I usually feel good when I find that a certified smart person thinks the same way I do about politics. But in the case of Noam Chomsky‘s recent 7,700-word take on the election of Barack Obama in Znet, not so much.
I’ve been watching a lot of my left-leaning friends take serious satisfaction in Obama’s victory over Senator John McCain–taking Obama’s frequent calls for “change” to mean that he’ll enact much-needed liberal policies and legislation. And I’ve been feeling more than a little satisfaction when I read right-wing blow-hards like Sean Hannity of Fox News say that he thinks Obama’s election means we’ll finally “see the person that I think Barack Obama is. I think he is hard, hard left.” But through it all, a quiet but steady voice in the back of my mind has repeatedly questioned whether Obama is as leftist as I want him to be: will he slap real, progressive regulations on Wall Street? And will he actually liquidate loathsome, illegal, immoral invasion and occupation of Iraq?
Now, thanks to Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting’s website, which first alerted me to Chomsky’s essay, I see that I’m not alone. Chomsky points out that both Vice President-elect Joe Biden and Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel were early and among the “strongest supporters” of the 2003 Iraq invasion. He notes that key Obama economics adviser Robert Rubin “worked hard to abolish the Glass-Steagall Act, which had separated commercial banks from financial institutions that incur high risks.” And he mentions that key Obama financial adviser Lawrence Summers “presided over legislation barring federal regulation of derivatives”–ultra-risky investments that played a substantial role in the recent global financial meltdown.
As far as Iraq goes, “Obama has frequently been praised for this ‘principled opposition’ to the war,” Chomsky wrote. “In reality, as he has made clear, his opposition has been entirely unprincipled throughout. The war, he said, is a ‘strategic blunder.’ When Kremlin critics of the invasion of Afghanistan called it a strategic blunder, we did not say that they were taking a principled stand.”
To be sure, a President Obama is infinitely preferable to a President McCain or President Bush (either one). But it’s naive, even laughable, to think that he represents a turn away from the long-held imperial view that, in the U.S., it’s perfectly acceptable for bankers to make domestic policy and generals govern foreign affairs and if a few ordinary people around the world get trampled here and there, then that’s just too bad.