Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Obama and Trump

In explaining Trump's rise I have already referred to the advice Obama got from his political guru, David Axelrod, back in 2007: that Obama had a great chance to become president in 2008 because people are always looking for the opposite of what they have. I was reminded of that again today. I was re-reading David Goldberg's great Atlantic article on Obama's foreign policy, to which David Brooks just gave one of his Sidney Awards for the best long-form journalism of the year. Goldberg several times comments on Obama's “Spockian”, preternaturally calm response to foreign provocateurs like Hugo Chavez and Putin:
The president’s unwillingness to counter the baiting by American adversaries can feel emotionally unsatisfying, I said, and I told him that every so often, I’d like to see him give Vladimir Putin the finger. It’s atavistic, I said, understanding my audience.

“It is,” the president responded coolly. “This is what they’re looking for.”
Obama's famous reluctance to engage emotionally with America's fears – over Ebola, terrorism, Chinese expansionism, etc. – may soothe diplomats and doctors, but it does not resonate with many Americans, and maybe they have turned to Trump as a man who feels what they feel and will respond and they might, with anger, insults and demands for satisfaction.

2 comments:

G. Verloren said...

"Obama's famous reluctance to engage emotionally with America's fears – over Ebola, terrorism, Chinese expansionism, etc. – may soothe diplomats and doctors, but it does not resonate with many Americans, and maybe they have turned to Trump as a man who feels what they feel and will respond and they might, with anger, insults and demands for satisfaction."

Do these people think that Ebola can be stopped with anger, insults, and demands for satisfaction?

...that after spending 15 years angrily trying to wage an idiotic "War on Terror" and only making things worse in the process, that the solution now is to just keep being angry and keep waging an impossible, unwinnable war that can only serve to continually radicalize new terrorists with every bomb dropped and every corpse created?

...that we can somehow use anger and insults to cow or intimidate China, whose economy we rely on heavily, whose nuclear capabilities are the best in the world after the US and Russia, whose available military manpower pool is five times the size of ours, and who would ultimately fare far better than we would in any sort of hostile confrontation we might care to engage in, violent or otherwise?

Fearful, ignorant people who in times of crisis turn to anger and belligerence are dangerous fools, and they have absolutely no right to be deciding the fates of millions of people. And yet, here we are.

Shadow Flutter said...

The interesting thing about Ebola is no one who knew (or was close to) the nurse who contracted it came down with it, which proved what the CDC and NIH had been saying about the disease all along. But that seems to have gotten lost in the uproar. Most politicians are opportunists, and not leaders, so I wasn't expecting much from governors or legislators, and that's exactly what I got. The problem with Obama's demeanor in "crises" like these is it can be confused with not caring or being callous. Perhaps he should have been more passionate about not letting passion run away with our reason.