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Chris Saliba reviews Barack Obama's 'Thoughts on reclaiming the American dream'

Chris Saliba is a Webdiary contributor. His archive is here. His last Webdiary piece was The occupation of Iraq by Alli A. Allawi. His blog is here.


What’s all the fuss about Barack Obama? The Democrat Illinois Senator keeps popping in our Australian media, a rising star who made it without much money or publicity. He’s young, handsome, African-American and half white. He’s also a writer who communicates in a plain, straightforward style about the major issues confronting us today.  

His first book Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance (1995) is an autobiography, and The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream concerns itself with Obama’s political thought. The latter has been described as a thesis submission for the U.S Presidency.  

The title does put you off – it sounds like something out of Oprah’s book of the month club (she happens to be a big fan), leading you to think it’s going to be a book chocka block full of feel good motherhood statements. Yet by book’s end, I was completely won over. And saddened. Why can’t Australia’s Liberal or Labor parties produce a Barack Obama? Why can’t we have an Opposition that is, well, like an opposition? Labor’s candidate for the seat of Bennelong, Maxine McKew, claims to find Barack Obama an inspiration. Maybe we should cross our fingers and hope she can pull off a miracle and win John Howard’s seat.  

The Audacity of Hope is not a revolutionary book, with  neat and clever policy prescriptions for every conceivable issue. It doesn’t rattle with a leftist fervour, or march with right ring certainty . Nor does it garrison itself behind an ideologically set in stone position, firing pot shots at political enemies. In fact, The Audacity of Hope almost reads like a doubter’s companion. Barack Obama doesn’t claim to have all the answers, and admits to the possibility of making mistakes. At times his honesty can be quite disarming.

In the prelude, the author describes a brief meeting with a journalist who praised his first book, and wondered whether he would now be able to write as interesting a second one. Obama interpreted this as meaning, will I be able to remain honest now that I am a U.S senator? ‘I wonder, too, sometimes,’ he tells us. ‘I hope writing this book helps me answer the question.’

The book is divided into seven chapters covering subjects such a family, faith, race, politics and of course, what U.S foreign policy should be, something perhaps that Howard and Rudd should be paying more than a cursory glance at. Imagine should Barack Obama win the presidency, and Howard win a fifth term. Howard will find himself making quite a few zig-zags on Australia’s foreign policy.

Barack Obama’s overriding philosophy is that the left wing, right wing political divide has people so bogged down and blinkered that any kind of real debate or dialogue is now impossible.  

The pro-choice camp will not listen to pro-lifers and their valid concerns. Gay activists demanding gay marriage will not hear their opponents. Black leaders cannot appreciate the fears whites may have when it comes to affirmative action. Critics of  George Bush will not try to understand his motivations.

In one of the most arresting lines in the book, Obama states starkly what is everyone’s political responsibility: ‘No one is exempt from the call to find common ground.’

Elaborating on this theme, he says:

‘That’s what empathy does – it calls us to all to task, the liberal and the conservative, the powerful and the powerless, the oppressed and the oppressor. We are all shaken out of our complacency. We are all forced beyond our limited vision.’

Australian readers will probably find the chapter on faith most instructive. American religious zeal is something that most bamboozles us about Americans. We don’t have the same thing here. We don’t have fierce culture wars over abortion, gay marriage and intelligent design.  

Obama discusses the history of religion in the United States, claiming there has been no recent resurgence of belief over the past so twenty years, but rather that it has always been there, merely misread by the wishful thinking of certain sociologists and commentators. The libertarian sixties never did defeat America’s religious values.

Barack Obama himself was not brought up in any particular faith. His father was a Muslim turned atheist. His mother was a bookish skeptic. Rather than bring up her son Christian, she educated the young Barack in all of the world’s religions. ‘In our household, the Bible, the Koran, and the Bhagavad-Gita sat on the shelf alongside books on Greek and Norse and African mythology.’  

Despite this, Obama himself found God in the black church, and can thus relate to and understand the high level of religious feeling in the United States. ‘I was drawn to the African-American religious tradition to spur change,’ he writes.

This has brought him into some conflict with his co-religionists. On abortion, he believes there should be an emphasis on reducing pregnancy terminations, but ultimately defends a woman’s right to choose. Gay marriage he does not support, but sees no reason why committed gay couples cannot enjoy the same legal rights as heterosexual couples.  

