President Obama shares his Vision of the Future
An Ideal Statesman for our Troubled Times
Early on in his tenure as President I marked Barack Obama as the most politically gifted, humane and visionary statesman ever to occupy the Oval Office – a space that has been occupied by charlatans, racists, anti-Semites, misogynist, slaveholders, child rapists, and mass murderers. This was not merely partisan cheerleading, but a candid accounting of Obama’s assets as they were revealed to me in his actions.
The first thing he did upon election was to sign a nuclear arms limitation treaty with Russia; the second thing was to tackle the problem of economic recovery after George W. Bush and the GOP gang wrecked the economy; then he moved to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and seek peace with the Islamic world by travelling to Egypt, the incubator of the modern Jihad.* And like this writer he was convinced the invasion of Iraq was a misguided “war of choice” in which vast amounts of American blood and treasure was needlessly squandered. Alas, history has proved us right.** Hence unlike many American commentators on the right and left I thought that he deserved the Nobel Peace Prize.***
The positions President Obama advanced at the Paris conference on Climate change COP21 – attended by 180 heads of State and 40,000 delegates from 196 countries, the largest gathering of heads of state in history – proves that I was also right in my initial assessment of him as a statesman. The paramount objective of the conference was to put in place an agreement to reduce atmospheric emissions from Greenhouse gasses that would be legally binding on the nations of the world – like the ban on deployment of weaponized germs and poison gas in warfare.
The Paris treaty is designed to keep the planetary climate below two degrees Celsius from what it had been before the Industrial Revolution. While this may not seem like much to the average person, it would be instructive to visit the Museum of Natural History in Manhattan and see how changes in the natural environment wrought by the toxic effects of the Industrial Revolution led to the extinction of numerous species. Now that Homosapiens are threatened with extinction from industrial pollution world leaders have gathered in Paris with the urgent mission of preventing this catastrophe from happening.
None have been clearer about “the fierce urgency of now” than President Obama, whose active and committed leadership in this historic effort is indispensable. He addressed the conference with an amazing combination of candor and humility: “I come here personally as the leader of the world’s biggest economy and second-biggest emitter to say that America not only acknowledges its role in climate change, we embrace our responsibility to do something about it.”
The tone and content of his speech is a measure of the gravitas of this issue and the depth of Obama’s character and vision; one would be hard put to find another instance of an American President admitting US culpability in the creation of a global disaster. It is this willingness to look honestly at American history – the good, the bad and the ugly – that impressed me the first time that I heard him speak. One cannot imagine such an admission from any Republican, and few Democrats.
Yet it was precisely the right tone for this moment, for to display any hint of the characteristic arrogance fueled by an assumption of “American Exceptionalism” would have been self-defeating…a non-starter with this audience. The President went on to point out the concrete steps that the US, under his leadership, has undertaken to address this global crisis.
“Over the last seven years, we’ve made ambitious investments in clean energy and ambitious reductions in our carbon emissions. We’ve multiplied wind power threefold, and solar power more than twentyfold; helping create parts of America where these clean power sources are finally cheaper than dirtier, conventional power. We’ve invested in energy efficiency in every way imaginable. We’ve said no to infrastructure that would pull high-carbon fossil fuels from the ground, and we’ve said yes to the first-ever set of national standards limiting the amount of carbon pollution our power plants can release into the sky.”
What he did not say however, is that he accomplished this over the impassioned objections and active resistance of the Republican opposition, who passed two bills nullifying the president’s executive orders reducing carbon emissions while he was negotiating the Paris agreement. However this treachery by a disloyal opposition will come to naught because President Obama will veto them.
However it reveals the true character of these amoral science deniers and shills for the interests of petro-chemical magnates like the Koch brothers, who finance so much of the right-wing Republican political agenda. By their actions they have supplied provided irrefutible evidence that they lack both compassion and vision and are willing to sacrifice the fate of the earth and the future of their grand-children to their lust for power and greed of the plutocrats. It is no base hyperbole to argue that should the Grand Obstructionist Party seize control of the Presidency and Congress, the policies they will enact will be a disaster for all of humanity.
The most tragic aspect of the Republican argument against reducing greenhouse gas emissions is that it is based on gross ignorance and blatant lies; as are so many of their arguments. The biggest lie is that these measures to protect our environment will stymie the economy, rather than simply reduce the profits of the fossil fuel producers. President Obama exposed their shameful game by presenting the facts.
“The advances we’ve made have helped drive our economic output to all-time highs, and drive our carbon pollution to its lowest levels in nearly two decades. But the good news is this is not an American trend alone. Last year, the global economy grew while global carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels stayed flat. And what this means can’t be overstated. We have broken the old arguments for inaction. We have proved that strong economic growth and a safer environment no longer have to conflict with one another; they can work in concert with one another.”
