The Liability of Stating the Obvious

Two “incidents” with the Obama campaign has been getting a lot of press play lately in the news cycle: first, the so-called “leaked memo” from Austan Goolsbee, his economic adviser, to a Canadian consulate; second, Samantha Power’s interviews with The Scotman and the BBC.

What struck me about both of these things is that in both cases, stating the obvious has become controversial.

In the memo to the Canadian consulate, Goolsbee stated that Obama is only taking a hardball stance on NAFTA in order to win Ohio. Well, duh. What else do people expect him to do? If populism is what it takes to win, then candidates will do it. Clinton did it no less, even if she did support NAFTA during her husband’s administration.

Once again, the politicians are taking the easy road and ignoring the difficult things that must be undertaken if they are really serious about fairness for the people of Ohio who have lost their manufacturing jobs because of NAFTA. Sure, beating the populist drum is easy–anyone can play that particular guitar. But the real question is this: what are they going to do about the people of Ohio?

Clinton keeps saying that she will renegotiate NAFTA with Canada and Mexico, but so far what is to be negotiated are environmental provisions of NAFTA, which you bet all your money that an unemployed, blue-collar worker in Ohio will not give a rat’s ass about.

If both Clinton and Obama are really serious about the people in Ohio, then they should have talked about job retraining programs for people who have lost their jobs. Instead, they took the easy as shit position of populism. This is just so typical of American political discourse: ignore the difficult and uncertain task of finding concrete solutions and focusing on some straw man to knock down. Four years later, rinse and repeat, ad nauseum.

As for the Samantha Power “incident,” I just don’t get the controversy. Sure, she called Hillary a “monster,” which I agree was not that tactful, but is that really any worse than Hillary’s surrogates implying that Obama is a Muslim or that he has used drugs in the past? Let’s not get into a game of “who’s the bigger victim” here.

Second, why is Power being taken to task for saying to BBC that Obama’s troop withdrawal plan is only a “best case scenario?” What else could it possibly be? We have 10 months left before the next president, whoever that is, will take office. 10 months is a long time for things to change on the ground, for better or worse. Of course any plan is based on some kind of speculation.

That this is obvious should be true for anyone who has even a remote grasp of how foreign policy works, especially for someone like Samantha Power, who is a renowned international relations scholar. So why are people taking her to task for saying what she is undoubtedly qualified to say?

So again I have to task: what the fuck?


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