Monday, April 19, 2010

Obama/Palin political ‘tiff’ lays out nation’s partisan split all too perfectly

We have got a new political “controversy,” courtesy of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who wants us to think that President Barack Obama said something extremely controversial when he spoke recently about our nation’s foreign policy obligations.

She’d like for us to think that Obama said something so incredibly radical that it ought to perfectly illustrate why he was never fit to be a government official of any sort, let alone president.

ALL SHE REALLY did, however, was illustrate the difference between the factions that too many of us fall into when it comes to partisan politics these days.

For the record, Obama made his “controversial” comment at a press conference that brought the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington to a close. He took a question from a reporter-type from Bloomberg Business News who wanted to know if Obama thought he had gained any political “capital” that would give his thoughts more influence in international affairs.

Part of his answer was: “It is a vital national security interest of the United States to reduce these conflicts because, whether we like it or not, we remain a dominant military superpower. When conflicts break out, one way or another, we get pulled into them.”

That has Palin ticked off, and she used a weekend Washington “appearance” (as in the Illinois town of just over 10,000 people who think of Peoria as the nearest significant city – and which could wind up being the closest that Palin will ever come to setting foot in Chicago) to denounce him. She particularly hates the portion of his line that referred to “whether we like it or not.”

ACCORDING TO THE Associated Press, Palin said, “I don’t understand a world view where we have to question whether we like it or not that ‘America’ is powerful.”

A part of me wants to say she misinterpreted him. But I also have been around enough political types to know that most of them usually do know what a political opponent truly meant – they just don’t care. Palin’s intent was to ratchet up a political point, and she succeeded.

That AP blurb got picked up in newspapers across the country. Which means it turned up on the websites of all those newspapers. Which means it is now all over the Internet. Which means that every nitwit with a desire to comment (including myself) is now making an issue of this.

But when I look at what Obama stated and what Palin retorted, I can’t help but think that this moment illustrates the partisan split that has afflicted our society.

OBAMA WAS TALKING about the U.S. obligation related to our role in the world, while Palin was talking about the U.S. perk related to that same role.

Obama gave a response making it clear that he views the U.S. foreign policy as being a responsibility that our nation must live up to. For if we fail in our obligations, the potential is great for small problems in other parts of the globe to become big problems, and ones that are reaching enough that we get dragged in anyway.

It is a view that says there are consequences to the actions of the United States government. We can cause problems beyond our borders. Which means we need to express a certain caution when we act. We can’t act recklessly, without regard for others.

Now such a thought process definitely offends the isolationists of the world. Because they’d like to think we can cut ourselves off from the interests of other countries. I’m sure they hate the suggestion that we have a responsibility to other parts of the globe – which is the price we pay if we want our nation to have the moral high ground when dealing with international affairs.

YET PALIN’S CRITICISM comes from another perspective.

She likes the idea of the United States having that influence because she likes the idea of being on the side that gets to tell people what they must do. Those isolationists usually are the conservative types who would be inclined to prefer someone ideologically aligned like Palin.

She is appealing to them by trying to say that our nation’s foreign policy is about being in charge when we see it in our interests. But the idea of an “obligation” being thrown into the mix bothers her (and them) because it means there will be occasions when they will be forced to confront issues they aren’t comfortable with.

Heck, it means there will be times the United States will have to throw its weight behind people whom they would prefer to ignore.

EXCUSE ME FOR thinking that this kind of thought makes Palin and her followers the equivalent of the old schoolyard bully, who wants to be able to do what he wants and when (while also having the ability to ignore whatever things are too troublesome).

Which makes me wonder if we ought to truly think of the Obama opposition these days as being those old bullies merely being miffed that life has passed them by, and they’re desperately trying to grasp onto the days when they could “muscle” people into doing what they were told – regardless of how stupid the order was?


EDITOR’S NOTES: Barack Obama talks about our nation’s obligation to the rest of the world (, while Sarah Palin enjoys the thought of being able to give out orders when it suits her whims ( or desires.

Politics and partisanship have been financially rewarding during the past year ( to both Obama and Palin.

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