As I watch American President Barack Obama wrestling with problems that might seem insoluble to less intellectually gifted observers – like me – I wonder at the self destructive zeal with which critics are attacking him. It’s as if he is trying to drain the swamp while a swarm of vicious alligators are snapping at him.
The assault from the right was expected, of course. Like lemmings determined to plunge over a cliff, the true believers in the sanctity of “free enterprise” and “small government,” and the crusaders for religious intolerance and other forms of bigotry, are impervious to reason. Like Samson in the Bible they are suicidally prepared to pull down the temple on themselves to make a point.
And I knew the con artists who profit from these misguided souls would seize the opportunity to whip them into a frenzy, preying on their prejudices and ignorance. The torrent of vitriol directed at the nation’s first African-American President by radio host Rush Limbaugh is hardly surprising, for example. That’s how this bloated demagogue makes his millions.
But I must admit Dick Cheney’s emergence from his cave caught me by surprise. Why are the American media giving the former vice president a soap box for his lies and sophistry? Have they no sense of responsibility? Will they do anything to stir up controversy in the hope of increasing their audience? Surely even the most cynical American media representatives can recognize that Cheney is the incarnation of evil, the Devil’s spokesman on earth? Who else would attempt to justify torture and spin such a tapestry of lies to excuse the wanton destruction of human lives?
But most surprising – to me at any rate – is the assault from the left. I am amazed at the lack of perspicacity demonstrated by commentators like MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. Is she so intoxicated by her show’s modest success that she fails to see what’s going on? Or is she – like so many of those who have given liberalism a bad name – blinded by uncompromising and self-righteous devotion to abstractions like “justice,” “civil liberties,” and “gay rights”?
With craven members of the Democratic Party dragging their feet while they hang on to his coattails, President Obama faces an excruciatingly difficult task as he tries to reverse the country’s – and the world’s – descent into an economic abyss. At the same time, he is ambitiously trying to reshape a perverted society, to restore some balance to a system that has been shanghaied by the rich and powerful and improve the day-to-day lives of ordinary Americans.
Acutely aware of the political and economic facts of life, President Obama is navigating carefully through the intricacies imposed by American democracy. To reach his goals, he must bob and weave, seek compromises and make concessions. The last thing he needs is the constant criticism of the self-deluded and the self-righteous.