Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Obama's Knowledge/ McCain's Ignorance

Because I've been so immersed in my audit analysis for the GGH Government Program, I haven't been able to write the "post to end all posts" on Obama's speech that I wanted to write.

But I have a brief comment on Obama in relation to John McCain.

Much of what I liked about Obama's speech was that he pressed all his knowledge of the reality of race relations into the service of a larger, more generous humanity. Obama was able to sketch out the roots of racial resentments on both the black and white sides in a manner that carried the expectation that both sides would be able to gain an understanding of the other and be more generous in thinking about and judging the other group. Obama's knowledge made him a bigger person. To the extent that his speech had an impact on American thinking about race, it made us all bigger.

Then there's John McCain.

The liberal blogs have been abuzz about John McCain's mistaken claim that the Iranians were training al-Qaeda fighters to kill American soldiers in Iraq.

To bloggers like Glenn Greenwald and Josh Marshall, the main point is that McCain doesn't know that al-Qaeda members are militant Sunnis who view themselves as being just as much at war with Shiite Iran as they are with the U. S.

But I disagree.

The point for McCain and other neo-conservatives is that making claims that there are connections between al-Qaeda and Iran is a matter of moral principle instead of an issue of knowledge vs ignorance.

Foreign policy neo-cons have made all kinds of claims about the Middle East--about Iraq, Iran, Saddam Hussein, Hezbollah, and other parties.

But what comes first to neo-conservatives is their policy objectives of maintaining an indefinite occupation of Iraq, forcing a regime change in Iran, and supporting Israel against populist Arab opponents like Hamas and Hezbollah.

Instead of orienting their policy objectives around an empirical understanding of the Middle East, conservatives prefer to make provocative claims concerning American opponents as a political tactic to justify aggressive American policies. Dick Cheney was a master of this kind of provocation in the run-up to the Iraq War, mixing up assertions that Saddam Hussein was involved in 9-11 with claims about the threats from Iraq's WMD's and innuendoes about Hussein being another Hitler. None of these claims were true and Cheney could have cared less whether they were true or not. The point was that making such claims tended to tilt public opinion toward supporting the invasion Cheney wanted. Cheney and other neo-cons were sure to attack those who found contrary evidence as naive, unpatriotic, or treasonable. But the neo-cons did so because they believed in the political value of their claims and their own manhood and moxy in advancing these claims rather than their truth-value.

Contrary to Obama, neo-conservatives routinely advance their cause by making unwarranted, provocative claims and then acting as though such claims were true. In other words, the neo-cons use ignorance as one of their favorite tools for pursuing their agenda.

And that's what McCain was doing. He was advancing a provocative claim about al-Qaida and Iran as a way to make the war in Iraq seem necessary. In fact, he could care less whether Iran is training al-Qaeda fighters or not.

The point is to promote the war.

And Joe Lieberman wouldn't have corrected McCain if he didn't think that McCain's mistake wasn't going to make McCain and the war look bad.

The systematic deployment of this kind of dishonesty as a propoganda took in American politics is one of the many ways in which conservatives make themselves small in order to pursue their political aims. To the extent that they have an impact on American politics, they make the rest of us small as well.

Obama's principles knowledge enlarges himself and us while McCain's determined ignorance reduces himself and us.

If Obama is the Democratic nominee, that's going to be a lot of what's involved in choosing between them.


Anonymous said...

This election is over. Obama has been rendered unelectable by Rev. Wright.

Democrats are going to nominate someone with no chance in winning.


Ric Caric said...

I don't think so. Sure, the Wright episode has wounded Obama, but it's not like Hillary or Edwards didn't have a lot of baggage themselves. Curiously enough, I don't think McCain is going to be much of a factor in the upcoming election. The whole thing is going to boil down to whether independents, moderates, and weak Democrats are willing to elect Barack Obama or Hillary for president or not. Essentially, the Democratic nominee is going to be running against him or herself and the Republican attack machine. McCain himself won't make that much difference.

Anonymous said...

I'm confused with the electoral math coming down the stretch. If Michigan and Florida do not end up counting, can either get enough delegates to lock down the nomination? It doesn't look like it to me. Do you believe one of these candidates will have to concede in the end (despite the other not getting enough delegates)?

Ric Caric said...

I assume that the nominee would need fewer delegates to win if Michigan and Florida don't count.

My guess is that Obama is in the driver's seat unless his campaign melts down. Of course, Obama could still have a melt down between now and the Pennsylvania Primary.

If Obama doesn't melt down, it becomes a question of when Hillary would concede. In my opinion, that wouldn't happen until super-delegate commitments really firmed up--perhaps either just before the convention or at the beginning of the convention.

But the main question now is whether the Obama campaign is going to collaps. I don't think it will, but the jury's definitely still out.

Anonymous said...

So Obama said the "typical white person" is a racist. Wow, this guy is so done. I mean seriously, what a fucking dumbass