In short, Obama believes every issue should be decided on its merits, using common sense, not some blinkered left / right wing ideology. Nor does he believe in demonising political opponents, insisting that we listen and be courteous when encountering an opposite view. We are not always right in our arguments, and should be prepared to change our minds over issues.

Obama was an early opponent of the Iraq war, believing it was ‘dumb’ and ‘rash’. This is not to say he does not believe in military interventions. ‘There will be times when we must again play the role of the world’s reluctant sheriff. This will not change – nor should it.’  

And furthermore:

‘I would also argue that we have the right to take unilateral military action to eliminate an imminent threat to our security – so long as an imminent threat is understood to be a nation, group or individual that is actively preparing to strike U.S targets.’  

Even though Obama maintains the U.S should have this right to strike unilaterally, he believes multilateralism is a better way to go, and that building global support for U.S goals should be a major plank of U.S foreign policy. A Barack Obama administration would be all about consultation with the world, not the ‘you’re with us or against us’ approach of the Bush administration.

Barack Obama’s stripped back, no frills, common sense approach to politics reminded me of a slim volume of essays by political scientist Christopher Lasch called The Revolt of the Elites and The Betrayal of Democracy. In that book Lasch was highly critical of the left wing (whose major failings he described as the welfare state) and right wing (free markets), saying they had destroyed any type of public debate. Religion, Lasch also wrote, was completely misunderstood by its critics,  whose philosophies had nothing as good to replace it with.  

Lasch described the political debate thus:

‘The old dispute between left and right has exhausted its capacity to clarify issues and to provide a reliable map of reality. In some quarters the very idea of reality has come into question, perhaps because the talking classes inhabit an artificial world in which simulations of reality replace the thing itself.’

Barack Obama does not offer earth shattering political visions; you can’t ever imagine an ‘ism’ ever being attached to his name. If that ever happened surely he could be discounted a failure.  

What he is trying to do is start some type of real dialogue – free of cant, free of dogma. A dialogue where the views of ordinary citizens are welcome, and where they help to actually create the society they live in.

If financial contributions are anything to go by, it seems that for the moment Barack Obama has built a genuine grass roots campaign. Some $10 million of his $33 million campaign donations for the second quarter of this year have come from contributions of $200 or less – a figure that has stunned many campaign finance experts. Could this be the start of something big?

Call me naive, but I’m hoping Barack Obama becomes the fourty-fourth American president. He’s no political saviour, but he could point us in a better direction.


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Clinton has significantly widened her lead over Obama

"New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton has significantly widened her lead over Illinois Senator Barack Obama in the Democratic presidential contest after a dispute over foreign policy, a new poll showed on Tuesday."

- Reuters, today.

Ooops. My bet is if Hilary gets the Democrat nomination, it will be a very bitter, divisive Presidential campaign.

Take Care

Wish you well, Margo, with your new project and, if I may, an ancient albatross proverb:

When emotion overrules reason the consequences are usually unfortunate; but when reason destroys passion, the consequences are always devastating.

Take care of youself, Margo, have a lovely flight, and don't forget the breathing thing.

Fare thee well

"Wish you well, Margo, with your new project"

Me too! Fare thee well, dear Margo. Loved that quote, Justin. You're such a thoughtful guy.

In May, when sea-winds pierced our solitudes,
I found the fresh Rhodora in the woods,
Spreading its leafless blooms in a damp nook,
To please the desert and the sluggish brook.
The purple petals fallen in the pool
Made the black water with their beauty gay;
Here might the red bird come his plumes to cool,
And court the flower that cheapens his array.
Rhodora! if the sages ask thee why
This charm is wasted on the earth and sky,
Tell them, dear, that, if eyes were made for seeing,
Then beauty is its own excuse for being;
Why thou wert there, O rival of the rose!
I never thought to ask; I never knew;
But in my simple ignorance suppose
The self same power that brought me there
brought you.

Ralph Waldo Emerson.. Sigh.

what about this?!?!

Hi. Heard about the latest USA thing re online campaigning? Antony Loewenstein sent me this link:

Be a Part of HuffPost's Online-Only Presidential Candidate Mashup

This is my last contribution to Webdiary for three weeks. A special project suddenly came up yesterday, and I need to work on it full time until near the end of this month. I'll tell you all about it when I'm back on deck. In the meantime, be nice to each other, OK? Webdiary's general manager David Roffey will also be responsible for editorial content . Comments editors will be Fiona Reynolds, Richard Tonkin and David Curry. Onward!

