John Saathoff: The lunatic fringe
April 28, 2009
In John Fanning’s April 27 opinion piece, I was struck by his anger, hyperbole, xenophobia and disregard for facts. As a caricature of the position of the lunatic fringe regarding President Obama’s opening to the international community, I could not top it. Even Stephen Colbert might be hard pressed. After further thought, I saw that SDN was not presenting this as a humor piece and that Mr. Fanning might actually be serious.
One must have a boundless capacity for indignation to find insult in the president’s measured initiative to reestablish America’s connections with the rest of the world. Neither the objective facts of Obama’s trip nor the transcripts of his speeches (none of which are quoted directly) support Mr. Fanning’s claims. And I reject his implication that I am automatically included in his distorted characterizations.
The protesters at the G-20 Summit were a motley collection of soreheads with diverse agendas, most of which were aimed at globalization. Others targeted the bankers and hedge funds. (They didn’t have it coming?) No alliance with Obama there.
The record shows that the current administration has been quite restrained in its criticism of President Bush ” certainly by comparison to the continual carping by Dick Cheney and Karl Rove and the Republican House leadership on the cable news channels and the Wall Street Journal. Mr. Obama has given Mr. Bush credit for his achievements, for example in supporting the prevention and treatment of HIV/Aids in Africa, and establishing testing standards in education. The most pointed exceptions taken have to do with the subversion of the rule of law and the protections of the Constitution, as well as the lack of oversight of our financial system. These are anything but unfounded.
Toward the end of his column, one sentence highlights the author’s lack of touch with reality. (“I have the sense that President Bush wanted all of us to get richer.”) Now I don’t know what economic indicators Mr. Fanning looks at, but the ones I follow all seem to be heading south, including GDP, foreign debt, average home prices, foreclosure rates, and average family income and net worth. Whatever Mr. Bush’s desires, it is impossible to find evidence of the policies and executive competence to deliver on them.
As a political independent and Chicago-fiscal conservative, I am skeptical of some of Mr. Obama’s plans ” particularly in the area of economic stimulus and bank recapitalization. But when it comes to restructuring our foreign policy, I believe he has a solid, realistic grasp of America’s best security and economic interests. And I give him the benefit of the doubt as he charts our future course.
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Rather than serving up insupportable claims of personal affront and collective insult, Mr. Fanning could honestly seek a factual basis for constructive criticism of the president. This might not be “satisfying to him and his followers,” but it would surely be more productive.