Présidence Obama: Retour sur les ratés du contre-profilage (With electoral setbacks and looming new scandals, press takes second look at Barack Obama Inc.)

19 novembre, 2010

Ce n’est bon pour personne d’être élu uniquement pour obtenir des statistiques raciales équilibrées. D’apres Lord Carlile
Tout ça parce que  par peur du politiquement correct, on veut pas faire du PROFILAGE!  Margaret (passagère en colère)
Dans certains dossiers, les personnes contrôlées présentent des profils tellement éloignés des profils traditionnels des terroristes qu’il n’y a pas la moindre possibilité qu’il ou elle soit un terroriste. Ce n’est bon pour personne d’être arrêté uniquement pour obtenir des statistiques raciales équilibrées. Lord Carlile
Deux femmes voilées (…) n’ont pas pu prendre le vol qui devait les conduire du Royaume-Uni au Pakistan après avoir refusé de se soumettre à un scanner corporel, arguant de motifs religieux et médicaux. (…) Le Daily Mail rapporte que le service de sécurité les aurait choisi au hasard pour passer le scanner. La première a refusé, pour des raisons religieuses, la seconde pour des raisons médicales (une «infection», selon le Times). «En application des directives du gouvernement en matière de scanners, elles n’ont pas été autorisées à embarquer», a indiqué le porte-parole de l’aéroport de Manchester. Les deux femmes ont donc perdu le prix de leurs billets, d’un montant de 400 £ chacun. (…) L’aéroport de Manchester et celui d’Heathrow (Londres) sont les deux seuls du Royaume-Uni à être équipés de ces scanners d’un genre nouveau. Ce dernier n’a pour l’heure répertorié aucun refus de s’y soumettre. (…) Environ 5% des passagers au départ de Manchester sont passés au travers des scanners, soit environ 15.000 personnes depuis le 1er février, date de la mise en service de ces scanners. Il existe quatre motifs pour être scanné : une sélection au hasard par le service de sécurité, une demande venant du passager lui-même, un test positif à un explosif ou si une fouille tactile ne permet pas d’identifier ce qui déclenche le détecteur de métaux. Le Figaro (04/03/2010)
Security guru Bruce Schneier, a plaintiff in the scanner suit, calls this « magical thinking . . . Descend on what the terrorists happened to do last time, and we’ll all be safe. As if they won’t think of something else. » Which, of course, they invariably do. Attackers are already starting to smuggle weapons in body cavities, going where even the most adroit body scanners do not tread. No wonder that the Israelis, known for the world’s most stringent airport security, have so far passed on the scanners. Noah Shachtman
Le marché est doté d’un énorme potentiel … alors que le USA comptent à eux seuls 450 aéroports et environ 2.000 points de contrôle. Rappelons que le marché mondial des scanners corporels se partage entre quatre fabricants principaux : les américains L-3 Communications, ASEI (American Science and engineering), Rapiscan (filiale d’OSI Systems) et le britannique Smiths Detection. En janvier 2010, alors que nombre de gouvernements avaient annoncé leur décision de recourir à un tel type de matériel en vue de lutter contre le terrorisme, l’action de L-3 Communications avait pris 3% en une seule journée, atteignant même un sommet depuis 14 mois durant la semaine. Le titre d’AESI avait progressé quant à lui de 10,5% en deux séances tandis que celui d’OSI Systems progressait de 26%. (…) Petite précision et non des moindres permet d’appréhender le caractère « juteux » du marché : d’après Joe Reiss, porte-parole d’ASEI, un scanner corporel coûte environ 100.000 dollars, soit dix fois plus qu’un portique de détection de métaux classique … (…) Si l’administration américaine chargée de la sécurité des transports, la TSA (Transportation security Administration) a débuté l’utilisation des ces scanners en 2007, leur utilisation s’est généralisée en 2010 … après l’achat de 450 nouveaux scanners … grâce à des fonds du plan de relance américain ! Il serait intéressant de mettre en regard les noms des personnes figurant aux postes de direction des sociétés concernées et les proches collaborateurs d’Obama, il pourrait y avoir des « surprises » … Le blog finance
Alors que le scandale de ce qu’on appelle désormais le foreclosuregate enfle aux Etats-Unis, la Maison Blanche a affirmé mardi être opposée à un moratoire général sur les saisies immobilières. Motifs avancés : une telle mesure pourrait affecter le marché immobilier et freiner une bien timide reprise. A moins que Barack Obama ne souhaite « protéger » à sa façon les banques américaines, certains rappelant que Goldman Sachs – enfin, ses salariés, histoire de contourner la loi – a financé sa campagne présidentielle. (…) Rappelons en effet que si une loi sur le financement des campagnes interdit qu’une entreprise contribue directement aux campagnes électorales, les salariés de Goldman Sachs – et non directement la société – ont fourni, lors de la campagne présidentielle de 2008, près d’un million de dollars au candidat Obama. Les salariés de Goldman se placent ainsi en deuxième position parmi les donateurs. Après ceux de Goldman viennent notamment deux autres institutions bancaires : Citigroup et J.P. Morgan … Le lobby bancaire plus fort que le lobby pétrolier ? Le blog finance
Combien de Français donneraient leur vote à un homme affirmant sa foi en Dieu, favorable à la peine de mort et à la vente libre d’armes, qui a promis de bâtir une nouvelle armée du XXIème siècle forte de 100.000 hommes supplémentaires, sans s’interdire d’envisager une intervention militaire au Pakistan ? Marianne (nov. 2008)
Si l’Amérique le nomme en effet candidat, vote en sa faveur et finit par l’élire, ce sera un signe que nous sommes un pays de gens bien qui avons guéri nos blessures raciales. Roger Simon (NBC, 11.2.07).
De nombreuses personnes se sentiront poussées, selon moi, à voter pour lui, toutes choses étant égales par ailleurs, en partie parce qu’il est noir. Brit Hume (Fox News, 21.1.07)
Il a donné aux blancs la satisfaction de pouvoir se dire que la race ne compte plus en Amérique et que tous les péchés du passé peuvent être expiés à travers l’amour que l’on porte à cet homme. Glen Ford (Black Agenda Report, Counterspin, 17.11.06)
Obama (…) transcende la fracture raciale si facilement qu’il paraît en mesure de rassembler au-delà des autres divisions – et de répondre aux questions les plus délicates – qui minent la vie des Américains. Joe Klein (Time, 23.10.06)
Ce Clinton noir aux gestes de voyou magnifique mâtiné de King of America et dont le nom en swahili veut dire, paraît-il, “béni”, il se trouve que je le connais un peu. Bernard Henri Lévy (Le Point, 16.11.06).

Attention: un raté du contre-profilage peut en cacher un autre!

« Washington machine », façonnée sur mesure par les lobbys et les réseaux de communicants, conseils en relations publiques, sondeurs et autres stratèges politiques, liens avec des bailleurs de fonds liés eux-mêmes à de grandes entreprises, opposition à un calendrier impératif de retrait d’Irak, soutien  en 2006 du sénateur démocrate pro-guerre Joseph Lieberman contre le candidat investi par les militants du parti, évitement des prises de position tranchées sur les sujets politiques sensibles, fonctionnement en test des taches d’encre de Rorschach, éléments de son passé politique qui contredisent son étiquette d’homme du centre, volonté presque obsessionnelle de trouver un terrain d’accord avec la droite, campagne financée à 75% par des gros donateurs privés,  choisi par des lobbies financiers: la moitié du financement d’Obama vient des grands groupes, de dollars venus de Goldman Sachs…, premier candidat de l’histoire des élections américaines qui refuse la subvention électorale de l’Etat fédéral (84,1 millions de dollars) et finance entièrement sa campagne grâce aux donateurs privés, coup fatal porté au mode de financement public des élections, nouveau problème à régler pour le financement des futures campagnes politiques (…) pour un candidat censé incarner la gauche de l’échiquier politique, beaucoup communiqué sur ses méthodes de financement consistant à s’appuyer sur les petits donateurs privés, récolté 600 millions de dollars au cours de cette campagne, le double des sommes levées par son opposant, les trois quarts de cette somme ne proviennent pas des militants de base mais de grands donateurs, VIP, grandes fortunes, lobbies, entreprises…

Alors que renait la polémique sur des scanners corporels censés, au-dela des mesures réellement efficaces (renforcement des portes de cockpit et vigilance des passagers), surtout rassurer les gens …

Et qu’avec la perspective de nouveaux scandales (saisies immobilières, Emmanuel Rahm-Freddie Mac) et  surtout les premiers gros revers electoraux, certains mauvais esprits en profitent déja pour lancer les insinuations les  plus désobligeantes sur l’actuel president americain et (ex ?) chouchou des médias…

Retour, avec un article de Marianne de novembre 2008 ressortant un papier de Harper’s Magazine de 2006, sur un autre raté du contre-profilage, médiatico-politique celui-la  …

A savoir celui qui a permis l’arrivée, a la tete de la premiere puissance mondiale et avec les résultats que l’on sait, d’une ‘Washington machine’, façonnée sur mesure par les lobbys et les réseaux de communicants, conseils en relations publiques, sondeurs et autres stratèges politiques » …

Ce que les médias français ne vous disent pas sur Obama

Régis Soubrouillard

Marianne 2

4 Novembre 2008

Même si les médias du monde entier ne jurent que par Obama, quelques voix s’élèvent outre-atlantique pour critiquer son opportunisme et le choix du mode de financement entièrement privé de sa campagne qui risque de faire de lui l’otage des lobbies de Washington.

La France vote Obama ! Sans blague. Selon un sondage publié en France le 17 octobre, 69% des personnes interrogées accordaient leurs suffrages au candidat démocrate, seulement 5% à John McCain. Un score soviétique relevant surtout du sondage de notoriété dépourvu de toute signification politique.

Simple détail, les Français ne sont pas appelés à se prononcer. Alors certes, un seul Obama vaudra mieux que tous les McCain du monde puisque tout le monde le dit.

Posons la question autrement sans tomber dans l’idéalisation de l’homme providentiel. Combien de Français donneraient leur vote à un homme affirmant sa foi en Dieu, favorable à la peine de mort et à la vente libre d’armes, qui a promis de bâtir une nouvelle armée du XXIème siècle forte de 100.000 hommes supplémentaires, sans s’interdire d’envisager une intervention militaire au Pakistan. Certes, le portrait est aussi minimaliste que caricatural, à la mesure des louanges qu’on lui tresse à l’habitude mais il dit aussi à quel point la transposition du duel américain en France est ridicule.

Obama, la créature de Washington

Heureusement, certains journaux américains n’ont pas attendu pour relativiser le cas Obama. Dans un portrait critique, publié dans Harper’s Magazine en novembre 2006, Ken Silverstein croquait Obama en créature, qualifiée de « Washington machine », façonnée sur mesure par les lobbys et les réseaux de communicants, conseils en relations publiques, sondeurs et autres stratèges politiques.

Repris en partie par la revue Le plan B, le portrait « souligne ses liens avec des bailleurs de fonds liés eux-mêmes à de grandes entreprises, ainsi que son opposition à un calendrier impératif de retrait d’Irak. Il rappelle aussi qu’en 2006 Obama a soutenu le sénateur démocrate pro-guerre Joseph Lieberman contre le candidat investi par les militants du parti, Ned Lamont. Mais même les commentateurs de gauche les plus sévères envers Obama omettent souvent les éléments de son passé politique qui contredisent son étiquette d’homme du centre. De son côté, Joe Klein, éditorialiste « ultracentriste » du i[Time, célèbre le sénateur de l’Illinois pour la raison suivante : « Il semble faire preuve d’une volonté presque obsessionnelle de trouver un terrain d’accord avec la droite »

Une campagne financée à 75% par des gros donateurs privés

Interrogé par le Journal du Dimanche, Dominique de Villepin appelle, lui aussi, à une certaine prudence: « Obama est séduisant, mais n’allons pas réinventer l’atlantisme s’il était élu! L’Amérique n’est plus le centre de l’Occident qui n’est plus le centre du monde. Obama, comme McCain, défendra les intérêts de son pays, qui ne seront pas exactement les nôtres. Il développe des thèmes sociaux qui renvoient à Roosevelt. Mais il est aussi choisi par des lobbies financiers: la moitié du financement d’Obama vient des grands groupes, de dollars venus de Goldman Sachs… ».

En effet, Obama est le premier candidat de l’histoire des élections américaines qui refuse la subvention électorale de l’Etat fédéral (84,1 millions de dollars) et finance entièrement sa campagne grâce aux donateurs privés. Un coup fatal porté au mode de financement public des élections. Du jamais vu et sans doute un nouveau problème à régler pour le financement des futures campagnes politiques. Pas mal pour un candidat censé incarner la gauche de l’échiquier politique. Barack Obama a beaucoup communiqué sur ses méthodes de financement consistant à s’appuyer sur les petits donateurs privés. Certes, il a récolté 600 millions de dollars au cours de cette campagne, le double des sommes levées par son opposant, selon une enquête du Washington Post.

Simple détail, souvent oublié, les trois quarts de cette somme ne proviennent pas des militants de base mais de grands donateurs, VIP, grandes fortunes, lobbies, entreprises… Les élites du pays qui ne manqueront sans doute pas de se rappeler à son bon souvenir en temps utile.

Voir aussi:

Obama, le chouchou des médias

Plan B

4 novembre 2008

Moins d’un an avant l’élection présidentielle américaine de novembre 2008, deux candidats principaux briguent l’investiture démocrate [1] : Hillary Clinton, femme blanche soutenue par les milieux d’affaires, et Barack Obama, homme noir soutenu par… Bernard-Henri Lévy. Sénateur de l’Illinois, Obama a conquis un statut de sensation médiatique.

Au lendemain de l’annonce officielle de sa candidature à l’élection présidentielle de 2008, le sénateur Barack Obama s’en est pris directement aux médias. Accusé par la presse d’éviter les prises de position tranchées sur les sujets politiques sensibles, Obama, qui a voté contre la guerre en Irak dès le premier jour, a répliqué : « Le problème, c’est que ce n’est pas à ça que vous vous êtes intéressés jusqu’à maintenant. Vous avez beaucoup plus parlé de mon physique en maillot de bain » (Washington Post, 12.2.07). La situation n’est pas courante : d’ordinaire, les responsables politiques d’origine afroaméricaine bénéficient rarement d’un traitement médiatique favorable, surtout quand ils sont réputés de gauche. Mais Barack Obama fonctionne un peu comme le test des taches d’encre de Rorschach : les journalistes politiques voient en lui ce qu’ils ont envie de voir.

Le positionnement politique général d’Obama pourrait se résumer ainsi : « de gauche, mais surtout pas trop ». Selon un classement des sénateurs américains réalisé par VoteView.com sur la base de leurs votes, il se situe au milieu de la mêlée des sénateurs démocrates. Toutefois, quand les commentateurs décrivent ses atouts, ils ne mettent en avant que ses prises de position les plus centristes.

Éditorialiste au New York Times – et inventeur du terme « bobo » –, David Brooks explique qu’Obama « est, du point de vue conceptuel, en faveur du libre-échange. Il estime que les États-Unis n’ont d’autre choix que d’improviser un moyen de tenir, coûte que coûte, en Irak » (19.10.06). Décrivant le sénateur comme « tout le contraire d’un orthodoxe de gauche », Brooks lui reconnaît un « esprit formé à travers la mondialisation, et non pas par le SDS [2] ». En outre, poursuit Brooks, il « en appelle non pas à un État fort, mais à un État ramassé et volontaire qui favorise la mobilité sociale. Le gourou contemporain qu’il cite le plus volontiers, c’est Warren Buffett [l’industriel milliardaire qui vient d’offrir la majeure partie de sa fortune à la fondation Bill Gates] ».

Dans l’un des rares portraits critiques d’Obama, publié dans Harper’s Magazine (novembre 2006), Ken Silverstein souligne ses liens avec des bailleurs de fonds liés eux-mêmes à de grandes entreprises, ainsi que son opposition à un calendrier impératif de retrait d’Irak. Il rappelle aussi qu’en 2006 Obama a soutenu le sénateur démocrate pro-guerre Joseph Lieberman contre le candidat investi par les militants du parti, Ned Lamont. Mais même les commentateurs de gauche les plus sévères envers Obama omettent souvent les éléments de son passé politique qui contredisent son étiquette d’homme du centre. De son côté, Joe Klein, éditorialiste « ultracentriste » de Time, célèbre le sénateur de l’Illinois pour la raison suivante : « Il semble faire preuve d’une volonté presque obsessionnelle de trouver un terrain d’accord avec la droite » (26.12.06). L’éditorialiste républicain Michael Barone imagine même qu’Obama, « en mettant l’accent sur ce que les Américains ont en commun au-delà de leurs divergences, nous propulse dans une ère moins amèrement partisane » (U.S. News & World Report, 25.12.06).

« Un pays de gens bien »

Bien sûr, de tels espoirs engendrent des déceptions. Lorsque Barack Obama et le sénateur républicain John McCain ont appuyé des propositions de loi relatives aux règles d’éthique qui devraient s’imposer aux élus et au financement de leurs campagnes électorales, le collègue de Barone à U.S. News, Mort Zuckerman, a déploré qu’une polémique oppose deux sénateurs qui « représentent le meilleur espoir pour un retour du centrisme, ce consensus rationnel et non partisan qui exprime la volonté de la nation avec force et éloquence, et qui a si bien servi l’Amérique à travers les pires crises » (20.2.06). Selon VoteView, ses votes au Sénat placent le « centriste » McCain au deuxième rang des parlementaires les plus conservateurs, juste après son collègue de l’Arizona Jon Kyl…

Aux yeux des grands médias, l’ascension d’Obama donnerait une image positive des États-Unis. « Si l’Amérique le nomme en effet candidat, vote en sa faveur et finit par l’élire, ce sera un signe que nous sommes un pays de gens bien qui avons guéri nos blessures raciales », ronronne le journaliste Roger Simon au cours du talk-show « Meet the Press » de NBC (11.2.07). Armé de ce genre d’explications psychologiques, l’ultraconservateur Brit Hume, de Fox News Channel, estime que sa couleur de peau constitue un « atout » pour Obama : « De nombreuses personnes se sentiront poussées, selon moi, à voter pour lui, toutes choses étant égales par ailleurs, en partie parce qu’il est noir » (21.1.07). Quand on se souvient qu’Obama siège au sein d’un Sénat à 94 % blanc et à 1 % afro-américain, l’idée qu’être noir lui procure un avantage politique peut sembler saugrenue. Glen Ford, de Black Agenda Report, propose une analyse plus réaliste de la séduction qu’exerce Obama sur les experts : « Il a donné aux blancs la satisfaction de pouvoir se dire que la race ne compte plus en Amérique et que tous les péchés du passé peuvent être expiés à travers l’amour que l’on porte à cet homme » (Counterspin, 17.11.06). Mais le consensus médiatique en faveur d’Obama repose aussi sur l’espoir qu’il saura réconcilier riches et pauvres autour d’un projet qui profitera plus aux premiers qu’aux seconds. Joe Klein, de Time, ne dit pas autre chose quand il encense ce sénateur qui « transcende la fracture raciale si facilement qu’il paraît en mesure de rassembler au-delà des autres divisions – et de répondre aux questions les plus délicates – qui minent la vie des Américains » (23.10.06).

Et puis, dans la course à la présidentielle américaine, Barack Obama dispose d’un atout maître : Bernard Henri Lévy. [3] Entre deux siestes digestives dans son palace de Marrakech, le « philosophe » a confié : « Ce Clinton noir aux gestes de voyou magnifique mâtiné de King of America et dont le nom en swahili veut dire, paraît-il, “béni”, il se trouve que je le connais un peu » (Le Point, 16.11.06). Bonne chance, Barack ! Avant toi, BHL a successivement soutenu Édouard Balladur, Lionel Jospin, le Oui au référendum, Ségolène Royal, Jean-Marie Colombani et Alain Carignon…

Notes

[1] Cet article est une traduction abrégée du texte de Peter Hart « L’Obamamania ou l’art de dire du bien d’Obama pour dire du bien des médias » publié par Extra !, mars-avril 2007, http://www.fair.org.

[2] [Note de la traduction sardone, NTS] Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) organisation étudiante radicale qui anima le soulèvement des campus et l’opposition à la guerre du Vietnam dans les années 1960.

[3] Ce dernier paragraphe est du Plan B.

Voir egalement:

Barack Obama Inc.:

The birth of a Washington machine

Ken Silverstein

Harper’s magazine

November 2006

In July, on a typically oppressive summer day in Washington, D.C., roughly a thousand college students from across the country gathered at a Marriott hotel with plans to change the world. Despite being sponsored by the Center for American Progress, a moderate think tank founded by one of Bill Clinton’s former chiefs of staff, John Podesta, the student group—called Campus Progress—leans decidedly farther to the left. At booths outside the main auditorium, young activists handed out pamphlets opposing nuclear power, high pay for CEOs, excessive profits for oil companies, harsh prison sentences for drug users, and Israeli militarism in Gaza and the West Bank. At one session, Adrienne Maree Brown of The Ruckus Society—a protest group whose capacious mission is to promote “the voices and visions of youth, women, people of color, indigenous people and immigrants, poor and working class people, lesbian, gay, bisexual, gender queer, and transgendered people”—urged students to “break the fucking rules.” Even the consummate insider Podesta told attendees, with unintended ambiguity, “We need more of you hanging from trees.”

Around noon, conference participants began filing into the auditorium; activists staffing the literature booths abandoned their posts to take seats inside as well. The crowd, and the excitement, building in the hall was due entirely to the imminent arrival of the keynote speaker: Illinois Senator Barack Obama. Having ascended to political fame through a stirring and widely lauded speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention, Obama, the U.S. Senate’s only African-American member, is now considered to be the party’s most promising young leader—especially among those who, like the student organizers present, are seeking to reinvigorate its progressive wing. In terms of sheer charisma, Obama is certainly the party’s most magnetic leader since Bill Clinton, and perhaps since Robert F. Kennedy.

The senator was running a bit late; but when he finally glided into the auditorium, escorted by an assortment of aides, he was greeted by a tremendous swell of applause as he took to the stage. Dressed in a brown jacket and red tie, Obama approached the podium, flanked by two giant screens enlarging his image, and began a softly spoken but compelling speech that recalled his own days, after his graduation in 1983 from Columbia University, as a community organizer in poor neighborhoods of Chicago. “You’ll have boundless opportunities when you graduate,” he told the students, “and it’s very easy to just take that diploma, forget about all this progressive-politics stuff, and go chasing after the big house and the large salary and the nice suits and all the other things that our money culture says you should buy. But I hope you don’t get off that easy. There’s nothing wrong with making money, but focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a poverty of ambition.”

Obama complained of an American culture that “discourages empathy,” in which those in power blame poverty on people who are “lazy or weak of spirit” and believe that “innocent people being slaughtered and expelled from their homes halfway around the world are somebody else’s problem.” He urged the assembled activists to ignore those voices, “not because you have an obligation to those who are less fortunate than you, although I think you do have that obligation . . . but primarily because you have that obligation to yourself. Because our individual salvation depends on collective salvation. It’s only when you hitch yourself up to something bigger than yourself that you realize your true potential.”

It was a rousing speech, and Obama is probably the only member of Congress who could have delivered it with any conviction or credibility. When he left the stage and headed toward the hotel exit, he was trailed by a pack of autograph seekers, picture takers, and glad-handers.

Despite its audience and ostensible subject matter, however, Obama’s speech had contained just a single call for political action. This was when he had introduced Mark Pike, a law student who then came bounding across the stage in a green one-piece mechanic’s outfit. As part of a campaign called “Kick the Oil Habit,” Pike was to depart directly from the conference and drive from Washington to Los Angeles in a “flex-fuel” vehicle. “Give it up for Mark!” Obama had urged the crowd, noting that Pike would be refueling only at gas stations that offer E85—which Obama touts as “a clean, renewable, and domestically produced alternative fuel.”

Although the senator did not elaborate, E85 is so called because it is 85 percent ethanol, a product whose profits accrue to a small group of corporate corn growers led by Illinois-headquartered Archer Daniels Midland. Not surprisingly, agribusiness is a primary advocate of E85, as are such automobile manufacturers as Ford, which donated Pike’s car. The automakers love E85 because it allows them to look environmentally correct (“Live Green, Go Yellow,” goes GM’s advertising pitch for the fuel) while producing vehicles, mostly highly profitable and fuel-guzzling SUV and pickup models, that can run on regular gasoline as well as on E85. 11. Since producing most domestic ethanol requires large amounts of fossil fuel, and regular gasoline provides about 30 percent more mileage per gallon than E85, it’s arguably preferable from a conservation standpoint to drive a standard gasoline car rather than a flex-fuel vehicle. Obama had essentially marshaled his twenty minutes of undeniably moving oratory to plump for the classic pork-barrel cause of every Midwestern politician.

In an election season, when Americans of all political persuasions can allow themselves to imagine—even if for just a few unguarded moments—how matters in this country might improve if its leaders did, it is worthwhile to consider the path so far of Senator Barack Obama. A man more suited to the tastes of reform-minded Americans could hardly be imagined: he is passionate, charming, and well-intentioned, and his desire to change the culture of Washington seems deeply held and real. He managed to win a tremendous majority in his home state of Illinois despite rhetoric, and a legislative record, that marked him as a true progressive. During his first year in the state senate—1997—he helped lead a laudable if quixotic crusade that would have amended the state constitution to define health care as a basic right and would have required the Illinois General Assembly to ensure that all the state’s citizens could get health insurance within five years. He led initiatives to aid the poor, including campaigns that resulted in an earned-income tax credit and the expansion of early-childhood-education programs. In 2001, reacting to a surge in home foreclosures in Chicago, he helped push for a measure that cracked down on predatory lenders that peddled high-interest, high-fee mortgages to lower-end homebuyers. Obama was also the driving force behind legislation, passed in 2003, that made Illinois the first state to require law-enforcement agencies to tape interrogations and confessions of murder suspects. Throughout his campaign for the U.S. Senate, Obama called for social justice, promised to “stand up to the powerful drug and insurance lobbies” that block health-care reform, and denounced the war in Iraq and the Bush White House.

Since coming to Washington, Obama has advocated for the poor, most notably in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and has emerged as a champion of clean government. He has fought for restrictions on lobbying, even as most of his fellow Democrats postured on the issue while quietly seeking to gut real reform initiatives. In mid-September, Congress approved a bill he co-authored with Oklahoma’s arch-conservative senator, Tom Coburn, requiring all federal contracts and earmarks to be published in an Internet database, a step that will better allow citizens to track the way the government spends their money.

Yet it is also startling to see how quickly Obama’s senatorship has been woven into the web of institutionalized influence-trading that afflicts official Washington. He quickly established a political machine funded and run by a standard Beltway group of lobbyists, P.R. consultants, and hangers-on. For the staff post of policy director he hired Karen Kornbluh, a senior aide to Robert Rubin when the latter, as head of the Treasury Department under Bill Clinton, was a chief advocate for NAFTA and other free-trade policies that decimated the nation’s manufacturing sector (and the organized labor wing of the Democratic Party). Obama’s top contributors are corporate law and lobbying firms (Kirkland & Ellis and Skadden, Arps, where four attorneys are fund-raisers for Obama as well as donors), Wall Street financial houses (Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase), and big Chicago interests (Henry Crown and Company, an investment firm that has stakes in industries ranging from telecommunications to defense). Obama immediately established a “leadership PAC,” a vehicle through which a member of Congress can contribute to other politicians’ campaigns—and one that political reform groups generally view as a slush fund through which congressional leaders can evade campaign-finance rules while raising their own political profiles.

Already considered a potential vice-presidential nominee in 2008, Obama clearly has abundant political ambitions. Hence he is playing not only to voters in Illinois—a reliably Democratic and generally liberal state—but to the broader national audience, as well as to the Democratic Party establishment, the Washington media, and large political donors. Perhaps for this reason, Obama has taken an approach to his policymaking that is notably cautious and nonconfrontational. “Since the founding, the American political tradition has been reformist, not revolutionary,” he told me during an interview at his office on Capitol Hill this summer. “What that means is that for a political leader to get things done, he or she ideally should be ahead of the curve, but not too far ahead. I want to push the envelope but make sure I have enough folks with me that I’m not rendered politically impotent.”

The question, though, is just how effective—let alone reformist—Obama’s approach can be in a Washington grown hostile to reform and those who advocate it. After a quarter century when the Democratic Party to which he belongs has moved steadily to the right, and the political system in general has become thoroughly dominated by the corporate perspective, the first requirement of electoral success is now the ability to raise staggering sums of money. For Barack Obama, this means that mounting a successful career, especially one that may include a run for the presidency, cannot even be attempted without the kind of compromising and horse trading that may, in fact, render him impotent.

The walls of Obama’s office on the seventh floor of the Hart Senate Office Building are decorated with images from the canon of liberal icons. There are photos of Martin Luther King addressing a civil rights rally, Gandhi sitting cross-legged, and Obama with Nelson Mandela; a painting of Thurgood Marshall, and, above a framed pair of red boxing gloves signed by Muhammad Ali, the famous photo of a scowling Ali standing over Sonny Liston after knocking him out during their second fight, in Lewiston, Maine.

When I interviewed him this summer, I had my eleven-year-old daughter in tow, because her outing with a friend had fallen through just as I was leaving home. Obama, who is married and has two young daughters of his own, asked her a few questions; when she told him she was starting seventh grade in the fall, he told her that at her age, “I was such a terror that my teachers didn’t know what to do with me.” He draped his gray jacket over his leather desk chair and urged her to have a seat. For the next hour, she contentedly twirled on the chair while we spoke across the room, Obama on a tan sofa and me on a chair to his right.

I asked Obama how he was adjusting to Washington and the city’s peculiar political culture. “I have not had to partake of the culture much,” he replied. “My family lives in Chicago, and I’m usually here Tuesday through Thursday. I rarely meet lobbyists; it’s one of the benefits of having a good staff.” Nor has he had to devote much time to fund-raising. “The first $250,000 that I raised was like pulling teeth,” he recalled. “No major Democratic donors knew me, I had a funny name, they wouldn’t take my phone calls. Then at a certain point we sort of clicked into the public consciousness and the buzz, and I benefited from a lot of small individual contributions that helped me get over the hump. . . . And then after winning, the notoriety that I received made raising money relatively simple, and so I don’t have the same challenges that most candidates do now, and that’s pure luck. It’s one of the benefits of celebrity.”

Obama sat with his arms and legs crossed, one foot tapping the air. Progressive candidates generally have a harder time raising money, he said, and at times some of them will “trim their sails” on behalf of the people who are financing them. “When I say that,” he was hasty to add, “I want to make sure I’m not saying all the time. I’m just saying there are going to be points where donors have more access and are taken more into account than ordinary voters.” The solution he supports is some form of public financing for campaigns, combined—since big donors “are always going to find a way to get money” to candidates—with some reduction in the cost of running for office; for example, by providing candidates with free political advertising.

Personally, though, Obama felt that he had not trimmed his own political sails to make himself palatable to the political center. His primary obstacle, he said, is simply that the G.O.P. controls the White House and Congress. “My experience in the state legislature is instructive. The first seven years I was there I was in the minority, and I think that I passed maybe ten bills; maybe five of them were substantive. Most of the bills that I did pass were in partnership with Republicans, because that was the only way I could get them passed. The first year we were in the majority party I passed twenty-six bills in one year.” While Washington “moves more slowly than the state legislature,” Obama said he had no doubt that if the Democrats controlled Congress, it would be possible to move forward on important progressive legislation.

The alternative, until then, is to be opportunistic and look for areas where he can get enough Republican support to actually get a bill passed. That, he said, “means that most of the legislation I’ve proposed will be more modest in its goals than it would be if I were in the majority party.” Obama gave an example: although he is a strong supporter of raising fuel-economy standards, proposals to do so have gone nowhere for years. In 2005, Congress overwhelmingly rejected an amendment to the energy bill that would have required cars, minivans, and SUVs to get 40 miles per gallon on average by 2016. This year, Obama and Indiana Republican Richard Lugar introduced a bill that would require fuel-economy targets to rise 4 percent annually unless federal regulators specifically blocked that step. Obama recruited as co-sponsors four senators who had voted against the 2005 amendment—Democrat Joe Biden of Delaware and Republicans Norm Coleman of Minnesota, Gordon Smith of Oregon, and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania—and although this bill might not pass either, it has a better chance than past efforts.

I asked Obama a question about pork-barrel spending. Did he feel pressure to deliver federal money for home-state interests? “Pork is in the eye of the beholder,” he said. “The recipients don’t tend to think it’s pork, especially if it’s a great public-works project.” He said he felt “pretty good” about projects he had sought in last year’s transportation bill and “unashamed” about getting them in. House Speaker Dennis Hastert had praised Obama for his efforts in helping win Illinois its $6.2 billion in the massive, earmarklarded 2005 transportation bill. (Illinois’s most extravagant project funded by the bill was the Prairie Parkway, a controversial regional highway that would run through Hastert’s district and, in fact, has significantly increased the value of real estate he owns along the proposed route.)

An aide came in and told Obama that Congressman David Dreier was on the phone to discuss legislation to aid the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country that Obama was planning to visit as part of a trip to Africa. After taking the call at his desk, Obama returned to the couch and took up the pork-barrel question again. He gave as an example President Bush’s Clear Skies Initiative, which he described as a difficult decision. After examining the legislation, he determined that it would significantly weaken the Clean Air Act, yet the administration claimed it would help the coal industry, a major economic force in southern Illinois. In the end, he opposed it because he decided it would have been more beneficial to western coal producers, not those in Illinois. “That kind of vote is a tough vote, not so much on the merits as it is on the politics,” he said. “I then have to spend a lot of time working that through with my constituents in southern Illinois, explaining to them why I did not think it was actually good for them.” Even so, he took heat at home, with one southern Illinois newspaper editorial saying that he was less interested in looking out for the interests of the state’s coal industry than he was in voting with the interests of Barbara Boxer and Hillary Clinton.

