Tuesday, 20 January 2009

... And it's Hello to Him

Barack Obama's inauguration speech wasn't bad was it? Pushing beyond the surface rhetoric, it seems Obama is determined to meet the massive expectations placed in him. Invoking liberal American values throughout, he played up the USA as a collective project, but one that has to meet a changing world. He marked a Keynesian tone, declaring that while markets are good for generating wealth and enhancing freedom, they have to be watched constantly - the prosperity of the few does not guarantee the prosperity of the many. But above all, his talk of big challenges clearly mark the return of the big project. Over the coming weeks we will finally see how the Obama administration will go about remaking America.

The short detour into foreign policy was interesting. Yes, there was the ritual attack on Al-Qaeda, albeit referred to as a "network of terror and hatred". He reaffirmed the objective of spreading democracy, but offered the open hand to dictatorships, "so they can unclench their fists". Coded references to authoritarian Arab regimes, Iran, and North Korea? There was also a pledge to restore America's standing in the world, which of course, can only really mean a more cooperative relationship with the UN as well as a more multilateralist approach to international crises.

Poor old Bush got a pummeling in Obama's shadow boxing. He not-so-subtly attacked Bush's record on foreign affairs, domestic policy, attacks on science and education, and hands off attitude to his finance capital friends until economics forced Bush to intervene. As Bush and his gang shuffle off into retirement, they must be smarting from their bruises.

It is easy for socialists to be cynical about Obama, but
conspicuous displays of it are unlikely to grow our influence and spread our ideas in the new political situation. It is more likely to alienate the constituency we want to engage with. Skill and subtlety have to guide our criticisms in the (likely to be lengthy) honeymoon period, and they must be based firmly on what he says and does. Can the left do this? Yes we can.

A more in-depth look at Obama can be read
here.

19 comments:

Jim Jay said...

A very non-partisan speech and very coded I thought. However, once you start looking at what he said it was very impressive.

First of all he told everyone they had to do the work - he wasn't going to do it for them.

Second he mentioned the word muslim twice (including acknowledging muslims live in the US!)- making the total number of times muslims have been mentioned in inauguration speeches, um, two.

Third, ditto climate change. US President says we have to sort out climate change and also implied at one point that the level of US consumptioon was a problem and oil... I mean wtf!!!

Fourth - there was a lot of class stuff in there which surprised me. I'm hoping to have a look at the text soon to create something a bit more precise...

Infantile and Disorderly said...

I knew before I clicked the link that it was going to the Weekly Worker. Aside from the fact that Obama isn't the world's number one terrorist (yet..?) I thought it was slightly odd that they were copying the design of that SWP placard with Bush on it. They must have been making some sort of point.

Obama's aids say the announcement that Guantanamo will be closing can be expected shortly after tomorrow; I hope that's one of the promises he keeps.

Phil BC said...

Yes Jim, and the athiests got a look-in too! That must be a first for an inauguration speech also! Some interesting references to building new industry based on the sun, the wind, and the soil, and loads of other stuff. Obama is embarking on an ambitious programme, which will at certain junctures run up against vested interests as well as the limits of the system.

Infantile, I think that's one action that everyone, including the purer than pure ultra leftists among us, would welcome.

The Sentinel said...

This new US president has produced absolutely no tangible indication so far that he is a real harbinger of change, and not just another 'all-things-to-all-men' but especially 'all-things-to-me' bought and paid for cop out like the rest of them.

He is already linked to corruption, both state and federal.

Instead of a new and dynamic administration he has surrounded himself with the old guard and even hawk staffers and advisors

And 'media coverage in the wake of Barack Obama’s election victory sought to give the impression that he had been propelled to the Presidency, almost by united acclamation of the entire American electorate. A psephological analysis indicates that the truth is rather different.

