Thursday, May 29, 2008

On Clarity

Obama says he doesn’t just want to end the war, but the mindset that got us into the war. However, there is precious little clarity in his campaign about what that mindset is or what kind of mindset would replace it. On the struggle with jihadism… or on any of the other major shit-holes we find ourselves in... there’s no real evidence of a “mindset.” Rather, there’s the proposal for an attitude – one of consensus-building, bridging divides, post-partisanship.

Of course, that presumes that our problem is "partisan bickering," but that's nonsense. Our problem isn't contentiousness; it's that our government has been attacked by a radical right-wing coup, which has done enormous damage to most of its institutions. We need someone to come in and roll back that coup, and repair the damage.

But even granting his premise, one might have expected actual proposals for ‘third way’ kinds of approaches – say, analogous to Bloomberg’s commission that Dick Parsons headed up about solving urban problems. One might have expected concrete, grounded discussions about how we can change the paradigm through new technologies. One might have expected, in other words, some actual demonstration of the new mindset he’s claiming to represent.

I want some clarity. I want an intellect that is focused, knowledgeable and decisive. I want feet planted on the ground. I want Hillary to tackle these problems we face. Because Obama gives no evidence of a particular idea about how to tackle any of them. His entire case for himself in this campaign is that he can bring together a bunch of warring people and get them to come up with some kind of consensus. Well, what does he believe should be done, and why? Hillary has said, on issue after issue. He hasn’t. Rather, he has cobbled together elements from right and left into proposals with little intellectual coherence – entirely to seem non-partisan.

Krugman’s point about this all along has been that some analyses are simply right, and others simply wrong. Some policies are right, and others wrong. And most of Obama’s don’t even rise to that level. To borrow the classic dismissive line from the world of science, they’re not even wrong.

From Obama, we get no serious sense of the scope or nature of the problems we face. He just keeps intoning ‘change.’ He’s all inspiration, no perspiration – and no serious analysis. And my god, do we ever need serious analysis right now, far more than anything else – far more than building consensus. We need to think. We need to wake up from our fear dreams, confront the actual mess we’re in, and create a concrete action plan to begin to dig out. We certainly don’t need to go from a fear dream to a hope dream. Obama’s ‘change’ is just the flip side of Bush’s ‘stay the course’ – each in its own way an invitation not to think.

The mess we find ourselves in today very much includes Islamic fundamentalism, and its terrifying intersection with nuclear proliferation. It also includes America’s future in the global economy – and the recession we’re now entering. It also includes the evisceration of our government and Constitution and institutions by the radical coup. This is no time to be wasting our ergs on children’s crusades. We have work to do. Grown-up work. Hillary’s experience isn’t a template to be followed in order to do that work – rather, it’s the necessary introductory course. Obama hasn’t taken that course yet. She’s been learning and working her whole life to get to this point – not most importantly to get elected, but to do the work, to fix the problems.


G. said...

I followed the link you left over at Anglachel's. This note is just to say, Keep up the great work. I'll forward your URL to my friends.

Falstaff said...

Thanks, gmanedit -- my first comment! :) Much appreciated.