Héritage Obama: Attention, un monstre peut en cacher un autre ! (The “Legacy of Obama” can be explained in one word: Trump)

20 février, 2017
osmonster obamaangel
Obamastein

Le monde moderne n’est pas mauvais : à certains égards, il est bien trop bon. Il est rempli de vertus féroces et gâchées. Lorsqu’un dispositif religieux est brisé (comme le fut le christianisme pendant la Réforme), ce ne sont pas seulement les vices qui sont libérés. Les vices sont en effet libérés, et ils errent de par le monde en faisant des ravages ; mais les vertus le sont aussi, et elles errent plus férocement encore en faisant des ravages plus terribles. Le monde moderne est saturé des vieilles vertus chrétiennes virant à la folie.  G.K. Chesterton
Tous les grands événements et personnages historiques se répètent pour ainsi dire deux fois […] la première fois comme tragédie, la seconde fois comme farce. Marx
Il faut constamment se battre pour voir ce qui se trouve au bout de son nez. George Orwell
Le plus difficile n’est pas de dire ce que l’on voit mais d’accepter de voir ce que l’on voit. Charles Péguy
Qui veut noyer son chien l’accuse de la rage. La Fontaine
Nous crions d’un bout à l’autre de l’Afrique : Attention, l’Amérique a la rage. Tranchons tous les liens qui nous rattachent à elle, sinons nous serons à notre tour mordus et enragés. Sartre (1953)
The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing. (…) We created an echo chamber. They were saying things that validated what we had given them to say. Ben Rhodes (conseiller du président Obama)
When a Republican congressman on MSNBC brought up a 2012 incident where President Barack Obama was caught on a hot mic promising to give Russia’s Vladimir Putin a little more “flexibility” after the election, NBC journalist and MSNBC host Katy Tur seemed not to recall the incident. Tur pressed Florida Representative Francis Rooney about the number of Donald Trump advisors with close tie to Russia. “I see a lot of folks within Donald Trump’s administration who have a friendlier view of Russia than maybe past administrations did,” she noted. “Well, I think it was Obama that leaned over to Putin and said, ‘I’ll have a little more flexibility to give you what you want after the re-election,’” Rooney responded. Tur paused for a moment. “I’m sorry, I don’t know what you’re referring to, Congressman,” she said. “Remember when he leaned over at a panel discussion or in a meeting, and he said, ‘I’ll have more flexibility after the election’?” Rooney asked. “No one pushed the president on what he meant by that, but I can only assume for a thug like Putin that it would embolden him,” which gave Tur pause, again. In Tur’s defense, Rooney is slightly off in his retelling: it was then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev who Obama whispered to, who then promised to relay Obama’s message to Putin. But his recollection of the content of Obama’s message was accurate: “This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility,” he told the Russians. Obama’s hot mic comments were major news at the time, receiving widespread coverage. Obama’s Republican opponent Mitt Romney seized upon the gaffe and worked it into his stump speeches, even bringing it up during one of the presidential debates. Mediaite
Donald Trump est ici ce soir et je sais qu’il s’est pris des critiques ces derniers temps, mais personne n’est plus heureux, plus fier, que cette affaire de certificat de naissance soit enfin réglée que le Donald. Et c’est parce qu’il va maintenant pouvoir se concentrer sur les problèmes importants. Par exemple, notre vol sur la Lune était-il un faux? Qu’est-il vraiment arrivé à Roswell? Et où sont Biggie et Tupac ?  Barack Obama
Cette soirée d’humiliation publique, plutôt que d’éloigner M. Trump (de la scène politique), a accéléré ses efforts féroces pour gagner en stature au sein du monde politique. Et cela illustre jusqu’à quel point la campagne de Trump est inspirée par un besoin profond (qui est) parfois obscurci par ses fanfaronnades et vantardises : un désir d’être pris au sérieux. The NY Times
La présidence Obama a inventé une propagande branchée, une communication cool. Au cœur de cette stratégie  : les réseaux sociaux, qui ont largement porté sa victoire en 2008. L’engagement numérique de la campagne du «Yes We Can» a d’ailleurs été décortiqué par les équipes de com du monde entier. Tandis que la droite américaine propageait son venin conspirationniste par de bonnes vieilles chaînes de mails –  le candidat démocrate aurait menti sur son certificat de naissance, serait musulman…  –, Obama prenait mille longueurs d’avance, touchant un public beaucoup plus large, plus jeune. «En 2008, les efforts de son adversaire, John McCain, pour tenter de le rattraper sur les réseaux sociaux étaient presque pathétiques», se souvient Michael Barris, coauteur de The Social Media President (Palgrave, 2013). L’équipe du sénateur de l’Illinois a compris l’intérêt de Facebook, de Twitter –  plus tard viendront Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn…  – pour lever des fonds, diffuser des messages, obtenir des soutiens, grâce à ce porte-à-porte virtuel d’un nouveau genre. «Obama s’est fait élire sur des promesses de démocratie participative via les réseaux sociaux, rappelle Michael Barris. Mais finalement, les réseaux sociaux ont surtout été pour lui un formidable outil de diffusion, de validation par le public, et de promotion d’une image très positive : celle d’un président branché, connecté, proche des gens.» Viser un public, via le bon médium, avec le bon ton : huit ans que le président américain, avec son équipe de quatorze personnes dédiée à la stratégie numérique, montre sa maîtrise. Et son adaptation à l’évolution des usages. La Maison Blanche est devenue une véritable boîte de production, avec plus de 500 vidéos réalisées chaque année (infographies, coulisses…), distribuées sur les différentes plateformes (site officiel, YouTube, Facebook…). «Le premier président de l’ère des médias sociaux a fixé les règles d’interactions numériques entre politiques et électeurs, écrit le Washington Post. Certains chefs d’Etat se préoccupaient des chaînes d’info ; Obama est le président ­Netflix.» (….) Mais le président américain ne laisse rien au hasard : cette spontanéité est surtout parfaitement chorégraphiée, écrite à l’avance par des équipes d’auteurs talentueux. D’autodérision, il en a beaucoup fait preuve lors du dîner annuel des correspondants à la Maison Blanche, véritable scène de stand-up pour le président sortant. Maîtrise des silences, des regards, intonations, vidéos bien ficelées… Ces soirs-là, Obama fait de l’humour une technique de dégoupillage imparable des critiques. Comme en 2011, alors que la droite le harcèle une nouvelle fois sur son certificat de naissance. Pour faire taire les rumeurs, il annonce la «diffusion exclusive de la vidéo de sa mise au monde» –  en fait, le début du Roi Lion de Disney. Dans la salle, Donald Trump, déjà porte-voix de ces allégations, ne moufte pas. Les journalistes, qui rient à gorge déployée, ont laissé leurs armes au vestiaire. Libération
Chacun sait que notre époque de fausse liberté a accouché d’une tyrannie de la pensée dont la sage-femme devenue folle était déguisée en antiraciste diplômée. Valeurs Actuelles en a fait les frais en osant voiler Marianne pour défendre la laïcité républicaine contre les menées islamistes et Pascal Bruckner comme Georges Bensoussan payeront peut-être le prix pour des raisons voisines. Silence dans les rangs de la gauche paraît-il démocratique. Mais aujourd’hui vient d’éclater une tout autre affaire dans laquelle, au contraire, le racisme comme l’antisémitisme n’ont rien d’imaginaire. Et je prends le pari, qu’ici, précisément, les organisations prétendument antiracistes resteront aux abris. La vedette s’appelle Mehdi Meklat, hier encore il était la coqueluche de la famille islamo-gauchiste et de tous ses compagnons de chambrée. Dans le numéro du 1er février des Inrockuptibles il partageait la une avec l’icône Taubira. Il collaborait aussi avec le Bondy Blog, très engagé dans le combat actuel contre les policiers considérés uniment comme des tortionnaires racistes. Il était encore récemment chroniqueur de la radio active de service public France Inter. Oui mais voilà, patatras, on a retrouvé parmi les milliers de tweets qu’il n’a pas réussi à effacer des gazouillis racistes du dernier cri strident. Échantillons choisis : “je crache des glaires sur la sale gueule de Charb et tous ceux de Charlie hebdo”. “Sarkozy = la synagogue = les juifs = Shalom = oui, mon fils = l’argent”, “Faites entrer Hitler pour tuer les juifs”, “j’ai gagné 20 $ au PMU, je ne les ai pas rejoués parce que je suis un juif”, “les Blancs vous devez mourir asap” etc. Avec une touchante spontanéité, à présent qu’ils ont été découverts, voici ce que notre Mehdi a tweeté samedi dernier : “je m’excuse si ces tweets ont pu choquer certains d’entre vous : ils sont obsolètes”. Bah voyons, certains datent de 2012, autant dire le déluge. J’en connais qui vont fouiller les poubelles du père Le Pen, d’autres qui reprochent à un ancien conseiller de Sarkozy d’avoir dirigé Minute il y a 30 ans, mais dans notre cas, certains plaident déjà l’Antiquité… Gilles-William Goldnadel
Mehdi Meklat, 24 ans, était jusqu’ici connu pour son ton décalé. Du Bondy Blog, à France Inter en passant par Arte, le chroniqueur, journaliste et auteur, s’est taillé, avec son compère Badrou (« les Kids », époque France Inter) une réputation de porte-voix de la jeunesse, « à l’avant garde d’une nouvelle génération venue de banlieue » écrivaient encore Les Inrocks le 1er février. Sauf qu’entre temps, des internautes ont exhumé des tweets de Meklat : injures antisémites, homophobes, racistes, misogynes. Un florilège qui provoque la sidération. De son côte, le jeune homme s’excuse, dépublie, et assure qu’il s’agissait « de questionner la notion d’excès et de provocation » à travers un « personnage fictif ». Faire mentir les stéréotypes sur les-jeunes-de-banlieue. Sans rien renier de soi. Depuis ses débuts au Bondy Blog en 2008, c’est ce que Mehdi Meklat tente de faire, au gré d’une exposition médiatique précoce. A 24 ans désormais, après avoir fait ses premiers pas de journaliste au Bondy Blog à 16 ans, puis tenu chronique pendant six ans chez France Inter en duo avec son ami Badrou (« les Kids »), Meklat le touche à tout (réalisateur, blogueur, reporter) est en promo pour un second livre. Mehdi et Badrou « l’avant-garde d’une nouvelle génération venue de banlieue qui compte bien faire entendre sa voix » écrivaient les Inrocks qui leur consacraient une couverture le 1er février en compagnie de Christiane Taubira. Un binôme qui avait tapé dans l’œil de l’animatrice de France Inter Pascale Clark dès 2010, pour son ton « décalé », sa capacité à chroniquer avec autant d’acuité la vie de l’autre côté du périph (Meklat a grandi à Saint-Ouen, Badrou à la Courneuve) que le tout venant de l’actualité plus « médiatique ». Et voilà que depuis quelques jours, après son passage sur le plateau de l’émission la Grande Librairie (France 5) pour la promo de son second livre, le roman « Minute » (co-écrit avec Badrou), Meklat est dans l’œil du cyclone Twitter. Propulsé dans les sujets les plus discutés non pas pour la promotion de son nouvel ouvrage dédié à Adama Traoré. Mais pour des tweets, exhumés ces derniers jours par plusieurs internautes. Pas quelques tweets isolés. Mais des messages par dizaines, anciens (2012) et pour certains plus récents (2016) dans lesquels Meklat tape tous azimuts sur « les Français », « les juifs », « les homos », Alain Finkelkraut, Charlie Hebdo, les séropositifs, les « travelos »… La liste est longue, et les messages à même d’interpeller. Une prose en 140 signes qui tranche avec l’image de jeune talent à la plume « poétique » et acérée que Meklat s’était jusqu’ici taillée et qui lui a valu jusqu’à aujourd’hui des articles dithyrambiques dans la presse culturelle. Quelques heures auront suffit pour que, soient exhumés et massivement partagés des dizaines de messages issus de son compte twitter personnel @mehdi_meklat. (…) Parmi les premiers et les plus zélés chasseurs de tweets, la fachosphère s’est ruée sur l’occasion. Le blog d’extrême droite Fdesouche publie à tout-va plus d’une cinquantaine de messages de Meklat « journaliste homophobe et antisémite du Bondy blog ». Le site d’extrême droite Boulevard Voltaire, fondé par Robert Ménard, trouve là prétexte à acculer la « gauchosphère sous son vrai visage », quand l’ex-porte parole de génération identitaire s’en donne, lui aussi, à coeur joie. Très vite rejoint dans cette avalanche d’indignation par Marion Maréchal Le Pen. Ce dimanche, la twitta-éditorialiste du Figaro Eugénie Bastié y allait aussi de ses commentaires en 140 signes, suivis d’un article corrosif, soulignant bien au passage que Meklat avait fondé il y a peu avec le journaliste Mouloud Achour (CliqueTV) les « éditions du grand Remplacement » qui ont lancé en juin dernier un magazine baptisé « Téléramadan ». Cette nouvelle revue annuelle qui entend parler d’islam de façon dépassionnée, avait su trouver un titre pied-de-nez déjà à même de faire bondir certains. Mais dans le cas des tweets de Meklat, de fait, la sidération dépasse de loin la sphère des militants de droite et d’extrême droite. D’autres aussi s’indignent : de simples twittos, mais aussi des journalistes, tels Françoise Laborde, Claude Askolovitch, des élus PS comme la ministre de la Famille Laurence Rossignol, ou encore la conseillère municipale Elodie Jauneau sans compter le délégué interministériel à la lutte contre le racisme et l’antisémitisme Gille Clavreul. Ils interpellent les Inrocks qui ont placé Meklat en Une de leur numéro du 1er février au côté de Taubira. Ils apostrophent également les éditions du Seuil où Meklat vient de publier son ouvrage, et font part de leur stupéfaction. A l’image de l’auteur de bande dessinée, romancier et réalisateur, Joann Sfar qui s’étrangle : « Je découvre tout ça ce matin, il semble que c’est authentique. Je trouve ça inexcusable quand on se veut représentant de la jeunesse. » Face à l’avalanche de messages indignés, sommé de s’expliquer, samedi après-midi, Meklat se fend finalement de quatre tweets d’excuse et d’explication : « je m’excuse si ces tweets ont pu choquer certains d’entre vous : ils sont obsolètes », assure Meklat qui supprimera dans la foulée la totalité de ses tweets d’avant février 2017 (plus de 30 000). Surtout, il affirme que ces messages ne reflètent en rien sa pensée. Il ne nie pas en être l’auteur, mais assure qu’il s’agit de messages parodiques. « Jusqu’en 2015, sous le pseudo Marcelin Deschamps, j’incarnais un personnage honteux raciste antisémite misogyne homophobe sur Twitter ». Marcellin Deschamps ? Un « personnage fictif », assure-t-il par lequel il avait entrepris de « questionner la notion d’excès et de provocation ». Mais, il l’affirme : les propos de ce personnage « ne représentent évidemment pas ma pensée et en sont tout l’inverse. » Sur Twitter, une fois troqué son pseudo contre son vrai patronyme, le jeune homme n’a pas supprimé ces anciens messages, apparaissant depuis sous son vrai nom Mehdi Meklat. Dans la foulée, ce samedi, l’animatrice radio Pascale Clark, ex chaperonne de Meklat à France Inter (2010-2015) a pris sa défense « Son personnage odieux, fictif, ne servait qu’à dénoncer », assure-t-elle sur Twitter avant de préciser dans un second message : « Les comiques font ça à longueur d’antenne et tout le monde applaudit ». Un peu facile de se cacher derrière un personnage fictif ? A la remarque de plusieurs internautes, le journaliste Claude Askolovitch tempère : « c’est même piteux. Mais cela ne change pas la nature de ses messages pourris – une énorme connerie, pas des appels au meurtre ». Si le journaliste ne cache pas son dégoût pour ces messages qu’il assimile à « des excréments verbaux », « des blagues absolument laides, impardonnables, perverses », « dans un jeu périlleux », il se refuse à y voir de « vraies prises de position ». Tout en tançant « un mec qui s’est cru assez malin pour twitter des immondices ». « Twitter des immondices », sous pseudo dans « un jeu périlleux » ? Yagg, le site de presse LGBT y avait vu davantage qu’un jeu. Le site avait bondi en mars 2014 quand Meklat écrivait sur Twitter : « Christophe Barbier a des enfants séropo ». Yagg le taxe alors d’ « humour sérophobe », « au goût douteux » (visant des personnes séropositives). Le site avait contacté Meklat pour qu’il s’en explique. Réponse de l’intéressé : « J’ai un pseudo sur Twitter, il ne faut pas faire d’amalgame entre mon personnage et moi-même ». Contacté par Yagg, il développait : « Je peux comprendre qu’on se sente insulté par mes tweets, car ils sont parfois extrêmes, provocants ou insultants, mais il ne faut pas en faire des tonnes(…) J’ai créé un personnage violent, provocant, méchant. Pourquoi? Je ne me l’explique pas à moi-même, alors je ne peux pas l’expliquer aux autres. Mais je ne suis pas du tout homophobe. » En octobre 2012, les Inrocks consacraient un portrait élogieux (comme beaucoup) aux gamins précoces Mehdi Meklat et Badroudine Saïd Abdallah, alias « les Kids » de France inter qui entamaient leur quatrième saison sur les ondes de la radio publique. « Un matin, ils partent avec leur micro enregistrer la plainte de la vallée de Florange abandonnée, le lendemain ils sont à l’Elysée et tapent la discute avec Michael Haeneke » écrivent les Inrocks qui dressent le portrait de deux « gamins « talentueux », de « vrais passe-murailles ». Comme beaucoup, l’hebdo s’enthousiasme de leur « reportages poétiques » et de leur « style unique ». Les Inrocks notent : « ils attirent les sympathies ». Quant à Meklat ? Au passage, l’hebdo raconte que c’est « le plus provoc » de deux. « Il faut le voir sur Twitter, vaguement caché derrière un pseudo depuis longtemps éventé : c’est une vraie terreur. Il se pose en métallo furieux, insulte à tout va, se moque de tout et de tous avec une férocité indécente » écrivent les Inrocks qui commentent : « Ça peut aller trop loin (France Inter lui a déjà demandé de retirer un tweet) mais la plupart du temps, c’est drôle à mourir. » Et Meklat d’expliquer déjà que sur le réseau social il « joue un personnage » : « Je ne suis attaché à rien, je n’ai de comptes à rendre à personne, j’ai la liberté de dire ce que je veux. C’est un terrain de jeu, j’y abuse de tout, je ne me mets pas de limite. » Trois ans plus tard. Octobre 2015. Les « Kids » de Pascale Clark ont grandi. Lorsque Le Monde les interviewe pour la sortie de leur premier livre, la journaliste s’attarde sur le cas Meklat. « Si doux et poli à la ville, Mehdi s’est inventé sur Twitter un double diabolique, qui insulte à tout-va », écrit Le Monde. Meklat commente alors : « Tout est trop convenu, on n’ose plus s’énerver. L’idée de casser ça en étant méchant gratuitement me plaît ». En septembre 2016, dans un long article, la journaliste Marie-France Etchegoin revenait pour M le magazine du Monde sur le parcours et l’état d’esprit du tandem Mehdi-Badrou, « une nouvelle génération, à la fois cool et dure, investissant le champ de la culture plutôt que celui des partis politiques, et extrêmement engagée ». Engagée, brillante et convoitée. Comme l’explique M, le duo Mehdi-Badrou est sollicité de toutes parts, ces dernier temps. Ici pour pour un projet avec la Fondation Cartier, là pour écrire un dossier de presse pour un long-métrage avec Depardieu. Ou encore pour mettre en scène la pièce d’un auteur suédois. Quant à leur magazine Téléramadan, la revue annuelle « des musulmans qui ne veulent plus s’excuser d’exister », la journaliste explique que « Pierre Bergé mais aussi Agnès b ont accepté de soutenir la revue ». Parfait. Seul bémol dans la success story, observe la journaliste : « Les bonnes fées qui accompagnent les deux garçons depuis l’adolescence observent leur évolution, avec parfois une pointe d’inquiétude, qui n’empêche ni bienveillance ni compréhension. » Concrètement ? Il est question notamment de Meklat et de son usage de Twitter. « Un troll déchaîné qui déconne et dézingue à tout-va. «Giclez-lui sa mère», «On s’en bat les couilles», «Elle est pas morte, celle-là?» « , énumère la journaliste qui constate : « il se défoule sur des personnalités dont les manières ou les prises de position sur l’islam n’ont pas l’heur de lui plaire ». Certains parrains et autres bonnes fées, explique la journaliste, s’en soucient : « «Arrête ces Tweets! Tu n’es pas dans une cour de récréation!» Mouloud Achour le met en garde: «Les écrits restent, un jour on te les ressortira.». Quant à Mehdi, raconte la journaliste, il « se défend, la main sur le cœur: «Ce n’est pas moi, c’est un personnage que j’ai inventé», ne pouvant s’empêcher d’ajouter, comme dans un lapsus: «Mes Tweets sont des pulsions!» » Meklat et son avatar pulsionnel, une histoire qui ne date pas d’hier. Un double « je » qui ne semble pas géner Meklat, mais qui ne met pas tout le monde à l’aise. Ce dimanche, l’animateur de la Grande Librairie (France 5) François Busnel, qui avait invité Meklat cette semaine publie un communiqué pour prendre ses distances avec son invité. Busnel y affirme que si il avait eu connaissance de ces messages, il n’aurait pas invité le jeune homme dans son émission. Samedi, le Bondy Blog, pressé par une foule d’internautes de réagir, avait également publié un message sur Twitter , expliquant que « les tweets de Meklat n’engagent en aucun cas la responsabilité de la rédaction ». Et le média de préciser : « Puisqu’il y a des évidences qu’il faut affirmer, le Bondy Blog ne peut cautionner des propos antisémites, sexistes, homophobes, racistes, ou tout autre propos discriminatoires et stigmatisants, même sur le ton de l’humour ». Arrêt sur images
Des milliers de manifestants anti-Trump ont défilé à New York lundi et dans plusieurs villes américaines à l’occasion du « Presidents Day », un jour férié en l’honneur des présidents des Etats-Unis. Au cri de « Pas mon président! », quelque 10’000 manifestants  – selon une estimation officieuse de la police – de tous âges et toutes origines se sont rassemblés devant le Trump International Hotel de New York près de Central Park, pour exprimer une nouvelle fois leur opposition au milliardaire républicain un mois jour pour jour après son entrée en fonction.  Les activistes anti-Trump avaient appelé à détourner les célébrations du « Presidents Day » au profit d’un « Not My President Day » avec des rassemblements dans plusieurs villes, dont Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta et Washington. Par ailleurs, environ 7000 opposants à Donald Trump ont manifesté lundi aux abords du parlement britannique contre le projet de visite d’Etat du président américain à Londres. Cela au moment même où les députés débattaient du sujet. Une pétition demandant que sa visite ne soit pas « d’Etat » – ce qui pourrait mettre la reine dans l’embarras -, a recueilli 1,8 million de signatures. RTS info
Fuir Washington, le temps d’un week-end de trois jours. Donald Trump attendait impatiemment cette escapade en Floride, devant ses irréductibles supporteurs, fidèles de la première heure, qui se font si rares depuis un mois à Washington. Oublier le froid, le crachin pendant le discours d’investiture, ces médias «malhonnêtes», ces manifestants acrimonieux, les fuites des services secrets, la fronde de la Justice face à son décret sur l’immigration, celle du Congrès face à ses plans grandioses de mur à la frontière mexicaine, le limogeage à contrecœur du général Michael Flynn, son conseiller à la sécurité nationale, éclaboussé par la «Russian Connection», et les centaines de nominations gouvernementales en souffrance. Mais tout cela n’a que peu d’importance pour le «peuple de Trump». «Nous l’aimons et nous sommes venus le lui dire», s’exclame Sheila Gaylor, une résidente de Melbourne, où le président fait escale le temps d’un rassemblement populaire. Comme durant la campagne, lorsque l’adrénaline le poussait de l’avant. Cette ivresse s’est tarie, mais voici l’occasion de la ressusciter, grâce à un bain de foule régénérateur, et de remettre le tribun sur orbite, loin du «marigot» fédéral si difficile à «assécher». Dans le hangar 6 de l’aérodrome local, plusieurs milliers de Floridiens, blancs pour la plupart, se pressent pour apercevoir la tignasse blonde la plus célèbre du monde, et la silhouette élégante de sa femme, Melania. C’est ici, à Melbourne, en septembre 2016, que 15 000 supporteurs déchaînés ont offert au candidat républicain l’une de ses escales les plus mémorables. Peu importe que les opposants se fassent entendre au dehors, réclamant la destitution du président milliardaire.«Ils ne sont que quelques milliers, alors que nous sommes 50 000. Vous croyez que les médias malhonnêtes vont parler de quoi?» gronde une femme à crinière blonde, reprenant le discours officiel.Les pro-Trump ne sont en réalité que 9 000, selon la police de Melbourne sur Twitter, mais leur enthousiasme, débordant, est récompensé par un vrombissement dans le ciel: le Boeing présidentiel Air Force One surgit en rase-mottes, déclenchant les vivats. Le quadriréacteur s’immobilise dans le soleil couchant, et le couple présidentiel apparaît. Dans un tonnerre d’ovations, le chef de l’État s’empresse de révéler la raison de sa venue sur la Space Coast: «Je suis ici parce que je veux être parmi mes amis, et parmi le peuple. Je veux être au même endroit que des patriotes travailleurs qui aiment leur pays, qui saluent le drapeau et prient pour un avenir meilleur.» Ce même peuple qui l’a porté au pouvoir et continue de lui vouer une loyauté sans faille. Ce soutien est inestimable, et probablement fondamental: apprenant à naviguer dans l’air vicié de Washington, le milliardaire va devoir pérenniser sa base militante, surtout s’il compte briguer une réélection en 2020. C’est d’ailleurs son comité de soutien officiel, lancé le 20 janvier, qui finance l’événement du jour, annonciateur de raouts semblables à l’avenir. Bronzé et visiblement détendu, Donald Trump s’amuse avec la foule. Il recycle ses thèmes les plus populaires et désigne ses boucs émissaires habituels. (…) Un mot, un seul, à l’adresse des médias, une allusion (erronée) à «tous ces grands présidents, comme Thomas Jefferson, qui se sont souvent battus avec les médias, ont dénoncé leurs mensonges», et des centaines de poings rageurs se dressent vers la forêt de caméras. Que ses ouailles se rassurent: «La Maison-Blanche tourne comme sur des roulettes!» «CNN craint!» renchérit la foule en chœur. «Je peux vous parler directement, sans le filtre des fausses informations», poursuit Trump. (…) À l’applaudimètre, celui que «nous attendions depuis si longtemps», selon Claudia, une mère au foyer venue de Titusville, un rejeton assoupi dans les bras, ce «héros qui va se dresser», selon l’expression imprimée sur les badges d’accès, l’emporte en évoquant les emplois, le business, qui vont décoller sous son mandat, ces contrats militaires bons pour la région, et, surtout, ce «fichu islamisme radical que nous allons tenir à distance de notre pays». (…) «Il est vraiment formidable, il est comme nous, il parle comme nous, confient d’une seule voix Jake et Colleen, un couple de retraités débonnaire exhibant toute la panoplie du parfait petit supporteur, croisé dans la pénombre en bordure d’aérodrome, pour voir s’envoler le Boeing présidentiel. Il est en train de tenir toutes ses promesses, encore plus vite que prévu. Au-delà de toutes nos attentes!» Le Figaro
Thank you, President Barack Obama, for serving the country for the past eight years. (…) Thank you for the Iran deal. Before the deal, Iran was weeks from attaining nuclear bomb capability. Now the world has a decade before the mullahs have the capability of developing a bomb. (…) Thank you for killing Osama bin Laden. And for taking out al-Qaida’s senior leadership. And for stopping and reversing gains by ISIS. (…) Thank you for standing up to Vladimir Putin. You saw the expansionist, anti-democratic nature of Putin’s actions in Ukraine and quickly confronted him. Perhaps that opposition slowed what may have been an inevitable march through the Baltics. (….) Thank you for recognizing our Cuba embargo was a failed policy and that the time for change had come. Thank you for steering the country through the recession. Thank you for cutting unemployment in half. And for doing so in the face of Republican obstructionism on the kind of infrastructure bill that your successor now likely will get through. Thank you for doubling clean energy production. For recognizing that our dependence on fossil fuels can’t help but degrade our environment and hold us back from being competitive in the green energy future, and embolden corrupt and backward regimes from Venezuela to the Middle East to Russia. (…) Thank you for the Affordable Care Act. It has brought the security of health care to millions. It has saved lives. It has kept the rate of cost increases in premiums lower in the past eight years than they were in the previous eight years. It needs to be fixed — what doesn’t? — but only with better ideas, not worse ones. (…) Thank you for trying to get immigration reform through Congress, and for pursuing the policy known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which let 5 million people already living and working here come out of the shadows. (…) Thank you for trying. You grappled with one great chaos after another, and sometimes you fell short. In Syria, you needed a smarter course of action. In Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking, you underestimated the need, early on, to deal with Israeli fears and Palestinian obstructionism. As for ending the Sudan embargo, the jury is out. (…) Thank you. Thank you for not embarrassing us, your family or yourself. Though your opponents and their friends at “Fox and Friends” tried to pin scandals to you, none could stick. In my lifetime, there has never been an administration so free from personal and professional moral stain. Thank you for the seriousness, dignity, grace, humor and cool you brought to the Oval Office. Thank you for being my president. Rob Eshman
I think it’s important not to dismiss the president’s reply simply as dumb. We ought to assume that it’s darkly brilliant — if not in intention than certainly in effect. The president is responding to a claim of fact not by denying the fact, but by denying the claim that facts are supposed to have on an argument. He isn’t telling O’Reilly that he’s got his facts wrong. He’s saying that, as far as he is concerned, facts, as most people understand the term, don’t matter: That they are indistinguishable from, and interchangeable with, opinion; and that statements of fact needn’t have any purchase against a man who is either sufficiently powerful to ignore them or sufficiently shameless to deny them — or, in his case, both. (…) But the most interesting conversation is not about why Donald Trump lies. Many public figures lie, and he’s only a severe example of a common type. The interesting conversation concerns how we come to accept those lies. Nearly 25 years ago, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the great scholar and Democratic Senator from New York, coined the phrase, “defining deviancy down.” His topic at the time was crime, and how American society had come to accept ever-increasing rates of violent crime as normal. “We have been re-defining deviancy so as to exempt much conduct previously stigmatized, and also quietly raising the ‘normal’ level in categories where behavior is now abnormal by any earlier standard,” Moynihan wrote. You can point to all sorts of ways in which this redefinition of deviancy has also been the story of our politics over the past 30 years, a story with a fully bipartisan set of villains. I personally think we crossed a rubicon in the Clinton years, when three things happened: we decided that some types of presidential lies didn’t matter; we concluded that “character” was an over-rated consideration when it came to judging a president; and we allowed the lines between political culture and celebrity culture to become hopelessly blurred. But whatever else one might say about President Clinton, what we have now is the crack-cocaine version of that. If a public figure tells a whopping lie once in his life, it’ll haunt him into his grave. If he lies morning, noon and night, it will become almost impossible to remember any one particular lie. Outrage will fall victim to its own ubiquity. It’s the same truth contained in Stalin’s famous remark that the death of one man is a tragedy but the death of a million is a statistic. One of the most interesting phenomena during the presidential campaign was waiting for Trump to say that one thing that would surely break the back of his candidacy. Would it be his slander against Mexican immigrants? Or his slur about John McCain’s record as a POW? Or his lie about New Jersey Muslims celebrating 9/11? Or his attacks on Megyn Kelly, on a disabled New York Times reporter, on a Mexican-American judge? Would it be him tweeting quotations from Benito Mussolini, or his sly overtures to David Duke and the alt-right? Would it be his unwavering praise of Vladimir Putin? Would it be his refusal to release his tax returns, or the sham that seems to been perpetrated on the saps who signed up for his Trump U courses? Would it be the tape of him with Billy Bush? None of this made the slightest difference. On the contrary, it helped him. Some people became desensitized by the never-ending assaults on what was once quaintly known as “human decency.” Others seemed to positively admire the comments as refreshing examples of personal authenticity and political incorrectness. (…) Donald Trump’s was the greatest political strip-tease act in U.S. political history: the dirtier he got, the more skin he showed, the more his core supporters liked it. Abraham Lincoln, in his first inaugural address, called on Americans to summon “the better angels of our nature.” Donald Trump’s candidacy, and so far his presidency, has been Lincoln’s exhortation in reverse. Bret Stephens
Barack Obama is the Dr. Frankenstein of the supposed Trump monster. If a charismatic, Ivy League-educated, landmark president who entered office with unprecedented goodwill and both houses of Congress on his side could manage to wreck the Democratic Party while turning off 52 percent of the country, then many voters feel that a billionaire New York dealmaker could hardly do worse. If Obama had ruled from the center, dealt with the debt, addressed radical Islamic terrorism, dropped the politically correct euphemisms and pushed tax and entitlement reform rather than Obamacare, Trump might have little traction. A boring Hillary Clinton and a staid Jeb Bush would most likely be replaying the 1992 election between Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush — with Trump as a watered-down version of third-party outsider Ross Perot. But America is in much worse shape than in 1992. And Obama has proved a far more divisive and incompetent president than George H.W. Bush. Little is more loathed by a majority of Americans than sanctimonious PC gobbledygook and its disciples in the media. And Trump claims to be PC’s symbolic antithesis. Making Machiavellian Mexico pay for a border fence or ejecting rude and interrupting Univision anchor Jorge Ramos from a press conference is no more absurd than allowing more than 300 sanctuary cities to ignore federal law by sheltering undocumented immigrants. Putting a hold on the immigration of Middle Eastern refugees is no more illiberal than welcoming into American communities tens of thousands of unvetted foreign nationals from terrorist-ridden Syria. In terms of messaging, is Trump’s crude bombast any more radical than Obama’s teleprompted scripts? Trump’s ridiculous view of Russian President Vladimir Putin as a sort of « Art of the Deal » geostrategic partner is no more silly than Obama insulting Putin as Russia gobbles up former Soviet republics with impunity. Obama callously dubbed his own grandmother a « typical white person, » introduced the nation to the racist and anti-Semitic rantings of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and petulantly wrote off small-town Pennsylvanians as near-Neanderthal « clingers. » Did Obama lower the bar for Trump’s disparagements? Certainly, Obama peddled a slogan, « hope and change, » that was as empty as Trump’s « make America great again. » (…) How does the establishment derail an out-of-control train for whom there are no gaffes, who has no fear of The New York Times, who offers no apologies for speaking what much of the country thinks — and who apparently needs neither money from Republicans nor politically correct approval from Democrats? Victor Davis Hanson
To me, the “Legacy of Obama” can be explained in one word: Trump. Hallie Lerman
Once hailed as a political genius, Obama’s radicalism led his party into disarray, and repeated electoral disaster, with some 1000 national and state legislative seats and many Governorships lost during his tenure. Ungenerous to his political opponents, he ultimately was quite uncaring about his own political party too. The black community faired quite economically poorly during his two terms. And, abandoning his roots, Barack Obama has sadly accepted no accountability for the years-long murder wave gripping Chi-town. Barack Hussein Obama chose purposefully to assail American allies abroad, befriend tyrannies, abandon dissidents and victims abroad, and attack traditional Americans and economic growth at home. He was also never a truth teller about Islamic Jihad and the challenge of radical Islam’s assaults on Americans within our own borders. His legacy is to have made America less safe and sovereign, less prosperous and entrepreneurial, and less united than the promised hope and change campaign of 2008. Larry Greenfield
Tiré à quatre épingles, col blanc éclatant et cravate rouge vif, l’homme grand, noir, élégant, fait son apparition sur scène devant des milliers de drapeaux américains portés par une marée humaine en délire. Des applaudissements se mélangent aux cris hystériques, pleurs et voix hurlant en chœur « Yes we can ». Les larmes coulent sur les joues du révérend Jesse Jackson qui vient d’apprendre que le rêve de Martin Luther King s’est réalisé en ce 4 novembre 2008. Et le monde entier assiste, le souffle coupé, à cette scène inédite de l’histoire. « Hello Chicago », lance le quadragénaire avec un sourire tiré des publicités de dentifrice. « S’il y a encore quelqu’un qui doute que l’Amérique est un endroit où tout est possible, ce soir, vous avez votre réponse. » Et la foule s’enflamme. Ce soir-là, Barack Obama a réussi son pari en devenant le premier président noir des Etats-Unis. Aux yeux de ses électeurs, il n’était pas seulement l’incarnation de l’ » American dream ». Il était aussi celui qui allait tendre l’oreille aux difficultés des minorités, sortir une nation de la pire crise économique depuis la Grande Dépression, ramasser les pots cassés de George W. Bush, soigner les plaies d’un pays hanté par la guerre et l’insécurité, rendre aux familles leurs soldats partis en Irak et en Afghanistan, offrir des soins de santé aux plus démunis… La liste est sans fin. (…) Les attentes étaient particulièrement grandes au sein de la communauté afro-américaine (…) « Tout le monde a cru qu’avec Obama nous allions rentrer dans une ère post-raciale. C’est donc assez ironique que la race soit devenue un problème majeur sous sa présidence », affirme Robert Shapiro, politologue à l’université new-yorkaise de Columbia. (…) Outre quelques discours, le Président se distingue par le peu d’initiatives prises en faveur de sa communauté. Certes, il a nommé un nombre sans précédent de juges noirs. Et, paradoxalement, cette reprise de la lutte pour l’égalité est parfois notée comme une victoire du Président, malgré lui. (…) Dans un premier temps, l’ancien sénateur a aussi suscité la colère des immigrés en situation irrégulière en autorisant un nombre record d’expulsions. Barack Obama finira par faire volte-face et s’engagera dans une lutte féroce pour faire passer au Congrès le « Dream Act », projet de loi légalisant 2 millions de jeunes sans-papiers. En vain. Furieux, le chef d’Etat signera alors un décret permettant à ceux-ci d’obtenir un permis de travail et donc de les protéger. Aussi, peu de présidents américains peuvent se targuer d’avoir fait autant progresser la protection des droits des homosexuels. En mai 2012, « Newsweek » surnommait Barack Obama « the first gay president », pour saluer sa décision de soutenir le mariage homosexuel. Quelques mois plus tard, la loi « Don’t ask, don’t tell », interdisant aux militaires d’afficher leur homosexualité, était abrogée. Et, en 2015, Barack Obama criait « victoire », alors que la Cour suprême venait de légaliser le mariage gay. Reste que le natif de Hawaii n’est pas parvenu à réduire les inégalités sociales et raciales qui sévissent toujours aux Etats-Unis. En 2012, 27,2 % des Afro-Américains et 25,6 % des Latinos vivaient sous le seuil de pauvreté, contre 9,7 % des Blancs. Autre épine dans le pied du Démocrate : la débâcle de la ville de Detroit, majoritairement peuplée par des Noirs et déclarée en banqueroute de 2013 à 2014. (…) Peut-être était-il trop dépensier. Surnommé « Monsieur 20 trillions », Barack Obama est accusé d’avoir doublé la dette publique. (…) L’histoire se souviendra d’Obama comme de celui qui aura doté les Etats-Unis d’un système d’assurance santé universelle. L’ »Affordable Care Act », lancé en 2010 après quinze mois de tractations, est « la » grande victoire du Démocrate. (…) Mais (…) le système montre-t-il ses limites puisque (…) il comprend (…) trop de personnes malades, nécessitant des soins, et pas assez de personnes en bonne santé. Ce problème est devenu récurrent et des compagnies d’assurances quittent le programme », explique Victor Fuchs, spécialiste américain de l’économie de la santé. (…) En 2009, le Président envoie 30 000 hommes supplémentaires en Afghanistan, pour ensuite déclarer la fin des opérations militaires en Irak, avant de bombarder la Libye. (…) Sa crédibilité en prend un coup lorsqu’il refuse de frapper la Syrie, même après que Bachar Al-Assad eut franchi la fameuse ligne rouge, tracée par Obama lui-même, en utilisant des armes chimiques contre les rebelles. En huit ans, le prix Nobel de la paix, arrivé au pouvoir comme un Président antiguerre, aura entériné le recours à la force militaire dans neuf pays (Afghanistan, Irak, Syrie, Pakistan, Libye, Yémen, Somalie, Ouganda et Cameroun). Le « New York Times » indique d’ailleurs que « si les Etats-Unis restent au combat en Afghanistan, Irak et Syrie jusqu’à la fin de son mandat […] il deviendra de façon assez improbable le seul président dans l’histoire du pays à accomplir deux mandats entiers à la tête d’un pays en guerre ». Le Congrès aura été le talon d’Achille de Barack Obama. (…) Résultat : l’adepte du « centrisme » laissera derrière lui un paysage politique plus polarisé que jamais. « Il n’y a pas une Amérique libérale et une Amérique conservatrice, il y a les Etats-Unis d’Amérique. Les érudits aiment à découper notre pays entre Etats rouges et Etats bleus […] mais j’ai une nouvelle pour eux. Nous formons un seul peuple », avait-il pourtant déclaré lors de la Convention démocrate de Boston le 27 juillet 2004. Ce jour-là, une star politique était née. Barack Obama avait tout : la rhétorique enflammée, le charisme hors norme, l’intelligence, le parcours au parfum de rêve américain et la famille idéale. Avec son style châtié, son allure juvénile, sa capacité à susciter l’enthousiasme des jeunes électeurs, il était le candidat parfait du XXIe siècle. Trop parfait, peut être. A tel point qu’il aura suscité plus d’espoirs qu’il ne pouvait en porter. « Il a été meilleur candidat en campagne qu’il n’a été président », regrette M. McKee. La Libre Belgique

Attention: un monstre peut en cacher un autre !

En ce Washington’s Day devenu Presidents’ Day

Et, si l’on en croit nos valeureux journalistes,  Not my Presidents’ Day

Pendant qu’en Floride la part maudite de l’Amérique encensait son élu …

Dont on se souvient la part qu’avait pu avoir dans sa décision de briguer la Maison Blanche …

L’humiliation qu’il avait reçue de son prédecesseur il y a six ans lors d’un tristement fameux dîner annuel des correspondants …

Et qu’en France nos propres juges comme nos médias montrent le vrai prix, selon la tête du client, qu’ils attachent à la vérité

Comment ne pas voir …

Par l’un de ces effets de balancier dont l’histoire est friande …

La radicalité encouragée par la trop grande adulation et indulgence de toute une presse et finalement tant d’entre nous

D’un certain Dr. Frankenstein dont l’actuel président américain ne serait au bout du compte que la créature ?

Voir aussi:

Le bilan Obama
Barack Obama, le président dont on attendait trop
Maria Udrescu
La Libre Belgique
2016

Le Président n’a pas pu sortir de baguette magique pour laisser derrière lui une Amérique idéale.

Tiré à quatre épingles, col blanc éclatant et cravate rouge vif, l’homme grand, noir, élégant, fait son apparition sur scène devant des milliers de drapeaux américains portés par une marée humaine en délire. Des applaudissements se mélangent aux cris hystériques, pleurs et voix hurlant en chœur « Yes we can ». Les larmes coulent sur les joues du révérend Jesse Jackson qui vient d’apprendre que le rêve de Martin Luther King s’est réalisé en ce 4 novembre 2008. Et le monde entier assiste, le souffle coupé, à cette scène inédite de l’histoire. « Hello Chicago », lance le quadragénaire avec un sourire tiré des publicités de dentifrice. « S’il y a encore quelqu’un qui doute que l’Amérique est un endroit où tout est possible, ce soir, vous avez votre réponse. » Et la foule s’enflamme.

Ce soir-là, Barack Obama a réussi son pari en devenant le premier président noir des Etats-Unis. Aux yeux de ses électeurs, il n’était pas seulement l’incarnation de l’ » American dream ». Il était aussi celui qui allait tendre l’oreille aux difficultés des minorités, sortir une nation de la pire crise économique depuis la Grande Dépression, ramasser les pots cassés de George W. Bush, soigner les plaies d’un pays hanté par la guerre et l’insécurité, rendre aux familles leurs soldats partis en Irak et en Afghanistan, offrir des soins de santé aux plus démunis…

La liste est sans fin. Et huit ans plus tard, d’aucuns applaudissent les réussites du Démocrate malgré un contexte hostile – un Congrès aux mains des Républicains – et une situation dramatique héritée de son prédécesseur. D’autres s’étonnent de voir que ce Président, qui aura suscité un enthousiasme quasi messianique, n’ait pas sorti sa baguette magique pour laisser derrière lui une Amérique idéale, ou même pour tenir toutes ses promesses de campagne.

La désillusion des minorités

Les attentes étaient particulièrement grandes au sein de la communauté afro-américaine, même si Barack Obama, né d’un père kenyan, ne s’est jamais présenté comme un « président des Noirs ». « Tout le monde a cru qu’avec Obama nous allions rentrer dans une ère post-raciale. C’est donc assez ironique que la race soit devenue un problème majeur sous sa présidence », affirme Robert Shapiro, politologue à l’université new-yorkaise de Columbia.

En 2014, des vagues de protestation ont secoué la ville de Ferguson après la mort de Michael Brown, un Afro-Américain tué par un policier blanc. Un an plus tôt, le « Black Lives Matter » naissait dans la foulée de l’acquittement de George Zimmerman, policier ayant abattu Trayvon Martin, un jeune Noir. Barack Obama avait alors célèbrement déclaré : « Trayvon Martin, ça aurait pu être moi il y a trente-cinq ans »

Outre quelques discours, le Président se distingue par le peu d’initiatives prises en faveur de sa communauté. Certes, il a nommé un nombre sans précédent de juges noirs. Et, paradoxalement, cette reprise de la lutte pour l’égalité est parfois notée comme une victoire du Président, malgré lui. « Le ‘Black Lives Matter’ rappelle enfin que des problèmes liés à l’héritage de discrimination raciale existent encore aux Etats-Unis, comme dans la justice ou la distribution des richesses », explique William Howell, professeur de sciences politiques à l’université de Chicago. Mais, « Barack Obama a été réticent à prendre des mesures qui affectent uniquement les Afro-Américains, au risque de voir les électeurs blancs l’accuser de se charger uniquement de ‘ses gens’ », observe Seth McKee, de la Texas Tech University. Dans un premier temps, l’ancien sénateur a aussi suscité la colère des immigrés en situation irrégulière en autorisant un nombre record d’expulsions. Barack Obama finira par faire volte-face et s’engagera dans une lutte féroce pour faire passer au Congrès le « Dream Act », projet de loi légalisant 2 millions de jeunes sans-papiers. En vain. Furieux, le chef d’Etat signera alors un décret permettant à ceux-ci d’obtenir un permis de travail et donc de les protéger.

Aussi, peu de présidents américains peuvent se targuer d’avoir fait autant progresser la protection des droits des homosexuels. En mai 2012, « Newsweek » surnommait Barack Obama « the first gay president », pour saluer sa décision de soutenir le mariage homosexuel. Quelques mois plus tard, la loi « Don’t ask, don’t tell », interdisant aux militaires d’afficher leur homosexualité, était abrogée. Et, en 2015, Barack Obama criait « victoire », alors que la Cour suprême venait de légaliser le mariage gay.

Une croissance florissante, mais inégale

Reste que le natif de Hawaii n’est pas parvenu à réduire les inégalités sociales et raciales qui sévissent toujours aux Etats-Unis. En 2012, 27,2 % des Afro-Américains et 25,6 % des Latinos vivaient sous le seuil de pauvreté, contre 9,7 % des Blancs. Autre épine dans le pied du Démocrate : la débâcle de la ville de Detroit, majoritairement peuplée par des Noirs et déclarée en banqueroute de 2013 à 2014.

Barack Obama peut néanmoins rétorquer que c’est le bien-être économique de tout un pays qu’il a dû relever, à la sueur de son front. En effet, »personne ne peut dire, objectivement, que l’économie est dans un pire état aujourd’hui que lorsqu’Obama est devenu président. En 2008, le taux de chômage présentait deux chiffres, la Bourse était en chute libre, les banques fermaient, c’était un chaos total », rappelle M. Howell. Aujourd’hui, l’Amérique s’est remise de la grande récession de 2008, présentant un taux de chômage de 5 %, une croissance de 2,4 % et une Bourse au plus haut. Pendant ses mandats, l’Amérique a créé près de 16 millions d’emplois et le rachat de General Motors et Chrysler en a sauvé 3 millions.

Peut-être aurait-il pu faire plus. « Mais gardez à l’esprit qu’il a dû faire avec un Congrès qui ne voulait lui accorder aucune victoire », rappelle M. Howell. A défaut de convaincre les Républicains de relever le salaire minimum bloqué à 7,25 dollars de l’heure, le Président a dû se résoudre à le faire par décret pour les employés des sociétés privées au service de l’Etat.

Peut-être était-il trop dépensier. Surnommé « Monsieur 20 trillions », Barack Obama est accusé d’avoir doublé la dette publique. Mais ce phénomène est en grande partie dû aux dépenses liées au paiement des retraites et, surtout, à la santé.

L’Obamacare, légendaire, mais sur la sellette

L’histoire se souviendra d’Obama comme de celui qui aura doté les Etats-Unis d’un système d’assurance santé universelle. L’ »Affordable Care Act », lancé en 2010 après quinze mois de tractations, est « la » grande victoire du Démocrate. Honni des Républicains et traîné par trois fois devant la Cour suprême, l’Obamacare a malgré tout accordé une couverture médicale à près de 20 millions de personnes. « La réforme a aussi interdit aux compagnies d’assurances de refuser de couvrir une personne en raison de son état de santé et relevé l’âge en dessous duquel les enfants peuvent être couverts par l’assurance de leurs parents. Mais est-ce tout ce dont Obama a rêvé ? Sûrement pas. Est-ce que ça a résolu la crise des soins de santé aux Etats-Unis ? Sûrement pas », analyse M. Howell.

Tout d’abord parce que la Cour suprême a donné, en 2012, le choix aux Etats d’adopter ou non Medicaid, assurance santé destinée aux Américains les plus pauvres. Aussi, le système montre-t-il ses limites puisque « l’amende infligée à ceux qui n’y participent pas n’est pas suffisamment élevée (1 % du salaire brut la première année et en augmentation les années suivantes, NdlR). Il comprend donc trop de personnes malades, nécessitant des soins, et pas assez de personnes en bonne santé. Ce problème est devenu récurrent et des compagnies d’assurances quittent le programme », explique Victor Fuchs, spécialiste américain de l’économie de la santé.

De façon générale, selon Seth McKee, « l’‘Affordable Care Act’ est une législation polarisante. Mais c’est une réforme massive telle qu’on n’en a plus vu depuis le président Johnson, dans les années 60 ».

Un Président engagé contre le réchauffement climatique

Le locataire de la Maison-Blanche s’était aussi lancé le défi de convaincre les Etats-Unis de mieux préserver la planète. En juin 2008, Obama s’exclamait : « Nous pourrons nous souvenir de ce jour et dire à nos enfants qu’alors la montée des océans a commencé à ralentir et la planète à guérir ».

Huit ans plus tard, les Américains sont loin d’avoir adopté un esprit vert, malgré des signes alarmants tels que la sécheresse en Californie ou les inondations en Louisiane. La majorité des tentatives du chef d’Etat pour limiter la pollution – comme son projet de loi plafonnant les émissions de carbone – ont été torpillées par les Républicains.

Mais Barack Obama n’en est pas au point de décoller son étiquette de « green president ». Ainsi, le « New York Times » l’a-t-il surnommé le « monument maker », soulignant que le Démocrate a créé 23 espaces protégés et la plus grande réserve naturelle marine au monde. Il a été le premier chef d’Etat américain à se rendre en Alaska pour y mettre en relief les effets du changement climatique, même si, peu après sa visite, il décida maladroitement d’autoriser Shell à forer dans la mer des Tchouktches. En novembre 2015, il a mis son veto à l’oléoduc Keystone, qui devait relier le Canada au golfe du Mexique. « Last but not least », le président américain a convaincu Pékin de s’engager à ses côtés pour permettre aux négociations climatiques d’aboutir à Paris.

Une diplomatie tantôt gauche, tantôt fructueuse

La politique internationale est d’ailleurs le domaine où Barack Obama a accumulé le plus de victoires… et d’échecs. Ni messianique ni indifférent, le Démocrate dit être un « réaliste », prêt à faire la balance entre les intérêts des Etats-Unis et ceux de ses alliés. Lorsqu’il prend place derrière le Bureau ovale, l’Amérique a mauvaise presse. Le pays avait sorti le plus grand mensonge de l’histoire de l’espionnage pour envahir l’Irak et était en passe de perdre une guerre en Afghanistan.

Les premiers pas du leader américain sur la scène internationale sont prometteurs. Quelques mois après son investiture, il prononce le discours du Caire visant à améliorer les relations entre Washington et le monde musulman. Mais entre une Amérique plus modeste, recentrée sur ses défis nationaux, et un interventionnisme militaire digne de la plus grande puissance mondiale, son cœur balance.

En 2009, le Président envoie 30 000 hommes supplémentaires en Afghanistan, pour ensuite déclarer la fin des opérations militaires en Irak, avant de bombarder la Libye. Barack Obama avait pourtant promis de tourner la page des années George W. Bush. Et l’exécution d’Oussama Ben Laden, le chef d’Al Qaïda, devait y mettre le point final. Mais le printemps arabe lui force la main et rappelle les Etats-Unis au Proche-Orient. Sa crédibilité en prend un coup lorsqu’il refuse de frapper la Syrie, même après que Bachar Al-Assad eut franchi la fameuse ligne rouge, tracée par Obama lui-même, en utilisant des armes chimiques contre les rebelles.

En huit ans, le prix Nobel de la paix, arrivé au pouvoir comme un Président antiguerre, aura entériné le recours à la force militaire dans neuf pays (Afghanistan, Irak, Syrie, Pakistan, Libye, Yémen, Somalie, Ouganda et Cameroun). Le « New York Times » indique d’ailleurs que « si les Etats-Unis restent au combat en Afghanistan, Irak et Syrie jusqu’à la fin de son mandat […] il deviendra de façon assez improbable le seul président dans l’histoire du pays à accomplir deux mandats entiers à la tête d’un pays en guerre ».

Le dirigeant américain ne manque pas pour autant de faire honneur à son prix Nobel. Le 10 décembre 2013, il échange une poignée de main historique avec le dirigeant cubain Raúl Castro. C’est le début du dégel des relations entre les deux pays, après plus d’un demi-siècle d’animosités et de sanctions économiques. Autre grand succès diplomatique de l’ancien sénateur : l’accord sur le nucléaire iranien, que les Républicains n’ont pas réussi à bloquer.

Ces derniers parviendront par contre à tuer dans l’œuf un autre de ses projets : la fermeture de Guantanamo. S’il ne reste plus que 61 prisonniers dans le centre ouvert à Cuba en 2002, Barack Obama aura échoué à verrouiller définitivement les portes de ce site.

Une Amérique divisée

Le Congrès aura été le talon d’Achille de Barack Obama. La droite ne pouvait avaler sa double défaite face à un Démocrate, noir et fils d’un immigré musulman, qui plus est. Le cœur du Parti républicain a presque fait de la dénonciation du Président son seul programme politique. « De façon générale, pour toute une partie de l’Amérique, avoir un Président afro-américain, issu des grandes universités de la côte Est, qui est ouvert sur le monde et prône le multiculturalisme et la tolérance vis-à-vis de l’islam, c’est insupportable », observe Marie-Cécile Naves, chercheuse associée à l’Institut de relations internationales et stratégiques (Iris).

De son côté, Barack Obama a voulu effacer ce qui avait fait de lui l’homme providentiel, symbole d’une nouvelle ère, pour apparaître comme un « président normal ». Aussi, « il n’a pas eu la motivation suffisante de travailler avec le Congrès, raison pour laquelle il ne s’est pas donné les moyens de le faire. Il a presque abandonné avant même d’essayer », estime Seth McKee. Résultat : l’adepte du « centrisme » laissera derrière lui un paysage politique plus polarisé que jamais.

« Il n’y a pas une Amérique libérale et une Amérique conservatrice, il y a les Etats-Unis d’Amérique. Les érudits aiment à découper notre pays entre Etats rouges et Etats bleus […] mais j’ai une nouvelle pour eux. Nous formons un seul peuple », avait-il pourtant déclaré lors de la Convention démocrate de Boston le 27 juillet 2004. Ce jour-là, une star politique était née. Barack Obama avait tout : la rhétorique enflammée, le charisme hors norme, l’intelligence, le parcours au parfum de rêve américain et la famille idéale. Avec son style châtié, son allure juvénile, sa capacité à susciter l’enthousiasme des jeunes électeurs, il était le candidat parfait du XXIe siècle. Trop parfait, peut être. A tel point qu’il aura suscité plus d’espoirs qu’il ne pouvait en porter. « Il a été meilleur candidat en campagne qu’il n’a été président », regrette M. McKee.

« Barack Obama ne figurera pas sur la liste des grands présidents américains, réservée à ceux qui étaient en fonction pendant les grandes guerres », estime M. Shapiro. « Mais plutôt sur celle des bons présidents, aux côtés de Truman, Reagan ou encore Jefferson. Parce qu’il a engrangé beaucoup de réussites, parce qu’il a fait face à de grands défis économiques et militaires, et parce qu’il est le premier Président noir des Etats-Unis. »

Voir aussi:

A legacy of O
Larry Greenfield
JTA
Jan 17, 2017

When he ran for President, Barack Obama promoted “we are not red states or blue states, but the United States.” He didn’t mean it.

Radicalized by his prolific communist mentor Frank Marshall Davis, Barry (Soetero) enjoyed his pot-smoking “choom gang” in high school, and then regularly attended socialist conferences while in college.

He became a community organizer in Chicago and close friend of the radical Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and the domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, his philosophical and political influencers. Obama’s “Dreams from My Father” were calculations against the American Dream.

As Presidential candidate in 2008, Senator Obama declared the cumulative national debt, at 8 Trillion dollars, “unpatriotic.” But his unprecedented generational assault on America’s children has now resulted in a staggering debt of 20 Trillion dollars, and all-time high levels of government dependency in “food stamp nation”.

For that bill, taxpayers could have easily covered all the medical care of the uninsured without imposing the Obamacare disaster. But the Affordable Care Act was never about affordability, access, reducing health care costs, or keeping your insurance or your doctor.  It was always about federal control and a path to socialized health care through an eventual single-payer system.

Obama’s legacy therefore is a decline of consumer choice and health care competition, with providers and doctors walking away, and middle class Americans shocked at their skyrocketing insurance premiums and extremely high insurance deductibles.

Since 1790, the annual average domestic economic growth rate in our nation is just under 4%. Having never worked in the private sector, Barack Obama has presided over the poorest-ever 8 year national economic performance, a mere 1.5% annual growth.

Declaring “I won”, President Obama promoted an extreme and often petty partisanship, incessantly castigating, and never compromising with Congress.

He demoralized entrepreneurs (“you didn’t build that”), demonized the “bitter clingers” to their guns and religion, opposed domestic energy production (Keystone pipeline) and ridiculed doctors “seeking profit”.

A former adjunct law professor, Obama’s executive over-reach was repeatedly repudiated by the Courts.

Mr. Obama promised transparency, but his administration produced a stunning collection of scandals:

Fast & Furious gun running to Mexican drug lords, the IRS assault on Conservatives, the targeting of James Rosen and AP reporters, released GITMO terrorists returning to battle, the Benghazi failure to anticipate, protect, defend, or admit the truth about the planned 9/11 anniversary assault on U.S. assets, Healthcare Insurance Fraud, the woeful Bo Berghdahl trade, Auto Dealergate, the DOJ Black Panther whitewash, the NEA Art scandal, the Sestak affair, Inspector General Gerald Walpin’s firing, the mis-spending of Stimulus Funds , the DOJ propaganda unit, Solyndra, the Attorney General held in contempt of Congress, and massive failures at the Veterans Administration, the CDC, and the Secret Service.  The list goes on and on.

As Commander in Chief, Mr. Obama, absent any national security experience or credentials, called our troops “corpsemen” and oversaw significant declines in military preparedness and troops, tanks, planes, and warship levels.

His human rights record is a disaster — diffidence about assaults on Christians, and Yazidi and Nigerian girls sold into slavery without rescue, and unforgivable decisions to side against dissidents from Tehran to Eastern Europe.  Mr. Obama took the wrong side in Honduras and Egypt (Moslem Brotherhood), and sought to appease and empower the Castro regime in Cuba and the Mullah tyranny in Iran.  He didn’t extract concessions; he conceded, over and over, to our enemies.

The Russian re-set was an historic blunder (“Tell Vladimir I’ll have more flexibility after I’m re-elected”) and Obama failed to retaliate against Chinese cyber hacking, a lesson Russians must have learned.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner managed a tripling of US combat deaths in Afghanistan over his predecessor, and his most unfortunate withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Iraq, which VP Biden had declared stable, helped to unleash the barbarism of ISIS (“a JV Team”, “contained”).

Secretaries of State Clinton and Kerry exhibited remarkable ineffectiveness in promoting stability in the Middle East, encouraging Palestinian irredentism and resulting in failed states in Libya and Yemen.

UN Ambassador Samantha Power who literally wrote the book on R2P, the “responsibility to protect” against genocide, failed her mission. Responsibility was abandoned to beg favor with the Iranians, who received not further sanction but billions of American dollars and a green light to continue regional domination and terror, support of Assad in Syria, and threats against Israel.

Most egregiously, President Obama failed to enforce his own red line in Syria or even create no fly zones, after the Assad regime used chemical weapons. There is no more Syrian state, 500,000 are dead, and millions of refugees are flooding into Europe, destabilizing the West.  History will judge this administration harshly.

The Obama Doctrine (“offend friends and hug thugs”) was perhaps most calculated to undermine Bibi Netanyahu, (including Obama sending his political team and U.S. taxpayer funds to influence the Israeli elections).  Seeking “daylight” between special allies, Mr. Obama used every opportunity to destroy the bi-partisan tradition of U.S. diplomatic and political support for the Jewish state.  During the Iran Deal debate, Mr. Obama sank to new lows, castigating opponents (the majority in Congress and in public opinion) as dual loyalists.

Once hailed as a political genius, Obama’s radicalism led his party into disarray, and repeated electoral disaster, with some 1000 national and state legislative seats and many Governorships lost during his tenure. Ungenerous to his political opponents, he ultimately was quite uncaring about his own political party too.

The black community faired quite economically poorly during his two terms.  And, abandoning his roots, Barack Obama has sadly accepted no accountability for the years-long murder wave gripping Chi-town.

Barack Hussein Obama chose purposefully to assail American allies abroad, befriend tyrannies, abandon dissidents and victims abroad, and attack traditional Americans and economic growth at home.

He was also never a truth teller about Islamic Jihad and the challenge of radical Islam’s assaults on Americans within our own borders.

His legacy is to have made America less safe and sovereign, less prosperous and entrepreneurial, and less united than the promised hope and change campaign of 2008.


Larry Greenfield has served as executive director of the Reagan Legacy Foundation, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, and the Republican Jewish Coalition of California. He is long associated with the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship & Political Philosophy.

Voir également:

Thank you, Obama

Thank you, President Barack Obama, for serving the country for the past eight years.

Thank you, Obama, for not moving the American embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. You were wise enough to follow the lead of your Democratic and Republican predecessors and realize the chaos such a move could cause would not be worth the cost. There is no doubt the embassy should be in Jerusalem. There is no question that Jerusalem is the eternal and contemporary capital of Israel. But thank you for knowing that not every right must be claimed at any cost.

Thank you for protecting Israel when and where it mattered most: with off-budget millions for Iron Dome, for standing up for Israel’s right to defend itself in the Gaza war, for a record-setting $38 billion in aid.

Thank you for declaring as eloquently as any president ever has, and in as many international forums as possible, the value and justice of a Jewish state. Thank you for trying to protect that state from pursuing policies that will endanger its own existence.

Thank you for the Iran deal. Before the deal, Iran was weeks from attaining nuclear bomb capability. Now the world has a decade before the mullahs have the capability of developing a bomb. You tackled a problem that only had gotten worse under previous American and Israeli leaders. Despite fierce opposition, you found a solution that even those Israelis who hated it have grown to see as beneficial.

Thank you for killing Osama bin Laden. And for taking out al-Qaida’s senior leadership. And for stopping and reversing gains by ISIS. You know who’s really happy to see you go? Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Thank you for standing up to Vladimir Putin. You saw the expansionist, anti-democratic nature of Putin’s actions in Ukraine and quickly confronted him. Perhaps that opposition slowed what may have been an inevitable march through the Baltics. There is nothing wrong with having positive relations with Russia, but “positive” cannot mean giving the Putin regime a pass.

Thank you for recognizing our Cuba embargo was a failed policy and that the time for change had come.

Thank you for steering the country through the recession. Thank you for cutting unemployment in half. And for doing so in the face of Republican obstructionism on the kind of infrastructure bill that your successor now likely will get through.

Thank you for doubling clean energy production. For recognizing that our dependence on fossil fuels can’t help but degrade our environment and hold us back from being competitive in the green energy future, and embolden corrupt and backward regimes from Venezuela to the Middle East to Russia.

Thank you for saving the American auto industry. You revived General Motors with $50 billion in loans, saving 1.2 million jobs and creating $35 billion in tax revenue so far. Have you checked out GM’s Chevy Bolt? All electric, 240 miles per charge, drives like a rocket and made in Detroit. They should call it the “Obamacar.”

Thank you for the Paris Agreement to address climate change. Thank you for throwing America’s lot in with the rest of the planet.

Thank you for the Affordable Care Act. It has brought the security of health care to millions. It has saved lives. It has kept the rate of cost increases in premiums lower in the past eight years than they were in the previous eight years. It needs to be fixed — what doesn’t? — but only with better ideas, not worse ones.

Thank you for Merrick Garland. It was a great idea while it lasted.

Thank you for trying to get immigration reform through Congress, and for pursuing the policy known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which let 5 million people already living and working here come out of the shadows.

Thanks for Michelle. Not just her brains and biceps, but her choice of causes. Your wife saw all the good the food movement had accomplished from the grass roots up and planted it squarely in the front yard of the White House, where it would grow even more from the top down.

Thank you for trying. You grappled with one great chaos after another, and sometimes you fell short. In Syria, you needed a smarter course of action. In Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking, you underestimated the need, early on, to deal with Israeli fears and Palestinian obstructionism. As for ending the Sudan embargo, the jury is out. Stateside, your administration should have put some of the bad guys of the recession behind bars and found fixes that better addressed the wealth gap.

Time will reveal more blemishes — and heal some of the scars. But in the meantime:

Thank you. Thank you for not embarrassing us, your family or yourself. Though your opponents and their friends at “Fox and Friends” tried to pin scandals to you, none could stick. In my lifetime, there has never been an administration so free from personal and professional moral stain.

Thank you for the seriousness, dignity, grace, humor and cool you brought to the Oval Office. Thank you for being my president.


ROB ESHMAN is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. Email him at robe@jewishjournal.com. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter @foodaism and @RobEshman.

Voir encore:

Media
Bret Stephens
Time
Feb 18, 2017

Bret Stephens writes the foreign-affairs column of the Wall Street Journal, for which he won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for commentary.

Bret Stephens delivered the Daniel Pearl Memorial Lecture this week at the University of California, Los Angeles. Read the full text of his remarks below:

I’m profoundly honored to have this opportunity to celebrate the legacy of Danny Pearl, my colleague at The Wall Street Journal.

My topic this evening is intellectual integrity in the age of Donald Trump. I suspect this is a theme that would have resonated with Danny.

When you work at The Wall Street Journal, the coins of the realm are truth and trust — the latter flowing exclusively from the former. When you read a story in the Journal, you do so with the assurance that immense reportorial and editorial effort has been expended to ensure that what you read is factual.

Not probably factual. Not partially factual. Not alternatively factual. I mean fundamentally, comprehensively and exclusively factual. And therefore trustworthy.

This is how we operate. This is how Danny operated. This is how he died, losing his life in an effort to nail down a story.

In the 15 years since Danny’s death, the list of murdered journalists has grown long.

Paul Klebnikov and Anna Politkovskaya in Russia.

Zahra Kazemi and Sattar Behesti in Iran.

Jim Foley and Steve Sotloff in Syria.

Five journalists in Turkey. Twenty-six in Mexico. More than 100 in Iraq.

When we honor Danny, we honor them, too.

We do more than that.

We honor the central idea of journalism — the conviction, as my old boss Peter Kann once said, “that facts are facts; that they are ascertainable through honest, open-minded and diligent reporting; that truth is attainable by laying fact upon fact, much like the construction of a cathedral; and that truth is not merely in the eye of the beholder.”

And we honor the responsibility to separate truth from falsehood, which is never more important than when powerful people insist that falsehoods are truths, or that there is no such thing as truth to begin with.

So that’s the business we’re in: the business of journalism. Or, as the 45th president of the United States likes to call us, the “disgusting and corrupt media.”

Some of you may have noticed that we’re living through a period in which the executive branch of government is engaged in a systematic effort to create a climate of opinion against the news business.

The President routinely describes reporting he dislikes as FAKE NEWS. The Administration calls the press “the opposition party,” ridicules news organizations it doesn’t like as business failures, and calls for journalists to be fired. Mr. Trump has called for rewriting libel laws in order to more easily sue the press.

This isn’t unprecedented in U.S. history, though you might have to go back to the Administration of John Adams to see something quite like it. And so far the rhetorical salvos haven’t been matched by legal or regulatory action. Maybe they never will be.

But the question of what Mr. Trump might yet do by political methods against the media matters a great deal less than what he is attempting to do by ideological and philosophical methods.

Ideologically, the president is trying to depose so-called mainstream media in favor of the media he likes — Breitbart News and the rest. Another way of making this point is to say that he’s trying to substitute news for propaganda, information for boosterism.

His objection to, say, the New York Times, isn’t that there’s a liberal bias in the paper that gets in the way of its objectivity, which I think would be a fair criticism. His objection is to objectivity itself. He’s perfectly happy for the media to be disgusting and corrupt — so long as it’s on his side.

But again, that’s not all the president is doing.

Consider this recent exchange he had with Bill O’Reilly. O’Reilly asks:

Is there any validity to the criticism of you that you say things that you can’t back up factually, and as the President you say there are three million illegal aliens who voted and you don’t have the data to back that up, some people are going to say that it’s irresponsible for the President to say that.

To which the president replies:

Many people have come out and said I’m right.

Now many people also say Jim Morrison faked his own death. Many people say Barack Obama was born in Kenya. “Many people say” is what’s known as an argumentum ad populum. If we were a nation of logicians, we would dismiss the argument as dumb.

We are not a nation of logicians.

I think it’s important not to dismiss the president’s reply simply as dumb. We ought to assume that it’s darkly brilliant — if not in intention than certainly in effect. The president is responding to a claim of fact not by denying the fact, but by denying the claim that facts are supposed to have on an argument.

He isn’t telling O’Reilly that he’s got his facts wrong. He’s saying that, as far as he is concerned, facts, as most people understand the term, don’t matter: That they are indistinguishable from, and interchangeable with, opinion; and that statements of fact needn’t have any purchase against a man who is either sufficiently powerful to ignore them or sufficiently shameless to deny them — or, in his case, both.

If some of you in this room are students of political philosophy, you know where this argument originates. This is a version of Thrasymachus’s argument in Plato’s Republic that justice is the advantage of the stronger and that injustice “if it is on a large enough scale, is stronger, freer, and more masterly than justice.”

Substitute the words “truth” and “falsehood” for “justice” and “injustice,” and there you have the Trumpian view of the world. If I had to sum it up in a single sentence, it would be this: Truth is what you can get away with.

If you can sell condos by claiming your building is 90% occupied when it’s only 20% occupied, well, then—it’s 90% occupied. If you can convince a sufficient number of people that you really did win the popular vote, or that your inauguration crowds were the biggest—well then, what do the statistical data and aerial photographs matter?

Now, we could have some interesting conversations about why this is happening—and why it seems to be happening all of a sudden.

Today we have “dis-intermediating” technologies such as Twitter, which have cut out the media as the middleman between politicians and the public. Today, just 17% of adults aged 18-24 read a newspaper daily, down from 42% at the turn of the century. Today there are fewer than 33,000 full-time newsroom employees, a drop from 55,000 just 20 years ago.

When Trump attacks the news media, he’s kicking a wounded animal.

But the most interesting conversation is not about why Donald Trump lies. Many public figures lie, and he’s only a severe example of a common type.

The interesting conversation concerns how we come to accept those lies.

Nearly 25 years ago, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the great scholar and Democratic Senator from New York, coined the phrase, “defining deviancy down.” His topic at the time was crime, and how American society had come to accept ever-increasing rates of violent crime as normal.

“We have been re-defining deviancy so as to exempt much conduct previously stigmatized, and also quietly raising the ‘normal’ level in categories where behavior is now abnormal by any earlier standard,” Moynihan wrote.

You can point to all sorts of ways in which this redefinition of deviancy has also been the story of our politics over the past 30 years, a story with a fully bipartisan set of villains.

I personally think we crossed a rubicon in the Clinton years, when three things happened: we decided that some types of presidential lies didn’t matter; we concluded that “character” was an over-rated consideration when it came to judging a president; and we allowed the lines between political culture and celebrity culture to become hopelessly blurred.

But whatever else one might say about President Clinton, what we have now is the crack-cocaine version of that.

If a public figure tells a whopping lie once in his life, it’ll haunt him into his grave. If he lies morning, noon and night, it will become almost impossible to remember any one particular lie. Outrage will fall victim to its own ubiquity. It’s the same truth contained in Stalin’s famous remark that the death of one man is a tragedy but the death of a million is a statistic.

One of the most interesting phenomena during the presidential campaign was waiting for Trump to say that one thing that would surely break the back of his candidacy.

Would it be his slander against Mexican immigrants? Or his slur about John McCain’s record as a POW? Or his lie about New Jersey Muslims celebrating 9/11? Or his attacks on Megyn Kelly, on a disabled New York Times reporter, on a Mexican-American judge? Would it be him tweeting quotations from Benito Mussolini, or his sly overtures to David Duke and the alt-right? Would it be his unwavering praise of Vladimir Putin? Would it be his refusal to release his tax returns, or the sham that seems to been perpetrated on the saps who signed up for his Trump U courses? Would it be the tape of him with Billy Bush?

None of this made the slightest difference. On the contrary, it helped him. Some people became desensitized by the never-ending assaults on what was once quaintly known as “human decency.” Others seemed to positively admire the comments as refreshing examples of personal authenticity and political incorrectness.

Shameless rhetoric will always find a receptive audience with shameless people. Donald Trump’s was the greatest political strip-tease act in U.S. political history: the dirtier he got, the more skin he showed, the more his core supporters liked it.

Abraham Lincoln, in his first inaugural address, called on Americans to summon “the better angels of our nature.” Donald Trump’s candidacy, and so far his presidency, has been Lincoln’s exhortation in reverse.

Here’s a simple truth about a politics of dishonesty, insult and scandal: It’s entertaining. Politics as we’ve had it for most of my life has, with just a few exceptions, been distant and dull.

Now it’s all we can talk about. If you like Trump, his presence in the White House is a daily extravaganza of sticking it to pompous elites and querulous reporters. If you hate Trump, you wake up every day with some fresh outrage to turn over in your head and text your friends about.

Whichever way, it’s exhilarating. Haven’t all of us noticed that everything feels speeded up, more vivid, more intense and consequential? One of the benefits of an alternative-facts administration is that fiction can take you anywhere.

Earlier today, at his press conference, the president claimed his administration is running like a “fine-tuned machine.” In actual fact, he just lost his Labor Secretary nominee, his National Security Adviser was forced out in disgrace, and the Intelligence Community is refusing to fully brief the president for fear he might compromise sources and methods.

But who cares? Since when in Washington has there been a presidential press conference like that? Since when has the denial of reality been taken to such a bald-faced extreme?

At some point, it becomes increasingly easy for people to mistake the reality of the performance for reality itself. If Trump can get through a press conference like that without showing a hint of embarrassment, remorse or misgiving—well, then, that becomes a new basis on which the president can now be judged.

To tell a lie is wrong. But to tell a lie with brass takes skill. Ultimately, Trump’s press conference will be judged not on some kind of Olympic point system, but on whether he “won”—which is to say, whether he brazened his way through it. And the answer to that is almost certainly yes.

So far, I’ve offered you three ideas about how it is that we have come to accept the president’s behavior.

The first is that we normalize it, simply by becoming inured to constant repetition of the same bad behavior.

The second is that at some level it excites and entertains us. By putting aside our usual moral filters—the ones that tell us that truth matters, that upright conduct matters, that things ought to be done in a certain way—we have been given tickets to a spectacle, in which all you want to do is watch.

And the third is that we adopt new metrics of judgment, in which politics becomes more about perceptions than performance—of how a given action is perceived as being perceived. If a reporter for the New York Times says that Trump’s press conference probably plays well in Peoria, then that increases the chances that it will play well in Peoria.

Let me add a fourth point here: our tendency to rationalize.

One of the more fascinating aspects of last year’s presidential campaign was the rise of a class of pundits I call the “TrumpXplainers.” For instance, Trump would give a speech or offer an answer in a debate that amounted to little more than a word jumble.

But rather than quote Trump, or point out that what he had said was grammatically and logically nonsensical, the TrumpXplainers would tell us what he had allegedly meant to say. They became our political semioticians, ascribing pattern and meaning to the rune-stones of Trump’s mind.

If Trump said he’d get Mexico to pay for his wall, you could count on someone to provide a complex tariff scheme to make good on the promise. If Trump said that we should not have gone into Iraq but that, once there, we should have “taken the oil,” we’d have a similarly high-flown explanation as to how we could engineer this theft.

A year ago, when he was trying to explain his idea of a foreign policy to the New York Times’s David Sanger, the reporter asked him whether it didn’t amount to a kind of “America First policy”—a reference to the isolationist and anti-Semitic America First Committee that tried to prevent U.S. entry into World War II. Trump clearly had never heard of the group, but he liked the phrase and made it his own. And that’s how we got the return of America First.

More recently, I came across this headline in the conservative Washington Times: “How Trump’s ‘disarray’ may be merely a strategy,” by Wesley Pruden, the paper’s former editor-in-chief. In his view, the president’s first disastrous month in office is, in fact, evidence of a refreshing openness to dissent, reminiscent of Washington and Lincoln’s cabinet of rivals. Sure.

Overall, the process is one in which explanation becomes rationalization, which in turn becomes justification. Trump says X. What he really means is Y. And while you might not like it, he’s giving voice to the angers and anxieties of Z. Who, by the way, you’re not allowed to question or criticize, because anxiety and anger are their own justifications these days.

Watching this process unfold has been particularly painful for me as a conservative columnist. I find myself in the awkward position of having recently become popular among some of my liberal peers—precisely because I haven’t changed my opinions about anything.

By contrast, I’ve become suddenly unpopular among some of my former fans on the right—again, because I’ve stuck to my views. It is almost amusing to be accused of suffering from something called “Trump Derangement Syndrome” simply because I feel an obligation to raise my voice against, say, the president suggesting a moral equivalency between the U.S. and Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

The most painful aspect of this has been to watch people I previously considered thoughtful and principled conservatives give themselves over to a species of illiberal politics from which I once thought they were immune.

In his 1953 masterpiece, “The Captive Mind,” the Polish poet and dissident Czeslaw Milosz analyzed the psychological and intellectual pathways through which some of his former colleagues in Poland’s post-war Communist regime allowed themselves to be converted into ardent Stalinists. In none of the cases that Milosz analyzed was coercion the main reason for the conversion.

They wanted to believe. They were willing to adapt. They thought they could do more good from the inside. They convinced themselves that their former principles didn’t fit with the march of history, or that to hold fast to one’s beliefs was a sign of priggishness and pig-headedness. They felt that to reject the new order of things was to relegate themselves to irrelevance and oblivion. They mocked their former friends who refused to join the new order as morally vain reactionaries. They convinced themselves that, brutal and capricious as Stalinism might be, it couldn’t possibly be worse than the exploitative capitalism of the West.

I fear we are witnessing a similar process unfold among many conservative intellectuals on the right. It has been stunning to watch a movement that once believed in the benefits of free trade and free enterprise merrily give itself over to a champion of protectionism whose economic instincts recall the corporatism of 1930s Italy or 1950s Argentina. It is no less stunning to watch people who once mocked Obama for being too soft on Russia suddenly discover the virtues of Trump’s “pragmatism” on the subject.

And it is nothing short of amazing to watch the party of onetime moral majoritarians, who spent a decade fulminating about Bill Clinton’s sexual habits, suddenly find complete comfort with the idea that character and temperament are irrelevant qualifications for high office.

The mental pathways by which the new Trumpian conservatives have made their peace with their new political master aren’t so different from Milosz’s former colleagues.

There’s the same desperate desire for political influence; the same belief that Trump represents a historical force to which they ought to belong; the same willingness to bend or discard principles they once considered sacred; the same fear of seeming out-of-touch with the mood of the public; the same tendency to look the other way at comments or actions that they cannot possibly justify; the same belief that you do more good by joining than by opposing; the same Manichean belief that, if Hillary Clinton had been elected, the United States would have all-but ended as a country.

This is supposed to be the road of pragmatism, of turning lemons into lemonade. I would counter that it’s the road of ignominy, of hitching a ride with a drunk driver.

So, then, to the subject that brings me here today: Maintaining intellectual integrity in the age of Trump.

When Judea wrote me last summer to ask if I’d be this year’s speaker, I got my copy of Danny’s collected writings, “At Home in the World,” and began to read him all over again. It brought back to me the fact that, the reason we honor Danny’s memory isn’t that he’s a martyred journalist. It’s that he was a great journalist.

Let me show you what I mean. Here’s something Danny wrote in February 2001, almost exactly a year before his death, from the site of an earthquake disaster in the Indian town of Anjar.

What is India’s earthquake zone really like? It smells. It reeks. You can’t imagine the odor of several hundred bodies decaying for five days as search teams pick away at slabs of crumbled buildings in this town. Even if you’ve never smelled it before, the brain knows what it is, and orders you to get away. After a day, the nose gets stuffed up in self-defense. But the brain has registered the scent, and picks it up in innocent places: lip balm, sweet candy, stale breath, an airplane seat.

What stands out for me in this passage is that it shows that Danny was a writer who observed with all his senses. He saw. He listened. He smelled. He bore down. He reflected. He understood that what the reader had to know about Anjar wasn’t a collection of statistics; it was the visceral reality of a massive human tragedy. And he was able to express all this in language that was compact, unadorned, compelling and deeply true.

George Orwell wrote, “To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.” Danny saw what was in front of his nose.

We each have our obligations to see what’s in front of one’s nose, whether we’re reporters, columnists, or anything else. This is the essence of intellectual integrity.

Not to look around, or beyond, or away from the facts, but to look straight at them, to recognize and call them for what they are, nothing more or less. To see things as they are before we re-interpret them into what we’d like them to be. To believe in an epistemology that can distinguish between truth and falsity, facts and opinions, evidence and wishes. To defend habits of mind and institutions of society, above all a free press, which preserve that epistemology. To hold fast to a set of intellectual standards and moral convictions that won’t waver amid changes of political fashion or tides of unfavorable opinion. To speak the truth irrespective of what it means for our popularity or influence.

The legacy of Danny Pearl is that he died for this. We are being asked to do much less. We have no excuse not to do it.

Thank you.

Voir par ailleurs:

Trump retrouve «son» peuple, le temps d’un meeting en Floride

Maurin Picard

19/02/2017

VIDÉO – À Melbourne, le président américain s’est remis sur orbite le temps d’une escale devant des supporters de la première heure, soutien inestimable.

De notre envoyé spécial à Melbourne (Floride)

Fuir Washington, le temps d’un week-end de trois jours. Donald Trump attendait impatiemment cette escapade en Floride, devant ses irréductibles supporteurs, fidèles de la première heure, qui se font si rares depuis un mois à Washington. Oublier le froid, le crachin pendant le discours d’investiture, ces médias «malhonnêtes», ces manifestants acrimonieux, les fuites des services secrets, la fronde de la Justice face à son décret sur l’immigration, celle du Congrès face à ses plans grandioses de mur à la frontière mexicaine, le limogeage à contrecœur du général Michael Flynn, son conseiller à la sécurité nationale, éclaboussé par la «Russian Connection», et les centaines de nominations gouvernementales en souffrance.

Mais tout cela n’a que peu d’importance pour le «peuple de Trump». «Nous l’aimons et nous sommes venus le lui dire», s’exclame Sheila Gaylor, une résidente de Melbourne, où le président fait escale le temps d’un rassemblement populaire. Comme durant la campagne, lorsque l’adrénaline le poussait de l’avant. Cette ivresse s’est tarie, mais voici l’occasion de la ressusciter, grâce à un bain de foule régénérateur, et de remettre le tribun sur orbite, loin du «marigot» fédéral si difficile à «assécher».

