Patterico's Pontifications

11/6/2023

Barack Obama Continues to Disappoint, but Bernard Sanders Gets It (Kind of) Right

Filed under: General — JVW @ 12:02 pm



[guest post by JVW]

In a sad but unsurprising development at the end of last week, former President Barack Obama crawled out from under his massive piles of post-Presidency cash to deliver one of his typically unwelcome smug and self-righteous assessments of world events. Speaking in front of a friendly crowd at his Obama Foundation Democracy Forum, the 44th President outlined the barbaric depredations of the Hamas terrorists, but then in his usual manner started to equivocate, criticizing (as transcribed by me):

[. . .] an Israeli response that has thus far resulted in the displacement of over one million people; the death of at least 9000 Palestinian civilians, thousands of them also children; the cut-off of water and food [and] electricity to a captive population which threatens to create an even greater humanitarian crisis. And all of this is taking place against the backdrop of decades of failure to achieve a durable peace for both Israelis and Palestinians, one that is based upon genuine security for Israel, a recognition of its right to exist, and a peace that is based on an end of the occupation and the creation of a viable state and self-determination for the Palestinian people.

A man whose Administration was noted for its antipathy towards the only democracy in the Middle East draws a tendentious comparison between a terrorist attack on unarmed civilians at a music festival followed up by the slaughter of entire families in their homes, and the rooting out of those same terrorists who cynically surround themselves with women, children, the elderly, the sick and infirm in order to use them as human shields, who were given nearly two weeks to evacuate what was clearly going to be the theater of battle. This is the grossly-overrated dilettante that we all remember, celebrated as a deep thinker no matter how shallow and superficial his utterances truly are.

I noticed two things in Mr. Obama’s speech. First, like the vast majority of the progressive wing of his party, his support for Israel’s right to defend itself came with very strict limits which makes the matter all but impossible in practice, and it took him fewer than 30 days to determine that Israel had gone far enough. Second, he openly admits that “the ensuing debate [. . .] has laid bare generational divides” and that:

[E]ven here, within our Obama Foundation family, we’ve had to sort through our anguish, our outrage, our fears and our differences on the issues. I had a conversation with a group of you around this issue, and you were passionate and pushed me around some of the public statements I’d made.

And there you have it: the young leftwing activists who are filling jobs at the Obama Foundation once they finish their studies in Anti-colonialism and Social Justice and Critical Race Theory are demanding that the former President trim his sails to the ill winds of modern Third Worldsim and its attendant idea that poor and backward states are so only because they are being oppressed and exploited by rich and organized states — certainly not because they have a ridiculous and self-defeating political culture.

The next day the Oracle of Hyde Park appeared on the podcast “Pod Save America” which is run by his insufferable former aides and further set himself in the “hey, Israel, stop moping over the heinous attack and make peace already, will ya?” school of left-wing thought. Jim Geraghty provides a full quote of Mr. Obama’s deep musings:

If there’s any chance of us being able to act constructively to do something, it will require an admission of complexity, and maintaining what on the surface may seem contradictory ideas that what Hamas did was horrific, and there’s no justification for it. And what is also true that the occupation and what’s happening to Palestinians is unbearable. And what is also true is that there is a history of the Jewish people that may be dismissed unless your grandparents, or your great-grandparents, or your uncle or your aunt tell you stories about the madness of anti-Semitism. And what is true is that there are people, right now, who are dying, who have nothing to do with what Hamas did. And what is true, right — I mean, we can go on for a while. And the problem with the social media and trying TikTok activism, and trying to debate this on that, is you can’t speak the truth. You can pretend to speak the truth. You can speak one side of the truth. And in some cases you can try to maintain your moral innocence. But that won’t solve the problem. And so, if you want to solve the problem, then you have to take in the whole truth, and you then have to admit nobody’s hands are clean — that all of us are complicit to some degree. I look back at this, and I think, ‘what could I have done during my presidency to move this forward? As hard as I tried, I’ve got the scars to prove it. But there’s a part of me that is still saying ‘well, was there something else I could have done?’ That’s the conversation we should be having. Not just looking backwards, but looking forwards. And that can’t happen if we are confining ourselves to our outrage. I would rather see you out there, talking to people, including people who you disagree with — if you genuinely want to change this, then you’ve got to figure out how to speak to somebody on the other side and listen to them, and understand what they are talking about, and not dismiss it. Because you can’t save that child without their help. Not in this situation. [Emphasis added by Geraghty.]