The president went on to point out that there is reason to hope that the present trends of global warming and all the attendant evils like rising sea levels, which are already clearly apparent to peoples living on Island nations, can be reversed if the nations of the world act in concert to solve this tragic problem. And again he cites the results of his own policies as a model for how it can be done.
“Earlier this month in Dubai, after years of delay, the world agreed to work together to cut the super-pollutants known as HFCs. That’s progress. Already, prior to Paris, more than 180 countries representing nearly 95 percent of global emissions have put forward their own climate targets. That is progress. For our part, America is on track to reach the emissions targets that I set six years ago in Copenhagen — we will reduce our carbon emissions in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. And that’s why, last year, I set a new target: America will reduce our emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels within 10 years from now.”
Leaders from every corner of the world acknowledged the problem of global warming and pledged to follow our president’s example and take action to curb emissions in their countries. And although his piece of sovereign ground, the Vatican, emits no carbon gasses, the Pope left no doubt where he stands on this critical matter; which puts rightwing Republicans who are Catholic on very shaky ground with God, since according to Catholic doctrine the Pope is infallible! This is why many people believe the former Speaker of the House, John Boehner, quit his office and resigned from the US Congress after a private audience with the Pope. The word is that he was concerned about the fate of his mortal soul come Judgement Day.
It will be interesting to see how Paul Ryan, a devout Irish Catholic who is the new House Speaker, will fare on the question of global warming; a phenomenon his party officially denies. In fact, just this morning the Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christy, a practicing Catholic who is touted as one of the wiser candidates for the Republican presidential nomination, said on national television that he didn’t believe global warming is real no matter what the world’s leading climate scientist say. In view of the fact that as I write the New York Times has published a story on how the US government has offered immediate immigration status to the residents of the American controlled Marshall Islands in the Pacific because they are sinkng due to rising sea levels, Christy is either fat dumb and clueless or he is a shameless lying charlatan. In either case he is clearly unfit to occupy the most important office in the world!
Pope Francis however is unambiguous on the issue. He told reporters aboard his private plane returning to Rome “We are on the brink. We are on the brink of a suicide, to use a strong word, and I am sure that most of those at the COP have this conscience, and want to do something.” It’s going to be big fun for a yellow dog Democrat like me to watch these professed Catholic politicians try and snake dance around this glaring paradox.
It’s Now Or Never!
So Sayeth the Pope
Seeking to relieve the fears of developing countries such as India and China, who rightly feel that the developed countries like the US created this problem in the course of their development but now want to solve it at their expense, President Obama proposed a compensation plan funded by the rich countries. His view was a comprehensive one that sought a fair deal for the rich and the poor nations; which is the only way this effort to save our planet can work. It is yet another indication of the intelligence and humane vision of Barack Obama, beside which all of the Republican candidates appear as nihilistic moral Neanderthals.
However during his press conference before leaving Paris, some thoughtful reporters expressed skepticism as to whether these policies will survive should a Republican succeed him as President. The president’s response to their questions was upbeat and politic; just what the situation required. First he flashed that devilish smile for which he is famous, and said that he expected to be followed in the Oval Office by a Democrat because he had faith in the wisdom of the American people – a confidence this writer does not share – and then he became contemplative about the gravitas of the presidency and the sobering effect it has on the those who hold it.
“But even if somebody from a different party succeeded me…one of the things that you’ll find is that when you are in this job you will think about it differently from when you are just running for the job. And what you realize is what I mentioned earlier, that American leadership involves not just playing to a narrow constituency back home, but you are now in fact at the center of what is happening around the world. And your credibility, and America’s ability to influence events around the world, depends on taking seriously what other countries care about. In fact there is a reason why you had the largest gathering of world leaders probably in human history here in Paris. Everybody else is taking Climate change really seriously.”
It is to the deficit of the American nation that Barack Obama cannot run for a third term like Franklin Delanor Roosevelt, for he has conducted his office with Solomonic wisdom and is by far the wisest and coolest head among any of the candidates of either party who are likely to become president – including the Wall Street loving hawkish Hillary Clinton…for whom I shall gleefully vote against any Republican who pretends to this powerful office; the most powerful executive position in the world. As this is the first of a two part series, I shall analyze President Obama’s position on Syria, Russia, Turkey and the global war on terror in part two.
This is a Muliti-media Presentation
Click on link below to see President Obama’s speech at Paris Conference
Clink on link to see President Obama’s Paris Press Conference
See: “Of All the Places in the Muslim World why Egypt?
See: The Prophetic Commentary on Iraq
See:Barack Obama Wins the Nobel Prize
See: Hail to the Juggler!
Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
December 2, 2015