Dans le hangar 6 de l’aérodrome local, plusieurs milliers de Floridiens, blancs pour la plupart, se pressent pour apercevoir la tignasse blonde la plus célèbre du monde, et la silhouette élégante de sa femme, Melania. C’est ici, à Melbourne, en septembre 2016, que 15 000 supporteurs déchaînés ont offert au candidat républicain l’une de ses escales les plus mémorables. Peu importe que les opposants se fassent entendre au dehors, réclamant la destitution du président milliardaire.«Ils ne sont que quelques milliers, alors que nous sommes 50 000. Vous croyez que les médias malhonnêtes vont parler de quoi?» gronde une femme à crinière blonde, reprenant le discours officiel.Les pro-Trumpne sont en réalité que 9 000, selon la police de Melbourne sur Twitter, mais leur enthousiasme, débordant, est récompensé par un vrombissement dans le ciel: le Boeing présidentiel Air Force One surgit en rase-mottes, déclenchant les vivats. Le quadriréacteur s’immobilise dans le soleil couchant, et le couple présidentiel apparaît. Dans un tonnerre d’ovations, le chef de l’État s’empresse de révéler la raison de sa venue sur la Space Coast: «Je suis ici parce que je veux être parmi mes amis, et parmi le peuple. Je veux être au même endroit que des patriotes travailleurs qui aiment leur pays, qui saluent le drapeau et prient pour un avenir meilleur.» Ce même peuple qui l’a porté au pouvoir et continue de lui vouer une loyauté sans faille. Ce soutien est inestimable, et probablement fondamental: apprenant à naviguer dans l’air vicié de Washington, le milliardaire va devoir pérenniser sa base militante, surtout s’il compte briguer une réélection en 2020. C’est d’ailleurs son comité de soutien officiel, lancé le 20 janvier, qui finance l’événement du jour, annonciateur de raouts semblables à l’avenir.

Bronzé et visiblement détendu, Donald Trump s’amuse avec la foule. Il recycle ses thèmes les plus populaires et désigne ses boucs émissaires habituels. Puis, il invite à ses côtés Gene Huber, un inconditionnel fier d’avoir patienté depuis 4 heures du matin et autorisé par le président en personne à enjamber la barrière, au grand dam du Secret Service. Un mot, un seul, à l’adresse des médias, une allusion (erronée) à «tous ces grands présidents, comme Thomas Jefferson, qui se sont souvent battus avec les médias, ont dénoncé leurs mensonges», et des centaines de poings rageurs se dressent vers la forêt de caméras. Que ses ouailles se rassurent: «La Maison-Blanche tourne comme sur des roulettes!» «CNN craint!» renchérit la foule en chœur. «Je peux vous parler directement, sans le filtre des fausses informations», poursuit Trump. «Je ne regarde même plus le Saturday Night Live!» s’esclaffe une supportrice tout de rouge vêtue, affichant son soutien au site conspirationniste infowars.com.

À l’applaudimètre, celui que «nous attendions depuis si longtemps», selon Claudia, une mère au foyer venue de Titusville, un rejeton assoupi dans les bras, ce «héros qui va se dresser», selon l’expression imprimée sur les badges d’accès, l’emporte en évoquant les emplois, le business, qui vont décoller sous son mandat, ces contrats militaires bons pour la région, et, surtout, ce «fichu islamisme radical que nous allons tenir à distance de notre pays». «Ce gouvernement va tenir toutes ses promesses», martèle le chef de l’État, sur un air des Rolling Stones, avant de rembarquer à bord d’Air Force One.

«Il est vraiment formidable, il est comme nous, il parle comme nous, confient d’une seule voix Jake et Colleen, un couple de retraités débonnaire exhibant toute la panoplie du parfait petit supporteur, croisé dans la pénombre en bordure d’aérodrome, pour voir s’envoler le Boeing présidentiel. Il est en train de tenir toutes ses promesses, encore plus vite que prévu. Au-delà de toutes nos attentes!»

Voir encore

Donald Trump’s Presidential Run Began in an Effort to Gain Stature

Donald J. Trump arrived at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner in April 2011, reveling in the moment as he mingled with the political luminaries who gathered at the Washington Hilton. He made his way to his seat beside his host, Lally Weymouth, the journalist and socialite daughter of Katharine Graham, longtime publisher of The Washington Post.

A short while later, the humiliation started.

The annual dinner features a lighthearted speech from the president; that year, President Obama chose Mr. Trump, then flirting with his own presidential bid, as a punch line.

He lampooned Mr. Trump’s gaudy taste in décor. He ridiculed his fixation on false rumors that the president had been born in Kenya. He belittled his reality show, “The Celebrity Apprentice.”

Mr. Trump at first offered a drawn smile, then a game wave of the hand. But as the president’s mocking of him continued and people at other tables craned their necks to gauge his reaction, Mr. Trump hunched forward with a frozen grimace.

After the dinner ended, Mr. Trump quickly left, appearing bruised. He was “incredibly gracious and engaged on the way in,” recalled Marcus Brauchli, then the executive editor of The Washington Post, but departed “with maximum efficiency.”

That evening of public abasement, rather than sending Mr. Trump away, accelerated his ferocious efforts to gain stature within the political world. And it captured the degree to which Mr. Trump’s campaign is driven by a deep yearning sometimes obscured by his bluster and bragging: a desire to be taken seriously.

That desire has played out over the last several years within a Republican Party that placated and indulged him, and accepted his money and support, seemingly not grasping how fervently determined he was to become a major force in American politics. In the process, the party bestowed upon Mr. Trump the kind of legitimacy that he craved, which has helped him pursue a credible bid for the presidency.

“Everybody has a little regret there, and everybody read it wrong,” said David Keene, a former chairman of the American Conservative Union, an activist group Mr. Trump cultivated. Of Mr. Trump’s rise, Mr. Keene said, “It’s almost comical, except it’s liable to end up with him as the nominee.”

Repeatedly underestimated as a court jester or silly showman, Mr. Trump muscled his way into the Republican elite by force of will. He badgered a skittish Mitt Romney into accepting his endorsement on national television, and became a celebrity fixture at conservative gatherings. He abandoned his tightfisted inclinations and cut five- and six-figure checks in a bid for clout as a political donor. He courted conservative media leaders as deftly as he had the New York tabloids.

At every stage, members of the Republican establishment wagered that they could go along with Mr. Trump just enough to keep him quiet or make him go away. But what party leaders viewed as generous ceremonial gestures or ego stroking of Mr. Trump — speaking spots at gatherings, meetings with prospective candidates and appearances alongside Republican heavyweights — he used to elevate his position and, eventually, to establish himself as a formidable figure for 2016.

In an interview on Friday, Mr. Trump acknowledged that he had encountered many who doubted or dismissed him as a political force before now. “I realized that unless I actually ran, I wouldn’t be taken seriously,” he said. But he denied having been troubled by Mr. Obama’s derision.

“I loved that dinner,” Mr. Trump said, adding, “I can handle criticism.”

Phantom Campaign

Even before the correspondents’ dinner, Mr. Trump had moved to grab a bigger role in political affairs. In February, he addressed the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. Organizers gave Mr. Trump an afternoon speaking slot, and Mr. Keene perceived him as an entertaining attraction, secondary to headliners like Mitch Daniels, then the governor of Indiana.

But Mr. Trump understood his role differently. Reading carefully from a prepared text, he tested the themes that would one day frame his presidential campaign: American economic decline, and the weakness and cluelessness of politicians in Washington.

Over the next few months, Mr. Trump met quietly with Republican pollsters who tested a political message and gauged his image across the country, according to people briefed on his efforts, some of whom would speak about them only on the condition of anonymity.

One pollster, Kellyanne Conway, took a survey that showed Mr. Trump’s negative ratings were sky-high, but advised him there was still an opening for him to run.

Another, John McLaughlin, who had been recommended to Mr. Trump by the former Clinton adviser Dick Morris, drew up a memo that described how Mr. Trump could run as a counterpoint to Mr. Obama in 2012, and outshine Mr. Romney with his relentless antagonism of the president.

Roger Stone, a longtime Trump adviser, wrote a column on his website envisioning a Trump candidacy steamrolling to the nomination, powered by wall-to-wall media attention.

After all that preparation, Mr. Trump rejected two efforts to “draft” him set up by close advisers. If his interest in politics was growing, he was not yet prepared to abandon his career as a reality television host: In mid-May, Mr. Trump announced that he would not run and canceled a planned speech to a major Republican fund-raising dinner in Iowa.

Latching On to Romney

Having stepped back from a campaign of his own, Mr. Trump sought relevance through Mr. Romney’s. Again, Mr. Trump’s determination to seize a role for himself collided with the skepticism of those he approached: While he saw himself as an important spokesman on economic issues and a credible champion for the party, the Romney campaign viewed him as an unpredictable attention-seeker with no real political foundation.

Still, given his expansive media platform — in addition to his reality-show franchise, Mr. Trump was a frequent guest on Fox News — and a fortune that he could theoretically bestow upon a campaign, Mr. Trump was drawing presidential candidates seeking his support to his Fifth Avenue high-rise. In September 2011, Mr. Romney made the trip, entering and exiting discreetly, with no cameras on hand to capture the event.

The decision to court Mr. Trump, former Romney aides said in interviews, stemmed partly from the desire to use him for fund-raising help, but also from the conviction that it would be more dangerous to shun such an expert provocateur than to build a relationship with him and try to contain him.

The test of that strategy came in January 2012, before the make-or-break Florida primary, when Mr. Trump reached out to say he wanted to endorse Mr. Romney at a Trump property in the state. Wary of such a spectacle in a crucial state, Mr. Romney’s aides began a concerted effort to relegate Mr. Trump’s endorsement to a sideshow.

The Romney campaign conducted polling in four states that showed Mr. Trump unpopular everywhere but Nevada, and suggested to Mr. Trump that they hold an endorsement event there, far away from Florida voters.

On the day he was to deliver the endorsement in Las Vegas, according to Mr. Romney’s advisers, Mr. Trump met with Romney aides and said he hoped to hold a joint news conference with Mr. Romney, raising for the campaign the terrifying possibility that Mr. Romney might end up on camera responding to reporters’ questions next to a man who had spent months questioning whether the president was an American citizen.

In an appeal to Mr. Trump’s vanity, the Romney campaign stressed that his endorsement was so vital — with such potential to ripple in the media — that it would be a mistake to dilute the impact with a question-and-answer session.

“The self-professed genius was just stupid enough to buy our ruse,” said Ryan Williams, a former spokesman for the Romney campaign. While they agreed to hold the event in a Trump hotel, the campaign put up blue curtains around the ballroom when the endorsement took place, so that Mr. Romney did not appear to be standing “in a burlesque house or one of Saddam’s palaces,” Mr. Williams said. On stage, as the cameras captured the moment, Mr. Romney seemed almost bewildered. “There are some things that you just can’t imagine happening in your life,” he told reporters as he took the podium, taking in his surroundings. “This is one of them.”

Mr. Trump insisted in the interview that the Romney campaign had strenuously lobbied for his support, and described his own endorsement as the biggest of that year. “What they’re saying is not true,” he said.

But if Mr. Trump expected a major role in the Romney campaign, he was mistaken. While Mr. Trump hosted fund-raising events for Mr. Romney, the two men never hit the campaign trail together. The campaign allowed Mr. Trump to record automated phone calls for Mr. Romney, but drew the line at his demand for a prominent speaking slot at the Republican National Convention. (Mr. Trump recorded a video to be played on the first day of the convention, but the whole day’s events were canceled because of bad weather.)

Stuart Stevens, a senior strategist for Mr. Romney, believed that Mr. Trump had been strictly corralled. “He wanted to campaign with Mitt,” Mr. Stevens wrote in an email. “Nope. Killed. Wanted to speak at the convention. Nope. Killed.”

Still, to Mr. Romney’s opponent that year, the accommodation of Mr. Trump looked egregious. Mr. Obama, in a speech on Friday, said Republicans had long treated Mr. Trump’s provocations as “a hoot” — just as long as they were directed at the president.

Building an Operation

Only a handful of people close to Mr. Trump understood the depth of his interest in the presidency, and the earnestness with which he eyed the 2016 campaign. Mr. Trump had struck up a friendship in 2009 with David N. Bossie, the president of the conservative group Citizens United, who met Mr. Trump through the casino magnate Steve Wynn.

Mr. Trump conferred with Mr. Bossie during the 2012 election and, as 2016 approached, sought his advice on setting up a campaign structure. Mr. Bossie made recommendations for staff members to hire, and Mr. Trump embraced them.

Mr. Trump also carefully cultivated relationships with conservative media outlets, reaching out to talk radio personalities and right-wing websites like Breitbart.com.

By then, Mr. Trump had won a degree of acceptance as a Republican donor. Advised by Mr. Stone, one of his longest-serving counselors, he had abandoned his long-held practice of giving modest sums to both parties, and opened his checkbook for Republicans with unprecedented enthusiasm.

Mr. Trump began a relationship with Reince Priebus, the Republican National Committee chairman, who was trying to rescue the party from debt. He gave substantial donations to “super PACs” supporting Republican leaders on Capitol Hill.

In 2014, he cut a quarter-million dollar check to the Republican Governors Association, in response to a personal entreaty from the group’s chairman — Chris Christie. Still, Mr. Trump’s intentions seemed opaque.

In January 2015, Mr. Trump met for breakfast in Des Moines with Newt and Callista Gingrich. Having traveled to Iowa to speak at a conservative event, Mr. Trump peppered Mr. Gingrich with questions about the experience of running for president, asking about how a campaign is set up, what it is like to run and what it would cost.

Mr. Gingrich said he had seen Mr. Trump until then as “a guy who is getting publicity, playing a game with the birther stuff and enjoying the limelight.” In Iowa, a different reality dawned.

“That’s the first time I thought, you know, he is really thinking about running,” Mr. Gingrich said.

On June 16, 2015, after theatrically descending on the escalator at Trump Tower, Mr. Trump announced his candidacy for president, hitting the precise themes he had laid out in the Conservative Political Action Conference speech five years earlier.

“We are going to make our country great again,” Mr. Trump declared. “I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created.”

Still, rival campaigns and many in the news media did not regard him seriously, predicting that he would quickly withdraw from the race and return to his reality show. Pundits seemed unaware of the spade work he had done throughout that spring, taking a half dozen trips to early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina and using forums hosted by Mr. Bossie’s group to road test a potential campaign.

Even as he jumped to an early lead, opponents suggested that he was riding his celebrity name recognition and would quickly fade. It was only late in the fall, when Mr. Trump sustained a position of dominance in the race — delivering a familiar, nationalist message about immigration controls and trade protectionism — that his Republican rivals began to treat him as a mortal threat.

Mr. Trump, by then, had gained the kind of status he had long been denied, and seemed more and more gleeful as he took in the significance of what he had achieved.

“A lot of people have laughed at me over the years,” he said in a speech days before the New Hampshire primary. “Now, they’re not laughing so much.”

Voir de même:

Hélène Garçon
Femmes.orange.fr

Personne ne pensait cela possible. Et pourtant ! Donald Trump a bel et bien coiffé Hillary Clinton au poteau en remportant les élections présidentielles américaines dans la nuit du mardi 8 novembre 2016. Comment ce puissant businessman sorti de nulle part, a-t-il pu accéder au rang de président des États-Unis ? Une question sur toutes les bouches, à laquelle la rédaction a tenté de répondre.

Théorie n°1 : il se laisse tenter par le défi d’un twittos

Si la moitié des électeurs américains n’ont pas fermé l’oeil dans la nuit du 8 novembre 2016, Russell Steinberg, lui, a dû passer une soirée plus compliquée encore que celle des autres. Cet internaute pourrait, en effet, avoir instillé dans l’esprit de Donald Trump l’idée de se présenter, et ce, par la force d’un seul tweet. L’histoire remonte à février 2013. À cette époque, Donald Trump prend un malin plaisir à descendre en flèche les moindres faits et gestes du président démocrate Barack Obama sur les réseaux sociaux. Lassé des diatribes du businessman critiquant en permanence le pays, Russel Steinberg a jugé bon de lui répondre sur Twitter en optant pour la carte de l’ironie dans un tweet aujourd’hui supprimé.

« Si vous détestez tant l’Amérique, vous devriez vous présenter à la présidentielle et arranger les choses« . Ce à quoi Donald Trump a répondu par une menace : « Faites attention !« . Résultat : l’homme d’affaires l’a visiblement pris au pied de la lettre, en déposant sa candidature deux ans plus tard, en 2015, et en remportant les élections en novembre 2016. Il y en a un qui doit se mordre les doigts !

Théorie n°2 : humilié par Obama, il prend sa revanche

Donald Trump n’a jamais caché son aversion pour Barack Obama. Lequel n’a pas non plus été tendre avec lui. Alors que le milliardaire enchaînait les apparitions télé en 2011, demandant à consulter le certificat de naissance du président pour vérifier s’il était vraiment américain, celui-ci décidait de contre-attaquer lors du dîner des correspondants à la Maison Blanche, le 30 avril 2011. Le chef d’État s’en est alors donné à coeur joie en humiliant, avec sa verve légendaire, le milliardaire.

« Donald Trump est ici ce soir et je sais qu’il a encaissé des critiques ces derniers temps, mais personne n’est plus heureux, plus fier que cette affaire d’acte de naissance soit enfin réglée que le Donald« , lançait Barack Obama au moment de son discours. « Et c’est parce qu’il va maintenant pouvoir se concentrer sur les problèmes importants. Par exemple, notre vol sur la Lune était-il un faux? Qu’est-il vraiment arrivé à Roswell? Et où sont Biggie et Tupac ?« . Une pique qui aurait servi de déclic au businessman, lequel ne supporterait pas l’humiliation selon Isabelle Hanne, journaliste à Libération, qui a rapporté la scène. La vengeance est un plat qui se mange froid : cinq ans après, Donald Trump a finalement eu sa revanche sur Barack Obama.

Théorie n°3 : il souhaite détruire le parti Républicain

C’est la rumeur la plus folle qui a fait trembler la toile pendant la course à la présidentielle américaine : Donald Trump, serait en réalité un partisan d’Hillary Clinton, et se serait lancé dans la course à l’investiture dans l’unique but de devenir président et de détruire le parti républicain, sous la bannière duquel il a mené toute sa campagne. Une théorie complètement tirée par les cheveux, mais à laquelle ont adhéré de nombreux internautes après que l’ancienne amitié des Trump et des Clinton ait été révélée au grand jour, au début de l’année 2016.

En plus de partager le même cercle d’amis que sa rivale Hillary Clinton, qu’il a d’ailleurs invitée au mariage de sa fille, il a été découvert que Donald Trump et sa famille ont participé financièrement à la campagne de la démocrate en 2008, et ont également fait un don de 100 000 dollars à la Fondation Clinton. Un geste généreux qui aurait mis la puce à l’oreille de nombreux internautes, qui ont alors immédiatement crié au complot.

Voir de plus:

Obama blues

Obama et la com : la politique du rire

Sur les réseaux sociaux ou sur les plateaux des late-night shows, Obama aura démontré son talent d’humoriste et un grand sens de l’autodérision, inventant une communication bien à lui pour toucher un public plus jeune.

Isabelle Hanne

Libération
20 janvier 2017 

Cet article a été publié fin octobre dans notre supplément «Obama Blues».

Un président qui vient dérouler son bilan en musique, devant des millions de téléspectateurs, un public applaudissant à tout rompre et un présentateur acquis à sa cause. Vous n’êtes pas dans une dictature d’Asie centrale, mais sur le plateau du Tonight Show de Jimmy Fallon sur NBC, le late-night show (émission de troisième partie de soirée) le plus regardé des Etats-Unis. Avec, dans le rôle de l’autocrate-crooner, Barack Obama, venu en juin se prêter à une session de «slow jam the news» – les invités racontent l’actu en musique, «slow jams» désignant ces romantiques ballades r’n’b. Economie, santé, mariage gay, accord transpacifique… Les années Obama y passent en sept minutes, ponctuées de blagues de Fallon et soulignées par la mélodie sensuelle des Roots, le groupe résident du show. La vidéo a été vue 11 millions de fois sur YouTube.

Evidemment, le «Preezy of the United Steezy», comme l’appelle Jimmy Fallon, ne fait pas ça que pour s’amuser. En deux mandats, l’entertainer Obama s’est servi des shows comiques –  lisant les «méchants tweets» à son encontre chez Jimmy Kimmel, remplaçant Stephen Colbert pour son Colbert Report sur Comedy Central  – pour appuyer sa communication. Avec, dans le viseur, les jeunes, plus prompts à partager des vidéos marrantes qu’à écouter des longs discours.

Porte-à-porte virtuel

Fin 2013, le démarrage des plateformes en ligne de mutuelles privées, au cœur de l’Obamacare, son emblématique réforme de la santé, est catastrophique. Bugs, méfiance du public, peu d’inscrits… «Barry» prend alors sa perche à selfie de pèlerin. A coups de vidéos et de GIF sur Buzzfeed –  Things Everybody Does But Doesn’t Talk About («Les choses que tout le monde fait, mais dont personne ne parle»), 60 millions de vues  –, ou lors d’une interview lunaire et hilarante à Between Two Ferns, le faux talk-show de Zach Galifianakis diffusé sur la plateforme Funny or Die, le commander-in-chief se plie à l’exercice pour promouvoir sa réforme. Au passage, il renforce sa street cred.

La présidence Obama a inventé une propagande branchée, une communication cool. Au cœur de cette stratégie  : les réseaux sociaux, qui ont largement porté sa victoire en 2008. L’engagement numérique de la campagne du «Yes We Can» a d’ailleurs été décortiqué par les équipes de com du monde entier. Tandis que la droite américaine propageait son venin conspirationniste par de bonnes vieilles chaînes de mails –  le candidat démocrate aurait menti sur son certificat de naissance, serait musulman…  –, Obama prenait mille longueurs d’avance, touchant un public beaucoup plus large, plus jeune. «En 2008, les efforts de son adversaire, John McCain, pour tenter de le rattraper sur les réseaux sociaux étaient presque pathétiques», se souvient Michael Barris, coauteur de The Social Media President (Palgrave, 2013). L’équipe du sénateur de l’Illinois a compris l’intérêt de Facebook, de Twitter –  plus tard viendront Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn…  – pour lever des fonds, diffuser des messages, obtenir des soutiens, grâce à ce porte-à-porte virtuel d’un nouveau genre.

«Obama s’est fait élire sur des promesses de démocratie participative via les réseaux sociaux, rappelle Michael Barris. Mais finalement, les réseaux sociaux ont surtout été pour lui un formidable outil de diffusion, de validation par le public, et de promotion d’une image très positive : celle d’un président branché, connecté, proche des gens.» Viser un public, via le bon médium, avec le bon ton : huit ans que le président américain, avec son équipe de quatorze personnes dédiée à la stratégie numérique, montre sa maîtrise. Et son adaptation à l’évolution des usages. La Maison Blanche est devenue une véritable boîte de production, avec plus de 500 vidéos réalisées chaque année (infographies, coulisses…), distribuées sur les différentes plateformes (site officiel, YouTube, Facebook…). «Le premier président de l’ère des médias sociaux a fixé les règles d’interactions numériques entre politiques et électeurs, écrit le Washington Post. Certains chefs d’Etat se préoccupaient des chaînes d’info ; Obama est le président ­Netflix.»

«Un humour naturel»

Il use, sur Twitter comme dans les late-night shows, d’un humour contemporain, ultra-référencé, abreuvé de culture web et de culture populaire tout court. Pour le Washington Post, il est même le «premier président alt comedy», cette catégorie d’humour alternatif maniant l’ironie, centré sur soi. «Pour la plupart des chefs d’Etat, l’humour est considéré comme une marque de faiblesse, avance l’universitaire Arie Sover, qui dirige l’Israeli Society for Humor Studies. Il faut montrer qu’on est dur, qu’on ne plaisante pas. Vous avez déjà vu rire, même sourire, Erdogan ou Poutine  ?»

A l’autre bout du spectre, Obama rit, montre ses émotions, fait des vannes questionnant son hétérosexualité –  il raconte que son vice-président, Joe Biden, et lui sont «si proches» qu’ils ne pourraient pas aller dans une pizzeria de l’Indiana, en référence à un restaurant qui refusait ses services de traiteur pour les mariages gays. «Non seulement Obama a de l’humour, mais en plus c’est un humour naturel, spontané, décrit Arie Sover. L’humour en politique permet de toucher son public au cœur. Et Obama pratique l’autodérision, la forme la plus élevée d’humour.»

Mais le président américain ne laisse rien au hasard : cette spontanéité est surtout parfaitement chorégraphiée, écrite à l’avance par des équipes d’auteurs talentueux. D’autodérision, il en a beaucoup fait preuve lors du dîner annuel des correspondants à la Maison Blanche, véritable scène de stand-up pour le président sortant. Maîtrise des silences, des regards, intonations, vidéos bien ficelées… Ces soirs-là, Obama fait de l’humour une technique de dégoupillage imparable des critiques. Comme en 2011, alors que la droite le harcèle une nouvelle fois sur son certificat de naissance. Pour faire taire les rumeurs, il annonce la «diffusion exclusive de la vidéo de sa mise au monde» –  en fait, le début du Roi Lion de Disney. Dans la salle, Donald Trump, déjà porte-voix de ces allégations, ne moufte pas. Les journalistes, qui rient à gorge déployée, ont laissé leurs armes au vestiaire.

Voir enfin:

‘I Don’t Know What You’re Referring To’: NBC’s Katy Tur Doesn’t Remember Obama Promising Putin ‘Flexibility’

 Alex Griswold

When a Republican congressman on MSNBC brought up a 2012 incident where President Barack Obama was caught on a hot mic promising to give Russia’s Vladimir Putin a little more “flexibility” after the election, NBC journalist and MSNBC host Katy Tur seemed not to recall the incident.

Tur pressed Florida Representative Francis Rooney about the number of Donald Trump advisors with close tie to Russia. “I see a lot of folks within Donald Trump’s administration who have a friendlier view of Russia than maybe past administrations did,” she noted.

“Well, I think it was Obama that leaned over to Putin and said, ‘I’ll have a little more flexibility to give you what you want after the re-election,’” Rooney responded.

Tur paused for a moment. “I’m sorry, I don’t know what you’re referring to, Congressman,” she said.

“Remember when he leaned over at a panel discussion or in a meeting, and he said, ‘I’ll have more flexibility after the election’?” Rooney asked. “No one pushed the president on what he meant by that, but I can only assume for a thug like Putin that it would embolden him,” which gave Tur pause, again.

In Tur’s defense, Rooney is slightly off in his retelling: it was then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev who Obama whispered to, who then promised to relay Obama’s message to Putin. But his recollection of the content of Obama’s message was accurate: “This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility,” he told the Russians.

Obama’s hot mic comments were major news at the time, receiving widespread coverage. Obama’s Republican opponent Mitt Romney seized upon the gaffe and worked it into his stump speeches, even bringing it up during one of the presidential debates.

Voir par ailleurs:

Goldnadel : “Lorque Medhi s’éclate…”

Gilles-William Goldnadel

Valeurs actuelles

20 février 2017

Il y a évidemment pire que les excès de la liberté d’expression : son absence. Mais il y a le pire du pire: la liberté d’expression à la tête du client. Du racisme à l’état pur. L’hypocrisie en prime. Chacun sait que notre époque de fausse liberté a accouché d’une tyrannie de la pensée dont la sage-femme devenue folle était déguisée en antiraciste diplômée. Valeurs Actuelles en a fait les frais en osant voiler Marianne pour défendre la laïcité républicaine contre les menées islamistes et Pascal Bruckner comme Georges Bensoussan payeront peut-être le prix pour des raisons voisines. Silence dans les rangs de la gauche paraît-il démocratique. Mais aujourd’hui vient d’éclater une tout autre affaire dans laquelle, au contraire, le racisme comme l’antisémitisme n’ont rien d’imaginaire. Et je prends le pari, qu’ici , précisément, les organisations prétendument antiracistes resteront aux abris. La vedette s’appelle Mehdi Meklat, hier encore il était la coqueluche de la famille islamo-gauchiste et de tous ses compagnons de chambrée. Dans le numéro du 1er février des Inrockuptibles il partageait la une avec l’icône Taubira. Il collaborait aussi avec le Bondy Blog, très engagé dans le combat actuel contre les policiers considérés uniment comme des tortionnaires racistes. Il était encore récemment chroniqueur de la radio active de service public France Inter.

Oui mais voilà, patatras, on a retrouvé parmi les milliers de tweets qu’il n’a pas réussi à effacer des gazouillis racistes du dernier cri strident. Échantillons choisis : “je crache des glaires sur la sale gueule de Charb et tous ceux de Charlie hebdo”. “Sarkozy = la synagogue = les juifs = Shalom = oui, mon fils = l’argent”, “Faites entrer Hitler pour tuer les juifs”, “j’ai gagné 20 $ au PMU, je ne les ai pas rejoués parce que je suis un juif”, “les Blancs vous devez mourir asap” etc.

Avec une touchante spontanéité, à présent qu’ils ont été découverts, voici ce que notre Mehdi a tweeté samedi dernier : “je m’excuse si ces tweets ont pu choquer certains d’entre vous : ils sont obsolètes”.

Bah voyons, certains datent de 2012, autant dire le déluge. J’en connais qui vont fouiller les poubelles du père Le Pen, d’autres qui reprochent à un ancien conseiller de Sarkozy d’avoir dirigé Minute il y a 30 ans, mais dans notre cas, certains plaident déjà l’Antiquité.

Car le plus grave n’habite pas dans la tête dérangée d’un islamo-gauchiste finalement assez classique, il demeure dans le silence gêné de la gauche donneuse de leçons. Il réside plus encore dans les combles du gauchisme médiatique façon France Inter. Ainsi, Pascale Clark maîtresse d’école antiraciste en chef et qui a eu l’effronterie de tenter d’expliquer que son petit Mehdi était dans la provocation… D’autres expliquent qu’il faut prendre cela au troisième degré… Evidemment, puisque c’est de gauche , c’est plus subtil… Il arrive parfois que l’ignoble atteigne les sommets du sublime.

Que cela plaise ou non à Madame Clark, Mehdi Meklat a rejoint Messieurs de Lesquen et Bourbon dans le même bataillon. Il y a encore pire que l’absence de liberté d’expression : la liberté d’expression à la tête du client.

Voir de même:

Mehdi Meklat, jeune écrivain prodige, et son double antisémite et homophobe
L’ex-chroniqueur (France Inter, Bondy Blog) pris à son double « Je » : sidération sur Twitter

Manuel Vicuña

Arrêt sur images

20/02/2017

Mehdi Meklat, 24 ans, était jusqu’ici connu pour son ton décalé. Du Bondy Blog, à France Inter en passant par Arte, le chroniqueur, journaliste et auteur, s’est taillé, avec son compère Badrou (« les Kids », époque France Inter) une réputation de porte-voix de la jeunesse, « à l’avant garde d’une nouvelle génération venue de banlieue » écrivaient encore Les Inrocks le 1er février. Sauf qu’entre temps, des internautes ont exhumé des tweets de Meklat : injures antisémites, homophobes, racistes, misogynes. Un florilège qui provoque la sidération. De son côte, le jeune homme s’excuse, dépublie, et assure qu’il s’agissait « de questionner la notion d’excès et de provocation » à travers un « personnage fictif ».

Faire mentir les stéréotypes sur les-jeunes-de-banlieue. Sans rien renier de soi. Depuis ses débuts au Bondy Blog en 2008, c’est ce que Mehdi Meklat tente de faire, au gré d’une exposition médiatique précoce. A 24 ans désormais, après avoir fait ses premiers pas de journaliste au Bondy Blog à 16 ans, puis tenu chronique pendant six ans chez France Inter en duo avec son ami Badrou (« les Kids »), Meklat le touche à tout (réalisateur, blogueur, reporter) est en promo pour un second livre. Mehdi et Badrou « l’avant-garde d’une nouvelle génération venue de banlieue qui compte bien faire entendre sa voix » écrivaient les Inrocks qui leur consacraient une couverture le 1er février en compagnie de Christiane Taubira. Un binôme qui avait tapé dans l’œil de l’animatrice de France Inter Pascale Clark dès 2010, pour son ton « décalé », sa capacité à chroniquer avec autant d’acuité la vie de l’autre côté du périph (Meklat a grandi à Saint-Ouen, Badrou à la Courneuve) que le tout venant de l’actualité plus « médiatique ».

Et voilà que depuis quelques jours, après son passage sur le plateau de l’émission la Grande Librairie (France 5) pour la promo de son second livre, le roman « Minute » (co-écrit avec Badrou), Meklat est dans l’œil du cyclone Twitter. Propulsé dans les sujets les plus discutés non pas pour la promotion de son nouvel ouvrage dédié à Adama Traoré. Mais pour des tweets, exhumés ces derniers jours par plusieurs internautes.

Pas quelques tweets isolés. Mais des messages par dizaines, anciens (2012) et pour certains plus récents (2016) dans lesquels Meklat tape tous azimuts sur « les Français », « les juifs », « les homos », Alain Finkelkraut, Charlie Hebdo, les séropositifs, les « travelos »… La liste est longue, et les messages à même d’interpeller. Une prose en 140 signes qui tranche avec l’image de jeune talent à la plume « poétique » et acérée que Meklat s’était jusqu’ici taillée et qui lui a valu jusqu’à aujourd’hui des articles dithyrambiques dans la presse culturelle. Quelques heures auront suffit pour que, soient exhumés et massivement partagés des dizaines de messages issus de son compte twitter personnel @mehdi_meklat.

Ici un tweet de 2011 dans lequel Meklat « regrette que Ben Laden soit mort. Il aurait pu tout faire péter ». Là, Meklat au sujet du dessinateur de Charlie Hebdo, Charb : « Je crache des glaires sur la sale gueule de Charb et de Charlie Hebdo » (le 30 décembre 2012, avant la tuerie qui a décimé la rédaction). Plus récemment, Alain Finkelkraut qui pointe son nez à un rassemblement de Nuit Debout en avril 2016 : « fallait lui casser la jambe à ce fils de putes ». Plus en amont dans son fil Twitter : « Vive les PD vive le sida avec Hollande » (3 décembre 2013). La campagne de Sarkozy en 2012 ? « Sarkozy = la synagogue = les juifs = shalom = oui, mon fils = l’argent ». La remise des Césars la même année ? « Faites entrer Hitler pour tuer les juifs » (24/02/2012). Toute cette vaste littérature en 140 caractères est subitement remontée à la surface de Twitter et a été, depuis, copieusement documentée.

Parmi les premiers et les plus zélés chasseurs de tweets, la fachosphère s’est ruée sur l’occasion. Le blog d’extrême droite Fdesouche publie à tout-va plus d’une cinquantaine de messages de Meklat « journaliste homophobe et antisémite du Bondy blog ». Le site d’extrême droite Boulevard Voltaire, fondé par Robert Ménard, trouve là prétexte à acculer la « gauchosphère sous son vrai visage », quand l’ex-porte parole de génération identitaire s’en donne, lui aussi, à coeur joie. Très vite rejoint dans cette avalanche d’indignation par Marion Maréchal Le Pen.

Ce dimanche, la twitta-éditorialiste du Figaro Eugénie Bastié y allait aussi de ses commentaires en 140 signes, suivis d’un article corrosif, soulignant bien au passage que Meklat avait fondé il y a peu avec le journaliste Mouloud Achour (CliqueTV) les « éditions du grand Remplacement » qui ont lancé en juin dernier un magazine baptisé « Téléramadan ». Cette nouvelle revue annuelle qui entend parler d’islam de façon dépassionnée, avait su trouver un titre pied-de-nez déjà à même de faire bondir certains.

« excréments verbaux »

Mais dans le cas des tweets de Meklat, de fait, la sidération dépasse de loin la sphère des militants de droite et d’extrême droite. D’autres aussi s’indignent : de simples twittos, mais aussi des journalistes, tels Françoise Laborde, Claude Askolovitch, des élus PS comme la ministre de la Famille Laurence Rossignol, ou encore la conseillère municipale Elodie Jauneau sans compter le délégué interministériel à la lutte contre le racisme et l’antisémitisme Gille Clavreul.

Ils interpellent les Inrocks qui ont placé Meklat en Une de leur numéro du 1er février au côté de Taubira. Ils apostrophent également les éditions du Seuil où Meklat vient de publier son ouvrage, et font part de leur stupéfaction. A l’image de l’auteur de bande dessinée, romancier et réalisateur, Joann Sfar qui s’étrangle : « Je découvre tout ça ce matin, il semble que c’est authentique. Je trouve ça inexcusable quand on se veut représentant de la jeunesse. »

Face à l’avalanche de messages indignés, sommé de s’expliquer, samedi après-midi, Meklat se fend finalement de quatre tweets d’excuse et d’explication : « je m’excuse si ces tweets ont pu choquer certains d’entre vous : ils sont obsolètes », assure Meklat qui supprimera dans la foulée la totalité de ses tweets d’avant février 2017 (plus de 30 000). Surtout, il affirme que ces messages ne reflètent en rien sa pensée. Il ne nie pas en être l’auteur, mais assure qu’il s’agit de messages parodiques. « Jusqu’en 2015, sous le pseudo Marcelin Deschamps, j’incarnais un personnage honteux raciste antisémite misogyne homophobe sur Twitter ».

Marcellin Deschamps ? Un « personnage fictif », assure-t-il par lequel il avait entrepris de « questionner la notion d’excès et de provocation ». Mais, il l’affirme : les propos de ce personnage « ne représentent évidemment pas ma pensée et en sont tout l’inverse. » Sur Twitter, une fois troqué son pseudo contre son vrai patronyme, le jeune homme n’a pas supprimé ces anciens messages, apparaissant depuis sous son vrai nom Mehdi Meklat.

Dans la foulée, ce samedi, l’animatrice radio Pascale Clark, ex chaperonne de Meklat à France Inter (2010-2015) a pris sa défense « Son personnage odieux, fictif, ne servait qu’à dénoncer », assure-t-elle sur Twitter avant de préciser dans un second message : « Les comiques font ça à longueur d’antenne et tout le monde applaudit ».

Un peu facile de se cacher derrière un personnage fictif ? A la remarque de plusieurs internautes, le journaliste Claude Askolovitch tempère : « c’est même piteux. Mais cela ne change pas la nature de ses messages pourris – une énorme connerie, pas des appels au meurtre ». Si le journaliste ne cache pas son dégoût pour ces messages qu’il assimile à « des excréments verbaux », « des blagues absolument laides, impardonnables, perverses », « dans un jeu périlleux », il se refuse à y voir de « vraies prises de position ». Tout en tançant « un mec qui s’est cru assez malin pour twitter des immondices ».

« Twitter des immondices », sous pseudo dans « un jeu périlleux » ? Yagg, le site de presse LGBT y avait vu davantage qu’un jeu. Le site avait bondi en mars 2014 quand Meklat écrivait sur Twitter : « Christophe Barbier a des enfants séropo ». Yagg le taxe alors d’ « humour sérophobe », « au goût douteux » (visant des personnes séropositives). Le site avait contacté Meklat pour qu’il s’en explique. Réponse de l’intéressé : « J’ai un pseudo sur Twitter, il ne faut pas faire d’amalgame entre mon personnage et moi-même ». Contacté par Yagg, il développait : « Je peux comprendre qu’on se sente insulté par mes tweets, car ils sont parfois extrêmes, provocants ou insultants, mais il ne faut pas en faire des tonnes(…) J’ai créé un personnage violent, provocant, méchant. Pourquoi? Je ne me l’explique pas à moi-même, alors je ne peux pas l’expliquer aux autres. Mais je ne suis pas du tout homophobe. »

« C’est un terrain de jeu, j’y abuse de tout »

En octobre 2012, les Inrocks consacraient un portrait élogieux (comme beaucoup) aux gamins précoces Mehdi Meklat et Badroudine Saïd Abdallah, alias « les Kids » de France inter qui entamaient leur quatrième saison sur les ondes de la radio publique. « Un matin, ils partent avec leur micro enregistrer la plainte de la vallée de Florange abandonnée, le lendemain ils sont à l’Elysée et tapent la discute avec Michael Haeneke » écrivent les Inrocks qui dressent le portrait de deux « gamins « talentueux », de « vrais passe-murailles ».

Comme beaucoup, l’hebdo s’enthousiasme de leur « reportages poétiques » et de leur « style unique ». Les Inrocks notent : « ils attirent les sympathies ». Quant à Meklat ? Au passage, l’hebdo raconte que c’est « le plus provoc » de deux. « Il faut le voir sur Twitter, vaguement caché derrière un pseudo depuis longtemps éventé : c’est une vraie terreur. Il se pose en métallo furieux, insulte à tout va, se moque de tout et de tous avec une férocité indécente » écrivent les Inrocks qui commentent : « Ça peut aller trop loin (France Inter lui a déjà demandé de retirer un tweet) mais la plupart du temps, c’est drôle à mourir. » Et Meklat d’expliquer déjà que sur le réseau social il « joue un personnage » : « Je ne suis attaché à rien, je n’ai de comptes à rendre à personne, j’ai la liberté de dire ce que je veux. C’est un terrain de jeu, j’y abuse de tout, je ne me mets pas de limite. »

Trois ans plus tard. Octobre 2015. Les « Kids » de Pascale Clark ont grandi. Lorsque Le Monde les interviewe pour la sortie de leur premier livre, la journaliste s’attarde sur le cas Meklat. « Si doux et poli à la ville, Mehdi s’est inventé sur Twitter un double diabolique, qui insulte à tout-va », écrit Le Monde. Meklat commente alors : « Tout est trop convenu, on n’ose plus s’énerver. L’idée de casser ça en étant méchant gratuitement me plaît ».

En septembre 2016, dans un long article, la journaliste Marie-France Etchegoin revenait pour M le magazine du Monde sur le parcours et l’état d’esprit du tandem Mehdi-Badrou, « une nouvelle génération, à la fois cool et dure, investissant le champ de la culture plutôt que celui des partis politiques, et extrêmement engagée ». Engagée, brillante et convoitée. Comme l’explique M, le duo Mehdi-Badrou est sollicité de toutes parts, ces dernier temps. Ici pour pour un projet avec la Fondation Cartier, là pour écrire un dossier de presse pour un long-métrage avec Depardieu. Ou encore pour mettre en scène la pièce d’un auteur suédois.

Quant à leur magazine Téléramadan, la revue annuelle « des musulmans qui ne veulent plus s’excuser d’exister », la journaliste explique que « Pierre Bergé mais aussi Agnès b ont accepté de soutenir la revue ». Parfait. Seul bémol dans la success story, observe la journaliste : « Les bonnes fées qui accompagnent les deux garçons depuis l’adolescence observent leur évolution, avec parfois une pointe d’inquiétude, qui n’empêche ni bienveillance ni compréhension. » Concrètement ? Il est question notamment de Meklat et de son usage de Twitter. « Un troll déchaîné qui déconne et dézingue à tout-va. «Giclez-lui sa mère», «On s’en bat les couilles», «Elle est pas morte, celle-là?» « , énumère la journaliste qui constate : « il se défoule sur des personnalités dont les manières ou les prises de position sur l’islam n’ont pas l’heur de lui plaire ». Certains parrains et autres bonnes fées, explique la journaliste, s’en soucient : « «Arrête ces Tweets! Tu n’es pas dans une cour de récréation!» Mouloud Achour le met en garde: «Les écrits restent, un jour on te les ressortira.». Quant à Mehdi, raconte la journaliste, il « se défend, la main sur le cœur: «Ce n’est pas moi, c’est un personnage que j’ai inventé», ne pouvant s’empêcher d’ajouter, comme dans un lapsus: «Mes Tweets sont des pulsions!» »

Meklat et son avatar pulsionnel, une histoire qui ne date pas d’hier. Un double « je » qui ne semble pas géner Meklat, mais qui ne met pas tout le monde à l’aise. Ce dimanche, l’animateur de la Grande Librairie (France 5) François Busnel, qui avait invité Meklat cette semaine publie un communiqué pour prendre ses distances avec son invité. Busnel y affirme que si il avait eu connaissance de ces messages, il n’aurait pas invité le jeune homme dans son émission.

Samedi, le Bondy Blog, pressé par une foule d’internautes de réagir, avait également publié un message sur Twitter , expliquant que « les tweets de Meklat n’engagent en aucun cas la responsabilité de la rédaction ».

Et le média de préciser : « Puisqu’il y a des évidences qu’il faut affirmer, le Bondy Blog ne peut cautionner des propos antisémites, sexistes, homophobes, racistes, ou tout autre propos discriminatoires et stigmatisants, même sur le ton de l’humour ».

Voir aussi pour mémoire:

Les réactions en France

Le Nouvel Obs

07 novembre 2008

LES POLITIQUES 

A droite :

Jacques Chirac, ancien président : « Alors que votre élection suscite dans le monde émotion et espoir en ces temps difficiles, je ne doute pas que la France et le peuple français auront à coeur d’entretenir et d’approfondir avec votre pays et le peuple américain, les liens d’amitié et de coopération si intenses qu’une longue histoire commune a forgés ». « En récompensant votre inlassable engagement en faveur des valeurs fondamentales de liberté, de démocratie et de progrès, le peuple américain a adressé au monde un message d’ouverture et d’optimisme », affirme également Jacques Chirac, en adressant à Barack Obama ses « félicitations les plus vives et les plus chaleureuses pour cette très brillante victoire ». (Lettre adressée à Barack Obama)

Nicolas Sarkozy chef de l’Etat français : « Quel que soit le pays, quelle que soit la région du monde, c’est le changement qui avait gagné, qu’Obama avait dans cette campagne incarné la rupture. L’Amérique a fait hier soir le choix de la rupture ». « Les Etats-Unis avaient vécu une belle campagne présidentielle avec un taux de participation record de 66%, une campagne entre un fils d’immigré kenyan d’un côté, et de l’autre un héros de la guerre, John McCain ».
« Toute cette campagne et son dénouement traduisaient la capacité de la démocratie américaine à se renouveler, à se régénérer. Il a indiqué que le nouveau président, Barack Obama, avait compris que l’Amérique devait à nouveau se tourner vers le monde et qu’il y aurait incontestablement des opportunités de renforcement des liens transatlantiques ». (Porte-parole de Nicolas Sarkozy)

Jean-Marie Le Pen, président du Front national : « Le sénateur Obama n’a pas fait sa campagne électorale sur sa couleur, au contraire. Ce n’est pas le fils d’un Noir américain, c’est un métis, fils d’un Noir africain, qui ne porte donc pas sur les épaules le poids de l’esclavage et qui par conséquent est beaucoup plus à l’aise que quiconque ». Il s’agit « d’une victoire conjoncturelle, c’est-à-dire que c’est la présidence de Bush qui est condamnée ». Jean-Marie le Pen dit ne pas être « choqué » par l’élection d’un Noir. « Ca me choque d’autant moins que la première fois que j’ai été élu député, en 1956, mon deuxième de liste était un Noir. (…) Je n’ai pas de leçons à recevoir ». (Vidéo mise en ligne sur son site).

Brice Hortefeux, le ministre de l’Immigration : L’élection de Barak Obama allait « changer le regard des Français et en général des Européens sur les Etats-Unis ». « Il y a aussi un côté symbolique puisque chacun sait que Barak Obama est d’une famille issue de l’immigration ». « C’est le témoignage que le défi de l’intégration peut être relevé ». « L’apport de l’immigration est lié intrinsèquement à l’histoire des Etats Unis ». « En Europe, même si les politiques d’intégration ont globalement échoué, je pense qu’on peut être optimiste ». « En France et en Europe, ces politiques sont à bout de souffle. C’est pour cela que j’ai organisé la conférence européenne de Vichy ». « La démarche d’Obama symbolise le renouvellement et sans doute la rupture après deux mandats d’administration républicaine et aussi la crise financière ». (Déclaration à la presse)

François Bayrou, président du Mouvement démocrate (MoDem) : « Après le désastre des années Bush (…), l’élection de Barack Obama fait que le monde respire mieux ». « Nous savons que le nouveau président n’aura pas une baguette magique, qu’il ne résoudra pas tous les problèmes en un jour », et que « dans l’ombre, de puissants intérêts ne se laisseront pas oublier ». « Mais au moins pouvons-nous espérer qu’une nouvelle vision, plus ouverte, plus généreuse, plus sociale, inspire la politique américaine ». « Nous pouvons espérer qu’Europe et Etats-Unis, avec les autres grandes régions du monde, inventent ensemble un partenariat pour la planète ». « Ensemble, ils peuvent répondre à la grande question : la démocratie peut-elle gouverner le monde, au lieu de la force militaire ou de la force de l’argent ? ». Cette élection représente également « un message personnel à des centaines de millions d’hommes et de femmes, de garçons et de filles, à la peau noire, qui ont vécu l’expérience de la discrimination ». « Pour eux, ce n’est pas seulement une grande nouvelle politique, c’est une grande nouvelle humaine, un grand espoir pour leur vie ». (Communiqué)

Laurent Wauquiez, secrétaire d’Etat à l’Emploi: « On a l’impression que tout à coup, on a ouvert les fenêtres sur une politique américaine qui sentait la naphtaline » (Déclaration à la sortie du conseil des ministres).
« On a la même analyse des choses. Ca devrait permettre d’avoir des points de convergence (entre la France et les Etats-Unis) mais ce n’est pas parce qu’Obama est génial – ce dont je suis convaincu – que c’est nécessairement bon pour notre pays ». Il faut « qu’on regarde comment le travail ensemble va se faire. Notre job, c’est de s’assurer que les intérêts des Etats-Unis convergent avec les nôtres. » (Déclaration sur Canal +)

Nadine Morano
, secrétaire d’Etat en charge de la Famille: « En élisant Barack Obama, le peuple américain a changé le visage du monde (…) Un président métis à la Maison Blanche, c’est le sens de l’histoire qui est en marche ». (Communiqué)

Alain Juppé, ancien Premier ministre : « Il y a une espèce d’enthousiasme un peu partout, (mais) il faut quand même se dire que le monde ne va pas changer du jour au lendemain et que la tâche qui attend Obama est formidable, dans tous les sens du mot : à la fois enthousiasmante et un peu effrayante ». (Déclaration sur Canal+)

Dominique de Villepin, ancien Premier ministre : « c’est une formidable victoire pour les Etats-Unis, pour la démocratie américaine mais c’est surtout la fierté retrouvée pour les Américains. (…) (Il y a une) incertitude parce que se retrouver président des Etats-Unis dans un moment de crise sans avoir eu d’expérience préalable de grande fonction dans l’administration américaine, c’est évidemment un pari ». (Déclaration sur LCI)

Axel Poniatowski (UMP), président de la Commission des Affaires étrangères de l’Assemblée nationale : « C’est avant tout l’espoir d’une approche américaine plus multilatérale dans les affaires internationales. C’est aussi l’espoir de sortir plus vite de la crise économique et financière en parvenant à un accord consensuel sur une économie de marché mieux régulée et mieux encadrée ». (Communiqué)
« Notre vie politique n’a pas connu encore le renouvellement que connaissent aujourd’hui les Etats-Unis: nous avons d’un côté un parti de mouvement et de rupture, de l’autre côté un parti de contestation, il reste à inventer un grand mouvement de réconciliation. Mais force est de constater qu’en France, personne ne revendique aujourd’hui cette stratégie ».
Selon l’ancien Premier ministre, la différence entre Nicolas Sarkozy et le président américain élu Barack Obama, c’est que le premier prône « la rupture » là où le deuxième incarne « la réconciliation ». (Déclaration sur Europe 1)

Valérie Létard
, secrétaire d’Etat à la solidarité: La victoire de Barack Obama est « un espoir pour l’évolution du droit des femmes » car il « s’est engagé pour la prévention et la lutte contre les violences faites aux femmes » (Communiqué)

Fadela Amara, secrétaire d’Etat à la politique de la Ville: salue « un formidable exemple d’un renouveau du rêve américain, où chacun, quelle que soit son origine sociale ou ethnique, peut se dire que c’est possible. Barack Obama, incarne pour toute une jeunesse, notamment celle des quartiers populaires, le symbole d’un espoir, d’un changement pour le progrès de l’humanité ». (Déclaration)

Mouvement national républicain (MNR, extrême-droite) : « S’étonne des réactions outrancières voire parfois délirantes de la classe politico-journalistique après l’élection de Barack Obama (qui) relèvent d’un parti pris idéologique dépourvu de toute rationalité puisqu’elles ne se fondent que sur la personne du nouveau président et nullement sur son programme » (Communiqué).

Bernard Accoyer, le président de l’Assemblée nationale : « L’élection de Barack Obama ouvre une ère nouvelle pour l’Amérique et marque la force et la vitalité de la démocratie américaine ». « Lors de sa première visite en France, j’aurai le plaisir et l’honneur de l’inviter à s’exprimer devant l’Hémicycle de l’Assemblée nationale ».

Nicolas Sarkozy, chef de l’Etat français, félicite Barack Obama pour sa « victoire brillante ». « Recevez mes félicitations les plus chaleureuses, et à travers moi, celles du peuple français tout entier. Votre victoire brillante récompense un engagement inlassable au service du peuple américain. Elle couronne également une campagne exceptionnelle, dont le souffle et l’élévation ont prouvé au monde entier la vitalité de la démocratie américaine, en même temps qu’ils le tenaient en haleine », écrit le chef de l’Etat. « En vous choisissant, c’est le choix du changement, de l’ouverture et de l’optimisme qu’a fait le peuple américain. Alors que le monde est dans la tourmente et qu’il doute, le peuple américain, fidèle à ses valeurs qui font depuis toujours l’identité même de l’Amérique, a exprimé avec force sa foi dans le progrès et dans l’avenir », juge-t-il. « Ce message du peuple américain résonne bien au-delà de vos frontières. Au moment où nous devons faire face tous ensemble à d’immenses défis, votre élection soulève en France, en Europe et au-delà dans le monde un immense espoir. Celui d’une Amérique ouverte, solidaire et forte qui montrera à nouveau la voie, avec ses partenaires, par la force de l’exemple et l’adhésion à ses principes ». « La France et l’Europe, qui sont unies depuis toujours aux Etats-Unis par les liens de l’histoire, des valeurs et de l’amitié, y puiseront une énergie nouvelle pour travailler avec l’Amérique à préserver la paix et la prospérité du monde. Soyez assuré que vous pourrez compter sur la France et sur mon soutien personnel ».

François Fillon, Premier ministre : « Votre si belle victoire est historique. Elle illustre la vitalité et la maturité de la démocratie américaine. Elle consacre votre parcours exceptionnel qui constitue un symbole éclatant de renouveau et de rassemblement ». « Votre succès est le signe que le rêve américain continue d’inspirer votre peuple. Et ce rêve transcende aujourd’hui les frontières. Votre victoire adresse au monde un message d’espoir et d’ouverture ». « Votre élection célèbre la force des idéaux américains. Elle vous place devant de très hautes responsabilités. Face aux défis de notre temps – qu’il s’agisse de la crise financière, du changement climatique ou de la paix au Proche-Orient – je tiens à vous assurer de l’importance qu’attache mon gouvernement au lien transatlantique. La France sera à vos côtés pour répondre à ces défis, comme elle l’a toujours été au cours de la longue histoire qui unit fraternellement nos deux pays ».

Christine Lagarde, la ministre de l’Economie a salué l’élection « symboliquement extraordinaire » de Barack Obama et estimé que l’arrivée au pouvoir d’un représentant d’une minorité s’était déjà « un peu produite en France » avec l’élection de Nicolas Sarkozy.
« C’est symboliquement extraordinaire de voir un représentant d’une minorité prendre les commandes d’un pays qui est la première puissance économique, la première puissance militaire au monde ».
« Le président de la République aujourd’hui, à plusieurs reprises, a indiqué qu’il était lui-même le représentant d’une minorité ». Concernant l’impact de l’élection de Barack Obama sur la crise économique, Christine Lagarde a estimé qu' »il ne (fallait) pas soulever trop d’espérance », ajoutant que le nouveau président américain devra faire face « à une situation sur le plan financier et économique extrêmement détériorée ». « Je serais très étonnée qu’il ne souhaite pas avancer dans la même direction que nous : c’est-à-dire plus de supervision, des marchés organisés (…), pas de produits financiers à risque et puis pas d’acteurs financiers qui opèrent (…) sans surveillance ». (Déclaration sur France 2)

Bernard Kouchner, ministre des Affaires étrangères : L’élection de Barack Obama est une « occasion historique de conjuguer nos efforts ». Il salue la victoire d' »un homme attaché au dialogue ». « J’adresse mes plus chaleureuses et très amicales félicitations au sénateur Barack Obama pour son élection à la présidence des Etats-Unis d’Amérique et lui souhaite le plus grand succès pour son action future à la tête de son pays ». « Ensemble, nous devons saisir l’occasion historique de conjuguer nos efforts pour relever les défis économiques, climatiques ou de sécurité auxquels nous sommes tous également confrontés ». « Je rends hommage à l’esprit d’engagement, de générosité et de tolérance qui anime Barack Obama ». Le monde a « besoin de son dynamisme, de son refus des injustices et de sa volonté d’aller de l’avant pour bâtir un monde plus stable, plus sûr et plus juste ».

Patrick Devedjian, secrétaire général de l’UMP : « Les Américains ont aujourd’hui élu le rêve américain. En quelques heures, les Etats-Unis sont redevenus aux yeux du monde ce qu’ils ont commencé d’être au jour de leur création : le pays de la jeunesse et de l’égalité, la nation de tous les possibles, un modèle pour les peuples démocratiques et ceux qui aspirent à le devenir ». « A l’heure où, sous l’impulsion de Nicolas Sarkozy, l’Europe propose de fonder un nouvel ordre mondial, nous avions besoin que la première puissance du monde recouvrât son autorité morale : Barack Obama, parce qu’il est l’enfant du métissage, l’incarnation du mérite et de l’effort, avait le pouvoir d’opérer ce changement en un jour ». « Un point décisif a donc été marqué ; il faut à présent transformer l’essai. Il faut que le président Obama soit à la hauteur de l’espérance immense qu’il a suscitée de part et d’autre de l’Atlantique ». « Nul doute que le phénomène Obama aura une influence en Europe et en France ».

Bruno Gollnisch
vice-président exécutif du FN aux relations internationales: « je présente nos félicitations à M. Barack Obama pour son élection à la présidence des Etats-Unis d’Amérique. (…) Attaché à la souveraineté des Etats et à la liberté des nations, le Front national portera avant tout son attention » à « sa politique étrangère, dont les conséquences importent à la France », et notamment à « son respect des règles du droit international » et « son action en faveur d’une paix véritable au Moyen-Orient« .

Hervé Morin, président du Nouveau Centre, ministre de la Défense: « Demain, nous retiendrons que 2008 fut cette année où l’élection du président américain a débouché sur une grande leçon pour le monde entier : une leçon de liberté. Une leçon également pour la démocratie française et sa capacité à porter l’égalité des chances et l’accès de tous aux fonctions politiques, quel que soit son continent d’origine ou la couleur de sa peau ». (communiqué)

Rama Yade, secrétaire d’Etat aux droits de l’Homme: « L’Amérique d’aujourd’hui, de 2008, n’est pas la même qu’avant. Nous assistons à la fin d’un monde et au début d’un autre, plein de promesses ». « Ce qui s’est passé là, c’est une chute du mur de Berlin fois dix ». « Je crois que ce matin, nous avons tous envie d’être Américains ». « J’ai le cœur, pardon, alourdi par l’émotion, une émotion qui me fait dire que si elle est comme ça la vie, elle vaut la peine d’être vécue ». Rama Yade a estimé que cette élection était « un défi qui est lancé à une bonne partie du monde ». « C’est à nous de relever le gant pour ne pas vieillir trop vite ». « Je crois que Barack Obama n’appartient pas ce matin à l’Amérique seulement, mais à l’ensemble du monde ». ( Déclaration sur Europe 1 et France Info)
« On sort de l’unilatéralisme de combat, on sort de l’idéologie dans les relations internationales, il (M. Obama) est dans une logique beaucoup plus pragmatique, de dialogue et d’ouverture » dans un monde « instable et dangereux. On vérifiera la mise en pratique sur certains dossiers très chauds, la fermeture de Guantanamo bien évidemment, le retrait des troupes en Irak (…), l’Afghanistan (…) ». Elle a également cité la question « des menaces plus précises au niveau de certains Etats ». (Déclaration à l’émission Questions d’info (LCP-France Info-AFP)

Yves Jégo, secrétaire d’Etat chargé de l’Outre-Mer: « Dans un monde bouleversé, il n’est pas anodin que l’homme réputé le plus puissant de la planète soit un métis qui plonge une partie de ses racines en Afrique. Un nouvel espoir est né pour l’Amérique bien sûr qui aspirait au changement mais pour le monde entier qui espère que Barack Obama saura être un artisan de la paix et de la prospérité partagée. Il faut saluer la démocratie américaine qui sait ouvrir de telles perspectives ». (communiqué)

Parti radical (associé à l’UMP) : « Symbole de l’évolution de la société américaine vers une plus grande égalité des chances », la victoire d’Obama « constitue un exemple et apporte un espoir pour les communautés à l’écart de l’accès aux plus hautes fonctions ». (Communiqué)

Nicolas Dupont-Aignan
, président de Debout la République : « Après huit années d’une présidence Bush catastrophique, la victoire de Barack Obama prouve qu’il ne faut jamais désespérer de la démocratie. (…) Cette belle leçon de démocratie aux Etats-Unis oblige la France et l’Europe à une réelle rénovation de leur projet et de leurs pratiques politiques ». (Communiqué)

Roger Karoutchi, secrétaire d’Etat aux Relations avec le Parlement : « La victoire d’Obama est celle de la rupture. En cela, elle rappelle celle de Nicolas Sarkozy en mai 2007 ». (Communiqué)

Jean-François Copé
, président du groupe UMP à l’Assemblée : « Ce qui est très intéressant, c’est d’aller un peu au-delà de cette Obamania, parce qu’il y a un petit côté (…) un peu naïf. Il faut éviter de tomber dans une trop grande naïveté », a ajouté Jean-François Copé, pour qui Barack Obama « a surtout créé une espérance formidable. Et du coup, comme tous les présidents élus qui créent ces espérances, (…) assez vite il faut éviter de la décevoir.Etre capable de réconcilier l’Amérique avec elle-même, et en même temps la réconcilier avec le monde, parfois, ce sont deux objectifs qui peuvent être contradictoires. Attendons de voir le résultat. »

A gauche

Arlette Laguiller
, porte-parole de LO: « On peut éprouver une certaine satisfaction à l’élection d’Obama, car elle signifie l’échec du camp (…) du conservatisme social et de la bigoterie affichée. C’est le désaveu de Bush ». Mais « Obama gouvernera, comme tous ses prédécesseurs, en fonction des intérêts de la grande bourgeoisie américaine ». (Communiqué)

Olivier Besancenot, porte-parole de la LCR : Aux Etats-Unis, cette élection « est vécue comme une victoire symbolique majeure contre le racisme. Une page se tourne ». Mais « Barack Obama, c’est le candidat qu’a choisi une grande partie de la classe possédante et des milieux d’affaire de ce pays, pour prendre des mesures de sauvetage du capitalisme et de leurs intérêts ». « Aucune mesure favorable aux travailleurs ne figure à son programme ».
Il souhaite que « la liesse populaire ouvre la voie » à « la mobilisation pour imposer des mesures sociales » et « le retrait immédiat des troupes américaines d’Irak et d’Afghanistan ». (Communiqué, vendredi 7 novembre)
« Ce qu’on peut espérer en tous les cas, c’est que la classe politique française ne se rue pas sur l’effet Obama pour en faire un effet marketing, et nous sortir une belle unanimité qui ne sera qu’une unanimité de façade ». « Avant qu’en France, il y ait des Noirs, des Arabes, des ouvriers, des femmes, et des jeunes sur les bancs de l’Assemblée nationale, il y a encore du chemin ». (Déclaration sur France 3)

Marie-George Buffet
, secrétaire nationale du PCF: « Pour celles et ceux qui se battent contre le racisme, les discriminations, dans le combat pour l’égalité, il y aura un avant et un après 4 novembre 2008. (…) Le défi est immense et le plus dur reste à faire, à savoir ne pas décevoir les attentes que la campagne du sénateur de l’Illinois a suscité aux Etats-Unis mais aussi dans le monde ». (Communiqué)

Jean-Michel Baylet, président du Parti Radical de gauche : « La victoire historique de Barack Obama est celle de la générosité, de la fraternité et de l’espoir de paix dans le monde. Après huit ans de présidence Bush l’attente est forte d’une Amérique réconciliée avec elle-même et avec les autres nations ». (Déclaration à la presse)

Les Verts : « C’est un symbole d’une portée immense pour un pays marqué par l’histoire de l’esclavage et la discrimination, et pour le monde entier. La victoire de Barack Obama est une formidable leçon pour la classe politique en France qui peine encore à élire des représentants issus de la diversité. Au-delà même de ce symbole, l’élection de Barack Obama est porteuse d’espoirs ». (Déclaration à la presse)

Laurent Fabius, ancien Premier ministre : « Il va y avoir sûrement plus de multilatéralisme, mais en même temps Obama sera un partenaire très coriace. (…) Il y a une grande inconnue, c’est quelle va être son attitude vis-à-vis de la crise économique. Les Etats-Unis sont quand même à l’origine d’une grande partie de la crise économique par leur endettement. » (Déclaration sur Canal+)

François Hollande, le premier secrétaire du Parti socialiste a salué l’élection « si symbolique » de Barack Obama à la présidence des Etats-Unis, et appelé à « un dialogue nouveau » de l’Europe et de la France avec l’Amérique. « L’élection de Barack Obama est une victoire, d’abord, du peuple américain. Il a eu cette audace, ce courage, cette force de choisir, non pas simplement le camp du progrès (…) mais un homme dont chacun connaissait les origines, les positions, la couleur de peau ». « C’est un choix qui a une résonance au-delà même des Etats-Unis d’Amérique ». Cependant, a-t-il souligné, « si le monde est forcément concerné par cette belle élection si symbolique, l’élection du président des Etats-Unis n’est pas l’élection du président du monde ». « Barack Obama est un grand président des Etats-Unis mais il est le président des Etats-Unis. Il défendra – et c’est son devoir – les Etats-Unis d’Amérique et non pas le monde ». « Le rôle de l’Europe, le rôle de la France, est d’engager un dialogue nouveau avec l’Amérique, de le faire avec le respect qui s’attache à ce qui a été la volonté du peuple américain, avec l’admiration qui peut être vouée à Barack Obama, mais aussi avec le sens des intérêts du monde ». (Déclaration à la presse)

Ségolène Royal, en lice pour la conquête du PS au congrès de Reims : « L’élection de Barack Obama est un extraordinaire message d’espoir. C’est un changement d’époque car le monde vient de franchir un nouveau cap ». « Je forme le vœu que l’Amérique métissée fasse du même coup progresser partout la fraternité mondiale ».
« Trois chantiers doivent désormais avancer en partenariat avec l’Europe. Premièrement, résoudre la crise sociale et financière en changeant les règles du jeu; deuxièmement, agir pour la paix; troisièmement, lutter contre le réchauffement planétaire ». (Communiqué à la presse)

La maire de Lille, Martine Aubry : « C’est avec une grande émotion que j’ai appris avec des millions de Français l’éclatante victoire de Barack Obama ». « Le grand peuple américain a réalisé le formidable rêve de Martin Luther King, en portant un homme noir à la présidence des Etats-Unis d’Amérique ». « L’élection de Barack Obama est un message de paix, de justice et de fraternité au monde entier. C’est aussi un espoir d’une vie meilleure pour des millions d’Américains ». (Déclaration à la presse)

Bertrand Delanoë, maire de Paris et candidat au poste de premier secrétaire du PS, a vu dans l’élection de Barack Obama à la présidence des Etats-Unis « un formidable message d’espoir et de sursaut dans un monde en proie au doute et à la confusion ».
« Au nom de Paris et en mon nom personnel, je salue donc sa magnifique victoire et je forme des voeux pour que sa présidence fasse écho à l’espérance de paix, de progrès et de justice à laquelle son projet, son nom, et son image sont désormais associés ».
« Symboliquement », cette élection « illustre la force et la richesse d’une société multi-culturelle, quand elle sait puiser dans toutes ses ressources ».
« Les Européens peuvent voir dans la remarquable victoire du candidat démocrate, la perspective de rapports plus fructueux, plus constructifs, plus solidaires et d’un dialogue indispensable à la résolution des grands problèmes internationaux, dont le combat universel pour la défense de l’environnement ». (Communiqué)

Jack Lang
 (PS), député et ancien ministre : « L’Amérique que nous aimons est de retour: l’Amérique de l’audace, de la générosité. C’est un grand et beau jour pour le monde. (…) L’élection de Barack Obama aura un effet électrochoc et sera porteuse d’une révolution des esprits et des pratiques politiques. Puisse cet exemple inciter les pays d’Europe à s’engager à leur tour sur la voie de vrais changements. Dans ce nouveau contexte, la métamorphose de la gauche française s’impose plus que jamais ».

Arnaud Montebourg, député PS : « Cette victoire est une immense émotion pour le monde entier qui observe un grand peuple, le peuple américain, porter un homme de gauche, noir, jeune, à la tête de la première puissance mondiale. En rejetant massivement les abus, les dangers et les injustices du pouvoir républicain, les Américains viennent de montrer la générosité dont ils savent faire preuve dans les moments difficiles de l’Histoire. C’est un nouveau chemin pour le monde que nous pourrons, espérons-le, à nouveau tracer avec le peuple américain pour le reste de la planète ». (déclaration à l’AFP)

Victorin Lurel, député socialiste et président du Conseil régional de la Guadeloupe : « Cette élection, la première d’un homme noir, métis, démontre que les Etats-Unis s’acceptent comme une nation multiculturelle et multiethnique, qui plus est autour de valeurs très progressistes. Il faut croire en la puissante valeur symbolique de cet exemple, en particulier dans notre République ». (communiqué)

Le Parti communiste français: « L’élection d’un président noir est un fait de grande portée dans l’histoire des Etats-Unis et un facteur d’encouragement pour toutes celles et ceux qui agissent, partout, contre le racisme et les discriminations ». (communiqué)

Harlem Désir, eurodéputé PS, ancien président de SOS Racisme : « C’est l’ensemble du peuple qui vient d’élire un homme en dépit de la couleur de sa peau ou y compris à cause de la couleur de sa peau, pour envoyer un signal d’optimisme et d’espoir au monde. C’est un peu une prise de la Bastille: elle a une portée universelle, elle nous parle de notre propre rapport à la diversité ». (Déclaration sur RTL)

Benoît Hamondéputé européen : « Les Américains ont pris la mesure du renversement de cycle auquel est confronté le monde, notamment en raison de la faillite du système libéral. Ils ont clairement fait le choix du changement ». « Les Français déclarent que s’ils étaient Américains, ils voteraient Obama. Pour vérifier si cela serait possible en France encore faudrait-il que les partis présentent des Obama, déjà à des élections locales pour commencer.Je ne suis pas Noir mais j’ai quand même trois défauts au parti socialiste: je suis issu d’un milieu modeste, je suis fils d’ouvrier et pas énarque et je suis de gauche et je l’assume » (Conférence de presse)

AUTRES

Pierre Henry, directeur de France Terre d’asile: C’est « un moment d’espoir et d’émotion pour les progressistes du monde entier ».(Communiqué).

François Chérèque (CFDT): « J’espère qu’on aura enfin un chef d’Etat de la plus grande puissance mondiale qui amènera ses collègues chefs d’Etat vers une politique de justice au niveau mondial » et que « son origine africaine le fera agir pour une meilleure répartition des richesses dans le monde et chez lui » (Déclaration).

CFTC: Cette élection « fait germer une grande espérance en même temps qu’une exigence pour une autre politique, un autre modèle de société plus équitable, plus solidaire et plus humain » (Communiqué)

Agir contre le chômage: « Nous souhaitons au président Obama bonne chance, mais lui disons aussi que les lobbies financiers et économiques demeurent très puissants » (Communiqué)

Mrap (Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l’amitié entre les peuples): Cette victoire est « un défi à l’ensemble de la société française, qui n’arrive pas à assumer sa diversité et à la traduire dans la représentation nationale ». « Il est urgent de regarder en face l’immense décalage entre les proclamations des valeurs universelles et leurs pratiques, et de passer des paroles aux actes » (Communiqué).

Samuel Solvit, président du comité français de soutien à Barack Obama: « lorsqu’on a su qu’Obama avait gagné, ça a été de la folie, une formidable explosion. En vérité, les mots je ne les trouve pas, c’est tout simplement historique, quel espoir et quels challenges à accomplir, pour les Etats-Unis et pour le monde, même si évidemment ce sera dur! Ce qui compte ce matin c’est l’espoir ». (déclaration à l’AFP)

Le Conseil représentatif des institutions juives de France : « Convaincu que le nouveau président s’attachera à renforcer les relations avec la France pour consolider la paix et la démocratie dans le monde », le Crif « espère que le nouveau chef de l’exécutif américain s’opposera avec détermination et sans angélisme aux projets nucléaires du régime iranien fanatique, agressif et négationniste ». Il « émet des vœux pour que la nouvelle administration américaine favorise par des mesures réalistes la paix au Proche Orient ». (Communiqué)

Le MEDEF a salué « l’élection historique de Barack Obama qui devient le 44e président des Etats-Unis d’Amérique ». « Comme ils l’ont fait à de nombreuses reprises au cours de leur histoire, les citoyens américains ont su renouveler hier la promesse du rêve américain ». Pour Laurence Parisot, présidente du MEDEF, « cette élection prouve l’extraordinaire capacité de l’Amérique à se réinventer et être toujours à la pointe de la modernité ». « C’est la victoire de la jeunesse et de la diversité. C’est l’image d’une Amérique qui croit en elle-même et qui adresse par cette élection un message d’espoir au monde ». Le MEDEF « souhaite que cette élection donne une nouvelle impulsion à la relation transatlantique pour que des solutions communes puissent être élaborées et mises en œuvre dans le difficile contexte financier et économique auquel le monde doit faire face ». (Communiqué)

Le Conseil représentatif des organisations noires (Cran), son président, Patrick Lozès salue un résultat qui « soulève un immense espoir non seulement pour les Noirs mais pour la justice dans le monde ». Aujourd’hui, les Noirs de France regardent vers les Etats-Unis où le rêve américain est à nouveau relancé. Une délégation du Cran, qui demande à Nicolas Sarkozy de ne pas « ignorer cette revendication urgente d’égalité des noirs de France », se rendra « aujourd’hui (mercredi) à 16H00 à l’Elysée afin de porter de vive voix, son message à Nicolas Sarkozy« . (Communiqué)

Dominique Sopo, président de SOS Racisme : « Par son parcours qui en fait aujourd’hui le premier président ‘noir’ des Etats-Unis, Barack Obama nous montre la valeur de l’engagement citoyen » après que « plusieurs générations se sont battues pour l’égale dignité entre les citoyens ».Dominique Sopo souhaite que le succès d’Obama inspire « les responsables politiques d’autres pays – dont le nôtre – quant à la possibilité de concilier l’honnêteté du discours politique et la capacité à soulever des rêves et des espoirs fondés sur le vivre-ensemble et sur le progrès pour tous ». (communiqué)

Fodé Sylla, ancien président de SOS racisme : « Mieux qu’une leçon, c’est un conseil que nous donnent les citoyens nord-américains : celui d’ouvrir les portes des institutions de la République aux Français issus de l’immigration (…) depuis les mairies jusqu’à l’Assemblée nationale ou encore au Parlement européen. Les prochaines élections européennes seront un premier test qui montrera si les partis politiques français ont compris ce message ». (Communiqué)

Lilian Thuram, ancien capitaine de l’équipe de France de football, originaire de Guadeloupe : « Un président noir, la première femme des Etats-Unis noire, c’est une grande leçon de la société américaine. Cela va dans le sens qu’il faut sur la réflexion qu’on doit avoir sur l’homme ».
« C’est extraordinaire quand on connaît l’histoire des Etats-Unis, l’esclavage, la lutte des Noirs pour exister dans cette société, avec Rosa Parks la première à avoir dit non, les mouvements civiques qu’il a fallu ». « Cela donne envie d’avoir confiance en l’avenir, il faut espérer une réelle réflexion sur notre société en mouvement. Il faut espérer qu’il en découle une société plus juste et un visage du monde plus équitable ». (Déclaration à la presse)

 Voir par ailleurs:

L’ONU, pompier incapable devenu pyromane
Tribune Avoir l’honneur d’écrire dans l’hebdomadaire fondé par Raymond Bourgine, courageux défenseur de l’alliance franco-israélienne, autorise toutes les audaces à l’heure de l’unanimisme niais de la classe politique et médiatique en faveur de la résolution onusienne et me dispense dans le même mouvement d’avoir à me défendre d’une trop subjective tribalité.
Gilles-William Goldnaden
Valeurs actuelles
3 janvier 2017

Je relisais hier La guerre des six jours du grand Pierre Boutang, publié récemment par les éditions « Les Provinciales », dirigées par l’excellent Olivier Veron. Cet ouvrage issu des articles écrits dans le feu de l’été 1967 dans la Nation Française rappelle le lien historique sacré entre Paris et Jérusalem, Saint-Louis et David, la France chrétienne et l’État juif.

En notre période de reniement par l’inculture, je cite cette phrase de ce compagnon de tranchée du philosophe juif Levinas et du philosophe chrétien Gabriel Marcel : « Israël n’est pas incompatible avec l’existence des peuples arabes, en leur diversité, et qui auraient oublié le principe conquérant de l’islam si quelques démagogues (d’ailleurs inspirés d’un autre islam, celui du germanisme nazi) ne l’avaient réveillé, et réveillé contre les seuls juifs. »

Et le livre de rappeler deux citations prophétiques : celle de Karl Barth : « Il est impossible de comprendre le national-socialisme, à moins de voir qu’il s’agit en fait d’un nouvel islam… » et celle de Carl Gustav Jung : « nous ne savons pas si Hitler est en passe de fonder un nouvel islam (…) ce pourrait être le futur de l’Histoire »

C’est dans ce cadre métapolitique inchangé mais toujours aussi terrifiant que nos petits politiciens sans vertu et nos petits folliculaires sans recul ont accueilli le dernier acte à l’ONU de l’islamo-gauchiste de la Maison-Blanche, fidèle disciple du pasteur Jérémy Wright, et le dernier discours de son dévoué secrétaire. On remarquera au passage, que jamais une abstention n’aura autant été considérée par les thuriféraires et les laudateurs de Monsieur Obama comme un acte de volonté et de détermination aussi admirable.

Il n’est pas de mon intention de prouver, même dans ces colonnes, que depuis le traité de San Remo de 1920, le statut juridique des territoires concernés n’a rien à voir avec une occupation illégale au sens que lui donne le droit international. Au demeurant, et à notre époque où la référence au Droit et à l’Histoire est contre-productive lorsqu’elle se heurte à l’émotion d’une opinion publique travaillée, mes efforts juridiques seraient inutiles. Qu’il me soit en conséquence permis de faire trois remarques.

  • Touchant au vocabulaire : je sais bien que l’utilisation lexicale française du terme « colonisation » a une vocation péjorative (l’anglais « settlement » est plus neutre). Raison pourquoi, personne ne m’empêchera, dans ce cas, d’utiliser le même vocable concernant l’implantation de colonies de peuplement musulmanes dans certaines régions de France, parfois illégalement, et toujours sans l’autorisation des populations autochtones. J’ajouterai que même un linguiste médiocre est à même d’observer qu’un juif est moins étranger à la Judée qu’un Pakistanais sans papiers à l’Île-de-France.
  • Et concernant précisément l’opinion publique mystifiée, j’écrivais récemment dans ces colonnes que la désinformation principale passait moins par le mensonge que par la dissimulation des faits. J’en rapporterai en conséquence deux, sciemment cachés au seul public français :
    La condamnation par la première ministre britannique Theresa May du discours de John Kerry : « nous ne pensons pas que la bonne façon de négocier la paix soit de se focaliser seulement sur les constructions dans les implantations, alors que le conflit entre les Israéliens et les Palestiniens est clairement bien plus complexe. » Theresa May faisait clairement référence au refus septuagénaire des Arabes palestiniens de reconnaître Israël en tant qu’État du peuple juif et de cesser leurs exigences de voir la descendance de la descendance des réfugiés de 1948 regagner leurs foyers pour mieux le submerger.Précisément, ce double refus, soigneusement dissimulé par la presse hexagonale, toujours aussi irénique à l’égard du récitatif palestinien, sont rappelés moins de 24 heures après la résolution par la bouche même du ministre des affaires étrangères de l’Autorité Palestinienne : « Il n’est pas possible pour nous de reconnaître un État juif. Nous ne renoncerons pas à notre droit au retour » (Riad Al Maliki). Il faut être aveugle, sourd et autiste à la fois pour ne pas vouloir comprendre que sans cet irrédentisme, les Arabes de Palestine auraient depuis longtemps l’État et les territoires concernés que Barack et Olmert leur avait proposés. Les voilà, à nouveau, encouragés dans leur obstination par la grâce de l’ONU.
  • Parlons-en, pour finir, de cette organisation qui aura échoué lamentablement–tout comme le président américain–à empêcher le massacre de 400 000 personnes en Syrie et qui voudrait se refaire une santé sur celle du seul État démocratique de la région. La presse hexagonale a en effet caché soigneusement les déclarations testamentaires de son Secrétaire Général sortant, Ban Ki Moon, reconnaissant que par ses condamnations obsessionnelles et disproportionnées du seul État d’Israël, l’ONU s’était disqualifiée.Prenons donc enfin connaissance de ce discours du 16 décembre :

« Des décennies de manœuvres politiques pour créer un nombre disproportionné de résolutions, de rapports de comités contre Israël… Durant les 10 années passées, j’ai soutenu que nous ne pouvons pas avoir un parti pris contre Israël à l’ONU. Ce volume disproportionné de résolutions contre Israël a anéanti la capacité de l’ONU à remplir efficacement son rôle. » (The Indépendent)

Si le patron de l’ONU reconnaît que son organisation s’est discréditée à l’égard d’Israël et a perdu tout magistère moral pour remplir son rôle arbitral, est-il interdit à sa victime de le considérer aussi ? Quant aux observateurs qui regardent ailleurs, sont-ils encore moins à blâmer qu’un responsable au repentir tardif ? Ceci méritait, je crois, d’être consigné et médité dans les colonnes de l’hebdomadaire fondé par Raymond Bourgine.

