Sunday, February 24, 2008

Delusional Hope: The Obama Rapture & “GENTLEMAN JOHNNY MCCAIN, PART 1”

Delusional Hope: The Obama Rapture


By Joel Hirschhorn


Never have so many hoped for so much because of rollicking rhetoric and pulsating platitudes. A tsunami of hope has plunged America into electoral euphoria. In its path is the wreckage of critical thinking about what ails the US and what bold, revolutionary actions are needed. Barry Obama has accomplished semantic alchemy, turning justified but grim distrust and outrage with government and politics into hallelujah hope. But most hope never materializes and is a terrible predictor of reality.

Think about the prevalence of hope: sports teams heading into a championship game, research scientists envisioning a Nobel Prize, people in the criminal justice system awaiting trial, entrepreneurs starting a new business, people starting off on a long-awaited vacation, American Idol contestants, college seniors dreaming of becoming superrich, and all those supporters of Ron Paul, Dennis Kucinich, and other presidential candidates that will not reach the White House.

Hope produces far more losers than winners. Hope is enjoyable until failure hits. But most people do not give up on hope, just move on to the next hope.

Obama hoped that he could tap into the national desire for change from the awful conditions produced by the Bush administration by selling hope to voters rather than his experience and accomplishments. Like a political medicine-man he has succeeded as a compelling seller of hope, better than the best infomercial charlatan.

Like a self-fulfilling prophesy, his proof that hope works is his life story and political campaign. This resembles a con man selling a real estate scheme by showing pictures of his yacht, estate and Rolls Royce. Millions of consumers succumb because of their hope that riches can be obtained by following the quack’s advice and formula. Such false hope succeeds because people buy into wrong or deceitful information. False hope can be revealed through objective examination of the facts, assumptions or promises used by the hope purveyor.

Delusional hope is much more insidious. The trick behind delusional hope is that recipients of the hope message supply their own justifications and rationalizations for taking ownership of the hope. As much as delusional hope comes from the hope messenger, it is also self-inflicted to a large degree. In fact, the hope messenger may be honest and authentic, like Obama, truly believing in his hope message. Those who embrace the hope message have many possible reasons and motivations for doing so.

It may be therapeutic by offsetting depression, stress or anger. It makes people happier, feel good and have something positive to look forward to in an otherwise dismal world. It provides comfort and some sense of security. Delusional hope is exactly like a placebo medicine, producing an apparent positive result without any valid reason for doing so, except satisfying the desire for a positive result.

Obama has produced an epidemic of contagious delusional hope for a population rightfully disgusted with ordinary politics and politicians. Like an excellent magician, people are mesmerized by the trick of promising to turn YOUR hope into HIS success.

What happens if president Obama does not actually deliver any real, substantive changes and reforms in government and public policy? Who will be blamed? Hope-happy Obama or a nation of hope-losers for electing him?

This mass delusional hope befits our delusional democracy with its delusional prosperity. Rather than the usual lies, Obama offers hope for change, as if the ruling plutocracy will fade away and stop using their considerable influence over government to funnel an obscene fraction of the nation’s income and wealth to the richest Americans and corporations.

Money is key to seeing Obama for what he really is - an insider politician. He has backed away from his clear promise to use public financing for the general election, as John McCain also promised to do. His broken commitment results from his ability to raise enormous sums from hope addicts. Besides many small contributors, he has received enormous financial support from a number of business sectors. He provided about $700,000 to other politicians in the past year to get their support. When it comes to money, Obama seems much too much like an ordinary politician.

What is the audacity of hope? The confidence that most Americans will eat the political narcotic - hook, line and sinker. Welcome to the Obama rapture.




By Steven Jonas, MD, MPH


With this column I begin a three part series on “Gentleman Johnny McCain,” the likely Republican Party nominee. Why the moniker “Gentleman Johnny” when Senate colleagues have been anonymously quoted that he is anything but? Well, ever since I saw the movie of the George Bernard Shaw play “The Devil’s Disciple” (1959, starring Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster and the incomparable Lawrence Olivier as the British Revolutionary War General, “Gentlemanly Johnny” Burgoyne) I have been fascinated by the latter personage. Having recently seen the play on stage for the first time, performed by the very fine Irish Repertory Company in New York City, he came very much to mind. So, you might ask, what are the comparisons between McCain and Burgoyne? Actually I can’t think of any.

