Barrack Obama is truly a frustrating character to me. In seemingly equal parts he appears to:
- Be unwilling to do or say very much on important issues – such as black rights in America;
- Say some deeply profound things and reveal the extent to which he’s been completely roadblocked in his ambitions – such as his 20,000 word interview in The Atlantic;
- Rail against corporate interests and structural disadvantage – as in most of his campaign for the White House in 2008;
- Support the very worst of American foreign policy – big business first asymmetric trade deals like ACTA, TPP, TTIP, and clandestine drone and assassination operations.
And so, just as I was beginning again to warm to this reflective, increasingly outspoken Obama in his last year in power I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised to find myself confronted by his other side. His remarks about the British European Union referendum in June are completely inappropriate.
The European Union
The European Union has problems with accountability, governance and democracy in it’s executive, the European Commission. However, the European Parliament has shown itself generally willing to overrule the will of those Brussels bureaucrats in their most flagrantly undemocratic decisions – ACTA copyright laws, ISDS (extra-judicial arbitration mechanism) part of the huge TTIP trade deal with the United States.
My personal view is that overall, the idea of a united Europe is such a strong and necessary one that it easily outweighs the current flaws in its implementation.
Furthermore, the transformation of the European Union largely away from being the glorified chamber of commerce it was in its formative years to a bastion of human, cultural, social and ecological rights today should be celebrated. I would say that today, the number one institution advocating and actively supporting human rights domestically and internationally in the European Union. This spread of authority has increasingly caught the ire of national parliaments when they try to silence internal dissent, remove prisoners rights, liberalise conditions for workers or destroy their natural environment. This is a good thing and long may it continue.
Regardless, I completely support the will of the British people in electing a government on a mandate of promising an in-out EU referendum and thus getting their referendum. If I didn’t, I couldn’t in all good conscience continue to harbour my animosity towards the 2010-15 coalition, partly for exactly not bringing us a referendum on the proportional representation voting system.
Mr. Obama, however, doesn’t seem to share my regard for democracy. In a series of interviews on his recent European tour he has not respected the right of the British people to decide how they are governed. He first threatened us with ‘back of the queue‘ treatment at a trade deal with the US were we to leave the EU. He then sought to present this less as a threat and more as a simple expression of the reality of the situation, but at the same time came straight out to say that his intention is to “have some influence on how voters think”.
Contrast this with the parliamentary debate on January 18th about barring Donald Trump from UK entry, because of his contemptible remarks about disabled people, Muslims, Mexicans immigrants and women, among other things. This debate was brought by a petition on the parliament.uk website receiving almost 600,000 signatures, otherwise the issue would have seen only a mention at Prime Minister’s Questions and nothing more.
During the three hour long debate (Hansard transcript, full video) all speakers voiced their displeasure at and concern about Trump’s words, but went to great lengths to limit discussion to the issue of free speech, and hateful remarks. They all determined not to consider the suitability of Trump as a candidate or the wisdom of the American public in choosing him. They barely touched on the treatment British citizens already face in America, this despite the fact that British Muslims have been, are, and will continue to be denied boarding on flights to the USA without reason.
Leader Paul Flynn expressly said “we have no right to inform Americans who they should elect as leader”. Adam Holloway went further, saying “It is up to the American people to decide whether his views are objectionable, not you guys”. Tom Tugendhat said, “we have the right to criticise. However, I do not think that we should exercise that right on people who are running for elected office in foreign countries”. In his own very brief comments on Trump at PMQs, Prime Minister Cameron expressed his disagreement with Trump’s remarks and nothing more.
Opinion and Influence
I believe that the personal and political views of Donald John Trump and Rafael Edward ‘Ted’ Cruz are absolutely deplorable. They are two of the worst candidates to hold any sort of public office ever, let alone President of the United States. I don’t think I can stress enough just how much their beliefs and actions repulse me. Were either one to be elected president, I would expect my leaders, in the name of the values we hold inalienable, to speak out and act out against the injustices they would proceed to perform.
But the decision to elect their representative is the American peoples’ alone, just as Britain’s decision to remain in or leave the EU is ours. Economic threats and calls to equate this to a family feud and listen to our ‘big brother’ who knows best, as Obama has levelled, are totally unwelcome.