Publicités

Yom Kippour: Vous avez dit bouc émissaire ? (How a hypothesis hidden, purloined-letterwise, in our common languages for centuries finally found itself vindicated)

12 octobre, 2016
webb_sending_out_the_scapegoat agnus-dei_the_scapegoat__james_tissotherodionazazel
He got no place to ‘scape to, no place to run  (…) Neighborhood bully been driven out of every land He’s wandered the earth an exiled man Seen his family scattered, his people hounded and torn He’s always on trial for just being born He’s the neighborhood bully. Bob Dylan

Le mécanisme sacrificiel

L’Éternel parla à Moïse, après la mort des deux fils d’Aaron, qui moururent en se présentant devant l’Éternel. L’Éternel dit à Moïse: Parle à ton frère Aaron, afin qu’il n’entre pas en tout temps dans le sanctuaire, au dedans du voile, devant le propitiatoire qui est sur l’arche, de peur qu’il ne meure; car j’apparaîtrai dans la nuée sur le propitiatoire. Voici de quelle manière Aaron entrera dans le sanctuaire. Il prendra un jeune taureau pour le sacrifice d’expiation et un bélier pour l’holocauste. Il se revêtira de la tunique sacrée de lin, et portera sur son corps des caleçons de lin; il se ceindra d’une ceinture de lin, et il se couvrira la tête d’une tiare de lin: ce sont les vêtements sacrés, dont il se revêtira après avoir lavé son corps dans l’eau. Il recevra de l’assemblée des enfants d’Israël deux boucs pour le sacrifice d’expiation et un bélier pour l’holocauste. Aaron offrira son taureau expiatoire, et il fera l’expiation pour lui et pour sa maison. Il prendra les deux boucs, et il les placera devant l’Éternel, à l’entrée de la tente d’assignation. Aaron jettera le sort sur les deux boucs, un sort pour l’Éternel et un sort pour Azazel. Aaron fera approcher le bouc sur lequel est tombé le sort pour l’Éternel, et il l’offrira en sacrifice d’expiation. Et le bouc sur lequel est tombé le sort pour Azazel sera placé vivant devant l’Éternel, afin qu’il serve à faire l’expiation et qu’il soit lâché dans le désert pour Azazel. Lévitique 16: 1-10
Vous ne réfléchissez pas qu’il est dans votre intérêt qu’un seul homme meure pour le peuple, et que la nation entière ne périsse pas. Caïphe (Jean 11: 50)
 Or, il ne dit pas cela de lui-même; mais étant souverain sacrificateur cette année-là, il prophétisa que Jésus devait mourir pour la nation. Et ce n’était pas pour la nation seulement; c’était aussi afin de réunir en un seul corps les enfants de Dieu dispersés. Jean (11: 50-52)
Je te loue, Père, Seigneur du ciel et de la terre, de ce que tu as caché ces choses aux sages et aux intelligents, et de ce que tu les as révélées aux enfants. Jésus (Matthieu 11: 25)
Malheur à vous! parce que vous bâtissez les tombeaux des prophètes, que vos pères ont tués. Vous rendez donc témoignage aux oeuvres de vos pères, et vous les approuvez; car eux, ils ont tué les prophètes, et vous, vous bâtissez leurs tombeaux. C’est pourquoi la sagesse de Dieu a dit: Je leur enverrai des prophètes et des apôtres; ils tueront les uns et persécuteront les autres, afin qu’il soit demandé compte à cette génération du sang de tous les prophètes qui a été répandu depuis la création du monde, depuis le sang d’Abel jusqu’au sang de Zacharie, tué entre l’autel et le temple; oui, je vous le dis, il en sera demandé compte à cette génération. Jésus (Luc 11: 47-51)
Souvenez-vous de la parole que je vous ai dite: Le serviteur n’est pas plus grand que son maître. S’ils m’ont persécuté, ils vous persécuteront aussi. Jésus (Jean 15: 20)
Une nation ne se régénère que sur un  monceau de cadavres. Saint-Just
Qu’un sang impur abreuve nos sillons! Air connu
Le marxisme doit mourir pour que la nation renaisse. Banderole de la Grand messe nazie de Berlin (février 1933)
Où est Dieu? cria-t-il, je vais vous le dire! Nous l’avons tué – vous et moi! Nous tous sommes ses meurtriers! Mais comment avons-nous fait cela? Comment avons-nous pu vider la mer? Qui nous a donné l’éponge pour effacer l’horizon tout entier? Dieu est mort! (…) Et c’est nous qui l’avons tué ! (…) Ce que le monde avait possédé jusqu’alors de plus sacré et de plus puissant a perdu son sang sous nos couteaux (…) Quelles solennités expiatoires, quels jeux sacrés nous faudra-t-il inventer? Nietzsche
« Dionysos contre le ‘crucifié’  » : la voici bien l’opposition. Ce n’est pas une différence quant au martyr – mais celui-ci a un sens différent. La vie même, son éternelle fécondité, son éternel retour, détermine le tourment, la destruction, la volonté d’anéantir pour Dionysos. Dans l’autre cas, la souffrance, le « crucifié » en tant qu’il est « innocent », sert d’argument contre cette vie, de formulation de sa condamnation.  (…) L’individu a été si bien pris au sérieux, si bien posé comme un absolu par le christianisme, qu’on ne pouvait plus le sacrifier : mais l’espèce ne survit que grâce aux sacrifices humains… La véritable philanthropie exige le sacrifice pour le bien de l’espèce – elle est dure, elle oblige à se dominer soi-même, parce qu’elle a besoin du sacrifice humain. Et cette pseudo-humanité qui s’institue christianisme, veut précisément imposer que personne ne soit sacrifié. Nietzsche
Ils disent: nous avons mis à mort le Messie, Jésus fils de Marie, l’apôtre de dieu. Non ils ne l’ont point tué, ils ne l’ont point crucifié, un autre individu qui lui ressemblait lui fut substitué, et ceux qui disputaient à son sujet ont été eux-mêmes dans le doute, ils n’ont que des opinions, ils ne l’ont pas vraiment tué. Mais Dieu l’a haussé à lui, Dieu est le puissant, Dieu est le sage. Le Coran (Sourate IV, verset 157-158)
Tel est le rôle historique de l’affaire Dreyfus. Sur ce bouc émissaire du judaïsme, tous les crimes anciens se trouvent représentativement accumulés. Georges Clemenceau
Al-Aqsa est à nous et l’église du Saint Sépulcre est notre, tout est à nous. Mahmoud Abbas
Si la lettre avait été cachée dans le rayon de leur investigation, ces gaillards l’auraient trouvée, cela ne fait pas pour moi l’ombre d’un doute. (…) Donc, les mesures, continua-t-il, étaient bonnes dans l’espèce et admirablement exécutées ; elles avaient pour défaut d’être inapplicables au cas et à l’homme en question. Il y a tout un ordre de moyens singulièrement ingénieux qui sont pour le préfet une sorte de lit de Procuste, sur lequel il adapte et garrotte tous ses plans. Mais il erre sans cesse par trop de profondeur ou par trop de superficialité pour le cas en question, et plus d’un écolier raisonnerait mieux que lui. (…) Pour la valeur pratique, c’est en effet la condition, répliqua Dupin, et, si le préfet et toute sa bande se sont trompés si souvent, c’est, d’abord, faute de cette identification, en second lieu, par une appréciation inexacte, ou plutôt par la non-appréciation de l’intelligence avec laquelle ils se mesurent. Ils ne voient que leurs propres idées ingénieuses ; et, quand ils cherchent quelque chose de caché, ils ne pensent qu’aux moyens dont ils se seraient servis pour le cacher. Ils ont fortement raison en cela que leur propre ingéniosité est une représentation fidèle de celle de la foule ; mais, quand il se trouve un malfaiteur particulier dont la finesse diffère, en espèce, de la leur, ce malfaiteur, naturellement, les roule. (…) « Et ne voyez-vous pas aussi que des cachettes aussi originales ne sont employées que dans des occasions ordinaires et ne sont adoptées que par des intelligences ordinaires ; car, dans tous les cas d’objets cachés, cette manière ambitieuse et torturée de cacher l’objet est, dans le principe, présumable et présumée ; ainsi, la découverte ne dépend nullement de la perspicacité, mais simplement du soin, de la patience et de la résolution des chercheurs. Mais, quand le cas est important, ou, ce qui revient au même aux yeux de la police, quand la récompense est considérable, on voit toutes ces belles qualités échouer infailliblement. Vous comprenez maintenant ce que je voulais dire en affirmant que, si la lettre volée avait été cachée dans le rayon de la perquisition de notre préfet, en d’autres termes, si le principe inspirateur de la cachette avait été compris dans les principes du préfet, – il l’eût infailliblement découverte. (…) « Il y a d’ailleurs chez nos algébristes, qui sont eux-mêmes des païens, de certaines fables païennes auxquelles on ajoute foi, et dont on a tiré des conséquences, non pas tant par une absence de mémoire que par un incompréhensible trouble du cerveau. (…) « Cela devait impérativement le conduire à dédaigner toutes les cachettes vulgaires. Cet homme-là ne pouvait être assez faible pour ne pas deviner que la cachette la plus compliquée, la plus profonde de son hôtel, serait aussi peu secrète qu’une antichambre ou une armoire pour les yeux, les sondes, les vrilles et les microscopes du préfet. « Enfin je voyais qu’il avait dû viser nécessairement à la simplicité, s’il n’y avait pas été induit par un goût naturel. Vous vous rappelez sans doute avec quels éclats de rire le préfet accueillit l’idée que j’exprimai dans notre première entrevue, à savoir que si le mystère l’embarrassait si fort, c’était peut-être en raison de son absolue simplicité. (…) Il existe, reprit Dupin, un jeu de divination, qu’on joue avec une carte géographique. Un des joueurs prie quelqu’un de deviner un mot donné, un nom de ville, de rivière, d’Etat ou d’empire, enfin un mot quelconque compris dans l’étendue bigarrée et embrouillée de la carte. Une personne novice dans le jeu cherche en général à embarrasser ses adversaires en leur donnant à deviner des noms écrits en caractères imperceptibles ; mais les adeptes du jeu choisissent des mots en gros caractères qui s’étendent d’un bout de la carte à l’autre. « Ces mots-là, comme les enseignes et les affiches à lettres énormes, échappent à l’observateur par le fait même de leur excessive évidence ; et, ici, l’oubli matériel est précisément analogue à l’inattention morale d’un esprit qui laisse échapper les considérations trop palpables, évidentes jusqu’à la banalité et l’importunité. Mais c’est là un cas, à ce qu’il semble, un peu au-dessus ou au-dessous de l’intelligence du préfet. Il n’a jamais cru probable ou possible que le ministre eût déposé sa lettre juste sous le nez du monde entier, comme pour mieux empêcher un individu quelconque de l’apercevoir. Edgar Allan Poe (La Lettre volée, 1844)
Un bouc émissaire est un individu, un groupe, une organisation, etc., choisi(e) pour endosser une responsabilité ou une faute pour laquelle il/elle est, totalement ou partiellement, innocent(e). Le phénomène du bouc émissaire peut émaner de motivations multiples, délibérées (telles que l’évasion de responsabilité) ou inconscientes (telles que des mécanismes de défense internes). Par ailleurs, le processus peut se mettre en place entre deux personnes (e.g., un employé et son subalterne), entre des membres d’une même famille (e.g., un enfant pris pour bouc émissaire), entre les membres d’une organisation (e.g., les responsables d’une entreprise) ou à l’intérieur de tout autre groupe constitué. Outre cet aspect intragroupal, le phénomène peut également être intergroupal et s’observer alors entre des groupes différents (au sein d’un pays ou d’une société). Il existe différents critères guidant la sélection d’une personne ou d’un groupe particulier comme bouc émissaire, tels que la différence perçue de la victime, l’antipathie qu’elle suscite ou le degré de pouvoir social qu’elle possède. Selon les cas de figure et les motivations des agresseurs, les conséquences pour la victime et les réactions possibles des protagonistes peuvent varier. (…) Une des origines de ce concept peut être trouvé dans la Grèce antique où le pharmakos (en grec ancien : φαρμακός, celui qu’on immole en expiation des fautes d’un autre) désigne la victime expiatoire dans un rite de purification largement utilisé dans les sociétés primitives. Le mot a fini par prendre en grec, à l’époque classique, la signification de malfaiteur. Afin de combattre une calamité ou de chasser une force menaçante, une personne, parfois revêtue de vêtements sacrés, ou un animal était choisi et traîné hors de la cité, où il était parfois mis à mort. Cette victime sacrificielle, innocente en elle-même, était censée, comme le bouc émissaire hébreu, se charger de tous les maux de la cité. (…) Le terme de « bouc émissaire » provient de la traduction grecque de « bouc à Azazel », un bouc portant sur lui tous les péchés d’Israël. Si la tradition rabbinique conçoit Azazel comme une vallée désertique hostile, les auteurs de la Septante lisent ez ozel (« bouc en partance ») qu’ils traduisent en grec ancien par ἀποπομπαῖος τράγος / apopompaîos trágos, rendu en latin par caper emissarius. Le terme « bouc émissaire », tant employé au sens figuré dans la culture judéo-chrétienne, n’est cité qu’à une seule reprise dans l’Ancien Testament qui introduit le terme : Dieu demande à Moïse de faire porter les péchés de l’homme par un bouc. Le prêtre pose alors les mains sur le bouc, et le charge par là, symboliquement de tous les péchés. Puis le prêtre envoie l’animal dans le désert pour les porter à Azazel. La notion de sacrifice de substitution est intégrée à la thématique chrétienne, Jésus étant présenté dans les Évangiles comme un agneau immolé, expiant les péchés du monde en mourant sur la croix au terme de sa passion. L’expression française « bouc émissaire » est mentionnée dans le dictionnaire de Furetière (1690), avec une définition liée aux écritures. Par la suite, on l’a utilisée pour désigner une personne sur laquelle on fait retomber les fautes des autres. Ce sens est déjà attesté au XVIIIe siècle. Georges Clemenceau le reprendra plus tard à propos de l’affaire Dreyfus (…) Chez les anthropologues contemporains, le concept de « bouc émissaire » désigne l’ensemble des rites d’expiation utilisés par une communauté. Le premier à avoir utilisé ce concept est James George Frazer dans Le Bouc émissaire, étude comparée d’histoire des religions. (…) pour René Girard, le bouc émissaire est le mécanisme collectif permettant à une communauté archaïque de survivre à la violence générée par le désir mimétique individuel de ses membres (même si la détermination des désirs est, pour une très large part, collective). Le bouc émissaire désigne également l’individu, nécessairement coupable pour ses accusateurs, mais innocent du point de vue de la « vérité », par lequel le groupe, en s’unissant uniformément contre lui, va retrouver une paix éphémère. Le meurtre fondateur génère le religieux archaïque, les rites (répétitions de la crise mimétique) et les mythes (récits, déformés par les persécuteurs, du meurtre fondateur). L’innocence du bouc émissaire, que nous connaissons bien aujourd’hui, est révélée par le biblique et tout particulièrement par la Crucifixion de Jésus-Christ, d’ailleurs parfois appelé «l’Agneau de Dieu» en référence au bouc émissaire. C’est bien la foule, et à travers elle, toute l’humanité, qui rejette ses fautes, culpabilités et péchés sur Jésus. Il est devenu impensable aujourd’hui de se représenter un ordre social antérieur à la révélation évangélique. Avec l’avancée de la révélation évangélique et l’évangélisation du monde au sens fort du terme (en plus du sens exclusivement religieux), le monde, privé de sa solution préférée, le mécanisme émissaire, devient de plus en plus violent, quoique les formes de civilisations ne cessent d’évoluer pour contenir, dans les deux sens du terme, cette violence dite « apocalyptique ». Wikipedia
Azazel appears to be a place, and the word itself gives us some clue as to what kind of place this is and its purpose. Lets go back and get into context. All of the sins of Israel are placed on this goat which is to go to Azazel. The Torah implies that that the goat is going to be simply set free to do what he wants. Not so. According to the Oral tradition of the Jews, recorded not long after the destruction of the Second Temple, the goat was indeed left to run but he was deliberately chased to a cliff where he would be either be forced over the cliff to his death or grabbed and thrown over the cliff to die. This is explained in the Babylonian Talmud at Yoma 67b. The Mishna to that section of Talmud teaches also that as the goat’s body hit the rocks its limbs would fall off. This seems odd, but let’s continue. At Yoma 67b the Talmud offers three definitions of the word Azazel: The first explanation argues that it means hard and rough. (The word az in hebrew means strong) The second opinion argues that Azazel means the hardest of mountains. (The third opinion is a midrashic reference to the atonement process and not relevant to this discussion.) These two definition appears to be descriptive of the place to where the goat was chased. Indeed, not far from Jerusalem is a mountain, called Har Azazel, which has one side covered with flintstone, a very hard rock which (if you saw it you would understand that any animal hitting those stones would be ripped to pieces. There are other explanations for the word. The Septuagint translates Azazel in Lev. 16:10 as « the one to be sent away. » Rabbi J.H. Hertz argues that « Azazel » is a rare technical Hebrew noun, contracted from azlazel — which means « dismissal » — and applied exclusively here to define the animal on whom all of Israel’s sins have been symbolically attached and which will meet his doom when he’s thrown off a cliff to its death. Bruce James
L’expression bouc émissaire remonte au caper emissarius de la Vulgate, interprétation libre du grec apopompaios : « ce qui écarte les fléaux ». Ce dernier terme constitue lui-même, dans la traduction grecque de la Bible, dite des Septante, une interprétation libre du texte hébreu dont la traduction exacte serait : « destiné à Azazel ». On pense généralement qu’Azazel est le nom d’un démon ancien censé habiter dans le désert. Dans le chapitre XVI du Lévitique, l’action rituelle dont le bouc fait l’objet est ainsi décrite : « Aaron lui posera les deux mains sur la tête et confessera à sa charge toutes les fautes des enfants d’Israël, toutes leurs transgressions et tous leurs péchés. Après en avoir ainsi chargé la tête du bouc, il l’enverra au désert sous la conduite d’un homme qui se tiendra prêt, et le bouc emportera sur lui toutes les fautes dans un lieu aride (Lévitique 16, 5-10) (…) L’intérêt de cette conjonction, c’est qu’elle révèle une intuition très largement répandue de choses que la science ethnologique et les sciences de l’homme en général n’ont jamais officiellement reconnu : il existe un rapport entre les formes rituelles et la tendance universelle des hommes à transférer leurs angoisses et leurs conflits sur des victimes arbitraires. Cette dualité sémantique de l’expression bouc émissaire, en français, se retrouve   dans le scapegoat anglais, dans le Sünden bock allemand et dans toutes les Pour peu qu’on y réfléchisse, on verra que nous ne disons rien, à la limite, qui ne soit déjà là dans ce double sens de rien, à la limite, qui ne soit déjà là dans ce double sens de bouc émissaire. Loin d’être saugrenue, et de survenir comme une chose inattendue, notre hypothèse entière est silencieusement dans la langue populaire depuis l’avènement de ce qu’on appelle le rationalisme. C’est la « curiosité sémantique » de ce double sens que nous essayons d’expliciter.  il est étrange à la vérité qu’avant nous, personne, à ma connaissance, ne se soit interrogé sur cette « curiosité ». Si on examine l’histoire de l’ethnologie, on s’aperçoit que de nombreuse théories du religieux ont été proposées. il n’y aen a qu’une qui ne l’a jamais été et c’est celle qui est inscrite dans les langues occidentales depuis deux ou trois siècles au moins. (…) Une hypothèse inscrite dans le langage depuis des siècles a le droit de demander des comptes à une ethnologie qui n’aurait qu’à la formuler pour échapper à ces absurdes catégorisations rituelles qui se pratiquaient encore il ya cinquante ans et que personne n’ose plus mentionner aujour’dh’ui tant elles font penser auc carottes et aux navets à la devanture des épiciers, mais personne n’a réussi à les remplacer. René Girard (Des choses cachées depuis la fondation du monde, 1978)

Attention: un mot peut en cacher un autre !

En ces temps étranges où, à l’instar des pierres millénaires de plusieurs dizaines de tonnes d’un temple prétendument inexistant, les plus grosses évidences se voient jusqu’au siège des Nations Unies systématiquement niées …

En cette journée où nos amis juifs se rémémorent l’institution qui donna au monde, avec la fétichisation de la victimisation qui va avec, le terme et la théorie pour débusquer l’un des phénomèmes les plus prégnants de notre modernité …

Et où en cette année électorale américaine, une bonne partie d’entre nous semble vouloir s’acharner sur la seule figure censément malfaisante du Donald …

Qui il est vrai ne manque jamais une occasion lui-même d’user et d’abuser du même procédé pour ses propres ennemis …

Comment ne pas s’étonner avec l’anthropologue franco-américain récemment décédé René Girard …

Sur la « curiosité sémantique » d’une « hypothèse inscrite silencieusement », à la manière de la fameuse lettre volée de Poe, « dans la langue populaire et les langues occidentales depuis des siècles » …

Et notamment dans ce multimillénaire récit biblique de l’institution suite à l’échec spectaculaire d’une première propitiation qui avait déjà vu la mort des deux fils du frère de Moïse Aaron …

Du rituel, par ailleurs double d’un premier consistant à sacrifier sur l’autel un premier bouc identique mais choisi par le sort, du bouc destiné (« envoyé »comme un « émissaire ») à Azazel censé porter les péchés du peuple …

Et qu’à l’instar du pharmakos grec ou des condamnés de la roche tarpéienne romaine, l’on précipitait en bas d’une montagne du désert de Judée apparemment associée à un démon ancien à une dizaine de kilomètres au sud de Jérusalem …

Comme à toutes les victimes depuis Abel jusqu’au capitaine Dreyfus et à tous ses successeurs …

Mais qui ne prendra véritablement tout son sens qu’avec la mort assumée librement d’un certain rabbin galiléen dont le grand prêtre de l’époque avait sans probablement tout à fait comprendre la portée de ses paroles

Dit qu’il valait mieux « qu’un seul homme meure pour que la nation entière ne périsse » ?

Le «Bouc émissaire », par René Girard

Olivier Berruyer

Les Crises

Introduction

Tout le monde sait grosso modo ce qu’est un « bouc émissaire » : c’est une personne sur laquelle on fait retomber les torts des autres. Le bouc émissaire (synonyme approximatif : souffre-douleur) est un individu innocent sur lequel va s’acharner un groupe social pour s’exonérer de sa propre faute ou masquer son échec. Souvent faible ou dans l’incapacité de se rebeller, la victime endosse sans protester la responsabilité collective qu’on lui impute, acceptant comme on dit de « porter le chapeau ». Il y dans l’Histoire des boucs émissaires célèbres. Dreyfus par exemple a joué ce rôle dans l’Affaire à laquelle il a été mêlé de force : on a fait rejaillir sur sa seule personne toute la haine qu’on éprouvait pour le peuple juif : c’était le « coupable idéal »… Ainsi le bouc émissaire est une « victime expiatoire », une personne qui paye pour toutes les autres : l’injustice étant à la base de cette élection/désignation, on ne souhaite à personne d’être pris pour le bouc émissaire d’un groupe social, quel qu’il soit (peuple, ethnie, entreprise, école, équipe, famille, secte).

Cette expression, employée le plus souvent au sens figuré, trouve sa source dans un rite de la religion hébraïque : dans la Bible (Lévitique) on peut lire que le prêtre d’Israël posait ses deux mains sur la tête d’un bouc. De cette manière, on pensait que tous les péchés commis par les juifs étaient transmis à l’animal. Celui-ci était ensuite chassé dans le désert d’Azazel (= traduit fautivement par « émissaire ») pour tenir les péchés à distance. Ce bouc n’avait rien fait de mal, il était choisi au hasard pour porter le blâme de tous afin que ces derniers soient dégagés de toute accusation. On voit par là que le sens figuré est relativement proche du sens religieux d’origine, axés tous deux sur l’idée d’expiation par l’ostracisation d’un individu jouant en quelque sorte le rôle de « fusible » (bête ou homme).

Avec René Girard (né en 1923), le bouc émissaire, cesse d’être une simple expression pour devenir un concept à part entière. La théorie du Bouc Émissaire est un système interprétatif global, une théorie unitaire visant à expliquer le fonctionnement et le développement des sociétés humaines. La réflexion de René Girard s’origine dans un étonnement, qui prend la forme de deux questions successives.

  1. D’où naît la violence dans les sociétés humaines, quel en est le ressort fondamental ?
  2. D’où vient que cette violence ne les dévaste pas ? Comment parviennent-elles à se développer malgré elle ?

Autrement dit : quel mécanisme mystérieux permet aux sociétés humaines archaïques, enclines à l’autodestruction, de se développer quand même (la logique voudrait en effet qu’elles aient disparu depuis longtemps). À cette question, René Girard apporte une réponse univoque, martelée depuis des décennies dans plusieurs de ses livres, notamment La Violence et le Sacré, et Des Choses cachées depuis la fondation du Monde : le mécanisme du bouc émissaire…

Le désir mimétique

La théorie du bouc émissaire est adossée à une autre théorie qui lui sert de support : à l’origine de toute violence, explique René Girard, il y a le « désir mimétique », c’est-à-dire le désir d’imiter ce que l’Autre désire, de posséder ce que possède autrui, non que cette chose soit précieuse en soi, ou intéressante, mais le fait même qu’elle soit possédée par un autre la rend désirable, irrésistible, au point de déclencher des pulsions violentes pour son appropriation. La théorie mimétique du désir postule en effet que tout désir est une imitation (mimésis) du désir de l’autre. Girard prend ici le contre-pied de la croyance romantique selon laquelle le désir serait singulier, unique, imitable. Le sujet désirant a l’illusion que son désir est motivé par l’objet de son désir (une belle femme, un objet rare) mais en réalité son désir est suscité, fondamentalement, par un modèle (présent ou absent) qu’il jalouse, envie. Contrairement à une idée reçue, nous ne savons pas ce que nous désirons, nous ne savons pas sur quoi, sur quel objet (quelle femme, quelle nourriture, quel territoire) porter notre désir – ce n’est qu’après coup, rétrospectivement, que nous donnons un sens à notre choix en le faisant passer pour un choix voulu (« je t’ai choisi(e) entre mille ») alors qu’il n’en est rien – mais dès l’instant qu’un Autre a fixé son attention sur un objet, aussi quelconque soit-il, alors cet objet (que nul ne regardait jusqu’alors) devient un objet de convoitise qui efface tous les autres !

En clair, le désir n’est pas direct, mais indirect (ou médié), entre le sujet et l’objet : il fonctionne de manière triangulaire en ce sens qu’il passe par un modèle (ou médiateur). L’exemple que donne Girard pour illustrer sa théorie est celui des enfants qui se disputent des jouets en quantité suffisante. Cet exemple montre de manière édifiante qu’on ne désire pas une chose pour ce qu’elle est (sa valeur propre) mais pour ce qu’elle représente aux yeux de l’autre (un objet de désir). Les cas de « désir mimétique » sont nombreux dans la littérature. Don Quichotte, par exemple, ne désire pas être un chevalier, il ne fait qu’imiter Amadis de Gaulle, et tous les autres chevaliers qu’il a lus dans les livres. La médiation est ici littéraire. Don Quichotte est une victime d’autant plus spectaculaire du désir mimétique qu’il désire – c’est la source du comique cervantésien – une chose absurde : être chevaleresque dans un monde déféodalisé. Dans l’univers publicitaire qui est le nôtre, le mécanisme mimétique fonctionne aussi à plein. Les consommateurs ne désirent pas une marchandise parce qu’elle est utile, nécessaire ou aimable, mais parce qu’elle est convoitée, ou supposée l’être, par un tiers (star de cinéma, ami ou groupe d’amis). Le consumérisme moderne est un désir « selon l’autre », quand bien même il nous donne l’illusion de faire un choix personnel, voire unique. La mode et la publicité jouent à plein sur le désir mimétique, raison pour laquelle elles connaissent du succès, alors que ce succès ne repose objectivement sur aucune base rationnelle (beauté, robustesse, originalité de l’objet).

Du désir mimétique à la violence généralisée

Le désir mimétique serait bien innocent s’il ne débouchait sur des conflits en chaîne, et à terme sur la violence généralisée. Que se passe-t-il en effet quand deux individus (ou plus) désirent la même chose ? Ils se battent, voire s’entretuent, pour l’obtenir. Pour René Girard, le désir mimétique, en mettant en concurrence le sujet désirant et son modèle fait naître une rivalité meurtrière. L’objet désiré n’étant généralement pas partageable (pensons au jugement de Salomon : peut-on partager en deux un bébé que deux femmes revendiquent comme le leur ?), le modèle devient nécessairement un obstacle pour le sujet désirant, autrement dit une figure à abattre. C’est ici que la thématique du désir, via le mécanisme de la rivalité, rejoint celle de la violence… Son recours étant, on l’aura compris, le seul moyen de satisfaire le désir mimétique.

Prenons un exemple. Shakespeare écrit dans ses Sonnets : « Tu l’aimes, toi, car tu sais que je l’aime. » On voit bien ici que l’amour qu’éprouve le destinataire du poème (« tu ») est motivé avant tout (« car ») par l’amour qu’éprouve Shakespeare et non par l’objet lui-même de cet amour. Tu l’aimes « toi », insiste le poète, de manière mimétique, alors que moi je l’aime de manière authentique. Nous sommes bien dans le cas de figure du jouet sans valeur que se disputent deux enfants, dont l’issue est bien connue : chamaillerie, cris, crêpage de chignon, et… intervention des adultes, pour séparer les belligérants. Mais que se passe-t-il quand, dans la même situation de rivalité, deux adultes se disputent un objet ? Sans l’intervention providentielle d’un tiers situé au-dessus de la mêlée (Dieu ?), les adultes vont jusqu’au bout, c’est-à-dire jusqu’à l’élimination du rival, obstacle insupportable à la réalisation de leur désir. Les faits divers et les romans (pensons au Rouge et le Noir de Stendhal : Julien Sorel y désire triangulairement Madame de Rénal) sont remplis de crimes passionnels, motivés à l’origine par un désir mimétique, quoique ces motivations, comme l’explique René Girard, soient toujours dissimulées par le criminel derrière l’idée fallacieuse que son désir est légitime, car premier :

Seul l’être qui nous empêche de satisfaire un désir qu’il nous a lui-même suggéré est vraiment objet de haine. Celui qui hait se hait d’abord lui-même en raison de l’admiration secrète que recèle sa haine. Afin de cacher aux autres, et de se cacher à lui-même, cette admiration éperdue, il ne veut plus voir qu’un obstacle dans son médiateur. Le rôle secondaire de ce médiateur passe donc au premier plan et dissimule le rôle primordial de modèle religieusement imité. Dans la querelle qui l’oppose à son rival, le sujet intervertit l’ordre logique et chronologique des désirs afin de dissimuler son imitation. Il affirme que son propre désir est antérieur à celui de son rival ; ce n’est donc jamais lui, à l’entendre, qui est responsable de la rivalité : c’est le médiateur.

Pour masquer sa brutalité, le sujet mimétique n’hésite pas à ruser avec son désir, c’est-à-dire à faire passer le modèle pour l’imitateur…

Cette violence serait soutenable socialement (maintien de la paix civile), si elle demeurait le propre de quelques individus isolés. Or, ce qui la rend éminemment dangereuse, nous dit Girard, c’est qu’elle est contagieuse. Le désir mimétique se propage à la société tout entière, par effet « boule de neige » : si deux individus désirent la même chose il y en aura bientôt un troisième, un quatrième, et ainsi de suite. Rapidement – à la vitesse d’une traînée de poudre – , le conflit mimétique se transforme en antagonisme généralisé. Un fait divers récent illustre exemplairement cette propagation du désir mimétique, avec son corollaire agonistique de la « guerre de tous contre tous » (Hobbes). « Gaz lacrymogènes, bagarres, échauffourées violentes, arrestations musclées, lit-on dans Le Monde.fr du 25 décembre 2012, telle était l’ambiance apocalyptique dans laquelle plusieurs magasins américains ont ouvert pour la sortie des dernières paires de baskets Nike créées pour l’ancien basketteur Mickael Jordan : […] des milliers de personnes se sont ainsi rassemblées très tôt ce vendredi, parfois dès deux heures du matin, pour figurer parmi les chanceux se procurant les 150 paires seulement disponibles ; […], la même scène s’est déroulée un peu partout aux États-Unis, conduisant notamment à plusieurs arrestations à Atlanta, des personnes légèrement blessées, à la suite de piétinements à l’entrée du magasin ou encore une mère abandonnant ses deux enfants de 2 et 5 ans dans la voiture en pleine nuit. Dans la banlieue de Seattle, avant l’ouverture, la foule avait déjà enfoncé deux portes. Des bagarres ont commencé à éclater, des bousculades, certaines personnes essayaient de couper la file d’attente. Les officiers ont utilisé du gaz incapacitant pour interrompre certaines bagarres. » Aucune de ces personnes n’avait besoin, à strictement parler, de ces chaussures, pourtant toutes se sont battues, presque au risque de leur vie, pour se les approprier. Telle est l’implacable loi du désir mimétique lorsqu’elle s’applique à grande échelle : son escalade conduit à la destruction sociale généralisée. Pire, la violence engendre la violence, dans une chaîne infinie, sous l’empire du mécanisme de la vengeance. « Chaque fois qu’elle surgit en un point quelconque d’une communauté elle tend à s’étendre et à gagner l’ensemble du corps social. » (La Violence et le Sacré). De crimes en représailles (regardons comment les bandes de la Mafia s’autodétruisent), la vengeance menace la société d’éclatement. La loi du Talion, (« œil pour œil, dent pour dent »), qui répond à la violence par une violence égale, et non supérieure, limite certes son risque d’extension et d’escalade, mais ne l’arrête pas. La spirale de la violence est en principe, dans les sociétés primitives où n’existe pas la Justice, incoercible. Le cycle de la violence réciproque est littéralement infernal : elle l’était dans la Grèce antique (voir les Atrides) elle l’est encore dans certains pays où dominent la loi du Talion ou l’usage de la Vengeance (au Mexique dans les Cartels de la drogue, dans la Mafia corse, ou sicilienne).

Le bouc émissaire, rempart contre la violence

Et pourtant, force est de constater que la société a survécu à cette loi effroyable, que les peuples de la terre ont surmonté tant bien que mal le phénomène. Pourquoi ? se demande Girard. Comment se fait-il que le désir mimétique, dont la puissance de nuisance est universellement prouvée (voir Mensonge romantique et Vérité romanesque) ne nous ait pas dévasté totalement ? Comment les sociétés sont-elles parvenues à trouver un antidote à ce poison ? C’est ici qu’intervient la deuxième intuition de Girard, consistant à relier l’apparition du sacré avec le problème de la violence (d’où le titre de son livre majeur : La Violence et le Sacré). L’anthropologue observe en effet, à partir d’une lecture attentive des mythes ancestraux (de toutes origines), que ces mythes nous racontent la même histoire, à savoir la conjuration, ou plutôt la neutralisation de la violence (cette épée de Damoclès qui plane sur l’Humanité) par le sacrifice d’une victime, appelée « bouc émissaire ».

Là encore, pour résoudre l’énigme, Girard renverse une idée unanimement reçue dans la communauté scientifique et a fortiori dans le grand public, le préjugé selon lequel le sacrifice « religieux » (égorger un animal ou un être humain) serait destiné à calmer la colère des Dieux (chez les Grecs), ou à tester la foi des croyants (on pense au sacrifice d’Isaac par Abraham interrompu in extremis par un ange descendu du Ciel). Aux yeux du philosophe, le sacrifice n’est pas une affaire religieuse mais une affaire humaine. Si les hommes vont jusqu’à tuer l’un de leurs semblables, ce n’est pas pour faire plaisir aux dieux, mais pour mettre fin à l’hémorragie de violence qui frappe le groupe, et partant le menace d’extinction. En proie à une violence meurtrière, la société primitive se choisit spontanément, instinctuellement, une victime, qui jouera le rôle à la fois de pansement et de paratonnerre. De pansement, parce qu’elle va recueillir en sa seule personne toute l’agressivité diffuse et soigner le mal ; de paratonnerre parce qu’elle sera remobilisée, sous forme symbolique, chaque fois que la communauté replongera dans la violence. Ainsi se met en place, selon Girard, le rite du bouc émissaire, dont la vertu première est de transformer le « tous contre tous » en « tous contre un ». Le bouc émissaire humain n’est pas tiré au hasard ; c’est un personnage que ses qualités victimaires prédisposent à occuper la fonction de bouc émissaire. Afin d’expulser cette violence intestine, le bouc émissaire doit en effet correspondre à certains critères. Premièrement, il faut que la victime soit à la fois assez distante du groupe pour pouvoir être sacrifiée sans que chacun se sente visé par cette brutalité et en même temps assez proche pour qu’un lien cathartique puisse s’établir (on ne peut expulser que le mal qui est en nous…). Aussi, le véritable bouc émissaire de la tradition hébraïque est à la fois différent par sa qualité d’animal et semblable par son caractère domestiqué. Deuxièmement, il faut que le groupe ignore que la victime est innocente sous peine de neutraliser les effets du processus. Troisièmement, le bouc émissaire présente souvent des qualités extrêmes : richesse ou pauvreté, beauté ou laideur, vice ou vertu, force ou faiblesse. Enfin, la victime doit être en partie consentante afin de transformer le délire de persécution en vérité consensuelle. Dans les mythes, c’est souvent un prisonnier de guerre, un esclave, un enfant informe, un mendiant…

Le sacrifice du bouc émissaire permet donc à la fois de libérer l’agressivité collective (exutoire) et de ressouder la communauté autour de la paix retrouvée (pacte). Dans l’optique girardienne, le rite sacrificiel est donc une violence ponctuelle et légale dont la fonction est d’opérer une catharsis des pulsions mauvaises sur une victime indifférente à la communauté parce que marginale. Ainsi, se produit, aux dépens d’un être innocent, une sorte de solidarité dans le crime, qu’on retrouve dans les scènes de lynchage dans l’Histoire (pogrome, lapidations, etc.) ou dans la fiction (La Nuit du Chasseur1, M. le Maudit2). Le bouc émissaire permet par ailleurs d’expliquer l’émergence du Sacré, car, par un retournement paradoxal, la victime se voit divinisée pour avoir ramené la paix. La victime gît devant le groupe, apparaissant tout à la fois comme la responsable de la crise et l’auteur de ce miracle de la sérénité retrouvée. Elle devient sacrée, c’est-à-dire porteuse du pouvoir prodigieux de déchaîner la crise comme de ramener la paix. En reliant le mécanisme du bouc émissaire à celui du rite sacrificiel, René Girard rend compte ni plus ni moins que de la genèse du religieux archaïque.

Le problème de ce mécanisme régulateur de la violence est cependant son caractère temporaire. En effet, la violence endémique générée par le désir se fait, tôt ou tard, ressentir. Pour contenir la violence, et l’empêcher de ressurgir, il faut trouver un nouveau bouc émissaire. Solution au coût (humain) exorbitant, à laquelle les premières sociétés ont remédié en substituant progressivement des simulacres aux victimes humaines : ainsi seraient nés les rites des religions primitives vivantes : le sacrifice d’un animal permet d’apaiser symboliquement les pulsions agressives, par ce subterfuge (l’animal est substitué à la « cible » humaine), les membres de la communauté sont préservés, la paix est maintenue à ce prix. À chaque crise mimétique, la société répond par des sacrifices symboliques, fortement ritualisés, censés rétablir magiquement l’ordre. C’est ce qui fait dire à René Girard, dans une formule fulgurante : « Le sacré, c’est la violence. » Le sacré est en effet indissociable de la violence, en ce sens qu’il naît d’elle, tout du moins de la volonté des hommes de l’éradiquer.

Relecture du mythe d’Œdipe

Cette approche révolutionnaire du rite religieux – révolutionnaire parce qu’elle fait découler le sacré du profane – ouvre sur une réinterprétation du fameux mythe d’Œdipe3. Là encore, le philosophe prend le contre-pied de tout le monde. Rappelons en deux mots l’histoire : un oracle prédit au roi de Thèbes, Laïos, que s’il a un fils, celui-ci tuera son père et épousera sa mère, Jocaste. Quand Œdipe naît, Laïos l’abandonne. Mais des bergers le recueillent et le portent au roi de Corinthe, Polybe, qui l’élève. Adulte, Œdipe consulte l’oracle de Delphes qui lui conseille de ne pas retourner dans son pays s’il ne veut pas tuer son père et épouser sa mère. Il se dirige donc vers la Béotie, mais à un carrefour, il tue un vieillard, qui se révèle être son père. Plus tard, pour avoir débarrassé la ville de Thèbes du Sphinx (en résolvant l’énigme), on le fait roi, de sorte qu’il épouse sa mère, Jocaste, à son insu. Une peste s’abat sur la ville. La Pythie annonce que la maladie persistera tant que le meurtrier de Laïos ne se sera pas dénoncé. Œdipe mène l’enquête lui-même et découvre, horrifié, qu’il est le coupable. Pour se punir de son aveuglement, Œdipe se crève les yeux ; on le chasse de Thèbes.

Généralement, les exégètes adoptent spontanément le point de vue du narrateur (Sophocle), en rendant Œdipe responsable de la calamité qui s’abat sur la ville. C’est, nous explique-t-on, parce qu’il a tué son père et couché avec sa mère que la peste décime les thébains, aussi n’est-ce que justice que le coupable, une fois découvert, soit banni de la communauté. Faux, écrit Girard, car Œdipe n’est en réalité qu’un bouc émissaire, un homme auquel on fait endosser, sans raison valable, la responsabilité de l’épidémie qui frappe la cité. La peste n’a aucun lien de cause à effet avec les « crimes » de son roi, crimes qui, du reste, d’après Girard, ne sont que des bruits sans fondement : en somme, Œdipe est victime d’une mystification : des rumeurs courent sur son compte (le parricide, l’inceste) mais ce ne sont que des affabulations, des prétextes pour exposer le roi à la vindicte populaire. Ce que raconte le mythe d’Œdipe n’est donc pas la punition d’un coupable, mais au contraire la persécution d’un innocent, l’histoire scandaleuse d’un lynchage collectif. Bref, au lieu d’en faire un Monstre qui se repend, Girard en fait un Martyr à qui l’on ment. Comme tous les boucs émissaires, Œdipe se soumet en effet au verdict de la foule. René Girard en déduit, au plan général, que l’adhésion de l’accusé au processus qui l’élimine (ex : pression policière pour obtenir des aveux) n’est en aucun cas le signe, et encore moins la preuve de sa culpabilité. Au lieu de se révolter contre cette accusation sans fondement, Œdipe l’accepte docilement ; ce faisant, il renforce le mécanisme du bouc émissaire, qui a certes l’avantage de stopper le cycle de la violence, mais l’inconvénient d’alimenter l’injustice par le sacrifice d’un innocent. Si l’on regarde les choses d’un point de vue pragmatique, ce système est d’une grande efficacité ; au point de vue moral, en revanche, il est scandaleux. Le mécanisme du bouc émissaire est en effet basé sur un mensonge collectif (ou déni de réalité), qui est reconduit d’autant plus aisément qu’il arrange la communauté. Tout le monde a intérêt à entretenir le mythe de la résolution surnaturelle et irrationnelle de la violence par la désignation arbitraire d’une victime émissaire. On ne voit pas, dans ces conditions, pour quelles raisons ce phénomène ne durerait pas éternellement… Heureusement, il se trouve quelqu’un pour dénoncer ce mensonge, et ce quelqu’un, d’après Girard, c’est Jésus Christ !

L’Évangile : la vérité sur le bouc émissaire

René Girard considère le Nouveau Testament comme un événement capital de l’histoire de l’Humanité, non pas parce qu’il marque la naissance d’une nouvelle religion (le Christianisme) mais parce qu’il met fin au scandale de la culpabilité du bouc émissaire. Jusqu’alors toutes les victimes émissaires acceptaient de se sacrifier au nom de leurs fautes ou de leurs défauts (tares). Mais voici que le Christ met un coup d’arrêt à cette logique, en jetant une lumière crue sur le mécanisme mystificateur du bouc émissaire. Non que le Sauveur refuse d’assumer son rôle de bouc émissaire, au contraire, il se laisse torturer sans protester et crucifier comme s’il était coupable, mais à la différence des autres victimes émissaires, il clame haut et fort son innocence. Jésus se présente ouvertement comme l’agneau de Dieu qu’on sacrifie sur l’autel de la violence collective (il prend sur lui « tous les péchés du monde »), sauf que sa démarche a un tout autre sens que celle des boucs émissaires classiques qui subissaient leur sort, dans la mesure où elle est annoncée comme l’ultime sacrifice, après lequel devrait régner l’ordre et la paix. En dévoilant le mécanisme caché (depuis la fondation du monde) du bouc émissaire, à savoir que la victime est sacrifiée non par ce qu’elle est coupable (alibi grossier), mais parce qu’il faut un coupable, l’Évangile rend impossible son recours ultérieur. Désormais, la société devra trouver d’autres remèdes pour exorciser la violence (en l’occurrence elle s’appuiera sur le message évangélique de la non-violence). Si le Nouveau Testament marque un tournant majeur dans l’histoire de l’humanité, c’est que la gestion de la violence, à partir de cette date, prend un aspect tout différent. L’une des conséquences inattendues de cette révélation du « pot aux roses » du bouc émissaire, c’est que le monde, privé de sa solution préférée, devient, selon Girard, de plus en plus violent, et cela bien que les formes de civilisations ne cessent d’évoluer pour contenir, dans les deux sens du terme, cette violence.

René Girard se montre en effet très pessimiste sur l’évolution de l’Humanité, à partir du moment où elle se prive de la possibilité d’user de la carte victimaire. L’efficacité du bouc émissaire reposait en effet sur la méconnaissance/ignorance du phénomène de la part de ses usagers : les peuples ancestraux croyaient sincèrement qu’il suffisait de sacrifier une victime, ou d’accomplir un rite symbolique équivalent, pour régler les conflits. À partir du moment où les peuples ont perdu cette foi, ils doivent inventer des solutions alternatives, soit recourir à l’Évangile et sa morale naïve de la non violence (l’amour du Prochain), soit se tourner vers la Justice et son droit compliqué (proportionnalité des peines au crime commis). Or, nous dit René Girard, il n’est pas sûr que les communautés puissent se passer de la fonction régulatrice du bouc émissaire : force est d’observer que les sociétés modernes, dans les périodes de forte crise mimétique, y ont recours, tout se passant comme si elles avaient oublié qu’elle était un procédé barbare et irrationnel. Dans l’entre deux guerres par exemple, l’Allemagne, frappée par une crise économique grave, est animée de tensions sociales extrêmes et de débordements de violence qui mènent le pays au bord de la guerre civile. Or cette violence intestine va se trouver spontanément redirigée vers des boucs émissaires tels que les homosexuels, les communistes, les Tsiganes et vers les Juifs. La propagande – ce travail de sape de la connaissance, cet apprentissage de l’ignorance – se chargera pour sa part de conforter la population allemande dans l’idée que les Juifs ne peuvent pas, par définition, être innocents, ouvrant grand la porte à la tragédie de la Shoah. En dehors de ces cas exceptionnels, le fait que nos sociétés ne soient plus protégées par le mécanisme victimaire constitue paradoxalement un danger majeur, car, sauf à convertir la population entière à l’amour chrétien (idée illusoire), il n’existe désormais plus aucun frein à la violence. Dans son dernier ouvrage, Achever Clausewitz (2007), René Girard va jusqu’à nous promettre l’apocalypse. On aimerait que l’avenir lui donne tort, mais l’explosion de violence à laquelle on assiste sur toute la planète semble hélas aller dans sons sens.

Conclusion

La théorie du bouc émissaire serait-elle trop belle pour être vraie ? Le fait est qu’elle est séduisante, et même fascinante, en ce qu’elle fournit une clé de compréhension simple et efficace pour des problèmes fort complexes. Avec Girard, tout devient lumineux : la question du désir (réglée via le principe du mimétisme), la question de la violence (résolue par l’intervention du mécanisme victimaire), la question enfin de l’apparition du sacré (expliquée par les pouvoirs miraculeux attribués à la Victime). Il n’a évidemment pas manqué de spécialistes de chacune des disciplines dont Girard s’est emparé sans prévenir pour contester les thèses du philosophe : jusqu’à ces dernières années sa pensée était très discutée, voire contestée par ses confrères, mais peu à peu elle s’est imposée ; elle fait désormais partie du paysage intellectuel. Le désir mimétique, la théorie du bouc émissaire, sont cités dans les travaux d’anthropologie4.

Le système girardien présente néanmoins, sinon des failles, quelques zones d’ombre. Le principal reproche qu’on pourrait lui faire, c’est de ne pas laisser de place à la singularité, à la différence, à la complexité. Soucieux avant tout de faire triompher sa théorie, Girard généralise sans nuance, parfois à outrance. N’existe-t-il pas des sacrifices qui n’entrent pas dans la logique du bouc émissaire (les sacrifices d’offrandes) ? Ne peut-on pas trouver des peuplades qui usent du bouc émissaire sans sacraliser ce dernier (ex : les aborigènes d’Australie qui ignorent les dieux). La théorie est aussi fragile à la base, en ce sens qu’elle s’appuie sur une conception du désir qui écarte toute dimension pulsionnelle (vouloir instinctivement une chose pour elle-même). Le désir, pour Girard, n’est que mimétique, c’est-à-dire un processus cérébral. Or, peut-on faire l’économie de la libido dans les rapports humains ? Ne peut- on pas penser que la difficulté d’assouvir son désir est autant sinon plus génératrice de violence que la rivalité mimétique ? Enfin n’est-ce pas accorder une importance exagérée au message évangélique que d’en faire le seul et unique texte à dire la Vérité sur le mécanisme victimaire ?

Reste que, en dépit de son caractère totalisant (une seule explication pour tout !) cette théorie est particulièrement bienvenue aujourd’hui pour expliquer ce qui nous arrive, à savoir la prolifération du désir consumériste, la résurgence de la violence en contexte civilisationnel, le processus de désignation du coupable (l’immigré, l’étranger, etc.), la recherche effrénée de spiritualité. La pensée de Girard n’a pas perdu de son efficacité car, contrairement aux apparences, ce qu’il y a de primitif en chaque homme n’est pas éradiqué et peut ressurgir à tout moment, surtout en temps de crise. Grâce à cette pensée originale, nous sommes donc en mesure de mieux comprendre conjointement la nature biaisée de notre désir, les causes profondes de notre violence, et notre aspiration instinctive au sacré.

Bibliographie

  • Mensonge romantique et vérité romanesque, Paris, Grasset, 1961.
  • La violence et le sacré, Paris, Grasset, 1972.
  • Critique dans un souterrain, Lausanne, L’Âge d’Homme, 1976.
  • Des choses cachées depuis la fondation du monde, Paris, Grasset, 1978.
  • Le bouc émissaire, Paris, Grasset, 1982.
  • La route antique des hommes pervers, Paris, Grasset, 1985.
  • Shakespeare, les feux de l’envie, Paris, Grasset, 1990.
  • Quand ces choses commenceront…, Paris, Arléa, 1994.
  • The Girard Reader, New York, édité par James Wil iams,Crossroad, 1996.
  • Je vois Satan tomber comme l’éclair, Paris, Grasset, 1999.
  • Celui par qui le scandale arrive, Paris, Desclée de Brouwer, 2001.
  • La voix méconnue du réel, Paris, Grasset, 2002.
  • Le sacrifice, Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, 2003.
  • Les origines de la culture, Paris, Desclée de Brouwer, 2004.
  • Achever Clausewitz, Paris, Carnets Nord, 2007.
  • Anorexie et désir mimétique, Paris, Éditions de L’Herne, 2008.
  • La conversion de l’art, Paris, Carnets Nord, 2008.

Notes

1 La Nuit du chasseur (titre original : The Night of the Hunter) est un film américain réalisé par Charles Laughton en 1955. Le pasteur Harry Powell, le méchant persécuteur d’enfants, est lynché par les « bons » américains.

2 M le maudit (M – Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder) est un film allemand réalisé par Fritz Lang, sorti en 1931. Un meurtrier d’enfants jette les habitants d’une grande ville allemande dans la terreur et l’hystérie si bien que la police et même la pègre, tous alliés contre lui, se mettent toutes les deux à sa poursuite.

3 Œdipe roi (en grec ancien Οἰδίπoυς τύραννoς / Oidípous Týrannos, en latin Œdipus Rex) est une tragédie grecque de Sophocle, entre 430 et 415 avant J.-C.

4 La consécration du philosophe a eu lieu récemment, en 2005, avec son élection à l’Académie.

Voir aussi:

Acharei Mot – 5773
Mrs.Cain

The weekly portion

April 19, 2013
L’Azazel!  Go to hell!  A ubiquitous Israeli expression, used across the board amongst the not-quite-polite fold (read all Israelis).  The phrase shows just how deeply connected we are to our Biblical origins, if only linguistically.

The parasha opens with a designation of the sequence of events (remember, the Bible doesn’t always follow a consecutive narrative):

וידבר ה’ אל-משה אחרי מות שני בני אהרן בקרבתם לפני-ה’ וימתו: ויאמר ה’ אל-משה דבר אל-אהרן אחיך ואל יבא בכל-עת אל הקדש…

Hashem spoke to Moshe after the death of Aaron’s sons, when they approached before HaShem and died.   HaShem said speak to Aaron, your brother – he shall not come at all times into the Sanctuary…

The parasha then continues with clear instructions of when Aaron can go into the Sanctuary, how he must be cleansed, and in which proscribed form of dress.  Then follows a description of the sacrifices made for Yom Kippur: two male goats for a sin offering, one male ram for the elevation offering, and one bull for Aaron’s sin offering, covering himself and his family.

ולקח את-שני השעירם והעמיד אתם לפני ה’ פתח אהל מועד: ונתן אהרון על שני השערים גרלות גורל אחד לה’  וגורל אחד לעזאזל:  והקריב אהרון את השעיר אשר עלה עליו הגורל לה’ ועשהו חטאה:  ץוהשעיר אשר עליו הגורל לעזאזל יעמד-חי לפני לכפר עליו לשלח אתו לעזאזל המדברה.

He shall take two he-goats and stand them before HaShem at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting.  Aharon shall place lots on the two he-goats: one lot “for HaShem,” and one lot “for Azazel.”  Aaron shall bring the he-goat designated by lot for HaShem, and make it a sin-offering.  And the he-goat designated by lopt for Azazel shall be stood alive before HaShem, to provide atonement through it, to send it to Azazel in the wilderness.

Let’s look a little more closely at the sequence.  Two promising young priests die for approaching the holy of holies improperly.  Then G-d informs Moshe immediately of what the proper procedure is for doing so:  ‘Tell Aaron how to do it right, or I might have to kill him too!  This is the dress code, this is the ritual, etc.  In fact, the parasha opens with a double warning – not G-d spoke to Moshe once – but twice – i.e “Listen up bro…this is important…”

But more important is a small often underemphasized word:  ואל יבא בכל-עת אל הקדש…   Tell your brother not to just come whenever he wants – there needs to be a purpose for approaching the inner Sanctuary.   And the purpose is atonement for the people, not personal – but communal.

Rituals of elimination were a common aspect of ancient religions throughout the Levant: that is, the slaying of a ritual animal or person (usually representing a god) as a means of cleansing away sin on behalf of the people.  The first millennium Mesopotamian creation myth (Enûma Eliš) elaborates on the slaying of the rebellious god Gingku correlating for the first time in extant text the notion of expiation of guilt and sin with the death of a demi-deity.   Out of Gingku’s blood, the first man is created, free of the sins of the god who was killed.  Am seventh century BCE Hittite text based on earlier first millennium sources of the Sargonnid kings Esahradon and Ashurbanipal (based on earlier first millennium BCE sources) relates that a lunar eclipse was thought to foretell the death of the ruling king.  In order to neutralize the evil portent, a ritual substitution was made by having a substitute king sit upon the throne for one hundred days.  At the end of this period the substitute was killed and the real king was reinstated.  In these rituals the substitute king carries away the impurities, as do animals in earlier substitution rituals.

Within this context, the text in Leviticus is evidence of a distinct departure from the more standard and commonly known substitution rituals of the region.   First of all, there are two substitutions.  One is the transference of impurity, by laying hands of the ram, and sacrificing it as a sin offering.  The second is the transference of the sins of the people onto the scapegoat.   However, the substitution done on behalf of a group or community is not unique to Leviticus.  A text from Ebla (early Akkadian) describes a scapegoat ritual from 2400-2300 BCE, in which two goats are put through a startlingly similar ritual:

(And) we purge the mausoleum|
Before the entry of the gods Kura and Barama a goat
…a silver bracelet hanging from the goat’s neck.
Towards the steps of Alini we let her go…

About a thousand years later an Ugaritic text describes a similar ritual:

If the city is about to be conquered, if death
wickedly treats man
A person will take a goat into the steppes
and send her out

A Hittite scapegoat ritual from about 1350 BCE also describes a situation describing the purification ceremony for ritual pestilence, which involves the designation of a substitute (a ram and a woman), the adorning of the scapegoat, and then sending the scapegoat out into enemy territory.

Similar rituals are documented throughout the outlying regions of the Hittite empire – stretching from modern-day South-East Anatolia and northern Syria.  *1

What is unique about the scapegoat ritual in Leviticus is the concept of drawing lots to ascribe which goat is designated for G-d, and which will carry the sins of the people to Azazel.  The random nature of casting a lot shows development of a wholly new concept within the regional tradition.  Either animal can be sacrificed.  It’s not for man to determine which one is which. Only G-d can determine the fate of man and animal alike.

Two questions have bothered Tannaim, and subsequent, far later Jewish scholars.  One is the actual meaning of “L’Azazel, and the second is why the date of the most important day of the year is designated only at the end of the text, after the description of the substitution ritual.

Was ‘Azazel’ a physical location?  The Jews of the Second Temple Period seemed to believe so.  Documented texts indicate that the goat was physically led to an outlying area 14 km southeast of Jerusalem, now referred to as Har Azazel (Jabel Muntar).  The Mishna relates that the goat was walked for a distance of about 14 km, at which 10 booths were contructed to water and feed the goat (but not the kohenim driving it to its death). Yoma 67b; Sifra, Aharei Mot 2.8 (“to a hard place in the mountains”) Ibn Ezra related the word to Aramic a-z-l , or “ez – alal” – meaning “a goat goes.”  A third interpretation, found in the Talmud relates the term to a demon.  Talmudic Sages wrote (Babylonian Talmud, Yoma 67b):  “It is taught by Rabbi Ishmael:  Azazel, since it atones for the deeds of Uzza and Azael,” the sinful angels who were cast out of Heaven.   According to Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer 46, the goat is given to Azazel = Samael to bribe him not to act as the prosecutor against the Jewish people (also cf. Zohar, Aharei Mot).  There it says, “The lot of the Holy One, blessed be He, is the burnt offering, and the lot of Azazel is the he-goat sin offering.”  The contraposition of these two goats alludes to a contest, as it were, between the demons and the Lord.   The Book of Isaiah supports this interpretation as well (Is. 13:21-22, 34:11-15), where Isaiah describes the wilderness as being a place of demons.

According to Leviticus 16:8, Aaron casts lots, “one marked for the Lord and the other marked for Azazel.”   Likewise, Leviticus 17:7 says, “that they may offer their sacrifices no more to the goat-demons (se’irim) after whom they stray.  That would be a pretty powerful argument for sending the goat off to die in wilderness.

Finally, let’s consider the timing of ritual.  Only at the end of the ritual’s description is there mention of when the ritual should take place:

והיתה לכם לחקת עולם בחדש השביעי בעשור לחדש תענו את-נפשתיכם וכל-מלאכה לא תעשו האזרח והגר הגר בתוככם

“And this shall be to you a law for all time: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall practice self-denial, and not do any work, neither the native or the proselyte who dwells amongst you.” (Leviticus 16:29)”  In an excellent drash on the parasha, Manashe Ben Yashar shows that the Vilna Gaon concluded that while Moshe had the right to approach Hashem more frequently, Aaron was limited to specific times when expiation was deemed necessary,  and Aaron’s successors were to be limited to a single day in which they would bear the responsibility of expiation on behalf of a repentant people.   This parasha portrays a ritual that was far more encompassing than the single day of Yom Kippur.

Ancient cultic practices from the region support this conclusion.


Scoop du siècle: un leader mondial célèbre le christianisme et il n’est pas américain ! (Shallow, clichéd Easter message: David Cameron spills the beans on the universality of Judeo-Christian values and pays for it)

5 avril, 2016

OBunny
batmanvsuperman
Tu aimeras ton prochain comme toi-même. Lévitique 19: 18
N’avez-vous jamais lu dans les Écritures: La pierre qu’ont rejetée ceux qui bâtissaient est devenue la principale de l’angle. Jésus (Psaume 118: 22/Matthieu 21: 42)
Soyez fils de votre Père qui est dans les cieux; car il fait lever son soleil sur les méchants et sur les bons, et il fait pleuvoir sur les justes et sur les injustes. Jésus (Matthieu 5: 45)
Si quelqu’un ne veut pas travailler, qu’il ne mange pas non plus. Paul (2 Thessaloniciens 3: 10)
L’Europe n’est rien de substantiel. L’envers de cette vacuité substantielle est une tolérance, une ouverture radicale. Ulrich Beck
L’Europe meurt de sa lâcheté et de sa faiblesse morales, de son incapacité à se défendre et de l’ornière morale évidente dont elle ne peut s’extraire depuis Auschwitz. Imre Kertész (L’Ultime auberge)
La basse continue de la morale humaniste, celle qui existe chez Bach avec des accords parfaits, des tonalité en mi majeur ou en sol majeur, une culture fermée où chaque mot signifiait ce qu’il voulait dire et seulement cela, voilà ce qui a disparu avec Auschwitz et le totalitarisme. Comme Arnold Schoenberg [1874-1951, qui a révolutionné le langage musical en renonçant au système tonal de sept notes] l’a fait pour la musique, j’ai découvert, avec mon écriture, une « prose atonale », qui illustre la fin du consensus et de la culture humaniste, celle qui valait à l’époque de Bach et ensuite. Dans Etre sans destin, j’ai renversé le Bildungsroman, le roman de formation allemand. On peut dire que mes livres sont des récits de la « dé-formation ». (…) Cette recrudescence de l’antisémitisme, qui est un phénomène mondial, je la trouve bien entendu effarante. Avant même les attaques terroristes de janvier à Paris, j’avais fait la remarque que l’Europe était en train de mourir de sa lâcheté et de sa faiblesse morale, de son incapacité à se protéger et de l’ornière morale évidente dont elle ne pouvait s’extraire après Auschwitz. La démocratie reste impuissante à se défendre, et insensible devant la menace qui la guette. Et le risque est grand de voir les gardes-frontières qui entreprennent de défendre l’Europe contre la barbarie montante, les décapitations, la « tyrannie orientale », devenir à leur tour des fascistes. Que va devenir l’humanité dans ces conditions ? Auschwitz n’a pas été un accident de l’Histoire, et beaucoup de signes montrent que sa répétition est possible. Imre Kertész
Tu vois, ce que nous appelons Dieu dépend de notre tribu, Clark Joe, parce que Dieu est tribal; Dieu prend parti! Aucun homme dans le ciel n’est intervenu quand j’étais petit pour me délivrer du poing et des abominations de papa. J’ai compris depuis longtemps que Si Dieu est tout puissant, il ne peut pas être tout bienveillant. Et s’il est tout bienveillant, il ne peut pas être tout puissant. Et toi non plus ! Lex Luthor
Cette sorte de pouvoir est dangereux. (…) Dans une démocratie, le bien est une conversation et non une décision unilatérale. Sénatrice Finch (personnage de Batman contre Superman)
La bonne idée de ce nouveau film des écuries DC Comics, c’est de mettre en opposition deux conceptions de la justice, en leur donnant vie à travers l’affrontement de deux héros mythiques. (…) Superman et Batman ne sont pas des citoyens comme les autres. Ce sont tous les deux des hors-la-loi qui œuvrent pour accomplir le Bien. Néanmoins, leur rapport à la justice n’est pas le même: l’un incarne une loi supérieure, l’autre cherche à échapper à l’intransigeance des règles pour mieux faire corps avec le monde. Le personnage de Superman évoque une justice divine transcendante, ou encore supra-étatique. À plusieurs reprises, le film met en évidence le défaut de cette justice surhumaine, trop parfaite pour notre monde. Superman est un héros kantien, pour qui le devoir ne peut souffrir de compromission. Cette rigidité morale peut alors paradoxalement conduire à une vertu vicieuse, trop sûre d’elle même. On reprochait au philosophe de Königsberg sa morale de cristal, parfaite dans ses intentions mais prête à se briser au contact de la dure réalité. Il en va de même pour Superman et pour sa bonne volonté, qui vient buter sur la brutalité de ses adversaires et sur des dilemmes moraux à la résolution impossible. Le personnage de Batman incarne quant à lui une justice souple, souterraine, infra-étatique et peut-être trop humaine. Le modèle philosophique le plus proche est celui de la morale arétique du philosophe Aristote. Si les règles sont trop rigides, il faut privilégier, à la manière du maçon qui utilise comme règle le fil à plomb qui s’adapte aux contours irréguliers, une vertu plus élastique. Plutôt que d’obéir à des impératifs catégoriques, le justicier est celui qui sait s’adapter et optimiser l’agir au cas particulier. Paradoxalement, cette justice de l’ombre peut aller jusqu’à vouloir braver l‘interdit suprême ; le meurtre; puisque Batman veut en finir avec Superman. (…) De la même façon, le film pose dès le départ, à travers les discours d’une sénatrice, le problème critique du recours au super-héros. Ce dernier déresponsabilise l’homme, court-circuite le débat démocratique et menace par ses super-pouvoirs toute possibilité d’un contre-pouvoir. Les « Watchmen », adaptation plus subtile de l’oeuvre de Alan Moore par le même Zack Snyder posait déjà la question : « Who watches the Watchmen ? » Le Nouvel Obs
“Batman v. Superman” may lack the social commentary of “The Dark Knight” trilogy or bold iconoclasm of “V for Vendetta,” but it does have an ideology – namely, its distrust of power. To Batman and many residents of both Metropolis and Gotham, Superman is a self-appointed overlord whose complete unaccountability makes him an existential threat to humanity, regardless of his claims that he only wants to help. Indeed, the film opens by revisiting the controversial Metropolis fight from “Man of Steel,” one that many critics noted would have resulted in hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties, showing how the stupendous loss of life (and Superman’s callous disregard for it) motivates Batman’s hatred. Of course, in Superman’s eyes, Batman is nothing more than a vigilante, someone whose ability to operate above the law speaks not to his superior moral qualities but rather the corruption of a police department that refuses to prosecute him. And when we see Bruce Wayne branding criminals with the Bat logo, it’s hard to disagree with Superman’s assessment. Coming from a movie in which one character declares that “on this earth, every act is a political act,” it’s obvious that these political messages were included by design. Regardless of their political affiliation, director Zack Snyder and screenwriters David S. Goyer and Chris Terrio have created an operatic superhero film that abhors the real-world consequences which would ensue if superheroes actually existed. In the “Batman v. Superman” paradigm, it doesn’t matter that those wielding the power think of themselves as virtuous – whether sent from above with a divine destiny or crawling the streets to protect the innocent – because “in a democracy, good is a conversation, not a unilateral decision” (to quote the movie’s idealistic United States Senator played by Holly Hunter). This isn’t to say that “Batman v. Superman” is a masterpiece of political commentary, or even that its message is always presented effectively. Aside from shots of anti-Superman protesters carrying protest signs modeled after the anti-Mexican rhetoric that contaminates our discourse today, there isn’t much of an exploration of xenophobia vis-à-vis Superman’s origin story (a missed opportunity in any ostensibly politicized Superman parable). There are similarly fleeting references to drone strikes and civil liberties violations, all dutifully ticked off as vestiges of a security state run amok before quickly forgotten. The movie does include commendably strong female characters like Lois Lane and Wonder Woman, but they receive such insufficient attention that they barely make an impact (a shortcoming more likely attributable to its cluttered narrative than outright sexism). At the same time, there is actually something very intelligent, even subversive, about a superhero film that is so brazen in challenging the political legitimacy of those who would-be superheroes. It is the central conflict that drives the narrative and keeps the audience engaged in the on-screen action, even if the flat characters make it hard to invest on a deeper level. This isn’t a movie that simply includes those elements to make itself seem more profound; without that political subtext, the film barely exists at all. While it remains to be seen whether this political message will give “Batman v. Superman” the same timelessness as other blockbuster political parables from the superhero genre (again, think “V for Vendetta” or “The Dark Knight”), I suspect it goes a long way toward explaining why many audiences are connecting with it. For better or worse, the movie uses two well-known contemporary mythologies – that of the Batman and Superman characters – to ask provocative questions about whether we can trust concentrations of great power. Critics may deride these attempts as incoherent or simplistic, but if John and Jane Q. Public are intrigued by them, then perhaps we should hesitate before dismissing them outright. After all, any movie that tries to make its audience smarter isn’t completely devoid of merit. When cultural historians look back on cinema circa 2016, they will likely marvel at our growing ambivalence toward the superhero characters who have become so popular over the past couple decades. Later this year “Batman v. Superman” will be joined by “Captain America: Civil War,” another movie in which two iconic superheroes feud over ideological differences about concentrations of power (this time Captain America and Iron Man). There is a mass catharsis at play here, a phenomenon in which the anxieties toward demagogues and potential demagogues – liberals and conservatives can fill in their own blanks here with the names of their least-favorite politicians – is being reflected back to us on the silver screen. This, politically speaking, may be the most important takeaway from “Batman v. Superman.” It may be a good movie, a bad movie, or anything in between, but it is without question an important film today, and a quintessential product of the America we inhabit. Matthew Rozsa
Superman vs. Batman … accomplishes its lofty goal to approach Superman (Henry Cavill) from a more mythological discourse, with Christian symbolism coming to the forefront. Those who saw « Man of Steel » are undoubtedly familiar with these sorts of Christian references, especially given that film’s use of the Holy Trinity. That symbolism is even more overt in « Batman v Superman, » or should we call it « The Passion of Superman »? The godly hero is venerated throughout the film. His morality is also called into question. At one point he essentially decimates an entire village in order to rescue Lois Lane (Amy Adams) in the middle of the desert. But this scorn is often countered by images of his redemption, as when Superman saves a girl from a burning building and gets mobbed by a group of people all stretching out to touch him. Jesus — I mean Superman — even goes on trial in front of Congress so that the world can get a better idea of where he stands. Is he on Earth to dominate mankind? Or is he there to collaborate with humanity? Of course, like Christ, there are those that fear Superman, including Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck). (…) Likely because he heard for two years how oblivious Superman seemed in « Man of Steel » about killing millions of people during his fight with General Zod (Michael Shannon), Snyder decided to then show audiences this same destruction from a different viewpoint, using overt 9/11 references. While Snyder’s attempts to acknowledge the carnage in a way his previous film didn’t, the rewrite does not in reveal how Superman feels about anything. More to the point, despite seeing the mayhem, Bruce Wayne’s alter ego Batman seems to have no sympathy for killing other characters during the various chase or action sequences he takes on. (…) Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor is often used to bring the Messianic imagery to the forefront – he ceaselessly refers to Superman as an analogy for God. Even his hatred of Superman is rooted in that analogy. Jewish Rabbi Elie Wiesel was faced with the horrors of the Holocaust, and his theology was utterly transformed by it. Wiesel came to the belief that, in the face of Auschwitz, God must be either all-loving or all-powerful – He could not be both. Lex Luthor has come to a similar view; and, where Wiesel was comfortable with the distinction, Luthor is angry. Conflating Superman with God, his desire is to reveal either the limits of Superman’s character, or of his power. In the film, there’s a fascinatingly spiritual scene in which Superman has been tempted away from the path of interaction with the world. Curiously enough, this time round it is his own mother who has tried to tell him to let go – « You don’t owe the world anything, » she tells him. Superman heads off to a mountain (again, a spiritual place in the Bible), and has a spiritual encounter with his deceased father, Jonathan, that prepares him for what is to come. (…) Luthor uses Kryptonian technology to create Doomsday, and it’s notable that doing so requires his blood – again, a Biblical notion (Leviticus 17: 11, « For the life of a creature is in the blood »). Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche famously argued that man created God in his own image. Batman V Superman neatly inverts this postmodern trope, with, instead, man creating the devil in response to God’s presence. The battle between Doomsday and the DC superheroes culminates in a brutal conflict that goes so far as the boundaries of the atmosphere! Ultimately, Superman and Doomsday strike each other with fatal blows, in a scene that seems analogous to the first Biblical prophecy of what the Cross would achieve, in Genesis 3: 15: « He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel. » In this first prophecy, the decisive battle between the Son of Man (a title Jesus claimed for himself) and the Devil would involve both striking powerful blows against the other. The Devil, in Genesis spoken of as a serpent, will strike Jesus on the heel – infecting him with venom, and thus taking his life. Jesus, meanwhile, will crush the Devil’s head as he dies. True to this form, Superman and Doomsday literally impale one another, both dying. Tellingly, as Lois weeps (analogous to many images of Jesus’ mother weeping over his body), the camera pans out to reveal wooden rubble in the shape of Crosses. It’s also no coincidence that this film was released on Good Friday, when Christians celebrate the death of Jesus! (…) Sometimes crucifixions were a long and messy affair, and the Romans tried to hurry them up. As Jesus hung upon the Cross, the Roman soldiers moved between the three men hanging on the Crosses, and broke the legs of the two thieves – so they would hang, and asphyxiate. They believed that Jesus was already dead, though, and pierced his side with a spear. The Bible is very specific to describing a flow of « blood and water », which indicates that the spear had penetrated the lung – and it was filled, proving Jesus was truly dead. In roughly the same way, the crucial weapon in this film is a Kryptonite spear, fashioned by Batman, and ultimately used against Doomsday. As Doomsday dies, the creature’s right arm – taking on the form of a spear – pierces Superman’s chest, also killing him. It’s not a coincidence, even though the symbolism breaks apart when you look too deeply at this one. Is there anyone who believes Superman will stay dead? The funeral processions – complete with the famous religious tune Amazing Grace – and the mourning masses are eerily reminiscent of the Bible’s descriptions. Just as with Jesus, Superman is left in the grave – and the final scenes hint that he’s not quite dead yet… This, of course, was based off the famous Death of Superman event – and yes, Superman came back pretty quickly … Latin Post
Every other scene is a murky allusion to classical mythology or baroque religious art. But that’s categorically all they are: the film regularly defies common sense and logic in order to cue up the next cod-transfiguration or pietà. When Lois Lane (Amy Adams) hurls that kryptonite spear into the water, she does it for no apparent reason other than the fact it looks, like, totally cool – and accordingly, she and Superman are fishing it back out again five minutes later. The heavy religious symbolism of Man of Steel now looks relatively restrained: Superman himself has gone Full Christ Metaphor, and his life is an endless cycle of rescuing people (mainly Lois) and pulling expressions of pained benificence. Cavill has almost nothing to do apart from look chiseled, which makes a depressing kind of sense, given the film seems to view his character as a living statue. Batman V Superman launches into its myth-making immediately and humourlessly, setting the tone for everything that follows. Under the opening credits we get a refresher course in Bruce Wayne’s childhood trauma: yet again, we see the shooting of his parents (this time outside a cinema showing Excalibur and The Mark of Zorro) and his subsequent tumble down a bat-infested shaft. It’s staged with sadistic elegance – there’s a skin-prickling shot of the mugger’s pistol hitching up Bruce’s mother’s string of pearls – although there are only so many slow-motion aerial shots of coffins and black umbrellas a man can come up with, and much of it smacks of similar passages in Snyder’s earlier films, Sucker Punch and Watchmen. It also turns out to be the only substantial insight we get into who Bruce Wayne actually is, or what drives him, in the film’s entire two-and-a-half-hour running time. Giving Affleck’s Batman the physique of a concrete pillar makes aesthetic sense, but did he need the personality of one too? One more thing about Bruce: he loathes Superman, because of his city-razing antics at the end of Man of Steel, which toppled Wayne Tower with hundreds of employees inside it. Here, Snyder gives us a street-level recap, transparently invoking 9/11 in every shot. (Later, the film works the terrorism angle even harder: Superman’s actions prove to be the catalyst for a suicide bomb attack on US soil.) In short, Batman has grounds for vengeance. But it’s Lex Luthor who has the appetite. After hauling a clump of glowing green kryptonite from the Indian Ocean, the young technology mogul devises a ‘silver bullet’ that could bring Superman to heel. Eisenberg gives a catastrophic performance here, all itchy and spasmodic, and built on mumbled rants about Copernicus and Nietzsche … The Telegraph
Notre monde est de plus en plus imprégné par cette vérité évangélique de l’innocence des victimes. L’attention qu’on porte aux victimes a commencé au Moyen Age, avec l’invention de l’hôpital. L’Hôtel-Dieu, comme on disait, accueillait toutes les victimes, indépendamment de leur origine. Les sociétés primitives n’étaient pas inhumaines, mais elles n’avaient d’attention que pour leurs membres. Le monde moderne a inventé la « victime inconnue », comme on dirait aujourd’hui le « soldat inconnu ». Le christianisme peut maintenant continuer à s’étendre même sans la loi, car ses grandes percées intellectuelles et morales, notre souci des victimes et notre attention à ne pas nous fabriquer de boucs émissaires, ont fait de nous des chrétiens qui s’ignorent. René Girard
Les mondes anciens étaient comparables entre eux, le nôtre est vraiment unique. Sa supériorité dans tous les domaines est tellement écrasante, tellement évidente que, paradoxalement, il est interdit d’en faire état. René Girard
Les pays européens qui ont transformé la Méditerranée en un cimetière de migrants partagent la responsabilité de chaque réfugié mort. Erdogan
Alors que la Turquie accueille trois millions (de migrants), ceux qui sont incapables de faire de la place à une poignée de réfugiés et qui, au coeur de l’Europe, maintiennent des innocents dans des conditions honteuses, doivent d’abord regarder chez eux. Erdogan (2016)
Les racines de l’Europe sont autant musulmanes que chrétiennes. Jacques Chirac
Nous l’avons été, mais nous ne sommes plus une nation chrétienne, du moins, pas seulement. Nous sommes aussi une nation juive, une nation musulmane, une nation bouddhiste, une nation hindoue, une nation d’athées. Barack Hussein Obama (2006)
Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers. And even if we did have only Christians in our midst, if we expelled every non-Christian from the United States of America, whose Christianity would we teach in the schools? Would we go with James Dobson’s, or Al Sharpton’s? Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is ok and that eating shellfish is abomination? How about Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount – a passage that is so radical that it’s doubtful that our own Defense Department would survive its application? So before we get carried away, let’s read our bibles. Folks haven’t been reading their bibles. This brings me to my second point. Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God’s will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all. Now this is going to be difficult for some who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, as many evangelicals do. But in a pluralistic democracy, we have no choice. Politics depends on our ability to persuade each other of common aims based on a common reality. It involves the compromise, the art of what’s possible. At some fundamental level, religion does not allow for compromise. It’s the art of the impossible. If God has spoken, then followers are expected to live up to God’s edicts, regardless of the consequences. To base one’s life on such uncompromising commitments may be sublime, but to base our policy making on such commitments would be a dangerous thing. And if you doubt that, let me give you an example. We all know the story of Abraham and Isaac. Abraham is ordered by God to offer up his only son, and without argument, he takes Isaac to the mountaintop, binds him to an altar, and raises his knife, prepared to act as God has commanded. Of course, in the end God sends down an angel to intercede at the very last minute, and Abraham passes God’s test of devotion. But it’s fair to say that if any of us leaving this church saw Abraham on a roof of a building raising his knife, we would, at the very least, call the police and expect the Department of Children and Family Services to take Isaac away from Abraham. We would do so because we do not hear what Abraham hears, do not see what Abraham sees, true as those experiences may be. So the best we can do is act in accordance with those things that we all see, and that we all hear, be it common laws or basic reason. Finally, any reconciliation between faith and democratic pluralism requires some sense of proportion. This goes for both sides. Even those who claim the Bible’s inerrancy make distinctions between Scriptural edicts, sensing that some passages – the Ten Commandments, say, or a belief in Christ’s divinity – are central to Christian faith, while others are more culturally specific and may be modified to accommodate modern life. The American people intuitively understand this, which is why the majority of Catholics practice birth control and some of those opposed to gay marriage nevertheless are opposed to a Constitutional amendment to ban it. Religious leadership need not accept such wisdom in counseling their flocks, but they should recognize this wisdom in their politics. But a sense of proportion should also guide those who police the boundaries between church and state. Not every mention of God in public is a breach to the wall of separation – context matters. It is doubtful that children reciting the Pledge of Allegiance feel oppressed or brainwashed as a consequence of muttering the phrase « under God. » I didn’t. Having voluntary student prayer groups use school property to meet should not be a threat, any more than its use by the High School Republicans should threaten Democrats. And one can envision certain faith-based programs – targeting ex-offenders or substance abusers – that offer a uniquely powerful way of solving problems. Barack Hussein Obama (2006)
Nous savons que notre héritage multiple est une force, pas une faiblesse. Nous sommes un pays de chrétiens et de musulmans, de juifs et d’hindous, et d’athées. Nous avons été formés par chaque langue et civilisation, venues de tous les coins de la Terre. Et parce que nous avons goûté à l’amertume d’une guerre de Sécession et de la ségrégation (raciale), et émergé de ce chapitre plus forts et plus unis, nous ne pouvons pas nous empêcher de croire que les vieilles haines vont un jour disparaître, que les frontières tribales vont se dissoudre, que pendant que le monde devient plus petit, notre humanité commune doit se révéler, et que les Etats-Unis doivent jouer leur rôle en donnant l’élan d’une nouvelle ère de paix. Au monde musulman: nous voulons trouver une nouvelle approche, fondée sur l’intérêt et le respect mutuels. A ceux parmi les dirigeants du monde qui cherchent à semer la guerre, ou faire reposer la faute des maux de leur société sur l’Occident, sachez que vos peuples vous jugeront sur ce que vous pouvez construire, pas détruire. Barack Hussein Obama (2009)
Nous exprimerons notre appréciation profonde de la foi musulmane qui a tant fait au long des siècles pour améliorer le monde, y compris mon propre pays. Barack Hussein Obama (Ankara, avril 2009)
Les Etats-Unis et le monde occidental doivent apprendre à mieux connaître l’islam. D’ailleurs, si l’on compte le nombre d’Américains musulmans, on voit que les Etats-Unis sont l’un des plus grands pays musulmans de la planète. Barack Hussein Obama (entretien pour Canal +, le 2 juin 2009)
Salamm aleïkoum (…) Comme le dit le Saint Coran, « Crains Dieu et dis toujours la vérité ». (…) Je suis chrétien, mais mon père était issu d’une famille kényane qui compte des générations de musulmans. Enfant, j’ai passé plusieurs années en Indonésie où j’ai entendu l’appel à la prière (azan) à l’aube et au crépuscule. Jeune homme, j’ai travaillé dans des quartiers de Chicago où j’ai côtoyé beaucoup de gens qui trouvaient la dignité et la paix dans leur foi musulmane. Barack Hussein Obama (Prêche du Caire)
L’avenir ne doit pas appartenir à ceux qui calomnient le prophète de l’Islam. Barack Obama (siège de l’ONU, New York, 26.09.12)
Nous montons sur nos grands chevaux mais souvenons-nous que pendant les croisades et l’inquisition, des actes terribles ont été commis au nom du Christ. Dans notre pays, nous avons eu l’esclavage, trop souvent justifié par le Christ. Barack Hussein Obama
Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history.  And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.  In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ. (…) And so, as people of faith, we are summoned to push back against those who try to distort our religion — any religion — for their own nihilistic ends. Barack Hussein Obama (2015)
As a Christian, I am supposed to love. And I have to say that sometimes when I listen to less than loving expressions by Christians, I get concerned. But that’s a topic for another day. (…) For me, the celebration of Easter puts our earthly concerns into perspective. With humility and with awe, we give thanks to the extraordinary sacrifice of Jesus Christ, our Saviour. We reflect on the brutal pain that he suffered, the scorn that He absorbed, the sins that he bore, this extraordinary gift of salvation that he gave to us. And we try, as best we can, to comprehend the darkness that He endured so that we might receive God’s light. And yet, even as we grapple with the sheer enormity of Jesus’s sacrifice, on Easter we can’t lose sight of the fact that the story didn’t end on Friday. The story keeps on going. On Sunday comes the glorious Resurrection of our Saviour. Barack Hussein Obama (2015)
This is a little bittersweet — my final Easter Prayer Breakfast as President.   (…) Now, as Joe said, in light of recent events, this gathering takes on more meaning.  Around the world, we have seen horrific acts of terrorism, most recently Brussels, as well as what happened in Pakistan — innocent families, mostly women and children, Christians and Muslims.  And so our prayers are with the victims, their families, the survivors of these cowardly attacks.  And as Joe mentioned, these attacks can foment fear and division.  They can tempt us to cast out the stranger, strike out against those who don’t look like us, or pray exactly as we do.  And they can lead us to turn our backs on those who are most in need of help and refuge.  That’s the intent of the terrorists, is to weaken our faith, to weaken our best impulses, our better angels. And Pastor preached on this this weekend, and I know all of you did, too, as I suspect, or in your own quiet ways were reminded if Easter means anything, it’s that you don’t have to be afraid.  We drown out darkness with light, and we heal hatred with love, and we hold on to hope.  And we think about all that Jesus suffered and sacrificed on our behalf — scorned, abandoned shunned, nail-scarred hands bearing the injustice of his death and carrying the sins of the world. And it’s difficult to fathom the full meaning of that act.  Scripture tells us, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”  Because of God’s love, we can proclaim “Christ is risen!”  Because of God’s love, we have been given this gift of salvation.  Because of Him, our hope is not misplaced, and we don’t have to be afraid. And as Christians have said through the years, “We are Easter people, and Alleluia is our song!”  We are Easter people, people of hope and not fear.  Now, this is not a static hope.  This is a living and breathing hope.  It’s not a gift we simply receive, but one we must give to others, a gift to carry forth.  I was struck last week by an image of Pope Francis washing feet of refugees — different faiths, different countries.  And what a powerful reminder of our obligations if, in fact, we’re not afraid, and if, in fact, we hope, and if, in fact, we believe.  That is something that we have to give.  His Holiness said this Easter Sunday, God “enables us to see with His eyes of love and compassion those who hunger and thirst, strangers and prisoners, the marginalized and the outcast, the victims of oppression and violence.”  To do justice, to love kindness –- that’s what all of you collectively are involved in in your own ways each and every day. Feeding the hungry.  Healing the sick.  Teaching our children.  Housing the homeless.  Welcoming immigrants and refugees.  And in that way, you are teaching all of us what it means when it comes to true discipleship.  It’s not just words.  It’s not just getting dressed and looking good on Sunday.  But it’s service, particularly for the least of these. And whether fighting the scourge of poverty or joining with us to work on criminal justice reform and giving people a second chance in life, you have been on the front lines of delivering God’s message of love and compassion and mercy for His children.  And I have to say that over the last seven years, I could not have been prouder to work with you.  We have built partnerships that have transcended partisan affiliation, that have transcended individual congregations and even faiths, to form a community that’s bound by our shared ideals and rooted in our common humanity.  And that community I believe will endure beyond the end of my presidency, because it’s a living thing that all of you are involved with all around this country and all around the world. And our faith changes us.  I know it’s changed me.  It renews in us a sense of possibility.  It allows us to believe that although we are all sinners, and that at time we will falter, there’s always the possibility of redemption.  Every once in a while, we might get something right, we might do some good; that there’s the presence of grace, and that we, in some small way, can be worthy of this magnificent love that God has bestowed on us. Barack Hussein Obama (2016)
L’Angleterre est encore un pays chrétien (…) la foi chrétienne joue un rôle dans ce pays (…) les valeurs de la foi chrétienne sont les valeurs sur lesquelles notre pays est construit et nous devrions tous être fiers de dire “ceci est un pays chrétien” (..) Mais elles ne sont pas l’apanage d’une foi ou d’une religion particulière. Elles sont quelque chose en quoi chacun croit dans notre pays. Après tout, tel est le cœur du message chrétien et le principe autour duquel est construite la célébration de Pâques : Pâques, c’est d’abord et avant tout se souvenir de l’importance du changement, de la responsabilité et de faire ce qui est juste pour nos enfants. (…) Quand nous voyons, en 2015, des chrétiens être persécutés pour leur foi dans d’autres parties du monde, nous devons nous affirmer et tenir debout avec ceux qui pratiquent leur foi avec courage. (…) C’est le grand combat qui nous attend. Nos frères et soeurs musulmans veulent notre aide. Nous devons nous étendre et les aider dans la bataille contre l’extrémisme. Nous devons construire des communautés plus fortes et plus résistantes. Nous devons nous assurer que ceux qui dérivent vers l’extrémisme soient tirés en arrière. David Cameron (2015)
Across Britain, Christians don’t just talk about ‘loving thy neighbour’, they live it out… in faith schools, in prisons, in community groups. And it’s for all these reasons that we should feel proud to say, ‘This is a Christian country.’ Yes, we are a nation that embraces, welcomes and accepts all faiths and none but we are still a Christian country. And as a Christian country, our responsibilities don’t end there. We have a duty to speak out about the persecution of Christians around the world too. It is truly shocking to know that in 2015 there are still Christians being threatened, tortured, even killed, because of their faith from Egypt to Nigeria, Libya to North Korea. Across the Middle East, Christians have been hounded out of their homes, forced to flee from village to village, many of them forced to renounce their faith or be brutally murdered. To all those brave Christians in Iraq and Syria who are practising their faith, or sheltering others, we must say, ‘We stand with you’. David Cameron (Dec. 2015)
The message of Easter is a message of hope for millions of Christians in our country and all around the world. We see that hope every day in the many faith-inspired projects that help the homeless, that get people into work, that help keep families together and offer loving homes to children who need them. We see it in the compassion of church leaders and volunteers who visit our hospitals, care homes and hospices – and those who comfort the bereaved. And we see that hope in the aid workers and volunteers who so often risk their own lives to save the lives of others in war-torn regions across the world. These are values we treasure. They are Christian values and they should give us the confidence to say yes, we are a Christian country and we are proud of it. David Cameron (Mar. 2016)
Au coeur de toutes ces actions de gentillesse et de courage, il y a les valeurs et les croyances qui ont fait de notre pays ce qu’il est. Des valeurs de responsabilité, de travail, de charité, de compassion, la fierté de travailler pour le bien commun et d’honorer les obligations sociales que nous avons les uns pour les autres, pour nos familles, pour nos communautés. Nous chérissons ces valeurs. Ce sont des valeurs chrétiennes. Elles doivent nous donner la force de dire : Oui, nous sommes un pays chrétien, et nous en sommes fiers. David Cameron (Mar. 2016)
Le christianisme de Mr Cameron est une tentative de ne choquer personne et que, en tant que tel, il insulte à la fois les chrétiens et les non-chrétiens. Sa liste vague et cotonneuse de vertus – la compassion, le travail, la responsabilité – n’a rien de spécialement chrétien. Le christianisme de Mr Cameron est une tentative de ne choquer personne ; en tant que tel, il insulte à la fois les chrétiens et les non-chrétiens. The Guardian (2015)
That is what we mark today as we celebrate the birth of God’s only son, Jesus Christ – the Prince of Peace. As a Christian country, we must remember what his birth represents: peace, mercy, goodwill and, above all, hope. I believe that we should also reflect on the fact that it is because of these important religious roots and Christian values that Britain has been such a successful home to people of all faiths and none. David Cameron (Dec. 24, 2015)
We look to political leaders for leadership, not theology, and this kind of language reveals him to be less than statesmanlike. David Cameron needs to appreciate that he isn’t a leader of Christians, he’s the prime minister of a diverse, multi-faith, and increasingly non-religious nation. Stephen Evans (National Secular Society, Dec. 2015)
Voilà un chef de gouvernement qui a fait adopter ces derniers mois plusieurs mesures en contradiction directe avec la vision chrétienne de l’homme – le mariage entre personnes de même sexe est légal depuis le 29 mars 2014. Un homme qui est à la tête d’un pays où l’on détruit 170 000 embryons par an, où les agences d’adoption catholiques ont dû fermer les unes après les autres, et où les sages-femmes qui refusent de pratiquer l’avortement sont sanctionnées par la justice. Or, dans ce message dont on peut voir la vidéo par exemple sur le site du Telegraph, il rappelle que l’Angleterre est, « encore un pays chrétien », que « la foi chrétienne joue un rôle dans ce pays », et que « les valeurs de la foi chrétienne sont les valeurs sur lesquelles notre pays est construit » et que « nous devrions tous être fiers de dire “ceci est un pays chrétien” ». À la différence de ses prédécesseurs, Cameron ne répugne pas à évoquer le caractère chrétien de la Grande-Bretagne. Bien sûr, ce message de Pâques est donné un mois avant les élections générales. Il s’inscrit dans une série de messages bienvenus (et généralement bien tournés) de tous les politiques anglais sans exception, qui ont salué les chrétiens à l’occasion de Pâques. Tout le monde s’est fendu d’un (bref) message pascal. Même le libéral Nick Clegg (« athée », mais dont les enfants sont « élevés dans la foi catholique de leur mère »). Même le souverainiste Nigel Farage (qui se définit comme « un anglican apostat ») a tweeté un courtois « Joyeuses Pâques, passez une journée agréable et reposante ». Tous les politiques anglais ont sans exception dénoncé au quart de tour la tragédie des chrétiens persécutés en général, et l’attaque de l’université de Garissa, au Kenya anglophone en particulier – la moindre des choses, après la sévère dénonciation des Pilate de notre temps par le pape François.  Mais il n’est pas sûr que, en voulant donner plus qu’un tweet et en se fendant d’un message de Pâques en bonne et due forme, Cameron ait marqué des points auprès des croyants. Tous les commentateurs ont remarqué le côté lénifiant d’un message – si consensuel qu’il en devenait gênant et peu accordé aux drames de l’heure. Et, en effet, pourquoi se donner la peine de saluer les « valeurs chrétiennes » si c’est pour dire précisément « qu’elles ne sont pas l’apanage d’une foi ou d’une religion particulière » ? Il poursuit : « Elles sont quelque chose en quoi chacun croit dans notre pays. Après tout, tel est le cœur du message chrétien et le principe autour duquel est construite la célébration de Pâques : Pâques, c’est d’abord et avant tout se souvenir de l’importance du changement, de la responsabilité et de faire ce qui est juste pour nos enfants ». Face à cet aimable gloubi-boulga, la presse britannique (qui visiblement connaît encore un peu de catéchisme) a donné au Premier ministre une volée de bois vert. (…) Mais même si c’est un raté de com’ (en cela, tout à fait comparable avec celui – quoique bien plus piteux à vrai dire – de la RATP sur les chrétiens d’Orient), ce message prouve que, décidément, la foi chrétienne est bien dans l’air du temps. Du coup, les politiques se doivent de bien réfléchir avant de se lancer sur ce terrain. Et parfois, ils sont capables de faire un sans-faute. Ainsi nul n’a moqué la reine Élisabeth lorsqu’elle évoquait (dans le royal message de Noël dernier) avec une grande simplicité « Jésus, une ancre dans ma vie ». Un témoignage public, à la fois pudique et sans complexe, que la souveraine britannique a donné à son peuple. Famille chrétienne (2015)
Pour nous autres Français, affligés de voir le mot « chrétien » banni un temps des couloirs de métro et de façon plus pérenne, du lexique présidentiel, cette phrase de David Cameron mériterait nos applaudissements. Outre-Manche, la presse lui a tapé sur les doigts. Il faut dire que la fin du message de Pâques du Premier ministre est indigeste (tout comme certaines réformes, en premier lieu la légalisation du « mariage » homosexuel) : « [Les valeurs chrétiennes] ne sont pas l’apanage d’une foi ou d’une religion particulière. Elles sont quelque chose en quoi chacun croit dans notre pays. Après tout, tel est le cœur du message chrétien et le principe autour duquel est construite la célébration de Pâques : Pâques, c’est d’abord et avant tout se souvenir de l’importance du changement, de la responsabilité et de faire ce qui est juste pour nos enfants ». Comme le remarque Jean-Claude Bésida, les journalistes britanniques ont par conséquent révisé leur catéchisme. Et réclamé des convictions, au lieu de ce gloubi-boulga consensuel destiné à ne déplaire à personne à un mois des élections générales. Salon beige
That’s the thing about America: constitutional separation of Church and state prevents prayers being said in schools and stops the president himself sending out Christmas cards with the word “Christmas” on them. Yet the politician who doesn’t energetically declare his or her Christian faith can expect to be shunned by voters. Whereas in Britain, politicians don’t do God. Paradoxically, in the country where seats in the (albeit unelected) legislature are reserved for leaders of the established Christian Church, religion is seen as a very private and personal affair. Its intrusion into the political domain is seen as very … well, unBritish. So by declaring (not for the first time) in his Easter message that Britain is “a Christian country”, the Prime Minister was either being brave or reckless. Whenever public figures are invited to define Christian values as applied to an entire nation, the homespun answers given are invariably along the lines of charity, loyalty, generosity, honesty, compassion, etc. Yet Christianity was never intended (originally, anyway) to be a comforting faith; it was, and remains, a challenging and deeply uncomfortable philosophy. Every Sunday-school pupil is familiar with the traditional figure of “meek and mild” Jesus, the man dressed all in white who suffered all children to come to Him; who only ever got angry with the money-changers in the Temple; who never said a bad word about gay people and was virtually vegetarian (until he threw a whole herd of pigs off a cliff to save a demon-possessed man). The passage from the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus declared “do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword”, is just one glimpse of a radical faith quite different from the image of old maids cycling to Evensong through the mist. Early Christians were persecuted not because of their love for their fellow citizens, or for their tolerance or charity, but because they challenged the status quo. They said things that made others, including the authorities, feel deeply uncomfortable. (…) Yet all those qualities which Cameron claims describe Christian Britain – responsibility, hard work and compassion – can be just as easily applied to the followers of almost any religion (or, indeed, of none). So labelling us as “Christian” is meaningless. (…) Given that the Prime Minister is not going to take a stand with the church and its core beliefs against those who would oppose and denigrate them, however, why is he raising the standard in the first place? To gain a reputation as a “man of faith”, thereby gaining the respect of followers of all faiths? Perhaps. Today, throughout the world, Christians are being persecuted and killed for their beliefs – not for their tolerance or compassion – and now would be a good time for politicians to speak out. If you’re not prepared to do that, if you want to limit your expression of faith to the inside of a Hallmark greetings card, maybe you should say nothing at all. The Easter story is inspiring and profound. The lesson the Bible teaches about the resurrection is not that good people go to Heaven and that we should all be nice to one another; it is that Jesus’s sacrifice and return from the dead gives hope to anyone who chooses to believe in him. If that’s an uncomfortable message, then spiritually it’s probably the right one. (…) But it’s not what Cameron is driving at. His message may have been broadcast during Easter weekend, but it was no more Christian than any other party political broadcast. Given that he is the secular head of a secular government, that is as it should be. Alastair Campbell once announced that the politicians he served “don’t do God”. The traps are too wide and the advantages too few. In Christian Britain, when politicians do decide to give God the glory, they are best advised to do so in private. The Telegraph

Cachez ces valeurs judéo-chrétiennes que je ne saurai voir !