And what if he had determined that the Clear Skies Initiative would have aided Illinois coal? I asked. In that case, Obama said, “It would have been more difficult for me. . . . If I thought that it would have significantly helped Illinois coal but would have been a net minus for the environment, then you’ve got your classic legislative dilemma.”

Obama said that the “blogger community,” which by now is shorthand for liberal Democrats, gets frustrated with him because they think he’s too willing to compromise with Republicans. “My argument,” he says, “is that a polarized electorate plays to the advantage of those who want to dismantle government. Karl Rove can afford to win with 51 percent of the vote. They’re not trying to reform health care. They are content with an electorate that is cynical about government. Progressives have a harder job. They need a big enough majority to initiate bold proposals.”

Before he addressed the 2004 convention, Obama was virtually unknown nationally, and even in Illinois his was far from a household name. Just four years earlier, he had been defeated by a significant margin when he tried to unseat Chicago-area Congressman Bobby Rush in the Democratic primary. But following the speech, which was universally hailed—even the National Review called it “simple and powerful,” conceding that it had deserved its “rapturous critical reception”—Obama became a national celebrity. Less than two months later, he won election to the Senate with 70 percent of the vote.

If the speech was his debut to the wider American public, he had already undergone an equally successful but much quieter audition with Democratic Party leaders and fund-raisers, without whose support he would surely never have been chosen for such a prominent role at the convention. The early, if not overwhelming, favorite to be the Senate nominee from Illinois had been Dan Hynes, the state comptroller, who had twice won statewide office and had the support of the state’s Democratic machine and labor unions. But by September 2003, six months before the primary, Obama was winning support from not only African Americans but also Chicago’s “Lakefront Liberals” and other progressives. He was still largely unknown in Washington circles, but that changed the following month when Vernon Jordan, the well-known power broker and corporate boardmember who chaired Bill Clinton’s presidential transition team after the 1992 election, placed calls to roughly twenty of his friends and invited them to a fund-raiser at his home.

That event marked his entry into a well-established Washington ritual—the gauntlet of fund-raising parties and meet-and-greets through which potential stars are vetted by fixers, donors, and lobbyists. Gregory Craig, an attorney with Williams & Connolly and a longtime Democratic figure who, as special counsel in the White House, had coordinated Bill Clinton’s impeachment defense, met Obama that night. “I liked his sense of humor and the confidence he had discussing national issues, especially as a state senator,” Craig recalled of the event. “You felt excited to be in his presence.” Another thing that Craig liked about Obama was that he’s not seen as a “polarizer,” like such traditional African-American leaders as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. “He gets respect from his adversaries because of the way he treats them,” Craig said. “He doesn’t try to be all things to all people, but he has a way of taking positions you don’t like without making you angry.”

Word about Obama spread through Washington’s blue-chip law firms, lobby shops, and political offices, and this accelerated after his win in the March primary. Mike Williams, vice president for legislative affairs at The Bond Market Association and a member of an African-American lobbying association, had been following the race in Illinois and was introduced to Obama through acquaintances in Washington who had known him at Harvard Law School. “We represent Wall Street firms,” Williams said in recounting his first conversation with Obama. “A big issue for us since 2000 is predatory lending. He worked on that issue in Illinois; he was the lead sponsor of a bill there. I talked to him about that. He had a different position from ours. There’s a perception out there that the Democrats are anti-business, and I talked to him about that directly. I said, There’s a perception that you’re coming at this from the angle of consumers. He was forthright, which I appreciated. He said, I tried to broker the best deal I could.” Williams still had his differences with Obama, but the conversation convinced him that the two could work together. “He’s not a political novice and he’s smart enough not to say things cast in stone, but you can have a conversation with him,” Williams said. “He’s a straight shooter. As a lobbyist, that’s something you value. You don’t need a yes every time, but you want to be able to count the votes. That’s what we do.”

Williams subsequently set up a conference call between Obama and a group of financial-industry lobbyists. That, too, went well, and in June of 2004, Williams helped organize “a little fund-raiser” for Obama at The Bond Market Association. “It wasn’t just the financial community. There was a broad cross-section,” he said of the 200 or so people who turned out. “There was overwhelming support, not just people from associations giving $2,000 but from individuals who just wanted to meet him, giving smaller contributions.”

Tom Quinn, a senior partner at Venable and widely considered one of the top lobbyists in town, got a call from Williams and attended the fund-raiser. “I’m on the list. Pretty much everyone in political fund-raising circles knows me,” said Quinn, who works closely with the Democratic National Committee and has been a party power broker since the late 1960s, when he worked on the presidential campaign of Hubert Humphrey. “Every day I get ten or fifteen solicitations. I contribute if I like the candidate and think they have a chance to win.” He was impressed when he heard that Obama had been president of the Harvard Law Review—“That jumped out at me. It showed he had absolute intelligence”—and even more impressed after meeting him. “He’s got a nice personal touch and the ability to kid around a little bit too,” he said. “He’s got star quality.” Quinn contributed $500 to Obama at The Bond Market Association event, and later made calls to people he knew and asked them to donate money as well.

Robert Harmala, also a big player in Democratic circles and a colleague of Quinn’s at Venable, attended the association’s event as well. He had been invited by Larry Duncan—an African-American lobbyist for Lockheed Martin, a Venable client—who helped Williams organize the affair. Harmala liked what he saw and continued to be impressed by Obama. “There’s a reasonableness about him,” he said. “I don’t see him as being on the liberal fringe. He’s not going to be a parrot for the party line.” Like Quinn, Harmala donated $500 to Obama and made calls to a number of political donors (“Some usual suspects in California whom I’ve worked with before”) and urged them to support Obama’s campaign. Other fund-raisers were soon organized—one at the Four Seasons Hotel, another at a Dupont Circle restaurant, yet another at the Clintons’ home off Embassy Row. “He was hitting his stride. There were people clamoring to help,” said Williams. “It wasn’t just one person who put the events together and it wasn’t all about raising money—people wanted to meet him and talk to him.”

It’s not always clear what Obama’s financial backers want, but it seems safe to conclude that his campaign contributors are not interested merely in clean government and political reform. And although Obama is by no means a mouthpiece for his funders, it appears that he’s not entirely indifferent to their desires either.

Consider the case of Illinois-based Exelon Corporation, the nation’s leading nuclear-power-plant operator. The firm is Obama’s fourth largest patron, having donated a total of $74,350 to his campaigns. During debate on the 2005 energy bill, Obama helped to vote down an amendment that would have killed vast loan guarantees for power-plant operators to develop new energy projects. The loan guarantees were called “one of the worst provisions in this massive piece of legislation” by Taxpayers for Common Sense and Citizens Against Government Waste; the public will not only pay millions of dollars in loan costs but will risk losing billions of dollars if the companies default.

In one of his earliest votes, Obama joined a bloc of mostly conservative and moderate Senate Democrats who helped pass a G.O.P.-driven class-action “reform” bill. The bill had been long sought by a coalition of business groups and was lobbied for aggressively by financial firms, which constitute Obama’s second biggest single bloc of donors.

Although The Bond Market Association didn’t lobby directly on the legislation, Williams took note of Obama’s vote. “He’s a Democrat, and some people thought he’d do whatever the trial lawyers wanted, but he didn’t do that,” he said. “That’s a testament to his character.” Obama has voted on one bill that was of keen interest to Williams’s members: last year’s hotly contested bankruptcy bill, which made filing for bankruptcy more difficult and gives creditors more recourse to recover debts. Obama voted against the bill, but Williams was pleased that he did side with The Bond Market Association position on a number of provisions. Most were minor technical matters, but he also opposed an important amendment, which was defeated, that would have capped credit-card interest rates at 30 percent. “He studied the issue,” Williams said. “Some assumed he would just go along with consumer advocates, but he voted with us on several points. He understood the issue. He wasn’t closed-minded. A lot of people found that very refreshing.”

As of this summer, Obama had raised nearly $16 million for his original Senate run and for his 2010 reelection war chest. He has taken in an additional $3.8 million for the Hopefund, his leadership PAC. Such PACs are subject to fewer restrictions on raising and spending money than general campaign funds. Over a six-year term, a senator can raise a maximum of $4,200 per individual donor; the same donor can give as much as $30,000 to the senator’s leadership PAC during that same period. Traditionally, leadership PACs were established by veteran members of Congress, but now they are set up by anyone who hopes to work his or her way up through party ranks. Last year, the Hopefund took in more than any other leadership PAC except for those of Bill Frist, John McCain, and John Kerry, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

In several primaries, Obama’s PAC has given to candidates that have been carefully culled and selected by the Democratic establishment on the basis of their marketability as palatable “moderates”—even when they are facing more progressive and equally viable challengers. Most conspicuously, Obama backed Joe Lieberman over Ned Lamont, his Democratic primary opponent in Connecticut, endorsing him publicly in March and contributing $4,200 to his campaign. The Hopefund also gave $10,000 to Tammy Duckworth, a helicopter pilot in the National Guard who lost both legs in Iraq and who is running for the seat of retiring G.O.P. Congressman Henry Hyde in Chicago’s western suburbs. Despite her support from the party establishment, an enormous fund-raising advantage, and sympathy she had due to her war record, Duckworth won the primary by just 1,100 votes over a vocal war opponent named Christine Cegelis. (When asked about her stand on the Iraq war by a reporter, Duckworth had replied, “There is good and bad in everything.”)

The calibration of Obama’s own political rhetoric has been particularly evident in regard to the war in Iraq. At an antiwar rally in Chicago in October 2002, when Obama was still a state senator, he savaged the Bush Administration for its by then obvious plans to invade. “I don’t oppose all wars,” he said that day. “What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair, weekend warriors in this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.”

Since taking office, Obama has become far more measured in his position. After Pennsylvania Congressman John Murtha called for withdrawal from Iraq last fall, Obama rejected such a move in a speech before the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, saying the United States needed “to manage our exit in a responsible way—with the hope of leaving a stable foundation for the future.” His stance won him praise from Washington Post columnist David Broder, the veritable weather vane of political conventional wisdom. Murtha’s was “not a carefully reasoned analysis of the strategic consequences of leaving Iraq,” Broder wrote, whereas Obama was helping his party define “a sensible common ground” and had “pointed the administration and the country toward a realistic and modestly hopeful course on Iraq.” Obama continues to reject any specific timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, even as public opposition to the war grows and as the military rationale for staying becomes less and less apparent.

For the past several decades, the two senators from Illinois have held a weekly meeting on Thursday mornings called the Constituent Coffee, where visitors from the Prairie State can meet and ask questions of their elected officials. Traditionally, the coffees have been low-key affairs, but since Obama took office they have been moved to a larger room—often on the top floor of the Hart Building, which looks out on the Capitol dome—that can accommodate the crowds they now invariably attract.

Obama and Richard Durbin, Illinois’s senior senator and the Democrats’ Senate minority whip, are a winning team. At one coffee I attended this summer, Obama noted in introducing Durbin that his colleague had recently been selected by Time magazine as one of the ten best members of the Senate. “Only ninety senators disagree,” said Durbin in rejoinder, adding, “I haven’t done the cover of Newsweek or won a Grammy. There’s a pretty important junior senator from Illinois too.” (Obama won a Best Spoken Word Grammy this year, for his reading of his autobiography.) At another coffee, Durbin mentioned to the crowd that Obama had thrown out the first pitch at a Chicago White Sox game last year; this, he noted, had sparked a long winning streak, at the end of which the team won its first World Series in eighty-eight years. Later, a student at the University of Illinois asked Obama if he might also throw out the first pitch for the perennial sad-sack Cubs, in order to impart similarly good luck. “My arm,” Obama deadpanned, “is only so good.”

By 8:30 a.m. on July 13, when that week’s coffee was scheduled to begin, about 150 people had filled the seats and several dozen more were standing at the back. The top-floor space at Hart was not available that day, so the coffee had been moved to a large hearing room in the basement of the neighboring Dirksen Building. A few stragglers huddled around a table near the entrance, picking from a platter of doughnuts and filling cups of coffee from a shiny metal urn. “The doughnuts are the main reason people come,” Obama joked, opening the affair from a podium at the head of the room. In fact, it was clear that many in attendance—especially among the sizable contingent who weren’t actually from Illinois, including many congressional interns and pages—had turned up just to see Obama.

Although Obama and Durbin did field some questions on foreign policy, especially on Israel’s conflict with Hezbollah, the audience seemed more interested in domestic issues—health and education and basic pocketbook worries. What, one middle-aged woman asked pointedly, was Congress planning to do about the soaring price of gasoline?

Like the natural politician he is, Obama packaged his reply to appeal to the broadest spectrum of opinion. Energy, he said, was not just an economic issue but a national-security issue (“We now are dependent on the most volatile regions of the world for running our economy”) and an environmental issue as well (“There are a lot of farmers in the room whose croplands could be impacted by global warming”). President Bush, said Obama, had finally acknowledged the need to break America’s addiction to foreign oil, “but with the twelve-step program there are eleven other steps after you acknowledge your addiction.” One step, he said, in bringing the issue home to Illinois interests, was to support biofuels such as ethanol, which are “a terrific way for us to start cutting down our use of imported oil.”

Obama’s support among traditional Democratic constituencies was apparent in the audience members, a number of whom worked for low-income housing, civil rights, and pro-choice groups. Grateful representatives of big-money interests were on hand as well, in the form of officials from the Illinois Soybean Association and the Illinois Corn Growers Association. “We appreciate the relationship and the help,” said the latter, who was in town as part of a lobbying blitz called the Corn Congress.

And indeed Obama has delivered for his constituents—for social activists, but also for business groups whose demands are invariably more costly. Although this is not the place to review the full history of ethanol, it’s beyond dispute that it survives only because members of Congress from farm states, whether liberal or conservative, have for decades managed to win billions of dollars in federal subsidies to underwrite its production. It is not, of course, family farmers who primarily benefit from the program but rather the agribusiness giants such as Illinois-based Aventine Renewable Energy and Archer Daniels Midland (for which ethanol accounts for just 5 percent of its sales but an estimated 23 percent of its profits). Ethanol production, as Tad Patzek of UC Berkeley’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering wrote in a report this year, is based on “the massive transfer of money from the collective pocket of the U.S. taxpayers to the transnational agricultural cartel.”

Since arriving on Capitol Hill, Obama has been as assiduous as any member of Congress in promoting ethanol. 22. ADM has apparently not contributed money to Obama, but during his first year in office he traveled on the company’s private jets at least twice. All told, Obama took twenty-three flights on corporate planes; after some atypically bad press for accepting the flights, Obama imposed a ban at his office on privately subsidized travel. He has introduced a number of measures that benefit the industry—such as the “Obama Amendment” that offered oil companies a 50 percent tax credit for building stations that offer E85 fuel—and voted for the corporate-welfare-laden 2005 energy bill, which offered billions in subsidies to ethanol producers as well as lavish incentives for developing cars that run on alternative fuels.

Meanwhile, Obama, Durbin, and three other farm-state senators opposed a proposal this year by the Bush Administration to lower stiff tariffs on cheaper sugarcane-based ethanol from Brazil and other countries. To lower such tariffs, the senators suggested, would leave the nation dangerously dependent on foreign ethanol. “Our focus must be on building energy security through domestically produced renewable fuels,” wrote the senators in a letter to Bush. That Obama would lend his name to such an argument—with its dubious implication that Brazilian ethanol is a national-security liability comparable to Saudi crude—indicates that he is at least as interested in protecting domestic producers of ethanol as he is in weaning America from imported petroleum.

I recall a remark made by Studs Terkel in 1980, about the liberal Republican John Anderson, who was running as an independent against Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter: “People are so tired of dealing with two-foot midgets, you give them someone two foot four and they start proclaiming him a giant.” In the unstinting and unanimous adulation of Barack Obama today, one wonders if a similar dynamic might be at work. If so, his is less a midgetry of character than one dictated by changing context. Gone are the days when, as in the 1970s, the U.S. Senate could comfortably house such men as Fred Harris (from Oklahoma, of all places), who called for the breakup of the oil, steel, and auto industries; as Wisconsin’s William Proxmire, who replaced Joe McCarthy in 1957 and survived into the 1980s, a crusader against big banks who neither spent nor raised campaign money; as South Dakota’s George McGovern, who favored huge cuts in defense spending and a guaranteed income for all Americans; as Frank Church of Idaho, who led important investigations into CIA and FBI abuses.

Today, money has all but wrung such dissent from the Senate. Campaigns have grown increasingly costly; in 2004 it took an average of more than $7 million to run for a Senate seat. As Carl Wagner, a Democratic political strategist who first came to Washington in 1970, remarked to me, the Senate today is a fundamentally different institution than it was then. “Senators were creatures of their states and reflected the cultures of their states,” he said. “Today they are creatures of the people who pay for their multimillion-dollar advertising campaigns. Representative democracy has largely been taken off the table. It’s reminiscent of the 1880s and 1890s, when senators were chosen by state legislatures who were owned by the railroads and the banks.” Accordingly, as corporate money has grown increasingly important to candidates, we have seen the rise of the smothering K Street culture and the revolving door that feeds it—not just lobbyists themselves but an entire interconnected world of campaign consultants, public-relations agencies, pollsters, and media strategists.

All of this has forged a political culture that is intrinsically hostile to reform. On condition of anonymity, one Washington lobbyist I spoke with was willing to point out the obvious: that big donors would not be helping out Obama if they didn’t see him as a “player.” The lobbyist added: “What’s the dollar value of a starry-eyed idealist?

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Obamamania

How loving Barack Obama helps pundits love themselves

Peter Hart

Extra!

March/April 2007

The day after he formally announced he was a candidate for the 2008 presidential race, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) took a shot at the media. Alluding to the perception that he avoids taking strong positions on important political issues, Obama told reporters (Washington Post, 2/12/07): “The problem is that that’s not what you guys have been reporting on. You’ve been reporting on how I look in a swimsuit.”

It’s not often that politicians complain that they get coverage they deem too “soft,” but Obama could make the charge with a straight face. In a sense, Obama’s complaint and the press corps’ assessment of him are both true: The press corps has—at least as of February of this year—cast Obama’s White House aspirations in mostly warm and upbeat tones; at the same time, Obama has mostly avoided staking out political positions that might be deemed “divisive” or too left-wing to the national press.

The situation is curious: an African-American politician with a fairly liberal reputation and voting record is not normally the sort of political figure one would expect to enjoy positive media coverage. What makes Barack Obama such a political phenomenon is that he functions as a Rorschach test for political reporters, who tend to see what they want to see in him and his presidential aspirations.

“Transcending race”

One of the most prevalent media messages about Obama is that he “transcends race,” or something to that effect. Newsweek (12/25/06) said he is “sometimes described as ‘post-racial,’” Time’s Joe Klein (10/23/06) wrote that he “transcends racial stereotypes,” while U.S. News & World Report (2/19/07) pointed to his “nonconfrontational, ‘post-racial’ approach.”

Whatever that is supposed to mean is not entirely clear, but it would seem to begin with the fact that Obama’s mother is white and his father was black. Writing in the Nation (3/5/07), Patricia Williams wondered:

“Transcendence” implies rising above something, cutting through, being liberated from. What would it reveal about the hidden valuations of race if one were to invert the equation by positing that Barack Obama “transcended” whiteness because his father was black?

Media discussions of Obama and race were rarely that deep, and the fact that Obama was considered a “transcendent” figure seemed to cause reporters to write even more awkwardly than usual about the subject of race. The Washington Post noted (2/18/07) that since Obama’s father “was not descended from African slaves, Obama is unlike Southern black candidates, steeped in the slavery and civil rights struggles that tore at the region for more than a century. Neither is he like the white politicians, whose skin color automatically disqualifies them from the black experience.” Helpful insight there—whites are not, it turns out, black.

NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams announced (2/9/07) that while Obama “has never positioned himself as the black candidate,” his race “will continue to be much discussed and debated.” It’s unlikely that anyone running for president would ever declare themselves “the black candidate,” but Williams seemed to be alluding to the fact that despite his blackness, Obama talks about race in a way that does not make the media establishment nervous.

As Time’s Klein put it (10/23/06), “Obama road-tested black rage, but it was never a very good fit. There was none of the crippling psychological legacy of slavery in his family’s past.” NBC host Chris Matthews (1/21/07) declared more broadly: “I don’t think you can find a better opening gate, starting gate personality than Obama as a black candidate. . . . I can’t think of a better one. No history of Jim Crow, no history of anger, no history of slavery. All the bad stuff in our history ain’t there with this guy.”

Not Al Sharpton

It was hard to miss the contrast the pundits were trying to draw with earlier black presidential candidates like Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Al Sharpton (Extra!, 11–12/04). As Peter Beinart put it in the New Republic (2/5/07): “Today, it probably helps Obama that Al Sharpton, with his 2004 presidential run, became the ‘president of black America.’ For many white Americans, it’s a twofer. Elect Obama, and you not only dethrone George W. Bush, you dethrone Sharpton, too.”

As veteran political reporter Roger Simon put it on NBC’s Meet the Press (2/11/07), Jackson had a similar “subtext, but Barack Obama is a much different politician than Jesse Jackson—much less threatening, much more appealing, and he actually has the ability to carry this off.” Time magazine saw much the same (2/20/06):

Unlike Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson, Obama is part of a new generation of black leaders who insist on being seen as more than representatives of their race. That’s in part because, as the biracial son of a white mother and an immigrant father from Kenya, he belongs to more than one.

(Of course, neither Jackson nor Sharpton—both of whom have European ancestry—presented themselves as mere spokespeople for black America; Jackson memorably described his movement as the Rainbow Coalition.)

When Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) caused a minor uproar by referring to Obama as “clean” and “articulate,” some pundits tried mightily to clean up the mess. On NBC’s Today show (2/1/07), Chris Matthews tried to smooth things over:

The other fellows, like Jackson, they came up through the civil rights struggle, Sharpton came up through protests, a lot of scar tissue, polarization along the way. When you’re a militant and you’re on the outside, you make some enemies on the inside. Well, here’s Obama coming up on the inside as a thoroughly accepted major politician from the get-go. It’s a wonderful new thing in American politics, and I wish Biden had said it better.

During a similar discussion the night before on Matthew’s Hardball program, Time reporter Jay Carney chimed in to explain that what Biden meant wasn’t intended to be offensive, only to say that Obama is different because he is an African-American candidate who is “mainstream . . . who didn’t come from the civil rights movement.” In other words, anyone involved in breaking down the door can’t come in.

He’s a centrist!

Obama’s general political outlook might be described as moderately liberal; according to the VoteView.com political ordering of senators based on their votes, he was roughly in the middle of the 2005–06 Senate Democrats, with 19 to his left and 25 to his right. But when pundits try to explain why they like him, it’s not his more progressive views that they talk about, but rather those instances where he tacks to the media-preferred middle.

New York Times columnist David Brooks noted (10/19/06) that Obama “conceptually welcomes free trade and thinks the U.S. may have no choice but to improvise and slog it out in Iraq.” Describing the senator as “not an orthodox liberal,” Brooks credited him with “a mentality formed by globalization, not the SDS,” and declared that “he harks back to a Hamiltonian tradition that calls not for big government, but for limited yet energetic government to enhance social mobility. The contemporary guru he cites most is Warren Buffett.”

Obama has offered soaring rhetoric on healthcare, but does not endorse the single-payer solution embraced by progressives (and the majority of the public—ABC/Washington Post poll, 10/19/03). A rare critical profile of Obama by Harper’s Magazine’s Ken Silverstein (11/06) noted his ties to various corporate-affiliated fundraisers, his opposition to calls for a withdrawal timetable from Iraq and his support for Joe Lieberman over Democratic Senate candidate Ned Lamont.

Such assessments of Obama’s record are rare, with even left-leaning commentators seemingly willing to dismiss any aspects of Obama’s record that conflict with his progressive reputation. Liberal writer Michael Tomasky (New York Review of Books, 11/30/06), for example, dismissed the role of corporate lobbyists in winning Obama’s support for a corporate-friendly class-action “reform” bill. Tomasky’s alternative explanation:

He wanted, even if only to prove to himself that he could do it, to show at least one Democratic interest group that he could say no, and he chose the trial lawyers. They are less threatening than the advocates of organized labor and abortion rights. I feel certain that he just wanted to see how it felt.

Time columnist and ultra-centrist Joe Klein (12/26/05) hailed Obama for criticizing “Democratic advocacy groups that opposed the nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court in their usual vituperative fashion—even though Obama himself opposed the nomination.” Months later (10/23/06), Klein praised Obama as “a liberal, but not a screechy partisan. Indeed, he seems obsessively eager to find common ground with conservatives.”

Conservative pundit Michael Barone (U.S. News, 12/25/06) imagined that Obama, “by emphasizing what Americans of differing views have in common, invites us to an era of less bitter partisanship. His own background—mother from Kansas, father from Kenya, childhood in Hawaii and Indonesia, education at Columbia and Harvard Law—seems to span the breadth of American experience.”

Setting such lofty expectations will cause the occasional letdown. When Obama and Republican Sen. John McCain backed different ethics reform bills, Barone’s U.S. News colleague Mort Zuckerman lamented (2/20/06) the falling out between senators who “represent the best hope for a real revival of centrism, the rational bipartisan consensus that expresses the nation’s will with force and eloquence and that has served America so well in its worst crises.” (According to VoteView, McCain’s voting record made him the second-most conservative senator in the 109th Congress, after fellow Arizona Republican Jon Kyl.)

How he makes us feel about us

Given that big-time punditry often requires a sizeable dose of narcissism, it’s not surprising that some pundits praising Obama saw his candidacy as having deep personal meaning. “Like many Americans, I long to see an African-American ascend to the presidency,” wrote conservative Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer (10/27/06). “It would be an event of profound significance, a great milestone in the unfolding story of African-Americans achieving their rightful, long-delayed place in American life.”

Even when not explicitly treating Obama as a source of personal satisfaction, many in the media treated his rise as a reason for America as a whole to feel good about itself. Reporter Roger Simon put it bluntly on NBC’s Meet the Press (2/11/07), “If America actually nominates him and then votes for him for president and elects him, this will be a sign that we are a good and decent country that has healed its racial wounds.”

The Washington Post took a similar approach in a January 18, 2007 editorial, making it explicit that, reality be damned, this is about a dream:

The excitement about Mr. Obama speaks in part to Americans’ desire to believe, whether true or not, that this country has come to a point when it can rise above its ugly history of racism; and in part to the desire to believe that, if it could just overcome the divisions that foul modern politics, the nation could get unstuck on many fronts.

For Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter (12/25/06), Obama shared feel-good potential with Hillary Clinton: “A black president in a country that fought a civil war over race might even prove cathartic. And a woman president would show the rest of the world that the United States is not a sexist nation. Whatever happens, the process feels uplifting.”

For these psychological reasons, Fox News Channel’s Brit Hume (1/21/07) counted Obama’s race as “an asset,” saying:

I think most Americans—the overwhelming majority of Americans—deeply want to see African-Americans get ahead in this country and they are proud of those that do. And for Barack Obama, a lot of people would be impelled, I think, to vote for him for president, all other things being equal, in part because he’s black.

Considering that Obama serves in a Senate that is 94 percent white and 1 percent African-American, the idea that his race gives him a political advantage is rather far-fetched. Black Agenda Report’s Glen Ford had a more realistic appraisal of Obama’s pundit appeal (CounterSpin, 11/17/06): “He has given white people a kind of satisfaction—that race no longer matters in America, and all the sins of the past can be washed away through the act of loving this man.”

Some habits die hard

This is not to say, of course, that all coverage of Obama has been cheery. Appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press (1/22/06), host Tim Russert thought it worthwhile to quiz Obama about statements made by singer Harry Belafonte. Russert dressed up the inquiries as merely “about the language people are using in the politics now of 2006,” but it was hard not to think that Obama was being asked such questions because both he and Belafonte are black.

The New Republic’s Peter Beinart (2/5/07) was apparently trying to give Obama some support when he wrote that thanks to “welfare reform, the percentage of whites saying ‘poor people have become too dependent on government assistance’ has dropped markedly,” which is “good news for all Democrats, but especially for Obama, who would be particularly vulnerable to suspicions that he was trying to redistribute money from whites to blacks.” Similar “suspicions” might resurface later in the campaign; ABC News reporter Jake Tapper alleged (2/11/07), for example, that Obama’s Chicago church “expresses a message of black power” that might be “too militant for mainstream America to accept.”

NPR reporter Juan Williams, meanwhile, predicted (Fox News Sunday, 1/21/07) that Obama could have other image problems: “Don’t forget the idea that, you know, he comes from a father who was a Muslim and all that. I mean, I think that given we’re at war with Muslim extremists, that presents a problem.”

Nonetheless, the media consensus on Obama remains positive, for a variety of reasons. He makes pundits feel good about America—particularly their own overwhelmingly white slice of elite America—and his politics are moderate enough to avoid the type of crude caricature that other candidates might receive. Time’s Klein sized up Obama’s candidacy by noting (10/23/06) that “the expectations are ridiculous. He transcends the racial divide so effortlessly that it seems reasonable to expect that he can bridge all the other divisions—and answer all the impossible questions—plaguing American public life.” Or as the New York Times’ Brooks argued (10/19/06), “It may not be personally convenient for him, but the times will never again so completely require the gifts that he possesses.”

Washington Post columnist George Will (12/14/06) described Obama’s White House run with a metaphor that sounded like it had been swiped from an Andy Hardy movie:

If you get the girl up on her tiptoes, you should kiss her. The electorate is on its tiptoes because Obama has collaborated with the creation of a tsunami of excitement about him. He is nearing the point when a decision against running would brand him as a tease who ungallantly toyed with the electorate’s affections.

Obama, of course, did decide to run. How long the press corps will continue to express its affection for him—or for its version of him—remains to be seen.

Voir enfin:

Big Donors Drive Obama’s Money Edge

Matthew Mosk and Sarah Cohen

Washington Post

October 22, 2008

The record-shattering $150 million in donations that Sen. Barack Obama raised in September represents only part of the financial advantage the Democratic nominee has amassed entering the final weeks of the presidential contest, newly released campaign finance records show.

Obama and the Democratic Party committees supporting his campaign had $164 million remaining in their collective accounts entering the campaign’s final full month, compared with $132 million available for Sen. John McCain and the Republican Party.

The advantage is compounded by Obama’s ability to continue to raise money through the election because he decided not to participate in the federal financing program. McCain opted in, meaning he received $84.1 million in federal funds to spend between the Republican National Convention and Nov. 4, and he must rely solely on the Republican National Committee for additional financial support.

Behind Obama’s staggering fundraising numbers, compiled on more than 80,000 pages filed with the Federal Election Commission late Monday, are signs that it was far more than just a surge of Internet donors that fueled a coordinated Democratic effort to try to swamp McCain.

Interest among major party donors grew so fevered that the Democratic Party created a separate committee to capture millions of additional dollars from individuals who had already given Obama the most the law allows and who had also anted up $28,500 to the Democratic National Committee.

The Committee for Change, created in mid-July, has become a vehicle for ultra-rich Democratic donors to distinguish themselves from the 3.1 million others who have put $600 million behind Obama’s presidential candidacy.

« We kept running into donors who had maxed out to Obama Victory who wanted to do additional money and had the capacity to do it and were eager to do it, » said Alan Kessler, a Philadelphia lawyer who recently held a fundraiser for the committee. « They asked if there were vehicles and other ways to do it, and we said yes. »

The committee, which has been routing millions of dollars directly to state party accounts and will help fuel Obama’s field operations, represents the flip side of the grass-roots fundraising effort that helped turn Obama into the most successful money-raiser in presidential campaign history.

Similar joint committees are active on both sides of the political aisle. Rick Davis, McCain’s campaign manager, announced this year that McCain would attempt to keep pace with Obama by creating a Victory Fund that would collect as much as $70,000 apiece from wealthy donors. The fund disburses money to the Republican National Committee, state party committees, and a separate fund to pay McCain’s legal and accounting bills.

Lost in the attention given to Obama’s Internet surge is that only a quarter of the $600 million he has raised has come from donors who made contributions of $200 or less, according to a review of his FEC reports. That is actually slightly less, as a percentage, than President Bush raised in small donations during his 2004 race, although Obama has pulled from a far larger number of donors. In 2004, the Bush campaign claimed more than 2 million donors, while the Obama campaign claims to have collected its total from more than 3.1 million individuals.

« It’s just unbelievable, » said Thomas A. Daschle, the former Senate leader who is a top Obama adviser. « I don’t know that anybody could have anticipated that the numbers would be this good. »

Even some Republicans have come away impressed.

« The truth is, he is attracting more money at all levels, ranging from $1 to $2,300, » said Jan Baran, a Republican fundraising expert. « We’re talking about someone who raised money from 3.1 million people. I think he can validly claim a widespread base of support. »

From the start, Obama’s campaign has designed a fundraising effort that tries to maximize contributions from both small and large donors. That effort expanded in late summer, when Obama prepared to accept his party’s nomination and the DNC set up separate committees that would enable top donors to give as much as $65,500 to support his bid.

The best-known of those committees, the Obama Victory Fund, has catered to party regulars who attended one of dozens of gala events around the country, including VIP gatherings for those able to donate $28,500. The Committee for Change has quietly accepted millions more, in checks ranging from $5,000 to $66,900, from celebrities, corporate titans, Native American tribes and several of Obama’s most ardent bundlers.

They include entertainment mogul David Geffen, Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos, actress Annette Bening, the California-based Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation and members of Chicago’s Crown family.

DNC spokeswoman Karen Finney said the committee will support ground operations in 18 states, including all the key battlegrounds. « It’s a way for donors to give directly to the state parties’ ground operation, working in the field in support of Democrats up and down the ballot, » she said.

The closest equivalent to the soft-money donors of the Clinton era, or to Bush’s « Pioneers » and « Rangers, » are those who have contributed to each facet of the Obama fundraising machine.

Among those who have both raised top dollar and donated it are St. Louis developer Bob Clark, Florida lawyer Mark Gilbert, and Hollywood moguls Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg, whose children each gave $37,000 to the Committee for Change.

The Crowns, longtime Obama patrons, are among a handful who have given across the board: They raised more than $500,000 for Obama’s campaign, they collectively gave $18,500 directly to the campaign, they donated $57,000 to the Victory Fund, and they sent $74,000 to the Committee for Change.

