Monday, October 19, 2009

Bono Loves Everyone More Than You

I am tired of Bono. I am experiencing Bono-fatigue, brought about by years of mediocre albums and sanctimony.

Suffices to say, I have no patience for this.

A FEW years ago, I accepted a Golden Globe award by barking out an expletive.

Yeah, that was weird. What happened there?

One imagines President Obama did the same when he heard about his Nobel, and not out of excitement.

I don't for one second imagine Obama did the same thing. My guess is he had Rahm Emanuel ask his Communications team to craft a speech. In fact, I'm 100% that's what he did. That said, the reason Bono cursed at the Golden Globes was out of delight at having won... A Golden Globe? Bono. Rock star of the universe and savior of Africa. Delighted. Golden Globe.

When Mr. Obama takes the stage at Oslo City Hall this December, he won’t be the first sitting president to receive the peace prize,

He will share the award with Woodrow !@#$ing Wilson. Read up on that guy. Not. Peaceful.

but he might be the most controversial.

Yassir Arafat was the most controversial. Thanks for playing, Bono.

There’s a sense in some quarters of these not-so-United States that Norway, Europe and the World haven’t a clue about the real President Obama;

Quite the contrary. Those of us who reside in "some quarters" think Norway has him pegged.

instead, they fixate on a fantasy version of the president, a projection of what they hope and wish he is, and what they wish America to be.

I wish he were John McCain, personally.

Well, I happen to be European, and I can project with the best of them.

Then how do you explain Zooropa?

So here’s why I think the virtual Obama is the real Obama, and why I think the man might deserve the hype. It starts with a quotation from a speech he gave at the United Nations last month:

You think he deserves the hype because he makes a good speech. Find me a person who does not think Obama's hype is related to his speech-making.

“We will support the Millennium Development Goals, and approach next year’s summit with a global plan to make them a reality. And we will set our sights on the eradication of extreme poverty in our time.”

Compared to those other lousy presidents who announced their plans to increase poverty.

They’re not my words, they’re your president’s.

Gathered that from the quotation marks, but thanks for the clarification, Bono.

If they’re not familiar, it’s because they didn’t make many headlines.

The press really hasn't covered Barack Obama much at all, really. I honestly hadn't heard of the guy until, like, June of this year.

But for me, these 36 words are why I believe Mr. Obama could well be a force for peace and prosperity — if the words signal action.

They do not. End this op-ed.

The millennium goals, for those of you who don’t know, are a persistent nag of a noble, global compact.

Insofar as they were crafted to conform to a press release.

They’re a set of commitments we all made nine years ago whose goal is to halve extreme poverty by 2015. Barack Obama wasn’t there in 2000, but he’s there now. Indeed he’s gone further — all the way, in fact. Halve it, he says, then end it.

Not only that, but let's harvest the energy spent ending poverty into fossil fuels. There. I have an even better idea. Write an op-ed about me.

Many have spoken about the need for a rebranding of America.

Obama included.

Rebrand, restart, reboot.

Good verbs, Bono. Work it. Make it. Harder. Faster. Stronger.

In my view these 36 words, alongside the administration’s approach to fighting nuclear proliferation and climate change, improving relations in the Middle East and, by the way, creating jobs and providing health care at home, are rebranding in action.

Agreed. This administration is nothing if not a clever marketing campaign.

These new steps — and those 36 words — remind the world that America is not just a country but an idea, a great idea about opportunity for all and responsibility to your fellow man.

No, they don't. Nobody is reminded of this.

But I will venture to say that in the farthest corners of the globe, the president’s words are more than a pop song people want to hear on the radio. They are lifelines.

I would venture to say that they are utterly meaningless. If you were starving, would you care at all whether Barack Obama were exploiting your suffering for international acclaim? No, you would not.

In dangerous, clangorous times, the idea of America rings like a bell (see King, M. L., Jr., and Dylan, Bob).

This is a clangorous sentence, Bono.

It hits a high note and sustains it without wearing on your nerves. (If only we all could.)

Even more clangorous, Bono.

The world senses that America, with renewed global support, might be better placed to defeat this axis of extremism with a new model of foreign policy.

The world doesn't exactly have a great track record, w/r/t, sensing. Remember that Stalin guy? World had a good feeling about him. Oops.

It is a strangely unsettling feeling to realize that the largest Navy, the fastest Air Force, the fittest strike force, cannot fully protect us from the ghost that is terrorism ....

That's why we keep nukes.

Asymmetry is the key word from Kabul to Gaza .... Might is not right.

Even more clangorous, Bono.

I think back to a phone call I got a couple of years ago from Gen. James Jones. At the time, he was retiring from the top job at NATO; the idea of a President Obama was a wild flight of the imagination.

Who ever thought we would again have a charismatic, smooth-talking president who failed to live up to his words? Stuff of dreams. Obama.

General Jones was curious about the work many of us were doing in economic development,

Bono is using this exchange as an opportunity to talk about himself. Moving on...

Remember, this was a moment when America couldn’t get its cigarette lighted in polite European nations like Norway;

I'll go on the record as not giving a damn what the Norwegians think of America. Minnesota is full of Norwegians. They are the most disloyal, weak-kneed, equivocal people I have ever encountered. Just ask the Minnesota Vikings.

