Saturday, June 07, 2008

The Year of the Long Knives: Part I

Night of the Long Knives (June 30, 1934): Purge of Nazi leaders by Adolf Hitler. Fearing that the paramilitary SA ["Assault Division"] had become too powerful, Hitler ordered his elite SS [the paramilitary "Protective Echelon"] guards to murder the organization's leaders, including Ernst Rohm [head of the SA]. Also killed that night were hundreds of other perceived opponents of Hitler, including Kurt von Schleicher and Gregor Strasser. (Britannica Concise Encyclopedia)
Now that Barack Obama has unofficially won the Democratic presidential nomination, it is time to place this ambitious man under a microscope for closer examination. In a morbid sense, it has been instructive watching the two contending power lusters, Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Obama, slash and gouge each other over what has seemed endless months of vying for the nomination, the one touting her alleged "experience" and the other touting his alleged political "innocence" and desire for "change."

So strong is their appetite for supreme political power that each has been willing to say anything, do anything, deny anything. Each has purged his campaign of supporters and workers and past associates, all of whom at various points in the primaries embarrassed the candidates or jeopardized their chances with the electorate and the party delegates.

And each has committed numerous memorable gaffs in speeches and off-the-record comments, gaffs that revealed either their ignorance of facts and of history and even of geography, or a willingness to lie in the rush to preserve a patina of veracity, experience, and trustworthiness.

Unlike the nocturnal bloodletting of the Nazis, the candidates' purgings have been public and bloodless and will continue to be that right up to the November national election. But, it will be purging nonetheless, all for the sake of maintaining images and stances of originality, wisdom and farsightedness. Obama has the most to purge. And unlike Rohm and Strasser, who charged Hitler with abandoning socialism in favor of a "personality cult," Obama will continue to purge anyone who provides substantive evidence that, beneath his glib but vapid rhetoric and blasé promises, he is promoting full-scale socialism, and that promoting it has always defined his political activism and ambition.

The "untouchables" are not completely cast out as liabilities, however, and will not mind the ostracism. They will simply stay out of sight until Obama thinks it opportune to invite them back into the open (if and when he wins the White House). It is important to remember that while Obama has "repudiated" them in nationally broadcast public ablutions, they have not repudiated him. Neither Rev. Jeremiah Wright nor Father Michael Pfleger has publicly cursed Obama for calling their ranting sermons "disgusting," nor has any black or white liberal supporter of Obama upbraided him for discarding the racist, rabble-rousing clerics. This fact seems to have eluded his supporters and the news media, who are giddily eager to absolve him of any wrong-doing, misconduct, or having had a less than sterling past and political career. It is another form of Kennedy or Clinton idolization, one that sweeps all evidence of scandal, criminal behavior, and malfeasance beneath an impenetrable rug of irrelevancy. He makes us feel good, so never mind his "missteps."

Why link an infamous chapter of Nazi history to any discussion of Barack Obama's character and political aspirations? Because the parallels of his rise in politics and that of Hitler's in Germany are too eerie in their particulars to ignore. To be sure, Obama's rise has been, in terms of violence, betrayal, and criminal skullduggery, entirely blameless. Never mind his early career as a "community" advocate, activist, and ward-heeler in Chicago and his somewhat lackluster but leftist record in the Illinois legislature and the U.S Senate. Obama himself is a man of no convictions, and a man of no convictions, as a consummate second-hander, will adopt the "greatest good for the greatest number" as his moral compass, whether or not he is running for office.

A man with no sense of self-identity will become what others wish him to be, or what he believes others wish him to be. The empty vessel will naturally gravitate to crowds to be filled to the brim with their hopes, dreams, wishes, sores and frustrations. Only then will he feel complete. He will become their servant, their icon, to be placed on an altar to be worshipped and prayed to in self-effacing idolatry.

So it is with Obama. It helps to explain why so many Americans are excited by him, and why he exudes a confidence not evident in any of the other candidates. His admirers cannot be excited by him because of his ideas; he has not expressed anything as solid as an idea (and clichés, bromides and populist tripe are not ideas), and his confidence grows as the number of his admirers and supporters grows.

Obama has not deliberately posed as a miracle-working Messiah who promises to cure all ills for all complainants; that is how his supporters and most of the news media view him, but he is willing to meet them halfway. And his race, fundamentally, is immaterial, regardless of what importance others attach to it. Virtually every other candidate has mouthed the same bromides, clichés, and populist tripe as Obama. Why they have worked for Obama and not much for anyone else (especially not for Hillary Clinton, whose sincerity is transparently phony and calculating) can be ascribed to his "charisma," his public speaking skills, and the apparent sincerity of the "feelings" behind his words.

