Image courtesy of citizensagainstproobamamediabias
Lest we forget, Memorial Day 2009 reminds us that as of the third week in May, American service men and women who have died in combat numbered 682 in Afghanistan and 4299 in Iraq.
Even as we honor the nation’s war dead, hundreds of Americans will be watching news coverage today from our two war zones, praying for the safe return of a loved one.
My family and I can empathize. All told, we’ve given about a hundred years to the military, serving in World Wars I and II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. Casualties include a brother-in-law killed in action at Anzio Beach and a brother wounded in Korea.
In the meantime, our president, who incessantly proclaimed his better judgment in the 2008 primary on the basis of a single anti-war speech as an Illinois state legislator, has abandoned his campaign promise to withdraw a brigade a month from Iraq this year and ordered a surge in troop levels in Afghanistan.
In his defense, Obama’s more faithful left-wing supporters continue to argue their guy is simply smarter than the rest of us: while we inferior beings are stuck out here in the sandbox, he’s outwitting his opponents with clever moves on the chess board.
Just how clever Mr. Obama and his aides really are is revealed in E. J. Dionne’s column this morning as he reports on an exercise the Obama team recently pulled off in their sustained and mostly successful efforts to manipulate the media.
It’s to Dionne’s credit, amidst his usual pandering, that he includes a warning to the One about overreaching his powers. Dionne writes:
The disturbing aspect of Obama's effort to create his new political alignment is that building it requires him to send rather different messages to its component parts. Playing to several audiences at once can lead to awkward moments.
Last Thursday afternoon, for example, the White House invited in journalists, mostly opinion writers, to sell them on the substance of the president's big speech on Guantanamo and the treatment of detainees.
Unbeknown to the writers until afterward, they had been divided into two groups, one more centrist with a sprinkling of moderate conservatives, the other more liberal. (I was in the liberal group.) The president made an unscheduled appearance at each briefing. As is his way, he charmed both groups.
The idea, as far as I can determine, was to sell the liberal group on those aspects of Obama's plan that are a break from George W. Bush's policies, and to sell the centrist group on the toughness of the president's approach and the fact that it squares with Bush's more moderate moves later in his second term.
The dual selling job was helped along immensely by former vice president Dick Cheney's attacks on Obama right after the president delivered his own speech.
For the left, which is unhappy about Obama's decisions on such issues as preventive detention, Cheney's outlandish explosion was a reminder of how much better Obama is than the guys who came before. While civil libertarians grumbled about parts of Obama's speech, much of the left concentrated its fire on Cheney.
The center and near right, in the meantime, could have the satisfaction of dismissing the over-the-hill Cheney and comment knowingly on how basically "sound" and "realistic" the president's plans really were.
Obama's center-left two-step is also on display in the domestic sphere. He is pushing hard for programs progressives have sought for years -- and, in the case of health care, for decades. But on the economic crisis, he has tacked carefully to the center, pushing aside calls for nationalizing the banks and working closely with the financial establishment to revive the economy.
And there's subtlety within his subtlety: Obama wants a more regulated financial market, but he would not disrupt the basic arrangements of American capitalism. If Obama has his way, investment bankers will make a bit less money and pay more in taxes, but they'll continue to be rich.
The establishment Obama is trying to build would make the country better -- more equal, more just and more conscious of the government's constitutional obligations. The far right is being isolated, and Republicans are simply lost.
But establishments have a habit of becoming too confident in their ability to manipulate people and events, and too certain of their own moral righteousness. Obama's political and substantive gifts are undeniable. What he needs to realize are the limits of his own mastery.
Um, E.J., some of us have been issuing that warning ever since the One chose to link himself to Abraham Lincoln that day in Springfield, Illinois.