Obama's outburst

I didn't take an awful lot of notice of this thread until that astonishing, disappointing outburst from Obama about whacking Pakistan. Was having a phone chat with a friend into politics and they reckoned ok if the yanks did take swipe at them - too much like  Egypt and  Mubarrak.

John  Pratt's comment comes closest to my own feelings,though.

So  I disagreed with my friend. Am sick of constant US exceptionalist interventionism and its politicians always trying to prove what "hard men"  they are by launching attacks on other, smaller countries unable to fight back: Grenada, Panama, Cambodia, Dominican Republic, and so on, and so forth ad infinitum

I think they never learn the lesson. They never intervene for the altruistic reasons they claim. Bullies, thieves and cheats don't always prosper though, and Iraq, if not  Vietnam, should have taught even these thick people to stay at home, mind their own businesses, and not interfere except to help. In other words, keep their greedy, self-interested beaks out of other nations' affairs.

Barack Obama Sums it Up

Obama: "Bin Ladin and his allies know they cannot defeat us on the field of battle or in a genuine battle of ideas. But they can provoke the reaction we’ve seen in Iraq: a misguided invasion of a Muslim country that sparks new insurgencies, ties down our military, busts our budgets, increases the pool of terrorist recruits, alienates America, gives democracy a bad name, and prompts the American people to question our engagement in the world."


Obama willing to start another war on intelligence information.

"It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al-Qaeda leadership meeting in 2005," he said, referring to reports that the US had decided not to launch a strike for fear of harming ties with Pakistan.

"If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will," Mr Obama said.

Mr Obama is willing to launch a strike into Pakistan on "actionable intelligence". Isn't this, just what got us into Iraq. The decision to go war should never be made on intelligence alone. To fire weapons into a neutral country is an act of war. We should fight terrorism by legal means. Not by becoming judge, jury and executioner. How many people would be collateral damage if such a strike was to occur? We need to win hearts and minds.


John Pratt, How's this for intelligence? Last night deputy Opposition leader Julia Gillard told ABC TV's Lateline that the Government had not thought about the details of the hospital plan. This from a woman who could not explain Labor's Medicare Gold, I think she has been under the hairdryer too long.

Bald eagle's budgie squawks while boss does furtive viewing

Akka: "under the hairdryer too long,"

Not one of your doddery Fuehrer’s problems, AK-47.

Anyway, he's too busy spilling Ovaltine turning the big knob on the Chrysler, changing channels from the communist ABC to the AFP or MI5 on SBS then settling in for decent values stuff on 9 or 7.  In the King's English, thank you very much!  No C**ns, unless it's cheese.  Mmmmmmm.  Get one of the butlers to fetch some cheese on toast, would you Janette?   Chop-chop!  Ha ha.  Who said I can't speak Indonesian and so forth?

But forgetting to switch off that cheap hairdryer he brought back from Hong Kong for the lady of the House.  With a little too much secret smirking glimpses at the late knight prostitution-cum-ringtone-dating etc ads on the shopping channels.  Dirty old man.

Ooops, call another of the butlers, quickly.  A little incontinence goes a long way at Kirribilli.  And now the hairdryer's burnt his cranium down into the very thick bone.  The setting must have been left on “Weak and Sneaky".  Oh dear.  But thanks for the reference, AK.

Hypnotherapist Frère Jihad Jacques OAM née Woodforde, please don't think I hold the PM in any kind of contempt.  That's for the Australian army, as they blast him out of the bunker, Owen Guns and .303s at the ready, Marxist bayonets fixed, the communist bastards.  It's just the politics of envy, really.  Ask AK.

Yashweh, jesus just violent myths

Roger I don't think the definition has changed regarding Christians over the last 2000 years, they are still barbaric destructive and psychopathic liars. What other conclusion can the evolved sane of the world reach when you consider there is no verifiable chronological, historical or archaeological evidence to support any of the events in either bible as having happened? As to the supposed sayings and stories of Jsus, they are all plagiarised from earlier Sumerian and Hindu/Buddhist texts.

If I was to tell you I have fairies in my garden and a ghost speaks to me, you would say I was insane. Yet people expect sane sensible people to believe in this mythical god of love, whose book is filled with ongoing barbarity, revenge and every debauchery you can conceive of. The book of Jesus also ends in threats of vengeance upon all who don't follow Yahweh, the mythical god of war. Or to believe that a non proven to exist person, walked on water, healed the sick, created miracles, fed hundreds from one fish without any form of proof. Except the expression of his followers through 3500 years of constant war, suppression, forced violent conversions and destruction, Is not a symptom of a primitive, infantile superstitious mental illness.

