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Obama, Hillary, AIPAC …and `the People’

June 6, 2008


Losing Is Hard…

As the week comes to a close, Hillary Clinton is about to make her carefully contrived concession speech. She’s lost. She has drawn out the process as long as possible to keep her name and face in the news in order gain maximum leverage over Barak Obama and to soften her image as yet the latest presidential candidate’s propensity of gutter politics. Having played the race card to the hilt (and then trying to defend herself by accusing Obama of playing the gender card), having called for and then defended `obliterating Iran’, as her chances for winning the nomination slipped into oblivion, there was virtually nothing she was not willing to try do to pierce Obama’s popularity. She’s lost.

The most telling indication of her self-delusion is apparent from her inability to admit the obvious: she’s lost. This has been so for some time.. All this posturing about extending the date of her concession speech – supposedly for later today – mixes the personal and the political. `The personal’ entails a rather profound level of self-denial (she’s lost). She seems to think she was somehow `owed’ the nomination and it has been difficult for her to comprehend that despite her own experience, her husband’s political acumen (somewhat softened perhaps by the psychological consequences of quadruple open heart surgery?) that…she’s lost. At long last though, the message seems to be seeping in.

`The political’ consequences of her loss, on which there has been little attention, are probably more important and less obvious. Hillary’s has always been a team effort – the team centering around the Democratic Leadership Council, AIPAC, a fair number of elected officials on the state and national level and those corporate interests that stand behind them. They’ve lost. I must admit to a moment of amusement, watching the `political class’ of the state’s Democratic Party here in Colorado – key elements of which lined up early behind Hillary in hopes of being tapped for national positions – scramble as it became more and more evident that their candidate was in trouble. They’ve lost.

They’ve lost but…

Groveling For Peace and Justice

They’ve lost but they are now seeing how much they can salvage of their political program. The negotiations between Obama and Hillary are more than personal. Flexible and seasoned political players par excellence, I imagine they’ll be able to salvage quite a bit and be able to impose upon Obama most of their program that includes continuing most of Bush’s Middle East policy (with some minor adjustments perhaps, perhaps not, concerning Iraq), acceptance of most of the erosion of civil rights crafted under the Patriot’s Act, and with minor changes – few of which will challenge or bring under control the runawy power of finance capital – in domestic policy. The DLC-AIPAC folk will probably be able to maintain their support for and interest in American’s bloated military budget, heart and soul of the Bush policies.

And the horse trading between Clinton and Obama camps behind the scenes in the name of `party unity’ is already intense. The basic dynamic is an old one: behind the scenes threats. If Obama challenges their (DLC-AIPAC) priorties, threats, both veiled and open, to withdraw financial support and political funding become more blatant. Throughout the campaign there have been accusations of the `left’ trying to split the Democratic Party. Actually, that is quite inaccurate. It is AIPAC, the DLC that have threatened to split, that constantly trample or water down the party’s platform bullying the left and the forces behind Obama into concession after concession. And the party has just begun.

How much ground is Obama willing to give `in the name of party unity’? Apparently a fair amount.

• He was willing to denounce his own minister, whose main crime, was to point out the fairly well known fact that the country was built upon a foundation of racism that continues to this day. Obama’s first major error on principle.
• And now in that annual Washington DC ritual of `Groveling for Israel’ – the AIPAC convention – and in an indication of things to come – Obama made one of the worst speech of his political career – in which he too showed that he could grovel with the best of them.

To a cheering crowd, a few days after Israel announced it would construct more settlements in the Occupied Territories, with the on-going siege of Gaza causing unspeakable suffering to Palestinians there, Obama:
• gave Jerusalem away (as if it were his to deliver to Israel).
• promised enormous sums of unconditional military aid to Israel.
• continued to demand the exclusion of Hamas from the negotiating table on Israeli-Palestinian peace making.
• substantially bought into the myth of the Iranian threat, suggesting that the support building in Washington – and greatly encouraged in this AIPAC conference for a major military strike against Iran – has bipartisan support

That is an impressive amount of groveling in just a half hour. And then Obama was surprised that the Arab world exploded in anger at his remarks and in response, that even Mahmoud Abbas – little more than a US clone these days – was forced to call for opening a Fateh-Hamas dialogue! The same day as Obama’s speech, US House Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, Howard Berman announced that he was reconsidering a ban on selling Israel F-22 fighter plans.

(Note: a timely petition protesting Obama’s remarks spearheaded by Jewish Voice For Peace is circulating on the internet. It is worth signing. – click here for the link)

Time for a Change, Everywhere but in the Middle East?

To be frank, the thrust of Obama’s remarks were no surprise but the extent of his concessions was disappointing and unnecessary. The nation as a whole is not in tandem with AIPAC’s policies either on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or on attacking Iran. Obama was willing to concede far more than he had to. It will not be easy for him to renege on such prominently made promises. His speech revealed a certain desperate quality on his part, a willingness to make concessions to the Democratic Party’s old guard to shore up his position.

More disturbing is what appears to be shaping up: bipartisan support for attacking Iran (to which Obama has given his tactic blessing), continuation of the Bush policies towards Israel-Palestine (Hamas excluded from negotiations, Israel essentially calling the shots, no pressure on Israeli settlement building, no criticism on the Gaza blockade and the humanitarian crisis it has triggered) and the continuation of the war on terrorism in all of its major themes.

And that leaves Iraq and Afghanistan. Has Obama made these concessions in order to strengthen his bargaining power to get the US out of Iraq? Has he agreed to permit the bombing of Iran as a pre-condition for some support for his Iraq withdrawal? Whatever the nature of the negotiations, Obama’s `time for a change’ does not appear to include the Middle East. And this could very well be his undoing. I believe that barring unforeseen circumstances, he’ll win the election easily over a neanderthal like John McCain (whose ads already are trying to soften his image of an unrepentant militarist). I usually don’t make predictions, but I believe that Obama will win – easily and by a wide margin – with or without AIPAC’s support – which makes his AIPAC concessions all the more unnecessary and even politically dumb.

Obama: Can You Hear The People Sing?

But Obama has to answer to more than AIPAC and the Democratic Leadership Council

He has to answer to the American people who support him because vague as his pronouncements might have been on the subject – he has promised to get us out of Iraq and to given the US economy a new direction. He’ll have six months or so to prove that he’s serious about this. If he is, all the more power to him. If not, he’ll see how his support evaporates, as hope turns to bitterness and the nation and the world look to new and more radical solutions to the problems he promised to address but didn’t.

Obama, can you hear the people sing?

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