The Washington Post: Right Wing Netherworld (Updated)

The Washington Post is a “right wing netherworld”? Who knew? Here’s Fareed Zakaria, published in the Washington Post this morning:

At his United Nations debut, Barack Obama urged global cooperation to combat nuclear proliferation, climate change and other problems that go beyond the borders of any one country. The speech was well received around the world, except in one place — America’s right-wing netherworld, which quickly began whipping people into a frenzy.

And here’s Michael Gerson, published in the Washington Post on Saturday:

I can recall no other major American speech in which the narcissism of a leader has been quite so pronounced. It might be compared to Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s “I shall return” — which made it sound like MacArthur intended to reconquer the Philippines single-handedly. But MacArthur, at least, imagined himself as embodying his country, not transcending it. He did not assert that while the Japanese invasion was certainly excessive, America had been guilty of provocations of its own — and now, in the MacArthur era, things would be finally different.

Twice in his United Nations speech, Obama dares to quote Franklin Roosevelt. I have read quite a bit of Roosevelt’s rhetoric. It is impossible to imagine him, under any circumstances, unfairly criticizing his own country in an international forum in order to make himself look better in comparison. He would have considered such a rhetorical strategy shameful — as indeed it is.

It’s a netherworld that apparently extends to the Champs-Élysées:

Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, came close to mocking his American counterpart for the good intentions, which Mr Obama had heralded as an “historic” step towards nuclear abolition, even though it set no specific targets or fresh mandates.

“We live in a real world not a virtual world,” the Frenchman told the 15-member council. “And the real world expects us to take decisions.

“President Obama dreams of a world without weapons … but right in front of us two countries are doing the exact opposite.

“Iran since 2005 has flouted five security council resolutions. North Korea has been defying council resolutions since 1993.

“I support the extended hand of the Americans, but what good has proposals for dialogue brought the international community? More uranium enrichment and declarations by the leaders of Iran to wipe a UN member state off the map,” he continued, referring to Israel.

The sharp-tongued French leader even implied that Mr Obama’s resolution 1887 had used up valuable diplomatic energy.

“If we have courage to impose sanctions together it will lend viability to our commitment to reduce our own weapons and to making a world without nuke weapons,” he said.

Mr Sarkozy has previously called the US president’s disarmament crusade “naïve”.

Now, I believe that there is a time for words and a time for deeds and right now is as good a time for words as we’re likely to get. Consequently, I wasn’t as outraged about President Obama’s remarks at the United Nations as some apparently were. Unless we’re extraordinarily lucky or President Obama is significantly more skilled than his detractors fear he is, the time for deeds may come all too soon.

However, hasty generalization leading to poisoning the well will not improve the level of discourse. Principled disagreement with President Obama is possible and it need not be politically motivated.


Howard Fineman and Newsweek have apparently entered the netherworld:

The president’s problem isn’t that he is too visible; it’s the lack of content in what he says when he keeps showing up on the tube. Obama can seem a mite too impressed with his own aura, as if his presence on the stage is the Answer. There is, at times, a self-referential (even self-reverential) tone in his big speeches. They are heavily salted with the words “I” and “my.” (He used the former 11 times in the first few paragraphs of his address to the U.N. last week.) Obama is a historic figure, but that is the beginning, not the end, of the story.

There is only so much political mileage that can still be had by his reminding the world that he is not George W. Bush. It was the winning theme of the 2008 campaign, but that race ended nearly a year ago. The ex-president is now more ex than ever, yet the current president, who vowed to look forward, is still reaching back to Bush as bogeyman.

He did it again in that U.N. speech. The delegates wanted to know what the president was going to do about Israel and the Palestinian territories. He answered by telling them what his predecessor had failed to do. This was effective for his first month or two. Now it is starting to sound more like an excuse than an explanation.

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Dave Schuler
About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging. He has contributed to OTB since November 2006 but mostly writes at his own blog, The Glittering Eye, which he started in March 2004.


  1. Brett says:

    He did it again in that U.N. speech. The delegates wanted to know what the president was going to do about Israel and the Palestinian territories. He answered by telling them what his predecessor had failed to do. This was effective for his first month or two. Now it is starting to sound more like an excuse than an explanation.

    That’s because, when you get down to it, his policy on Israel and Palestine is just little different from 2007-onward Bush, when the latter started the Anapolis Conference. The only real difference was that Obama was wisely* asking for a full settlement freeze before sitting down for real negotiations, and since he backed down from that recently, he’s got nothing distinctive. **

    *A full settlement freeze is important for three reasons. First, it helps ease Palestinian and Arab concern that Israel is just using a negotiating period to create more facts on the ground and take as much land as possible in the West Bank before a final settlement. Second, it gives greater cover to the Palestinian leadership willing to negotiate – they can take it back to their supporters and say that they aren’t negotiating from a total loss. Third, it aligns more with the Saudi Peace Initiative (which calls for Israeli withdrawal from post-1967 conquered land), which makes it more likely that the neighbors will be supportive (or at least neutral).

    **This is important, because a lot of the rhetoric from US Presidents about Israel-Palestine just sounds like the same damn old crap after a while.