« By both raising the most money and donating to every committee, they become double big players, » said Fred Wertheimer, a campaign finance advocate who helped lead the effort to rid politics of soft-money donors, who were allowed to give unlimited amounts. « This has become the newest form of problem money. »


Présidence Obama: Obama ou l’anti-Reagan (Looking back at the illusion of Obama’s popularity)

16 novembre, 2010
Reagan, je l’ai trouvé comme il est : habité de certitudes. Américain typique, il n’est pas très exportable. Mitterrand (sommet d’Ottawa, 1981)
Son étroitesse d’esprit est évidente. Cette homme n’a que quelques disques qui tournent et retournent dans sa tête. Mitterrand (sommet de Williamsburg, 1983)
L’égalité sera acquise quand on élira un Président noir incompétent. Pape Diouf (président de l’Olympique de Marseille et ancien journaliste)
Imaginez que vous soyez un électeur. Il y a le type X et le type Y. Vous êtes totalement d’accord avec le type X mais vous ne pensez pas qu’il puisse gérer quoi que ce soit. Quant au type Y, vous divergez de point de vue sur la moitié des dossiers mais vous le pensez qualifié. Pour qui voteriez-vous ? Bill Clinton (Aout 2008)
I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m gonna think I’m a better political director than my political director. Obama
C’est un homme de promesse perpétuelle. Il y avait une plaisanterie cruelle qui disait que le Brésil est le pays de l’avenir et qu’il le sera toujours; Obama est le Brésil des politiciens d’aujourd’hui. Il n’a évidemment rien accompli. Et dans le contexte américain, être le héros de cinq gauchistes norvégiens n’est pas exactement positif du point de vue politique (…) Ce qui rendait Obama unique, c’est qu’il était le politicien charismatique par excellence – le plus total inconnu à jamais accéder à la présidence aux Etats-Unis. Personne ne savait qui il était, il sortait de nulle part, il avait cette figure incroyable qui l’a catapulté au-dessus de la mêlée, il a annihilé Hillary, pris le contrôle du parti Démocrate et est devenu président. C’est vraiment sans précédent : un jeune inconnu sans histoire, dossiers, associés bien connus, auto-créé. Charles Krauthammer
I fear two things with Obama. One is if the GOP fails to elect a House majority in 2010 to keep Obama within the bounds of sanity. A GOP majority is essential for the safety of the country and the world. But even if Obama is defeated in 2012, he will just turn into an angrier version of Al Gore and Jimmy Carter. He will haunt the political future of this country as long as he is alive, because that famished ego never gets enough. Malignant narcissism often gets worse over time. And on the Left and among blacks, Obama will still have love and adoration enough to keep him supplied. He is an easy target for flattery by the Saudis, even the Iranians — in fact, by all the real enemies we have. So even if the voters throw out this very dangerous cult-like administration, you can expect Obama to be popping up in our politics for years to come. He will haunt the Democrats, which might be a good thing. But he will haunt the United States as well, even if he is defeated in 2012. James Lewis
Les marchés boursiers ne sont pas les seuls, pour reprendre la célèbre formule d’Alan Greenspan, à faire preuve « d’exubérance irrationnelle ». Pierre Delhommais
Le mythe R. Reagan, « grand communicateur », a valeur d’exemple : loin de ne reposer que sur les vertus du président des États-Unis élu en 1980, la construction de cette réputation repose sur un savoureux paradoxe puisqu’elle s’est imposée au moment même où sa cote de popularité ne parvenait pas à décoller. En contrepartie, l’état-major de Reagan a fortement investi dans les relations avec la presse ainsi qu’en direction du Congrès en mobilisant systématiquement les courants d’opinion conservateurs invités à relayer publiquement les positions du président sur ses thèmes de prédilection. De sorte que la popularité de Reagan, que les journalistes ont attribuée volontiers à ses qualités personnelles et à ses dons oratoires, semble avoir été le résultat d’un intense et efficace travail de coulisses. Acrimed

Attention: une illusion peut en cacher une autre!

A l’heure ou, avec la correction électorale en début du mois de leur « exubérance irrationnelle », nos Obamalatres des medias en sont a appeler celle-ci a renoncer a une seconde candidature en 2012 voire a ouvertement regretter son prédécesseur …

Et ou, avec cette fois la planche a billets et a l’instar d’une France qui s’enfonce chaque jour un peu plus dans le chomage, le président en question semble bien parti pour confirmer par son incompétence l’aquisition définitive de l’égaliteépour les noirs …

Comment ne pas repenser a l’effondrement d’une autre « illusion » elle aussi en son temps, si l’on en croit nos politologues, largement créée et entretenue par les medias ?

A savoir celle de la popularité d’un autre « grand communicateur »

Dont la carriere, apres avoir vu son progressisme braqué par la realité, avait elle aussi été lancée par un brillant discours pour l’investiture du candidat (perdant) de son parti …

Et qui avait lui aussi du son élection plus au rejet de son prédécesseur ou de sa politique qu’a son propre programme …

Mais a la différence toutefois (ce que semblent étrangement oublier nos dits politologues) qu’avec le retour de la croissance et la victoire de la Guerre froide, celui-ci avait vu ses idées largement validées

1964 Republican Convention

The following speech was given by President Reagan when he nominated Barry Goldwater at the 1964 Republican Convention in Cow Palace.

I am going to talk of controversial things. I make no apology for this.

It’s time we asked ourselves if we still know the freedoms intended for us by the Founding Fathers. James Madison said, « We base all our experiments on the capacity of mankind for self government. »

This idea that government was beholden to the people, that it had no other source of power is still the newest, most unique idea in all the long history of man’s relation to man. This is the issue of this election: Whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American Revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capital can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.

You and I are told we must choose between a left and right, but I suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down. Up to man’s age-old dream-the maximum of individual freedom consistent with order or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism. Regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would sacrifice freedom for security have embarked on this downward path. Plutarch warned, « The real destroyer of the liberties of the people is he who spreads among them bounties, donations and benefits. »

The Founding Fathers knew a government can’t control the economy without controlling people. And they knew when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. So we have come to a time for choosing.

Public servants say, always with the best of intentions, « What greater service we could render if only we had a little more money and a little more power. » But the truth is that outside of its legitimate function, government does nothing as well or as economically as the private sector.

Yet any time you and I question the schemes of the do-gooders, we’re denounced as being opposed to their humanitarian goals. It seems impossible to legitimately debate their solutions with the assumption that all of us share the desire to help the less fortunate. They tell us we’re always « against, » never « for » anything.

We are for a provision that destitution should not follow unemployment by reason of old age, and to that end we have accepted Social Security as a step toward meeting the problem. However, we are against those entrusted with this program when they practice deception regarding its fiscal shortcomings, when they charge that any criticism of the program means that we want to end payments….

We are for aiding our allies by sharing our material blessings with nations which share our fundamental beliefs, but we are against doling out money government to government, creating bureaucracy, if not socialism, all over the world

We need true tax reform that will at least make a start toward restoring for our children the American Dream that wealth is denied to no one, that each individual has the right to fly as high as his strength and ability will take him…. But we can not have such reform while our tax policy is engineered by people who view the tax as a means of achieving changes in our social structure….

Have we the courage and the will to face up to the immorality and discrimination of the progressive tax, and demand a return to traditional proportionate taxation? . . . Today in our country the tax collector’s share is 37 cents of every dollar earned. Freedom has never been so fragile, so close to slipping from our grasp.

Are you willing to spend time studying the issues, making yourself aware, and then conveying that information to family and friends? Will you resist the temptation to get a government handout for your community? Realize that the doctor’s fight against socialized medicine is your fight. We can’t socialize the doctors without socializing the patients. Recognize that government invasion of public power is eventually an assault upon your own business. If some among you fear taking a stand because you are afraid of reprisals from customers, clients, or even government, recognize that you are just feeding the crocodile hoping he’ll eat you last.

If all of this seems like a great deal of trouble, think what’s at stake. We are faced with the most evil enemy mankind has known in his long climb from the swamp to the stars. There can be no security anywhere in the free world if there is no fiscal and economic stability within the United States. Those who ask us to trade our freedom for the soup kitchen of the welfare state are architects of a policy of accommodation.

They say the world has become too complex for simple answers. They are wrong. There are no easy answers, but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right. Winston Churchill said that « the destiny of man is not measured by material computation. When great forces are on the move in the world, we learn we are spirits-not animals. » And he said, « There is something going on in time and space, and beyond time and space, which, whether we like it or not, spells duty. »

You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children’s children say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done.

Voir aussi:

Ronald Reagan

A Time for Choosing (aka « The Speech »)

Air date 27 October 1964, Los Angeles, C

Program Announcer: Ladies and gentlemen, we take pride in presenting a thoughtful address by Ronald Reagan. Mr. Reagan:

Reagan: Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you and good evening. The sponsor has been identified, but unlike most television programs, the performer hasn’t been provided with a script. As a matter of fact, I have been permitted to choose my own words and discuss my own ideas regarding the choice that we face in the next few weeks

I have spent most of my life as a Democrat. I recently have seen fit to follow another course. I believe that the issues confronting us cross party lines. Now, one side in this campaign has been telling us that the issues of this election are the maintenance of peace and prosperity. The line has been used, « We’ve never had it so good. »

But I have an uncomfortable feeling that this prosperity isn’t something on which we can base our hopes for the future. No nation in history has ever survived a tax burden that reached a third of its national income. Today, 37 cents out of every dollar earned in this country is the tax collector’s share, and yet our government continues to spend 17 million dollars a day more than the government takes in. We haven’t balanced our budget 28 out of the last 34 years. We’ve raised our debt limit three times in the last twelve months, and now our national debt is one and a half times bigger than all the combined debts of all the nations of the world. We have 15 billion dollars in gold in our treasury; we don’t own an ounce. Foreign dollar claims are 27.3 billion dollars. And we’ve just had announced that the dollar of 1939 will now purchase 45 cents in its total value.

As for the peace that we would preserve, I wonder who among us would like to approach the wife or mother whose husband or son has died in South Vietnam and ask them if they think this is a peace that should be maintained indefinitely. Do they mean peace, or do they mean we just want to be left in peace? There can be no real peace while one American is dying some place in the world for the rest of us. We’re at war with the most dangerous enemy that has ever faced mankind in his long climb from the swamp to the stars, and it’s been said if we lose that war, and in so doing lose this way of freedom of ours, history will record with the greatest astonishment that those who had the most to lose did the least to prevent its happening. Well I think it’s time we ask ourselves if we still know the freedoms that were intended for us by the Founding Fathers.

Not too long ago, two friends of mine were talking to a Cuban refugee, a businessman who had escaped from Castro, and in the midst of his story one of my friends turned to the other and said, « We don’t know how lucky we are. » And the Cuban stopped and said, « How lucky you are? I had someplace to escape to. » And in that sentence he told us the entire story. If we lose freedom here, there’s no place to escape to. This is the last stand on earth.

And this idea that government is beholden to the people, that it has no other source of power except the sovereign people, is still the newest and the most unique idea in all the long history of man’s relation to man.

This is the issue of this election: whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capitol can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.

You and I are told increasingly we have to choose between a left or right. Well I’d like to suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There’s only an up or down: [up] man’s old — old-aged dream, the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order, or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism. And regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would trade our freedom for security have embarked on this downward course.

In this vote-harvesting time, they use terms like the « Great Society, » or as we were told a few days ago by the President, we must accept a greater government activity in the affairs of the people. But they’ve been a little more explicit in the past and among themselves; and all of the things I now will quote have appeared in print. These are not Republican accusations. For example, they have voices that say, « The cold war will end through our acceptance of a not undemocratic socialism. » Another voice says, « The profit motive has become outmoded. It must be replaced by the incentives of the welfare state. » Or, « Our traditional system of individual freedom is incapable of solving the complex problems of the 20th century. » Senator Fulbright has said at Stanford University that the Constitution is outmoded. He referred to the President as « our moral teacher and our leader, » and he says he is « hobbled in his task by the restrictions of power imposed on him by this antiquated document. » He must « be freed, » so that he « can do for us » what he knows « is best. » And Senator Clark of Pennsylvania, another articulate spokesman, defines liberalism as « meeting the material needs of the masses through the full power of centralized government. »

Well, I, for one, resent it when a representative of the people refers to you and me, the free men and women of this country, as « the masses. » This is a term we haven’t applied to ourselves in America. But beyond that, « the full power of centralized government » — this was the very thing the Founding Fathers sought to minimize. They knew that governments don’t control things. A government can’t control the economy without controlling people. And they know when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. They also knew, those Founding Fathers, that outside of its legitimate functions, government does nothing as well or as economically as the private sector of the economy.

Now, we have no better example of this than government’s involvement in the farm economy over the last 30 years. Since 1955, the cost of this program has nearly doubled. One-fourth of farming in America is responsible for 85% of the farm surplus. Three-fourths of farming is out on the free market and has known a 21% increase in the per capita consumption of all its produce. You see, that one-fourth of farming — that’s regulated and controlled by the federal government. In the last three years we’ve spent 43 dollars in the feed grain program for every dollar bushel of corn we don’t grow.

Senator Humphrey last week charged that Barry Goldwater, as President, would seek to eliminate farmers. He should do his homework a little better, because he’ll find out that we’ve had a decline of 5 million in the farm population under these government programs. He’ll also find that the Democratic administration has sought to get from Congress [an] extension of the farm program to include that three-fourths that is now free. He’ll find that they’ve also asked for the right to imprison farmers who wouldn’t keep books as prescribed by the federal government. The Secretary of Agriculture asked for the right to seize farms through condemnation and resell them to other individuals. And contained in that same program was a provision that would have allowed the federal government to remove 2 million farmers from the soil.

At the same time, there’s been an increase in the Department of Agriculture employees. There’s now one for every 30 farms in the United States, and still they can’t tell us how 66 shiploads of grain headed for Austria disappeared without a trace and Billie Sol Estes never left shore.

Every responsible farmer and farm organization has repeatedly asked the government to free the farm economy, but how — who are farmers to know what’s best for them? The wheat farmers voted against a wheat program. The government passed it anyway. Now the price of bread goes up; the price of wheat to the farmer goes down.

Meanwhile, back in the city, under urban renewal the assault on freedom carries on. Private property rights [are] so diluted that public interest is almost anything a few government planners decide it should be. In a program that takes from the needy and gives to the greedy, we see such spectacles as in Cleveland, Ohio, a million-and-a-half-dollar building completed only three years ago must be destroyed to make way for what government officials call a « more compatible use of the land. » The President tells us he’s now going to start building public housing units in the thousands, where heretofore we’ve only built them in the hundreds. But FHA [Federal Housing Authority] and the Veterans Administration tell us they have 120,000 housing units they’ve taken back through mortgage foreclosure. For three decades, we’ve sought to solve the problems of unemployment through government planning, and the more the plans fail, the more the planners plan. The latest is the Area Redevelopment Agency.

They’ve just declared Rice County, Kansas, a depressed area. Rice County, Kansas, has two hundred oil wells, and the 14,000 people there have over 30 million dollars on deposit in personal savings in their banks. And when the government tells you you’re depressed, lie down and be depressed.

We have so many people who can’t see a fat man standing beside a thin one without coming to the conclusion the fat man got that way by taking advantage of the thin one. So they’re going to solve all the problems of human misery through government and government planning. Well, now, if government planning and welfare had the answer — and they’ve had almost 30 years of it — shouldn’t we expect government to read the score to us once in a while? Shouldn’t they be telling us about the decline each year in the number of people needing help? The reduction in the need for public housing?

But the reverse is true. Each year the need grows greater; the program grows greater. We were told four years ago that 17 million people went to bed hungry each night. Well that was probably true. They were all on a diet. But now we’re told that 9.3 million families in this country are poverty-stricken on the basis of earning less than 3,000 dollars a year. Welfare spending [is] 10 times greater than in the dark depths of the Depression. We’re spending 45 billion dollars on welfare. Now do a little arithmetic, and you’ll find that if we divided the 45 billion dollars up equally among those 9 million poor families, we’d be able to give each family 4,600 dollars a year. And this added to their present income should eliminate poverty. Direct aid to the poor, however, is only running only about 600 dollars per family. It would seem that someplace there must be some overhead.

Now — so now we declare « war on poverty, » or « You, too, can be a Bobby Baker. » Now do they honestly expect us to believe that if we add 1 billion dollars to the 45 billion we’re spending, one more program to the 30-odd we have — and remember, this new program doesn’t replace any, it just duplicates existing programs — do they believe that poverty is suddenly going to disappear by magic? Well, in all fairness I should explain there is one part of the new program that isn’t duplicated. This is the youth feature. We’re now going to solve the dropout problem, juvenile delinquency, by reinstituting something like the old CCC camps [Civilian Conservation Corps], and we’re going to put our young people in these camps. But again we do some arithmetic, and we find that we’re going to spend each year just on room and board for each young person we help 4,700 dollars a year. We can send them to Harvard for 2,700! Course, don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting Harvard is the answer to juvenile delinquency.

But seriously, what are we doing to those we seek to help? Not too long ago, a judge called me here in Los Angeles. He told me of a young woman who’d come before him for a divorce. She had six children, was pregnant with her seventh. Under his questioning, she revealed her husband was a laborer earning 250 dollars a month. She wanted a divorce to get an 80 dollar raise. She’s eligible for 330 dollars a month in the Aid to Dependent Children Program. She got the idea from two women in her neighborhood who’d already done that very thing.

Yet anytime you and I question the schemes of the do-gooders, we’re denounced as being against their humanitarian goals. They say we’re always « against » things — we’re never « for » anything.

Well, the trouble with our liberal friends is not that they’re ignorant; it’s just that they know so much that isn’t so.

Now — we’re for a provision that destitution should not follow unemployment by reason of old age, and to that end we’ve accepted Social Security as a step toward meeting the problem.

But we’re against those entrusted with this program when they practice deception regarding its fiscal shortcomings, when they charge that any criticism of the program means that we want to end payments to those people who depend on them for a livelihood. They’ve called it « insurance » to us in a hundred million pieces of literature. But then they appeared before the Supreme Court and they testified it was a welfare program. They only use the term « insurance » to sell it to the people. And they said Social Security dues are a tax for the general use of the government, and the government has used that tax. There is no fund, because Robert Byers, the actuarial head, appeared before a congressional committee and admitted that Social Security as of this moment is 298 billion dollars in the hole. But he said there should be no cause for worry because as long as they have the power to tax, they could always take away from the people whatever they needed to bail them out of trouble. And they’re doing just that.

A young man, 21 years of age, working at an average salary — his Social Security contribution would, in the open market, buy him an insurance policy that would guarantee 220 dollars a month at age 65. The government promises 127. He could live it up until he’s 31 and then take out a policy that would pay more than Social Security. Now are we so lacking in business sense that we can’t put this program on a sound basis, so that people who do require those payments will find they can get them when they’re due — that the cupboard isn’t bare?

Barry Goldwater thinks we can.

At the same time, can’t we introduce voluntary features that would permit a citizen who can do better on his own to be excused upon presentation of evidence that he had made provision for the non-earning years? Should we not allow a widow with children to work, and not lose the benefits supposedly paid for by her deceased husband? Shouldn’t you and I be allowed to declare who our beneficiaries will be under this program, which we cannot do? I think we’re for telling our senior citizens that no one in this country should be denied medical care because of a lack of funds. But I think we’re against forcing all citizens, regardless of need, into a compulsory government program, especially when we have such examples, as was announced last week, when France admitted that their Medicare program is now bankrupt. They’ve come to the end of the road.

In addition, was Barry Goldwater so irresponsible when he suggested that our government give up its program of deliberate, planned inflation, so that when you do get your Social Security pension, a dollar will buy a dollar’s worth, and not 45 cents worth?

I think we’re for an international organization, where the nations of the world can seek peace. But I think we’re against subordinating American interests to an organization that has become so structurally unsound that today you can muster a two-thirds vote on the floor of the General Assembly among nations that represent less than 10 percent of the world’s population. I think we’re against the hypocrisy of assailing our allies because here and there they cling to a colony, while we engage in a conspiracy of silence and never open our mouths about the millions of people enslaved in the Soviet colonies in the satellite nations.

I think we’re for aiding our allies by sharing of our material blessings with those nations which share in our fundamental beliefs, but we’re against doling out money government to government, creating bureaucracy, if not socialism, all over the world. We set out to help 19 countries. We’re helping 107. We’ve spent 146 billion dollars. With that money, we bought a 2 million dollar yacht for Haile Selassie. We bought dress suits for Greek undertakers, extra wives for Kenya[n] government officials. We bought a thousand TV sets for a place where they have no electricity. In the last six years, 52 nations have bought 7 billion dollars worth of our gold, and all 52 are receiving foreign aid from this country.

No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. So, governments’ programs, once launched, never disappear.

Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth.

Federal employees — federal employees number two and a half million; and federal, state, and local, one out of six of the nation’s work force employed by government. These proliferating bureaus with their thousands of regulations have cost us many of our constitutional safeguards. How many of us realize that today federal agents can invade a man’s property without a warrant? They can impose a fine without a formal hearing, let alone a trial by jury? And they can seize and sell his property at auction to enforce the payment of that fine. In Chico County, Arkansas, James Wier over-planted his rice allotment. The government obtained a 17,000 dollar judgment. And a U.S. marshal sold his 960-acre farm at auction. The government said it was necessary as a warning to others to make the system work.

Last February 19th at the University of Minnesota, Norman Thomas, six-times candidate for President on the Socialist Party ticket, said, « If Barry Goldwater became President, he would stop the advance of socialism in the United States. » I think that’s exactly what he will do.

But as a former Democrat, I can tell you Norman Thomas isn’t the only man who has drawn this parallel to socialism with the present administration, because back in 1936, Mr. Democrat himself, Al Smith, the great American, came before the American people and charged that the leadership of his Party was taking the Party of Jefferson, Jackson, and Cleveland down the road under the banners of Marx, Lenin, and Stalin. And he walked away from his Party, and he never returned til the day he died — because to this day, the leadership of that Party has been taking that Party, that honorable Party, down the road in the image of the labor Socialist Party of England.

Now it doesn’t require expropriation or confiscation of private property or business to impose socialism on a people. What does it mean whether you hold the deed to the — or the title to your business or property if the government holds the power of life and death over that business or property? And such machinery already exists. The government can find some charge to bring against any concern it chooses to prosecute. Every businessman has his own tale of harassment. Somewhere a perversion has taken place. Our natural, unalienable rights are now considered to be a dispensation of government, and freedom has never been so fragile, so close to slipping from our grasp as it is at this moment.

Our Democratic opponents seem unwilling to debate these issues. They want to make you and I believe that this is a contest between two men — that we’re to choose just between two personalities.

Well what of this man that they would destroy — and in destroying, they would destroy that which he represents, the ideas that you and I hold dear? Is he the brash and shallow and trigger-happy man they say he is? Well I’ve been privileged to know him « when. » I knew him long before he ever dreamed of trying for high office, and I can tell you personally I’ve never known a man in my life I believed so incapable of doing a dishonest or dishonorable thing.

This is a man who, in his own business before he entered politics, instituted a profit-sharing plan before unions had ever thought of it. He put in health and medical insurance for all his employees. He took 50 percent of the profits before taxes and set up a retirement program, a pension plan for all his employees. He sent monthly checks for life to an employee who was ill and couldn’t work. He provides nursing care for the children of mothers who work in the stores. When Mexico was ravaged by the floods in the Rio Grande, he climbed in his airplane and flew medicine and supplies down there.

An ex-GI told me how he met him. It was the week before Christmas during the Korean War, and he was at the Los Angeles airport trying to get a ride home to Arizona for Christmas. And he said that [there were] a lot of servicemen there and no seats available on the planes. And then a voice came over the loudspeaker and said, « Any men in uniform wanting a ride to Arizona, go to runway such-and-such, » and they went down there, and there was a fellow named Barry Goldwater sitting in his plane. Every day in those weeks before Christmas, all day long, he’d load up the plane, fly it to Arizona, fly them to their homes, fly back over to get another load.

During the hectic split-second timing of a campaign, this is a man who took time out to sit beside an old friend who was dying of cancer. His campaign managers were understandably impatient, but he said, « There aren’t many left who care what happens to her. I’d like her to know I care. » This is a man who said to his 19-year-old son, « There is no foundation like the rock of honesty and fairness, and when you begin to build your life on that rock, with the cement of the faith in God that you have, then you have a real start. » This is not a man who could carelessly send other people’s sons to war. And that is the issue of this campaign that makes all the other problems I’ve discussed academic, unless we realize we’re in a war that must be won.

Those who would trade our freedom for the soup kitchen of the welfare state have told us they have a utopian solution of peace without victory. They call their policy « accommodation. » And they say if we’ll only avoid any direct confrontation with the enemy, he’ll forget his evil ways and learn to love us. All who oppose them are indicted as warmongers. They say we offer simple answers to complex problems. Well, perhaps there is a simple answer — not an easy answer — but simple: If you and I have the courage to tell our elected officials that we want our national policy based on what we know in our hearts is morally right.

We cannot buy our security, our freedom from the threat of the bomb by committing an immorality so great as saying to a billion human beings now enslaved behind the Iron Curtain, « Give up your dreams of freedom because to save our own skins, we’re willing to make a deal with your slave masters. » Alexander Hamilton said, « A nation which can prefer disgrace to danger is prepared for a master, and deserves one. » Now let’s set the record straight. There’s no argument over the choice between peace and war, but there’s only one guaranteed way you can have peace — and you can have it in the next second — surrender.

Admittedly, there’s a risk in any course we follow other than this, but every lesson of history tells us that the greater risk lies in appeasement, and this is the specter our well-meaning liberal friends refuse to face — that their policy of accommodation is appeasement, and it gives no choice between peace and war, only between fight or surrender. If we continue to accommodate, continue to back and retreat, eventually we have to face the final demand — the ultimatum. And what then — when Nikita Khrushchev has told his people he knows what our answer will be? He has told them that we’re retreating under the pressure of the Cold War, and someday when the time comes to deliver the final ultimatum, our surrender will be voluntary, because by that time we will have been weakened from within spiritually, morally, and economically. He believes this because from our side he’s heard voices pleading for « peace at any price » or « better Red than dead, » or as one commentator put it, he’d rather « live on his knees than die on his feet. » And therein lies the road to war, because those voices don’t speak for the rest of us.

You and I know and do not believe that life is so dear and peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery. If nothing in life is worth dying for, when did this begin — just in the face of this enemy? Or should Moses have told the children of Israel to live in slavery under the pharaohs? Should Christ have refused the cross? Should the patriots at Concord Bridge have thrown down their guns and refused to fire the shot heard ’round the world? The martyrs of history were not fools, and our honored dead who gave their lives to stop the advance of the Nazis didn’t die in vain. Where, then, is the road to peace? Well it’s a simple answer after all.

You and I have the courage to say to our enemies, « There is a price we will not pay. » « There is a point beyond which they must not advance. » And this — this is the meaning in the phrase of Barry Goldwater’s « peace through strength. » Winston Churchill said, « The destiny of man is not measured by material computations. When great forces are on the move in the world, we learn we’re spirits — not animals. » And he said, « There’s something going on in time and space, and beyond time and space, which, whether we like it or not, spells duty. »

You and I have a rendezvous with destiny.

We’ll preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we’ll sentence them to take the last step into a thousand years of darkness.

We will keep in mind and remember that Barry Goldwater has faith in us. He has faith that you and I have the ability and the dignity and the right to make our own decisions and determine our own destiny.

Thank you very much.

Voir aussi:

OBAMA

July 27, 2004

Keynote Address

2004 Democratic National Convention

On behalf of the great state of Illinois, crossroads of a nation, land of Lincoln, let me express my deep gratitude for the privilege of addressing this convention. Tonight is a particular honor for me because, let’s face it, my presence on this stage is pretty unlikely. My father was a foreign student, born and raised in a small village in Kenya. He grew up herding goats, went to school in a tin-roof shack. His father, my grandfather, was a cook, a domestic servant.

But my grandfather had larger dreams for his son. Through hard work and perseverance my father got a scholarship to study in a magical place: America, which stood as a beacon of freedom and opportunity to so many who had come before. While studying here, my father met my mother. She was born in a town on the other side of the world, in Kansas. Her father worked on oil rigs and farms through most of the Depression. The day after Pearl Harbor he signed up for duty, joined Patton’s army and marched across Europe. Back home, my grandmother raised their baby and went to work on a bomber assembly line. After the war, they studied on the GI Bill, bought a house through FHA, and moved west in search of opportunity.

And they, too, had big dreams for their daughter, a common dream, born of two continents. My parents shared not only an improbable love; they shared an abiding faith in the possibilities of this nation. They would give me an African name, Barack, or « blessed, » believing that in a tolerant America your name is no barrier to success. They imagined me going to the best schools in the land, even though they weren’t rich, because in a generous America you don’t have to be rich to achieve your potential. They are both passed away now. Yet, I know that, on this night, they look down on me with pride.

I stand here today, grateful for the diversity of my heritage, aware that my parents’ dreams live on in my precious daughters. I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story, that I owe a debt to all of those who came before me, and that, in no other country on earth, is my story even possible. Tonight, we gather to affirm the greatness of our nation, not because of the height of our skyscrapers, or the power of our military, or the size of our economy. Our pride is based on a very simple premise, summed up in a declaration made over two hundred years ago, « We hold these truths to he self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights. That among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. »

That is the true genius of America, a faith in the simple dreams of its people, the insistence on small miracles. That we can tuck in our children at night and know they are fed and clothed and safe from harm. That we can say what we think, write what we think, without hearing a sudden knock on the door. That we can have an idea and start our own business without paying a bribe or hiring somebody’s son. That we can participate in the political process without fear of retribution, and that our votes will he counted ? or at least, most of the time.

This year, in this election, we are called to reaffirm our values and commitments, to hold them against a hard reality and see how we are measuring up, to the legacy of our forbearers, and the promise of future generations. And fellow Americans ? Democrats, Republicans, Independents ? I say to you tonight: we have more work to do. More to do for the workers I met in Galesburg, Illinois, who are losing their union jobs at the Maytag plant that’s moving to Mexico, and now are having to compete with their own children for jobs that pay seven bucks an hour. More to do for the father I met who was losing his job and choking back tears, wondering how he would pay $4,500 a month for the drugs his son needs without the health benefits he counted on. More to do for the young woman in East St. Louis, and thousands more like her, who has the grades, has the drive, has the will, but doesn’t have the money to go to college.

Don’t get me wrong. The people I meet in small towns and big cities, in diners and office parks, they don’t expect government to solve all their problems. They know they have to work hard to get ahead and they want to. Go into the collar counties around Chicago, and people will tell you they don’t want their tax money wasted by a welfare agency or the Pentagon. Go into any inner city neighborhood, and folks will tell you that government alone can’t teach kids to learn. They know that parents have to parent, that children can’t achieve unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white. No, people don’t expect government to solve all their problems. But they sense, deep in their bones, that with just a change in priorities, we can make sure that every child in America has a decent shot at life, and that the doors of opportunity remain open to all. They know we can do better. And they want that choice.

In this election, we offer that choice. Our party has chosen a man to lead us who embodies the best this country has to offer. That man is John Kerry. John Kerry understands the ideals of community, faith, and sacrifice, because they’ve defined his life. From his heroic service in Vietnam to his years as prosecutor and lieutenant governor, through two decades in the United States Senate, he has devoted himself to this country. Again and again, we’ve seen him make tough choices when easier ones were available. His values and his record affirm what is best in us.

John Kerry believes in an America where hard work is rewarded. So instead of offering tax breaks to companies shipping jobs overseas, he’ll offer them to companies creating jobs here at home. John Kerry believes in an America where all Americans can afford the same health coverage our politicians in Washington have for themselves. John Kerry believes in energy independence, so we aren’t held hostage to the profits of oil companies or the sabotage of foreign oil fields. John Kerry believes in the constitutional freedoms that have made our country the envy of the world, and he will never sacrifice our basic liberties nor use faith as a wedge to divide us. And John Kerry believes that in a dangerous world, war must be an option, but it should never he the first option.

A while back, I met a young man named Shamus at the VFW Hall in East Moline, Illinois. He was a good-looking kid, six-two or six-three, clear-eyed, with an easy smile. He told me he’d joined the Marines and was heading to Iraq the following week. As I listened to him explain why he’d enlisted, his absolute faith in our country and its leaders, his devotion to duty and service, I thought this young man was all any of us might hope for in a child. But then I asked myself: Are we serving Shamus as well as he was serving us? I thought of more than 900 service men and women, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, friends and neighbors, who will not be returning to their hometowns. I thought of families I had met who were struggling to get by without a loved one’s full income, or whose loved ones had returned with a limb missing or with nerves shattered, but who still lacked long-term health benefits because they were reservists. When we send our young men and women into harm’s way, we have a solemn obligation not to fudge the numbers or shade the truth about why they’re going, to care for their families while they’re gone, to tend to the soldiers upon their return, and to never ever go to war without enough troops to win the war, secure the peace, and earn the respect of the world.

Now let me be clear. We have real enemies in the world. These enemies must be found. They must be pursued and they must be defeated. John Kerry knows this. And just as Lieutenant Kerry did not hesitate to risk his life to protect the men who served with him in Vietnam, President Kerry will not hesitate one moment to use our military might to keep America safe and secure. John Kerry believes in America. And he knows it’s not enough for just some of us to prosper. For alongside our famous individualism, there’s another ingredient in the American saga.

A belief that we are connected as one people. If there’s a child on the south side of Chicago who can’t read, that matters to me, even if it’s not my child. If there’s a senior citizen somewhere who can’t pay for her prescription and has to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it’s not my grandmother. If there’s an Arab American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties. It’s that fundamental belief ? I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper ? that makes this country work. It’s what allows us to pursue our individual dreams, yet still come together as a single American family. « E pluribus unum. » Out of many, one.

