Horatio

Horatio
[Photo by Jacquelyn Griffin)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The "Loyal" Opposition

Conservatives exult at America's defeat in the competition to host the 2012 Olympics.

What a surprise. After all, as long as Obama loses, that's all that counts.

It's a trivial matter, but reflective of where we are as a nation. As I have written elsewhere, the institutional GOP has chosen to try to de-legitimize Obama, and that they are playing with fire. We're not talking about isolated provocateurs here--the Chairman of the Republican Party as I linked on my more political home a plethora of governors and senators have been flirting with birtherism, and feeding the fire that Obama is a raging evil pretender to the throne. It's one thing to disagree with the guy, and to denounce his policies, but the appeal to revolutionary rhetoric is so crazed that even Tom Friedman, who is a centrist with neo-con leanings, and a Bush supporter on many issues, recently published a column worrying that the GOP is fueling an atmosphere like that which led to Rabin's assassination:
Others have already remarked on this analogy, but I want to add my voice because the parallels to Israel then and America today turn my stomach: I have no problem with any of the substantive criticism of President Obama from the right or left. But something very dangerous is happening. Criticism from the far right has begun tipping over into delegitimation and creating the same kind of climate here that existed in Israel on the eve of the Rabin assassination

***

Our leaders, even the president, can no longer utter the word “we” with a straight face. There is no more “we” in American politics at a time when “we” have these huge problems — the deficit, the recession, health care, climate change and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — that “we” can only manage, let alone fix, if there is a collective “we” at work.
Now, please don't get me wrong. I'm not (unlike Friedman in his Op-ed) calling for legal sanctions against those who are on the crazy end of the spectrum. What I am suggesting is that they are becoming mainstreamed in a way that could lead to a breakdown in our ability to govern. Tactics--the "who won the day?" approach--has a place. But strategy--the long term picture is far more important. That's why, to pick a great conservative to make my point, Winston Churchill's many tactical blunders (opposing Normandy, his "soft underbelly" fixation in World War II, to name just two), are dwarfed by his seizing of the truth long before anyone else: that Nazi Germany had to be defeated, not appeased. He kept his eye on the goal, and was willing to work with anyone--even his bete noir, Stalin, to attain that goal.

We need more Churchills, not cynical, vapid Becks and Steeles.

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