Burgoyne was a gentleman indeed (even though he attained that status in the first instance by marrying well). McCain is hardly one (although after having divorced the wife who stood by him while he was imprisoned in North Vietnam for five years, he did marry a woman who, by conventional American Standards, is very attractive and of regal bearing). Burgoyne acknowledged his military mistakes. McCain has not. Burgoyne, at least according to the Irish nationalist Shaw, thought that his bosses in the British military were a bunch of incompetents who knew nothing about fighting wars against insurgencies and that the political leaders who were pursuing it were both incompetent and fighting an unwinnable enterprise. McCain — well I don’t have to detail his (public) positions on those questions.

Finally, Burgoyne was an intellectual, a successful playwright in fact, who wrote both serious plays and comedies. One of the latter, a satire on the British occupation of Boston, was being played before a much-amused group of British officers in Boston when a messenger broke into the hall to proclaim that the rebels were attacking British positions on Breeds Hill. The officer audience thought that the announcement was part of the play until General Howe, their commander, came into the hall to order them all to their posts to fight what the next day, April 19, 1775, became the first recognized battle of the American Revolutionary War, known as the Battle of Bunker Hill. As for McCain, there is hardly any apt comparison with Burgoyne’s intellectual capacities. So why do I use the moniker for McCain since there are no viable comparisons between the two men? Oh just that to my ears, it has a nice ring to it.

There are a number of issues to raise about McCain. Let us first consider his now very well-known, and now often repeated projection ( that the United States will have to remain in Iraq for 50, 100, perhaps even 1,000,000 years ( There has been much comment both pro and con about the position he has taken. McCain has built his political reputation and indeed his career on being a “Straight-talker.” Indeed his campaign bus is called the “Straight-Talk Express.” Of course, an American enterprise in Iraq of that length, with objectives not yet specified by the Senator, would have major consequences for the United States in terms of manpower, money, and a variety of other considerations. Since McCain is nothing if not a straight-talker, I know that you know that we can soon expect to see a report of a major speech by him on Iraq and the consequences of his policy for our country. Such a report of such a speech just might read as follows. (Just for the record, as of this writing, Feb. 17, 2008, I had not seen anything like a report nor have I heard anything like the reported “speech” coming from the lips of Gentleman Johnny McCain.)

“In a speech yesterday on Iraq policy and its connection to both U.S. domestic and foreign policy, after noting that the ‘million years’ was just put in for rhetorical emphasis (and since he has just converted to Creationism it is impossible to think of men being around for that many years), Sen. John McCain told the American people just what would have to be done in order to carry out the mission as he had stated it. He proclaimed that it is a mission that he feels is vital to the security of the United States and its people, to say nothing of being vital to fulfilling the mission that George Bush set forth so clearly when he originally ordered the Iraq invasion: to bring peace, stability and Democracy to the Middle East as a whole.

“First, being a military man he knows better than anyone how the current War on Iraq and the subsequent occupation has essentially destroyed the best of the American military’s ability to fight land wars and then run policing operations such as we have ongoing in Iraq. The U.S. is very quickly running out of military manpower, he noted. Thus his first act as President would be to send Congress a bill to reauthorize the draft, which is absolutely essential for the new 100-year mission.

“Second, he has put meat on the bones of his determination both to cut unnecessary government spending and to find the funds to continue the Iraq operation for the next century. Putting heft behind his verbiage on ‘cutting pork barrel spending,’ with the determination to show that his Party, not those spend-thrift Democrats, will lead the way, he will send to Congress a bill rescinding every single piece of pork-barrel spending that was passed during the first six years of the Bush Presidency, when the Republicans dominated the Congress. He will also challenge the Democrats to do the same for the 2006-2008 period.

“Third, he recognizes that for the 100 Years War he says is essential for peace and U.S. security, the U.S. cannot continue to carry it out on borrowed money the way it has been under Bush. Thus, regretfully, he will propose a rescission of all the tax cuts awarded to those who can most afford to pay for the effort and who appear to want it the most, that is the rich. Finally, recognizing the continuing burden that the War will be on all U.S. taxpayers, he will ask Congress to immediately cancel all contracts given to the military industry for ‘exotic, high-tech’ warfare, since they are absolutely unnecessary for the kind of war/policing action that the U.S. will be carrying out in Iraq and elsewhere. The country not only doesn’t need them any longer; but also it simply cannot afford them.

“Asked if he didn’t think that he was putting his candidacy at risk by making such a speech, he said that he knows that above all, the American people value honesty and integrity, and that it was time that somebody from his Party gave it to them.”
More on John McCain and the “Straight Talk Express” next week.

This column is based in part on “Dr. J.’s ‘He Really Said That’: McCain and The Hundred Years War,” which originally appeared on BuzzFlash on Fri, 01/18/2008, (

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