Yet even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes. Well, I say to them tonight, there’s not a liberal America and a conservative America there’s the United States of America. There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America. The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don’t like federal agents poking around our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and have gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and patriots who supported it. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.

In the end, that’s what this election is about. Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or a politics of hope? John Kerry calls on us to hope. John Edwards calls on us to hope. I’m not talking about blind optimism here ? the almost willful ignorance that thinks unemployment will go away if we just don’t talk about it, or the health care crisis will solve itself if we just ignore it. No, I’m talking about something more substantial. It’s the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs; the hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores; the hope of a young naval lieutenant bravely patrolling the Mekong Delta; the hope of a millworker’s son who dares to defy the odds; the hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too. The audacity of hope!

In the end, that is God’s greatest gift to us, the bedrock of this nation; the belief in things not seen; the belief that there are better days ahead. I believe we can give our middle class relief and provide working families with a road to opportunity. I believe we can provide jobs to the jobless, homes to the homeless, and reclaim young people in cities across America from violence and despair. I believe that as we stand on the crossroads of history, we can make the right choices, and meet the challenges that face us. America!

Tonight, if you feel the same energy I do, the same urgency I do, the same passion I do, the same hopefulness I do ? if we do what we must do, then I have no doubt that all across the country, from Florida to Oregon, from Washington to Maine, the people will rise up in November, and John Kerry will be sworn in as president, and John Edwards will be sworn in as vice president, and this country will reclaim its promise, and out of this long political darkness a brighter day will come. Thank you and God bless you.

Voir egalement:

American Narcissus

The vanity of Barack Obama

Jonathan V. Last

November 22, 2010, Vol. 16, No. 10

Why has Barack Obama failed so spectacularly? Is he too dogmatically liberal or too pragmatic? Is he a socialist, or an anticolonialist, or a philosopher-president? Or is it possible that Obama’s failures stem from something simpler: vanity. Politicians as a class are particularly susceptible to mirror-gazing. But Obama’s vanity is overwhelming. It defines him, his politics, and his presidency.

It’s revealed in lots of little stories. There was the time he bragged about how one of his campaign volunteers, who had tragically died of breast cancer, “insisted she’s going to be buried in an Obama T-shirt.” There was the Nobel acceptance speech where he conceded, “I do not bring with me today a definitive solution to the problems of war” (the emphasis is mine). There was the moment during the 2008 campaign when Obama appeared with a seal that was a mash-up of the Great Seal of the United States and his own campaign logo (with its motto Vero Possumus, “Yes we Can” in Latin). Just a few weeks ago, Obama was giving a speech when the actual presidential seal fell from the rostrum. “That’s all right,” he quipped. “All of you know who I am.” Oh yes, Mr. President, we certainly do.

My favorite is this line from page 160 of The Audacity of Hope:

I find comfort in the fact that the longer I’m in politics the less nourishing popularity becomes, that a striving for power and rank and fame seems to betray a poverty of ambition, and that I am answerable mainly to the steady gaze of my own conscience.

So popularity and fame once nourished him, but now his ambition is richer and he’s answerable not, like some presidents, to the Almighty, but to the gaze of his personal conscience. Which is steady. The fact that this sentence appears in the second memoir of a man not yet 50 years old—and who had been in national politics for all of two years—is merely icing.

People have been noticing Obama’s vanity for a long time. In 2008, one of his Harvard Law classmates, the entertainment lawyer Jackie Fuchs, explained what Obama was like during his school days: “One of our classmates once famously noted that you could judge just how pretentious someone’s remarks in class were by how high they ranked on the ‘Obamanometer,’ a term that lasted far longer than our time at law school. Obama didn’t just share in class—he pontificated. He knew better than everyone else in the room, including the teachers. ”

The story of Obama’s writing career is an object lesson in how our president’s view of himself shapes his interactions with the world around him. In 1990, Obama was wrapping up his second year at Harvard Law when the New York Times ran a profile of him on the occasion of his becoming the first black editor of the Harvard Law Review. A book agent in New York named Jane Dystel read the story and called up the young man, asking if he’d be interested in writing a book. Like any 29-year-old, he wasn’t about to turn down money. He promptly accepted a deal with Simon & Schuster’s Poseidon imprint—reportedly in the low six-figures—to write a book about race relations.

Obama missed his deadline. No matter. His agent quickly secured him another contract, this time with Times Books. And a $40,000 advance. Not bad for an unknown author who had already blown one deal, writing about a noncommercial subject.

By this point Obama had left law school, and academia was courting him. The University of Chicago Law School approached him; although they didn’t have any specific needs, they wanted to be in the Barack Obama business. As Douglas Baird, the head of Chicago’s appointments committee, would later explain, “You look at his background—Harvard Law Review president, magna cum laude, and he’s African American. This is a no-brainer hiring decision at the entry level of any law school in the country.” Chicago invited Obama to come in and teach just about anything he wanted. But Obama wasn’t interested in a professor’s life. Instead, he told them that he was writing a book—about voting rights. The university made him a fellow, giving him an office and a paycheck to keep him going while he worked on this important project.

In case you’re keeping score at home, there was some confusion as to what book young Obama was writing. His publisher thought he was writing about race relations. His employer thought he was writing about voting rights law. But Obama seems to have never seriously considered either subject. Instead, he decided that his subject would be himself. The 32-year-old was writing a memoir.

Obama came clean to the university first. He waited until his fellowship was halfway over—perhaps he was concerned that his employers might not like the bait-and-switch. He needn’t have worried. Baird still hoped that Obama would eventually join the university’s faculty (he had already begun teaching a small classload as a “senior lecturer”). “It was a good deal for us,” Baird explained, “because he was a good teaching prospect and we wanted him around.”

And it all worked out in the end. The book Obama eventually finished was Dreams from My Father. It didn’t do well initially, but nine years later, after his speech at the 2004 Democratic convention made him a star, it sold like gangbusters. Obama got rich. And famous. The book became the springboard for his career in national politics.

Only it didn’t quite work out for everybody. Obama left the University of Chicago, never succumbing to their offers of a permanent position in their hallowed halls. Simon & Schuster, which had taken a chance on an unproven young writer, got burned for a few thousand bucks. And Jane Dystel, who’d plucked him out of the pages of the New York Times and got him the deal to write the book that sped his political rise? As soon as Obama was ready to negotiate the contract for his second book—the big-money payday—he dumped her and replaced her with super-agent Robert Barnett.

We risk reading too much into these vignettes—after all, our president is a mansion with many rooms and it would be foolish to reduce him to pure ego. Yet the vignettes are so numerous. For instance, a few years ago Obama’s high school basketball coach told ABC News how, as a teenager, Obama always badgered him for more playing time, even though he wasn’t the best player on the team—or even as good as he thought he was. Everyone who has ever played team sports has encountered the kid with an inflated sense of self. That’s common. What’s rare is the kid who feels entitled enough to nag the coach about his minutes. Obama was that kid. His enthusiasm about his abilities and his playing time extended into his political life. In 2004, Obama explained to author David Mendell how he saw his future as a national political figure: “I’m LeBron, baby. I can play on this level. I got some game.” After just a couple of months in the Senate, Obama jumped the Democratic line and started asking voters to make him president.

Yet you don’t have to delve deep into armchair psychology to see how Obama’s vanity has shaped his presidency. In January 2009 he met with congressional leaders to discuss the stimulus package. The meeting was supposed to foster bipartisanship. Senator Jon Kyl questioned the plan’s mixture of spending and tax cuts. Obama’s response to him was, “I won.” A year later Obama held another meeting to foster bipartisanship for his health care reform plan. There was some technical back-and-forth about Republicans not having the chance to properly respond within the constraints of the format because President Obama had done some pontificating, as is his wont. Obama explained, “There was an imbalance on the opening statements because”—here he paused, self-satisfiedly—“I’m the president. And so I made, uh, I don’t count my time in terms of dividing it evenly.”

There are lots of times when you get the sense that Obama views the powers of the presidency as little more than a shadow of his own person. When he journeyed to Copenhagen in October 2009 to pitch Chicago’s bid for the Olympics, his speech to the IOC was about—you guessed it: “Nearly one year ago, on a clear November night,” he told the committee, “people from every corner of the world gathered in the city of Chicago or in front of their televisions to watch the results of .  .  . ” and away he went. A short while later he was back in Copenhagen for the climate change summit. When things looked darkest, he personally commandeered the meeting to broker a “deal.” Which turned out to be worthless. In January 2010, Obama met with nervous Democratic congressmen to assure them that he wasn’t driving the party off a cliff. Confronted with worries that 2010 could be a worse off-year election than 1994, Obama explained to the professional politicians, “Well, the big difference here and in ’94 was you’ve got me.”

In the midst of the BP oil spill last summer, Obama explained, “My job right now is just to make sure that everybody in the Gulf understands this is what I wake up to in the morning and this is what I go to bed at night thinking about: the spill.” Read that again: The president thinks that the job of the president is to make certain the citizens correctly understand what’s on the president’s mind.

Obama’s vanity is even more jarring when paraded in the foreign arena. In April, Poland suffered a national tragedy when its president, first lady, and a good portion of the government were killed in a plane crash. Obama decided not to go to the funeral. He played golf instead. Though maybe it’s best that he didn’t make the trip. When he journeyed to Great Britain to meet with the queen he gave her an amazing gift: an iPod loaded with recordings of his speeches and pictures from his inauguration.

On November 9, 2009, Europe celebrated the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was kind of a big deal. They may not mention the Cold War in schools much these days, but it pitted the Western liberal order against a totalitarian ideology in a global struggle. In this the United States was the guarantor of liberty and peace for the West; had we faltered, no corner of the world would have been safe from Soviet domination.

President Obama has a somewhat different reading. He explains: “The Cold War reached a conclusion because of the actions of many nations over many years, and because the people of Russia and Eastern Europe stood up and decided that its end would be peaceful.” Pretty magnanimous of the Soviets to let the long twilight struggle end peacefully like that, especially after all we did to provoke them.

So Obama doesn’t know much about the Cold War. Which is probably why he didn’t think the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall was all that important. When the leaders of Europe got together to commemorate it, he decided not to go to that, either. But he did find time to record a video message, which he graciously allowed the Europeans to air during the ceremony.

In his video, Obama ruminated for a few minutes on the grand events of the 20th century, the Cold War itself, and the great lesson we all should take from this historic passing: “Few would have foreseen .  .  . that a united Germany would be led by a woman from Brandenburg or that their American ally would be led by a man of African descent. But human destiny is what human beings make of it.” The fall of the Berlin Wall, the end of the Cold War, and the freedom of all humanity—it’s great stuff. Right up there with the election of Barack Obama.

All presidents are hostage to self-confidence. But not since Babe Ruth grabbed a bat and wagged his fat finger at Wrigley’s center-field wall has an American politician called his shot like Barack Obama. He announced his candidacy in Springfield, Illinois, on the steps where Abraham Lincoln gave his “house divided” speech. He mentioned Lincoln continually during the 2008 campaign. After he vanquished John McCain he passed out copies of Team of Rivals, a book about Lincoln’s cabinet, to his senior staff. At his inauguration, he chose to be sworn into office using Lincoln’s Bible. At the inaugural luncheon following the ceremony, he requested that the food—each dish of which was selected as a “tribute” to Lincoln—be served on replicas of Lincoln’s china. At some point in January 2009 you wanted to grab Obama by the lapels and tell him—We get it! You’re the Rail Splitter! If we promise to play along, will you keep the log cabin out of the Rose Garden?

It’s troubling that a fellow whose electoral rationale was that he edited the Harvard Law Review and wrote a couple of memoirs was comparing himself to the man who saved the Union. But it tells you all you need to know about what Obama thinks of his political gifts and why he’s unperturbed about having led his party into political disaster in the midterms. He assumes that he’ll be able to reverse the political tide once he becomes the issue, in the presidential race in 2012. As he said to Harry Reid after the majority leader congratulated him on one particularly fine oration, “I have a gift, Harry.”

But Obama’s faith in his abilities extends beyond mere vote-getting. Buried in a 2008 New Yorker piece by Ryan Lizza about the Obama campaign was this gob-smacking passage:

Obama said that he liked being surrounded by people who expressed strong opinions, but he also said, “I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m gonna think I’m a better political director than my political director.” After Obama’s first debate with McCain, on September 26th, [campaign political director Patrick] Gaspard sent him an e-mail. “You are more clutch than Michael Jordan,” he wrote. Obama replied, “Just give me the ball.”

In fairness to Obama, maybe he is a better speechwriter than his speechwriters. After all, his speechwriter was a 27-year-old, and the most affecting part of Obama’s big 2008 stump speech was recycled from Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick, with whom he shared a campaign strategist. But it’s instructive that Obama thinks he knows “more about policies on any particular issue” than his policy directors. The rate of growth of the mohair subsidy? The replacement schedule for servers at the NORAD command center? The relationship between annual rainfall in northeast Nevada and water prices in Las Vegas?

What Scott Fitzgerald once said about Hollywood is true of the American government: It can be understood only dimly and in flashes; there are no more than a handful of men who have ever been able to keep the entire equation in their heads. Barack Obama had worked in the federal government for all of four years. He was not one of those men. More important, however, is that as president he shouldn’t be the chief wonk, speechwriter, and political director.

David Remnick delivers a number of insights about Obama in his book The Bridge. For instance, Valerie Jarrett—think of her as the president’s Karen Hughes—tells Remnick that Obama is often bored with the world around him. “I think that he has never really been challenged intellectually,” Jarrett says. “So what I sensed in him was not just a restless spirit but somebody with such extraordinary talents that they had to be really taxed in order for him to be happy.” Jarrett concludes, “He’s been bored to death his whole life.”

With one or two possible exceptions, that is. Remnick reports that “Jarrett was quite sure that one of the few things that truly engaged him fully before going to the White House was writing Dreams from My Father.” So the only job Barack Obama ever had that didn’t bore him was writing about Barack Obama. But wait, there’s more.

David Axelrod—he’s Obama’s Karl Rove—told Remnick that “Barack hated being a senator.” Remnick went on:

Washington was a grander stage than Springfield, but the frustrations of being a rookie in a minority party were familiar. Obama could barely conceal his frustration with the torpid pace of the Senate. His aides could sense his frustration and so could his colleagues. “He was so bored being a senator,” one Senate aide said.

Obama’s friend and law firm colleague Judd Miner agreed. “The reality,” Miner told Remnick, “was that during his first two years in the U.S. Senate, I think, he was struggling; it wasn’t nearly as stimulating as he expected.” But even during his long, desolate exile as a senator, Obama was able to find a task that satisfied him. Here’s Remnick again: “The one project that did engage Obama fully was work on The Audacity of Hope. He procrastinated for a long time and then, facing his deadline, wrote nearly a chapter a week.” Your tax dollars at work.

Looking at this American Narcissus, it’s easy to be hammered into a stupor by the accumulated acts of vanity. Oh look, we think to ourselves, there’s our new president accepting his Nobel Peace Prize. There’s the president likening his election to the West’s victory in the Cold War. There’s the commander in chief bragging about his March Madness picks.

Yet it’s important to remember that our presidents aren’t always this way. When he accepted command of the Revolutionary forces, George Washington said,

I feel great distress, from a consciousness that my abilities and military experience may not be equal to the extensive and important Trust. .  .  . I beg it may be remembered, by every Gentleman in the room, that I, this day, declare with the utmost sincerity, I do not think myself equal to the Command I am honored with.

Accepting the presidency, Washington was even more reticent. Being chosen to be president, he said, “could not but overwhelm with despondence one who, inheriting inferior endowments from nature and unpracticed in the duties of civil administration, ought to be peculiarly conscious of his own deficiencies.”

In his biography of John Quincy Adams, Robert Remini noted that Adams was not an especially popular fellow. Yet on one of the rare occasions when he was met with adoring fans, “he told crowds that gathered to see and hear him to go home and attend to their private duties.”

And Obama? In light of the present state of his presidency, let’s look back at his most famous oration:

The journey will be difficult. The road will be long. I face this challenge with profound humility, and knowledge of my own limitations. But I also face it with limitless faith in the capacity of the American people. Because if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on earth. This was the moment—this was the time—when we came together to remake this great nation so that it may always reflect our very best selves and our highest ideals.

The speech was given on June 3, 2008, and the epoch-making historical event to which “this moment” refers throughout is Barack Obama’s victory over Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries.

A senior writer at The Weekly Standard, Jonathan V. Last covered the Obama campaign in 2008.

Voir enfin:

Le mythe de la popularite de Ronald Reagan


France-USA: Retour sur les deux autres pays divisés par une langue commune (Looking back at the two other countries divided by a common culture)

9 novembre, 2010

L’Angleterre et les États-Unis sont deux pays divisés par une langue commune. George Bernard Shaw
Qui oserait dire que le tombeau de Napoléon aux Invalides ressemble au Mausolée de Lénine? René Girard
Qu’avez-vous fait de cette France que je vous avais laissée si brillante ? Bonaparte
Point de dictature ! À bas les dictateurs ! Vive la Constitution ! Cris de certains deputes jacobins
L’immense majorité du Conseil est en ce moment, sous la terreur de quelques représentants à stylets […] qui se sont mis eux-mêmes hors la loi […] Vous ne reconnaîtrez pour législateurs de la France que ceux qui vont se rendre auprès de moi. Quant à ceux qui resteraient dans l’Orangerie, que la force les expulse. Ces brigands ne sont plus les représentants du peuple ; ils sont les représentants du poignard. Lucien Bonaparte (frere de Napoleon)
Foutez-moi tout ce monde dehors ! General Joachim Murat
Citoyens, la Révolution est fixée aux principes qui l’ont commencée, elle est finie. Bonaparte
J’assume tout, de Clovis au Comité de Salut public. Bonaparte
Il faut qu’une Constitution soit courte et obscure. Daunou (redacteur la Constitution de l’an VIII)
Je dis que Nicolas Sarkozy est aujourd’hui un des problèmes de la France et parmi les principaux problèmes qu’il faut régler et qu’il est temps que la parenthèse politique que nous vivons depuis 2007 soit refermée. Dominique de Villepin (08.11.10)
Le général, c’était tout sauf la politique politicienne et aujourd’hui beaucoup de ceux qui vont commémorer avec trompettes et décorum l’anniversaire de sa mort seront ceux qui se sont le plus éloignés de ses principes. Nicolas Sarkozy est aux antipodes du gaullisme. La nouvelle Constitution, le dysfonctionnement institutionnel, la politique sociale actuelle, la politique étrangère, tout est aux antipodes du gaullisme. Jean-Pierre Grand (député UMP de l’Hérault)
L’éventail américain est beaucoup plus étroit et centriste que le français : à droite, pas de formation importante équivalente au Front national ; à gauche, pas de mouvements révolutionnaires qui auraient de l’influence. Les extrêmes existent, mais ne pèsent pas sur l’électorat. Chez les démocrates, personne ne songerait à se dire « antilibéral ». Au contraire de Ségolène, Hillary n’aura donc pas à composer, sur sa gauche, avec des ovnis se réclamant encore du communisme ou du trotskisme. Nicole Bacharan
Une bonne partie de ce que nous observons dans les relations entre la France et les Etats-Unis est le produit d’une structure de relations que l’on doit penser comme la confrontation entre deux impérialismes de l’universel. (…) La France est une sorte d’idéologie réalisée: être français, c’est se sentir en droit d’universaliser son intérêt particulier, cet intérêt particulier qui a pour particularité d’être universel. Et doublement en quelque sorte: universel en matière de politique, avec le modèle pur de la révolution universelle, universel en matière de culture, avec le modèle de chic (de Paris). On comprend que, bien que son monopole de l’universel soit fortement contesté, en particulier par les Etats-Unis, la France reste l’arbitre des élégances en matière de radical chic, come on dit outre-Atlantique ; elle continue à donner le spectacle des jeux de l’universel, et, en particulier, de cet art de la transgression qui fait les avant-gardes politiques et/ou artistiques, de cette manière (qui se sent inimitable) de se sentir toujours au-delà, et au-delà du delà, de jouer avec virtuosité de tous les registres, difficile à accorder, de l’avant-gardisme politique et de l’avant-gardisme culturel (…) C’est dire que nombre des choses qui s’écrivent ou se disent, à propos de la France ou des USA ou de leurs rapports, sont le produit de l’affrontement entre deux impérialismes, entre un impérialisme en ascension et un impérialisme en déclin, et doivent sans doute beaucoup à des sentiments de revanche ou de ressentiment, sans qu’il soit exclu qu’une partie des réactions que l’on serait porté à classer dans l’antiaméricanisme du ressentiment puissent et doivent être comprises comme des stratégies de résistance légitime à des formes nouvelles d’impérialisme… (…) En fait, on ne peut attendre un progrès vers une culture réellement universelle – c’est-à-dire une culture faite de multiples traditions culturelles unifiées par la reconnaissance qu’elles s’accordent mutuellement – que des luttes entre les impérialismes de l’universel. Ces impérialismes, à travers les hommages plus ou moins hypocrites qu’ils doivent rendre à l’universel pour s’imposer, tendent à le faire avancer et, à tout le moins, à le constituer en recours susceptible d’être invoqué contre les impérialismes mêmes qui s’en réclament. Pierre Bourdieu (1992)
Conformément aux dispositions imposées par Bonaparte, le titre de Premier Consul et la réalité des  pouvoirs sont octroyés au vainqueur du 18 Brumaire. (…) À ses côtés figurent deux Consuls qui n’ont qu’un rôle consultatif (…) Les trois consuls sont nommés pour dix ans. Le pouvoir législatif est réparti entre quatre assemblées : le Sénat conservateur, le Tribunat, le Corps législatif et le Conseil d’État. Les membres de ces assemblées sont choisis par le gouvernement parmi des listes de notabilités. Ces listes elles-mêmes résultent d’un vote des citoyens à plusieurs degrés.
Au-delà des apparences, ces joutes rituelles de midterm sont l’expression d’une démocratie plus stable qu’aucune autre, avec la Constitution la plus ancienne du monde actuel et un régime politique fondé sur un subtil équilibre entre pouvoirs et contre-pouvoirs. Il a permis aux États-Unis de surmonter sans heurts des traumatismes majeurs : la guerre du Vietnam, les émeutes raciales, le terrorisme ainsi que les vagues migratoires et aujourd’hui la désindustrialisation.
En matière de démocratie, rien ne ressemble moins au modèle américain que le modèle français. La France a connu dans les deux derniers siècles deux ou trois révolutions sanglantes, cinq ou six régimes monarchiques, cinq républiques… et la situation présente fait craindre à tout le moins de nouvelles secousses institutionnelles. L’actuelle Constitution, qui remonte à 1958, a déjà été amendée une vingtaine de fois. (…) On a présenté la Ve République comme un régime «semi-présidentiel» à mi-distance des régimes parlementaires de l’Europe atlantique et du régime «présidentiel» américain. L’actualité montre l’inanité de cette représentation. Aux États-Unis, le Président est en permanence en quête de compromis avec les parlementaires car il n’a aucune prise sur eux, y compris ceux de son propre parti, faute de pouvoir dissoudre la Chambre.
Devant cette avalanche de désordres, d’aucuns répondent : «le Président est l’élu de la Nation ; si le peuple n’est pas d’accord avec lui, il le lui fera savoir à la fin de son mandat en votant contre lui s’il se représente…»Nous sommes là au coeur d’un malentendu sur la démocratie. Celle-ci, par-delà les apparences, n’est pas fondée sur le droit de vote. On vote dans tous les pays du monde, y compris en Corée du Nord, en Birmanie et en Arabie séoudite, sans que ces pays soient considérés comme démocratiques. L’essence de la démocratie est dans un juste équilibre entre les pouvoirs : pouvoir exécutif (mettre en oeuvre les lois), pouvoir législatif (voter les lois), pouvoir judiciaire, également pouvoir médiatique… Le régime idéal, décrit par Montesquieu et que les Américains et les Anglais ont les premiers tenté d’appliquer, ne fait pas expressément référence à l’élection du chef de l’exécutif. Celui-ci peut être un président élu aussi bien qu’un monarque héréditaire, pourvu que ses pouvoirs soient limités et encadrés comme il se doit. D’où il ressort qu’à trop se focaliser sur l’élection présidentielle, la République française s’éloigne de ses bases démocratiques. À l’horizon se profile un recadrage des pouvoirs de chacun. Joseph Savès

Comment voulez-vous gouverner, comme diraient Talleyrand ou de Gaulle, un pays qui a 32 religions et une seule constitution ?

Constitution de 1791 (monarchie constitutionnelle, 1ere république), Constitution de l’an I (1793 mais jamais appliquée), Constitution de l’an III (Directoire, 1795), Constitution de l’an VIII (Consulat, 1799),  Constitution de l’an X (Consulat qui devient à vie, 1802), Constitution de l’an XII (1er Empire, 1804), Charte constitutionnelle du 4 juin 1814 (Restauration, monarchie constitutionnelle), Acte additionnel aux constitutions de l’Empire (Cent-Jours de Napoléon Bonaparte,1815), Charte constitutionnelle du 14 août 1830 (Monarchie de Juillet), Constitution de 1848 (2e République), Constitution de 1852 (Second Empire, 1852), Lois constitutionnelles de 1875 (3e République), Loi constitutionnelle du 10 juillet 1940 ( donnant les pleins pouvoirs à Pétain qui crée dès le lendemain l’État français, et le constituera par les Actes constitutionnels (10 juillet 1940, Régime de Vichy),  Loi constitutionnelle du 2 novembre 1945 (Gouvernement provisoire de la République française), Constitution de 1946 (4e République), Constitution de 1958 (5e République) …

En ce 211e anniversaire du coup d’État de Brumaire qui voit, 10 ans après la prise de la Bastille et sous la pression tant des difficultés économiques et militaires que la menace du retour des royalistes, la Revolution confier son salut pour la 2e fois au sabre du moment (un certain général corse rentre couvert de gloire d’Italie et d’Egypte) et ouvrir ainsi la voie, via un coup d’État parlementaire et 5 ans avant terme la révision forcée de la Constitution, a une dictature à la romaine comme il se doit …

Et en ce 40e anniversaire de la mort d’un autre général et fondateur de République salué comme il se doit par notre parenthésiste national (Israel, Vichy, Sarkozy ?)…

Comme au lendemain de la déroute que l’on sait du messie noir de Washington et de l’incroyable retour de fiel de nos medias qui l’a accompagnée contre cette « Amérique que nous haïssons » digne des plus beaux jours des années Bush …

Retour, avec un récent article du site Herodote, sur l’une des probables raisons de ces multiples incompréhensions des citoyens du Pays autoproclamé des droits de l’homme par rapport au systeme politique américain.

A savoir, ces incessants malentendus dus au fait que, comme le disait George Bernard Shaw pour l’Angleterre, la France et les Etats-Unis sont eux aussi deux pays séparés par la même langue, mais … politique cette fois, les memes mots pouvant avoir, a la maniere des faux amis de la didactique des langues, des acceptions parfaitement opposees.

Avec d’une part une histoire particulierement mouvementée qui vit, en l’espace d’a peine deux siecles, 2 ou 3 revolutions plus ou moins sanglantes, la Terreur, 5 républiques, 3 monarchies, 2 empires, plusieurs dictatures et pas moins de 16 textes constitutionnels.

D’ou le malentendu face a un pays qui se targue d’avoir conservé sur une durée encore plus longue quasiment la meme constitution et s’y réfere constamment comme parole d’évangile.

Ou, pour ce qui est de la 5e et actuelle constitution francaise, cette sorte de monarchie républicaine chapeautée par un Président de la République « légitimé par le suffrage universel comme les anciens rois l’étaient par la naissance et le sacre  » et donc a la fois au-dessus, sans parler des dirigeants des grands corps de l’État qu’il nomme a volonté des partis et d’un parlement réduit, par la possibilité de la dissolution présidentielle, au statut de chambre d’enregistrement.

D’ou l’incompréhension d’un systeme américain lui obsedé par l’équilibre et la limitation des pouvoirs comme les contre-pouvoirs et donc doté d’un Président contraint, faute de pouvoir dissoudre la Chambre, au compromis permanent avec les parlementaires car n’ayant aucune prise sur eux, y compris dans son propre parti …

Et d’ou enfin, coté francais, cette sorte de fascination pour la culture révolutionnaire et le pouvoir de la rue comme une complaisante et peu comprehensible nostalgie outre-manche ou atlantique pour un tryan comme Napoléon ( qui a, a la maniere d’un Lenine ou d’un Mao, toujours pignon sur rue et son propre panthéon en plein coeur de Paris) …

Et, sans compter la notoire mauvaise foi sur la religion ou les moeurs, l’assimilation presque irréisistible d’un mouvement comme le Tea party a une sorte de Front National américain raciste et anti-républicain …

2 novembre 2010

Midterm elections : les États-Unis comparés à la France

Joseph Savès

Herodote

02.11-10

Le 2 novembre 2010, les Américains se sont rendus aux urnes pour les élections de mi-mandat (midterm elections).

Ils ont renouvelé le tiers des cent sénateurs, élus pour six ans, ainsi que la totalité des 435 députés de la Chambre des représentants, lesquels sont élus pour deux ans. Ils ont aussi élu 37 des 50 gouverneurs d’État.

Cette procédure met en évidence les différences entre démocratie américaine et démocratie française.

Victime tout à la fois de l’activisme du mouvement Tea Party et de la démobilisation des démocrates, le président Obama a perdu la majorité à la Chambre des représentants avec 205 sièges au lieu de 257 précédemment.

Traditionnellement, ces élections de mi-mandat sont l’occasion pour les électeurs de sanctionner le Président élu deux ans plus tôt. Depuis 1942, toutes ces élections se sont traduites par un recul du parti présidentiel à la Chambre (House of Representatives). À deux exceptions près : les deuxièmes élections de mi-mandat de Clinton en 1998 et les premières de Bush Jr en 2002 (du fait de l’émotion occasionnée par les attentats du 11 septembre 2001).

Les plus gros reculs, avec une perte de 54 sièges, ont été observés lors des premières élections de mi-mandat de Clinton en 1994 et, de façon plus surprenante, en 1942, en pleine guerre, sous la présidence de Franklin D. Roosevelt, le plus grand homme d’État américain du XXe siècle.

Au-delà des apparences, ces joutes rituelles de midterm sont l’expression d’une démocratie plus stable qu’aucune autre, avec la Constitution la plus ancienne du monde actuel et un régime politique fondé sur un subtil équilibre entre pouvoirs et contre-pouvoirs. Il a permis aux États-Unis de surmonter sans heurts des traumatismes majeurs : la guerre du Vietnam, les émeutes raciales, le terrorisme ainsi que les vagues migratoires et aujourd’hui la désindustrialisation.

Nous verrons plus loin tout ce qui distingue cette démocratie de son équivalent français, vieux d’à peine un demi-siècle et centré sur l’élection présidentielle.

Obama entre sanction et rebond

L’actuel président Obama, dont l’élection a suscité une vague d’euphorie sans guère de précédent dans le monde, est actuellement victime d’une impopularité presque aussi grande que celle de Clinton en 1994. Il a tout misé sur l’établissement d’une sécurité sociale, le système d’assurances privées se révélant d’un coût démesuré pour des résultats piteux en termes de santé et d’espérance de vie.

Sur ce thème comme sur sa promesse de fermer le centre pénitentiaire de Guantanamo et d’en finir avec la guerre d’Irak, ses partisans démocrates lui en veulent de ne pas en faire assez et ses opposants républicains d’en faire trop.

Par-dessus le marché, il doit assumer la charge d’une économie en pleine déroute, victime des dérèglements du capitalisme financier et du marché mondial, affecté par le protectionnisme monétaire de la Chine.

Comme le parti démocrate a perdu la majorité à la Chambre des représentants, le président devra désormais composer avec celle-ci, comme l’ont fait avant lui ses prédécesseurs.

Tea Party : le rêve américain au passé simple

Ces élections du 2 novembre 2010 ont été marquées par l’extravagante montée en puissance du mouvement Tea Party, apparu en marge des partis pendant la campagne de 2008.

Ce mouvement fait référence à l’insurrection patriotique de la Tea Party de Boston (1773). Composé pour l’essentiel d’électeurs blancs, âgés et aisés, il exprime leur inquiétude et leur crispation face à une Amérique en pleine mutation, désormais multiraciale et en voie de perdre son leadership mondial, tant diplomatique qu’économique.

Face aux menaces qui se profilent (déclin économique, creusement des inégalités, baisse du niveau éducatif, submersion par l’industrie chinoise), les groupes Tea Party manifestent la tentation du repli sur les valeurs traditionnelles, avec une conviction unanime : «Tout ça est la faute de trop d’État».

L’élection atypique d’Obama a pu laisser espérer que le nouveau président, comme Roosevelt dans les années 1930, saurait guider les Américains dans la mauvaise passe actuelle et trouverait les mots pour qu’ils s’adaptent sans trop de douleur à la nouvelle donne. Mais il est désormais incertain qu’il y arrive.

Modèle américain, modèle français

En matière de démocratie, rien ne ressemble moins au modèle américain que le modèle français. La France a connu dans les deux derniers siècles deux ou trois révolutions sanglantes, cinq ou six régimes monarchiques, cinq républiques… et la situation présente fait craindre à tout le moins de nouvelles secousses institutionnelles.

L’actuelle Constitution, qui remonte à 1958, a déjà été amendée une vingtaine de fois. Le général de Gaulle, qui l’a inspirée, était, comme la plupart des grands officiers de sa génération, royaliste de coeur et républicain de raison.

Il a voulu un Président de la République au-dessus des partis, légitimé par le suffrage universel comme les anciens rois l’étaient par la naissance et le sacre.

Il s’est trompé en imaginant que tous ses successeurs à l’Élysée seraient des hommes exclusivement dévoués à l’intérêt national. Plus gravement, il s’est aussi trompé sur l’équilibre des pouvoirs. On a présenté la Ve République comme un régime «semi-présidentiel» à mi-distance des régimes parlementaires de l’Europe atlantique et du régime «présidentiel» américain.

L’actualité montre l’inanité de cette représentation. Aux États-Unis, le Président est en permanence en quête de compromis avec les parlementaires car il n’a aucune prise sur eux, y compris ceux de son propre parti, faute de pouvoir dissoudre la Chambre.

