I'm James Maxey, the author of numerous novels of fantasy and science fiction. I use this site to discuss a wide range of topics, with a heavy emphasis on cranky, uninformed rants about politics and religion and other topics that polite people attempt to avoid. For anyone just wanting to read about my books, I maintain a second blog, The Prophet and the Dragon, where I keep the focus solely on my fiction. I also have a webpage where both blogs stream, with more information about all my books, at jamesmaxey.net.


Friday, October 09, 2009

Jumping on the Obama bashing bandwagon

I hurt my hand at work yesterday, pulling one of my flexor tendons in my left hand. I was told to try to lay off using the hand until it heals, including no (or very little) typing. Obviously, I was worried about not being able to work on my latest novel, Greatshadow, and I also thought about not being able to blog. How is the world ever going to get by without my banal, scatter-brained ramblings about the issues of the day?

Then, I wake up this morning and find out the Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize. It's enough to send me back to the keyboard despite feeling like I've got a knife stabbing my left palm. Because, what the hell? I mean, what the bleeping hell?

I really don't think I've engaged in much Obama-bashing here. I didn't do much Bush-bashing either. In general, I respect the fact that nobody with my libertarian leanings is ever going to be allowed near the White House, and that most of my political gripes aren't with my president, or even really with politicians. My most fundamental gripe is with my fellow citizens who have turned American politics into a giant superbowl game. Only two teams are allowed to play; it really doesn't much matter what goes on in the actual game. The republican roots for their team, the democrats root for their team, and the "independents" root for whoever seems popular at the moment. Issues get divided up arbitrarily. In a logical world, you might think that one party would be "pro-life," and oppose abortion, the death penalty, and war. Or maybe one party would be "pro-liberty" and support free markets, open immigration policies, reproductive rights for women, and fiercely defend freedom of speech. Instead, issues get chopped up by the parties in ways that seem to defy logic, because the American public defies logic. We have the government we deserve; the things I dislike about my government aren't Obama's fault or Bush's fault. They're the citizens' fault.

But, this morning, hearing that Obama had won the peace prize, I suddenly discovered that I hate him. I started trying to think of anything he'd done to earn this award, and the more I thought about his accomplishments, the more I started thinking he's pretty much on track toward being the worst president of my lifetime. Bush was frequently mocked for being an idiot, but he was at least a decisive idiot who knew how to accomplish his agenda, even if I loathed that agenda.

Obama has his party in control of both the house and the senate. You might think that, nine months into his first term, he might have seen a few laws he supported get passed. The only major bill I can think of that has actually been signed into law was the stimulus plan, and I really use the word "plan" in a very loose sense. I don't think there was any unifying narrative or goal to the $700 billion allocated in that bill. It was a collection of mostly random pork projects; I'm sorry, but asking congressmen to pass an all-pork bill doesn't earn him high marks for leadership. A dead gerbil could have lobbied for a bill like this and seen it passed. In everything else that has been debated over the last year, I've felt like Obama has been willing to talk about "principles" of things he might like to see passed by congress, but as far as drawing a line in the sand and saying, "You will pass a public option," or "You will pass cap and trade," or "You will pass financial regulations that prevent the creation of banks too big to fail," I haven't seen it. His governing style seems to be, "Hey, it would be nice if you guys passed some laws or something, but, you know, whatever." He seems willing to accept whatever is handed to him and claim it as a win, rather than fighting for something and possibly losing. I can respect someone who tries and fails. Obama seems to be so adverse to failure he's not even trying.

There was a headline in the paper this week that made my brain hurt. I don't have the paper in front of me, but the gist of the headline was, "Obama consults with advisors to form Afghanistan strategy." It makes my brain hurt. The war in Afghanistan isn't a surprise. He's known for a year now he'd be commander in chief. This war is his war. And he's just now getting around to figuring out a strategy? He sent twenty thousand troops in earlier this year... apparently without a strategy?

It makes me ill.

