Now Doris Lessing says Obama will just be assassinated if he wins .. but is it true?

Feb 12th, 2008 | By | Category: Key Current Issues

RICHMOND, VA. TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 12, 2008. 12 NOON. According to the Washington Post: “Voters in Maryland, Virginia and the District [of Columbia] lined up early this morning to vote in the region’s much-anticipated Potomac Primary,’ eager to cast a ballot in one of the most closely contested and historic [US] presidential races ever.” According to all the smart money, Barack Obama is going to clean up again in this event, just as he did in Louisiana, Nebraska, Washington state, and Maine (and the Virgin Islands) this past weekend. Supporters of Hillary Clinton, however, may take some heart from a recent interview the very senior Nobel Prize-winning British novelist Doris Lessing gave to a Swedish newspaper.Mr. Obama, the 88-year-old Ms. Lessing said, “would certainly not last long, a black man in the position of president. They would murder him … The best thing would be if they [Clinton and Obama] were to run together. Hillary is a very sharp lady. It might be calmer if she were to win.” These remarks are of course proving controversial. But the biggest question they raise may be whether the change in the USA today Mr. Obama is talking about has already reached a point where such deadly thoughts are no longer quite as true as they used to be? [NOW UPDATED WITH POTOMAC RESULTS, FEBRUARY 13, 12:30 AM.]

Who is Doris Lessing anyway?

For better or worse, like most Canadians Doris Lessing will not actually get a chance to vote in any American election, now or this coming fall. But it would be quite wrong to imagine that she is some kind of female Colonel Blimp of the old British empire on which the sun never set.

She is a daughter of the empire, having been born (to British parents) in what is now Iran and largely raised in southern Africa. But (somewhat like George Orwell, e.g.) she is also a celenbrated rebel against the empire’s worst habits: “In 1956, in response to Lessing’s courageous outspokenness, she was declared a prohibited alien in both Southern Rhodesia and South Africa, who had to leave South Africa for the United Kingdom itself.”

Ms. Lessing fears what residual white supremacist instincts in the United States might finally do to Barack Obama, because she has such first-hand experience with parallel instincts in mid 20th century southern Africa.

It is also true, as the excellent Monsters and Critics site points out, that “British Lessing is an admitted Clinton supporter.” For other reactions to her recent pronouncements on the potential assassination of Mr. Obama, check out: “Obama ‘would be killed‘” in the excellent UK newspaper, The Independent; her equally controversial reaction to the events of Sept 11, 2001; and “They will kill Obama if he becomes US president’: Outcry over Nobel Prize winner’s assassination warning,” in the UK Daily Mail.

Other recent items on “Obama and the Assassination Factor”

(1) “NY Times raises Obama assassination fears

(2) “Early Show’s Smith bizarrely hints at Obama Assassination

(3) “Fears of Obama Assassination Lead to Increased Security

(4) “Obama assassination target?

(5) “Assassination Fears Follow Barack Obama


(7) “Left Again Pushing Obama Assassination Theme … IMAGINARY ASSASSINS

(8) “Media Rooting for an Obama ‘Tragedy’?

Next Up for the Democrats: Civil War?

(1) Frank Rich, “Next Up for the Democrats: Civil War,” New York Times, February 10, 2008

(2) Norman Orenstein, “Fight on, Democrats … The nomination battle is just beginning. How it ends is anyone’s guess,” Los Angeles Times, February 10, 2008

Potomac Primary results …

UPDATE FEBRUARY 13, 12:30 AM. When all was said and done along the Potomac, if anything Barack Obama did even better than predicted. See : “Obama and McCain Sweep 3 Primaries” in the New York Times ; “Obama Sweeps Maryland, Virginia and D.C.” in the Washington Post ; “Obama notches three more wins” in the Los Angeles Times ; and “Obama Wins 3 Primaries for Delegate Lead” in the San Francisco Chronicle.

February 6 — CITIZEN BLOG : TSUNAMI TUESDAY DECIDED ALMOST NOTHING .. until Mitt Romney dropped out Thursday?