Dans ce monde étrange tellement « imprégné du souci évangélique des victimes » qu’il a « fait de nous des chrétiens qui s’ignorent » …

Passant leur temps, sous les coups de la barbarie islamique revenue, en minutes de silence, vigiles et bougies quasi-ininterrompus …

Où nos superhéros mêmes, dans un film sorti comme par hasard un Vendredi saint et où le héros se sacrifie à la fin, se voient désormais sommés de répondre des conséquences de leurs actes …

Pendant qu’entre deux pas de dance avec les dictateurs, nos nouveaux messies n’ont jamais de mots assez durs pour dénoncer les manquements passés de notre héritage chrétien ou (jusqu’à caviarder des déclarations de dirigeants étrangers ?) vanter les mérites supposés des autres religions et notamment de celle du Prophète …

Ou entre légions d’honneur, rançons de milliards d’euros et burkha chic sur fond d’épuration ethnique de ce qui peut rester de juif ou de chrétien du prétendu Monde musulman, récompenser les coupeurs de tête de Riyad ou les maitres chanteurs d’Ankara …

Comment ne pas s’étonner au lendemain d’un nouveau message de Pâques d’un premier ministre britannique …

Qui désavouant nos Chirac et Obama du moment et, pour électoralisme et gnangnanisme cette fois, sous la volée de bois vert de sa propre presse …

Comme de l’indifférence habituelle de la nôtre de ce côté-ci de la Manche et de l’enthousiasme attendu d’une certaine presse outre-atlantique

Ose rappeler, appelant même ses compatriotes à dénoncer les actuelles persécutions de leurs coreligionnaires dans le monde …

Tout en en oubliant certes au passage son Lévitique …

La vérité désormais universelle desdites valeurs (judéo)chrétiennes ?

David Cameron : « Oui, nous sommes un pays chrétien et nous en sommes fiers. »
Info chrétienne
28 mars 2016

Suite aux différentes attaques terroristes, David Cameron, Premier Ministre anglais, rappelle dans son discours de Pâques à Downing Street, que l’Angleterre est un pays chrétien. Il explique que ça ne doit pas être une honte, ni une invitation à rabaisser les autres croyances. Il souhaite que son message pour Pâques soit « un message d’espoir pour des millions de chrétiens en Angleterre et dans le monde entier. »

Barack Obama, alors sénateur en 2006, avait lui exprimé une toute autre opinion à l’égard des Etats-Unis : « Nous l’avons été, mais nous ne sommes plus une nation chrétienne, du moins, pas seulement. Nous sommes aussi une nation juive, une nation musulmane, une nation bouddhiste, une nation hindoue, une nation d’athées. »

Le Premier Ministre anglais rappelle les différentes actions sociales menées par les chrétiens dans son pays :

« Au coeur de toutes ces actions de gentillesse et de courage, il y a les valeurs et les croyances qui ont fait de notre pays ce qu’il est. Des valeurs de responsabilité, de travail, de charité, de compassion, la fierté de travailler pour le bien commun et d’honorer les obligations sociales que nous avons les uns pour les autres, pour nos familles, pour nos communautés. Nous chérissons ces valeurs. Ce sont des valeurs chrétiennes. Elles doivent nous donner la force de dire : Oui, nous sommes un pays chrétien, et nous en sommes fiers. «
Puis il pense aux chrétiens persécutés :

» Quand nous voyons, en 2016, des chrétiens être persécutés pour leur foi dans d’autres parties du monde, nous devons nous affirmer et tenir debout avec ceux qui pratiquent leur foi avec courage. »
David Cameron invite les leaders chrétiens dans un combat : aider « leurs frères et soeurs musulmans » à lutter contre l’extrémisme.

» C’est le grand combat qui nous attend. Nos frères et soeurs musulmans veulent notre aide. Nous devons nous étendre et les aider dans la bataille contre l’extrémisme. Nous devons construire des communautés plus fortes et plus résistantes. Nous devons nous assurer que ceux qui dérivent vers l’extrémisme soient tirés en arrière. »
Cameron le rappelle : « Il y a une place pour la foi. »

Voir aussi:

David Cameron invoque l’identité chrétienne de son pays pour la défense des chrétiens persécutés
Christophe Chaland
La Croix
07/04/2015

« La Grande Bretagne est un pays chrétien », a affirmé le premier ministre britannique David Cameron dans son message de Pâques, dimanche 5 avril, ajoutant : « En tant que chrétiens, notre responsabilité nous engage à dénoncer la persécution des chrétiens dans le monde ».

Dans un message vidéo de moins de trois minutes, le premier ministre a loué comme il l’avait fait en 2014 l’engagement des chrétiens : « Les chrétiens en Grande Bretagne ne disent pas seulement d’aimer son prochain, ils le mettent en pratique, dans des écoles confessionnelles, dans les prisons, dans des communautés locales, et pour toutes ces raisons, nous pouvons être fiers de dire : “Ce pays est chrétien.” »

Élections
« Nous sommes un pays qui inclut, accueille et accepte toutes les religions ainsi que les athées, mais nous sommes toujours une nation chrétienne », a précisé le chef du gouvernement britannique à un mois des élections générales par lesquelles le pays se dotera d’un nouveau parlement.

David Cameron a rappelé que son gouvernement avait contribué à hauteur de « dizaines de millions de livres » à la restauration du patrimoine chrétien du pays, étendant « la responsabilité » de cette « nation chrétienne » à la défense des chrétiens persécutés dans le monde : « Il est vraiment choquant de savoir qu’en 2015, des chrétiens sont toujours menacés, torturés et même tués en raison de leur foi, de l’Égypte au Nigeria, à la Libye et à la Corée du Nord. »

« Au Moyen-Orient, les chrétiens ont été chassés de leurs maisons, contraints à fuir de village en village, beaucoup d’entre eux ayant dû renier leur foi ou être assassinés » a poursuivi le premier ministre conservateur. « À tous ces chrétiens courageux d’Irak et de Syrie, nous devons dire : nous sommes avec vous. » « Durant le mois qui vient, nous devons continuer de parler d’une seule voix pour la liberté de religion », a-t-il ajouté.

Polémique
En 2014, le message pascal de David Cameron avait déclenché une polémique sur la possibilité de parler de la Grande Bretagne comme d’une nation chrétienne. L’Église anglicane, par ailleurs, ne se prive pas de critiquer à l’occasion la politique sociale du gouvernement.

Dans la presse britannique, des critiques n’ont pas manqué cette année encore, The Guardian remarquant dans un éditorial qu’aucune des « bonnes actions » imputées aux chrétiens par le premier ministre n’était spécifique de la religion chrétienne et dénonçant « une pêche aux votes ».

Christophe Chaland

Voir également:

David Cameron et son curieux message de Pâques
Jean-Claude Bésida

Famille chrétienne

08/04/2015

Alors que le Premier ministre britannique ne brille pas par sa foi, son message de Pâques insiste sur l’héritage chrétien de la Grande-Bretagne. Un exercice de communication à un mois des élections qui se révèle finalement assez raté – trop de consensus et d’édulcoration. Mais qui, par défaut, prouve que la foi chrétienne est dans l’air du temps.
En ces temps où le pape François est le leader le plus populaire de la planète, où la guerre déclarée aux chrétiens d’Orient réussit à faire bouger une RATP laïque et gleedenisée, quelque chose est peut-être en train de changer. Le christianisme – la foi chrétienne – redevient un peu à la mode. En tout cas, elle n’est plus tout à fait quelque chose de totalement ringard et déphasé. Est-il in d’être chrétien ?

C’est la question qu’on peut se poser face au message de Pâques qu’a donné le Premier ministre britannique, David Cameron à Premier Christianity Magazine.

« Nous devrions tous être fiers de dire “ceci est un pays chrétien” »

Voilà un chef de gouvernement qui a fait adopter ces derniers mois plusieurs mesures en contradiction directe avec la vision chrétienne de l’homme – le mariage entre personnes de même sexe est légal depuis le 29 mars 2014. Un homme qui est à la tête d’un pays où l’on détruit 170 000 embryons par an, où les agences d’adoption catholiques ont dû fermer les unes après les autres, et où les sages-femmes qui refusent de pratiquer l’avortement sont sanctionnées par la justice.

Or, dans ce message dont on peut voir la vidéo par exemple sur le site du Telegraph, il rappelle que l’Angleterre est, « encore un pays chrétien », que « la foi chrétienne joue un rôle dans ce pays », et que « les valeurs de la foi chrétienne sont les valeurs sur lesquelles notre pays est construit » et que « nous devrions tous être fiers de dire “ceci est un pays chrétien” ». À la différence de ses prédécesseurs, Cameron ne répugne pas à évoquer le caractère chrétien de la Grande-Bretagne.

Bien sûr, ce message de Pâques est donné un mois avant les élections générales. Il s’inscrit dans une série de messages bienvenus (et généralement bien tournés) de tous les politiques anglais sans exception, qui ont salué les chrétiens à l’occasion de Pâques. Tout le monde s’est fendu d’un (bref) message pascal. Même le libéral Nick Clegg (« athée », mais dont les enfants sont « élevés dans la foi catholique de leur mère »). Même le souverainiste Nigel Farage (qui se définit comme « un anglican apostat ») a tweeté un courtois « Joyeuses Pâques, passez une journée agréable et reposante ».

Un aimable gloubi-boulga qui a valu au Premier ministre une volée de bois vert

Tous les politiques anglais ont sans exception dénoncé au quart de tour la tragédie des chrétiens persécutés en général, et l’attaque de l’université de Garissa, au Kenya anglophone en particulier – la moindre des choses, après la sévère dénonciation des Pilate de notre temps par le pape François.

Mais il n’est pas sûr que, en voulant donner plus qu’un tweet et en se fendant d’un message de Pâques en bonne et due forme, Cameron ait marqué des points auprès des croyants. Tous les commentateurs ont remarqué le côté lénifiant d’un message – si consensuel qu’il en devenait gênant et peu accordé aux drames de l’heure. Et, en effet, pourquoi se donner la peine de saluer les « valeurs chrétiennes » si c’est pour dire précisément « qu’elles ne sont pas l’apanage d’une foi ou d’une religion particulière » ? Il poursuit : « Elles sont quelque chose en quoi chacun croit dans notre pays. Après tout, tel est le cœur du message chrétien et le principe autour duquel est construite la célébration de Pâques : Pâques, c’est d’abord et avant tout se souvenir de l’importance du changement, de la responsabilité et de faire ce qui est juste pour nos enfants ».

Face à cet aimable gloubi-boulga, la presse britannique (qui visiblement connaît encore un peu de catéchisme) a donné au Premier ministre une volée de bois vert. L’éditorialiste du Spectator regrette que David Cameron ait donné une version « curieusement édulcorée de ce qu’est la foi chrétienne » : « En général, on considère que le cœur du message chrétien est qu’un homme, appelé le Fils de Dieu, a été mis à mort sur une croix et est ressuscité des morts ».

Le Guardian répond carrément que « le christianisme de Mr Cameron est une tentative de ne choquer personne et que, en tant que tel, il insulte à la fois les chrétiens et les non-chrétiens. Sa liste vague et cotonneuse de vertus – la compassion, le travail, la responsabilité – n’a rien de spécialement chrétien».

Le christianisme de Mr Cameron est une tentative de ne choquer personne ; en tant que tel, il insulte à la fois les chrétiens et les non-chrétiens.

Le Guardian
Quant à l’hebdomadaire Catholic Herald, il retient une seule chose : « Cameron a honte de se dire chrétien » : « L’ironie est que le Premier ministres a essayé très fort de donner l’impression qu’il n’avait pas peur de se dire chrétien. Le problème, c’est qu’il a surtout montré qu’il était terrorisé à l’idée d’être identifié comme tel. Il a bien le droit de croire ce qu’il veut et il devrait s’y tenir plutôt que d’essayer, avec un cynisme maladroit, de séduire les électeurs chrétiens pour les élections du 7 mai ». Bref, pour le principal hebdo catholique britannique, Cameron s’est pris les pieds dans le tapis.

Un raté de com’ qui prouve cependant que la foi chrétienne est dans l’air du temps

Mais même si c’est un raté de com’ (en cela, tout à fait comparable avec celui – quoique bien plus piteux à vrai dire – de la RATP sur les chrétiens d’Orient), ce message prouve que, décidément, la foi chrétienne est bien dans l’air du temps. Du coup, les politiques se doivent de bien réfléchir avant de se lancer sur ce terrain.

Et parfois, ils sont capables de faire un sans-faute. Ainsi nul n’a moqué la reine Élisabeth lorsqu’elle évoquait (dans le royal message de Noël dernier) avec une grande simplicité « Jésus, une ancre dans ma vie ». Un témoignage public, à la fois pudique et sans complexe, que la souveraine britannique a donné à son peuple.

Voir de même:

Le curieux message de Pâques de David Cameron
Le Salon Beige
08 avril 2015

« Nous devrions tous être fiers de dire “ceci est un pays chrétien” »
Pour nous autres Français, affligés de voir le mot « chrétien » banni un temps des couloirs de métro et de façon plus pérenne, du lexique présidentiel, cette phrase de David Cameron mériterait nos applaudissements. Outre-Manche, la presse lui a tapé sur les doigts. Il faut dire que la fin du message de Pâques du Premier ministre est indigeste (tout comme certaines réformes, en premier lieu la légalisation du « mariage » homosexuel) :
« [Les valeurs chrétiennes] ne sont pas l’apanage d’une foi ou d’une religion particulière. Elles sont quelque chose en quoi chacun croit dans notre pays. Après tout, tel est le cœur du message chrétien et le principe autour duquel est construite la célébration de Pâques : Pâques, c’est d’abord et avant tout se souvenir de l’importance du changement, de la responsabilité et de faire ce qui est juste pour nos enfants ».

Comme le remarque Jean-Claude Bésida, les journalistes britanniques ont par conséquent révisé leur catéchisme. Et réclamé des convictions, au lieu de ce gloubi-boulga consensuel destiné à ne déplaire à personne à un mois des élections générales. Et de conclure :

nul n’a moqué la reine Élisabeth lorsqu’elle évoquait (dans le royal message de Noël dernier) avec une grande simplicité « Jésus, une ancre dans ma vie ». Un témoignage public, à la fois pudique et sans complexe, que la souveraine britannique a donné à son peuple. »

Voir encore:

David Cameron’s shallow, clichéd Easter message shows why politicians really shouldn’t do God 
Tom Harris
The Telegraph

28 March 2016

Ted Cruz gets it. When the US Senator was declared the winner of the Iowa caucus in February, his first words to his adoring fans were: “To God be the glory!” And he meant it.

That’s the thing about America: constitutional separation of Church and state prevents prayers being said in schools and stops the president himself sending out Christmas cards with the word “Christmas” on them. Yet the politician who doesn’t energetically declare his or her Christian faith can expect to be shunned by voters.

Whereas in Britain, politicians don’t do God. Paradoxically, in the country where seats in the (albeit unelected) legislature are reserved for leaders of the established Christian Church, religion is seen as a very private and personal affair. Its intrusion into the political domain is seen as very … well, unBritish.

So by declaring (not for the first time) in his Easter message that Britain is “a Christian country”, the Prime Minister was either being brave or reckless.
David Cameron says Britain must ‘proudly’ defend its Christian values in the face of Islamic extremists Play! 01:23
Whenever public figures are invited to define Christian values as applied to an entire nation, the homespun answers given are invariably along the lines of charity, loyalty, generosity, honesty, compassion, etc. Yet Christianity was never intended (originally, anyway) to be a comforting faith; it was, and remains, a challenging and deeply uncomfortable philosophy.

Every Sunday-school pupil is familiar with the traditional figure of “meek and mild” Jesus, the man dressed all in white who suffered all children to come to Him; who only ever got angry with the money-changers in the Temple; who never said a bad word about gay people and was virtually vegetarian (until he threw a whole herd of pigs off a cliff to save a demon-possessed man).

The passage from the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus declared “do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword”, is just one glimpse of a radical faith quite different from the image of old maids cycling to Evensong through the mist. Early Christians were persecuted not because of their love for their fellow citizens, or for their tolerance or charity, but because they challenged the status quo. They said things that made others, including the authorities, feel deeply uncomfortable.

Most importantly of all, they declared that there was only one true faith, that followers of other faiths were wrong, misguided and were going to Hell unless they changed their minds about which God to worship. In modern, secular Britain, that message is actually well understood by adherents of faiths other than Christianity. Other major religions reserve no place in their afterlife for those who foolishly ignore the teachings of their own sacred texts. That is not an eccentric thing for a religion to do, it is its unique selling point.
Paul Owens, left, leads a prayer over Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz at Fresh Start Church on Sunday, March 20, 2016 in Peoria, Arizona
Yet all those qualities which Cameron claims describe Christian Britain – responsibility, hard work and compassion – can be just as easily applied to the followers of almost any religion (or, indeed, of none). So labelling us as “Christian” is meaningless. We are certainly a Christian country if by that term you mean a country whose culture and heritage are based on a centuries-long tradition of Western, state-approved Christianity. But I’m not convinced that’s what Cameron meant.

Given that the Prime Minister is not going to take a stand with the church and its core beliefs against those who would oppose and denigrate them, however, why is he raising the standard in the first place? To gain a reputation as a “man of faith”, thereby gaining the respect of followers of all faiths? Perhaps.

Today, throughout the world, Christians are being persecuted and killed for their beliefs – not for their tolerance or compassion – and now would be a good time for politicians to speak out.

If you’re not prepared to do that, if you want to limit your expression of faith to the inside of a Hallmark greetings card, maybe you should say nothing at all.

The Easter story is inspiring and profound. The lesson the Bible teaches about the resurrection is not that good people go to Heaven and that we should all be nice to one another; it is that Jesus’s sacrifice and return from the dead gives hope to anyone who chooses to believe in him. If that’s an uncomfortable message, then spiritually it’s probably the right one. Certainly, Senator Cruz would need no persuasion on the issue.

But it’s not what Cameron is driving at. His message may have been broadcast during Easter weekend, but it was no more Christian than any other party political broadcast. Given that he is the secular head of a secular government, that is as it should be.

Alastair Campbell once announced that the politicians he served “don’t do God”. The traps are too wide and the advantages too few. In Christian Britain, when politicians do decide to give God the glory, they are best advised to do so in private.

Voir de plus:

David Cameron’s Easter and Christmas messages are all really similar
Have you ever noticed the Prime Minister’s annual holiday messages are all basically the same?

Mikey Smith

The Mirror

27 Mar 2016

David Cameron called on people of all faiths and none to remember Britain’s Christian values, today, in his annual Easter message.

He paid tribute to British volunteers and servicemen and women doing work abroad and reminded us that as we tuck into our seasonal treats, that some Christians across the world are fleeing persecution.

And he made solemn reference to tragic events unfolding in the news in recent weeks.

Wait. Hang on.

That was his Christmas message.

Come to think of it, it’s also a pretty good description of his Christmas 2014 message. And his Easter message from a couple of years back…

That’s weird…

Happy Easter from robo-Cameron

Observant viewers – ones that can get past the fact that the Prime Minister looks a bit like a semi-intelligent cyborg replica of David Cameron in his 2016 Easter message video – might have noticed some similarities between today’s speech…and almost every other seasonal address he’s made to the nation.

Whereas the Queen usually picks a different theme for her Christmas speeches, Mr Cameron’s are startlingly uniform.

It’s almost as if there’s a formula for it. He plays all the same notes – but like Eric Morecambe playing the piano – not necessarily in the same order.

We took a look back at David Cameron ‘s previous holiday messages to work out the formula for the perfect Prime Ministerial holiday message.

1. Reference a recent event

Mr Cameron usually makes reference to a recent event

Usually tragic

Easter 2016

« And when terrorists try to destroy our way of life as they have tried to do again so despicably in Brussels this week – we must stand together and show that we will never be cowed by terror. »

Christmas 2015

« Millions of families are spending this winter in refugee camps or makeshift shelters across Syria and the Middle East, driven from their homes by Daesh and Assad. »

Christmas 2014

« NHS doctors, nurses and other British volunteers will be in Ebola-affected countries, working selflessly to help stop this terrible disease from spreading further. »

Easter 2014

« And we saw that same spirit during the terrible storms that struck Britain earlier this year. »

Christmas 2013

« 2013 was a significant year for the Christian faith – a year that welcomed The Most Reverend Justin Welby as the new Archbishop of Canterbury and saw His Holiness Pope Francis elected to lead the Roman Catholic Church. »

Easter 2013

« This year’s Holy Week and Easter celebrations follow an extraordinary few days for Christians; not only with the enthronement of Justin Welby as our new Archbishop of Canterbury, but also with the election of Pope Francis in Rome. »

Christmas 2012

« We cheered our Queen to the rafters with the Jubilee, showed the world what we’re made of by staging the most spectacular Olympic and Paralympic Games ever and – let’s not forget – punched way about our weight in the medal table. »

2. Pay tribute to our brave servicemen and women and/or health/aid workers serving at home and abroad

Getty
He almost always talks about our boys

Easter 2016

« And we see that hope in the aid workers and volunteers who so often risk their own lives to save the lives of others in war-torn regions across the world. »

Christmas 2015

« We must pay tribute to the thousands of doctors, nurses, carers and volunteers who give up their Christmas to help the vulnerable – and to those who are spending this season even further from home. Right now, our brave armed forces are doing their duty, around the world: in the skies of Iraq and Syria… »

Christmas 2014

« On Christmas Day thousands of men and women in our armed forces will be far from home protecting people and entire communities from the threat of terrorism and disease. »

Christmas 2013

« With peace in mind, I would like to say thank you to our brave service women and men who are helping bring peace here and around the world; to their families who cannot be with them; and to all the dedicated men and women in the emergency and caring services who are working hard to support those in need this Christmas. »

Easter 2013

« That legacy lives on in so many Christian charities and churches both at home and abroad. Whether they are meeting the needs of the poor, helping people in trouble, or providing spiritual guidance and support to those in need, faith institutions perform an incredible role to the benefit of our society. »

Christmas 2012

« With that in mind, I would like to pay particular tribute to our brave service men and women who are overseas helping bring safety and security to all of us at home; their families who cannot be with them over the holidays; and to all the dedicated men and women in the emergency services who are working hard to support those in need. »

This is almost word for word what he said in 2013

3. Declare solidarity with persecuted Christians

He’s been worried about persecuted Christians for a number of years

Easter 2016

 » When we see Christians today in 2016 being persecuted for their beliefs in other parts of the world – we must speak out and stand with those who bravely practice their faith. »

Christmas 2015

« Christians from Africa to Asia will go to church on Christmas morning full of joy, but many in fear of persecution. »

Easter 2015

« It is truly shocking that in 2015, there are still christians being threatened, tortured, even killed because of their faith.

« From Egypt to Nigeria, Libya to North Korea. Across the Middle East, Christians have been hounded out of their homes, forced to flee from village to village. Many of them forced to renounce their faith or brutally murdered. To all those brave Christians in Iraq or Syria who are practicing their faith, or sheltering others, we must say « we stand with you. » »

Christmas 2014

« And as we celebrate Easter, let’s also think of those who are unable to do so, the Christians around the world who are ostracised, abused – even murdered – simply for the faith they follow. Religious freedom is an absolute, fundamental human right. »

4. Remind people that British values are Christian values

We are a Christian country, after all

Easter 2016

« And as we celebrate Easter, let’s also think of those who are unable to do so, the Christians around the world who are ostracised, abused – even murdered – simply for the faith they follow. Religious freedom is an absolute, fundamental human right. »

Christmas 2015

« As a Christian country, we must remember what his birth represents: peace, mercy, goodwill and, above all, hope. I believe that we should also reflect on the fact that it is because of these important religious roots and Christian values that Britain has been such a successful home to people of all faiths and none. »

Easter 2015

« Across Britain, Christians don’t just talk loving thy neighbour they live it out in faith schools and prisons and community groups and it’s for all these reasons that we should feel proud to say this is a Christian country. »

Christmas 2014

« Among the joyous celebrations we will reflect on those very Christian values of giving, sharing and taking care of others. This Christmas I think we can be very proud as a country at how we honour these values through helping those in need at home and around the world. »

Easter 2012

« The New Testament tells us so much about the character of Jesus; a man of incomparable compassion, generosity, grace, humility and love. These are the values that Jesus embraced, and I believe these are values people of any faith, or no faith, can also share in, and admire. It is values like these that make our country what it is – a place which is tolerant, generous and caring. »

Easter 2011

« Easter reminds us all to follow our conscience and ask not what we are entitled to, but what we can do for others. It teaches us about charity, compassion, responsibility, and forgiveness. »

5. Remind people that even if they’re not Christian, these values still apply to them.

Try and include a riff on the phrase « people of all faiths and of none »

Easter 2016

« But they are also values that speak to everyone in Britain – to people of every faith and none. »

Christmas 2015

« I believe that we should also reflect on the fact that it is because of these important religious roots and Christian values that Britain has been such a successful home to people of all faiths and none. »

Easter 2015

« Yes we’re a nation that embraces and accepts all faiths and none. »

Christmas 2014

Thousands of churches – whether in the smallest village or biggest city – will hold open their doors and welcome people of faith and none to give thanks and celebrate together. »

Easter 2014

« So as we approach this festival I’d like to wish everyone, Christians and non-Christians, a very happy Easter. »

Easter 2012

« These are the values that Jesus embraced, and I believe these are values people of any faith, or no faith, can also share in, and admire. »

Easter 2011

« No matter what faiths we follow, these are values which speak to us all. »

Voir par ailleurs:

The central theme of this leader’s two-minute-and-25-second address was that his nation is “a Christian country.”

So who offered the inspirational message?

British Prime Minister David Cameron.

“Easter is a time for Christians to celebrate the ultimate triumph of life over death in the resurrection of Jesus,” Cameron began. “And for all of us, it’s a time to reflect on the part that Christianity plays in our national life.”

“The church is not just a collection of beautiful, old buildings; it is a living, active force doing great works right across our country,” he continued, noting how the church helps the homeless, the addicted, the suffering and the grieving.

“Across Britain, Christians don’t just talk about ‘loving thy neighbor’, they live it out in faith schools, in prisons, in community groups,” Cameron noted. “And it’s for all these reasons that we should feel proud to say, ‘This is a Christian country.’ Yes, we’re a nation that embraces, welcomes and accepts all faiths and none, but we are still a Christian country.”

Cameron also urged his fellow citizens to speak out about the persecution of Christians around the world.

Voir aussi:

Obama concerned about ‘less-than-loving expressions by Christians’
Brian Hughes

The Washington Examiner

4/7/15

President Obama used an Easter breakfast at the White House Tuesday to call out what he viewed as unbecoming comments by fellow members of the Christian community.

« On Easter, I do reflect on the fact that as a Christian, I’m supposed to love, and I have to say that sometimes when I listen to less-than-loving expressions by Christians, I get concerned, » the president said to a gathering of Christian leaders. « But that’s a topic for another day. »

Obama appeared to go off script in that exchange. He did not allude to whom he was referring.

Obama said the Easter holiday reminded him that even in the White House, some of life’s problems are trivial compared to the « extraordinary sacrifice of Jesus Christ. »

« For me, the celebration of Easter puts our earthly concerns into perspective, » Obama said. « With humility and with awe we give thanks to the extraordinary sacrifice of Jesus Christ, our savior, and reflect on the brutal pain that he suffered, the scorn that he absorbed, the sins that he bore, this extraordinary gift of salvation that he gave to us. »

The president has ignited controversy in the past with his remarks on religion. Earlier this year, Obama drew a comparison between Islamic extremism and the Christian crusades.

« And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ, » he said at the National Prayer Breakfast.

Obama kept his remarks lighter on Tuesday.

Noting that his daughters were now visiting colleges, Obama said simply, « I need prayer. »

Voir encore:

On Easter, UK’s Cameron Speaks Up for Persecuted Christians, Obama Tells Christians to be Less Hateful

In a world where Western leaders and politicians regularly distance themselves from their Christian heritage, preferring to tout “multiculturalism,” United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron’s Easter message is refreshing.

Among other things, Cameron (see video below) made it a point to say “that we should feel proud to say, ‘This is a Christian country.’ Yes, we’re a nation that embraces, welcomes and accepts all faiths and none, but we are still a Christian country.”

In this context, the Islamic Umma – where non-Muslims are not “welcomed” or “accepted” — comes to mind: whereas the West, thanks to its Christian heritage, developed in a way as to be open and tolerant of others, the Islamic world has and likely will not.

 

In fact, Cameron also urged his fellow citizens to speak out about the persecution of Christians:

We have a duty to speak out about the persecution of Christians around the world too.  It is truly shocking that in 2015 there are still Christians being threatened, tortured, even killed because of their faith.  From Egypt to Nigeria, Libya to North Korea.  Across the Middle East Christians have been hounded out of their homes, forced to flee from village to village; many of them forced to renounce their faith or brutally murdered.  To all those brave Christians in Iraq and Syria who practice their faith or shelter others, we will say, “We stand with you.”

Meanwhile, U.S. President Obama—who is on record saying “we are no longer a Christian nation” and, unlike Cameron, never notes the Islamic identity of murderers or the Christian identity of their victims and ignored a recent UN session on Christian persecution—had this to say at the Easter Prayer Breakfast:  “On Easter, I do reflect on the fact that as a Christian, I am supposed to love.  And I have to say that sometimes when I listen to less than loving expressions by Christians, I get concerned.”

This is in keeping with his earlier statements calling on Americans in general Christians in particular to be nonjudgmental of Islamic terrorism.

In other words, those Christians who are critical and speak up against injustices, in this case, Muslim persecution of Christians, need to shut up and be doormats that allow anything and everything.  Such is “tolerance.”  Christians are being persecuted?  That’s okay, turn the other cheek, seems to be the American president’s message at a time when Christians, as Cameron noted, are being slaughtered all throughout the Islamic world.

Voir de plus:

Obama v Cameron: Who really loves Jesus?
Lucinda Borkett-Jones
Christian Today
08 April 2015

Ok, ok I know we’re not meant to judge the hearts of men, but my social media feeds are full of it. Americans are heralding the British Prime Minister for doing what their own leader has seemingly failed to do – standing up for the place of Christianity in our nation.

President Obama’s Passover and Easter message on Saturday certainly didn’t go down well, seen as an interfaith mash-up that was generally felt to appeal to everyone and speak to no-one. And his second Easter message, at yesterday’s Easter Prayer Breakfast, has also faced criticism from Christians because he included an aside about the un-loving way in which Christians sometimes approach him.

Perhaps this is a classic case of things being greener on the other side. But let’s stop for a moment and look at what they actually said.

David Cameron’s Easter message was not thanking God for Christ’s sacrifice, it was thanksgiving to God (perhaps) for Christians’ sacrifice – for the love, support and selflessness of church communities, the Big Society by any other name.

« Easter is a time for Christians to celebrate the ultimate triumph of life over death in the resurrection of Jesus. And for all of us, it’s a time to reflect on the part that Christianity plays in our national life, » the prime minister said.

« The church is not just a collection of beautiful, old buildings; it is a living, active force doing great works right across our country. When people are homeless, the church is there with hot meals and shelter. When people are addicted or in debt, when people are suffering or grieving, the church is there. »

There’s nothing wrong with that. I think it’s great that he’s paused to reflect at Easter on the fact that it’s a Christian festival, which, amid all the Easter egg hunting, can get a bit confused. I haven’t forgotten the privilege of living in a nation where he’s allowed to do that. And I’m really glad that he used the opportunity to speak about the plight of those persecuted for their faith.

But pointing out that at this time of year Christians celebrate the resurrection isn’t exactly mind blowing. And he didn’t say Jesus or the Word of God is a living, active force in the nation, he said the Church was living and active. That’s great, but it is God’s power at work in and through us – isn’t it?

I also can’t help but feel that there was an ulterior motive in what Cameron said. It strikes me that this was a prime opportunity to appeal to Christians (who we know are a politically engaged bunch), and make the most of being the only leader of the major parties with an acknowledged Christian faith.

Cameron said: « I know from the most difficult times in my own life that the kindness of the church can be a huge comfort. » The cynic in me wants to say that again while it is wonderful that he has known the love of the Church, the most important thing would be to know the love of God.

It’s not quite on a par with the Queen’s annual reminder of the love of Christ in the Christmas message, that’s all I’m saying – and even she has stepped it up a notch in recent years. In 2013 Christians got rather excited when, after the usual survey of the year in the royal calendar, she essentially started preaching the gospel to an audience of millions watching slumped on the sofa after lunch.

The Queen said: « For Christians, as for all people of faith, reflection, meditation and prayer help us to renew ourselves in God’s love, as we strive daily to become better people. The Christmas message shows us that this love is for everyone. There is no one beyond its reach. »

By comparison, although the President’s Passover and Easter message didn’t quite hit the mark, he did say that he would spend Easter Sunday « reflecting on the sacrifice of God’s only son, who endured agony on the cross so that we could live together with him ». Admittedly, he did then focus on the hope of the Easter season; a hope shared by all Americans who believe that « with common effort and shared sacrifice, our brighter future is just around the bend. »

But, far more unreasonably, Obama is facing a fair amount of flak again today for questioning whether everything Christians say is particularly Christ-like. He called on Christians to follow Christ’s example and said in an aside: « As a Christian, I am supposed to love. And I have to say that sometimes when I listen to less than loving expressions by Christians, I get concerned. But that’s a topic for another day. »

But what he said about Easter was clearly far more personal, far more about Christ than anything Cameron said: « For me, the celebration of Easter puts our earthly concerns into perspective. With humility and with awe, we give thanks to the extraordinary sacrifice of Jesus Christ, our Saviour. We reflect on the brutal pain that he suffered, the scorn that He absorbed, the sins that he bore, this extraordinary gift of salvation that he gave to us. And we try, as best we can, to comprehend the darkness that He endured so that we might receive God’s light.

« And yet, even as we grapple with the sheer enormity of Jesus’s sacrifice, on Easter we can’t lose sight of the fact that the story didn’t end on Friday. The story keeps on going. On Sunday comes the glorious Resurrection of our Saviour. »

Admittedly, he was speaking to a Christian audience, and so the emphasis was somewhat different, but these things are not confined to the audience in the room.

Now I don’t want to step into a party political debate here, though that’s hard to avoid. But one isn’t an angel and the other isn’t an animal. They are both politicians, and both seem to have some form of Christian faith – how much is anyone’s guess. And so dear friends over the pond, it isn’t so green over here. Make the most of what you have and pray for leaders of all colours to know the love of God.

David Cameron’s Easter Message to Christians
In an exclusive piece for Premier Christianity magazine this Easter, Prime Minister David Cameron speaks up on the significance of the Christian faith.
In a few days’ time, millions of people across Britain will be celebrating Easter. Just as I’ve done for the last five years, I’ll be making my belief in the importance of Christianity absolutely clear. As Prime Minister, I’m in no doubt about the matter: the values of the Christian faith are the values on which our nation was built.

I’m an unapologetic supporter of the role of faith in this country

Of course I know not everyone agrees. Many understandably feel that in this seemingly secular society, talking about faith isolates those who have no faith. Others argue that celebrating Easter somehow marginalises other religions. But I’m an unapologetic supporter of the role of faith in this country. And for me, the key point is this: the values of Easter and the Christian religion – compassion, forgiveness, kindness, hard work and responsibility – are values that we can all celebrate and share.

Personal, not just political

I think about this as a person not just a politician. I’m hardly a model church-going, God-fearing Christian. Like so many others, I’m a bit hazy on the finer points of our faith. But even so, in the toughest of times, my faith has helped me move on and drive forward. It also gives me a gentle reminder every once in a while about what really matters and how to be a better person, father and citizen.

In the toughest of times, my faith has helped me move on and drive forward

As Prime Minister, too, I’m a big believer in the power of faith to forge a better society. And that belief boils down to two things.

First, the Christian message is the bedrock of a good society. Whether or not we’re members of the Church of England, ‘Love thy neighbour’ is a doctrine we can all apply to our lives – at school, at work, at home and with our families. A sense of compassion is the centre piece of a good community.

Second, and more specifically: faith is a massive inspiration for millions of people to go out and make a positive difference. Across the country, we have tens of thousands of fantastic faith-based charities. Every day they’re performing minor miracles in local communities. As Prime Minister, I’ve worked hard to stand up for these charities and give them more power and support. If my party continues in government, it’s our ambition to do even more.

No magic wand

It’s that impulse to act which is particularly important. One of the myths we often hear at election time is the idea that governments have all the answers. It’s been the cry of every party and politician down the years: ‘put us into power and we’ll solve all your problems.’ But when I think of the truly great social changes that have helped our nation, they weren’t led or started by big governments. They were driven by individuals and activists, great businesses and charities – everyday people working to do the right thing.

The Christian message is the bedrock of a good society

One of the biggest things I’ve tried to do as Prime Minister is banish this notion that being in government means you can somehow wave a magic wand and solve all the world’s problems. Instead, it’s about taking the right decisions, and showing the right judgment and leadership, based on clear values and beliefs.

Leading the economy

The biggest area where leadership has been needed over the last five years is in our economy. We came into office at a time of exceptional pressure on the national finances. I am proud that despite the pressure on public spending, we made clear choices to help the poorest paid and most vulnerable in society. In the UK, we have increased NHS spending, despite the overriding need to deal with the deficit. We also raised the threshold of income tax to lift the poorest paid out of income tax altogether. If we came back into government, my party would lift the threshold again.

More fundamentally, the core of our recovery programme – dealing with the deficit to restore confidence in our economy – is based on enduring ideas and principles: hard work, fair play, rewarding people for doing the right thing, and securing a better future for our children.

Guided by conscience

I know that some disagree with those policies – including a number within the Church of England. But I would urge those individuals not to dismiss the people who proposed those policies as devoid of morality – or assume those policies are somehow amoral themselves. As Winston Churchill said after the death of his opponent, Neville Chamberlain, in the end we are all guided by the lights of our own reason. ‘The only guide to a man is his own conscience; the only shield to his memory is the rectitude and sincerity of his actions.’

Across the country, we have tens of thousands of fantastic faith-based charities

From standing up for faith schools to backing those who’ve fought foreign tyranny, helping parents and celebrating families, calling for more adoption of orphaned infants, bringing in a new bill to outlaw the appalling practice of modern slavery, and putting the protection of international development spending into law, this government has consistently taken decisions which are based on fundamental principles and beliefs.

I don’t just speak for myself, but for everyone who is part of my cabinet, when I say that the individuals I have worked with are driven not just by the daily demands of politics, but also by a commitment to making a positive difference. Just because some people have disagreed with our policies, does not mean those policies are missing in moral content.

Lift people up rather than count people out

So I end my argument with this: I hope everyone can share in the belief of trying to lift people up rather than count people out. Those values and principles are not the exclusive preserve of one faith or religion. They are something I hope everyone in our country believes.

That after all is the heart of the Christian message. It’s the principle around which the Easter celebration is built. Easter is all about remembering the importance of change, responsibility, and doing the right thing for the good of our children. And today, that message matters more than ever.

David Cameron, Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party

Voir aussi:

The Guardian view on Easter: David Cameron’s wonky cross
Jesus’s big and disruptive idea was that the value of humans has nothing to do with their usefulness. Cameron’s sanitised list of Christian virtues would leave Jesus scratching his head
The Guardian
2 April 2015

David Cameron, fishing for votes, has told an evangelical radio audience that he believes that the message of Easter involves “hard work and responsibility”. So what does he think really happened at the crucifixion? Who were the criminals nailed up on each side of Jesus? Skivers being sanctioned because they had missed their appointments at the job centre? Mr Cameron’s Christianity, as it is displayed in this interview, attempts to offend no one, and the result is an insult to Christianity and to all non-Christians as well.

It’s an insult to non-believers because the vague and fluffy list of virtues – kindness, compassion, and forgiveness as well as hard work and responsibility – have nothing distinctively Christian about them. He might as well have said that he gets his two legs from God. But it is insulting to Christians for exactly the same reason. The point of the Easter story, and especially of the crucifixion, is that none of these virtues is enough to save us. It is absolutely not a story of virtue rewarded and vice punished, but one of virtue scourged and jeered through the streets, abandoned by its friends and tortured in public to death.

Jesus did not really preach hard work, responsibility, or family values. He told his followers to consider the lilies of the field, to have no thought for the morrow, and to leave their father and mother to follow him. He came not to bring peace, but revolt. The Easter story makes even democracy look like an instrument of evil. It is the crowd who demand that Jesus be crucified and Pilate who goes along with them.

What Christianity brought into the world wasn’t compassion, kindness, decency, hard work, or any of the other respectable virtues, real and necessary though they are. It was the extraordinary idea that people have worth in themselves, regardless of their usefulness to others, regardless even of their moral qualities. That is what is meant by the Christian talk of being saved by grace rather than works, and by the Christian assertion that God loves everyone, the malformed, the poor, the disabled and even the foreigner.

The idea that humans are valuable just for being human is, many would say, absurd. We assert it in the face of all the facts of history, and arguably even of biology. This idea entered the world with Christianity, and scandalised both Romans and Greeks, but it is now the common currency of western humanism, and of human rights. It underpinned the building of the welfare state, and its maintenance over the years by millions of people of all faiths and none.

It is also an idea that Mr Cameron’s government has defined itself against. The assaults on social security, on migrants, and even on the teaching of the humanities, are all underpinned by a belief that the essential metric of human worth is their utility, and in practice their usefulness to the rich in particular, because it is the marketplace that provides the only final judgment. There are many Christians in this country who are quite content with that. Surveys show that ordinary Christians are consistently to the right of their clergy on many questions: the clergy runs food banks while the pews are full of people muttering against scroungers who believe that poverty is the fault of the poor.

But the activists have for the most part a much more critical attitude, and it is their activism which has led party leaders to be interviewed by Premier magazine. Even the smallest of the mainline churches have memberships larger than that of the political parties. The Church of England alone has twice as many people in church every Sunday as pay their subscriptions to all the political parties put together. There are at least five million active Christians in England today, and they represent a pool of committed and energetic voters that no party can ignore. They won’t all vote as a bloc, but within the existing blocs they will put in more effort, and perhaps more money, than any other group.

Hence David Cameron’s discovery of his own spiritual side. This newspaper can’t condemn him for that. We can only wish he did it more thoroughly and more often. If he were a better Christian, he might believe in, and he should fear, a judge beyond the market. For the rest of us, this election offers an opportunity to judge both him and his party.

Voir encore:

Obama’s 2006 Speech on Faith and Politics
Following is the text of Barack Obama’s keynote at the Call to Renewal’s Building a Covenant for a New America conference in Washington, D.C., in 2006.

The NYT

June 28, 2006

Good morning. I appreciate the opportunity to speak here at the Call to Renewal’s Building a Covenant for a New America conference. I’ve had the opportunity to take a look at your Covenant for a New America. It is filled with outstanding policies and prescriptions for much of what ails this country. So I’d like to congratulate you all on the thoughtful presentations you’ve given so far about poverty and justice in America, and for putting fire under the feet of the political leadership here in Washington.

But today I’d like to talk about the connection between religion and politics and perhaps offer some thoughts about how we can sort through some of the often bitter arguments that we’ve been seeing over the last several years.

I do so because, as you all know, we can affirm the importance of poverty in the Bible; and we can raise up and pass out this Covenant for a New America. We can talk to the press, and we can discuss the religious call to address poverty and environmental stewardship all we want, but it won’t have an impact unless we tackle head-on the mutual suspicion that sometimes exists between religious America and secular America.

I want to give you an example that I think illustrates this fact. As some of you know, during the 2004 U.S. Senate General Election I ran against a gentleman named Alan Keyes. Mr. Keyes is well-versed in the Jerry Falwell-Pat Robertson style of rhetoric that often labels progressives as both immoral and godless.

Indeed, Mr. Keyes announced towards the end of the campaign that, « Jesus Christ would not vote for Barack Obama. Christ would not vote for Barack Obama because Barack Obama has behaved in a way that it is inconceivable for Christ to have behaved. »

Jesus Christ would not vote for Barack Obama.

Now, I was urged by some of my liberal supporters not to take this statement seriously, to essentially ignore it. To them, Mr. Keyes was an extremist, and his arguments not worth entertaining. And since at the time, I was up 40 points in the polls, it probably wasn’t a bad piece of strategic advice.

But what they didn’t understand, however, was that I had to take Mr. Keyes seriously, for he claimed to speak for my religion, and my God. He claimed knowledge of certain truths.

Mr. Obama says he’s a Christian, he was saying, and yet he supports a lifestyle that the Bible calls an abomination.

Mr. Obama says he’s a Christian, but supports the destruction of innocent and sacred life.

And so what would my supporters have me say? How should I respond? Should I say that a literalist reading of the Bible was folly? Should I say that Mr. Keyes, who is a Roman Catholic, should ignore the teachings of the Pope?

Unwilling to go there, I answered with what has come to be the typically liberal response in such debates – namely, I said that we live in a pluralistic society, that I can’t impose my own religious views on another, that I was running to be the U.S. Senator of Illinois and not the Minister of Illinois.

But Mr. Keyes’s implicit accusation that I was not a true Christian nagged at me, and I was also aware that my answer did not adequately address the role my faith has in guiding my own values and my own beliefs.

Now, my dilemma was by no means unique. In a way, it reflected the broader debate we’ve been having in this country for the last thirty years over the role of religion in politics.

For some time now, there has been plenty of talk among pundits and pollsters that the political divide in this country has fallen sharply along religious lines. Indeed, the single biggest « gap » in party affiliation among white Americans today is not between men and women, or those who reside in so-called Red States and those who reside in Blue, but between those who attend church regularly and those who don’t.

Conservative leaders have been all too happy to exploit this gap, consistently reminding evangelical Christians that Democrats disrespect their values and dislike their Church, while suggesting to the rest of the country that religious Americans care only about issues like abortion and gay marriage; school prayer and intelligent design.

Democrats, for the most part, have taken the bait. At best, we may try to avoid the conversation about religious values altogether, fearful of offending anyone and claiming that – regardless of our personal beliefs – constitutional principles tie our hands. At worst, there are some liberals who dismiss religion in the public square as inherently irrational or intolerant, insisting on a caricature of religious Americans that paints them as fanatical, or thinking that the very word « Christian » describes one’s political opponents, not people of faith.

Now, such strategies of avoidance may work for progressives when our opponent is Alan Keyes. But over the long haul, I think we make a mistake when we fail to acknowledge the power of faith in people’s lives — in the lives of the American people — and I think it’s time that we join a serious debate about how to reconcile faith with our modern, pluralistic democracy.

And if we’re going to do that then we first need to understand that Americans are a religious people. 90 percent of us believe in God, 70 percent affiliate themselves with an organized religion, 38 percent call themselves committed Christians, and substantially more people in America believe in angels than they do in evolution.

This religious tendency is not simply the result of successful marketing by skilled preachers or the draw of popular mega-churches. In fact, it speaks to a hunger that’s deeper than that – a hunger that goes beyond any particular issue or cause.

Each day, it seems, thousands of Americans are going about their daily rounds – dropping off the kids at school, driving to the office, flying to a business meeting, shopping at the mall, trying to stay on their diets – and they’re coming to the realization that something is missing. They are deciding that their work, their possessions, their diversions, their sheer busyness, is not enough.

They want a sense of purpose, a narrative arc to their lives. They’re looking to relieve a chronic loneliness, a feeling supported by a recent study that shows Americans have fewer close friends and confidants than ever before. And so they need an assurance that somebody out there cares about them, is listening to them – that they are not just destined to travel down that long highway towards nothingness.

And I speak with some experience on this matter. I was not raised in a particularly religious household, as undoubtedly many in the audience were. My father, who returned to Kenya when I was just two, was born Muslim but as an adult became an atheist. My mother, whose parents were non-practicing Baptists and Methodists, was probably one of the most spiritual and kindest people I’ve ever known, but grew up with a healthy skepticism of organized religion herself. As a consequence, so did I.

It wasn’t until after college, when I went to Chicago to work as a community organizer for a group of Christian churches, that I confronted my own spiritual dilemma.

I was working with churches, and the Christians who I worked with recognized themselves in me. They saw that I knew their Book and that I shared their values and sang their songs. But they sensed that a part of me that remained removed, detached, that I was an observer in their midst.

And in time, I came to realize that something was missing as well — that without a vessel for my beliefs, without a commitment to a particular community of faith, at some level I would always remain apart, and alone.

And if it weren’t for the particular attributes of the historically black church, I may have accepted this fate. But as the months passed in Chicago, I found myself drawn – not just to work with the church, but to be in the church.

For one thing, I believed and still believe in the power of the African-American religious tradition to spur social change, a power made real by some of the leaders here today. Because of its past, the black church understands in an intimate way the Biblical call to feed the hungry and cloth the naked and challenge powers and principalities. And in its historical struggles for freedom and the rights of man, I was able to see faith as more than just a comfort to the weary or a hedge against death, but rather as an active, palpable agent in the world. As a source of hope.

And perhaps it was out of this intimate knowledge of hardship — the grounding of faith in struggle — that the church offered me a second insight, one that I think is important to emphasize today.

Faith doesn’t mean that you don’t have doubts.

You need to come to church in the first place precisely because you are first of this world, not apart from it. You need to embrace Christ precisely because you have sins to wash away – because you are human and need an ally in this difficult journey.

It was because of these newfound understandings that I was finally able to walk down the aisle of Trinity United Church of Christ on 95th Street in the Southside of Chicago one day and affirm my Christian faith. It came about as a choice, and not an epiphany. I didn’t fall out in church. The questions I had didn’t magically disappear. But kneeling beneath that cross on the South Side, I felt that I heard God’s spirit beckoning me. I submitted myself to His will, and dedicated myself to discovering His truth.

That’s a path that has been shared by millions upon millions of Americans – evangelicals, Catholics, Protestants, Jews and Muslims alike; some since birth, others at certain turning points in their lives. It is not something they set apart from the rest of their beliefs and values. In fact, it is often what drives their beliefs and their values.

And that is why that, if we truly hope to speak to people where they’re at – to communicate our hopes and values in a way that’s relevant to their own – then as progressives, we cannot abandon the field of religious discourse.

Because when we ignore the debate about what it means to be a good Christian or Muslim or Jew; when we discuss religion only in the negative sense of where or how it should not be practiced, rather than in the positive sense of what it tells us about our obligations towards one another; when we shy away from religious venues and religious broadcasts because we assume that we will be unwelcome – others will fill the vacuum, those with the most insular views of faith, or those who cynically use religion to justify partisan ends.

In other words, if we don’t reach out to evangelical Christians and other religious Americans and tell them what we stand for, then the Jerry Falwells and Pat Robertsons and Alan Keyeses will continue to hold sway.

More fundamentally, the discomfort of some progressives with any hint of religion has often prevented us from effectively addressing issues in moral terms. Some of the problem here is rhetorical – if we scrub language of all religious content, we forfeit the imagery and terminology through which millions of Americans understand both their personal morality and social justice. Imagine Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address without reference to « the judgments of the Lord. » Or King’s I Have a Dream speech without references to « all of God’s children. » Their summoning of a higher truth helped inspire what had seemed impossible, and move the nation to embrace a common destiny.

Our failure as progressives to tap into the moral underpinnings of the nation is not just rhetorical, though. Our fear of getting « preachy » may also lead us to discount the role that values and culture play in some of our most urgent social problems.

After all, the problems of poverty and racism, the uninsured and the unemployed, are not simply technical problems in search of the perfect ten point plan. They are rooted in both societal indifference and individual callousness – in the imperfections of man.

Solving these problems will require changes in government policy, but it will also require changes in hearts and a change in minds. I believe in keeping guns out of our inner cities, and that our leaders must say so in the face of the gun manufacturers’ lobby – but I also believe that when a gang-banger shoots indiscriminately into a crowd because he feels somebody disrespected him, we’ve got a moral problem. There’s a hole in that young man’s heart – a hole that the government alone cannot fix.

I believe in vigorous enforcement of our non-discrimination laws. But I also believe that a transformation of conscience and a genuine commitment to diversity on the part of the nation’s CEOs could bring about quicker results than a battalion of lawyers. They have more lawyers than us anyway.

I think that we should put more of our tax dollars into educating poor girls and boys. I think that the work that Marian Wright Edelman has done all her life is absolutely how we should prioritize our resources in the wealthiest nation on earth. I also think that we should give them the information about contraception that can prevent unwanted pregnancies, lower abortion rates, and help assure that that every child is loved and cherished.

But, you know, my Bible tells me that if we train a child in the way he should go, when he is old he will not turn from it. So I think faith and guidance can help fortify a young woman’s sense of self, a young man’s sense of responsibility, and a sense of reverence that all young people should have for the act of sexual intimacy.

I am not suggesting that every progressive suddenly latch on to religious terminology – that can be dangerous. Nothing is more transparent than inauthentic expressions of faith. As Jim has mentioned, some politicians come and clap — off rhythm — to the choir. We don’t need that.

In fact, because I do not believe that religious people have a monopoly on morality, I would rather have someone who is grounded in morality and ethics, and who is also secular, affirm their morality and ethics and values without pretending that they’re something they’re not. They don’t need to do that. None of us need to do that.

But what I am suggesting is this – secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square. Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, Williams Jennings Bryant, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King – indeed, the majority of great reformers in American history – were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause. So to say that men and women should not inject their « personal morality » into public policy debates is a practical absurdity. Our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Moreover, if we progressives shed some of these biases, we might recognize some overlapping values that both religious and secular people share when it comes to the moral and material direction of our country. We might recognize that the call to sacrifice on behalf of the next generation, the need to think in terms of « thou » and not just « I, » resonates in religious congregations all across the country. And we might realize that we have the ability to reach out to the evangelical community and engage millions of religious Americans in the larger project of American renewal.

Some of this is already beginning to happen. Pastors, friends of mine like Rick Warren and T.D. Jakes are wielding their enormous influences to confront AIDS, Third World debt relief, and the genocide in Darfur. Religious thinkers and activists like our good friend Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo are lifting up the Biblical injunction to help the poor as a means of mobilizing Christians against budget cuts to social programs and growing inequality.

And by the way, we need Christians on Capitol Hill, Jews on Capitol Hill and Muslims on Capitol Hill talking about the estate tax. When you’ve got an estate tax debate that proposes a trillion dollars being taken out of social programs to go to a handful of folks who don’t need and weren’t even asking for it, you know that we need an injection of morality in our political debate.

Across the country, individual churches like my own and your own are sponsoring day care programs, building senior centers, helping ex-offenders reclaim their lives, and rebuilding our gulf coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

So the question is, how do we build on these still-tentative partnerships between religious and secular people of good will? It’s going to take more work, a lot more work than we’ve done so far. The tensions and the suspicions on each side of the religious divide will have to be squarely addressed. And each side will need to accept some ground rules for collaboration.

While I’ve already laid out some of the work that progressive leaders need to do, I want to talk a little bit about what conservative leaders need to do — some truths they need to acknowledge.

For one, they need to understand the critical role that the separation of church and state has played in preserving not only our democracy, but the robustness of our religious practice. Folks tend to forget that during our founding, it wasn’t the atheists or the civil libertarians who were the most effective champions of the First Amendment. It was the persecuted minorities, it was Baptists like John Leland who didn’t want the established churches to impose their views on folks who were getting happy out in the fields and teaching the scripture to slaves. It was the forbearers of the evangelicals who were the most adamant about not mingling government with religious, because they did not want state-sponsored religion hindering their ability to practice their faith as they understood it.

Moreover, given the increasing diversity of America’s population, the dangers of sectarianism have never been greater. Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.

And even if we did have only Christians in our midst, if we expelled every non-Christian from the United States of America, whose Christianity would we teach in the schools? Would we go with James Dobson’s, or Al Sharpton’s? Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is ok and that eating shellfish is abomination? How about Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount – a passage that is so radical that it’s doubtful that our own Defense Department would survive its application? So before we get carried away, let’s read our bibles. Folks haven’t been reading their bibles.

This brings me to my second point. Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God’s will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.

Now this is going to be difficult for some who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, as many evangelicals do. But in a pluralistic democracy, we have no choice. Politics depends on our ability to persuade each other of common aims based on a common reality. It involves the compromise, the art of what’s possible. At some fundamental level, religion does not allow for compromise. It’s the art of the impossible. If God has spoken, then followers are expected to live up to God’s edicts, regardless of the consequences. To base one’s life on such uncompromising commitments may be sublime, but to base our policy making on such commitments would be a dangerous thing. And if you doubt that, let me give you an example.

We all know the story of Abraham and Isaac. Abraham is ordered by God to offer up his only son, and without argument, he takes Isaac to the mountaintop, binds him to an altar, and raises his knife, prepared to act as God has commanded.

Of course, in the end God sends down an angel to intercede at the very last minute, and Abraham passes God’s test of devotion.

But it’s fair to say that if any of us leaving this church saw Abraham on a roof of a building raising his knife, we would, at the very least, call the police and expect the Department of Children and Family Services to take Isaac away from Abraham. We would do so because we do not hear what Abraham hears, do not see what Abraham sees, true as those experiences may be. So the best we can do is act in accordance with those things that we all see, and that we all hear, be it common laws or basic reason.

Finally, any reconciliation between faith and democratic pluralism requires some sense of proportion.

This goes for both sides.

Even those who claim the Bible’s inerrancy make distinctions between Scriptural edicts, sensing that some passages – the Ten Commandments, say, or a belief in Christ’s divinity – are central to Christian faith, while others are more culturally specific and may be modified to accommodate modern life.

The American people intuitively understand this, which is why the majority of Catholics practice birth control and some of those opposed to gay marriage nevertheless are opposed to a Constitutional amendment to ban it. Religious leadership need not accept such wisdom in counseling their flocks, but they should recognize this wisdom in their politics.

But a sense of proportion should also guide those who police the boundaries between church and state. Not every mention of God in public is a breach to the wall of separation – context matters. It is doubtful that children reciting the Pledge of Allegiance feel oppressed or brainwashed as a consequence of muttering the phrase « under God. » I didn’t. Having voluntary student prayer groups use school property to meet should not be a threat, any more than its use by the High School Republicans should threaten Democrats. And one can envision certain faith-based programs – targeting ex-offenders or substance abusers – that offer a uniquely powerful way of solving problems.

So we all have some work to do here. But I am hopeful that we can bridge the gaps that exist and overcome the prejudices each of us bring to this debate. And I have faith that millions of believing Americans want that to happen. No matter how religious they may or may not be, people are tired of seeing faith used as a tool of attack. They don’t want faith used to belittle or to divide. They’re tired of hearing folks deliver more screed than sermon. Because in the end, that’s not how they think about faith in their own lives.

So let me end with just one other interaction I had during my campaign. A few days after I won the Democratic nomination in my U.S. Senate race, I received an email from a doctor at the University of Chicago Medical School that said the following:

« Congratulations on your overwhelming and inspiring primary win. I was happy to vote for you, and I will tell you that I am seriously considering voting for you in the general election. I write to express my concerns that may, in the end, prevent me from supporting you. » The doctor described himself as a Christian who understood his commitments to be « totalizing. » His faith led him to a strong opposition to abortion and gay marriage, although he said that his faith also led him to question the idolatry of the free market and quick resort to militarism that seemed to characterize much of the Republican agenda.

But the reason the doctor was considering not voting for me was not simply my position on abortion. Rather, he had read an entry that my campaign had posted on my Web site, which suggested that I would fight « right-wing ideologues who want to take away a woman’s right to choose. » The doctor went on to write:

« I sense that you have a strong sense of justice…and I also sense that you are a fair minded person with a high regard for reason…Whatever your convictions, if you truly believe that those who oppose abortion are all ideologues driven by perverse desires to inflict suffering on women, then you, in my judgment, are not fair-minded….You know that we enter times that are fraught with possibilities for good and for harm, times when we are struggling to make sense of a common polity in the context of plurality, when we are unsure of what grounds we have for making any claims that involve others…I do not ask at this point that you oppose abortion, only that you speak about this issue in fair-minded words. »

Fair-minded words.

So I looked at my Web site and found the offending words. In fairness to them, my staff had written them using standard Democratic boilerplate language to summarize my pro-choice position during the Democratic primary, at a time when some of my opponents were questioning my commitment to protect Roe v. Wade.

Re-reading the doctor’s letter, though, I felt a pang of shame. It is people like him who are looking for a deeper, fuller conversation about religion in this country. They may not change their positions, but they are willing to listen and learn from those who are willing to speak in fair-minded words. Those who know of the central and awesome place that God holds in the lives of so many, and who refuse to treat faith as simply another political issue with which to score points.

So I wrote back to the doctor, and I thanked him for his advice. The next day, I circulated the email to my staff and changed the language on my website to state in clear but simple terms my pro-choice position. And that night, before I went to bed, I said a prayer of my own – a prayer that I might extend the same presumption of good faith to others that the doctor had extended to me.

And that night, before I went to bed I said a prayer of my own. It’s a prayer I think I share with a lot of Americans. A hope that we can live with one another in a way that reconciles the beliefs of each with the good of all. It’s a prayer worth praying, and a conversation worth having in this country in the months and years to come. Thank you.

Voir également:

Remarks by the President and the Vice President at Easter Prayer Breakfast

/…/

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  Thank you.  Please, everybody have a seat.  Well, good morning, everybody.

AUDIENCE:  Good morning!

THE PRESIDENT:  Welcome to the White House.  It is so good to be with you again.  We had to change up the format a little bit because I think I’ve got 30 world leaders for dinner tomorrow — (laughter) — in an effort to constrain the threat of nuclear materials getting into the wrong hand.  So it’s a good cause — (laughter) — but when you have folks over — I’m sure all of you have the same experience — you’ve got to clean up — (laughter) — do a little vacuuming, make sure that — you know.  (Laughter.)  Well, to those of you who have kids, make sure that they didn’t do something when you weren’t looking that the guests will discover.  (Laughter.)  Some vegetables they didn’t want to eat.  (Laughter.)

So we’re not at our usual round table of fellowship, but the spirit is still here.  And I know that I speak for all of you in feeling lucky that we’ve had such an extraordinary Vice President in Joe Biden — (applause) — whose faith has been tested time and time again, and has been able to find God in places that sometimes, for a lot of us, is hard to see.  So I’m blessed to have him as a friend as well as a colleague.

This is a little bittersweet — my final Easter Prayer Breakfast as President.  So I want to begin by thanking all of you for all your prayers over the year — I know they have kept us going.  It has meant so much to me.  It’s meant so much to my family.  I want to thank you most of all for the incredible ministries that you’re doing all around the country, because we’ve had a chance to work together and partner with you, and we have seen the good works — the deeds, and not just words — that so many of you have carried out.

And since 2010, this has become a cherished tradition.  I know all of you have had a very busy Holy Week, and the week leading up to Holy Week, and the week before that.  (Laughter.)  And I had a wonderful Easter morning at the Alfred Street Baptist Church — and I want to thank Pastor Wesley for his leadership.  Pastor, outstanding sermon.  (Applause.)

He was telling a few stories of his youth, talking about going to the club.  (Laughter.)  I’m just saying.  (Laughter.)  And since he’s also from Chicago, I knew the club he was talking about.  (Laughter.)  But it all led to a celebration of the Resurrection, I want to be clear.  (Laughter.)  It started with the club, but it ended up with the Resurrection.  (Laughter.)

And his outstanding and handsome young sons are with him here.  And so we want to thank him for an outstanding service.

Here at the White House, we have not had to work as hard as all of you, but we did have to deal with the Easter Egg Roll.  (Laughter.)  Imagine thousands and thousands of children hopped up on sugar — (laughter) — running around your backyard, surrounded by mascots and muppets and Shaquille O’Neal.  (Laughter.)  For 12 hours.  (Laughter.)  That was my Easter Weekend.  (Laughter.)  So we set aside this morning to come together in prayer, and reflection, and quiet.  (Laughter.)

Now, as Joe said, in light of recent events, this gathering takes on more meaning.  Around the world, we have seen horrific acts of terrorism, most recently Brussels, as well as what happened in Pakistan — innocent families, mostly women and children, Christians and Muslims.  And so our prayers are with the victims, their families, the survivors of these cowardly attacks.

And as Joe mentioned, these attacks can foment fear and division.  They can tempt us to cast out the stranger, strike out against those who don’t look like us, or pray exactly as we do.  And they can lead us to turn our backs on those who are most in need of help and refuge.  That’s the intent of the terrorists, is to weaken our faith, to weaken our best impulses, our better angels.

And Pastor preached on this this weekend, and I know all of you did, too, as I suspect, or in your own quiet ways were reminded if Easter means anything, it’s that you don’t have to be afraid.  We drown out darkness with light, and we heal hatred with love, and we hold on to hope.  And we think about all that Jesus suffered and sacrificed on our behalf — scorned, abandoned shunned, nail-scarred hands bearing the injustice of his death and carrying the sins of the world.

And it’s difficult to fathom the full meaning of that act.  Scripture tells us, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”  Because of God’s love, we can proclaim “Christ is risen!”  Because of God’s love, we have been given this gift of salvation.  Because of Him, our hope is not misplaced, and we don’t have to be afraid.

And as Christians have said through the years, “We are Easter people, and Alleluia is our song!”  We are Easter people, people of hope and not fear.

Now, this is not a static hope.  This is a living and breathing hope.  It’s not a gift we simply receive, but one we must give to others, a gift to carry forth.  I was struck last week by an image of Pope Francis washing feet of refugees — different faiths, different countries.  And what a powerful reminder of our obligations if, in fact, we’re not afraid, and if, in fact, we hope, and if, in fact, we believe.  That is something that we have to give.

His Holiness said this Easter Sunday, God “enables us to see with His eyes of love and compassion those who hunger and thirst, strangers and prisoners, the marginalized and the outcast, the victims of oppression and violence.”

To do justice, to love kindness –- that’s what all of you collectively are involved in in your own ways each and every day. Feeding the hungry.  Healing the sick.  Teaching our children.  Housing the homeless.  Welcoming immigrants and refugees.  And in that way, you are teaching all of us what it means when it comes to true discipleship.  It’s not just words.  It’s not just getting dressed and looking good on Sunday.  But it’s service, particularly for the least of these.

And whether fighting the scourge of poverty or joining with us to work on criminal justice reform and giving people a second chance in life, you have been on the front lines of delivering God’s message of love and compassion and mercy for His children.

And I have to say that over the last seven years, I could not have been prouder to work with you.  We have built partnerships that have transcended partisan affiliation, that have transcended individual congregations and even faiths, to form a community that’s bound by our shared ideals and rooted in our common humanity.  And that community I believe will endure beyond the end of my presidency, because it’s a living thing that all of you are involved with all around this country and all around the world.

And our faith changes us.  I know it’s changed me.  It renews in us a sense of possibility.  It allows us to believe that although we are all sinners, and that at time we will falter, there’s always the possibility of redemption.  Every once in a while, we might get something right, we might do some good; that there’s the presence of grace, and that we, in some small way, can be worthy of this magnificent love that God has bestowed on us.

You remind me all of that each and every day.  And you have just been incredible friends and partners, and I could not be prouder to know all of you.  I thank you for sharing in this fellowship.  I pray that our time together will strengthen our souls and fortify our faith and renew our spirit.  That we will continue to build a nation and a world that is worthy of His many blessings.

And I want to remind you all that after a good chunk of sleep when I get out of here, I’m going to be right out there with you doing some work.  (Laughter.)  So you’re not rid of me yet, even after we’re done with the presidency.  But I am going to take three, four months where I just sleep.  (Laughter.)  And I hope you all don’t mind that.

So with that, I would like to invite Reverend Doctor Derrick Harkins for our opening prayer.  (Applause.)

Voir aussi:

Imre Kertesz : « Auschwitz n’a pas été un accident de l’Histoire »
Propos recueillis par Nicolas Weill

Le Monde

27.01.2015

Imre Kertesz, Prix Nobel de littérature (2002), a été déporté lors de la mise en œuvre de l’extermination des juifs de Hongrie, après l’occupation de ce pays par l’armée allemande en 1944. Envoyé d’abord à Auschwitz, en Pologne, puis à Buchenwald et dans le camp satellite de Zeitz, en Allemagne, il survit à la guerre et retourne dans son pays en voie de stalinisation, où il deviendra journaliste, traducteur et auteur. L’essentiel de son œuvre s’attache à transmettre cette expérience de la déportation et de la Shoah, dont il estime que, bien loin d’être le monopole des survivants, elle doit être à la fois une expérience humaine et universelle.

Dans « Kaddish pour l’enfant qui ne naîtra pas » (Actes Sud, 1995), vous dites qu’à une « certaine température, les mots perdent leur consistance », deviennent« liquides ». N’y a-t-il pas là un pessimisme fondamental, l’idée qu’il serait finalement impossible de mettre Auschwitz en mots  ?

Je suis étonné d’avoir écrit cela ! Tout le monde dit que je suis pessimiste, pourtant je me suis contenté, depuis très longtemps, de raconter ce que j’ai vécu. Etre sans destin (Actes Sud, 1998) est un récit de ma déportation, construit à partir de mon expérience personnelle. Mais quiconque a connu l’horreur d’Auschwitz a dû réécrire sa biographie et est devenu différent de ce qu’il était avant d’y être allé. Comprendre comment on est parvenu à détruire en si peu de temps physiquement et moralement six millions de juifs, quelle est la technique qui a été employée pour exterminer une telle masse de gens, voilà ce qui m’a toujours intéressé. Dans Etre sans destin, que j’ai mis treize années à écrire, j’ai choisi d’adopter le point de vue d’un enfant qui est le héros du récit, du roman ; parce que, dans les camps de concentration comme dans la dictature, on rabaisse l’homme à un niveau enfantin. Tout, même ce qui ne l’est pas, y devient « naturel ». Jusqu’à aujourd’hui, je me suis appliqué à étudier la façon dont s’élabore la langue de toutes les dictatures.

De cette expérience des camps, quel est l’« acquis » négatif qui vous paraît le principal à transmettre aujourd’hui et demain ?

L’adaptation. Pour moi, les vingt premières minutes de l’arrivée au camp sont les plus importantes. Tout se joue dans ces vingt minutes-là. C’est cela qu’il faut décrire avec les plus grands détails. Beaucoup de survivants ont préféré oublier leur processus d’entrée dans cet univers – or, là en est la leçon la plus importante. Sous la dictature de Matyas Rakosi [1892-1971, premier dirigeant de la Hongrie communiste à l’époque stalinienne], j’ai pu aussi observer ce processus à l’œuvre, surprendre les gens en train de changer, de devenir autres… J’ai rédigé Etre sans destin sous le régime de Janos Kadar [1912-1989, dirigea la Hongrie après la répression du soulèvement de 1956]. A cette époque, en 1964, le titre de l’ouvrage d’Hannah Arendt, Eichmann à Jérusalem. Rapport sur la banalité du mal – le titre résonnait juste pour moi, avant même que je puisse accéder à son contenu, ce qui, à l’époque, était fort difficile –, m’avait beaucoup stimulé, tant je me sentais sur la même longueur d’onde que cette expression.

Et quel sens prend pour vous cette notion de « banalité du mal » ?

Mon souci principal, encore une fois, est d’analyser la manière dont les gens sombrent dans le totalitarisme. J’ai ainsi rencontré beaucoup d’individus soupçonnés d’avoir été des dénonciateurs sous le régime soviétique. Eux, bien sûr, niaient l’avoir été. Disons plutôt qu’ils ne se souvenaient pas de cette période de leur vie. Cette même attitude, je l’avais remarquée après la libération de Buchenwald par les Américains. Le général Patton a exigé que les civils allemands de Weimar viennent visiter le camp : ces derniers devaient voir de leurs yeux ce que l’on y avait commis en leur nom. C’était le 11 avril 1945, le soleil brillait, j’étais encore là, assis à côté des baraques, et j’ai vu un groupe ­conduit par les Américains arriver à un baraquement où gisaient des malades atteints du typhus. Les Allemands poussaient des cris d’horreur et d’effroi. Huit années durant, ces gens s’étaient pourtant habitués à avoir dans leur voisinage des détenus à qui il arrivait de traverser la ville au vu et au su de tous. Cette horreur, ils l’avaient vue passer, mais sans savoir.

Qu’est-ce qui a irrémédiablement changé avec Auschwitz ?

La basse continue de la morale humaniste, celle qui existe chez Bach avec des accords parfaits, des tonalité en mi majeur ou en sol majeur, une culture fermée où chaque mot signifiait ce qu’il voulait dire et seulement cela, voilà ce qui a disparu avec Auschwitz et le totalitarisme. Comme Arnold Schoenberg [1874-1951, qui a révolutionné le langage musical en renonçant au système tonal de sept notes] l’a fait pour la musique, j’ai découvert, avec mon écriture, une « prose atonale », qui illustre la fin du consensus et de la culture humaniste, celle qui valait à l’époque de Bach et ensuite. Dans Etre sans destin, j’ai renversé le Bildungsroman, le roman de formation allemand. On peut dire que mes livres sont des récits de la « dé-formation ».

Vous avez parlé, dans un recueil d’essais, de « L’Holocauste comme culture »(Actes Sud, 2009). Que vous inspire la renaissance de l’antisémitisme en Europe ? N’y voyez-vous pas comme l’annonce d’un échec de cette « culture d’Auschwitz », devenue si centrale, notamment après la chute du communisme ?