Suppose you believe that Bush sent 200,000 troops into Iraq solely to steal their oil. You look at the bodies piling up and ask, "What are they dying for?" and, while you hate the answer, at least, in your mind, you saw the flashing word, "OIL."

For the 20,000 troops Obama sent in earlier this year, sans strategy: What are they dying for? In my mind, I see the flashing words, "You know, whatever."

Giving Obama a peace prize is just a joke. Anyone who sends troops to die without some actual goal in mind deserves scorn, not awards.* If anyone can justify what he's done to earn this, please, please, please jump in and let me know.

*Note: Sending troops to die with an actual goal in mind may deserve scorn as well, depending on the goal. And, I'm NOT DEFENDING BUSH by bashing Obama, so don't jump in with posts about how bad a president Bush was. I feel like I can't hate both men equally. Now I'm going to shut up and go ice up my hand. Ow.


Loren Eaton said...

You know there's a problem when even left-leaning Slate tell him to turn the prize down.

Loren Eaton said...

Eh, should be "tells." Sorry.

James Maxey said...

You know, this is really petty, but I'm also bothered that the Peace Prize comes with a cash award worth about $1,000,000. Can a sitting president legally collect this money? If so, what's to keep a collection of health care companies from banding together and giving a million dollar "Health care prize" to a president who adhered to their values? A Defense Spending prize? A Legalize Pot prize?

If Obama does accept the prize, as I think he will, he will do so in the name of "American values." So, I think it would be appropriate for him to contribute the full value of the prize toward the American deficit. (Not that this will tilt the needle on the deficit. Still, if Obama led on this, maybe it would start a trend or something.)

Joey said...

To be completely fair, he was nominated and given the award for what he did before he was elected. They cited the shift in global mood toward the United States that began with his campaign.

This isn't to say that it makes sense that they gave it to him. I wasn't aware the Nobel Committee gave out A's for effort, but hey, when hasn't the Nobel Committee pushed their political agendas with the Peace Prize?

Joey said...

Heh, I just saw this and learned that Greg Mortenson was nominated this year and they gave it to Obama anyway.

That actually makes me kind of angry because I know that Greg has made actual headway into bringing about a true peace and making meaningful headway into fighting terrorism in that area of the world.

On second thought, I'm more disappointed than angry. What a damn shame.

Lazy Bike Commuter said...

I read somewhere that he got the award for the hope he might bring good change.

Well, I hope I'll be rich someday, can I get the Nobel Prize for economics?

I have seen references to it being given to him because of the way he is changing politics as usual in Washington....but I really don't see the benefit of hiring a Treasury Secretary who doesn't pay his taxes or a Safe Schools Czar who covers up statutory rape.

rastronomicals said...

You should listen to yourself, Mr Maxey, because you sound like something, and it ain't a libertarian.

First off, it's probably best to remember that Henry Kissinger once won the Nobel Peace Prize. Adolf Hitler was once nominated. So any reactionary screaming ""worst award ever" needs to keep that in mind. The Swedish Committee gives out silly awards all the time, and has a good record of failure when it comes to nominating worthy candidates, as well. For example, an American hasn't won the Nobel Prize in literature in 17 years.

I assure you that last is not because of the quality of American letters; it is because of the prejudices of the committee.

As with the award won by Al Gore not long ago, this outrage is manufactured Astroturf, dispatched by the right wing and its less obvious shadowy allies.

What in fact is the big deal if the Nobel Committe made another poor choice? In trying to think of what Obama may have done over hese last nine months that had anything to do with world peace, I can think of three things:

1) He's closed Gitmo
2) He's committed to staying in Afghanistan
3) He's made nebulous noises about getting out of Iraq, at some point, some day.

You know, I'm down with all three decisions, but I really don't think that they make the man an automatic choice for some World Peace award. One of the decisions is actually counter to that goal, if you noticed.

But (and please listen here) forgetting for the moment that I seriously doubt the man campaigned for the award, and that he WILL in fact be donating the prize money, WHAT IS IMPORTANT HERE is not the validity of the award itself, but what it says about the worldwide standing of our country and of leader.

