Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Liberals Argue Over the Merits of Disappointment

On MSNBC's COUNTDOWN last night, Keith Olbermann said Obama's foreign policy apparatus, publicly rolled out yesterday, isn't just a "team of rivals"--it amounts to "a coalition government."

Bad news for those who thought they'd be getting "change" from an Obama administration.

But some people are loving it. Jeremy Scahill has a good piece out today noting that Obama's picks are finding much favor on the right:
"Karl Rove, 'Bush's Brain', called Obama's cabinet selections, 'reassuring', which itself is disconcerting, but neoconservative leader and former McCain campaign staffer Max Boot summed it up best. 'I am gobsmacked by these appointments, most of which could just as easily have come from a President McCain,' Boot wrote. The appointment of General Jones and the retention of Gates at defence 'all but puts an end to the 16-month timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, the unconditional summits with dictators and other foolishness that once emanated from the Obama campaign.'
"Boot added that Hillary Clinton will be a 'powerful' voice 'for "neoliberalism" which is not so different in many respects from "neoconservativism."' Boot's buddy, Michael Goldfarb, wrote in The Weekly Standard, the official organ of the neoconservative movement, that he sees 'certainly nothing that represents a drastic change in how Washington does business. The expectation is that Obama is set to continue the course set by Bush in his second term.'"
Most of Scahill's comments are dead on target but there is one puzzler in the pile. Consider this passage:
"We were told repeatedly during the campaign that Obama was right on the premiere foreign policy issue of our day--the Iraq war. 'Six years ago, I stood up and opposed this war at a time when it was politically risky to do so,' Obama said in his September debate against John McCain. 'Senator McCain and President Bush had a very different judgment.'"
Obama has been an opponent of the Iraq war since before he entered the Senate and that campaign rhetoric was consistent with his record. Try to make that passage fit with this though:
"...it is also disingenuous to act as though Obama is engaging in some epic betrayal. Of course these appointments contradict his campaign rhetoric of change. But move past the speeches and Obama's selections are very much in sync with his record and the foreign policy vision he articulated on the campaign trail..."
Scahill's judgment that "there is not a single, solid anti-war voice in the upper echelons of the Obama foreign policy apparatus" is a correct one. How can that be "in sync" with his previous record and his campaign rhetoric?

A few days ago, I slammed Glenn Greenwald for feigning bewilderment at liberal disappointment with Obama's appointments to date. He was, in my view, grossly overstating his case and he, himself, must have eventually come to the same judgment of what he'd written, because he returned a few days later with a new piece in which he outlined Obama's liberal Senate record and campaign rhetoric on subjects such as the use of torture, the Guantanamo Bay concentration camp, trial by "military commissions," illegal surveillance and other items, and noted that Obama has recently shown "some conflicting signs" on these issues "that create some uncertainty." What does Greenwald see as "conflicting signs"? In almost every case, it's Obama's choice of rightist appointees who completely contradict his own views on these subjects.

It seems a little disappointment is in order after all.


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