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July 30th 2014 print

Steve Kates

Gough-Envy on Pennsylvania Avenue?

Being dismissed did wonders for Gough Whitlam's reputation, making a martyr of an arrogant and devious incompetent. Beset by scandals and the bitter fruits of his governance in these, the dog days of his presidency, Obama must be wishing for the distraction of a Republican push for impeachment

gough bootedIt has always seemed  plausible that Gough Whitlam sought his own dismissal in 1975. Overseeing a government that, by then and in virtually every respect, was making an absolute shambles of the economy – rapidly rising unemployment combined with rapidly rising inflation – while being caught up in the preposterous Khemlani Loans Affair,  Whitlam’s was a government certain to enter history as amongst the worst, if not the worst, in Australia’s history. Having been dismissed by Governor-General Sir John Kerr and gone before the press to declare, “Well may we say ‘God Save the Queen’, because nothing will save the Governor-General”, he then went home and had a hearty lunch, reportedly in the best possible spirits.

Who now thinks of the Whitlam Government in the way it needs to be remembered, as a massive failure, and a failure specifically because of the various aspects of socialist ideology that were the causes of the economic havoc? Whitlam’s has been redeemed as a great martyr, rather than as a major political catastrophe.

I now think Obama wishes to take the same approach — to replace his reputation in history as an incompetent fool with his role as a martyr to the forces of the right. That he deserves to be flung from office is obvious. If competence and results were the only issues then he would be. But since the issues would shift from competence to defying democracy, with major discussions of racism as the cause, he won’t be impeached, even though this may be his own dearest wish.

Here is an article that sees Obama in the same light as Whitlam: Obama wants to be impeached. I think this is true, not just because, even if impeached, he would never be removed from office, but because it would raise his standing in the polls. The Democrats can only wish the other side is stupid enough to do it. Although on this occasion no Congressional leader would go near any such action, it may be enough for others merely to raise the possibility for this to achieve its aim. And it does seem to be his aim.

President Obama insists on flirting with impeachment even as House Republican leaders insist there’s no such possibility.

Obama uses a passive-aggressive strategy that can be judged as a political maneuver, a personality disorder, or both.

Secure in the knowledge that impeachment is not the same as removal from office, Mr. Obama brings up the topic on his own and with bold defiance. Martyrdom goes well with a Messiah complex and Mr. Obama’s speeches are a non-stop litany of depicting himself as a victim of Republicans.

This, for Obama, would be political gold. The article however delves into the psychological underpinnings of Obama’s character to explain his motives in daring others to impeach him:

His behavior matches the American Psychiatric Association’s definition of passive-aggressive behavior, “a habitual pattern of passive resistance to expected work requirements, opposition, stubbornness, and negativistic attitudes in response to requirements for normal performance levels expected of others.” Often, such persons see themselves as blameless victims, projecting fault onto others. Commonly, they follow erratic paths and cause constant conflicts.

Be that as it may, the politics of impeachment are clear. Any such move would help only Obama and the Democrats. Best to leave him where he is, human wrecking-ball though he is. If after eight years of such governance the American constituency seeks to elect an Obama-clone, well them’s the facts. In the meantime we out here in the rest of the world will have to work out what to do when America has rolled itself up into an ungovernable socialist ball with little desire to assist its fellow democracies dealing with the various forms of tyranny we see at every turn.

Steve Kates teaches economics at RMIT University. His most recent book is Free Market Economics: an Introduction for the General Reader