No President should EVER make a decision based on the percevied worldwide reaction to it. But you would have to admit that it's easier to do business in a climate in which you are well-liked and well-respected. If the bozos screaming out about this award would stop and consider this for a moment, they might be cheered by this news out of Stockholm. Hip-Hip-fucking Hooray, it's a new world order! The rest of the world no longer thinks were a bunch of half-bathed slack-jawedyokels! The World (by which I mean, of course, Westtern Europe) is actually, you know, doing it's bit to support and validate our choices!

rastronomicals said...

But whatever. So you've decided that Obama's "pretty much on track toward being the worst president of my lifetime." Good work, that, especially after nine freaking months.

It took me 2-1/2 years to make my decision about Obama's predecessor, and I'll tell you why: because the president of the fucking United States is worthy of the benefit of the doubt. After nine months of Bush, none of the policies that came to define his presidency had even been carried out. All we had was their catalyst.

So how can you even pretend to judge the work that Obama has done and/or will end up doing based on a similarly small period of time?


Unless this is all just a statement of political alignment, an accession to the talking points and marching orders distributed by the desperate though defeated right-wing.

It took us 20 years to figure out that Harry Truman had actually been a pretty good President. Shit, there are some (admittedly unlikely) things that might happen in the Middle East that could even rescue Dubya's presidency from its inhabitance of the reputational netherworlds .

But the hell with that, because James Maxey, erstwhile Libertarian, has figured out the next seven years out before they even happen!

For someone with critical thinking skills, your glee to jump on the Obama bashing bandwagon in shrill and reactionary opposition to the moderation that the Office so obviously deserves and that the intellect so clearly calls for betrays those skills, and betrays, I think, your actual political motivations.

That's a harsh accusation I know. But given that in this same post you suggest that the imperialist, unilateralist, atavistic, and furthermore morally discredited Neocon agenda of the previous presidency and its PNAC advisors might have been in fact superior to those of a leader who has merely taken a cautious approach to extricating us from the very problems that same PNAC cadre had brought upon us in the first place, I can come to no other conclusion.

Listen, they're your motivations, and of course you're welcome to them. But just be a little more honest about where they're coming from. This Nobel Prize thing, it's so small, it's such a non-issue when you think about it. A reaction of this sort suggests their true origin of your screed.

James Maxey said...

Joey, I had it said by a coworker, possibly in jest, that Obama had earned the award by having a lot of white people vote for him. They no doubt meant the US election, but I also have to wonder about the racial make-up of the prize committee. I'm betting it's far more white than the world population in general. Perhaps they do believe that Obama, merely by running and winning, has healed US racial divisions. It's an interesting argument, though, to the extent that racial divisions are healed, I'm not sure that Obama deserves the credit as much as generations of men and women of all races who have tackled racial disparities in the US for the last half century or so. Obama isn't the cause, he's the effect.

LBC, I think he is changing politics as usual, to the degree that he has completely surrendered all new policy to the legislative branch in a way I can think of no other president having done. Bush was derided as being emperial, which I think is a charge with a certain merit to it. But Obama ran as a Rorschach ink blot--people tended to project on him whatever values they wanted him to possess. Now he's trying to govern with the same amorphous* style. Maybe he does deserve a "peace" prize, since he certainly seems intent on avoiding conflict by actually fighting for policies he believes in.

James Maxey said...

Hi, Ras!

Yowza! I hardly know where to start. I'll make a minor point that, while he may have ordered Gitmo shut down, it ain't shut down. There are still over 200 men being held there without trial. As a libertarian, I'm really bugged by this. But, I don't blame Obama... yet.

I think you're correct in mocking my ability to predict Obama's future path. Since my life started in the 60s, it is hard to beat the trifecta of bad presidents from the 70's: Nixon, Ford, and Carter. My charge is hyperbole; still, the trend is disturbing.

