Yesterday I wondered just where Rep. Todd Akin got the inside scoop that allowed him to assert confidently that President Obama went around apologizing to all and sundry because he just “didn’t like America.” I speculated that perhaps he was getting psychic messages. Yesterday, though the mystery was cleared up and I now understand that Todd Akin’s perception of the President’s motivation is based on nothing more than his native intolerance augmented by an excessive consumption of Fox News’ punditry.
Akin offered a fairly detailed explanation for his comments today when KMOX host Charlie Brennan took him to task for their over-the-top nature (audio available here:
BRENNAN: Congressman Todd Akin, I have been a friend of yours for a long time, but I just found that despicable, for you to claim that the president does not like America.
AKIN: Well Charlie, let me try and put that in context. It doesn’t seem anything that should surprise you at all. Let’s take a look at this president. Three days before taking his oath of office, he said that he wanted to fundamentally change America. Charlie, I want to fundamentally change our tax code. That doesn’t mean I like it, it means I don’t like it. I don’t like things I want to fundamentally change. He doesn’t apparently like our foreign policy. So he turns his back on Poland and the Czech republic to curry favor with the Russians. And he’s meeting with Chavez. And yet he turns his back on Netanyahu, who’s one of our allies. He fundamentally wants to change our foreign policy. He doesn’t like free enterprise because he wants to tax it. He doesn’t like profit, and he doesn’t like the private sector running health care… I don’t think my comments are out of line.
Whooee! Lots of red meat there, although perhaps it’s getting a little rank from overuse. Or perhaps it’s just that Akin doesn’t flesh out these accusations sufficiently for those of us who aren’t immersed in the Fox (no) news bubble. A little context always helps – and if you’re iterested in what I’ve got to offer in that line, follow me over the fold:
Start with the tired song-and-dance about Obama wanting to “fundamentally change America,” ergo he must hate America. Conservatives just love this trope. But as I remember, Obama made that statement right after Americans had overwhelmingly rejected John McCain and his assertion that the “fundamentals are still strong.” Obama’s statement signaled his promise to change those not-so-strong fundamentals and rescue America from the damage that had been done by the fools who plunged us into two wars, one unprovoked, cut taxes for the wealthy while driving up the deficit, and, finally, through blind adherence to a worn-out, radical free-market ideology, nearly destroyed the economy and the welfare of millions of middle-class Americans along the way. And indeed, as Paul Krugman noted at the time, had Obama’s first budget been enacted as proposed, it would have set America on a fundamentally different course.
Akin thinks that Obama pals around with Venezuela’s socialist leader Hugo Chavez? Maybe he should pay better attention. Obama, in his role as President of the United States, did attend the summit of the Americas where, he, not surprisingly encountered Hugo Chavez. So far as any credible witnesses are aware, he did nothing to encourage Chavez, and subsequently treated Chavez’s government in much the same way as George W. Bush’s administration had. Akin, however, is evidently convinced that the mere fact of standing face-to-face with a critic of American policies is the equivalent of endorsing his criticism no matter what more substantive actions might indicate. Which might explain just why Akin’s so averse to meeting with constituents who don’t agree with him.
What about Akin’s charge that Obama turned his back on Poland and the Czech Republic? He did indeed jettison the Bush’s plan to build a long-range missile defense system in those countries, but, as usual, nothing’s as simple in reality as it seems to be in Todd’s Foxified universe:
Obama said he changed U.S. plans after he received an assessment of the Bush strategy, and unanimous recommendations, from the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Defense Secretary Robert Gates. That hasn’t stopped the fearmongers in the GOP, however, from doing their dreary thing.
The Drudge Report let the news out early with an “Obama abandoning Europe” headline, even though Europeans opposed the Bush plan from the get-go. Even vast majorities in Poland and the Czech Republic were against Bush’s plan. But as soon as Drudge broke the news, neoconservatives in the GOP started yelling about it, accusing Obama of “endangering our national security” (how?!), or “caving to the Russians,” who had strenuously opposed the plan.
Looks like that decision was a win-win for just about everybody but the defense industry, which stood to reap a windfall from the Bush missile defense system.
Finally, saving the best for last, let’s look at Akin’s belief that President Obama “turned his back” on Israeli Prime Minister Netanayahu. This would be the same Netanayahu who Israeli opposition leader and former Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz just accused of shilling for his old Bain pal, Mitt Romney. If Netanayahu is going to attempt to influence the American election, it seems appropriate that he should face the consequences. The Obama administration, I should add, denies, cold-shouldering the right-wing Prime Minister, even though his actions to date may have come close to scuttling any hope of a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian impasse. In spite of Netanyahu’s actions, however, as Mofaz observed, Obama has been a staunch supporter of Israel where it counts.
The last few items in Akin’s litany seem to be afterthoughts, part of his routine patter and so silly they don’t deserve a response – though I can’t resist wondering where these idiots get the idea that Obamacare somehow destroys private insurance? Especially when so many of us wish it did. Overall, I would say that Brother Todd’s exegetical skills are in need of some work. There’s one more thing that one could say, however, but I think that Charlie Brennen already said it very well:
Boy, I’m very surprised because I think in a civil society, we can certainly disagree on public policy matters, foreign policy matters, taxes, but we don’t then suggest that if you disagree with me that means you dislike our country. People of good will, Congressman, you know this, can have very different views on the world, but that doesn’t mean they don’t like the world. They can have very different views on our country, but that doesn’t mean they don’t like it.
Somehow, I doubt that Akin will take Brennen’s admonition to heart.