Friday, June 5, 2009
I was impressed with the speech.
Without doubt there are people in the world who would hate to see peace come to the Middle East. Osama bin Laden is one. And, if it were to happen on Obama's watch, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity are others. With exceptions like those, I think it's fair to say nearly all Americans hope for peace, and see it as so important to our and the world's security that they'd not care which people or party got the credit, if such credit were due.
Presidents, popes, and potentates have tried for decades. As a foreign policy matter, Middle East peace is surely at the top of the importance list. Something, it's clear, needs to change, dramatically. And what could be a more dramatic a change of the dynamic than a US president named Barack Hussein Obama, who lived for a time in a Muslim country, whose father was a Muslim born in Africa? Such a president, willing to speak in Cairo about the unbreakable bond between the US and Israel, and of the suffering of Palestinians. Willing to talk tough with Israel about settlements. (Bush, as we have now learned, made secret side deals to allow them. A perfect example of saying one thing in private and doing another in public, which Obama decried in his speech.) And, yes, willing to admit that America has made mistakes.
People say it was only Nixon who could go to China. People say it took a charismatic man like John Fitzgerald Kennedy to assure people a Catholic president would not answer to the Pope. I have no idea if Barack Hussein Obama can change the dynamic in the Middle East. In fact, given the deeply rooted religious differences which, as we know, lead to the most deadly sort of intransigence, I'd guess not. Still, it seems to me that it's an amazingly propitious happenstance of fate that, at this most perilous of times, we have such a president.
What's so hard about admitting it? Why can't people like all the RWS™ and their fawning and credulous minions take a break? After years of frustration, of brokered and broken deals, we might be seeing a sea-change. Someone who literally stands astride both worlds, at least to a degree heretofore unseen. Someone able not only to say "enough is enough," but to command unique credibility in doing so. Can't we agree this is something clearly new, something with potential to lead to breakthrough? At least in theory? It might not happen; it probably won't. But isn't it clear that there are some unprecedented differences between Barack Obama and every other president who tried to make a difference? Isn't that something to relish, something for which all Americans could hope? As bad as things have been, isn't it time to try something different?
And yet, from the right wing there is reflexive and nearly unanimous condemnation. The fat addict says Obama and Osama are in a race to see who can destroy our country first. What more clear example is there of placing politics over country? It's like a drowning redneck rejecting a life raft because it was made in San Francisco. (Remember that motto before which so many Republicans stood? They don't.) Are the political considerations of the right wing so entrenched that it's literally impossible for them to say, hey, this could be an opportunity that will benefit the whole world? For them, if not to voice support, at least to shut the hell up? For a while? Enough to see if there are cracks in the wall?
Richard Nixon made my skin crawl, literally. But when he went to China I was impressed. Like Obama risking the support of parts of the Israel lobby, Nixon opened himself up to the rage of the hard right of his party, and it led, mostly, to good. Is there nothing Obama could do -- even moving the Middle East toward reconciliation -- that the right wingers might acknowledge?
Clearly, the answer is no. And what does that tell us? About them.