Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Impending Obamatarian Dictatorship

According to Barack Obama's wife, Michelle:
Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed.
Now, obviously I don't expect an Obama presidency to institute work camps and reeducation centers -- rhetoric such as this is par for the course these days, and is merely symptomatic of a larger problem infecting U.S. politics. Americans are no longer expected to merely vote for an individual that they believe will best enforce the laws of the land. As the blogger IOZ points out, Americans go to the polls to elect a Caesar-like figure who, for a period of four to eight years, is expected to become a de facto dictator. And in an age when a president can unilaterally decide to attack a foreign country without congressional approval, the president-as-dictator view is not merely fear mongering hyperventilation -- it's fact (and for those who think I'm referring just to the Bush years, you might want to look up Bill Clinton's bombing of a Sudanese aspirin factory and air war on Serbia, just for starters).

But returning to Michelle Obama's comment, as Daniel Larison at The American Conservative writes:
You have to marvel at the use of so many phrases implying coercion, rather than persuasion: require, demand, never allow. I’m sorry, but in a still nominally free country the chief magistrate of a republic does not make demands of citizens, but enforces the laws enacted by their representatives. That is what the President does, or is supposed to do. He does not, cannot, rightfully require things of any citizen that the citizen does not already owe to his country, namely loyalty and patriotic service. That is what he is allowed to ask from us, because it is something we are already obliged to render. It is not he who permits and allows, but, at least in theory, we who permit him to serve us. He will not be a jefe or archigos to whom we are swearing personal allegiance (despite the confusion of some Bush supporters on this point), but a public servant who executes the laws and obeys the Constitution.
Regardless of whether you feel Barack Obama is the most supremely qualified candidate for president out there, if he is elected he'll be assuming dictatorial powers. If he so chose, he could send U.S. troops to Darfur or to any number of global hotspots on a whim. He could have you (and your grandmother) renditioned (my spellcheck clearly has a pre-9/11 mindset, as it considers that word a typo) to be tortured in some hellhole in Eastern Europe, if he so chose. The question isn't whether Barack Obama would exercise these powers more wisely than his opponents, it's whether he should have these powers to begin with. And considering the corrupting influence of power, I'm not sure I'd trust Jesus with the presidency, much less Barack Obama -- not that some of his supporters would know the difference.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Recommended Reading

First off: I apologize for the lack of posting. Between coming down with the flu and starting a new job (in the same week), I haven't had much motivation to blog about the happenings in the world. So to make up for the lack of posting, here are three recent articles that I found interesting.

The first is from Scott Ritter, the former UN weapons inspector in Iraq (who I interviewed in April 2006 for Alternet). In an article for Truthdig entitled, "Iraq's Tragic Failure", Ritter examines the state of the U.S. occupation and the complete disconnect in the way it is portrayed here in the United States. His depressing (and probably right) conclusion?
If there is any winner in all of this it will be the Sunni resistance, or at least its leadership hiding in the shadow of the American occupation, as it continues to exploit the chaotic death spiral of post-Saddam Iraq for its own long-term plan of a Sunni resurgence in Iraq. That the Sunni resistance will continue to fight an American occupation is a guarantee. That it will continue to persevere is highly probable. That the United States will be able to stop it is unlikely. And so, the reality that the only policy direction worthy of consideration here in the United States concerning Iraq is the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of American forces continues to hold true. And the fact that this option is given short shrift by all capable of making or influencing such a decision guarantees that this bloody war will go on, inconclusively and incomprehensibly, for many more years. That is the one image in my crystal ball that emerges in full focus, and which will serve as the basis of defining a national nightmare for generations to come.

The next piece is by Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi, who examines the Democratic Party's complete failure to end the war in Iraq -- despite promising to do so in 2006, and despite (rightfully) trashing President Bush's Iraq policy. With the liberal blogosphere all aflutter over their next messiah, Barack Obama, it's nice to see that some people still judge politicians not just by their rhetoric, but what they actually do. As Taibbi writes:
Democrats insist that the reason they can't cut off the money for the war, despite their majority in both houses, is purely political. "George Bush would be on TV every five minutes saying that the Democrats betrayed the troops," says Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an Independent who voted against the war but caucuses with the Democrats. Then he glumly adds another reason. "Also, it just wasn't going to happen."

Why it "just wasn't going to happen" is the controversy. In and around the halls of Congress, the notion that the Democrats made a sincere effort to end the war meets with, at best, derisive laughter. Though few congressional aides would think of saying so on the record, in private many dismiss their party's lame anti-war effort as an absurd dog-and-pony show, a calculated attempt to score political points without ever being serious about bringing the troops home.

"Yeah, the amount of expletives that flew in our office alone was unbelievable," says an aide to one staunchly anti-war House member. "It was all about the public show. Reid and Pelosi would say they were taking this tough stand against Bush, but if you actually looked at what they were sending to a vote, it was like Swiss cheese. Full of holes."

Finally, we come to this article by Christopher Ketcham over at the Huffington Post regarding the burgeoning secessionist movement in Vermont. An excerpt:
Here's how it will be with Vermont: The leaders of its secessionist movement, the Second Vermont Republic, want to feed, shelter, clothe, and fuel a free republic broken from the empire. This doesn't mean the little country will sink into Albanian isolation, its citizens ceasing to trade with China or refusing to watch the rot beamed on DirecTV satellites. It will continue to be a tourist destination, its slopes welcoming New Yorkers and Quebecois equally. But the state's secesh want to keep their tax dollars at home and put them toward localized food economies (calling it "food sovereignty"), energy supplies based on wind and water, and credit lines out of community lenders freed from the distant tyrannical rate controls of central banks.

And about that job: I'm now covering climate change policy full-time, though I will be continuing to report on foreign policy -- my first love -- for Inter Press Service as often as I can. And so you know.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Final Flip-Flop

So the big political news today is that Mitt Romney has decided to drop out of the race for the Republican nomination. That led me, for the first time, to check out Mr. Romeny's campaign website, where I noticed what may be his final "flip-flop" of the '08 campaign season. The first picture upon the site's loading includes the following quote from the former Massachusetts governor:
"If this were only about me, I would go on. But I entered this race because I love America, and because I love America, I feel I must stand aside, for our party and for our country."

The very next picture that loads is accompanied by the following quote from Romney following "Super Tuesday":
"Ann [Romney's wife] came to me and she said, 'You know, the one thing that's clear tonight is that nothing's clear.' But I think she's wrong. One thing that's clear is this campaign's going on." [emphasis mine]