President Obama's "condemnation" of the Egyptian military's massacre of civilians sounded like obligatory ass-covering. Then there was the slippery boiler-plate verbiage spouted by the White House's new spokesman with the wonderfully apropos name of Josh Earnest. I wouldn't josh you, that's his name. And trust me, he's the personification of earnestness.
The sense of absurdity in the air takes one back to the halcyon days of Richard Nixon and his "credibility gap," which now seems like child's play. Incredibly, even John McCain has a more critical analysis of the Egyptian coup.
Josh Earnest, John Kerry and Barack Obama by unknown
It's a real low point in the Obama presidency. They no doubt have the capacity to go lower, but the President golfing and cocktail partying with rich corporate donors on Martha's Vineyard while the Egyptian military shoots over 700 citizens to death in the street is pretty bad.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry has been shuttling around the world trying to make everyone believe night is day and, somehow, peace between Israel and a future Palestine was possible. These days Kerry sounds like the man who ate the canary spouting optimistic PR sound bites as he spits out little yellow pin feathers.
Here's Earnest Josh on the Cairo problem:
"We have repeatedly called on the Egyptian military and security forces to show restraint," he told the press. It was like the US was saying to General Sisi, "We wish you could be nicer. C'mon, show a little restraint. Please!" If a satiric novelist like Christopher Buckley had come up with a name like Josh Earnest for a guy delivering flak to cover up a massacre readers would balk. It makes you wonder if there is a God and maybe he has a sense of humor.
As he squirmed for the press, Earnest Josh didn't parse the facts and declare whether the Egyptian military was blowing off the US government as an impotent paper tiger or whether it was the usual wink-and-nod operation in which Egypt's imperial patron was dishing out the usual line of crap about human rights with one side of its face while the real policy of establishing facts-on-the-ground in support of the US choice for stability in the Middle East was going down on the streets of Cairo.
Having watched two-faced US operations for decades now, I tend to lean toward the latter. That is, that policy formulators in Washington and Tel Aviv have concluded that an Egypt cleansed of Islamic influence is in their interests. So, therefore, it's necessary to crank up instruments of public relations like Earnest Josh to run interference with reality.
General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi by unknown
A spinelessly anonymous Obama official was quoted in The New York Times this way:
"The violence is intolerable, but clearly they [the Egyptian military] feel the nation of Egypt is facing a sovereign, existential crisis. So while the violence is intolerable, we may be able to eventually accept these decisions if the violence ends, and quickly."
When you break down this anonymous official's gobble-de-gook he or she is essentially saying the following:
1) All the killing, the shooting of kids and such in the head and heart, is very distasteful -- a true bummer not to be tolerated. It's really depressing.
2) But there's a "sovereign, existential problem" facing the Egyptian military, which we all know is notorious for being a sophisticated kleptocratic institution that employs torture and killing to perpetuate itself. And, of course, this military institution is largely a creation of the United States thanks to generous annual gifts of cash ever since the Camp David deal with Israel in 1979.