The office of president of the United States of America
A License to Kill
How and why U.S. citizens pick a leader with the participation of the entire free world and still vote freely and willingly
[Translated from the analysis of GegenStandpunkt Publishers on Radio Lora München from October 27, 2008]
When contenders for the position of leader in the White House seek votes only on the basis of themselves as a successful personality, then the democratic development of opinion by means of election campaigns has become identical to its concept: a blank check is demanded for the exercise of power on the basis of absolute confidence in the leadership quality of the one thereby entrusted. In a strange manner, character masks present themselves with whom a normal human being in real life would rather avoid contact: boasting without blowing one's own trumpet, in this case! One of them spreads heroic tales from his murderous youth in voluntary enlistment, bombing Vietnam back to the Stone Age, where he was shot down and treated by his victims as a war criminal, for which his fans up until now honor him as an American hero. The other is proud of his rapid rise through the institutions despite his immigration background, in which he adapted the basic convictions just as swiftly as he meanwhile terminates friendship with disturbing characters from his life story. Before such types, the public lies bowled over with an admiration in which it doesn't even have to believe their every word: the great thing about democratic voting lies precisely in the fact that the voter and his journalistic campaign interpreters judge above all else which of the candidates most cleverly masters showcasing himself as the most successful incarnation of their civic need for stronger leadership. And since politics is known for being no knitting party, the enlightened and worldly-wise voter expects a leader to master the dirty work too, better than his competitors.
The so-called factual issues, currently including the global economic crisis, the health system, energy, and the environment, serve in the debate for the voters' favor as material illustrating that a competent leader has the suitable political answer ready in all the hardship the citizen bears in his civil life that is caused not least by "his" state. In the process, the transformation of personal interest into a problem of society takes place as a matter of course, a problem that has to be solved for the good of the nation, which demands a lot of sacrifice on the part of the ordinary consumer because, in the last analysis, he can only do well if his country is in top form and number one in the world.
So the candidates indeed react to the collapse of credit and the destruction of stock values with extensive admonitions that the "failure" of Wall Street will have unavoidable negative repercussions on Main Street, in order then to stand up in the midst of a raging election campaign for a $700 billion pot with which capitalism in the U.S. is supposed to come out of the woods. Even as large parts of capital have just shown themselves up as bad debts, the contenders for the presidency still won't hear anything against their personal indispensability for the wealth of the nation, betting on the one financial quality they, as political actors, can offer the economy: the capability of power for violence. The agreement in principle — when capital trust = credit is lost, politicians have to replace the destroyed real wealth with public money, thereby instilling confidence in the banks again so that business as usual returns — encompasses the details of partisan competition: Obama intends to redeem mortgages and then he claims, with this calculating confusion of the substance of the financial crisis with the worries of ordinary homeowners, to tackle the evil at its source. McCain, as a "values conservative," offers up the moral economic theorem that the "vultures" in Washington and Wall Street have kicked off the crisis despite his "courageous" admonitions, and demands the outlawing of greed in profit making and more responsibility by "those who bear it," by which he then agrees with Obama again in the uncompromising demand for limiting the income of managers, especially when they fail.
The remedies proposed by the American leaders-in-reserve for the other national issues remain firmly grounded in the American way of capitalism: both decry "the dependence of the U.S. on petroleum," but not at all because they worry over the limitlessness and the destructive consequences for nature of the capitalist use of fossil fuels: instead, they want to build, alongside solar and wind facilities, many new sure-fire nuclear power plants, and open up the last national off-shore resources and, if necessary, in the national parks and protected areas, because the nation's problem consists in "us" squandering too much money for "our" oil in states that "don't like us," and whose people "hate our ideals." In agreement on the concept of the enemy, Obama and McCain are thinking of the usual suspects of Iran, the Arab world, and Venezuela. If, not just them, but above all Russia remains sitting on petroleum, then alternative energy also promotes "our national security," because the world power then can no longer be blackmailed, but its alleged and real opponents in the world of states exclusively can be. With a naïve miscalculation recited over and over again in four television debates, the candidates swear their holy oaths never to raise taxes on anyone, but if possible to reduce them for as many of their voting audience as possible, to be covered by their budget reform promises: McCain would like to have the majority of petrodollars recycled in the U.S. within four years, and Obama dreams of a repatriation of that "500 billion dollars" that China holds in U.S. bonds, by means of exports of flourishing technology of alternative energy generation under his leadership, which would create "five million jobs" in the U.S. and drastically reduce "noxious emissions" in the Middle Kingdom. With that, the brain trusts of the candidates total up enough money to subsidize health care and to fundamentally reform the educational system, in which both candidates place great store: For McCain, the schools have no less a mission than making the little Americans fit for their "manifest destiny" of "leading the world." And Obama defines the superiority of the U.S. in education as a "problem of national security": the economic capability of society depends on it, since there has "never been a nation whose economy was laid low and could nevertheless maintain its military supremacy." This is how the transition from crummy conditions for poor people in the schools to the nation's global hegemony goes in the world's mightiest democracy!
