President Rorschach

A Good Man or a "Muslim President?"

Glenn Greenwald muses on the fervor of personal feeling that is behind so many opinions — pro and con — about the current president. Yes, there are kooks who venerate Sarah[!] for no good reason. But what about… um, you know, the president?

This week Andrew Sullivan has highlighted numerous rants from Obama loyalists who are disappointed, nay, disgusted that people “on the left” are daring to criticize their president. As Greenwald asks, should we just ignore all of this:

[A]re the criticisms that have been voiced about Obama valid?  Has he appointed financial officials who have largely served the agenda of the Wall Street and industry interests that funded his campaign?  Has he embraced many of the Bush/Cheney executive power and secrecy abuses which Democrats once railed against — from state secrets to indefinite detention to renditions and military commissions?  Has he actively sought to protect from accountability and disclosure a whole slew of Bush crimes?  Did he secretly a negotiate a deal with the pharmaceutical industry after promising repeatedly that all negotiations over health care would take place out in the open, even on C-SPAN?  Are the criticisms of his escalation of the war in Afghanistan valid, and are his arguments in its favor redolent of the ones George Bush made to “surge” in Iraq or Lyndon Johnson made to escalate in Vietnam?   Is Bob Herbert right when he condemned Obama’s detention policies as un-American and tyrannical, and warned:  “Policies that were wrong under George W. Bush are no less wrong because Barack Obama is in the White House”?

Greenwald asserts that these reactions are “grounded almost exclusively in (a) a deep-seated conviction that President Obama is a good and just man who means well; (b) their own rather intense upset at seeing him criticized; and (c) a spitting ad hominem fury of the type long directed by Bush followers at any critics of their leader, and generally typical of authoritarian attacks on out-groups critics.” So, the big question this raises: WTF is up with America and politics??? Is it all about an innate national inclination to favor judging the person over scrutinizing policy? I guess. Along with a massive media industry that works exactly along the lines of some arcane symbolism, judging the president’s body language, his failure to wear a flag pin, his pre-empting the Charlie Brown Christmas!

Those who venerated Bush because he was a morally upright and strong evangelical-warrior-family man and revere Palin as a common-sense Christian hockey mom are similar in kind to those whose reaction to Obama is dominated by their view of him as an inspiring, kind, sophisticated, soothing and mature intellectual.  These are personality types bolstered with sophisticated marketing techniques, not policies, governing approaches or ideologies.  But for those looking for some emotional attachment to a leader, rather than policies they believe are right, personality attachments are far more important.  They’re also far more potent.  Loyalty grounded in admiration for character will inspire support regardless of policy, and will produce and sustain the fantasy that this is not a mere politician, but a person of deep importance to one’s life who — like a loved one or close friend or religious leader — must be protected and defended at all costs.

You know, this doesn’t really bode well for democracy. And somehow, I don’t see us pulling out of this personality-driven shite anytime soon.

President Rorschach

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