Sunday, October 11, 2009

To Michael Moore: Absolutely Not!

Michael Moore's wife has convinced him that he was too harsh in his criticism of President Obama's Nobel Peace Prize. Moore has decided to share his born-again moment with other liberals by telling us to "Get off Obama's back." Well, here's my message to Moore: Absolutely not!

I remain highly skeptical of the Nobel Peace Prize committee's decision. My skepticism stems from Obama's continuation of policies that leftists -- including Moore -- criticized loudly, passionately, and relentlessly for the last 8 years. These policies include wars, troop surges, handouts to corporations, rendition, indefinite detention, denial of habeas corpus, military tribunals, state secrets, and a lack of positive action on GLBT rights. Moore's essay does not mention these things -- neither do the liberal defenses that have emerged which condemn progressives who question the prize committee's decision. If liberals truly hated these practices, then they should apply the same criticism to Obama. Otherwise, their criticism looks disingenuous and partisan.

Moore's essay also sets forth some very low standards for progressive politics. Why does Obama deserve the Nobel Peace Prize? He is "sane," "smart," wants world "peace," and was "elected." Add good looks to the list, and these traits could describe the winner of a Miss America pageant!

I believe that progressives can praise Obama when he is correct, criticize him when he is wrong, and act strategically at all times. The abolitionists did the same thing to Lincoln (whom Obama has symbolically emulated) and other moderate Republicans. The Civil Rights Movement criticized Kennedy. Today, progressives are told to be quiet and praise the establishment. History, however, means a lot more to me than sentimental political commentary.

For most of the last year, my liberal colleagues have told me (and others) to stop criticizing Obama. In a climate like this, I see no reason to heed their call. No progressive movement has accomplished its goals without criticism. Let the cheerleaders cheer and the cynics criticize. There is room for all voices -- and in this area, dissent is seriously underrepresented.

Update: Glenn Greenwald remains consistent on this issue as well, supplementing his prior commentary. See: Accusing Obama critics of "standing with the terrorists.


Anonymous said...

Well put, Darren.

Although I'm less harsh on the Nobel committee and think we may be making too much of the prize -- after all, it's always been an arbitrary selection of a few guys in Norway, who are neither infallible, nor objective or free of political and other biases. In 1938, their top candidates were Gandhi and that born-peacemaker Hitler (they ultimately went with another choice altogether). Perhaps, as Cornel West implies, their selection of Obama was a way to keep his feet to the fire of righteous public opinion (as in, Mr. Obama, don't forget the enormous responsibility on your shoulders). Perhaps it was an encouraging nudge to him and a nose-tweak to his domestic opponents. Who knows.

Bottom line, as I see it, the prize does not change much, if anything. We are still in deep doo-doo, here and abroad, with lots of work and unpopular (if not horrible -- see Afghanistan: doomed if we leave, doomed if we stay) choices to make.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Hi, Elizabeth. Thanks for your excellent post.

At this point, I think the debate has moved beyond the prize to other things. I did not intend to write an article about the prize until Moore wrote his essay. To me and others (see the Greenwald article I just added as an "update") this debate is now tackling the issue of "criticizing the president."

Some liberals remain highly defensive of Obama -- as if they were in campaign mode. They are unable or unwilling to distinguish progressive from conservative criticism. Many people on the right want him to fail; thus, they criticize everything that makes him look good and amplify his actual or imagined negatives. But liberals who criticize him want him to do more to actualize his lofty rhetoric. This is not harmful discourse; instead, it is essential to progressive change (at least in every version of history I have studied).

So, I agree with you that continued discussion of the award is overkill. But, I honestly believe the debate has morphed into something else.

narciso said...

No, we want him to do the right thing, which he seems incapable of doing. Crafting a stimulus that doesn't work, a healthcare plan that seems
ethically dubious, casting doubt about our military and security services, and then going on the junket to Copenhage shows he hasn't learned anything in nine monthes

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Narciso: Without the stimulus, do you know what the level of unemployment would be? When people say the stimulus does not work, I always wonder where they get this information. The economy is still bad, but it probably would have been worse without the stimulus. Having said that, I think the "nickel and dime" middle-class tax cuts in the stimulus were wrong. Also, the stimulus should have included more direct assistance to consumers (like the cash for clunkers program) that could quickly move money through the market.

Ethically dubious healthcare? Please explain!

During the Bush administration, the 911 commission (and Bush) blamed the intelligence community for 911 and for saying Hussein had nonexistent weapons of mass destruction.

Copenhagen v. Crawford, Texas?

Anonymous said...

Yes, Darren, I've read Greenwald's posts, both on the Nobel and the subsequent "unliberal" behavior of liberals, spurred by the prize's criticisms; also Naomi Klein's and Tariq Ali's put-downs of the Nobel and Obama's policies in general. I agree with their criticisms of Obama, I just wish they'd lay off the prize (Greenwald calls it "ludicrous," Klein "insulting," and even though I understand where they are coming from, I think it's an overkill). Their pouncing on the Nobel, (the prize which apparently made Obama himself uncomfortable) seemed ungracious to me and somewhat missing the point. But then it was expected, too.

I think Michael Moore got it right the first time: Congratulations, Mr. President. Now please earn it.

In fact, this is pretty much what I wrote on my blog, though not in the same exact words.

To sum it up, I agree with you, and my general stance is that we have to keep politicians' feet to the fire, no matter how likable or trustworthy (ha ha) they seem to be. Otherwise, politics being a game of dirty compromises, they have a natural tendency to "slip" and forget what the right thing to do is.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Elizabeth: I think we are on the same page! I think my finger is just a little closer to the trigger on this particular issue.....

Madelyn said...

I almost agree with Elizabeth. I want Obama to earn it now that he got it. And that there is too much being made of this prize.

However, I too think it was "insulting" and "ludicrous" to the American people. How misinformed,and delirious do they think we are (banks, greed, human rights, war,torture, education)?

Yes...not all of it is Obama but leadership and conern for citizens is.

I have been

Aspasia said...

Here's my problem with the excuse that Obama being awarded the Nobel is supposed to be "encouragement": if that were the case, then why the hell didn't Bush I or II get the award if it's supposed to be so damned encouraging toward making peace? That doesn't even make sense, people!

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