Obama’s Deceptions

With all the talk about how to stimulate it, you’d think that the economy is a giant clitoris. Ben Bernanke may not employ this imagery, but the immediate challenge–and the issue bound to replace Iraq and immigration in the presidential race–is how best to get the economy engorged and throbbing again.

It would be irresponsible to say much about Bush’s stimulus plan, the mere mention of which could be enough to send the Nikkei, the DAX, and the curiously named FTSE and Sensex tumbling into the crash zone again. In a typically regressive gesture, Bush proposed to hand out cash tax rebates–except to families earning less than $40,000 a year. This may qualify as an example of what Naomi Klein calls “disaster capitalism,” in which any misfortune can be re-jiggered to the advantage of the affluent.

Barbara Ehrenreich, January 22, 2008

On positions from Iraq to health care, the policy differences between Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama are minute. Much of the debate between them has involved making these molehills look mountainous or clashing over who-shifted-when.

The one most significant difference between them can be found in how they would approach the presidency – and how the nation might respond.

Hillary Clinton has been a policy wonk most of her life, a trait she has carried into the U.S. Senate. As her debate performances have shown, she has intelligence and a deep understanding of many issues. Her efforts in New York focused first on learning her adopted state’s issues in detail, and pursuing legislation that would not necessarily grab headlines.

But we also have a good idea what a Clinton presidency would look like. The restoration of the Clintons to the White House would trigger a new wave of all-out political warfare.

The State’s Endorsement of Barack Obama, January 22, 2008

It’s become a kind of cliché that the national media first develops a narrative around every presidential race and then pursues that story at any cost. The outlines of the story are becoming increasingly clear. Edwards is angry and so ineffective. The Clintons are self-serving and divisive. Obama is the peace maker.

The New York Times has endorsed Clinton, so maybe the narrative is not yet fixed. On the other hand, she’s a popular New York Senator, so that’s an predictable exception. What bugs me about Obama is that, as someone like Barbara Ehrenreich reminds us, his rhetoric is more deceptive than substantively progressive.

The Clintons, again as the cliché goes, are wonks and they don’t pretend to be otherwise. They are selling expertise and experience. Edwards is selling a fight that is logically unavoidable. Obama, though, is selling the false idea that progressive policies can be enacted without fundamentally challenging any of the powers-that-be.

The rhetoric of his supporters is telling. “From terrorism and climate change to runaway federal entitlement spending, there are big challenges to be faced,” The Sun endorsement begins (as quoted on Obama’s website), as if all of these things were part of a single syndrome.

“Terror” in this case refers to a kind of rhetorical trick pulled by Republicans to justify what can only be called criminal behavior on their part. “Runaway federal entitlement spending,” is more Republican code for the ongoing decimation of public services. “Climate change” seems to mean corn-ethanol and legalized price gouging. It’s hard to figure what this ‘peace’ is supposed to be, even rhetorically.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and Smarthinking.com. I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol] writinginthewild.com

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