In the crucial foreign policy factual issue, that of the "war against terrorism," both candidates talk about the demand of the U.S. for unrestricted global domination as a natural right, for which they are ready at any time for war. Their determination, if need be, to "send our best sons and daughters in harm's way," and the declaration of their calling to be commander-in-chief of the armed forces, present the vote to the voter directly as a "license to kill." Obama promises his people the head of Osama (literally: "We will kill him!"), even if he has to instigate a war against Pakistan for that, and McCain lists once again all the military actions of the U.S. in which he had the "honor," if not actually of personally taking part, then at least of having been staunchly in favor. On this basis, the question of the appropriate theatre of war is debated: Obama accuses the Iraq invasion of the Bush administration of having been programmed to failure, as well as having incurred a "huge cost" in dollars and American dead. Instead of that, he would like to escalate militarily in Afghanistan to finish with the Taliban. McCain also wants that, but beforehand he still wants unconditionally to "win" in Iraq so that the GIs come home "with honor." With such commanding sovereign decision-making over countries and the peoples living there that have the misfortune of affecting the "security situation" of the U.S., nobody can be surprised that Iran's nuclear policy is decided on in Washington, according to the apparently matter-of-course consensus of the rivals for power in the White House. Obviously, they can rely on the agreement of their voters with the "analysis" of the world situation according to which atom bombs in the possession of the U.S. and allies such as Israel are "peacemakers," Russia and China present a problem for America's unrestricted power of control over the world, and in the case of the Islamic Republic an armed encounter is "unavoidable." For the purpose of distinguishing themselves in the election campaign, the candidates have laid out one difference: Obama would still personally speak with the leadership in Teheran before giving the order to attack if they didn't toe the line.
American politicians are in agreement with their people — many of whom consist of confirmed patriots in their mania for victorious wars and successful massacres — on everything that happens around the globe, from the viewpoint of endorsing and, where appropriate, condemning, depending on whether it is good or bad for the U.S. ("The Greatest Nation on Earth"). On this principle, the German and Austrian chancellors Angela Merkel and Alfred Gusenbauer do not differ from Messrs Bush, McCain, and Obama. But American world power proves itself in carrying out this standpoint in practice. Threats and announcements of violence, i.e., war, therefore are part of the repertoire of building political trust in the United States of North America; open warmongering and the credible willingness to kill and destroy illustrate strength of character and the leadership quality of a person who is ready for anything and capable of being commander-in-chief of the nation.
It's amazing how the rank and file in the European democracies still go for the American electoral circus and especially for the candidate of the Democratic Party who leads the opinion polls. We, too, want a leader like that! So the free press rather unpluralistically prompts the domestic masses, who compare the charismatic senator from faraway Illinois with their national dough-faced leaders and in all seriousness think they would be better served, i.e., led, by a German, Austrian, etc., incarnation of the orator of change. The admiration for the success of patriotic mass enthusiasm with its ritual battle cry, "Yes, we can!" is on the other hand underlayed with the critical commentary of European expertise, which discovers the truth of democracy beyond the Atlantic ("It's only about the personal trustworthiness of the candidate!") and points out that in this era of "globalization," a competition for responsibility for world order rages in the world of democratic imperialist states, and that the U.S. is the chief competitor. A more powerful U.S. president will perhaps vex Europe rather differently than does the lame duck Bush still in office in the White House.
© GegenStandpunkt 2008