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27 July 2008


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Clifford Kiracofe


Full of sound and fury signifying.....imperialism lite.


Thanks for your comments, Colonel.

As for his rhetoric:

Hope? I do feel that he has given many Americans the "hope" that there still can be a decent, intelligent, thoughtful, problem-solver elected as president.

For many of us, the past 7 yrs have obscured that possibility. People have been effectively beaten senseless politically.

Whether or not Obama lives up to those expectations is the question, as you state.


What does Obama's rhetoric signify?

I'm not sure what it signifies (if by signify you mean portend). Obama is a politician trying to get elected, so there's no way to gage what will happen in an Obama administration.

Here's what we know: Obama is young, smart, charismatic, ambitious, self-made, literary (read some of his writing), pragmatic, eclectic, and has a great gift for oratory.

His rhetoric is hopeful, inspirational and patriotic.

Obama is also historically lucky. His candidacy comes on the heels of 8 years of arrogance, belligerance, war, torture, subversion of the U.S. Constitution, and economic calamity.

This election ain't over 'til it's over, but for now, the stars seem to be aligning for Sen. Obama.


You know, most if not all of this talk about Obama has focused on his nature and character and etc. and that's all fine, but it seems to me one has to look at what situation the country and the world will be in if he's elected. And once he gets beyond pulling our people out of Iraq—which after all may itself lead to terrible ugly things there that even if he's not responsible for will still not look nice—what then?

The nature of the remaining problems hardly look susceptible to rock-star like solutions. A mideast policy that he still seems pretty much locked into and that fueled bin Laden in the first place. Ergo, very possibly more terrorist attacks against us either short-term or long-term, and our troops being there ad infinitum. And domestically, what? A terrible budget situation with terrible options only existing.

So where's the man's freedom of action going to come from to do all these vague wonderful things people are vaguely expecting?

Seems to me this atmosphere is also terrible from two perspectives, even though Obama seems a fine enough man. Firstly, the continuation and reinforcement of our shallow desire for some rock-star-like figure like JFK, with such figures eventually either believing their own hype or feeling the need to live up to it with this or that great stupid crusade to do this or that which everyone loves at first but then realizes when sober what a mess it is. (Think "Vietnam.)

And secondly just the "savior" mentality all this signifies amongst people. Supposedly we're a democracy; supposedly we like *self*-government. Supposedly and unlike children we don't *want* some great father-figure to "lead" us, we want to decide things ourselves and *tell* our "representatives" what the hell to do.

Instead what do we see? The forgetting of sober, realistic decision-makers like Eisenhower who got us out of Korea and kept us out of Vietnam, and the eternal quest of many politicians to be like JFK and whoop us up into this or that great crusade.

I don't want a savior, nor some great romantic who wants to be great not via his own actions but instead by telling all the rest of us what to do or be. I want a green-eye shade guy, who soberly looks at our policy in the Mid-east and soberly assesses our interest and what we can and can't accomplish. And I want a sober even humour-less guy looking at our budget, who can't get it out of his head that in the next 25 years only the U.S. population of people over 65 is expected to *double*, with all the terrifying things that means for the budget and even the social fabric. And I want a guy who looks soberly when something like Rwanda or Darfur or Bosnia comes up before deciding to launch us on some new adventure, and thinks soberly about *how* to do it too.

I.e., I want an Eisenhower. I want stability.

But I also think McCain is nuts.



what does obama's rhetoric signify? all i see are reams and reams of blank pages, with nary a drop invisible ink even on their pages. sooo sad for our nation.


Hope? Yes, hope that people everywhere can find people to lead insurgencies against the corrupt oligarchs that stifle people every day, leading them into expensive, stupid wars and taxing them to subsidize fat corporations and merchants of death.

And hope that, should Obama not fulfill his promise, he will leave behind a movement that will offer up the next insurgent, and the next, until finally the regime is changed.

Patrick Lang

John H

"until finally the regime is changed."

What, exactly, do you mean by "the regime?" pl


I think Prof. Kiracofe gets it right. Obama will cast himself in the Gladstone mode - the 'reluctant' imperialist, versus the Disraelian Republican Party. Either way, lots of coaling stations and Government houses to make the world safe for Free Trade.

Are there no anti-imperialists left in the House or Senate?

Sidney O. Smith III

Relying on the insights of Shelby Steele, it sure looks like the Obama phenomenon is more cultural than political. Perhaps a little more provocatively, Obama as president may come across more as a Woodstock event than one of a true substance that will make the changes necessary today, which are revolutionary.