Cette recrudescence de l’antisémitisme, qui est un phénomène mondial, je la trouve bien entendu effarante. Avant même les attaques terroristes de janvier à Paris, j’avais fait la remarque que l’Europe était en train de mourir de sa lâcheté et de sa faiblesse morale, de son incapacité à se protéger et de l’ornière morale évidente dont elle ne pouvait s’extraire après Auschwitz. La démocratie reste impuissante à se défendre, et insensible devant la menace qui la guette. Et le risque est grand de voir les gardes-frontières qui entreprennent de défendre l’Europe contre la barbarie montante, les décapitations, la « tyrannie orientale », devenir à leur tour des fascistes. Que va devenir l’humanité dans ces conditions ? Auschwitz n’a pas été un accident de l’Histoire, et beaucoup de signes montrent que sa répétition est possible.

Dans « L’Ultime Auberge »(Actes Sud, 318 p., 22,80 euros), vous affirmez également que le « juif d’Europe », le juif assimilé, est « un vestige ». Pourquoi ?

Tout dépend de ce que l’on entend par judaïsme. J’ai fait ma bar-mitsva et me souviens qu’à cette occasion on m’avait offert une montre en or, que les gendarmes hongrois m’ont confisquée lorsque j’ai été arrêté et déporté. Est-on juif par naissance ou bien parce que l’on a été élevé dans cette tradition ? Je suis un Européen, j’ai été éduqué en Europe et je n’ai pas beaucoup de notions de la tradition juive. J’ai lu peu de philosophes juifs et ne suis pas citoyen d’Israël… Selon moi, il y a trois façons de percevoir le judaïsme européen après l’Holocauste : celle de Primo Levi, qui le regarde selon le point de vue d’avant Auschwitz, celui de la bourgeoisie assimilée ; celui de l’écrivain polonais Tadeusz Borowski [1922-1951, survivant d’Auschwitz et de Dachau], qui décrit Auschwitz ; et la troisième, la mienne, qui souhaite s’occuper des conséquences d’Auschwitz. En tout cas, je me sens juif quand on persécute les juifs.

A la différence d’autres survivants de la Shoah, vous avez conservé une relation ­intime à la langue et à la culture allemandes, que vous parlez et traduisez en hongrois. Au point d’être allé vivre une dizaine d’années à Berlin, d’où vous êtes revenu récemment pour vous réinstaller à Budapest. Pourquoi ?

Je ne crois nullement que chaque Allemand porte le nazisme dans ses gènes, et je suis sur ce point en désaccord avec l’historien américain Daniel Goldhagen [auteur des Bourreaux volontaires d’Hitler (Seuil, 1997),pour qui il aurait existé un « antisémitisme exterminateur » spécifique à l’Allemagne]. Ma relation à la langue allemande a quant à elle été déterminée par le fait qu’à l’époque de la dictature Rakosi il était impossible de trouver en Hongrie de la littérature correcte. Je me suis procuré des œuvres de Thomas Mann, et c’est grâce à la littérature allemande que j’ai réussi à me préserver de cette propagande réaliste soviétique. Nietzsche était considéré comme une lecture interdite pendant la période communiste, et je me suis mis à traduire La Naissance de la tragédie en hongrois à la fin de la période Kadar. Juste après la guerre, alors que j’étais un apprenti journaliste, je suis allé à l’Opéra. La Walkyrie était au programme. J’avais 19 ou 20 ans. A cette époque, on ne pouvait rien savoir de Wagner, et je n’avais pas la moindre idée de ce que je voyais sur scène, aucun livret n’était disponible. Et pourtant, cette représentation a déterminé ma vie.

Pensez-vous que dans l’ex-Europe ­communiste la mémoire d’Auschwitz joue le même rôle qu’à l’ouest du continent ?

Mon expérience d’Auschwitz est singulière et n’est guère comprise en Hongrie. C’est seulement maintenant qu’on commence à prendre quelques distances dans ce pays avec l’idée que dans ce camp il y a eu une « guerre germano-juive » ! En Europe occidentale, le travail sur l’Holocauste est certes plus avancé. Mais même les soixante-huitards allemands qui demandaient à leurs parents ce qu’ils avaient fait pendant la guerre n’ont pas obtenu de réponse à leur question. Il a manqué une génération.

Dans « Dossier K. » (Actes Sud, 2008), vous parlez de votre découverte de Kant. Y a-t-il une philosophie possible après Auschwitz ?

Un jour, je suis parti en vacances avec ma première femme près du lac Balaton. A cause d’une pluie incessante, on ne pouvait ni se baigner ni aller à la plage. Tout ce qu’on pouvait faire, c’était se mettre sur une terrasse et lire. C’est alors que j’ai jeté un coup d’œil sur La Critique de la faculté de juger, et je n’ai pas pu reposer le livre. Cela a eu un effet incroyable sur moi, même si je ne pratique pas du tout la philosophie, et surtout pas en tant que discipline. Mais cette lecture m’a marqué. Ce que Kant m’a enseigné, c’est que le sujet, le moi, est au centre. Marx oppose le monde, la matière au moi. Dans un pays dont la philosophie officielle était le marxisme, la centralité du moi était une énormité. L’idée d’un monde extérieur absolument indépendant de moi ne m’a jamais plu. Je n’ai rien lu d’autre de Kant, et tout ce que j’en sais est dans cette œuvre. Il m’a enseigné que je suis, que rien n’est indépendant du moi, car si je meurs, le monde meurt avec moi.

(Traduit du hongrois par Natalia Zaremba-Huzvai)

Parcours
9 novembre 1929 : Imre Kertesz naît dans une famille juive de Budapest.
1944 : à 15 ans, il est arrêté et déporté à Auschwitz, puis dans le camp de travail de Zeitz. Il est libéré par les Américains à Buchenwald. Il retourne à Budapest où il devient journaliste, auteur de comédie, traducteur, et un écrivain au style ironique.
1975 : parution en hongrois du récit de sa déportation Etre sans destin. La plupart de ses œuvres sont axées autour de la Shoah.
2002 : prix Nobel de littérature. Installation à Berlin jusqu’en 2013, avant de retourner à Budapest après la maladie de Parkinson qui le frappe.

En savoir plus sur http://www.lemonde.fr/international/article/2015/01/27/auschwitz-n-a-pas-ete-un-accident-de-l-histoire_4564126_3210.html#RHPdsPDLOXx3gsae.99

Voir enfin:

« Batman vs Superman » : c’est Aristote contre Kant (en plus désespérant)
Simon Merle
Philosophie supra-héroïque

Le Nouvel Obs

02-04-2016

LE PLUS. Prenez Batman et Superman dans le dernier film de Zach Snyder, où les deux super-héros s’opposent. Prenez maintenant deux philosophes célébrissimes pour leurs réflexions autour de la morale et de la justice : Artistote et Kant. Quels sont leurs points communs ? Qui gagne à la fin ? Les explications de Simon Merle, auteur de « Super-héros et philo » (Bréal).
Édité par Henri Rouillier

La bonne idée de ce nouveau film des écuries DC Comics, c’est de mettre en opposition deux conceptions de la justice, en leur donnant vie à travers l’affrontement de deux héros mythiques. Mais le sérieux du propos, à la fois force et faiblesse d’une œuvre qui exclue la distanciation de l’humour, est-il assumé jusqu’au bout ?

Superman et Batman ne sont pas des citoyens comme les autres. Ce sont tous les deux des hors-la-loi qui œuvrent pour accomplir le Bien. Néanmoins, leur rapport à la justice n’est pas le même: l’un incarne une loi supérieure, l’autre cherche à échapper à l’intransigeance des règles pour mieux faire corps avec le monde.

Superman, un justicier inflexible

Le personnage de Superman évoque une justice divine transcendante, ou encore supra-étatique. À plusieurs reprises, le film met en évidence le défaut de cette justice surhumaine, trop parfaite pour notre monde. Superman est un héros kantien, pour qui le devoir ne peut souffrir de compromission. Cette rigidité morale peut alors paradoxalement conduire à une vertu vicieuse, trop sûre d’elle même.

On reprochait au philosophe de Königsberg sa morale de cristal, parfaite dans ses intentions mais prête à se briser au contact de la dure réalité. Il en va de même pour Superman et pour sa bonne volonté, qui vient buter sur la brutalité de ses adversaires et sur des dilemmes moraux à la résolution impossible.

Batman, un justicier de l’ombre

Le personnage de Batman incarne quant à lui une justice souple, souterraine, infra-étatique et peut-être trop humaine. Le modèle philosophique le plus proche est celui de la morale arétique du philosophe Aristote. Si les règles sont trop rigides, il faut privilégier, à la manière du maçon qui utilise comme règle le fil à plomb qui s’adapte aux contours irréguliers, une vertu plus élastique.

Plutôt que d’obéir à des impératifs catégoriques, le justicier est celui qui sait s’adapter et optimiser l’agir au cas particulier. Paradoxalement, cette justice de l’ombre peut aller jusqu’à vouloir braver l‘interdit suprême ; le meurtre; puisque Batman veut en finir avec Superman.

L’affrontement n’aura pas lieu

Il est bien dommage que la deuxième partie du film brouille la distinction entre ces deux conceptions du bien, et que l’alliance occasionnelle des deux héros la rende finalement inopérante. De la même façon, le film pose dès le départ, à travers les discours d’une sénatrice, le problème critique du recours au super-héros.

Ce dernier déresponsabilise l’homme, court-circuite le débat démocratique et menace par ses super-pouvoirs toute possibilité d’un contre-pouvoir. Les « Watchmen », adaptation plus subtile de l’oeuvre de Alan Moore par le même Zack Snyder posait déjà la question : « Who watches the Watchmen ? » La dernière moitié de son nouveau film est bien moins interrogative, et elle semble même légitimer l’inflation annoncée du recours au super-héroïsme dans de futurs « League Of Justice ». On peut regretter que le combat des idées n’ait pas eu lieu, en cédant trop rapidement sa place au trop classique combat des poings.

Simon Merle, auteur de « Super-héros et Philo » (Bréal, 2012)


Doctrine Obama: Attention, un angélisme peut en cacher un autre (Passionless presidency: A hundred years on, Hobbesian optimist Obama comes up with his own version of Angell’s Great Illusion of the supposed futility of hard power)

25 mars, 2016
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Speak softlyNe croyez pas que je sois venu apporter la paix sur la terre; je ne suis pas venu apporter la paix, mais l’épée. Car je suis venu mettre la division entre l’homme et son père, entre la fille et sa mère, entre la belle-fille et sa belle-mère; et l’homme aura pour ennemis les gens de sa maison. Jésus (Matthieu 10 : 34-36)
Le monde moderne n’est pas mauvais : à certains égards, il est bien trop bon. Il est rempli de vertus féroces et gâchées. Lorsqu’un dispositif religieux est brisé (comme le fut le christianisme pendant la Réforme), ce ne sont pas seulement les vices qui sont libérés. Les vices sont en effet libérés, et ils errent de par le monde en faisant des ravages ; mais les vertus le sont aussi, et elles errent plus férocement encore en faisant des ravages plus terribles. Le monde moderne est saturé des vieilles vertus chrétiennes virant à la folie.  G.K. Chesterton
Nous appelions l’Amérique de nos voeux et nous sommes exaucés: même nos « problèmes », désormais, sont américains. René Girard
Nous sommes encore proches de cette période des grandes expositions internationales qui regardait de façon utopique la mondialisation comme l’Exposition de Londres – la « Fameuse » dont parle Dostoievski, les expositions de Paris… Plus on s’approche de la vraie mondialisation plus on s’aperçoit que la non-différence ce n’est pas du tout la paix parmi les hommes mais ce peut être la rivalité mimétique la plus extravagante. René Girard
L’erreur est toujours de raisonner dans les catégories de la « différence », alors que la racine de tous les conflits, c’est plutôt la « concurrence », la rivalité mimétique entre des êtres, des pays, des cultures. La concurrence, c’est-à-dire le désir d’imiter l’autre pour obtenir la même chose que lui, au besoin par la violence. Sans doute le terrorisme est-il lié à un monde « différent » du nôtre, mais ce qui suscite le terrorisme n’est pas dans cette « différence » qui l’éloigne le plus de nous et nous le rend inconcevable. Il est au contraire dans un désir exacerbé de convergence et de ressemblance. (…) Ce qui se vit aujourd’hui est une forme de rivalité mimétique à l’échelle planétaire. Lorsque j’ai lu les premiers documents de Ben Laden, constaté ses allusions aux bombes américaines tombées sur le Japon, je me suis senti d’emblée à un niveau qui est au-delà de l’islam, celui de la planète entière. Sous l’étiquette de l’islam, on trouve une volonté de rallier et de mobiliser tout un tiers-monde de frustrés et de victimes dans leurs rapports de rivalité mimétique avec l’Occident. Mais les tours détruites occupaient autant d’étrangers que d’Américains. Et par leur efficacité, par la sophistication des moyens employés, par la connaissance qu’ils avaient des Etats-Unis, par leurs conditions d’entraînement, les auteurs des attentats n’étaient-ils pas un peu américains ? On est en plein mimétisme.Ce sentiment n’est pas vrai des masses, mais des dirigeants. Sur le plan de la fortune personnelle, on sait qu’un homme comme Ben Laden n’a rien à envier à personne. Et combien de chefs de parti ou de faction sont dans cette situation intermédiaire, identique à la sienne. Regardez un Mirabeau au début de la Révolution française : il a un pied dans un camp et un pied dans l’autre, et il n’en vit que de manière plus aiguë son ressentiment. Aux Etats-Unis, des immigrés s’intègrent avec facilité, alors que d’autres, même si leur réussite est éclatante, vivent aussi dans un déchirement et un ressentiment permanents. Parce qu’ils sont ramenés à leur enfance, à des frustrations et des humiliations héritées du passé. Cette dimension est essentielle, en particulier chez des musulmans qui ont des traditions de fierté et un style de rapports individuels encore proche de la féodalité. (…) Cette concurrence mimétique, quand elle est malheureuse, ressort toujours, à un moment donné, sous une forme violente. A cet égard, c’est l’islam qui fournit aujourd’hui le ciment qu’on trouvait autrefois dans le marxisme.  René Girard
Si j’étais juif et étais né en Allemagne et y gagnais ma vie, je revendiquerais l’Allemagne comme ma patrie au même titre que le plus grand des gentils Allemands et le défierais de m’abattre ou de me jeter au cachot; je refuserais d’être expulsé ou soumis à toute mesure discriminatoire. Et pour cela, je n’attendrais pas que mes coreligionaires se joignent à moi dans la résistance civile mais serais convaincu qu’à la fin ceux-ci ne manqueraient pas de suivre mon exemple. Si un juif ou tous les juifs acceptaient la prescription ici offerte, ils ne pourraient être en plus mauvaise posture que maintenant. Et la souffrance volontairement subie leur apporterait une force et une joie intérieures que ne pourraient leur apporter aucun nombre de résolutions de sympathie du reste du monde. Gandhi (le 26 Novembre 1938)
Il vous faut abandonner les armes que vous avez car elles n’ont aucune utilité pour vous sauver vous ou l’humanité. Vous inviterez Herr Hitler et signor Mussolini à prendre ce qu’ils veulent des pays que vous appelez vos possessions…. Si ces messieurs choisissent d’occuper vos maisons, vous les évacuerez. S’ils ne vous laissent pas partir librement, vous vous laisserez abattre, hommes, femmes et enfants, mais vous leur refuserez toute allégeance. Gandhi (conseil aux Britanniques, 1940)
Des juifs sont persécutés, volés, maltraités, torturés, assassinés. Et vous, Mahatma Gandhi, dites que leur position dans le pays où ils souffrent tout ceci est un parallèle exact avec la position des Indiens en Afrique du sud au moment où vous inauguriez votre célèbre « force de la vérité » ou « force de la campagne d’âme » (Satyagraha) (…) Mais, Mahatma, savez-vous ou ne savez-vous pas ce qu’est un camp de concentration et ce qui s’y passe? Martin Buber
Les Etats-Unis étaient allés au Viêt-nam pour porter un coup d’arrêt à ce qu’ils estimaient être un complot communiste centralisé, et ils échouèrent. De l’échec de l’Amérique, Moscou déduisit ce que les tenants de la théorie des dominos avaient tant redouté, à savoir que la corrélation historique des forces avait tourné en sa faveur. En conséquence, l’URSS essaya d’étendre son hégémonie au Yémen, en Angola, en Ethiopie, et enfin en Afghanistan. Mais elle découvrit, ce faisant, que les réalités géopolitiques s’appliquaient autant aux sociétés communistes qu’à leurs soeurs capitalistes. De fait, étant moins élastique, le surengagement soviétique n’engendra pas une catharsis, comme en Amérique, mais la désintégration. Les événements auraient-ils évolué dans la même direction si l’Amérique s’était contentée de rester passive en comptant sur l’évolution de l’histoire pour se charger du défi communiste ? Ou bien cette démission aurait-elle créé un élan et une certitude de l’inéluctabilité de la victoire, chez les communistes, suffisants pour retarder, voire conjurer, l’effondrement soviétique ? La question reste posée. Quelle que soit la réponse des experts, l’homme d’Etat ne peut adopter la démission comme principe d’action politique. Il peut apprendre à modérer sa confiance dans ses évaluations et à faire la part des imprévus; mais compter sur la chute éventuelle d’un adversaire menaçant est une politique qui n’offre aucun réconfort aux millions de victimes immédiates et transforme l’art de gouverner en un pari téméraire sur l’intuition. Henry Kissinger (Diplomatie, 1994)
Norman Angell establishes this apparent paradox, in so far as the economic problem is concerned, by showing that wealth in the economically civilized world is founded upon credit and commercial contract (these being the outgrowth of an economic interdependence due to the increasing division of labour and greatly developed communication). If credit and commercial contract are tampered with in an attempt at confiscation, the credit-dependent wealth is undermined, and its collapse involves that of the conqueror; so that if conquest is not to be self-injurious it must respect the enemy’s property, in which case it becomes economically futile. Thus the wealth of conquered territory remains in the hands of the population of such territory. When Germany annexed Alsace, no individual German secured a single mark’s worth of Alsatian property as the spoils of war. Conquest in the modern world is a process of multiplying by x, and then obtaining the original figure by dividing by x. For a modern nation to add to its territory no more adds to the wealth of the people of such nation than it would add to the wealth of Londoners if the City of London were to annex the county of Hertford. Wikipedia
La Grande Illusion (titre original : The Great Illusion) est un livre de Norman Angell paru en 1910. Une première version est publiée en 1909 en Angleterre sous le titre Europe’s Optical Illusion. Cet essai défend la thèse selon laquelle une guerre ne peut plus éclater grâce au poids du crédit présent partout dans le monde ou que, si elle éclate, elle serait courte. Cela contribua au fait que la population européenne n’était pas prête à la guerre. Traduit simultanément dans de très nombreux pays, cette analyse de Norman Angell est contredite par le déclenchement de la Première Guerre mondiale. Cependant en 1933, Angell fait paraître une nouvelle version de son livre qui lui vaut le prix Nobel de la paix la même année. Il y modifie son analyse d’avant-guerre : selon lui, une nation ne gagne pas à déclarer la guerre pour des raisons économiques. Wikipedia
A sa sortie en 1937, le long métrage est jugé comme un film de gauche pacifiste en faveur du rapprochement entre les peuples. Le personnage du juif Rosenthal est apprécié parce qu’il est censé battre en brèche les antisémites en montrant que les Juifs font la guerre comme tout le monde. Au lendemain de la Seconde Guerre mondiale, certains journalistes se déchaînent contre le film. Le personnage cupide de Rosenthal révèle l’antisémitisme banal et populaire des Français de l’entre-deux-guerres. Les gestes d’amitié entre soldats français et allemands sont vécus comme annonciateurs du régime de Vichy et comme une invitation à la collaboration. Il faudra attendre la Nouvelle Vague pour voir le film réhabilité et porté aux nues par des cinéastes comme François Truffaut, grand admirateur de Jean Renoir. Le jeune metteur en scène interprète alors le film de façon rétrospective, à la lumière de la Seconde Guerre mondiale. Il pense que la grande illusion est de penser en 1918 que c’est la dernière guerre. Et de citer les derniers dialogues du film :  Maréchal : Il faut bien qu’on la finisse cette putain de guerre… en espérant que c’est la dernière. Rosenthal : Ah, tu te fais des illusions ! Marc Ferro
La Grande illusion évoque la fin du règne de l’aristocratie dans l’armée en soulignant le déclin de la cavalerie à l’issue de la Première Guerre mondiale. Les portraits croisés du Capitaine de Boeldieu et de Von Rauffenstein illustrent admirablement cette idée. (…) A la sortie du film aux Usa en 1938, Jean Renoir déclara : parce que je suis pacifiste, j’ai réalisé La Grande illusion. Pour moi, un vrai pacifiste, c’est un Français, un Américain, un Allemand authentique. Ce pacifisme fut parfois interprété à tort comme un antimilitarisme. (…) La Grande illusion fut nommé aux Oscar dans la catégorie meilleur film en 1939. Un fait rarissime pour un film étranger. Le jury du Festival de Venise (1937) n’osa attribuer que le prix de la Meilleure contribution artistique à La Grande illusion. Mais cette récompense provoqua tout de même la colère des autorités mussoliniennes et nazies. Le film fut même censuré en Italie et en Allemagne. Le titre du film a été emprunté au livre homonyme de Norman Angell datant de 1911. Cet auteur, prix Nobel de la paix en 1933, y développait la théorie que la guerre n’apporte aucun avantage, même aux vainqueurs. Suite à l’interdiction en France du film à partir de 1940 pour son absence d’idéologie patriotique, Jean Renoir prend la décision d’en modifier certains segments. En 1946, il décide de couper la scène d’amour entre Jean Gabin et Dita Parlo, ainsi qu’une autre séquence où le personnage juif de Rosenthal donne du chocolat à une sentinelle allemande. Il est vraisemblable que le couple formé par un Français et une Allemande semblait insupportable après l’occupation allemande et la collaboration. Quant à la scène de Rosenthal, elle a dû paraître antisémite. Jean Renoir et Charles Spaak ont été attaqués en justice par l’écrivain Jean des Vallières (10), ancien aviateur et prisonnier, pour le plagiat de son œuvre Kavalier Scharnhorst. Trame ressemblante, même scène de prisonniers travestis, même utilisation de la chanson Il était un petit navire et de l’expression streng verboten, entre autres coïncidences. Finalement, les deux scénaristes furent blanchis de cette accusation. A noter que l’affaire se régla toutefois par le versement à Jean des Vallières d’une somme dont le montant demeure secret. La Grande illusion fut très apprécié aux Usa à sa sortie. Jean Renoir affirme que le bon accueil qui lui fut réservé lors de son exil Outre-atlantique en 1940 est dû à ce film. La Grande illusion reçut un accueil mitigé dans les démocraties occidentales. Tandis que le Ministre socialiste Paul-Henri Spaak (qui se trouve être le frère de Charles Spaak, scénariste de ce film) l’interdit en Belgique, Winston Churchill le condamne en Grande-Bretagne. A l’inverse, le président des Etats-Unis Roosevelt se fait projeter le long métrage le 11 novembre 1937 et déclare : tous les démocrates du monde devraient voir ce film. Citebd
Il y a des rencontres parfois inopportunes, souvent gênantes. Celles qui laissent des taches indélébiles dans les mémoires d’un chef d’Etat. Ces dîners avec le diable pour lesquels, en dépit de toutes les longues cuillères utilisées, les démocraties perdent chaque fois un peu de leur éclat. On se souvient de la réception par François Mitterrand du dictateur polonais Wojciech Jaruzelski, en 1985, une visite qui avait“troublé” le Premier ministre de l’époque, Laurent Fabius, ou celle de Fidel Castro, en 1995. Dans les carnets de bal présidentiels, figurent aussi (entre autres) la longue amitié entre la France de Jacques Chirac et Saddam Hussein, l’ancien maître de l’Irak, l’invitation du très contesté président zimbabwéen Robert Mugabe, la tente de Kadhafi plantée dans les jardins de l’hôtel de Marigny, en 2007, ou la venue de Bachar El-Assad au défilé du 14-Juillet, en 2008… Sans parler de la longue liste des voyages présidentiels dans ces pays où les droits des citoyens sont bafoués mais les contrats commerciaux convoités, comme ceux menés tambour battant par Manuel Valls en Egypte et en Arabie Saoudite début octobre. La chute du mur de Berlin, l’effondrement de l’Union soviétique, le décollage économique de la Chine ou les “printemps arabes” avaient pu donner l’illusion que la démocratie était au coin de la rue. Erreur. Les carrefours de l’Histoire sont jonchés d’embûches. La montée des peurs et les nouveaux désordres mondiaux incitent aujourd’hui nos régimes à de nouvelles alliances, à de nouveaux compromis. Quitte à être moins regardants sur la qualité de nos amis. Pis, au nom d’une prétendue stabilité, il faudrait non seulement dîner mais aussi passer de petits arrangements avec les autocrates. Mais ce retour à la mode de la realpolitik ne doit pas faire illusion : si celle-ci a pour objet de nous rassurer, elle a aussi ses limites, précisément celles qu’exposait Benjamin Franklin il y a deux siècles et demi : “Ceux qui abandonnent la liberté pour acheter une sécurité temporaire ne méritent ni la liberté ni la sécurité. » Cette phrase datée de 1855 (sic) est inscrite sur une plaque du socle de la statue de la Liberté.  Courrier international
Le président améri­cain Barack Obama s’est rendu à Cuba, accom­pa­gné de sa femme, Michelle et de ses deux filles, Sasha et Malia, 14 et 17 ans, pour offi­cia­li­ser la norma­li­sa­tion des rela­tions entre les deux pays. Au cours de ce dépla­ce­ment symbo­lique et histo­rique, la famille Obama est appa­rue plus complice que jamais. Dès la descente de l’avion prési­den­tiel, ce dimanche 20 mars, les quatre membres de la famille Obama étaient déten­dus et souriant. Leur visite de trois jours à Cuba, censée offi­cia­li­ser le réchauf­fe­ment des rela­tions entre l’île et les Etats-Unis, montre une nouvelle fois leur capa­cité à rester spon­ta­nés au milieu des rigueurs proto­co­laires. Les robes fleu­ries de Michelle, l’en­thou­siasme de Barack au match de base­ball, les talents de traduc­trice de Malia, l’aî­née de leurs filles… Chacun de leurs gestes étaient scru­tés, mais ils ont sans conteste réussi l’exer­cice de séduc­tion, toujours avec leur décon­trac­tion légen­daire. Barack Obama est ainsi devenu le premier président améri­cain en exer­cice à se rendre à Cuba depuis près de 90 ans. C’était l’oc­ca­sion pour lui, à 10 mois de la fin de son mandat, de confir­mer le dégel avec La Havane, engagé fin 2014, mais aussi pour le président cubain, Raul Castro, de plai­der une nouvelle fois pour la suppres­sion de l’em­bargo écono­mique qui péna­lise son île depuis 1962. A côté de ce contexte diplo­ma­tique solen­nel, la famille Obama s’est égale­ment adon­née avec une joie non dissi­mu­lée à la décou­verte de l’île ; de la vieille ville de La Havane, avec ses monu­ments histo­riques et ses jardins, à l’équipe de base­ball natio­nale cubaine. (…) En voyant les photos de la famille Obama à Cuba, on croi­rait presque assis­ter aux vacances d’une famille comme les autres, si ce n’est les jour­na­listes et les offi­ciels cubains que l’on aperçoit parfois à leurs côtés. Malia et Sasha profi­taient de quelques jours de Spring break (vacances de prin­temps), avant de retour­ner en cours. C’était d’ailleurs peut être les dernières vacances en famille pour Malia, qui devrait quit­ter les siens pour entrer à l’uni­ver­sité, à l’au­tomne prochain. Gala
En visite offi­cielle en Argen­tine, le président Obama s’est livré à une démons­tra­tion de tango au bras d’une grande danseuse, tandis que sa femme Michelle esquis­sait elle aussi quelques pas avec un danseur profes­sion­nel. (…) Après avoir conquis les médias en famille lors de leur visite histo­rique à Cuba, les Obama ont laissé leur deux filles retour­ner en cours, et ont rejoint l’Ar­gen­tine pour une visite offi­cielle de deux jours. Ce jeudi 24 mars, le couple devrait assis­ter aux commé­mo­ra­tions du 40e anni­ver­saire du coup d’Etat de 1976. Là encore, la présence du président améri­cain est forte­ment symbo­lique, puisque les Etats-Unis soute­naient à l’époque l’ins­tau­ra­tion de la dicta­ture mili­taire en Argen­tine. S’il n’a pas prononcé de mea-culpa offi­ciel, Barack Obama a souli­gné que l’in­gé­rence améri­caine était révo­lue, et que son pays n’était pas « à court d’au­to­cri­tique ». Il a aussi dit préfé­rer « la démo­cra­tie à la dicta­ture ». Alter­ner décla­ra­tions fortes et petits happe­nings média­tiques, voici la diplo­ma­tie selon Obama. Gala
Par conséquent, tout ce qui résulte d’un temps de guerre, où tout homme est l’ennemi de tout homme, résulte aussi d’un temps où les hommes vivent sans autre sécurité que celle que leur propre force et leur propre capacité d’invention leur donneront. Dans un tel état, il n’y a aucune place pour un activité laborieuse, parce que son fruit est incertain; et par conséquent aucune culture de la terre, aucune navigation, aucun usage de marchandises importées par mer, aucune construction convenable, aucun engin pour déplacer ou soulever des choses telles qu’elles requièrent beaucoup de force; aucune connaissance de la surface de la terre, aucune mesure du temps; pas d’arts, pas de lettres, pas de société, et, ce qui le pire de tout, la crainte permanente, et le danger de mort violente; et la vie de l’homme est solitaire, indigente, dégoûtante, animale et brève. Thomas Hobbes
Ceux qui abandonnent la liberté pour acheter une sécurité temporaire ne méritent ni la liberté ni la sécurité. Benjamin Franklin
The choice is not between order and liberty. It is between liberty with order and anarchy without either. There is danger that, if the Court does not temper its doctrinaire logic with a little practical wisdom, it will convert the constitutional Bill of Rights into a suicide pact. Justice Robert Jackson (1949)
En ce qui concerne notre défense commune, nous refusons de faire le choix erroné entre notre sécurité, d’une part, et nos idéaux, de l’autre. Barack Hussein Obama (discours d’investiture, 21 janvier 2009)
We are powerful enough to be able to test these propositions without putting ourselves at risk. And that’s the thing … people don’t seem to understand. You take a country like Cuba. For us to test the possibility that engagement leads to a better outcome for the Cuban people, there aren’t that many risks for us. It’s a tiny little country. It’s not one that threatens our core security interests, and so [there’s no reason not] to test the proposition. And if it turns out that it doesn’t lead to better outcomes, we can adjust our policies. The same is true with respect to Iran, a larger country, a dangerous country, one that has engaged in activities that resulted in the death of U.S. citizens, but the truth of the matter is: Iran’s defense budget is $30 billion. Our defense budget is closer to $600 billion. Iran understands that they cannot fight us. … You asked about an Obama doctrine. The doctrine is: We will engage, but we preserve all our capabilities.” The notion that Iran is undeterrable — “it’s simply not the case,” he added. “And so for us to say, ‘Let’s try’ — understanding that we’re preserving all our options, that we’re not naïve — but if in fact we can resolve these issues diplomatically, we are more likely to be safe, more likely to be secure, in a better position to protect our allies, and who knows? Iran may change. If it doesn’t, our deterrence capabilities, our military superiority stays in place. … We’re not relinquishing our capacity to defend ourselves or our allies. In that situation, why wouldn’t we test it? Barack Hussein Obama
It’s the dreamers — no matter how humble or poor or seemingly powerless — that are able to change the course of human events. We saw it in South Africa, where citizens stood up to the scourge of apartheid. We saw it in Europe, where Poles marched in Solidarity to help bring down the Iron Curtain. In Argentina, where mothers of the disappeared spoke out against the Dirty War. It’s the story of my country, where citizens worked to abolish slavery, and establish women’s rights and workers’ rights, and rights for gays and lesbians. It’s not to say that my country is perfect — we are not. And that’s the point. We always have to have citizens who are willing to question and push our government, and identify injustice. We have to wrestle with our own challenges — from issues of race to policing to inequality. But what makes me most proud about the extraordinary example of the United States is not that we’re perfect, but that we struggle with it, and we have this open space in which society can continually try to make us a more perfect union. (…) As the United States begins a new chapter in our relationship with Cuba, we hope it will create an environment that improves the lives of the Cuban people -– not because it’s imposed by us, the United States, but through the talent and ingenuity and aspirations, and the conversation among Cubans from all walks of life so they can decide what the best course is for their prosperity. As we move toward the process of normalization, we’ll have our differences, government to government, with Cuba on many issues — just as we differ at times with other nations within the Americas; just as we differ with our closest allies. There’s nothing wrong with that. (…) And whether it’s crackdowns on free expression in Russia or China, or restrictions on freedom of association and assembly in Egypt, or prison camps run by the North Korean regime — human rights and fundamental freedoms are still at risk around the world. And when that happens, we believe we have a moral obligation to speak out. (…) As you work for change, the United States will stand up alongside you every step of the way. We are respectful of the difference among our countries. The days in which our agenda in this hemisphere so often presumed that the United States could meddle with impunity, those days are past. (…) We have a debt to pay, because the voices of ordinary people have made us better. That’s a debt that I want to make sure we repay in this hemisphere and around the world. (…) God bless you. Barack Hussein Obama (Sommet des Amériques, Panama city, April 10, 2015)
Nous vivons dans une époque de changement extraordinaire – le changement qui est le remodelage de la façon dont nous vivons, la façon dont nous travaillons, notre planète et de notre place dans le monde. Il est le changement qui promet d’étonnantes percées médicales, mais aussi des perturbations économiques qui grèvent les familles de travailleurs. Cela promet l’éducation des filles dans les villages les plus reculés, mais aussi relie des terroristes qui fomentent séparés par un océan de distance. Il est le changement qui peut élargir l’occasion, ou élargir les inégalités. Et que cela nous plaise ou non, le rythme de ce changement ne fera que s’accélérer. L’Amérique s’est faite par le biais de grands changements avant – la guerre et la dépression, l’afflux d’immigrants, les travailleurs qui luttent pour un accord équitable, et les mouvements pour les droits civiques. Chaque fois, il y a eu ceux qui nous disaient de craindre l’avenir; qui prétendaient que nous ne pourrions freiner le changement, promettant de restaurer la gloire passée si nous venons de quelque groupe ou une idée qui menaçait l’Amérique sous contrôle. Et à chaque fois, nous avons surmonté ces craintes. Nous ne sommes pas, selon les mots de Lincoln, à adhérer aux « dogmes du passé calme. » Au lieu de cela nous avons pensé de nouveau, et de nouveau agi. Nous avons fait le travail de changement pour nous, étendant toujours la promesse de l’Amérique vers l’extérieur, à la prochaine frontière, à de plus en plus de gens. Et parce que nous l’avons fait – parce que nous avons vu des opportunités là où d’autres ne voyaient que péril – nous sommes sortis plus forts et mieux qu’avant. Ce qui était vrai, alors peut être vrai aujourd’hui. Nos atouts uniques en tant que nation – notre optimisme et notre éthique de travail, notre esprit de découverte et d’innovation, notre diversité et de l’engagement à la règle de droit – ces choses nous donnent tout ce dont nous avons besoin pour assurer la prospérité et la sécurité pour les générations à venir. En fait, il est cet esprit qui a fait le progrès de ces sept dernières années possible. Il est comment nous avons récupéré de la pire crise économique depuis des générations. Il est comment nous avons réformé notre système de soins de santé, et réinventé notre secteur de l’énergie; comment nous avons livré plus de soins et les avantages pour nos troupes et les anciens combattants, et comment nous avons obtenu la liberté dans tous les états d’épouser la personne que nous aimons. Mais ces progrès ne sont pas inévitables. Il est le résultat de choix que nous faisons ensemble. Et nous sommes confrontés à ces choix en ce moment. Allons-nous répondre aux changements de notre temps avec la peur, le repli sur soi en tant que nation, et en nous tournant les uns contre les autres en tant que peuple ? Ou allons-nous affronter l’avenir avec confiance dans ce que nous sommes, ce que nous représentons, et les choses incroyables que nous pouvons faire ensemble ? Donc, nous allons parler de l’avenir, et de quatre grandes questions que nous avons en tant que pays à répondre – peu importe qui sera le prochain président, ou qui contrôlera le prochain Congrès. Tout d’abord, comment pouvons-nous donner à chacun une chance équitable de l’occasion et de la sécurité dans cette nouvelle économie ? Deuxièmement, comment pouvons-nous mettre la technologie pour nous, et non contre nous – surtout quand cela concerne la résolution de problèmes urgents comme le changement climatique? Troisièmement, comment pouvons-nous garder l’Amérique en sécurité et conduire le monde sans en devenir le policier ? (…) Il y a soixante ans, quand les Russes nous ont battus dans l’espace, nous ne niions pas que Spoutnik était là-haut. Nous ne disputions pas sur la science, ou aller à réduire notre budget de recherche et développement. Nous avons construit un programme spatial presque du jour au lendemain, et douze ans plus tard, nous marchions sur la lune. Cet esprit de découverte est dans notre ADN. Nous sommes Thomas Edison et Carver les frères Wright et George Washington. Nous sommes Grace Hopper et Katherine Johnson et Sally Ride. Nous sommes tous les immigrants et entrepreneurs de Boston à Austin à la Silicon Valley dans la course à façonner un monde meilleur. Et au cours des sept dernières années, nous avons nourri cet esprit. (…) Je vous ai dit plus tôt tous les discours sur le déclin économique de l’Amérique est de l’air chaud politique. Eh bien, il en est pareil de toute la rhétorique d’entendre dire que nos ennemis deviennent plus forts et que l’Amérique est en train de devenir plus faible. Les Etats-Unis d’Amérique sont la nation la plus puissante de la Terre. Point final. Ce n’ est même pas proche. Nous dépensons plus sur nos militaires que les huit pays suivants combinés. Nos troupes sont la force de combat la plus belle dans l’histoire du monde. Aucune nation n’ose nous défier ou nos alliés attaquer parce qu’ils savent que ce serait leurn perte. Les enquêtes montrent notre position dans le monde est plus élevée que lorsque je fus élu à ce poste, et quand il vient à chaque question internationale importante, les gens du monde ne regardent pas Pékin ou Moscou  – ils nous appellent. Comme quelqu’un qui commence chaque journée par un briefing sur le renseignement, je sais que cela est un moment dangereux. Mais cela ne cause de la puissance américaine diminution ou une superpuissance imminente. Dans le monde d’aujourd’hui, nous sommes moins menacés par les empires du mal et plus par les Etats défaillants. Le Moyen-Orient passe par une transformation qui va se jouer pour une génération, enracinée dans les conflits qui remontent à des millénaires. Les difficultés économiques soufflent d’une économie chinoise en transition. Même que leurs contrats de l’économie, la Russie verse des ressources pour soutenir l’Ukraine et la Syrie – Unis qu’ils voient glisser hors de leur orbite. Et le système international que nous avons construit après la Seconde Guerre mondiale a maintenant du mal à suivre le rythme de cette nouvelle réalité. Il est à nous pour aider à refaire ce système. Et cela signifie que nous devons établir des priorités. La priorité numéro un est de protéger le peuple américain et aller après les réseaux terroristes. Les deux d’Al-Qaïda et maintenant ISIL posent une menace directe pour notre peuple, parce que dans le monde d’aujourd’hui, même une poignée de terroristes qui ne donnent aucune valeur à la vie humaine, y compris leur propre vie, peut faire beaucoup de dégâts. Ils utilisent l’Internet pour empoisonner l’esprit des individus à l’intérieur de notre pays; ils sapent nos alliés. Mais comme nous nous concentrons sur la destruction ISIL, over-the-top on affirme que cela est la troisième guerre mondiale qui vient jouer dans leurs mains. Messes de combattants à l’arrière de camionnettes et âmes tordues traçage dans des appartements ou des garages posent un énorme danger pour les civils et doivent être arrêtés. Mais ils ne menacent pas notre existence nationale. Voilà ce que l’histoire ISIL veut dire; Voilà le genre de propagande qu’ils utilisent pour recruter. Nous ne devons pas les faire augmenter pour montrer que nous sommes sérieux, et nous ne devons repousser nos alliés essentiels dans ce combat en faisant l’écho  du mensonge que ISIL est représentant d’une des plus grandes religions du monde. Nous avons juste besoin de les appeler ce qu’ils sont – des tueurs et des fanatiques qui doivent être extirpés, traqués et détruits. (…) Nous ne pouvons pas essayer de prendre le relais et de reconstruire tous les pays qui tombent dans la crise. Cela ne se veut pas le leadership; qui est une recette pour un bourbier, déversant du sang américain et le trésor qui nous affaiblit finalement. C’ est la leçon du Vietnam, de l’Irak – et nous devrions avoir appris par l’entreprise. Heureusement, il y a une approche plus intelligente, une stratégie patiente et disciplinée qui utilise tous les éléments de notre puissance nationale. Elle dit que l’Amérique agira toujours, seule si nécessaire, pour protéger notre peuple et nos alliés; mais sur des questions d’intérêt mondial, nous mobiliserons le monde pour travailler avec nous, et s’assurer que les autres pays fassent leur part. Voilà notre approche de conflits comme la Syrie, où nous travaillons en partenariat avec les forces locales et conduisant efforts internationaux pour aider cette société brisée à poursuivre une paix durable. Voilà pourquoi nous avons construit une coalition mondiale, avec des sanctions et la diplomatie de principe, pour empêcher un Iran nucléaire. A l’heure où nous parlons, l’Iran a réduit son programme nucléaire, expédié ses stocks d’uranium, et le monde a évité une autre guerre. (…) Voilà la force. Voilà le leadership. Et ce genre de leadership dépend de la puissance de notre exemple. (…) Voilà pourquoi nous devons rejeter toute politique qui vise les personnes en raison de la race ou de la religion. Ce ne sont pas une question de politiquement correct. Il est une question de comprendre ce qui nous rend forts. Le monde nous respecte pas seulement pour notre arsenal; il nous respecte pour notre diversité et notre ouverture et de la façon dont nous respectons toutes les religions. Sa Sainteté, François, dit ce corps de l’endroit même je me tiens ce soir que « d’imiter la haine et la violence des tyrans et des meurtriers est le meilleur moyen de prendre leur place. » Quand les politiciens insultent les musulmans, quand une mosquée est vandalisée, ou un enfant victime d’intimidation, qui ne nous rend pas plus sûr. Cela ne la raconte comme il est. Il est tout simplement faux. Il nous diminue dans les yeux du monde. Il rend plus difficile à atteindre nos objectifs. Et il trahit qui nous sommes en tant que pays. (…) Ce ne sera pas facile. Notre modèle de démocratie est difficile. Mais je peux vous promettre que dans un an à partir de maintenant, quand je ne tiens plus ce bureau, je serai là avec vous en tant que citoyen – inspiré par ces voix de l’équité et de la vision, de courage et de bonne humeur et de gentillesse qui ont aidé l’Amérique voyager si loin. Voix qui nous aident à nous voyons pas en premier lieu comme noir ou blanc ou asiatique ou latino, non pas comme gay ou hétéro, immigrant ou natifs; pas tant que démocrates ou républicains, mais en tant que premier Américains, liés par une croyance commune. La Voix du Dr King aurait cru avoir le dernier mot – voix de la vérité désarmée et l’amour inconditionnel. Ils sont là, ces voix. Ils ne reçoivent pas beaucoup d’attention, ils ne sollicitent pas, mais ils sont en train de faire le travail ce pays a besoin de faire. (…) Voilà l’Amérique que je connais. Voilà le pays que nous aimons. Lucide. Grand coeur. Optimiste que la vérité désarmée et l’amour inconditionnel auront le dernier mot. Voilà ce qui me rend si optimiste sur notre avenir. À cause de toi. Je crois en toi. Voilà pourquoi je suis ici convaincu que l’état de notre Union est forte. Merci, que Dieu vous bénisse, et que Dieu bénisse les Etats-Unis d’Amérique. Barack Hussein Obama
C’est un bon jour parce qu’une nouvelle fois nous voyons ce qu’il est possible de faire grâce à une diplomatie américaine forte. Ces choses nous rappellent ce que nous pouvons obtenir quand nous agissons avec force et sagesse. Barack Hussein Obama
Les démocraties doivent avoir le courage de reconnaître quand elles ne sont pas à la hauteur de leurs idéaux. Et nous avons mis du temps à donner de la voix pour la défense des droits de l’homme. Barack Hussein Obama
Surtout, nous voyons comment le récent débat a été brouillé par deux buts opposés pris comme absolus. D’un côté, on trouve ceux qui n’ont cure des défis nouveaux posés par le terrorisme et qui n’accepteraient guère de faire passer la sécurité nationale avant la transparence. De l’autre, il y a ceux dont l’opinion peut se résumer en deux mots : « Tout est permis ». Leurs arguments suggèrent que le but de la lutte antiterroriste peut être utilisé pour justifier tous les moyens utilisés et que le président devrait avoir tout pouvoir pour faire ce qu’il veut, à condition, bien sûr, que ce soit un président ayant les mêmes idées qu’eux… Ces deux camps peuvent défendre sincèrement leurs opinions, mais ni l’un ni l’autre n’a raison. Le peuple américain n’est pas partisan d’un absolu et il ne m’a pas élu pour plaquer une idéologie rigide sur nos problèmes. Il sait que nous ne devons ni sacrifier notre sécurité à nos valeurs, ni sacrifier nos valeurs à notre sécurité, dans la mesure où nous traitons les questions difficiles avec honnêteté, soin et une dose de bon sens. Barack Hussein Obama (Musée des archives nationales, 21 mai 2009)
Il y a un manuel de stratégie à Washington que les présidents sont censés utiliser. (…) Et le manuel de stratégie prescrit des réponses aux différents événements, et ces réponses ont tendance à être des réponses militarisées. (…) Au milieu d’un défi international comme la Syrie, vous êtes jugé sévèrement si vous ne suivez pas le manuel de stratégie, même s’il y a de bonnes raisons. (…) Je suis très fier de ce moment.  Le poids écrasant de la sagesse conventionnelle et la machinerie de notre appareil de sécurité nationale était allés assez loin. La perception était que ma crédibilité était en jeu, que la crédibilité de l’Amérique était en jeu. Et donc pour moi d’appuyer sur le bouton arrêt à ce moment-là, je le savais, me coûterait cher politiquement. Le fait que je pouvais me débarrasser des pressions immédiates et réfléchir sur ce qui  était dans l’intérêt de l’Amérique, non seulement à l’égard de la Syrie, mais aussi à l’égard de notre démocratie, a été une décision très difficile – et je crois que finalement, ce fut la bonne décision à prendre. (…) Je suppose que vous pourriez me qualifier de réaliste qui croit que nous ne pouvons pas soulager toute la misère du monde. Barack Hussein Obama
Dans le passé, il y avait une division entre droite et gauche, entre capitalisme et communisme. Soyez plus pragmatiques, choisissez ce qui fonctionne. Barack Hussein Obama
Parce que la société israélienne a tellement bien réussi économiquement, elle a je pense, à partir d’une position de force, été moins fondée à faire des concessions. D’un autre côté, les Palestiniens, à cause de leur faiblesse, n’ont pas la cohésion politique et l’organisation pour entrer en négociations et se sentir capables d’obtenir ce qu’ils veulent — et ainsi chacune des parties reste à part dans son coin. Barack Hussein Obama
We were ready to step into the strong current of history and answer a new call for our country, but the call never came. Instead of a call to service, we were asked to shop. Barack Hussein Obama (2008)
One of my proudest moments as president was watching Boston respond after the Boston Marathon attack because they taught America a lesson. They grieved; I was there for the memorial. We apprehended those who had carried this out, but a few days later folks were out shopping. Barack Hussein Obama (2016)
On peut parler aujourd’hui d’invasion arabe. C’est un fait social. Combien d’invasions l’Europe a connu tout au long de son histoire ! Elle a toujours su se surmonter elle-même, aller de l’avant pour se trouver ensuite comme agrandie par l’échange entre les cultures. Pape François
Présider la République, c’est ne pas inviter les dictateurs en grand appareil à Paris. François Hollande (janvier 2012, Le Bourget)
Moi, président de la République, les ministres ne pourraient pas cumuler leurs fonctions avec un mandat local…  …parce que je considère qu’ils devraient se consacrer pleinement à leurs tâches. François Hollande
Légion d’honneur pour le prince héritier Saoudien. 154 exécutions l’an dernier dans son pays. (…) Voilà pourquoi j’ai refusé la Légion d’Honneur. Sophie Marceau
Like Carter in the 1970s, Obama comes from the old-fashioned Jeffersonian wing of the Democratic Party, and the strategic goal of his foreign policy is to reduce America’s costs and risks overseas by limiting U.S. commitments wherever possible. He’s a believer in the notion that the United States can best spread democracy and support peace by becoming an example of democracy at home and moderation abroad. More than this, Jeffersonians such as Obama think oversize commitments abroad undermine American democracy at home. Large military budgets divert resources from pressing domestic needs; close association with corrupt and tyrannical foreign regimes involves the United States in dirty and cynical alliances; the swelling national-security state threatens civil liberties and leads to powerful pro-war, pro-engagement lobbies among corporations nourished on grossly swollen federal defense budgets. (…) Obama seeks a quiet world in order to focus his efforts on domestic reform — and to create conditions that would allow him to dismantle some of the national-security state inherited from the Cold War and given new life and vigor after 9/11. Preferring disarmament agreements to military buildups and hoping to substitute regional balance-of-power arrangements for massive unilateral U.S. force commitments all over the globe, the president wishes ultimately for an orderly world in which burdens are shared and the military power of the United States is a less prominent feature on the international scene. While Wilsonians believe that no lasting stability is possible in a world filled with dictatorships, Jeffersonians like Obama argue that even bad regimes can be orderly international citizens if the incentives are properly aligned. Syria and Iran don’t need to become democratic states for the United States to reach long-term, mutually beneficial arrangements with them. And it is North Korea’s policies, not the character of its regime, that pose a threat to the Pacific region. At this strategic level, Obama’s foreign policy looks a little bit like that of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger. In Afghanistan and Iraq, he hopes to extract U.S. forces from costly wars by the contemporary equivalent of the « Vietnamization » policy of the Nixon years. He looks to achieve an opening with Iran comparable to Nixon’s rapprochement with communist China. Just as Nixon established a constructive relationship with China despite the radical « Red Guard » domestic policies Chinese leader Mao Zedong was pursuing at the time, Obama does not see ideological conflict as necessarily leading to poor strategic relations between the United States and the Islamic Republic. Just as Nixon and Kissinger sought to divert international attention from their retreat in Indochina by razzle-dazzle global diplomacy that placed Washington at the center of world politics even as it reduced its force posture, so too the Obama administration hopes to use the president’s global popularity to cover a strategic withdrawal from the exposed position in the Middle East that it inherited from the Bush administration. (…) Yet as Obama is already discovering, any president attempting such a Jeffersonian grand strategy in the 21st century faces many challenges. In the 19th-century heyday of Jeffersonian foreign policy in American politics, it was easier for U.S. presidents to limit the country’s commitments. Britain played a global role similar to that of the United States today, providing a stable security environment and promoting international trade and investment. Cruising as a free rider in the British world system allowed Americans to reap the benefits of Britain’s world order without paying its costs. As British power waned in the 20th century, Americans faced starker choices. With the British Empire no longer able to provide political and economic security worldwide, the United States had to choose between replacing Britain as the linchpin of world order with all the headaches that entailed or going about its business in a disorderly world. In the 1920s and 1930s, Americans gave this latter course a try; the rapid-fire series of catastrophes — the Great Depression, World War II, Stalin’s bid for Eurasian hegemony — convinced virtually all policymakers that the first course, risky and expensive as it proved, was the lesser of the two evils. Indeed, during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first two terms, the United States pursued essentially Jeffersonian policies in Europe and Asia, avoiding confrontations with Germany and Japan. The result was the bloodiest war in world history, not a stable condominium of satisfied powers. (…) It is not only Americans who will challenge the new American foreign policy. Will Russia and Iran respond to Obama’s conciliatory approach with reciprocal concessions — or, emboldened by what they interpret as American weakness and faltering willpower, will they keep pushing forward? Will the president’s outreach to the moderate majority of Muslims around the world open an era of better understanding, or will the violent minority launch new attacks that undercut the president’s standing at home? Will the president’s inability to deliver all the Israeli concessions Arabs would like erode his credibility and contribute to even deeper levels of cynicism and alienation across the Middle East? Can the president execute an orderly reduction in the U.S. military stake in Iraq and Afghanistan without having hostile forces fill the power vacuum? Will Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez be so impressed with American restraint under Obama that he moderates his own course and ceases to make anti Yanquismo a pillar of his domestic and international policy? Will other countries heed the president’s call to assume more international responsibility as the United States reduces its commitments — or will they fail to fulfill their obligations as stakeholders in the international system, A Jeffersonian policy of restraint and withdrawal requires cooperation from many other countries, but the prospect of a lower American profile may make others less, rather than more, willing to help the United States. There is an additional political problem for this president, one that he shares with Carter. In both cases, their basic Jeffersonian approach was balanced in part by a strong attraction to idealistic Wilsonian values and their position at the head of a Democratic Party with a distinct Wilsonian streak. A pure Jeffersonian wants to conserve the shining exceptionalism of the American democratic experience and believes that American values are rooted in U.S. history and culture and are therefore not easily exportable. For this president, that is too narrow a view. Like Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, and Martin Luther King Jr., Barack Obama doesn’t just love the United States for what it is. He loves what it should — and can — be. Leadership is not the art of preserving a largely achieved democratic project; governing is the art of pushing the United States farther down the road toward the still-distant goal of fulfilling its mission and destiny. Obama may well believe what he said in his inaugural speech — « we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals » — but as any president must he is already making exactly those tradeoffs. Why else refuse to meet the Dalai Lama? Why else pledge support to the corrupt regime of President Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan or aid Pakistan despite the dismal track record of both the civil and military arms of the Pakistani government when it comes to transparent use of U.S. resources? Did the administration not renew its efforts to build a relationship with the regime in Tehran even as peaceful democratic protesters were being tortured and raped in its jails? Is Obama not taking « incentives » to Khartoum, a regime that has for more than a decade pursued a policy in Darfur that the U.S. government has labeled genocidal? It is hard to reconcile the transcendent Wilsonian vision of America’s future with a foreign policy based on dirty compromises with nasty regimes. If the government should use its power and resources to help the poor and the victims of injustice at home, shouldn’t it do something when people overseas face extreme injustice and extreme peril? The Obama administration cannot easily abandon a human rights agenda abroad. The contradiction between the sober and limited realism of the Jeffersonian worldview and the expansive, transformative Wilsonian agenda is likely to haunt this administration as it haunted Carter’s, most fatefully when he rejected calls to let the shah of Iran launch a brutal crackdown to remain in power. Already the Wilsonians in Obama’s camp are muttering darkly about his failure to swiftly close the Guantánamo prison camp, his fondness for government secrecy, his halfhearted support for investigating abuses of the past administration, and his failure to push harder for a cap-and-trade bill before the Copenhagen summit. In the 21st century, American presidents have a new set of questions to consider. The nature of the international system and the place of the United States in it will have to be rethought as new powers rise, old ones continue to fade, and attention shifts from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The rapid technological development that is the hallmark of our era will reshape global society at a pace that challenges the ability of every country in the world to manage cascading, accelerating change. (…) At their best, Jeffersonians provide a necessary element of caution and restraint in U.S. foreign policy, preventing what historian Paul Kennedy calls « imperial overstretch » by ensuring that America’s ends are proportionate to its means. We need this vision today more than ever: If Obama’s foreign policy collapses — whether sunk by Afghanistan or conflicts not yet foreseen — into the incoherence and reversals that ultimately marked Carter’s well-meaning but flawed approach, it will be even more difficult for future presidents to chart a prudent and cautious course through the rough seas ahead. Walter Russell Mead
President Obama (…) believes history follows some predetermined course, as if things always get better on their own. Obama often praises those he pronounces to be on the “right side of history.” He also chastises others for being on the “wrong side of history” — as if evil is vanished and the good thrives on autopilot. When in 2009 millions of Iranians took to the streets to protest the thuggish theocracy, they wanted immediate U.S. support. Instead, Obama belatedly offered them banalities suggesting that in the end, they would end up “on the right side of history.” Iranian reformers may indeed end up there, but it will not be because of some righteous inanimate force of history, or the prognostications of Barack Obama. Obama often parrots Martin Luther King Jr.’s phrase about the arc of the moral universe bending toward justice. But King used that metaphor as an incentive to act, not as reassurance that matters will follow an inevitably positive course. Another of Obama’s historical refrains is his frequent sermon about behavior that doesn’t belong in the 21st century. At various times he has lectured that the barbarous aggression of Vladimir Putin or the Islamic State has no place in our century and will “ultimately fail” — as if we are all now sophisticates of an age that has at last transcended retrograde brutality and savagery. In Obama’s hazy sense of the end of history, things always must get better in the manner that updated models of iPhones and iPads are glitzier than the last. In fact, history is morally cyclical. Even technological progress is ethically neutral. It is a way either to bring more good things to more people or to facilitate evil all that much more quickly and effectively. In the viciously modern 20th century — when more lives may have been lost to war than in all prior centuries combined — some 6 million Jews were put to death through high technology in a way well beyond the savagery of Attila the Hun or Tamerlane. Beheading in the Islamic world is as common in the 21st century as it was in the eighth century — and as it will probably be in the 22nd. The carnage of the Somme and Dresden trumped anything that the Greeks, Romans, Franks, Turks, or Venetians could have imagined. (…) What explains Obama’s confusion? A lack of knowledge of basic history explains a lot. (…) Obama once praised the city of Cordoba as part of a proud Islamic tradition of tolerance during the brutal Spanish Inquisition — forgetting that by the beginning of the Inquisition an almost exclusively Christian Cordoba had few Muslims left. (…) A Pollyannaish belief in historical predetermination seems to substitute for action. If Obama believes that evil should be absent in the 21st century, or that the arc of the moral universe must always bend toward justice, or that being on the wrong side of history has consequences, then he may think inanimate forces can take care of things as we need merely watch. In truth, history is messier. Unfortunately, only force will stop seventh-century monsters like the Islamic State from killing thousands more innocents. Obama may think that reminding Putin that he is now in the 21st century will so embarrass the dictator that he will back off from Ukraine. But the brutish Putin may think that not being labeled a 21st-century civilized sophisticate is a compliment. In 1935, French foreign minister Pierre Laval warned Joseph Stalin that the Pope would admonish him to go easy on Catholics — as if such moral lectures worked in the supposedly civilized 20th century. Stalin quickly disabused Laval of that naiveté. “The Pope?” Stalin asked, “How many divisions has he got?” There is little evidence that human nature has changed over the centuries, despite massive government efforts to make us think and act nicer. What drives Putin, Boko Haram, or ISIS are the same age-old passions, fears, and sense of honor that over the centuries also moved Genghis Khan, the Sudanese Mahdists, and the Barbary pirates. Obama’s naive belief in predetermined history — especially when his facts are often wrong — is a poor substitute for concrete moral action. Victor Davis Hanson
In fact, there is a predictable pattern to Obama’s foreign policy. The president has an adolescent, romantic view of professed revolutionary societies and anti-Western poseurs — and of his own ability uniquely to reach out and win them over. In the most superficial sense, Obama demonstrates his empathy for supposedly revolutionary figures of the non-Western world through gratuitous, often silly remarks about Christianity and Western colonial excesses, past and present. He apologizes with talk of our “own dark periods” and warns of past U.S. “dictating”; he contextualizes; he ankle-bites the very culture he grew up and thrived in, as if he can unapologetically and without guilt enjoy the West’s largesse only by deriding its history and values. (…) Reminiscent of college naïfs with dorm-room posters of Che Guevara, Obama mythologizes about the underappreciated multicultural “Other” that did everything from fuel the Western Renaissance and Enlightenment to critique Christian excesses during the Inquisition. In truth, what he delivers is only a smoother and more refined version of Al Sharpton’s incoherent historical riff on “astrology” and “Greek homos.” Obama refuses to concede that Islam can become a catalyst for radical killers and terrorists, and he has a starry-eyed crush on those who strike anti-Western poses and have turned their societies upside down on behalf of the proverbial people. Keep that in mind, and it makes sense that, during the Egyptian turmoil, Obama was intent on ousting the pro-Western kleptocrat Hosni Mubarak and investing in the Muslim Brotherhood, despite the dark anti-democratic history of Mohamed Morsi and the Brothers and their agenda of Islamicizing the most populous country in the Arab world. For Obama, such zealotry is evidence of their legitimacy and the justice of their efforts to overturn the established hierarchies of old Egypt. Moammar Qaddafi was a monster and a thug. But in fear both of radical Islamists and of the implications for Libya of the Western military action in Iraq and Afghanistan, and eager to have Western knowhow rehabilitate his ailing oil and gas industry, he had reached out to the West and ceased his support for international terrorists. But ridding Libya of the cartoonish and geriatric Qaddafi and allowing it to be overrun by stern revolutionary Islamists was again in tune with Obama’s rose-colored view of the Middle East. One of the many reasons why Obama pulled all U.S. troops out of a stable and secure Iraq at the end of 2011 was that its democracy was, in his eyes, tainted by its American birthing and its associations with George W. Bush. Such a hazy belief that Western influence and power are undeserved and inordinate made it initially impossible for Obama to condemn ISIS as growing and dangerous rather than dismiss it as “jayvees.” Putin perhaps should study Iran’s PR effort and its aggression in Lebanon and Yemen. If he would only cut out the guns, tigers, and “macho shtick,” and instead mouth shibboleths about the oppressed minorities in Crimea and Ukraine and the need for revolutionary fairness, he might be reset yet again. His crimes were not so much naked invasions of his neighbors, as aggression in the most un-Iranian fashion of a right-wing kleptocrat and thug. Again, nothing Putin has done is all that different from what Iran did in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen. No one could quite figure out why Obama bragged of his “special relationship” with Turkey’s prime minister Recep Erdogan. Erdogan, after all, is systematically destroying free expression in Turkey. He has bragged that he got off the bus of democracy when he no longer found any utility in it — and he has openly romanticized the Ottoman imperialists. A once-staunch NATO ally, Turkey has turned into a virulently anti-Israeli and anti-American society that has spiked tensions in the eastern Mediterranean with Cyprus, Greece, and Israel. But, again, the redeeming virtue was that Erdogan was taking Turkey in a new and revolutionary direction, trying to massage the Arab Revolution as its spiritual mentor, and becoming point nation in hatred of Israel. In other words, Turkey was churning and evolving, and, for Obama, that apparently was a good thing. Without asking anything in return from Cuba — such as releasing political prisoners or allowing free expression — Obama by executive order is normalizing relations with the Castro brothers, who are allied with fascist Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela. He keeps saying that 50 years of containment have “failed,” as if successfully curbing Cuba’s revolutionary aspirations abroad was a bad thing, and siding with dissidents in its gulags was counterproductive. For Obama, the Castros are authentic anti-colonialists. They perhaps may have broken a few too many eggs to make their egalitarian omelets, but their regime is certainly preferable to what is envisioned by loud Cuban exiles in America or troublemakers like imprisoned Cuban refuseniks. (…) Keep in mind this juvenile view of the revolutionary non-West, and there is a clarity of sorts in American foreign policy. Honduran leftist president Manuel Zelaya, when he tried to overturn the constitution and earned the wrath of the Honduran Supreme Court, the military, and the National Congress, nonetheless won the support of the Obama administration. For Obama, in the struggle between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, Israel is a Westernized colonial construct and a proponent of Western neo-liberal capitalism. The PA and Hamas, in contrast, are seen both as the downtrodden in need of community-organizing help and as authentic peoples whose miseries are not self-induced and the wages of tribalism, statism, autocracy, fundamentalism, misogyny, and anti-Semitism, but rather the results of Israeli occupation, colonialism, and imperialism. Obama may not articulate this publicly, but these are the assumptions that explain his periodic blasts against Netanyahu and his silence about the autocratic Palestinian Authority and the murderous Hamas. In such a landscape, the current Iranian talks make perfect sense. Obama was in no mood in the spring of 2009 to vocally support a million, pro-Western Iranian dissidents who took to the streets in anger over the theocracy’s rigged elections, calling for transparency and human rights. He snubbed them as if they were neoconservative democracy zealots. In his eyes, their false consciousness did not allow them to fully appreciate their own suffering at the hands of past American imperialists. In Obama’s worldview, the Iranian mullahs came to power through revolution and were thus far more authentic anti-Western radicals, with whom only someone like Obama — prepped by the Harvard Law Review, Chicago organizing, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s pulpit, and the most liberal voting record during a brief stint in the U.S. Senate — could empathize and negotiate. Why would Iranian idealists and democrats be foolish enough to spoil Obama’s unique diplomatic gymnastics? Traditional analyses deconstruct the Obama administration’s negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program and are aghast at the naïveté — no stop to ongoing uranium enrichment, no open or surprise inspections, no conditions to be met before sanctions are scaled back, no prohibitions against the marriage of nuclear-weapon technology and intercontinental-missile development. But that is to misunderstand the Obama worldview. He is less worried about a nuclear Iran and what it will do to a mostly pro-Western Gulf or Israel, or to other traditional U.S. interests, than about the difficulties he faces in bringing Iran back into the family of nations as an authentic revolutionary force that will school the West on regional justice. (“There’s incredible talent and resources and sophistication inside of Iran, and it would be a very successful regional power that was also abiding by international norms and international rules, and that would be good for everybody.”) Iran will assume its natural revolutionary role as regional power broker in the Middle East; and, almost alone, it is not beholden to any Western power. In some sense, Obama views the rest of the world in the same way as he views America: a rigged order in which the oppressed who speak truth to power are systematically mischaracterized and alienated — and in need of an empathetic voice on the side of overdue revolutionary accounting. The chief danger in Obama’s romantic view of revolutionary societies is that nothing in their histories suggests that these regimes will ever cease aggression or adopt internal reforms. Cuba will still stir up revolution in Latin America and ally itself with anti-American regimes. Iran will still subsidize Hezbollah and Hamas — and, soon, in the fashion of a nuclear power. Turkey will still try to carve out Mediterranean and Middle Eastern influence at someone else’s expense and destroy secular traditions. And one-election, one-time Islamic movements will still attempt to set up theocracies the moment they snatch power. And at no point does Obama ever empathize with thousands of dissidents rotting in Cuban and Palestinian jails, or homosexuals and feminists persecuted in Iran or journalists in Turkey. The only distinction between these illiberal movements and the unromantic Putin’s Russia is their more wily professions of revolutionary fervor, which apparently have fooled or captivated the Obama administration. For Obama, in the struggle between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, Israel is a Westernized colonial construct and a proponent of Western neo-liberal capitalism. The PA and Hamas, in contrast, are seen both as the downtrodden in need of community-organizing help and as authentic peoples whose miseries are not self-induced and the wages of tribalism, statism, autocracy, fundamentalism, misogyny, and anti-Semitism, but rather the results of Israeli occupation, colonialism, and imperialism. Obama may not articulate this publicly, but these are the assumptions that explain his periodic blasts against Netanyahu and his silence about the autocratic Palestinian Authority and the murderous Hamas. In such a landscape, the current Iranian talks make perfect sense. Obama was in no mood in the spring of 2009 to vocally support a million, pro-Western Iranian dissidents who took to the streets in anger over the theocracy’s rigged elections, calling for transparency and human rights. He snubbed them as if they were neoconservative democracy zealots. In his eyes, their false consciousness did not allow them to fully appreciate their own suffering at the hands of past American imperialists. In Obama’s worldview, the Iranian mullahs came to power through revolution and were thus far more authentic anti-Western radicals, with whom only someone like Obama — prepped by the Harvard Law Review, Chicago organizing, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s pulpit, and the most liberal voting record during a brief stint in the U.S. Senate — could empathize and negotiate. Why would Iranian idealists and democrats be foolish enough to spoil Obama’s unique diplomatic gymnastics? Traditional analyses deconstruct the Obama administration’s negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program and are aghast at the naïveté — no stop to ongoing uranium enrichment, no open or surprise inspections, no conditions to be met before sanctions are scaled back, no prohibitions against the marriage of nuclear-weapon technology and intercontinental-missile development. But that is to misunderstand the Obama worldview. He is less worried about a nuclear Iran and what it will do to a mostly pro-Western Gulf or Israel, or to other traditional U.S. interests, than about the difficulties he faces in bringing Iran back into the family of nations as an authentic revolutionary force that will school the West on regional justice. (“There’s incredible talent and resources and sophistication inside of Iran, and it would be a very successful regional power that was also abiding by international norms and international rules, and that would be good for everybody.”) Iran will assume its natural revolutionary role as regional power broker in the Middle East; and, almost alone, it is not beholden to any Western power. In some sense, Obama views the rest of the world in the same way as he views America: a rigged order in which the oppressed who speak truth to power are systematically mischaracterized and alienated — and in need of an empathetic voice on the side of overdue revolutionary accounting. The chief danger in Obama’s romantic view of revolutionary societies is that nothing in their histories suggests that these regimes will ever cease aggression or adopt internal reforms. Cuba will still stir up revolution in Latin America and ally itself with anti-American regimes. Iran will still subsidize Hezbollah and Hamas — and, soon, in the fashion of a nuclear power. Turkey will still try to carve out Mediterranean and Middle Eastern influence at someone else’s expense and destroy secular traditions. And one-election, one-time Islamic movements will still attempt to set up theocracies the moment they snatch power. And at no point does Obama ever empathize with thousands of dissidents rotting in Cuban and Palestinian jails, or homosexuals and feminists persecuted in Iran or journalists in Turkey. The only distinction between these illiberal movements and the unromantic Putin’s Russia is their more wily professions of revolutionary fervor, which apparently have fooled or captivated the Obama administration. Victor Davis Hanson
The phrase “hostile symbiosis” has been used to describe the state of our own tissues all of the same parentage, all thriving best when working for the common good, and yet each ready to take advantage of the rest, should opportunity offer. There is a profound truth embodied in the  phrase. Every symbiosis is in its degree underlain by hostility, and only by proper regulation and often elaborate adjustment, can the state of mutual benefit be maintained. Even in human affairs, partnerships for mutual benefit are not so easily kept up, in spite of men being endowed with intelligence and so being able to grasp the meaning of such a relation. But in lower organisms, there is no such comprehension to help keep the relationship going. Mutual partnerships are adaptations as blindly entered into and as unconsciously brought about as any others. They work by virtue of complicated physical and chemical adjustments between the two partners and between the whole partnership and its environment; alter that adjustment, and the partnership may dissolve, as blindly and automatically as it was entered into. Wells, Herbert George, Julian S. Huxley, and George Philip Wells
There is a virtually universal conviction that the constitutional rights of the People and the powers of the State exist along an axial spectrum. An increase in one means a diminution of the other. On this spectrum we imagine a needle oscillating between two poles, moving toward the pole of the State’s power in times of national emergency or toward the pole of the People’s liberty in times of tranquility. . . . A corollary to this conviction is the widely held belief that intelligence and law enforcement agencies constitute a threat to civil liberties. (…) If we are to protect our civil rights and civil liberties against such threats, the aggressive use of informants, surveillance, wiretaps, searches, interrogations, and even group-based profiling must be measured not only against the liberties these practices constrict, but also with respect to the liberties they may protect. (…) the question here, in the Wars against Terror as with any discussion to prosecute a war, becomes: Are the rights of the People greater or lesser than they would otherwise have been if the decision to go to war had not been taken? It is obvious, but no less a half-truth for being obvious, that the rights of the British peoplewere less in 1940 than in 1936, owing to the decision of their government to oppose Nazi aggression in Europe. The appropriate analysis, however, asks whether the rights of the British were less in 1940, not than they were in 1936, but than they would have been in 1940 if their government had decided to give Hitler a free hand in Europe. Philip Bobbit
B. Franklin n’affirmait rien de ce que nous pensons lorsque nous citons ses mots. Ils apparaissent originellement dans une lettre de 1755 que B. Franklin est censé avoir écrit au nom de l’Assemblée de Pennsylvanie à l’intention du gouverneur colonial durant la Guerre de Conquête. La lettre était une salve dans la lutte de pouvoir entre le gouverneur et l’Assemblée à propos du financement de la sécurité à la frontière, alors que l’Assemblée souhaitait taxer les terres de la famille Penn, qui gouvernait la Pennsylvanie de loin, de manière à lever des fonds pour la défense contre les attaques des Français et des Indiens. À la demande de la famille, le gouverneur émit son veto contre les actions de l’Assemblée. Donc pour commencer, B. Franklin n’écrivait pas dans la situation d’un sujet à qui il serait demandé de céder sa liberté à un gouvernement, mais en sa qualité de législateur à qui il est demandé de renoncer à son pouvoir de taxer des terres théoriquement sous sa juridiction. En d’autres termes, la « liberté essentielle » à laquelle se réfère B. Franklin n’est pas ce à quoi nous nous référons aujourd’hui à propos des libertés civiles mais, plutôt, au droit de l’auto-gouvernance d’un corps législatif dans l’intérêt de la sécurité collective. De plus, l’« [obtention] d’une petite sécurité temporaire » que récrimine B. Franklin n’est pas la cession d’un pouvoir à un gouvernement Leviathan en échange de quelque promesse de protection envers une menace extérieure ; car dans la lettre de B. Franklin, le mot « acquérir » ne semble pas être une métaphore. En insistant pour assujettir les terres Penn aux impôts, l’Assemblée était accusée par le gouverneur de bloquer l’affectation des fonds pour la défense de la frontière — ce qui justifiait ainsi son intervention. Par ailleurs, la famille Penn offrit plus tard de l’argent pour la défense de la frontière aussi longtemps que l’Assemblée voulait reconnaître qu’elle n’avait pas le pouvoir de taxer ses terres. B. Franklin a donc contesté le choix qui s’imposait au corps législatif, entre d’un côté être capable de rassembler des fonds pour défendre la frontière et, de l’autre, conserver son droit à l’auto-gouvernance — et il critiqua le gouverneur d’avoir suggéré qu’on devait être prêt à renoncer au second pour obtenir le premier. En somme, B. Franklin n’évoquait pas la tension entre le pouvoir du gouvernement et la liberté individuelle. Il faisait plutôt référence à l’auto-gouvernance efficace au service de la sécurité en tant que liberté même, réfractaire à la marchandisation. Nonobstant la manière dont la citation est arrivée jusqu’à nous, B. Franklin conçevait sur le même plan les droits à la liberté et à la sécurité de la Pennsylvanie. Benjamin Wittes
The balance metaphor lives, paradoxically enough, even in our attempts to reject it. Opponents of new security measures will often vocally eschew the balance metaphor — insisting that we can be both “safe and free” or, as President Obama put it in his inaugural address, that we can “reject as false the choice  between our safety and our ideals.” (…) Indeed, the idea that we retain security by holding fast to our ideals, not by compromising on them, is a recurrent theme in Obama’s rhetoric — and in a lot of rhetoric on the political Left. Yet in these very attempts to reject a “choice” between the two goods and to assert their  congruence, Obama tends to end up describing the very balancing he seems to reject. The balance metaphor has a way of rising out of the ashes of its very rejection. The image of balance arises especially vividly in the context of surveillance, where every augmentation of government power is said to come at some cost to liberty. The relationship between surveillance and liberty has taken on special importance as the internet has continued its exponential growth and as personal data concerning individuals has proliferated. The question of how aggressively governments can police and monitor the use of communications and other technological architectures has necessarily arisen alongside these platforms — with the balance metaphor invariably hovering over the discussion. Proponents of more aggressive surveillance justify such steps as necessary and imposing only allowable costs in light of some compelling governmental or societal security need. Opponents criticize them as excessive enhancements of governmental power, which we take at the expense of freedom or privacy. We seldom stop and ask the question of whether and when our surveillance programs are really coming at the expense of liberty at all; or whether the relationship might be more complicated than that — indeed, whether some of these programs might even enhance liberty. (…) In place of balance, I wish to propose a different, more complicated, metaphor, one drawn not from the scales of justice but from evolutionary biology — albeit from an archaic source in that field. We should think of liberty and security, I shall argue, as existing in a kind of a “hostile symbiosis” with one another — that is, mutually dependent and yet also, under certain circumstances, mutually threatening. This vision of the relationship offers greater analytical clarity than does the balance metaphor. As we shall see, it also offers an important degree of policy guidance as to what sort of enhancements of government security powers will and will not threaten liberty. (….) Having opened this paper with a famed quotation on the liberty-security relationship that, in context, means something very different from the meaning its many quoters assume, let me conclude with another: Justice Robert Jackson’s warning that “There is danger that, if the [Supreme] Court does not temper its doctrinaire logic with a little practical wisdom, it will convert the constitutional Bill of Rights into a suicide pact.” Jackson’s quotation is often cited as a kind of flip side of Franklin’s — with Franklin assumed to have been warning that one should not give up liberty in the name of security and Jackson assumed to have been warning conversely that one protects liberty too strongly at great risk to security. The trouble is that just as Franklin was saying something else entirely, Jackson was not saying anything this crude either — which is probably why the rest of his remarkable passage tends to get left out of the quotation (…) In other words, like Franklin, Jackson was actually denying a stark balancing of liberty interests and security interests and asserting an essential congruence between them. He was, in fact, critiquing the court for assuming that allowing the government leeway would necessarily come at the expense of meaningful freedom. His critique of the court was that by denying authorities the ability to maintain minimal conditions of order, it was empowering people who disbelieved in both freedom and order. The suicide pact to which he referred was the choice of anarchy with neither liberty nor security over a regime of ordered freedom. That’s actually much more similar to than different from what Franklin was asking for two hundred years earlier. Both were, after all, arguing for the ability of local democratic communities to protect their security — and liberty — through reasonable self-government. First Amendment law has long since passed by Jackson’s specific point about what sort of utterances should and should not trigger liability for their propensity to cause violence. But his larger point stands. In the hostile symbiosis between liberty and security, one doesn’t maximize one partner at the other’s expense. They are locked together — embracing, choking, supporting each other, endangering each other. The doctrinaire embrace of one to the other’s detriment will always ultimately disserve both. Benjamin Wittes
Nous sommes au début du XXe siècle, au cœur de cette période que nombre d’éco­nomistes qualifient de « première mon­dialisation», une période d’expansion du commerce et d’intensification des échanges de capitaux. Jamais les liens économiques entre la France et l’Alle­magne n’ont été aussi importants. La guerre est donc devenue impossible où, si par malheur, elle éclatait, elle ne pour­rait qu’être brève. C’est juste du bon sens nous sommes tellement civilisés et nous avons tellement besoin les uns des autres ! La thèse est en vogue ; elle conduit, du moins jusqu’en 1910, à un affaiblissement de la défense française. La France est elle-aussi aujourd’hui frappée du syndrome de Norman Angell, cet homme politique britannique qui, dans sa Grande illusion, développe la thèse fallacieuse de la paix par l’impé­ratif économique ? En 1945, 80 millions de morts plus tard, après le double suicide collectif d’une partie de l’humanité, le bon sens revient, tel que Freud l’avait exprimé quelques décennies auparavant « On ne peut pas guérir l’homme de la guerre.» Nous devons remercier l’Europe. Sincèrement. Parce que l’idée même de l’Europe a donné aux peuples européens soixante-dix ans de paix, ce qui n’était ja­mais arrivé dans l’Histoire. Mais nous devons désormais nous réveiller de ce rêve parce qu’il porte désormais en lui le germe même de sa mort. Le rêve européen, c’est de croire qu’il est universel, c’est de croire qu’il est l’idéal qui dépasse les autres et étouffe toutes les vieilles raisons de la guerre – toujours les mêmes depuis que Thucydite les recensaient: la peur, l’honneur et l’intérêt, c’est de croire que les ressources du monde sont pour tous infinies comme elles semblent l’être pour nous. Le rêve européen, c’est de croire qu’il fait tache d’huile. Et bien non : il s’arrête à nos limes au-delà desquelles force est désormais de reconnaître que notre civilisation n’a pas eu les effets escomptés, au-delà desquelles la barbarie existe dans ses formes les plus obscènes ! Le rêve européen est par lui-même une Grande Illusion. La paix européenne n’a pas tué la guerre, loin de là, mais elle a donné aux Européens – et particulièrement aux Français si bien protégés du monde extérieur au bout de la péninsule Europe – l’idée qu’elle l’était.Et donc que les dépenses liées à la guerre, les dépenses de défense étaient au mieux inutiles, au pire illégitimes. À quoi peut bien servir de conserver une défense solide puisque, d’évidence, la guerre ne menace plus et que nous sommes protégés ? Général Vincent Desportes
It really is the case that the character of presidents shape their policy. And when you read the interview a second time, you realize that the driving force isn’t Obama’s worldview on foreign policy. It’s Obama himself. And in particular, there’s one consistent theme, whatever issue or trouble spot you’re talking about: It’s somebody else’s fault. (…) None of these viewpoints are indefensible on their own merits, and all of them have at least a grain of truth in them (except for the last one). But together, they paint quite the picture — of someone disconnected from reality and sure of his own perfection. (…) there’s always been something grating and, at the end of the day, unseemly, about Obama’s performance of himself as The Most Thoughtful Man in Washington. Obama came to national prominence vowing to heal our partisan divide. He did it through a rhetorical style that can be summed up as « I have understood you. » He was so good at making speeches where he could restate opponents’ views that they thought he really could see things from their own perspective; only later did people catch on that the whole sentence is « I have understood you, but I’m not going to budge. » (…) In a similar way, Obama’s performance of his own thoughtfulness and rumination becomes unbearable once you realize that he will turn around thoughts in his head, but never end up changing them. There’s an almost dizzying feeling when you realize something you thought was profound turns out to be incredibly shallow. (…) The cake is taken by the part of the piece that drove the most headlines: Obama’s statement that he was « very proud » of one of the most indefensible moments in his presidency, the moment when he refused to enforce his « red line » in Syria and stood by while Assad gassed his own people. (…) Nevermind the merits of the action. Why is Obama proud of his decision? Because it had the best outcome? No, because of the way he thought through the decision. Obama thinks his decision was good because of the way he reached it. The most salient aspect of the decision is not how it affected millions of Syrians, or the international norm against the use of weapons of mass destruction in warfare (and the credibility of the United States as the lone superpower and guarantor of international norms writ large), with incalculable potential ripple effects, it is how the whole thing played out in the theater that is the mind of Barack Obama. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

Attention: un angélisme peut en cacher un autre !

A l’heure où obsédé par son fameux héritage dans les derniers mois de son deuxième et dernier mandat …

Un leader du monde libre aux accents messianiques mutiplie les danses avec les dictateurs

Comme, en ce vendredi saint et entre un pas de tango et une absolution du communisme, les gestes de repentance

Pendant qu’entre le laissez venir à moi les petits migrants de son homologue allemande en novembre dernier, la bénédiction par le pape François de l’invasion arabe qui en a résulté et les légions d’honneur aux décapiteurs de Ryad, l’Europe paie à nouveau au prix fort l’irresponsabilité de ses dirigeants et se voit livrée aux pires chantages  du maitre du double langage turc  …

Comment ne pas repenser, suite au dernier d’une série d’entretiens que le président américain vient d’accorder au magazine The Atlantic

Où il se vante notamment d’avoir finalement rompu avec le « manuel de stratégie de Washington », abandonnant, après l’Irak il y a cinq ans, la Syrie au chaos que l’on sait …

A la thèse qui avait assuré il y a un siècle à la veille de la première des Grandes guerres son éternelle place dans l’histoire au si bien nommé économiste britannique Norman Angell …

A savoir, sous un titre qui donnera à Renoir l’un des ses plus grands chefs d’oeuvre, celle de la futilité de toute guerre … ?

The All-Spock-No-Kirk President
Obama talks foreign policy—revealing that he misunderstands the office he occupies.
William A. Galston
WSJ
March 15, 2016

Sen. Marco Rubio has argued repeatedly that President Obama “knows exactly what he’s doing.” Mr. Rubio does not intend that as a compliment. Now, thanks to a remarkable series of presidential interviews with Jeffrey Goldberg, we see that the Florida senator is correct, at least when it comes to foreign policy. The real issue is how we and future historians will judge Mr. Obama’s world view and the policies it undergirds.

In a striking phrase, Mr. Goldberg characterizes the president as a “Hobbesian optimist.” On the one hand, Mr. Goldberg says, Mr. Obama has a “tragic realist’s understanding of sin, cowardice, and corruption, and a Hobbesian appreciation of how fear shapes human behavior.” On the other, he “consistently . . . professes optimism that the world is bending toward justice.”

The question is whether Hobbesian optimism is a remarkable synthesis of apparent opposites or an elegant oxymoron. If you genuinely believe, as did theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, whom President Obama admires, that original sin is “the only empirically verifiable doctrine of the Christian faith,” then you cannot believe that human nature progresses toward justice. At most you can hope that our species gradually becomes wiser about institutional arrangements that constrain the evils of which we are capable.