En France, la politique du compromis n’a été pratiquée – avec un certain succès d’ailleurs – que pendant les deux dernières «cohabitations» entre un Président et un premier ministre de camps opposés (1993-1995 : Mitterrand-Balladur ; 1997-2002 : Chirac-Jospin).

Pour éviter ce genre de situation qu’aurait désavouée de Gaulle (sans doute aurait-il démissionné plutôt que de se voir imposer un premier ministre par l’assemblée), on a aligné la durée du mandat présidentiel sur celle de la législature (cinq ans) et l’on a fait en sorte que les élections législatives suivent immédiatement les présidentielles, de façon à garantir au président une majorité législative à sa main tout au long de son mandat. C’était tomber de Charybde en Scylla ou, pire, troquer un rhume pour une pneumonie.

Le Président était déjà doté d’immenses pouvoirs comme celui de nommer les dirigeants des grands corps de l’État avec simplement le contreseing du premier ministre (plusieurs centaines de postes très convoités). Il est désormais assuré de ne pas rencontrer d’obstacle du côté de l’Assemblée nationale, laquelle est plus que jamais réduite au statut de «chambre d’enregistrement» (elle enregistre les lois voulues par l’exécutif sans se risquer à les contester).

Aucun contre-pouvoir n’est en état de s’opposer aux décisions présidentielles, si insensées soient-elles, comme de nommer un hurluberlu au Conseil d’État, démettre un préfet ou un policier sur un coup de tête, mobiliser le ban et l’arrière-ban de la Justice dans une querelle de cour d’école avec un ancien premier ministre, octroyer des cadeaux fiscaux à qui lui plaît, engager des soldats dans une guerre lointaine sans en référer à quiconque, etc…

Démocratie, droit de vote et équilibre des pouvoirs

Devant cette avalanche de désordres, d’aucuns répondent : «le Président est l’élu de la Nation ; si le peuple n’est pas d’accord avec lui, il le lui fera savoir à la fin de son mandat en votant contre lui s’il se représente…»

Nous sommes là au coeur d’un malentendu sur la démocratie. Celle-ci, par-delà les apparences, n’est pas fondée sur le droit de vote. On vote dans tous les pays du monde, y compris en Corée du Nord, en Birmanie et en Arabie séoudite, sans que ces pays soient considérés comme démocratiques.

L’essence de la démocratie est dans un juste équilibre entre les pouvoirs : pouvoir exécutif (mettre en oeuvre les lois), pouvoir législatif (voter les lois), pouvoir judiciaire, également pouvoir médiatique…

Le régime idéal, décrit par Montesquieu et que les Américains et les Anglais ont les premiers tenté d’appliquer, ne fait pas expressément référence à l’élection du chef de l’exécutif. Celui-ci peut être un président élu aussi bien qu’un monarque héréditaire, pourvu que ses pouvoirs soient limités et encadrés comme il se doit.

D’où il ressort qu’à trop se focaliser sur l’élection présidentielle, la République française s’éloigne de ses bases démocratiques. À l’horizon se profile un recadrage des pouvoirs de chacun. Rien de tel, bien évidemment, aux États-Unis, où personne ne doute que les institutions encaisseront sans heurt une défaite du parti présidentiel aux élections de mi-mandat.

Voir aussi:

9 novembre 1799

Bonaparte met un terme à la Révolution

Le 9 novembre 1799 (18 Brumaire An VIII, selon le calendrier républicain), le général Napoléon Bonaparte met fin au régime du Directoire par un brutal coup d’État. Il ouvre la voie à sa propre dictature et met fin à la Révolution proprement dite.

Vers une dictature de salut public

Dix ans après la prise de la Bastille, la Révolution s’essoufle. Le gouvernement du Directoire est désemparé par les difficultés économiques et militaires, et menacé par un retour prématuré des royalistes. Le Directeur Sieyès dit à qui veut l’entendre qu’il «cherche un sabre» capable de sauver ce qui reste de la Révolution… et en particulier les fortunes des profiteurs.

Le retour d’Égypte du général Napoléon Bonaparte lui offre l’occasion qu’il cherchait. Sieyès voit en ce jeune général couvert de gloire le dictateur de salut public dont la République française a besoin pour éviter le retour de Louis XVIII et de l’Ancien Régime. Il concocte avec lui un coup d’État parlementaire qui passerait par une révision de la Constitution.

Le 18 Brumaire, sous le prétexte d’un «complot des terroristes» (royalistes), les deux assemblées des Cinq-Cents et des Anciens sont convaincues de se transporter au château de Saint-Cloud et de confier la garde de Paris à Bonaparte. Complices du complot, trois des cinq Directeurs, Sieyès, Barras et Ducos, démissionnent. Les deux autres, Gohier et Moulin, suspects de sympathies jacobines, sont destitués et arrêtés.

Le lendemain, la troupe boucle le château de Saint-Cloud. Mais les élus des Cinq-Cents réunis dans la salle de l’Orangerie refusent de modifier la Constitution comme on le leur demande.

Bonaparte, qui a déjà prononcé une médiocre harangue devant les Anciens, fait de même devant les Cinq-Cents. Sa déplorable prestation est accueillie par des huées et les cris : «À bas le dictateur !»

Violemment pris à partie par les députés et même menacé d’arrestation, il a un moment de faiblesse. Il est sauvé par des grenadiers qui l’amènent hors de la salle. Son frère Lucien qui préside fort opportunément l’assemblée sort à son tour et fait valoir à la troupe que son frère et les élus sont menacés d’assassinat. Le général Murat qui commande les grenadiers leur demande de faire évacuer la salle.

Les députés tout de rouge vêtus sautent à qui mieux mieux par les fenêtres et se dispersent dans le brouillard !

La nuit venue, sur les deux heures du matin, le Conseil des Anciens et quelques élus des Cinq-Cents que l’on a rassemblés manu militari votent enfin une révision de la Constitution. Ils nomment un gouvernement provisoire en la personne de trois Consuls, Napoléon Bonaparte, Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès et Roger Ducos. L’affaire est liquidée et chacun rentre à Paris.

Un Consulat inspiré de la Rome antique

Napoléon Bonaparte, soulagé, fait rédiger à la hâte une nouvelle Constitution. Sieyès, qui se pique de droit constitutionnel, dirige le travail. On s’oriente vers une dictature à la romaine, la Rome antique étant la référence commune à tous les hommes cultivés de l’époque. Le terme inhabituel de consul est lui-même emprunté à l’Antiquité.

Le texte de la Constitution de l’an VIII est réécrit par Daunou, lequel écrit à ce propos : «Il faut qu’une Constitution soit courte et obscure».

Conformément aux dispositions imposées par Bonaparte, le titre de Premier Consul et la réalité des pouvoirs sont octroyés au vainqueur du 18 Brumaire. Il a 30 ans. À ses côtés figurent deux Consuls qui n’ont qu’un rôle consultatif. Il s’agit de Cambacérès, un ancien conventionnel régicide, et Lebrun, un ancien député de la Constituante, aux penchants royalistes. Les trois consuls sont nommés pour dix ans.

Le pouvoir législatif est réparti entre quatre assemblées : le Sénat conservateur, le Tribunat, le Corps législatif et le Conseil d’État. Les membres de ces assemblées sont choisis par le gouvernement parmi des listes de notabilités. Ces listes elles-mêmes résultent d’un vote des citoyens à plusieurs degrés. Autant dire que l’on est ici très loin de notre conception de la démocratie.

Voir aussi:

9 novembre 1799

Bonaparte met un terme à la Révolution

Le 9 novembre 1799 (18 Brumaire An VIII, selon le calendrier républicain), le général Napoléon Bonaparte met fin au régime du Directoire par un brutal coup d’État. Il ouvre la voie à sa propre dictature et met fin à la Révolution proprement dite.

Vers une dictature de salut public

Dix ans après la prise de la Bastille, la Révolution s’essoufle. Le gouvernement du Directoire est désemparé par les difficultés économiques et militaires, et menacé par un retour prématuré des royalistes. Le Directeur Sieyès dit à qui veut l’entendre qu’il «cherche un sabre» capable de sauver ce qui reste de la Révolution… et en particulier les fortunes des profiteurs.

Le retour d’Égypte du général Napoléon Bonaparte lui offre l’occasion qu’il cherchait. Sieyès voit en ce jeune général couvert de gloire le dictateur de salut public dont la République française a besoin pour éviter le retour de Louis XVIII et de l’Ancien Régime. Il concocte avec lui un coup d’État parlementaire qui passerait par une révision de la Constitution.

Le 18 Brumaire, sous le prétexte d’un «complot des terroristes» (royalistes), les deux assemblées des Cinq-Cents et des Anciens sont convaincues de se transporter au château de Saint-Cloud et de confier la garde de Paris à Bonaparte. Complices du complot, trois des cinq Directeurs, Sieyès, Barras et Ducos, démissionnent. Les deux autres, Gohier et Moulin, suspects de sympathies jacobines, sont destitués et arrêtés.

Le lendemain, la troupe boucle le château de Saint-Cloud. Mais les élus des Cinq-Cents réunis dans la salle de l’Orangerie refusent de modifier la Constitution comme on le leur demande.

Bonaparte, qui a déjà prononcé une médiocre harangue devant les Anciens, fait de même devant les Cinq-Cents. Sa déplorable prestation est accueillie par des huées et les cris : «À bas le dictateur !»

Violemment pris à partie par les députés et même menacé d’arrestation, il a un moment de faiblesse. Il est sauvé par des grenadiers qui l’amènent hors de la salle. Son frère Lucien qui préside fort opportunément l’assemblée sort à son tour et fait valoir à la troupe que son frère et les élus sont menacés d’assassinat. Le général Murat qui commande les grenadiers leur demande de faire évacuer la salle.

Les députés tout de rouge vêtus sautent à qui mieux mieux par les fenêtres et se dispersent dans le brouillard !

La nuit venue, sur les deux heures du matin, le Conseil des Anciens et quelques élus des Cinq-Cents que l’on a rassemblés manu militari votent enfin une révision de la Constitution. Ils nomment un gouvernement provisoire en la personne de trois Consuls, Napoléon Bonaparte, Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès et Roger Ducos. L’affaire est liquidée et chacun rentre à Paris.

Un Consulat inspiré de la Rome antique

Napoléon Bonaparte, soulagé, fait rédiger à la hâte une nouvelle Constitution. Sieyès, qui se pique de droit constitutionnel, dirige le travail. On s’oriente vers une dictature à la romaine, la Rome antique étant la référence commune à tous les hommes cultivés de l’époque. Le terme inhabituel de consul est lui-même emprunté à l’Antiquité.

Le texte de la Constitution de l’an VIII est réécrit par Daunou, lequel écrit à ce propos : «Il faut qu’une Constitution soit courte et obscure».

Conformément aux dispositions imposées par Bonaparte, le titre de Premier Consul et la réalité des pouvoirs sont octroyés au vainqueur du 18 Brumaire. Il a 30 ans. À ses côtés figurent deux Consuls qui n’ont qu’un rôle consultatif. Il s’agit de Cambacérès, un ancien conventionnel régicide, et Lebrun, un ancien député de la Constituante, aux penchants royalistes. Les trois consuls sont nommés pour dix ans

Le pouvoir législatif est réparti entre quatre assemblées : le Sénat conservateur, le Tribunat, le Corps législatif et le Conseil d’État. Les membres de ces assemblées sont choisis par le gouvernement parmi des listes de notabilités. Ces listes elles-mêmes résultent d’un vote des citoyens à plusieurs degrés. Autant dire que l’on est ici très loin de notre conception de la démocratie.


Bilan Obama: Et nous qui croyions qu’Obama avait inventé le soft power! (Art can also serve to win wars: the CIA had its own useful idiots, too!)

9 novembre, 2010
C’est dur de ne pas sembler distant à la Maison-Blanche. Certaines lettres que je lis le soir me brisent le coeur, d’autres me motivent, mais les caméras ne sont pas là pour le filmer. Obama
Dans l’imaginaire de ma génération, il y a la conquête de l’Ouest et Hollywood. Il y a Elvis Presley, qu’on n’a peut-être pas l’habitude de citer dans ces murs, mais, pour ma génération, il est universel ! Il y a Duke Ellington, il y a Hemingway. Il y a John Wayne, il y a Charlton Heston. Il y a Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth. Il y a aussi Armstrong, Aldrin, Collins réalisant le plus vieux rêve de l’Homme le jour où des Américains ont marché sur la lune, l’Amérique était universelle et chacun voulait être de cette aventure. Nicolas Sarkozy (devant le Congrès americain, novembre 2007)
As I have said before, it is difficult to think of any single act that would do more to restore America’s soft power than the election of Obama to the presidency.Joseph Nye (June  2008)
Mais au fait qu’est-ce que le soft power ? On peut trouver des ancêtres à l’idée formulée dans les années Clinton : la guerre « pour le cœur et l’esprit » de toutes les Nations engagée par Woodrow Wilson, ou la « diplomatie publique » chère à Eisenhower, cette action internationale de promotion des États-Unis et de l’idéologie occidentale libérale par médias interposés qui fut si typique de la guerre froide. Mais quand le doyen Joseph Nye formule pour la première fois le concept de soft power en 1991 dans un livre au titre significatif (Bound to lead), il a quelque chose de plus précis en tête et qui suppose le rayonnement du modèle politique, économique, culturel et technologique des U.S.A. Il s’agit d’amener le reste du monde à partager leur point de vue, sans recourir à la carotte ni au bâton. Par un savant dosage de l’attraction (l’image des USA et notamment sa culture), de la persuasion (par la conversion à ses valeurs politiques) et enfin d’une action diplomatique où la recherche de la légitimité et du soutien des autres États tient une grande part. Cette politique s’appuie sur la capacité de doser aide et négociation, incitation et coopération jusqu’à amener d’autres États à coopérer avec les USA, moitié sous la pression de leur opinion convertie aux valeurs US moitié sous l’incitation d’une diplomatie US soucieuse des formes et des susceptibilités. Dans son esprit, le tout coïncide peu ou prou avec le sens de l’histoire où les USA jouent une fonction avant-gardiste.
Soyons clairs : dans soft power, il y a pouvoir (au sens le plus classique : la probabilité d’obtenir d’autrui un comportement conforme à vos désirs). Sa pratique consiste moins à être sympathique et « respectueux » (des diversités, de l’écologie, des sensibilités, des cultures…) qu’à être efficace en économisant les moyens de la puissance. Ce pourrait bien être l’art de faire coïncider les intérêts des USA avec les désirs des autres, au sens où l’idéologie est la représentation mentale d’une position et d’intérêts particuliers sous forme de vérités universelles. François-Bernard Huyghe
In order to encourage openness we had to be secret. Tom Braden
If that’s art, then I’m a Hottentot. President Truman
I am just a dumb American who pays taxes for this kind of trash. Congressman
They joked that it was like a Wurlitzer jukebox: when the CIA pushed a button it could hear whatever tune it wanted playing across the world. The Independent
Regarding Abstract Expressionism, I’d love to be able to say that the CIA invented it just to see what happens in New York and downtown SoHo tomorrow! (…) But I think that what we did really was to recognise the difference. It was recognised that Abstract Expression- ism was the kind of art that made Socialist Realism look even more stylised and more rigid and confined than it was. And that relationship was exploited in some of the exhibitions. (…) In a way our understanding was helped because Moscow in those days was very vicious in its denunciation of any kind of non-conformity to its own very rigid patterns. And so one could quite adequately and accurately reason that anything they criticised that much and that heavy- handedly was worth support one way or another.
Matters of this sort could only have been done at two or three removes, so that there wouldn’t be any question of having to clear Jackson Pollock, for example, or do anything that would involve these people in the organisation. And it couldn’t have been any closer, because most of them were people who had very little respect for the government, in particular, and certainly none for the CIA. If you had to use people who considered themselves one way or another to be closer to Moscow than to Washington, well, so much the better perhaps. The US government now faced a dilemma. This philistinism, combined with Joseph McCarthy’s hysterical denunciations of all that was avant-garde or unorthodox, was deeply embarrassing. It discredited the idea that America was a sophisticated, culturally rich democracy. It also prevented the US government from consolidating the shift in cultural supremacy from Paris to New York since the 1930s. To resolve this dilemma, the CIA was brought in. Donald Jameson (former CIA case officer)
We wanted to unite all the people who were writers, who were musicians, who were artists, to demonstrate that the West and the United States was devoted to freedom of expression and to intellectual achievement, without any rigid barriers as to what you must write, and what you must say, and what you must do, and what you must paint, which was what was going on in the Soviet Union. I think it was the most important division that the agency had, and I think that it played an enormous role in the Cold War.
It was very difficult to get Congress to go along with some of the things we wanted to do – send art abroad, send symphonies abroad, publish magazines abroad. That’s one of the reasons it had to be done covertly. It had to be a secret. In order to encourage openness we had to be secret.
If this meant playing pope to this century’s Michelangelos, well, all the better: « It takes a pope or somebody with a lot of money to recognise art and to support it. And after many centuries people say, ‘Oh look! the Sistine Chapel, the most beautiful creation on Earth!’ It’s a problem that civilisation has faced ever since the first artist and the first millionaire or pope who supported him. And yet if it hadn’t been for the multi-millionaires or the popes, we wouldn’t have had the art. We would go to somebody in New York who was a well-known rich person and we would say, ‘We want to set up a foundation.’ We would tell him what we were trying to do and pledge him to secrecy, and he would say, ‘Of course I’ll do it,’ and then you would publish a letterhead and his name would be on it and there would be a foundation. It was really a pretty simple device. Tom Braden (former CIA man)

Et nous qui croyions qu’Obama avait inventé le soft power!

Pollock, Motherwell, de Kooning, Rothko, Encounter, plus  de  800 journaux, magazines et organismes d’information publique, l’Animal Farm de George Orwell, jazzmen americains, recitals d’opera, le Boston Symphony Orchestra, Hollywood, l’edition, les auteurs des celebres guides touristiques Fodor, the Congress for Cultural Freedom, tournees internationales d’expositions (« Advancing American Art », the State Department, 1947) …

Nouvelle déception et consternation dans la blogosphere progressiste

Au lendemain de la déroute du siecle de leur poulain …

Et a l’heure ou nos pilleurs d’archives militaires en pleine guerre se mettent a présent a dédouaner le cowboy Bush lui-meme de ses « mensonges » sur les ADM de Saddam et meme a denoncer les chiffres bidonnés de nos torchonnistes (109 000 au lieu de 650 000 pour l’Irak, soit pas moins de 600%!)…

Cette reconfirmation, retrouvée dans un article de the Independent d’il y a 15 ans :

Non seulement l’art, ca sert ausi a faire la guerre

Mais Obama n’aurait pas inventé le soft power!

Qui daterait en fait du tout début de la Guerre froide en 1947 …

Et aurait été inventé par … la CIA!

Qui, non contente d’espionner et de fomenter des troubles dans la patrie du socialisme en soutenant ou exfiltrant des dissidents, allait jusqu’a se meler d’art et d’art d’avant-garde !

Et pas seulement de littérature ou d’art soviétique (comme la publication du roman ayant permis a Boris Pasternak d’obtenir son prix Nobel).

Mais aussi, sans compter nos propres syndicats et centres de recherches, d’art américain dont les anciens Ivy-leaguers dont elle était truffée organisaient et financaient, via l’équivalent américain du Komintern et de musées et millionnaires comme Nelson Rockefeller, expositions et tournées mondiales.

Y compris, contre l’inculture du président Truman lui-meme et le farouche antiaméricanisme et prosovietisme  des artistes en question (ses propres « idiots utiles » en quelque sorte – mais pour la bonne cause), secretement …

Et tout ca pour démontrer la prétendue superiorité, sur la patrie du social-réalisme qui elle financait nos Picasso, d’un soi-disant Monde libre et de son auto-proclamée « free enterprise painting »….

Modern art was CIA ‘weapon’

Revealed: how the spy agency used unwitting artists such as Pollock and de Kooning in a cultural Cold War

Frances Stonor Saunders

The Independent

22 October 1995

For decades in art circles it was either a rumour or a joke, but now it is confirmed as a fact. The Central Intelligence Agency used American modern art – including the works of such artists as Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko – as a weapon in the Cold War. In the manner of a Renaissance prince – except that it acted secretly – the CIA fostered and promoted American Abstract Expressionist painting around the world for more than 20 years.

The connection is improbable. This was a period, in the 1950s and 1960s, when the great majority of Americans disliked or even despised modern art – President Truman summed up the popular view when he said: « If that’s art, then I’m a Hottentot. » As for the artists themselves, many were ex- com- munists barely acceptable in the America of the McCarthyite era, and certainly not the sort of people normally likely to receive US government backing.

Why did the CIA support them? Because in the propaganda war with the Soviet Union, this new artistic movement could be held up as proof of the creativity, the intellectual freedom, and the cultural power of the US. Russian art, strapped into the communist ideological straitjacket, could not compete.

The existence of this policy, rumoured and disputed for many years, has now been confirmed for the first time by former CIA officials. Unknown to the artists, the new American art was secretly promoted under a policy known as the « long leash » – arrangements similar in some ways to the indirect CIA backing of the journal Encounter, edited by Stephen Spender.

The decision to include culture and art in the US Cold War arsenal was taken as soon as the CIA was founded in 1947. Dismayed at the appeal communism still had for many intellectuals and artists in the West, the new agency set up a division, the Propaganda Assets Inventory, which at its peak could influence more than 800 newspapers, magazines and public information organisations. They joked that it was like a Wurlitzer jukebox: when the CIA pushed a button it could hear whatever tune it wanted playing across the world.

The next key step came in 1950, when the International Organisations Division (IOD) was set up under Tom Braden. It was this office which subsidised the animated version of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, which sponsored American jazz artists, opera recitals, the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s international touring programme. Its agents were placed in the film industry, in publishing houses, even as travel writers for the celebrated Fodor guides. And, we now know, it promoted America’s anarchic avant-garde movement, Abstract Expressionism.

Initially, more open attempts were made to support the new American art. In 1947 the State Department organised and paid for a touring international exhibition entitled « Advancing American Art », with the aim of rebutting Soviet suggestions that America was a cultural desert. But the show caused outrage at home, prompting Truman to make his Hottentot remark and one bitter congressman to declare: « I am just a dumb American who pays taxes for this kind of trash. » The tour had to be cancelled.

The US government now faced a dilemma. This philistinism, combined with Joseph McCarthy’s hysterical denunciations of all that was avant-garde or unorthodox, was deeply embarrassing. It discredited the idea that America was a sophisticated, culturally rich democracy. It also prevented the US government from consolidating the shift in cultural supremacy from Paris to New York since the 1930s. To resolve this dilemma, the CIA was brought in.

The connection is not quite as odd as it might appear. At this time the new agency, staffed mainly by Yale and Harvard graduates, many of whom collected art and wrote novels in their spare time, was a haven of liberalism when compared with a political world dominated by McCarthy or with J Edgar Hoover’s FBI. If any official institution was in a position to celebrate the collection of Leninists, Trotskyites and heavy drinkers that made up the New York School, it was the CIA.

Until now there has been no first-hand evidence to prove that this connection was made, but for the first time a former case officer, Donald Jameson, has broken the silence. Yes, he says, the agency saw Abstract Expressionism as an opportunity, and yes, it ran with it.

« Regarding Abstract Expressionism, I’d love to be able to say that the CIA invented it just to see what happens in New York and downtown SoHo tomorrow! » he joked. « But I think that what we did really was to recognise the difference. It was recognised that Abstract Expression- ism was the kind of art that made Socialist Realism look even more stylised and more rigid and confined than it was. And that relationship was exploited in some of the exhibitions.

« In a way our understanding was helped because Moscow in those days was very vicious in its denunciation of any kind of non-conformity to its own very rigid patterns. And so one could quite adequately and accurately reason that anything they criticised that much and that heavy- handedly was worth support one way or another. »

To pursue its underground interest in America’s lefty avant-garde, the CIA had to be sure its patronage could not be discovered. « Matters of this sort could only have been done at two or three removes, » Mr Jameson explained, « so that there wouldn’t be any question of having to clear Jackson Pollock, for example, or do anything that would involve these people in the organisation. And it couldn’t have been any closer, because most of them were people who had very little respect for the government, in particular, and certainly none for the CIA. If you had to use people who considered themselves one way or another to be closer to Moscow than to Washington, well, so much the better perhaps. »

This was the « long leash ». The centrepiece of the CIA campaign became the Congress for Cultural Freedom, a vast jamboree of intellectuals, writers, historians, poets, and artists which was set up with CIA funds in 1950 and run by a CIA agent. It was the beach-head from which culture could be defended against the attacks of Moscow and its « fellow travellers » in the West. At its height, it had offices in 35 countries and published more than two dozen magazines, including Encounter.

The Congress for Cultural Freedom also gave the CIA the ideal front to promote its covert interest in Abstract Expressionism. It would be the official sponsor of touring exhibitions; its magazines would provide useful platforms for critics favourable to the new American painting; and no one, the artists included, would be any the wiser.

This organisation put together several exhibitions of Abstract Expressionism during the 1950s. One of the most significant, « The New American Painting », visited every big European city in 1958-59. Other influential shows included « Modern Art in the United States » (1955) and « Masterpieces of the Twentieth Century » (1952).

Because Abstract Expressionism was expensive to move around and exhibit, millionaires and museums were called into play. Pre-eminent among these was Nelson Rockefeller, whose mother had co-founded the Museum of Modern Art in New York. As president of what he called « Mummy’s museum », Rockefeller was one of the biggest backers of Abstract Expressionism (which he called « free enterprise painting »). His museum was contracted to the Congress for Cultural Freedom to organise and curate most of its important art shows.

The museum was also linked to the CIA by several other bridges. William Paley, the president of CBS broadcasting and a founding father of the CIA, sat on the members’ board of the museum’s International Programme. John Hay Whitney, who had served in the agency’s wartime predecessor, the OSS, was its chairman. And Tom Braden, first chief of the CIA’s International Organisations Division, was executive secretary of the museum in 1949.

Now in his eighties, Mr Braden lives in Woodbridge, Virginia, in a house packed with Abstract Expressionist works and guarded by enormous Alsatians. He explained the purpose of the IOD.

« We wanted to unite all the people who were writers, who were musicians, who were artists, to demonstrate that the West and the United States was devoted to freedom of expression and to intellectual achievement, without any rigid barriers as to what you must write, and what you must say, and what you must do, and what you must paint, which was what was going on in the Soviet Union. I think it was the most important division that the agency had, and I think that it played an enormous role in the Cold War. »

He confirmed that his division had acted secretly because of the public hostility to the avant-garde: « It was very difficult to get Congress to go along with some of the things we wanted to do – send art abroad, send symphonies abroad, publish magazines abroad. That’s one of the reasons it had to be done covertly. It had to be a secret. In order to encourage openness we had to be secret. »

If this meant playing pope to this century’s Michelangelos, well, all the better: « It takes a pope or somebody with a lot of money to recognise art and to support it, » Mr Braden said. « And after many centuries people say, ‘Oh look! the Sistine Chapel, the most beautiful creation on Earth!’ It’s a problem that civilisation has faced ever since the first artist and the first millionaire or pope who supported him. And yet if it hadn’t been for the multi-millionaires or the popes, we wouldn’t have had the art. »

Would Abstract Expressionism have been the dominant art movement of the post-war years without this patronage? The answer is probably yes. Equally, it would be wrong to suggest that when you look at an Abstract Expressionist painting you are being duped by the CIA.

But look where this art ended up: in the marble halls of banks, in airports, in city halls, boardrooms and great galleries. For the Cold Warriors who promoted them, these paintings were a logo, a signature for their culture and system which they wanted to display everywhere that counted. They succeeded.

* The full story of the CIA and modern art is told in ‘Hidden Hands’ on Channel 4 next Sunday at 8pm. The first programme in the series is screened tonight. Frances Stonor Saunders is writing a book on the cultural Cold War.

Covert Operation

In 1958 the touring exhibition « The New American Painting », including works by Pollock, de Kooning, Motherwell and others, was on show in Paris. The Tate Gallery was keen to have it next, but could not afford to bring it over. Late in the day, an American millionaire and art lover, Julius Fleischmann, stepped in with the cash and the show was brought to London.

The money that Fleischmann provided, however, was not his but the CIA’s. It came through a body called the Farfield Foundation, of which Fleischmann was president, but far from being a millionaire’s charitable arm, the foundation was a secret conduit for CIA funds.

So, unknown to the Tate, the public or the artists, the exhibition was transferred to London at American taxpayers’ expense to serve subtle Cold War propaganda purposes. A former CIA man, Tom Braden, described how such conduits as the Farfield Foundation were set up. « We would go to somebody in New York who was a well-known rich person and we would say, ‘We want to set up a foundation.’ We would tell him what we were trying to do and pledge him to secrecy, and he would say, ‘Of course I’ll do it,’ and then you would publish a letterhead and his name would be on it and there would be a foundation. It was really a pretty simple device. »

Julius Fleischmann was well placed for such a role. He sat on the board of the International Programme of the Museum of Modern Art in New York – as did several powerful figures close to the CIA.

Voir aussi:

Les défis diplomatiques de Barack Obama

Election d’Obama : le retour du soft power ?

François-Bernard Huyghe

Affaires strategiques info

1er novembre 2008

Si un lexicographe analysait les millions de mots qui déferlent sur les médias en plein orgasme obamaniaque, il classerait sans doute comme les plus fréquents et significatifs : espoir, changement, diversité, modernité, rêve américain… De leur côté, les Américains qui font la fête, des ghettos jusqu’à Wall Street, sont sincèrement persuadés que « le monde va de nouveau nous aimer », comme si leur choix leur restituait une innocence perdue et rendait au pays l’attraction qu’il n’aurait jamais dû perdre.

Ils auront d’ailleurs raison pendant quelques semaines ou quelques mois, le temps d’un état de grâce planétaire que pourraient entretenir déclarations ou gestes symboliques, comme la fermeture de la prison de Guantanamo ou le retour de quelques boys.

Parmi les admirateurs européens d’Obama, il en est sans doute qui découvriront à propos du Moyen-Orient, de la présence de l’Otan en Afghanistan ou de l’Iran, que l’élu de leur cœur n’est pas tout à fait sur la ligne qu’ils espéraient. Et qu’il demandera beaucoup à des alliés qui n’auront plus à lui opposer la litanie des fautes originelles de Bush (guerre d’Irak, refus de signer le protocole de Kyoto, unilatéralisme…).

Pour le dire en termes plus galants, les politologues s’interrogent sur le retour du « soft power » américain (les méthodes « hard » chères aux néo-conservateurs ayant échoué avec une évidence difficile à contester). Mais au fait qu’est-ce que le soft power ? On peut trouver des ancêtres à l’idée formulée dans les années Clinton : la guerre « pour le cœur et l’esprit » de toutes les Nations engagée par Woodrow Wilson, ou la « diplomatie publique » chère à Eisenhower, cette action internationale de promotion des États-Unis et de l’idéologie occidentale libérale par médias interposés qui fut si typique de la guerre froide. Mais quand le doyen Joseph Nye formule pour la première fois le concept de soft power en 1991 dans un livre au titre significatif (Bound to lead), il a quelque chose de plus précis en tête et qui suppose le rayonnement du modèle politique, économique, culturel et technologique des U.S.A. Il s’agit d’amener le reste du monde à partager leur point de vue, sans recourir à la carotte ni au bâton. Par un savant dosage de l’attraction (l’image des USA et notamment sa culture), de la persuasion (par la conversion à ses valeurs politiques) et enfin d’une action diplomatique où la recherche de la légitimité et du soutien des autres États tient une grande part.

Cette politique s’appuie sur la capacité de doser aide et négociation, incitation et coopération jusqu’à amener d’autres États à coopérer avec les USA, moitié sous la pression de leur opinion convertie aux valeurs US moitié sous l’incitation d’une diplomatie US soucieuse des formes et des susceptibilités. Dans son esprit, le tout coïncide peu ou prou avec le sens de l’histoire où les USA jouent une fonction avant-gardiste. Ainsi pour Nye « La bonne nouvelle est que les tendances sociales de l’âge de l’information globale contribuent à façonner un monde qui sera davantage en sympathie avec les valeurs américaines à long terme. » . En somme, être moderne, branché et « global » impliquait d’être proaméricain.

Depuis, la façon de penser la politique extérieure comme un dosage entre soft et hard power, entre l’attractif et le coercitif, est depuis devenue un lieu commun du débat politique outre-Atlantique. Il serait, du reste, caricatural d’assimiler soft à démocrate et hard à républicain : Nye lui-même insiste sur le fait que les nécessités du temps exigent un mélange des deux, et il baptise « smart power » l’heureux mélange. Et sur ce point, Obama pourrait être son disciple.

Soyons clairs : dans soft power, il y a pouvoir (au sens le plus classique : la probabilité d’obtenir d’autrui un comportement conforme à vos désirs). Sa pratique consiste moins à être sympathique et « respectueux » (des diversités, de l’écologie, des sensibilités, des cultures…) qu’à être efficace en économisant les moyens de la puissance. Ce pourrait bien être l’art de faire coïncider les intérêts des USA avec les désirs des autres, au sens où l’idéologie est la représentation mentale d’une position et d’intérêts particuliers sous forme de vérités universelles.. Cela marche souvent. Rappelons-nous le discours du président Sarkozy devant le Congrès US le 7 novembre 2007 : « Dans l’imaginaire de ma génération, il y a la conquête de l’Ouest et Hollywood. Il y a Elvis Presley, qu’on n’a peut-être pas l’habitude de citer dans ces murs, mais, pour ma génération, il est universel ! Il y a Duke Ellington, il y a Hemingway. Il y a John Wayne, il y a Charlton Heston. Il y a Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth. Il y a aussi Armstrong, Aldrin, Collins réalisant le plus vieux rêve de l’Homme le jour où des Américains ont marché sur la lune, l’Amérique était universelle et chacun voulait être de cette aventure. »

Notre président qui a lui-même présenté Obama comme « son copain » pourrait donc être un des plus réceptifs à cette politique. Et il ne sera pas le seul.