Before the intolerant ones start throwing stones, I admire much about Obama and odds are better than 50-50, I’ll vote for him (McCain is out of the question). But Obama’s most brilliant trait, at least from what I can tell so far, is that he absorbs the environment. When in Chicago, he started hanging out with Rezko and become more Chicago than Chicago. When he spoke to AIPAC, he was more AIPAC than AIPAC. When he was Israel, he may as well had worn a T-Shirt that said, “Jabotinsky is my real daddy”.

If Obama was “revolutionary“, I think odds are greater he would have gone to a Palestinian refuge camp and maybe had said that the one God is a God of justice not militant ethnic nationalism. That’s revolutionary.

People say that Obama in the White House is “revolutionary”. But Colin Powell, at one time, could have walked into the White House as the first black president and he probably would have carried every State in the dreaded Deep South. Is it wrong to have wanted the first black president to have work his way up through the government?

And at least where I currently reside, my US Representative is black, as is the mayor, the District Attorney, the State Attorney General, at least three members of the State Supreme Court. Not to mention several of my neighbors. Also the archbiship of the city in which I live is black, as is one of the priests of the parish I attend (well…sometimes).

So I can’t help but wonder if those who say the Obama phenomenon is so “revolutionary” have lived in extremely segregated environments. And from what I can tell, the “hipper” the area, the more segregated. Marin County is not nearly as racially integrated as some place like Jackson, Mississippi. Aspen is more segregated than Albany, GA.

Just seems to me that when it comes to race relations, Woodstock nation was a failure. Paddy Cheyevsky captured the shallowness of it all in his film Network.

And at least from what I can tell, in the post 1990 world, the two institutions that genuinely -- and I stress genuinely -- promoted a “blending in” are the US Military and the Catholic Church. Neither the US Military nor the Catholic Church were at Woodstock in 1968.

Shelby Steele, who to me is beyond courageous, gave us perhaps the reason why. In his book, Content of Our Character, he highlighted what he called the guilt-empowerment dynamic. Basically, it is a strategy of creating guilt to empower. It may have had its place at one time in history, but ultimately if race relations do not transcend the dynamic, it only will lead to anger and disillusionment, and not a “blending in”.

And I think this dynamic is at work to a certain degree in the Obama phenomenon. My evidence: someone who comments at this website plays in the same band as a renowned black singer. After researching the evidence, he dared to vote for Hillary. Yet, if I understand it, he has been called a racist and a member of Stormfront or some neo-Nazi group.

That’s the guilt-empowerment dynamic at work. We’ll probably see more of it. Maybe we’ll overcome it this fall. Hope so. It’s the only way to transcend race politics.

Also, bit off topic, but I see no evidence that Lincoln genuinely was for a “blending in”. He solution was to send all blacks back to Liberia.

William R. Cumming

I still say let's see what the VP choices tell us. Obama and McCain both have different forms of charisma and appeal to different folks. The question is who is attractive to the "silent majority" the independents that will determine whether either man can accomplish the somewhat difficult objective of being a majority President (meaning gaining 51% or more of the popular vote). And if it is Obama better start now lining up big talent fully committed to taking on hard issues and reform of the wasteland that he inherits. Never will an administration come into office with both the domestic and international scene devastated by such snarling incompetence as this administration.

Nancy K

Obama is a breath of fresh air compared to the stench of this administration. I think and hope that we will know more about what change Obama will bring to the country once the convention is over and the debates begin


Mr. Smith:

There is nothing "revolutionary" about Obama himself. He is a mainstream Democrat with a very pragmatic view of foreign policy. During the primary campaign he was to the right of Hillary Clinton and John Edwards on domestic policy (e.g. healthcare reform).

Electing the first African American to the office of POTUS - 400 years post Jamestown - is (if not revolutionary) certainly extraordinary.


Slightly OT a remark on the event in Berlin.

I was there this weekend and talked to people who attended. There was also some insightful 'Sunday Journalist Club' talk round about the event on the main TV channel today.

The show, and it was such, was meticulously set up Obama troops. It was a 'private event' and the rules put out were that no political poster or banner could be shown by the people taking part. "Peace Now" posters etc. were confiscated.

About a third of the total crowd (my friends estimated 70,000) were not Germans. Security was relatively lax on the road leading to the circular place where TV screens had been set up. The inner circle around the stage that could be caught on TV had different rules though. Security was tighter but people who carried U.S. passports were allowed in more swiftly and with less frills.