Now we have Obama saying he will bomb Pakistan if he thinks he can blow up some supposed terrorists and couldn't care less about the collateral damage, or what the Pakistanis say. Yep those that follow god, Allah, Jesus, Mohamed or any deity are definitely not evolved beings, but still locked into primitive insanity.

No matter who gets the USA presidency, nothing will change for the better for Americans or the world. They will just continue to deteriorate under the control of the violent ideological myth. We all know illusional delusion is not sustainable in reality, unless its suppressive and forced. We see this violent suppression demonstrated in all of monotheistic history. Obama, Clinton, or whoever, in following god and jesus, will continue down the same path, as they have no other.

Fiona if the mythical Jesus appeared in USA culture today, they would torture and kill him. Firstly he was a Jew, an Arab, preached dissent and overthrow of the current culture and beliefs. He wouldn't last 5 minutes before some cop, FBI or CIA clone shot or assassinated him, on the orders of the religious right wing.

The USA Hopefully Soon Back On Track

Alga Kavanagh:

I have no faith in anyone who believes in god, history shows us when god is a part of the equation, disaster is the only outcome. So the USA being a god driven country, is doomed to collapse as a world power. Sadly, illusion never takes the place of reality for very long, and as all ideologies are delusional, then their time in power is always short and destructive, in the realms of universal time.

I would argue, no US President except GWB, could be called an ideologue. All previous Presidents to varying degrees were political pragmatists. Ideologues are much more readily found in European politics. I would equally argue no US President could be named as being overly religious whilst in office, except GWB. This could not be argued for large parts of the rest of the world. The entire Middle East is one such part. Enshrined in the Constitution is a section dealing with religion:

Article Six also states that "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States".

The Christian ideologue nation tag is a latter day myth. The up-coming candidates are a quite diverse lot when it comes to religion. This is a better reflection of the nation. I doubt a more diverse range of political candidates exists anywhere else in the world (that would work together).

I agree, when you have corporate control of government and society, the only outcome is negative. In the final analysis, you can't eat economic growth, money, or failing infrastructure.

Like any other nation the United States has its share of corporate criminals. It also has a good share of success stories that should be admired. It also has a history of giving by wealthy individuals that I would argue far outweighs, in percentage terms, any other nation on earth. This giving of not only money but also expertise in many instances has created some of the best education, and medical institutions in the world. This is something that would have never been possible with government alone. Governments that would with the available funds, through tax, never have the will or the foresight to attempt many of those tasks. Governments would, of course, prefer short-term political gain.

So the USA being a god driven country, is doomed to collapse as a world power.

This is would certainly not be a bad thing.  This bit of weekend work has become a full-time job. The problem with submerging oneself in others' never-ending problems is one forgets to pay attention to ones own problems.

The USA never set out to be a "world power". It was gifted the role when an ideology-plagued Europe set out to destroy itself (and succeeded) from the beginning of the 20th century. The USA was merely there to pick up the pieces, and unfortunately has continued doing so to the present day - all over the world. I would much prefer America to gift this role back to somebody else. The United States does not need this role to be successful, and it never has.

I think the United States should leave the UN (it is not worth the time and money), resume a impartial non-intervention policy, and should only act in strict self-defense of itself, and that of its very closest allies. The world will always need at least one safe haven, and the USA should play that role.

Tweedle dum, tweedle dee is the USA plea

Roger very well put and I agree with you. Actually I don't see anyone making a difference in how the USA approaches the world. You’re right, all the people do is pick around the edges, thinking we are having an effect. As time goes on, fate will be what creates change in our world. Those changes will not be without huge loses for human kind and all other live forms of this planet. I have no faith in anyone who believes in god, history shows us when god is a part of the equation, disaster is the only outcome. So the USA being a god driven country, is doomed to collapse as a world power. Sadly, illusion never takes the place of reality for very long, and as all ideologies are delusional, then their time in power is always short and destructive, in the realms of universal time.

