The real villain of the GOP race

Scott Hill

Image © Greg Elin

In the somewhat irrelevant, mundane and over-long run-up to November’s presidential election much of the media spotlight has been on the talents – or rather, lack of – within the GOP ranks. Frontrunner Mitt Romney is suffering from what I shall refer to as the sinister and weird Mormon problem, up-and-coming Rick Santorum is, by any true believers’ standards, a complete and utter loon, which is also a tag all-too-easily synonymous with the recently humbled Rick Perry, who, following an on-going drought in Texas, declared official “Days for Prayer for Rain”[i] back in April last year.

Yet, before I sink to the similarly low depths of much of the media, I shall refrain from dissecting the Republican nominees too much; they are not the most important, nor indeed, the most interesting segment of this excruciatingly predictable election campaign.

Instead, I would like to propose that we imagine for a moment, if you will, that a Republican was in the White House and a young, enigmatic idealist named Barack Obama was their greatest challenger. Rather than use those phony, over-polished slogans – “Change we can believe in”[ii] – we shall pretend, for the sake of clarity, that his campaign was made up of pledges mirroring the reality of what has transpired since the 20th January, 2009.

“Change I cannot, and will not, implement” would have been, perhaps, a more accurate description of things to come. Firstly, let me notify you of an overlooked gem buried deep within Obama’s ideological past. Often celebrated for his charismatic manner and pitch-perfect presentational skills, Mr Obama must have been having something of an off-day when he was asked to comment on same-sex marriage during an MTV interview back in November 2008.

Despite being championed as a voice of the left – a socialist, no less – Obama brazenly asserted that marriage should be “between a man and a woman”[iii]. It is one thing being heralded as a progressive, but it would be helpful, at least occasionally, to back this up with proof and action.

Had Obama’s archaic stance been unveiled more acutely during his ruckus with Senator John McCain, there is no guessing how many votes that would have cost him. Nevertheless, domestic faux pas aside, it is President Obama’s foreign policies that would surely have made it harder, nigh on impossible, for him to gain the presidency. Traditional lefties are renowned for their opposition to warfare; in other words, imperialism is the devil. So, quite predictably, to avoid being labelled as a “moderate conservative”[iv] – that was to come later – Obama ardently endorsed diplomacy; regularly spreading anti-war rhetoric as if liberally manuring a field.

Now, once again, the powers of imagination are called upon. Conceptualise a presidential candidate pledging the following: I shall sell weapons to the most brutal dictator in return for permission to pass weapons to military units in neighbouring countries. I shall lead efforts to overturn the sickening global ban on cluster bombs; what harm have they ever done? I promise to assassinate American citizens without the bother of trials or charges if they dare to so much as criticise American foreign policy. On top of that, despite the multiple horrors inflicted by drone strikes, I shall joke about them shamelessly, just because I can.

Hard to imagine any sane individual voting for this guy, right? Wrong. It is now public knowledge that President Obama embraced Uzbekistan’s tyrannical president[v], Islam Karimov, in return for the opening of crucial supply lines into Afghanistan. Obama has since rewarded the central Asian republic with a 50% increase in financial aid[vi] for their compliance. For a man who preaches peace and diplomacy – lest we forget, he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 – his willingness to negotiate with, and prop-up, a regime that regularly burns dissenters alive[vii] and is fond of raping, electrocuting and suffocating[viii] its own citizens is highly perturbing.

If condoning the appalling acts of President Karimov were not bad enough, Obama’s attempts to overturn the worldwide ban on cluster munitions[ix] last year ought to provide the cherry for this warped imperialistic cake. One must ask oneself, are these really the acts of an anti-war saviour? It was only in 2009 that the new president was being celebrated and congratulated[x] on his, seemingly, well-intentioned decision to support a total ban on the lethally inaccurate weapon. How things change. Cluster bombs scatter hundreds of bomblets across a wide area and have incessantly killed and maimed innocent civilians long after bloody conflicts end. Why Mr Obama saw fit to try and ignite a renaissance in the despicable armament is not wholly clear; but one suspects corporate profit had something to do with it.

Having spiralled your way through this tangled web of criminality, allow your hazy mind to take just one more horrifying revelation. Here goes. President Obama ordered the killing of American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki[xi] on 30 September, 2011. Drones were sent to assassinate the radical cleric without due process; Awlaki’s 16-year-old son[xii] also lost his life that day having been caught up in the deadly strike. But, as commentator Jason Ditz points out, “Killing children with missiles isn’t exactly new to the president”[xiii]. Moreover, the president actually takes pleasure in the murderous acts. In May 2010, at the Washington Formal Prom, Obama saw fit to distastefully share a joke[xiv], with what was clearly a small-minded crowd, about the existential threat posed by a predator drone.

Political writer Alex Pareene, of Salon, remarked: “The president is evincing a casual disregard for those lives he is responsible for ending by making a lighthearted joke”[xv]. Of course, you would not know that the president had just produced a nauseating piece of rhetorical garbage judging by the way his listeners lapped it up like giggling little girls. As an aside, nobody even questioned the fact that his ‘joke’ was based around the notion of someone wanting to sleep with his underage daughters. Classy! The fact is, though, that President Obama has indiscriminately dropped unmanned planes on far-away regions without the slightest molecule of regret or concern. And the American public continue to gullibly regard him as a progressive.

Overwhelmingly, this imagined campaign has reeked of the worst excesses of right-wing jingoism and violence. Not even in Michele Bachmann’s wildest of wildest dreams would she dare to run a parallel operation based on such sheer warmongering and destruction. Yet, what is palpably being misunderstood is the fact that this fails to be an abstract concept. It is the reality, the actuality and the phenomenon that is President Obama. Paul Krugman was being polite in July when he described the president as a “moderate conservative”; for he is clearly worse. And consequently, the Republican challengers to Obama’s crown have had to manoeuvre even further towards the right; way out on the periphery.

Inevitably, this makes the Romneys, the Pauls and the Santorums appear unelectable. But that is not, and should not be, the point. The GOP has been severely weakened as a result of the president’s right-wing positioning, leaving Obama free to spread his lurid interpretation of liberalism and progressive politics, all with the backing of his wretched partisan bandwagon. It is political triangulation of the highest calibre, not witnessed since Clinton’s tenure at the top. Wrongly, and to the detriment of democracy, Obama will face no real threat come November. The right are too segmented and the left continues to sit back silently, absorbing all the false promises and deceitful acts. If the Republican’s want an irrational, trigger-happy right-winger in the White House they would do well to stick with what they currently have.


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