Swift-Boating Barry

Whatever one thinks of Hillary, Barrack, and the Democratic party, there is no question that yesterday was an milestone in America's history. The scene of first viable woman candidate for president in America's history calling for the nomination by acclamation of her rival, the first viable black candidate, was a touching moment, and there was weeping in the audience, not without reason. Tonight, the Democratic party celebrated in front of 70,000 cheering fans in a stadium and millions of the faithful on TV.

For all of that, Barrack has a big problem. The image of the Republican Party is tarnished by eight years of falling incomes, war, debt, and economic uncertainty. Yet Barrack barely leads in the polls, and sometimes trails. Why can't he “close the deal”? One reason may have to do with a conversation I recently had. It went something like this:

“I think that Barrack Obama is secretly a terrorist,” my friend said.
“A terrorist? That's a pretty strong charge. Why do you think that?” I asked.
“I am not saying,” he replied, “that all Muslims are terrorists, but I am saying that all terrorists are Muslims.”
“But Obama is a Christian.”
“Well,” he replied, “his father was a Muslim, and the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.”
“How about Timothy McVeigh?” I asked. “Was he a Muslim?”
“He had many ties with the Muslims.”

Asked about where this information came from, my friend admitted that he got his news mainly from right-wing web sites. Now, my friend is not an unintelligent person. He is a successful businessman, one who happens to do business with many Muslims. The right-wing sites are indeed pushing an Obama-Muslim connection, usually spoken of in terms of terrorism. And there are even those sites that will claim a connection between McVeigh and the Muslims. Since their story is that all terrorists are Muslims, McVeigh must be made into a latter-day Mohammedan to complete the logical circuit. But why should anyone believe these stories, particularly anyone as intelligent as my friend? The truth about humans is that stories are what they always believe; they do not believe in something called “facts,” they must have stories around which any set of “facts” can be organized. Indeed, there are no facts apart from the stories that connect them, as any good author or trial lawyer knows instinctively.

The truth about Barrack's story, however, is far more interesting than any of the stories written about him by either friend or foe. The product of Kansas and Kenya, black and white, Indonesia and Hawaii, given a first name that is odd to English ears, a middle name that is common in the Arabic world, common enough to be attached to our opponent in Iraq, and a last name similar to that of the world's greatest terrorist. His Kenyan father was raised as a Muslim but became an atheist. After his Kenyan father abandoned his family, his Indonesian step-father moved him to the other side of the world, where he attended both Muslim and Catholic schools, neither of which are likely to mollify the fundamentalists. When Indonesia didn't work out, he was raised by his white grandparents and spent his formative years in Hawaii. During that time he was known as “Barry.”

And that is the interesting thing about Barrack: he could have been Barrack or Barry. From the diverse materials of his youth, he had to choose his cultural identity. He had no driving tradition behind him to accept or reject. Rather, from a racial and cultural grab-bag he had to construct his own identity. And his choice is interesting. A Harvard-trained lawyer, with the whole world open to him, he chose to move to Chicago, a city to which he had no ties and no knowledge, and become an organizer on the famous (or infamous) South Side of that city. Obama is not an American Black in the same way that the people on the South Side of Chicago are. Barrack had to “integrate” into that community; he was not really part of it, but had to make it his own. He did, not by history but by choice. He joined the Black church, with a radical brand of liberation theology. He stayed there until it became politically untenable. He chose neither his father's atheism nor his stepfather's religious indifference. And whether he chose his religion out of theological conviction or cultural necessity, we cannot know and perhaps have no right to ask. We can only know that his choice was unforced, not dictated by his history. And he joined the church as Barrack rather than Barry. Barrack is the Arabic and Swahili form of “Baruch,” Hebrew for “blessed”; Barry is the American form of an indeterminate name with no particular meaning at all. He chose meaning over anonymity.

All of this gives Barrack both a certain chosen intimacy and a certain inherited distance from the American project. And to really understand anything about the world, one has to have both an intimacy and a distance. One has to be the intimate outsider to really see a people or a place. This is why young people often have to leave home in order to come back and find it again. Only the prodigal son who had traveled the world really knew his father; the dutiful son stood outside the tent in anger, not knowing that he too could have had a party whenever he wanted. Always living with his father, he did not know him. Only seeing the alternatives grants real knowledge.

