obama's speech has nothing in it about individual rights, but much about individual sacrifice. The communists whom Kennedy and Reagan opposed could find nothing to disagree with in Obama's words. They too believe the individual has a duty to sacrifice for the world.

Unfortunately for Obama's one world vision, you cannot get rid of the state. If you don't have nations directing all this sacrifice that so inspires Obama, then you'll have one big socialist state ordering everyone about. Either way, the prospects for freedom are bad, but with individual states there is a chance that some states such as America will be somewhat free and oppose the outright dictatorships.

Does Obama understand this, and is he cynically mouthing this one world ideal in his quest for power? Or does he naively believe what he says? My money is on the latter. I think he has been fed leftist bromides since he was a red diaper baby and he has never questioned what he has been taught. As religionists pass their mysticism and conventional morality on to passive, unthinking children, so leftists pass their worship of the state on to the same type of mind.

Obama manages to blame America in this speech for unspecified wrongs:

I know my country has not perfected itself. At times, we've struggled to keep the promise of liberty and equality for all of our people. We've made our share of mistakes, and there are times when our actions around the world have not lived up to our best intentions.

He apparently thinks these statements are self-evident and uncontroversial, as he gives no examples of what he is saying. It seems remarkable to me that a man running for President would go overseas and criticize America without fear that Americans, the only people who can vote for him, might object. If he is willing to say this, he cannot be trusted to fight for America's national self-interest in a hostile world.

The Berlin speech has taken a lot of criticism, so I'll leave it at that. Obama continues to speak in such gaseous generalities that one can find things on which to comment only by examining the logical implications of his words. But this is common among American politicians, who expect their dumbed down audience not to think critically, but merely to soak in the emotional vibes of what their leaders say.

The Kennedy and Reagan speeches in Berlin became defining moments of their Presidencies. Obama's speech should become known as the moment America had second thoughts about Obama and asked, "Is that all there is?" -- but don't count on it.

10 comments:

Mike said...

"But this is common among American politicians, who expect their dumbed down audience not to think critically, but merely to soak in the emotional vibes of what their leaders say."

I know I'll sound archaic for suggesting this, but the above is, to me, yet another cogent rationale for why it wasn't necessarily a bad thing for only landowners to have the vote. There were other factors back then, such as racism and sexism, that are unacceptable tribalist myopia, and that's all anyone hears when the idea of landowners having the vote is examined. I hear something different: I hear a return to when only the people with a personal STAKE in an orderly society get a say in how that society is governed. Anyone who does not own land, no matter how otherwise wealthy, is still just a drifter in terms of the perspective that person naturally takes on questions of governance. They are right when they say Americans will bear any hardship as long as it doesn't hit them where they sleep, where they shit, and where they watch TV. When one is a landowner, one reckons that truism infinitely more keenly, and is forced to view political issues through the rational lens of consequences to one's holdings, rather than through the emotional lens of one's wants, hopes, or desires. Which leads into another discussion entirely... and I won't digress into that. Just thinking out loud. Not sure if there's anything that can really come of this line of reasoning just yet, but it's there, and I think it stands up to scrutiny.

Myrhaf said...

Mike, there is certainly a difference in the way one votes depending on whether one gives or receives money from the government. People receiving handouts are unlikely to vote against them.

Jason H. Bowden said...

"9/11 was not a tragedy. You can call cancer, car accidents and earthquakes tragedies, but a terrorist plot that kills thousands is an atrocity. To call it a tragedy takes focus off of the injustice and puts it on the suffering; it gives the terrorists a break"

Right on.

Stephen Bourque said...

Terrific post, Myrhaf. I love how you put Mr. Obama's speech in the historical context of his predecessors, Presidents Kennedy and Reagan. (Oh, my God! I just wrote "predecessors." Apparently, I've already resigned myself to the idea that Barack Obama is likely to be our next president.)

Myrhaf said...

Stephen, you're not the only one. The Cullinen post that I link to has this passage from Politico:

“It is not going to be a political speech,” said a senior foreign policy adviser, who spoke to reporters on background. “When the president of the United States goes and gives a speech, it is not a political speech or a political rally.

“But he is not president of the United States,” a reporter reminded the adviser.


Such arrogance is almost enough to make me vote for McCain, just to slap those airhead statists into reality.

Jason, thanks.

Valda Redfern said...

I agree with Mike that it would be sensible to restrict voting to landowners - but there's no possibility of implmenting that, and in any case it would be useless. The big problem now is not that any fool can vote for Obama, but that the choice is between Obama and McCain. I wish Clinton had won the primaries, ghastly though she is... but now the best anyone can do is give the religious Republicans a kicking by preferring even someone *this* bad to the Republican candidate.

Stephen Bourque said...

I too wish that Clinton were the Democratic candidate; I could have swallowed hard and brought myself to vote for her in order to punish the Republicans for embracing the religionists. But I simply cannot bring myself to vote for Barack Obama. As of right now, my plan is to abstain.

Nathan said...

I don't read blogs often, but when I do, I am wildly entertained by yours. You're more intelligent than Rush Limbaugh, and just as funny. I keep picturing your smiling face, because I can’t find the serious posts to picture the other photo.

I won’t pick on every point I disagreed with, but I have to pick on this one.

"Obama manages to blame America in this speech for unspecified wrongs:

I know my country has not perfected itself. At times, we've struggled to keep the promise of liberty and equality for all of our people. We've made our share of mistakes, and there are times when our actions around the world have not lived up to our best intentions.

He apparently thinks these statements are self-evident and uncontroversial, as he gives no examples of what he is saying. It seems remarkable to me that a man running for President would go overseas and criticize America without fear that Americans, the only people who can vote for him, might object. If he is willing to say this, he cannot be trusted to fight for America's national self-interest in a hostile world."

With as much as Obama is criticized for being all talk with no substance, I’m surprised you would be so offended by such mild words “against” the U.S. All he said was that this country isn’t perfect. Do you think it is? Even if you do, do you think it’s good foreign policy to go over seas and say we are? Even from a candidate.

By the way, 9/11 was a tragedy and an atrocity. They’re not mutually exclusive. Tell a child who lost his father that it wasn’t a tragedy.

Also, the Soviet “national” anthem may have been called “Internationale,” but the Soviets were incredibly nationalistic in their actions. Unless you call wanting to take over the world international.

Hope you don’t mind me popping in once a year and being a voice of decent. I know you wouldn’t want this to be a place for everyone to just sit around and agree with each other.

Pacific Salt said...

Following on from my first comment at this blog a little while back, I have been intermittently listening to the song 'The Horrible Fanfare' by Beck Hansen over the last year or so.

What has been happening for years now not only in America, but across the world, is the sickening and killing of the rational mind by intellectual poisoning and political guillotine.

That has not been the work of any single US federal administration.

The problem is much larger than Obama vs McCain, and as such it matters not one jot what that particular Jacques says in Berlin or anywhere else.

The difficulty I see is that the key battlegrounds in the fight for freedom and rationality are the small and myriad encounters with other minds in everyday life.

To this end, education is a more important battlefield over the long term than is control of the presidency.

Listen to the Beck song - it is the soundtrack to Zhou Enlai's famous remark about the French Revolution.

Myrhaf said...

Nathan, I don't mind if you stop by once a year to insult me by saying my posts all make you laugh.

Twice a year, however... ;)