Feelings. This is the key to understanding Obama's appeal. Ian Kershaw, noted biographer and professor at the University of Sheffield, wrote a two-volume biography of Hitler that is distinguished from other such biographies in that it not only dissects Hitler, but the German culture that made him possible, and indicts both. It is the only non-Objectivist biography of Hitler that comes near to Dr. Leonard Peikoff's The Ominous Parallels: The End of Freedom in America (1982) by offering a philosophical explanation for the Nazi phenomenon (it stops just short of reaching the same conclusions). Kershaw, in Hitler, 1889-1936: Hubris (1998), makes a number of important observations about how and why Hitler was able to succeed, first in rising through the tumultuous politics of the 1920's, then in seizing power with the approval of the political establishment and the electorate.

"It was as a propagandist, not as an ideologue with a unique or special set of political ideas, that Hitler made his mark in these early years. There was nothing new, different, original, or distinctive about the ideas he was peddling in the Munich beerhalls. They were common currency among the various völkisch groups and sects and had already been advanced in all their essentials by the pre-war Pan-Germans. What Hitler did was to advertise unoriginal ideas in an original way. Others could say the same thing but make no impact at all. It was less what he said, than how he said it that counted." ("The Beerhall Agitator," p. 133.)
Hillary Clinton can advocate "national unity," "change that matters," "working together," "social justice" and all the other unoriginal floating abstractions as often as can Obama, but make no lasting impression, because she has never been able to communicate sincerity. Obama can make that impression, especially when he couches those vague "yearnings" in what Saul Alinsky, the Chicago sometime communist community activist whom both Clinton and Obama have emulated in terms of applying his political tactics, called "middle class language." (Alinsky's influence on Clinton and Obama is discussed in "Hillary Clinton's Uncle Ellsworth" and its "Postscript," August 8 and 10 respectively.)

In the contest for the Democratic nomination, Obama more successfully applied Alinsky's "principles" of political activism than did Clinton. Clinton has always talked down to her supporters and would-be voters; Obama talks to his supporters and would-be voters as an equal with many things in common with them. That is his subtle but no less calculating posture of camaraderie with the "oppressed" and "disenfranchised."

Kershaw shortly afterwards explains the confidence Hitler exuded.

"...[T]he response of the beerhall crowds - later the mass rallies - gave him the certainty, the self-assurance, the sense of security, which at this time he otherwise lacked."
Similarly, Obama almost glows when facing a wildly enthusiastic crowd. In one-on-one interviews with television reporters, however, he is soberingly banal and nondescript, almost as much as is Republican candidate John McCain.

Part Two of this commentary will examine the phenomenon of Obama's abrupt appearance on the national stage. The parallels there are also frighteningly eerie. Part Three of this commentary will delve into Obama's political "angels." The fourth and final part of this commentary will focus on the capitalist "big money" behind Obama.


Michael Smith said...

I agree with you that the essence of Obama's appeal is rooted in his apparent sincerity.

Specifically, he has the ability to pitch socialism and pacifism with a straight face -- as if they were NOT global-scale failures responsible for the death, enslavement and impoverishment of millions.

Obama actually makes his tired, stale generalities sound like something new, hopeful and promising -- which provides desperately needed cover to liberals and leftists as they attempt to evade the events of the 20th century.

Bill Bucko said...

Don't forget the Obamessiah's many terrorist and Marxist connections.

According to Little Green Footballs, it's a matter of public record that his very first political fundraiser, in 1995, was hosted by Weather Underground terrorists Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn (the latter cheered the Manson family murders).

djr said...

Reading this just after reading John Lewis' Objectivist Standard entry on WWII (several issues back - I'm behind) shows how profoundly history repeats. JL illustrated the ideas of the time that lead to the League of Nations and the sympathies (and perceived British guilt) toward post WWI Germans. If Obama's [former] church "wish him to be" the repentant sinner to carry our guilt and alms to the Muslim totalitarians, I don't see any reason to think he won’t do it.

I look forward to part 2.

Seerak said...

Hello Ed,

Having just read the first article and yet to read the next two, I wonder if you have read another highly informative biography of Hitler, written by one of his contemporaries and published while Hitler still lived: Der Fuehrer by Konrad Heiden.

This book is astonishing not only in how it echoes many points about Hitler which are lost in the caricatures of that man which are passed around today, but also in illustrating the heights from which liberalism has fallen, in that Heiden was a liberal in the proper meaning of that term, who opposed Hitler until he fled Germany. His book complements Dr. Peikoff's very well for me.

I ask, because it sounds like you are making the same connections betwen the Obama phenomenon and that of Hitler's rise as I did earlier today, when I posted a lengthy quote from Heiden's work at Noodlefood.