"The Christian must discover in contemplation, and in the giving of his life, those symbolic actions which will ignite the people's faith to resist injustice with their whole lives, lives coming together as a united force of truth and thus releasing the liberating power of the God within them." - James Douglass, Contemplation and Resistance.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Squandered Summer? or the Maestro?

If only it were just a matter of a squandered summer. Frank Rich's editorial in the New York Times this Sunday "Obama's Squandered Summer" focuses on the tactical and strategic errors of the Obama administration, but a shift of perspective quickly unblurs the actual scenery and highlights the superb successes Obama has achieved this summer. His behavior this summer appears incompetent only if one assumes that his goal was to get a health care package that addressed the needs of ordinary Americans. If, on the other hand, he was responding to the needs and desires of the pharmaceutical and health insurance industries, then his strategy has been a model for others to emulate.

Writers who are given a national stage usually reinforce the notion that presidents are primary actors within the drama of national politics, that their decisions and tactics are decisive factors guiding the development of the historical moment. This meta-message is far more important that the well-wrought details of their critiques. As long as we focus on personality and style, the real forces behind the health care debacle can be safely ignored.

Once we step away from personalities, it quickly becomes obvious that Obama is carrying out the interests of his class, conveniently masked by his progressive image. He is serving the interests of the health insurance industry because they are representative of those who have advanced his career and who will support his continued advancement as long as he is useful to them. Public opinion counts for nothing in this realm.

"Obama is a master when it comes to embodying what the formerly left Christopher Hitchens once (in a book about the Clintons) called 'the essence of American politics' - 'the manipulation of populism by elitism.' The president is a maestro at executing what former Clinton administration official David Rothokopf calls 'the violin model,' under which 'you hold power with the left hand and you play the music with the right.' In other words, 'you' gain and keep office with populace-pleasing progressive-sounding rhetoric but govern in standard service to existing dominant corporate and military institutions." - Paul Street, "They Employ a Lot of Our Friends: Left Reflections on Obama's Corporatist Health Care Speech", Sept. 12, 2009.

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