History has been cruel to many such hopes. In 1910, the British journalist and politician Norman Angell published “The Great Illusion,” a book arguing that the integration of European economies had grown to an extent that rendered war among them futile and self-defeating. In 1920, the League of Nations was designed to preserve the peace in the aftermath of the “war to end all wars.”

More recently, the European Union was supposed to create inexorable momentum toward ever greater prosperity and solidarity throughout a continent dedicated to democracy and human rights. Against this backdrop, we cannot know whether the Middle Eastern “tribalism” that Mr. Obama deplores is an atavism or a harbinger.

Consistent with his progressivist understanding of history, the president offers a strong defense of what we have come to call soft power: “Diplomacy and technocrats and bureaucrats . . . are helping to keep America safe.” He is right, but he carries the point much too far. “Real power,” he asserts, means that “you can get what you want without having to exert violence.” Not so; military power is just as real as diplomatic and economic power, and sometimes it is the only thing than can work. Unlike Vladimir Putin, Mr. Obama has consistently ignored the ways in which the military balance on the ground shapes what is diplomatically possible.

Progressives typically think of themselves as rationalists, and Mr. Obama is no exception. He prides himself on his ability to maintain a stance of cool, impartial reflection even when others are succumbing to emotion and prejudice. According to Mr. Goldberg, the president frequently reminds his staff that “terrorism takes far fewer lives in America than handguns, car accidents, and falls in bathtubs.” This is true enough, but one wonders whether it is the right way for someone in Mr. Obama’s position to approach the issue.

His advisers are said to worry that their boss will seem “insensitive to the fears of the American people.” And well they might, because many Americans experience his dispassion in precisely that manner. In the one moment of presidential self-criticism Mr. Goldberg reveals in his lengthy Atlantic article, Mr. Obama reflects that “there are times where I have not been attentive enough to feelings and emotions and politics in communicating what we’re doing.” Regrettably, the all-Spock-no-Kirk formula has had the effect of vacating political space now being seized by its antithesis.

I was surprised (perhaps I should not have been) by Mr. Goldberg’s report that the president “secretly disdains” the Washington foreign-policy establishment. Mr. Obama seems to believe that because he was right about Iraq while most of the establishment was wrong, it follows that he will be right in every other instance of disagreement.

But not all conventional wisdom is false, just because it is widely held. Credibility is important, for example. Saying one thing and then doing another has consequences.

If Mr. Goldberg’s narrative is accurate, the president’s announcement of a “red line” against the use of chemical weapons by Syria’s president surprised his advisers, including the secretary of defense. And when he announced that there would be no attack without prior congressional authorization, his senior aides—including his national security adviser and his secretary of state—were shocked, as were the leaders of our closest allies throughout the world.

These events exemplify a sentiment that pervades Mr. Goldberg’s entire article—Mr. Obama’s belief that the conduct of foreign policy involves little more than correct judgments by the president. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the office he occupies. Our greatest presidents have understood that a sustainable foreign policy requires persuasion directed to political and intellectual elites and, most important, to the American people.

In an era characterized by deep distrust of government, Mr. Obama’s failure to take public explanation seriously stands out in high relief.

Voir encore:

The Clueless Presidency
Stephen Hayward
Powerline
March 16, 2016

If you cast your mind back to 1979 or so, one of the signs that Jimmy Carter was washed up was a long cover story in The Atlantic by James Fallows, who had been one of Carter’s speechwriters, called “The Passionless Presidency.” “[T]here was a mystery to be explained about Jimmy Carter,” Fallows wrote, “the contrast between the promise and popularity of his first months in office and the disappointment so widely felt later on.”

I’ve been waiting for someone on the center-left like Fallows to write a similar long-form treatment of what’s wrong with Obama for a long while now. I think we have a short version of it today from Bill Galston in the Wall Street Journal. Galston is a smart, moderate liberal. (The fact that he’s said nice things about me—see below— does not affect my judgment at all! No! It doesn’t!)

Galston’s column today, “The All-Spock-No-Kirk President” (here’s a Google portal for non-WSJ subscribers), is the rough equivalent of the old Fallows piece. Galston, who was a student of political philosophy with Allan Bloom among others, is clearly appalled by Obama’s naïvete, if you read carefully between the lines here (heh—an inside joke), especially the thought that Obama is a “Hobbesian optimist,” as revealed in the now notorious Jeffrey Goldberg interview from last week:

The question is whether Hobbesian optimism is a remarkable synthesis of apparent opposites or an elegant oxymoron. If you genuinely believe, as did theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, whom President Obama admires, that original sin is “the only empirically verifiable doctrine of the Christian faith,” then you cannot believe that human nature progresses toward justice. At most you can hope that our species gradually becomes wiser about institutional arrangements that constrain the evils of which we are capable.

History has been cruel to many such hopes. In 1910, the British journalist and politician Norman Angell published “The Great Illusion,” a book arguing that the integration of European economies had grown to an extent that rendered war among them futile and self-defeating. In 1920, the League of Nations was designed to preserve the peace in the aftermath of the “war to end all wars.” . . .

Consistent with his progressivist understanding of history, the president offers a strong defense of what we have come to call soft power: “Diplomacy and technocrats and bureaucrats . . . are helping to keep America safe.” He is right, but he carries the point much too far. “Real power,” he asserts, means that “you can get what you want without having to exert violence.” Not so; military power is just as real as diplomatic and economic power, and sometimes it is the only thing than can work. Unlike Vladimir Putin, Mr. Obama has consistently ignored the ways in which the military balance on the ground shapes what is diplomatically possible.
Galston’s final judgment is:

In an era characterized by deep distrust of government, Mr. Obama’s failure to take public explanation seriously stands out in high relief.

Welcome back to the “passionless presidency.” Except that Mr. Obama’s real passion was to move the country left, at which he has had some success.

LE SYNDROME DE NORMAN ANGELL

Le général Vincent Desportes dénonce ici l’utopie de l’Europe qui la conduit à dés­armer alors que la guerre est loin d’être morte.
Eté 2015

Nous sommes au début du XXe siècle, au cœur de cette période que nombre d’éco­nomistes qualifient de « première mon­dialisation», une période d’expansion du commerce et d’intensification des échanges de capitaux. Jamais les liens économiques entre la France et l’Alle­magne n’ont été aussi importants. La guerre est donc devenue impossible où, si par malheur, elle éclatait, elle ne pour­rait qu’être brève. C’est juste du bon sens nous sommes tellement civilisés et nous avons tellement besoin les uns des autres ! La thèse est en vogue ; elle conduit, du moins jusqu’en 1910, à un affaiblissement de la défense française.

La France est elle-aussi aujourd’hui frappée du syndrome de Norman Angell, cet homme politique britannique qui, dans sa Grande illusion, développe la thèse fallacieuse de la paix par l’impé­ratif économique ? En 1945, 80 millions de morts plus tard, après le double suicide collectif d’une partie de l’humanité, le bon sens revient, tel que Freud l’avait exprimé quelques décennies auparavant « On ne peut pas guérir l’homme de la guerre.»

Nous devons remercier l’Europe. Sincèrement. Parce que l’idée même de l’Europe a donné aux peuples européens soixante-dix ans de paix, ce qui n’était ja­mais arrivé dans l’Histoire.

Mais nous devons désormais nous réveiller de ce rêve parce qu’il porte désormais en lui le germe même de sa mort. Le rêve européen, c’est de croire qu’il est universel, c’est de croire qu’il est l’idéal qui dépasse les autres et étouffe toutes les vieilles raisons de la guerre – toujours les mêmes depuis que Thucydite les recensaient : la peur, l’honneur et l’intérêt, c’est de croire que les ressources du monde sont pour tous infinies comme elles semblent l’être pour nous. Le rêve européen, c’est de croire qu’il fait tache d’huile. Et bien non : il s’arrête à nos limes au-delà desquelles force est désormais de reconnaître que notre civilisation n’a pas eu les effets escomptés, au-delà desquelles la barbarie existe dans ses formes les plus obscènes !

Le rêve européen est par lui-même une Grande Illusion. La paix européenne n’a pas tué la guerre, loin de là, mais elle a donné aux Européens – et particulièrement aux Français si bien protégés du monde extérieur au bout de la péninsule Europe – l’idée qu’elle l’était. Et donc que les dépenses liées à la guerre, les dépenses de défense étaient au mieux inutiles, au pire illégitimes.

À quoi peut bien servir de conserver une défense solide puisque, d’évidence, la guerre ne menace plus et que nous sommes protégés ?

L’Europe semble être passée au-delà de son « point culminant » – pour reprendre le concept de Clausewitz -, cette ligne immatérielle au-delà de laquelle son idéal l’affaiblit et porte en lui-même le germe de sa mort.

Un récent rapport parlementaire britannique condamnait le «somnambulisme » de l’Europe face aux risques portés par la crise ukrainienne : le mot, hélas, est juste ..

Obama: L’Arabie Saoudite impatiente d’entrainer les États Unis dans des guerres sectaires

Intellivoire

10 mars 2016

Le président Barack Obama estime que l’Arabie saoudite,  a besoin d’apprendre à «partager» la région avec son ennemi juré, l’Iran, et que les deux pays sont  coupables d’avoir alimenté des guerres par procuration en Syrie, en Irak et au Yémen.

« La concurrence entre les Saoudiens et les Iraniens, a contribué à alimenter les guerres par procuration et le chaos en Syrie et en Irak et au Yémen, nous oblige à dire à nos amis, ainsi qu’aux Iraniens, qu’ils ont besoin de trouver une voie efficace pour partager la région et instituer une sorte de paix froide « , a déclaré Obama

Dans une série d’entretiens avec le magazine Atlantic qui a été publiée jeudi, Obama a déclaré qu’un certain nombre d’alliés américains dans le golfe Persique – ainsi qu’en Europe -sont des  «profiteurs  »  qui sont impatients d’entrainer les  Etats-Unis dans des conflits sectaires qui ne sont pas nécessairement liés aux  intérêts américains.

Il a affiché peu de sympathie pour les Saoudiens, qui se sont dit menacés par l’accord nucléaire conclu avec Iran. Au cours de l’interview avec Jeffrey Goldberg, correspondant national du magazine, Obama a déclaré que les Saoudiens « ont besoin de trouver un mécanisme efficace pour partager la région et instituer une sorte de paix froide ». S’exprimant sur l’idée de les soutenir contre l’Iran, le président a déclaré “cela signifierait que nous devons intervenir et utiliser notre pouvoir militaire pour régler des comptes.  Et cela ne serait pas dans l’intérêt des États-Unis, ni du Moyen-Orient. »

« Vous avez des pays qui ne parviennent pas à fournir la prospérité et des opportunités à leurs peuples. Vous avez une violence, l’idéologie extrémiste, ou des idéologies, qui sont diffusées à volonté sur les médias sociaux », at-il dit. « Vous avez des pays qui ont très peu de traditions civiques, de sorte que lorsque les régimes autocratiques commencent à s’effriter, le seul principe d’organisation qui reste est le sectarisme  »

La frustration d’Obama avec une grande partie du monde arabe n’est pas nouvelle, mais rarement elle a été si brutale. Il a inscrit ses observations dans le cadre de sa stratégie pour extraire les États-Unis du bourbier sanglant du Moyen-Orient afin que la nation puisse se concentrer sur les parties les plus prometteuses, à croissance plus rapide du monde, comme l’Asie et l’Amérique latine.

Obama a également déclaré que son soutien à l’intervention militaire de l’Otan en Libye avait été une « erreur », en partie à cause de son jugement erroné sur le fait que la Grande-Bretagne et la France allaient fournir plus de soutien à l’opération. Il a défendu son refus de ne pas appliquer sa propre ligne rouge contre le président syrien, Bachar el-Assad.

« Il y a un manuel de stratégie à Washington que les présidents sont censés utiliser », a déclaré Obama. « Et le manuel de stratégie prescrit des réponses aux différents événements, et ces réponses ont tendance à être des réponses militarisées. »

Ce consensus, selon le Président Obama peut conduire à de mauvaises décisions. « Au milieu d’un défi international comme la Syrie, » at-il dit, « vous êtes jugé sévèrement si vous ne suivez pas le manuel de stratégie, même s’il y a de bonnes raisons. »

Obama a aussi commenté sa décision d’annuler les frappes militaires annoncées contre la Syrie. « Je suis très fier de ce moment, » tout en mentionnant « Le poids écrasant de la sagesse conventionnelle et la machinerie de notre appareil de sécurité nationale était aller assez loin. » «La perception était que ma crédibilité était en jeu, que la crédibilité de l’Amérique était en jeu » . « Et donc pour moi d’appuyer sur le bouton arrêt à ce moment-là, je le savais, me coûterait cher politiquement », at-il ajouté. «Le fait que je pouvais me débarrasser des pressions immédiates et réfléchir sur ce qui  était dans l’intérêt de l’Amérique, non seulement à l’égard de la Syrie, mais aussi à l’égard de notre démocratie, a été une décision très difficile – et je crois que finalement, ce fut la bonne décision à prendre « , at-il poursuivi. Selon Obama , Ce fut le moment qu’ il croit  avoir finalement rompu avec le « manuel de stratégie de Washington. »

« Je suppose que vous pourriez me qualifier de réaliste qui croit que nous ne pouvons pas soulager toute la misère du monde », at-il dit. Obama s’est décrit comme un internationaliste et un idéaliste. Par-dessus tout, Obama est apparu fatigué des demandes constantes et les attentes placées sur les États-Unis. . . « Les profiteurs m’exaspèrent » a-t-il dit .

Il a mis la France et la Grande-Bretagne dans cette catégorie, tout au moins dans le cadre  l’opération en Libye. Le Premier ministre David Cameron, de la Grande-Bretagne, at-il dit, était distrait par d’autres questions, alors que le président Nicolas Sarkozy de France « voulait se vanter de sa campagne aérienne, en dépit du fait que nous avions neutralisé les défenses aériennes. »

Voir également:

Victor Davis Hanson
April 14, 2015
His foreign-policy errors result not from incompetence but from a conscious agenda. Lots of questions arise about the muddled foreign policy of the Obama administration. Critics suggest that America’s friends have now become enemies, and enemies friends. Others cite incompetence and naïveté rather than deliberate agendas as the cause of American decline, and of growing global chaos from Libya to Ukraine. But, in fact, there is a predictable pattern to Obama’s foreign policy. The president has an adolescent, romantic view of professed revolutionary societies and anti-Western poseurs — and of his own ability uniquely to reach out and win them over. In the most superficial sense, Obama demonstrates his empathy for supposedly revolutionary figures of the non-Western world through gratuitous, often silly remarks about Christianity and Western colonial excesses, past and present. He apologizes with talk of our “own dark periods” and warns of past U.S. “dictating”; he contextualizes; he ankle-bites the very culture he grew up and thrived in, as if he can unapologetically and without guilt enjoy the West’s largesse only by deriding its history and values.
In lieu of reading or speaking a foreign language, or knowing much about geography (Austrians speak Austrian, the death camps were Polish, the Indian Ocean Maldives are the politically correct name of the Falklands, cities along the U.S. Atlantic Coast are Gulf ports, etc.), Obama adopts, in the manner of a with-it English professor, hokey accentuation to suggest an in-the-know fides anytime he refers to the Taliban, Pakistan, or Teheran. Reminiscent of college naïfs with dorm-room posters of Che Guevara, Obama mythologizes about the underappreciated multicultural “Other” that did everything from fuel the Western Renaissance and Enlightenment to critique Christian excesses during the Inquisition. In truth, what he delivers is only a smoother and more refined version of Al Sharpton’s incoherent historical riff on “astrology” and “Greek homos.” Obama refuses to concede that Islam can become a catalyst for radical killers and terrorists, and he has a starry-eyed crush on those who strike anti-Western poses and have turned their societies upside down on behalf of the proverbial people. Keep that in mind, and it makes sense that, during the Egyptian turmoil, Obama was intent on ousting the pro-Western kleptocrat Hosni Mubarak and investing in the Muslim Brotherhood, despite the dark anti-democratic history of Mohamed Morsi and the Brothers and their agenda of Islamicizing the most populous country in the Arab world. For Obama, such zealotry is evidence of their legitimacy and the justice of their efforts to overturn the established hierarchies of old Egypt. Moammar Qaddafi was a monster and a thug. But in fear both of radical Islamists and of the implications for Libya of the Western military action in Iraq and Afghanistan, and eager to have Western knowhow rehabilitate his ailing oil and gas industry, he had reached out to the West and ceased his support for international terrorists. But ridding Libya of the cartoonish and geriatric Qaddafi and allowing it to be overrun by stern revolutionary Islamists was again in tune with Obama’s rose-colored view of the Middle East. One of the many reasons why Obama pulled all U.S. troops out of a stable and secure Iraq at the end of 2011 was that its democracy was, in his eyes, tainted by its American birthing and its associations with George W. Bush. Such a hazy belief that Western influence and power are undeserved and inordinate made it initially impossible for Obama to condemn ISIS as growing and dangerous rather than dismiss it as “jayvees.” Putin perhaps should study Iran’s PR effort and its aggression in Lebanon and Yemen. If he would only cut out the guns, tigers, and “macho shtick,” and instead mouth shibboleths about the oppressed minorities in Crimea and Ukraine and the need for revolutionary fairness, he might be reset yet again. His crimes were not so much naked invasions of his neighbors, as aggression in the most un-Iranian fashion of a right-wing kleptocrat and thug. Again, nothing Putin has done is all that different from what Iran did in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen.
No one could quite figure out why Obama bragged of his “special relationship” with Turkey’s prime minister Recep Erdogan. Erdogan, after all, is systematically destroying free expression in Turkey. He has bragged that he got off the bus of democracy when he no longer found any utility in it — and he has openly romanticized the Ottoman imperialists. A once-staunch NATO ally, Turkey has turned into a virulently anti-Israeli and anti-American society that has spiked tensions in the eastern Mediterranean with Cyprus, Greece, and Israel. But, again, the redeeming virtue was that Erdogan was taking Turkey in a new and revolutionary direction, trying to massage the Arab Revolution as its spiritual mentor, and becoming point nation in hatred of Israel. In other words, Turkey was churning and evolving, and, for Obama, that apparently was a good thing. Without asking anything in return from Cuba — such as releasing political prisoners or allowing free expression — Obama by executive order is normalizing relations with the Castro brothers, who are allied with fascist Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela. He keeps saying that 50 years of containment have “failed,” as if successfully curbing Cuba’s revolutionary aspirations abroad was a bad thing, and siding with dissidents in its gulags was counterproductive. For Obama, the Castros are authentic anti-colonialists. They perhaps may have broken a few too many eggs to make their egalitarian omelets, but their regime is certainly preferable to what is envisioned by loud Cuban exiles in America or troublemakers like imprisoned Cuban refuseniks. When the aging Nicaraguan Communist Daniel Ortega — of $3,000 Manhattan sunglasses fame — dressed Obama down in a 50-minute rant about Yanqui imperialism and neo-colonialism, Obama offered a lame, “I’m grateful that President Ortega did not blame me for things that happened when I was three months old.” Note the message: The problem was not Ortega’s conspiracist diatribe, or his scapegoating the United States for his own self-inflicted pathologies. Ortega’s error was instead having the audacity to suggest that Obama, an American, was guilty by association. Obama thus corrected him only in the sense that the current American president was too young to have abetted American sin, not that America was not sinful. A more savvy Raul Castro, who unleashed another rambling rant reminiscent of Ortega’s, at least made it a point to exempt Obama from association with all his usual anti-American targets. Keep in mind this juvenile view of the revolutionary non-West, and there is a clarity of sorts in American foreign policy. Honduran leftist president Manuel Zelaya, when he tried to overturn the constitution and earned the wrath of the Honduran Supreme Court, the military, and the National Congress, nonetheless won the support of the Obama administration.

For Obama, in the struggle between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, Israel is a Westernized colonial construct and a proponent of Western neo-liberal capitalism. The PA and Hamas, in contrast, are seen both as the downtrodden in need of community-organizing help and as authentic peoples whose miseries are not self-induced and the wages of tribalism, statism, autocracy, fundamentalism, misogyny, and anti-Semitism, but rather the results of Israeli occupation, colonialism, and imperialism. Obama may not articulate this publicly, but these are the assumptions that explain his periodic blasts against Netanyahu and his silence about the autocratic Palestinian Authority and the murderous Hamas. In such a landscape, the current Iranian talks make perfect sense. Obama was in no mood in the spring of 2009 to vocally support a million, pro-Western Iranian dissidents who took to the streets in anger over the theocracy’s rigged elections, calling for transparency and human rights. He snubbed them as if they were neoconservative democracy zealots. In his eyes, their false consciousness did not allow them to fully appreciate their own suffering at the hands of past American imperialists. In Obama’s worldview, the Iranian mullahs came to power through revolution and were thus far more authentic anti-Western radicals, with whom only someone like Obama — prepped by the Harvard Law Review, Chicago organizing, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s pulpit, and the most liberal voting record during a brief stint in the U.S. Senate — could empathize and negotiate. Why would Iranian idealists and democrats be foolish enough to spoil Obama’s unique diplomatic gymnastics? Traditional analyses deconstruct the Obama administration’s negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program and are aghast at the naïveté — no stop to ongoing uranium enrichment, no open or surprise inspections, no conditions to be met before sanctions are scaled back, no prohibitions against the marriage of nuclear-weapon technology and intercontinental-missile development. But that is to misunderstand the Obama worldview. He is less worried about a nuclear Iran and what it will do to a mostly pro-Western Gulf or Israel, or to other traditional U.S. interests, than about the difficulties he faces in bringing Iran back into the family of nations as an authentic revolutionary force that will school the West on regional justice. (“There’s incredible talent and resources and sophistication inside of Iran, and it would be a very successful regional power that was also abiding by international norms and international rules, and that would be good for everybody.”) Iran will assume its natural revolutionary role as regional power broker in the Middle East; and, almost alone, it is not beholden to any Western power. In some sense, Obama views the rest of the world in the same way as he views America: a rigged order in which the oppressed who speak truth to power are systematically mischaracterized and alienated — and in need of an empathetic voice on the side of overdue revolutionary accounting. The chief danger in Obama’s romantic view of revolutionary societies is that nothing in their histories suggests that these regimes will ever cease aggression or adopt internal reforms. Cuba will still stir up revolution in Latin America and ally itself with anti-American regimes. Iran will still subsidize Hezbollah and Hamas — and, soon, in the fashion of a nuclear power. Turkey will still try to carve out Mediterranean and Middle Eastern influence at someone else’s expense and destroy secular traditions. And one-election, one-time Islamic movements will still attempt to set up theocracies the moment they snatch power. And at no point does Obama ever empathize with thousands of dissidents rotting in Cuban and Palestinian jails, or homosexuals and feminists persecuted in Iran or journalists in Turkey. The only distinction between these illiberal movements and the unromantic Putin’s Russia is their more wily professions of revolutionary fervor, which apparently have fooled or captivated the Obama administration. — NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Savior Generals.

AFP
24 Mar 2016

 

Le président des Etats-Unis Barack Obama à Buenos Aires, le 23 mars 2016

 

Pour la première fois, un président des Etats-Unis rend hommage aux victimes de la dictature militaire, qui a fait régner la terreur de 1976 à 1983: Barack Obama se recueille jeudi au Parc de la mémoire de Buenos Aires.

La visite d’Obama coïncide avec les 40 ans du coup d’Etat du 24 mars 1976, difficile à avaler pour les militants anti-dictature. La controverse a été apaisée par une promesse de la Maison-Blanche d’ouvrir des archives de la CIA et de l’armée américaine sur cette période sombre de l’histoire du pays sud-américain.

Pensant que les militaires étaient le meilleur rempart contre l’avancée de mouvements de gauche, Washington a soutenu de nombreuses dictatures en Amérique latine, et en Argentine, avant que le démocrate Jimmy Carter imprime un virage démocratique.

Mercredi, Barack Obama n’a pas explicitement fait de mea culpa, demandé pardon ou admis le lien de son pays avec la dictature.

Il a cependant souligné que l’époque des changements forcés était révolue, que les Etats-Unis, n’étaient « pas à court d’autocritique » et dit préférer « la démocratie à la dictature ».

Au Parc de la mémoire, la liste des noms des personnes tuées ou portées disparues est interminable pour l’année 1976, année d’une répression.

Au total, près de 9.000 noms sont gravés sur les murs du Parc de la Mémoire, qui borde l’estuaire du Rio de la Plata, où des opposants ont été jetés, parfois vivants, depuis des avions militaires.

– Epilogue dans les Andes –

Lors de la précédente visite d’un chef d’Etat américain à Buenos Aires, Bill Clinton en 1997, la question de la dictature n’était pas au programme de la visite. Les militaires bénéficiaient à l’époque d’une loi d’amnistie.

Depuis, les ex-présidents Nestor et Cristina Kirchner ont imposé en Argentine un devoir de mémoire. Ils ont été jugés depuis, et des centaines purgent actuellement des peines de prison.

Le président des Etats-Unis Barack Obama (à gauche) et le président argentin Mauricio Macri lors d’une conférence de presse commune, à Buenos Aires le 23 mars 2016

Avant Obama, le président français François Hollande s’était rendu au Parc de la Mémoire, fin février.

La dictature argentine, la plus sanglante d’Amérique du sud, a duré sept ans. Les deux premières années ont été marquées par la répression féroce de militants de l’ERP ou des Montoneros, deux mouvements de guérilla qui avaient opté pour la lutte armée contre le pouvoir.

La visite officielle se terminera au Parc de la Mémoire. Obama s’envolera à la mi-journée pour Bariloche, dans la Cordillère des Andes, où il a prévu une randonnée en montagne.

Jeudi soir il repartira pour Washington, concluant une visite de quatre jours en Amérique latine, placée sous le signe de la réconciliation.

A Cuba, il a plaidé pour la levée de l’embargo, appelant le Congrès américain dominé par les républicains à rallier sa position, et pour plus de liberté à Cuba, l’île communiste dirigée par les frères Castro depuis 1959.

En Argentine, après douze années d’une présidence qu’il a jugée « anti-américaine », Barack Obama a apporté son soutien au président de centre-droit Mauricio Macri, au pouvoir depuis trois mois, qui a déjà remis l’Argentine sur les rails de l’économie internationale.

Pour le président américain, ces mesures vont permettre à la 3e économie d’Amérique latine de retrouver la croissance, après deux ans de stagnation.

Barack Obama danse un tango lors d’un dîner au centre culturel Kirchner à Buenos Aires, le 23 mars 2016

Mercredi à Buenos Aires, il a bu un maté, l’infusion traditionnelle prisée des Argentins, assisté à un spectacle de tango, mais regretté de ne pas pouvoir rencontrer la vedette du football argentin Lionel Messi.

Lors d’un échange avec de jeunes Argentins, le président américain a conseillé de s’émanciper des doctrines politiques: « Dans le passé, il y avait une division entre droite et gauche, entre capitalisme et communisme ». « Soyez plus pragmatiques, choisissez ce qui fonctionne ».

 

Nos amis autocrates

Courrier international
11/11/2015

Il y a des rencontres parfois inopportunes, souvent gênantes. Celles qui laissent des taches indélébiles dans les mémoires d’un chef d’Etat. Ces dîners avec le diable pour lesquels, en dépit de toutes les longues cuillères utilisées, les démocraties perdent chaque fois un peu de leur éclat. On se souvient de la réception par François Mitterrand du dictateur polonais Wojciech Jaruzelski, en 1985, une visite qui avait“troublé” le Premier ministre de l’époque, Laurent Fabius, ou celle de Fidel Castro, en 1995. Dans les carnets de bal présidentiels, figurent aussi (entre autres) la longue amitié entre la France de Jacques Chirac et Saddam Hussein, l’ancien maître de l’Irak, l’invitation du très contesté président zimbabwéen Robert Mugabe, la tente de Kadhafi plantée dans les jardins de l’hôtel de Marigny, en 2007, ou la venue de Bachar El-Assad au défilé du 14-Juillet, en 2008…

Sans parler de la longue liste des voyages présidentiels dans ces pays où les droits des citoyens sont bafoués mais les contrats commerciaux convoités, comme ceux menés tambour battant par Manuel Valls en Egypte et en Arabie Saoudite début octobre. La chute du mur de Berlin, l’effondrement de l’Union soviétique, le décollage économique de la Chine ou les “printemps arabes” avaient pu donner l’illusion que la démocratie était au coin de la rue. Erreur. Les carrefours de l’Histoire sont jonchés d’embûches.

La montée des peurs et les nouveaux désordres mondiaux incitent aujourd’hui nos régimes à de nouvelles alliances, à de nouveaux compromis. Quitte à être moins regardants sur la qualité de nos amis. Pis, au nom d’une prétendue stabilité, il faudrait non seulement dîner mais aussi passer de petits arrangements avec les autocrates. Mais ce retour à la mode de la realpolitik ne doit pas faire illusion : si celle-ci a pour objet de nous rassurer, elle a aussi ses limites, précisément celles qu’exposait Benjamin Franklin il y a deux siècles et demi : “Ceux qui abandonnent la liberté pour acheter une sécurité temporaire ne méritent ni la liberté ni la sécurité.*”

* Cette phrase datée de 1755 est inscrite sur une plaque du socle de la statue de la Liberté.  

—————

L’Occident tenté par les despotes

Face à une instabilité grandissante, les Occidentaux semblent prêts à soutenir n’importe quel autocrate au nom de la sécurité. Une stratégie à courte vue, estime l’ancienne responsable de la diplomatie espagnole.

 Ana Palacio
Courrier international
12/11/2015
Autrefois interrogé sur le soutien de l’Amérique au dictateur nicaraguayen Anastasio Somoza, le président Franklin D. Roosevelt aurait dit-on répondu :“Somoza est peut-être un salopard, mais c’est notre salopard.” Qu’il soit authentique ou non, ce trait d’esprit résume l’approche adoptée depuis bien longtemps par l’Occident dans une grande partie du monde – et qui a sous-tendu la politique étrangère américaine tout au long de la guerre froide.

Mais plus récemment, une approche encore plus troublante semble avoir émergé, consistant pour les dirigeants occidentaux à se contenter non pas de leur “propre salopard”, mais tout simplement de n’importe quel salopard en mesure d’imposer une stabilité, quel qu’en soit le prix.

On se serait attendu à ce que l’expérience oriente les dirigeants occidentaux vers une direction opposée. Après tout, les années passant, le clientélisme de la guerre froide s’est révélé loin d’être idéal. En effet, dans bien des situations – chah d’Iran, Lon Nol au Cambodge, Augusto Pinochet au Chili, ou encore Mobutu Sese Seko en république démocratique du Congo, pour ne citer que quelques exemples –, ce choix n’a engendré à long terme qu’insécurité et désordre.

Désespoir

Seulement voilà, nous vivons une époque de désespoir. Incapables de contenir les violences, les souffrances et le chaos qui engloutissent le Moyen-Orient et une partie de l’Afrique du Nord – et dont les conséquences se font de plus en plus ressentir en Europe –, les dirigeants occidentaux retombent aujourd’hui dans le piège de la guerre froide. Ils ne souhaitent plus qu’une seule chose : pouvoir compter sur la présence d’un acteur – et désormais quasiment n’importe qui – capable de faire respecter l’ordre.

C’est sans doute dans le cas de la Syrie que ce désespoir apparaît le plus clairement. Après avoir insisté pendant des années sur le problème que représentait le président syrien Bachar El-Assad, de plus en plus de responsables et stratèges occidentaux estiment finalement qu’il pourrait bien faire partie de la solution – ou du moins participer à une transition.

Le mois dernier, la chancelière allemande Angela Merkel a souligné la nécessité d’intégrer Assad aux discussions sur l’avenir de la Syrie. De même, le secrétaire d’Etat John Kerry et le Premier ministre britannique David Cameron attribuent tous deux un rôle à Assad dans le cadre d’une éventuelle transition. Le Premier ministre espagnol Mariano Rajoy est allé jusqu’à déclarer que le monde devrait“compter sur” Assad dans la lutte contre l’Etat islamique.

Anarchie

Qu’il découle du réalisme ou de la résignation, ce changement d’approche illustre un profond désir de stabilité – désir accentué, notamment en Europe, par l’existence d’un nouveau vide de gouvernance en Libye. Ce même désir a d’ores et déjà conduit l’Occident à soutenir le régime d’Abdel Fattah Al-Sissi en Egypte, sans exercer de véritable pression en direction de réformes de la part du régime.  

Face à un contexte d’anarchie, cet empressement visant l’instauration d’une stabilité par tous les moyens nécessaires est compréhensible. Il s’agit néanmoins d’une pente glissante. Et cette tentation se fonde en réalité sur une fausse dichotomie entre autocratie et instabilité.Bien entendu, les personnalités autoritaires telles que le président russe Vladimir Poutine ont profondément intérêt à promouvoir cette dichotomie. Comme l’a récemment expliqué l’analyste politique bulgare Ivan Krastev, le président Poutine – depuis longtemps allié d’Assad – fait activement valoir l’idée selon laquelle les efforts occidentaux de promotion d’une bonne gouvernance n’auraient conduit qu’à l’instabilité.

Mais la tyrannie n’est jamais véritablement stable, et certainement pas à long terme. Le désir de respect et de dignité humaine – pierre angulaire d’une bonne gouvernance – ne peut être étouffé, et encore moins à l’heure où les populations bénéficient d’un accès sans précédent à l’information via Internet et les technologies mobiles.

Ainsi la bonne gouvernance constitue-t-elle la clé d’une stabilité à long terme.

Cultiver une société civile dynamique

Néanmoins, tout comme la stabilité, la bonne gouvernance ne peut être imposée depuis l’extérieur ; il lui faut se développer de manière organique, et reposer sur les racines solides d’une société.

Cela ne signifie pas que les gouvernements occidentaux ne peuvent agir en la matière. Au contraire, en contribuant à cultiver une société civile dynamique au niveau local et national, les forces externes peuvent jouer un rôle important dans la construction de solides fondations sous-tendant une bonne gouvernance dans les pays en crise.

Le Quartet du dialogue national en Tunisie – groupement d’organisations de la société civile, récompensé cette année par un prix Nobel de la paix – démontre toute l’efficacité que peut produire une société civile énergique dans le soutien à la stabilité. Si elle entend faire réellement la différence dans la stabilisation des régions les plus troublées du monde actuel, la communauté aurait tout intérêt à prendre pour modèle la Tunisie (et à demeurer engagée dans le maintien du cap entrepris par le pays en direction d’une démocratie stable) plutôt que tomber dans le piège des mises en garde formulées par Poutine autour de la Syrie et de la Libye.  

Ana Palacio

Ana Palacio a été ministre des Affaires étrangères de l’Espagne de 2002 à 2004 et première vice-présidente de la Banque mondiale. La tribune ci-dessus a été publiée par la plateforme Project Syndicate, traduite de l’anglais par Martin Morel.

Photos – Obama à Cuba : une visite histo­rique et des vacances fami­liales

Gala
23 mars 2016

Le président améri­cain Barack Obama s’est rendu à Cuba, accom­pa­gné de sa femme, Michelle et de ses deux filles, Sasha et Malia, 14 et 17 ans, pour offi­cia­li­ser la norma­li­sa­tion des rela­tions entre les deux pays. Au cours de ce dépla­ce­ment symbo­lique et histo­rique, la famille Obama est appa­rue plus complice que jamais.

Dès la descente de l’avion prési­den­tiel, ce dimanche 20 mars, les quatre membres de la famille Obama étaient déten­dus et souriant. Leur visite de trois jours à Cuba, censée offi­cia­li­ser le réchauf­fe­ment des rela­tions entre l’île et les Etats-Unis, montre une nouvelle fois leur capa­cité à rester spon­ta­nés au milieu des rigueurs proto­co­laires. Les robes fleu­ries de Michelle, l’en­thou­siasme de Barack au match de base­ball, les talents de traduc­trice de Malia, l’aî­née de leurs filles… Chacun de leurs gestes étaient scru­tés, mais ils ont sans conteste réussi l’exer­cice de séduc­tion, toujours avec leur décon­trac­tion légen­daire.

Barack Obama est ainsi devenu le premier président améri­cain en exer­cice à se rendre à Cuba depuis près de 90 ans. C’était l’oc­ca­sion pour lui, à 10 mois de la fin de son mandat, de confir­mer le dégel avec La Havane, engagé fin 2014, mais aussi pour le président cubain, Raul Castro, de plai­der une nouvelle fois pour la suppres­sion de l’em­bargo écono­mique qui péna­lise son île depuis 1962. A côté de ce contexte diplo­ma­tique solen­nel, la famille Obama s’est égale­ment adon­née avec une joie non dissi­mu­lée à la décou­verte de l’île ; de la vieille ville de La Havane, avec ses monu­ments histo­riques et ses jardins, à l’équipe de base­ball natio­nale cubaine.

Malia Obama, 17 ans, s’est même amusée à servir de traduc­trice à son père, qui n’était visi­ble­ment pas aussi à l’aise qu’elle en espa­gnol. Le photo­graphe offi­ciel de la Maison-Blanche, Pete Souza, a immor­ta­lisé l’un de ces moments de compli­cité dans un restau­rant de la Havane, avant de le poster sur son compte Insta­gram. « Le président et sa fille Malia partagent un fou rire, alors que Malia traduit l’es­pa­gnol pour son père dans un restau­rant de la vieille ville » a-t-il indiqué en légende.

En voyant les photos de la famille Obama à Cuba, on croi­rait presque assis­ter aux vacances d’une famille comme les autres, si ce n’est les jour­na­listes et les offi­ciels cubains que l’on aperçoit parfois à leurs côtés. Malia et Sasha profi­taient de quelques jours de Spring break (vacances de prin­temps), avant de retour­ner en cours. C’était d’ailleurs peut être les dernières vacances en famille pour Malia, qui devrait quit­ter les siens pour entrer à l’uni­ver­sité, à l’au­tomne prochain.

The biggest problem with U.S. foreign policy? Obama’s own preening self-regard
Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry
The Week
March 14, 2016

The Barack Obama show is in town again. The president likes nothing so much as to demonstrate how profound and thoughtful he is, and he recently decided to do it by granting an interview to one of his favorite journalists, The Atlantic‘s Jeffrey Goldberg, to whom he explained his thinking and legacy on foreign policy. The long interview is full of great nuggets and quotes and has been the talk of DC. One cannot help but read it and feel that the biggest problem with U.S. foreign policy in the Obama era has been what can only be called Obama’s preening self-regard.

Let’s get some things out of the way first. I’ve always tried to shy away from the character attacks that so many of my fellow conservatives engage in when it comes to Obama. Although I disagree with him on many, many issues of policy, he has always seemed like a smart, likeable, well-intentioned guy, which is already saying a lot for a politician. And it’s certainly the case that some conservatives haven’t had a very good critique of the Obama era, seeing everything through the lens of a worldview that sees force and confrontation as the answer to every problem.

But it really is the case that the character of presidents shape their policy. And when you read the interview a second time, you realize that the driving force isn’t Obama’s worldview on foreign policy. It’s Obama himself. And in particular, there’s one consistent theme, whatever issue or trouble spot you’re talking about: It’s somebody else’s fault.

Why has Libya been such a disaster? Because the Europeans didn’t pull their weight.

Why are America’s Sunni allies so discontented with the Obama administration? Because they’re free riders who want to use American military might to solve their sectarian gripes. (Another way to phrase it might be: « Expect their main ally to help them in their struggle with their adversaries. » Have they no shame?)

Why are Sunni and Shia at each other’s throats all over the Middle East? Did the United States embolden Iran by negotiating the nuclear deal or by failing to sign a new status of forces agreement with Iraq? Surely you jest! No, the Middle East is on fire because of « tribalism. » The president can’t do anything about that, can he?

Why didn’t the reset with Russia work? Well, Putin is too dumb to realize that it’s in his own self-interest to play nice with America. (Although Obama generously grants that « he’s not completely stupid. »)

Why was the West wrong-footed in Ukraine? Well, Ukraine is always going to be vulnerable to Russia anyway.

Any regrets over calling ISIS a « JV team »? Well, intelligence analysts said ISIS was « marginal. »

Why isn’t there peace between Israelis and Palestinians? Because Netanyahu is too scared to reach out to the Palestinians. Forget the fact that Fatah has rejected every serious peace overture by the Israelis, and that Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, is quite intent on genocide against Jews.

None of these viewpoints are indefensible on their own merits, and all of them have at least a grain of truth in them (except for the last one). But together, they paint quite the picture — of someone disconnected from reality and sure of his own perfection.

To be sure, all presidents have very large egos — it’s a requirement of aspiring to the job. And politicians will never admit to a mistake unless they have a metaphorical gun to their head. But there’s always been something grating and, at the end of the day, unseemly, about Obama’s performance of himself as The Most Thoughtful Man in Washington.

Obama came to national prominence vowing to heal our partisan divide. He did it through a rhetorical style that can be summed up as « I have understood you. » He was so good at making speeches where he could restate opponents’ views that they thought he really could see things from their own perspective; only later did people catch on that the whole sentence is « I have understood you, but I’m not going to budge. » (Which isn’t to say that Obama is wholly to blame for the partisan rancor of his years.) In a similar way, Obama’s performance of his own thoughtfulness and rumination becomes unbearable once you realize that he will turn around thoughts in his head, but never end up changing them. There’s an almost dizzying feeling when you realize something you thought was profound turns out to be incredibly shallow.

The cake is taken by the part of the piece that drove the most headlines: Obama’s statement that he was « very proud » of one of the most indefensible moments in his presidency, the moment when he refused to enforce his « red line » in Syria and stood by while Assad gassed his own people. His rationale is worth quoting in full:

« I’m very proud of this moment, » he told me. « The overwhelming weight of conventional wisdom and the machinery of our national-security apparatus had gone fairly far. The perception was that my credibility was at stake, that America’s credibility was at stake. And so for me to press the pause button at that moment, I knew, would cost me politically. And the fact that I was able to pull back from the immediate pressures and think through in my own mind what was in America’s interest, not only with respect to Syria but also with respect to our democracy, was as tough a decision as I’ve made — and I believe ultimately it was the right decision to make. »

This was the moment the president believes he finally broke with what he calls, derisively, the »Washington playbook. » [The Atlantic]

Nevermind the merits of the action. Why is Obama proud of his decision? Because it had the best outcome? No, because of the way he thought through the decision. Obama thinks his decision was good because of the way he reached it. The most salient aspect of the decision is not how it affected millions of Syrians, or the international norm against the use of weapons of mass destruction in warfare (and the credibility of the United States as the lone superpower and guarantor of international norms writ large), with incalculable potential ripple effects, it is how the whole thing played out in the theater that is the mind of Barack Obama.

Ultimately, Obama’s legacy will be written by history, and we will not be able to appreciate it until many years hence, if then. But we can at least be certain of one thing: For as long as he lives, Barack Obama will feel good about it. And that doesn’t make me feel good at all.

Voir par ailleurs:

The Syrian Civil War
Kurds to Declare “Federal Region” in Syria Syria’s dominant Kurdish party, the PYD, declared that it will announce plans for a federal, autonomous region as early as Thursday. Reuters has more:

The announcement had been expected on Wednesday but was postponed for “logistical reasons” and because of demands from local Arab and Assyrian communities for reassurances that the federal arrangement will not mean separation from Syria, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human rights, which monitors the Syrian conflict.[..]

Syrian Kurdish groups and their allies have already carved out three autonomous zones, or cantons, known as Jazeera, Kobani and Afrin. Their capture of the town of Tel Abyad from Islamic State last year created territorial contiguity between the Jazeera and Kobani areas.

Afrin is separated from the other two cantons by roughly 100 km of territory, much of it still held by Islamic State.
So there’s more fighting ahead. And while they’re not (yet) talking about secession, there is a fair bit of autonomy envisaged:

Nassan said a federal arrangement would widen “the framework of self-administration which the Kurds and others have formed”, and the political system would represent all ethnic groups living in the area of its authority.

The system envisions “areas of democratic self-administration” that will manage their own economic, security and defense affairs, according to a document drafted by a committee in preparation for the meeting and seen by Reuters.
But how pluralistic and how democratic an autonomous Syrian Kurdistan is will have a lot to do with who shepherds it into being. On that front, some bad news: as TAI Editor Adam Garfinkle recently noted, the PYD has ties to the KGB going back to the Cold War, and of late the Russians have in many ways been the best friends of the Syrian Kurds, who already have a “mission” in Moscow. The Kremlin reportedly welcomed the recent news.

The U.S. has been relatively supportive of the Syrian Kurds as well, but that support has basically boiled down to “please would you fight ISIS for us? Thanks.” Our eroded credibility in the region, and Russia’s elevated profile, will make dealing with this news tricky. So too will our essentially ambivalent attitude toward Kurdish independence aspirations, and our official support for the fantastic goal of seeing united, peaceful, democratic Syria and Iraq restored to their ante bellum borders.

Our relationship with the Syrian Kurds is, of course, complicated by our NATO ally Turkey. Ankara is not at all pleased with the Syrian Kurdish announcement:

Turkey, whose conflict with the Kurdish PKK has escalated in recent months, said such moves were not acceptable. “Syria’s national unity and territorial integrity is fundamental for us. Outside of this, unilateral decisions cannot have validity,” a Turkish Foreign Ministry official told Reuters.

The PYD has been left out of the Geneva peace talks, in line with the wishes of Turkey, which sees it as an extension of the PKK group that is waging an insurgency in southeastern Turkey.
This Turkish hostility could take many forms; few of them are likely to be conducive to regional harmony. Even worse: in the course of a recent speech speech in which he compared the Kurds to the Armenians in 1915, Turkish PM Ahmet Davutoglu pointedly conflated the Syrian Kurdish cooperation with Moscow with internal disloyalty by Turkish Kurds. The spectre of worsened internal ethnic violence in Turkey haunts this announcement.

Then there’s the Syrian regime’s reaction (so far negative, but deals may be possible). Iraq and Iran also have Kurdish minorities and will have an interest in the precedent set by the newest attempt at a Kurdish semi-state. And the Kurdish move will complicate the calculations of the Sunni Gulf Arabs, ISIS, and the other Syrian rebels in ways that can’t yet fully be foreseen.

So anyone who thought that the Russians pulling out of Syria, combined with the Geneva peace talks getting under way, meant that we could finally forget about the bloody mess that is the Syrian Civil War probably doesn’t appreciate just what a complicated mess the conflict has left in its wake. This thing is far from over, and lasting peace is anything but assured.

Voir de même:

Et les Kurdes créèrent les Hauts-de-Syrie
La Turquie voit son cauchemar prendre forme
Gil Mihaely
est historien et directeur de la publication de Causeur
Causeur

Moscou a donné le coup d’envoi du démantèlement de la Syrie, dont les premiers bénéficiaires seront les Kurdes. Et les Turcs risquent de payer la facture plein pot.

Il y a quelques jours, une source que la presse a qualifiée de « diplomate du Conseil de sécurité des Nations-Unies » a fait cette déclaration : « Tout en insistant sur la préservation de l’intégrité territoriale de la Syrie, en la maintenant ainsi comme un seul pays, il y a naturellement toutes sortes de modèles différents de structure fédérale qui pourraient, dans certains cas, reposer sur un centre très, très faible et beaucoup d’autonomie pour différentes régions ».

Puisque cette source anonyme est très probablement membre de la délégation russe auprès de l’ONU, cette phrase dessine les possibles contours de la solution politique de la guerre civile syrienne. Et, comme pour le prouver,  quelques jours après la publication de cette indiscrétion, Poutine a annoncé le début du retrait de ses troupes déployées en Syrie : un message clair adressé à Assad lui signifiant que son rêve d’un retour à la Syrie d’avant ne faisait pas partie des objectifs russes. Et voilà qu’aujourd’hui nous apprenons – quelle coïncidence ! – l’existence d’un projet de fédéralisation des trois zones contrôlées par les Kurdes au nord-est de la Syrie. Cette région que les Arabes nomment Jezireh et les Kurdes Rojava sera dirigée par un gouvernement ayant charge la gestion de l’économie et la sécurité, mais aussi une fonction plus régalienne : la défense.

Un responsable kurde a également indiqué qu’une conférence se tenait actuellement à Rmeilanv (dans la région de Hassaké, nord-est de la Syrie, à 700 kilomètres de Damas), pour approuver ce système d’autonomie officiellement baptisé « Fédération démocratique du Rojava ». Cerise sur le baklawa, l’initiative – qui n’est pas pour déplaire à Moscou – s’est immédiatement attiré les foudres d’Ankara. Pour la Turquie, le PYD (Parti de l’union démocratique), parti des Kurdes syriens à la manœuvre, ne diffère guerre du PKK (Parti des travailleurs du Kurdistan), qu’Ankara considère comme une organisation terroriste. Dans le même temps, une grande partie de l’Est turc, à dominante kurde, vit sous état de siège depuis la crispation des rapports entre Erdogan et le PKK.

Sur le front diplomatique syrien, si Ankara a pu empêcher la participation du PYD aux négociations de Genève, les Turcs voient se réaliser leur pire cauchemar sur le terrain : la constitution d’un Kurdistan syrien autonome. Déjà, à l’été 2014, lorsqu’elles tergiversaient pendant l’assaut de l’Etat islamique contre la ville kurde syrienne de Kobané, les autorités turques avaient préféré choisir un moindre mal : plutôt Daech qu’un Kurdistan quasi-indépendant de Damas qui donneraient des idées aux Kurdes de Turquie !

Aujourd’hui, presque la moitié de la frontière syro-turque se trouve sous contrôle kurde, mais, ce qui est encore plus important, le coup d’envoi quasi officiel du démantèlement de la Syrie vient d’être donné. Reste à trouver les Sykes-Picot du XXe siècle : Lavrov et Kerry ? En tout cas, la Turquie d’Erdogan n’a aucune envie de jouer le rôle autrefois dévolu aux Kurdes : le dindon de la farce diplomatique

Voir enfin:

The Obama Doctrine

The U.S. president talks through his hardest decisions about America’s role in the world.

Jeffrey Goldberg

The Atlantic
April 2016

Friday, August 30, 2013, the day the feckless Barack Obama brought to a premature end America’s reign as the world’s sole indispensable superpower—or, alternatively, the day the sagacious Barack Obama peered into the Middle Eastern abyss and stepped back from the consuming void—began with a thundering speech given on Obama’s behalf by his secretary of state, John Kerry, in Washington, D.C. The subject of Kerry’s uncharacteristically Churchillian remarks, delivered in the Treaty Room at the State Department, was the gassing of civilians by the president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad.
Obama on …

Why he’s proud of not striking Assad in 2013
The necessity of pivoting from the Middle East to Asia and other regions
Why Ukraine will always be vulnerable to Russian domination
Resisting John Kerry’s requests to attack Syrian-regime targets
Why Saudi Arabia should share the Middle East with Iran
How ISIS is like the Joker
Why Putin is “not completely stupid”
How France and Great Britain contributed to the mess in Libya
Why ISIS isn’t an existential threat, but climate change is
Why he resents Netanyahu’s lectures

Obama, in whose Cabinet Kerry serves faithfully, but with some exasperation, is himself given to vaulting oratory, but not usually of the martial sort associated with Churchill. Obama believes that the Manichaeanism, and eloquently rendered bellicosity, commonly associated with Churchill were justified by Hitler’s rise, and were at times defensible in the struggle against the Soviet Union. But he also thinks rhetoric should be weaponized sparingly, if at all, in today’s more ambiguous and complicated international arena. The president believes that Churchillian rhetoric and, more to the point, Churchillian habits of thought, helped bring his predecessor, George W. Bush, to ruinous war in Iraq. Obama entered the White House bent on getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan; he was not seeking new dragons to slay. And he was particularly mindful of promising victory in conflicts he believed to be unwinnable. “If you were to say, for instance, that we’re going to rid Afghanistan of the Taliban and build a prosperous democracy instead, the president is aware that someone, seven years later, is going to hold you to that promise,” Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national-security adviser, and his foreign-policy amanuensis, told me not long ago.

But Kerry’s rousing remarks on that August day, which had been drafted in part by Rhodes, were threaded with righteous anger and bold promises, including the barely concealed threat of imminent attack. Kerry, like Obama himself, was horrified by the sins committed by the Syrian regime in its attempt to put down a two-year-old rebellion. In the Damascus suburb of Ghouta nine days earlier, Assad’s army had murdered more than 1,400 civilians with sarin gas. The strong sentiment inside the Obama administration was that Assad had earned dire punishment. In Situation Room meetings that followed the attack on Ghouta, only the White House chief of staff, Denis McDonough, cautioned explicitly about the perils of intervention. John Kerry argued vociferously for action.

“As previous storms in history have gathered, when unspeakable crimes were within our power to stop them, we have been warned against the temptations of looking the other way,” Kerry said in his speech. “History is full of leaders who have warned against inaction, indifference, and especially against silence when it mattered most.”
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Kerry counted President Obama among those leaders. A year earlier, when the administration suspected that the Assad regime was contemplating the use of chemical weapons, Obama had declared: “We have been very clear to the Assad regime … that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.”

Despite this threat, Obama seemed to many critics to be coldly detached from the suffering of innocent Syrians. Late in the summer of 2011, he had called for Assad’s departure. “For the sake of the Syrian people,” Obama said, “the time has come for President Assad to step aside.” But Obama initially did little to bring about Assad’s end.

He resisted demands to act in part because he assumed, based on the analysis of U.S. intelligence, that Assad would fall without his help. “He thought Assad would go the way Mubarak went,” Dennis Ross, a former Middle East adviser to Obama, told me, referring to the quick departure of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in early 2011, a moment that represented the acme of the Arab Spring. But as Assad clung to power, Obama’s resistance to direct intervention only grew. After several months of deliberation, he authorized the CIA to train and fund Syrian rebels, but he also shared the outlook of his former defense secretary, Robert Gates, who had routinely asked in meetings, “Shouldn’t we finish up the two wars we have before we look for another?”
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Portrait of a Presidential Mind

The current U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, who is the most dispositionally interventionist among Obama’s senior advisers, had argued early for arming Syria’s rebels. Power, who during this period served on the National Security Council staff, is the author of a celebrated book excoriating a succession of U.S. presidents for their failures to prevent genocide. The book, A Problem From Hell, published in 2002, drew Obama to Power while he was in the U.S. Senate, though the two were not an obvious ideological match. Power is a partisan of the doctrine known as “responsibility to protect,” which holds that sovereignty should not be considered inviolate when a country is slaughtering its own citizens. She lobbied him to endorse this doctrine in the speech he delivered when he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, but he declined. Obama generally does not believe a president should place American soldiers at great risk in order to prevent humanitarian disasters, unless those disasters pose a direct security threat to the United States.

Power sometimes argued with Obama in front of other National Security Council officials, to the point where he could no longer conceal his frustration. “Samantha, enough, I’ve already read your book,” he once snapped.
Obama in the Oval Office, where, two and a half years ago, he shocked national-security aides by calling off air strikes on Syria (Ruven Afanador)

Obama, unlike liberal interventionists, is an admirer of the foreign-policy realism of President George H. W. Bush and, in particular, of Bush’s national-security adviser, Brent Scowcroft (“I love that guy,” Obama once told me). Bush and Scowcroft removed Saddam Hussein’s army from Kuwait in 1991, and they deftly managed the disintegration of the Soviet Union; Scowcroft also, on Bush’s behalf, toasted the leaders of China shortly after the slaughter in Tiananmen Square. As Obama was writing his campaign manifesto, The Audacity of Hope, in 2006, Susan Rice, then an informal adviser, felt it necessary to remind him to include at least one line of praise for the foreign policy of President Bill Clinton, to partially balance the praise he showered on Bush and Scowcroft.

At the outset of the Syrian uprising, in early 2011, Power argued that the rebels, drawn from the ranks of ordinary citizens, deserved America’s enthusiastic support. Others noted that the rebels were farmers and doctors and carpenters, comparing these revolutionaries to the men who won America’s war for independence.
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Obama on the World

Obama flipped this plea on its head. “When you have a professional army,” he once told me, “that is well armed and sponsored by two large states”—Iran and Russia—“who have huge stakes in this, and they are fighting against a farmer, a carpenter, an engineer who started out as protesters and suddenly now see themselves in the midst of a civil conflict …” He paused. “The notion that we could have—in a clean way that didn’t commit U.S. military forces—changed the equation on the ground there was never true.” The message Obama telegraphed in speeches and interviews was clear: He would not end up like the second President Bush—a president who became tragically overextended in the Middle East, whose decisions filled the wards of Walter Reed with grievously wounded soldiers, who was helpless to stop the obliteration of his reputation, even when he recalibrated his policies in his second term. Obama would say privately that the first task of an American president in the post-Bush international arena was “Don’t do stupid shit.”

Obama’s reticence frustrated Power and others on his national-security team who had a preference for action. Hillary Clinton, when she was Obama’s secretary of state, argued for an early and assertive response to Assad’s violence. In 2014, after she left office, Clinton told me that “the failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad … left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled.” When The Atlantic published this statement, and also published Clinton’s assessment that “great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle,” Obama became “rip-shit angry,” according to one of his senior advisers. The president did not understand how “Don’t do stupid shit” could be considered a controversial slogan. Ben Rhodes recalls that “the questions we were asking in the White House were ‘Who exactly is in the stupid-shit caucus? Who is pro–stupid shit?’ ” The Iraq invasion, Obama believed, should have taught Democratic interventionists like Clinton, who had voted for its authorization, the dangers of doing stupid shit. (Clinton quickly apologized to Obama for her comments, and a Clinton spokesman announced that the two would “hug it out” on Martha’s Vineyard when they crossed paths there later.)
Video: Obama’s “Red Line” That Wasn’t
Inside the president’s last-minute decision not to bomb Syria in 2013

Syria, for Obama, represented a slope potentially as slippery as Iraq. In his first term, he came to believe that only a handful of threats in the Middle East conceivably warranted direct U.S. military intervention. These included the threat posed by al‑Qaeda; threats to the continued existence of Israel (“It would be a moral failing for me as president of the United States” not to defend Israel, he once told me); and, not unrelated to Israel’s security, the threat posed by a nuclear-armed Iran. The danger to the United States posed by the Assad regime did not rise to the level of these challenges.

Given Obama’s reticence about intervention, the bright-red line he drew for Assad in the summer of 2012 was striking. Even his own advisers were surprised. “I didn’t know it was coming,” his secretary of defense at the time, Leon Panetta, told me. I was told that Vice President Joe Biden repeatedly warned Obama against drawing a red line on chemical weapons, fearing that it would one day have to be enforced.
Debating the Obama Doctrine
Analysts respond to our April cover story and assess the president’s foreign policy
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Kerry, in his remarks on August 30, 2013, suggested that Assad should be punished in part because the “credibility and the future interests of the United States of America and our allies” were at stake. “It is directly related to our credibility and whether countries still believe the United States when it says something. They are watching to see if Syria can get away with it, because then maybe they too can put the world at greater risk.”

Ninety minutes later, at the White House, Obama reinforced Kerry’s message in a public statement: “It’s important for us to recognize that when over 1,000 people are killed, including hundreds of innocent children, through the use of a weapon that 98 or 99 percent of humanity says should not be used even in war, and there is no action, then we’re sending a signal that that international norm doesn’t mean much. And that is a danger to our national security.”

It appeared as though Obama had drawn the conclusion that damage to American credibility in one region of the world would bleed into others, and that U.S. deterrent credibility was indeed at stake in Syria. Assad, it seemed, had succeeded in pushing the president to a place he never thought he would have to go. Obama generally believes that the Washington foreign-policy establishment, which he secretly disdains, makes a fetish of “credibility”—particularly the sort of credibility purchased with force. The preservation of credibility, he says, led to Vietnam. Within the White House, Obama would argue that “dropping bombs on someone to prove that you’re willing to drop bombs on someone is just about the worst reason to use force.”

American national-security credibility, as it is conventionally understood in the Pentagon, the State Department, and the cluster of think tanks headquartered within walking distance of the White House, is an intangible yet potent force—one that, when properly nurtured, keeps America’s friends feeling secure and keeps the international order stable.

In White House meetings that crucial week in August, Biden, who ordinarily shared Obama’s worries about American overreach, argued passionately that “big nations don’t bluff.” America’s closest allies in Europe and across the Middle East believed Obama was threatening military action, and his own advisers did as well. At a joint press conference with Obama at the White House the previous May, David Cameron, the British prime minister, had said, “Syria’s history is being written in the blood of her people, and it is happening on our watch.” Cameron’s statement, one of his advisers told me, was meant to encourage Obama toward more-decisive action. “The prime minister was certainly under the impression that the president would enforce the red line,” the adviser told me. The Saudi ambassador in Washington at the time, Adel al-Jubeir, told friends, and his superiors in Riyadh, that the president was finally ready to strike. Obama “figured out how important this is,” Jubeir, who is now the Saudi foreign minister, told one interlocutor. “He will definitely strike.”

Obama had already ordered the Pentagon to develop target lists. Five Arleigh Burke–class destroyers were in the Mediterranean, ready to fire cruise missiles at regime targets. French President François Hollande, the most enthusiastically pro-intervention among Europe’s leaders, was preparing to strike as well. All week, White House officials had publicly built the case that Assad had committed a crime against humanity. Kerry’s speech would mark the culmination of this campaign.

But the president had grown queasy. In the days after the gassing of Ghouta, Obama would later tell me, he found himself recoiling from the idea of an attack unsanctioned by international law or by Congress. The American people seemed unenthusiastic about a Syria intervention; so too did one of the few foreign leaders Obama respects, Angela Merkel, the German chancellor. She told him that her country would not participate in a Syria campaign. And in a stunning development, on Thursday, August 29, the British Parliament denied David Cameron its blessing for an attack. John Kerry later told me that when he heard that, “internally, I went, Oops.”

Obama was also unsettled by a surprise visit early in the week from James Clapper, his director of national intelligence, who interrupted the President’s Daily Brief, the threat report Obama receives each morning from Clapper’s analysts, to make clear that the intelligence on Syria’s use of sarin gas, while robust, was not a “slam dunk.” He chose the term carefully. Clapper, the chief of an intelligence community traumatized by its failures in the run-up to the Iraq War, was not going to overpromise, in the manner of the onetime CIA director George Tenet, who famously guaranteed George W. Bush a “slam dunk” in Iraq.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet with members of the National Security Council, including Susan Rice and John Kerry (second and third from left), in December 2014. (Pete Souza / White House)

While the Pentagon and the White House’s national-security apparatuses were still moving toward war (John Kerry told me he was expecting a strike the day after his speech), the president had come to believe that he was walking into a trap—one laid both by allies and by adversaries, and by conventional expectations of what an American president is supposed to do.

Many of his advisers did not grasp the depth of the president’s misgivings; his Cabinet and his allies were certainly unaware of them. But his doubts were growing. Late on Friday afternoon, Obama determined that he was simply not prepared to authorize a strike. He asked McDonough, his chief of staff, to take a walk with him on the South Lawn of the White House. Obama did not choose McDonough randomly: He is the Obama aide most averse to U.S. military intervention, and someone who, in the words of one of his colleagues, “thinks in terms of traps.” Obama, ordinarily a preternaturally confident man, was looking for validation, and trying to devise ways to explain his change of heart, both to his own aides and to the public. He and McDonough stayed outside for an hour. Obama told him he was worried that Assad would place civilians as “human shields” around obvious targets. He also pointed out an underlying flaw in the proposed strike: U.S. missiles would not be fired at chemical-weapons depots, for fear of sending plumes of poison into the air. A strike would target military units that had delivered these weapons, but not the weapons themselves.

Obama also shared with McDonough a long-standing resentment: He was tired of watching Washington unthinkingly drift toward war in Muslim countries. Four years earlier, the president believed, the Pentagon had “jammed” him on a troop surge for Afghanistan. Now, on Syria, he was beginning to feel jammed again.

When the two men came back to the Oval Office, the president told his national-security aides that he planned to stand down. There would be no attack the next day; he wanted to refer the matter to Congress for a vote. Aides in the room were shocked. Susan Rice, now Obama’s national-security adviser, argued that the damage to America’s credibility would be serious and lasting. Others had difficulty fathoming how the president could reverse himself the day before a planned strike. Obama, however, was completely calm. “If you’ve been around him, you know when he’s ambivalent about something, when it’s a 51–49 decision,” Ben Rhodes told me. “But he was completely at ease.”

Not long ago, I asked Obama to describe his thinking on that day. He listed the practical worries that had preoccupied him. “We had UN inspectors on the ground who were completing their work, and we could not risk taking a shot while they were there. A second major factor was the failure of Cameron to obtain the consent of his parliament.”

The third, and most important, factor, he told me, was “our assessment that while we could inflict some damage on Assad, we could not, through a missile strike, eliminate the chemical weapons themselves, and what I would then face was the prospect of Assad having survived the strike and claiming he had successfully defied the United States, that the United States had acted unlawfully in the absence of a UN mandate, and that that would have potentially strengthened his hand rather than weakened it.”

The fourth factor, he said, was of deeper philosophical importance. “This falls in the category of something that I had been brooding on for some time,” he said. “I had come into office with the strong belief that the scope of executive power in national-security issues is very broad, but not limitless.”

Obama knew his decision not to bomb Syria would likely upset America’s allies. It did. The prime minister of France, Manuel Valls, told me that his government was already worried about the consequences of earlier inaction in Syria when word came of the stand-down. “By not intervening early, we have created a monster,” Valls told me. “We were absolutely certain that the U.S. administration would say yes. Working with the Americans, we had already seen the targets. It was a great surprise. If we had bombed as was planned, I think things would be different today.” The crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, who was already upset with Obama for “abandoning” Hosni Mubarak, the former president of Egypt, fumed to American visitors that the U.S. was led by an “untrustworthy” president. The king of Jordan, Abdullah II—already dismayed by what he saw as Obama’s illogical desire to distance the U.S. from its traditional Sunni Arab allies and create a new alliance with Iran, Assad’s Shia sponsor—complained privately, “I think I believe in American power more than Obama does.” The Saudis, too, were infuriated. They had never trusted Obama—he had, long before he became president, referred to them as a “so-called ally” of the U.S. “Iran is the new great power of the Middle East, and the U.S. is the old,” Jubeir, the Saudi ambassador in Washington, told his superiors in Riyadh.

Obama’s decision caused tremors across Washington as well. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, the two leading Republican hawks in the Senate, had met with Obama in the White House earlier in the week and had been promised an attack. They were angered by the about-face. Damage was done even inside the administration. Neither Chuck Hagel, then the secretary of defense, nor John Kerry was in the Oval Office when the president informed his team of his thinking. Kerry would not learn about the change until later that evening. “I just got fucked over,” he told a friend shortly after talking to the president that night. (When I asked Kerry recently about that tumultuous night, he said, “I didn’t stop to analyze it. I figured the president had a reason to make a decision and, honestly, I understood his notion.”)

The next few days were chaotic. The president asked Congress to authorize the use of force—the irrepressible Kerry served as chief lobbyist—and it quickly became apparent in the White House that Congress had little interest in a strike. When I spoke with Biden recently about the red-line decision, he made special note of this fact. “It matters to have Congress with you, in terms of your ability to sustain what you set out to do,” he said. Obama “didn’t go to Congress to get himself off the hook. He had his doubts at that point, but he knew that if he was going to do anything, he better damn well have the public with him, or it would be a very short ride.” Congress’s clear ambivalence convinced Biden that Obama was correct to fear the slippery slope. “What happens when we get a plane shot down? Do we not go in and rescue?,” Biden asked. “You need the support of the American people.”

Amid the confusion, a deus ex machina appeared in the form of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. At the G20 summit in St. Petersburg, which was held the week after the Syria reversal, Obama pulled Putin aside, he recalled to me, and told the Russian president “that if he forced Assad to get rid of the chemical weapons, that that would eliminate the need for us taking a military strike.” Within weeks, Kerry, working with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, would engineer the removal of most of Syria’s chemical-weapons arsenal—a program whose existence Assad until then had refused to even acknowledge.
The moment Obama decided not to enforce his red line and bomb Syria, he broke with what he calls, derisively, “the Washington playbook.” This was his liberation day.

The arrangement won the president praise from, of all people, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, with whom he has had a consistently contentious relationship. The removal of Syria’s chemical-weapons stockpiles represented “the one ray of light in a very dark region,” Netanyahu told me not long after the deal was announced.

John Kerry today expresses no patience for those who argue, as he himself once did, that Obama should have bombed Assad-regime sites in order to buttress America’s deterrent capability. “You’d still have the weapons there, and you’d probably be fighting isil” for control of the weapons, he said, referring to the Islamic State, the terror group also known as isis. “It just doesn’t make sense. But I can’t deny to you that this notion about the red line being crossed and [Obama’s] not doing anything gained a life of its own.”

Obama understands that the decision he made to step back from air strikes, and to allow the violation of a red line he himself had drawn to go unpunished, will be interrogated mercilessly by historians. But today that decision is a source of deep satisfaction for him.

“I’m very proud of this moment,” he told me. “The overwhelming weight of conventional wisdom and the machinery of our national-security apparatus had gone fairly far. The perception was that my credibility was at stake, that America’s credibility was at stake. And so for me to press the pause button at that moment, I knew, would cost me politically. And the fact that I was able to pull back from the immediate pressures and think through in my own mind what was in America’s interest, not only with respect to Syria but also with respect to our democracy, was as tough a decision as I’ve made—and I believe ultimately it was the right decision to make.”

This was the moment the president believes he finally broke with what he calls, derisively, the “Washington playbook.”

“Where am I controversial? When it comes to the use of military power,” he said. “That is the source of the controversy. There’s a playbook in Washington that presidents are supposed to follow. It’s a playbook that comes out of the foreign-policy establishment. And the playbook prescribes responses to different events, and these responses tend to be militarized responses. Where America is directly threatened, the playbook works. But the playbook can also be a trap that can lead to bad decisions. In the midst of an international challenge like Syria, you get judged harshly if you don’t follow the playbook, even if there are good reasons why it does not apply.”

I have come to believe that, in Obama’s mind, August 30, 2013, was his liberation day, the day he defied not only the foreign-policy establishment and its cruise-missile playbook, but also the demands of America’s frustrating, high-maintenance allies in the Middle East—countries, he complains privately to friends and advisers, that seek to exploit American “muscle” for their own narrow and sectarian ends. By 2013, Obama’s resentments were well developed. He resented military leaders who believed they could fix any problem if the commander in chief would simply give them what they wanted, and he resented the foreign-policy think-tank complex. A widely held sentiment inside the White House is that many of the most prominent foreign-policy think tanks in Washington are doing the bidding of their Arab and pro-Israel funders. I’ve heard one administration official refer to Massachusetts Avenue, the home of many of these think tanks, as “Arab-occupied territory.”
Obama talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin prior to the opening session of the G20 in Antalya in November of 2015. (Cem Oksuz / Reuters)
For some foreign-policy experts, even within his own administration, Obama’s about-face on enforcing the red line was a dispiriting moment in which he displayed irresolution and naïveté, and did lasting damage to America’s standing in the world. “Once the commander in chief draws that red line,” Leon Panetta, who served as CIA director and then as secretary of defense in Obama’s first term, told me recently, “then I think the credibility of the commander in chief and this nation is at stake if he doesn’t enforce it.” Right after Obama’s reversal, Hillary Clinton said privately, “If you say you’re going to strike, you have to strike. There’s no choice.”

“Assad is effectively being rewarded for the use of chemical weapons, rather than ‘punished’ as originally planned.” Shadi Hamid, a scholar at the Brookings Institution, wrote for The Atlantic at the time. “He has managed to remove the threat of U.S. military action while giving very little up in return.”

Even commentators who have been broadly sympathetic to Obama’s policies saw this episode as calamitous. Gideon Rose, the editor of Foreign Affairs, wrote recently that Obama’s handling of this crisis—“first casually announcing a major commitment, then dithering about living up to it, then frantically tossing the ball to Congress for a decision—was a case study in embarrassingly amateurish improvisation.”

Obama’s defenders, however, argue that he did no damage to U.S. credibility, citing Assad’s subsequent agreement to have his chemical weapons removed. “The threat of force was credible enough for them to give up their chemical weapons,” Tim Kaine, a Democratic senator from Virginia, told me. “We threatened military action and they responded. That’s deterrent credibility.”

History may record August 30, 2013, as the day Obama prevented the U.S. from entering yet another disastrous Muslim civil war, and the day he removed the threat of a chemical attack on Israel, Turkey, or Jordan. Or it could be remembered as the day he let the Middle East slip from America’s grasp, into the hands of Russia, Iran, and isis.

I first spoke with obama about foreign policy when he was a U.S. senator, in 2006. At the time, I was familiar mainly with the text of a speech he had delivered four years earlier, at a Chicago antiwar rally. It was an unusual speech for an antiwar rally in that it was not antiwar; Obama, who was then an Illinois state senator, argued only against one specific and, at the time, still theoretical, war. “I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein,” he said. “He is a brutal man. A ruthless man … But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States or to his neighbors.” He added, “I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda.”

This speech had made me curious about its author. I wanted to learn how an Illinois state senator, a part-time law professor who spent his days traveling between Chicago and Springfield, had come to a more prescient understanding of the coming quagmire than the most experienced foreign-policy thinkers of his party, including such figures as Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and John Kerry, not to mention, of course, most Republicans and many foreign-policy analysts and writers, including me.

Since that first meeting in 2006, I’ve interviewed Obama periodically, mainly on matters related to the Middle East. But over the past few months, I’ve spent several hours talking with him about the broadest themes of his “long game” foreign policy, including the themes he is most eager to discuss—namely, the ones that have nothing to do with the Middle East.

“isis is not an existential threat to the United States,” he told me in one of these conversations. “Climate change is a potential existential threat to the entire world if we don’t do something about it.” Obama explained that climate change worries him in particular because “it is a political problem perfectly designed to repel government intervention. It involves every single country, and it is a comparatively slow-moving emergency, so there is always something seemingly more urgent on the agenda.”

At the moment, of course, the most urgent of the “seemingly more urgent” issues is Syria. But at any given moment, Obama’s entire presidency could be upended by North Korean aggression, or an assault by Russia on a member of nato, or an isis-planned attack on U.S. soil. Few presidents have faced such diverse tests on the international stage as Obama has, and the challenge for him, as for all presidents, has been to distinguish the merely urgent from the truly important, and to focus on the important.

My goal in our recent conversations was to see the world through Obama’s eyes, and to understand what he believes America’s role in the world should be. This article is informed by our recent series of conversations, which took place in the Oval Office; over lunch in his dining room; aboard Air Force One; and in Kuala Lumpur during his most recent visit to Asia, in November. It is also informed by my previous interviews with him and by his speeches and prolific public ruminations, as well as by conversations with his top foreign-policy and national-security advisers, foreign leaders and their ambassadors in Washington, friends of the president and others who have spoken with him about his policies and decisions, and his adversaries and critics.
Leon Panetta (left) attends a press briefing on military strategy in January 2012. Panetta, then Obama’s secretary of defense, has criticized the president’s failure to enforce the Syrian red line. (Aharaz N. Ghanbari / AP)

Over the course of our conversations, I came to see Obama as a president who has grown steadily more fatalistic about the constraints on America’s ability to direct global events, even as he has, late in his presidency, accumulated a set of potentially historic foreign-policy achievements—controversial, provisional achievements, to be sure, but achievements nonetheless: the opening to Cuba, the Paris climate-change accord, the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, and, of course, the Iran nuclear deal. These he accomplished despite his growing sense that larger forces—the riptide of tribal feeling in a world that should have already shed its atavism; the resilience of small men who rule large countries in ways contrary to their own best interests; the persistence of fear as a governing human emotion—frequently conspire against the best of America’s intentions. But he also has come to learn, he told me, that very little is accomplished in international affairs without U.S. leadership.

Obama talked me through this apparent contradiction. “I want a president who has the sense that you can’t fix everything,” he said. But on the other hand, “if we don’t set the agenda, it doesn’t happen.” He explained what he meant. “The fact is, there is not a summit I’ve attended since I’ve been president where we are not setting the agenda, where we are not responsible for the key results,” he said. “That’s true whether you’re talking about nuclear security, whether you’re talking about saving the world financial system, whether you’re talking about climate.”

One day, over lunch in the Oval Office dining room, I asked the president how he thought his foreign policy might be understood by historians. He started by describing for me a four-box grid representing the main schools of American foreign-policy thought. One box he called isolationism, which he dismissed out of hand. “The world is ever-shrinking,” he said. “Withdrawal is untenable.” The other boxes he labeled realism, liberal interventionism, and internationalism. “I suppose you could call me a realist in believing we can’t, at any given moment, relieve all the world’s misery,” he said. “We have to choose where we can make a real impact.” He also noted that he was quite obviously an internationalist, devoted as he is to strengthening multilateral organizations and international norms.

I told him my impression was that the various traumas of the past seven years have, if anything, intensified his commitment to realist-driven restraint. Had nearly two full terms in the White House soured him on interventionism?

“For all of our warts, the United States has clearly been a force for good in the world,” he said. “If you compare us to previous superpowers, we act less on the basis of naked self-interest, and have been interested in establishing norms that benefit everyone. If it is possible to do good at a bearable cost, to save lives, we will do it.”

If a crisis, or a humanitarian catastrophe, does not meet his stringent standard for what constitutes a direct national-security threat, Obama said, he doesn’t believe that he should be forced into silence. He is not so much the realist, he suggested, that he won’t pass judgment on other leaders. Though he has so far ruled out the use of direct American power to depose Assad, he was not wrong, he argued, to call on Assad to go. “Oftentimes when you get critics of our Syria policy, one of the things that they’ll point out is ‘You called for Assad to go, but you didn’t force him to go. You did not invade.’ And the notion is that if you weren’t going to overthrow the regime, you shouldn’t have said anything. That’s a weird argument to me, the notion that if we use our moral authority to say ‘This is a brutal regime, and this is not how a leader should treat his people,’ once you do that, you are obliged to invade the country and install a government you prefer.”

“I am very much the internationalist,” Obama said in a later conversation. “And I am also an idealist insofar as I believe that we should be promoting values, like democracy and human rights and norms and values, because not only do they serve our interests the more people adopt values that we share—in the same way that, economically, if people adopt rule of law and property rights and so forth, that is to our advantage—but because it makes the world a better place. And I’m willing to say that in a very corny way, and in a way that probably Brent Scowcroft would not say.

“Having said that,” he continued, “I also believe that the world is a tough, complicated, messy, mean place, and full of hardship and tragedy. And in order to advance both our security interests and those ideals and values that we care about, we’ve got to be hardheaded at the same time as we’re bighearted, and pick and choose our spots, and recognize that there are going to be times where the best that we can do is to shine a spotlight on something that’s terrible, but not believe that we can automatically solve it. There are going to be times where our security interests conflict with our concerns about human rights. There are going to be times where we can do something about innocent people being killed, but there are going to be times where we can’t.”

If Obama ever questioned whether America really is the world’s one indispensable nation, he no longer does so. But he is the rare president who seems at times to resent indispensability, rather than embrace it. “Free riders aggravate me,” he told me. Recently, Obama warned that Great Britain would no longer be able to claim a “special relationship” with the United States if it did not commit to spending at least 2 percent of its GDP on defense. “You have to pay your fair share,” Obama told David Cameron, who subsequently met the 2 percent threshold.

Part of his mission as president, Obama explained, is to spur other countries to take action for themselves, rather than wait for the U.S. to lead. The defense of the liberal international order against jihadist terror, Russian adventurism, and Chinese bullying depends in part, he believes, on the willingness of other nations to share the burden with the U.S. This is why the controversy surrounding the assertion—made by an anonymous administration official to The New Yorker during the Libya crisis of 2011—that his policy consisted of “leading from behind” perturbed him. “We don’t have to always be the ones who are up front,” he told me. “Sometimes we’re going to get what we want precisely because we are sharing in the agenda. The irony is that it was precisely in order to prevent the Europeans and the Arab states from holding our coats while we did all the fighting that we, by design, insisted” that they lead during the mission to remove Muammar Qaddafi from power in Libya. “It was part of the anti–free rider campaign.”

The president also seems to believe that sharing leadership with other countries is a way to check America’s more unruly impulses. “One of the reasons I am so focused on taking action multilaterally where our direct interests are not at stake is that multilateralism regulates hubris,” he explained. He consistently invokes what he understands to be America’s past failures overseas as a means of checking American self-righteousness. “We have history,” he said. “We have history in Iran, we have history in Indonesia and Central America. So we have to be mindful of our history when we start talking about intervening, and understand the source of other people’s suspicions.”
Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro at the Summit of the Americas last spring (Pete Souza / White House)

In his efforts to off-load some of America’s foreign-policy responsibilities to its allies, Obama appears to be a classic retrenchment president in the manner of Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard Nixon. Retrenchment, in this context, is defined as “pulling back, spending less, cutting risk, and shifting burdens to allies,” Stephen Sestanovich, an expert on presidential foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations, explained to me. “If John McCain had been elected in 2008, you would still have seen some degree of retrenchment,” Sestanovich said. “It’s what the country wanted. If you come into office in the middle of a war that is not going well, you’re convinced that the American people have hired you to do less.” One difference between Eisenhower and Nixon, on the one hand, and Obama, on the other, Sestanovich said, is that Obama “appears to have had a personal, ideological commitment to the idea that foreign policy had consumed too much of the nation’s attention and resources.”

I asked Obama about retrenchment. “Almost every great world power has succumbed” to overextension, he said. “What I think is not smart is the idea that every time there is a problem, we send in our military to impose order. We just can’t do that.”

But once he decides that a particular challenge represents a direct national-security threat, he has shown a willingness to act unilaterally. This is one of the larger ironies of the Obama presidency: He has relentlessly questioned the efficacy of force, but he has also become the most successful terrorist-hunter in the history of the presidency, one who will hand to his successor a set of tools an accomplished assassin would envy. “He applies different standards to direct threats to the U.S.,” Ben Rhodes says. “For instance, despite his misgivings about Syria, he has not had a second thought about drones.” Some critics argue he should have had a few second thoughts about what they see as the overuse of drones. But John Brennan, Obama’s CIA director, told me recently that he and the president “have similar views. One of them is that sometimes you have to take a life to save even more lives. We have a similar view of just-war theory. The president requires near-certainty of no collateral damage. But if he believes it is necessary to act, he doesn’t hesitate.”

Those who speak with Obama about jihadist thought say that he possesses a no-illusions understanding of the forces that drive apocalyptic violence among radical Muslims, but he has been careful about articulating that publicly, out of concern that he will exacerbate anti-Muslim xenophobia. He has a tragic realist’s understanding of sin, cowardice, and corruption, and a Hobbesian appreciation of how fear shapes human behavior. And yet he consistently, and with apparent sincerity, professes optimism that the world is bending toward justice. He is, in a way, a Hobbesian optimist.
Video: Jeffrey Goldberg speaks with Ben Rhodes
Jeffrey Goldberg speaks to Deputy National-Security Adviser Ben Rhodes about the United States’ new ties with Cuba and its impact on American foreign policy at large. Watch the full-length conversation with Ben Rhodes here.

The contradictions do not end there. Though he has a reputation for prudence, he has also been eager to question some of the long-standing assumptions undergirding traditional U.S. foreign-policy thinking. To a remarkable degree, he is willing to question why America’s enemies are its enemies, or why some of its friends are its friends. He overthrew half a century of bipartisan consensus in order to reestablish ties with Cuba. He questioned why the U.S. should avoid sending its forces into Pakistan to kill al-Qaeda leaders, and he privately questions why Pakistan, which he believes is a disastrously dysfunctional country, should be considered an ally of the U.S. at all. According to Leon Panetta, he has questioned why the U.S. should maintain Israel’s so-called qualitative military edge, which grants it access to more sophisticated weapons systems than America’s Arab allies receive; but he has also questioned, often harshly, the role that America’s Sunni Arab allies play in fomenting anti-American terrorism. He is clearly irritated that foreign-policy orthodoxy compels him to treat Saudi Arabia as an ally. And of course he decided early on, in the face of great criticism, that he wanted to reach out to America’s most ardent Middle Eastern foe, Iran. The nuclear deal he struck with Iran proves, if nothing else, that Obama is not risk-averse. He has bet global security and his own legacy that one of the world’s leading state sponsors of terrorism will adhere to an agreement to curtail its nuclear program.
“Dropping bombs on someone to prove that you’re willing to drop bombs on someone is just about the worst reason to use force.”

It is assumed, at least among his critics, that Obama sought the Iran deal because he has a vision of a historic American-Persian rapprochement. But his desire for the nuclear agreement was born of pessimism as much as it was of optimism. “The Iran deal was never primarily about trying to open a new era of relations between the U.S. and Iran,” Susan Rice told me. “It was far more pragmatic and minimalist. The aim was very simply to make a dangerous country substantially less dangerous. No one had any expectation that Iran would be a more benign actor.”

I once mentioned to obama a scene from The Godfather: Part III, in which Michael Corleone complains angrily about his failure to escape the grasp of organized crime. I told Obama that the Middle East is to his presidency what the Mob is to Corleone, and I started to quote the Al Pacino line: “Just when I thought I was out—”

“It pulls you back in,” Obama said, completing the thought.

