For now at least, it’s au revoir, Mrs. Clinton, though it’s possible we’ll see you again soon enough, as Obama’s pick as nominee for veep. Personally I’d much rather see him choose Chuck Hagel or Jim Webb. The nation badly needs eternal rest from the Clintons as well as the Bushes. It’s time to move on.
The night Obama clinched it, my neighbor Joe Paff called to say he thought Obama’s victory speech in St. Paul was very impressive. Joe hastily added that this didn’t mitigate his overall detestation of the evil empire and all it stands for. I’d already read Obama’s remarks online and, as so often in the past, found my eyes glazing over at all the talk of “defining moments.” I find myself resistant to Obama’s rhetorical style the same way I found listening to Tony Blair unendurable.
There was a time when Americans didn’t expect the evangelical sermonizing now required of a presidential candidate. As Gene Healy writes in the June issue of Reason, “The chief executive of the United States is no longer a mere constitutional officer charged with faithful execution of the laws. He is a soul nourisher, a hope giver, a living American talisman against hurricanes, terrorism, economic downturns, and spiritual malaise.” For Healy, the infantilism of these expectations congealed in the question a ponytailed male social worker asked Clinton, Bush Sr. and Perot in 1992: “I ask the three of you, how can we, as symbolically the children of the future president, expect the three of you to meet our needs, the needs in housing and in crime and you name it.”
Having defined himself as the candidate of change and inspirational hope, Obama’s been busy making it clear that when it comes to serious issues like the American Empire, change is parsed as running the planet with greater efficiency. A real candidate of change would announce that by the end of his first term America will have withdrawn from at least half the roughly 1,000 overseas bases it occupies, quitting the rest at the end of eight years.
Obama’s assignment these days is reassurance that, yes, he can wield the big stick, draw down troops in Iraq and redeploy them in Afghanistan, arm the Lebanese army. Take his speech to the Cuban American National Foundation in Miami on May 23: “Throughout my entire life, there has been injustice and repression in Cuba. Never, in my lifetime, have the people of Cuba known true freedom…. This is the terrible and tragic status quo that we have known for half a century–of elections that are anything but free or fair…. I won’t stand for this injustice, you will not stand for this injustice, and together we will stand up for freedom in Cuba…. I will maintain the embargo.”