Obama le grand communicateur s’est montré exceptionnellement brillant pour incarner et attirer. Mais la politique étrangère ne consiste pas seulement à conquérir des « territoires mentaux », elle suppose aussi de trancher et d’agir contre. Il se pourrait que les temps soient un peu durs pour une politique soft.

François-Bernard Huyghe, chercheur associé à l’IRIS et auteur de « Maîtres du faire croire. De la propagande à l’influence » (Vuibert). Il anime par ailleurs le blog http://www.huyghe.fr

Voir enfin:

Donald F.B. Jameson; Handled Russian Defectors for CIA

Adam Bernstein

Washington Post

September 11, 2007

Donald F.B. « Jamie » Jameson, 82, a branch chief in the Central Intelligence Agency’s directorate of operations who was highly regarded for his work handling Russian defectors and other Soviet covert operations, died Sept. 5 at Holy Cross Hospital. He had complications of a stroke in March.

Until retiring in 1973, Mr. Jameson spent more than 20 years working for the CIA. He was « one of the most experienced defector recruiters and handlers within the agency, » according to journalist Tom Mangold’s 1991 book, « Cold Warrior, » about the CIA under James J. Angleton, the much-discredited chief of counterintelligence.

In Mangold’s account, Mr. Jameson criticized Angleton’s handling of KGB defector Anatoly M. Golitsin, who in the early 1960s was considered a major CIA asset. Golitsin eventually sent the agency on a highly destructive hunt for an alleged Soviet mole within its own ranks.

Mr. Jameson suggested Golitsin « needed to be stepped on, » to rein in his requests for money and access to Washington’s power elite. Angleton and his staff blocked that judgment and soon removed Mr. Jameson as Golitsin’s case officer.

From 1962 to 1969, Mr. Jameson headed the branch in charge of Soviet bloc covert action. His branch encouraged dissidents behind the Iron Curtain and helped smuggle banned books to and from the Soviet Union and its satellite countries.

He also helped arrange for the defection of Svetlana Alliluyeva, daughter of former Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, and the English-language publication of her book « Twenty Letters to a Friend » (1967).

Mr. Jameson retired as special adviser to the Soviet bloc division chief and became a writer and consultant on international finance and politics.

Donald Fenton Booth Jameson, whose great-uncle was Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Booth Tarkington, was an Indianapolis native. He graduated in 1945 from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis and spent the end of World War II in the Pacific.

He received a master’s degree in international relations from Columbia University, and, fluent in Russian, he was recruited to the CIA to enlist and train agents to infiltrate the Soviet Union.

In 1999, he told U.S. News & World Report that many of his recruits were used as observers to watch troop movements. Still others had assignments to collect leaves and frogs near plutonium processing centers so U.S. scientists could test the samples for chemicals.

Most of the agents failed to work at all, he said. Some were caught and sent to the gulag, and others disappeared. In retrospect, he told the magazine, « Ours was a very large effort that produced virtually no results useful to intelligence. »

In 1955, Mr. Jameson interrogated an East German defector whom he later suspected of carrying the polio virus. Mr. Jameson received treatment at polio centers, but his limbs weakened substantially by the 1980s, and he was effectively a paraplegic.

He was an Ashburn resident, and his memberships included the Cosmos Club and the Army and Navy Club. He also belonged to Le Cercle, a foreign policy think tank established during the Cold War that reportedly included senior politicians, diplomats and intelligence agents worldwide.

His marriage to Barbara Nixon Jameson ended in divorce.

Survivors include his wife of 38 years, Lisa Rodman Jameson of Ashburn; a son from his first marriage, Jeremy Jameson of Houston; three children from his second marriage, Margaret Jameson and Thomas Jameson, both of New York City, and Alexander Jameson of Washington; and a sister.


Bilan Bush: Les vrais mensonges de Bush (Bush’s true lies)

8 novembre, 2010
L’armée polonaise a découvert des obus au sarin en Irak. (…) « Il est important de constater que ces munitions avaient été transportées hors de leur dépôt et enterrées afin de ne pas être trouvées par les inspecteurs de l’Onu », a estimé le chef du WSI. (…) Le ministre polonais de la Défense Jerzy Szmajdzinski a affirmé que la découverte de ces missiles démontrait que Saddam Hussein avait menti et ne s’était pas débarrassé des armes détenues illégalement par l’Irak. (…) « Il ne fait aucun doute qu’il s’agit d’obus datant de la période 1980-88, du genre de ceux utilisés contre les Kurdes et dans la guerre Iran-Irak », ont affirmé les forces polonaises dans un communiqué. Cette information a été confirmée par l’armée américaine. L’Irak a reconnu avoir produit des munitions au cyclo-sarin dans les années 1980 dans le cadre de son conflit avec l’Iran, mais avait promis de détruire ses stocks et de cesser de produire ces armes comme l’exigent les résolutions adoptées par l’Onu après la guerre du Golfe, en 1991. Wojciech Moskwa (2 juillet 2004)
Les inspecteurs en désarmement des Nations unies ont découvert 20 moteurs utilisés pour les missiles irakiens A Samoud 2 dans un dépôt de ferraille en Jordanie, en compagnie d’autre matériel pouvant être utilisé pour produire des armes de destruction massive, a annoncé mercredi le chef des inspecteurs. Le Nouvel Observateur (2004)
The United Nations has determined that Saddam Hussein shipped weapons of mass destruction components as well as medium-range ballistic missiles before, during and after the U.S.-led war against Iraq in 2003. The UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission briefed the Security Council on new findings that could help trace the whereabouts of Saddam’s missile and WMD program. The briefing contained satellite photographs that demonstrated the speed with which Saddam dismantled his missile and WMD sites before and during the war. He said the Iraqi facilities were dismantled and sent both to Europe and around the Middle East. at the rate of about 1,000 tons of metal a month. Destinations included Jordan, the Netherlands and Turkey. (…) In the Dutch city of Rotterdam, an SA-2 surface-to-air missile, one of at least 12, was discovered in a junk yard, replete with UN tags. In Jordan, UN inspectors found 20 SA-2 engines as well as components for solid-fuel for missiles. East West services (2004)
Que nous disent en effet aussi bien lord Butler que les membres de la commission sénatoriale d’enquêtes à Washington ? Que ni Bush ni Blair n’ont jamais menti à leur opinion de manière consciente et délibérée. Ils ont pensé jusqu’au bout (la diplomatie française aussi, d’ailleurs) que Saddam Hussein disposait de capacités de destruction massive bien réelles et dont l’emploi était devenu de plus en plus incertain. (…) Enfin, il faut verser au dossier le témoignage de l’ancien chef des services secrets roumains Ion Pacepa, qui a souvent été fiable, selon lequel les forces armées du pacte de Varsovie, soviétiques mais aussi roumaines, avaient mis au point un plan de liquidation des armes chimiques et bactériologiques en cas d’arrivée imminente des Américains. Cette opération, dont Pacepa donne le nom de code, aurait déjà été réalisée dans les années 80 avec la Libye de Kadhafi. La crainte, en effet, qu’une utilisation décentralisée et erratique du chimique, pour ne pas parler du bactériologique, n’entraîne une force conventionnelle américaine à des représailles très massives, était dominante à l’époque à Moscou. On va ajouter qu’à partir de l’avènement d’Andropov en 1982, l’Union soviétique avait commencé sans trop le dire à reprendre un à un les jouets les plus dangereux que Brejnev et les siens avaient laissé filer vers le tiers-monde. Mais il n’y a rien d’invraisemblable à ce que ces protocoles, élaborés en leur temps par l’Armée rouge et le KGB, aient tout simplement servi à Saddam pour supprimer au dernier moment les armes chimiques et bactériologiques les plus dangereuses dont il disposait, dans le but d’éviter tout incident dès lors qu’il venait d’accepter à l’automne 2002 la reprise des inspections de l’agence de Vienne. Manifestement, les services secrets anglais et américains n’ont pas compris cette manoeuvre de «maskirovska» (feinte, en russe) si typiquement soviétique que le lieutenant-colonel des services, Vladimir Poutine, ne puisse empêcher de signaler le premier avec une ironie triomphale mal contenue à Washington en faisant remarquer, dès les premiers jours de l’occupation de l’Irak, que les armes de destruction massive ne seraient jamais trouvées. Il en savait quelque chose. L’autre erreur, la plus grossière qui ait été commise, provient d’un analyste en chef de la CIA chargé du dossier nucléaire et qui a continué à prétendre pendant un an et demi que le matériel de centrifugeuses acheté illégalement par l’Irak en l’an 2000 avait pour but de produire de l’uranium militaire enrichi. Or, quelques semaines seulement après cette assertion, une contre-expertise tout à la fois interne à la CIA et provenant du service rival et militaire la DIA avait montré de façon convaincante que ces centrifugeuses ne pouvaient servir qu’à fabriquer des réacteurs de rockets. (…) En revanche, dans la seconde affaire souvent invoquée à charge, qui concerne le nucléaire irakien, c’est l’Administration, et non ses détracteurs, qui avait raison. Le dénommé Joseph Wilson, ancien ambassadeur au Niger et militant du Parti démocrate, avait été envoyé à Niamey pour enquêter sur les possibles contacts, voire les contrats secrets qui auraient été noués entre le gouvernement nigérien et les services secrets irakiens aux fins d’acheter de l’uranium brut des mines d’Arlit qui fournirent longtemps notre propre force de frappe. Après un entretien assez naïf avec le président Tandja – qui fit tout de même assassiner son prédécesseur, lequel fut mon ancien élève -, le sagace Wilson avait conclu qu’il n’en était rien. Lorsque l’on découvrit que le soi-disant contrat était un faux fabriqué dans une officine, on décida partout que le compte des Anglais et des Américains était bon. Un nouveau mensonge intéressé. Et lorsque, pour se défendre, des émissaires de Cheney et de Rumsfeld communiquèrent en sous-main à la presse le fait que le dénommé Wilson – qui les incendiait dans cette même presse – était marié à un officier supérieur de la CIA, le concert se fit accablant. Or Wilson est bien celui qui a menti le plus ouvertement en prétendant avoir été choisi pour sa mission par le département d’État, alors que la commission sénatoriale a tout simplement révélé que c’est sa femme, à la CIA, qui a insisté auprès de Tenet pour qu’on envoie son mari. Et pour cause, Wilson ne voulait pas davantage apparaître dans ses liens personnels avec le service de renseignements américains, qu’il ne voulait reconnaître qu’il partait avec la mission de ridiculiser l’enquête britannique qui faisait une nouvelle fois apparaître l’incompétence de Langley. Or c’est bien le MI 6 qui a eu vent de ce trafic d’uranium et fabriqué le faux comme il est courant dans le renseignement, pour masquer l’origine de sa source – sans doute un membre du gouvernement du Niger et sans doute aussi un pays ami et voisin, peut-être ancien, le Nigeria, peut-être très nouvel ami, la Libye. On peut donc considérer que, si Saddam a eu bien du mal à reconstituer le potentiel industriel nucléaire que l’agence de Vienne – grâce surtout à l’excellent travail du professeur Kelly qui s’est depuis suicidé – avait réussi à démanteler, ces services secrets dopés par le produit fabuleux de la contrebande pétrolière continuaient, eux, à faire leur marché de matières fissiles, sans doute en attendant des jours meilleurs. Alexandre Adler
L’Irak aurait bien cherché à prendre des contacts en Afrique pour se procurer de l’uranium: c’est ce qui ressort du rapport de la commission du renseignement du Sénat américain rendu public vendredi et qui met en cause les informations de la CIA sur la possession par l’Irak d’armes de destruction massive. Le rapport du Sénat vient ainsi paradoxalement appuyer une assertion de la présidence, sur laquelle la Maison Blanche était ensuite revenue. Dans son discours de 2003 sur l’état de l’Union, le président Bush avait en effet fait état d’informations britanniques sur des tentatives irakiennes pour se procure de l’uranium en Afrique. La Maison Blanche avait ensuite déclaré que les informations étaient trop peu solides et n’auraient pas dû être mentionnées dans un discours de cette importance. L’ancien directeur de la CIA George Tenet avait pris le blâme sur lui, affirmant qu’il aurait dû supprimer cette mention dans le discours présidentiel. Pourtant, selon le rapport publié vendredi, des renseignements britanniques et aussi français avaient averti, de manière séparée, les Etats-Unis de possibles tentatives irakiennes pour se procurer de l’uranium au Niger, ancienne colonie française où les ressources en uranium sont exploitées par des sociétés françaises. L’ancien Premier ministre nigérien Ibrahim Mayaki aurait ainsi déclaré avoir rencontré en 1999 des responsables irakiens intéressés par «une extension des liens commerciaux» entre les deux pays. Ibrahim Mayaki avait interprété ce « commerce » comme signifiant une offre d’achat d’uranium. La rencontre a eu lieu mais l’ancien Premier ministre du Niger affirme avoir détourné la conversation de l’uranium, peu désireux qu’il était de conclure un marché avec un Etat se trouvant sous embargo de l’ONU. Associated Press
Even when viewed through a post-war lens, documentary evidence of messages are consistent with the Iraqi Survey Group’s conclusion that Saddam was at least keeping a WMD program primed for a quick re-start the moment the UN Security Council lifted sanctions. Iraqi Perpectives Project (March 2006)
Captured Iraqi documents have uncovered evidence that links the regime of Saddam Hussein to regional and global terrorism, including a variety of revolutionary, liberation, nationalist, and Islamic terrorist organizations. While these documents do not reveal direct coordination and assistance between the Saddam regime and the al Qaeda network, they do indicate that Saddam was willing to use, albeit cautiously, operatives affiliated with al Qaeda as long as Saddam could have these terrorist operatives monitored closely. Because Saddam’s security organizations and Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network operated with similar aims (at least in the short term), considerable overlap was inevitable when monitoring, contacting, financing, and training the same outside groups. This created both the appearance of and, in some ways, a de facto link between the organizations. At times, these organizations would work together in pursuit of shared goals but still maintain their autonomy and independence because of innate caution and mutual distrust. Though the execution of Iraqi terror plots was not always successful, evidence shows that Saddam’s use of terrorist tactics and his support for terrorist groups remained strong up until the collapse of the regime.  Iraqi Perspectives Project (Saddam and Terrorism, Nov. 2007, released Mar. 2008)
Beginning in 1994, the Fedayeen Saddam opened its own paramilitary training camps for volunteers, graduating more than 7,200 « good men racing full with courage and enthusiasm » in the first year. Beginning in 1998, these camps began hosting « Arab volunteers from Egypt, Palestine, Jordan, ‘the Gulf,’ and Syria. » It is not clear from available evidence where all of these non-Iraqi volunteers who were « sacrificing for the cause » went to ply their newfound skills. Before the summer of 2002, most volunteers went home upon the completion of training. But these camps were humming with frenzied activity in the months immediately prior to the war. As late as January 2003, the volunteers participated in a special training event called the « Heroes Attack. » This training event was designed in part to prepare regional Fedayeen Saddam commands to « obstruct the enemy from achieving his goal and to support keeping peace and stability in the province. «  Study (Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia)
The information that the Russians have collected from their sources inside the American Central Command in Doha is that the United States is convinced that occupying Iraqi cities are impossible, and that they have changed their tactic. Captured Iraqi document  (« Letter from Russian Official to Presidential Secretary Concerning American Intentions in Iraq », March 25, 2003)
La raison pour laquelle je continue de dire qu’il y a un lien entre l’Irak, Saddam et Al-Qaida est parce qu’il y a un lien entre l’Irak et Al-Qaida. (…) Cette administration n’a jamais dit que les attentats du 11/9 ont été orchestrés entre Saddam et Al Qaeda. Nous avons dit qu’il y avait de nombreux contacts entre Saddam Hussein et Al Qaeda. George W. Bush (Washington Post, 2004)
Once children are in Texas, Texans know it is in our best interest and their interest to educate them, regardless of the nationality of their parents. GW Bush (1995)
Bush was born in New Haven, Conn., and his family moved to West Texas seeking to establish an economic beachhead in the region’s oil industry. With a grandfather who served as a U.S. senator from Connecticut and a father who worked as an oil executive before leading the CIA and eventually becoming president, Bush had plenty of blue in his blood. (The Andover-Yale-Harvard trifecta didn’t hurt, either.)
In his gubernatorial reelection victory in 1998, Bush won 49 percent of the Hispanic vote and 27 percent of the black vote – a strong showing for a Republican in Texas.
In many ways, Bush’s commitment to nation-building was primarily a rhetorical tool to build domestic support for military operations. In the minds of key foreign policy players on Bush’s team, regime change, not rebuilding civil societies, was the real goal. Memories of the fall of the Soviet Union made officials such as Vice President Dick Cheney optimistic that such transformations were possible on the cheap. This lack of commitment became clear when U.S. resources were hastily diverted from Afghanistan toward Iraq, and when then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld emphasized in the spring of 2002 that the Afghan people would have to handle most of the reconstruction themselves. Ironically, President Obama now finds himself deeply involved in nation-building projects in Afghanistan and Iraq, despite the ambivalence of the president who launched those wars.
Cheney opposed Bush’s decision to fire Rumsfeld and resented the fact that the president would not pardon « Scooter » Libby, a Cheney aide who was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice. Bush rejected the vice president’s preference for a hard-line stance toward North Korea and Iran, and it was Bush, not Cheney, who pushed for the troop surge in Iraq in 2007 as well as the TARP bailouts in 2008. And according to reports on Bush’s memoir, the president even considered removing Cheney from the 2004 presidential ticket, given the vice president’s « Darth Vader » reputation. Julian E. Zelizer

Attention: des mensonges peuvent en cacher d’autres!

Cowboy ignorant, raciste impitoyable, obsédé du nation-building, marionnette de Cheney, démolisseur du conservatisme …

Ou l’on redécouvre

A l’heure ou, après la raclée électorale que l’on sait, nos obamalatres de service rivalisent d’ingéniosité pour tenter de sauver le soldat Obama

Et ou un ancien président Bush, jusqu’a present particulierement silencieux (penser a Carter ou Bush) malgre la férocité des attaques contre lui y compris par son successeur et sa claque médiatique, sort ses mémoires

Derriere les véritables mythes que continuent a colporter nos désormais si susceptibles medias et rappelés par l’historien de Princeton Julian E. Zelizer …

(étrangement discret toutefois sur les évidents mensonges sur les prétendus mensonges sur les ADM de Saddam – sur un total de… 935, s’il vous plait! -, le débat n’ayant jamais porté sur l’existence, a laquelle croyait l’ensemble de la communauté du renseignement = et reconfirmé tout récemment comme il se doit par… Wikileaks! -, mais sur leur dangerosité et les moyens d’y faire face ?) …

Notamment son bilan largement pro-immigration, ses désaccords avec Cheney (qu’il pensera un moment remplacer), ses doutes sur le nation building et, comme vient de le confirmer le raz-de-maree des elections de mi-mandat, l’héritage d’un conservatisme américain en aucun cas diminué

Que Bush avait délibérémment joue, ce qui se retournera comme on le sait contre lui (comme quoi le crime ne paie pas !), la carte du tant du plouc et du cowboy que de l’autodérision systématique sur ses capacités intellectuelles

Le tout pour faire oublier, face a la notoire tete d’oeuf Gore ou l’indécrottable patricien francophone Kerry et pendant que d’autres ou les memes en rajoutaient sur leur CV ou, perdus sans leur prompteur, se réécrivaient a 33 ans a peine des vies entieres), sa réelle position de petit-fils de sénateur du Connecticut  et fils de président ex-millionnaire du ptrole et patron du renseignement …

Comme son score le placant dans les 16% supérieurs pour le SAT (soit 1206 contre un  Kennedy terminant le lycée 65e sur 110), sa licence d’histoire de Yale et sa maitrise de gestion de Harvard !

A challenge to everything you think you know

5 myths about George W. Bush

Julian E. Zelizer

The Washington Post

Sunday, November 7, 2010

1. George W. Bush was an uninformed Texas cowboy.

Nobody loved this myth more than Bush himself. During his 2000 campaign against Vice President Al Gore, then-Gov. Bush went to great lengths to depict himself as a down-home Texan whom voters could relate to. Even on a weekend when he was considering as momentous a choice as his running mate, reporters watched as Bush climbed into his SUV and drove down the dirt roads of his Crawford ranch.

But that image was at odds with his upbringing. Bush was born in New Haven, Conn., and his family moved to West Texas seeking to establish an economic beachhead in the region’s oil industry. With a grandfather who served as a U.S. senator from Connecticut and a father who worked as an oil executive before leading the CIA and eventually becoming president, Bush had plenty of blue in his blood. (The Andover-Yale-Harvard trifecta didn’t hurt, either.)

Again in 2004, Republicans deployed the president’s folksy image and manner of speech, contrasting Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry (the elitist who windsurfs off Nantucket) with Bush (the guy you’d rather have a beer with – even if he doesn’t drink).

Bush’s image backfired later, of course. As the administration stumbled in crises from Katrina to Iraq, the reputation that had helped Bush win office turned into a huge liability as Americans increasingly questioned his competence.

2. « Compassionate conservatism » was just a campaign slogan.

Many critics dismiss Bush’s talk about « compassionate conservatism » as nothing more than a cynical ploy to win over moderate voters in 2000. Liberals never believed that Bush truly wanted to bring racial and ethnic diversity to the Republican Party or that he accepted the need for the federal government to deal with entrenched social problems. The administration’s bungled response to the Hurricane Katrina disaster, along with regressive fiscal policies that disproportionately benefited wealthier Americans, also seemed to contradict the promise of compassion.

Yet, as Vanderbilt University historian Gary Gerstle has shown, Bush was personally invested in compassionate conservatism. While growing up in Texas and later serving as governor, Bush constantly befriended and worked with members of his state’s Hispanic community and fought for the rights of immigrants. « Once children are in Texas, » he said in 1995, « Texans know it is in our best interest and their interest to educate them, regardless of the nationality of their parents. » In his gubernatorial reelection victory in 1998, Bush won 49 percent of the Hispanic vote and 27 percent of the black vote – a strong showing for a Republican in Texas. (It is unsurprising that, in his memoir, Bush reportedly describes the accusations of racism he experienced in the aftermath of Katrina as « the worst moment of my presidency. »)

Bush’s experience as a born-again Christian led him to empathize with individuals’ personal struggles and to respect the role of religion in civic life. As president, he insisted that the war on terrorism must not become a war against Muslims. And his signature legislative accomplishments included expansive domestic programs, such as the No Child Left Behind Act (a huge extension of the federal government into primary education) and the Medicare prescription drug benefit (the biggest expansion of the system since its creation 40 years earlier).

Compassionate conservatism struggled not because Bush lacked conviction but because the GOP turned against it. Hard-line congressional Republicans stifled his efforts to liberalize immigration policy, for example. By 2006 and 2007, with his political capital rapidly diminishing because of the war in Iraq, Bush had little ability to fight back.

3. Bush committed America to nation-building in Iraq and Afghanistan.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, Bush appeared to commit the United States to remaking enemy nations into pro-Western democracies. In Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States destroyed the governments in power and touted an ambitious « freedom agenda » far exceeding anything even Woodrow Wilson ever conceived. « Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe – because in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty, » Bush said in November 2003.

Yet in many ways, Bush’s commitment to nation-building was primarily a rhetorical tool to build domestic support for military operations. In the minds of key foreign policy players on Bush’s team, regime change, not rebuilding civil societies, was the real goal. Memories of the fall of the Soviet Union made officials such as Vice President Dick Cheney optimistic that such transformations were possible on the cheap. This lack of commitment became clear when U.S. resources were hastily diverted from Afghanistan toward Iraq, and when then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld emphasized in the spring of 2002 that the Afghan people would have to handle most of the reconstruction themselves.

Ironically, President Obama now finds himself deeply involved in nation-building projects in Afghanistan and Iraq, despite the ambivalence of the president who launched those wars.

4. Dick Cheney ran the Bush White House.

The Bush era produced a stream of good books examining the vice president’s hidden influence. We learned how this crafty insider expanded executive power and shaped foreign policy by relying on a network of loyal advisers. In these accounts, Bush appears as a puppet to the real leader, Cheney, who lurked in the shadows.

However, much of the subsequent writing about the Bush presidency – including works by journalists such as The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward – challenges this portrait. We have begun to see instead that Bush, surrounded by political advisers such as Karl Rove, didn’t allow power to move too far away from his control.

Cheney opposed Bush’s decision to fire Rumsfeld and resented the fact that the president would not pardon « Scooter » Libby, a Cheney aide who was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice. Bush rejected the vice president’s preference for a hard-line stance toward North Korea and Iran, and it was Bush, not Cheney, who pushed for the troop surge in Iraq in 2007 as well as the TARP bailouts in 2008. And according to reports on Bush’s memoir, the president even considered removing Cheney from the 2004 presidential ticket, given the vice president’s « Darth Vader » reputation.

5. Bush left conservatism in ruins.

On election night in 2008, the conservative era appeared to be over, and the age of Obama seemed set to begin.

Except it didn’t happen that way. From the early months of the Obama administration, congressional Republicans proved remarkably disciplined. Only a few broke ranks by voting for the stimulus bill, and frustration over the economy and health-care reform – together with effective lobbying by conservative organizations – contributed to the strength and reach of the tea party movement. A recent poll by The Post, the Kaiser Foundation and Harvard University found that Americans dislike government more now than they did 10 years ago (though they support many specific programs).

A powerful network of conservative donors and political operators, ranging from the Koch brothers to Dick Armey, have offered organizational and financial support to conservative activists and politicians, while conservative media outlets have given the right a powerful base from which to attack Obama. The Republican victories in the midterm elections suggest that, for all the problems that still face the GOP, conservatism is alive and well – even if it is a far different brand of conservatism than the kind Bush championed when he took office in 2001.

Julian E. Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, is the editor of « The Presidency of George W. Bush: A First Historical Assessment. »

Voir aussi:

Bush gets bad rap on intelligence

Aubrey Immelman

Times columnist

January 14, 2001

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed …

— W. B. Yeats, « The Second Coming »

A week from today, the sun will rise on the second Bush presidency in a generation, in what for some may be a day of trepidation. Does Bush the Younger have what it takes to lead the nation in the new millennium?

It’s a question that transcends concerns about George W. Bush’s conservatism or a path to power marred by youthful indiscretions. It’s not about ideology or character; it’s a question of cognitive capacity.

The Spanish physician Juan Huarte in 1575 proposed one of the earliest recorded definitions of intelligence: learning ability, imaginativeness and good judgment. Undoubtedly, the mantle of the modern U.S. presidency imposes a steep learning curve and demands vision, wisdom and discretion.

Equally clear is this: Sheer intellectual brilliance does not cut it in the Oval Office.

In terms of brute brainpower, the smartest postwar presidents were Richard Nixon, a Duke Law School graduate with a reported IQ of 143; Jimmy Carter, who graduated in the top 10 percent of his Naval Academy class; and Rhodes scholar Bill Clinton, a graduate of Georgetown University and Yale Law School. Deeply flawed presidencies all, despite their potential.

In contrast, take high school graduate Harry Truman — railroad worker, clerk, bookkeeper, farmer, road inspector and small-town postmaster — or Ronald Reagan, sports announcer and B-list actor with mediocre college credentials.

Despite their intellectual limitations, both achieved substantial political success as president. And, to press home the point, there is Franklin D. Roosevelt, a top-tier president in rankings of historical greatness, whom the late Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes branded « a second-rate intellect but a first-class temperament. »

Huarte’s notion of intelligence comprises a mix of mental acumen and emotional discernment that provides a sound foundation for modern-day presidential success.

To put it bluntly, the president need not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but he does need a full deck of cards. He must be comfortable in his own skin, free of emotional demons, and surround himself with competent people. With apologies to Saturday Night Live’s Stuart Smalley, the successful president need not be a towering giant, he just needs to be good enough, smart enough — and, doggone-it, people must like him.

George W. Bush can be likable and charming. But, as the New York Times pondered in a front-page article on June 19, 2000, « is he smart enough to be president? »

Unlike John F. Kennedy, who obtained an IQ score of 119, or Al Gore, who achieved scores of 133 and 134 on intelligence tests taken at the beginning of his high school freshman and senior years, no IQ data are available for George W. Bush. But we do know that the young Bush registered a score of 1206 on the SAT, the most widely used test of college aptitude. (The more cerebral Al Gore obtained 1355.)

Statistically, Bush’s test performance places him in the top 16 percent of prospective college students — hardly the mark of a dimwit. Of course, the SAT is not designed as an IQ test. But it is highly correlated with general intelligence, to the tune of .80. In plain language, the SAT is two parts a measure of general intelligence and one part a measure of specific scholastic reasoning skills and abilities.

If Bush could score in the top 16 percent of college applicants on the SAT, he would almost certainly rank higher on tests of general intelligence, which are normed with reference to the general population. But even if his rank remained constant at the 84th-percentile level of his SAT score, it would translate to an IQ score of 115.

It’s tempting to employ Al Gore’s IQ:SAT ratio of 134:1355 as a formula for estimating Bush’s probable intelligence quotient — an exercise in fuzzy statistics that predicts a score of 119. If the number sounds familiar, it’s precisely the IQ score attributed to Kennedy, whom Princeton political scientist Fred Greenstein, in « The Presidential Difference, » commended as « a quick study, whose wit was an indication of a subtle mind. »

As a final clue to Bush’s cognitive capacity, consider data from Joseph Matarazzo’s leading text on intelligence and the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth: The average IQ is about 105 for high school graduates, 115 for college graduates and 125 for people with advanced professional degrees. With his MBA from Harvard Business School, it’s not unreasonable to assume that Bush’s IQ surpasses the 115 of the average bachelor’s-degree-only college graduate.

George W. Bush has often been underestimated. Almost certainly, he’s received a bad rap on the count of cognitive capacity. Indications are that, in the arena of mental ability, Bush is in the same league as John F. Kennedy, who graduated 65th in his high-school class of 110 and, in the words of one biographer, « stumbled through Latin, French, mathematics, and English but made respectable marks in physics and history. »

The feisty, sometimes-irreverent Bush’s mental acuity may lack a little of the sharpness of his tongue, but plainly it is sharp enough. The real test for the president-elect will be whether he possesses the emotional intelligence — the triumph of reason over rigidity and restraint over impulse — to steer the course.

Aubrey Immelman is a political psychologist and an associate professor of psychology at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University. You may write to him in care of the St. Cloud Times, P.O. Box 768, St. Cloud, MN 56302.

Voir enfin:

Bush’s « 16 Words » on Iraq & Uranium: He May Have Been Wrong But He Wasn’t Lying

Factcheck.org

July 26, 2004

Updated: August 23, 2004

Two intelligence investigations show Bush had plenty of reason to believe what he said in his 2003 State of the Union Address.

Summary

The famous “16 words” in President Bush’s Jan. 28, 2003 State of the Union address turn out to have a basis in fact after all, according to two recently released investigations in the US and Britain.

Bush said then, “The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa .” Some of his critics called that a lie, but the new evidence shows Bush had reason to say what he did.

A British intelligence review released July 14 calls Bush’s 16 words “well founded.”

A separate report by the US Senate Intelligence Committee said July 7 that the US also had similar information from “a number of intelligence reports,” a fact that was classified at the time Bush spoke.

Ironically, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who later called Bush’s 16 words a “lie”, supplied information that the Central Intelligence Agency took as confirmation that Iraq may indeed have been seeking uranium from Niger.

Both the US and British investigations make clear that some forged Italian documents, exposed as fakes soon after Bush spoke, were not the basis for the British intelligence Bush cited, or the CIA’s conclusion that Iraq was trying to get uranium.

None of the new information suggests Iraq ever nailed down a deal to buy uranium, and the Senate report makes clear that US intelligence analysts have come to doubt whether Iraq was even trying to buy the stuff. In fact, both the White House and the CIA long ago conceded that the 16 words shouldn’t have been part of Bush’s speech.

But what he said – that Iraq sought uranium – is just what both British and US intelligence were telling him at the time. So Bush may indeed have been misinformed, but that’s not the same as lying.

Analysis

The « 16 words » in Bush’s State of the Union Address on Jan. 28, 2003 have been offered as evidence that the President led the US into war using false information intentionally. The new reports show Bush accurately stated what British intelligence was saying, and that CIA analysts believed the same thing.

The « 16 Words »

During the State the Union Address on January 28, 2003, President Bush said:

Bush: The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.

The Butler Report

After nearly a six-month investigation, a special panel reported to the British Parliament July 14 that British intelligence had indeed concluded back in 2002 that Saddam Hussein was seeking to buy uranium. The review panel was headed by Lord Butler of Brockwell, who had been a cabinet secretary under five different Prime Ministers and who is currently master of University College, Oxford.

The Butler report said British intelligence had « credible » information — from several sources — that a 1999 visit by Iraqi officials to Niger was for the purpose of buying uranium:

Butler Report: It is accepted by all parties that Iraqi officials visited Niger in 1999. The British Government had intelligence from several different sources indicating that this visit was for the purpose of acquiring uranium. Since uranium constitutes almost three-quarters of Niger’s exports, the intelligence was credible.

The Butler Report affirmed what the British government had said about the Niger uranium story back in 2003, and specifically endorsed what Bush said as well.

Butler Report: By extension, we conclude also that the statement in President Bush’s State of the Union Address of 28 January 2003 that “The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa” was well-founded.

The Senate Intelligence Committee Report

The U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence reported July 7, 2004 that the CIA had received reports from a foreign government (not named, but probably Britain) that Iraq had actually concluded a deal with Niger to supply 500 tons a year of partially processed uranium ore, or « yellowcake. » That is potentially enough to produce 50 nuclear warheads.

Wilson: Bush’s Words « The Lie »

(From a web chat sponsored by Kerry for President Oct. 29, 2003)

*** Joe Wilson (Oct 29, 2003 11:24:53 AM)

I would remind you that had Mr. Cheney taken into consideration my report as well as 2 others submitted on this subject, rather than the forgeries

*** Joe Wilson (Oct 29, 2003 11:25:06 AM)

the lie would never have been in President Bush’s State of the Union address

*** Joe Wilson (Oct 29, 2003 11:25:14 AM)

so when they ask, « Who betrayed the President? »

*** Joe Wilson (Oct 29, 2003 11:25:30 AM)

They need to point the finger at the person who inserted the 16 words, not at the person who found the truth of the matter.