Stability = security + development.

Fair enough.

Enter Barack Obama.

He entered, like, five paragraphs ago. You can't use this rhetorical device now.

If that last line still seems like a joke to you ... it may not for long.


Mr. Obama has put together a team of people who believe in this equation.

Don Rumsfield was a devotee of the now-debunked Stability/security = (Infrastructure)-squared equation.

From a development perspective, you couldn’t dream up a better dream team to pursue peace in this way, to rebrand America.

Security = (Peace*Branding)/Dreams

The president said that he considered the peace prize a call to action. And in the fight against extreme poverty, it’s action, not intentions, that counts.

Unless you are awarding Nobel Prizes.

That stirring sentence he uttered last month will ring hollow

Disingenuously agreed.

unless he returns to next year’s United Nations summit meeting with a meaningful, inclusive plan,

To which, no matter what he says, he will earn praise from Norway and Bono.

one that gets results for the billion or more people living on less than $1 a day. Difficult. Very difficult. But doable.

Especially when the goal is so nebulously defined as "gets results". It is not only doable, but inevitable that there will be results. That's why they call them results.

What the president promised was a “global plan,” not an American plan.

He's a global president, not an American president. He should go lead Egypt.

The same is true on all the other issues that the Nobel committee cited, from nuclear disarmament to climate change — none of these things will yield to unilateral approaches.

It will take lots and lots of buzzwords to solve our world's problems.

The president has set himself, and the rest of us, no small task.

Barack Obama is NOT in charge of my task list.

That’s why America shouldn’t turn up its national nose at popularity contests.

Wait, what? We should embrace popularity contests because Barack Obama has given us a task? What is the cause and effect relationship, there?

In the same week that Mr. Obama won the Nobel, the United States was ranked as the most admired country in the world, leapfrogging from seventh to the top of the Nation Brands Index survey — the biggest jump any country has ever made.

Which is why Americans should turn their noses up at popularity contests.

Like the Nobel, this can be written off as meaningless ...

When in reality it is dangerous and sad.

a measure of Mr. Obama’s celebrity (and we know what people think of celebrities).

Do we know what people think of celebrities? I'm not sure I agree with Bono as to how I regard celebrities. I certainly wouldn't give them a semi-regular editorial space in my newspaper.

But an America that’s tired of being the world’s policeman, and is too pinched to be the world’s philanthropist, could still be the world’s partner. And you can’t do that without being, well, loved.

Counterpoint: WW2.

Here come the letters to the editor, but let me just say it: Americans are like singers

No we are not.

— we just a little bit, kind of like to be loved.

No. Most Americans do not care if they are loved. That's why we are not loved. Our president, however, is quite like a singer.

The British want to be admired;


the Russians, feared;


the French, envied.

Is this the projecting to which Bono was referring earlier? I think he just envies the French. I do not, nor do I want the French to love me. I want them to obey.

(The Irish, we just want to be listened to.)


But the idea of America, from the very start, was supposed to be contagious enough to sweep up and enthrall the world.

No it wasn't. The idea of America was to reject the world, with it's kingdoms and fiefdoms and dictators. The world is made up of idiots, to whom we are superior. Our government didn't give us the freedom of speech. We insist upon it (much to the dismay of the world").

As a consequence, we don't have the world's fiefdoms and kingdoms, and we have the military might to bring them down.

Our earliest leaders weren't popular, and they certainly weren't lovely. They were bold, ugly, violent men. Nobody would have awarded George Washington a peace prize, and he would have mucked it had they done so. If "the world" didn't like our freedom, it had two choices: Deal with it or die.

Barack Obama is an anomaly, a product of the Internet generation whose stock and trade are charisma and marketing. The world showers him with acclaim at the precise moment when our citizens are beginning to see through him.

And it is. The world wants to believe in America again because the world needs to believe in America again. We need your ideas — your idea — at a time when the rest of the world is running out of them.

The world never had ideas to begin with, and I doubt it ever will. Bono certainly doesn't. I have no interest in re-branding to conform to his tastes.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

And Bono's next featured song: "These 36 Words".

11:29 AM  
Blogger Jerad said...

One suggestion from a longtime reader: quit attacking various op-eds and do more funny stuff and/or restaurant reviews. You haven't spoken with Leroy in a while. Or interviewed a foreclosed home.

Also, consider reading "Wordy Shipmates" by Sarah Vowell. It counters your idea that Americans don't care about world opinion by talking about an America that was envisioned by its first settlers as a shining City on a Hill.

3:30 PM  
Blogger Kevin Sawyer said...

The readership, in aggregate, seems to like it. That said, I was all about moving on until I needed to spend some pent-up Bono rage.

3:49 PM  
Anonymous Andrew said...

Re: George Washington, wasn't he so popular everybody wanted to make him a king or have him keep running for president? Or were you joking, and/or I am wrong?

And I suggest strongly that you place a link to the "obamalust" tag on the top of your sidebar. And use it more often. It's the best tag I've ever heard of.

-Also a long-time reader

10:14 PM  
Blogger Kevin Sawyer said...

Washington was popular here, absolutely. With the world? Less so. I will make it my mission to make Obamalust a popular trend on Twitter.

10:55 PM  

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