Obama’s Speech in Cairo

It felt very strange, reading President Obama’s speech just two days after finishing my last post. Very strange, and — I don’t know how to put this without sounding like a sycophant — very inspiring.

What he said desperately needed saying, and I have no doubt now that he means it. How could I, when it resonates with so much of my own thinking? My doubts lie elsewhere. His deeds so far, with the possible exception of his hardheadedness on the issue of expanding Israeli settlements, seem to belie his words.

If he does what he said he’ll do, I’ll support him in every way I can, no matter the cost. If he doesn’t, I’ll oppose him with as much energy I can muster, knowing full well that what comes after him might be even worse. Time is short, and the issues confronting us are grave. This necessarily narrows the ground on which we can base genuine compromises, and threatens us with conflicts which all of us would prefer to avoid. For that reason, if for no other, I hope that the President was telling the truth about what he intends. If he was, I’ll happily pray for his success.

7 thoughts on “Obama’s Speech in Cairo

  1. LWM June 5, 2009 / 6:05 am

    I don’t normally read FDL but Hamsher has a Come To Jesus Moment.

    But that’s only part of the story of why the progressive movement languishes, and I agree with Milbank that it does. I love the sausage-making process much more than the bomb-throwing, and I find taking part in incremental victories on issues like social security, cramdown or oversight of the Fed more satisfying than thundering defeats. But I have come to understand that the institutional forces that prevent real change from happening are more formidable and more structural than I anticipated.

    That isn’t Obama’s fault, either.

    • William Timberman June 5, 2009 / 6:37 am

      FDL isn’t my cup of tea either, although I have to say that I admire both Jane and Christy for their sheer doggedness. More formidable and structural than she anticipated, yes, but not more so than I anticipated. It’s not because I’m smarter, you understand — I’m never going to claim that. Rather it’s because I spent more time reading philosophers and political theorists than I did politicians. If you’ve read Marx, or Gramsci, or Marcuse, you understand that the task of righting wrongs has become a matter of creating a new cultural consensus, nothing less.

      That ain’t exactly an easy task, and it’s not something you can accomplish overnight, either. Worse yet, you can’t really trust anybody who doesn’t understand the nature of the process to be much of an ally. If you’re as dedicated — and as dogged — as Jane, you tend to come to a point where you’re tempted to break out the pitchforks and torches. Win or lose, that’s the most dangerous point you’re ever likely to come to in the course of the struggle — ask any revolutionary of the past.

      Be patient, be determined, and be careful what you wish for in your darker moments — that’d be my advice, and not mine alone.

      • LWM June 5, 2009 / 8:06 pm

        I was being facetious about adnoto in my comment on the other thread. Gramsci’s “war of maneuver” is all he can envisage. He, and whoever he was able to attract to his “cause,” would end up cut to ribbons. I do think a bullet to the brain of people like Grover Norquist would be a moral good – it would prevent a number of deaths. But then you get back to the sticky issue of “criminalizing” policy disputes, not to mention the false equivalence between the abolition and abortion debates.

        As I understand it, Gramsci didn’t think his “war of maneuver” would be successful in the west.

        • William Timberman June 5, 2009 / 8:22 pm

          I’m going to do a longer piece on this — it’ll probably take me several days. I’m shooting for the middle of next week, but chi sa?

          It’s been a while since anyone with any sense has addressed the problem of what a genuine politics in our modern mass societies would look like, not since One-dimensional Man, and The Port Huron Statement, anyway. Since I’ve spent over forty years thinking about this, ever since a bunch of idiots burned the Bank of America branch in my home town, and the Maoists took over SDS from us philosophes, I figure I’ll have a bash.

          Even if I’m not as clever as Gramsci, or as experienced as Saul Alinsky, someone has to try it. We can’t let Adnoto, buckheru, and Chris Sinnard be the only ones to square off against the American Moloch, can we?

          • Karen M June 6, 2009 / 7:56 pm

            Oh, thank god!!!

  2. sysprog June 5, 2009 / 11:55 pm

    adnoto’s version of “maneuver” isn’t Paris 1871, but more like this maneuver:

    Eeyore, the old grey Donkey, stood by the side of the stream, and looked at himself in the water.

    “Pathetic,” he said. “That’s what it is. Pathetic.”

    He turned and walked slowly down the stream for twenty yards, splashed across it, and walked slowly back on the other side. Then he looked at himself in the water again.

    “As I thought,” he said. “No better from this side.”

  3. bystander June 11, 2009 / 8:07 pm


    It’s all your fault. Really. I could have lived a long time … Now, I just can’t get it out of my head. Every time I turn around…!

    “I’m not asking anybody,” said Eeyore. “I’m just telling everybody. We can look for the North Pole, or we can play ‘Here we go gathering Nuts in May’ with the end part of an ants’ nest. It’s all the same to me.”

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