UPDATED FEBRUARY 7. Despite warnings that the California results would not be known until well into February 6, it was clear much earlier that Hillary Clinton and John McCain were the victors in the February 5 Democratic and Republican primaries there.

By 1:30 AM on the 6th the Washington Post was summarizing all the results of the more than 20 caucuses and primaries for Democrats as: “Candidates swap victories, with Clinton finding success in the Northeast while Obama racks up triumphs across Midwest and plains states.” The verdict for Republicans was: “McCain wins larger states while Huckabee vaults back into the race with a series of victories in the South; results are a blow to Romney.”

What this all means for Canada remains almost altogether unclear. And that is because it is still not very clear at all just what it really means for the United States. Those of us who finally do want Barak Obama to win – both the Democratic nomination and then the election in November – have had some fresh evidence about just how difficult this is going to be (as the candidate observed himself in his public post mortem on TV). Even so, the dream seemed all but impossible until only recently. And it is still not definitively deferred for some other year yet. For the moment, the right message still seems to be “Yes We Can!”

E.J. Dionne’s short view …

E.J. Dionne is one of the great American liberal political journalists of his (and our) time. His instant analysis of February 5 in the Washington Post is worth dwelling on briefly:

“Three striking things about Super Tuesday’s results: First, McCain really is the front-runner. Second, he still faces a lot of resistance from conservatives – and not just on the talk radio circuit. Third, Hillary Clinton did far better than believers in the Obama wave thought she would, though the wave was strong enough to let him run her close …

“Rudy Giuliani’s strategy worked, but it worked for John McCain who piled up delegates in the northeast, as Rudy had hoped to do, and added other states as well. McCain will be hard to stop. But Mike Huckabee’s wins in the south and Mitt Romney’s wins in the West keep them in the race. McCain, the exit polls showed, still can’t muster strong support from conservative voters. It’s good for McCain that both Huckabee and Romney will hang around and the split the vote on the right, so he may win it all without ever winning a conservative majority, an amazing development in the G.O.P. …

“Clinton had a good night, far better than some of her gloomier supporters thought she would. Her wins in California, Arizona, New Jersey, and Massachusetts were important. But Obama carried a lot of states and he should do very well in the contests over the next few weeks. This fight goes on to Ohio in March – and it could go on and on after that.”

Sobering up on Obama’s prospects … in USA and Canada too?

Strong Obama supporters are bound to be at least somewhat disappointed by February 5. Conversely, Hillary’s wins in Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, California, and so forth certainly ought to buoy her supporters.

Say whatever else you like, you do have to admit that there are still a lot of voters in the USA today who, for various reasons, definitely do not want to be what E.J. Dionne calls “believers in the Obama wave.” And that’s just among voters in Democratic primaries! Imagine what might happen in the actual presidential election in November, when a lot of testy Republicans and Independents are thrown into the mix, even if some of them are prepared to vote for Obama? (And if you have trouble imagining such things, listen just briefly to Pat Buchanan on MSNBC, who actually enjoys this kind of work.)

Canadians will find it intriguing in this context as well that according to a recent “poll by UniMarketing, published in the French-language daily La Presse … 62 percent of Canadians supported the Democratic Party, while only 17 percent backed the Republicans.” This is of course a traditional finding. (As the historian Frank Underhill remarked many years ago: “Canadians always vote Democratic in American elections.”) Note, however, that in 2008 “42 percent of Canadians supported Senator Hillary Clinton for president, while 27 percent backed Senator Barack Obama … Mrs. Clinton is well-known in Canada,’ explained Raynald Harvey, president of UniMarketing. And Canadians remember fondly her husband’s term in office.'”

In the very end, I still myself find the prospect of Barack Obama as President of the United States astoundingly attractive, and full of enormous potential benefit for democracy in North America, Canada, and the global village at large. But as a single-citizenship Canadian, I can’t really vote in American elections anyway. So, as Mike Myers puts it, I, like more than 30 million others (including very small children), remain just a part of the “observer nation,” up here in the true north, which is strong and free and, whatever else, already has a workable system of publicly funded universal health care.