I agree, when you have corporate control of government and society, the only outcome is negative. In the final analysis, you can't eat economic growth, money, or failing infrastructure. Nor can economic growth be sustainable in a finite resource world. When you look at the evolutionary worth of the USA presidential candidates, the choice is zero. I remember when the USA used to boast anyone could run and become president, but the reality is, only a very few who are prepared to cede their ethics and standards to the corporate party line, can attain the top job. Even then the corporate control overrules both the party and their ethical aspirations. When the candidates are already a part of those who class themselves as the monetary power elite, the prospects of positive change are in the minus.

In God We Trust

Alga, I have been a religious and irreligious person for many years. My interest in theology and philosophy is well-documented in WD so I won't bore anyone with the details.

There are some very interesting perspectives that can be put on the propensity of the US and its citizens to profess their belief in God.

For example, Yahweh, the God of Israel, the God of the Old Testament is a God who supports nationhood and nation building. To this end, the Old Testament testifies to the brutality visited by nation upon nation and in particular by the Jews on pagan believers when in the name of their God, man, woman and child would be put to the sword. Today we call that genocide. The Old Testament does not, where the Jews are involved as the aggressors.

In today's world, much store is put upon the righteousness of those who believe in the Old Testament ways. They serve God, they are God-fearing. The Bushes and Howards of the world wrap themselves tightly in this coverall. People can be killed with moral impunity when one serves one's God.

Now the most interesting facet of this God-wrapping is that the proponents always, without fail – there being no exceptions in the record – actually use the term "God", never "Jesus".

Bombs are never dropped "in Jesus' Name". Children are not killed "in Jesus' Name". Why? The leaders in this country, in the main, as with Bush and all the prayer-breakfast attending grandees of Washington are professed Christians. The definition of a Christian is "some who follows the teachings of Jesus Christ".

So what did this Christ profess? Among many things, he professed peace. He forfeited his own life without offering a defence. He advocated that when struck you turn the other cheek. If you have two cloaks you give one away. If an enemy makes you walk a mile, walk two with him because you may turn his enmity to friendship.

I have a fictionalised account of a story involving Jesus where I will paraphrase some of His philosophy:

"On hearing that an enemy had cowardly attacked and destroyed two buildings with over two thousand people losing their lives in terror, the disciples asked Jesus 'What should we do to these who have attacked us in our home so terribly?' And He replied 'I say to you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you'. In the crowd there were those who could not forgive and in their anger turned back to their mighty God of old and placed their faith in their swords"

The god that the leaders of the US, Australian, and other supposedly God-fearing nations serve is not Jesus Christ. These leaders who attend Christian churches and profess Christian beliefs are not Christians. Unless, of course, the definition of a Christian has changed after two thousand years to mean someone who does the opposite of what the biblical Jesus taught.

Fiona: Into Guantanamo, or at least, Baxter, with you, Roger.

I laugh, that I may not weep

Roger, first of all, my apologies for my apparently light-hearted response to your post.

I grew up in an agnostic/atheist household, but attended an anglican school because, in my parents' judgment, that was where I would receive the "best" education available. So, over thirteen years, I imbibed a whole lot of King James' Bible, Book of Common Prayer, and some remarkably fine music.

The one thing I do take from those years is your interpretation of the religious/historical Jesus: turn the other cheek, the Samaritan is your sibling, and remember that god (assuming there is one) rejoices in the innocent (children), whether or not they've undergone the "ordained" rituals. (And, probably, that if the meek - having been offered the earth - reject it, then that's their lookout.)

As I have asked on another thread, if that Jesus were to appear in the midst of the Anglo-American culture now, what price his visa?


Hi Ho Hi Ho Off to Gitmo

Fiona, not a jolly thought but it can happen in these "best of times/worst of times". I have concluded that I am tired and that my 61-year old brain wants to take a vacation back to 1956 and the birth of rock'n'roll.

We had the same bastards running everything back then but without the 86,400 seconds per day, in-yer-face, who do ya' trust with the news coverage.

I want to luxuriate in "Doo Whop", falsetto and fast 12 bar blues riffs. Let go and let God, "Stop The World I Want To Get Off" and I am still in love with Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Angie Dickinson, Julie Andrews and Jessica Tandy (just don't tell my wife).

Fiona: Roger, was going to say as secret as the grave but then thought on the lovely new laws that require me to say nothing about why I might suddenly disappear from public view ... so, Roger, as secret as that. (By the way, some people have been unwise enough to compare my speaking voice with Julie Andrews' ...)

It's A Blessing

Fiona, you are a lucky gal because she speaks beautifully.

