Friday, June 05, 2009

Obama goes old school, confuses conservatives.

I do my best to avoid network news. It’s garbage. I don’t blame the networks, they’re only giving the public what it wants. That’s why the focus is on the personalities that read the news rather than the news itself. Wolf Blitzer, Chris Matthews, Rachel Maddow, Brian Williams, these people are not news reporters at all. They are quasi-celebrities who read teleprompters that feature hard work done by real reporters who get paid much less and rarely get due credit for their work. If you watch closely you might see some names flash by the screen at the end of these so-called news shows. The real reporters and the producers who put it all together are listed there.

MSNBC has positioned itself as a liberal counterpoint to Fox News. Unfortunately MSNBC comes off as a poorly executed clone of the Daily Show. Keith Olberman’s vendetta against Bill O’Reilly notwithstanding, I find MSNBC offensive. As a self-described liberal I can honestly say that I don’t want to be associated with the nonsense that goes on there. I don’t necessarily disagree with their views but I think they lack professionalism. Don’t pawn yourself off as a serious commentator and then act like a less refined version of Jon Stewart.

Fox News is just ridiculous. They don’t even pretend to be informed or intelligent. They cater to middleclass conservatives and people who don’t want their point of views challenged. Everything is a commentary and there is a clear bias to their commentary. Even though Fox and conservative pundits insist that the rest of the media harbor a liberal bias, it’s quite clear that Fox has positioned itself as a propaganda machine for the right wing.

Case in point? Obama’s recent speech in Cairo. Obama reached out to the Muslim world in hopes of establishing a dialogue that might allow the US to resolve differences without dropping bombs and casting aspersions. Fox News and the pundits they employ jumped on the speech and accused Obama of turning his back on Israel, weakening our nation and apologizing for our actions after 9-11. Obama talked about nuclear weapons and told his audience that his ambition was to eliminate all nuclear weapons. Fox scoffed at this notion, stating that nuclear weapons are here to stay.

They’re right, of course. That genie is out of the bottle. We’re also not going to get rid of chemical and biological weapons. But Obama, by virtue of being an intelligent man, knows this. The reason he’s telling the Muslim world that he wants to eliminate all nuclear weapons is so Muslim people don’t feel like they’re being picked on when they’re told their countries can’t develop nukes. It’s a platitude, not a promise. And while it might be insincere, the gesture is more effective at building cooperation. Bush’s policy was to tell other countries they couldn’t have nukes and then wave his around singing na-nee-na-nee-boo-boo.

Obama also expressed some regret at the way the previous administration handled the aftermath of 9-11. It wasn’t an outright apology but Obama did offer that both the United States and the Muslim world shared blame for the state of the world today. That’s called diplomacy. Rather than pointing his finger at all of Islam, as George W. Bush was prone to do, Obama extended his hand and offered Muslims the opportunity to meet him halfway. President Obama simply realizes that we can’t bomb people into our way of thinking. Compromises must be made. By taking the first step, Obama has put the US in a position of power. We can dictate the nature of those compromises.

One fact Fox pointed out was a poll that reveals a very low favorability rating in the Islamic world. “These people don’t like us; why is Obama trying to woo them,” one bleach-blond bimbo asked. Of course Jon Stewart quickly countered on The Daily Show that you’re supposed to woo people who don’t like you.

You’d think that Fox and the conservative pundits are in favor of waging all out war on Islam. While there are certainly whackos on the right who see this as a holy war, most of the people criticizing Obama are simply grasping at straws. They have to object to everything he does, even if it’s the right thing to do. Obama could turn the Middle East into a utopia where people of every culture and creed embrace one another as brothers and Fox would find something to take issue with. “God wanted the Middle East to be violent,” they’d complain.

It’s too early to tell if Obama’s right. I don’t know if he’s doing a good job or not. He’s clearly not perfect but it certainly seems like he’s on the right track. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney demolished our nation’s good will around the world and that was after the entire world was in our corner after the 9-11 attacks. In all of six months Bush and Cheney managed to alienate everybody except Tony Blair and his loyalty to Bush destroyed his reputation. Before we commemorated the first anniversary of the 9-11 attacks the rest of the world was pretty much thinking that we had it coming and when we turned our attention to Iraq, we were, in the eyes of the world, the evil empire.

It seems as though Obama has mended a few fences. By simply respecting the rest of the world he is earning the respect of people around the world. The US has a chance to be a great country again and that’s because Barack Obama isn’t running around pointing fingers at other countries and using terms like “evil”, “rogue,” and “terror.” He hasn’t claimed to be on a mission from God, like some inbred version of Elwood Blues. Most importantly, he speaks clearly, forms complete sentences and uses words that are actually in the dictionary.

Perhaps 8 years of George W. Bush has conditioned the people at Fox and the idiots who watch them to expect our president to act like a professional wrestler, but back before “the man of god” overtook the White House, this is how Presidents behaved. It's old school diplomacy. Communicating with class, respect and intelligence. It takes some getting used to but it works.

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