That caused more than half of the crowd there having been U.S. people with a lot of British tourists etc. adding to them.

That might explain the waving of U.S. flags and Obama posters. It is dubious that Germans (who have an aversion towards flags outside of international soccer events) did this.

There was also a noticeable difference in acclamation to applause lines. The "world without nukes" and "end of Guantanamo" stuff got huge applause. The "shared burden in Afghanistan" and "Iran" stuff got much less applause. As the microphones only covered the surrounding of the stage, it is likely that only few of the Germans their clapped their hands to these (80% are against the German Afghanistan engagement.)

Simple lesson: What was shown on TV and 'analyzed' as general German enthusiasm was likely not such. "Anything but Bush", yes, "anything the U.S. wants", no.

The future relations will be more complicated than today's.


Its July right, over 3 months to go till election day. What is Obama going to be doing in that time frame to keep this balloon from coming down to earth. Is this guy peaking too early? If I was his campaign managers I would be a little concerned. He needs to go into hibernation for awhile to let things cool down so he can catch a second breath. You have people writing about his being a "Savior", come on he is just a politician.

Take a break and get ready cause McCain is known as a great finisher.


Senators Reed(R) and Hagel(R) on Face the Nation about McCain(R)'s ad about Obama(D). Doesn't this already sound pre-1988?

BOB SCHIEFFER: Senator Reed, now you’ve done a lot of these trips. They call them "codels," "congressional delegations," go. Are you ever allowed to take cameras when you go in to visit wounded troops? I thought that was sort of the general rule that everybody knew about.

JACK REED: I don’t think Senator Obama would have done that. Senator Hagel, Senator Obama and I visited the combat support hospital at Baghdad to thank those nurses, those doctors, to see patients that were there, to bring a bit of greetings from home and profound thanks. That should be in the ad that Senator McCain is running. I think Senator Obama made a very wise choice. Any suggestion that a visit to a military hospital would be political, he made the wise choice not to go. But when you were in Baghdad we made a point at the end of a very exhausting day to go in and see these magnificent young Americans and those doctors and nurses that give such tremendous care without a lot of fanfare, just to say thanks. He did it-the same thing. We went-we didn’t stay in Kabul. We went to Jalalabad to see the soldiers of the 173rd. We stopped in Basra to see our soldiers down there. We went into Anbar province to see soldiers there. That is a completely distorted, and, I think, inappropriate advertisement.

CHUCK HAGEL: Let me add to that. As you know, Bob, the congressional delegation that you referred to ended when we parted in Jordan. At that point, it was a political trip for Senator Obama. I think it would have been inappropriate for him and certainly he would have been criticized by the McCain people and the press and probably should have been if on a political trip in Europe paid for by political funds-not the taxpayers-to go, essentially, then and be accused of using our wounded men and women as props for his campaign. I think the judgment there-and I don’t know the facts by the way. I know what you’ve just read. No one has asked me about it other than what you’ve just asked about. But I think it would be totally inappropriate for him on a campaign trip to go to a military hospital and use those soldiers as props. So I think he probably, based on what I know, he did the right thing. We saw troops everywhere we went on the congressional delegation. We went out of our way to see those troops. We wanted to see those troops. And that’s part of our job to see those troops, by the way, and listen to those troops, Bob. And we did.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Do you think that ad was appropriate?

CHUCK HAGEL: I do not think it was appropriate.

BOB SCHIEFFER: You do not.

CHUCK HAGEL: I do not.

FB Ali


The concern about "empty rhetoric" and staged shows is not a reflection on Obama, but, rather, on the state of the USA today. That seems to be the only way a candidate can hope to get elected president there. Look at whom you elected the last couple of times.

What will he do if elected (as I sincerely hope he is - for the sake of your country)? Sometimes the office brings out the best in a person. He is reputed to be cautious, but he may realize that this is going to be his only chance to make a mark on history. He seems to have the potential to do that.

In any case, he can't possibly be worse than what you've had for the last eight years. Or what you'll get if he isn't elected.


Col. Lang:

To paraphrase the poet, “Where has all the affect gone?”

Goodness. I, for one, am delighted to at last have someone to cheer for. I also think that it’s more than enough that Obama’s rhetoric is “delightful, amazing, (and) deeply satisfying.” without worrying about its significance. Obama is not the second coming even though, for some, it might feel that way. It does remind me, however, how we had almost forgotten that human kind can throw up someone so capable of inspiring us.

