And sad. President Clinton was a impressively smart man, and in this interview he shows it off in spades, able to call to mind statistics and rationales for policies without any aid. He’s a statesman, in the most classic sense of the word. And Amy Goodman is a journalist, in the best sense of that word.
But I think what is most remarkable looking back on his words 13 years later, is that everything he talked about is worse, under both the Republicans and the Democrats. That the gains he crowed were illusory, the economy he pinned so many hopes on had been a pyramid balanced on its tip that could last only so long. The reforms to come he spoke of weren’t just abandoned by the opposition, but by his own party, after he had deferred them himself, always “waiting on reports.” Everything, every single point he made, however elegantly made by this most skilled of politicians and speakers, every course of action he talked about, has all ended in total failure. From ending racial profiling (which Hillary was working on in New York) to New York’s shameful Stop and Frisk, unemployment is of course ridiculously high, schools failing, racism worse, healthcare costs higher than ever, Mexico is a basket case, the private prison system has reinstated slavery largely based on race. Cuba is still under embargo. Since them we’ve gotten black sites, Gitmo, endless wars. We’ve gone from secretive banking corruption to openly refusing to enforce the law against the masters of our economy, who commit fraud routinely, while violently suppressing the growing dissent on the streets. The failure of this system is so total that only insanity can still profess faith in it.
And not only is Leonard Peltier still in jail, this Democratic president has matched his unprecedented secrecy and persecution of whistleblowers with absolutely no pardons.
I was quite moved and impressed with Obama’s Cairo speech. Quoting the Qur’an four times, and the Talmud alongside the Bible, invoking Cordoba, and confessing publicly our role in the 1953 overthrow of Iran’s peacefully democratically elected and legitimate government- it was all such a departure from the ideology of the last administration, and so much more courageous than even many before that. I think the significance of acknowledging the past may be lost on many of the listeners, both here and in the Middle East, where the past is so well known, but it represents a willingness to speak with candor that I believe will make a huge amount of difference. Before reconciliation comes truth. Now is the moment where the world reacts to the speech. That reactions seem to be largely positive- and even when it’s not in some of the Middle Eastern blogs I’ve perused it seems like there is as much avoidance of hope for fear of being disappointed as actual criticism. But the brilliance of the speech was how it enfranchised so many subtle points of view without taking away from others.
Ahmad Yousuf, a senior Hamas official, told Al Jazeera that Obama’s speech reminded him of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream speech”.
About Obama stressing on the legitimacy of Israel, he said the Palestinians must have a state of their own before being asked to recognise another.
I don’t believe one gets rid of a Hamas by driving them into the sea, by bombing them or starving them, or by threats, or even education or propaganda. One gets rid of a Hamas by giving it political legitimacy, putting it in charge of some roads, and saddling it with a bureaucracy. Yousuf is here framing that end to Hamas as it is- admitting the possibility of political compromise where none should be ideologically possible. ‘Let us have our nation,’ he seems to be saying, ‘and we’ll let you have yours.’ That the possibility of the promise being broken exists doesn’t matter- then it’s just politicians lying. They are one good asphalt trade negotiation away from doing it anyhow.
More Perfect Union still stands to me as the greatest political speech of my lifetime, but this could have been one of the more brilliant moves in psychohistory I’ve seen in a while.