Barack Obama’s apparent descent into unreason—manifest in the nation’s renewed commitment to military adventure, creditors’ rights, and subsidized markets—is not what it seems. The remarkable dumbing-down of this seemingly rational man marks the passing of the imperial torch ignited for Ronald Reagan and kept burning by each his successors, the flame kindled by the nation’s proprietors, the one percent of us who control nearly all the wealth. These very rich men depend on a state of war, chronic indebtedness and unregulated markets to maintain their status, and they anoint our rulers and let them know what is and isn’t allowed. Presidents since Reagan have routinely engaged in logical sleight-of-hand to carry out this mandate, which runs counter to the public interest.
That’s why Obama got so exercised when a North Korean rocket fell harmlessly to earth after a test last week. If he were to acknowledge the absurdity of a state of war between the most lavishly armed force in history and this miniscule principality half a world away, he might threaten the status of the proprietors, who profit from national insecurity. Appeals to fear have been incessant from all Reagan dynasty presidents, as in Obama’s reminder, in an earlier speech, of the threat from Afghanistan and Pakistan, a threat we wouldn’t worry about but for his reminders. In that speech, Obama invoked 9/11 with all the mock conviction of his predecessor (finessing, apparently, the critical questions every logical mind in America still has about what really happened). It’s government by insecurity, in defiance of reason and in line with time-tested Reagan government practice.
Government by insecurity is not the only principle shared by Reagan and his progeny, but it’s the key to their success. The whole good-versus-evil rap has worked to distract the people from the subversion of republican government by the rich. This is why the Reagans have all been good-looking guys. Ron, himself, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, and Obama cut a pseudo-rugged figure that is just what the proprietors are looking for in a spokesman. “If I looked like that,” we’re meant to think, “Maybe I could be president. ” If you’re willing to sit on your principles and suspend logic, maybe.
In his scolding of North Korea, Obama’s illogic was compelling. “Rules must be binding,” he said. “Violations must be punished. Words must mean something. ” No matter how you parse them and in whatever language you care to express them, the words in these three sentences convey nothing. Logically speaking, if it’s not binding, it’s not a rule, if it’s not punished, it’s not a violation, and if it doesn’t mean anything, it’s not a word. Obama’s expressions are tautologies—he is what he is, after all—and he follows the Reagan line in just this sort of appeal to fallacy and unreason.
Law buffs worldwide might ask whether there aren’t also rules against incinerating shepherds in their fields, dropping bombs on wedding parties, and flying unmanned, heavily armed aircraft over terrorized populations in foreign lands, practices Obama engages in, all in accordance with the Reagan ethic. Inquiring minds might wonder how long war criminals like Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld will be allowed to wander among us, or whether we feel the slightest embarrassment in complaining about the acts of other nations’ leaders when our own leaders have killed and displaced millions and devastated the world economy under the Reagan dynasty. Many would regard Washington, DC, and not Pyongyang, as the rational starting point for the punishment of violations. Obama seems to favor rules that disable competitors and adversaries, but, like the other Reagans, he’s a scofflaw when it comes to compliance at home.
Obama talks about “the threat” to us from people far away but he can’t mention the threat that looms when one of his pilotless bombers buzzes distant villages, able to unleash a holocaust at the press of a button by an airman at a console in Nevada. “What does America signify to people under the drones?” he can’t ask. His convictions and principles exist only as mild intestinal discomfort. Instead of doing the right thing, he worships God and pops a Tums every so often. No King, this guy. Imperial, rather. Reagan the Fifth.