Sunday, July 22, 2018
A Pirate Looks at 90
While some conservatives pine for the days we had a real president, some progressives lament the missed opportunities under Obama. Max Boot said Obama's recent speech marking the 100th anniversary of Nelson Mandela was a real watershed, as it profoundly illustrated what a President should sound like. George Soros invested a lot of money in Obama's 2008 campaign and didn't get the return call he expected. He was hoping to be part of the administration, but instead "he closed the door on me." Soros felt there was a lot he could contribute, especially in regard to Russia and Eastern Europe, which Obama and his inner circle knew very little about.
Soros is probably right in that Obama badly misread Russia's intentions in Eastern Europe, thinking he could restart relations with Medvedev, who briefly served as President, while Putin rewrote the Constitution in the Duma to allow for his comeback. It seemed Obama put little stock in the Russian annexation of former Georgian territories, its strong influence not only in Serbia but throughout Eastern Europe, using carrots and sticks to try to lure these countries back into its orbit. Obama's warm gestures toward Medvedev outraged Eastern European leaders. Lithuania's Dalia Grybauskaitė refused to meet with him when she had the opportunity. It was only with the annexation of Crimea in 2014 that Obama realized he had badly misread Russia, already finding himself bogged down in a civil war in Syria, fueled by Russia, which he had similarly misread.
Obama had made the same mistake with Putin and Medvedev as he had Republican leaders in Congress. As Soros noted, Obama had a long history of trying to "woo his opponents," dating back to his time as editor of the Harvard Law Review, often taking his supporters for granted. This time he got burnt.
We saw a tougher, smarter Obama emerge from the 2014 standoff with Russia and his Senate electoral defeats in the midterms. The last two years of his administration were great, as he repeatedly stood up to Congress, finally developed his own foreign policy after operating in the shadows of the Bush Doctrine for six years, ending long standing and senseless animosities with Cuba and Iran, and negotiating a Trans-Pacific Partnership that would have led to a strong US presence in the Pacific rim. It's just too bad he didn't start sooner so that these policy decisions might have stuck.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment is that neither he nor the Democrats were able to groom anyone to take his place. Instead, we got Hillary, the only widely recognizable Democratic name to emerge in the 2016 elections. The only one willing to challenge her was Bernie Sanders, a crusty Independent who tried in vain to inform us of the true meaning of social democracy. The one thing positive about this campaign was that Sanders planted a seed that appears to be germinating these midterms. It seems Soros takes some solace in this.
I guess we got lulled into thinking Obama had rewritten the American political playbook and we couldn't possibly return to those dark days of the Bush administration. Many persons are even lamenting the loss of Bush's "compassionate conservatism" that led him to a surprise victory in 2000. It only seems compassionate in comparison to Trump.
We've been on a wild ride the past 24 years, through three tumultuous two-term presidencies that saw radical shifts in domestic and foreign policies, but nothing that could prepare us for what we have now - a madman in the Oval Office who gives us a running twitter account of his mind-numbing insecurities. Would he or wouldn't he became the big question this past week, as Trump tried to walk back his capitulating response to whether Russia meddled in the 2016 elections.
No wonder Max Boot wants Obama back. Our 44th President may have been overly accommodating to Russia, but he didn't sell out the US to Putin the way Trump did in Helsinki. Our current president wants a do-over in Washington, which is like inviting the fox into the hen house. Yet, Trump is too insulated to realize the highly damaging situation he created, and neither are his surrogates in Congress. They can't see beyond their conservative balloon, which threatens to explode this November in the general elections, with or without Russia's help.
Soros can only sit back and wonder what went wrong. He is now a pariah in his home country of Hungary thanks to the disinformation campaign spread by Russia that led to the election of one of his former proteges, Viktor Orban, who now wants to erase Soros' name from the country. Not only that but Soros conspiracy theories dominate the American conservative blogosphere in the way he is trying to hijack our government, first through Obama, then through Hillary and now through that damned leftist socialist, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. How did his Open Society become a code word for Communism?
It's a long New York Times article, but well worth reading, as it gives some dimension to the man caricaturized in the conservative media as Boris Badanov. A man first vilified by Russia through their propaganda network in an effort to turn Eastern European countries against his Open Society, which it saw as a direct confrontation to its brand of authoritarianism, spawning similar groups in Russia.
George Soros is not the bad guy here. The Soviet/Russian kleptocracy is. Soros has been trying to tell us that for decades but to no avail.