Monday, January 20, 2014

On the Remnick Obama Hagiagraphy

New Yorker editor and Obama biographer David Remnick is back at work again, giving readers an inside view of the President in an extensive piece in his own magazine.  One excerpt about Obama not wanting his mythical son to play NFL football made a splash Sunday, but there are other interesting things in the 19 pages not included in Politico's summary, so I thought I would discuss some of them.  Those without the stomach or patience can peel off now without penalty.

Let's start near the beginning, with Remnick talking about Obama's work ethic and ability to 'crank things out', like book chapters, while discussing his expected lucrative presidential memoirs.  Quoting a friend:
“I don’t see him locked up in a room writing all the time. His capacity to crank stuff out is amazing. When he was writing his second book, he would say, ‘I’m gonna get up at seven and write this chapter—and at nine we’ll play golf.’ I would think no, it’s going to be a lot later, but he would knock on my door at nine and say, ‘Let’s go.’
This is odd considering that Remnick wrote a book about Obama that included details of how blocked Obama was when trying to finish "Dreams".  Writer Jack Cashill questioned some details and Remnick took issue--and not only with Cashill's thesis.  So we await Jack's response to this article.

Onward to the left coast.  Remnick writes largely from a fundraising trip taken with the President shortly after Thanksgiving 2013. Regarding the first stop, Seattle:
Obama stepped up to a platform and went to work. First ingratiation, then gratitude, then answers. He expressed awe at the sight of Mt. Rainier. Being in Seattle, he said, made him “feel the spirit of my mom,” the late Ann Dunham, who went to high school nearby, on Mercer Island.
Why wouldn't he mention that Obama himself once resided in Seattle when that same mother evidently dragged the small tot to Seattle so she could attend the University of Washington months after he was born, according to the evidence?  Cashill already has two items to pick apart!  

On to Frisco. He mentions Obama was interrupted by a heckler in the hand-picked background prop crowd, who was mad about illegals being deported.  Remnick passes on what appears to be another "heckler" at a stop later, although his definition of a heckler is a bit odd..
A man in the balcony repeatedly shouted out, “Executive order!,” demanding that the President bypass Congress with more unilateral actions. Obama listened with odd indulgence. Finally, he said, “I’m going to actually pause on this issue, because a lot of people have been saying this lately on every problem, which is just, ‘Sign an executive order and we can pretty much do anything and basically nullify Congress.’
” Many in the crowd applauded their approval. Yes! Nullify it! Although Obama has infuriated the right with relatively modest executive orders on gun control and some stronger ones on climate change, he has issued the fewest of any modern President, except George H. W. Bush.
So the heckler, and those cheering him on, were Democrats loudly demanding that Obama basically appoint himself king.  No shock there, just pause and consider what America is becoming.

As to Remnick's contention that O is trailing behind other modern presidents in issuing EOs, it's true. But he's got three years left. Who knows how many he might issue from here forward especially if the Congress turns more red later this year? It's similar to declaring a winner of the Super Bowl five minutes into the third quarter.

Anyway, forging ahead, Remnick paints a picture of a mellow choomer when it comes to back room political hardballing...
It described how Mark Begich, a Democratic senator from Alaska, had asked for, and received, a crucial favor from the White House, but then, four weeks later, when Begich voted against the bill on background checks, he paid no price. No one shut down any highway lanes in Anchorage; no Presidential fury was felt in Juneau or the Brooks Range.
The historian Robert Dallek, another guest at the President’s table, told the Times that Obama was “inclined to believe that sweet reason is what you need to use with people in high office.”
Which deserves a hearty guffaw.  This guy comes from the Chicago machine.  The only reason we don't know more about the hardball Christie-like antics is because Obama delegates that to underlings and reporters like Remnick don't want to upset themselves by investigating.

Later, here's a scene with an LBJ biographer meeting Obama:
..I said to Obama, ‘You know, my book wasn’t an unspoken attack on you, it’s a book about Lyndon Johnson,’ ” Caro recalled. L.B.J. was, after all, also the President who made the catastrophic decision to deepen America’s involvement in the quagmire of Vietnam. “Obama seems interested in winding down our foreign wars,” Caro said approvingly.
"Winding down our foreign wars", eh? Jiminy Christmas, does this fruitcake mean the ones that Arab and Islamic radicals started on and before 9/11; the ones they have no business 'winding down' themselves, even if we retreat?  Of course, that was attributed to the biographer, not Obama, but he's the one saying he's 'ending the wars' so there's some synchronicity there.  Put another way (in lefty-speak), those wars were Bush's fault, ie, OUR fault, ugly Colonial Americans, and ending them makes the Third World peoples love us again. Or something equally idiotic.  

