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Works and Days

America Through the Looking Glass

March 20th, 2011 - 10:13 pm

President Obama yesterday praised Brazil for its new offshore oil industry and said he wants to buy as much oil as possible in this new win-win partnership — although we have piled up $5 trillion in new debt, curtailed new petroleum exploration off shore and in the West, as well as kept Alaska off-limits. Our near-term energy future apparently lies in borrowing money to buy oil from those we praise for drilling where we never would ourselves.

In the face of $4 a gallon gas, President Obama claimed that domestic oil and gas production was at a record level — failing to note that such expansion was due entirely to prior leases granted during the Clinton and Bush administrations of the sort that he has so far mostly denied. During the 2008 campaign, the president promised that under his leadership electricity prices would skyrocket and those who produced power through coal plants would be “bankrupted.” His secretary of energy, Steven Chu, in 2008 advocated ratcheting American gasoline prices up to European levels and, a year earlier, had complained that we had too much fossil fuels in America, enough, in fact, to “cook us.” So are we supposed to strive for astronomical gas prices to ensure fewer carbon emissions, the success of the government subsidized Chevy Volt, and actualization of the green dreams of a Van Jones as outlined by Chu and Obama in 2007-8 — or will they imperil recovery and must be postponed until after the reelection of Barack Obama?

For two weeks, the administration was largely quiet about the unrest in Libya until the insurgents began taking entire cities and seemed on the verge of closing in on Gaddafi’s Tripoli. Then President Obama called on Gaddafi to step down and stop the “unacceptable” level of violence. But things then got worse, not better, once Gaddafi began to employ a level of violence that his ilk counts on to stay in power (cf. Assad in Syria or Ahmadinejad in Iran). So at last we announced a funny sort of no-fly-zone, inasmuch as Gaddafi can put down the rebellion without use of his planes and gunships. We vowed to have an international commander soon; we promised to restrict our activity to patrolling the air only (after sending missiles into quite a lot of initial targets on the ground). We are not going after Gaddafi himself (although the tyrant has nowhere to go, must be taken out for the rebels to succeed, and seems to be already targeted by the Europeans, without our “knowledge”). In the new Middle East multilateralism, America supplies the firepower, Europeans the policy and high profile, Arabs the public cover, and the international community the legitimacy — as long as the campaigning is brief, the losses small, and the rebels supposedly somewhat Western in outlook. But no one yet has told us why we must not “meddle” in Iran, must ignore the Saudis going into Bahrain, should continue “outreach” with Assad, must support the ouster of Mubarak and Ben Ali, but are so far mum about further challenges to pro-American authoritarians in the Gulf and Jordan.

Obama has scheduled $5 trillion in new debt since he took office, in part as Keynesian stimulus to snap us out of a slowdown that seemed instead to get worse. The massive debt was incurred in service to new redistributive entitlements that, we are told, will level the playing field. And to implement a new government absorption of health care, the administration has so far granted over 1,000 exemptions from its own landmark legislation. Many of the labor unions that were the most vocal supporters of the president’s agenda are the most eager to be freed from the consequences of his health care mandates.

There is no longer a “war on terror,” and we are to understand that its former components — tribunals, renditions, preventative detention, Guantanamo, Predator assassinations, Iraq, the Patriot Act, wiretapping, and intercepts — were as subversive to the Constitution under Bush as they are essential to our security under Obama. Whatever happened to the impending civilian trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed?

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