Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Bipartisan At Last!

Letting Bush era war criminals get away with murder didn’t do it. Neither did giving away the store to Wall Street or sacrificing the public interest to the insurance, pharmaceutical, for-profit health care and dirty energy industries. Abject servility before the NRA and AIPAC and their ilk didn’t do it either; nor did putting the interests of the constituencies who put him in office – labor especially, but also gays, Latinos and even African-Americans – on the back burner. No matter how far to the right he veered, Barack Obama just couldn’t get the Party of No to say Yes.

Until now! In somber, “pragmatic” tones, Obama made his case for escalating the Afghanistan War and prolonging the occupation indefinitely. [Or until the impending 2012 elections necessitate rethinking. Does anyone believe that, if the troops really do start “transitioning” in July of 2011, it will be for any other reason?] The incoherence of his rationale – build an Afghan state, the better to defeat Al Qaeda in Pakistan – was staggering. [I will leave for a later time or for others to elaborate why, for any conceivable American national interest, the Obama escalation is transparently counter-productive.] But the Republicans could hardly dissent. If they did, it would mean they don’t “support the troops.” It would also require them to break ranks with God and General McChrystal. Clever Obama! In one foul stroke, he won what he most longs for -- a Yes from the GOP.

I don’t expect that many will agree with this diagnosis. How, it will be asked, can bipartisanship explain such an obviously ill-conceived leap into the abyss? But it’s as good an explanation as any of the other contenders: that Obama is the prisoner of his own campaign rhetoric or of hapless Generals eager to get “counterinsurgency” right; that he fears what the Right will do if he “loses” Afghanistan; that the military industrial complex has something on him; that, as the acting steward of the American empire, he can’t be perceived to back away. No doubt, these factors have something to do with Obama’s dreadful decision, as does the inertia of war (we’re there because we’re there), and the willful impotence of what passes for a Left in this country, eager as it has been to cut Obama slack. But I stand by my contention: the main culprit is Obama’s obsessive, reckless bipartisanship.

Over the past year, it has become clear that the guiding principle of Obama’s governing style is to win the hearts and minds, or at least the grudging acceptance, of Republicans and Blue Dogs and Joe Lieberman – in other words, of the most execrable of the execrable. That was the Clintons’ idea too but, for them, it was, like everything else, just opportunism. Obama really believes in it. And, with a little help from his friends Petreus and McChrystal, he figured out how to get what he so desperately wants. Joy to the world, he must be thinking. Until the Party of No figures out how to get back on course, over in the West Wing, it will be a season to be jolly.

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