Saturday, February 21, 2015

Barack Obama Thinks Before Starting Another War. Does That Mean He's Unpatriotic?

Obama thinks less war is better. Still, he's used force in at least seven countries.
Apparently that's not enough for conservatives and chicken hawks.
(Updated below.)

Rudy Giuliani got way more attention than he deserved from his off-the-wall comments about Barack Obama's love of country. If you strip away the crust from his words, you can't help but notice what retreads they are. It's just more birther, Kenyan-muslim-socialist bullshit, a reprise of the crap Donald Trump throws around when the spotlight drifts away and he wants it back.

It's simple why they do it. One, they can leverage the attention to make money somehow. That's a regular feature of conservative rhetoric. The other motivation was making themselves somehow relevant in the 2016 mix. Rudy doesn't stand a chance of getting into the clown car this time around, but he has delusions of becoming a power broker. He wants his endorsement to be a factor.

Unfortunately for Rudy, he performed badly enough that the smart candidates will distance themselves from him (Bobby Jindal is apparently distancing himself from the smart candidates). Of course, it might get Rudy a perch at Fox News, and that might make his newly found crazed stance worth it. Fox loves the crazed, the demented, most especially if it's aimed at Obama.

Still, Giuliani did get attention and ended up getting more as the press reacts to his comments. My favorite reaction so far comes from Jamelle Bouie of Slate. It's nuanced, thoughtful, and, I feel, quite accurate:
The obvious question is, Why? Why is Obama more circumspect than his presidential peers? Why does his praise come with a note of reservation?
The best answer, I think, lies in identity. By choice as much as birth, Obama is a black American. And black Americans, more than most, have a complicated relationship with our country. It’s our home as much as it’s been our oppressor: a place of freedom and opportunity as much as a source of violence and degradation. We’re an old American tribe, with deep roots in the land and a strong hand in the labor of the nation. But we’re often seen as other—a suspect class that just doesn’t fit.
As a president from black America, Obama carries this with him, and it comes through in his sometimes less-than-effusive vision of national greatness. He loves this country, but he also tempers his view with a nod toward the uglier parts of our history.
This isn’t the exceptionalism of the Republican Party or much of the national mainstream, and it can alienate Americans not used to a more critical eye—it’s why Mitt Romney chose “Believe in America” for his 2012 election slogan. But it is as authentically American as any other. And while Obama is far from a perfect president, I’m at least glad he’s here to give it a greater voice.
I respect Barack Obama for many reasons, and yet withhold praise for some of the excesses of power most presidents can't seem to avoid; he's no exception there. As I said above, he's used force in at least seven countries that I know of. He's slow-walked any effort to rein in the NSA and the abuses of the Patriot Act. And as a progressive, I wish he'd have held firm for a single-payer healthcare system.

Still, the values I hear him articulate are closer to my values, and many of the efforts he's made in managing the economy, increasing healthcare, protecting social services, reducing income inequality, and dealing with immigration have been laudable. He's come up short on so many things, generally because of GOP recalcitrance. It's hard to fault him there.

As someone who isn't motivated by love of country -- I think America sucks big time in many areas -- I could give a rat's ass what Obama believes about his country in his heart of hearts. I'm sure it's nuanced like any thoughtful Ameican's beliefs should be. But he's as American as any of us. No amount of calculated war mongering and wild flag waving will do anything but diminish his brand. And that's what his fans and I are buying.

Don't get me wrong: America is awesome, as they're fond of saying at Fox News. It's just that America has awesome problems and awesome assets. Unfortunately for Rudy Giuliani, he's one of our problems, and Barack Obama is one of our assets.

There's a fix for guys like this. Stop listening to them.

Update. Paul Krugman noticed Jamelle Bouie's excellent piece and weighed in in his usual, articulate way. Read it here.

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