The Senate report said the CIA then asked a « former ambassador » to go to Niger and report. That is a reference to Joseph Wilson — who later became a vocal critic of the President’s 16 words. The Senate report said Wilson brought back denials of any Niger-Iraq uranium sale, and argued that such a sale wasn’t likely to happen. But the Intelligence Committee report also reveals that Wilson brought back something else as well — evidence that Iraq may well have wanted to buy uranium.

Wilson reported that he had met with Niger’s former Prime Minister Ibrahim Mayaki, who said that in June 1999 he was asked to meet with a delegation from Iraq to discuss « expanding commercial relations » between the two countries.

Based on what Wilson told them, CIA analysts wrote an intelligence report saying former Prime Minister Mayki « interpreted ‘expanding commercial relations’ to mean that the (Iraqi) delegation wanted to discuss uranium yellowcake sales. » In fact, the Intelligence Committee report said that « for most analysts » Wilson’s trip to Niger « lent more credibility to the original Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports on the uranium deal. »

The subject of uranium sales never actually came up in the meeting, according to what Wilson later told the Senate Intelligence Committee staff. He quoted Mayaki as saying that when he met with the Iraqis he was wary of discussing any trade issues at all because Iraq remained under United Nations sanctions. According to Wilson, Mayaki steered the conversation away from any discussion of trade.

For that reason, Wilson himself has publicly dismissed the significance of the 1999 meeting. He said on NBC’s Meet the Press May 2, 2004:

Wilson: …At that meeting, uranium was not discussed. It would be a tragedy to think that we went to war over a conversation in which uranium was not discussed because the Niger official was sufficiently sophisticated to think that perhaps he might have wanted to discuss uranium at some later date.

But that’s not the way the CIA saw it at the time. In the CIA’s view, Wilson’s report bolstered suspicions that Iraq was indeed seeking uranium in Africa. The Senate report cited an intelligence officer who reviewed Wilson’s report upon his return from Niger:

Committee Report: He (the intelligence officer) said he judged that the most important fact in the report was that the Nigerian officials admitted that the Iraqi delegation had traveled there in 1999, and that the Nigerian Prime Minister believed the Iraqis were interested in purchasing uranium, because this provided some confirmation of foreign government service reporting.

« Reasonable to Assess »

At this point the CIA also had received « several intelligence reports » alleging that Iraq wanted to buy uranium from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and from Somalia, as well as from Niger. The Intelligence Committee concluded that « it was reasonable for analysts to assess that Iraq may have been seeking uranium from Africa based on Central Intelligence Agency reporting and other available intelligence. »

Reasonable, that is, until documents from an Italian magazine journalist showed up that seemed to prove an Iraq-Niger deal had actually been signed. The Intelligence Committee said the CIA should have been quicker to investigate the authenticity of those documents, which had « obvious problems » and were soon exposed as fakes by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

« We No Longer Believe »

Both the Butler report and the Senate Intelligence Committee report make clear that Bush’s 16 words weren’t based on the fake documents. The British didn’t even see them until after issuing the reports — based on other sources — that Bush quoted in his 16 words. But discovery of the Italian fraud did trigger a belated reassessment of the Iraq/Niger story by the CIA.

Once the CIA was certain that the Italian documents were forgeries, it said in an internal memorandum that « we no longer believe that there is sufficient other reporting to conclude that Iraq pursued uranium from abroad. » But that wasn’t until June 17, 2003 — nearly five months after Bush’s 16 words.

Soon after, on July 6, 2003, former ambassador Wilson went public in a New York Times opinion piece with his rebuttal of Bush’s 16 words, saying that if the President was referring to Niger « his conclusion was not borne out by the facts as I understood them, » and that « I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq’s nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat. » Wilson has since used much stronger language, calling Bush’s 16 words a « lie » in an Internet chat sponsored by the Kerry campaign.

On July 7, the day after Wilson’s original Times article, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer took back the 16 words, calling them « incorrect: »

Fleischer: Now, we’ve long acknowledged — and this is old news, we’ve said this repeatedly — that the information on yellow cake did, indeed, turn out to be incorrect.

And soon after, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice acknowledged that the 16 words were, in retrospect, a mistake. She said during a July 11, 2003 White House press briefing:

Rice: What we’ve said subsequently is, knowing what we now know, that some of the Niger documents were apparently forged, we wouldn’t have put this in the President’s speech — but that’s knowing what we know now.

That same day, CIA Director George Tenet took personal responsibility for the appearance of the 16 words in Bush’s speech:

Tenet: These 16 words should never have been included in the text written

for the President.

Tenet said the CIA had viewed the original British intelligence reports as « inconclusive, » and had « expressed reservations » to the British.

The Senate report doesn’t make clear why discovery of the forged documents changed the CIA’s thinking. Logically, that discovery should have made little difference since the documents weren’t the basis for the CIA’s original belief that Saddam was seeking uranium. However, the Senate report did note that even within the CIA the comments and assessments were « inconsistent and at times contradictory » on the Niger story.

Even after Tenet tried to take the blame, Bush’s critics persisted in saying he lied with his 16 words — for example, in an opinion column July 16, 2003 by Michael Kinsley in the Washington Post:

Kinsley: Who was the arch-fiend who told a lie in President Bush’s State of the Union speech? . . .Linguists note that the question « Who lied in George Bush’s State of the Union speech » bears a certain resemblance to the famous conundrum « Who is buried in Grant’s Tomb? »

However, the Senate report confirmed that the CIA had reviewed Bush’s State of the Union address, and — whatever doubts it may have harbored — cleared it for him.

Senate Report: When coordinating the State of the Union, no Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) analysts or officials told the National Security Council (NSC) to remove the « 16 words » or that there were concerns about the credibility of the Iraq-Niger uranium reporting.

The final word on the 16 words may have to await history’s judgment. The Butler report’s conclusion that British intelligence was « credible » clearly doesn’t square with what US intelligence now believes. But these new reports show Bush had plenty of reason to believe what he said, even if British intelligence is eventually shown to be mistaken.

Sources

President George W. Bush, “ State of the Union ,” 28 January 2003.

Chairman Lord Butler of Brockwell, “Review of Intelligence on Weapons of Mass Destruction,” 14 July 2004.

“Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community’s Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq,” Select Committee on Intelligence United States Senate, 7 July 2004.

Walter Pincus, “ CIA Did Not Share Doubt on Iraq Data; Bush Used Report Of Uranium Bid ,” Washington Post, 12 June 2003.

Mohamed ElBaradei, “ The Status of Nuclear Inspections in Iraq: An Update ,” Statement to the United Nations Security Council by International Atomic Energy Agency Director General, 7 March 2003.

Joseph Wilson, “What I Didn’t Find in Africa,” New York Times, 6 July 2003.

Joseph Wilson,The Official Kerry-Edwards BLOG: « Transcript of Chat with Ambassador Joe Wilson, » 29 Oct 2003.

Michael Kinsley, « …Or More Lies From The Usual Suspects?, » Washington Post, 16 July 2003: A23.

Ari Fleischer, “ Press Gaggle ,” 7 July 2003.

Ari Fleischer and Dr. Condoleeza Rice, “ Press Gaggle ,” 11 July 2003.

George Tenet, « Statement by George J. Tenet Director of Central Intelligence, » Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), 11 July 2003.

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Présidence Obama: Strip-tease tragique à la Maison Blanche (The philosopher president’s new clothes: every left-wing platitude he encountered in college)

8 novembre, 2010
Même dénigré, son bilan est historique. L’Hebdo (magazine suisse, 21.10.10)
Avertissement sans frais pour Obama. Courrier international
Cela signifie que, comme d’autres présidents avant lui, Obama cherchera sans doute à se faire réélire grâce à des réalisations sur la scène étrangère. Il se rendra cette semaine en Asie pour visiter les grandes démocraties de la région – Inde, Indonésie, Japon et Corée du Sud –, qui ont exprimé de l’inquiétude au cours des derniers mois face à l’agressivité montante de la Chine. Ce contexte pourrait permettre au président de réaffirmer le rôle des Etats-Unis comme défenseur des démocraties contre l’autocratie belliqueuse au pouvoir à Pékin. Le Washington Post.
D’Souza, like Kloppenberg, imputes to Obama a coherent philosophy, in D’Souza’s case « anticolonialism. » It is a needlessly elaborate explanation for an unremarkable set of facts. Occam’s razor suggests that Obama is a mere conformist–someone who absorbed every left-wing platitude he encountered in college and never seems to have seriously questioned any of them. Kloppenberg characterizes Obama as a skeptic, not a true believer. We’re not sure he has an active enough mind to be either one. James Taranto
Theorists of deliberative democracy typically denigrate the messy give-and-take among actual flesh-and-blood citizens and dismiss it as the outcome of flawed procedures for conversation. They prefer the conclusions that derive from abstract and sometimes intricate theories. Meanwhile, in the guise of rejecting absolutes, the adherents of philosophical pragmatism absolutize partisan progressive goals and reconceive « moderation » as merely exercising patience and flexibility in the pursuit of progressive ends. To read Mr. Obama accurately and to grasp fully the connection between his ideas and his politics, one must examine not merely the dreams and hopes that inspire deliberative democracy and philosophical pragmatism but also the intellectual vices that these doctrines foster and the illiberal and antidemocratic tendencies that they spawn. A lot of voters this week, intuitively, did grasp the connection. Peter Berkowitz
Barack Obama is not an « other » so much as he is a child of the 1960s. His coming of age paralleled exactly the unfolding of a new « counterculture » American identity. And this new American identity—and the post-1960s liberalism it spawned—is grounded in a remarkable irony: bad faith in America as virtue itself, bad faith in the classic American identity of constitutional freedom and capitalism as the way to a better America. So Mr. Obama is very definitely an American, and he has a broad American constituency. He is simply the first president we have seen grounded in this counterculture American identity.
Many Americans are afraid of this because a mandate as grandiose as redemption justifies a vast expansion of government. A redeemer can’t just tweak and guide a faltering economy; he will need a trillion- dollar stimulus package. He can’t take on health care a step at a time; he must do it all at once, finally mandating that every citizen buy in. Shelby Steele

Le président-philosophe serait-il nu?

La question, à voir le nombre et la qualité de nos obamalatres au chevet d’une présidence américaine en pleine déroute, est en tout cas posée.

Alors qu’apres la raclée électorale que l’on sait, le président philosophe et intellectuel (caché pour ne pas effrayer le bon peuple mais pret a risquer son 2e mandat pour racheter l’Amérique de ses péchés originels) …

Pourrait se voir contraint de quitter la compagnie de la « race rare » des Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Lincoln et Wilson ainsi que la longue tradition du pragmatisme philosophique pour le pragmatisme vulgaire a la Clinton …

Retour, avec Shelby Steele et Peter Berkowitz, sur les incroyables ressources actuellement déployées par nos dits obamalatres, notamment la derniere hagiographie en date de l’historien de Harvard James T. Kloppenberg (« Reading Obama: Dreams, Hopes and the American Political Tradition), pour tenter de sauver le premier président américain issu de la contreculture des années 60.

Mais aussi sur cet étrange monde inversé ou la critique de l’Amérique tient lieu de vertu …

Et ou, via le rejet des absolus et au nom des fins les plus progressistes, la démocratie délibeéative et le pragmatisme philosophique peuvent produire les plus illibérales et antidémocratiques des tendances …

A Referendum on the Redeemer

Barack Obama put the Democrats in the position of forever redeeming a fallen nation rather than leading a great one.

Shelby Steele

The WSJ

October 28, 2010

Whether or not the Republicans win big next week, it is already clear that the « transformative » aspirations of the Obama presidency—the special promise of this first black president to « change » us into a better society—are much less likely to materialize. There will be enough Republican gains to make the « no » in the « party of no » even more formidable, if not definitive.

But apart from this politics of numbers, there is also now a deepening disenchantment with Barack Obama himself. (He has a meager 37% approval rating by the latest Harris poll.) His embarrassed supporters console themselves that their intentions were good; their vote helped make history. But for Mr. Obama himself there is no road back to the charisma and political capital he enjoyed on his inauguration day.

How is it that Barack Obama could step into the presidency with an air of inevitability and then, in less than two years, find himself unwelcome at the campaign rallies of many of his fellow Democrats?

The first answer is well-known: His policymaking has been grandiose, thoughtless and bullying. His health-care bill was ambitious to the point of destructiveness and, finally, so chaotic that today no citizen knows where they stand in relation to it. His financial-reform bill seems little more than a short-sighted scapegoating of Wall Street. In foreign policy he has failed to articulate a role for America in the world. We don’t know why we do what we do in foreign affairs. George W. Bush at least made a valiant stab at an American rationale—democratization—but with Mr. Obama there is nothing.

All this would be enough to explain the disillusionment with this president—and with the Democratic Party that he leads. But there is also a deeper disjunction. There is an « otherness » about Mr. Obama, the sense that he is somehow not truly American. « Birthers » doubt that he was born on American soil. Others believe that he is secretly a Muslim, or in quiet simpatico with his old friends, Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers, now icons of American radicalism.

But Barack Obama is not an « other » so much as he is a child of the 1960s. His coming of age paralleled exactly the unfolding of a new « counterculture » American identity. And this new American identity—and the post-1960s liberalism it spawned—is grounded in a remarkable irony: bad faith in America as virtue itself, bad faith in the classic American identity of constitutional freedom and capitalism as the way to a better America. So Mr. Obama is very definitely an American, and he has a broad American constituency. He is simply the first president we have seen grounded in this counterculture American identity. When he bows to foreign leaders, he is not displaying « otherness » but the counterculture Americanism of honorable self-effacement in which America acknowledges its own capacity for evil as prelude to engagement.

Bad faith in America became virtuous in the ’60s when America finally acknowledged so many of its flagrant hypocrisies: the segregation of blacks, the suppression of women, the exploitation of other minorities, the « imperialism » of the Vietnam War, the indifference to the environment, the hypocrisy of puritanical sexual mores and so on. The compounding of all these hypocrisies added up to the crowning idea of the ’60s: that America was characterologically evil. Thus the only way back to decency and moral authority was through bad faith in America and its institutions, through the presumption that evil was America’s natural default position.

Among today’s liberal elite, bad faith in America is a sophistication, a kind of hipness. More importantly, it is the perfect formula for political and governmental power. It rationalizes power in the name of intervening against evil—I will use the government to intervene against the evil tendencies of American life (economic inequality, structural racism and sexism, corporate greed, neglect of the environment and so on), so I need your vote.

« Hope and Change » positioned Mr. Obama as a conduit between an old America worn down by its evil inclinations and a new America redeemed of those inclinations. There was no vision of the future in « Hope and Change. » It is an expression of bad faith in America, but its great ingenuity was to turn that bad faith into political motivation, into votes.

But there is a limit to bad faith as power, and Mr. Obama and the Democratic Party may have now reached that limit. The great weakness of bad faith is that it disallows American exceptionalism as a rationale for power. It puts Mr. Obama and the Democrats in the position of forever redeeming a fallen nation, rather than leading a great nation. They bet on America’s characterological evil and not on her sense of fairness, generosity or ingenuity.

When bad faith is your framework (Michelle Obama never being proud of her country until it supported her husband), then you become more a national scold than a real leader. You lead out of a feeling that your opposition is really only the latest incarnation of that old characterological evil that you always knew was there. Thus the tea party—despite all the evidence to the contrary—is seen as racist and bigoted.

But isn’t the tea party, on some level, a reaction to a president who seems not to fully trust the fundamental decency of the American people? Doesn’t the tea party fill a void left open by Mr. Obama’s ethos of bad faith? Aren’t tea partiers, and their many fellow travelers, simply saying that American exceptionalism isn’t racism? And if the mainstream media see tea partiers as bumpkins and racists, isn’t this just more bad faith—characterizing people as ignorant or evil so as to dismiss them?

Our great presidents have been stewards, men who broadly identified with the whole of America. Stewardship meant responsibility even for those segments of America where one might be reviled. Surely Mr. Obama would claim such stewardship. But he has functioned more as a redeemer than a steward, a leader who sees a badness in us from which we must be redeemed. Many Americans are afraid of this because a mandate as grandiose as redemption justifies a vast expansion of government. A redeemer can’t just tweak and guide a faltering economy; he will need a trillion- dollar stimulus package. He can’t take on health care a step at a time; he must do it all at once, finally mandating that every citizen buy in.

Next week’s election is, among other things, a referendum on the idea of president-as- redeemer. We have a president so determined to transform and redeem us from what we are that, by his own words, he is willing to risk being a one-term president. People now wonder if Barack Obama can pivot back to the center like Bill Clinton did after his set-back in ’94. But Mr. Clinton was already a steward, a policy wonk, a man of the center. Mr. Obama has to change archetypes.

Mr. Steele is a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.

Voir aussi:

The Thinker

The president as intellectual and political philosopher.

Peter Berkowitz

The WSJ

November 5, 2010

In mid-October, by which time it had become evident that the November midterm elections would deliver a rebuke of historic proportions, President Barack Obama stated in a New York Times Magazine interview that his mistake had been to neglect « marketing and P.R. and public opinion. » His problem, in other words, was a failure to communicate.

This claim is difficult to reconcile with the extraordinary rise in 2009 of an energized grass-roots movement combining disaffected Republicans, libertarians and independents. They seemed to grasp the president’s goal: to enact a sweeping progressive agenda. In the best traditions of democracy in America—and by means of town-hall meetings, tea-party rallies and the marvels of social networking—people organized to elect representatives and block the transformative ambitions with which they disagreed.

The president’s self-assessment is also difficult to reconcile with James Kloppenberg’s thesis in « Reading Obama. » Mr. Kloppenberg argues that, thanks to the ideas to which Obama was exposed and the moral and intellectual virtues he cultivated during his journey through the American academy—he was a student at Occidental, Columbia and Harvard Law School and a faculty member at the University of Chicago Law School—he became an exemplar, in word and deed, of moderation, balance and accommodation.

Mr. Kloppenberg is certainly right to call attention to the effect on Mr. Obama’s sensibility of « the developments in American academic culture since the 1960′s. » And he convincingly shows that Mr. Obama’s two books, shorter writings and speeches contain thoughtful and sometimes eloquent variations on « a surprising number of the central themes in the American political tradition, particularly as it has come to be understood in the last half century. »

But « Reading Obama » does not explain Mr. Obama’s failure, in his first 22 months in office, to find common ground with conservatives and independents; his refusal to slow down and win over a majority before proceeding with large-scale reforms; and his readiness, as president, to vilify those who disagree with his policies and purposes.

According to Mr. Kloppenberg, Mr. Obama’s uncommon experience—being the son of a white American woman and black African man, living abroad in Indonesia with his mother and her second husband, spending his teenage years in Hawaii in his white grandparents’ home—nurtured a gift for seeing the world from a multiplicity of perspectives and for feeling empathy for a diversity of people. So, contends Mr. Kloppenberg, Mr. Obama was well prepared to absorb the best of what was being taught in philosophy, political theory and law at American universities in the 1980s and 1990s—above all, deliberative democracy and philosophical pragmatism.

Deliberative democracy has its roots in the writings of the philosopher John Rawls and in the recovery of the civic-republican tradition in America by, among others, the historian Gordon Wood. It emphasizes the benefits that come from citizens discussing opinions about politics and crafting compromises to achieve the common good. Philosophical pragmatism, for its part, was elaborated by William James and John Dewey. It was revived in the period in which Mr. Obama came of intellectual age, most notably by the philosopher Richard Rorty. It rejects absolutes and instead, as Mr. Kloppenberg writes, « embraces uncertainty, provisionality, and the continuous testing of hypotheses through experimentation. » Both deliberative democracy and philosophical pragmatism celebrate open-ended conversation as the animating principle of constitutional democracy.

Mr. Obama, Mr. Kloppenberg explains, brings a « supple understanding, » « tenacious hope » and the  » ‘Christian virtue’ of humility » to bear on these ideas. The results, in the author’s estimation, are nothing short of spectacular. To the extent possible, Mr. Obama reconciles the claims of the individual and community, of personal freedom and majority rule, of rights and responsibilities. All the while Mr. Obama recognizes that progress is provisional and fragile and appreciates the imperfections of man, the limitations of reason and the tragic necessity, at times, to use force to advance the cause of liberty and equality.

In short, Mr. Kloppenberg’s brief intellectual biography of Mr. Obama provides an excellent portrait of the shining self-image of the progressive intellectual. But it proves a poor guide to understanding the connection between Mr. Obama’s ideas and his conduct in the White House, because Mr. Kloppenberg fails to take into account the dark side of deliberate democracy and the perversity of pragmatism.

Theorists of deliberative democracy typically denigrate the messy give-and-take among actual flesh-and-blood citizens and dismiss it as the outcome of flawed procedures for conversation. They prefer the conclusions that derive from abstract and sometimes intricate theories. Meanwhile, in the guise of rejecting absolutes, the adherents of philosophical pragmatism absolutize partisan progressive goals and reconceive « moderation » as merely exercising patience and flexibility in the pursuit of progressive ends.

To read Mr. Obama accurately and to grasp fully the connection between his ideas and his politics, one must examine not merely the dreams and hopes that inspire deliberative democracy and philosophical pragmatism but also the intellectual vices that these doctrines foster and the illiberal and antidemocratic tendencies that they spawn. A lot of voters this week, intuitively, did grasp the connection.

Mr. Berkowitz is a senior fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution.

Reading Obama

James T. Kloppenberg

(Princeton, 302 pages, $24.95)

Voir egalement:

Obama the Thinker?

Meet James Kloppenberg, the left’s Dinesh D’Souza.

James Taranto

Hest of the web

The WSJ

October 28, 2010

Barack Obama is a pragmatist, James Kloppenberg tells the New York Times. No, he doesn’t mean Obama is practical-minded; no one thinks that anymore. In fact, Kloppenberg, a Harvard historian, disparages the « vulgar pragmatism » of Bill Clinton while praising Obama’s « philosophical pragmatism »:

It is a philosophy that grew up after Darwin published his theory of evolution and the Civil War reached its bloody end. More and more people were coming to believe that chance rather than providence guided human affairs, and that dogged certainty led to violence.

Pragmatism maintains that people are constantly devising and updating ideas to navigate the world in which they live; it embraces open-minded experimentation and continuing debate. « It is a philosophy for skeptics, not true believers, » Mr. Kloppenberg said.

Kloppenberg has a new book coming out, « Reading Obama: Dreams, Hopes and the American Political Tradition. » According to the Times, Kloppenberg « sees Mr. Obama as a kind of philosopher president, » a « true intellectual. » Such philosophers are a « rare breed »: the Adamses, Jefferson, Madison, Lincoln, Wilson and now Obama.

« Imagine the Republicans driving the economy into a ditch, » the philosopher president said the other day. « And it’s a deep ditch. It’s a big ditch. And somehow they walked away from the accident, and we put on our boots and we rappelled down into the ditch–me and Jack and Sheldon and Jim and Patrick. We’ve been pushing, pushing, trying to get that car out of the ditch. And meanwhile, the Republicans are standing there, sipping on a Slurpee. » John Dewey had nothing on this guy!

If the president does not seem to be the intellectual heavyweight Kloppenberg makes him out to be, the Harvard historian has an explanation: Obama is a sort of secret-agent philosopher. « He would have had to deny every word, » Kloppenberg tells the Times, which helpfully explains that « intellectual » is « a word that is frequently considered an epithet among populists with a robust suspicion of Ivy League elites. »

When Sarah Palin called Obama a « professor, » some professors accused her of racism. What she really meant, they claimed, was « uppity. » Kloppenberg’s similar characterization, however, draws a quite different response:

Those who heard Mr. Kloppenberg present his argument at a conference on intellectual history at the City University of New York’s Graduate Center responded with prolonged applause. « The way he traced Obama’s intellectual influences was fascinating for us, given that Obama’s academic background seems so similar to ours, » said Andrew Hartman, a historian at Illinois State University who helped organize the conference.

One assumes that Andrew Hartman is a serious scholar, although one doesn’t know for sure because one has never heard of him. Barack Obama, by contrast, is a scholarly dilettante, a professional politician who has moonlighted as a university instructor.

Yet Hartman’s remark about Obama’s « academic background » is revealing. Professors imagine Obama is one of them because he shares their attitudes: their politically correct opinions, their condescending view of ordinary Americans, their belief in their own authority as an intellectual elite. He is the ideal product of the homogeneous world of contemporary academia. In his importance, they see a reflection of their self-importance.

Kloppenberg’s thesis reminds us of another elaborate attempt at explaining Obama: Dinesh D’Souza’s « The Roots of Obama’s Rage. » D’Souza, like Kloppenberg, imputes to Obama a coherent philosophy, in D’Souza’s case « anticolonialism. » It is a needlessly elaborate explanation for an unremarkable set of facts.

Occam’s razor suggests that Obama is a mere conformist–someone who absorbed every left-wing platitude he encountered in college and never seems to have seriously questioned any of them. Kloppenberg characterizes Obama as a skeptic, not a true believer. We’re not sure he has an active enough mind to be either one.

Keep Hope Alive

« The very bad day Democrats are expecting next Tuesday might not be as terrible as feared, according to some analysts not known for wishful thinking, » writes Errol Louis, a liberal columnist for New York’s Daily News. That « not known for wishful thinking » is a nice touch, a protestation that conveys its opposite.

Here’s Louis, wishing:

Another big story that hasn’t drawn much notice is the role black voters will play. « There are more than a dozen Senate races and more than a dozen governor’s races where the black vote could make a difference, » says David Bositis, senior research associate at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a Washington-based think tank.

« If they turn out in large numbers, I think it’s going to surprise a lot of people, » Bositis says. « I think the Democrats could conceivably hold on to the House. » . . .

Another potential shot in the arm for Dems could come from Latino voters turned off by the harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric championed by many Republican candidates.

« I think that the Latino vote is going to be the October surprise, » says Maria Teresa Kumar, executive director of Voto Latino, a nonprofit advocacy organization

Some mischievous Republican must have misinformed Maria Teresa Kumar as to which month the election is in. The trouble, of course, is that Democrats are almost always able to count on large margins among Hispanics and near-Soviet-size ones among blacks. Turnout among these ethnic blocs can make a difference in a close election, but it cannot provide enough of a margin to avert a landslide. A New York Times news story makes clear why people are expecting a blowout for the Democrats:

Critical parts of the coalition that delivered President Obama to the White House in 2008 and gave Democrats control of Congress in 2006 are switching their allegiance to the Republicans in the final phase of the midterm Congressional elections, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

Republicans have wiped out the advantage held by Democrats in recent election cycles among women, Roman Catholics, less affluent Americans and independents. All of those groups broke for Mr. Obama in 2008 and for Congressional Democrats when they grabbed both chambers from the Republicans four years ago, according to exit polls.

Strong black and Latino support is a necessary condition for a Democratic victory nationwide and in most states and districts. Outside of a few cities and urban districts, it is far from a sufficient one.

Two Papers in One!

* « The incident was one of two stompings reported to Lexington police outside the debate, where scores of supporters of both candidates had gathered in the parking lot for a rally. [Rand] Paul supporter Marsha Foster, 49, reported that earlier in the night a person had intentionally stomped on her broken foot, causing « minor visible injuries, » according to a police report. »–news story, Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader, Oct. 27

* « The Paul campaign condemned the attack, disassociated itself from the volunteer who stomped the woman’s head and called on activists ‘on both sides’ to avoid ‘physical altercations of any kind.’ The problem with the Paul statement is that only one side, his side, resorted to violence. »–editorial, Lexington Herald-Leader, Oct. 27

Excuses, Excuses

Blogger Jim Hoft has a clip of President Obama yesterday, answering a question from a radio talk-show host:

Host: Mr. President, why is no one who supported the health-care bill running on it?

Obama: Well, I think that you’ve seen a couple of hundred million dollars worth of negative TV ads that make it very difficult to do so. I mean, the fact of the matter is, is that, you know, there was a [sic] awful lot of misinformation about this health-care bill while we were debating it, and that has continued after we’ve finished debating it.

He’s the World’s Greatest Orator, and he’s got the truth on his side, yet no one will listen because all these other people are spreading misinformation and negativity! No wonder he doesn’t like the First Amendment.

Paying for Granny’s Tuition

From the New York Times:

As their state financing dwindled, four-year public universities increased their published tuition and fees almost 8 percent this year, to an average of $7,605, according to the College Board’s annual reports. When room and board are included, the average in-state student at a public university now pays $16,140 a year.

At private nonprofit colleges and universities, tuition rose 4.5 percent to an average of $27,293, or $36,993 with room and board.

The good news in the 2010 « Trends in College Pricing » and « Trends in Student Aid » reports is that fast-rising tuition costs have been accompanied by a huge increase in financial aid, which helped keep down the actual amount students and families pay.

« In 2009-2010, students got $28 billion in Pell grants, and that’s $10 billion more than the year before, » said Sandy Baum, the economist who is the lead author of the reports. « When you look at how much students are actually paying, on average, it is lower, after adjusting for inflation, than five years earlier. »

So the « good news » is that « students and families » don’t have to pay all that extra tuition. That nice Mr. Pell will do it!

Actually, that’s not quite how it works. Mr. Pell–you can call him Claiborne–is no longer with us, having died last year. A senator from Rhode Island from 1961 through 1997, he doesn’t actually pay for Pell grants. All he had to do to get his name on them is sponsor the legislation establishing them.

Who pays then? Why, students and families, along with other taxpayers. And since the country is deep in debt, their grandchildren will pay too. Let’s hope they can afford it!

Voir enfin:

In Writings of Obama, a Philosophy Is Unearthed

Patricia Cohen

The NYT

October 27, 2010

When the Harvard historian James T. Kloppenberg decided to write about the influences that shaped President Obama’s view of the world, he interviewed the president’s former professors and classmates, combed through his books, essays, and speeches, and even read every article published during the three years Mr. Obama was involved with the Harvard Law Review (“a superb cure for insomnia,” Mr. Kloppenberg said). What he did not do was speak to President Obama.

“He would have had to deny every word,” Mr. Kloppenberg said with a smile. The reason, he explained, is his conclusion that President Obama is a true intellectual — a word that is frequently considered an epithet among populists with a robust suspicion of Ivy League elites.

In New York City last week to give a standing-room-only lecture about his forthcoming intellectual biography, “Reading Obama: Dreams, Hopes, and the American Political Tradition,” Mr. Kloppenberg explained that he sees Mr. Obama as a kind of philosopher president, a rare breed that can be found only a handful of times in American history.

“There’s John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and John Quincy Adams, then Abraham Lincoln and in the 20th century just Woodrow Wilson,” he said.

To Mr. Kloppenberg the philosophy that has guided President Obama most consistently is pragmatism, a uniquely American system of thought developed at the end of the 19th century by William James, John Dewey and Charles Sanders Peirce. It is a philosophy that grew up after Darwin published his theory of evolution and the Civil War reached its bloody end. More and more people were coming to believe that chance rather than providence guided human affairs, and that dogged certainty led to violence.

Pragmatism maintains that people are constantly devising and updating ideas to navigate the world in which they live; it embraces open-minded experimentation and continuing debate. “It is a philosophy for skeptics, not true believers,” Mr. Kloppenberg said.

Those who heard Mr. Kloppenberg present his argument at a conference on intellectual history at the City University of New York’s Graduate Center responded with prolonged applause. “The way he traced Obama’s intellectual influences was fascinating for us, given that Obama’s academic background seems so similar to ours,” said Andrew Hartman, a historian at Illinois State University who helped organize the conference.

Mr. Kloppenberg’s interest in the education of Barack Obama began from a distance. He spent 2008, the election year, at the University of Cambridge in England and found himself in lecture halls and at dinner tables trying to explain who this man was.

Race, temperament and family history are all crucial to understanding the White House’s current occupant, but Mr. Kloppenberg said he chose to focus on one slice of the president’s makeup: his ideas.

In the professor’s analysis the president’s worldview is the product of the country’s long history of extending democracy to disenfranchised groups, as well as the specific ideological upheavals that struck campuses in the 1980s and 1990s. He mentions, for example, that Mr. Obama was at Harvard during “the greatest intellectual ferment in law schools in the 20th century,” when competing theories about race, feminism, realism and constitutional original intent were all battling for ground.

Mr. Obama was ultimately drawn to a cluster of ideas known as civic republicanism or deliberative democracy, Mr. Kloppenberg argues in the book, which Princeton University Press will publish on Sunday. In this view the founding fathers cared as much about continuing a discussion over how to advance the common good as they did about ensuring freedom.

Taking his cue from Madison, Mr. Obama writes in his 2006 book “The Audacity of Hope” that the constitutional framework is “designed to force us into a conversation,” that it offers “a way by which we argue about our future.” This notion of a living document is directly at odds with the conception of Justice Antonin Scalia of the Supreme Court, who has spoken of “the good, old dead Constitution.”

Mr. Kloppenberg compiled a long list of people who he said helped shape Mr. Obama’s thinking and writing, including Weber and Nietzsche, Thoreau and Emerson, Langston Hughes and Ralph Ellison. Contemporary scholars like the historian Gordon Wood, the philosophers John Rawls and Hilary Putnam, the anthropologist Clifford Geertz and the legal theorists Martha Minow and Cass Sunstein (who is now working at the White House) also have a place.

Despite the detailed examination, Mr. Kloppenberg concedes that President Obama remains something of a mystery.

“To critics on the left he seems a tragic failure, a man with so much potential who has not fulfilled the promise of change that partisans predicted for his presidency,” he said. “To the right he is a frightening success, a man who has transformed the federal government and ruined the economy.”

He finds both assessments flawed. Conservatives who argue that Mr. Obama is a socialist or an anti-colonialist (as Dinesh D’Souza does in his book “The Roots of Obama’s Rage”) are far off the mark, he said.