In spite of all Bush’s patent failures, white Americans still voted Republican last November by clear margin of 55% to 43%, which would have been enough to put John McCain in the White House, if America still had the same population balance as it did 30 years ago. A more startling statistic is that black voters supported Obama by a margin of 95% to 5% and Hispanics by 66% to 31%. Far from demonstrating that race is no longer a factor in US politics, the Obama victory actually proved the pre-eminence of ethnic affiliation as an influence on voting patterns. Indeed, it showed that the decline of white America has now made it possible for the first time to build a Hispanic/black-led coalition capable of seizing the reigns of power. Whereas whites were divided during the presidential election, blacks were united in their common purpose of electing their ethnic champion.'

And crucially, instead of spending $20 on a birth certificate to prove he is even constitutionally eligible to become the US president he has spent reportedly hundreds of thousands of dollars using legal technicalities to block a lawsuit aimed at forcing him to do just that.

(McCain released his when challenged - he was born in Panama but on US military soil.)

The unsolicited release of a Hawian Certificate of Live Birth proves nothing as the agency responable states:

"“Amended certificates of birth may be prepared and filed with the Department of Health, as provided by law, for 1) a person born in Hawaii who already has a birth certificate filed with the Department of Health or 2) a person born in a foreign country.”

http://hawaii.gov/health/vital-records/vital-records/index.html

Against the evidence that points that he is not eligible to be US president - including family members saying he was born abroad - Obama still resists renewed legal action to prove his status.

Even the Kenyan ambassador says that Obama's birthplace in Kenya is 'well know.'

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=zH4GX3Otf14&feature=related

Not a great start.

And certainly not a catalyst for change.

Jon said...

"It is easy for socialists to be cynical about Obama, but conspicuous displays of it are unlikely to grow our influence and spread our ideas in the new political situation. It is more likely to alienate the constituency we want to engage with."

Very well put. The Weekly Worker cover is politically awful, not to mention badly Photoshopped, but then I wouldn't ever expect anything sensible and measured from them anyway.

Phil BC said...

Sentinel, it would be nice if when quoting chunks from the BNP's comment on the election you let us know that you're doing so.

With that out the way, yes, race was a factor in the presidential elections and, contrary to what the quote says, no one has denied this fact. I'm sure you do not need reminding about the history of racism in America and the long shadow it casts over US society. It goes on to talk about the decline of white America. So what is this? How was it a coherent bloc in the past? What interests unite it? And why do Hispanic Americans not count as 'whites', seeing as you position in opposition to American whites?

andy said...

good article Phil

The Sentinel said...

Phil, unlike the rest of the comment, that section was clearly in quotation marks.

Yes, Phil, it was all about race and nothing else to the 97% of the blacks who voted for him. And yes Phil, many did / do try to deny that. 'He has unified America' they shout, when clearly this election was the biggest divide along racial lines seen yet.

In general, this election was all about voting for a black man to the black voters and all about making a perceived right choice iregardless of race to the white voters, as the figures clearly show.

What are the implications of that on your ideological antenna? Racism? If it were the other way around would you have deemed the election to have been motivated by 'racism'?

Hispanics in the US do not count themselves as white Phil, something anyone who had been in any self-segregated US Hispanic slum, or even watched a little TV would know. In fact La Raza etc is more popular now then ever, and the jail house gangs are white, black and hispanic.

But is this Obama even a legimate president? Should he be where is he is at all?

Well, we don't know for sure because he won't tell us. Instead he is spending like a drunken sailor on petty legal technicalities in order to avoid telling us - $800,000 was the last cost I read - is this the action of man with nothing to hide?

Or even an honest man? After all, today he swore to uphold the constitution but he will not allow Americans the right to see if he is even entitled under that constitution to swear such an oath.

Jim Jay said...

Yes - there are atheists in America! That was great. Is this the first time this has been officially recognised? :)

I thought the Weekly Worker cover was pretty funny to be honest - utterly barmy - but funny none the less and when I expressed this to a couple of them on Saturday they smiled and said "at last someone recognises it's a joke" or words to that effect.

Lastly, I think the left does not do itself any favours if it calls for something for years and years and then when someone gets to enacting the policy we've been calling for (closing gitmo, withdrawing Iraqi tropps, signing up to Kyoto, etc) they behave like nothing wothwhile is happening.

