Monday, June 16, 2014

White House Fool Report: Baq to Iraq

So, like a lot of folks, I've been looking at some of the many people who should not be advising the US government on how to handle the current crisis in Iraq: including David Brooks and Phebe Marr, John McCain, and the unforgettable one-man fifth column of British socialism, Mr. Tony Blair. And what about one extremely influential person who disagreed publicly with the rationale for the 2003 invasion right from the start? Popping up like a prairie dog from the safety of the Illinois State Senate? Calling it a "dumb war"?
Garrett: "Are you annoyed by this sort of roiling debate [on whether the president was wrong in his apparent unwillingness to nominate Janet Yellen to head the Fed]? Do you find it unseemly? And do you believe this will be one of the, if not THE most important economic decisions you'll make in the remaining of your Presidency?"

Although this is a low resolution and not the best angle (0:34), we can see the upward-vectored component to his right cheek with a relative nostril dilation also on the right. Thus this expression of a false (insincere) smile is also mixed with some contempt.

[Analysis by body language expert Dr. G. Jack Brown, August 9, 2014; no idea whether Dr. G. Jack revised his analysis after Obama went ahead and nominated Yellen in spite of Major Garrett, but in hindsight it's clear he's smiling at himself, thinking about the imbeciles of the press and hordes of anomymi who thought they knew for sure what he was going to do; little did he realize they wouldn't even notice they'd been wrong.]
Or then again, what about Robert Kagan, about whom Jason Horowitz reports in the New York Times,
“A very nice family,” said William Kristol, a family friend and the founder of the conservative Weekly Standard, whose father, Irving, is another of neoconservatism’s father figures and one of Robert’s first bosses.
Yes indeed, what about the subset of vampires whose families are arguably nice? (Although if it's William Kristol doing the arguing—a man whose work is so filled with inaccuracy and misstatement that a job with standards low enough for David Brooks to meet without evidently breaking a sweat was too hard for him to survive in—the Kagans probably resemble the Lannisters.)
The Lannister family. By Bubug at DeviantArt.
Apparently the President thinks Kagan is just all kinds of swell, once spent ten minutes chatting with a bunch of TV anchors about one of Kagan's articles (during the 2012 campaign, too, when Kagan was working for presidential candidate Willard Mitt Romney), and offers him a kind of good conduct medal:
Inside the Obama White House, Mr. Kagan is viewed, said one former top official, as a “gentleman,” whose perspective is sought out because of his excellent grasp of history.
See, I think they got that a little bit backwards; it should have read, Kagan is viewed as a "historian" (scare quotes intentional) whose perspective is sought out because of his grasp of gentlemanliness. He can have a debate with Obama because he won't show any open racism, or call him a traitor and a socialist, or repeat the same lie over and over again without even bothering to change the wording with an exasperated Bill O'Reilly face. And then we will have enjoyed the edifying spectable of the president having a mutually respectful discussion on substantive issues, such as he can hardly get from chatting with Chuck Todd. But we needn't worry that Kagan will change Obama's mind about anything, except in the unlikely event that he's right. Horowitz goes on to say,
But there is also a feeling that [Kagan] dangerously glosses over the devastating effect of the war in Iraq, and that American force, when unsuccessful, undermines rather than advances American security and the global order.
Which is pretty much the way you'd want Obama to feel, given that you can't expect him to be an actual pacifist.

Also, that article of Kagan's he liked so much was one that basically took a position against his boss Willard Mitt Romney and in favor of the president, saying that the US under Obama's leadership was not "in decline".

I tend to take the view, you know, that Obama is perfectly happy to do what I want him to do, all things being equal: he'd have run through a $2-trillion stimulus, single-payer universal health care, and a Manhattan Project–magnitude attack on fossil fuels if he'd been able to see a path that got us there, and he's managed to not do an awful lot of the dreadful things he's been accused of nefariously planning, like cutting Social Security, bombing Iran, bombing Syria, bombing Ukraine, and having Mr. Glenn Greenwald thrown unceremoniously into a dungeon. Indeed he's done an enormous amount of actually good stuff, as Krugman is saying today, including in foreign affairs as far as I'm concerned (Iran!!!), and everything our unspeakable Congress is preventing him from doing is stuff I would more or less approve of.

Not Everything is Plain Black & White by the unhappily spelled Fuschia Nightfire.
In the next few days and weeks I think we are very likely to see a series of anonymous leaks suggesting that Obama won't work with Iran over the Iraq crisis or that he is inclined to go for US airstrikes over Nineveh and Anbar. Maybe they'll be freelancers trying to influence the direction of policy on their own accounts, maybe they'll be accomplishing something the administration wants accomplished, we won't know because the press won't tell us (what? reveal the name of the source that's exploiting me to the attainment of his own secret ends? if I did that I might lose my access!). And we won't know to what extent it is or isn't true.

But practically everybody in the talking-head profession will believe it, or profess to believe it, and it will get huge for a while. Conservative heads will explode as they determine Obama has decided to do what they said they wanted him to do and scramble to oppose it anyhow. Some commentators who may call themselves "progressive" will start crying fascist and denouncing the New Bush, others who may call themselves "liberal" will, I'm afraid, turn warmonger and excitedly start discussing bombing targets.

I'm not going to do that, but follow my usual observer's-paradox policy of assuming that the way we watch the situation affects how it develops, and keep asserting as long as it's possible that what Obama "really wants" is the least karma-loaded outcome he can work his way to no matter what the anonymi are telling us, meaning in particular yes to Iran but no to airstrikes. And I'll be angry if I'm wrong, as I would have been over the other bombings that haven't happened over the past five years, as opposed to the ones that have (against people I guess an honest person might be able to regard as "enemies"), which mostly just make me sad.

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