Thursday, February 14, 2008


I am already in trouble for not being sufficiently enthusiastic about Barack Obama and the dude hasn't even been nominated yet.

I even wrote that he was the best candidate who could possibly win, albeit adding that this was more cause for concern than for joy.

But the days when you took someone's vote and didn't ask too many questions are apparently over. In modern liberalism, you not only have to be on the right side but for the right reasons.

And so now, according to one blog, I am "excoriating Barack Obama" and full of "fear and loathing." Another reader writes to say, "you nay-sayers can either get on the train or get out of the way." Even two-thirds of my immediate family is on my case.

Yet before I am dragged off to my first Skeptics Anonymous meeting, let me try to explain why I haven't turned to Barack with appropriate enthusiasm and faith.

Just writing that seems silly. After all, until now even missionaries understood that it was their job to convert and not the heathens' task to justify their apathy and doubt.

On the other hand, I have been through this before. It wasn't long after I began writing critically of Bill Clinton that I became a "Clinton hater," a marvelous piece of snake oil semiotics in which the Clintonistas claimed the status of oppressed peoples while his opponents were dumped amongst the ranks of anti-Semites and the KKK.

One of the few pleasures of the last eight years, despite regularly excoriating the Bush regime, has been that no one has called me a "hater." In fact, in fifty years of journalism, Clinton is apparently the only politician I have ever "hated." The rest I have just criticized or exposed. I thought I was doing the same thing with Clinton but then I didn't yet understand post-modern politics.

All along, I just thought I was doing my job, serving my readers instead of power, the latter being the preferred cause of the more conventional media which has never understood the difference between objectivity and obsequiousness. Twenty years ago, I put it this way:

"The preoccupation of the press with power, in no small part, is a reflection of its own social ambitions rather than an accurate description of the world. The erstwhile dictum that the only way for a journalist to look at a politician is down his nose has been replaced by the dictum: don't bite the source that feeds and glamorizes you."

By the way, the politician the press was protecting then was named Ronald Reagan. Its love of power is quite non-partisan and the reader has become its non-partisan victim.

Then there's the problem of policy. I call it life but apparently the correct word is policy. In pro-Obama writings you find a dismissive approach towards "policies" as though they were nice things as long as hidden away in statements or for fellows at the Brookings Institution, but not the real - like enthusiasm, hope and faith.

Here's where I fail again. I actually think providing Americans with decent healthcare and housing and ending usurious interest rates is more important than having a nice president talking with enthusiasm about hope and faith.

Where did I pick up this odd idea? From the Democratic Party, which from Roosevelt to Lyndon Johnson had it as a central thesis. Which is why we have a minimum wage, Medicare, Social Security and some modicum of control over banks and investment firms. Social Security once symbolized real hope to Americans. Now Obama symbolizes hope and, according to him, everything about Social Security is "on the table."

Sadly, for anyone under 35 there has hardly been a measure passed in their lifetime that would give much credibility to "policies." But it is possible. Consider what that evil man Richard Nixon did. He proposed a healthcare plan to the left of either Obama or Clinton. This plan included a provision in which any American could sign up for Medicaid paying on a sliding income scale. He indexed Social Security for inflation, created the Environmental Protection Agency and OSHA as well as the first real federal affirmative action program. If a guy as bad as Nixon could do all that, shouldn't we expect a bit more from the sainted Barack Obama?

Then there's the politics of the situation. In the old Democratic Party, liberals instinctively understood they were fighting a two front war: one front against the Republicans and the other against the bad guys in their own party: George Wallace, Strom Thurmond, Carmine DeSapio, Richard Daley etc. With Clinton, the liberal wing of the party became gutless puppets of the Democratic Abandonship Council.

Compare that with the Republicans who reached their modern pinnacle in a state of constant internal conflict that goes on to this day. It is interesting to speculate on whether liberals, if they had been as assertive within their own party as the GOP right, might not have had similar results.

One other thing: I suffer from the delusion that if I want words put together well I should go to a bookstore and not to a political speech. As George Orwell noted, "in our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemisms, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness."

In one debate, for example, Obama and Clinton spent a half hour on healthcare and no one noticed that their entire purpose was to defend programs designed to protect the useless and destructive private insurance industry. I would feel quite differently about Obama's language if he used the words "single payer" as often as he does "hope."

Finally, if they insist on talking about hope, I've got the Obamists beat. My optimism far exceeds theirs because I truly believe we could have done better than Barack Obama. And still can some day.