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October 12, 2012 5:17 pm

America’s Hollow Leader: Obama in the Words of T.S. Eliot

avatar by Michael Widlanski

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President Obama delivers his Rosh Hashana message. Photo: Screenshot.

Clint Eastwood’s image of the empty chair in the White House hit home even with the literarily-conscious magazine, The New Yorker,  that  featured Barack Obama’s  “empty chair”  as the metaphor for the presidential debate.

Movie cowboys are often men of few words and much action. Eastwood knows. Few people are better suited to sum up the essential emptiness and hackneyed hollowness of  Barack Obama who cast himself as the sheriff who kills terrorists like Osama Bin-Laden when all before him have failed.

The policies of Barack Obama all begin with a lot of words: Recovery Summer, Stimulus, Arab Spring, Re-Start with Russia, Engagement with Iran, ambassador to Syria. But they all end  “not with a bang, but with a whimper.”

That is the phrase of T.S. Eliot whose poem “The Hollow Men” seems to have been written for Obama, although it was composed before Obama was born.

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We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;
“Gesture without motion” is President Obama’s trademark in office.

When we think of  President Obama’s years in office, we see the big speech in a stadium or a public square  to an adoring crowd in Cairo or Prague. Behind the scenes, our dramatic speaker has undercut our friends,  Egypt’s Mubarak, and leaders of the  Czech Republic and Poland who wanted to help the US  anti-missile network.

That is not part of the picture, that is not part of “The View” or “The Evening Show with David Letterman,” but it will be part of the historical chronicle.

We will recall the promise of a balanced budget and cut deficits, and the reality of no official budget and incredible deficits. We will remember the pledge of six per cent unemployment within two years, and then the delivery of real unemployment to double-digit levels not even being covered by government figures.

We will remember the invitations to the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo, support for the Islamist leaders of Turkey, “engaging” Iran and sending an ambassador to Syria that then  unleashed one of the greatest slaughters of recent times.

Obama’s idea of policy is to embrace a goal with words, followed by slogans and backed up with clichés, leaving details to others like lawmakers Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid or appointees like Eric Holder, Cass Sunstein,  or the powerful but largely unknown Valerie Jarrett.

So it was with the grand health care plan launched in the middle of a recession and financial panic, and so it has been with the grandiloquent ecological ideas which have brought multi-million-dollar boondoggles like Solyndra.

So it was with Obama’s promise to close down Guantanamo Prison and try terrorists in downtown New York City—hollow promises that thankfully could not be fulfilled.

It is the height of hollow hypocrisy for Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretaries Leon Panetta  and Hillary Clinton to take credit for killing bin-Laden while their administration hounded the CIA agents and army commandos whose actions saved American lives and led to Bin-Laden and others.

“Osama Bin-Laden is dead, and General Motors is Alive,” declares the bumper sticker coined by Vice President Biden. But no bumper sticker can hide the truth.

The fight against Arab-Islamic terror is not over, and the economy is in bad shape. There are signs we face greater dangers from terror than at any time since 9-11. There have been more attacks and attempted attacks on the US in the last three years than in the previous eight, though no single attack was a 9-11.

As Eliot wrote:

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow

As for the economy, the dangers of American insolvency and  world economic melt-down are also greater than they were in 2008.

As Eliot wrote:

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow

So, you can believe Biden, described by Eastwood very aptly as “a grin attached to a body.” But Biden is himself a hollow man, form without substance.  I will stick with Clint Eastwood  and T.S. Eliot.

Dr. Michael Widlanski, an expert on Arab politics and communications, is the author of  Battle for Our Minds: Western Elites and the Terror Threat published by  Threshold/Simon and Schuster. He was  Strategic Affairs Advisor in Israel’s Ministry of Public Security and teaches at Bar Ilan University.

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  • GENERAL MOTORS OWES TOTAL OF 45 BBBILION $$$ TO AMERICAN TAX PAYERS. It was a bookkeeping ‘play’ to clear the books, but the books are far from clear and obama/biden is telling us far from the truth.

    Remember the Jews who oogled when obama won?
    The majority of Jews, (not me) said barak is Baruch(blessing) and joe biden is Yosef Ha Ztadiq (rightous).
    Those same Jews also said clijnton was a genius.WHY? for teaching our youth immoraltiy or because he was lucky to be president coinciding with the internet boom?

    We Jews are supposed to be analytical not sheep going over the cliff…After all arent the Jews the most recipient of all world groups that won and chieved great hieghts such as the nobel/pulitzer prizes?

    People READ THE PAST 4 YEARS. obama will destroy Israel piece by piece. Hilary clinton giving muslim brotherhood 1.5 billion plus addittiona;l 2 billion this year and yearly?
    JEWS WAKE UP,,,, YOU HAVE FREE MINDS. MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICE

  • Better not to stick with T.S. Eliot against Barack Obama.

    To T.S. Eliot

    (Read in his presence in 1951 by poet Emanuel Litvinoff, after republication of Eliot’s pre-war anti-Semitic poems)

    Eminence becomes you. Now when the rock is struck
    your young sardonic voice which broke on beauty
    floats amid incense and speaks oracles
    as though a god
    utters from Russell Square and condescends,
    high in the solemn cathedral of the air,
    his holy octaves to a million radios.

    I am not one accepted in your parish.
    Bleistein is my relative and I share
    the protozoic slime of Shylock, a page
    in Sturmer, and, underneath the cities,
    a billet somewhat lower than the rats.
    Blood in the sewers. Pieces of our flesh
    float with the ordure on the Vistula.
    You had a sermon but it was not this.

    It would seem, then, yours is a voice
    remote, singing another river
    and the gilded wreck of princes only
    for Time’s ruin. It is hard to kneel
    when knees are stiff.

    But London Semite Russian Pale, you will say
    Heaven is not in our voices.
    The accent, I confess, is merely human,
    speaking of passion with a small letter
    and, crying widow, mourning not the Church
    but a woman staring the sexless sea
    for no ship’s return,
    and no fruit singing in the orchards.

    Yet walking with Cohen when the sun exploded
    and darkness choked our nostrils,
    and the smoke drifting over Treblinka
    reeked of the smouldering ashes of children,
    I thought what an angry poem
    you would have made of it, given the pity.

    But your eye is a telescope
    scanning the circuit of stars
    for Good-Good and Evil Absolute,
    and, at luncheon, turns fastidiously from fleshy
    noses to contemplation of the knife
    twisting among the entrails of spaghetti.

    So shall I say it is not eminence chills
    but the snigger from behind the covers of history,
    the sly words and the cold heart
    and footprints made with blood upon a continent?
    Let your words
    tread lightly on this earth of Europe
    lest my people’s bones protest.

  • Chaya

    What made you think of “The Hollow Men”? Perfect.

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