Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Obama to Medvedev: "After my election I have more flexibility." (Cue ignorant, jingoistic conservative outrage!)

Conservatives are outraged -- outraged!!! -- by President Obama's comment to outgoing Russian President Dmitri Medvedev that incoming Russian President Vladimir Putin should give him "space" on controversial issues like missile defence because... and I quote... "This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility." (Watch it below.)

Oh no! Obama was caught by an open microphone admitting that... well, what?

That he'll capitulate once the election is over... that he'll sell out America... that he's got some traitorous secret plan for his second term... that he's lying to the American people?

Here's a quiz. Conservatives are:

a) faux outraged;
b) politically ignorant;
c) dumb-ass jingoists;
d) fucking stupid; or
e) all of the above.

Allowing for an exception or two, I'm going with (e).

First, of course Obama would have more flexibility in a second term. Every politician has more flexibility when he or she doesn't face re-election. It was certainly true of Bush after 2004.

Second, winning an election means pandering, at least to some degree, to the electorate, and on national security issues, particularly complicated international ones, Americans are, by and large, deeply ignorant and prone to prolonged spasms of jingoism. Particularly on the national state, you need to be "tough," or at least to appear to be, and for the jingoistically ignorant that means saber-rattling. Republicans have been successful on the national state in large part by playing directly to this jingoistic ignorance and so by appearing to be tough (e.g., torture detainees! bomb Iran! flaunt America's nukes like a massive national hard-on!). All President Obama is doing is recognizing this unfortunate political reality. It's a reality realists like Medvedev, like most sensible political figures, understand all too well. ("I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir." This is how diplomacy works.)

Third, President Obama, far more than pretty much every Republican, understands the complexity of international relations. What he is saying is not that he will capitulate, that he will give Russia whatever it wants, but that he will work with Russia on long-term solutions to these challenging problems, that he will treat Russia as a partner for peace, not, as Romney would have it, as America's #1 enemy (not just a counter-productive but completely reckless position to take, though I suspect Romney is just flopping around like usual).

Fourth, the White House clarified the issue: "[T]his is a political year in which the Russians just had an election, we're about to have a presidential and congressional elections — this is not the kind of year in which we're going to resolve incredibly complicated issue like this. So there's an advantage to pulling back and letting the technical experts work on this as the president has been saying." Makes sense, no? I mean, we all know this, don't we? It's politics versus policy, the latter of which is often sacrificed by the former. Alas, conservatives are so blinded by their relentless partisan outrage that they can't -- and won't -- make sense of anything.

Fifth, did I mention that conservatives are, by and large, fucking stupid?

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