My reaction to the peace prize news has nothing to do with right-wing marching orders. I mean, what the hell? Politics don't have to be binary, Ras. You can hate Obama on a whole range of levels without being right wing or left wing. My gut instinct is to look at anything that is acclaimed by crowds wonderful with a high measure of distrust. My dislike of Obama is akin to disliking, I dunno, the Back Street Boys. (Are they still a thing?)

I didn't bash the Nobel Peace Prize committee for honoring Al Gore, even though I'm not convinced that global warming is manmade. Whether or not I agreed with him, there was no question that he's been out there fighting for his cause. He picked something to champion, and championed it, no matter how much he was mocked or attacked. I don't know if he "spoke truth to power," but he at least spoke up.

The funny thing about Obama is, he's famous mainly for his ability to talk. But, for the life of me, I don't know that he's saying anything. He's pretty good at running through lists of problems, then offering vague, nearly magical solutions. "We will ensure coverage for all Americans, we won't cut anyone's medicare, we won't raise taxes, and we won't add a dime to the deficit!" "We'll cut carbon emissions and heal the planet and the economy will explode with all the new green jobs that will be created!" "A chicken in every pot! A pony in every little girl's backyard! Look under your seats for the keys to your new car!"

Over the summer, he told congress he wanted a bill on health care passed before they left on August recess. He scolded them lightly for not making that deadline. They didn't even have all the bills written. Now, there are five bills, and it's an open question when they'll all be bundled together and actually brought to a vote. But, here's an idea: What if the White House had, you know, actually written a bill and sent it to congress? Said, "Here's the bill. Fine tune the details if you want, but the bill that I sign into law must contain a public option, a private mandate, and be paid for with a 50 cent tax on every bottle of soda." Maybe congress would have laughed at him and ripped the bill to shreds. But he would have taken a stand; I'd admire his spine, even if I opposed his specifics.

I don't think that 9 months is too early to judge him for progess toward his goals, by the way. Why couldn't the white house have written environmental legislation by now? Why don't they have an Afghanistan strategy? Why couldn't they have moved all the prisoners in Guantanamo to Crawford, Texas? I hear there's a lot of open land that the government could condemn and take possession of around there....

PS: Is there an actual awards ceremony for this, or do they just mail him the medal? If there is an awards ceremony, what are the odds that Kanye West will be invited? Sorry, I'm sure that joke has already been made a thousand times today, but it just popped into my head and I couldn't resist.

Loren Eaton said...

James, have you seen this video? Hilarious!

James Maxey said...

Thanks, Loren. Now I'll have that song in my head all day.

Ras, last night, I felt a little remorseful about saying Obama was on track to become the worst president of my lifetime, because, as you note, it's tough to judge or even imagine what the next seven years holds. On the flip side, the Nobel Peace Prize is apparently awarding him this medal based on future actions; if they can give out awards based on the future, why can't I throw out smears?

I suppose worst president of my lifetime has to fall to Richard Nixon. He ran on a secret plan to end the war in Vietnam, a plan that turned out to involve escalating the war in Vietnam while also bombing neighboring countries. Obama has escalated the war in Afghanistan, and started to bomb Pakistan via covert missions that everyone knows about. On the flip side, Nixon did negotiate peace with China. Obama has negotiated peace with, um, uh... hmmm....

I do remember him saying he'd be willing to sit down and talk to the leaders of Iran. I'm sure that will take place any day now. Now, admittedly, Iran has done some naughty things since he was elected; maybe he's changed his minds. But, I would gladly give him credit if he just made peace with Cuba. What, exactly, is the threat they pose to us these days? Obama did loosen some travel restrictions for cuban families, but why not put Hillary on a plane to Havana and start some actual diplomacy here? Now, it's true, that there are prisoners held in Cuba without trial or even charges, and it's understandable we might want to diplomatically sanction a country that engages in such flagrant violations of human rights, but... you know, I had a joke in mind when I started that sentence, but I've suddenly become too sad to finish it.