JAZZMAN CHRONICLES. DISSEMINATE FREELY.
ALI AND OBAMA:
PUGILISM AND THE PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES
By Jack Random
“It’s gonna be a thrilla and a chilla and a killa, when I get the gorilla in Manila.”
In the world of boxing no one compares to the greatest heavyweight champion of all time: Mohammed Ali. He is remembered for his conversion to Islam and his refusal to be drafted for the Vietnam War (a conscientious objection that would cost him many years of his boxing prime) as well as for his accomplishments in the ring.
As a boxer he is best known for his eighth round knockout of reigning champion George Foreman in the 1974 Rumble in the Jungle and for a series of three fights against his nemesis, Smoking Joe Frazier. In the Rumble, Ali debuted rope-a-dope, a strategy of playing possum, planting himself on the ropes, covering his face with his gloves, taking punishing blows without retaliation before emerging to stun his opponent.
In the series of fights against Frazier, Ali displayed the full range of his boxing abilities, including his ability to bounce back from defeat, his resilience, toughness, and his unrivaled ability to take a punch and come back dancing.
For the third and decisive match against Frazier, the Thrilla in Manila, employing rope-a-dope, Ali absorbed blows round after round that would have killed a lesser man, but then he came out dancing like a butterfly, stinging like a bee, winning the match when Frazier could not answer the bell in the fifteenth round.
Mohammed Ali emerged from the Thrilla in Manila a legend, a man who transcended the sport that propelled him to fame. As a boxer, he was the most talented combination of power and speed the heavyweight division has ever known.
Whatever you may think of his policies or philosophy (a progressive moderate who has been attacked as ferociously from the left as from the right), Barrack Obama is to politics what Ali was to boxing.
His oratorical skills beckon the days of Camelot: John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. And in the closed one-on-one quarters of the presidential debates, he has proven as resilient as Ali against Frazier.
In 2008 he out-pointed a formidable opponent in Hillary Clinton during the primaries and handily defeated a badly overmatched John McCain. In 2012 he went up against an aggressive, ever-shifting chameleon, a man completely unbound by his own words, his own campaign pledges, promises and policies.
A stunned and frankly unprepared Obama had little choice but to plant himself against the ropes, cover and absorb the best blows Mitt “Slick Willy” Romney could throw, hoping against hope that the American electorate would understand the duplicity, hypocrisy and deception his opponent was displaying. It was a dirty fight, filled with sucker punches and below the belt shots, but the viewing public either did not understand or did not care. Victory went to the challenger.
Like Ali after the first showdown with Frazier, Obama took his defeat like a man and yearned for a rematch.
In the second debate, Slick Willy seemed convinced he was dealing with a weak and wounded president. He came out of his corner with the same aggressive posture, like a bully in the playground, using the same shape shifting tactics. But this time Obama was prepared. Landing counterpunch after counterpunch, he waited patiently for the chance to land a crushing blow.
The opportunity came mid-debate when Slick Willy circled his opponent, certain he had the president cornered. His campaign managers had telegraphed what they believed would be their candidate’s golden moment: the attack on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya, an attack that killed our ambassador and three other Americans.
Holding to the conviction that the president had waited fourteen days before calling the event a terrorist attack, when Obama stated that he had used that very term the day after the attack in the White House Rose Garden, Slick Willy closed in for the kill.
ROMNEY: I think [it’s] interesting…the president just said…that on the day after the attack he went into the Rose Garden and said that this was an act of terror.
(Romney stares at the president.)
OBAMA: That’s what I said.
ROMNEY (staring): You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack, it was an act of terror?
OBAMA: Please proceed, governor.
ROMNEY (to the moderator): I want to make sure we get that on the record because it took the president fourteen days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.
MODERATOR: …he did in fact, sir…call it an act of terror….
No amount of spin or obfuscation can erase the stinging blow of that moment. Slick Willy was ill prepared for his own line of attack. He hit the canvas and stayed down for the count. The bully was beaten. He stumbled to his feet and finished the match but the damage was done.
In the final and decisive showdown, Obama danced like a butterfly and stung like a bee, schooling his overmatched opponent on foreign policy like a mentor to a rambunctious youth. Slick Willy was out of his league. He emerged from the event in the never land of Republican denial where up is down, night is day and Slick Willy won the debates. In fact, he never knew what hit him.
From my perspective securely to the left of the president, it is a shame that neither of these candidates was truly held to account. Neither Romney nor Obama has an effective answer to what has come to be known as the China problem. It should be called the Free Trade problem.
Slick Willy is stuck on currency manipulation, otherwise known as the status quo or the Obama approach.
The real and essential solution to the China, India and third world trade problem, a problem that goes to the heart of trade imbalance, job exportation and depressed wages and benefits is Fair Trade: a trade policy that takes the cost of labor fully into account. But that is a line neither of these candidates will ever cross. Their ties to monolithic international corporations are far too tight.
It is worth noting that the only Fair Trade advocates in our government are Democrats. There is not a single Fair Trade Republican in either house of congress. So if you think Slick Willy will get anywhere near the real China problem, you’ve been drinking from the punch bowl of Republican fantasy.
In the end, given the choice we have and not the one we wish we had, Barrack Obama has emerged from these battles the stronger, the wiser and by far the better choice for at least 95% of the American people.
Mohammed Ali emerged from Manila an eternal legend, whose star burned ever brighter when he refused to be a spokesman to the Islamic world for the Bush administration. Whether Obama reaches that lofty status depends on the election and a successful second term.
At this juncture, his challenger’s flaws and shortcomings fully exposed (conviction is a terrible thing to waste), every citizen of this nation and indeed the entire world should be hoping he succeeds.
JACK RANDOM IS THE AUTHOR OF THE JAZZMAN CHRONICLES (CROW DOG PRESS) AND GHOST DANCE INSURRECTION (DRY BONES PRESS). THE CHRONICLES HAVE BEEN POSTED ON NUMEROUS CITES OF THE WORLDWIDE WEB, INCLUDING THE ALBION MONITOR, BELLACIAO, BUZZLE, COUNTERPUNCH, DISSIDENT VOICE, THE NATIONAL FREE PRESS, GLOBAL FREE PRESS AND PACIFIC FREE PRESS. SEE WWW.JAZZMANCHRONICLES.BLOGSPOT.COM.