Monday, January 5, 2009

Why oh why Obama won't 'speak out'?

guest post by lenin

Quick point, since this keeps coming up in the papers. Obama's silence on Gaza might strike some as cowardly. To others it must seem an improvement on him opening his mouth and saying something disgustingly obsequious about Israel's right to 'defend' itself. In fact, he has relied on his advisors and spokespeople drip-feeding his pro-Israeli sentiments to the media, so it is obvious that he is basically sympathetic to Israel's attack. However, a small mystery remains. Obama has spoken out on a number of issues, including the economy and the bail-out, so his sudden pretence that he is cleaving to the 'one president at a time' rule (the one that he just invented as a rationalisation for remaining schtum) is an unconvincing one. It is true that the Democratic base are nowhere near as rabidly pro-Israel as the leadership. But this has never stopped Democratic leaders from ventilating noisily on Israel's behalf.

But this is different. Obama was the first US president in living memory to win on an antiwar vote, and to win he had to mobilise constituencies way to the left of himself. People will put up with a lot of bullshit to keep the right out. However. As disgusting as most of his economy and foreign policy picks have been, to come out as a full-throated cheerleader for this slaughter, right when there are dozens of sizeable protests taking place across America against this outrage, would probably be an insult too far. One powerful anecdotal example is the questions and contributions left by members of the public on the president-elect's Change.gov website, under foreign policy. By an overwhelming margin, the most popular topic is Palestine, and almost every comment is pro-Palestinian. The polling evidence is also instructive. On 31 December, a Rasmussen poll found Americans 'closely divided' over the Gaza attacks, but noted that while 62% of Republicans supported the attacks, only 31% of Democrats did. Maybe Obama figures he'll wait until he's actually been inaugurated before he decides to burn that many bridges.

By the way, did you hear the one about the terrorist school? No, I expect you didn't.
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