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Works and Days

Obama as Greek Tragedy—Part One

January 4th, 2010 - 11:47 am

Cracks in the facade

That first interview with al Arabiya gave us a foretaste of two subsequent themes: the apology for what America had purportedly done, and what a Barack Hussein Obama, of postracial, postnational magnetism, could offer as redress. (At the time, a bewildered foreign student of about 21 asked me of all this apologizing abroad, “Why does Obama listen to those who trash America when most of them can’t even keep their electricity going, or their streets free of sh-t?”)

Did any of his advisors then warn our young Hippolytus to hush — and limit the apologies to a single occasion? (Or to remind him that a President is elected to keep his country safe and its interests paramount, not to be judged a Gandhi by a mostly corrupt global media).

Those of us who wrote about these telltale signs even then were suspected of racism, as our great leader pressed on with apologies, bows, crazy appointments, and a strange sort of split personality.

Mr. Barack

Obama I, for example, cynically embraced much of the Bush agenda that, just weeks earlier, he had branded as either unconstitutional or dangerous. We had seen that about-face with public financing during the campaign, but the shamelessness by which yesterday’s shredding of the Constitution suddenly transmogrified into (albeit quietly) a sober and judicious anti-terrorism tool was quite stunning. An Iraq lost to a “not working” surge that should be vacated by “March 2008” suddenly became a success due to Obama’s “winding down the war.”

In Animal Farm fashion, tribunals, renditions, Predators, wiretaps, and intercepts were now suddenly rewritten on the barn wall — as were the strictures against lobbyists. We got doctrinaire Chicago-style, take-no-prisoners sleazy politics — that saw everything from buying off those in the Congress with huge largess to predicating stimuli distribution of the basis of political fealty — as the signature of the greatest reformer and ethicist in presidential history.

And as a sop to the left, the base at least received false promises to close Guantanamo within a year, new euphemisms like “man-made disasters” and “overseas contingency operations,” and supposed promises to try KSM, the grand planner of 9/11, in New York (I wager that vow will be Guantanamoized).

And Dr. Obama

But then in a sudden fit, Obama II would appear as an extreme statist, far beyond what we had seen in the Democratic Party since Jimmy Carter and the first few weeks of the Clinton administration.

Thus came the wars against Fox News, the tea parties and town-halls, the promises of gargantuan new taxes, the mega-deficits, the ramming through of government-controlled health care, cap and trade on the horizon, and always that loony partisanship — at NEA a boast of a creepy sort of grants for obeisance and Obama as the new Caesar, at the Justice Department the dismissal of the voting intimidation by the Black Panthers, and the attack on the CIA, and abroad the constant blame Bush/reset button rhetoric.

The more observers warned Obama that this was hardly reaching across the aisle and bipartisanship, that Bush was not quite as bad as charged (cf. his successful anti-terrorism protocols, the winning surge in Iraq, and the good relations with Britain, France, Germany, India, and China), and that hypocrisy had reached new levels even for Washington (a tax violator at Treasury would enforce tax law shepherded through the Congress by an even greater tax violator overseeing Ways and Means), the more our Oedipus railed and shunned advice.

More on the second half of Obama’s tragedy in a few hours…

But, wait, a final thought: not since 9/11 have so many terrorist plots been uncovered in a single year. (In fact, over one-third of all the efforts to repeat 9/11 have occurred in 2009—just as the United States has made unprecedented efforts to renounce the prior war on terror, to demonize a prior President, to use euphemism, to bow and apologize abroad, to turn war into jurisprudence, and to reach out to the Muslim world. Perhaps our Oedipus can determine whether there is a connection?)

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