The story of Obama’s encounter with the Middle East follows an arc of disenchantment. In his first extended spree of fame, as a presidential candidate in 2008, Obama often spoke with hope about the region. In Berlin that summer, in a speech to 200,000 adoring Germans, he said, “This is the moment we must help answer the call for a new dawn in the Middle East.”

The next year, as president, he gave a speech in Cairo meant to reset U.S. relations with the world’s Muslims. He spoke about Muslims in his own family, and his childhood years in Indonesia, and confessed America’s sins even as he criticized those in the Muslim world who demonized the U.S. What drew the most attention, though, was his promise to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which was then thought to be the central animating concern of Arab Muslims. His sympathy for the Palestinians moved the audience, but complicated his relations with Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister—especially because Obama had also decided to bypass Jerusalem on his first presidential visit to the Middle East.

When I asked Obama recently what he had hoped to accomplish with his Cairo reset speech, he said that he had been trying—unsuccessfully, he acknowledged—to persuade Muslims to more closely examine the roots of their unhappiness.

“My argument was this: Let’s all stop pretending that the cause of the Middle East’s problems is Israel,” he told me. “We want to work to help achieve statehood and dignity for the Palestinians, but I was hoping that my speech could trigger a discussion, could create space for Muslims to address the real problems they are confronting—problems of governance, and the fact that some currents of Islam have not gone through a reformation that would help people adapt their religious doctrines to modernity. My thought was, I would communicate that the U.S. is not standing in the way of this progress, that we would help, in whatever way possible, to advance the goals of a practical, successful Arab agenda that provided a better life for ordinary people.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron, flanked by U.K. officials, attends dinner at the White House in January 2015. (Pete Souza / White House)

Through the first flush of the Arab Spring, in 2011, Obama continued to speak optimistically about the Middle East’s future, coming as close as he ever would to embracing the so-called freedom agenda of George W. Bush, which was characterized in part by the belief that democratic values could be implanted in the Middle East. He equated protesters in Tunisia and Tahrir Square with Rosa Parks and the “patriots of Boston.”

“After decades of accepting the world as it is in the region, we have a chance to pursue the world as it should be,” he said in a speech at the time. “The United States supports a set of universal rights. And these rights include free speech, the freedom of peaceful assembly, the freedom of religion, equality for men and women under the rule of law, and the right to choose your own leaders … Our support for these principles is not a secondary interest.”

But over the next three years, as the Arab Spring gave up its early promise, and brutality and dysfunction overwhelmed the Middle East, the president grew disillusioned. Some of his deepest disappointments concern Middle Eastern leaders themselves. Benjamin Netanyahu is in his own category: Obama has long believed that Netanyahu could bring about a two-state solution that would protect Israel’s status as a Jewish-majority democracy, but is too fearful and politically paralyzed to do so. Obama has also not had much patience for Netanyahu and other Middle Eastern leaders who question his understanding of the region. In one of Netanyahu’s meetings with the president, the Israeli prime minister launched into something of a lecture about the dangers of the brutal region in which he lives, and Obama felt that Netanyahu was behaving in a condescending fashion, and was also avoiding the subject at hand: peace negotiations. Finally, the president interrupted the prime minister: “Bibi, you have to understand something,” he said. “I’m the African American son of a single mother, and I live here, in this house. I live in the White House. I managed to get elected president of the United States. You think I don’t understand what you’re talking about, but I do.” Other leaders also frustrate him immensely. Early on, Obama saw Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the president of Turkey, as the sort of moderate Muslim leader who would bridge the divide between East and West—but Obama now considers him a failure and an authoritarian, one who refuses to use his enormous army to bring stability to Syria. And on the sidelines of a nato summit in Wales in 2014, Obama pulled aside King Abdullah II of Jordan. Obama said he had heard that Abdullah had complained to friends in the U.S. Congress about his leadership, and told the king that if he had complaints, he should raise them directly. The king denied that he had spoken ill of him.

In recent days, the president has taken to joking privately, “All I need in the Middle East is a few smart autocrats.” Obama has always had a fondness for pragmatic, emotionally contained technocrats, telling aides, “If only everyone could be like the Scandinavians, this would all be easy.”

The unraveling of the Arab Spring darkened the president’s view of what the U.S. could achieve in the Middle East, and made him realize how much the chaos there was distracting from other priorities. “The president recognized during the course of the Arab Spring that the Middle East was consuming us,” John Brennan, who served in Obama’s first term as his chief counterterrorism adviser, told me recently.

But what sealed Obama’s fatalistic view was the failure of his administration’s intervention in Libya, in 2011. That intervention was meant to prevent the country’s then-dictator, Muammar Qaddafi, from slaughtering the people of Benghazi, as he was threatening to do. Obama did not want to join the fight; he was counseled by Joe Biden and his first-term secretary of defense Robert Gates, among others, to steer clear. But a strong faction within the national-security team—Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Susan Rice, who was then the ambassador to the United Nations, along with Samantha Power, Ben Rhodes, and Antony Blinken, who was then Biden’s national-security adviser—lobbied hard to protect Benghazi, and prevailed. (Biden, who is acerbic about Clinton’s foreign-policy judgment, has said privately, “Hillary just wants to be Golda Meir.”) American bombs fell, the people of Benghazi were spared from what may or may not have been a massacre, and Qaddafi was captured and executed.

But Obama says today of the intervention, “It didn’t work.” The U.S., he believes, planned the Libya operation carefully—and yet the country is still a disaster.

Why, given what seems to be the president’s natural reticence toward getting militarily ensnarled where American national security is not directly at stake, did he accept the recommendation of his more activist advisers to intervene?

“The social order in Libya has broken down,” Obama said, explaining his thinking at the time. “You have massive protests against Qaddafi. You’ve got tribal divisions inside of Libya. Benghazi is a focal point for the opposition regime. And Qaddafi is marching his army toward Benghazi, and he has said, ‘We will kill them like rats.’

“Now, option one would be to do nothing, and there were some in my administration who said, as tragic as the Libyan situation may be, it’s not our problem. The way I looked at it was that it would be our problem if, in fact, complete chaos and civil war broke out in Libya. But this is not so at the core of U.S. interests that it makes sense for us to unilaterally strike against the Qaddafi regime. At that point, you’ve got Europe and a number of Gulf countries who despise Qaddafi, or are concerned on a humanitarian basis, who are calling for action. But what has been a habit over the last several decades in these circumstances is people pushing us to act but then showing an unwillingness to put any skin in the game.”

“Free riders?,” I interjected.

“Free riders,” he said, and continued. “So what I said at that point was, we should act as part of an international coalition. But because this is not at the core of our interests, we need to get a UN mandate; we need Europeans and Gulf countries to be actively involved in the coalition; we will apply the military capabilities that are unique to us, but we expect others to carry their weight. And we worked with our defense teams to ensure that we could execute a strategy without putting boots on the ground and without a long-term military commitment in Libya.

“So we actually executed this plan as well as I could have expected: We got a UN mandate, we built a coalition, it cost us $1 billion—which, when it comes to military operations, is very cheap. We averted large-scale civilian casualties, we prevented what almost surely would have been a prolonged and bloody civil conflict. And despite all that, Libya is a mess.”

Mess is the president’s diplomatic term; privately, he calls Libya a “shit show,” in part because it’s subsequently become an isis haven—one that he has already targeted with air strikes. It became a shit show, Obama believes, for reasons that had less to do with American incompetence than with the passivity of America’s allies and with the obdurate power of tribalism.

“When I go back and I ask myself what went wrong,” Obama said, “there’s room for criticism, because I had more faith in the Europeans, given Libya’s proximity, being invested in the follow-up,” he said. He noted that Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, lost his job the following year. And he said that British Prime Minister David Cameron soon stopped paying attention, becoming “distracted by a range of other things.” Of France, he said, “Sarkozy wanted to trumpet the flights he was taking in the air campaign, despite the fact that we had wiped out all the air defenses and essentially set up the entire infrastructure” for the intervention. This sort of bragging was fine, Obama said, because it allowed the U.S. to “purchase France’s involvement in a way that made it less expensive for us and less risky for us.” In other words, giving France extra credit in exchange for less risk and cost to the United States was a useful trade-off—except that “from the perspective of a lot of the folks in the foreign-policy establishment, well, that was terrible. If we’re going to do something, obviously we’ve got to be up front, and nobody else is sharing in the spotlight.”

Obama also blamed internal Libyan dynamics. “The degree of tribal division in Libya was greater than our analysts had expected. And our ability to have any kind of structure there that we could interact with and start training and start providing resources broke down very quickly.”

Libya proved to him that the Middle East was best avoided. “There is no way we should commit to governing the Middle East and North Africa,” he recently told a former colleague from the Senate. “That would be a basic, fundamental mistake.”

President Obama did not come into office preoccupied by the Middle East. He is the first child of the Pacific to become president—born in Hawaii, raised there and, for four years, in Indonesia—and he is fixated on turning America’s attention to Asia. For Obama, Asia represents the future. Africa and Latin America, in his view, deserve far more U.S. attention than they receive. Europe, about which he is unromantic, is a source of global stability that requires, to his occasional annoyance, American hand-holding. And the Middle East is a region to be avoided—one that, thanks to America’s energy revolution, will soon be of negligible relevance to the U.S. economy.

It is not oil but another of the Middle East’s exports, terrorism, that shapes Obama’s understanding of his responsibilities there. Early in 2014, Obama’s intelligence advisers told him that isis was of marginal importance. According to administration officials, General Lloyd Austin, then the commander of Central Command, which oversees U.S. military operations in the Middle East, told the White House that the Islamic State was “a flash in the pan.” This analysis led Obama, in an interview with The New Yorker, to describe the constellation of jihadist groups in Iraq and Syria as terrorism’s “jayvee team.” (A spokesman for Austin told me, “At no time has General Austin ever considered isil a ‘flash in the pan’ phenomenon.”)
Mess is the president’s diplomatic term for what U.S. intervention left behind in Libya; privately, he calls it a “shit show.”

But by late spring of 2014, after isis took the northern-Iraq city of Mosul, he came to believe that U.S. intelligence had failed to appreciate the severity of the threat and the inadequacies of the Iraqi army, and his view shifted. After isis beheaded three American civilians in Syria, it became obvious to Obama that defeating the group was of more immediate urgency to the U.S. than overthrowing Bashar al-Assad.

Advisers recall that Obama would cite a pivotal moment in The Dark Knight, the 2008 Batman movie, to help explain not only how he understood the role of isis, but how he understood the larger ecosystem in which it grew. “There’s a scene in the beginning in which the gang leaders of Gotham are meeting,” the president would say. “These are men who had the city divided up. They were thugs, but there was a kind of order. Everyone had his turf. And then the Joker comes in and lights the whole city on fire. isil is the Joker. It has the capacity to set the whole region on fire. That’s why we have to fight it.”

The rise of the Islamic State deepened Obama’s conviction that the Middle East could not be fixed—not on his watch, and not for a generation to come.

On a rainy Wednesday in mid-November, President Obama appeared on a stage at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (apec) summit in Manila with Jack Ma, the founder of the Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba, and a 31-year-old Filipina inventor named Aisa Mijeno. The ballroom was crowded with Asian CEOs, American business leaders, and government officials from across the region. Obama, who was greeted warmly, first delivered informal remarks from behind a podium, mainly about the threat of climate change.

Obama made no mention of the subject preoccupying much of the rest of the world—the isis attacks in Paris five days earlier, which had killed 130 people. Obama had arrived in Manila the day before from a G20 summit held in Antalya, Turkey. The Paris attacks had been a main topic of conversation in Antalya, where Obama held a particularly contentious press conference on the subject.

The traveling White House press corps was unrelenting: “Isn’t it time for your strategy to change?” one reporter asked. This was followed by “Could I ask you to address your critics who say that your reluctance to enter another Middle East war, and your preference of diplomacy over using the military, makes the United States weaker and emboldens our enemies?” And then came this imperishable question, from a CNN reporter: “If you’ll forgive the language—why can’t we take out these bastards?” Which was followed by “Do you think you really understand this enemy well enough to defeat them and to protect the homeland?”

As the questions unspooled, Obama became progressively more irritated. He described his isis strategy at length, but the only time he exhibited an emotion other than disdain was when he addressed an emerging controversy about America’s refugee policy. Republican governors and presidential candidates had suddenly taken to demanding that the United States block Syrian refugees from coming to America. Ted Cruz had proposed accepting only Christian Syrians. Chris Christie had said that all refugees, including “orphans under 5,” should be banned from entry until proper vetting procedures had been put in place.

This rhetoric appeared to frustrate Obama immensely. “When I hear folks say that, well, maybe we should just admit the Christians but not the Muslims; when I hear political leaders suggesting that there would be a religious test for which person who’s fleeing from a war-torn country is admitted,” Obama told the assembled reporters, “that’s not American. That’s not who we are. We don’t have religious tests to our compassion.”
“Aren’t the Saudis your friends?” the prime minister asked. Obama smiled. “It’s complicated.”

Air Force One departed Antalya and arrived 10 hours later in Manila. That’s when the president’s advisers came to understand, in the words of one official, that “everyone back home had lost their minds.” Susan Rice, trying to comprehend the rising anxiety, searched her hotel television in vain for CNN, finding only the BBC and Fox News. She toggled between the two, looking for the mean, she told people on the trip.

Later, the president would say that he had failed to fully appreciate the fear many Americans were experiencing about the possibility of a Paris-style attack in the U.S. Great distance, a frantic schedule, and the jet-lag haze that envelops a globe-spanning presidential trip were working against him. But he has never believed that terrorism poses a threat to America commensurate with the fear it generates. Even during the period in 2014 when isis was executing its American captives in Syria, his emotions were in check. Valerie Jarrett, Obama’s closest adviser, told him people were worried that the group would soon take its beheading campaign to the U.S. “They’re not coming here to chop our heads off,” he reassured her. Obama frequently reminds his staff that terrorism takes far fewer lives in America than handguns, car accidents, and falls in bathtubs do. Several years ago, he expressed to me his admiration for Israelis’ “resilience” in the face of constant terrorism, and it is clear that he would like to see resilience replace panic in American society. Nevertheless, his advisers are fighting a constant rearguard action to keep Obama from placing terrorism in what he considers its “proper” perspective, out of concern that he will seem insensitive to the fears of the American people.
Obama and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry look on during a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the World Climate Change Conference 2015 in Paris in December. (Kevin Lamarque / Reuters)

The frustration among Obama’s advisers spills over into the Pentagon and the State Department. John Kerry, for one, seems more alarmed about isis than the president does. Recently, when I asked the secretary of state a general question—is the Middle East still important to the U.S.?—he answered by talking exclusively about isis. “This is a threat to everybody in the world,” he said, a group “overtly committed to destroying people in the West and in the Middle East. Imagine what would happen if we don’t stand and fight them, if we don’t lead a coalition—as we are doing, by the way. If we didn’t do that, you could have allies and friends of ours fall. You could have a massive migration into Europe that destroys Europe, leads to the pure destruction of Europe, ends the European project, and everyone runs for cover and you’ve got the 1930s all over again, with nationalism and fascism and other things breaking out. Of course we have an interest in this, a huge interest in this.”

When I noted to Kerry that the president’s rhetoric doesn’t match his, he said, “President Obama sees all of this, but he doesn’t gin it up into this kind of—he thinks we are on track. He has escalated his efforts. But he’s not trying to create hysteria … I think the president is always inclined to try to keep things on an appropriate equilibrium. I respect that.”

Obama modulates his discussion of terrorism for several reasons: He is, by nature, Spockian. And he believes that a misplaced word, or a frightened look, or an ill-considered hyperbolic claim, could tip the country into panic. The sort of panic he worries about most is the type that would manifest itself in anti-Muslim xenophobia or in a challenge to American openness and to the constitutional order.

The president also gets frustrated that terrorism keeps swamping his larger agenda, particularly as it relates to rebalancing America’s global priorities. For years, the “pivot to Asia” has been a paramount priority of his. America’s economic future lies in Asia, he believes, and the challenge posed by China’s rise requires constant attention. From his earliest days in office, Obama has been focused on rebuilding the sometimes-threadbare ties between the U.S. and its Asian treaty partners, and he is perpetually on the hunt for opportunities to draw other Asian nations into the U.S. orbit. His dramatic opening to Burma was one such opportunity; Vietnam and the entire constellation of Southeast Asian countries fearful of Chinese domination presented others.

In Manila, at apec, Obama was determined to keep the conversation focused on this agenda, and not on what he viewed as the containable challenge presented by isis. Obama’s secretary of defense, Ashton Carter, told me not long ago that Obama has maintained his focus on Asia even as Syria and other Middle Eastern conflicts continue to flare. Obama believes, Carter said, that Asia “is the part of the world of greatest consequence to the American future, and that no president can take his eye off of this.” He added, “He consistently asks, even in the midst of everything else that’s going on, ‘Where are we in the Asia-Pacific rebalance? Where are we in terms of resources?’ He’s been extremely consistent about that, even in times of Middle East tension.”

After Obama finished his presentation on climate change, he joined Ma and Mijeno, who had seated themselves on nearby armchairs, where Obama was preparing to interview them in the manner of a daytime talk-show host—an approach that seemed to induce a momentary bout of status-inversion vertigo in an audience not accustomed to such behavior in their own leaders. Obama began by asking Ma a question about climate change. Ma, unsurprisingly, agreed with Obama that it was a very important issue. Then Obama turned to Mijeno. A laboratory operating in the hidden recesses of the West Wing could not have fashioned a person more expertly designed to appeal to Obama’s wonkish enthusiasms than Mijeno, a young engineer who, with her brother, had invented a lamp that is somehow powered by salt water.

“Just to be clear, Aisa, so with some salt water, the device that you’ve set up can provide—am I right?—about eight hours of lighting?,” Obama asked.

“Eight hours of lighting,” she responded.

Obama: “And the lamp is $20—”

Mijeno: “Around $20.”

“I think Aisa is a perfect example of what we’re seeing in a lot of countries—young entrepreneurs coming up with leapfrog technologies, in the same ways that in large portions of Asia and Africa, the old landline phones never got set up,” Obama said, because those areas jumped straight to mobile phones. Obama encouraged Jack Ma to fund her work. “She’s won, by the way, a lot of prizes and gotten a lot of attention, so this is not like one of those infomercials where you order it, and you can’t make the thing work,” he said, to laughter.

The next day, aboard Air Force One en route to Kuala Lumpur, I mentioned to Obama that he seemed genuinely happy to be onstage with Ma and Mijeno, and then I pivoted away from Asia, asking him if anything about the Middle East makes him happy.

“Right now, I don’t think that anybody can be feeling good about the situation in the Middle East,” he said. “You have countries that are failing to provide prosperity and opportunity for their people. You’ve got a violent, extremist ideology, or ideologies, that are turbocharged through social media. You’ve got countries that have very few civic traditions, so that as autocratic regimes start fraying, the only organizing principles are sectarian.”

He went on, “Contrast that with Southeast Asia, which still has huge problems—enormous poverty, corruption—but is filled with striving, ambitious, energetic people who are every single day scratching and clawing to build businesses and get education and find jobs and build infrastructure. The contrast is pretty stark.”

In Asia, as well as in Latin America and Africa, Obama says, he sees young people yearning for self-improvement, modernity, education, and material wealth.

“They are not thinking about how to kill Americans,” he says. “What they’re thinking about is How do I get a better education? How do I create something of value?”

He then made an observation that I came to realize was representative of his bleakest, most visceral understanding of the Middle East today—not the sort of understanding that a White House still oriented around themes of hope and change might choose to advertise. “If we’re not talking to them,” he said, referring to young Asians and Africans and Latin Americans, “because the only thing we’re doing is figuring out how to destroy or cordon off or control the malicious, nihilistic, violent parts of humanity, then we’re missing the boat.”

Obama’s critics argue that he is ineffective in cordoning off the violent nihilists of radical Islam because he doesn’t understand the threat. He does resist refracting radical Islam through the “clash of civilizations” prism popularized by the late political scientist Samuel Huntington. But this is because, he and his advisers argue, he does not want to enlarge the ranks of the enemy. “The goal is not to force a Huntington template onto this conflict,” said John Brennan, the CIA director.

Both François Hollande and David Cameron have spoken about the threat of radical Islam in more Huntingtonesque terms, and I’ve heard that both men wish Obama would use more-direct language in discussing the threat. When I mentioned this to Obama he said, “Hollande and Cameron have used phrases, like radical Islam, that we have not used on a regular basis as our way of targeting terrorism. But I’ve never had a conversation when they said, ‘Man, how come you’re not using this phrase the way you hear Republicans say it?’ ” Obama says he has demanded that Muslim leaders do more to eliminate the threat of violent fundamentalism. “It is very clear what I mean,” he told me, “which is that there is a violent, radical, fanatical, nihilistic interpretation of Islam by a faction—a tiny faction—within the Muslim community that is our enemy, and that has to be defeated.”

He then offered a critique that sounded more in line with the rhetoric of Cameron and Hollande. “There is also the need for Islam as a whole to challenge that interpretation of Islam, to isolate it, and to undergo a vigorous discussion within their community about how Islam works as part of a peaceful, modern society,” he said. But he added, “I do not persuade peaceful, tolerant Muslims to engage in that debate if I’m not sensitive to their concern that they are being tagged with a broad brush.”
Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Washington, D.C., April 2015 (Pete Souza / White House)

In private encounters with other world leaders, Obama has argued that there will be no comprehensive solution to Islamist terrorism until Islam reconciles itself to modernity and undergoes some of the reforms that have changed Christianity.

Though he has argued, controversially, that the Middle East’s conflicts “date back millennia,” he also believes that the intensified Muslim fury of recent years was encouraged by countries considered friends of the U.S. In a meeting during apec with Malcolm Turnbull, the new prime minister of Australia, Obama described how he has watched Indonesia gradually move from a relaxed, syncretistic Islam to a more fundamentalist, unforgiving interpretation; large numbers of Indonesian women, he observed, have now adopted the hijab, the Muslim head covering.

Why, Turnbull asked, was this happening?

Because, Obama answered, the Saudis and other Gulf Arabs have funneled money, and large numbers of imams and teachers, into the country. In the 1990s, the Saudis heavily funded Wahhabist madrassas, seminaries that teach the fundamentalist version of Islam favored by the Saudi ruling family, Obama told Turnbull. Today, Islam in Indonesia is much more Arab in orientation than it was when he lived there, he said.

“Aren’t the Saudis your friends?,” Turnbull asked.

Obama smiled. “It’s complicated,” he said.

Obama’s patience with Saudi Arabia has always been limited. In his first foreign-policy commentary of note, that 2002 speech at the antiwar rally in Chicago, he said, “You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s fight to make sure our so-called allies in the Middle East—the Saudis and the Egyptians—stop oppressing their own people, and suppressing dissent, and tolerating corruption and inequality.” In the White House these days, one occasionally hears Obama’s National Security Council officials pointedly reminding visitors that the large majority of 9/11 hijackers were not Iranian, but Saudi—and Obama himself rails against Saudi Arabia’s state-sanctioned misogyny, arguing in private that “a country cannot function in the modern world when it is repressing half of its population.” In meetings with foreign leaders, Obama has said, “You can gauge the success of a society by how it treats its women.”

His frustration with the Saudis informs his analysis of Middle Eastern power politics. At one point I observed to him that he is less likely than previous presidents to axiomatically side with Saudi Arabia in its dispute with its archrival, Iran. He didn’t disagree.

“Iran, since 1979, has been an enemy of the United States, and has engaged in state-sponsored terrorism, is a genuine threat to Israel and many of our allies, and engages in all kinds of destructive behavior,” the president said. “And my view has never been that we should throw our traditional allies”—the Saudis—“overboard in favor of Iran.”

But he went on to say that the Saudis need to “share” the Middle East with their Iranian foes. “The competition between the Saudis and the Iranians—which has helped to feed proxy wars and chaos in Syria and Iraq and Yemen—requires us to say to our friends as well as to the Iranians that they need to find an effective way to share the neighborhood and institute some sort of cold peace,” he said. “An approach that said to our friends ‘You are right, Iran is the source of all problems, and we will support you in dealing with Iran’ would essentially mean that as these sectarian conflicts continue to rage and our Gulf partners, our traditional friends, do not have the ability to put out the flames on their own or decisively win on their own, and would mean that we have to start coming in and using our military power to settle scores. And that would be in the interest neither of the United States nor of the Middle East.”

One of the most destructive forces in the Middle East, Obama believes, is tribalism—a force no president can neutralize. Tribalism, made manifest in the reversion to sect, creed, clan, and village by the desperate citizens of failing states, is the source of much of the Muslim Middle East’s problems, and it is another source of his fatalism. Obama has deep respect for the destructive resilience of tribalism—part of his memoir, Dreams From My Father, concerns the way in which tribalism in post-colonial Kenya helped ruin his father’s life—which goes some distance in explaining why he is so fastidious about avoiding entanglements in tribal conflicts.

“It is literally in my DNA to be suspicious of tribalism,” he told me. “I understand the tribal impulse, and acknowledge the power of tribal division. I’ve been navigating tribal divisions my whole life. In the end, it’s the source of a lot of destructive acts.”

While flying to Kuala Lumpur with the president, I recalled a passing reference he had once made to me about the Hobbesian argument for strong government as an antidote to the unforgiving state of nature. When Obama looks at swathes of the Middle East, Hobbes’s “war of all against all” is what he sees. “I have a recognition that us serving as the Leviathan clamps down and tames some of these impulses,” Obama had said. So I tried to reopen this conversation with an unfortunately prolix question about, among other things, “the Hobbesian notion that people organize themselves into collectives to stave off their supreme fear, which is death.”

Ben Rhodes and Joshua Earnest, the White House spokesman, who were seated on a couch to the side of Obama’s desk on Air Force One, could barely suppress their amusement at my discursiveness. I paused and said, “I bet if I asked that in a press conference my colleagues would just throw me out of the room.”

“I would be really into it,” Obama said, “but everybody else would be rolling their eyes.”

Rhodes interjected: “Why can’t we get the bastards?” That question, the one put to the president by the CNN reporter at the press conference in Turkey, had become a topic of sardonic conversation during the trip.

I turned to the president: “Well, yeah, and also, why can’t we get the bastards?”

He took the first question.

“Look, I am not of the view that human beings are inherently evil,” he said. “I believe that there’s more good than bad in humanity. And if you look at the trajectory of history, I am optimistic.

“I believe that overall, humanity has become less violent, more tolerant, healthier, better fed, more empathetic, more able to manage difference. But it’s hugely uneven. And what has been clear throughout the 20th and 21st centuries is that the progress we make in social order and taming our baser impulses and steadying our fears can be reversed very quickly. Social order starts breaking down if people are under profound stress. Then the default position is tribe—us/them, a hostility toward the unfamiliar or the unknown.”

He continued, “Right now, across the globe, you’re seeing places that are undergoing severe stress because of globalization, because of the collision of cultures brought about by the Internet and social media, because of scarcities—some of which will be attributable to climate change over the next several decades—because of population growth. And in those places, the Middle East being Exhibit A, the default position for a lot of folks is to organize tightly in the tribe and to push back or strike out against those who are different.

“A group like isil is the distillation of every worst impulse along these lines. The notion that we are a small group that defines ourselves primarily by the degree to which we can kill others who are not like us, and attempting to impose a rigid orthodoxy that produces nothing, that celebrates nothing, that really is contrary to every bit of human progress—it indicates the degree to which that kind of mentality can still take root and gain adherents in the 21st century.”

So your appreciation for tribalism’s power makes you want to stay away?, I asked. “In other words, when people say ‘Why don’t you just go get the bastards?,’ you step back?”

“We have to determine the best tools to roll back those kinds of attitudes,” he said. “There are going to be times where either because it’s not a direct threat to us or because we just don’t have the tools in our toolkit to have a huge impact that, tragically, we have to refrain from jumping in with both feet.”

I asked Obama whether he would have sent the Marines to Rwanda in 1994 to stop the genocide as it was happening, had he been president at the time. “Given the speed with which the killing took place, and how long it takes to crank up the machinery of the U.S. government, I understand why we did not act fast enough,” he said. “Now, we should learn from that. I actually think that Rwanda is an interesting test case because it’s possible—not guaranteed, but it’s possible—that this was a situation where the quick application of force might have been enough.”

He related this to Syria: “Ironically, it’s probably easier to make an argument that a relatively small force inserted quickly with international support would have resulted in averting genocide [more successfully in Rwanda] than in Syria right now, where the degree to which the various groups are armed and hardened fighters and are supported by a whole host of external actors with a lot of resources requires a much larger commitment of forces.”

Obama-administration officials argue that he has a comprehensible approach to fighting terrorism: a drone air force, Special Forces raids, a clandestine CIA-aided army of 10,000 rebels battling in Syria. So why does Obama stumble when explaining to the American people that he, too, cares about terrorism? The Turkey press conference, I told him, “was a moment for you as a politician to say, ‘Yeah, I hate the bastards too, and by the way, I am taking out the bastards.’ ” The easy thing to do would have been to reassure Americans in visceral terms that he will kill the people who want to kill them. Does he fear a knee-jerk reaction in the direction of another Middle East invasion? Or is he just inalterably Spockian?

“Every president has strengths and weaknesses,” he answered. “And there is no doubt that there are times where I have not been attentive enough to feelings and emotions and politics in communicating what we’re doing and how we’re doing it.”

But for America to be successful in leading the world, he continued, “I believe that we have to avoid being simplistic. I think we have to build resilience and make sure that our political debates are grounded in reality. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the value of theater in political communications; it’s that the habits we—the media, politicians—have gotten into, and how we talk about these issues, are so detached so often from what we need to be doing that for me to satisfy the cable news hype-fest would lead to us making worse and worse decisions over time.”
Obama with Jack Ma, the chairman of Alibaba, at the APEC summit in the Phillippines last November—days after ISIS killed 130 people in Paris (Aaron Favila / AP)

As Air Force One began its descent toward Kuala Lumpur, the president mentioned the successful U.S.-led effort to stop the Ebola epidemic in West Africa as a positive example of steady, nonhysterical management of a terrifying crisis.

“During the couple of months in which everybody was sure Ebola was going to destroy the Earth and there was 24/7 coverage of Ebola, if I had fed the panic or in any way strayed from ‘Here are the facts, here’s what needs to be done, here’s how we’re handling it, the likelihood of you getting Ebola is very slim, and here’s what we need to do both domestically and overseas to stamp out this epidemic,’ ” then “maybe people would have said ‘Obama is taking this as seriously as he needs to be.’ ” But feeding the panic by overreacting could have shut down travel to and from three African countries that were already cripplingly poor, in ways that might have destroyed their economies—which would likely have meant, among other things, a recurrence of Ebola. He added, “It would have also meant that we might have wasted a huge amount of resources in our public-health systems that need to be devoted to flu vaccinations and other things that actually kill people” in large numbers in America.

The plane landed. The president, leaning back in his office chair with his jacket off and his tie askew, did not seem to notice. Outside, on the tarmac, I could see that what appeared to be a large portion of the Malaysian Armed Forces had assembled to welcome him. As he continued talking, I began to worry that the waiting soldiers and dignitaries would get hot. “I think we’re in Malaysia,” I said. “It seems to be outside this plane.”

He conceded that this was true, but seemed to be in no rush, so I pressed him about his public reaction to terrorism: If he showed more emotion, wouldn’t that calm people down rather than rile them up?

“I have friends who have kids in Paris right now,” he said. “And you and I and a whole bunch of people who are writing about what happened in Paris have strolled along the same streets where people were gunned down. And it’s right to feel fearful. And it’s important for us not to ever get complacent. There’s a difference between resilience and complacency.” He went on to describe another difference—between making considered decisions and making rash, emotional ones. “What it means, actually, is that you care so much that you want to get it right and you’re not going to indulge in either impetuous or, in some cases, manufactured responses that make good sound bites but don’t produce results. The stakes are too high to play those games.”
“ISIS is not an existential threat to the United States. Climate change is a potential existential threat to the entire world if we don’t do something about it.”

With that, Obama stood up and said, “Okay, gotta go.” He headed out of his office and down the stairs, to the red carpet and the honor guard and the cluster of Malaysian officials waiting to greet him, and then to his armored limousine, flown to Kuala Lumpur ahead of him. (Early in his first term, still unaccustomed to the massive military operation it takes to move a president from one place to another, he noted ruefully to aides, “I have the world’s largest carbon footprint.”)

The president’s first stop was another event designed to highlight his turn to Asia, this one a town-hall meeting with students and entrepreneurs participating in the administration’s Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative. Obama entered the lecture hall at Taylor’s University to huge applause. He made some opening remarks, then charmed his audience in an extended Q&A session.

But those of us watching from the press section became distracted by news coming across our phones about a new jihadist attack, this one in Mali. Obama, busily mesmerizing adoring Asian entrepreneurs, had no idea. Only when he got into his limousine with Susan Rice did he get the news.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power (left) and Secretary of State John Kerry (center) listen as Obama speaks about the Ebola epidemic in September 2014. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP)

Later that evening, I visited the president in his suite at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in downtown Kuala Lumpur. The streets around the hotel had been sealed. Armored vehicles ringed the building; the lobby was filled with swat teams. I took the elevator to a floor crowded with Secret Service agents, who pointed me to a staircase; the elevator to Obama’s floor was disabled for security reasons. Up two flights, to a hallway with more agents. A moment’s wait, and then Obama opened the door. His two-story suite was outlandish: Tara-like drapes, overstuffed couches. It was enormous and lonely and claustrophobic all at once.

“It’s like the Hearst Castle,” I observed.

“Well, it’s a long way from the Hampton Inn in Des Moines,” Obama said.

ESPN was playing in the background.

When we sat down, I pointed out to the president a central challenge of his pivot to Asia. Earlier in the day, at the moment he was trying to inspire a group of gifted and eager hijab-wearing Indonesian entrepreneurs and Burmese innovators, attention was diverted by the latest Islamist terror attack.

A writer at heart, he had a suggestion: “It’s probably a pretty easy way to start the story,” he said, referring to this article.

Possibly, I said, but it’s kind of a cheap trick.

“It’s cheap, but it works,” Obama said. “We’re talking to these kids, and then there’s this attack going on.”

The split-screen quality of the day prompted a conversation about two recent meetings he’d held, one that generated major international controversy and headlines, and one that did not. The one that drew so much attention, I suggested, would ultimately be judged less consequential. This was the Gulf summit in May of 2015 at Camp David, meant to mollify a crowd of visiting sheikhs and princes who feared the impending Iran deal. The other meeting took place two months later, in the Oval Office, between Obama and the general secretary of the Vietnamese Communist Party, Nguyen Phu Trong. This meeting took place only because John Kerry had pushed the White House to violate protocol, since the general secretary was not a head of state. But the goals trumped decorum: Obama wanted to lobby the Vietnamese on the Trans-Pacific Partnership—his negotiators soon extracted a promise from the Vietnamese that they would legalize independent labor unions—and he wanted to deepen cooperation on strategic issues. Administration officials have repeatedly hinted to me that Vietnam may one day soon host a permanent U.S. military presence, to check the ambitions of the country it now fears most, China. The U.S. Navy’s return to Cam Ranh Bay would count as one of the more improbable developments in recent American history. “We just moved the Vietnamese Communist Party to recognize labor rights in a way that we could never do by bullying them or scaring them,” Obama told me, calling this a key victory in his campaign to replace stick-waving with diplomatic persuasion.

I noted that the 200 or so young Southeast Asians in the room earlier that day—including citizens of Communist-ruled countries—seemed to love America. “They do,” Obama said. “In Vietnam right now, America polls at 80 percent.”
Obama visits a refugee center in Kuala Lumpur on a tour through Southeast Asia last fall. He sees the region as more integral to America’s future than the Middle East. (Susan Walsh / AP)

The resurgent popularity of America throughout Southeast Asia means that “we can do really big, important stuff—which, by the way, then has ramifications across the board,” he said, “because when Malaysia joins the anti-isil campaign, that helps us leverage resources and credibility in our fight against terrorism. When we have strong relations with Indonesia, that helps us when we are going to Paris and trying to negotiate a climate treaty, where the temptation of a Russia or some of these other countries may be to skew the deal in a way that is unhelpful.”

Obama then cited America’s increased influence in Latin America—increased, he said, in part by his removal of a region-wide stumbling block when he reestablished ties with Cuba—as proof that his deliberate, nonthreatening, diplomacy-centered approach to foreign relations is working. The alba movement, a group of Latin American governments oriented around anti-Americanism, has significantly weakened during his time as president. “When I came into office, at the first Summit of the Americas that I attended, Hugo Chávez”—the late anti-American Venezuelan dictator—“was still the dominant figure in the conversation,” he said. “We made a very strategic decision early on, which was, rather than blow him up as this 10-foot giant adversary, to right-size the problem and say, ‘We don’t like what’s going on in Venezuela, but it’s not a threat to the United States.’ ”

Obama said that to achieve this rebalancing, the U.S. had to absorb the diatribes and insults of superannuated Castro manqués. “When I saw Chávez, I shook his hand and he handed me a Marxist critique of the U.S.–Latin America relationship,” Obama recalled. “And I had to sit there and listen to Ortega”—Daniel Ortega, the radical leftist president of Nicaragua—“make an hour-long rant against the United States. But us being there, not taking all that stuff seriously—because it really wasn’t a threat to us”—helped neutralize the region’s anti-Americanism.

The president’s unwillingness to counter the baiting by American adversaries can feel emotionally unsatisfying, I said, and I told him that every so often, I’d like to see him give Vladimir Putin the finger. It’s atavistic, I said, understanding my audience.

“It is,” the president responded coolly. “This is what they’re looking for.”

He described a relationship with Putin that doesn’t quite conform to common perceptions. I had been under the impression that Obama viewed Putin as nasty, brutish, and short. But, Obama told me, Putin is not particularly nasty.

“The truth is, actually, Putin, in all of our meetings, is scrupulously polite, very frank. Our meetings are very businesslike. He never keeps me waiting two hours like he does a bunch of these other folks.” Obama said that Putin believes his relationship with the U.S. is more important than Americans tend to think. “He’s constantly interested in being seen as our peer and as working with us, because he’s not completely stupid. He understands that Russia’s overall position in the world is significantly diminished. And the fact that he invades Crimea or is trying to prop up Assad doesn’t suddenly make him a player. You don’t see him in any of these meetings out here helping to shape the agenda. For that matter, there’s not a G20 meeting where the Russians set the agenda around any of the issues that are important.”

Russia’s invasion of Crimea in early 2014, and its decision to use force to buttress the rule of its client Bashar al-Assad, have been cited by Obama’s critics as proof that the post-red-line world no longer fears America.

So when I talked with the president in the Oval Office in late January, I again raised this question of deterrent credibility. “The argument is made,” I said, “that Vladimir Putin watched you in Syria and thought, He’s too logical, he’s too rational, he’s too into retrenchment. I’m going to push him a little bit further in Ukraine.”

Obama didn’t much like my line of inquiry. “Look, this theory is so easily disposed of that I’m always puzzled by how people make the argument. I don’t think anybody thought that George W. Bush was overly rational or cautious in his use of military force. And as I recall, because apparently nobody in this town does, Putin went into Georgia on Bush’s watch, right smack dab in the middle of us having over 100,000 troops deployed in Iraq.” Obama was referring to Putin’s 2008 invasion of Georgia, a former Soviet republic, which was undertaken for many of the same reasons Putin later invaded Ukraine—to keep an ex–Soviet republic in Russia’s sphere of influence.

“Putin acted in Ukraine in response to a client state that was about to slip out of his grasp. And he improvised in a way to hang on to his control there,” he said. “He’s done the exact same thing in Syria, at enormous cost to the well-being of his own country. And the notion that somehow Russia is in a stronger position now, in Syria or in Ukraine, than they were before they invaded Ukraine or before he had to deploy military forces to Syria is to fundamentally misunderstand the nature of power in foreign affairs or in the world generally. Real power means you can get what you want without having to exert violence. Russia was much more powerful when Ukraine looked like an independent country but was a kleptocracy that he could pull the strings on.”

Obama’s theory here is simple: Ukraine is a core Russian interest but not an American one, so Russia will always be able to maintain escalatory dominance there.

“The fact is that Ukraine, which is a non-nato country, is going to be vulnerable to military domination by Russia no matter what we do,” he said.

I asked Obama whether his position on Ukraine was realistic or fatalistic.

“It’s realistic,” he said. “But this is an example of where we have to be very clear about what our core interests are and what we are willing to go to war for. And at the end of the day, there’s always going to be some ambiguity.” He then offered up a critique he had heard directed against him, in order to knock it down. “I think that the best argument you can make on the side of those who are critics of my foreign policy is that the president doesn’t exploit ambiguity enough. He doesn’t maybe react in ways that might cause people to think, Wow, this guy might be a little crazy.”

“The ‘crazy Nixon’ approach,” I said: Confuse and frighten your enemies by making them think you’re capable of committing irrational acts.

“But let’s examine the Nixon theory,” he said. “So we dropped more ordnance on Cambodia and Laos than on Europe in World War II, and yet, ultimately, Nixon withdrew, Kissinger went to Paris, and all we left behind was chaos, slaughter, and authoritarian governments that finally, over time, have emerged from that hell. When I go to visit those countries, I’m going to be trying to figure out how we can, today, help them remove bombs that are still blowing off the legs of little kids. In what way did that strategy promote our interests?”

But what if Putin were threatening to move against, say, Moldova—another vulnerable post-Soviet state? Wouldn’t it be helpful for Putin to believe that Obama might get angry and irrational about that?
Video: Jeffrey Goldberg speaks with James Bennet about “The Obama Doctrine.”
Jeffrey Goldberg speaks with James Bennet about the process of collecting interviews and writing “The Obama Doctrine.”

“There is no evidence in modern American foreign policy that that’s how people respond. People respond based on what their imperatives are, and if it’s really important to somebody, and it’s not that important to us, they know that, and we know that,” he said. “There are ways to deter, but it requires you to be very clear ahead of time about what is worth going to war for and what is not. Now, if there is somebody in this town that would claim that we would consider going to war with Russia over Crimea and eastern Ukraine, they should speak up and be very clear about it. The idea that talking tough or engaging in some military action that is tangential to that particular area is somehow going to influence the decision making of Russia or China is contrary to all the evidence we have seen over the last 50 years.”

Obama went on to say that the belief in the possibilities of projected toughness is rooted in “mythologies” about Ronald Reagan’s foreign policy.

“If you think about, let’s say, the Iran hostage crisis, there is a narrative that has been promoted today by some of the Republican candidates that the day Reagan was elected, because he looked tough, the Iranians decided, ‘We better turn over these hostages,’ ” he said. “In fact what had happened was that there was a long negotiation with the Iranians and because they so disliked Carter—even though the negotiations had been completed—they held those hostages until the day Reagan got elected. Reagan’s posture, his rhetoric, etc., had nothing to do with their release. When you think of the military actions that Reagan took, you have Grenada—which is hard to argue helped our ability to shape world events, although it was good politics for him back home. You have the Iran-Contra affair, in which we supported right-wing paramilitaries and did nothing to enhance our image in Central America, and it wasn’t successful at all.” He reminded me that Reagan’s great foe, Daniel Ortega, is today the unrepentant president of Nicaragua.

Obama also cited Reagan’s decision to almost immediately pull U.S. forces from Lebanon after 241 servicemen were killed in a Hezbollah attack in 1983. “Apparently all these things really helped us gain credibility with the Russians and the Chinese,” because “that’s the narrative that is told,” he said sarcastically. “Now, I actually think that Ronald Reagan had a great success in foreign policy, which was to recognize the opportunity that Gorbachev presented and to engage in extensive diplomacy—which was roundly criticized by some of the same people who now use Ronald Reagan to promote the notion that we should go around bombing people.”

In a conversation at the end of January, I asked the president to describe for me the threats he worries about most as he prepares, in the coming months, to hand off power to his successor.

“As I survey the next 20 years, climate change worries me profoundly because of the effects that it has on all the other problems that we face,” he said. “If you start seeing more severe drought; more significant famine; more displacement from the Indian subcontinent and coastal regions in Africa and Asia; the continuing problems of scarcity, refugees, poverty, disease—this makes every other problem we’ve got worse. That’s above and beyond just the existential issues of a planet that starts getting into a bad feedback loop.”

Terrorism, he said, is also a long-term problem “when combined with the problem of failed states.”

What country does he consider the greatest challenge to America in the coming decades? “In terms of traditional great-state relations, I do believe that the relationship between the United States and China is going to be the most critical,” he said. “If we get that right and China continues on a peaceful rise, then we have a partner that is growing in capability and sharing with us the burdens and responsibilities of maintaining an international order. If China fails; if it is not able to maintain a trajectory that satisfies its population and has to resort to nationalism as an organizing principle; if it feels so overwhelmed that it never takes on the responsibilities of a country its size in maintaining the international order; if it views the world only in terms of regional spheres of influence—then not only do we see the potential for conflict with China, but we will find ourselves having more difficulty dealing with these other challenges that are going to come.”

Many people, I noted, want the president to be more forceful in confronting China, especially in the South China Sea. Hillary Clinton, for one, has been heard to say in private settings, “I don’t want my grandchildren to live in a world dominated by the Chinese.”

“I’ve been very explicit in saying that we have more to fear from a weakened, threatened China than a successful, rising China,” Obama said. “I think we have to be firm where China’s actions are undermining international interests, and if you look at how we’ve operated in the South China Sea, we have been able to mobilize most of Asia to isolate China in ways that have surprised China, frankly, and have very much served our interest in strengthening our alliances.”

A weak, flailing Russia constitutes a threat as well, though not quite a top-tier threat. “Unlike China, they have demographic problems, economic structural problems, that would require not only vision but a generation to overcome,” Obama said. “The path that Putin is taking is not going to help them overcome those challenges. But in that environment, the temptation to project military force to show greatness is strong, and that’s what Putin’s inclination is. So I don’t underestimate the dangers there.”
Obama returned to a point he had made repeatedly to me, one that he hopes the country, and the next president, absorbs: “You know, the notion that diplomacy and technocrats and bureaucrats somehow are helping to keep America safe and secure, most people think, Eh, that’s nonsense. But it’s true. And by the way, it’s the element of American power that the rest of the world appreciates unambiguously. When we deploy troops, there’s always a sense on the part of other countries that, even where necessary, sovereignty is being violated.”

Over the past year, John Kerry has visited the White House regularly to ask Obama to violate Syria’s sovereignty. On several occasions, Kerry has asked Obama to launch missiles at specific regime targets, under cover of night, to “send a message” to the regime. The goal, Kerry has said, is not to overthrow Assad but to encourage him, and Iran and Russia, to negotiate peace. When the Assad alliance has had the upper hand on the battlefield, as it has these past several months, it has shown no inclination to take seriously Kerry’s entreaties to negotiate in good faith. A few cruise missiles, Kerry has argued, might concentrate the attention of Assad and his backers. “Kerry’s looking like a chump with the Russians, because he has no leverage,” a senior administration official told me.

The U.S. wouldn’t have to claim credit for the attacks, Kerry has told Obama—but Assad would surely know the missiles’ return address.

Obama has steadfastly resisted Kerry’s requests, and seems to have grown impatient with his lobbying. Recently, when Kerry handed Obama a written outline of new steps to bring more pressure to bear on Assad, Obama said, “Oh, another proposal?” Administration officials have told me that Vice President Biden, too, has become frustrated with Kerry’s demands for action. He has said privately to the secretary of state, “John, remember Vietnam? Remember how that started?” At a National Security Council meeting held at the Pentagon in December, Obama announced that no one except the secretary of defense should bring him proposals for military action. Pentagon officials understood Obama’s announcement to be a brushback pitch directed at Kerry.
Obama has bet that the price of direct U.S. action in Syria would be higher than the price of inaction.

One day in January, in Kerry’s office at the State Department, I expressed the obvious: He has more of a bias toward action than the president does.

“I do, probably,” Kerry acknowledged. “Look, the final say on these things is in his hands … I’d say that I think we’ve had a very symbiotic, synergistic, whatever you call it, relationship, which works very effectively. Because I’ll come in with the bias toward ‘Let’s try to do this, let’s try to do that, let’s get this done.’ ”

Obama’s caution on Syria has vexed those in the administration who have seen opportunities, at different moments over the past four years, to tilt the battlefield against Assad. Some thought that Putin’s decision to fight on behalf of Assad would prompt Obama to intensify American efforts to help anti-regime rebels. But Obama, at least as of this writing, would not be moved, in part because he believed that it was not his business to stop Russia from making what he thought was a terrible mistake. “They are overextended. They’re bleeding,” he told me. “And their economy has contracted for three years in a row, drastically.”
Obama meets with Jordan’s King Abdullah II at the White House in February of 2015. (Kevin Lamarque / Reuters)

In recent National Security Council meetings, Obama’s strategy was occasionally referred to as the “Tom Sawyer approach.” Obama’s view was that if Putin wanted to expend his regime’s resources by painting the fence in Syria, the U.S. should let him. By late winter, though, when it appeared that Russia was making advances in its campaign to solidify Assad’s rule, the White House began discussing ways to deepen support for the rebels, though the president’s ambivalence about more-extensive engagement remained. In conversations I had with National Security Council officials over the past couple of months, I sensed a foreboding that an event—another San Bernardino–style attack, for instance—would compel the United States to take new and direct action in Syria. For Obama, this would be a nightmare.

If there had been no Iraq, no Afghanistan, and no Libya, Obama told me, he might be more apt to take risks in Syria. “A president does not make decisions in a vacuum. He does not have a blank slate. Any president who was thoughtful, I believe, would recognize that after over a decade of war, with obligations that are still to this day requiring great amounts of resources and attention in Afghanistan, with the experience of Iraq, with the strains that it’s placed on our military—any thoughtful president would hesitate about making a renewed commitment in the exact same region of the world with some of the exact same dynamics and the same probability of an unsatisfactory outcome.”

Are you too cautious?, I asked.

“No,” he said. “Do I think that had we not invaded Iraq and were we not still involved in sending billions of dollars and a number of military trainers and advisers into Afghanistan, would I potentially have thought about taking on some additional risk to help try to shape the Syria situation? I don’t know.”

What has struck me is that, even as his secretary of state warns about a dire, Syria-fueled European apocalypse, Obama has not recategorized the country’s civil war as a top-tier security threat.

Obama’s hesitation to join the battle for Syria is held out as proof by his critics that he is too naive; his decision in 2013 not to fire missiles is proof, they argue, that he is a bluffer.

This critique frustrates the president. “Nobody remembers bin Laden anymore,” he says. “Nobody talks about me ordering 30,000 more troops into Afghanistan.” The red-line crisis, he said, “is the point of the inverted pyramid upon which all other theories rest.”

One afternoon in late January, as I was leaving the Oval Office, I mentioned to Obama a moment from an interview in 2012 when he told me that he would not allow Iran to gain possession of a nuclear weapon. “You said, ‘I’m the president of the United States, I don’t bluff.’ ”

He said, “I don’t.”

Shortly after that interview four years ago, Ehud Barak, who was then the defense minister of Israel, asked me whether I thought Obama’s no-bluff promise was itself a bluff. I answered that I found it difficult to imagine that the leader of the United States would bluff about something so consequential. But Barak’s question had stayed with me. So as I stood in the doorway with the president, I asked: “Was it a bluff?” I told him that few people now believe he actually would have attacked Iran to keep it from getting a nuclear weapon.

“That’s interesting,” he said, noncommittally.

I started to talk: “Do you—”

He interrupted. “I actually would have,” he said, meaning that he would have struck Iran’s nuclear facilities. “If I saw them break out.”

He added, “Now, the argument that can’t be resolved, because it’s entirely situational, was what constitutes them getting” the bomb. “This was the argument I was having with Bibi Netanyahu.” Netanyahu wanted Obama to prevent Iran from being capable of building a bomb, not merely from possessing a bomb.

“You were right to believe it,” the president said. And then he made his key point. “This was in the category of an American interest.”

I was reminded then of something Derek Chollet, a former National Security Council official, told me: “Obama is a gambler, not a bluffer.”
Ruven Afanador

The president has placed some huge bets. Last May, as he was trying to move the Iran nuclear deal through Congress, I told him that the agreement was making me nervous. His response was telling. “Look, 20 years from now, I’m still going to be around, God willing. If Iran has a nuclear weapon, it’s my name on this,” he said. “I think it’s fair to say that in addition to our profound national-security interests, I have a personal interest in locking this down.”

In the matter of the Syrian regime and its Iranian and Russian sponsors, Obama has bet, and seems prepared to continue betting, that the price of direct U.S. action would be higher than the price of inaction. And he is sanguine enough to live with the perilous ambiguities of his decisions. Though in his Nobel Peace Prize speech in 2009, Obama said, “Inaction tears at our conscience and can lead to more costly intervention later,” today the opinions of humanitarian interventionists do not seem to move him, at least not publicly. He undoubtedly knows that a next-generation Samantha Power will write critically of his unwillingness to do more to prevent the continuing slaughter in Syria. (For that matter, Samantha Power will also be the subject of criticism from the next Samantha Power.) As he comes to the end of his presidency, Obama believes he has done his country a large favor by keeping it out of the maelstrom—and he believes, I suspect, that historians will one day judge him wise for having done so.

Inside the West Wing, officials say that Obama, as a president who inherited a financial crisis and two active wars from his predecessor, is keen to leave “a clean barn” to whoever succeeds him. This is why the fight against isis, a group he considers to be a direct, though not existential, threat to the U.S., is his most urgent priority for the remainder of his presidency; killing the so-called caliph of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is one of the top goals of the American national-security apparatus in Obama’s last year.

Of course, isis was midwifed into existence, in part, by the Assad regime. Yet by Obama’s stringent standards, Assad’s continued rule for the moment still doesn’t rise to the level of direct challenge to America’s national security.

This is what is so controversial about the president’s approach, and what will be controversial for years to come—the standard he has used to define what, exactly, constitutes a direct threat.

Obama has come to a number of dovetailing conclusions about the world, and about America’s role in it. The first is that the Middle East is no longer terribly important to American interests. The second is that even if the Middle East were surpassingly important, there would still be little an American president could do to make it a better place. The third is that the innate American desire to fix the sorts of problems that manifest themselves most drastically in the Middle East inevitably leads to warfare, to the deaths of U.S. soldiers, and to the eventual hemorrhaging of U.S. credibility and power. The fourth is that the world cannot afford to see the diminishment of U.S. power. Just as the leaders of several American allies have found Obama’s leadership inadequate to the tasks before him, he himself has found world leadership wanting: global partners who often lack the vision and the will to spend political capital in pursuit of broad, progressive goals, and adversaries who are not, in his mind, as rational as he is. Obama believes that history has sides, and that America’s adversaries—and some of its putative allies—have situated themselves on the wrong one, a place where tribalism, fundamentalism, sectarianism, and militarism still flourish. What they don’t understand is that history is bending in his direction.

“The central argument is that by keeping America from immersing itself in the crises of the Middle East, the foreign-policy establishment believes that the president is precipitating our decline,” Ben Rhodes told me. “But the president himself takes the opposite view, which is that overextension in the Middle East will ultimately harm our economy, harm our ability to look for other opportunities and to deal with other challenges, and, most important, endanger the lives of American service members for reasons that are not in the direct American national-security interest.”

If you are a supporter of the president, his strategy makes eminent sense: Double down in those parts of the world where success is plausible, and limit America’s exposure to the rest. His critics believe, however, that problems like those presented by the Middle East don’t solve themselves—that, without American intervention, they metastasize.

At the moment, Syria, where history appears to be bending toward greater chaos, poses the most direct challenge to the president’s worldview.

George W. Bush was also a gambler, not a bluffer. He will be remembered harshly for the things he did in the Middle East. Barack Obama is gambling that he will be judged well for the things he didn’t do.

Voir de plus:

The Carter Syndrome

Walter Russell Mead, Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy
Foreign Policy

January/February 2010

Neither a cold-blooded realist nor a bleeding-heart idealist, Barack Obama has a split personality when it comes to foreign policy. So do most U.S. presidents, of course, and the ideas that inspire this one have a long history at the core of the American political tradition. In the past, such ideas have served the country well. But the conflicting impulses influencing how this young leader thinks about the world threaten to tear his presidency apart — and, in the worst scenario, turn him into a new Jimmy Carter.

Obama’s long deliberation over the war in Afghanistan is a case study in presidential schizophrenia: After 94 days of internal discussion and debate, he ended up splitting the difference — rushing in more troops as his generals wanted, while calling for their departure to begin in July 2011 as his liberal base demanded. It was a sober compromise that suggests a man struggling to reconcile his worldview with the weight of inherited problems. Like many of his predecessors, Obama is not only buffeted by strong political headwinds, but also pulled in opposing directions by two of the major schools of thought that have guided American foreign-policy debates since colonial times.

In general, U.S. presidents see the world through the eyes of four giants: Alexander Hamilton, Woodrow Wilson, Thomas Jefferson, and Andrew Jackson. Hamiltonians share the first Treasury secretary’s belief that a strong national government and a strong military should pursue a realist global policy and that the government can and should promote economic development and the interests of American business at home and abroad. Wilsonians agree with Hamiltonians on the need for a global foreign policy, but see the promotion of democracy and human rights as the core elements of American grand strategy. Jeffersonians dissent from this globalist consensus; they want the United States to minimize its commitments and, as much as possible, dismantle the national-security state. Jacksonians are today’s Fox News watchers. They are populists suspicious of Hamiltonian business links, Wilsonian do-gooding, and Jeffersonian weakness.

Moderate Republicans tend to be Hamiltonians. Move right toward the Sarah Palin range of the party and the Jacksonian influence grows. Centrist Democrats tend to be interventionist-minded Wilsonians, while on the left and the dovish side they are increasingly Jeffersonian, more interested in improving American democracy at home than exporting it abroad.

Some presidents build coalitions; others stay close to one favorite school. As the Cold War ended, George H.W. Bush’s administration steered a largely Hamiltonian course, and many of those Hamiltonians later dissented from his son’s war in Iraq. Bill Clinton’s administration in the 1990s mixed Hamiltonian and Wilsonian tendencies. This dichotomy resulted in bitter administration infighting when those ideologies came into conflict — over humanitarian interventions in the Balkans and Rwanda, for example, and again over the relative weight to be given to human rights and trade in U.S. relations with China.

More recently, George W. Bush’s presidency was defined by an effort to bring Jacksonians and Wilsonians into a coalition; the political failure of Bush’s ambitious approach created the context that made the Obama presidency possible.

Sept. 11, 2001, was one of those rare and electrifying moments that waken Jacksonian America and focus its attention on the international arena. The U.S. homeland was not only under attack, it was under attack by an international conspiracy of terrorists who engaged in what Jacksonians consider dishonorable warfare: targeting civilians. Jacksonian attitudes toward war were shaped by generations of conflict with Native American peoples across the United States and before that by centuries of border conflict in England, Scotland, and Ireland. Against « honorable » enemies who observe the laws of war, one is obliged to fight fair; those who disregard the rules must be hunted down and killed, regardless of technical niceties.

When the United States is attacked, Jacksonians demand action; they leave strategy to the national leadership. But Bush’s tough-minded Jacksonian response to 9/11 — invading Afghanistan and toppling the Taliban government that gave safe haven to the plotters — gave way to what appeared to be Wilsonian meddling in Iraq. Originally, Bush’s argument for overthrowing Saddam Hussein rested on two charges that resonated powerfully with Jacksonians: Hussein was building weapons of mass destruction, and he had close links with al Qaeda. But the war dragged on, and as Hussein’s fabled hoards of WMD failed to appear and the links between Iraq and al Qaeda failed to emerge, Bush shifted to a Wilsonian rationale. This was no longer a war of defense against a pending threat or a war of retaliation; it was a war to establish democracy, first in Iraq and then throughout the region. Nation-building and democracy-spreading became the cornerstones of the administration’s Middle East policy.

Bush could not have developed a strategy better calculated to dissolve his political support at home. Jacksonians historically have little sympathy for expensive and risky democracy-promoting ventures abroad. They generally opposed the humanitarian interventions in Somalia, Bosnia, and Haiti during the Clinton years; they did not and do not think American young people should die and American treasure should be scattered to spread democracy or protect human rights overseas. Paradoxically, Jacksonians also opposed « cut and run » options to end the war in Iraq even as they lost faith in both Bush and the Republican Party; they don’t like wars for democracy, but they also don’t want to see the United States lose once troops and the national honor have been committed. In Bush’s last year in office, a standoff ensued: The Democratic congressional majorities were powerless to force change in his Iraq strategy and Bush remained free to increase U.S. troop levels, yet the war itself and Bush’s rationale for it remained deeply unpopular.

Enter Obama. An early and consistent opponent of the Iraq war, Obama was able to bring together the elements of the Democratic Party’s foreign-policy base who were most profoundly opposed to (and horrified by) Bush’s policy. Obama made opposition to the Iraq war a centerpiece of his eloquent campaign, drawing on arguments that echoed U.S. anti-war movements all the way back to Henry David Thoreau’s opposition to the Mexican-American War.

Like Carter in the 1970s, Obama comes from the old-fashioned Jeffersonian wing of the Democratic Party, and the strategic goal of his foreign policy is to reduce America’s costs and risks overseas by limiting U.S. commitments wherever possible. He’s a believer in the notion that the United States can best spread democracy and support peace by becoming an example of democracy at home and moderation abroad. More than this, Jeffersonians such as Obama think oversize commitments abroad undermine American democracy at home. Large military budgets divert resources from pressing domestic needs; close association with corrupt and tyrannical foreign regimes involves the United States in dirty and cynical alliances; the swelling national-security state threatens civil liberties and leads to powerful pro-war, pro-engagement lobbies among corporations nourished on grossly swollen federal defense budgets.

While Bush argued that the only possible response to the 9/11 attacks was to deepen America’s military and political commitments in the Middle East, Obama initially sought to enhance America’s security by reducing those commitments and toning down aspects of U.S. Middle East policy, such as support for Israel, that foment hostility and suspicion in the region. He seeks to pull U.S. power back from the borderlands of Russia, reducing the risk of conflict with Moscow. In Latin America, he has so far behaved with scrupulous caution and, clearly, is hoping to normalize relations with Cuba while avoiding collisions with the « Bolivarian » states of Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia.

Obama seeks a quiet world in order to focus his efforts on domestic reform — and to create conditions that would allow him to dismantle some of the national-security state inherited from the Cold War and given new life and vigor after 9/11. Preferring disarmament agreements to military buildups and hoping to substitute regional balance-of-power arrangements for massive unilateral U.S. force commitments all over the globe, the president wishes ultimately for an orderly world in which burdens are shared and the military power of the United States is a less prominent feature on the international scene.

While Wilsonians believe that no lasting stability is possible in a world filled with dictatorships, Jeffersonians like Obama argue that even bad regimes can be orderly international citizens if the incentives are properly aligned. Syria and Iran don’t need to become democratic states for the United States to reach long-term, mutually beneficial arrangements with them. And it is North Korea’s policies, not the character of its regime, that pose a threat to the Pacific region.

At this strategic level, Obama’s foreign policy looks a little bit like that of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger. In Afghanistan and Iraq, he hopes to extract U.S. forces from costly wars by the contemporary equivalent of the « Vietnamization » policy of the Nixon years. He looks to achieve an opening with Iran comparable to Nixon’s rapprochement with communist China. Just as Nixon established a constructive relationship with China despite the radical « Red Guard » domestic policies Chinese leader Mao Zedong was pursuing at the time, Obama does not see ideological conflict as necessarily leading to poor strategic relations between the United States and the Islamic Republic. Just as Nixon and Kissinger sought to divert international attention from their retreat in Indochina by razzle-dazzle global diplomacy that placed Washington at the center of world politics even as it reduced its force posture, so too the Obama administration hopes to use the president’s global popularity to cover a strategic withdrawal from the exposed position in the Middle East that it inherited from the Bush administration.

This is both an ambitious and an attractive vision. Success would reduce the level of international tension even as the United States scales back its commitments. The United States would remain, by far, the dominant military power in the world, but it would sustain this role with significantly fewer demands on its resources and less danger of war.

Yet as Obama is already discovering, any president attempting such a Jeffersonian grand strategy in the 21st century faces many challenges. In the 19th-century heyday of Jeffersonian foreign policy in American politics, it was easier for U.S. presidents to limit the country’s commitments. Britain played a global role similar to that of the United States today, providing a stable security environment and promoting international trade and investment. Cruising as a free rider in the British world system allowed Americans to reap the benefits of Britain’s world order without paying its costs.

As British power waned in the 20th century, Americans faced starker choices. With the British Empire no longer able to provide political and economic security worldwide, the United States had to choose between replacing Britain as the linchpin of world order with all the headaches that entailed or going about its business in a disorderly world. In the 1920s and 1930s, Americans gave this latter course a try; the rapid-fire series of catastrophes — the Great Depression, World War II, Stalin’s bid for Eurasian hegemony — convinced virtually all policymakers that the first course, risky and expensive as it proved, was the lesser of the two evils.

Indeed, during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first two terms, the United States pursued essentially Jeffersonian policies in Europe and Asia, avoiding confrontations with Germany and Japan. The result was the bloodiest war in world history, not a stable condominium of satisfied powers. Since that time, Jeffersonians have had to come to terms with the vast set of interlocking political, economic, and military commitments that bind the United States to its role in the postwar era. Jeffersonian instincts call for pruning these commitments back, but it is not always easy to know where to cut.

The other schools are generally skeptical about reducing American commitments. Wilsonians interpret Jeffersonian restraint as moral cowardice. Why, they ask, did Obama refuse to meet the sainted Dalai Lama on his way to kowtow to the dictators in Beijing? Jacksonians think it is cowardice pure and simple. And why not stand up to Iran? Hamiltonians may agree with Jeffersonian restraint in particular cases — they don’t want to occupy Darfur either — but sooner or later they attack Jeffersonians for failing to develop and project sufficient American power in a dangerous world. Moreover, Hamiltonians generally favor free trade and a strong dollar policy; in current circumstances Hamiltonians are also pushing fiscal restraint. Obama will not willingly move far or fast enough to keep them happy.

The widespread criticism of Obama’s extended Afghanistan deliberations is a case in point. To a Jeffersonian president, war is a grave matter and such an undesirable course that it should only be entered into with the greatest deliberation and caution; war is truly a last resort, and the costs of rash commitments are more troubling than the costs of debate and delay. Hamiltonians would be more concerned with executing the decision swiftly and with hiding from other powers any impression of division among American counsels. But Obama found harsh critics on all sides: Wilsonians recoiled from the evident willingness of the president to abandon human rights or political objectives to settle the war. Jacksonians did not understand what, other than cowardice or « dithering, » could account for his reluctance to support the professional military recommendation. And the most purist of the Jeffersonians — neoisolationists on both left and right — turned on Obama as a sellout. Jeffersonian foreign policy is no bed of roses.

In recent history, Jeffersonian foreign policy has often faced attacks from all the other schools of thought. Kissinger’s policy of détente was blasted on the right by conservative Republicans who wanted a stronger stand against communism and on the left by human rights Democrats who hated the cynical regional alliances the Nixon Doctrine involved (with the shah of Iran, for example). Carter faced many of the same problems, and the image of weakness and indecision that helped doom his 1980 run for re-election is a perennial problem for Jeffersonian presidents. Obama will have to leap over these hurdles now, too.

It is not only Americans who will challenge the new American foreign policy. Will Russia and Iran respond to Obama’s conciliatory approach with reciprocal concessions — or, emboldened by what they interpret as American weakness and faltering willpower, will they keep pushing forward? Will the president’s outreach to the moderate majority of Muslims around the world open an era of better understanding, or will the violent minority launch new attacks that undercut the president’s standing at home? Will the president’s inability to deliver all the Israeli concessions Arabs would like erode his credibility and contribute to even deeper levels of cynicism and alienation across the Middle East? Can the president execute an orderly reduction in the U.S. military stake in Iraq and Afghanistan without having hostile forces fill the power vacuum? Will Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez be so impressed with American restraint under Obama that he moderates his own course and ceases to make anti Yanquismo a pillar of his domestic and international policy? Will other countries heed the president’s call to assume more international responsibility as the United States reduces its commitments — or will they fail to fulfill their obligations as stakeholders in the international system?

A Jeffersonian policy of restraint and withdrawal requires cooperation from many other countries, but the prospect of a lower American profile may make others less, rather than more, willing to help the United States.

There is an additional political problem for this president, one that he shares with Carter. In both cases, their basic Jeffersonian approach was balanced in part by a strong attraction to idealistic Wilsonian values and their position at the head of a Democratic Party with a distinct Wilsonian streak. A pure Jeffersonian wants to conserve the shining exceptionalism of the American democratic experience and believes that American values are rooted in U.S. history and culture and are therefore not easily exportable.

For this president, that is too narrow a view. Like Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, and Martin Luther King Jr., Barack Obama doesn’t just love the United States for what it is. He loves what it should — and can — be. Leadership is not the art of preserving a largely achieved democratic project; governing is the art of pushing the United States farther down the road toward the still-distant goal of fulfilling its mission and destiny.

Obama may well believe what he said in his inaugural speech — « we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals » — but as any president must he is already making exactly those tradeoffs. Why else refuse to meet the Dalai Lama? Why else pledge support to the corrupt regime of President Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan or aid Pakistan despite the dismal track record of both the civil and military arms of the Pakistani government when it comes to transparent use of U.S. resources? Did the administration not renew its efforts to build a relationship with the regime in Tehran even as peaceful democratic protesters were being tortured and raped in its jails? Is Obama not taking « incentives » to Khartoum, a regime that has for more than a decade pursued a policy in Darfur that the U.S. government has labeled genocidal?

It is hard to reconcile the transcendent Wilsonian vision of America’s future with a foreign policy based on dirty compromises with nasty regimes. If the government should use its power and resources to help the poor and the victims of injustice at home, shouldn’t it do something when people overseas face extreme injustice and extreme peril? The Obama administration cannot easily abandon a human rights agenda abroad. The contradiction between the sober and limited realism of the Jeffersonian worldview and the expansive, transformative Wilsonian agenda is likely to haunt this administration as it haunted Carter’s, most fatefully when he rejected calls to let the shah of Iran launch a brutal crackdown to remain in power. Already the Wilsonians in Obama’s camp are muttering darkly about his failure to swiftly close the Guantánamo prison camp, his fondness for government secrecy, his halfhearted support for investigating abuses of the past administration, and his failure to push harder for a cap-and-trade bill before the Copenhagen summit.

Over time, these rumblings of discontent will grow, and history will continue to throw curveballs at him. Can this president live with himself if he fails to prevent a new round of genocide in the Great Lakes region of Africa? Can he wage humanitarian war if all else fails? Can he make these tough decisions quickly and confidently when his closest advisors and his political base are deeply and hopelessly at odds?

The Jeffersonian concern with managing America’s foreign policy at the lowest possible level of risk has in the past helped presidents develop effective grand strategies, such as George Kennan’s early Cold War idea of containment and the early 19th-century Monroe Doctrine. If successful, Obama’s restructuring of American foreign policy would be as influential as these classic strategic designs.

Recent decades, however, have seen diminishing Jeffersonian influence in U.S. foreign policy. Americans today perceive problems all over the world; the Jeffersonian response often strikes people as too passive. Kennan’s modest form of containment quickly lost ground to Dean Acheson’s more muscular and militarized approach of responding to Soviet pressure by building up U.S. and allied forces in Europe and Asia. The Nixon-Kissinger policy of détente was repudiated by both the Republican and Democratic parties. Carter came into the White House hoping to end the Cold War, but by the end of his tenure he was supporting the resistance to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, increasing the defense budget, and laying the groundwork for an expanded U.S. presence in the Middle East.

In the 21st century, American presidents have a new set of questions to consider. The nature of the international system and the place of the United States in it will have to be rethought as new powers rise, old ones continue to fade, and attention shifts from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The rapid technological development that is the hallmark of our era will reshape global society at a pace that challenges the ability of every country in the world to manage cascading, accelerating change.

With great dignity and courage, Obama has embarked on a difficult and uncertain journey. The odds, I fear, are not in his favor, and it is not yet clear that his intuitions and instincts amount to the kind of grand design that statesmen like John Quincy Adams and Henry Kissinger produced in the past. But there can be no doubt that American foreign policy requires major rethinking.

At their best, Jeffersonians provide a necessary element of caution and restraint in U.S. foreign policy, preventing what historian Paul Kennedy calls « imperial overstretch » by ensuring that America’s ends are proportionate to its means. We need this vision today more than ever: If Obama’s foreign policy collapses — whether sunk by Afghanistan or conflicts not yet foreseen — into the incoherence and reversals that ultimately marked Carter’s well-meaning but flawed approach, it will be even more difficult for future presidents to chart a prudent and cautious course through the rough seas ahead.

Voir enfin:

The Passionless Presidency

The trouble with Jimmy Carter’s Administration

James Fallows
The Atlantic Monthly

May 1979

In the spring of 1978, as the primary election season drew near, Jimmy Carter began a long march across the country, ready to help off-year Democratic candidates who might later reciprocate by helping him. This was a tiring trip, which caught the President at a tired time.

Within the previous month, he had traveled halfway around the world and across the country many times. More of the same lay immediately ahead. On the first leg of this trip, in Chicago, Carter made an interminable appearance at a Cook County Democratic banquet speaking briefly to party members in six separate ballrooms, then launching into an hour-long address in the main hall.

Of the many things being demanded of him, Carter was tired most of all of giving speeches. He told Jody Powell, who passed the word to me as the presidential speechwriter, to change the plans for his appearance next day before the Illinois state legislature in Springfield. We should release the text of the speech that we had prepared—a sobersided discussion of the « iron triangle » of bureaucratic interests, congressional committees, and outside lobbying groups that kept things in the government from ever being reformed—but, Carter said, he did not intend to deliver it. Instead, he would stand before the legislators, endorse the sentiments expressed in the advance text, and then take questions from the floor.

In the Springfield capitol building the next morning, I sat among the reporters and watched the revised plan unfold. Carter announced his intentions and read introductory comments from his note cards—and then, unexpectedly, he began talking in a deeper register, a more heartfelt style; a graceful natural cadence replaced his familiar singsong. Carter was speaking once more as he had spoken during the campaign, not about a specific policy or the rationale behind his acts, but about himself, his values, the emotions he felt day by day. He had once referred to his job as « one big multiple choice exam, » and he told the rapt crowd about the tests he would soon face. He told them of his difficulties— »It is not easy to negotiate with the Russians on a SALT agreement…. A Panama Canal treaty was not a popular thing. » The Mideast arms sales were « almost impossible to resolve to the satisfaction of the American people. It took a lot of courage to make those decisions. »

Carter told them of his faith in the American people, whose goodness he had seen in the small towns. Our people, he said, are « basically decent, basically honest, basically have great common sense. » And he was determined to reflect those virtues. He had been a businessman, a farmer, in touch with the cells and organs of American life. As the American people would respond to hard questions, so would he. As they were hardworking and honest and brave, so too must he be.

Carter then began taking questions, but I stopped listening; so much that had puzzled me was becoming clear. Sixteen months into his Administration, there was a mystery to be explained about Jimmy Carter: the contrast between the promise and popularity of his first months in office and the disappointment so widely felt later on. Part of this had to do with the inevitable end of the presidential honeymoon, with the unenviable circumstances Carter inherited, with the fickleness of the press. But much more of it grew directly from the quality Carter displayed that morning in Illinois. He was speaking with gusto because he was speaking about the subject that most inspired him: not what he proposed to do, but who he was. Where Lyndon Johnson boasted of schools built and children fed, where Edward Kennedy holds out the promise of the energies he might mobilize and the ideas he might enact, Jimmy Carter tells us that he is a good man. His positions are correct, his values sound. Like Marshal Petain after the fall of France, he has offered his person to the nation. This is not an inconsiderable gift; his performance in office shows us why it’s not enough.

After two and a half years in Carter’s service, I fully believe him to be a good man. With his moral virtues and his intellectual skills, he is perhaps as admirable a human being as has ever held the job. He is probably smarter, in the College Board sense, than any other President in this century. He grasps issues quickly. He made me feel confident that, except in economics, he would resolve technical questions lucidly, without distortions imposed by cant or imperfect comprehension.

He is a stable, personally confident man, whose quirks are few. He told the several Rhodes scholars on his staff that he had not won one of the scholarships, that this had been a great disappointment to him, but that he’d made out all right, heh, heh, hadn’t he? He tends to exaggerate his background (« I am a nuclear physicist »; « I directed the Head Start program in Georgia ») and to tamper with truth on small matters. As character flaws go, these are small change. Apart from occasional profanity, I saw him form no argument and strike no pose that would make him look a hypocrite if publicly revealed. I was not one of his confidants, and my intention to return to journalism was widely known; certain things were shielded from my view. But some things cannot be hidden, and in other administrations I know I would have seen more subterfuge and deception than I detected here.

Carter is usually patient, less vindictive than the political norm, blessed with a sense of perspective about the chanciness of life and the transience of its glories and pursuits. I left his service feeling that if moral choices faced him, he would resolve them fairly, that when questions of life and death, of nuclear war and human destruction were laid upon his desk, he would act on them calmly, with self-knowledge, free of interior demons that might tempt him to act rashly or to prove at terrible cost that he was a man. One factor in our choice of Presidents is their soundness in the ultimate moments of decision, when the finger is poised over the button and the future of the race is stake. Of all contenders on the horizon, none would be saner or surer than Carter in those moments. In his ability to do justice case by case, he would be the ideal non-lawyer for the Supreme Court; if I had to choose one politician to sit at the Pearly Gates and pass judgment on my soul, Jimmy Carter would be the one.

But if he has the gift of virtue, there are other gifts he lacks.

One is sophistication. It soon became clear, in ways I shall explain, that Carter and those closest to him to him took office in profound ignorance of their jobs. They were ignorant of the possibilities and the most likely pitfalls. They fell prey to predictable dangers and squandered precious time.

The second is the ability to explain his goals and thereby to offer an object for loyalty larger than himself.

The third, and most important, is the passion to convert himself from a good man into an effective one, to learn how to do the job. Carter often seemed more concerned with taking the correct position than with learning how to turn that position into results. He seethed with frustration when plans were rejected, but felt no compulsion to do better next time. He did not devour history for its lessons, surround himself with people who could do what he could not, or learn from others that fire was painful before he plunged his hand into the flame.

I make these observations with sadness but without rancor, for I have no reason to feel bitter. Other politicians are notorious for browbeating or humiliating their speechwriters; Jimmy Carter was always decent to me. I wish that more of the impressions I took away were bright. My interest as a journalist is to report what I saw, and to explain why I think it happened.

became involved with Carter in the summer of 1976, when (so it seemed) the hardest electoral battles were behind him and the opportunists were climbing aboard. I had voted for him in the Texas primary, written with measured sympathy about his cause, and found myself rounded up in the general massing of troops once he clinched the nomination.

I worked for him enthusiastically and was proud to join his Administration, for I felt that he, alone among candidates, might look past the tired formulas of left and right and offer something new. These early hopes impose a special burden of explanation on people like me; before we find fault, we must explain why we thought things would be different. Carter had no experience in Washington or in foreign affairs; to blame him for that now seems somehow unfair. He had been unpopular as governor of Georgia; why should it be different in the White House? On paper, as a provincial businessman and one-term governor, Carter promised to perform just about the way he has.

But there were two factors that made many of us ignore these paper limitations. One was Carter’s remarkable charm in face-to-face encounters. All politicians must be charming to some degree, but Carter’s performance on first intimate meeting was something special. His intelligence and magnetism soon banished thoughts of the limits of his background. When working at the White House, I often felt persuaded by Carter’s argument—and, even more, of his personal merit—while talking with him, although I knew, on reflection, that his argument was wrong. This was not simply the malleability of a young employee; I met very few people who, having sat and talked with Carter by themselves or in groups of two or three, did not come away feeling they had dealt with a formidable man.

He was fully aware of this power and used it whenever he could. Early in the campaign, when trying to convince people that his candidacy was not a joke, he placed high hopes on his meetings with newspaper editorial boards. After Gerald Rafshoon’s arrival in the White House, Carter invited editors and publishers to dinner, usually to good effect. He always felt in foreign affairs that if he could only get his adversaries into the room with him, he could win them over. This he demonstrated most spectacularly with Sadat and Begin at Camp David and in his dramatic and courageous resuscitation of the Egyptian-Israeli peace negotiations this year. Lyndon Johnson had the same faith in his famous « treatment, » but it was based on his intimate knowledge of the other party, which told him how to flatter, threaten, and cajole. Carter’s faith was in himself, and in the impression he would create.

The other factor was a subtler thing, though clearly visible in retrospect. I always thought Carter awkward at the deliberate manipulation of symbols, but he was a genius at using a phrase, a gesture, a code word that his listeners assumed to be of greater significance than it was. He led call-and-response like a preacher in a black church; he talked with environmentalists about the sins of the Corps of Engineers; he told the American legion about his family’s three centuries of military service; and he told everyone in back-room meetings that, while he could not promise a single appointment to a single person, « I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the choices I make, » and « I think you’ll agree with what I do 95 percent of the time. » Espying these chunks in the water, each onlooker viewed them as tips of icebergs, indicating vast, hidden extensions below.

I realize now how people were led on by these hints; I was led on myself by the hope that Carter might make sense of the swirl of liberal and conservative sentiment then muddying the political orthodoxy. Never did I feel it more strongly than after my first meeting with Carter, in August 1976, when he was receiving petitioners in Plains. Shortly after I joined the campaign staff, I accompanied a friend and former employer, Ralph Nader, when he went to call on Carter. From 9 P.M. until long past midnight on a steamy summer night, I sat in the back of Carter’s study while Nader delivered a lecture on the way the government works. What Boswell must have felt when Burke and Johnson had their fine moments I thought I was feeling then, as Nader distilled into three hours the lessons of a dozen years. They were not programmatic, or even « liberal, » points, but practical warnings about the way administrations went wrong. Carter must do everything possible to eliminate third-party payment systems, Nader said; they always bust the budget. He must find ways around the unions’ guild mentality if he wanted to put poor teenagers to work and to rebuild the cities. He must control, from his first moment on the job, the way he spent his time, so that when the crises came, as they inevitably would, his other efforts would go on. He must avoid the ancient seductions of foreign affairs, and must constantly search for ways to make the people in government feel that he was looking over their shoulders day after day, encouraging, inspecting, reproving, an ever-present focus for loyalty and healthy fear.

Nader did most of the talking that evening, but when Carter spoke it was to show that he understood. With his complementary examples, his nodded assents, Carter hinted that he might come to office not only with the usual freight of campaign promises but also with the kind of practical sophistication most people acquire only when it is time to retire and write their memoirs. That is the difference with state governors, I remember telling myself in my exhilaration that night. While senators are prancing about with new ideas and noble intentions, governors see what happens when the payroll is met, the program administered, the intention converted to result. The last governor to become President was Franklin Roosevelt, and I told my friends that summer that Carter had at least the same potential to leave the government forever changed by his presence: not by expanding federal responsibilities, as Roosevelt had done, or by continuing the trend of the Great Society, but by transforming the government, as in the 1930s, to reflect the needs of these different times. Franklin Roosevelt radiated confidence, or the illusion of confidence, to a nation ready and eager to be reassured. Jimmy Carter—so I thought—might be able to point out a new political direction to a nation all too ready to be led.

here were other promising signs. When Carter stressed that he had made this work in Georgia, I thought he had learned from hard experience about the perils of organizational life. I thought that, like his mentor Hyman Rickover, or Northrup Parkinson, he would stay one step ahead of staff jealousies, information blockages, monopolization of his time. When I heard him recommend, early in the campaign, junking the mortgage tax deductions I assumed that Carter must have thought deeply about the tax system, deeply enough to understand that the average man lost far more than he gained through this deduction, that he would come out far ahead if it and similar exemptions were removed and the general tax rates lowered. For what other reason would a candidate bring up this subject, knowing how difficult the point is to explain and the uproar it was sure to provoke, unless he envisioned a basic change in the tax system and was ready to teach the public about it?

When I read his famous Law Day speech of 1974 the upbraiding of lawyers that led Hunter S. Thompson to canonize Carter in Rolling Stone, I thought he must understand the excesses of a legal system that siphons off so much of the nation’s talent. I thought he must be aware of the burdens that privilege bring that the nation’s most comfortable and professionalized groups must look beyond their Mercedes and their Perrier.

When Hamilton Jordan was quoted as saying that « this government is going to be run by people you’ve never heard of, » and that if Cyrus Vance should become secretary of state and Zbigniew Brzezinski the national security adviser, the Administration could be considered a failure and he would quit, I thought those close to Carter had reflected on the permanence of the governing groups in Washington, the similarity of their backgrounds, and the success of their self-protection. I thought they understood the importance of bringing in other talented people—other Jimmy Carters, and other Jody Powells.

When Carter spoke about a strong defense, but promised to cut five billion dollars or more from the defense budget, I took it not as campaign hyperbole but as proof that he recognized the danger of setting military budgets by ideology or platitude and the need to base them on case-by-case judgments about threats to our security and ways to respond.