Wrongful apprehension

Fiona R

..if that Jesus were to appear in the midst of the Anglo-American culture now, what price his visa?

That depends, any federal policeman might tell you, on how priapic and dutiful the strangely pallid Immigration minister might be. After all, on the night he might be into a simple bit of Herodean child butchery.

Apparently these people think that's every bit as good as sex with newborns.

And they do it, with gusto. Look what Hill$ong is up to in Iraq. Bloody pigs.

They'll be smirking on the other sides of their faces while they're digging the Port Augusta to Carpentaria canal, with teaspoons, if it's my shift on the whip.

Frère Jihad Jacques OAM née Woodforde, cleaner-outer of bunyip New Guard's Augean stables, making all the prisoners sweat in their green-gold trakkies while they whine for their butlers and chauffeurs

News Corp for president!

Rupert purchases the Wall Street Journal. Hooray! I think if corporations can be legal persons they should be able to run for office. News Corp should run its own candidate, as should all the oil barons. Get it all out in the open.

Old Time Thinking

Obama was an early opponent of the Iraq war, believing it was ‘dumb’ and ‘rash’. This is not to say he does not believe in military interventions. ‘There will be times when we must again play the role of the world’s reluctant sheriff. This will not change – nor should it.’ 

Yes it should change. America should not act as protector of the world. This was not why the founding fathers came to the new world. They came to escape the dross that was the old world. Many of the world's problems existed long before the United States ever did. It was never meant to be the role of the United States to solve them through the UN or anywhere else.

It is time that an American President started behaving as the President of the United States. Not the President of the world. It is not America's God given role to broker peace agreements, supply money, equipment or attempt to show any other nation how to live. It is the role of Americans, and the President to make the United States the best place on earth. Our money should not be spent on fixing the worlds problems, and our sons' and daughters' blood should only be shed protecting the United States, and our true friends.

Even though Obama maintains the U.S should have this right to strike unilaterally, he believes multilateralism is a better way to go, and that building global support for U.S goals should be a major plank of U.S foreign policy. A Barack Obama administration would be all about consultation with the world, not the ‘you’re with us or against us’ approach of the Bush administration.

This effectively means putting up American money, and people power. Whilst putting a different face on it such as in Serbia. This task is not possible. America always gets the blame, and the hatred. Iraq I, Serbia, and East Africa are just some examples. America's best interests are not served solving the problems that the rest of the world will not take responsibility for.

George Bush should only be thanked for finally showing Americans this unfortunate truth. I think attitudes are rapidly changing, and that is the reason why I think whoever wins the next election will only see out one term. The changing attitude unfortunately has not come through the entrenched political establishment - yet.

It is time that America had a debate with itself on what America's true role in the world is.

Same current outcome for the USA

Eliot, I'm fully aware of how the USA system works. However that doesn't change the fact the same corporations, cronies and outcomes will occur no matter whether is Democrats or Republicans holding the reins. Add religion and you have the perfect formula for the results we see around the world, through USA foreign policy and trade controls. Their aim is monopolisation of the world's economies, control of social and cultural direction, under their suppressive banner of religiosity. Only fools would want to emulate the USA system.

The Internal and External Duopoly

Alga, I understand what you are saying. I don't entirely disagree but I would like to add the following thoughts.

The influences on political decisions within the US (and other democracies) can be categorised as being twofold.

Firstly, there is the pressure exerted on government by the internal needs of the country and its citizens. These needs are parochial and require substantial horse-trading to achieve. They are bound by the strictures of party politics where local business owners and their sympathisers are in one political camp and those who hire their labour to the business owners are in the other political camp. The fair balance between these competing interests is always precarious and the party dialogue is heavily stilted by the pseudo-speak of each side. Productivity and profit are always competing against the absolute need for a living wage and  the satisfaction of aspirational needs.

One side feeds the other. Businesses must have consumers so wages have to be at least high enough to meet the living wage level and then some more. In the past, particularly In this country, this dance has been relatively bloody because Australian businesses were not subject to high levels of competition and the aspirational needs were discounted. In today's economy, the prevailing wisdom has been changed by external competition and the worldwide acceptance of consumerism.

In the US, there has been another dynamic at play; namely the cultural belief that all may rise above their station. The US fought a war of independence to that end. We have never had to do that here so our cultural wars have taken on a very distinctive class war hue. We couple that with a significant Irish and Scottish bravado to treat the other side as rudely as possible to reinforce our disdain. We did not seek to join the monied class until relatively recently.

