I've been rough on Barack Obama, especially here, here, and here, and while I've tried to keep an open mind and invited people to try to change it, nothing I've seen yet has even remotely suggested I'm wrong. I still believe Obama can be saved -- but so far, he's squandering his outstanding intelligence, populist instincts, rhetorical style and compelling personal history by following the lead of the triangulators who have ruined the Democratic Party (Hillary Clinton, Rahm Emanuel, even Joe Lieberman) rather than the progressive populists like Russ Feingold who will, sooner or later, be its salvation. He's hitched his wagon to the wrong horse, and if he doesn't unhitch it soon, all his prodigious talent will be wasted. Which will not only be a loss to him and to the party, but -- should he become a talented and popular Vichy -- will make him our most dangerous enemy. I hate this, but my previous, reluctant analogy to Anakin Skywalker still holds true: Obama will be a tremendous force for good or a terrible force for evil, and at this point, it looks like he's more than flirting with the Dark Side. (If anyone can think of an equally descriptive analogy that doesn't make me sound like a geek, please let me know.)
Alexander Cockburn, writing in The Nation and on his blog, CounterPunch, explains why:
Here is Obama, endlessly hailed as the brightest rising star in the Democratic firmament, delivering (at a closely watched political dinner, with Lieberman's primary opponent, Ned Lamont, sitting in the crowd) a ringing endorsement to his "mentor", Lieberman, Bush's closest Democratic ally on the war in Iraq, and overall pretty much a symbol of everything that's been wrong with the Democratic Party for the past twenty years. What a slimy fellow Obama is, as befits a man symbolizing everything that will continue to be wrong with the Democratic Party for the next twenty years. Every time I look up he's doing something disgusting, like distancing himself from his fellow senator Dick Durbin for denouncing the torture center at Guantanamo, or cheerleading the nuke-Iran crowd.
Cockburn's whole piece is worth reading, especially if you like Obama and are looking to him as a leader for the next generation of Democrats. You don't have to conclude that Obama is a lost cause. You should, however, see how important it is to bring him back to the fold before he becomes irretrievable. If you have high hopes for Obama as a progressive leader, you should also fear how dangerous he'd be as a Vichy.
Hat-tip to watchful reader L. Carraway.
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