But the question is, can the American people accept such an intimate outsider? The same historical materials that Barry used to become Barrack can be used by political operatives to make Barrack into whatever they like. It is hardly necessary to swift-boat Barrack with lies; his own history makes nearly any story plausible. What stories will the public believe? As of this moment, they have not made up their mind. Next week, the Republicans will start to construct their story of Barry, and sell it to the public. But the real work will be through other channels, shadowy but well-funded channels. These channels have already reached my well-heeled friend. How far into the public subconscious will they extend? I do not know, but I suspect they can be made very effective. Any good trial lawyer can make either a credible defense or prosecution from these same materials.

I always thought Barrack was too young, and likely to end up as another Carter, earnest but ineffective. But he will at least be interesting, in the way that outsiders are always interesting. I do not know if he will be a great president, or even a good one. But he will be interesting. Perhaps much too interesting ever to become president.


Anonymous,  Friday, August 29, 2008 at 3:53:00 PM CDT  

Quote: "I always thought Barrack was too young, and likely to end up as another Carter, earnest but ineffective."

He is going to be another Carter because of his associates are all Carter people. Paul Adolph Volcker, Zbigniew (I miss the Cold War) Brzezinski. Do you want 22% interest rates again?

As for the real Terrorist connection its called Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Controversy_over_an_Obama%E2%80%93Ayers_connection

As for a general overview I suggest you listen to http://www.takingaim.info/ hosted by Ralph Schoenman and Mya Shone both hard-left larbor movement people.

The titles of the programs are
1. Barack Obama: Not a Dime's Worth of Difference
2.Barack Obama and the Ethanol Scam: Serving the Captains of Capital
3.Barack Obama: At the Service of Corporate and Finance Capital
4. Barack Obama: Embracing the Totalitarian State

And this doesn't even cover the problems with Tony Rezko and McCain is going to hit him hard with that.

Anonymous,  Sunday, August 31, 2008 at 5:55:00 AM CDT  

I've been getting quite a bit of this Baracka Muslim baiting lore too. It seems to be everywhere my friends tell me. And I am troubled by his position that we must get our chlidren ready to compete in a global economy.

On the other hand, he has the high moral sense of things. He's saying we need to make the change in trade and the way we do business. He seems to be committed to full employment at decent jobs.

He is so honest and effective the elite have to tell lies about him.

So, it's good to have this answer from Medaille.

Tom Laney

Thomas Coolberth Sunday, August 31, 2008 at 2:49:00 PM CDT  

I have open doubts whether he was born in the U.S.

I wonder what name is on his birth certificate? (It will not be released)

He has a "high moral sense of things." In that he supports abortion?

Thomas Coolberth Sunday, August 31, 2008 at 2:49:00 PM CDT  

Oh yeah, I translate the verb to "Swift Boatd" as "to get the truth out."

John Médaille Sunday, August 31, 2008 at 3:47:00 PM CDT  

Thomas says, I have open doubts whether he was born in the U.S.

Perhaps, but we already know for a fact that McCain was not born in the U.S. And I doubt that you have real doubts. Or rather, I doubt not that you only have the doubts you find convenient to have. That is, you are not really looking for a real argument, but only for a stick to beat an "enemy." This is the way we are taught to "think" by our school systems, our advertising, our media, our political "dialogue," such as it is. That is, we reject rational argument for tribal feelings. Facts never enter such arguments. How else to explain your indignation over Obama's alleged Kenyan birth and your silence over McCain's known Panamanian birth?

What always amazes me is the people who claim to be conservative, yet so easily accept false rationalism and modern "intuitive" argumentation, the same "arguments" offered on TV ads.

In any case, your "arguments" and Septeus's perfectly illustrate the principle I was speaking of in my post, and for that I thank you both; nothing I could have said could have made the point better than what you said. So thanks again. And by the way, before you "translate" swift-boat(e)d, do learn to spell it.

Anonymous,  Sunday, August 31, 2008 at 9:59:00 PM CDT  

John: Yes, many of the attacks on Obama are, frankly, looney; however, his position on abortion is simply a disqualifier. His attempt to reconstruct his record on the Illinois Born Alive Infant Protection Act is embarrassing. It's a shame the Dem Party sold its soul on this issue but, until they find their moral compass again, all their rhetoric about "change," "hope" "equality" etc. remains empty for me.