Just listen to that piffle and parse it for the pompous gasbaggery that it truly is. Here are some key quotes that struck me (and not in a good way):

* it will require an admission of complexity – Yes, because all of us truly do believe there are easy and simple solutions to these problems at our fingertips.

* what Hamas did was horrific, and there’s no justification for it – I had hoped that was directed towards the young activists employed in his foundation who are no doubt justifying Hamas’s actions in the context of “Palestinian oppression,” and would not be followed with an unspoken “but. . . .” Alas, I would be disappointed by what came immediately after.

* the occupation and what’s happening to Palestinians is unbearable – What “occupation” is he referring to, both in that clause and in his remarks to his foundation staff quoted the day before? There have not been any Israelis living in Gaza since 2005. He’s likely droning on about the West Bank, but it seems to me that the spoils of war dictate that neither Jordan nor Palestine has any more legitimate claim to that land than Spain has to Guam, no matter what the Arab League and their allies insist.

* and the problem with the social media and trying TikTok activism, and trying to debate this on that, is you can’t speak the truth – This is Barack Obama at his worst: the preening moralist who believes that he and only he has the perspicacity to look behind the sloganeering and the grandstanding and discern the truth, which he then graciously shares with us ordinary schlubs, bound as we are to our narrow-mindedness. This is the trait of Barack Obama which I have always loathed the most.

* there’s a part of me that is still saying “well, was there something else I could have done?” – Gee, sir, maybe you could have avoided cluelessness with Egypt, bad choices in Libya, dithering in Syria, abject stuipidity in Iraq, and weird yet pointless obsequiousness towards Iran. Just for starters.

Anyway, Jim Geraghty takes the former President to the woodshed in his commentary, poking holes in the assumptions and pretenses that President Prom Queen constructed in lieu of cogent argument, and pointing out that Mr. Obama’s words are an implicit rebuke to his former Vice-President who is now managing this crisis. So read it if you get the chance.

Oddly enough, not every tiresome lefty has jumped aboard the anti-Israel bandwagon this week. NRO reports on a surprising supporter of Israel’s right to eradicate a neighborhing terrorist group bent on slaughtering Israeli citizens:

Senator Bernie Sanders said Sunday that progressives’ call for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas conflict is unrealistic, declaring “Hamas has got to go.”

[. . .]

“I don’t know how you can have a permanent cease-fire with an organization like Hamas, which is dedicated to turmoil and chaos and destroying the state of Israel,” Sanders, the independent Vermont senator who caucuses with Democrats and is one of the Senate’s most liberal members, countered during an appearance on CNN Sunday. “I think what the Arab countries in the region understand is that Hamas has got to go.”

Now perhaps it is only a matter of time before Sen. Sanders too determines that Israel has gone far enough and that they should pack it in and call it a day, but it is refreshing to see that he has managed to last longer than the last two Democrat Presidents and a large chunk of his party’s leadership, including his young acolytes who hold elective office. Yes, the Vermont Social Democrat is a Jew by heritage, but he has long insisted that he is non-observant and he otherwise has not been known as a staunch defender of Israel. And it should be noted, as it is being pointed out in various left-wing circles, that the Green Mountain Marxist did express great reservations about the death toll among civilians in Gaza and chided Israel for not being more careful to distinguish between “militants” and civilians which suggests that he is unsurprisingly in over his head where combat issues are concerned. But I do award him a fair amount of credit for being willing to acknowledge that peace in the region simply will not be possible as long as Hamas is a key player in Palestine. Let’s hope that he doesn’t waffle on this important point, unlike the angry young activists who clearly dominate the organizational energy on the progressive side, and a cowardly and ineffective White House who can’t seem to say no to them.

– JVW


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