About four years ago, when I cared a great deal more passionately about the foolishishness of the American electorate I was stunned to discover a sort of childish petulance that needed to be slapped around, but was instead coddled by that rudderless gadfly who soon became the Democratic Nominee and then President. I had reasons to be somewhere between upset and merely despondant at the man himself, but I was clearly revolted and disgusted by his shallow partisans and their Black Eyed Peas remixes. I wondered out loud if a man who clearly had no political philosophy outside of expedience would take advantage of such a shallow set of questioners such as those lobbed to him by the mainstream press. You remember calling me shrill, don't you? Yes, because I used the same term as Jonah Goldberg.
Today I think is a good time to look back and play gotcha, and I'm going to do it with a particularly snarky article (this one by New York Magazine). Well, actually I'm not going to reprint it, except to excerpt the following bits.
Then why is Obama doing this to us?
Actually, Obama says he won't ever use the power to detain American citizens indefinitely, because, in his words, doing so "would break with our most important traditions and values as a Nation."
So if he thinks the law is so bad, did he sign it as a prank? Ha ha, you thought I was going to shred the Constitution! That's pretty funny, actually. Not as good as the classic Elijah Wood episode ofPunk'd, but almost.
Is MTV literally the only channel you watch?
Obama actually threatened to veto the legislation at first, but after the language was softened enough that he could essentially ignore it, he signed it. Also, it was embedded in the National Defense Authorization Act, a larger bill that funded the military, and he couldn't very well appear as if he didn't want to fund the military, especially in an election year in which the GOP will likely try to portray him as some kind of peacenik.
But if he's not going to use it, then it's all good — no harm no foul.
Except that the next president might not have a problem with detaining American citizens indefinitely, and now that the bill is law, he or she will have the explicit authorization to do so.
There have got to be some smarter liberals out there than this fake dialog exemplifies, but it demonstrates the nature of what passes for political debate in major media. The essential gravity is that Obama is to be trusted but nobody else can be, when in fact it is clear that Obama was elected on the strength of his campaign's rhetorical opposition to just this sort of legislation. I understand that we're all supposed to be cynical about what politicians do and say, but reactionary cynicism is just as bad as ignorance; in either case you shutup and let injustice happen.
The cost of abandoning the GWOT policy of GWBush is already manifest in the deteriorating situation in Iraq and there will be no simple way to arrest that. And I tend to believe that the significant Al Qaeda threat in America has been crippled to the point at which a strong President could ask Americans to keep calm and carry on. But ours is not the sort of President that asks average Americans to perservere, he sees himself as the deliverer of cosmic justice, a rescuer, a Robin Hood. And so this is how he selects to keep his halo lit.
This is the President who leads from behind the polling of the least thoughtful Americans, and he has squeezed every internet nickel from them with his populist slogans and ran the most expensive presidential campaign in history to conjure up the biggest government budget in history which creates the biggest deficit as a percentage of GDP in American peacetime. I wish he had a real political philosophy. That way we could hold the electorate more responsible to him by disciplining their expectations within the context of proven ways to run goverenment. But what we have is an electorate that has become trained to hew to the words of anyone sufficiently radical who casts doubts on the status quo without having a demonstrated and superior alternative with any philosophical or practical pedigree. It is a cycle of desparation rooted in unreality and only connected to the enthusiasm of the mob.
That is the road to fascism. The question is whether or not Obama can craft out something that disciplines the electorate to its benefit. If he cannot but continues his populist themes, he will have taken one step closer to "power of the people by any means necessary, embodied by me".
Let's watch how he elbows through the next crisis and with what justifications.