Sunday, December 12, 2010

Books: The Obama Syndrome

Jim: It's like old times, we're doing a book discussion and we used to do these about once a month and now we tend to do them about once a year. Last week, we covered Roger Hodge's new book The Mendacity of Hope: Barack Obama and the Betrayal of American Liberalism. and this week we cover Tariq Ali's The Obama Syndrome: Surrender At Home, War Abroad. Our e-mail address is Participating in this discussion are The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Ava, and me, Jim; Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude; C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review; Mike of Mikey Likes It!; Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz); Ruth of Ruth's Report; Wally of The Daily Jot; and Trina of Trina's Kitchen. Overview, Ruth?

Ruth: Tariq Ali is a longtime writer, historian and activst on the left. This site previously covered one of his books in the book discussion "One Book, Ten Minutes" -- I did not participate in that. It was September 15, 2005 and that was before I was participating all the time. Those discussions were supposed to be quick, hence the title, but they quickly expanded. The one I have referenced obviously took more than ten minutes. Elaine and C.I. have both know Tariq Ali for decades. His latest book is The Obama Syndrome: Surrender At Home, War Abroad and it has a list price of $16.95 in the US. It is 145 pages of text and published by Verso Books.

Tariq Ali's new book

Jim: I wish that Kat was participating. Due to her photography work and what she might think of the cover.

Dona: I'll grab it. The cover is an image by Alex Ostroy. It's actually the rare instance of where a cover does give you a strong indication of the book itself. The image is Barack with about a fourth of his face peeling or cracking off and George W. Bush being revealed beneath.

Jim: Thank you. Trina, you loved this book.

Trina: I did. It's a slim volume so I made a point to read it slowly because I wanted to really enjoy it. Is it okay to note this -- if it's not, pull it, I'm not trying to influence any votes -- but in the book poll that Martha and Shirley do each year for their year-in-books piece, I voted this book as my favorite of the year.

Jim: So you loved it and you think it is the year's best book?

Trina: I really do. I love this book. True story, check with my husband, I fell asleep one night while I was reading it and, he loves to tell this story, I was hugging the book in my sleep.

Jim: You do love the book.

Trina: I do. And there's so much to love. I'll let others go into the politics and all of that and I'll stop hogging the discussion by noting that he's someone who not just has something important to say but also has a wonderful way of saying it. We have a lot of writers on the left that we read for the information who would never be read for style. Tariq Ali truly is a writer. He has tremendous talent and style and is such a pleasure to read.

Jim: Alright. Wally, I'm jumping to you. What did you learn from the book?

Wally: That's a good question. Looking at the book's cover, there are probably a lot of us who might be tempted to think, "I know this book already." Because if you weren't a Cult of St. Barack member, you know he's a War Criminal. But I bet there are parts in here that you didn't know about or didn't know as much about. I didn't really know about Yemen. That's the last chapter and so that was a real revelation to me.

Jim: Okay. Elaine?

Elaine: Hmm. Wally's right about that temptation. One thing we need to point out, Tariq Ali wasn't a Cult Member. This isn't a I-Have-Sinned memoir. Tariq deserves real credit for standing up to the push in 2008 to annoint Barack the new Christ-child. I think that is one of the reasons his book carries more weight than, for example, Roger Hodge's book. Tariq doesn't have to excuse anything, doesn't have to set straw men or women in order to justify his past crush on Barack because he's never had a crush. There's a -- C.I., would you agree? -- there's a freedom there.

C.I.: I would. As Ruth noted, Elaine and I both know Tariq so that's disclosure's out there. But I do agree with Elaine, Tariq's able to write with freedom because he's not carrying the burden of having been a cheerleader for Barack. He's not Tom Hayden, for example, who repeatedly claimed he'd hold Barack's feet to the fire but never did. He's not Barbara Ehrenreich who offered one excuse for another or just ignored reality in 2008. Tariq has been out there talking the truth, writing the truth. And when you've done that, as we all know, you've taken the attacks for it. They can't do anymore to you. In 2010, there are no more threats they can make that will even surprise. You've walked through the fire. Tariq's done that and that's why, I feel, there's a gravity to this book that is missing in so many other volumes being written by one time Barack Wet Dreamers.

Jim: Okay, so both of Tariq Ali's friends participating in this roundtable strongly endorse this book. Ruth, what section did you love best?

Ruth: That is such a difficult question, to pin down just one favorite point. But I think I will go with his section from 101 to 107 where he's discussing the Gulf Disaster and BP and Barack Obama. I really think he did the kind of job that we should have seen in real time but instead the left in this country pretty much tried to soft ball it. They would express frustration and or outrage with the ongoing nature of the Gulf Disaster --

Rebecca: A disaster which continues.

