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Friday, July 25, 2008

The Audacity of Being Realistic

It's not a photo we've seen lately. An American politician in Europe addressing a sea of people -- without any giant papier-mâché heads of Bush and Cheney in prison stripes, no one dressed like the Grim Reaper, no one demanding said politician face war crimes charges. If you ever needed proof that it's not America who's hated around the globe, but the American President, here ya go. I give you Barack Obama in Berlin yesterday.

Obama returned to the theme of the speech he gave after winning the Democratic primary. "People of Berlin -- people of the world -- this is our moment. This is our time," Obama told a crowd of some 200,000 who didn't hate him for being an American.

Left behind at home, John McCain can't win for losing. After suggesting that Obama needed to spend some time abroad, McCain complained that Obama was spending time abroad. In one of what has been a long string of poorly conceived photo-ops, Baghdad Johnny spoke to reporters at the Columbus, Ohio Sausage Haus in a neighborhood called German Village (No really, I swear), to gripe about Obama in Berlin.

"I'd love to give a speech in Germany," McCain said to the assembled dozens, "a political speech or a speech that maybe the German people would be interested in, but I'd much prefer to do it as president of the United States rather than as a candidate ... for the office of presidency."

The unspoken suggestion was that it was unseemly for a candidate to stump in a foreign country. We're all supposed to forget that McCain just got back from Colombia not to long ago and previously addressed a crowd in Canada.

-Continued after the jump-

Of course, McCain's message has been hopelessly inconsistent. The only thing consistent about McCain has been the message that whatever Obama does is wrong. The McCain campaign, as I pointed out yesterday, wants this election to be a referendum on Obama and that forces their candidate to be reactive and reactionary. It also forces John McCain to be blatantly hypocritical.

When he was running in the GOP primary and the strategy of every Republican candidate was to out-Reagan each other, McCain thought optimism was just the best damned thing any presidential candidate could possess. Now that Barack Obama has taken hope as his lighthouse, optimism is naive and foolish. For the new John McCain, created entirely in reaction to Obama, hope and optimism are for chumps.

For myself, I've never had much use for optimism, to tell the truth. It strikes me as too similar to delusion. It's one thing to hope for the best, it's another to expect it. Hope, on the other hand, is reasonable -- I've always defined hope as the knowledge that the best possible outcome is always a possible outcome. Hope is always realistic, where optimism often is not.

But my definition is my definition. My own little self-help compass to keep myself from veering off into dreamer-land. I'd imagine that most would think hope and optimism are basically synonymous. When McCain runs against hope, he runs against Reagan's optimism. Optimism is wonderful in a Republican, until they run up against an optimistic Democrat -- then optimism becomes a comforting lie.

What struck me most about Obama's speech wasn't its hopefulness, but its amazing... I don't want to say "courage," but that's the only word. He stood in the heart of Berlin and invoked the Holocaust in relation to Darfur. He called for the world to rid itself of nuclear weapons. He acknowledged that climate change was a global problem that needed global solutions. That, likewise, terrorism isn't a solely American problem with a unilateral American solution. He called on the entire world to become people-focused, not state- and corporation-focused.

John McCain just doesn't have that -- he seems incapable of it. It's not that he just disagrees with it, but he doesn't seem to be able to think of the United States as one nation in an entire world. All of McCain's solutions are typical Republican non-solutions -- more money, more troops, more American imperialism. McCain's solutions to the world's problems are all about being the stereotypical American jerk.

The world can't take another swaggering moron who thinks that being an American is the same as being chosen by freakin' God. And neither can the United States. We live in a much wider world than the one we pretend to and the time has come to wake up and realize, once again, that we aren't a separate world unto ourselves.

We may not need optimism, but we damned sure need realism. It's not people like Barack Obama or myself or, perhaps, you who are the fantasists. It's the low dreamers on the right, who believe that people are basically evil and will only do the right thing with a gun to their head, who think that everyone's a potential criminal who must be watched by a government using police state powers, who believe that "non-American" is synonymous with "enemy." The murderous, the brutish, the stupid and low and frightened followers of the neocon mindset are the dreamers. And their dream is a freakin' nightmare. For them, if you're not afraid of everyone on Earth, it means you're naive -- anyone who's a realist spends their life scared stupid, working toward an authoritarian state that will render us rightless in order to protect us.

Of course, that's not realism, that's not even pessimism -- that's paranoia. As I said, hope is realistic.


You can view Obama's Berlin Speech here:

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Jane said...

I saw a small part of McCain's Denver speech. Odd that his speeches always focus on Obama's ideas and statements, and not his own.

Wisco said...

I think he's running to be the President of Barack Obama...

markstoneman said...

I still need to read or listen to his speech, but the way you frame McCain's dilemma seems pretty perceptive to me. What an odd place for a man of the optimistic fifties to find himself!

Running as presidential hopeful Not-Obama is not a good place to be either.

timethief said...

FWIW the fact that McCain and his team are focused on Obama's ideas instead of focusing on McCain's speaks of "weakness" to me. They way I see it McCain & his team have got nothing to run with, so they have become running dogs behind the Obama bandwagon.

Alicia said...

Excellent post. Obama gave a great speech as always. McCain looks like the bitter loser already.

Political Discourse said...

I like this blog.

Wisco said...

Thanks for the great comments!