Friday, February 1, 2008

No wonder the DLC loves this guy

Between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, we've got arguably two of the more right-wing members of the Democrat party as not only the front-runners, but aside from Mike Gravel's quixotic run, the only runners left. Since I've already taken my potshots at Hillary (which I will continue for as long as necessary), Obama deserves a few rounds:
It was January 17, 2001, and Illinois state senator Barack Obama was on WTTW11's "Chicago Tonight."
Discussing his opposition to Attorney General nominee John Ashcroft, Obama praised newly-elected President Bush's new nominee for Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld.
"The proof in the pudding is looking at the treatment of the other Bush nominees," Obama said. "I mean for the most part, I for example do not agree with a missile defense system, but I don't think that soon-to-be-Secretary Rumsfeld is in any way out of the mainstream of American political life. And I would argue that the same would be true for the vast majority of the Bush nominees, and I give him credit for that."
My emphasis added. And here's the video clip of the above quote:

Just to give you some idea of just what a lovely human Rumsfeld (a Milton Friedman protégé) is, here's a few words from Naomi Klein's book The Shock Doctrine (pp. 290-291):
Rumsfeld sat on the board of the aircraft manufacturer Gulfstream and was also paid $190,000 a year as a board member of ASEA Brown Boveri (ABB), the Swiss engineering giant that gained unwanted attention when it was revealed to have sold nuclear technology to North Korea, including the capacity to produce plutonium. The nuclear reactor sale went through in 2000, and at the time Rumsfeld was the only North American on the ABB board. He claims to have no memory of the reactor sale coming before the board, though the company insists that "board members were informed about the project."

It was in 1997, when Rumsfeld was named chairman of the board of the biotech firm Gilead Sciences, that he would firmly establish himself as a proto disaster capitalist. The company had registered the patent for Tamiflu, a treatment for many kinds of influenza and the preferred drug for avian flu. If there was ever an outbreak of the highly contagious virus (or the threat of one), governments would be forced to buy billions of dollars' worth of treatment from Gilead Sciences.


It's safe to say that if you could patent the sun, Donald Rumsfeld would have long since put in an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. His former company Gilead Sciences, which also owns the patents on four AIDS treatments, spends a great deal of energy trying to block the distribution of cheaper generic versions of its lifesaving drugs in the developing world. It has been targeted for these activities by public health activists in the U.S., who point out that some of Gilead's key medicines were developed on grants funded by taxpayers. Gilead, for its part, sees epidemics as a growth market, and it has an aggressive marketing campaign to encourage businesses and individuals to stockpile Tamiflu, just in case. Before he reentered government, Rumsfeld was so convinced that he was on to a hot new industry that he helped found several private investment funds specializing in biotechnology and pharmaceuticals. These companies are banking on an apocalyptic future of rampant disease, one in which governments are forced to buy, at top dollar, whatever lifesaving products the private sector has under patent.
There's also a brief discussion of the ethics of patenting lifesaving medicines (including Jonas Salk's refusal to do so with the medicine that proved effective in preventing polio back in the mid-20th century), as well as some pretty unwanted side effects that have occurred in people taking Tamiflu.

But I digress. If Rumsfeld is within the mainstream of American political thought, we've got some serious problems. I suppose it depends on how one defines the mainstream - perhaps a case could be made that Rumsfeld is mainstream by Beltway standards, but outside the beltway where the rest of us struggle for existence I sincerely have my doubts (even taking into consideration the usual American Exceptionalist mythology that most of my peers take as a given).

As for Obama, he may be the new darling among Donkle "progressives," but he's got some serious baggage when it comes to utilizing right-wing frames whenever he speaks. Those thinking that he'll somehow miraculously rescue the party from Hillary are in for a very rude awakening.

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