UPDATE FEBRUARY 7: ROMNEY DROPS OUT! It turns out that Mike Huckabee was right, when he said on the evening of February 5: “This is now a two-man race … and we’re in it.” As of February 7 Mitt Romney has in any case “suspended” his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination – and/or effectively announced “He Is Dropping Out of GOP Race.”

Judging from his remarks when he announced his decision, both the Republican Party and the USA today are lucky he’s bowing out. The country’s worst enemies, Mitt said, are inside not outside America. And this carrying on of George W. Bush’s divisive extreme right-wing argument that “liberals” and everyone else who isn’t a rabid conservative lack patriotism and are out to destroy mom and apple pie – and the individualist culture of the most powerful nation on earth – is the kind of thing that really will lead to America’s destruction if it doesn’t stop.

It is also more than a little hard to stomach a rich boy who has never had to earn a single slice of his daily bread talking about how social services for those whose life beginnings are so much less fortunate than Mitt Romney’s destroy individual initiative. It isn’t just that leadership of this sort is ideologically extreme. More than anything else, it’s just unbelievably unrealistic. And it is extreme lack of realism of this sort that eats away at heretofore successful cultures.

What “Romney’s exit” also seems to mean for the Republicans, no doubt, is that John McCain has all but locked up their presidential nomination. But who knows? Mike Huckabee may still have a somewhat surprising role to play yet? What does it all mean for the Democrats? Some are saying it’s bad news for them. Now the Republicans will unite behind their man, while the followers of the donkey fight among themselves. On the other hand, now the Republican race is even less interesting than it used to be (again except for Huckabee maybe?). And the Democratic race continues to fascinate, and monopolize all the serious attention!

February 4: CITIZEN BLOG : DON’T WAIT UP TUESDAY NIGHT .. or bet the farm on Polish helicopters ..

The San Francisco Chronicle is advising: “Want to know who will win the California primary? [on Tuesday, February 5, of course]. You’ll probably be waiting until Wednesday morning – and maybe longer.” Meanwhile, from across the Atlantic Ocean The Guardian in the UK reports: “Clinton and Obama neck and neck.”

Elsewhere the wires are abuzz with news that Poland is going to send Canada two helicopters to bolster the struggle in Afghanistan. As Canadian political leaders continue to posture awkwardly on this subject, however, Simon Jenkins in The Sunday Times (also in the UK) is telling his troops: “Fall back, men, Afghanistan is a nasty war we can never win.”

Then again the Brits are not what they used to be: “Britons are losing their grip on reality, according to a poll … which showed that nearly a quarter think Winston Churchill was a myth …” And finally, back in the real world that really counts, Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach has just “ended weeks of speculation … and announced a provincial election for March 3.” The “rookie Tory leader” will be trying to “hold onto a 37-year political dynasty that’s suddenly vulnerable.”

Tsunami Tuesday in USA Today …

OAKVILLE, ONTARIO. MONDAY, FEBRUARY 4, 2008. 10:30 PM. This just in from one of our best US correspondents, who is: “Just back from Florida monitoring the excitement of the longest election in the history of the universe,” where he “spent at least as much time in front of the TV and the local election coverage as at the beach.”

As far as the more than 20 February 5 primaries and caucuses in various States of the Union go, the smart money says that John McCain almost has it all locked up for the Republicans. Unless the likes of Ann Coulter manage to derail his momentum, because he is not conservative enough.

On the other hand, the smart money has already shown it can be quite dumb in the case of the Democratic primary in New Hampshire … And on the other hand again, who cares? The Republicans are not really interesting this year anyway. Even if they do win in November.

As far as the much more fascinating Democratic race between Ms. Clinton and Mr. Obama goes, The Guardian has aptly summarized the latest polls in its “Clinton and Obama neck and neck” piece. The smart money here is taking no chances at all and has declared the whole thing radically unpredictable. And that is just part of what makes it so interesting of course.

Two Polish Helicopters? Get real?

As the CBC has reported: “Poland will send two of its eight military helicopters to volatile southern Afghanistan in an attempt to meet Canada’s call for more troops and equipment in Kandahar.” This is some kind of reaction to “Canada’s call,” no doubt. But it is not easy to take it very seriously. (Without in any way of course wanting to cast aspersions on the welcome generosity of Poland – which keeps on getting lost in all the shuffles just like Canada?)

