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Works and Days

Cracks in the Facade

May 14th, 2009 - 8:33 am

We have a rendezvous with hyperinflation, or perhaps stagflation, in that all at once we will see high interest, high inflation, low growth, and nagging unemployment as we finagle ways to service a $15 to 20 trillion debt. Expect not just high taxes, but higher Social Security retirement ages, means-testing, higher FICA taxes, rationed Medicare, and still all that will not be enough…

4) Security. Very schizophrenic. WE keep FISA, Patriot Act, rendition, military tribunals (Gitmo for now?), Predator attacks, Iraq and Afghanistan, while we trash their Bush origins, apologize abroad, and try to out  CIA memos to embarrass the country between 2001-8.

At some point, Putin, Ahmadinejad, Chavez, Kim Song Il, Assad, and others will conclude that Obama is either not serious or confused — and therefore ready to be tested. Right now hostility towards the U.S. garners attention and apology; loyalty and alliance win neglect and complacence: better to be an enemy than a friend of America. If we get hit again at home,  then the Obama administration is effectively over as a successful governing experiment. If we are tested abroad, Obama will almost have to overreact to restore squandered deterrence. Not good. For 24 months Obama  ignited the left to slur the Bush protocols as krypto-fascism, then found (1) they worked, (2) they were not fascist at all, (3) and now he cannot muzzle the left wing multi-headed Cerberus he unleashed.

5). Civil Discord. In just three months Obama has caused more disunity than most presidents in recent memory. Why and how? He has chosen to demonize as greedy (cf. the Super bowl quips, the “speculators” jab, the “fair share” and “spread the wealth” slips, etc.) capitalists en masse. Why laugh as Ms. Sykes wished for Limbaugh to die of kidney failure, which set a new low for presidential uncouthness. He treats the media with contempt as all earls do with obsequious court jesters. There is a mood of ‘them/us’ and ‘time is running out’, as the Obama administration used the panic over the autumn 2008 financial meltdown to steamroll through a statist, postmodern economic and social agenda before the people woke up. They embrace the term “100 days”; do they realize its genesis is 1815 and Napoleon’s return from Elba? (they should: it ended at Waterloo). The cynicism is now such that anytime Obama offers a grand assurance (most ethical administration, no interest in government take-overs of autos and finance, unwavering support of Israel, no desire to look backward at the Bush administration, etc.), in Pavlovian fashion we expect the very opposite to follow.

6). Race relations. Here I am worried. Far from bringing us together, I think Obama’s serial emphasis on race may achieve the unintended opposite of polarization. He should have learned in the campaign (Rev. Wright, Trinity Church, typical white person, clingers, call for reparations, his grandmother — the purported prejudicial stereotyper, etc.), the perils of seeing the world through skin color. Yet to establish his own diplomatic fides abroad, he immediately evokes race at the South American summit. His interview with al Arabiya highlights his race and family’s religion. Race appears in presidential jokes. He distances himself from America prior to his coming of age.

Stranger still, Obama’s heritage is unlike that of a Clarence Thomas, Tom Sowell, or Bill Cosby, who all knew real prejudice in 1950s America. He matured at a different time, was of African, rather than African-American, heritage, went from prep school to Occidental without the sting of experiencing the underbelly of American working class life, and yet has showcased (here I refer to his book Dreams From My Father) racial difference and knows its emphasis is a proven route to professional success. Again, there is too much disingenuousness for such racial identification to turn out well.

Missed opportunity? Obama could have had a one-time stimulus, then vowed to balance the budget. He might have praised wind and solar as he asked the carbon industry to ‘get us through.’ He could have politely disagreed with Bush, but framing differences in the tragic notion of no good choices. He might have cooled the overseas apologies, savvy that other nations have more to apologize for than his own. Obama should have established zero-tolerance for tax avoidance at a time of record tax increases. He could have remonstrated with Wall Street, and sought to rein in excess without Europeanizing the financial sector. He could have proactively reformed entitlements with bipartisan support, rather than, as will happen, drastically address them in the 11th hour. But then to do all that would be to assume he never went to Trinity Church, knew no Rev. Wright, Ayers, Khalidi, etc., did not run mysterious campaigns that eliminated opponents before the elections, was not the most partisan Senator in Congress, and avoided rather crude social and racial stereotyping while campaigning. Most who read this will not agree, given the mesmerizing effect of the Obama charisma. But in time, unless there are radical changes, I think the nation will come to learn that such talent was not put in service to our collective welfare.

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