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Works and Days

Obama—Making it up as we go along.

January 9th, 2011 - 2:40 pm

Let me be perfectly clear and make no mistake about it!

Obama reminds me of a lot of graduate school professors who had no syllabi and no plan of instruction. Instead they would wing it, and lecture, sermonize, and remonstrate until about week six into the semester when the students started to rebel, wondering whether there were any real reading assignments, any tests, any papers, any rationale to grading—as they waited for an intervention from a senior colleague to inform us that our professor really did have a course plan somewhere, really did know what he was doing.

I also saw an Obama sort once in farming. To up his production on his weak vineyard, sometimes he used manure, sometimes calcium nitrate, sometime winter rye grass. In each manifestation, he swore that he alone was onto the proper way to fix nitrogen to the vines in his particular sort of soil—no other formula would do except the one he was trying at the time (and he tried a lot of times).

Pruning was the same. In a four-year period I was told that the secret to good harvests was leaving 4, then 5, then 6 and finally 8 canes. Irrigation was similar: he lectured as time went on that a Thompson vine needed water every week, every two weeks, every three weeks, every month—and had to have all water cut off before raisin harvest at least by July 4th, July 15th, or August 1st. One O-mite spray was all one needed. No, two were essential. Yes, in fact three gave complete protection—no matter that his vineyard seemed to burn up with red-spider mites each July.

Come harvest only natural paper trays worked, only rain-resistant, only new fast-dry waxed ones. No concession was made either to the ideas of other farmers, or even to his own prior ones that apparently had failed to achieve his loudly proclaimed prognostications. There was no failure; each failed strategy was the logical and requisite precursor leading to the final successful protocol—endlessly so.

The wonder was not that he needed to experiment in remedying such a poorly producing vineyard, but that with each new therapy he sounded as self-assured as during his last incarnation. He never worried about hypocrisy or inconsistency, much less was he humble enough to suggest that his own lack of experience and knowledge might account for his inability to fathom the mysteries and complexities of grape production. Indeed, there was never any self-doubt or even self-reflection; that was the stuff of his listeners, never his own. I add here he looked fit and trim, with nice belt buckles, clean cap, polished boots, and an immaculate truck. Surely one who presented so in control, who spoke so assuredly, could not be so inept?

I was 30 when I finally was done with him. I remember now that I had wasted a lot of time listening to his mellifluous lectures and constant chiding. A crusty ditch tender, old Harold at 80, finally cleared my silly head and the spell ended with, “Oh, him? He just likes hearing himself talk, talk, talk to you fools since he knows everything—and nothing—about growing grapes. He’d been better off had he just housed himself up—and not as broke either had he just let his vines grow on their own.”

Ditto that for Obama and running this country.

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