Some on the left see this - others just seem concerned with ensuring the integrity of their line is not tainted with something that's actually been achieved.

skidmarx said...

I liked the article. Was also presently surprised that atheism is now officially condoned. Thought he said something about noone telling us(them)we have to change our lifestyle.

I think the born abroad thing has already been exposed but I can't be bothered to anti-troll the details right now. I don't think Clinton would have let it pass if true.

Closing Guantanamo soon he will, declaring that its inmates can't be legally held or tried because of torture and denial of due process is unlikely.

Darren said...

"It is easy for socialists to be cynical about Obama, but conspicuous displays of it are unlikely to grow our influence and spread our ideas in the new political situation. It is more likely to alienate the constituency we want to engage with."

A bit amiss of you Phil not to mention that the US section of the CWI campaigned for a Nader vote last November. ;-)

skidmarx said...

What Obama said was this "We will not apologize for our way of life".

Naomi Klein managed to point out on TV last night four or five things Obama had already failed to do without sounding cynical. There isn't a fine line between cynicism and uncritical adulation,there's space for sensible thinking, unless you're an idiot:http://www.socialistunity.com/?p=3115

The Sentinel said...

All this discussion of 'Obama's' speech is superfluous really as Obama didn't even write it. He didnt even bother to write his own inaugartion speech. Amazing.

He preferred, instead, to leave to a 27 year old called Jon Favreau, who drafted it in a Starbucks.

scott redding said...

re: Naomi Klein and failure, I think Obama has decided he's going to fail at lots of things. For example, you didn't hear the word "prison" in 95% of his campaign speeches, and not once in his entire inaugural speech. And that's ok. I would rather have a US President who is focused and goal-oriented and gets things done ("energy independence" and an agreement in Copenhagen) than one who jumps on his horse and gallops off in four directions and gets nothing done after 8 years.

The Sentinel said...

this guy doesn't hold enough belief or even conviction in his as yet unknown policies to either bother or be capable of writing the most important speech of his life - his inauguration speech - I think it is safe to say that this man is riding on another Blair style wave of false hope and euphoria.

He has proved incapable of expressing for himself what he believes in or what his vision for the future is and this should be an obvious warning that this man is really just a husk.

The honeymoon will be long though and the faults will be glazed over for quite some time.

The Sentinel said...

And he couldn't even get the inauguration oath right - just few words - and had to do it again!!!

Highlander said...

"Closing Guantanamo soon he will" - skidmarx, are you Yoda in disguise? ;)

Phil BC said...

I don't know why you're getting hung up on his not writing his own speech, Sentinel, most politicians don't. But what he said is interesting because he sketched his policy agenda for the next four years. In one sense it's business as usual - he's hardly likely to dispossess the ruling class and usher in a socialist golden age. But there is a break with the Bush years in that his management of US capitalism will be different, one that will open up new political opportunities for socialist politics.

The Sentinel said...

I know most politicians do not write their own speeches Phil and we do not trust most politicians because they have a very fluid and intangible 'belief' system, chopping and changing at will, breaking maifesto points and outright lying.

Most politicians are only in the game for the money and power and to avoid getting a real job.

And you can spot those types very easily because they are never far from an autocue, a briefing sheet or pre-written speech.

Why? Because they have no beliefs to write about, no convictions to be spontaneous about and no vision to lament.

I'm sure that if you or I were asked to give a speech at that event (or any other) although the content would be diametrically opposed, the speech would have been authored by its orator.

If you know what you are about, and what you want to do and you are then given a golden opportunity to bring this about the only discipline required in making a speech would be knowing when to shut up.

The fact that this guy, yes like so many others, couldn't do this makes everything he said merely a recital of someone else's words and ideas, and those words and ideas are from a professional speech writer concerned only with the power of rhetoric and the art of eloquence, not the political process and actuality of policy.

I remember another chameleon, David Cameron, revealing his true nature and the very sad state of British politics when asked by a children's news programme who he feared the most in a parliament debate.

He named Tony Benn, and he looked genuinely baffled and awed when he said in explanation "you know, he actually believes in what he says."