There is something beautifully cathartic in at last being able to express huge gobs of good feeling in the public square with others of like mind without having to worry about whether some police person will have to move me and my friends to a venue where such expressions of freedom are permitted. Moreover, who cares if the joyous mob includes citizens of the world just so long as we all understand that the good feeling that comes with having a future to look forward to is truly one of those unalienable rights?

I think Sidney Smith has nailed it. “. . . Obama’s most brilliant trait . . . is that he absorbs the environment,” What Smith doesn’t tell us, however, is whether he believes that Obama’s personal code of ethics and morality will require him to sort, save and act on that which is good and discard the rest. The inability to winnow good from evil has been the downfall of too many promising politicians.

Jon Stewart posed the problem best, “There’s something about a charismatic leader rallying huge crowds of Germans in a large public square . . . “

Clifford Kiracofe

jr786, All,

In the context of George W Bush as the Neocons 'muscular Wilsonian' and the McCain and Obama follow-ons:

1. For context, we can consider the model of Liberal Imperialism or Social-Imperialism of the 1900-1918 period.

Good read on this is,
Robert J. Scally, The Origins of the Lloyd George Cabinet. The Politics of Social Imperialism, 1900-1918 (Princeton: Princeton U Pres,, 1975).

2. We can take note of the soft imperialism with a human face of the Princeton Project on National Security which IMO will provde a basis for Obama's Foreign Policy. http://www.princeton.edu/~ppns/

3. Obama will be "pro-Israel" and Israel will be aligned with NATO per Princeton Project recommendations. An early signal of elite opinion on this is:
Ronald D. Asmus and Bruce P. Jackson, "Does Israel Belong in the EU and NATO?", Policy Review (Hoover Institution) February and March 2005, pp. 47-56.

4. Given Obama's (through his Kenyan Luo father)recent British colonial heritage, it is logical to think he will tighten relations with the British (Left in particular) as we have just noted by his visit and his own words. Message: continuation of Anglo-
American neoimperial and neocolonial ventures. Say hydrocarbon and resource adventures in Africa among others? And (Condi wannabee?) Susan Rice just advocated bombing Sudan...and the Luo came down into the lakes area from Southern Sudan way back when.


Col. Lang:

As my better half just reminded me, hope by itself is of no value without a call to action.

That's what keeps Obama from being an empty suit.

"Yes, we can."

David W.

I would argue that Obama's timetable for getting out of Iraq isn't just beautiful jawboning, and his diplomatic efforts with Al-Maliki were fruitful enough to cause McCain to flip-flop on the issue. (Apparently, McCain's 'we'll stay in Iraq 100 years if necessary' position was...mere rhetoric)

McCain's candidacy is based on his demographics and priveleged upbringing (sound familiar?), and his supporters are driven more by 'brand loyalty, mercenary reward and reactionary tendencies against Obama than strong belief 'in' McCain. What would that belief be based on? Well, McCain *had* some substantial legislative victories, however, since his campaign has failed to comply with the McCain-Feingold Campaign Reform Act, this has been forgotten. 'War Hero' is a pretty big stretch too, especially given the way the Republicans threw dirt on John Kerry in '04 (given the reactionary tendencies of the current Republican base, I would imagine that they are praying that the Dems pull out the 'purple band-aids' for McCain, so that the R base could have something to mindlessly froth at the mouth about.)

Regarding race, I think we will never have a chance as clear cut as this one to examine the 'baseline' of racism in this country, because, frankly, McCain has nothing going for him save the fact that he is a white male Republican (though, 'of a certain age'). McCain's policies are indistinguishable from Bush's, his advisors are second-rate neocons, and first-rate lobbyists, and his 'Straight Talk Express' has turned into the 'Pander Local.'

The race question will always be present at some level, because there will always be class inequality, and power to be gained from demonization of minorities. I think the more relevant question is whether or not McCain is simply too old and out-of-touch to be popularly elected. The generational divide between the two camps is indeed a factor, and I find myself wondering how much of this criticism is really directed at Obama's followers, who are frequently derided for their arriviste enthusiasm and naivite.

At any rate, we have the Bread and Circuses of the Conventions coming up, which will magnify this very issue. Unfortunately, being a reactionary is a 'dead-ender' in terms of strategy, and given McCain's increasing desperation, which is shown by his unprecedented recent slurring of Obama, I think we'll just see more desperate slime coming out of the McCain camp. Not very presidential, eh? Otoh, it takes the heat off McCain's own bright ideas, like the...errr... National Gas Tax holiday--brilliant, but can they deliver anything besides reactionism, divisiveness and fear mongering?