Second, there is pressure exerted on the government and then by the government by those whose wealth and power is enormous and reaches around the world. In the US, there are families and institutions that have wealth and power that rival governments. In Australia, that is not the case except amongst a tiny few. However, while these Australian powerbrokers are relative minnows on a global scale they still exert enormous influence on our government. Whether in the US or elsewhere, this other influence is not generally felt within the country. It is mainly felt by other governments and other corporate institutions elsewhere.

I don't dispute that internal politics is often a corrupt process. It has to be by its very nature. We are not altruistic and we are not generally satisfied with a simplified life. Therefore our advocacy on our our own behalf or by politicians on our behalf is peppered with half-truths and lies as we jostle for our own favoured outcome.

However, at the level of  external government policy and action, the power process is completely corrupt. All governments lie and treat each other's pronouncements as lies. Every utterance is pored over, examined by experts and picked clean so that the truth may be gleaned. The power wielded is real, the money transactions are on an incomprehensible scale and death, misery and starvation are handed out as punishments for those who will not readily succumb or are just in the way.

But a salutary warning to those who believe that they can influence the global political structure through the internal process. It cannot be done and more to the point it will not be done. We may believe that absolute monarchy has disappeared when in fact it has merely changed its clothes and, of course, no one tells the king/s what to do.

So in the end we get to play in our sandbox and can agitate for tax changes and other changes to internal government politics. Meanwhile, the real business of global power goes ahead unfettered with challenges being rendered impotent by fiat and fait acompli.

Obama, oh Mamma!

I thought the American Dream was to control the whole world. I thought that it was already well advanced in this enterprise.

Perhaps Obama's got a new idea about how to make America popular again. Perhaps free coke and Big Macs for everyone still alive in the world. Perhaps free flights to Disneyland (known by some as the White House).

Why can't America just go away? 

Taking a dump

Daniel Ekin Smythe: Why can't America just go away?

I understand they are, Dan. WobbleYa has stated quite clearly that he wishes to return to Mars.

Trouble is, he's eaten most of the planet, and is taking it with him in his pre-masticated bowel. Mostly to be left on the Moon, apparently.

Ain't World, or Solar System Leaders who are inspired by comic books just great? There;s one comic coming out showing the Big Wob having it off at Crawford with the Marquis of Kirribilli, the latter dressed in a marmoset suit, ultra-bling and squealing "Hit me with your rhythm stick, Hit me, Hit me, Hit me".

Frère Jihad Jacques OAM née Woodforde, who put Alfred E Newman in the $hite House

Try doing this at home

Alga Kavanagh says:

What is more important is who the new President has by their side, who their advisers and officials are.

Then in that case it is important who wins the election, because under the US system, Cabinet is part of the Executive Branch. The President nominates them, and their appointment is subject to Congressional approval.

Try doing that in Australia.

Just another merry go round

I thinks it irrelevant as to who is President of the USA, nothing will change. It's like watching a merry of round, everyone sees hope with the new candidates, yet once the election is over, it's back to the same insanity.

What is more important is who the new President has by their side, who their advisers and officials are. When you consider on both sides of politics, they are god fearing christians, you cans see there's no hope for change or improvement in US foreign or domestic policy. The same corporations will run the country, god will still be the biggest influence, so there will be more of the same, poverty, war, social and health collapse.

The son of an apostate Muslim atheist?

Chris Saliba says:

Oprah's even throwing a big fundraising bash for him. Imagine how many celebs will be getting on board.

That's very Bobby, in itself.

West coast celebrity endorsements may well eliminate any support he might have gotten in the mid-West. And Hilary might be a better bet in the east amongst the Democrats. Then there's the Giuliani factor.

Oh, yeah, Lisa Simpson's great. But it's one thing to be 'feel good', and another thing to stich up political deals.

How do you think the Middle East would respond to the son of an apostate Muslim atheist?

People pulping

If I had any illusions as to whether the Labor Party will do anything different I lost them tonight on seeing Four Corners. Trampling over the voice of the people is not confined to the Howards of this world. That performance down there by Lennon for his mate in Gunns sure takes some beating. And of course Rudd will be right behind him on this one. The whole business sets a very dangerous precedent for Tasmania.