As to the nature of 'getting things done' regards social justice and such:
And so the nature of not only politics but, I think, social change of any sort is that it doesn’t move in a straight line, and that those who are most successful typically are tacking like a sailor toward a particular direction but have to take into account winds and currents and occasionally the lack of any wind, so that you’re just sitting there for a while, and sometimes you’re being blown all over the place.”
It's a nautical reference! Who wants to bet Obama threw it in there just to tease Cashill?!

Regards his 'evolving' on gay marriage, Remnick displays a moment of candor, offering:
to say that your views are “evolving,” though, is to say there is a position that you consider to be more advanced than the one you officially hold. And he held the “evolved” position in 1996, when, as a candidate for the Illinois state senate, he filled out a questionnaire from Outlines, a local gay and lesbian newspaper, saying, “I favor legalizing same-sex marriages.”
Which was a fair dig, although it's obvious he didn't push the point with the President since there was no quoted reply, only Remnick's observation.  But he could have left it out.   If only he did it on every issue. 

On to the past..
He remembers going with his mother to live in Indonesia, in 1967—shortly after a military coup, engineered with American help, led to the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of people. This event, and the fact that so few Americans know much about it, made a lasting impression on Obama.
So the fact LBJ removed a Soviet and Mao-backed communist Sukarno made a lasting impression on the 6 year old Obama?  Amazing.  And once again Obama's step-father Lolo Soetoro is airbrushed out of any of his history. Weird, that.  

Drifting forward into grown-up Obama's foreign policy, here's a quote from aide Ben Rhodes..
For the President, Iraq was the defining issue, and now Syria is viewed through that lens, as was Libya—to be an idealist, you have to be a military interventionist. We spent a trillion dollars in Iraq and had troops there for a decade, and you can’t say it wielded positive influence. Just the opposite. We can’t seem to get out of these boxes.”
This is a confusing quote, especially considering Obama went to war in Libya (without Congressional approval) and was hours away from bombing Syria. But evidently that's OK as long as troops don't go in.  This mindset may explain the reluctance to put more US security personnel on the ground in Benghazi, a kind of overall aversion to a US projection of power that Ron Paul should find appealing, along with his son.
Anne-Marie Slaughter, who worked at the State Department as Hillary Clinton’s director of policy planning, says, “Obama has a real understanding of the limits of our power. It’s not that the United States is in decline; it’s that sometimes the world has problems without the tools to fix them.”
Members of Obama’s foreign-policy circle say that when he is criticized for his reaction to situations like Iran’s Green Revolution, in 2009, or the last days of Hosni Mubarak’s regime, in 2011, he complains that people imagine him to have a “joystick” that allows him to manipulate precise outcomes.
Which seems bizarre considering how he's surrounded himself with several "Responsibility to Protect" advocates.  He himself has used RtP to justify Libya and his proposed bombing raid in Syria.  And speaking of manipulating precise outcomes, surely Obama believes in Kyoto-type global warming agreements, the ultimate in manipulation.  By the way, it's OK to favor diplomacy over gunboats so long as it works, but the gunboats need to be lurking just offshore or nobody will fear them when the words stop working.   

On Iran, he seems quixotically hopeful:
Ultimately, he envisages a new geopolitical equilibrium, one less turbulent than the current landscape of civil war, terror, and sectarian battle. “It would be profoundly in the interest of citizens throughout the region if Sunnis and Shias weren’t intent on killing each other,” he told me. “
And although it would not solve the entire problem, if we were able to get Iran to operate in a responsible fashion—not funding terrorist organizations, not trying to stir up sectarian discontent in other countries, and not developing a nuclear weapon—you could see an equilibrium developing between Sunni, or predominantly Sunni, Gulf states and Iran in which there’s competition, perhaps suspicion, but not an active or proxy warfare.
Good luck with that, sir. By the way, this Middle East peace, including Persia, would absolutely not be possible with Saddam Hussein still in the middle of the calculus.  And he would still be there had Bush not removed him.  Just sayin, sir.

As to Israel, he seems to have the same kind of dreamy disposition, envisioning the Sunnis working with Jerusalem in a new era of cuddly hugging, but Remnick fades back to the LA fundraiser:
During Obama’s performance under Saban’s tent, there was no talk of a Sunni-Israeli alignment, or of any failures of vision on Netanyahu’s part. Obama did allow himself to be testy about the criticism he has received over his handling of the carnage in Syria. “You’ll recall that that was the previous end of my Presidency, until it turned out that we are actually getting all the chemical weapons. And no one reports on that anymore.”
Since the Jewish fundraiser was the only one where Remnick used the word "testy" maybe that should say something.  Too bad he couldn't have swung by the LA Times and grabbed that Rashid Khalidi video.  Surely they would have given it to editor of the New Yorker.

