Sunday, July 6, 2008

What a Difference a Month Makes

One good thing about the Clintons’ obstinacy this past spring: it delayed Barack Obama’s not so slow but steady rightward drift. This thought was driven home when I read Eliot Weinberger’s very useful “Obama v. Clinton: A Retrospective” in the July 3 London Review of Books. Weinberger’s article articulates what many liberals were thinking as recently as a few weeks ago -- back when it was so much easier for proponents of “change” to delude themselves about Barack Obama. No doubt, there are still many Obamamaniacs who remain deluded. The farther away they are from American shores, the easier it is to keep the delusion going. This is why, from abroad, Democrats have always looked better than they are – compared to the “competition.” Thus I recall many a spirited argument with foreigners who should know better in the early days of the Clinton administration -- before it turned comically rotten and when memories of Ronald Reagan and Bush the Father were still very much alive – about the Man from Hope.

[It may be relevant too that European, especially British, audiences are inclined to go gaga when an American President is bright and not “linguistically challenged.” The latter affliction runs in the Bush family (along with ignorance and stupidity); in the case of the family's current avatar, all three afflictions have run amok. Thus the contrast could hardly be sharper.]

In any case, where Obama is concerned, it is becoming harder to indulge in wishful thinking. The current issue of The Nation (July 21/28) contains an informative article by Robert Dreyfuss on what can be ascertained about Obama’s foreign policy. It is sobering to read. Dreyfus is not yet ready to despair; he thinks Obama is still a work in progress. Perhaps, but the prognosis is becoming worse day by day.

Dreyfus does say tellingly, towards the end of his article, that “the most hopeful aspect of an Obama presidency …[may be]…the fresh face of America that he would present to the world.” True enough, and more than enough to justify opposition to John McCain. But how pathetic is it that at an historical conjuncture where, for the first time in decades, a real change of course is feasible, that’s about all there is in the offing.

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