John Médaille Sunday, August 31, 2008 at 10:47:00 PM CDT  

@Sarsfield, I completely agree: one can oppose a liberal for any number of valid reasons. However, my objections are of two sorts. One, I strongly object to a "Christianity" which treats of truth as a mere tool of ideology (swift-boating, for example). Such a "christianity" is the very essence of Christianity's opposite: a worship of the Father of lies.

My second objection is that there are equal doses of liberalism on both sides of the aisle; Bush is and Reagan was no less "liberal" than Clinton and Obama. In fact, the economic religion of these "Christians" used to be known as "Liberalism"; it wasn't until Marx that it was renamed "Capitalism."

Mises stated that it would be impossible to reconcile Christianity and a sound economy. Later, he changed that, provided that one didn't take too seriously things like the the Incarnation and the Trinity. Mises would allow Christianity as a kind of opiate of the masses, so long as its central doctrines were not allowed to interfere with public order. Indeed, I find very little to choose between Mises and Marx.

The pro-life movement displays a certain historical myopia. They forget, for example, that the first abortion law was signed by--and had the support of--Ronald Reagan, and this was before Roe v. Wade. It is only when he discovered the issue's political power did he become a convert. You will pardon me if I remain skeptical of such political conversions.

The pro-life movement has sold its soul to the Republican Party. And what have we gotten in return (save the party's open contempt)? A PBA ban, which is largely symbolic. 80% of the judges in this country have been appointed by Republicans, and Republicans have held the Presidency for all but 8 of the last 28 years. Yet they have never been willing to expend any real political capital on this issue.

That being the case, we have a choice between liberalisms: a sincere liberalism and an manipulative "neo-liberalism." One may choose as one's conscience directs, but one is not permitted to choose to reduce "truth" to mere ideology, to select one's "truths" to suit one's politics. That choice is not open to us. One either embraces the truth as best one can, or one rejects it in favor of a political salvation.

Julian Monday, September 1, 2008 at 10:23:00 PM CDT  

Come on, both parties create a lot of hype and drama that has little to do with reality and much to do with misinformation. Let’s not act shocked when that occurs.

John, I believe you're incorrect in your assessment that the pro-life movement is selling out to the republicans. They're getting pretty fed up with the lip service, actually. However, the alternative is pretty atrocious. Accusing pro-lifers of myopia is actually quite short sighted of you.

Let me draw a picture: If I'm bleeding to death from a gaping wound in my side and one person has bandages to offer me while another person has medicine that he wants to apply to the corns on my toes, I'm going to go with the person with bandages. Listen, I get it - the bandages the republicans, (or government for that matter), offer might be insufficient to totally heal the wound. But making the wound deeper while you offer help for other non-life-threatening injuries would be impractical for the patient, right? Which candidate do you think will do more to fund Planned Parenthood and other similar "health care service providers." Which candidate do you think will do more to forward an agenda that will enable similar healthcare in foreign countries that receive US aid?

We can’t partition off political matters into fiscal and ethical categories, (I know you know this). The duty and responsibility of government is to uphold justice. Sometimes the only option that we as voters may appear to have is to make a selection for what will be the least injustice. In the matter of pro-life candidates, (even pro-life in name only) however, I would say that this option, is not simply a cynical scenario in which one has to choose the lesser of two evils in which ever way one thinks is best. I would venture that one of the major dividing lines in American politics, even American culture is over abortion. If this issue ceases to hold weight in the ballot box it will be a major retreat for the cause of life in our country. Yes, I’m a one-issue voter, that doesn’t make me ignorant. I see that there are numerous ailments and injustices and that these have all have various rankings in urgency. I’m convinced that the greatest injustice should be the top priority and requires any and all attention that can be garnered. Certainly economic injustice, often requires a distributist perspective. However, any conclusion that all that that is required to end abortion is to set the right policy to promote fair economic conditions would be as utopian as Bush’s ideology of “democratism.”

Speaking of healthcare, I would think that you as a distributist would be very suspicious of any candidate who is eager to push a universal healthcare plan. Who do you think would benefit from this plan the most? It’s the pharmaceutical companies. As you’ve noted in your “Searching for Syndromes” post, drug companies do an excellent job of leveraging consumerism to increase their market share. I might add that in addition to searching for new syndromes, categorizing something that is an indicator of health, (namely fertility or pregnancy), as a condition that requires a remedy is another great way for drug companies to increase profits. Big Pharma has always worked well with Big Gvt to secure both control and profits. Universal Healthcare will just be the means of further consummating the relationship.