Well, Col Lang, Obama's rhetoric signifies two things to me, loud and clear.

First, he wants to win this election. Seriously. So he chooses his words with care, speaking to the emotions. This is of a piece with his organizational skills and his (by now) famous temper control. He's serious about this, and acts accordingly.

We've all seen too many reform Democrats who weren't serious. Kucinich comes to mind. Nice ideas, but he really didn't care whether he won or lost.

Second, he's smart. Strategically.

Those, and the fact that his inauguration will put "paid" to seven years of the Worst Government Ever, are enough for me.

Not everything I'd prefer. Especially after his capitulation on FISA. But it'll do.


PL-Regime change begins at home...

Patrick Lang


Ah, but do you mean change of system of governance as Obama seems to when he talks about changing how things are done in Washington? pl

Sidney O. Smith III


On second thought, I may have written my above comment to hastily. Too many typos and I may have misspoken re: the word “revolutionary”. My apologies. Again, there is a better than 50-50 chance that I will vote for Obama. So let me try again --in the most provocative way I can, of course.

It just seems to me that Obama’s speech in Berlin reveals much about Obama and, perhaps more importantly, those who are whispering in his ear. The Berlin speech, at least in my opinion, was a fantastic opportunity to talk about the guiding principle of our founding fathers: the idea that sovereignty rests in the people through a voluntary coalition of States that, in turn, create a federal government for limited purposes. It is this vision that prevents the rise of an overly centralized government that only leads to tremendous suffering and bloodshed.

As history has shown, a centralized government increases chances of a policy of military pre-emptive strikes (blitzkrieg in Belgium in WWII, “Shock and Awe” in Iraq in 2003, maybe Iran). And a centralized government typically promotes perpetual war so as to impose on others the values of a particular “civilization”, primarily justified through the work of political scientists who just “know” what is the best for those not yet “enlightened”.

Maybe I am wrong but I did not see a spirit of decentralization in Obama’s speech in Berlin. If such a spirit had guided Obama’s words, historians, perhaps, would have called his time in Berlin as the time of the anti-Lincoln and anti-Hitler speech. (provocative part now follows).

Lincoln and Hitler shared a few beliefs. Both sought the creation of a centralized government that was seen as sovereign and one seen as creating the various States, not the other way around. Such is the path to authoritarianism, imperialism, and fascism.

Two, Lincoln and Hitler both believed that a central government should subsidize corporate entities. In Lincoln’s time, it was done primarily for the railroads under the idea of “internal improvements”. Another word for it is “mercantilism” and yet another, perhaps, is national socialism. (think government bailouts of Fannie Mac and Fannie Mae).

Third, Hitler and Lincoln were racists, to one degree or another. Some may want to debate that conclusion but I just don’t see any evidence suggesting otherwise. The abolitionist Lysander Spooner called Lincoln’s bluff early on and actually believed in a constitutional right of secession. Spooner believed that recognizing a right to secession was the path that would lead to less racism, less violence, and even peace. (And it is remarkable to me that Brazil is far more post racial than the USA.) Spooner, of course, was anti-imperialist.

Our founding fathers may have shared this same idea to one extent or another. A similar vision in Europe is Switzerland, perhaps. Not too bad a model in my book.

Did Obama mention Switzerland as an ideal in his Berlin speech? I don’t know.

But Obama certainly spoke much of breaking down barriers. Fine. Beautifully spoken. But is he talking about doing so through an overly centralized government? Is he talking about achieving such through the methodology of political science or the way of anthropology? Is he talking about a centralized government in a global village telling others how to live?

As for the answer to these questions, I just dunno’.

Again, I am not voting for McCain. Out of the question. Never. And I am a big fan of Shelby Steele. He recognized a psychological dynamic ultimately ruinous for race relations, at least in my opinion. He was about 20 years ahead of the curve. And Brazil is about 20 years ahead of us.

So it just seems to me that states’ rights in a post racist America is the ideal to seek and the way to go. Jeffersonian approach. Not Chicago, but Monticello.


Obama has seen what happened to Jimmy Carter when oil prices went through the roof and the US suffered military setbacks abroad.

He is channeling Reagan for all he is worth. I seem to recall that Reagan's speeches were light on content.

It is a good strategy.

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