January 18, 2011Who Will Save Us From Obama's Pandering to the Right?Monica Lewinsky, Where Are You Now That We Need You ... Again?
By ANDREW LEVINE
Four and a half decades ago, Lyndon Johnson got reforms through Congress that put Barack Obama's to shame and that, unlike his, didn't reinforce the power of those who made them necessary. Johnson also inherited an unwinnable war that he escalated and made his own, just as Obama has done with George Bush's revenge-driven assault on Afghanistan. Johnson was fortunate only to have inherited one unwinnable and counter-productive war; Obama inherited two. With considerable disingenuousness, he did declare "the combat phase" of Bush's war of choice in Iraq over, but all he did was rebrand it. So much for the peace candidate and Nobel Laureate! He has also initiated or ratcheted up other, so far lesser, wars in such places as Yemen, Somalia, and the tribal regions of Pakistan; and the prospect of war in other oil-rich Islamic areas and with Iran continues. Since we nowadays run our wars with economic conscripts and mercenaries and on borrowed funds, and since many liberals are still determined to cut Obama limitless slack, public condemnation has been muted. It was different forty plus years ago. Then the Vietnam War was enough to do the Great Society in, and to make Lyndon Johnson a hated figure among those who would otherwise have praised his reforms. This is why it was not uncommon, back in the day, to see bumper stickers that read "Lee Harvey Oswald, Where are You Now that We Need You?"
I was reminded of that slogan by the recent prattle about how "extremists" of both the left and the right are culpable for last week's massacre in Tucson. Not unexpectedly, figures on the right are leading the charge. Also, not unexpectedly, some liberal pundits trumpet a similar line. A conspicuous example is the "objective" Newsweek journalist Jonathan Alter, author of The Promise, a chronicle of Obama's first year in office. Appearing on the Brian Lehrer Show (on NPR, a slightly more up-market source than Newsweek for conventional wisdom and pro-regime propaganda), he argued for the left's culpability by citing a remark that appeared several weeks ago on The Daily Kos website. There, the blogger who goes by the name Boy Blue wrote that because of Gabrielle Gifford's support for Obama's "compromise" on taxes, "she's dead to me." Could anyone familiar with the way people talk take that to be a call for Gifford's death? Maybe Alter has trouble with idiomatic turns of phrase. More likely, like other pro-regime propagandists and purveyors of conventional wisdom, he was grasping at straws.
Even back in the LBJ days, when rhetoric on the left – the real left, not The Daily Kos variety – did get incendiary, and when there were bombings (never shootings), care was always taken to attack property, not people. Some Weather Underground militants blew themselves up making bombs. Otherwise, the white left was responsible for only one death – a graduate student who happened unexpectedly, late at night, to be in a building on the University of Wisconsin campus that housed the nefarious Army Mathematics Research Center. The record of the black left was comparable, notwithstanding stupefying levels of police repression leveled against the Black Panther Party and other militant organizations. There was some violence, but it was almost always defensive and never terroristic. Contrast that with the violence stirred up by prominent figures on the right and in social movements associated with it, especially the anti-abortion movement. They've been at it for years and their incitements periodically bear fruit. Unless the Tucson shooter, Jared Loughner, was delusional and a Democratic Congresswoman just happened to be a convenient target, a story that has lately gained currency as Obama and others press for "toning down" the rhetoric and making nice, the events last week were just the latest episode.