As to Syria, are we getting all the chemical weapons? Do we know? How about any biologicals? Are Assad's days still numbered? And what about AQ al Nusra and ISIS gaining property there? Nobody reports much on that anymore, either.

Speaking of AQ, to me this was the most controversial and ludicrous--and telling--comment from the entire piece.  Here's how the president responded to Remnick's observation about the black flag of AQ flying over more places now than before, including Syria and Iraq:
“The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant,” Obama said, resorting to an uncharacteristically flip analogy. “I think there is a distinction between the capacity and reach of a bin Laden and a network that is actively planning major terrorist plots against the homeland versus jihadists who are engaged in various local power struggles and disputes, often sectarian.
Uncharacteristically flip?  Sounds fairly characteristic to me.  This president was just as flip about the matter before he was elected.  The fact that he would compare AQ affiliates to basketball when these second stringers are occasionally in touch with emir Zawahiri is mind-numbingly bizarre, especially considering he recently closed over 20 embassies based on intercepted communications from Zawahiri to some of those B-teamers.     
The only time I get frustrated is when folks act like it’s not complicated and there aren’t some real tough decisions, and are sanctimonious, as if somehow these aren’t complicated questions.
Yeah, this being president stuff is hard, yo!   Oh for the good ole days when Bush was the problem with his secrecy, warmongering, and image-trashing.  Guess a PDB can change things.   Unless the PDB is talking about AQ B-teamers. 

On the flight back to Washington Remnick was again called to the chamber to ask a few more questions. He turned to the unprecedented prosecution of leakers during the O era, to which the President answered:
After a long pause, Obama began to speak of how his first awareness of politics came when, as an eleven-year-old, he went on a cross-country bus trip with his mother and grandmother and, at the end of each day, watched the Watergate hearings on television.
So that's why he's prosecuted more leakers than all other presidents combined--Woodward and Bernstein?  Well, that makes no sense, but the Watergate reference is partly why modern journalists LOVE Obama--he's just like them.  They too tingled watching the noble Woodward and Bernstein taking down Dr Evil and saving the world.  Most of them still see the same enemy and the same battle.  Obama knows this is media catnip.

Finally, a summary of Obama's untold greatness:
Obama has every right to claim a long list of victories since he took office: ending two wars; an economic rescue, no matter how imperfect; strong Supreme Court nominations; a lack of major scandal; essential support for an epochal advance in the civil rights of gays and lesbians; more progressive executive orders on climate change, gun control, and the end of torture; and, yes, health-care reform.
"A lack of major scandal" should get some righty juices flowing, especially considering Remnick's tome covers 19 pages and there's not one question about Benghazi, the IRS targeting, or Fast and Furious.  Or more obviously, the outright lie on health care or extra-presidential actions like changing laws or appointing people when the Senate was technically still in session.

But to the uppity east coast publications such things are phony scandals, concocted by two-bit fever swampers like Jack Cashill or Fox News.  Real scandals like the Valerie Plame thing or Karl Rove waking up in the morning were covered extensively, and rightfully so!

Remnick ends the piece with a going away quote from the President...
“I just wanted to add one thing to that business about the great-man theory of history. The President of the United States cannot remake our society, and that’s probably a good thing.” He paused yet again, always self-editing. “Not ‘probably,’ ” he said. “It’s definitely a good thing.”
Which really gets to the core of the interview. In totality Remnick paints a picture of a thoughtful, methodical even-tempered but flawed man who is still trying to 'bridge' the disparate sides just like the narrative painted during the 2008 campaign.   He's the smarter than average bear floating above the fray, trying to get things done in a room full of partisan clowns, frustrated that people just can't see the greatness.  In the end, all the waffling on foreign policy belies a true legacy goal--social justice at home.  But don't worry too much conservatives, he's not going to go all MLK in remaking America to get us there. Or something.

MORE  1/23/14

Jack Cashill weighs in, and as usual, he's thinking outside the box:
Only the most willfully blind of Obama’s literary acolytes—Remnick chief among them--could believe that Obama wrote a well-researched 431-page book in between golfing engagements, weekend trips to Chicago, a few international jaunts, 39 town hall meetings, and a Herculean Senate schedule.
The Audacity of him!

Wouldn't it be nice to ask someone of an official capacity some of these questions, just once.   Oh well, surely all will be explained one day in the 20 million dollar memoir.  And just think about all the poor people that money will help!

1 comment:

Right Truth said...

Great job you've done here.

You say:

'Why wouldn't he mention that Obama himself once resided in Seattle when that same mother evidently dragged the small tot to Seattle so she could attend the University of Washington months after he was born, according to the evidence?'

A big guffaw there.

Will link to your article.

Right Truth