Ruth: Correct. But they would either ignore the economic ties between the players or attack those who brought the ties up. Some journalist, we are supposed to hate him, just got some longterm contract from Fox News following his firing or departure from a DC station as a result of the station manager freaking out because the man noted on air the BP donations to Barack Obama.

Jim: Alright. Mike, what was your favorite part.

Mike: My favorite part was killed from Friday's "Iraq snapshot." C.I. had to cut and gut that snapshot because it was too long. Before she did that, there were a few paragraphs on the Iraq War and Barack's continuation of it that she'd included in the snapshot. I think what Tariq Ali writes about the ongoing Iraq War is some of the most important writing of this or any other year. He did a great job with the Afghanistan War, with covering that in the book as well. But the Iraq War section was the part I was most grateful for.

Jim: Okay. I need to make a few notes here. Last week, Trina -- avid bookreader -- didn't participate because she hadn't read the book under discussion. Jess and Kat didn't participate because they were tired and Cedric, Isaiah, Stan, Betty, Marcia and Ann were taking part in the Black roundtable. Trina's read this book but, otherwise, everything remains the same as last week. Betty requested and pitched a Black roundtable the week before and it's a great idea. She pitched it again this week. With that taking place, it allowed us to do something else and since we had a smaller number, we went -- this week and last -- with a book discussion because readers miss those. It's really impossible to do a book discussion with everyone. That's too many people. For awhile, we were doing two books a discussion and making people sign up for which book they wanted to weigh in on. Tariq Ali's book is one we strongly enjoyed. Rebecca, you'd agree with that, correct?

Rebecca: Absolutely. And I love that he explodes the myth of the 'small donors' and Barack. He also brings up the issue of Barack breaking his promise about public financing in the general election. Hodge did a whole chapter on public financing as cleaning up our election system, chapter ten, but he seemed unaware that Barack broke a promise to accept public financing and became the first Democratic presidential nominee to do so in the post-Watergate era. That was not a minor issue. Who flirted with it before? C.I.?

C.I.: Many have. John Kerry flirted with it in 2004. There was a big push for him to reject public financing in the general. The press reported on this push. He considered it and decided not to. Time and again, Barack is the one to reject the proud moments -- there are a few -- of the Democratic Party and it's history.

Rebecca: And Tariq Ali's book, Hodge should have held off writing long enough to read Tariq Ali's. Tariq's not begging you to believe him, not attacking others so you'll say, "Well he's fair!" He's writing reality and it's a strong book.

Jim: Thank you, Rebecca. Ava, you get to close.

Ava: Okay. Let me note that this is a transcript piece and, as with all of them, consider it a rush transcript which means you will find typos. It's a strong book, it's an important book. I'm going to go with Mike's choice for the strongest section: The Iraq War. I agree with Mike on that 100%. I'm thinking about -- Kat, Wally, C.I. and I are on the road speaking out against the wars every week -- this notion that the Iraq War is over which so many useless idiots on the left keep repeating. Elaine just called out one of them on Friday in "Steve Burns is an idiot." There's this lie that the Iraq War is over. It's not. Last week, saw -- C.I., name?

C.I.: Pfc David Dustin Finch.

Ava: Thank you. Last week, we saw Pfc David Dustin Finch killed in combat in Iraq. Erlier this morning, the BBC's Gabriel Gatehouse was reporting that 11 people were dead in a Ramadi bombing with twenty or so wounded. We don't have the TV or radio on now and those numbers have increased. But the Iraq War is not over. And what may be the saddest part about my comments on this book, it was such a revelation to read someone who had the guts to say that.

Jim: Saddest, why? For those who will miss the point unless we underline it.

Ava: Because no one talks about it anymore. Tom Hayden rode that war back to semi-celebrity and now he can't even be bothered with mentioning it. Danny Schechter made a movie on the Iraq War and can't even cover it today. They promoted themselves and their wares to make a quick buck off the Iraq War. It continues, but the whores can't be bothered with even commenting on it these days. And that's why it continues. It continues under the blanket of silence. So I loved Tariq's section on Iraq -- especially on Nouri al-Maliki, the US-installed thug -- but it was sad at the same time because no one else is really writing about it the way Tariq does.

Jim: Except C.I.?

Ava: Well that goes without saying. She's covering Iraq several times every day. Those who say it can't be done are lying.

Jim: Alright. And on that note, we'll go ahead and close down. Thank you to Ava and C.I. for taking notes for this transcript piece. We have no plans for another book discussion next week before anyone gets their hopes up.
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