Sunday, July 27, 2008

Interim President Obama of the Reality-Based Community

From the department of Wish I Would Have Written It Before Frank Rich... I've been thinking the last few weeks about how much Obama seems almost to be leading US foreign policy. The Bush administration - devoid of ideas that aren't nefarious - and the McCain campaign - Clinton campaign lite, except that it can't remember its own policy statements from day to day (so why should any of the rest of us try to keep track?) - seem to have capitulated to the only smart assessments out there: that is, from the Obama camp. The 16 month timetable, what Obama has been pitching since last year, is now becoming policy, although Bush and McCain are so embarrassed that they have to use laughable language like "time horizon" rather than "schedule." Bush and McCain have both been forced to focus on Afghanistan recently, which had been relatively ignored until Obama started pointing out a year ago the slow collapse of the regime there. This combined with McCain's constant gaffes and confusion about where countries are located and what they and the US are doing make the foreign policy experience point moot in this election. Even if you don't like his policies, it's clear that Obama is, by far, better than McCain on foreign policy. Obama is right and more innovative on oil/energy, and on most domestic policy. Sometimes it's extremely important not to have been too corrupted by the language and conceptual paradigms of the insiders.

Obama has also been right on about diplomacy on his Europe trip and the world has reacted. Obama's trip to Europe, although the press is atwitter about whether it helped his campaign, was an actual piece of masterful diplomacy. It's not only the US that wants Obama as president. The world wants healing from the sado-masochistic cutting the Bush administration inflicted upon them in a splurge of violence partially sociopathic and frenetic and partially organized around the enrichment of a tiny minority of insiders.

Frank Rich has the summary today:

The growing Obama clout derives not from national polls, where his lead is modest. Nor is it a gift from the press, which still gives free passes to its old bus mate John McCain. It was laughable to watch journalists stamp their feet last week to try to push Mr. Obama into saying he was “wrong” about the surge. More than five years and 4,100 American fatalities later, they’re still not demanding that Mr. McCain admit he was wrong when he assured us that our adventure in Iraq would be fast, produce little American “bloodletting” and “be paid for by the Iraqis.”

Never mind. This election remains about the present and the future, where Iraq’s $10 billion a month drain on American pocketbooks and military readiness is just one moving part in a matrix of national crises stretching from the gas pump to Pakistan. That’s the high-rolling political casino where Mr. Obama amassed the chips he cashed in last week. The “change” that he can at times wield like a glib marketing gimmick is increasingly becoming a substantive reality — sometimes through Mr. Obama’s instigation, sometimes by luck. Obama-branded change is snowballing, whether it’s change you happen to believe in or not...

Given that Mr. McCain has already used a refitted, hand-me-down Obama campaign slogan (“A Leader You Can Believe In”), it can’t be long before he takes up fist bumps.

American foreign and domestic policy, across the board, needs serious repair and it may be doubtful that any president, constrained by convention and the operational conservatism of the US institutional structure, can make such changes. But, basically, Obama is now the de facto president of the reality-based community, starting to clean up for supposed big boys who turned out to be petulant and cruel schoolboys.

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