In a new interview with Politico, one time people’s champion and present liberal embarassment Ralph Nader, is used to great effect by the Horse-race central mouthpiece of the Washington DC chattering class to tar the entirety of leftwing politics with his incoherent brush:
Nader called Obama “below average because he raised expectation levels. What expectation level did George W. Bush raise?… He’s below average because he’s above average in his intellect and his knowledge of legality, which is violating with abandon.”[sic]
“I don’t know whether George W. Bush ever read the Constitution,” said Nader. “This man taught the Constitution, and this is what we got.”
In other words Obama is really really bad because he’s so very very not good. Thanks, Ralph. Anybody who came away from Obama’s 2008 campaign with the impression he was ideologically anything other than a ever-so-slightly left of center pro-capitalist technocrat and foreign policy realist was not paying attention. Nader is apparently among their number.
This of course points to the deeper problem within the left whereby it’s most incoherent voices are the ones regularly sounding the loudest in public discourse. For example, merely making a vague proclamation, as Nader does in this interview, that the US drone program is responsible for “war crimes” because of concerns over “national sovereignty” completely misses anything actually pertinent to a reasoned critique of the US drone program. The problem with the drone program doesn’t have anything to do with sovereignty. Everywhere the drones are operating in a military capacity (as opposed to those operating in an espionage capacity, where drones have now taken the place of previous spy plane programs like the U2 and SR-71) they are doing so with at least the tacit approval of the local governments in whose airspace they are operating, and in most cases are doing so with the explicit cooperation of the local government. You can’t breach a nations sovereignty if you’re paying them to let you use their airspace and they are agreeing to take the money.
Whatever you think of the drone program, that it violates national sovereignty is not a criticism that can be made about it. The real criticism, with real teeth,, of the drone strike program is that it causes too much collateral damage in nations that are too far outside the geographic locales of the “War on Terror” and that too many militant groups are being associated with Al Qaeda to the point that the War on Terror has become something of a global hydra constantly sprouting new heads of potential conflict. Another, less toothy but at least cogent critique, is that the President and CIA have exceeded their authority in using the AUMF and NDAA laws to operate in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia when really Congress has failed to pass a legitimate declaration of war that justifies any of the military action. But that criticism, to the extent that it’s valid, is true of every military action the US has engaged in since the “Police Action” currently stalemated against North Korea, was joined by the United States in earnest in 1950. It’s a little late in the game to be reviving the Robert Byrd Objection. That dog ain’t gonna hunt without dramatic political change from the electorate, who are currently much too worried about other people’s food stamps and Snooki’s baby to give a damn about dead Pashtuns littering the Khyber Pass.
What’s so sad about this particular interview, however, is that Ralph Nader used to know how to run an effective political messaging operation and he used to be very sharp on how to actually get things done in was that actually made things better for people. Without him, we wouldn’t have mandatory seat-belts and airbags in all of our cars, after all. Nader and his Raiders got us safer cars, however, not by making vaguely hyperbolic statements about leaders of industry, but by doing the groundwork and presenting irrefutable facts about basic realities that forced a reassessment of existing safety policies.
And that, as Saul Alinsky would tell you, is precisely the sort of work that the left needs to go about doing. Because, as this Politico article makes clear, if all the left does is incoherently blather about nonsense, the establishment media will more than happily use that incoherence to comfort the conscience of the powerful and the complacent because that’s what sells ads. Nader’s engagement in the circus of the incoherent makes him just another shill selling out his ideological cohort in order to boost his own profile and narcissistically keep his name in the papers. And that’s a damn shame.
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