Anonymous,  Tuesday, September 2, 2008 at 12:59:00 AM CDT  

Quote: "In any case, your "arguments" and Septeus's perfectly illustrate the principle I was speaking of in my post, and for that I thank you both; nothing I could have said could have made the point better than what you said. So thanks again. And by the way, before you "translate" swift-boat(e)d, do learn to spell it."

I take it you didn't listen to the 4 hours of audio lecture I linked to detailing the clear connection between Obama, Ethanol Scam and the MIC.

I have said nothing about Obama being a muslim because I find that issue unimportant compared to his links to Zbig, Volcker, Soros and the capitalist establishment in general.

Here's another article (http://www.thenation.com/doc/20080630/klein) from the Nation and I suppose the Nation is swift-boating being the well known republicans that they are.
Here another article (http://www.wsws.org/articles/2008/aug2008/nati-a27.shtml) well known McCain supporters who are certainly lying when they points to his actual voting record.

I'm not swift-boating whatever that means. I'm merely pointing out the fact that Obama is establishment as is McCain and therefore useless to those who object to the system itself.

I never used appeals to "tribal feelings." I pointed to facts about his handlers, his voting record and the company Obama keeps. Obama is no Catholic social reformer and his economics are pure Chicago.

As for voting I'm probably not going to vote this year but if I were I'd go with Chuck Baldwin or Ralph Nader. Except for "social" issues I like Nader. McBama isn't change its more of the same.

John Médaille Tuesday, September 2, 2008 at 9:02:00 AM CDT  

Septeus, I certainly agree that Obama is not a Catholic reformer and that he has no radical economic or social program. If one wants to vote against him, one can find good reasons to do so. One does not need to stoop to the gutter-politics of the Republican party. It is not merely our actions which are important, but our motivations and mindsets as well.

Julian tells me, in effect, "Everybody does it." Right. Which is precisely why we ought not to do it. To abandon truth in the name of some higher cause is already to abandon the higher cause, or indeed any cause other than the cause of power.

Obama, I think, would like to be a reformer, but modern political dialogue and financing really doesn't allow any real language of reform. Both sides accept slightly different versions of the same underlying liberalism. This is especially true in a two-party system. Discovering that an American presidential candidate is a liberal is like discovering that water is wet.

The pro-life movement opted for politics rather than evangelization. And they adopted the Lockean language of "rights." It was a pragmatic decision and certainly seemed like a good idea at one time, especially at the beginning. But it is important to examine our actions in the light of experience to see if they are working. And nobody can be faulted for judging the strategy to be a failure, and it continence to be a kind of futility.

I think it is time to re-think the strategy.

Julian Tuesday, September 2, 2008 at 10:36:00 AM CDT  

agree, the Lockean language of rights has shortcomings. i don't think you're looking at the entire picture however. this is just one attempt, (of many), to combat the pro-choice establishment on it's own territory. I'm not saying "rights-speak" enables a complete picture. But pragmatism, might at times call for speaking to be people in these terms.

If what we ought to be rethinking the strategy, what do you suggest?

By the way, I don't think my comments in any way reflect an "every one is doing it, therefore it's acceptable" attitude. My point is that the fact that right-wingers are engaging in this behavior does NOT strengthen Obama's candidacy or the agenda he proposes. His agenda is still his agenda, regardless of any distortion of his background various may attempt. I think a post commenting on the distortion as failing to call out the real problems that exist with him as a candidate and actually articulate a sound argument in opposition would have been more effective. He may have been intentional in embracing his background and heritage. That's certainly admirable, but it doesn't change the fact that his core beliefs will only compound the problems that the Liberal experiment has created

John Médaille Tuesday, September 2, 2008 at 11:34:00 AM CDT  

Julian, I do understand the appeal to pragmatism, but after 40 years of failure, that appeal wears thin. The results have been that we have one and a half pro-death parties, and a half of a pro-life party.

The pro-life groups abandoned evangelization for politics. The result has been that they have simply failed to make their case to the public. Poll after poll shows that the public is at best ambiguous and at worst supportive of at least some abortion rights.

The problems go back to the very beginning of the movement. It is hard to imagine today, but in the 60's and 70's there was a signficant contingent of pro-life liberals. The pro-life movement purged the liberals and subordinated itself to the political needs of the Republican Party. This is the best way to kill your own influence.