Meanwhile Simon Jenkins’s February 3 piece in The Sunday Times, in the UK, makes you yearn for some similar candor on this side of the Atlantic: “The American secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, flies to Britain this week to meet a crisis entirely of London and Washington’s creation. They have no strategy for the continuing occupation of Afghanistan. They are hanging on for dear life and praying for something to turn up. Britain is repeating the experience of Gordon in Khartoum, of the Dardanelles, Singapore and Crete, of politicians who no longer read history expecting others to die for their dreams of glory.”

The eminent Mr. Jenkins makes some bow to Canada’s role in the current wider debate (which is at least somewhat more credible than it used to be): “A clearly exasperated Robert Gates, the American defence secretary, has broken ranks with the official optimism and committed an extra 3,000 marines to the field, while sending an unusually stern’ note to Germany demanding that its 3,200 troops meet enemy fire. Germany, like France, has rejected that plea. Yet it is urgent since the Canadians have threatened to withdraw from the south if not relieved. An equally desperate Britain is proposing to send half-trained territorials to the front, after its commanders ignored every warning that the Taliban were the toughest fighters on earth.”

Unfortunately, recent Canadian internal debate still seems to have very little of the wisdom pointed to in the sober conclusion of Simon Jenkins’s February 3 article: “There is no sensible alternative to ending military operations against the Pashtun, flying under whatever flag. Like Iraq’s Kurdistan, Pashtunistan is a country without a state. It has been cursed by history, but it returns that curse with interest when attacked … To have set one of the world’s most ancient and ferocious people on the warpath against both Kabul and Islamabad takes some doing. But western diplomacy has done it. Now must begin the agonising process of escaping that appalling mistake.”

Winston Churchill in Edmonton, Alberta?

The same poll that showed “nearly a quarter” of some 3,000 present-day UK residents surveyed thought “Winston Churchill was a myth” also showed that “the majority reckon Sherlock Holmes was real.” Similarly: “Fifty-one per cent of respondents believed that Robin Hood lived in Sherwood Forest, robbing the rich to give to the poor, while 47 per cent believed Eleanor Rigby was a real person rather than a creation of The Beatles.”

(Not surprisingly: ” The poll also revealed that nearly three quarters of those surveyed did not read history books … and 61 per cent admitted that they changed channels rather than watching historical programmes on television.”)

From this angle, a Canadian provincial election in oil-rich and economically dynamic Alberta may seem less of a lumberjack-and-that’s-ok event than in the old days, when British society was seen in English-speaking Canada at least as holding up higher standards for colonials to emulate (in the 1960s and early 1970s heyday of Monty Python, e.g. – well not exactly, of course: the old days are at least supposed to be somewhat older than that).

It does remain true that the current 37-year political dynasty of the Progressive Conservatives in Alberta does not quite match the 42-year dynasty of the same brand in Ontario – which ended long ago in 1985. Preston Manning’s father, Ernest C. Manning, however, already holds the record for Canada’s longest-serving premier, having finally bested the 24-year record of the ancient Ontario Liberal premier (and effective founding father of Canada’s current most populous province), Oliver Mowat.

At the same time, a comment from one of the more occasional essays of the now long gone Canadian economic historian, Harold Innis, probably applies as much to Alberta today as it did to Ontario in an earlier era: “When Oliver Mowat was introduced to a prominent statesman in England with a comment on the length of time he had been Premier of Ontario he was greeted with the comment, Have you no public opinion in that province?'”

If the Alberta Tories under their new leader Ed Stelmach are also going to beat the old 1943-1985 Ontario Tory dynasty’s record for longevity, they still have a way to go yet. And, while they may take some heat in the March 3 election, the smart money here seems to be suggesting that they will finally return to office more or less intact. But wouldn’t it be interesting if these calculations proved wrong – in the new wider North American passion for “change” that Barack Obama, whatever other fate he may finally face, does seem to have for the moment unleashed?

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