Watching Barack Obama's ich bin ein internationalist speech I found myself in constant, low-level irritation at what one might call the Audacity of Now. Which is to say, the man can't stop telling us that "this is the moment" when we "must" do this, that, and the other.
Not to be too curmudgeonly about it, but what's so special about this moment (as opposed to this moment), aside from the fact that a guy with a furrowed eyebrow and enviable teeth is running for president? Did Communism just collapse? Are we in some kind of hinge moment, a fork in the road between darkness and light? Yet count the ways in which Obama is sure that THIS IS THE MOMENT....
when our nations − and all nations − must summon that spirit [of the Berlin airlift] anew.
when we must defeat terror and dry up the well of extremism that supports it.
when we must renew our resolve to rout the terrorists who threaten our security in Afghanistan, and the traffickers who sell drugs on your streets.
when we must renew the goal of a world without nuclear weapons.
to begin the work of seeking the peace of a world without nuclear weapons.
when every nation in Europe must have the chance to choose its own tomorrow free from the shadows of yesterday.
when we must build on the wealth that open markets have created, and share its benefits more equitably.
for trade that is free and fair for all.
we must help answer the call for a new dawn in the Middle East.
when the world should support the millions of Iraqis who seek to rebuild their lives, even as we pass responsibility to the Iraqi government and finally bring this war to a close.
when we must come together to save this planet.
to give our children back their future.
to stand as one.
when we must give hope to those left behind in a globalized world.
That's 14 freaking Moments, some of them as perennial and/or totally '80s as Vanity Fair Kennedy covers (save the planet? believe that children are our future? stand together as one?); some of them sorta nonsensical (uh, Europeans can freely choose their future these days); some of them code phrases meaning practically the opposite of their rhetorical content (free and fair trade for all!).
I'm an anti-must guy from way back, but what struck me watching was more the implication that all these things are boiling to a head right now because Barack Obama's running for president. I don't often agree with Charles Krauthammer but, well, I pretty much agree with Charles Krauthammer.
And this paragraph in particular gives me chills about Obama's apparently deeply felt belief about how to "give hope to those left behind in a globalized world":
This is the moment when we must build on the wealth that open markets have created, and share its benefits more equitably. Trade has been a cornerstone of our growth and global development. But we will not be able to sustain this growth if it favors the few, and not the many. Together, we must forge trade that truly rewards the work that creates wealth, with meaningful protections for our people and our planet. This is the moment for trade that is free and fair for all.
This, Mr. Hopey, is the moment where the two greatest anti-poverty policies known to mankind − immigration and free trade − are under constant attack in the rich West, precisely from the type of hope-floating politicians who would blame global warming on the Chinese, talk '70s-era bollocks about economic "sustainability," and use the kind of labor vs. capital rhetoric that fell out of fashion long before the kind of people cheering you back home today were jeering Ronnie Ray-gun for asking Gorby to "tear down this wall" two decades ago.