The proper way for a minority (as we are) is to find the areas we can cooperate. "Okay, we disagree on abortion per se, but we agree that there should be fewer abortions; were can we cooperate to limit the number?" Obama cut off this position by asking "What can we do to limit the number of unwanted pregnancies, which frames the debate in terms of contraception. But a consistent pro-life argument is against contraception. Unfortunately, that doesn't fly even with half the pro-life people.

The best way to use electoral power is to withhold it. For example, the reason the blacks had very little influence on the Democrats is that they always voted democratic; they were never "in-play" as a voting group. Lip service worked just as well as real results. Hence, the blacks, like the pro-lifers, have actually seen their situation deteriorate. Like the pro-lifers, their "leaders" subordinated their real needs to the political needs of the democratic party. Hence they lost real influence. And, like the pro-lifers, they had a poor grasp of what their real needs were, or at least a poor grasp of how to turn those needs into public policy. Being open to both parties also confers the advantage of different points of view.

In any case, it is time to rethink a failed strategy.

Julian Thursday, September 4, 2008 at 6:07:00 PM CDT  

john, you shot down your own recommendation that pro-lifers seek common ground. any other ideas for strategies? not sure how closely your state will be contested but mine will be pretty darn narrow. 3rd party isn't really an option here. and i certainly am not convinced "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" is a viable strategy.

Btw, I don't think the pro-life movements starts and stops in the ballot office. However, the ballot-box isn't a zone of neutrality either. Nor am I ready to call the pro-life movement a failure. Unless, I suppose you could call the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah failures. To paraphrase Mother Teresa, we're not called to success but to faithfulness.

btw, i'm enjoying the media coverage of the last few days. Good thing the left didn't try to swift-boat palin. that would have been disappointing and counter-productive in getting to the core issues in this election.

John Médaille Thursday, September 4, 2008 at 6:50:00 PM CDT  

Julian, I totally agree on the subject of faithfulness. But is it faithfulness to the issue or to the Republican Party. For a long time, we are going to lose, no matter how we played the game. This is not only because of the zeitgeist of the culture of death, but because it took the pro-life people a long time to frame their arguments, and even then it was argued on Lockean grounds.

The best efforts have been the most radical, demonstrating in front of clinics and doing the best to reach women. But I also think this has to be connected with "Christian Feminism." Secular feminism is peculiarly anti-feminine. What is needed by our overly-masculinized culture is a "Marian" feminism, that really does free women to be women, and particularly mothers. Not that all women want to be mothers, but today, motherhood is something a women is required to do in addition to everything else. The burden is appalling.

The Democrats will leave Palin alone--for now. But sooner or later she will have to face the press, and it won't be pretty. The lady who supported the Bridge to Nowhere might become a bridge to nowhere for the McCain campaign. She's got a lot of baggage.

Julian Thursday, September 4, 2008 at 9:13:00 PM CDT  

well, i'd hardly call myself faithful to Republican party - it's just that for now, they are the least pro-death and while neither party will stop the bleeding, (to go with my earlier analogy), i think its imperative that we stop those who want to increase it.

I agree with you on a Christian Feminism. Even more so, I think we need a Christological Humanism as JPII put it. In fact, I was thinking about our conversation while I was mowing the lawn tonight. Have I been sloppy about rights speak when any numbers of issues come up in conversation? And what are tactics that can be employed to change the language of the abortion debate?

Really this is the issue of American politics - we are limited to a Cartesian Reductionism for framing conversation. The language is limited. we'll have to expand beyond that language outside of the political arena first.

What we need to some how do, is to reintroduce the human person to the world. Really, that is the message of the incarnation. In Christ we actually become more human. So, I think any effort to remind our culture that the human person is NOT a machine is ultimately pointing in a pro-life direction. That is authentic pro-life language that will spill over in many areas. The way we eat seen in light of authentic humanism could foster healthy agrarianism, as opposed to profit driven industrial farming that can only record inputs/outputs . This in turn would make us healthier and less chemically dependent while reducing pollution. Likewise work and ownership becomes more humane, more just. Health care, medicine and so on...in every aspect of our lives. So it's not just the abortion debate, that would be impacted.

So asking the question, "what does it mean to be human?" is very timely. And if expect politicians of either party to ask and answer that we'll be sorely disappointed.

In the mean time however, I see no justification for casting a vote for those who are actively working to further secure the ability for people to kill children.

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