Friday, April 20, 2012
By Barry Rubin
It’s really interesting when I talk to Obama supporters who are soft-core, meaning they are open to discussion and not completely closed-minded or ideologically set in granite. There are several themes that constantly recur in such conversations though one rarely or never sees these points in print.
Of course, these people get their information from the mainstream media, which protects the administration and repackages its talking points while largely censoring out critical responses and the failures or scandals. But there are also some important assumptions they are making on their own.
--A key argument is that Obama really hasn’t done that much to change anything. The subtext of this claim is that the person who believes it is only looking at legislation passed by Congress. In that category, once one goes beyond Obamacare or the disastrous Stimulus Plan this administration has gotten far less in the way of major bills through the legislature than have many of its predecessors.
Leaving aside the fact that the speaker usually doesn’t understand the full import of Obamacare, the problem here is that most of the changes are invisible. They are the result of regulatory changes made by unelected official and czars in a wide range of agencies or of executive orders from the White House. Thus, it is possible to vastly understate the changes to American society made by this administration.
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--Another area of change is the deep indebtedness that Obama has brought, the massive wasted spending, and the inability to get the country out of depression. Here, after almost a full term for Obama, the soft Obama supporter doesn’t blame George Bush so much as the difficult situation itself. After all, if Obama had taken over during a boom, the assumption runs, that good economy would still be going on. The implication is that the president doesn’t have too much to do with the economic state of the nation.
--Then comes a theme I hear over and over again: Obama is a centrist because he gets along with capitalists. His relationship with the head of General Electric is mentioned as is the fact that he’s hired people from Wall Street and other such things. People say things like: to hear the right-wing talk about it you’d think Obama is some wild-eyed Occupy Wall Street type.
There is no sense of the concept of crony capitalism. Sure the administration is happy to back specific companies if they support its policies and perhaps kick-back big campaign contributions. Obama calls for class warfare and then jets off to big fundraisers with corporate fat cats. That doesn’t make him a centrist but rather someone who knows how to leverage support and intimidate opposition.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His book, Israel: An Introduction, has just been published by Yale University Press. Other recent books include The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center and of his blog, Rubin Reports. His original articles are published at PJMedia.