Thursday, December 31, 2009

9/11 and 12/25: Obama’s dilemma

After almost a year of his presidency the first impression given by Barack Obama holds up: That he is a smart guy, a nice guy, a guy who wants to do the right thing. But questions arise now as to whether or not he has the ability to do the right thing. It has been proposed here at The Hill and elsewhere that Janet Napolitano be fired. She has no place in her job. But does Obama have the character to fire her? Does he understand management’s necessities? Does he understand battle?

Here, there and everywhere after the terrorist attempt on Christmas Day in Detroit heroically thwarted by a passenger, the original feelings came up again that first surfaced after 9/11. The same feelings I felt when troops were first sent to Tora Bora; mixed feelings that sadness, helplessness would now be vindicated by courage and neutralized by vengeance and possibly justice. George W. Bush said he would bring Osama bin Laden back dead or alive. It was not a bad thing to want then or now.

12/25 might in time and time not far along, prove to be a very good day for George W. Bush. Maybe not so good for Barack Obama. Because Obama from here on out will be compared to Bush.

Obama will be haunted now by a liberal attitude that has poisoned his candidacy and his presidency. Wesley Clark ran for President in 2004 with policies that opposed the invasion of Iraq. Howard Dean also opposed the invasion of Iraq. But what happened, and it was not entirely Dean’s fault, is that a vast swarth of liberal America moved to Dean because they opposed not just the invasion of Iraq but war, they opposed unpleasantness; they opposed violence, THEY OPPOSED ALL WAR; THEY OPPOSED THE IDEA OF WAR. It was a historic carriage from the anti-war movement of the Sixties and Seventies. I attended the first demonstrations that opposed the invasion of Iraq in Montpelier, VT, and the same people were there who were there in the Sixties. People like Dave Dellinger of the Chicago Seven, aging Norma Desmonds, waiting for Max to come in for their final close ups.

This was not Dean’s position. It was not Obama’s. And it was certainly not Wes Clark’s, who said, “When I say I’ll bring back Osama bin Laden dead or alive, I mean it,” But what accumulated in the liberal path to 2008 was a hope that the need for violence would simply go away; a pacifistic denial of the reality of the situation and the responsibilities attached to it that we faced after 9/11. And Obama was seen as the “anti-war” president.

Maybe he is.

12/25 has refocused America’s energies. It has brought us back to square one when half the men in my town were wearing fire fighter’s hats.

War prepares people for more war. World War I displaced the isolationism of the 19th century and conditioned the country for more focused efforts in WW II. Likewise the Mexican War brought America, north and south, out of the benign utopianism of the previous decades and refocused their efforts on moral and political issues.

The first few years in Iraq may have brought such conditioning. The passivism of the Sixties is passing now as that generation passes. The necessities of safety are coming out of denial. This will be the telling year for America and for Obama, the question is, does he have the abilities and the character to face up.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

I was looking for something today because I was thinking about the comparisons of the anti-vietnam era (although I am only 32) and the liberal Obama era where open minded thinking seems to be taking over the country - primarily by the younger generations. Would you have anything to add to this topic and discussion? Will history repeat itself, and when will that happen?

wes

Bernie Quigley said...

Wes – I have written quite a lot about that in my column at The Hill. I opposed the invasion of Iraq here in northernmost New England claiming that our states had the right to not participate without the approval of our governors. That is, as I called it “as states rights defence against Dick Cheney.” I did this because the anti-war movements of the late Sixties and Seventies did no good and much bad. After the threat of the draft was passed the anti-war group went on to law school. The dissidents had no stake in their dissent and could not transform by their actions – they just avoided danger. I compare our times more to the 1830s which like the Sixties and Seventies were utopian. The organic effect of utopianism almost everywhere I can think of – china, Russia, the U.S. in the 1860s – is cultural breakdown 30 years after the event. That is what we face today as our states rights anti-war posture here in New England has cross pollinated – at least 35 states now have sovereignty initiatives and the best governors in the country support them.

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