We already have much the same problem in NSW with Sartor, and what a lovely planning mess that State is in. And local environmental plans have been held up for over three years due to Government interference under the current Labor government.

Yes, the Greens and other minor parties offer the only hope of reining in the big two. At the very least we need to get back control of the Senate.

Common ground

I prefer Hillary but that is just me. I think a new Clinton presidency with its qualified support for the Iraq war (until recently) is going to be better than an entirely hostile anti-war Democratic President. I say that because I suspect that so much resentment has boiled up about the war that there is a danger that the backlash could go overboard, and a withdrawal be mishandled. Hillary has my full confidence to take a measured response to the Iraq conflict.

I am not particularly interested in countenancing the views of anti-abortion campaigners, having made up my mind like a steel trap. I support abortions on demand, with no angst and no reservations. I also think homosexual people are absolutely entitled to the same rights, including marriage, as heterosexual couples. I will leave it for others to "debate" these issues, if they think it serves any purpose. The people who obsess about such issues are not interested in common ground and Obama's efforts make him sound limp and indecisive, and I doubt it will have any particular electoral advantage.

How, in the Australian context, would anyone attempt to find common ground between a Sophie Panopolous, and, say, a Bob Brown? I am sure it is possible, if we really set about it; however, our democratic system is designed to countenance division. There is a kind of inherent dialectic opposition in it, or, perhaps, simply the operation of the market. There is no necessity at the present time that anyone agree and as such it suits us not to. Maybe we should try - it would be a new experience, I expect.

Illinois United States Senate election, 2004

Hi Eliot Ramsey. When I say Barack Obama made it without much money or publicity, I meant made it as a Senator in the 2004 election. He hasn't made it yet as President, of course. He describes his 2004 win as almost a fluke.

But you're right about his huge fundraising ability now. Oprah's even throwing a big fundraising bash for him. Imagine how many celebs will be getting on board. He seems to see raising bucket loads of cash as a necessary evil. And a lot of his contributions are small amounts from individuals. That does make him different from other contenders, I think.

I don't think he's a cartoon type though, as much as I love Lisa Simpson.

Many Thanks

Chris, thanks for your review. As the campaigning heats up in the US, it is most apt. I have just finished Carl Bernstein's A Woman in Charge, his masterful work on Hillary, and will be reviewing it on WD shortly.

The differences between the two leading Democrat contenders, as you point out, are striking.

Having lived in the US during the Clinton second term and also having spent much time watching CSPAN and listening to NPR, I also cringe at the shallow, "mad-dog" rhetoric of our politicians.

Apart from throwing around "resile" and few other bon mots from "The Lawyers Handbook For Politicians", Howard's speech is stilted and stultifying. Rudd is not much better.  It all seems targeted for IQs less 100 and God help the major party pollie who thinks that their electorate actually contains intelligent voters. The Democrats and the Greens remain the only parties that give their supporters some credit for being able to think.

Most of us make complex decisions every day, but where politics is concerned if you cannot say it in less than 30 seconds it must be left unsaid.

I hope that Obama does take the US voters into his confidence.

Barrack Obama? Without much money? Ha!

Chris Saliba says:

What’s all the fuss about Barack Obama? The Democrat Illinois Senator keeps popping in our Australian media, a rising star who made it without much money or publicity.

Without much money?

Obama leads -- in cash

WASHINGTON -- White House hopeful Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) beat chief rival Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) in second-quarter fund-raising, hauling in about $32.5 million with $31 million available for the primary.

"We are on a financial course that will allow us to both fully fund efforts in the early primary and caucus states, and also participate vigorously in all the February 5 contests, including large states like California, New Jersey, New York, Georgia and Missouri," Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said in a memo released Sunday.

The money is a likely record-breaking collection in terms of the amount raised for the last three months and in number of donors -- 158,000 individuals.

Without much publicity? So, what is it if you "keep popping in the media" then?

I'd like to see Barrack win, too. I would have probably liked to have seen Bobby win in '68.

They seem to be appealing to much the same sort of constituency. Bobby didn't have a hope, actually. Probably Barrack doesn't either.

I don't think Barrack is particularly profound, though. A lot of his 'let's all just be nice' statements have about as much depth as Lisa Simpson's approach to life and politics.

Sweet. Naive. Calculated.

Even if he muscles Hilary aside (and she'd be really divisive inside America), Barrack still has to beat whoever gets the GOP nominations, perhaps Giuliani.

Mind you, that would be a fascinating race.

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