Obama conceded way too much power to a feckless and literally corrupt Congress. He pandered to such dolts as Baucus and Lieberman instead of going to the Hill early on and sternly warning his delegation that he was elected on a mandate of real change and real change is what he wanted and wanted NOW.
True enough. But most of the other analyses I’ve seen amount to: “Obama didn’t affirm my worldview at every step during the first year, therefore his presidency is a flop,” and on and on. That’s the gist of this post by Rabbi Michael Lerner of Tikkun magazine. Positively oozing with self-importance, Lerner’s screed hinges on the ludicrous suggestion, taken as a mere given, that the MA election went down as it did because Obama failed to govern like a movement leftist.
As long as I’m discussing stuff from my past: I interned for Tikkun in 1993. And I still identify with the ideal of Judaism and social justice, the mode of Jewish political engagement that drew me strongly toward Tikkun in the first place. But the last thing President Obama should do is to start expounding the worldview of Michael Lerner. It’s not as if there’s any danger of it actually happening, but just for the record.
Lerner is in some ways a complex case. To the right-wing smear artists of Discover the Networks, he’s a rabid anti-Israel ideologue on par with Yasser Arafat, although in a list of his books they of course omit The Socialism of Fools: Anti-Semitism on the Left, which would conflict with their caricature. To the editors of Palestine Solidarity Review, Lerner represents “the vanguard of the Zionist state” and wants more than anything “to keep Palestinians in their place, as as a subordinated colonized people.” So take your pick.
Normally I feel drawn to thinkers so wildly misrepresented by both the far right and the far left. But Lerner has taken what was a promising forum for ideas back in the ’80s and ’90s and flushed it. Even as far back as my internship, he was starting to turn the magazine into a platform for his own self-aggrandizement.
But he did want to move the left away from its bad habits and build something new. He published fresh, original thinking by the likes of Jay Rosen and Todd Gitlin. Today? He’s publishing James Petras on Venezuela. As Judeosphere has noted, Petras busies himself by identifying powerful Jews in what he calls the Zionist Power Configuration, and puts the word “genocide” in quotes when referring to Darfur. This is someone whose work has been trashed even in the ultra-left Monthly Review, but Lerner features him at great length. Lerner is also a dabbler in 9/11 Truth; he put his name to this document alongside Cynthia McKinney, David Ray Griffin and other cranks.
Read the posts on the Tikkun blog and you’ll find Obama being smeared as a “rightist” and a person without principles. But just keep in mind the cretins that Tikkun sees fit to highlight in its space — and Lerner’s contorted, barely readable justifications for doing so — and ask yourself: Who is the principled one?