“Adams and Jefferson were the only anti-colonialists whom Obama has been affected by,” he told the audience in New York. “He has a profound love of America.”

And his opposition to inequality stems from Puritan preachers and the social gospel rather than socialism.

As for liberal critics, Mr. Kloppenberg took pains to differentiate the president’s philosophical pragmatism, which assumes that change emerges over decades, from the kind of “vulgar pragmatism” practiced by politicians looking only for expedient compromise. (He gave former President Bill Clinton’s strategy of “triangulation” as an example.)

Not all of the disappointed liberals who attended the lecture in New York were convinced that that distinction can be made so easily. T. J. Jackson Lears, a historian at Rutgers University, wrote in an e-mail that by “showing that Obama comes out of a tradition of philosophical pragmatism, he actually provided a basis for criticizing Obama’s slide into vulgar pragmatism.”

And despite Mr. Kloppenberg’s focus on the president’s intellectual evolution, most listeners wanted to talk about his political record.

“There seemed to be skepticism regarding whether Obama’s intellectual background actually translated into policies that the mostly left-leaning audience could get behind,” Mr. Hartman said. “Several audience members, myself included, probably view Obama the president as a centrist like Clinton rather than a progressive intellectual as painted by Kloppenberg.”


Présidence Obama: Et si Obama était tout simplement un mauvais président ? (How far will our media go to deny the obvious ?)

5 novembre, 2010
Et si la vraie raison était tout simplement que la majorité des Américains trouvent que Barack Obama est un mauvais président ? (…) Et si Obama était definitely, comme on dit là-bas, trop liberal, à gauche pour diriger un pays dont les valeurs de gauche ne sont pas ancrées dans les profondeurs du peuple ? Les préjugés dont il a pu être victime au cours de ses deux premières années de mandat tiennent d’ailleurs plus à son image d’intello, prof à Harvard qu’à la couleur de sa peau. Luc Rosenzweig

Et si, au grand désespoir de nos obamalatres, Obama venait de faire au monde l’éclatante démonstration qu’un président noir pouvait etre aussi mauvais qu’un blanc?

Rappel farfelu de l’histoire américaine, extrémistes, opinions délirantes, risée des médias, conceptions pour le moins bizarres de l’histoire des Etats-Unis, hystérique, sinistre Coluche, parodie du mouvement des droits civiques, discours insipide, travesti,  ultraconservatisme, faction radicale, l’ultralibéralisme – droitisation, discours répressif, maladie infantile de l’ultraconservatisme, « style paranoïaque en politique américaine », poujadisme à l’américaine

Dans l’incroyable retour de fiel de nos medias contre cette « Amérique que nous haïssons » digne des plus beaux jours des annees Bush qui a accompagne la campagne des elections de mi-mandat americaines et continue a servir de modèle explicatif a une cette défaite depuis longtemps annoncée …

Comment ne pas voir, comme le rappelle brillamment Luc Rosenzweig sur le site de nos amis de Mondes francophones, la recherche pathetique de responsables (Fox News, les Tea Party) avec les inevitables soupcons de racisme de la part de nos obamaniaques pour l’impensable deboulonnage de leur icône post-raciale, postmoderne, post-tout ?

Comme la continuation du deni de realite pour ne pas voir, derriere les naivetes et les  indeniables exces de certains de ses adversaires, une exasperation et une reelle inquietude devant un president non seulement pas a la hauteur mais bien trop à gauche pour diriger l’Amérique ?

Et qu’entre les reticences de sa base progressiste qui lui ont d’ailleurs bien manque cette fois-ci et son notoire manque de souplesse ideologique, ses chances pour 2012 sont, sauf bien sur evenement imprevu ou grosse erreur de ses adversaires republicains, plus que compromises ?

Salauds d’Américains ! Ils votent comme des cochons

Luc Rosenzweig

Mondes francophones

05/11/2010

Pendant longtemps, nos observateurs habituels n’avaient pas voulu y croire : leur icône post-raciale, postmoderne, post-tout, Barack Obama, allait se ramasser une raclée majeure aux élections de midterm. Jusqu’à ce que les sondages, dans une lassante répétition, restent bloqués sur le vert pour les Républicains et sur le rouge pour les Démocrates, on avait espéré, dans les principales rédactions françaises que la « magie Obama » allait transformer à nouveau la citrouille en carrosse. Lorsqu’il s’est avéré que cela ne serait pas le cas, il fallait trouver un responsable à cet incroyable comportement de l’électorat d’outre-Atlantique.

Comme il était inconcevable, pour les obamaniaques officiant chez nous dans la politique et les médias, de formuler la moindre critique de l’action du président des Etats-Unis, il fallait trouver d’autres coupables. « Obama dans la bouse, c’est la faute à Fox News. Le peuple n’a rien compris, à cause du Tea Party ! ».

Le modèle explicatif de cette défaite annoncée a pris le ton, en France d’une virulente dénonciation de cette « Amérique que nous haïssons », que l’on avait cru balayée en novembre 2008 avec la déroute des Républicains à l’issue de deux mandats de George W. Bush. Obama n’allait pas perdre, on allait « l’abattre », comme le titrait dramatiquement Libération à la veille du scrutin.

C’est tout juste si on ne suggérait pas qu’on allait assister à une nouvelle forme de lynchage dont les meneurs seraient Glen Beck, le pittbull conservateur de Fox News, et Sarah Palin, la mama grizzly de l’Alaska. On laisse également entendre que le vieux fond de racisme de la société américaine est à l’œuvre dans cette entreprise de démolition du premier président noir de l’Union…

Obama, trop à gauche pour diriger l’Amérique ?

Et si la vraie raison était tout simplement que la majorité des Américains trouvent que Barack Obama est un mauvais président ? Si on a une lecture « européenne » de ses deux premières années de mandat, on ne comprend pas que les électeurs ne lui tiennent pas gré d’avoir étendu la couverture sociale à plus de trente millions de leurs concitoyens, et d’avoir rétabli l’image des Etats-Unis dans le monde.

Sauf que la classe moyenne a découvert que cette extension de la sécu aux plus pauvres augmentait considérablement les tarifs des mutuelles-santé, puisque ce sont les assurances privées qui sont maintenant contraintes, par la loi, d’offrir leurs services à des gens qui ne peuvent pas en payer le prix. Cela vaut particulièrement pour les gens actifs dans le small business ou les travailleurs indépendants qui estiment, en cette période de crise, n’avoir aucunement besoin de ce surcroît de charges. Le plan de relance, dit « stimulus » n’a pas donné les résultats escomptés en termes d’emplois, en dépit d’une injection de 800 milliards de dollars dans l’économie. Quant à la politique étrangère, dont on a fait dans ces colonnes un examen sans concessions, elle n’a pratiquement joué aucun rôle dans ces élections.

Et si Obama était definitely, comme on dit là-bas, trop liberal, à gauche pour diriger un pays dont les valeurs de gauche ne sont pas ancrées dans les profondeurs du peuple ? Les préjugés dont il a pu être victime au cours de ses deux premières années de mandat tiennent d’ailleurs plus à son image d’intello, prof à Harvard qu’à la couleur de sa peau.

L’échec du Tea Party, un succès pour les Républicains

Et maintenant que va-t-il faire ? Que sera sa vie ? Ses amis démocrates se plaisent à évoquer le scénario de Clinton, étrillé aux midterm de 1994 et réélu triomphalement en 1996.

Peut-être, mais peu probable, à moins que l’on assiste à une rapide amélioration de la situation économique. Tout d’abord une nécessaire lapalissade : Obama n’est pas Clinton, et ne dispose pas de la souplesse idéologique de l’ancien président. Ensuite, son « recentrage » nécessaire pour cogérer le pays avec une Chambre hostile et un Sénat dont il faudra ménager les Démocrates conservateurs peut brouiller définitivement son image et lui aliéner les liberals. Ce sont eux, d’ailleurs qui on causé la défaite d’Al Gore en 2000, en dispersant leurs voix sur le candidat « de gauche » Ralph Nader. Enfin, quoi que puissent penser nos commentateurs patentés, les Républicains ne sont pas des buses. Ils ont tiré les leçons de l’élection de 1996, et ne laisseront pas Obama leur faire porter le chapeau des décisions politiques impopulaires comme Clinton le fit avec succès aux dépens de Newt Gringrich, le président républicain de la Chambre.

Dans la perspective de l’élection présidentielle de 2012, l’état-major républicain peut aussi se réjouir de l’échec relatif des candidats étiquetés Tea Party, qui est la cause du maintien d’une courte majorité démocrate au Sénat. Tous les analystes sont d’accord pour estimer que la défaite de Sharron Angle au Nevada et de Christine O’Donnell dans le Delaware, toutes deux pasionarias du Tea Party a privé les Républicains de ces deux sièges cruciaux, qui n’auraient pas échappé aux candidats plus modérés battus lors des primaires. Il ne reste plus à Obama et ses amis à rêver que sa concurrente en 2012 soit Sarah Palin, jugée plus facile à battre qu’un Républicain mainstream. Un pari risqué, car la dame en question a beaucoup, beaucoup appris ces derniers mois. Les paris sont ouverts, aux commentateurs d’établir la cote…

Voir aussi:

Tea Party, une vague de fond

Denis Lacorne

Le Monde

19.10.10

Le populisme, hostile à Washington et aux impôts fédéraux, secoue la droite américaine. Il va peut-être coûter à Barack Obama les prochaines élections législatives, non sans bouleverser, en même temps, le Parti républicain

L’origine du mouvement ultraconservateur de la Tea Party est surprenante parce que improvisée : Rick Santelli, journaliste spécialisé dans l’analyse de l’évolution des cours de la Bourse de Chicago sur la chaîne de télévision CNBC, exprimait sa colère, le 19 février 2009, contre les profiteurs des politiques fédérales.

Ceux-ci, assurait-il, achetaient des maisons grâce à des crédits immobiliers subventionnés par l’Etat ; ils abusaient du système sans subir la moindre sanction, au détriment des citoyens honnêtes qui payaient leurs impôts et remboursaient à temps leurs prêts hypothécaires. Il était donc temps de réagir de la façon la plus vigoureuse contre le président américain, Barack Obama, et sa politique d’accès facile à la propriété. Pourquoi, alors, ne pas organiser, à Chicago, une protestation du style de la Tea Party au mois de juillet ?

Les mots étaient lâchés : Rick Santelli proposait de faire revivre, au XXIe siècle, une émeute comparable à celle qu’avaient organisée les révolutionnaires américains, en 1773, pour protester contre les taxes imposées par la monarchie anglaise sur les exportations de thé destinées aux colonies d’Amérique du Nord. Cette émeute, appelée ironiquement Tea Party, consistait, alors, à vider, dans le port de Boston, des sacs de thé saisis par les insurgés américains sur des navires britanniques.

Rébellion patriotique

L’appel à la Tea Party symbolisait, en 2010, une rébellion patriotique contre les excès de l’Etat fédéral, contre le « Big Government », la réincarnation moderne d’une monarchie abusive et dépensière.

Ce rappel farfelu de l’histoire américaine, cette réappropriation d’un passé lointain lancée à tout hasard par un journaliste passablement énervé, fut habilement saisi par des militants conservateurs, proches du Parti républicain, qui décidèrent d’utiliser le label de la Tea Party pour signaler leur colère contre l’establishment washingtonien. Très décentralisé, privé de ténors politiques, composé d’amateurs qui voulaient faire de la politique autrement, le mouvement apparaissait éphémère et voué à l’échec à cause de ses incohérences.

Pourtant, en six mois, cette organisation a acquis une légitimité, fondée sur de surprenants succès électoraux dans six Etats, lors des primaires sénatoriales, en août. La crédibilité du mouvement fut renforcée par le ralliement de personnalités conservatrices comme Sarah Palin, l’ex-gouverneure de l’Alaska, ou Jim DeMint, le sénateur républicain de la Caroline du Sud, qui ont cru se reconnaître dans un courant qui leur était au départ étranger.

« Sortez les sortants » ; « Affamez la bête », tels sont les slogans clés d’une révolte qui s’inscrit plus directement encore dans la tradition historique de l’« antifédéralisme » – tradition défendue par les adversaires du projet de Constitution fédérale, rédigé à Philadelphie, en 1787. La crainte des antifédéralistes était qu’un Etat central trop puissant ne porte atteinte aux libertés individuelles des citoyens, menacés de ruine par de nouveaux impôts fédéraux destinés à maintenir au pouvoir des parasites, imbus de grandeur et dévorés de prétentions aristocratiques.

« Ce nouveau pouvoir fédéral, écrivait « Brutus », le pseudonyme de l’un des leaders du mouvement antifédéraliste, s’introduira dans tous les coins de la ville et de la société… et son langage sera toujours le même, quelle que soit la classe d’hommes ou les circonstances. Il leur dira «PAYER, PAYER» » (27 décembre 1787).

Les militants de la Tea Party, comme leurs ancêtres antifédéralistes et les partisans de Ronald Reagan, dans les années 1980, ou ceux de Ross Perot (le candidat indépendant à l’élection présidentielle de 1992), veulent moins d’Etat, moins d’impôts et le retour à l’équilibre budgétaire. Ils dénoncent le coûteux plan de sauvetage des banques, le plan de relance de l’économie de 787 milliards de dollars (556,7 milliards d’euros), les dépenses induites par le programme de réforme de l’assurance-maladie, les hausses d’impôts prévues pour les plus riches, dont les revenus dépassent 250 000 dollars par an. Le programme politique des « insurgés » est manifestement démagogique et contradictoire, car il prône en même temps la baisse des impôts, l’abolition des droits de succession et la réduction du déficit budgétaire, tout en préservant un seuil élevé de dépenses militaires et les principaux acquis sociaux.

Les plus extrémistes prônent la privatisation du retrait des aides aux chômeurs, la suppression de toute progressivité fiscale, l’abandon du plan de relance voté par le Congrès, la fermeture des ministères de l’éducation et de l’énergie, bref, un chacun pour soi généralisé, sans la moindre considération pour les sujets les plus vulnérables de la société : les enfants, les chômeurs, les malades, les personnes âgées, les nouveaux immigrés… Reagan dénonçait jadis les « welfare queens », ces « reines de l’aide sociale » qui abusaient des subventions de l’Etat dans les ghettos noirs en conduisant, prétendait-il, des Cadillac.

Les militants de la Tea Party s’imaginent entourés de « welfare queens » partout et tout le temps ; ils vivent dans la hantise d’un « Big Government » omniprésent qui ruinera bientôt l’Amérique. Mais ils n’offrent pas de modèle de sortie de crise, bien au contraire : freiner brutalement les dépenses de l’Etat, dès cet automne, serait le meilleur moyen de prolonger la récession.

Les candidats de la Tea Party sont des amateurs qui ignorent tout de la langue de bois, à leurs risques et périls. Quelques exemples significatifs : Christine O’Donnell, du Delaware, qui l’emporta dans les primaires sénatoriales républicaines contre un homme chevronné de la politique, Mike Castle, soutenu par les modérés du parti de l’éléphant [animal emblème des républicains].

Opinions délirantes

Christine O’Donnell, comme Sarah Palin, s’exprime avec spontanéité sur tout et n’importe quoi, sans faire preuve du moindre recul critique. D’où ces affirmations recueillies par la presse : il faut interdire la masturbation parce que c’est une forme d’adultère ; la preuve que Darwin a tort : on ne voit pas de singes se transformer en êtres humains ; les préservatifs sont inutiles : ils ne protègent pas contre les maladies sexuellement transmissibles ; des scientifiques ont créé des souris qui fonctionnent avec des cerveaux humains…

A force de trop en dire ou de démentir des propos réellement tenus dans le passé, Mme O’Donnell devient la risée des médias, ce qui diminue ses chances de succès lors des élections de novembre. Sharron Angle, la candidate victorieuse de la Tea Party lors des primaires sénatoriales du Nevada, espère l’emporter contre Harry Reid, le leader de la majorité démocrate au Sénat.

Comme Mme O’Donnell, c’est une néophyte de la politique. Féroce critique de l’establishment républicain « aussi dépensier que le camp démocrate », elle souhaite abolir la plupart des régimes d’assistance sociale. Elle s’oppose aussi à toute couverture médicale obligatoire pour les enfants autistes ou les femmes enceintes au prétexte que ces conditions ne sont pas des maladies. Enfin, elle est convaincue qu’Obama est un dangereux « socialiste », dont le seul objectif est d’instaurer un Etat-providence de style européen.

Bien sûr, les héros de la Tea Party ne défendent pas tous des opinions aussi délirantes. Des candidats très conservateurs au poste de gouverneur comme Joe Miller, en Alaska, Rand Paul, dans le Kentucky, Marco Rubio, en Floride, et Rob Portman, dans l’Ohio, ont de bonnes chances de réussir. En fait, la vague de fond du mouvement de la Tea Party est si forte que les républicains peuvent espérer emporter la majorité des sièges à la Chambre des représentants, d’après les derniers sondages du mois d’octobre. Une telle victoire conduirait à une complète paralysie législative, et elle compromettrait les chances de réélection de Barack Obama, en 2012.

Certains journalistes influents utilisent le flambeau de la Tea Party pour donner une nouvelle légitimité à leurs conceptions pour le moins bizarres de l’histoire des Etats-Unis. Le plus visible aujourd’hui est Glenn Beck, un collaborateur de Fox News, qui anime notamment une émission didactique intitulée les « Vendredi des fondateurs ». Lors de ces émissions, Glenn Beck reconstruit, de façon hystérique, l’histoire des Etats-Unis en utilisant tous les rapprochements possibles et imaginables pour « détruire » ses adversaires politiques.

Barack Obama est ainsi décrit comme le traître par excellence, celui qui a rompu avec les Pères fondateurs. Ses origines, disait Glenn Beck, le 28 août sur Fox News, sont celles de tous les progressistes de gauche : « C’est 1848, Karl Marx, le socialisme ! » Sinistre Coluche, Glenn Beck laissait entendre, en 2009, d’après l’enquête menée par Dana Milbank pour le Washington Post, le 3 octobre, qu’Obama était un partisan de l’eugénisme, comme Woodrow Wilson et comme Hitler, puisqu’il était prêt à mettre en place, avec sa réforme du système d’assurance-maladie, des « tribunaux de la mort » : des médecins bureaucrates qui décideraient du droit de vie et de mort en fonction des fonds disponibles.

Le même Glenn Beck se réappropriait la grande marche sur Washington de Martin Luther King, pour en faire, quarante-sept ans plus tard, le 28 août, une manifestation dédiée aux militaires, aux patriotes et à tous les conservateurs de la Tea Party. Cette parodie du mouvement des droits civiques avait pour titre : « Restaurer l’honneur de l’Amérique ».

Le grand discours de King, « I have a dream », devenait, dans le remake de Beck, un discours insipide consacré « aux bonnes choses qui ont été réalisées en Amérique ». Pas question d’évoquer les « blessures de l’histoire », précisait Glenn Beck ; il fallait se concentrer sur l’avenir, sur « l’histoire de l’Amérique qui est l’histoire de l’humanité » tout entière. Et surtout, expliquait-il, évitons de transformer nos enfants en « esclaves des dettes de l’Etat fédéral ». On ne pouvait mieux travestir la pensée de Martin Luther King.

Ultraconservatisme

Quel a été l’effet du mouvement de la Tea Party sur le Parti républicain ? Les stratèges du Grand Old Party pouvaient craindre la scission d’un parti entre une aile modérée, composée de la majorité des sortants, et une faction radicale dominée par les tea partiers (partisans de la Tea Party). Il n’en est rien, parce que les élites du parti et leurs conseillers ont su coopter l’énergie du mouvement en l’insérant dans des réseaux militants et financiers préexistants.

Les militants de la Tea Party sont ainsi incités à se former à la bonne gestion des campagnes électorales dans des milliers de séminaires de cadres, organisés par des fondations privées comme Citizens for a Private Economy, Americans for Tax Reform, Regular Folks United, Americans for Prosperity ou FreedomWorks.

Ces fondations, financées par des partisans de l’ultralibéralisme – comme les milliardaires du Kansas, les frères David et Charles Koch -, utilisent tout le savoir-faire de vieux professionnels de la politique. FreedomWorks, la plus influente de ces fondations, est ainsi dirigée par Dick Armey, l’ancien chef de la majorité républicaine à la Chambre des représentants. Mais l’intégration réussie des militants de la Tea Party au sein du Grand Old Party a un coût : la droitisation de l’idéologie républicaine et la marginalisation des candidats les plus modérés, obligés d’adopter un discours répressif pour rester dans la course, ou de quitter un parti qui a cessé de les apprécier.

A terme, la droitisation du Parti républicain aura un effet probable sur les candidatures déjà officieusement annoncées pour l’élection présidentielle de 2012. Un modéré comme Mitt Romney sera sérieusement concurrencé par des candidats qui recevront l’aval ou revendiqueront l’appui du mouvement de la Tea Party. Les plus conservateurs, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee et Sarah Palin, sont désormais les « étoiles montantes » du Parti républicain.

L’issue des élections du 2 novembre dépendra, en bonne partie, du degré de mobilisation des électeurs les plus motivés du Parti démocrate : les jeunes, les Hispaniques, les Afro-Américains. Seront-ils plus nombreux à voter que les tea partiers, estimés à plus du tiers des électeurs du Parti républicain ?

Les partisans de l’Etat-providence l’emporteront-ils contre les nouveaux anti-fédéralistes ? L’enjeu est de taille, car il s’agit de savoir si la majorité des électeurs américains sera capable de surmonter cette maladie infantile de l’ultraconservatisme que le grand historien Richard Hofstadter qualifiait jadis de « style paranoïaque en politique américaine ».

Voir egalement:

Le Tea Party dans le texte

Liberation

02/11/2010

«Dieu», «Hitler», «sorcière» : lexique des candidats de la nouvelle droite américaine.

Lorraine Millot (à Washington), Fabrice Rousselot (à Los Angeles)

Ce n’est pas un parti, mais il pourrait faire basculer l’équilibre des pouvoirs à Washington. Populaire et populiste, ultraconservateur, nourri par la crise économique, le Tea Party est né d’une colère revendiquée contre les élites et d’une haine absolue pour les dépenses publiques. Le mouvement a ses têtes d’affiche, comme le commentateur de Fox News Glenn Beck ou l’ex-gouverneure de l’Alaska Sarah Palin, et soutient plus de 100 candidats pour ce scrutin à mi-mandat. Si son programme reste flou, le Tea Party a son propre vocabulaire, révélateur du message qu’il entend porter dans la capitale américaine.

Constitution

Revenir à l’Amérique des Pères fondateurs. Tous les candidats en appellent notamment au deuxième amendement, qui garantit à chaque citoyen le droit de porter des armes. «Il faut leur dire, à Washington, on ne lâchera pas notre Constitution, nos armes et notre dieu», martèle Sarah Palin à chacune de ses interventions.

DeathPanel

Le terme, que l’on peut traduire par «commission de la mort», a été lancé par Sarah Palin en 2009 et il a beaucoup contribué à faire dérailler le débat autour de la réforme de la santé. «Mes parents ou mon bébé qui est trisomique devront comparaître devant la commission de la mort d’Obama pour que des bureaucrates puissent décider s’ils méritent d’être soignés», avait assuré Palin.

Déficit

Ces militants ultraconservateurs ne supportent pas les dépenses gouvernementales et la dette publique. Durant leurs manifestations, ils prennent généralement pour cible le fameux Stimulus Package d’Obama. Pour eux, les 800 milliards dépensés n’ont pas servi à sauver l’économie, mais à creuser la dette et à sauver des banques «qui auraient dû subir la loi du marché».

Dieu

«Je crois que les gens se tournent vers Dieu car ils réalisent que c’est notre sauveur et que le gouvernement ne peut pas nous sauver. Plus le gouvernement est grand et plus Dieu est petit et vice-versa», a un jour déclaré le sénateur de Caroline du Sud Jim DeMint. Les candidats du Tea Party militent pour le retour de la prière à l’école.

Fox News

La chaîne de Rupert Murdoch est la référence du Tea Party. Pour lui, la presse américaine dans son ensemble est une presse «libérale» (au sens américain, du terme, donc de gauche), qui passe son temps à proférer des «mensonges». La plupart des candidats refusent d’accorder des interviews, notamment Sharron Angle, qui postule au siège de sénatrice du Nevada, et qui avait dit un jour : «On voudrait que les journaux soient nos amis, qu’ils posent uniquement les questions auxquelles nous voudrions répondre.»

Grand Old Party

Le Grand Old Party est à la fois un ancrage et un repoussoir. Beaucoup des animateurs, nationaux et locaux, du Tea Party sont issus du Parti républicain. Mais le Tea Party se veut indépendant et souvent critique du parti, jugé trop dispendieux de l’argent des contribuables durant les années Bush. «Les républicains ont perdu leurs références, ils ont perdu leurs principes», a ainsi attaqué Sharron Angle.

Hitler

Ne reculant devant aucune outrance, certains porte-voix du Tea Party invoquent aussi régulièrement le Führer… pour assurer que Barack Obama serait un de ses disciples. Le commentateur de Fox News Glenn Beck est particulièrement obsédé par ce personnage, sans être le seul. En avril 2009, il comparait par exemple le renflouement des compagnies automobiles américaines aux débuts du nazisme en Allemagne : «Je ne dis pas que Barack Obama est un fasciste. Si je ne me trompe pas, aux premiers jours d’Adolf Hitler, les gens étaient aussi très contents de faire la queue pour être aidés.»

Impôts

Il suffit de parler de taxes à un représentant du Tea Party pour qu’il voie rouge. Plusieurs candidats proposent par exemple «d’abolir l’école publique», ce qui à leurs yeux permettrait d’alléger les impôts locaux. Dans le Kentucky, Rand Paul, qui concourt pour le poste de sénateur, veut mettre fin à l’impôt sur le revenu et le remplacer par une sorte de TVA.

Man up!

La virilité est aussi une des valeurs revendiquées par le Tea Party… et notamment par ses candidates. Leur expression clé : «Man up!» que l’on peut traduire par : «Sois un homme, un vrai !» Sarah Palin est coutumière de l’expression (et de bien pires encore, puisqu’elle a aussi reproché à Barack Obama de manquer de «cojones», de couilles, en espagnol). Dans le Colorado, le candidat Ken Buck met aussi sa virilité en avant. Pourquoi voter pour lui ? «Je porte des bottes de cowboy, avec de la vraie merde de taureau dessus, a-t-il dit. Et c’est de la merde du comté de Weld, pas de la merde de Washington !»

Mur de Berlin

L’idée vient de Joe Miller, le candidat au Sénat en Alaska. «La première chose que nous devons faire est de sécuriser nos frontières. L’Allemagne de l’Est a été très efficace à réduire le flux [d’immigration]», a-t-il déclaré à l’un de ses meetings. L’immigration est l’une des obsessions des militants, qui estiment par exemple que la réforme du système de santé sert surtout «à payer les soins de tous les immigrants illégaux».

Barack

«Nous n’avons rien contre sa personne, c’est sa politique qui nous hérisse», expliquent souvent les militants. A voir. Les leaders du Tea Party ne cessent de traiter le Président de «socialiste», de «communiste» ou de «musulman». Parmi les millions d’attaques, voici ce que disait Glenn Beck, en février: «Barack Obama a choisi d’utiliser ce nom de Barack pour s’identifier, mais pas à l’Amérique. On ne prend pas le nom de Barack pour s’identifier à l’Amérique. On prend le nom de Barack pour s’identifier à quoi ? A ses ancêtres ? A son père au Kenya peut-être, qui est un extrémiste ?»

Peuple

Mais aussi «rébellion» et «révolution». Le mouvement est unanime : le Tea Party représente la «révolte du peuple» contre Washington et l’establishment politique. Tous ceux qui font campagne avec l’étiquette Tea Party se présentent comme des «outsiders» face aux «politiciens professionnels». Carl Paladino, le candidat haut en couleur au poste de gouverneur de New York, a même proposé «d’aller nettoyer Albany [la capitale de l’Etat, NDLR]» avec sa batte de base-ball.

Socialisme

Un autre grand épouvantail des Tea Parties. A les écouter, le socialisme serait en train de ruiner les Etats-Unis et d’anéantir toutes les libertés conquises depuis la révolution américaine. Tous les programmes sociaux du pays, même ceux en place bien avant Obama, sont ainsi qualifiés de «socialistes». «L’Amérique est maintenant une économie socialiste», explique par exemple Christine O’Donnell, candidate dans le Delaware.

Sorcière

Il s’agit là d’une particularité de Christine O’Donnell. Dans ses folles années 1990, alors qu’elle était déjà très appréciée sur les plateaux de télévision pour ses positions contre la masturbation, la future candidate avait raconté avoir un peu tâté de la sorcellerie. Pour tenter de retourner cette idiotie en sa faveur, elle en a fait un spot de campagne : «Je ne suis pas une sorcière… Je suis vous.»

Voir enfin:

The Tea Party Last Time

ROBERT ZARETSKY

The NYT

February 3, 2010

Houston

MORE than 100,000 angry citizens united in the nation’s capital to take their country back: back from the tax collector and the political and financial elites, back from bureaucrats and backroom wheelers and dealers and, more elusively and alarmingly, back from those who, well, were not like them.

These weren’t the incensed Americans who helped elect Scott Brown in the Massachusetts Senate race and who rallied around conservative candidates in the Illinois primary on Tuesday; this scene didn’t take place at the Tea Party demonstration in Washington last year. These protesters were gathered in France a half-century ago: Last week was the 55th anniversary of the mass demonstration in Paris of the Poujadist movement, a phenomenon that bears a close resemblance to our own Tea Party. For a brief moment, the movement threatened the very foundations of the French Republic. A comparison between France then and America now may be instructive.

In the 1950s, postwar reconstruction and the Marshall Plan transformed France, which had been largely rural and agricultural, into a rapidly urbanizing and industrializing nation. While many welcomed these sweeping social and economic changes — it was the era of Formica and frigos (refrigerators) — many others feared and resented them.

Ever since the nation’s liberation in 1945, a deep division had run down the middle of the French ideological spectrum: the Gaullists and Catholics on the one side, the Communists and their fellow travelers on the other. The political center had evaporated in the crucible of the cold war. The parliamentary system became ever more dysfunctional, lurching from one crisis to another as the competing parties accused one another of working against the interests of the man in the street.

The man (and woman) in the street had a different take. Neither the traditional right nor left seemed interested in his plight. Inflation dogged his heels and the influx of consumer and cultural goods from America breathed ever more warmly on his neck. Yet in the face of this widespread anxiety, the professional political class seemed indifferent. At this critical moment, Pierre Poujade leapt onto the national stage.

A stationer in Saint-Céré, a small town in southwestern France, Poujade mobilized his fellow shopkeepers against government tax inspectors in 1953. He found a ready audience: le petit commerçant was increasingly squeezed between the spread of chain stores and a heavy-handed state bureaucracy.

Poujade (who was, of course, the satisfied recipient of many state benefits, from retirement pensions to health insurance) channeled the swelling of popular resentment by creating the Union for the Defense of Shopkeepers and Artisans. By the end of the year, membership had rocketed, transforming the group from a provincial curiosity to a real and present danger to politics as usual.

Short and barrel-chested — he had once been a dockworker — Poujade had a booming voice that amplified the anxiety of his populist followers. France’s woes, he declared, were due to an urbane and urban professional class that had “lost all contact with the real world.” In his autobiography, titled “I’ve Chosen to Fight,” Poujade styled himself as a simple man of the people who had entered politics for selfless and patriotic reasons.

The real France, he insisted, was found not in Paris, but in small towns and on farms. It was certainly not found in the person of France’s most promising politician, Pierre Mendès-France, who as prime minister had acted on many of his campaign promises for meaningful economic and political change. For Poujade, the young and cerebral Mendès-France, a Sephardic Jew whose family had lived in France for several generations, was and would always be a foreigner.

By Jan. 24, 1955, when the shopkeepers’ group staged its huge rally in Paris, the movement’s nostalgic longing for a simpler time had veered toward violent anti-parliamentarianism. There were also overtones of anti-Americanism (rumors flew that Coca-Cola had bought Notre-Dame with the intention of turning its western façade into a billboard) and anti-Semitism. The group’s rallying cry — Sortez les sortants! (“Throw the bums out!”) — challenged the right as well as the left.

During the subsequent national elections, the Poujadists bulldozed their way into town meetings, shouting down opposing candidates and threatening violence: a grim rehearsal for Tea Party tactics during last year’s health care debates. Their tactics, if not their platform — they did not, in fact, have one — worked. Poujade’s party won more than 10 percent of the votes, taking more than 50 seats in the National Assembly.

The election, though, proved to be Poujade’s swan song. He had demanded the nation’s ear, but once he and his fellow deputies had it, they had nothing substantive to say. Slogans and placards were poor preparation for governance, and the group’s rank and file soon either retreated from the political arena or joined the traditional right.

By 1958, most Poujadists were ready to throw their support behind a far more impressive opponent of the Fourth Republic, Charles de Gaulle. When de Gaulle assumed power and held a referendum that replaced the parliamentary system with an authoritarian executive, Poujade’s former adherents overwhelmingly voted yes. As for Poujade himself, he had already become a footnote to French history.

Historical parallelism is the duct tape of my profession: we apply it to the most disparate things. Sooner or later the tape frays, revealing unique fissures that require individual attention. Perhaps this is the case with the Poujadists and the Tea Partiers. Saint-Céré is far from Wasilla, Alaska; questioning Mendès-France’s origins is not quite the same as demanding President Obama’s birth certificate; the mendacity in the claim of France’s imminent coca-colonization is of a different order from that concerning the misinformation about death panels in the United States. In both instances, however, the despair and disconnect with politics seem similarly great and real, as does the common tendency to grasp for simple solutions to complex problems.

Tea Party activists might find it infuriating ever to be compared to the nation they consider the anti-America. But French observers of our country may be forgiven if they feel a certain déjà vu when they see a movement that brings nothing to the ballot box except anger.

Robert Zaretsky, a professor of French history at the University of Houston Honors College, is the author of “Albert Camus: Elements of a Life.”


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