And when I heard Jimmy Carter reflect on his aims and ideas as he did with such refreshing intelligence during the TV interview with Bill Moyers in May 1976 in the less-publicized portions of the notorious Playboy interview, I thought he understood that people recognized frankness, that they would respond to a leader who respected their intelligence and did not talk down to them.

Perhaps this list is a testament to nothing more than my own naivete; but here and there among the items the reader may recognize a signal that he also picked up from listening to Carter, a feeling that he shared. Those memories may be refreshed by looking back to Carter’s first « town meeting » in Clinton, Massachusetts where he demonstrated not only his poise under fire but his ability to make contact, to communicate, to lead. « In his first two months as President, Jimmy Carter has achieved a triumph of communications in the arena of public opinion, » David Broder wrote in the Washington Post after that town meeting. « He has transformed himself from the very shaky winner of a campaign into a very popular President whose mastery of the mass media has given him real leverage with which to govern. »

But by the time Bert Lance resigned as budget director in September 1977, most of the original hopes had departed as well. These weren’t the tips of icebergs we seeing; they were pieces of ice.

he first jarring note was struck after two months in office, when large pay increases were allotted to the White House staff. Many people got a raise just by joining; Carter could have hired everyone for half the starting pay; except for a few lawyers such as Robert Lipshutz and Jack Watson, those entering public service were making no financial sacrifices. I was twenty-seven years old when I started working at the White House. The year before, I had made about $20,000 as a magazine writer. On Inauguration Day, my pay rose by 87.5 percent, to $37,500. Two months later, with the general pay increase, it went up another $5000, to $42,500. After two more unpublicized, automatic, « cost of living » raises, I was earning $47,500 when I resigned at the end of November 1978.

Of all complaints about Carter, overpayment is the most ironic, for he was the most notorious tightwad in town. But it was a sadly typical complaint, for it showed that Carter’s inner values mattered less than his naivete about organizations and the effect of symbolic acts. By going along with the pay increases, Carter gave the clearest possible sign that it would be business as usual in his Administration. His later talk about inflation would be forever undermined by this demonstration that restraint did not start at home. When I traveled around the country speaking on the Administration’s behalf, I knew what one of the first, and most venomous, questions would be: Why should the citizen making $20,000 be taxed to provide a raise for someone making $47,500?

The scene was set for the first raise by a pay increase the Congress had voted for itself and upper-level civil servants. Carter had the choice of accepting it for the White House, deferring or reducing it, or turning it down flat. For advice Carter looked to an « executive committee » made up of the nine top-ranking and highest-paid assistants (Jordan, Powell, Brzezinski, Lipshutz, Watson, Stuart Eizenstat, James Schlesinger, Midge Costanza, and Frank Moore). All nine were making $44,600 and were authorized by the bill to advance to $57,500. Their deliberations were awkward (or so we heard in office gossip), no one eager to be the first to ask for the raise, until Midge Costanza said that she, for one, could use the money. The committee first provided for its own, each member offering to sacrifice $1500 of the authorized $12,900 raise (bringing their salaries to $56,000), and then agreed that those further down the ladder should demonstrate greater restraint. The lower the pay to begin with, the more of the raise would be kicked back. Those who made $37,500, like me, gave up half of a $10,000 raise—and those who made less than $37,500 got no raise at all.

Carter could easily have bullied the executive committee and the rest of the staff into forgoing all the raises. During the primary campaign, when each day’s spending depended on the previous day’s take, Carter had made frugality seem stylish. Staff members boasted about staying in friends’ houses rather than in hotels, and prided themselves on fueling fund-raising parties with peanuts and wine for a fraction of the usual cost. In the more luxurious setting of the White House, the task would be harder, but Carter could have argued the need for symbolic restraint, his own preference for moderation—or simply his discomfort at seeing those who make policy for the nation go from the 98th percentile of income to the 99th. Then he would have demonstrated that economy in government was more than talk; instead, he bred skepticism outside the government and greed within. I charged into Jody Powell’s office when I found out about my $5000 kickback, outraged by this « gyp, » until I realized just what I was saying. From that point on, people making $40,000 and $50,000 succumbed to self-pity because others were making more.

There came other signs that Carter was not alert to bureaucratic perils. If there is any constant in the literature of presidential performance, it is that the President must husband his time. If he is distracted from the big choices by the torrent of petty details, the big choices will not get made—or will be resolved by their own internal logic, not by the wishes of those who have been elected to lead. Carter came into office determined to set a rational plan for his time, but soon showed in practice that he was still the detail-man used to running his own warehouse, the perfectionist accustomed to thinking that to do a job right you must do it yourself. He would leave for a weekend at Camp David laden with thick briefing books, would pore over budget tables to check the arithmetic, and, during his first six months in office, would personally review all requests to use the White House tennis court. (Although he flatly denied to Bill Moyers in his November 1978 interview that he had ever stooped to such labors, the in-house tennis enthusiasts, of whom I was perhaps the most shameless, dispatched brief notes through his secretary asking to use the court on Tuesday afternoons while he was at a congressional briefing, or a Saturday morning, while he was away. I always provided spaces where he could check Yes or No; Carter would make his decision and send the note back, initialed J.)

After six months had passed, Carter learned that this was ridiculous, as he learned about other details he would have to pass by if he was to use his time well. But his preference was still to try to do it all—to complain that he was receiving too many memos and that they were too long, but to act nonetheless on everything that reached his desk. He believed in the clean-desk philosophy. During his first month, he said, « Unless there’s a holocaust, I’ll take care of everything the same day it comes in. » When he moved toward the more usual presidential course—letting his aides worry about the details, and acting on their advice—he neglected the usual corollary, which is that the aide should live or die on the quality of his judgment. His counsel, Robert Lipshutz, examined the comptroller’s report on Bert Lance in August 1977 and told Carter it presented a clean bill of health. At that, Carter flew down from Camp David to say, « Bert, I’m proud of you. » In the lower reaches of the staff, the dismay at Lipshutz’s interpretation was exceeded only by the incredulity that he suffered no visible sanction or remonstrance for his poor advice. Indeed, the criticism Lipshutz received in the press made Powell and Jordan all the more dogged in their defense of him. Lipshutz was one of THEM, one of the southern boys, being persecuted by a hostile northern press.

It often seemed to me that « history, » for Carter and those closest to him, consisted of Vietnam and Watergate; if they could avoid the errors, as commonly understood, of those two episodes, they would score well. No military intervention, no dirty tricks, no tape recorders on the premises, and no « isolation » of the President. When it came to setting up the House, this meant avoiding a recreation of the « Berlin Wall, » the Haldeman-Ehrlichman bulkhead that had blocked out Nixon’s other assistants. Carter stressed that his nine main aides had equal access to him, and that another two dozen people (of whom I was one) had free access in memos, if not in the flesh.

This arrangement reflected not only Carter’s reading of recent history but also his personal style. His affections were constant toward his retinue of loyal helpers: he did not scramble to hire someone with a talent that Powell, Eizenstadt, Jordan, or Rafshoon did not happen to possess. None of them would have made a good chief of staff, so that function simply did not enter into the organization chart. Carter would do it himself, as he would everything else, whether it be the Administration’s long-range planning or improving the grammar in the proclamations we wrote for him. By the end of first year, this system had become more or less workable; everyone had learned whom to call to get a telegram sent, which congressmen to notify when news of a home-town project was released, what speeches were required when Carter took a trip. But a year was wasted as we blindly groped for answers and did for ourselves what a staff coordinator could have done.

The huzzahs that attended Gerald Rafshoon’s arrival in mid-1978 as the man who was going to bring order into the process only highlighted the primitive state of affairs that had prevailed. I had no objections to Rafshoon’s projects, because—contrary perhaps to public impression—they were so elementary and so dearly needed. Soon after Rafshoon arrived, for example, Carter decided to veto a defense bill because of its provision for a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. Rafshoon made sure that the speechwriters wrote up brief « tallking points » about the veto, and that these were distributed to every official who had a speech to make. Six months earlier, no one would have taken the responsibility for that obviously useful step.

A far graver managerial error was that of « Cabinet government, » another outgrowth of Carter’s truncated historical view. Like no other President since Eisenhower, Carter seemed to think that organizations would run in practice as they did on paper: people would perform their assigned functions and seek no orders; orders, once given, would be carried out; when people were asked to direct specific bureaus or departments their loyalties would still lie with the larger interests of the Administration. Recent history was taken by Carter to prove his point: one of Nixon’s worst sins was his abuse of Cabinet departments—he stacked them with political flunkies and destroyed the secretaries’ control over their own shops. With Watergate over and Nixon deposed, « Cabinet government » became a good-government rallying cry. Carter took up the cry, eagerly accepting a naive book by Stephen Hess which proposed that the secret of efficient government was to give Cabinet secretaries free rein.

The book—and the policy—were wrong because they omitted the necessary caveat: if a President wants to allow Cabinet secretaries full day-to-day control, he must make special, almost daily efforts to find out how that control is being used. Otherwise, when a President declares « hands off the departments, » a depressingly predictable sequence will begin. The White House staff will defer to the departments—until the first big calamity happens. A secretary might play to the department’s constituents rather than the President’s—as Patricia Harris of Housing and Urban Development was suspected of doing with her truculent demands for more money for housing programs. A big scandal might arise—at the General Services Administration, for example, or at Labor or Health, Education and Welfare, where they seem to crop up regularly. A secretary might appear to be building his own empire—as Joseph Califano was suspected of doing at HEW, with his LBJ-like determination that everyone in his department work only for him. Deception, inefficiency, a dozen other ills infecting the various government departments, whatever the origin, will make a President angry. He will feel frustrated, as John Kennedy has been portrayed as feeling when he discovered, during the Cuban missile crisis, that his orders to remove our missiles from Turkey had been ignored. [See note below]. He will feel especially frustrated if, like Carter, he has put extra stress on governmental performance and results. If he cares about his policies and his political future, he will feel compelled to act. He will send in his own people, good loyal people, to « get the job done right. » That is what Richard Nixon did, even after making claims more fulsome than Carter’s about his Cabinet « with the extra dimension, » and it is what Jimmy Carter began doing in 1978. At Camp David he held a session with Cabinet officers and told them to stop freewheeling and start following the White House lead. Hamilton Jordan began holding weekly meetings with Cabinet representatives, and took to dressing down those who had most offended against the company line. Tim Kraft, an old campaign hand, started controlling appointments to the second- and third-level jobs in the departments—appointments which, the first time around, had been left entirely in the secretaries’ hands. The pendulum swung the White House way, as it had so often before.

Note from previous paragraph: This has become a piece of Kennedy-era mythology without solid basis in fact. President Kennedy may have suggested at some time well before the missile crisis that thought be given to removing the missiles from Turkey. It is almost certain, however, that no presidential order was given, and there is no available evidence that a plan for such removal was drawn up before those Six Days in October 1962. More than mere time was wasted; all the relationships were poisoned by the clumsy experiment of the first several months. Department officials began to think of the White House as the enemy, not as a source of patronage. In turn, those in the White House blamed their problems on evil people in the departments, not on foreseeable, preventable bureaucratic trends. Cabinet secretaries were judged more and more on their personal styles. The hot dogs, the show-offs—Califano, Harris, Blumenthal—came to be detested for those qualities. When preparing for a bill-signing ceremony involving HEW, I asked whether Califano would attend. « He never does anything for us, » Rafshoon said. « Why should we do something for him? » The warmth was reserved for such men as Cyrus Vance and Harold Brown, whose departments were so inherently strong that they could afford to be modest, self-effacing gentlemen, tugging deferentially at their forelocks and seeming embarrassed when the spotlight fell on them.

here was one other indication that Carter had missed a familiar lesson about the management of his time. No matter what his original intentions, foreign problems were sure to preoccupy him deeply. Like every other President who has served since the United States became a world power, he would inevitably be drawn into the whirlpool of foreign affairs. Already on his desk when he arrived were the SALT negotiations, the Middle East tensions, accommodation with China, eruptions in Africa, and the chronic economic pressures imposed by the oil-producing nations and our ever-richer allies. Additional crises would make these more, not less, demanding as his term wore on.

There were also the familiar allurements of foreign affairs: the trips on fabulous Air Force One, the flourishes, twenty-one-gun salutes, and cheering multitudes along the motorcade routes. More important was the freedom to negotiate with foreign leaders without constant interference or nit-picking from congressmen and senators, the heady dips into worldly secrets in rooms lined with lead to protect against eavesdroppers—all the excitement and trappings that go with dealing in momentous global matters that can mean life or death for all mankind.

But Carter was not only preoccupied by the serious international problems that lay before him; he—and those around him—became virtually transfixed by them. The President seemed to foresee neither the temptations nor the demands of foreign policy, nor the ways to prevent them from stealing his concentration away from other pressing business of his office. As he grew more deeply involved in his international human rights campaign, the Panama Canal negotiations, the delicacy of detente with Russia, and especially his quest for peace in the Middle East, his efforts on the domestic front suffered from his inattention. Returning from a triumphal journey to Nigeria or Germany, his eyes would noticeably glaze as he forced himself to discuss such a matter as reorganization of the Commerce Department. The exhilaration that followed the Camp David agreement seemed to dull even further his appetite for home affairs. Next on his plate after Camp David was the most pressing domestic issue of all—inflation—but he appeared bored and impatient through high-level deliberations over what to do about it, unhappy with the half steps his advisers served up, and plainly eager to return to shaping international history.

uring the first year came other indications that Carter did not really know what he wanted to do in such crucial areas as taxes, welfare, energy, and the reorganization of the government. In each of these areas, Carter’s passionate campaign commitments turned out to be commitments to generalities, not to specific programs or policies. After taking office, he commissioned panels of experts to tell him what to do, usually giving them instructions no more detailed than his repeated exhortation to « Be bold! »

Carter had said during the campaign that he would develop a national energy plan, and in his first fireside chat he said that James Schlesinger would come up with one within ninety days. Later, Carter came to understand that strict deadlines, while occasionally useful for prodding the bureaucracy, could also be destructive, in that they might force him to go ahead with half-baked ideas. He learned that through the example of the energy plan. Pleading urgency, Schlesinger obtained Carter’s permission to work in total secrecy. Neither anyone else on the White House staff nor members of the Congress could pry information from him. For some matters, this approach made sense; there were technical answers to such questions as how much solar energy could be produced. But the major decisions about energy were political, not technical: who would bear what part of the burden, where the balance would be set between producer and consumer, the environment and fuel production. If Carter himself had no clear predisposition on questions, then any rush project should have been directed not by technicians but by politicians, who could balance the different interests, argue over deals, see just where the compromises must be made. Instead, Schlesinger developed his technically plausible energy plan in a political vacuum, submitting it to the scrutiny of Carter’s other advisers and the members of Congress only after all the basic choices had been made. To Carter and Schlesinger, solving the energy problem must originally have seemed like solving a cube root. Once they had the right answer, they thought their work would be done.

I reserved my highest hopes for tax reform; in his acceptance speech at the Democratic convention, Carter said that all his life he had heard about tax reform, but somehow it never happened. This time it was going to happen—and we could depend on it.

As the plan took shape, Carter gave firm instructions to the Treasury; he had learned his lesson about dangers of deadlines and the need for political consultation. The deadline was delayed time and again as Carter sent the Treasury back to the drawing board. Secretary Blumenthal sent out feelers to the tax committees in Congress as Carter prepared to make final choices. But when the plan was unveiled and suffered immediate shelling from the likes of Senator Russell Long and Representative Al Ullman, Carter reacted as if this were an inexplicable development, rather than one that could have been foreseen, and prepared for, from the very start. In his talk with Nader, Carter had said that he could never sell a tax reform or a governmental reorganization if he tried to do it piecemeal, since the 5 percent of the people who would suffer from each change would be more dogged in their opposition than the 95 percent who might benefit. He seemed to forget all that when the time came to explain his tax plan to the public or sell it on Capitol Hill.

Carter, who was able to learn from experience in a once-burned, twice-shy way, showed no inclination to prevent the burns by seeking associates who had been there before. Nowhere was he surer to need help than in his dealings with the Congress. His experience there was minimal, his campaign tone had been hostile, his skin crawled at the thought of the time-consuming consultations and persuasion that might be required to bring a legislator around. He did not know how congressmen talked, worked, and thought, how to pressure them without being a bully or flatter them without seeming a fool. He needed help from someone who knew all those things, who had spent time absorbing that culture. But for his congressional liaison, he chose a Georgian named Frank Moore, a man whose general aptitude was difficult for anyone outside the first circle to detect, and who had barely laid eyes upon the Capitol before Inauguration Day.

lthough Carter himself wakes up each morning popping with ideas, very few others in the Administration have been induced by him or by themselves to feel any passion to do. Most of the « Georgians, » those who have been with Carter long enough to feel a personal commitment to his success, owe their first loyalty to the welfare and advancement of Jimmy Carter. In that they are little different from JFK’s Irish Mafia, or LBJ’s Texas Rangers, or any other group that has ever served a President. What makes them different is that they seem to have nothing in second place, no axes they are particularly eager to grind in their years in government. If there has been little abuse of power, it may be because they have so little sense of what power is and how it might be exercised. For at least two years, there was virtually no interest in using the power of patronage to create a network of loyalty toward or service to the President throughout the executive branch. On the contrary, the intimate Carter hands looked on such networks as the DAR might look, less eager to make new friends than to enjoy the honor of having been there at the start.

In other administrations, there have been assistants whose interest in policy was faint—Dave Powers for Kennedy, Pa Watson for Roosevelt, Marvin Watson for LBJ—but this time there is almost no one at the upper level (apart from Eizenstat and Brzezinski, the designated hitters for policy) with a serious interest in how the public’s business is performed. It is as if the entire staff consisted of Pa or Marvin Watsons, devoted to nothing more than what their boss has decided to do. In the White House mess, on the airplane rides, around the halls, there might be desultory talk about the importance of the Panama Canal vote or how much The Boss wanted welfare reform, but it was mainly talk about personalities, gossip, items of substance that were interesting only because Carter had said they interested him. In two years in the government, I had not one serious or impassioned discussion with a member of the senior staff about what all those countless government programs meant, which of them, if any, really worked, how the government might be changed. I think it must have been different in other days.

I do not particularly admire people who can say, as Jack Valenti did in his silly book A Very Human President, that « working on the White House staff is the ultimate seduction, » but I came to think that emotion of that sort might be a necessary ingredient for getting the job done. There was so little of that glimmer and drive in this White House that I began to realize that the absence of passion was as serious a weakness as the lack of sophistication.

I started to wonder about the difference between a good man and an inspiring one; about why Jimmy Carter, who would surely outshine most other leaders in the judgment of the Lord, had such trouble generating excitement, not only in the nation but even among the members of his own staff. One explanation is that Carter has not given us an idea to follow. The central idea of the Carter Administration is Jimmy Carter himself, his own mixture of traits, since the only thing that finally gives coherence to the items of his creed is that he happens to believe them all. Hubert Humphrey might have carried out Lyndon Johnson’s domestic policies; Gerald Ford, the foreign policies of Richard Nixon. But no one could carry out the Carter program, because Carter has resisted providing the overall guidelines that might explain what his program is.

I came to think that Carter believes fifty things, but no one thing. He holds explicit, thorough positions on every issue under the sun, but he has no large view of the relations between them, no line indicating which goals (reducing unemployment? human rights?) will take precedence over which (inflation control? a SALT treaty?) when the goals conflict. Spelling out these choices makes the difference between a position and a philosophy, but it is an act foreign to Carter’s mind. He is a smart man but not an intellectual in the sense of liking the play of ideas, of pushing concepts to their limits to examine their implications. Values that others would find contradictory complement one another in his mind. During the campaign, he used to say that our nation was the first to provide « complete compatability » between liberty and equality. This pained me more than anything else he said. I sent him notes and told him in person that these two terms were like city and country, heaven and hell: the tensions between them shape much of American society. But Carter continued to make the same statement, and I realized it was not because he was vulgarizing his ideas for the crowd, but because he genuinely believed what he said.

Carter thinks in lists, not arguments; as long as items are there, their order does not matter, nor does the hierarchy among them. Whenever he gave us an outline for a speech, it would consist of six or seven subjects (« inflation, » « need to fight waste ») rather than a theme or tone. His Inaugural address, which he wrote almost entirely by himself, is an illustration of this approach and a prime example of his style. Whenever he edited a speech, he did so to cut out the explanatory portions and add « meat » in the form of a list of topics. One speech, before a hostile crowd in Houston was first conceived as a defense of his energy policy. At the last moment, Carter sent in two lists, from which we were to restructure the speech. The first was entitled « What We Will Do, » and included: « 1) defense capability second to none: 2) cut down govern regulation—write in plain English—make authors sign. 3) fight inflation—protect budget from waste spending—working with Congress but veto if necessary! 4) balance budget 5) cut taxes 6) reform welfare system 7) civil service reform—veterans preference 8) Turkey arms embargo, NATO southern flank 9) SALT-CTB-NATO 10) improve cities, education, agriculture (exports). »

The second list was entitled « What We’ve Done » « 1) cut unemployment— +5 1/2 million jobs since 1/77 2) Dept. of Energy 3) begun reorganization 4) NATO strengthened 5) human rights 6) agriculture bill. »

or certain aspects of his job—the analyst and manager parts—Carter’s method serve him well. He makes decisions about solar power installations and the B-1 on the basis of output, payload, facts, not abstract considerations. But for the part of his job that involves leadership, Carter’s style of thought cripples him. He thinks he « leads » by choosing the correct policy; but he fails to project a vision larger than the problem he is tackling at the moment.

In domestic policy, this caused frustration, since it thwarted all attempts to explain a domestic philosophy. In foreign policy, it opened the door to genuine tragedy, for it left Carter unable to defend the course he had taken. Carter did not choose the circumstances in which he operates: our dependence on foreign oil, our economic vulnerability to our allies, the resistance to military intervention left over from Vietnam. Under these difficult circumstances, he has tried to set a steady, prudent policy, keeping his eye on our real national interest, not acting out of bluff or bravado, steadfastly pursuing the things that we need and ignoring those that we don’t or that we can’t control. The policy should win him respect: but because Carter cannot explain what he is doing, he is an easy mark for a Moynihan or a Reagan or a Connally who can speak with passion about the decline of American power. Jimmy Carter’s oratorical failures could come to discredit a « restrained » foreign policy as thoroughly as (and more tragically than) George McGovern’s « demogrant » proposal discredited further inquiry into the guaranteed annual income.

The clearest example of this difficulty was Carter’s speech at the U.S. Naval Academy in June 1978. The speech was intended to set the record straight on U.S. policy toward the Soviet Union, which was then very muddied because of the varied comments coming from Brzezinski and Vance. It was widely, and correctly, assumed that there were two different outlooks within Government, Vance’s emphasis on a SALT treaty and Brzezinsky’s habitual pugnaciousness in the face of the Soviet Union. Vance had sent a memo to Carter arguing the need for a presidential speech to explain Policy; Carter agreed and asked Brzezinski, Vance, Andrew Young, Stansfield Turner, and several other advisers to submit memos suggesting the tone and content of the speech.

Carter then assembled the speech essentially by stapling Vance’s memo to Brzezinski’s, without examining the tensions between them. When he finished rewording the memos, the speech was done. It had an obvious break in the middle, like the splice in a film; as one newsman who had read the advance text said, after hearing Carter come to the end of the conciliatory material and move into the Brzezinski section, « And now—War! » The Washington Post’s story the next morning was titled « Two Different Speeches, » an accurate and obvious interpretation, but one that galled Carter and those around him. Hadn’t he laid it all out for them, all the elements of his thought, all his views? What more could they want?

Carter’s problems as an explainer were compounded by his tendency to talk down to his audience. He didn’t do this when speaking extemporaneously—at those times he used words from the engineering books and Brzezinski’s fanciest theories—but he couldn’t avoid it in his prepared speeches. While working on the first fireside chat, I received a lecture from the President. I should not use words such as « cynical, » because average people wouldn’t understand them. Carter said that whenever he worked on a speech he thought of a man at a certain gas station in Georgia (not his brother). If that man couldn’t understand it, it should be changed. Instead of « cynical, » I should use the word « callous. » « Working people understand callouses. They see their hands get hard. »

The sentiment was admirable but too broad. When simplifying words Carter too often simplified ideas as well. I always thought the public could tell the difference between a clear, simple image—such as Franklin Roosevelt’s garden hose to symbolize Lend-Lease—and a deceptively simple thought. When they heard Carter’s constant talk of harmony, respect among nations, happy times at home, the men at the gas stations knew they were hearing less than the full truth.

Nor did he distinguish among the audiences he had to address. For some—but only a few—of his televised appeals, it was important that a speech be understood by every hearer. In most other cases, that was a false goal. In a television interview in 1960, Walter Lippmann said that an effective President « must be articulate. He must be able to talk in language which is not the lowest common denominator, but the best. What you must lead in the country are the best of the country and they will carry it on down. There’s no use of the President trying to talk down to a fellow who can just about read and write. Let somebody else do that. He must talk to the people who teach the man to read and write. » I came to believe very deeply in a hierarchy of information and attitudes. Once an idea took hold in the serious magazines and the editorial pages, it would make its way down through the news columns, the reports in Time and Newsweek, and eventually to the television commentators, who shape most people’s view of public affairs. In many cases, the real audience for a speech should be not the 5000 people who are present for the occasion but the editors, academics, politicians, and columnists who will read the text and adjust their view of the President accordingly. Such speeches are the best, sometimes the only, way a President can show that he understands the complications in his policies, the problems ahead, the hard questions that have been raised about his course. Except for one or two speeches on foreign policy—where he was more willing in general to buy the conventional wisdom than he was in domestic affairs—Carter never consented to such speeches.

ll these oratorical problems were made worse by his refusal to learn how to speak. By his natural gifts, Carter is a good off-the-cuff speaker and a poor formal orator, and he never bestirred himself to improve in either way. It seemed to me the height of arrogance that Carter refused oral practice before his campaign debates against Gerald Ford.

To the day I left the White House, he never really practiced a speech—not in the sense of subjecting his performance to the scrutiny of others and letting them say plainly how he must change. Before a big speech, Carter would read through the text once or twice—once into a little cassette tape recorder he could play back to himself, once with the TV lights on, after which Jerry Rafshoon would say, « That was good, » or « Go a little slower. » One of Carter’s excuses for not practicing more was that his voice wore out, and three or four rehearsals would have left him unable to deliver the speech. The first lesson in any speech class is that hoarseness indicates a strained speaking style; barring illness, it is a sign all by itself that the style should be changed. The correction is easy, but not until you admit you might be doing it wrong. John Kennedy’s hour of practice to get Ich bin ein Berliner down straight was embarrassing to him, revealing too clearly the limits of his linguistic gift. But Kennedy spent that hour, and while the practice is forgotten, the phrase lives on. When we prepared a German couplet (« Alle Menschen werden Brüder wo dein sanffter Flügel weilt, » from Schiller’s « Ode to Joy » ) for Carter’s speech in Bonn, he had the interpreter, Harry Obst, read it into a cassette, which Carter could listen to by himself, in his cabin at the front of the plane, and practice without Obst there to tell him he was doing it wrong. As a result, the couplet, perhaps the most famous in all of German letters left the crowd looking around in puzzlement about what the American President was trying to say.

hrough most of my last year at the White House, I kept asking myself, Why should a man as well-meaning and intelligent as Carter blithely forgo the lessons of experience and insist on rediscovering fire, the lever, the wheel? Why not temper the fresh view he brought with the practiced knowledge of those who had passed this way before? Why, in a man whose language was peppered with « bold » and « competent » and « superb, » was there so little passion to learn how to do the job?

The first clue to the solution of these questions was Carter’s cast of mind: his view of problems as technical, not historical, his lack of curiosity about how the story turned out before. He wanted to analyze the « correct » answer, not to understand the intangible irrational forces that had skewed all previous answers. When he spoke of cleaning up the bureaucracy, he spoke like a Peace Corps volunteer explaining hygiene in Malaysia, imagining that such scientific insights had never occurred to the listeners before. When he said that, this time, tax reform was going to happen, it was not because he had carefully studied the tales of past failures and learned how to surmount them, but because he had ignored them so totally as to thinks his approach had never been tried. In two years the only historical allusions I heard Carter use with frequency were Harry Truman’s rise from the depths of the polls and the effect of Roosevelt’s New Deal on the southern farm. The rest of Roosevelt’s record, especially his style of educating the public and getting the most out of his employees, was uncharted territory to the leaders of the Administration. Once, at dinner, Jody Powell was drawn into bitter argument with of my historically minded friends. As Powell fulminated against the sins and arrogance of reporters, my friend warned him that people would think of him as another Spiro Agnew if he went on that way. « We weren’t here then, » Powell replied—and Powell, who was a graduate student in history and who prides himself on his Civil War scholarship, is the most sensitive to history of all those around the President.

Carter occasionally read history—he loved David McCullough’s book on the Panama Canal—but history had not become a part of him. Shortly before I left, I was startled to see, in Carter’s private study, shelves crammed with books on American history. Later I read that he had decided history was important, and that he needed a better background for his job. This realization came at the same time as did many others—about Cabinet government, the need for staff coordination, the value of Washington’s old hands. Half of one term had been wasted before Carter absorbed what I had thought he knew on the first day.

There was a second clue, more obvious during the first year, when Carter’s southernness was still novel. Beneath the jokes about peanuts and grits lurked the notion of the southerner as moron; Carter was determined to prove that he and his associates had not stepped straight out of Dogpatch. During the campaign, he had enjoyed receiving the busloads of eastern experts, wrinkled and cranky after the three-hour ride from Atlanta to Plains—knowing that they’d tell their friends at Brookings and Harvard about the brilliance of the simple country boy, knowing also that they’d call him a dumb southern redneck when he made his first mistake.

The Georgians saw this prejudice behind every fight—in the use of the phrase « the Georgians, » brother Billy’s rise as the stereotypical idiot from the south, and, most of all, in the savagery visited upon Bert Lance. Between the two levels of the Administration, there was very little discussion of Lance. Those on the lower tier—non-southerners, mainly, careerists who would be in Washington when Carter was long gone—gossiped among themselves about how many days Lance had left. Those on the upper tier—Georgians, Lance’s friends—grumbled among themselves about how unfair it all was. Bert was being destroyed, they knew, because he was an outsider who had not changed his southern ways. Jody Powell immediately, and intelligently, apologized for his attempt to discredit Lance’s accuser, Charles Percy, but he privately felt that he, like Lance, had been a victim of the insiders’ game. His story about Percy accepting rides on a corporate aircraft was wrong, but just a little wrong, Powell felt; he had only missed a few of the details. But because Percy was an insider while Powell and Lance were not as yet, the press ate the southerners alive. Frank Moore’s problems, too, were written off to anti-southern snobbery. Although it was hard to deny the evidence of Moore’s repeated missteps, this was an officially unmentionable topic at the White House, like Hamilton Jordan’s early comments about Vance and Brzezinski, and Carter’s promise to cut the defense budget. Powell and Jordan defended him with angry, knee-jerk loyalty, for Moore, unlike his critics, and unlike the sneering members of the junior staff, was one of them. His survival was part of the South’s survival; together, all who had come from Georgia would prove they could do it their way.

Like this southern defensiveness, Carter’s notion of populism and privilege gave him a reason to resist learning things in the usual way. His « populism » was no straightforward sentiment. He was more comfortable with businessmen and bankers than with the community organizers who protested against them; when he vacationed on St. Simons Island at the home of Smith Bagley, the Reynolds tobacco heir, he felt completely at ease. His « populism » was reflected in his pride, even arrogance, about having seen all sides of life close-up in his small town, and in his disdain for the elite, « socially prominent » (a favorite phrase) professionals whose privilege shielded them from such knowledge. At one meeting on welfare reform, he dressed down a team of experts from HEW who were lecturing him about the unemployability of the underclass. These were the people he had lived with, Carter said; they may not have been educated, some may have been lazy and drunk, but most of them understood the meaning of dignity, self-sufficiency, and work. No one could miss Carter’s real message: unlike anyone else in the room, he was talking about people he had seen.

o group better exemplified what Carter despised than the Washington mandarins—the Cliffords, Califanos, Valentis, and Kissingers—who had come to do good and stayed to do well. Before joining Carter’s Cabinet, Califano was making half a million dollars yearly as a lawyer, Valenti, nearly that much at the Motion Picture Association. They had their names in the society columns and their children in private schools; they protected each other with networks of mutual support. Joseph Alsop might be discredited in journalism, but not in Washington, because he was a charming guest at Katharine Graham’s. The Iranian ambassador lost his job and his country, but he would never lack for friends in Washington because of the years of caviar and champagne.

These were the people Carter was talking about when he told the Democratic convention that « too many have had to suffer at the hands of a political and economic elite who have shaped decisions and never had to account for mistakes or suffer from injustice. » They happened also to be the people who knew how Washington worked.

Carter was right in railing against their insularity; I attributed much of his success in the primaries to the voters’ suspicion that there was a conspiracy of self-protection at work in the capital. But the insiders were right to scoff at him, for they understood how much he did not know. His problem as he took office was like China’s on the eve of modernization: how to get the technical know-how without accepting the cultural detritus, how to get the steel mills without the discos, the computers without Larry Flynt. Carter needed the insiders’ wisdom about the power game if he was to succeed in office—but he needed to remember why he, instead of one of them, had been elected. maintaining this balance required a keen awareness of how much he needed to acquire, and an even keener sense of what he needed to avoid. The tragedy of Jimmy Carter was that he knew neither.

At the start of the Administration, as in the general election campaign, Carter and his captains felt omniscient; they had done what no one else had know how to do. Why should they take pains to listen to those who had designed the New Deal, the Fair Deal, the Great Society? The town was theirs for the taking; it would have required nothing more than allowing the old warriors a chance to help. But Powell and Jordan and Carter let these people know that they could go to hell. Where had they been, with all their sage advice, when the campaign was out of money and no one knew who Jimmy Carter was? What were they doing when Carter was drawing crowds of ten and twenty in tiny Iowa towns? Spite is an expensive luxury in government, but Carter thought he could afford it, not realizing then how badly his operating account would soon be overdrawn.

Carter paid the price for this arrogance with the blunders of the first year; then, burned enough, he began reaching out. Clark Clifford became Lance’s champion; Anne Wexler and Robert Strauss joined the White House staff. There were informal brainstorming sessions with those who had been though all the cycles before. But Carter’s people made the second mistake, forgetting what made them different at the start.

Ten days after I left the White House, I went to a Redskins game in Robert F. Kennedy Stadium. Across the field, in the box of Redskins owner Edward Bennett Williams, sat a casual sampling of Washington’s permanent ruling groups—the Post’s editor, Benjamin Bradlee, Joe Califano, Senator Muskie, Art Buchwald, other friends. Next to Williams sat someone new to the scene: Hamilton Jordan, wearing a suit. If he had been there two years earlier, it would have been a cheering sign that the outsiders knew how to get what they needed. Coming when it did, it made me think that the earlier hostility had been more defensive reverse snobbery. Now that Carter’s people were sure they’d be accepted, they were glad to join the club.

That same week, President Carter granted a second television interview to Bill Moyers. In the first, in May 1976, everything that was new and original in Carter’s intelligence had come across like a fresh breeze. This time, Carter sounded like all the grizzled veterans he had defeated in 1976. Moyers asked him about inflation, and whether the fight against it wouldn’t throw people out of work—the poor, the black, those most recently employed. The Carter of the first interview would have said, of course, that was true, that the agony of the job lay in choosing between such evils. This time, after two years in office, Carter answered « no »—fighting inflation would not cost people their jobs, the question was simply wrong. It was the sort of answer other politicians might have given, because, having now seen what they saw before, Carter had grown like them in basic ways. never again would he preach sweeping tax reform, scorn incrementalism, pretend that the government could be changed. Like Hamilton Jordan, he was ill prepared to maintain what was best in him while learning what he needed to know.

hese clues told me part of the answer, but there was one part missing, the most fundamental of them all. Carter’s willful ignorance, his blissful tabula rasa, could—to me—be explained only by a combination of arrogance, complacency, and—dread thought—insecurity at the core of his mind and soul.

For a while, I thought the arrogance was the unfortunate by-product of life in a small town. If his secure position and effortless supremacy in Plains had made Carter calmer than Nixon or Kennedy, it seemed also to have given him too high an estimation of his own gifts. It would have helped him to have spent a little while in a law firm in Boston, or with a movie company in Los Angeles, or as a broker in New York, to acquire that edge of neurosis and compulsion to get the best ideas out of the people on his staff. That Jimmy Carter would have been a less pleasant person; a different background might have denied him the very traits that are now his greatest strength. But it might also have made new ideas seem crucial to him; it would not have left him satisfied, as the real Jimmy Carter too often is, with what burbles up in the usual bureaucratic fashion and with the people who happen to come to hand. In Plains, he had run the business himself, relied entirely upon himself. He did not need to search constantly for people to push and test him, because his unpushed abilities were good enough.

This characteristic could be called complacency—the last word one associates with the Jimmy Carter of the speed-reading lessons, the carefully timed jogs around the South Lawn, the typed-up list of the classical music he will be listening to during the day. But while Carter accepts challenges to his ideas and is pleased to improve his mind, he stubbornly, complacently resists attempts to challenge his natural style.

t some stage in our lives, we learn to depend on others for the challenges that will make us do our best—or we manage to resist those challenges while privately correcting our defects. I shrink before the prospect of pop psychology from a journalist, but it seemed to me that things were so ordered in Jimmy Carter’s universe that he never faced such challenges.

Carter has virtually no one in the White House with the right combination of age, experience, and personal standing to challenge him seriously. Robert Lipshutz is gentle and unassertive; Robert Strauss knows the sources of his power and the limits of his role; Walter Mondale assents to Carter’s preference for harmony above all other virtues; Zbigniew Brzezinski marvels to the President about his fresh and powerful insight into complicated foreign issues. That is why I thought it a tragedy that Bert Lance had to leave; in my one brush with footnote-history, playing tennis with Lance, Carter, and Jordan the day that Lance resigned, I could see that Lance behaved with Carter in a way that no one else could. They were friends, who jabbed and teased with as much equality as is possible when one of the friends is President. Carter’s only peers now are his wife, Rosalynn, who has given no sign of thinking that anything her husband might do could be wrong, and Charles Kirbo, who stops by for a visit every few weeks.

Those who are close enough to Carter to speak to him frankly—Powell, Jordan, Rafshoon, perhaps Moore—either believe so totally in the rightness of his style, or are so convinced that it will never change, that they never bother to suggest that he spend his time differently, deal with people differently, think of his job in a different way. Even that handful speaks to him in tones more sincerely deferential than those the underlings use. No one outside this handful ever has an opportunity to shoot the breeze with Carter, to talk with no specific purpose and no firm limit on time.

If he persists in walling himself off from challenge and disorder, Jimmy Carter will ensure that great potential is all he’ll ever have. Teaching himself by trial and error, refusing to look ahead, Carter stumbles toward achievements that might match his abilities and asks us to respect him because his intentions be been good. I grant him that respect, but know the root of my disappointment. I thought we were getting a finished work, not a handsome block of marble that the chisel never touched.

What do you think? Discuss this article in the Politics & Society conference of Post & Riposte.

James Fallows, chief White House speechwriter for President Carter’s first two years in office, is Washington editor of The Atlantic. Copyright © 1979 by James Fallows. All rights reserved. The Atlantic Monthly; May 1979; Vol. 243, No. 5; pp. 33-48.


Hanouka/2180e: Comment la plus insignifiante devint la plus américaine des fêtes juives (Counter-Christmas: It’s penis envy, stupid !)

12 décembre, 2015
Hannukah
Menorah
ALLUMAGES-PUBLICS
hanoukka
Titus
knesset menorah
HannukahBear
faut-il-bannir-les-creches-de-noel-des-batiments-publics-deux-affaires-en-vendee-et-dans-l-herault-suscitent-l-indignation-parmi-les-opposants-au-laicisme-et-les-defenseurs-des-racines-chretiennes-de-la-france_5165309
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama wave with the Easter Bunny as they greet families participating in the White House Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of White House in Washington, Monday, April 6, 2015. Thousands of children gathered at the White House for the annual Easter Egg Roll. This year's event features live music, cooking stations, storytelling, and of course, some Easter egg roll. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
En ces jours-là surgit d’Israël une génération de vauriens qui séduisirent beaucoup de personnes en disant : « Allons, faisons alliance avec les nations qui nous entourent, car depuis que nous nous sommes séparés d’elles, bien des maux nous sont advenus. » (…) Plusieurs parmi le peuple s’empressèrent d’aller trouver le roi, qui leur donna l’autorisation d’observer les coutumes païennes. Ils construisirent donc un gymnase à Jérusalem, selon les usages des nations, se refirent des prépuces et renièrent l’alliance sainte pour s’associer aux nations. 1 Maccabées 1: 11-15
Il n’était même pas permis de célébrer le sabbat, ni de garder les fêtes de nos pères, ni simplement de confesser que l’on était Juif. On était conduit par une amère nécessité à participer chaque mois au repas rituel, le jour de la naissance du roi et, lorsqu’arrivaient les fêtes dionysiaques, on devait, couronné de lierre, accompagner le cortège de Dionysos. (…) Ainsi deux femmes furent déférées en justice pour avoir circoncis leurs enfants. On les produisit en public à travers la ville, leurs enfants suspendus à leurs mamelles, avant de les précipiter ainsi du haut des remparts. D’autres s’étaient rendus ensemble dans des cavernes voisines pour y célébrer en cachette le septième jour. Dénoncés à Philippe, ils furent brûlés ensemble, se gardant bien de se défendre eux-mêmes par respect pour la sainteté du jour. (…) Eléazar, un des premiers docteurs de la Loi, homme déjà avancé en âge et du plus noble extérieur, était contraint, tandis qu’on lui ouvrait la bouche de force, de manger de la chair de porc. Mais lui, préférant une mort glorieuse à une existence infâme, marchait volontairement au supplice de la roue,non sans avoir craché sa bouchée, comme le doivent faire ceux qui ont le courage de rejeter ce à quoi il n’est pas permis de goûter par amour de la vie. 2 Maccabées 6 : 6-20
La crise maccabéenne n’est pas un affrontement entre un roi grec fanatique et des Juifs pieux attachés à leurs traditions. C’est d’abord une crise interne au judaïsme, d’un affrontement entre ceux qui estiment qu’on peut rester fidèle au judaïsme en adoptant néanmoins certains traits de la civilisation du monde moderne, le grec, la pratique du sport, etc.., et ceux qui au contraire, pensent que toute adoption des mœurs grecques porte atteinte de façon insupportable à la religion des ancêtres. Si le roi Antiochos IV intervient, ce n’est pas par fanatisme, mais bien pour rétablir l’ordre dans une province de son royaume qui, de plus, se place sur la route qu’il emprunte pour faire campagne en Égypte. (…) Là où Antiochos IV commettait une magistrale erreur politique, c’est qu’il n’avait pas compris qu’abolir la Torah ne revenait pas seulement à priver les Juifs de leurs lois civiles, mais conduisait à l’abolition du judaïsme. Maurice Sartre
Chanukah is the festival of lights Instead of one day of presents, we have eight crazy nights When you feel like the only kid in town without a Christmas tree … Adam Sandler
Le Père Noël a été sacrifié en holocauste. A la vérité le mensonge ne peut réveiller le sentiment religieux chez l’enfant et n’est en aucune façon une méthode d’éducation. Cathédrale de Dijon (communique de presse aux journaux, le 24 décembre 1951)
Comme ces rites qu’on avait cru noyés dans l’oubli et qui finissent par refaire surface, on pourrait dire que le temps de Noël, après des siècles d’endoctrinement chrétien, vit aujourd’hui le retour des saturnales. André Burguière
Grâce à l’autodafé de Dijon, voici donc le héros reconstitué avec tous ses caractères, et ce n’est pas le moindre des paradoxes de cette singulière affaire qu’en voulant mettre fin au Père Noël, les ecclésiastiques dijonnais n’aient fait que restaurer dans sa plénitude, après une éclipse de quelques millénaires, une figure rituelle dont ils se sont ainsi chargés, sous prétexte de la détruire, de prouver eux-mêmes la pérennité. (…) La croyance où nous gardons nos enfants que leurs jouets viennent de l’au-delà apporte un alibi au secret mouvement qui nous incite, en fait, à les offrir à l’au-delà sous prétexte de les donner aux enfants […] Les cadeaux de Noël restent un sacrifice véritable à la douceur de vivre, laquelle consiste d’abord à ne pas mourir. (…) Les cadeaux seraient donc une prière adressée aux petits enfants – incarnation traditionnelle des morts, pour qu’ils consentent, en croyant au Père Noël, « à nous aider à croire en la vie ». Claude Lévi-Strauss
De nos jours, le jour de Noël est toujours considéré comme férié par le gouvernement des États-Unis. Cependant, des groupes de liberté de pensée, soutiennent que des traditions de Noël financées par le gouvernement violeraient la constitution américaine, plus particulièrement le premier amendement interdisant au Congrès la mise en place d’une religion d’État. Le débat sur l’opportunité des manifestations religieuses dans les écoles publiques, les palais de justice et autres bâtiments gouvernementaux, ont eu lieu au cours des dernières années. La Cour suprême, lors du procès Lynch contre Donnelly en 1984, a autorisé le financement par le gouvernement de manifestations fêtant Noël. Les limites exactes de cette décision sont imprécises et des affaires judiciaires continuent, par exemple sur le fait d’autoriser des chants de Noël dans les écoles publiques. Mais aucun cas n’est remonté jusqu’à la Cour suprême américaine. En 1984, la Cour suprême a déclaré par 5 voix contre 4 qu’une crèche était constitutionnelle notamment car elle faisait partie d’un ensemble avec d’autres éléments plus laïques tels qu’un arbre de Noël et une maison du père Noël. Mais en 1988, la Cour a statué à nouveau, par 5 voix contre 4, déclarant qu’une crèche dans un palais de justice était inconstitutionnelle car cette fois, la crèche n’était pas accompagnée par un arbre de Noël ou une maison du père Noël. Pour ajouter à la confusion, la Cour, dans la même affaire, a autorisé un chandelier à neuf branches juif de 6 mètres mais apparemment seulement parce que celui-ci était près d’un arbre de Noël de 15 mètres. Au cours des dernières décennies aux États-Unis, pour respecter la sensibilité d’une population très multiculturelle, le gouvernement fédéral et les entreprises ont eu tendance à diminuer l’emploi du mot « Noël » et au profit du terme générique de « vacances d’hiver ». Cela permet d’inclure sous le même vocable les fêtes non chrétiennes concomitantes telles que la fête juive d’Hanoukka ou la fête afro-américaine de Kwanzaa. Les aspects non-religieux de Noël, comme les arbres de Noël, les lumières et la décoration sont encore mis en évidence. Ils sont présents dans plusieurs chaînes de grands distributeurs américains, comme Wal-Mart, Macy’s et Sears. La formule d’accueil des clients « Joyeuses Fêtes » a remplacé le « Joyeux Noël ». En 2008, en Floride, faute de respecter ces consignes, une jeune femme, Tonia Thomas, a été licenciée « . Au début des années 2010, les camps favorables et opposés à la célébration de Noël s’affrontaient à coup de campagne publicitaire. Les médias ont surnommé cela « War on Christmas » (la Guerre de Noël). Ainsi en 2012, Une association athéiste américaine écrivait sur de grandes affiches à Times Square, New York « Keep The Merry, Dump The Myth » : « Gardez le joyeux, oubliez le mythe », chacune de ces propositions étant respectivement suivie d’une photo du père Noël et d’une image de Jésus. À cela le « Tea Party » répondait ‘It is Not happy holidays, It’s Merry Chrismas ». En 2014, il semble que les partisans de Noël aient gagné cette « War on Christmas »: 72 % des Américains disent que les crèches devraient être autorisées dans les espaces publics gouvernementaux. 44 % le confirment même si les symboles d’autres confessions religieuses sont interdits. Seuls 20 % des Américains disent que les crèches ne devraient pas être autorisés dans les espaces publics gouvernementaux. 4 Américains sur 5 préfèrent « Joyeux Noël » à Joyeuses vacances ». De même, 3 Américains non-religieux sur 4 préfèrent « Joyeux Noël ». En décembre 2014, des personnes de la communauté juive, se plaignent qu’à la bibliothèque publique de Boston, le Chandelier à neuf branches juif de la fête simultanée de Hanoucca n’est pas présenté à égalité avec les décorations chrétiennes de Noël. Les Américains juifs et non juifs mélangent de plus en plus les fêtes de Hanouca et de Noël. Le Mot-valise ‘Chrismukkah’ désigne ce Syncrétisme. Cela inquiète les juifs les plus orthodoxes car ils craignent que cela soit un pas supplémentaire vers l’assimilation complète des juifs américains. Cela favoriserait, en effet les rencontres puis les mariages mixtes. Ceux-ci croissent significativement 6% en 1950, 25% in 1974, 45 % en 2000, 71 % en 2013. À terme, cela conduirait à la disparition des juifs américains en tant que communauté. Les juifs orthodoxes et des organismes israéliens lancent des campagnes agressives pour critiquer les membres de leur communauté qui fêtent Noël. Certaines sectes et communautés chrétiennes rejettent l’observance de Noël pour des raisons théologiques. Wikipedia
Au début des années 2010, des plaintes ont été déposées concernant la présence de crèches dans l’espace public. Jusqu’aux années 2000, la mairie de Paris, par exemple, présentait une crèche sur la place de l’hôtel de ville. La crèche qui a lancé la polémique de 2014 au conseil général de Vendée était présente depuis la création de l’hôtel de département; le 13 octobre 2015, la cour administrative d’appel de Nantes autorise finalement l’installation de crèche de Noël. La multiplication des plaintes s’explique à la fois par un refus accru de la présence de tout signe religieux chrétien dans l’espace public, par les libres penseurs et par les autres religions, mais aussi par la multiplication de ces crèches par des personnes voulant rappeler le passé chrétien de la France. Ce problème de crèches dans des lieux publics n’avait, avant 2010, jamais été soulevé devant un tribunal français. Alors qu’aux États-Unis, par exemple, ce cas a été traité par la Cour suprême dès 1984. En 2010, pour la première fois; le tribunal administratif d’Amiens annule la délibération du conseil municipal de Montiers prévoyant d’installer une crèche sur la place du village. En 2011, des polémiques surgissent en région parisienne. En 2013, la crèche de la gare de Villefranche-de-Rouergue est masquée. En décembre 2014, le débat prend de l’ampleur lorsqu’à la demande de la Fédération nationale de la libre-pensée le juge administratif de Nantes refuse qu’une crèche de Noël soit installée dans l’enceinte du conseil général de Vendée. Simultanément, le préfet de l’Hérault demande à Robert Ménard, maire de Béziers, de retirer la crèche de sa mairie car elle contreviendrait « aux dispositions constitutionnelles et législatives garantissant le principe de laïcité ». Pour protester contre ces interdictions, plusieurs maires décident d’installer des crèches dans leur mairie. Quelques jours plus tard, le tribunal administratif de Montpellier rejette la demande d’enlèvement d’une crèche dans la mairie de Béziers. Une décision identique est rendue à Melun. Selon un sondage Ifop « 71 % des Français sont « plutôt favorables » à la présence de crèches de Noël dans les administrations et les bâtiments publics ». (…) Parmi les trois décisions contradictoires des tribunaux administratifs, aucune ne peut faire jurisprudence. Seule une décision du Conseil d’État, instance judiciaire administrative la plus élevée, peut s’imposer à toutes les juridictions. Les tribunaux s’opposent car leur refus de la crèche est basé sur l’article 28 de la loi de 1905 qui interdit de disposer des symboles religieux dans les lieux publics et leur compréhension de l’article 4 de cette même loi, dans laquelle l’État laisse aux Églises le soin de définir « leurs règles générales d’organisation ». Face aux divergences des juges du fond, il n’y a que trois sorties juridiques possibles : un arrêt du Conseil d’État, une intervention du législateur par une loi spécifique ou une saisine de la Cour Européenne des Droits de l’Homme. Certains responsables politiques pointent le risque d’extension de la visibilité dans l’espace public à d’autres religions. Ainsi, depuis quelques années, des chandeliers à neuf branches de la fête juive de Hanoucca sont aussi installés dans la mairie de Béziers, dans le centre-ville de Créteil ou place de la Bastille et au Champ de Mars à Paris. (…) En 2014, des représentants des religions minoritaires, comme Raphaël Draï, suggèrent, qu’au nom de l’égalité de tous en France, il serait juste, soit d’interdire toute manifestation de tradition catholique dans l’espace public, soit d’autoriser les manifestations des traditions de toutes les autres religions. Jean-François Colosimo lui rétorque que, si l’égalité des individus est garantie en France, il n’y a pas, en revanche, égalité des religions dans l’histoire de France. La religion catholique est largement dominante dans cette histoire et cela transparaît naturellement dans les traditions visibles aujourd’hui dans l’espace public. La loi de 1905, suivie des 2 000 pages de jurisprudence qui en ont découlé, est une loi d’équilibre, que certains ont appelée de « catho-laïcité ». Il a été assez précisément défini ce qui était permis ou non. Ce qui n’était pas le sujet à l’époque n’a pas été traité. Ainsi, par exemple, d’après Cynthia Fleury, la sonnerie des cloches des églises est autorisée, l’appel du muezzin musulman n’a pas été traité. Cette loi a donc cristallisé la situation de 1905. Autoriser les traditions des nouvelles religions en France, en supprimer des chrétiennes, revient à rouvrir le débat pour la modification de la loi de 1905, ce qu’aucun responsable politique ne souhaite. En novembre 2015, l’association des maires de France, l’AMF, interpelle « le ministre en charge de l’Intérieur sur l’hétérogénéité actuelle des jurisprudences, en particulier concernant l’installation des crèches de Noël en mairie ou dans des bâtiments publics, qui nuit à la compréhension de la règle par les élus et par les citoyens. Une clarification législative lui semble en effet souhaitable ». Cette volonté de limitation d’une pratique jugée plus culturelle que cultuelle et surtout quelques jours après la vague d’attentats islamistes à Paris provoque un tollé. Wikipedia
Il est nécessaire de diffuser le miracle de Hanouka. Allumer les bougies en public permet aux Juifs de se réunir, de partager. Il est indispensable de transmettre aux autres l’importance de cette fête ». Pour lui, l’objectif est clair. « Il faut donner l’envie aux gens, lorsqu’ils voient les flammes de Hanouka dans la rue, de les allumer chez eux. La victoire des Maccabées témoigne de la résistance face à l’assimilation. Le message de Hanouka n’a jamais été autant d’actualité. Haïm Nisembaum (mouvement Loubavitch)
À y regarder de plus près, la religion catholique semble s’imposer davantage que les autres dans l’espace public. Aussi les croix de mission que l’on trouve au croisement de deux chemins doivent-elles être dressées sur un terrain privé et non communal. A-t-on déjà vu des emblèmes religieux du culte protestant, musulman ou israélite dans l’espace public? Jean Regourd (Libre pensée de Vendée)
Ce n’est pas la crèche en tant que telle qui pose problème, c’est le message qu’elle pourrait envoyer. L’Etat doit montrer qu’il n’a pas de religion et ne discrimine pas ses citoyens. Une crèche provencale n’aurait pas posé de problèmes par exemple. Là, les juges ont estimé que la crèche était un emblème religieux incontestable et qu’en plus, il risquait d’être exposé longuement et donc susciter des interprétations. Aucun texte ne dit que la France a des racines chrétiennes, ce serait contre l’idée même de laïcité. Nicolas Cadène (Observatoire de la laïcité)
La justice serait-elle incohérente ? Une affaire de crèche de Noël en Vendée, identique à celle de Melun, vient d’obtenir les décisions juridiques exactement inverses, et à toutes les étapes de la procédure. Le conseil départemental de Vendée avait installé une crèche de Noël dans son hall. Le tribunal administratif l’a fait retirer à l’automne 2014 estimant que son caractère religieux était contraire au principe de laïcité des lieux publics. Le 13 octobre, la cour administrative d’appel de Nantes a annulé cette décision, estimant au contraire que la crèche s’inscrit « dans le cadre d’une tradition relative à la préparation de la fête familiale de Noël, ne revêt pas la nature d’un signe ou emblème religieux » et qu’elle n’est pas ostentatoire. Le Parisien
Dire que les crèches ne font pas partie de notre culture c’est nier l’évidence. Le fanatisme laïciste épouse ici la crétinerie la plus crasse. Bien sûr que la crèche fait partie de notre culture ! N’importe quel enfant le sait ! Nier cela pour, substituer à notre culture le culte du vide symbolique, sans mémoire, sans intelligence, sans promesse, c’est aggraver encore la crise que traverse notre pays. Et, finalement, faire le jeu du Front national, qui prospère précisément sur ce terrain laissé en jachère par les partis modérés, exactement comme il le fait en s’emparant de Jeanne d’Arc, du drapeau bleu blanc rouge, de la nation… Reste que pour les chrétiens, c’est un vrai dilemme. Car justement, pour nous, la crèche n’est pas seulement un élément de culture, ou alors notre foi est vaine, comme dirait saint Paul. Elle est encore moins un instrument de revendication politique. Certes, comme citoyens, nous pouvons nous inquiéter des ravages que fait cette machine à remplacer le lien par le rien. Mais comme chrétiens nous avons aussi de bonnes raisons de ne pas nous montrer dupes, par exemple, des intentions des maires comme Robert Ménard, à Béziers. Ces petits malins n’ont que faire du christianisme. Ils détournent la crèche à des fins de propagande politique. Et comme chrétiens, à l’école de François d’Assise, nous ne voulons pas que la crèche soit autre chose qu’un signe de la venue d’un Dieu pauvre rejeté et persécuté par les puissances du monde. De leur crèche, le Fils de Dieu est absent. Bref, nous devons nous méfier non seulement des obsédés de la Libre Pensée, mais aussi des obscènes récupérations politiques et de tous ceux qui veulent, en réalité, utiliser la religion soit comme un élément de folklore, soit comme un matériau promotionnel destiné à leur commerce. Gardons-nous donc de tous côtés. (…) Personne ne s’est donné la peine de savoir ce qu’est et ce que veut la Libre Pensée, à l’origine de l’affaire. Or ce n’est pas n’importe quelle association. Il suffit de lire ses statuts, en particulier l’article 2, pour voir qu’il s’agit d’une bande d’allumés voulant tout simplement éradiquer les religions, regardées « comme les pires obstacles à l’émancipation de la pensée. » La Croix
It really bothered my two kids. My son was like, ‘Dad, I really don’t feel comfortable getting these flyers, telling me to go to church. I thought churches are not supposed to mix with schools.’ Majed Moughni (Dearborn)
It would be one thing if this were an Easter egg hunt in an otherwise secular setting, say, the White House Easter egg hunt. But this invitation was for an Easter egg hunt at a Christian church — and so the event has much clearer religious connotations. Context matters. (…) The younger the children, the greater the concern. Children are more impressionable than adults, and elementary schoolchildren are more impressionable than any other students. And so the school district has to be especially careful about appearing to endorse … a particular religion. Greg Lipper (Americans United for Separation of Church and State)
Hanukkah’s strongest American advocates seem to have been those who felt the complexities of American Jewish life most acutely. It’s so simple, so conveniently vague, that it has been used by rabbis, advertisers, Zionists, Hebrew school teachers, and parents to promote everything from ethnic pride and nationalism to engagement in Jewish life and buying stuff. (…) Today, these giant menorahs are just a part of the American winter landscape. The White House menorah lighting is an annual tradition. No doubt, this public visibility has been one reason why Hanukkah has risen in prominence in American culture. But there’s also an irony here. Chabad exists to help Jews engage with Jewish life, yet the holiday that Chabad most visibly promotes—Hanukkah—is one of the least liturgically important holidays of the year. Dianne Ashton
The story of Hanukkah doesn’t even appear in the Torah—the books of 1 and 2 Maccabees are in the Catholic Bible, not the Hebrew one. The saga is briefly described in the Talmud—a tale of armed Jewish rebellion against the Hellenistic King Antiochus IV, paired with a parable about miracle oil that kept the eternal flame of the Temple burning for eight nights when it should have only lasted for one. It is both theologically thin and celebratory of violent nationalism. For most of Jewish history, the holiday has been of little consequence. “Hanukkah is … a minor holiday that America has elevated into something much more,” said Josh Plaut, the head rabbi at the Reform Metropolitan Synagogue in New York City. “Jews have been part of that magnification of Hanukkah. It suits our purposes.”    Emma Green

Attention: une commercialisation peut en cacher une autre !

En cette fin de Hanouka

Où, véritable miracle de l’histoire, le peuple juif continue à jouer son improbable survie

Pendant qu’entre crèches, chasse aux oeufs ou voeux de fin d’année, nos nouveaux croisés de la laïcité et leurs nouveaux damnés de la terre s’acharnent sur les derniers lambeaux du christianisme

Tout en redécouvrant sur le tard, face à la barbarie islamique en ces temps étranges d’idées chrétiennes devenues folles, les vertus soudain réconfortantes de symboles nationaux jusqu’ici relegués aux magasin des accessoires d’un FN honni …

Retour avec The Atlantic …

Sur l’étrange parcours de la plus insignifiante des fêtes juives (même pas retenue dans la Torah et ne devant sa survie qu’au Talmud et aux canons catholique et orthodoxe) …

Devenue tout à la fois sur le sol américain …

Contre-fête de Noël pour les enfants (pour les jouets) et objet de fierté identitaire (avec ses menorahs publiques) …

Mais aussi, à l’instar du Noël chrétien, sommet de la plus kitsch des commercialisations (pour ses hommes d’affaires) …

Et ce faisant entrée dans la culture américaine (et peut-être bientôt mondiale ?) …

Au prix certes d’une commercialisation frisant souvent (ours de Hanuka ?) le ridicule …

Mais à des années-lumières finalement de la confondante niaiserie …

Sans parler de la naissance du Messie et de l’Incarnation même dégradées, non sans résistance, en papa gâteau porteur de cadeaux …

Du salut de l’humanité réduit à une dérisissime chasse aux oeufs sur la pelouse de la Maison-Blanche ?

Hanukkah, Why?
Cultural critics often blame Christmas for the Festival of Lights’ commercialized kitsch. The real story is much more complicated.
Emma Green
Dec 9, 2015

As far as holidays go, Hanukkah sucks. Contrary to the popular public-school-kid myth, eight days of presents doesn’t mean the holiday is super-Christmas; it means the presents are junk, a proliferation of crap. Dreidl is a terrible game that requires no strategy and practically no skill. Somehow, the world’s entire gelt supply seems to have been manufactured in 1993, so even if you do win, your reward is stale, filmy-white, sub-par chocolate. Worst of all, Jews are forever manufacturing kitschy alternatives to Christmas customs: What’s with the Hanukkah bear, anyways? Arguably, latkes are one merit of the Festival of Lights, but woe to the holiday that relies upon potatoes as its only defense.The story of Hanukkah doesn’t even appear in the Torah—the books of 1 and 2 Maccabees are in the Catholic Bible, not the Hebrew one. The saga is briefly described in the Talmud—a tale of armed Jewish rebellion against the Hellenistic King Antiochus IV, paired with a parable about miracle oil that kept the eternal flame of the Temple burning for eight nights when it should have only lasted for one. It is both theologically thin and celebratory of violent nationalism. For most of Jewish history, the holiday has been of little consequence. “Hanukkah is … a minor holiday that America has elevated into something much more,” said Josh Plaut, the head rabbi at the Reform Metropolitan Synagogue in New York City. “Jews have been part of that magnification of Hanukkah. It suits our purposes.”
So why, in America, has Hanukkah taken on outsized significance? Because it serves a particular purpose: an opportunity to negotiate the twin, competing pressures of ethnic tension and assimilation. As the Rowan University historian Dianne Ashton writes in her book, Hanukkah in America, “Hanukkah’s strongest American advocates seem to have been those who felt the complexities of American Jewish life most acutely.” It’s so simple, so conveniently vague, that it has been used by rabbis, advertisers, Zionists, Hebrew school teachers, and parents to promote everything from ethnic pride and nationalism to engagement in Jewish life and buying stuff.No doubt, Hanukkah is an incredibly important part of the story of Jews in America. Why, then, is this holiday—the most public Jewish celebration in the United States—so silly?
* * *Like much of Jewish American life, Hanukkah’s evolution in the U.S. is a story of immigrants. In the 19th century, the Jewish population in the United States was very small—roughly 250,000 by 1880, Ashton estimates. As different groups of immigrant Jews came to the country from central and Eastern Europe, a debate emerged: “What is going to be the form of Judaism that will thrive in the United States?” Ashton said. Many of the institutions of Jewish life, such as schools and synagogues, were in Europe; coming to America was starting over, and in a very new context. “Freedom of religion was a shocking experience,” she said. “Jews had not encountered that before.”In the middle of the 19th century, some of the first Jews to promote Hanukkah in America were the rabbis who led the Reform Movement, which was largely based in Cincinnati, Ohio. Their Judaism was intellectual and sermon-heavy—“it really had nothing for the kids,” Ashton said. So “they came up with this idea of a synagogue festival for kids at Hanukkah as a way to interest kids in the synagogue: candle-lighting, singing songs, teaching the kids little skits, and then treating them to oranges and ice cream.”During this period in American history, Hanukkah wasn’t really celebrated in the home beyond the lighting of the menorah, Ashton said, but it did have certain domestic qualities. “The rabbis would stand up in the front [of the synagogue] and talk to the kids, but the women organized the kids, and fed the kids, and taught the kids the songs,” she said. This, in itself, was another way of reinforcing synagogue life, creating a role for women in promoting children’s education.
This was in keeping with a larger trend in American culture: a sentimental Victorian fascination with domesticity. A number of home-based festivals, such as birthday parties, emerged in the second half of the 19th century, and Hanukkah crept toward the home along similar lines. One of the Cincinnati rabbis, Isaac Mayer Wise, purposefully played into this. Over the course of 39 weeks around 1860, he serialized a romance novel based on the story of the Maccabees, playing into Victorian tropes like “religious virtues, patriotism, and strong gender distinctions,” Ashton writes. This was a way of educating Jews about Hanukkah, but it was also a form of reassurance: Yes, Jews could be part of American culture.
Elsewhere in the United States, some Jewish communities were wary of their surrounding culture. “Immigrant Jews had a deep and abiding anxiety about Christmas—this commercialized, merry, fun, sparkly Christmas was altogether new to them,” said Jenna Weissman Joselit, a professor of history at George Washington University. Toward the end of the 19th century, as more and more kids entered public schools, this fear grew. “The Yiddish press, particularly the Jewish Daily Forward, sought to explain America to these new immigrants,” she said. “They spent a lot of time trying to defang Christmas and assuage any concerns that pogrom was at their doorstep.” Memories lingered from events like the Warsaw pogrom of 1881, when Jewish businesses were destroyed and their owners attacked for two days around Christmas time.
If only by an accident of timing, Hanukkah served as a counter-balance to this fear of Christmas in Jewish communities—its celebration was a way of asserting Jewish identity. There may have been mild elements of competition to it, too. “That’s the cheap and dirty way of looking at it—that Hanukkah is penis envy, that Jews need to have their own equivalent of Christmas,” Weissman Joselit said. But it also marked all sorts of other things, such as Jews’ economic success, especially in places like New York City. “Immigrants needed reassurance that they were succeeding, that this gamble of coming to the U.S., to this new country an ocean away from everyone they know, was worth [it],” Ashton said. “One measure of success was being able to buy presents for their children.”And so the Hanukkah industry emerged. Yiddish newspapers made money by running advertisements for gifts—“‘presents’ was one of the earliest words that appeared in English in Yiddish newspapers,” Ashton said. Restaurant owners crafted special dishes for the holiday; shopkeepers made toys for parents to buy. This commercialization had the effect of “undermining traditional religious authority, empowering ordinary Jews, and tying religion inextricably to the market,” Ashton wrote. As Jews suburbanized in the middle of the century, the holiday suburbanized along with them, Weissman Joselit said. The kid-centered-ness of Hanukkah fit well with broader Leave It To Beaver norms of American culture. “I came across recipes [from] the ‘40s and ‘50s: little Maccabees fashioned out of cottage cheese or tuna fish,” she said.
As Hanukkah grew, so did the complexities of American Judaism. The holiday had been connected with Zionism for decades before the 1950s; Theodore Herzl, one of the founders of the movement, “placed the celebration of Hanukkah in the center of the modern Jew’s capacity to bolster one’s own self-respect while living as a minority,” Ashton writes. But particularly in the ’60s and ’70s, American Jews found urgency in the story of the Maccabees because of political affairs in Israel, Weissman Joselit said. Once again, some believed, Jews were an embattled minority in a strange land. Once again, their fate was unsure. Too, many Jews felt like an embattled minority in the United States. “There was a commitment in American Jewry writ large, based on the European experience, that a mixture of government and religion just never augured well for the Jews,” said Marc Stern, a lawyer at the American Jewish Committee. “That mix was ideologically repugnant.”In the 1970s and ’80s, these feelings contributed to a curious set of legal battles within the Jewish community. In 1973, the Chabad-Lebuvitch Rebbe Menachem M. Schneerson began a campaign: Help Jews across America light the menorah on Hanukkah. Religious law commands Jews to light the menorah on Hanukkah, preferably in public. In addition to distributing tin candleholders, the organization orchestrated and sponsored menorah lightings in American parks, city halls, and village greens—on government-held land, in other words. By 1979, President Jimmy Carter was participating in a lighting ceremony.
These public displays made many Jews uncomfortable. The Chabad campaign tested the “bulk of the Jewish community’s repudiation of the separation of church and state,” Stern said. “As a tactic, it was thought that the best way to avoid Christian symbols—with all their power, because they’re the majority, they’re the norm, and because in many places we weren’t going to match them one-for-one—[was] if we simply gave up on government and did our own thing.” And always, there was that lingering fear of violence against the Jewish community. “There were still, 25, 30 years ago, Jews who believed: Keep your head down. Don’t call attention to yourself. The menorah campaign was a challenge to that attitude,” he said. Working at the time with the American Jewish Congress, Stern was part of the team of litigators who submitted court briefs in opposition to Chabad’s menorahs, including the 1989 Supreme Court case County of Allegheny v. ACLU. The case was a little bizarre. The Court considered two displays, one crèche and one 18-foot menorah. Five years earlier, it had ruled in the case Lynch v. Donnelly that nativity scenes and other religious displays on government property were generally okay. In Allegheny, “the Court somehow ended up with the weirdest of all possible results,” Stern said, “which was that the menorah was okay, and this crèche was not.” The justices reasoned while the nativity scene displayed language designed primarily to promote religion, the menorah did not.
In other words: Chabad won. Today, these giant menorahs are just a part of the American winter landscape. The White House menorah lighting is an annual tradition. No doubt, this public visibility has been one reason why Hanukkah has risen in prominence in American culture. But there’s also an irony here. Chabad exists to help Jews engage with Jewish life, yet the holiday that Chabad most visibly promotes—Hanukkah—is one of the least liturgically important holidays of the year. “Chabad can’t be doing things at the White House on Yom Kippur because they’re in shul,” Ashton said. “The religious events that have more significance and that are under more control by the clergy—you can’t play around with [them] as easily.”As far as the options for Jewish gateway holiday go, Hannukah is a pretty poor choice. Some, like Chabad, explicitly intend for it to be a means of drawing Jews into observance, yet there’s not much theological or ritual complexity to the celebration. For many Jews, it’s fraught time of year, full of identity pissing contests that match plastic yard reindeers against giant light-up menorahs; as Ashton put it, “There’s a lot about display in December.” This public performance gives the holiday a distinct air of trying too hard: to compete with Christmas, to be colorful and loud, to demonstrate Jewishness, all without having to deal with Jewish theology, law, or morals. It has become a blue and white kaleidoscope of vague Jewishness, one that tacitly enables Christmas-style material excess.
* * *
Any examination of Hanukkah’s role in American Jewish life is inevitably self-parody. What more Jewish question could there be than Is this good for the Jews? But Judaism is a forward-looking religion; all its great dilemmas take place on an infinite Mount Nebo, one generation looking to the Promised Land and wondering what will become of the next.It’s a little much to claim that Hanukkah hinders the continuation of the Jewish people. But this is a holiday that is all about children and their education, especially in America. For some Jews, Hanukkah is the only time of year when they engage with their heritage. Plaut, the congregational rabbi in New York who also wrote the book A Kosher Christmas, spent many years as a campus rabbi at the Hillels of MIT and Trinity College in Connecticut. In his experience, Hanukkah celebrations “usually brought in non-religious students on campus to celebrate Hanukkah. That probably comes from what they experienced as children, growing up,” he said. Where there’s an event that might involve drinking and food, there are young people, and for rabbis, this presents a rare opportunity. “In the world we live in, you take people when they come to you, and you try and create the need for them constantly. Hanukkah is an easy, non-threatening way to do that,” Plaut said.But what does Hanukkah really teach anyone about being Jewish? That Jews have boring games, cherry sufganiyot are disgusting, and singing bear dolls are obnoxious? Even “the miracle of the oil is more a legend than a reality,” Plaut said. “The thinness of the theological basis—in some ways, it makes it easier to reach out to the younger generations who might not want that religious depth initially,” he said. “Hanukkah can be an easy way to celebrate one’s Jewish identity without a lot of baggage.”
And it’s true: Judaism, like any religion, comes with “baggage,” whether a Jew grew up Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, or without any observance at all. Jewish identity is complicated even further in interfaith households, which are increasingly common. Doing both Hanukkah and Christmas can seem like a cultural compromise for parents feeling familial pressure, and precisely because of its simplicity, Hanukkah can seem like an easy entrée into Judaism for kids.That may be true, but unlike many Jewish holidays, Hanukkah doesn’t reveal much of what Jewish life is about. It’s an empty celebration, and in its lack of substance, it has become filled with literal stuff. “Nobody’s buying anything for Yom Kippur … other than break-fast food and some bagels,” said Neal Hoffman, a former Hasbro employee who invented Mensch on a Bench. This, if you haven’t heard, is the Jewish alternative to Elf on a Shelf, first made in 2013 and now sold in places like Target and Bed Bath & Beyond.

“We as Jews have not shown that we want to buy things for other holidays. I don’t think that’s necessarily bad, that we’re keeping the other holidays a little more pure.”

The immaculate conception of Mensch on a Bench is, in many ways, the story of contemporary American Judaism. Hoffman is married to a Catholic; his two sons, Jacob and Alex, are being raised Jewish. Around Christmas time, his boys kept asking for trees and presents and the dreaded Elf on a Shelf. Hoffman would retort, “Jesus is the meal, Christmas is the dessert. And you can’t have dessert if you don’t have your dinner.” But he didn’t want to have to play defense against Christmas; he wanted his kids to have pride in their own cultural heritage. Thus, the Mensch—a stuffed incarnation of the mythical, long-ago Jew who sat on a bench in the Temple and made sure the oil didn’t burn down. In three years, Hoffman said, he has sold 120,000 dolls, and his company has started making books even for off-market holidays like Yom Kippur. “The truth is, we lose money on those,” he said. “We as Jews have not shown that we want to buy things for other holidays. I don’t think that’s necessarily bad, that we’re keeping the other holidays a little more pure. We’re keeping Passover about Seder and keeping Yom Kippur about the fast.”

The word he used, pure, is telling—even this Hanukkah pusher acknowledges that the Festival of Lights is a lesser holiday, fine to adulterate with endless products. It is a low-stakes, low-consequence celebration, and yet for a lot of American Jews, it has probably become one of the few times they encounter their religious culture during the year. Hoffman, of course, wouldn’t sell it that way. For him, the Mensch experience has been one of pride, not just professionally, but for his family. “I have a thousand of my Mensch menorahs in the house. They all have this Try Me button,” which produces a little song. “If you’ve been near a 3-year-old, you know that if they see a Try Me button, they’ll press it every time,” he explained. (Oy, the patience his wife must have—bless her.) “Now I find [my son] walking around by himself, and he’s singing the Hanukkah prayers year-round, mumbling to himself. I’m so proud of that, so happy about. That it’s all coming from the brand I created—I’m proud of that.”Perhaps this should be enough—it’s a Hanukkah miracle of its own sort for a 3-year-old to slowly start to embrace his Jewish heritage. The holiday may be ridiculous and totally lacking in substance, but “it’s part of the joke that we do all this stuff for this unimportant holiday,” said Ashton. “We all know what we’re doing. We know we’re making something grand out of a minor festival because, culturally, we need a much more grand, fun, event” in December. And besides, griping about Hanukkah is a tradition of its own. Every year, Jews kvetch about commercialism, “saying how distasteful it is, or this is completely distorting what this holiday is about,” Ashton said. “People have been saying that for more than 100 years.”

Voir aussi:

Some Muslim parents are concerned about public schools in Dearborn handing out flyers to all students advertising an Easter egg hunt, saying it violates the principle of church and state separation.

A flyer headlined “Eggstravaganza!” was given to students this week at three elementary schools in the Dearborn Public Schools district, which has a substantial number of Muslim students. The flyer described an April 12 event at Cherry Hill Presbyterian Church in Dearborn featuring an egg hunt, relay race, and egg toss. It asked students to RSVP “to secure your free spot” and included images of eggs and a bunny.

“It really bothered my two kids,” said parent Majed Moughni, who is Muslim and has two children, ages 7 and 9, in Dearborn elementary schools. “My son was like, ‘Dad, I really don’t feel comfortable getting these flyers, telling me to go to church. I thought churches are not supposed to mix with schools.’ ”

Moughni said he’s concerned about “using school teachers paid by public funds … to pass out these flyers that are being distributed by a church. I think that’s a serious violation of separation of church and state.”

David Mustonen, spokesman for Dearborn Public Schools, did not respond Thursday to several requests by the Free Press for comment.

The pastor of Cherry Hill Presbyterian Church defended the flyer, saying it was approved for distribution by Dearborn Public Schools and is not promoting a religious event.

“It’s designed to be an opportunity to invite the community to come for a day of activity,” said Pastor Neeta Nichols of Cherry Hill. “There is not a religious component to this event.”

“Part of our ministry in Dearborn is to invite the community to let them know we’re here,” she added. “We’re offering various kinds of programming, fun opportunities, so what we can be engaged with the community.”

But Moughni and others are worried that churches are trying to convert their youth through the Dearborn schools. Moughni said his children received flyers for Halloween events at another church last year.

And in recent years, other Muslim parents have complained about what they say are attempts to convert their children. The Conquerors, a Grandville-based group of Christian athletes who display feats of strength to spread the message of Jesus, have performed in Dearborn schools, drawing some concern. In 2009, there was controversy over an assistant wrestling coach who some parents said was trying to convert Muslim wrestlers, which the coach denied.

Moughni said he greatly respects Christianity, but believes that schools should not promote events related to religious holidays. He said he would oppose flyers that promoted events at mosques as well.

Part of the debate centers around whether Easter is entirely a religious holiday, or one that combines Christian and Western cultural traditions such as the Easter bunny and eggs.

Greg Lipper, senior litigation counsel at Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said he has some concerns about the flyer since the event is being held at a church.

“It would be one thing if this were an Easter egg hunt in an otherwise secular setting,” say, the White House Easter egg hunt, he said. “But this invitation was for an Easter egg hunt at a Christian church — and so the event has much clearer religious connotations. Context matters.”

Lipper added that the legality of flyer distribution in schools depends on whether the district is favoring some institutions over others. Schools can’t favor one religion, he said.

“The younger the children, the greater the concern,” Lipper said. “Children are more impressionable than adults, and elementary schoolchildren are more impressionable than any other students. And so the school district has to be especially careful about appearing to endorse … a particular religion.”

Voir encore:

Hanoukka, la fête de la lumière, s’affiche dans les villes de France

Alors que traditionnellement, Hanoukka est célébrée en famille, de nombreux allumages publics ont été organisés à travers la France entre le 1er et le 8 décembre
Julien Duriez
9/12/10

Place de la Bastille à Paris, sous une pluie mêlée de neige, au pied d’une ménora – candélabre doré à neuf branches – de plus de cinq mètres de haut, se tiennent une soixantaine de personnes, venues assister à l’allumage public. Philippe Chebi, un des organisateurs de l’allumage, est habillé, comme près de la moitié des hommes présents, d’un long manteau noir et du chapeau à larges bords propre aux loubavitchs, mouvement juif minoritaire.

Comme chacun des soirs de la fête de Hanoukka, qui a eu lieu cette année du 1er au 8 décembre, le Beth Loubavitch de Paris invite les juifs de la capitale à se rassembler à un endroit stratégique de la ville pour allumer ensemble une des huit bougies que compte la ménora (la neuvième bougie, appelée le chamash, sert à enflammer les huit autres). Après l’allumage, réalisé à partir de la nacelle d’une grue, place à la musique et à la fête. Une quinzaine d’hommes, tous loubavitchs, dansent et chantent en se tenant la main autour de la ménora.

La Hanoukka, fête de la lumière, commémore le « miracle de l’huile ». Au IIe siècle avant Jésus-Christ, après avoir battu le roi grec Antiochus IV qui interdisait aux juifs de pratiquer leur culte, ces derniers ont repris possession du temple de Jérusalem et ont allumé pour l’inaugurer la seule bougie à n’avoir pas été détruite. Prévue pour se consumer en une journée, elle a duré huit jours. « La Hanoukka célèbre la victoire de la lumière et de la chaleur. Elle représente aussi la victoire contre le paganisme et la défense de la liberté religieuse, une valeur importante pour toutes les confessions », détaille à sa descente de la nacelle Binyamin Merghi, membre du Beth Loubavitch, qui vient de présider la bénédiction de l’allumage.

A l’initiative des loubavitchs

Traditionnellement, l’allumage se fait en famille. Mais le phénomène des allumages publics se développe en France, principalement à l’initiative des loubavitchs. « Cette piété très démonstrative a pour objectif de raviver l’enthousiasme des non-pratiquants, mais aussi d’attirer l’attention des non-juifs, analyse Régine Azria, sociologue des religions. L’objectif de visibilité et d’affirmation identitaire, qui s’exprime déjà par la manière dont les loubavitchs s’habillent, passe aujourd’hui par une occupation de l’espace public. »

Près de 70 manifestations comme celles de la place de la Bastille ont été organisées en Île-de-France, sans compter celles programmées en province. Le plus important de ces allumages a eu lieu le dimanche à proximité de la tour Eiffel pour le cinquième soir de la fête. Un événement qui se voulait « intercontinental », des opérations de la même nature ayant lieu le même jour en Afrique du Sud, au Brésil, en Australie ou encore à New-York, ville d’où est originaire le fondateur du mouvement loubavitch, Rabbi Shneur Zalman, décédé en 1812. « C’est le Rabbi Shneur qui a le premier instauré les allumages publics. Il nous a demandé d’apporter la lumière sur toutes les places du monde », détaille Philippe Chebi.

Sur place, Alexandre et Lucie, tous deux étudiants, sont venus en voisins. « Même si nous ne sommes pas d’accord avec beaucoup d’idées des loubavitchs, nous sommes contents qu’ils organisent cet allumage, explique le jeune homme, kippa sur la tête, qui fréquente une synagogue libérale : c’est l’occasion, une fois par an, de s’afficher comme juif, ce qui n’est pas toujours évident. »

Pour Hanouka, les Juifs allument les rues de Paris!

Année après année, les allumages publics abondent. Un seul mot d’ordre pour cette fête phare du calendrier juif : la diffusion du miracle.

Contrairement aux autres fêtes de l’année qui se célèbrent à huis clos et à l’ombre des regards, dans les synagogues et autour de tables garnies, la fête de Hanouka a pour principal objectif de dévoiler au monde entier le fameux miracle de la fiole d’huile. Il s’agit donc d’organiser les allumages dans le plus d’endroits possibles. Pour cela, le Beth Loubavitch de France redouble d’efforts pour multiplier les hanoukiot dans les rues de Paris.

Ainsi, rendez-vous était pris mardi soir dès 19h30 pour l’allumage de la première bougie Place de la République. Le lendemain, ce fut sur la Place de la Bastille. La troisième bougie sera allumée Place du Maréchal Juin. La Place du Châtelet sera à l’honneur samedi soir 20 heures, et le lendemain à la même heure sera allumée la sixième flamme au Champs de Mars. La fête finira mardi 23 décembre à 18h30 sur la Place de l’Opéra.

Pour Haïm Nisembaum, porte-parole du mouvement Loubavitch, ces allumages publics sont essentiels pour la communauté. « Il est nécessaire de diffuser le miracle de Hanouka. Allumer les bougies en public permet aux Juifs de se réunir, de partager. Il est indispensable de transmettre aux autres l’importance de cette fête ». Pour lui, l’objectif est clair. « Il faut donner l’envie aux gens, lorsqu’ils voient les flammes de Hanouka dans la rue, de les allumer chez eux. La victoire des Maccabées témoigne de la résistance face à l’assimilation. Le message de Hanouka n’a jamais été autant d’actualité ».

Journée d’animation pour les enfants malades

Comme chaque année, l’Aumônerie Israélite des Hôpitaux de France organise des allumages avec les enfants. Dimanche  21 décembre aura lieu à l’hôpital Debré, dans le XIXe arrondissement, une journée d’