Jan 24, 2010

Frank Rich made the point ("After The Massachusetts Massacre") that when President Kennedy went after U.S. Steel in 1962, by name, he showed his willingness to battle people from his own class — patrician and intellectual elites alike. President Obama has not seemed willing to do that and has entrusted financial reforms, which is the only reform people care about, to the very supercrats — Rubin, Geithner, Summers and the like — who should be sent to Devil's Island.

Of course Obama doesn't come from the patrician elite and perhaps there's some reticence on his part to stare down, to disrespect the country's true oligarchy. An oligarchy that imagines itself as an aristocracy of imagination and drive. Perhaps, it's the one mind game Obama cannot quite master.

But the real problem is that Barry is finally a community organizer by experience and by nature. It makes the utmost sense to him, it's the real American way, to gather people around, let each of them have their say, no matter how idiotic, and ever so gently if relentlessly push them and pull them to a consensus. That would also appeal to his intellectual respect for the basic process of critical thinking. You gather all points of view, study each, weigh each, go back and forth on each, and then a shape appears and, as though you were a sculptor, you refine the shape.

But that's not what's required now. The public will not have it. The lynch mob in the street, and now in the townhouse windows, doesn't want artists or artistry. They don't even want a president, they want s tribal leader. You think of that scene in Lawrence of Arabia when confronted with the choice of whether to go around a retreating Turkish column or indulge in revenge, the Oxford graduate rejects reason and efficiency and leads the blood lust.

That's where we are now.

Or remember Gov. Dukakis's answer to Bernard Shaw's question — if Kitty Dukakis were raped and killed, would you still support the death penalty? "No, it wouldn't change mind,' replied Dukakis without a pause. "I think you know Bernie I have always opposed the death penalty...."

And so the end of Michael Dukakis. We've been here before.

It is a personal tragedy that such a reasoning man as Barack Obama should be asked to discard everything he has learned, and surrender everything he believes in to the drooling, snarl-faced beast in the streets. To the baying below, which comes from right and left. It's as if even they're all whispering in his ear, in Southernmost tea-klux-klang: 'Don't you tell us what you think, boy, and don't give us no more pretty words. Don't you try to elevate us; we don't need your inspiration. Just your anger will do. We know you can do it, boy. We countin' on you.'

And Barry can do it. He showed he could when he ran the Harvard Law Review, a tiny but telling example. And he will do it again. No, we haven't seen Barry's real anger. Sure enough he'll show some fang, no doubt beginning in the State of the Union address next week. But will it be impassioned enough? No, probably not. But later, when he leads the real blood lust, he'll do it in his own way, he'll be cold and quick and dead-eyed.

Is there a defense of giving in to the mob, even in the face of such utter unfairness and the desolation growing for tens of millions of people? No, there is no defense, only a political rationalization. Still, you see how the rebellion against intellectuals flourishes when you look at say, Ted Olson, arguing simultaneously on behalf of gay marriage and Citizens United. These are not equal cases. Gay marriage is coming sooner or later. The corpocracy of America is here now, fully blown, and becomes the mother engine of destruction for all progressive movements. So you wonder how such a gifted mind could be so wise and so stupid at the same time. It's as though Ted Olson doesn't have any moral compass, only an obsession with the glittery little facets of argumentation.

It's one more measure, a throw away revelation, of how America cannot loose itself from its true, base nature. Even the serene, pragmatic and noble Barack Obama cannot pull us up out of that. Here is a country that endlessly prides itself as a peacemaker and the great savior to match great satans, the country of restraint and reason and thoughtfullness ad nauseum. But underneath that we're tied to the extremes. We're out of balance, although not out of character. The worst of it is that just when we need a moral instinct to guide us we find ourselves to be amoral and sentimental, and we've lost trust in the one leader who does have a moral instinct.

As citizens we imagine ourselves as powerless and impotent and now we have become that and drown in the effect.

1 comment:

Anjuli said...

Different situations demand different forms of leadership- not that one form is better than another- however, it is true leader who knows when to morph their leadership style to fit the need of the moment.