It’s not about Obama … or is it?


Richard Moore


I’ve been feeling out of harmony with you cyberjournal folks ever since Obama came along. So many of you seem to see hope there, while I see something quite different. But saying that over and over, to folks who don’t really want to hear, is probably not the best thing I could be doing here.

I’d like to try framing the situation in a different way. Let’s start with how the current administration is set up. From a management perspective, it would be fair to say that Obama has chosen a very sound approach. He’s picked strong people, experienced people, for each high post, and he’s let them be in charge of their department. Geithner’s running finance, Gates is running the Pentagon, and Obama is clearly not second guessing them. Like a good manager, he’s supporting his people and promoting their initiatives.

In this sense, when we analyze US policy, it’s not about Obama. Rather than saying, “Obama escalates in Afghanistan”, I should be saying “Gates escalates in Afghanistan”, or “Geithner endorses SDRs”, or whatever. This will hopefully put the focus on the various issues, rather than always being about Obama.

There is one particular issue, however, that really is about Obama. That is, why is there so much emphasis everywhere on him personally? Why did I feel sucked into joining that fray? Why is the right wing spending so much time attacking him personally, and why is the mainstream media so universally laudatory? And why is the liberal majority so generally in tune with the mainstream media these days? … the same media that we so disrespected in the Bush era, when it was selling WMDs etc? Do we think the media moguls have suddenly become good guys, now printing only truth?

It seems to me that a climate has been created in the world of public discourse, where one must choose sides. Either you’re an Obama supporter, or you’re one of the defeatists, the unrealistic, the numbskulls, or whatever. And from the other side, if you’re an Obama supporter, you’re either brainwashed or a communist. This hyper-divisive climate exists not only in the media world, but in discussions among people, and in online forums. Where does this climate come from?

As a consequence, there seems to be little rational consideration of the various issues. If you criticize the bailouts, then you’re not supporting Obama’s bold attempts to save the economy, you should give him more time — and that becomes the issue — rather than a dialog about the pros and cons of bailouts.

Bush said, famously, either you’re with us, or you’re with the terrorists. He tried to frame things that way, but he didn’t get by with it. He used it to justify his wars, but we didn’t buy into it. We were against rendition flights, torture, the war, etc. And yet our friends and neighbors didn’t think we were with the terrorists. But somehow, in the case of Obama, we seem to have a situation where either you’re with Obama, or your part of the problem. Why is this? Why has it all become so personalized?