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In Search of the Big O

December 3rd, 2008 by Myrhaf · 3 Comments · Politics

If there is one issue that defined Obama’s long march through the primaries, it is that he opposed the war. The Democrat base loved it. Hillary Clinton had supported the war, thinking that she had to look strong on defense for the general electorate, and that she could take her leftist base’s support for granted. Her miscalculation about the war, as much as anything, cost her the nomination. The Democrat voters want their leaders to be antiwar.

So who does Obama pick for Secretary of Defense? He picks Bush’s man, Robert Gates, to continue in office. It makes me wonder if Obama really stands for anything other than Obama. He can flip-flop on any stand, no matter how important; but when it comes to imagery and self-promotion he is solid as a rock.

He has won much scorn from the right for using a seal that says, "Office of the President-Elect." As many have noted, there is no such office. (If he had lost, would he have created an Office of the Almost Elected President?)

It might be argued that Gates is no ideologue, so it’s not a big deal if Obama keeps on a pragmatic technician who already knows his way around the Pentagon. But if Obama were seriously committed to the antiwar stand, he would have picked a new man just to make a statement of change. Some on the left are unhappy with Gates, but others think Obama is being a crafty machiavel by choosing right-wing warmongers to effect his antiwar policies.

Sam Webb, leader of the Communist Party USA, is delighted with Obama:

"A sense of joy, catharsis and renewal is in the air," said Webb. "Expectations are high. A new era of progressive change is waiting to become a reality. If the past eight years of the Bush administration seemed like a winter of discontent, Obama’s ascendancy to the presidency feels like a springtime of possibility."

We’ll see. So far Obama’s cabinet picks are to the right of how he campaigned.  How do we explain this?

J.R. Dunn says Obama’s presidency will be all image, no substance.

It is to be a ritual presidency. Plenty of pomp, plenty of ceremony, plenty of rhetoric, and very little else. Problems that possess any form of glamour will get as many words thrown at them as O can pull together. Problems that no human being in history has dared contemplate will be given serious consideration by the messiah-elect — on the rhetorical level. But problems that have to be handled, have to be confronted in one way or another, problems that at the same time present a possibility of failure — such as terrorists mowing down Americans on distant shores — will not even be so much as acknowledged, not by the president, his administration, his party, or the media. In the same sense as occurred with the campaign, this will be an image presidency, to an extent that will make even the previous image champ Bill Clinton’s jaw drop open in sheer disbelief.

I think that’s right. There is an interesting story about Obama deciding to run for president:

[Axelrod] thought back on what he called the original why question, what got all this started, back in December 2006. Barack, Michelle and eight others were in Axelrod’s office in downtown Chicago. If Barack was going to run, he had to decide quickly, a point the group made by laying out primary schedules and game plans for fund-raising and building an organization. Insights were offered from around the room. It was Michelle, Axelrod remembers, who stopped the show. “You need to ask yourself, Why do you want to do this?” she said directly. “What are hoping to uniquely accomplish, Barack?” Obama sat quietly for a moment, and everyone waited. “This I know: When I raise my hand and take that oath of office, I think the world will look at us differently,” he said. “And millions of kids across this country will look at themselves differently.”

Instead of talking about things he wants to do, Obama’s first explanation of why he wanted to run for president was about how others would think and feel. And here we are at the core of Obama: he is a social metaphysician. His primary focus is not on the facts of reality, but what others think.

By Obama’s thinking, he is already a successful president, even though he does not take office until January 20th, 2009. The world is happy with Obama and full of hope. This is the most important thing to accomplish. Actually doing something for the next four years is a secondary consideration, important only so that people will continue to think well of Obama into posterity.

Obama will be the second Democrat president in a row to put symbolism over substance. It makes me wonder, is this the kind of person public education is turning out these days? Someone who can’t think independently, but is focused on what others think?

And what does it mean for America to have Peter Keating as president? It means we will get the opposite of the "change" Obama campaigned on. We will get the status quo. In one respect this is good: Obama is no revolutionary or pioneer; he is nothing but a blank screen reflecting those around him.

On the other hand, continuing the status quo will be bad, considering what a disaster Bush has been for the last eight years. As the Yaron Brook of the Ayn Rand Institute puts it in response to the insane idea that Bush followed free market policies,

Did Bush abolish the countless regulations and controls strangling businessmen? No. But he did sign into law Sarbanes-Oxley—the largest expansion of business regulation in decades. Did Bush consistently push for free trade? No. But he did give us a new steel tariff. Did Bush attempt to roll back America’s massive welfare state? No. But he did pass the prescription drug benefit, the largest new entitlement program since Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. Did Bush curtail government spending? Far from it. Bush presided over an unprecedented increase in the federal budget: from $1 trillion at the time he took office to more than $3 trillion today. This is to say nothing of Bush’s response to the financial crisis. He has completely evaded his administration’s responsibility for the Fed and housing policies that created the housing bubble. Instead, he has led the chorus blaming the market and calling for unprecedented handouts, bailouts, and nationalizations as the cure.

All Obama has to do is continue Bush’s policies to take America toward socialist hell.

3 Comments so far ↓

  • madmax

    ““This I know: When I raise my hand and take that oath of office, I think the world will look at us differently,” he said. “And millions of kids across this country will look at themselves differently.””

    I take this to be a racial motivation. It seems he wanted to be President to elevate the image of black people in the eyes of the world. He also believes this will give hope to American black youth. This is racial collectivism. So while he is a pragmatist and a social metaphysician, one thing he does take seriously is race consciousness. It would be a rare black politician that would not think that way.

  • Roderick Fitts

    I think madmax’s comment allowed me to make a new connection–one between pragmatism and social metaphysics.

    I can’t formulate it precisely the way I want to right now, but I’ll do so later, probably.

    Thanks for the comment, madmax, and thanks Myrhaf for bringing up this issue concerning Obama.

  • madmax

    “I think madmax’s comment allowed me to make a new connection–one between pragmatism and social metaphysics.”

    That sounds fascinating. I hope you chose to blog about it on NoodleFood. Ever since reading Tara Smith’s article on Pragmatism I am eager to learn as much as I can about the subject.